Bethany Church news
I had a friend (now deceased) who believed completely that all traits of the human personality are controlled by their genetic makeup. He believed that your genes determine whether you will be generous or stingy, a Democrat or a Republican, a Christian or Atheist. He quoted several very noteworthy scientists who agree.
The late professor Jacques Monod, a famous French geneticist and Nobel prize winner, in a television session in Toronto with Mother Teresa, professed this same belief. He said that in his opinion all our destiny was locked up in our genes, which shape and direct our character and outlook, thus destroying the individual.
As he spoke about it, Mother Teresa sat with her eyes closed and her hands folded, deep in prayer. On being asked by the program's host whether she had anything to say, she replied: "I believe in love and compassion," and resumed her devotions.
As the Professor was leaving the studio he muttered: "If I saw much more of that woman I should be in bad trouble!"
I have news for you, professor. You are already in bad trouble.
The Bible tells us it is GOD that gives us our spirit, not genetics:
Job 32:8 (KJV);
"But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding."
And it tells us we are created in God’s image:
Genesis 5:1 (KJV);
"This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;"
And finally, it speaks of the great value of Charity:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (KJV);
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
Nothing is predetermined in our life! The decisions are all OURS!
I will never forget The Ice Storm of 1994! The telephone and electric lines were down all over this area, and the amount of work to get everything back up and running was so vast that many line workers from out of state were brought in to help work on them. I was in Smithville when it hit, and I drove home early the next morning. Driving along a deserted interstate with cars abandoned where they had slid off the road was a very strange feeling, especially when I had to keep switching lanes to avoid all the trees that had fallen into the road itself. When I arrived home, Bethany road from the highway was impassible from all the trees laying across it, so I went around to the other end and came in the back way. There were fewer trees here, and those that were across the road had a nice vehicle sized hole cut through them; I later found that Judy had driven Randy out that way, and he had used a chain saw to cut a hole through the obstructions large enough for a vehicle to pass through. Over the next few days, chain saws were running everywhere, cutting up and removing all the downed trees and limbs.
There was one thing of note in this destruction, though. Whereas the trees that were alone and isolated along the roads and highways were virtually ALL destroyed, very few trees in the woods were brought down by this. Many lost some branches, but the trees themselves stood strong. Why? Because they supported each other, and helped to share the burden of the ice among themselves. They also shielded each other from the full brunt of the wind that brought the others down.
Where trees stood alone, however, the effect of the heavy ice and wind was different. The branches had become heavier and heavier, and since there were no other trees to lean against, the branches snapped. They lay on the ground, dark and alone in the cold snow.
When the storms of life hit, we need to be standing close to other Christians. The closer we stand, the more we will be able to hold up.
The Word of God tells us about this:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV);
"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."
I have talked to you recently about how I prefer an independent church over a church that is part of a major denomination. I have also spoken of the importance of attending a local church as a family, and being sure your children are raised to consider this a vital regular part of their life.
But there is one more thing to watch out for: The longing, and subsequent search, for the Perfect Church. The goal of this quest is an illusion. Unbridled desire can be the death of reason, judgment, and discipline. Some form of satisfaction doesn't even stand a chance unless one settles down at a place and serves. The church is a feast, not a taste, a meal, not a nibble. You cannot be fed if you flit from congregation to congregation constantly seeking the perfect one. Jesus Christ is perfect. Everyone else has flaws. Our gatherings of believers are not immune to this fact. Every church has some problem or other, because they are all a gathering place for failed people. We cannot reach perfection, but we are not thus released from the necessity of trying!
We are to sit and serve with the same people week after week, receiving and being received, disappointing and being disappointed, hurting and being hurt, caring and being cared for. Church people are in it for the long haul, not the short term. The ordinary is more crucial than the extraordinary. The glory of church is the routine, not the exceptional.
The Bible tells us we are all one, and there are no separations:
Romans 12:5 (KJV);
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
Galatians 3:28 (KJV);
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
And we are told to get along together:
1 Peter 3:8 (KJV);
"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:"
Have you noticed that Jesus did not say to His disciples: "I have had a most successful time on earth. I have addressed thousands of people and been the means of their salvation; now you go and do the same kind of thing." No. What he did say was: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet." We try to get out of it by washing the feet of those who are not familiar to us. We will wash the heathen's feet in Africa. We will wash the feet of those living in the inner city slums far from home. But will we consider washing the feet of our brother who lives next door? Do you consider washing the feet of your wife? Your husband? Would we consider washing the feet of the minister of our own church? Our Lord said "one another's feet", but that is not how we apply it, is it? It is so much more SANITARY to minister to those who we do not know – those who are far from us, and who we can help without actually touching them with our own hands!
