Bethany Church news
I have had several surgeries, and each time I received a prescription for some very potent pain killers. I took them only when it was absolutely unbearable, and then only enough to just take the edge off the pain. Judy always asked "Do you enjoy hurting? Why don't you take something?" I probably do go a little overboard in that area, but I feel it is better to err on the side of too little medication than too much. It is not that I worry about addiction: Shoot, I kicked a lifelong habit of smoking, with the help of Jesus Christ, and I have no doubt that he could remove me from any addiction after that! No, my reasoning is more basic that that. Pain has a purpose! Do you think God made you capable of experiencing pain because He enjoys watching you suffer? Not at all!
When you grab something hot, the pain makes you release it before serious damage is done to you. If there were no pain from the heat, you could damage your hand so badly you would lose the use of it, without even knowing you were being damaged. When you overdo any physical activity, pain makes you realize it is time to back off! If you did not feel this pain, you might continue and damage muscles and tendons. With my healing incisions, it was the pain that constantly reminded me to ease off my activity. Without that pain, I might rip stitches and cause myself to require more surgery.
Just as God gave us pain to protect us from injury, he gives us afflictions to protect us from spiritual damage.
Deuteronomy 8:5 (KJV);
"Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee."
And tells us that, although we do not enjoy it, it is good for us:
Hebrews 12:11 (KJV);
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
A sea captain and his chief engineer were arguing over who was most important to the ship. To prove their point to each other, they decided to swap places. The chief engineer ascended to the bridge, and the captain went to the engine room. Several hours later, the captain suddenly appeared on deck covered with oil and dirt. "Chief!" he yelled, waving aloft a monkey wrench. "You have to get down there: I can't make her go!" "Of course you can't," replied the chief. "She's aground!"
How often have you heard people express the opinion that THEY were the REALLY important one, and others were just dead weight? At France Division in Fairview TN, I heard such sentiments expressed virtually on a daily basis. I heard line workers talk about themselves being the only REAL workers there – and engineers speak of the fact that without their designs, there would be no product – and salesmen say that with no sales to customers there would be no company – and have seen the President act in such a way that indicates he believed himself to be the only indispensable one there. That president was stopped by the Fairview police for speeding on his way to work one morning. When the officer came up to his window, the president said:
“Do you know who I am? I am the President of France!”
The officer calmly said “Do you know who I am? I am a Fairview City Policeman.” And he wrote him a ticket.
Every one of these people was wrong. Even that president has been replaced! Although each of them was a vital part of the team, none was irreplaceable.
The Word of God explains about how we each have separate jobs:
Nehemiah 4:16-17 (GWT);
"From that day on, half of my men worked on the wall, and the other half were wearing body armor and holding spears, shields, and bows. The leaders stood behind all the Judeans who were rebuilding the wall. The workers who were carrying loads did the work with one hand and held their weapons with the other,"
But also explains that we are all on the same team!
Romans 12:5 (KJV);
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
As in so many things, moderation is the key; while you are not indispensable, you are still very important to the family of believers.
The parable of the vineyard workers (Matt. 20) offends our sense of fairness. Let me read it to you:
Matthew 20:1-13 (NCV);
"The kingdom of heaven is like a person who owned some land. One morning, he went out very early to hire some people to work in his vineyard. The man agreed to pay the workers one coin for working that day. Then he sent them into the vineyard to work. About nine o'clock the man went to the marketplace and saw some other people standing there, doing nothing. So he said to them, 'If you go and work in my vineyard, I will pay you what your work is worth.' So they went to work in the vineyard. The man went out again about twelve o'clock and three o'clock and did the same thing. About five o'clock the man went to the marketplace again and saw others standing there. He asked them, 'Why did you stand here all day doing nothing?' They answered, 'No one gave us a job.' The man said to them, 'Then you can go and work in my vineyard.'
"At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard said to the boss of all the workers, 'Call the workers and pay them. Start with the last people I hired and end with those I hired first.'
"When the workers who were hired at five o'clock came to get their pay, each received one coin. When the workers who were hired first came to get their pay, they thought they would be paid more than the others. But each one of them also received one coin.”
We need to put this lesson into it’s proper perspective. Do you expect the young ones in your family to receive inferior food to the older ones, because of the fact that the older ones do more work? Of course not! And we are all in the family of God, aren’t we? We should be less concerned with who is getting the greatest rewards here on earth and who is doing less work, and be more concerned with that glorious reward we are to receive, and that work we are doing! Never compare yourself to someone else; instead, compare yourself TODAY with yourself YESTERDAY; only in that way will you work for improvement.
