Bethany Church news
In the Scotland, up in the highland grazing areas, a sheep will often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they can't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again. When the grass is gone, the sheep will start bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint that they cannot stand, and then he will put a rope around himself, and he will go over the edge and down to the sheep, and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death.
Do you wonder why the shepherd does not go down and get the sheep when it is first stranded?
The answer is simple: Until the sheep have eaten all the grass, they would foolishly jump back down to reach it as soon as they were rescued. Until they have become weakened from hunger, they would fight the shepherd who was there to rescue them, and often cause themselves to fall off the cliff to their death.
Does that remind you of the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15, starting at verse 11? The prodigal son was not pursued by the father that loved him; he had to run his course, he had to waste his substance, he had to be ready to return, and then the Father received him gratefully.
Isn’t this the way it is with you and me as well? We drift away from God, and we don’t want to come back until we are broke, hungry and miserable as the Prodigal! We will have no thought of him as long as there is good grass to eat in the place where we have wandered! If anyone attempts to bring us back, we will rebuff them, and insist on staying exactly where we are – until we are completely sick of our condition.
Today is Easter Monday, the day after Easter Sunday. It should not be surprising that the most important event of the Christian year is celebrated on more than just one day.
From a Roman Catholic site, I got this description of this day:
Christians celebrated the days immediately following Easter - the most
important holy day in the Christian church -by telling jokes, playing pranks, and feasting on lamb. People would add fragrant oil or perfume to the Easter water they brought home from church, and then use this water to sprinkle and bless their food, pets, gardens, and homes.
Easter Monday morning, men would wake their wives with a spritz of the perfumed Easter water as they whispered, "May you never wither."
On Easter Tuesday, women would return the favor as they awakened their husbands with a bucketful of the scented water!
I don't have a problem with any kind of joyful activity today, because this is a most joyous time. The tomb is EMPTY!! Christ is RISEN!! At Christmas we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come”. Yesterday, Easter, we sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” Today, Easter Monday, we should be singing “Joy to the world, the Lord is Risen!”
Jesus told us what to do after he had risen from the tomb:
Mark 16:14-20 (KJV); Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Today is Easter.
We have seen the horror of Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. He suffered for us, and he died for us. You and me. It is absolutely essential to understand that Jesus did, indeed, die on the cross. The idea that someone would bribe the guards to say otherwise is wrong. These were soldiers, and dereliction of their duty carried a death penalty. No amount of money would cause them to lie about this. Jesus died. He was placed in a tomb. And this morning, when the women went to perform the ritual cleansing of his body, they found the tomb empty.
Luke 24:1-9 (KJV);
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
Sometimes life gut-punches us and we are wracked with pain and anguish. Sometimes we look up from the depths in which we find ourselves and we cannot imagine how we can crawl back up again.
But His tomb is empty.
Death has been conquered for us by Jesus Christ.
His tomb is empty.
And so will ours be, because of Him.
Death itself has NO HOLD on a Christian.
And from that fact, we know that nothing in this life is beyond our survival.
Yesterday, we spoke a bit about our diet, and talked about the experts who say we need to eat less meat and more fruit and vegetables. I disagreed with the experts on the ‘meat’ part of that advice, because we need MORE meat in our spiritual diet. Today, I am going to agree with them on part of their advice. We need more fruit in our spiritual diet!
Galatians 5:22-24 (KJV);
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Who can possibly argue against that kind of a diet? Every one of us has a period of indigestion when the love becomes a little cold, and we need to warm it up a bit by closer exposure to the Lord! A time when the joy becomes a little bitter, and needs to be refreshed from the bottomless kettle that Jesus Christ offers to us. Sometimes the peace becomes a bit of heartburn, and we need a soothing drought from the fountain of peace that springs from the Gospel. Of course, we all feel that our longsuffering needs no tune-up, I mean; we sure don’t want to practice that! But often our gentleness and goodness could use a bit of enhancement from walking in the way of the greatest commandments Jesus gave to us; Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and Love thy neighbor as thyself. The last part of our Fruit diet is Faith. Sometimes it looses a bit of its flavor, and needs to be renewed.
I like to walk outside at night and look up at the stars spread across the sky. I think about the words of an SR71 pilot who turned off the interior lights on a moonless night at an altitude of 84,000 feet and observed the stars. He said just before he turned them back on to start his descent: “I stole one last glance out the window. Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power.”
You can magnify the fruit of the spirit that dwells within you by observing the beauty of creation that is all around you -
Today, I want to talk a little bit about our health. Many dietary experts today tell us to eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables. I have been known to disagree with the ‘experts’ on many things, and this is no exception.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (KJV);
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
This is saying that many people who have had every opportunity to grow in the Lord have not done so; many should be out witnessing and teaching others, but instead they are still requiring witnessing and teaching themselves! They should have been weaned onto meat by now, but instead are still only able to handle milk. Delve into the Word of God! Read your bible! Listen to good bible based preaching! Meditate on Gods teachings! Begin the process of weaning yourself from a milk diet of only those nice warm fuzzy feeling teachings, and get into the strong meat of the Lord!
