Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

How Is the Work Going?

by admin ~ February 15th, 2020

One of our missionaries, Doug Hammett, sends out regular prayer letters, but he also sends out even more regular emails, talking about everything that is happening in Southern Africa. He’s working in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Botswana, in addition to South Africa. He sends at least one a week, it seems. I always read them, and about three quarters of the time, I write him a short note of encouragement. I wrote him, and he sent me a note back. He asked how the work was going in California. Missionaries might have more of a tendency to look at what is occurring in America to be a work too, more like missions. That’s true. I look at it that way too, except I know I’m not a missionary. I’m a pastor. When our church first started, I can say that I was more of a missionary at that time. I treated our church like I was a missionary. The biblical word is “evangelist.” It is a different job than pastoring. I wasn’t pastoring, because we didn’t have a church. That job of missionary transferred to pastoring and with a long term commitment to continue to pastor. Except doing the work of the evangelist in Sacramento, but very part time, I have still been pastoring. I told him that we had regular gospel conversations here and were making disciples. He said in a short answer that mostly he hears that many are struggling. I’ve never thought at any time that we were not struggling, but I also see our church as on very firm footing and still moving forward in the work of the Lord.

Impeaching Someone

by admin ~ February 7th, 2020

“Impeach” means “to cast doubt on” as one of its meanings. If someone is truly impeached, he has lost some integrity or validity. It’s not a good thing to do to someone, that is, impeach him, if you don’t have to do it. Scripture tells what could be done otherwise. Two things could be done. You could just cover it. Don’t tell anyone else about it. Protect the person’s reputation. That is love. This is the idea behind ‘covering the multitude of sins’ in 1 Peter 4:8. It’s also “bearing all things” in 1 Corinthians 13. The other is to forgive, when someone is repentant. In a sense, this is the first step of church discipline. Someone has repented, and because you love that person, and you are forbearing, you love that person. You forgive and you tell no one else – not another soul. This is what characterizes God. He does that. Or you could do something different that isn’t love for whatever reason. What would that reason be? If it isn’t love, what is it? Scripture assigns words to describe the activities that are not love, and they aren’t neutral. In the impeachment of a United States President, according to the Constitution, it is only for treason, bribery, and other high crimes or misdemeanors. This verbiage was intended to differentiate those activities from other ones that are bad, but do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. Scriptural behavior says, don’t impeach. Try to settle it in private if no one else knows. That protects the integrity of someone, and he can be of greater use in the future.

by admin ~ February 2nd, 2020

I’ve heard the following words more in the last four months, one hundred times more, than I had ever heard them previous to these four months: “quid pro quo.” I heard them so much because of the impeachment of the President of the United States. They are Latin words, which mean, “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.” I decided to look up the use of the term previous to 2016 to see if they were used in the realm of the foreign policy of the United States. They are used thousands and thousands of times. One stark example was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Atlantic reports:

Khrushchev replied that he would agree to withdraw the missiles if Kennedy would guarantee never to invade Cuba, Kennedy accepted the condition, and Khrushchev announced plans to pull the missiles out of Cuba. The crisis was over. (The deal to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey as a quid pro quo remained classified for several years.)

Quid pro quo is normal in these things, but I want to make a spiritual application. Much of our life is quid pro quo. We grant God our temporal human lives to Jesus Christ as Lord in return for eternal life. There is way more to salvation than that, but it is a crucial component to the reception of the plan of salvation as presented by God in scripture. Much of what we decide to do after we are saved comes to whether we think that the future outcome as guaranteed by God is favorable or an advantage to us. It is.