The Word of God tells us of the boundless nature of the love which Christ has for us:
Ephesians 3:17-18 (KJV);
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;"
And Jesus tells us that we are to exhibit that same love for our fellow believers:
John 13:34-35 (KJV);
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
And we are told that married couples are to deal with each other as Jesus deals with the Church; unbounded love on both sides!
Ephesians 5:22-23 (KJV);
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."
The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. That is an old saying regarding how children seem to grow up to have many of the traits of their parents. We all know exceptions, of course, but it is far more likely for good moral people to come from households where the parents were moral than from homes where the parents exhibit a low moral character. In general, parents who drink to excess, abuse drugs, smoke, and treat others with little respect will raise children that have at least some of those same bad characteristics.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are largely fruits of sustained interaction with God. Just as a child picks up traits more or less simply by dwelling in the presence of their parent, so the Christian develops tenderheartedness, compassion, humility, forgiveness, joy, and hope through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and by dwelling in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. This is very difficult if one is living among worldly people. We all are IN this world, and must deal with it, and with the people in it. This interaction is NOT good for our spiritual condition. It is important, therefore, to make it a point to get together with believers on a REGULAR basis, that we may be regularly exposed to a community of serious believers.
"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you."
What does all of that mean? Christians need regular church attendance, and the younger the Christian, the more important the fellowship with other believers!
Today, I want to speak to you just a bit about independent churches. Independent means that the church is not part of any established denomination like Methodist, Episcopal, Assembly of God, etc. In those churches, some board in some distant location meets and makes decisions regarding the church.
We sat under the preaching of a very good preacher in Fairbanks in the late 60's. The Presbytery required all their preachers in all churches to read a letter to their congregations which said we must acknowledge the 'morality' of those that fled to Canada to avoid the draft. This preacher had a son who was serving in Viet Nam. He read the letter, then said "It is the right of the board to write this. It is their right to require me to read it. It is my right to walk out of this church and never return.” With that, he walked down the aisle and out the door.
In Illinois we attended an Assembly of God church which the governing board of, far removed from our church, decided to close. We came to Church Sunday morning to find the doors locked, and many people’s personal possessions commandeered by that same body, which was made up of pastors of large Assembly of God churches. The furniture, etc., was divided up among them.
Bethany is an independent church. The only group which we need to be concerned about affiliation with is the group of Christians that make up the universal church! The only authority which we must follow is Jesus Christ!
I have found a statistic showing that 20% of the houses of worship in the United States were independent. That is a good sign because it shows that there are many people who realize denominations separate, rather than unite, believers.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (KJV);
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"
God does not care what name is written on your meeting house. He is vitally concerned, however, about what name is written on your heart -
In the Christian Reader, Priscilla Larson wrote: My brother-in-law, who is a minister, responded to a Red Cross appeal for blood donations. When he didn't come home by the time his young son expected him, the boy asked his mother, "Is Dad going around visiting all the sick people?"
His mother replied, "He's giving blood."
The boy smiled and said "But we know it's really grape juice, don't we Mom?"
This story hits on something deep. What is on your mind when you take communion? Are you thinking ‘it’s only grape juice’, or are you thinking about the REAL blood shed by Jesus Christ for your sins?
Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 11:20-30 (KJV);
"When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."
We can never be worthy to take communion, but we can all do it in a worthy manner. That means having our hearts and minds on ONLY Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice for all of us – paying a debt that we owed.
I long for the days when street sweepers were called street sweepers, and not sanitation engineers. I would like to find a single medical specialist whose exact field title was in English instead of Latin. It is confusing! Several years ago at the VA hospital, being buried in Latin phrases and the strings of initials that the military loves so much, I asked for directions to Obstetrics - which brought quite a round of laughter from the assembled veterans in the waiting room. Obstetrics is pretty close to Osteopathy, to me. If we just called it a pregnancy clinic and a bone clinic, there would be no confusion. Still, everyone seems to want to advance themselves by inventing more and more complicated sounding titles. And there is also the incentive for employers to pass out titles in lieu of money at review time.
Maybe you saw the "Wizard of Id" comic strip the day the King came down to check with the Royal Technicians at work on the space project. The King says, "How's the Royal Space Project progressing?" And the technician replies, "We've run into a problem. There's been a major malfunction of the primary propulsion system in the first stage vehicle." The King asks, "What does that mean?" And the technician replies, "It means the rubber band broke."
