Bethany Church news
This devotional is a request to all of you. First, some scripture;
1 Corinthians 12:12-21 (NCV);
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
What position does this say the Jews have with God?
And even more concretely,
Romans 11:28-29 (NCV);
“The Jews refuse to accept the Good News, so they are God’s enemies. This has happened to help you who are not Jews. But the Jews are still God’s chosen people, and he loves them very much because of the promises he made to their ancestors. God never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them.”
God loves the Jewish people, and Israel is the land He gave to them! They now celebrate their 70th year since the UN granted them - AGAIN - ownership of their land as a sovereign nation.
And the request is – Please, keep the Jewish people in your prayers as they continue their struggle in Israel for the right to EXIST. Pray for the Jews – pray for Israel – and pray for all the people of the world today, that God may restrain his judgment on the world, and allow us more time to reach the lost.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
Now see what you think of these beatitudes;
“Blessed are they who are too tired and too busy to go to church on Sunday, for they are my best workers. Blessed are they who are bored with the minister's mannerisms and mistakes, for they get nothing out of the sermon. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church for he is part of the problem instead of the solution. Blessed are they who gossip, for they cause strife and divisions that please me. Blessed are they who are easily offended, for they soon get angry and quit. Blessed are they who do not give their offerings to carry on God's work for they are my best helpers. Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister, for he shall be with me forever. Blessed are the trouble makers, for they shall be called children of the devil. Blessed is he who has no time to pray, for he will be easy prey.”
This week, which group of Beatitudes do you fall in? Each and every one of us will please a spiritual being this week. Which one will be pleased with YOUR actions, words, and thoughts?
The life of Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most tragic of all American writers. Within a brief span of forty years he literally went from riches to rags.
Raised by foster parents who loved him deeply, he was provided with an education that matched his genius in his field of interest. He attended private schools in England. He was schooled in Richmond at the University of Virginia. He even spent a period of time as a cadet at West Point.
Poe, in his heyday, was unparalleled as a literary critic, editor, poet, and author of short stories. Most of us have probably had our spines tingled by The Pit and the Pendulum or The Tell-Tale Heart or The Raven. His works have indeed left their mark.
But the mark left by his life is another story. Poe lost his young bride through a bitter case of tuberculosis. By that time, alcohol and drug abuse, along with involvement in the occult and Satanism, had proved to be his undoing. Depression and insanity plagued his short life, eventually leaving him unconscious in the gutter of a windswept street in Baltimore. Four days later he died, having never regained consciousness.
Poe began his life with money and brilliance, which quickly brought him prestige and fame. But it was only a matter of time before he became a ragged, penniless bum.
There are some Christians that follow in Poe’s footsteps. They accept Jesus, have a GLORIOUS rebirth, have riches beyond measure and a wonderful future, and then they start sliding down that slippery slope into spiritual ruin.
1 Timothy 4:16;
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Keep the faith! Keep the fight! Persevere to the end, because you WILL win! God did NOT create you to fail!
I once read this little poem, and thought it made an excellent point;
Two frogs fell into a can of cream, or so I've heard it told.
The sides of the can were shiny and steep, the cream was deep and cold.
"Oh, what's the use?" said No. 1, "tis fate, no help's around;
Good-bye, my friend! Good-bye, sad world!" He gave up, and he drowned.
But No. 2, of sterner stuff, dog paddled in surprise,
Then he wiped his creamy face, and dried his creamy eyes.
"I'll swim awhile, at least," he thought, or so it has been said.
"It wouldn't really help the world, if one more frog was dead."
An hour or two he kicked and swam, not once he stopped to mutter,
But kicked and swam, and swam and kicked, then hopped out, on the butter.
Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7&8;
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,. . .”
What is the moral of that poem, and of that verse?
As the first stanza of the Dylan Thomas poem says:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Never stop kicking.
Never give up.
You have nothing to lose by fighting on, and unlimited possibilities to gain.
"Wouldn't you hate to wear glasses all the time?" asked a small boy of his playmate. "No-o-o," the other boy answered slowly, "not if I had the kind grandma wears. She sees how to fix a lot of things, and she sees lots of nice things to do on rainy days, and she sees when folks are tired and sorry, and what will make them feel better, and she always sees what you meant to do even if you haven't got things just right. I asked her one day how she could see that way all the time, and she said it was the way she learned to look at things as she grew older. So it must be her glasses."