We have several springs here on our farm. Some are wet-weather springs, and some run all the time. None of these springs has a name; they are simply not considered important enough to have one. They run into Dry Branch Creek, which only a few local people are aware of at all. Dry Branch flows into Yellow Creek, which is more widely known for some distance around. Yellow Creek, in turn, empties into the Cumberland River, which is noted on any reasonable map of this section of the country, and the waters of the Cumberland eventually empty into the Mississippi, which is well known the world over. Big rivers gain more attention than the little streams that create them. Everyone knows the names of the great rivers of the world, but no one can name the tiny tributaries of them - which often are like the springs on our farm - they are unknown and nameless, not even noticed except on an individual basis by those that live near them.
Now - if the springs on our farm dry up, no one will notice any change in the Mississippi. However, without the tributaries there would be no river. It must be remembered, too, that the smaller streams, while less well known, are purer and are found on a higher elevation.
Moving from the physical to the spiritual connection here, notice that some of our lives are tributary lives. Without all of the little tributaries, there would be no great rivers. It is our role to provide the pure water from the higher elevation that enables another to be a mighty river of power and influence.
The Word of God explains that we all contribute:
Romans 12:4-8 (KJV);
"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness."
Keep your little stream pure, brothers and sisters, and ensure that it is always on a high elevation.
When I found myself thrust into the pulpit repeatedly, I decided that if I was going to HAVE to preach, I would try to be the best preacher which I could possibly be, and commenced to read books about preaching and preachers. I have learned a lot this way, but in all honesty I do not utilize very much of it. My sermons are seldom three points, for instance, which is considered to be the ideal sermon outline. Oh, I tried to do it by the book to start with, but that has simply fallen by the wayside many years ago. I always have a message prepared in advance of church, but I have discovered this:
The messages which I preach exactly as I had prepared to do them are my worst.
The messages which just 'come to me' in the final hour before church starts, which I scribble out longhand on my carefully prepared notes, are my best.
The message is from God, not from the preacher. The anointing is from God, not from Bible school. The ability to reach the people and turn them back to the lord comes from the Holy Ghost, not from carefully prepared sermon notes.
Spurgeon was scheduled to preach in a great hall in London at which he had never spoken before. He came to the deserted hall very early, and mounted the high pulpit to test the acoustics, as this was before sound systems. He spoke loudly, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." A janitor who was cleaning the balcony of the hall heard this and became converted to Christ as a result. That is anointing!
Acts 16:29-34 (KJV);
"Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
Dwight L. Moody wrote:
“When I was converted, I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought the old things had passed away, that all things had become new, and that my old corrupt nature, the old life, was gone. But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army--that there was a battle on hand.”
Those words had an impression upon me, because I felt invincible when I was first saved. I was so elated that I would CHALLENGE Satan to come up against me, mono-e-mono! Then things would happen, temptations would enter my life, I would falter in my Christian walk, and sink into sin. This would make me miserable, and I would repent of the sin, and return to the presence of God. This would make me so elated that I would again challenge Satan to have it out with me - put on the gloves and meet me in the RING! Again, temptation would come, and I would fail once more. It took several cycles of this before I realized that Satan was answering my challenge every time I made it, and had scored a KO in every battle with me.
You see, Satan does not stand up in front of you and have a fair fight. He is slime, who sneaks up behind you and smacks you with a ball bat before you even know he is in the ring. It is NEVER a shoot out on main street at high noon with you facing the devil and seeing who can draw and shoot fastest. He will be behind some sage brush with a shotgun, and blast you when your back is turned.
Ephesians 6:11-12 (KJV);
"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. "
Romans 7:21-24 (GWT);
"So I've discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God's standards say is good. I take pleasure in God's standards in my inner being. However, I see a different standard throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin's standards which still exist throughout my body. What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body?"
One elder statesman of a Christian church has devoted himself to a fifty-year study of Christian and non-Christian families. He says that in American culture today most young adults following Jesus Christ either come from non-Christian homes where they were converted to Christ in their teenage years through a dynamic youth ministry, or they come from homes where they grew up in love with Jesus because mom and dad were so in love with Jesus that love permeated their lives. It passed through their pores. Very few believers come from homes where there was a kind of indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ.
This is not my claim. This is the result of this study. It is sobering and thought provoking to suggest that, in American culture, the chances are better for a child growing up in a non-Christian home to become a Christian than for a child growing up in a home that has an indifferent, apathetic commitment to Jesus Christ. This is yet another example of the reason that Jesus said he would prefer we were cold or hot but not lukewarm!
Scripture speaks of the love for God in a family, and talks of the result of that love as well:
Deuteronomy 6:1-3 (GWT);
"These are the commands, laws, and rules the LORD your God commanded me to teach you. Obey them after you enter the land and take possession of it. As long as you live, you, your children, and your grandchildren must fear the LORD your God. All of you must obey all his laws and commands that I'm giving you, and you will live a long time. Listen, Israel, and be careful to obey these laws. Then things will go well for you and your population will increase in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD God of your ancestors promised you."