I think we were better off when we simply told it like it is, instead of attempting to guild everything in fancy language.
For our faith, we do not need volumes of commentaries. We do not need all the collections of writings from great theologians. Let’s ignore all the frills and go back to basics for just a moment of reflection:
John 3:16 (KJV);
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything. There is no reason to debate the biblical teachings on Creation, the timing of the rapture, the meaning of the various phrases in Daniel and Revelation, on the role of the man and the role of the woman in the family, the exact teachings on tithes and offerings, the person of the Holy Spirit, or the different aspects of the Trinity. If you don’t have the basic salvation message, you are wasting your time on anything else.
Have you heard the story about the school district and Haley's Comet? There is a lesson here:
A school superintendent told his assistant superintendent the following: "Next Thursday morning at 10:30, Halley's Comet will appear over this area. This is an event which occurs only once every seventy-five years. Call the school principals and have them assemble their teachers and classes on their athletic fields and explain this phenomenon to them. If it rains, then cancel the day's observation and have the classes meet in the auditorium to see a film about the comet."
***'t superintendent to school principals: "By order of the superintendent of schools, next Thursday at 10:30 Halley's Comet will appear over your athletic field. If it rains, then cancel the day's classes and report to the auditorium with your teachers and students where you will be shown films, a phenomenal event which occurs only once every seventy-five years.
Principals to teachers: "By order of the phenomenal superintendent of schools, at 10:30 next Thursday Halley's Comet will appear in the auditorium. In case of rain over the athletic field, the superintendent will give another order--something which occurs only once every seventy-five years.
Teachers to students: "Next Thursday at 10:30 the superintendent of schools will appear in our school auditorium with Halley's Comet; something which occurs once every seventy-five years. If it rains, the superintendent will cancel the comet and will order us out to our phenomenal athletic field."
Students to parents: "When it rains next Thursday at 10:30 over the school athletic field, the phenomenal seventy-five-year-old superintendent of schools will cancel all classes and appear before the school in the auditorium accompanied by Bill Haley and the Comets."
What is the lesson in this? The closer to the source, the more accurate the information. never take someone else's word for what God has to tell us in the Bible - much less what someone thinks someone says about it - always read it for yourself!
Eve had a lump removed from her breast. Shortly after the operation, talking to her sister, she said that she found it upsetting to have been cut into, and that looking at the stitches was distressing because they left a seam that had changed the contour of her breast. Her sister said, "I know. When I had my operation I felt the same way." But when Eve told her husband, Mark, how she felt, he said, "You can have plastic surgery to cover up the scar and restore the shape of your breast."
Eve was comforted by her sister, but she was not by Mark. Quite the contrary, he upset her more. "I'm not having any more surgery!" she protested. "I'm sorry you don't like the way it looks." Mark was hurt and puzzled, unable to figure out what had gone wrong in that conversation.
This communication difficulty is something I have experienced on many, many occasions. In this story, Mark assumed the role of problem solver, whereas Eve simply wanted sympathy. I have been a problem solver my entire life, working as an industrial electrician, factory representative, and design engineer. In each of these positions, I was always respected and well paid for my ability to spot a problem and figure out how to fix it. Judy, my beloved wife of 54 years and 23 days, has come to me with a problem which she wants sympathy for, and instead of giving her that sympathy, I’ve told her how to fix the problem. With enough years of this, I have begun to suppress my natural tendency to FIX everything, and just be a good listener, providing sympathy for the problem being discussed. Now the problem is that she comes to me occasionally with something she wants fixed, and I express sympathy for the problem, and leave it at that.
Brothers, your wife is a gift from God - love her enough to work VERY hard to determine what it is she needs, beyond what she says, and provide it.
Sisters, you and your husband are one flesh, but his half is not as discerning as your half. If you tell him plainly what it is you want, he will do his best to meet that need.
The Word of God tells us:
John 13:34 (KJV);
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
There is a lot of discussion regarding God's will for us; how do we KNOW what that is?
I think about a story that Charles Spurgeon wrote many years ago concerning this. Spurgeon was asked once by a student in his Bible College what words of advice he would give to a young man just preparing to enter the ministry. Spurgeon told him to stay out of the ministry! Dig ditches, wash dishes, do ANYTHING to keep out of the pulpit! The young man was naturally shocked at such advice from the founder of the bible college he was attending! Then Spurgeon finished his advice - If, in spite of all of your best efforts, you find yourself thrust into the pulpit anyway - then you know you were called!