Prov 16:31 (NCV);
“Gray hair is like a crown of honor; it is earned by living a good life.”
There is wisdom in age, and that is often ignored in our society of the virtual worship of youth and the body beautiful. You have heard it said that there are none so blind as those who WILL not see.
What do you think is meant in this passage?
“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness”
Do you think the prophet is speaking of physical blindness here? Jesus healed the blind on many occasions, and we tend to think of blindness as an affliction of the eyes; I think here we are being taught about the blindness of the spirit, and the way the Lord will heal that blindness, and restore vision to the blind of heart. The capacity to love, to show compassion, to feel your neighbors hurts as if they were your own; The ability to know who needs help, and the desire to reach out to them. Lord, heal us ALL from our blindness and our deafness and our insensativity of all kinds!
Some time ago, this Reuters item appeared:
“BEIJING - China published sweeping new regulations on Internet companies on Monday that limit foreign investment, require strict surveillance against ``subversive'' content and threaten to close down any unlicensed firms. The rules, passed by China's cabinet two weeks ago and published in the official Xinhua Daily Telegraph on Monday, are sure to send shock waves through the country's fledgling Internet industry, which is heavily dependent on foreign capital. By holding companies responsible for blocking vast categories of illegal content on their Web sites and chat rooms, the rules also illustrate Beijing's determination to contain the spread of ideas deemed dangerous to Communist Party rule.”
In the years since that article, China has become a major Internet presence – but the battle continues for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people, as their repressive government continues to attempt to control their citizen’s access to the TRUTH!
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me!”
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Truth is VERY important to the Christian, because truth is very important to Jesus Christ! As long as there is anywhere on earth that restricts the Truth, we must not rest until the blessed light of the Gospel, the greatest truth of all time, is freely shone into that darkness!
I am into breadbaking. When I first read a recipe' for Peasant Bread, I was surprised to learn that true peasant bread does NOT require all the kneading that regular bread does. I thought this sounded like a fine idea, as the kneading and spanking is a major part of the work of breadbaking. So I made a batch of Peasant Bread following the recipe' exactly. The result was a very course bread that was almost impossible to put butter, jam or peanut butter on because the interior was riddled with huge bubbles that made holes clear through the slices. I still use the Peasant Bread recipe', but I insert a good deal of kneading to mix the ingredients well, and spanking to remove the bubbles from the sponge.
You will notice the same thing if you watch a potter working with their clay. They may pound and pound the raw clay with the effect of bringing the tiny bubbles to the surface where they will break. If they did not do this, those bubles could cause a flaw in the finished pot which would make a weak place in the wall of the vessel.
Not restricted to breadbaking or pottery, you will see the same kind of thing if we watch a blacksmith, hammering and hammering a piece of steel; stretching it out, folding it back, and hammering some more. The Smithy is forging the steel to make it less brittle, tougher and stronger. You know how brittle Cast Iron is? The forging takes care of that –
When you feel that you are being hammered, remember this. You cannot have a strong vessel if the air bubbles have not been hammered out of the clay first. You cannot have a strong sword, knife, or similar steel tool unless the brittle cast iron has been hammered and hammered to make it tough. God knows what is best for us; he lets us get hammered now and then to remove our weak spots and to toughen us for the battles ahead.
Isaiah 64:8 (KJV);
But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
Horatio G. Spafford, a successful Chicago Lawyer, lost most of his wealth in the great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the financial crisis that followed it. He sent his wife and four daughters on a trip to France, but on their way, their ship was struck by another, and sank. Of the 225 passengers on that ship, only 87 survived.
Mrs. Spafford was among the survivors, but all four of their daughters perished. As soon as she reached land, she telegraphed this message to her husband: "Saved alone. Children lost. What shall I do?"
Spafford left for France to join his wife and return her to Chicago. On the way there, as his ship passed over the spot where his daughters had perished, he wrote his only hymn: It is Well With My Soul. Perhaps the words of the first stanza will take on new meaning for you, as you ponder them:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well, it is well with my soul."