Acts 2:39 (KJV);
"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
I enjoyed the old movie The Dirty Dozen. At one point in that movie, they were playing war games, pitting a 'red' army against a 'blue' army. Lee Marvin, playing the Major, had a twelve man group which was going to prove itself by operating as an independent unit and capturing the main HQ of one side. As they crossed from red territory into blue territory, they all took off their red armbands and slipped on blue armbands.
The Referee said "You can't do that!", to which they replied
"Oh it's OK - we are going to change back later!"
The simple act of changing armbands did not really have any effect on who they were.
In a much more serious light, in 1989 the first break in the Iron Curtain occurred and ten thousand East Germans fled to West Germany; some by train or bus but many by car through Austria. In Europe every car has a decal with a letter designating its country of origin: A for Austria, F for France, I for Italy. The letter for West Germany is D and for East Germany DDR. The minute those East Germans crossed into Austria, they stopped and crossed out the first and last letters leaving only D for West Germany, their new home. Of course changing their decal did not have any effect on their citizenship status in either East Germany or West Germany.
Compare these to the experience of being born again. Our conversion is not a simple matter of changing our name from unbeliever to believer or from sinner to saint or from secular to Christian. We do not just change armbands and become something else.
The Word of God tells us that we do not have a name change only, but become NEW CREATURES!
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (KJV);
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;"
Are you a new creature - or did you just changer armbands?
Happy New Year!
Do you wonder why we celebrate the New Year today instead of on Christmas day? We reckon our time from the birth of Jesus Christ, as BC or AD.
I was curious, so did a bit of research on this.
I find that there are not one, but several theories.
One tries to tie it with the winter solstice, which is the true astronomical beginning of the new year. But that was back on December 20th or 21st. Ah, this theory says the shift by ten days is due to the calendar change we had when eleven days were removed in 1752.
But – that does not make sense either – they removed eleven days from September, causing Wednesday September 2nd to be followed by Thursday September 14th. But New Years on the old calendar was March 25th, and was moved to January 1st – not a mere seven day change -
And there is the most likely theory -
Christ was circumcised on the 8th day, according to Jewish Law.
That places today the eighth day of his life.
So this first day of the New Year is not tied to the Sun or the Moon, nor even to the calendar change, but it is tied to Jesus Christ.
Luke 2:21-32 (KJV)
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord
And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man wasjust and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Let us use this day to repent of the mistakes of the past, to give thanks for the blessings of the present, and set our minds to doing God's will in the future. Not cheesy New Years Resolutions, but a genuine determination to be better people!
May God bless each one of you in this New Year.
Tonight, lots of people will be drinking. Some of those will drive, get in wrecks and be injured. Some will die from those injuries. Some people, therefore, will end their lives due to celebrating the end of a calendar year.
Judy and I will be here at home. If we die today it will be because the Lord deems it, not due to conformity. That makes us oddball, doesn't it? That's OK – we are in GOOD company. Albert Einstein, for instance – and I mean absolutely no disrespect at all, for Albert Einstein is one of my favorite people of all time – but he was not exactly one of the crowd, was he? He always had the wild hair standing up all over his head – he always wore wrinkled clothes that looked like he had slept in them – and probably did. His wife had to keep after him or he would walk outside in the winter without a coat, or in the rain with no umbrella or boots. I believe he is the one that caused the phrase ‘absent minded professor’ to be coined!
It is an undeniable fact that many people who do the right thing are considered on the lunatic fringe for some or all of their lives.
If you stand up to be counted, from time to time you may get knocked down. But remember this: a person flattened by an opponent can get up again. A person flattened by conformity stays down for good.
The Word of God tells us that our courage to stand up has a firm basis:
Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV);
"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
We are told that we have a greater power behind us than the power behind the world:
2 Chronicles 32:7 (KJV);
"Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:"
And finally, we are to never fear those that oppose us, in ANYTHING!
Philippians 1:28 (KJV);
"And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
Have you ever been in one of those discussions about the Christian Conversion experience? They become one of those ‘which came first, the Chicken or the Egg’ sort of discussions, which appear to have no resolution.
This was taking place in a Bible class on one occasion, with each one giving his opinion of what comes first to the converted soul. One contended that the first thing experienced was penitence or sorrow. Another believed that it was fear. Still another felt it was love, another hope. One insisted that it had to be faith, for how could one fear or repent without belief?
