Bethany Church news
An interesting thing happened to me a couple years ago. I was walking into the Dollar General store in Clarksville, when I noticed a young man coming toward the door from the inside in some obvious physical difficulty. Under his shirt, I could see some angular lines that indicated to me that he was wearing some kind of brace, and it was making movement difficult for him. I stepped back outside the door and held it wide for him to pass through. As he shuffled through the door, a boxed set of sheets fell out from under his shirt. He bent and scooped them up, then continued to try to run towards a car that was driven by a woman who was waiting with the motor running. As I stood there in shock, a clerk started yelling “Shoplifter!” and running toward the door. To be completely fair, I held the door open for them, too, but the young man had jumped into the car, and it was already speeding away.
Now let us consider another scenario. What if I had realized what this man was doing, and held the door open for him intending to help him get away. Then, what if that door slipped from my hand and hit him, knocking him down so that the clerk caught him before he escaped.
In the true story, I helped a man commit a crime while trying to do right. In the “what if” account, I wanted to help a man commit a crime, and instead had helped to stop him.
In which account did I sin?
Only in the second one. God does not look at results, God looks into our hearts and judges us on our intentions, not on the actual outcome. Thankfully, because so often we TRY to do right, and muck it up. And we never get “credit” for a good outcome of any actions we take in an effort to do wrong.
Proverbs 17:3 (KJV);
“The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.”
And there you have it. God does not judge you by your brain; your intellect is of little interest to Him. He does not judge you by your muscular development; your physical strength is nothing to Him. He judges your heart; what you intend to do, what you try to do, what you desire to do. Anything else means little.
Once upon a time, there was a master violinist in Europe. He would play in concerts, and he had a magnificent Stradivarius violin, extremely expensive. He would play the Stradivarius violin in concert and everyone would whisper in the crowd, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." He would play in churches, and people would say, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." He even played before kings and queens, and they, too, would turn to one another and say, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." All the glory went to the instrument.
Then one day this master violinist was walking by a pawn shop. He noticed an old, beat-up, worn-out violin. He walked into the pawn shop and asked how much it would cost. The owner of the pawn shop told him the equivalent of five dollars. He bought the violin, and he took it home. He polished it, and he refined it, and he tuned it, and he retuned it, and he built some character into that violin. Then, when he was to play the greatest performance of his life in a concert hall, he took out the little, five-dollar, worn-out, beat- up violin that he had polished and refined. He put it up to his chin, and he began to play, and everybody in the concert hall whispered, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius."
This story reminds me of God and sinners. People remark about this person being so wonderful, or that one being so virtuous – when in reality, all are sinners that have been cleaned and tuned by the hand of God.
Romans 5:1-8 (KJV);
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
There are two ways to ride a super-heavyweight motorcycle at low speeds. One is brute force; when it starts to lean to the right, you jam your right foot into the ground and kick the bike back up to vertical. The other way is finesse and balance. You keep the bike vertical by very subtle steering corrections which keep it from leaning too far and causing the problem in the first place. And then there are times that neither work, and I have the broken ankle to prove it!
If your wall clock is a bit off time, how do you set it? Do you turn the little wheel that is connected to the inner mechanism, or do you grab hold of the hands and move them to where they belong?
If the power window on your car is open and you want it shut, do you operate the little button on the door, or do you grab the glass and pull up on it?
Leo Tolstoy wrote an essay called 'Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?' in which he described man as both a spiritual and an animal being. He said that a man could be moved by influencing his animal being or by influencing his spiritual essence. This can be likened to the above; moving the hands of a clock by pushing them into place, or raising a window by gripping the glass, is similar to motivating a person by influencing his animal being. Although it is POSSIBLE to move a person this way, it is far better to move someone, whether yourself or another, by appealing to their spiritual side.
Just like a heavy motorcycle, a person can be influenced by brute force – but finesse and balance, appeal to reason, is far superior.
The Word of God tells us:
Job 32:8 (KJV);
"But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding."