Contentiousness

by admin ~ January 25th, 2020

The English word “contentious” is found in the King James Version five times, three in the Old Testament and twice in the New. The same Hebrew word is found six times. Two different Greek words translate contentious, one used only the one time and the other twice. Starting with the Greek, the one word means, “fond of strife,” and the other, “selfish rivalry.” It would seem that both of those wouldn’t have to do with contending for the truth. Is the person contending the contentious one? It’s an interesting play on words. “Contentious” can’t mean contending, because everyone must contend, if he is to be obedient to scripture. For some, anytime someone contends, he’s being contentious, but that can’t be right. Of the five times that the Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament, three of the times it is specifically used of women and once to men. I contend that contentiousness relates to not accepting the truth or biblical authority, which is why it is used mainly for a woman. Someone doesn’t want to hear the truth and so argues with it, akin to James 1:19, which would be not quick to hear, but instead quick to speak and wrath. It is also characteristic of children. They are young, they are told what to do, and they don’t like it, so they argue and cause strife over being told. A lot of men today are cowered into not contending, when they’re told they are being contentious in doing so. Contentiousness is the domain of a bad hearer, who argues when he’s told what is right or the truth.

Love Thinketh No Evil

by admin ~ January 18th, 2020

In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul describes love with this one description among fourteen others, “[Love] thinketh no evil.” That statement in the King James Version doesn’t mean, don’t have evil thoughts. As some of you know, it translates the Greek word, logizomai, which as a transliteration into the English, means, “log.” Love will not log in the mind of that person an evil that has been done or said to him. Love logs not. Just as a thought experiment, let’s add some words. Love logs not, unless not enough remorse is shown. Love logs not, except when it is useful to log, such as when it can be used to manipulate the other person. A lot of corollary practical teaching goes along with “logging not.” To log not, someone cannot hold grudges, cannot let the sun go down upon his wrath, must be forbearing, can turn the other cheek, must reconcile, and must be forgiving. When I think someone has offended me, I’ve got to decide to give up on the offense, to let it go. It’s a release. I commit myself to different treatment of that person, to give the message that it’s behind, whatever it is that I think someone has done to me. Saved people can do that. Saved people are required to do that. God does that. He’s the example. Jesus is the model. Love is of God. God works toward “logging not.” Love is fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables “logging not.” When the believer goes ahead and “logs,” the Holy Spirit reproves of that. It is an unfruitful work of darkness that should be reproved.

As Far As They Can Go

by admin ~ January 11th, 2020

One description I have given to making disciples in and through the church is “taking people where they are at and then bringing them as far as they can go.” Everyone is at a certain point, and it might not be good where certain people are at. No one is exactly where he wants to be, because he won’t be there until glorification. Because everyone of us is, as Paul wrote it in Philippians 3:12, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect,” then we have room for progress and growth in the Christian life. Whatever practical position you find yourself, you can go further and be better. God has other things for you to do. You haven’t arrived. There can be a tendency in the Christian life to reach a kind of plateau or complacency. If we have reached this point, then God may do some things in your life for you to get out of that condition. It’s not good for you. Sometimes the worst time for growth is the greatest time in your life, when things are going about as well as they should. You need to learn, you need to change, and you need to do more, but you have settled into something that is with no sight of learning, changing, and doing more. If you are not saved, you need to be saved. Maybe you’re even not saved, and you aren’t listening – you need to start listening. If you are a new Christian, you have a lot of growth to do. If you are somewhere in the middle or even in a very advanced position of Christian growth, you still have a long, long ways to go. Are we ready for this? Do we want this?

Love Is Not a Feeling

by admin ~ January 3rd, 2020

Love is not a feeling. This relates to one of the most consequential matters, a right understanding of love. Love will produce feelings and the right ones. However, of itself, it isn’t a feeling. Feelings that are called love are actually lust. Love is very good, and lust is bad. Scripture teaches abstaining from lust. We sin when we are drawn away of our lusts. Love is fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Holy Spirit, God Himself, produces actual love in a person. That limits what it could be, because only believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and a lot of unbelievers have feelings that they think are and also call love. “Love is of God” (1 John 4:7). Only those who dwell in God dwell in love (1 John 4:16). You reject what scripture says about love at your own peril. In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul writes, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” The last two words together mean, “when the Lord comes, under the curse of God.” Love is a decision, a commitment, that brings with it a particular practice. Jesus said, and something like it several times, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The Apostle John writes later, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments” (1 John 5:2). We don’t love other people by sinning. We don’t love them by accepting or tolerating their sinning. We cannot love someone else, when we are not obeying God. “Love rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Celebrating Christmas

