Bethany Church news
Many years ago Orson Wells produced a radio drama of an imaginary attack from outer space. My dad told about this, and said that a LOT of people did not understand that it was a play, but thought it was real. He said that his brother had his 30-30 down from the rack, cleaned it, oiled it well, and loaded it up for the coming battle with the Martians. And his mother sat in her rocker, her Bible in her lap, and said very calmly; “The Bible said there would be times like this!”
I read about a student at Campbell College in North Carolina who turned on his radio midway through the broadcast and did not realize he was hearing a fictitious report. When the announcer vividly described fire falling upon the earth, the student recalled some sermons from his boyhood years and concluded that the end of the world had come. He grabbed the telephone and called home, saying: "Mama, Mama, have you got your radio on? The fire is falling, the end of the world is coming, and I'm not ready to meet God!" The next morning he was the object of jokes and teasing around the campus.
But in the chapel service a godly Bible teacher took the podium and said, "I understand that one of the boys got a lot of ribbing because he got scared listening to the radio program last night. But, young men and women, what if it had truly been the end of the world last night -- would you be ready?"
I’m not sure about my uncle, but my grandmother was definitely ready.
I have found myself in situations of grave danger. My solution each time was to have a loaded gun in my hand and a fervent prayer on my lips. One or the other, or both, are sufficient for any situation.
Mark 13:32-37 (KJV);
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
A Church of Christ website has this: “One characteristic that distinguishes Christianity from all other regions of the world is the teaching of salvation by grace, through faith, apart from human works. For this reason, I was especially interested in the following headline which ran in the Grand Rapids Press: "Conversion to Hindu Faith Is Torturous." The article stated, "A West German businessman has completed his conversion to the Hindu faith by piercing himself through the cheeks with a 1/4-inch thick, 4- foot-long steel rod, and pulling a chariot for 2 miles by ropes attached to his back and chest by steel hooks. Others walk through 20- foot-long pits of fire, don shoes with soles made of nails, or hang in the air spread-eagle from hooks embedded in their backs."”
Now, contrast that with the Christian faith! Jesus Christ WANTS you to come into his kingdom. God has blessings he WANTS to give you. The invitation is made over and over, and only requires that you ACCEPT it!
Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV);
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Titus 3:4-7 (KJV);
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Come and join us Sunday! No beds of coals, no steel hooks – shoot, we don’t even care what you wear, and we NEVER take up an offering! And on your birthday, you get a subway gift card. I’ve been in churches where the birthday box is a place you are supposed to put money INTO on your birthday! Birthdays are bad enough, without having to PAY for them!
Walter Anderson made an interesting observation in his book Courage is a 3 Letter Word:
Hundreds of times I have looked into the eyes of a successful person and asked, "When it is dark and you are alone, do you ever say to yourself, What will I do when they find out I'm me?" I've never failed to make a friend with the question. And I've never failed to get a nod. It was as if I knew who they were, that I understood and, because I understood, I could be trusted. I've seen the cool, disciplined, practiced composure of some of America's toughest business leaders melt.
Does that say that all people think of themselves as performing above their actual ability? Do all people have some deep seated self doubt? No, but it does show that those people with enough ambition and willingness to work to make a resounding success of themselves also innately feel that they somehow do not deserve that success. The world also has many people who are not a success who feel that they deserve more than they have. In between the top and the bottom live the rest of us; we attempt to balance our lives according to God’s word.
1 Chronicles 28:9 (KJV);
“And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”
Gal 6:3-5 (KJV);
“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.”
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was earlier the author of the Constitution of the United States. I have heard many argue that Jefferson was not really a believer, but these quotes of his should set that matter to rest:
"The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights." --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819.
"Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to John Thomas et al., 1807.
"In our early struggles for liberty, religious freedom could not fail to become a primary object." --Thomas Jefferson to Baltimore Baptists, 1808.
But to the best of my knowledge, Thomas Jefferson only mentioned the name of Jesus Christ once:
"[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821.
So, the matter of his eternal condition remains with him – and with God. One thing is for sure; today, Thomas Jefferson knows the truth.