Psalms 51:10 (KJV);
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
Ecclesiastes 12:7 (KJV);
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
The movie, the Passion of the Christ, brought forth a lot of protest from some Christians who did not think it adhered closely enough to scripture. Others were greatly moved by the film. Personally, I was very impressed with this work, and the few departures from scripture were not the least bit troublesome to me, as they had no effect upon the message whatsoever.
Many years ago, there was a much wider protest among Christians over the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” MANY Christians were highly opposed to a production which they considered to be highly irreverent, showing events in Christ’s life accompanied by rock songs. Personally, I liked it. Indeed, there were parts that departed from scripture, and some of the songs carried a message contrary to what we know to be true. However, I believe the songs truly reflected what some of the people at the time must have thought about Christ, and therefore should not be troublesome. What I liked MOST about that rock opera was that it brought the message of Jesus Christ to a generation that absolutely would not receive it any other way! Young people that would never DREAM of reading the Bible or listening to the preaching of it gladly absorbed the opera, the movie, and the soundtrack.
I believe the Christians who object to any popularization of the gospel message could learn a lesson from the Oakland, California, police force. They added a new police car to their fleet. The vehicle had the standard logo, lights, and siren, but also included chrome wheels, hydraulic lifts, and a 500-watt sound system. The car was put on the force to help officers build better relationships with inner-city kids. Kids that would NEVER talk to a cop readily struck up a conversation with them when they were driving such a cool set of wheels!
And beyond learning from the Oakland police department, Christians need to turn to scripture and see that Paul applied the same principle to evangelism:
1 Corinthians 9:22-23:
"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."
We are commanded to get the message out. If we do not do that in a manner that causes it to be HEARD, we are just wasting time.
It has been a few weeks, so it is time for another QUIZ! In keeping with the current fad of radical diets to maintain the look of an Auschwitz survivor, this quiz will be on Famines.
1. Which of the four horsemen in Revelation spreads famine on the earth?
2. Who was food storage supervisor in Egypt when famine came?
3. What nation was the victim of a seven-year famine in Elisha's time?
4. Where did Abram go when famine struck?
5. What New Testament prophet predicted a worldwide famine?
6. Who went to live with the Philistines during a famine?
7. What two plagues probably caused famine in Egypt?
8. What king's reign saw a three-year famine, which ended when Elijah said rain was coming?
9. What figure in a parable found himself in famine?
10. What Babylonian king caused famine in Jerusalem?
11. Who sent his sons to Egypt because of famine in the land?
- a. The rider on the black horse (Revelation 6:5-6)
- a. Joseph (Genesis 41)
- a. Israel (2 Kings 8:1-2)
- a. Egypt (Genesis 12:10)
- a. Agabus (Acts 11:28)
- a. Isaac (Genesis 26:1)
- a. Locusts and hail (Exodus 10:14-15)
- a. Ahab's (1 Kings 17:1; 18:44-45)
- a. The prodigal son (Luke 15:14)
- a. Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1-3)
- a. Jacob (Genesis 42:1-2)
Judy and I love Sears merchandise. With the regrettable exception of some Maytag appliances we purchased (My idea, of course) a few years ago, everything we have is Sears. The merchandise is high quality, the prices are good, and the people are friendly and helpful.
BUT - have you ever tried to call Sears for service? They have an automated system with poor menu's, a friendly enough sounding woman's voice, and round after round of questions which you must answer. On the rare occasion when we have needed to order a part for a sears appliance, I have repeatedly gone through a long series of such questions, only to end up back at the main menu where I had to start all over again.
I hit the same thing at work many years ago when I was attempting to check a company out using the Better Business Bureau in Texas.
At these times, I want to talk to a PERSON! In fact, I often mumble and growl at the automated voice that keeps repeating lists of things that do NOT apply to my situation.
I have wondered if any of these companies ever thought of putting a recorder on their system to record customers comments as they try to work through the lists of menu's. What would be recorded when YOU find yourself talking to one? With no person on the other end, do you feel free to rant and rave about the hassle you are forced to go through? Do you speak in a way that you would NOT if there was someone listening to you?