“I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
When you feel the bottom falling out, reach up – you will be rescued from the abyss of despair! The Holy Spirit has been given to us to accompany us in all of our ways – We never walk alone!
An Atheist farmer often ridiculed people who believed in God. He wrote the following letter to the editor of a local newspaper: "I plowed on Sunday, planted on Sunday, cultivated on Sunday, and hauled in my crops on Sunday; but I never went to church on Sunday. Yet I harvested more bushels per acre than anyone else, even those who are God-fearing and never miss a service." The editor printed the man's letter and then added this remark: "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October." That editor was right!
Sometimes even dedicated Christians are tempted to complain because of what they see in the world around them. Perplexed by the success and prosperity of the wicked, oftentimes at the expense of the righteous, they ask, why doesn't the Lord do something about it? Why doesn't He reward those who fear Him, and judge those who disregard Him? Be patient. He will! True, He doesn't always "settle His accounts in October," but He does settle His accounts!
So if you're trying to do the will of God and you become discouraged because unjust people are getting ahead, don't be shortsighted.
Remember what the psalmist David advised:
Psalm 37:1-2 (KJV);
“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither like the green herb."
He went on to say;
"For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth."
Everyone will receive the recompense they have earned; some earlier, some later. What we need to be concerned about is what are WE doing FOR the Lord, and be less concerned about what someone ELSE is FAILING to do for him.
Some people who believe in the passages in the Bible about heaven, utterly reject the references to hell. Robert Ingersoll, a famous lawyer and atheist in the latter part of the nineteenth century, once delivered a blistering lecture on hell. He called hell the "scarecrow of religion" and told his audience how unscientific it was, and how all intelligent people had decided there was no such place. A drunk in the audience came up to him afterward and said, "Bob, I liked your lecture; I liked what you said about hell. But, Bob, I want you to be sure about it, because I'm depending upon you."
I don’t talk about Hell very much; I want to motivate people to turn to God, but I don’t think scaring them into it is a good way to win healthy citizens to His kingdom. People should turn to God because they love him, not because they fear what might befall them if they do not turn to him. Nevertheless, Hell exists. It is real, and will be the abode of the lost after the judgment. It is not a boogey man story to frighten the weak into doing right. Jesus Christ speaks more about hell than anyone else in the Bible.
For instance, in Matthew 23:33, Jesus says;
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
And yet, Jesus is kind and loving! How do we correlate the one who speaks of hell with the one who loves every creature on earth? By understanding that it is because he loves them that he speaks of hell to them! He tries other methods first, but if they are not responding, he loves them enough to warn them about where their present line of activity will lead them, in the end.
And I love you enough too; don’t be left behind. Don’t risk an eternity of separation from God for a bit of earthly pleasure! Forsake your present path, and come to Jesus Christ now! He will not refuse you.
Evangelist Paul Rader had often urged a banker in New York State to receive Christ, but the man would not make the decision. One day the preacher sensed that God wanted him to go immediately and speak to him again. So he took a train to the town where the man worked, hurried to the bank, and found his friend standing in the doorway.
"Rader," he said, "I'm glad to see you! I wrote a telegram begging you to come, but later changed my mind and didn't send it."
"That's all right," said the evangelist, "your message came through anyhow by way of heaven."
Under deep conviction of sin, the banker was impressed by Rader's earnestness and his special effort to reach him with the gospel, and within a few minutes he accepted the Lord. In his newfound joy he exclaimed, "Did you ever see the sky so blue or the grass so green!"
"Hallelujah, you're truly converted!" came Rader's response. "It's just like the song says, 'Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green, something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen."
Suddenly the banker gave a strange gasp and fell over dead! He had been saved at the very brink of eternity. What if Paul Rader had ignored that call? That man may have been lost. Are you in the position of that banker? This could be your last chance to turn your life over to Jesus Christ! Are you in the position of Paul Rader? Is there a friend, an acquaintance, a family member who has not accepted the Lord? Do not delay to speak to them; this could be their last chance!
2 Corinthians 6:2;
“For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
If you have trouble speaking to that loved one about the Lord, talk to your pastor - I am sure THEY will speak to them for you - I know I would!