Many are unaware that the Declaration of Independence did not come into being until a day of fasting and prayer had been observed. Appointed by the Continental Congress, it was kept by all the colonies on May 17, 1776. At that time in our history, God and the Bible were given more reverence and recognition by our government officials than they are today. When the nation was finally born, our forefathers rang the Liberty Bell with great enthusiasm, and a legend says that it cracked as they zealously proclaimed their freedom. Years later the White Chapel Foundry of London offered to recast the huge bell, but their proposal was refused. Apparently the symbolic value of the damaged bell, which recalls the religious and patriotic fervor of those early days, is something that America still wishes to preserve.
This in itself is good; but in view of our nation's moral decline, separation from Christian belief and serious factionalism which is rampant today, the crack may also suggest a break in our unity, basic ideals and a serious defect in our spiritual attitudes. We can remedy the situation and avert the judgment of the Lord only by repentance, prayer, and a return to the faith of our fathers. In this sense, there is no time for delay in "mending the bell."
How do we do that?
As with all things, the answer is in scripture:
2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV);
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
I have spoken about living – and dying – for Christ. Today, I want to quote a few others on the subject:
George Whitefield, famous English evangelist, said, "O Lord, give me souls, or take my soul."
Henry Martyn, missionary, cried as he knelt on India's coral strands, "Here let me burn out for God."
David Brainerd, missionary to North American Indians, declared, "Lord, to Thee I dedicate myself. Oh, accept of me to be Thine forever. Lord, I desire nothing else; I desire nothing more."
Dwight L. Moody implored, "Use me, then, my Saviour, for whatever purpose and in whatever way Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with Thy Grace."
Martin Luther prayed on the night preceding his appearance before the Diet of Worms: "Do Thou, my God, stand by me against all the world's wisdom and reason. Oh, do it! Thou must do it. Stand by me, Thou true, eternal God!"
Psalm 86:11 (KJV);
“Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”
Jeremiah 29:13 (KJV);
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart”
And lastly, a verse that my Son and daughter memorized for a presentation they did for Church many years ago; it thrilled me to hear it then, and it thrills me every time I hear it now. It is a verse each one of us should take to our hearts, and make the watchword of our Christian lives.
Isaiah 6:8 (KJV);
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
And what thread flows through all of this? Dedication! Self sacrifice! Caring for others more than for yourself!
I am 75 years old, and every ache and pain reminds me of my mortality. As I age, my own approaching death becomes more real to me, and life becomes more and more precious. I consider things like what I live for, and what I would die for, which reminds me of this story told by Ron Blue:
During the Korean War, a group of believers were in a little chapel when communist soldiers barged in with machine guns. One of the soldiers said, "All right everybody, get up!" So they got off their knees. He said, "Line up against the wall!" They did what the soldier said to do. Then that soldier ripped the picture of Christ off the wall and threw it down on the floor. He said, "All right, one by one, I want you to come by here, spit on this picture, and curse His name."
The first three in line were men of the church, they did what the soldier said to do. They spit on the picture and they cursed the name of Christ. The fourth one in line was a high school girl. She came up before the picture and she dropped to her knees. She wiped the spittle off with her skirt, and she said, "Go ahead and kill me. I cannot curse His name."
The soldier said, "Get up!" They blindfolded that girl and the three men, and marched them out behind the chapel. The people inside heard three shots. The soldiers came back in with the girl -- alive.
The soldier said, "Anyone who gives up what they believe that easily is not fit to be a communist." And they marched out.
Matthew 16:25-26 (KJV);
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
If it should ever come to it, and God forbid that it would – do you KNOW what you would do? Perhaps none of us can KNOW for sure, but we need to think about this, because SHOULD we ever face it, we need to be prepared to give the only acceptable answer; in favor of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Our eternal lives depend upon it!
I remember when Jim and Tammy Bakker were exposed for all the funds they were skimming from their ministry. A lot of people at work were talking about it, what a tragedy it was. I responded that I knew there were some bad eggs out there, but people just had to realize that the Devil works OVERTIME on evangelists, and the bigger they are, the harder he works on them! The devil is not stupid; how many Christians did he drive from the kingdom when he took down Jim and Tammy? Then I added that if there was one evangelist I believed did what’s right, it would be Jimmy Swaggart.
This is from a USA Today article from many years ago. Larry King was commenting on the Jimmy Swaggart scandal.