Now, stepping out of the spiritual, let me say a few words about our physical diet. I have lived long enough to see many foods get listed as bad for you, while at other times those same foods get listed as good for you. Remember the “no salt” push a few years ago, and the resultant disaster of manufacturing a baby food with zero salt in it? One group says raw vegetables, while another says some nutrients in them cannot be utilized by us unless they are cooked.
In the meat vs vegetable debate for weight control, I have to look at the animal kingdom. Rabbits are vegetarian. Lions are carnivors. How many skinny rabbits and fat lions do you see?
Seriously, we need a diet that utilizes all the foods given to us by God, and does so in a moderate manner.
What do you do when you are in trouble? Who do you turn to when you are besieged on every side by those that seek to harm you? In an emergency, do you look for glass to break, as the old fire-alarms used to say?
As Christians, we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ; He shows us what we are supposed to be doing. What did He do in every such situation? He prayed! Prayer was not just his regular habit, but his resort in every emergency, however small or great. When perplexed he prayed. When hard pressed by work he prayed. When hungry for fellowship he communed with our Father in prayer. He chose his associates and received his messages through communication in prayer. When he was tempted, he prayed. When he found himself criticized, he prayed. On those occasions when he was fatigued in body or wearied in spirit, his one unfailing habit was prayer. Prayer brought him unmeasured power at the beginning, and kept the flow unbroken and undiminished throughout his ministry here on this earth. There was no emergency, no difficulty, no need, no temptation that would not yield to prayer for Jesus then, nor for us today.
Just a few of the times that Jesus prayed were:
Mark 1:35 (KJV);
"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."
Mark 6:46 (KJV);
"And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray."
Luke 5:16 (KJV);
"And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed."
And, on the final night before the time of his suffering and death, he prayed again in
Luke 22:41-42 (KJV);
"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
A crowded gathering of distinguished scientists had been listening spellbound to an excellent presentation by Michael Faraday. For an hour he had held his brilliant audience enthralled as he demonstrated the nature and properties of the magnet. Faraday was one of the pioneers in investigation of magnetism, and was the foremost authority on it in his day. His accomplishments were so great that the unit of measure of capacitance was named after him; the Farad. He had brought his lecture to a close with an experiment so novel, so bewildering, and so triumphant, that for some time after he resumed his seat, the house rocked with enthusiastic applause. And the Prince of Wales—afterwards King Edward VII—rose to propose a motion of congratulations. The resolution, having been duly seconded, was carried with renewed thunders of applause.
Suddenly the uproar ceased and a strange silence settled over the audience. The assembly waited for Faraday's reply.
The room was silent. Faraday did not appear.
Only his most intimate friends knew what had become of him. He was an elder in a little church about the size of Bethany. As soon as Faraday had concluded his lecture, he had hurriedly departed the lecture hall in order to get to his church before the prayer meeting started.
Where are the Faraday’s today? One can peruse the halls of academia today in vain searching for a dedicated Christian. We have entered an era in which Science and Christianity are viewed as being on opposite sides of a dividing wall, and that perception is completely wrong. The greatest scientists the world has ever known understood completely that they were investigating the creation of almighty God, and seeking to understand the principles along which he had set all things into motion.
The Word of God tells us what to do when the words of a scientist are contrary to the words of God:
1 Timothy 6:20-21 (KJV);
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
Little Raymond returned home from Sunday school in a joyous mood.
“My,” his mother said. “You certainly must have enjoyed Sunday School today!
”Oh, Mother," he exclaimed with obvious pleasure, "The superintendent said something awfully nice about me in his prayer today."
"Isn't that wonderful!" said the mother. "What did he say?"
He said, "Oh Lord, we thank Thee for food and Raymond," replied the lad.
Well, little Raymond had never heard the word ‘Raiment’ before, and I am sure his mother told him what the superintendent REALLY said in his prayer. I am sure that little Raymond was sorely disappointed to discover his error.
But there is a REAL application in this little story. What a wonderful thing indeed it is to even imagine that someone is thanking God for US! We have all had those special times when we are impressed to do something for someone else; we may feel that God told us to do it, that the Holy Spirit led us to do it, or that we just felt that we should do it. Often times, we don’t think about it at all – we just do it and go on. Often, we will never discover how much our small help meant to the person involved. But then again, there are very special times when we learn later just how much our reaching out a hand actually meant to someone when they were in need. At such times, we should drop our head, and thank God for using such an imperfect tool as we are to accomplish something good.