Matthew 12:35 (KJV);
"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."
Ephesians 4:29 (KJV);
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
Colossians 3:8 (KJV);
"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth."
Think about this when you find yourself dealing with a poorly designed answering system, or alone in your car when another driver cuts you off in traffic, or working by yourself and smacking your thumb with a hammer.
God is always listening.
If you attend Bethany, you know I don't have much respect for ceremony. There is no 'order of worship', no program telling you who will sing what and when. I try to keep the services free-flowing and loose, because I sense a NEED for that in the church today.
I enjoyed what Robert Roberts wrote about this in Christianity Today:\
"Just like do's-and-don'tism, liturgism comes in two varieties: high and low. ... If you're from Bumpkin Ridge you may need a different strategy than genuflections and incense. It's the old favorite hymns that make you feel the religion in your heart. ... And it's not the priest crossing himself that makes you feel religious, but the thump of his fist on the pulpit, and the song leader flingin' his arms every which way. If there isn't enough arms-flingin' and Bible-thumping, the Holy Spirit just doesn't grip on you. ... If the high liturgy was a French dinner, this is a hot dog and a Coke."
The Word of God addresses those that claim other churches are conducting services ‘wrong’:
Romans 2:1 (KJV);
"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."
And it addresses the little importance that God places in ceremonial practices:
1 Samuel 15:22 (KJV);
"And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. "
Finally, it addresses what God DOES have respect for;
Psalms 51:17 (KJV);
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
As long as we are humble in our hearts, God does not particularly care whether we stand or sit or kneel, what we wear, or what ceremonies we take part in or witness.
In a business meeting, Pastor Glenn Swanson and his board were discussing at some length the price of lots in the church cemetery. The chairman, wishing to bring the thoughts together, summed things up with one of those statements that need to be taken the way they are meant, not the way they are said: "We should have two prices--one for those local and another rate for those from out of town. The people buried there from out of town never come back to help maintain the grounds."
Well, truer words were never spoken. Indeed, those folks from out of town that are buried in that church cemetery will never come back to help maintain the cemetery. Neither will the local people buried there!
That is not to say that these people will remain in the ground, however! The Word of God is very clear about this; our being in the cemetery is a TEMPORARY condition!
Psalms 49:15 (KJV);
John 6:40 (KJV);
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
2 Corinthians 4:14 (KJV);
"Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you."
Yes indeed, our physical bodies WILL be raised up from the dead! They will not, however, be raised in order to mow the grass growing over our graves. They will not place flowers near our own headstones. They will not shed a tear over the resting place of our loved ones. What they WILL do is join with Jesus Christ in the air, and remain with him forever!
Make sure you are in this group!
Many years ago, King George VI of England addressed the British commonwealth on New Year's Eve at a moment in history when the whole world stood on the brink of great change. Despondency and uncertainty filled the air. The king's own body was racked by cancer. Before that year was over, his life ended. Unaware of his own physical maladies, he uttered these memorable words:
"I said to the man at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I might walk safely into the unknown.' And he said to me, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be to you safer than the light and better than the known.' "
What do you seek, Brother? What is your desire, Sister? Do you seek light, that you might know where to step safely and not fall? Do you want understanding of all things, so that you can properly select your course of action in this life? Do you ask for that clarity of your human senses so you can find your way? Do you seek a higher education so you can reason your way through all the trials of this life? While these desires are not wrong, we would all be much better off if we first went to God, and asked for His leading in all things.
When you are lost in the woods, wanting a compass and a map is a fine desire, and carrying these items is a good idea. But you will get out of the woods much sooner and safer if you are led by a someone who knows everything about the woods you are in.
The Word of God tells us of the superiority of trusting in Him:
Psalms 125:1 (KJV);
"They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever."