Thoughts on the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, who this writer knows pretty well: I would buy all of the sadness and tears and recriminations if, and this is a big if, Jimmy had come forward with his problem before somebody had pictures proving it. Anybody can be repentant when caught. Also, if he really wanted true forgiveness he could donate his estate and all that property to some worthy charity. Give up all his earthly goods. As Lenny Bruce once told me, "If Jesus Christ came back, he wouldn't own more than one suit as long as somebody in the world had no clothes."
More recently, we find Pat Robertson used the airplanes of Operation Blessing – almost exclusively – to bring mining equipment into Zaire instead of relief supplies, because he is sole owner of a major diamond mine there.
Matthew 19:21-22 (KJV);
“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
Now there is nothing at all wrong with having nice things; but when you see an evangelist pleading for people to give ‘sacrificially’ to their ministry, while they live in a mansion and own a bunch of expensive cars, you should suspect that something is wrong here!
Yesterday was the last day of Ramadan, Al Qud's day. As with all Islamic holidays, this one comes earlier each year. But even more than that, it seems the Muslims themselves cannot keep track of when this holiday really falls. I have checked dozens of Islamic sites, and virtually none of them agree on what date it falls this year! But whenever it is, this is a day set aside by Muslims to engender Palestinian solidarity against the Jewish People in general and Zionists in particular.
Imam Khomeini once said "If each Muslim were to pour out
(just) one bucket of water, there would be a flood to wash away Zionism."
I would modify that just a bit, and say “If each Muslim were to hold his head in a bucket of water for 30 minutes, there would be an end to the hatred and murder of Israeli's, Jews, and most other victims of terror in this world.”
But that is not politically correct – even though it is tragically absolutely true. Islam was formed in violence, spread in violence, and maintains it's hold over people and nations through violence. The Koran has plain directives to all Muslims that they must convert, enslave, or kill all people of all other beliefs.
But a President of the United States – more than one of them, actually, has made the statement that Islam is a “religion of peace”. Whether those presidents were ignorant of the truth, or whether they hoped that reality could be changed by their pronouncements, I do not know. But I do know this: They are tragically wrong.
For the real truth about Islam, do not listen to a Muslim living in a country that is predominantly some other faith, where they are trying to be accepted. Instead, listen to the words of the Muslims that live in Islamic countries. They have no reason to white-wash their faith, and will instead speak the truth about it, like Khomeini did above, or Nasrallah below:
"Israel is our enemy. This is an aggressive, illegal, illegitimate entity that has no future in our land. Its destiny is manifested in our motto – Death to Israel”
In 1519, Cortez set foot ashore on the East coast of Mexico with the intent of conquering this new land. The fleet he brought with him carried 700 men on it's 11 ships. What incentive could he use to inspire his party to move forward into an unknown land? What could he say to them to ensure that none would turn back if they encountered hardship? He took the boldest action possible, and one that absolutely guaranteed no one would retreat, no matter what they might encounter: He set fire to all the ships.
his men watched the ships burn and sink below the waves, they were galvanized to move forward since there was now no other direction to go.
Each one of us, as we set out on the Christian journey of exploration and conquest, should use this same method of ensuring we do not turn around and head back to where we once were. This is one of those few times in life when we SHOULD burn our bridges behind us.
Luke 9:62 (KJV);
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 14:26-33 (TLB);
“Anyone who wants to be my follower must love me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—yes, more than his own life—otherwise he cannot be my disciple. And no one can be my disciple who does not carry his own cross and follow me.
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if he has enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise he might complete only the foundation before running out of funds. And then how everyone would laugh!
“‘See that fellow there?’ they would mock. ‘He started that building and ran out of money before it was finished!’
“Or what king would ever dream of going to war without first sitting down with his counselors and discussing whether his army of 10,000 is strong enough to defeat the 20,000 men who are marching against him?
“If the decision is negative, then while the enemy troops are still far away, he will send a truce team to discuss terms of peace. So no one can become my disciple unless he first sits down and counts his blessings—and then renounces them all for me.”
Parts of this devotional were taken from Daily Bread.
Former pro basketball star Bill Bradley tells that at the age of 15 he attended a summer basketball camp that was run by Easy Ed Macauley, a former college and pro star. "Just remember that if you're not working at your game to the utmost of your ability," Macauley told his assembled campers, "there will be someone out there somewhere with equal ability who will be working to the utmost of his ability. And one day you'll play each other, and he'll have the advantage."