This advice has applied well to my own experience! I wanted to open Bethany as a church again, but never dreamed of entering the pulpit! I searched for someone to preach it, and found some willing to do so for brief periods, but every time things seemed to be settling down, something would come up to keep them from preaching it, and I found myself repeatedly being thrust into the pulpit. Since I was being forced over and over to step into the pulpit, I started studying preaching and preachers, and it is in that study that I found this story of Spurgeon's advice. I realized that this was me; I had done everything in my power to avoid it, but found myself there anyway - so I know I was called.
Every one of us has a specific plan for our lives that has been developed by God. Although he will not force you to do his will - I could have, after all, just let the church close rather than preach it - he will remove the most likely alternatives, leaving you with his way as the only one that looks right to you. The right way will probably be the hardest way, but it will be the only one left that looks right to you.
Revelation 3:20 (KJV);
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
Yesterday, I spoke of comfort, and the Christians need to give it to those that are suffering even when - and perhaps especially when - they are themselves in affliction.
If we would be better than we are now, we must accept everything God sends us to develop and expand our spiritual life. We are so content to stay where we are that God often has to compel us to rise higher by bringing us face to face with situations that we cannot meet without much greater measures of His grace. It is as if God found us comfortably living in the swamps, and had to send a tidal wave to flood those low wetlands where we dwell to force us to move into the hills beyond. God, like the mother bird, sometimes has to tear up the comfortable, downy nest, letting us drop into empty space. There we must either learn to use an entirely new and higher method of support or sink into failure and loss. We must do or die, fly or fall to our destruction.
The Word of God addresses the fact that parents who discipline their children do so out of LOVE, and that it is the refusal to chastise them which is the sign of a lack of love for them:
Proverbs 13:24 (KJV);
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
And it tells us that discipline is only given to IMPROVE them while they are able to be improved on, but we must expect the child to be upset, angry, and protesting about the chastening which we give them:
Proverbs 19:18 (KJV);
"Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
God gives us these directions for dealing with OUR children, and in so doing he also explains his own dealings with us, by making us realize that he is our father and we are his children.
Alexander Woolcott related this story about a hospital in New York many years ago. A grief-stricken mother sat in the lounge in stunned silence, tears running down her cheeks. She had just lost her only child and she was gazing blindly into space while the head nurse talked to her, simply because it was the duty of the head nurse to talk in such circumstances.
"Did you notice the shabby little boy sitting in the hall just next to your daughter's room?"
No, she had not noticed him.
"There," continued the head nurse, "there is a case. That little boy's mother is a young French woman who was brought in a week ago by ambulance from their tiny one-room apartment where they lived since they came to this country scarcely three months ago. They had lost all their people in the old country and knew nobody here. The two had only each other. Every day that lad has come and sat there from sunup to sundown in the vain hope that she would awaken and speak to him. Now, he has no home at all!"
The bereaved mother was listening now. So the nurse went on, "Fifteen minutes ago that little mother died, dropped off like a pebble in the boundless ocean, and now it is my duty to go out and tell that little fellow that, at the age of seven, he is all alone in the world." The head nurse paused, then turned plaintively to the lady. "I don't suppose," she said hesitantly, "I don't suppose that you would go out and tell him for me?"
What happened in the next few moments is something that you remember forever. Mrs. Norris stood up, dried her tears, went out and put her arms around the lad and led that homeless child off to her childless home, and in the darkness they both knew they had become lights to each other!
Did the first part of that story disturb you? Did the second part comfort you? I hope so, because it has been said that the true function of a preacher is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed. But beyond that, take something from this story; no matter how bad off you are, there is someone worse off; give them your comfort and support, and you will find your own burdens easier to bear.
A soap manufacturer and a pastor were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, "The gospel you preach hasn't done much good, has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!" The pastor made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the pastor said, "I see that soap hasn't done much good in the world; for there is much dirt, and many dirty people around." The soap manufacturer replied, "Oh, well, soap is only useful when it is applied." And the pastor said, "Exactly, so it is with the gospel."
The Word of God shows this to be true; until we ourselves take action with the promises of the gospel, they do us no good. It is a fact that we must make a decision for Christ, and thereby experience a spiritual re-birth, just as explained to us by Jesus himself:
John 3:5 (KJV);
But Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless one is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter God's kingdom."
In this statement, the water birth is the physical birth which we already experienced; Jesus tells us that we must then experience a second birth, the spiritual one. One should not confuse the water birth in this statement with baptism - that is an act of obedience only, not a salvation thing.
The requirements for salvation are to confess faith in Jesus Christ, and to believe in him completely:
Romans 10:9-11 (KJV);
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."