It has always amazed me how God can speak to us using the most unusual means. I have, over the years I have been in the pulpit, received inspiration for a sermon from all sorts of wild creatures which Judy has brought me into association with. I have received a message from the stars at night, from the Aurora in Alaska, from the words of a child, and from Peanuts cartoon strips. For instance, today I will go into – Shakespeare!
In the Shakespeare's play, Macbeth tells his philosophy of life:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
As Christians, we know this is a wrong attitude! For instance, in the book of John, life is revealed to be other than a philosophy:
John 1:4 (KJV); John says of Jesus;
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men”.
If you're looking to some philosophy to give meaning to your life, you will be unfulfilled. Only Jesus Christ can give life true meaning;
John 14:6 (KJV);
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
He is the way to abundant life;
John 10:10b (KJV);
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
An anonymous friar in a Nebraska monastery wrote the following when he had grown older:
“If I had my life to live over again, I'd try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax, I would limber up, I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take more trips. I would be crazier. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. If I had to do it over again I would go places, do things, and travel lighter. If I had my life to live over I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would ride on more merry-go-rounds. I'd pick more daisies.
I believe this friar had a good handle on the simple fact that we are not to be TOO serious in this life. We are not to go around with long faces, afraid to smile because Christians are to be sober.
I sat under a pastor in Illinois that had it right. He stepped into the pulpit, looked around over the congregation before him, and said:
We are Christians! As Christians, we are preserved! Looking over these pews, I have to tell you that most of you look pickled!
In the Old Testament we find thirteen Hebrew roots, found in twenty-seven different words, which are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship!
Psalm 5:11-12 (KJV);
“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
On several occasions since I have been saved, I have had someone address me in the middle of some joke or frivolity which I am enjoying very much and say “A Christian should not be carrying on like that!”
My response has always been “Jesus saved me, he didn't kill me!
We are to be serious in our faith, but we are to be joyful in it as well, as we are in every aspect of our lives.
Did you ever hear the story about the city boy who moved to a farm and bought a cow? In no time at all, the city boys cow went dry. When he was talking to one of his neighbors about this, the neighboring farmer expressed surprise, as he was familiar with the cow, and she had come from a line of fine milk cows.
The city man said he was surprised too.
"I can't understand it either, for if ever a person was considerate of an animal, I was of that cow. I fed here well, I provided good shelter for her, I always made sure she had good fresh water available. When it came to milking, I treated her much better than others! If I didn't need any milk, I didn't milk her. If I only needed a quart, I only took a quart."
The farmer tried to explain that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible.
That’s the way it is in the Christian life, too. Those who only turn to God in need miss the real joy that flows from a daily infilling of His Spirit.
First Thessalonians 5:16-19 (KJV);
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.
That means we don’t commune with God as little as possible, but as much as possible! We are to talk to Him about everything; we are to give thanks for everything; We are here told that is his will; and we are never to ‘put it off’ because it is not convenient, or acceptable at the moment, nor are we to ever be reluctant to 'bother' God with what we consider to be trivial. That is quenching the spirit.
He is waiting to talk to you – don’t disappoint Him.
The Crystal Cathedral is a beautiful structure. When construction was finished in 1981, Robert H. Schuller preached it for 25 years, then retired in 2006 and put his son in the pulpit. In 2008 he removed his son and put his daughter in the pulpit. In 2010, with fifty five million dollars of debt and plagued by lawsuits and attachments, they declared bankruptcy. In 2012, the building was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. It is currently under re-construction to fit their needs, and will re-open next year.
From it's initial construction, I questioned the wisdom of putting so much money into a building. I thought about this when I read about an incident that happened to Clarence Jordan, author of the "Cotton Patch" New Testament Translation. He was getting a red-carpet tour of another minister's church. With pride the minister pointed to the rich, imported pews and luxurious decorations. As they stepped outside, darkness was falling, and a spotlight shone on a huge cross atop the steeple.
"That cross alone cost us ten thousand dollars," the minister said with a satisfied smile.
"You got cheated," said Jordan. "Times were when Christians could get them for free."
Even in our Christian things, we run the risk of descending into materialism! We run the risk of losing sight of what is IMPORTANT! Let’s read some of the words of Paul to the church at Philippi.
Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV);
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”