Bradley, who went on to become a U.S. senator, and later became a candidate for President of the United States saw in those words "a totality of truth." He took them to heart and made them the guiding principle of his life. 30 years after Bradley heard these words, he said, "The important thing about the story is the type of young man I was, who would be so totally accepting of words like that and who, hearing them, immediately acted on them."
Psalm 40:7-8 (KJV);
“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,
I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”
Colossians 3:23 (KJV);
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;”
Whatever your job, whatever your call, whatever your pursuit, apply yourself to it to the fullest of your ability! Are you a parent? Be the BEST parent you can be. Are you a husband or a wife? Apply yourself to that task! Are you working for a living? Be the BEST at your job that you can be! Are you a Christian? Then apply the same standard here, and be the BEST Christian you possibly can be!
All of these things will aid you greatly in this life, and will make your life much more pleasant. Taking on every aspect of your life in this manner will gain you the love and respect of all around you, and peace and fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Christian businessman Fred Smith reported that the membership of the Moscow Baptist church was 5,600, the attendance 6,000, and the participation level almost 100 percent. These Russian Christians are zealous for their faith. The pastor told Mr. Smith, "In Russia, we have no four-wheel Christians." He coined this phrase to describe people who ride to church for their baptism, for the Easter morning service, for the Christmas program, and for their funeral.
Sad to say, a large percentage of people in the free world who profess to believe on Jesus are little more than "four-wheel Christians." How about you? Is your church attendance irregular? Do you tend to be a passive observer rather than an active participant in the cause of Christ?
If you go to church, take no part in the prayer, singing, worship or fellowship, you might just as well have stayed home and saved the gas money.
Mark 12:30 (KJV);
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
Romans 12:1 (KJV);
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Hebrews 10:25 (KJV);
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
I have another unknown author short poem to share with you today:
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,
And see what THAT man has to say.
For it isn't your father or mother or wife
Who judgment upon you must pass;
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
Some people may think you a straight-shootin' chum
And call you a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.
He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.
Psalm 40:12 (NCV);
“Troubles have surrounded me; there are too many to count. My sins have caught me so that I cannot see a way to escape. I have more sins than hairs on my head, and I have lost my courage.”
Delve deep into your heart and root out all that is there of which you are ashamed! Confess those things to Jesus Christ, and cleanse yourself from them.
Keep looking in the glass – daily – and make sure you like what you see.
I write a little poetry, but nothing that expresses this quite as well as the unknown author of this piece:
If I could go back and undo
Some wrongs I've done along the way,
And know that wounds that I have caused
Were healed of all the scars today.
If steps I've caused someone to take
By thoughtless ways in which I've trod
Have led to a confused estate,
Instead of simple trust in God.
If someone else still wanders on
Who followed my unsteady track.
And lost his way for lack of light
Because my lantern globe was black.
If I could gather up and bind
The wasted years that I have spent,
And treat them as they'd never been
Today I'd be much more content.
I'm pardoned from my undone past --
But even so the hurt is done,
For out there somewhere in the dark,
A soul is lost I might have won.
Psalms 40:12 (NKJV);
“For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.”
Regrets are a terrible thing, yet every one of us has them. The best we can do is to start each day talking to the Lord, and live each day in a way that will minimize the regrets we will have about what we do today when we think about it later.
I remember a little independent Baptist church we used to attend many years ago in Illinois. Several of us thought the services were really too dry and formal, and things should be livened up. We talked several folks into joining my family in livening up the service just a bit. We decided that we would ask for a faster hymn, and we would start clapping in time with it. Now don’t get me wrong, these were GOOD people, but they had become a bit set in their ways, and did not think much of change. We were sitting together, and when the hymn started, we started clapping in time – and others in the church did NOT join in. In fact, several of the members kept turning their heads and watching us like they had never heard of clapping to music before. After some time, a few joined us, however, and it became sort of a clapping and nonclapping seating arrangement in that little church! And the services IMPROVED! Even those that would never join us accepted it as a legitimate part of worship.
The Lord led us to leave Illinois, and to re-furbish and open Bethany Church, which I have now pastored for over thirty five years. I have diligently worked not to forget the lessons learned in that little Baptist church in the corn fields of Illinois.
In fact, in the early days I called for a vote, and not one single person voted that they would be offended if anyone clapped or even if they got to shouting during a service. So, clap to any hymn you want to! You can even shout if the spirit moves you!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (KJV);
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.