The Word of God tells us to walk the walk, not just talk the talk:
1 John 3:17-18 (KJV);
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
There is an ancient legend that Abraham invited into his tent a man, who at mealtime gave no thanks to God for His mercy. Whereupon the patriarch drove him forth into the desert unfed and unsheltered.
But in the night God touched Abraham and awoke him, saying to him, "Where is the stranger?"
Abraham said, "When he did not fear you, nor thank you, I drove him forth."
God rebuked him, saying, "Who made you his judge: I have borne with him all these years. Could you not bear with him one night? Have you learned nothing from my mercy to you?”
How about you, Christian?
Do you look down your nose at the people at the next table in the restaurant who do not bow their heads over their food before they eat it? Do you pass judgment on those you see driving past the church on Sunday with a speed boat on a trailer, heading for the lake? Do you look at those who do not have their windows filled with Christmas decorations in December and decide that they simply are not worth bothering with, since they are obviously not Christians?
That is not for you to decide. Remember this old legend; God has been with you your entire life and has never given up on you, so you can find the strength to put up with people for the brief period that you are called upon to do, and treat them civilly. How can you claim the promise of God’s everlasting love if you cannot even do this for your fellow man?
Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment:
Mark 12:29-31 (KJV);
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 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. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
In the early years of his ministry, Dr. George W. Truett took the following verse as his text for a morning's message:
Matthew 18:19 (KJV);
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Having quoted his text, Dr. Truett asked: "Do you believe it?"
Of course he did not expect an answer, but one was forthcoming nevertheless. As he paused for a moment that his question might be understood, a very poor member of the congregation, poor in this world's goods but rich in faith, rose to her feet. "I believe it, pastor," she said, "and I want you to claim that promise with me."
"It staggered me," said the pastor. "I knew I did not have the faith to claim the promise, but before I had time to answer, a big, burly blacksmith in the congregation rose to his feet; 'I'll claim that promise with you, Auntie,' he said, and together the two, the poor washer-woman and the blacksmith, dropped to their knees in the aisle and poured out their hearts in prayer for the salvation of the woman's husband."
Now it happened that this man was a riverboat captain on the Rio Grande, a swearing, foul-mouthed drunken sot, and he was at that moment sleeping off a drink at home.
That night, for the first time in many years at least, the old riverboat captain was in the church and while the pastor preached the woman prayed, not for the salvation of her husband, rather she was thanking God for it, for she seemed to know it would happen that night.
And of course, when the invitation was given, this old foul-mouthed captain came to give his heart to the Lord, and he became one of the most dependable and faithful workers in that church.
How about you? Do you believe it? REALLY believe it? You should!
A certain Duke of Milan was so hated for his unbearable cruelty that everybody prayed day and night for something bad to happen to him. Someone noticed that every day at sunrise a decrepit old woman entered a church and prayed to God that he give the Duke health and long life. The Duke, hearing about this and knowing very well that he did not deserve that for his virtue, sent for the old woman and asked her why she prayed to God for him every day.
"I admit," she said, "that I have done this until now for good reasons. This is because when I was a young girl the Milanese had a very cruel lord, and I wished that he should fall from power and die. After he died he was succeeded by another who was no better than he, wherefore I believed once more that it would be to our great advantage if he were killed.
"Now you are our third lord, and you are more wicked and cruel than the first two. I fear, therefore, that after your death you will be succeeded by someone worse than you are; and so I never stop praying God to let you live for a long time." The tyrant was too ashamed to punish the elderly woman for her outspoken words.
I have had people in my life that did their best to do me ill. I had a very hard time forgiving these people, because the natural human tendency is to dream of getting EVEN with them! But I have now, finally, been able to forgive them, although I cannot yet forget.
Sgt. LaFredo, as the worst of the bunch, I forgive you for the great efforts you expended to destroy my life while I was in the Air Force. I forgive you for telling blatant lies about me in my permanent military record. I spent years overcoming those, and finally succeeded. I then spent more years overcoming my hatred of you because of them. I repent of the desire to run over you with my car. I repent of the desire to beat you senseless while laughing maniacally. I repent of the desire to put you through all the same type of trouble which you have put me through. In fact, I sincerely hope that you have found the Lord. You do, after all, need him more than any individual I have ever met in my rather long and interesting life.
Hmm. On reading that, it sounds like I have NOT forgiven him.
Oh well, I am a lot closer to it than I used to be.
Leslie Stokes, an English Baptist minister, once told the following parable:
Once upon a time there was a tree. It was a lovely-looking tree, shapely, strong, and stately. But appearances are not always to be trusted, and they were not in this case. For the tree knew inwardly that its massive strength was beginning to wane. When the wind was strong it had felt itself shaking ominously, and heard suspicious creaks. So, wisely, it took itself in hand. With much effort it grew another branch or two, and then looked stronger and safer than ever. But when the next gale blew, there was a terrific snapping of roots and, but for the support of a friendly neighbor, it would have been flat on the ground.