An elder who overheard the discussion, relieved the minds of the disputants with this remark, "Can you tell which spoke of the wheel moves first? You may be looking at one spoke, and think that it moves first, but they all start together. Thus, when the Spirit of God operates on the human heart, all the graces begin to affect the penitent soul, though the individual may be more conscious of one than another."
And that is the true answer – they all start simultaneously when one becomes part of the kingdom of God.
The Bible tells us of love:
John 14:21 (KJV);
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
And of righteousness and faith:
Romans 3:22 (KJV);
"Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:"
And the sorrow and repentance:
2 Corinthians 7:10 (KJV);
"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
And they all start at the same time!
I often remind my congregation that the great commission is to ALL believers. To go out and evangelize the world is not the duty of evangelists alone! To comfort the sick is not the responsibility of pastor alone. To care for the poor is not a duty of only the missionaries. To lead people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ is not the greatest purpose of only pastors, but of every believer.
People that are lost, that are far from God, that do not believe God even exists, do not normally come into the churches to listen to the preacher. These people are therefore not normally brought into the Kingdom of God by preachers, but by other Christians who encounter them in their daily lives. Sometimes, it is through a neighbor. Sometimes it is through a fellow student, co-worker, team member, casual acquaintance, relative or friend. Sometimes, it is through a complete stranger.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said that preaching is like throwing a bucket of water at a row of bottles. Some of the water goes in some of the bottles. But by talking to people personally, you have the opportunity of topping off every bottle and making sure none of the water spills.
I am throwing the buckets of water – it is up to you to top them off.
The Word of God tells us:
Jeremiah 3:15 (KJV);
"And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
Acts 20:28 (KJV);
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
1 Corinthians 1:23 (KJV);
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;"
Contentment is a very important topic. I have talked of it before, and will again from time to time. There is the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat.
"Why aren't you out there fishing?" he asked.
"Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman.
"Why don't you catch more fish than you need?" the rich man asked.
"What would I do with them?"
"You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like me."
The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?"
"You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist.
"What do you think I'm doing now?" the fisherman replied.
I see both individuals and businesses that are acting in unscrupulous ways in order to increase their gain. I know that companies have to make a profit, of course, but there comes a point where we must ask ourselves; how much is enough?
Mother Teresa said:
"You will never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you've got."
The Word of God tells us:
Proverbs 15:16-17 (GWT);
"Better to have a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil. Better to have a dish of vegetables where there is love than juicy steaks where there is hate."
Hebrews 13:5 (KJV);
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
I was a whistle blower over thirteen years ago, and was subsequently 'downsized' a few weeks later. I retired early instead of trying to start another career at 61 years old. Going from being a design engineer to living off of Social Security has meant a drastic reduction in our household income, which has caused some adjustment to be made in our spending habits. But I am amazed about just exactly how little this reduction is actually effecting us! Just the expenses of working every day were taking a substantial portion of our income! Transportation alone was a lot! Gas bills, car payments, repairs, tires and maintenance, all counted up.
Then, we discovered that a lot of the money we spent was simply an effort to compensate for our lack of quality time together. We felt almost obligated to go out on the weekends because it was the only time we had together! I was making a LOT of money, and we were spending a LOT of money, but we were not happier then than we are now; quite the contrary! We are a lot happier now than when I was working! We were spending a fair amount of money for a premium programming package for out TV which we dropped - and rarely miss! We will NOT pay for the movie channels again, because we bought a DVR, and when the premium channels are on a free weekend, we record TONS of movies and watch them later at our leasure.
All of this came to mind when I read this from Voice in the Wilderness, in Leadership magazine:
"Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation--a passport to everywhere but heaven."
The Word of God emphasizes this same thing:
1 Timothy 6:6-9 (KJV);
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."
I can't think of anything I do better than anyone else I know. Several of our neighbors are more disciplined to exercise; I see them walking daily on our road when I drive past. Randy is a better shot than I am, Vickie sings better than I ever could, and Judy is vastly superior at handling animals. Several of the neighbors have landscaped their yards, maintaining them far better than I do mine. And those are just the local comparisons.
Television puts excellence in every living room, so we see national or world best. I am glad that the folks in my congregation rarely compare my sermons to those they hear on TV from the finest preachers in the world! I pity those whose congregations do so. Or the hometown soprano who feels she must compete with the extraordinarily gifted and trained television singers. If excellence comes by comparison, I might as well get out of the pulpit.
Fortunately, it does not. We are called - all of us - to do the best we can with what we have to work with.
The Word of God tells us that we should not be proud:
Proverbs 29:23 (KJV);
"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit."
And it tells us how to truly excel at whatever we do:
Luke 22:25-27 (KJV);
"And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. "
And finally, we are to humble ourselves before God as David did:
2 Samuel 7:18 (KJV);
"Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?"