Proverbs 3:5 (KJV); "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
And it tells us that that obedience and trust go hand-in-hand:
Isaiah 50:10 (KJV);
"Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God."
May God bless each of us with certain guidance.
May each of us continually seek it.
Most of us have heard the poem of the Village Smithy, written by Longfellow. I just ran across it, and it has more verses than I have ever heard! The part I have always heard is:
Under a spreading chestnut-tree The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands.
We have all heard that. But how many have heard the next stanza:
His hair is crisp, and black, and long, His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat, He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face, For he owes not any man.
I find it odd that the opening stanza is so widely known, but I have never heard the rest of the poem - now why do you suppose that is? Could it be because it speaks of things which are not popular today? Could it be because, although developed muscles are desired by many, it is unpopular to speak of getting them through honest WORK instead of health club membership, or buying a Bow-Flex? The Bible is clear about work:
2 Thessalonians 2:10-15 (KJV); "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
Read the rest of this great poem here;
it speaks against debt, in favor of church attendance, of family values, of many things which we as a society seem to have somehow gotten away from.
May God RICHLY bless each one of you.
Recently, I spoke of the low path taken by many businesses. I would like to tell you that such activity always results in business failure, but that is simply not the case. Often in this world it is the underhanded businessmen that succeed while those that shun any such activities fail. But not always! Listen to this story from the Christian Reader:
"It's the toughest decision I ever made," says Ed Allen, a West Virginia native and former golf pro. "All my friends thought I was crazy. They said eliminating beer sales at Sugarwood Golf Club [in southwestern West Virginia] would hurt us." Instead, a year after his beer license expired, Allen's business rose 19 percent.
Where did Allen get the courage to say no? It wasn't overnight.
Though he accepted Christ in the early 1970s, Allen drifted away from church. His seven-days-a-week work routine at the golf course strained his marriage. Twice his wife, Trish, divorced and remarried him. Her patience was wearing thin again when she found a new church home.
Trish talked him into going to a family life seminar with her. Three nights into the four-night session, Ed broke down and promised again to live for God.
That decision took action at Sugarwood. Over three years Allen eliminated smoking, gambling, and beer. Interestingly enough, dropping poker elicited the biggest outcry.
The alcohol ban also brought passionate protest, but nine out of ten customers approved. Pastors encouraged their golf-playing members to play the alcohol-free course. Business increased.
"I don't have any fear now of people leaving the golf club drunk and causing an accident," Allen says. "It happens all over the country. I encourage any Christian who owns a golf course with a clubhouse that sells alcohol to take a step of faith and stop. Such a personal stand serves everyone well."
We are not promised an easy walk on the earth, but occasionally the righteous DO receive rewards in this life, and they ALWAYS do in the next.
May God bless each of you today -
“A packed schedule may be detrimental not only to ourselves, but to those we seek to help. A few years ago our neighbors were drawn to us, but when we talked to them about the Lord, their response was, "We couldn't be Christians; we couldn't live at your pace."
I think Sister Fleming is correct, but too narrow in her warning. We need to avoid being constantly in a flurry of activity, true, but there are several things which can scare off a new, or immature, Christian. How many times have we heard someone say they simply cannot go to church because they do not have any 'church clothes'? Or how often do we hear someone say they have to dress up for work six days a week, and Sunday is the only day they can wear comfortable clothes?
In that case, we have given these people the wrong impression that you have to dress up for church! If your church demands a jacket and tie, then you are in a church that is making the wrong demands, and showing concern over the wrong things! Over the years at Bethany, we have had every manner of dress from suits to blue-jeans, Bib overalls, Chaps, and occasionally motorcycle leathers as well.
Concern for clothes is rebuked by Jesus:
Luke 12:27 (KJV); "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Admonition for being overly busy is also given by Him:
Luke 10:38-42 (KJV); "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Do not be so busy doing what you perceive to be the Lords work that you miss the good part; communing with Jesus, relaxing and re-fueling in the Word and letting the world see that a Christian is often busy, but ALWAYS calm and happy -