When the tree had recovered from the shock, it looked at its neighbor curiously. "Tell me," it asked, "how is it that you have not only stood your ground, but are even able to help me, too?"
"Oh," replied the neighbor, "that's easy. When you were busy growing new branches, I was strengthening my roots."
This story has at least two applications for the Christian. First, on a personal level, it can apply to the Christian that is interested in all the peripheral issues, and ignores his own spiritual condition. He is interested in wearing the proper clothes to the proper church, and arriving driving the proper car, sitting next to the proper people, but has no idea what God’s will is for his life, because he has never sought to find it.
On a larger scale, it applies to the church that is very involved in youth activities, has many programs for adults, has a lot of social interaction between members, is always involved in church dinners, ice cream socials, pancake suppers, and Bingo night activities, but has yet to have a single member knock on the door of the people living right beside the church to find out if they have a church home or not. It has been ten years since it had a good old fashioned Salvation message preached from its pulpit, and half of the membership has never heard one. It is politically correct and socially correct, but spiritually dead.
Give me that old time religion – and hold the bingo.
A father and his young daughter got along extremely well, and they spent a lot of time together. Then the father noticed a change in his daughter. If he went for a walk, she excused herself from going. If he watched a movie on TV, she excused herself and spent the time in her room. He grieved about it, but did not want to intrude upon her newly desired solitude. When his birthday came, she presented him with a pair of exquisitely worked slippers, saying, "This is what I have been making for you for the last three months."
Then he understood what had been the matter lately, and he said, "My darling, I like these slippers very much, but next time buy the slippers and let me have you all the days. I would rather have my child than anything she can make for me."
I read that story, and immediately a portion of scripture became very clear to me – a new meaning, which I had never seen in it before.
Revelation 2:2-4 (KJV);
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Did you see that?
“I know your works and your labor and your patience - - - - but you have left your first love.”
God is telling us that he KNOWS how hard we work for him, and he LOVES us for it, but never wants us to be so busy working FOR Him that we neglect to spend time WITH Him! No matter how much you want to do, or even think you HAVE to do, you can always find time to spend with the Lord.
There are numerous stories of selflessness that came out of the flood some years ago from hurricane Katrina. One of them involved a small community of Vietnamese who had spent days in the horror of the evacuation center where lawlessness and anarchy took over and ruled for several days. Gangs preyed upon the refugees there, and robbery, rape, murder, all imaginable kinds of man’s inhumanity to man had been perpetrated upon these helpless victims that waited a seeming endless time to be removed from the stinking cesspool which the superdome had become.
Then, finally, the busses started to bring them out. After eleven hours of constant shuttling, there were more people to be evacuated than there were at the start. The word had gotten out that people were getting rides out of the flooded city from the superdome, and people were flooding into it faster than they were being removed. In the midst of the crowds, Geraldo Rivera described this small community of Vietnamese as “an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos”. When their turn came to get a ride out of the horror they were all living in, they told the evacuation crew to go ahead and take the others; they would be glad to evacuate last. They sat, silent and composed, as a sea of humanity flowed around them, fighting and shoving for a chance at what they had calmly decided to put off until last.
You will find that the loud and the boisterous is not the strongest. Often, they make a lot of noise and bluster to cover their own fear. It is the quiet person, the calm person, that displays true strength. Remember Tim Allen in the movie Joe Somebody? He was humiliated by a bully at work in front of his daughter, and spent the rest of the movie receiving martial arts instruction to get back at the bully. In the end, he attains TRUE strength, and discovers that there is no reason to fight when he knows he will win.
I used this passage a few days ago, but it bears repeating:
Isaiah 30:15A (KJV);
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:
Veteran sports fans still talk about the November 9th, 1912, football game between Army and tiny Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Carlisle's Boys only went to the twelfth grade, but since many of their players were too rough for high school games, they played major colleges.
Before the November 9th game, Army was ranked second in the nation. But that was before Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle team trounced them with a 27-6 score.
For his athletic prowess Thorpe was known as "the greatest at almost any feat except controlling himself."
Thorpe died in 1953. His death ended a long nightmare of drinking, bumming about the country, family troubles, injuries and illnesses.
And the Army halfback who played against Thorpe in the 1912 game? He became a general in the U.S. Army, and president of the United States in 1952, one year before Thorpe died.
His name: Dwight David Eisenhower.
So the member of the WINNING team, the one with the fame and glory of the day, spent a life of sorrow and tragedy –
And the member of the LOOSING team, the one with the huge defeat that day, spent a life of power and honor, in service to our country.
The moral of this story?
Make sure that you seek a higher honor than simply self aggrandizement.
The Word of God tells us:
Acts 12:21-23 (KJV);
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.