by admin ~ December 28th, 2019

The celebration of Christmas doesn’t need to be preserved, because it isn’t required by scripture. We’ve got to believe in Christ and we’ve got to believe in His birth and celebrate His incarnation, but we don’t have to celebrate the holiday. The holiday can much more easily be crafted into something humanistic and worldly, conformable to lust, and it is, as anyone who reads this knows. This bleeds over into a profanity of Jesus Himself through the commercialization and sentimentality. How much separation is required to preserve the necessary one, Jesus Himself and the worship of Him, from the unnecessary one, the season or holiday? I’m writing to say that it should be considered. Something positive can be done to start. Put positive effort into filling your life up with Jesus Christ in all the ways that can be done, pushing out the negative or at least distraction. Whenever the biblical can take the forefront, choose for that to occur. Read scripture, pray, talk about Jesus to others, and leave out some of the vain pursuits. They might “make you happy,” but they are not the fuel for joy, the deep seated satisfaction that comes from God Himself. Being in church on Sunday and mid-week is one of them. Meditate on how your next year could result in greater work for God and personal Christian growth. With freer time, someone could do something for the Lord as an act of worship, giving to Him. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus. They treated Him like royalty, bowing to Him as Lord.

When Someone Likes Christmas

by admin ~ December 21st, 2019

There is a tradition for Christians to celebrate Christmas. It’s not a difficult thing to do, because almost everyone likes Christmas. The world even likes Christmas. It’s like an ink blot of a rorschach test, where you can turn Christmas into almost anything that you want. Almost no one will be surprised to find out you like Christmas and do things for it. Talking about Christmas is not the same thing as talking about Jesus in the way a Christian should. It could be, but very often it isn’t. Young people still will often say, they just love Christmas. They love the decorations, the music, the opening of the gifts. Do they love Jesus Himself? I would say in many cases, not so much. They don’t evangelize a single soul. They don’t exegete the real Christmas story to anyone, exalting in the salvation aspects of the story. So I’m asking and challenging, do you really care about Christ as Christmas? Does Christ mean something to you? What would Jesus have you do in honor of His birth? These are the common or normal acts of obedience that Jesus would want from you. These are the gifts to bring to Him. A believer in Jesus Christ would obey scripture: forgiveness, acts of love to others, hospitality, compassion, evangelism, praise, and prayer. Perhaps you could practice reconciliation with someone because Jesus was born to reconcile us to God. The elevation of love for and obedience to Christ is to put the Christ of Christmas in His proper perspective. What does Christmas mean if it doesn’t mean this?

The Liberty for Christmas

by admin ~ December 14th, 2019

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:5-6, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” These two verses relate to something Paul said previously in the chapter in verse 1: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” Certain issues are doubtful. Scripture doesn’t say they are wrong and doesn’t say they are right. Scripture is silent. Perhaps scriptural principles apply, but it is doubtful. Nothing is plain enough to make a clear application. Romans 14:5-6 talk about the celebration of days being one of these issues of doubtful disputation. Christmas is a celebration of days, esteeming a particular day above another. The purpose is to celebrate Christ’s birth, when we don’t know what the day is that Jesus was born. The bigger principle according to scripture is not having division in the church over something that is a non-scriptural issue. It’s permissible to celebrate Christ’s birth. We don’t know what the day is, but it’s even a good thing to celebrate it. Jesus’ birth is a definite teaching of scripture. It is something to be thankful for and to praise God for. Mary herself does this in Luke 1:46-55 in scripture. We would be following a scriptural example. It’s not just that, but the doctrine of the incarnation of God, that fulfills prophecy and brings salvation to mankind.