Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

Leadership Situations

by admin ~ May 30th, 2020

Sometimes churches are in unique situations that should be normal situations. The leadership situation in our church is unique. We live in an age, that many agree, is one of apostasy, many turning from and away from the faith. The days are darker. In the midst of this, we have many strong men in our church and spiritual leaders, who fulfill the qualifications of the pastor and desire the office of the bishop. A majority of churches do not train a replacement to their pastor and most do not reproduce themselves. Our church is at a time where we can see both of those occur: replacement and reproduction. It isn’t easy. Blessed be the tie that bands. It’s nice that a tie binds. A multitude of churches send away their pastor. The average lifespan of a pastor is something like 3 years. I’ve been pastor here 33 years. Another pastor is different. Everyone is different. We should be happy that we don’t have rubber stamped men here, who do the preaching. They have similarities that are good, but their differences are also good. They are not trying to be someone different than who they are. This is a significant time for us. It’s like the church in Jerusalem in Acts 8. They needed to reproduce and God intervened to see that occur. Would it have happened so quickly without it? No. But God wants reproduction. We are not only getting a replacement, but we are reproducing. Everyone should get behind this. Show your support. Help the transition. At the same time, we’re sending out our first missionary. The church needs this.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: Inspiration and Sufficiency of Scripture

by admin ~ May 23rd, 2020

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says a lot about the Bible. It is a classic location for the doctrine of scripture. It is the number one passage on the inspiration of God’s Word. The Bible wasn’t just written by men, and not really written by men, except as God’s instruments. All scripture was given by inspiration of God. Those two verse are also the best verses about the sufficiency of scripture. That teaching is found in verse 17, where it says that God throughly furnishes the man of God unto every good work. It does that through doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. The Bible has everything that you need to know to make a right decision about every area of life. That doesn’t mean that it will turn out like you want. You can do the exact right thing with an opposite result, and now more than at any time in my lifetime. Scripture talks about those consequences too, so it is sufficient to deal with the difficult circumstances we face, even when we do the right thing. We can anticipate those and know what to do when and how to face them. Many times in the short term it might feel or seem like we have done the right thing, even though we know we’re obedient to scripture, but we persevere anyway by faith in order to please God.

Meeting Again or Not

by admin ~ May 16th, 2020

Let’s say that we started meeting again, the virus spread in our midst and many people died. Would they be martyrs? Defying the government and meeting out of a scriptural conviction to meet would be the basis of the martyrdom. They would be dying in order to meet. Some are saying that in the country. From the start, we have said that we believe that the government is not instructing churches not to meet because of their antagonism toward God and the Bible. They are doing it as a part of the biblical job of government, that being to protect life. They are saying that it could crowd hospitals, overwhelm the system, as a hypothetical. It hasn’t happened. They think it would happen. It did occur for a time in New York City and in Italy. The leaders in our government anticipated it here. Churches began to do drive-in services. The state said, no, but the courts stepped in, and the state relented. I don’t feel antagonism from the government on this. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think I am. Some have said that there is a conspiracy here. I know there is a conspiracy overall always. Satan is always working against the church. Our church must meet at some point no matter what. A church must assemble to be a church. If we stop assembling, we would be disobedient. I don’t believe we’re there yet. Our goal is to attempt the drive-in before May ends. We’ve ordered an FM transmitter for real time audio. I’m always open to questions about this, but I’m confident we’re doing the right thing.

The Church Even When Not Assembled

by admin ~ May 9th, 2020

“Church” translates the Greek word, ekklesia, which means “assembly” or “congregation.” Universal and assembly are mutually exclusive. There is no universal church, because nothing universal ever assembles. Assembly by nature is local, even definitional. Does that mean that the assembly of Jesus Christ, His church, is only an assembly when it gathers? No. Even when you are in your home and on livestream, you are the assembly. The assembly must assemble, which is why Acts 14:17 says, “gathered the church together.” The church is already the church before it gathers together though. It’s also more than just an assembly. It is an assembly of baptized or immersed believers in Jesus Christ, not just any assembly. In 1 Corinthians 11:18, speaking of the Lord’s Table, Paul says, “when ye come together in the church.” If the church was only a church when it was meeting, then the church could not “come together.” It would be already together.  If it must come together, then it is the church already, before it comes together. That doesn’t mean the church is invisible. Each member is visible. Each visible member comes together into a visible assembly. The church is the church members in a particular locale, who do assemble. If the church didn’t assemble, it wouldn’t be a church, but it is still the church on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday when it isn’t assembling. Acts 8:1, the church is scattered. It is still a church, when it is scattered. We are scattered right now, not in disobedience.

Coronavirus and Wise Decisions

by admin ~ May 2nd, 2020

Good decisions very often take more than one factor into consideration. Sometimes it’s one component. It is disobedience to God, so you don’t do it. Other decisions take more of what scripture calls “wisdom.” These decisions are based upon principles of scripture and I want to explore that thought as it relates to opening the economy of the country. I took a course on ethics in college as a part of a six hour or unit philosophy requirement. Biblical ethics was called hierarchicalism, doing the greatest good. If a country loses its wisdom, because of rejection of scripture, it becomes either difficult or sometimes impossible to make the right decision. Taking sin out of the equation, let’s say that “life” is the highest principle of justice. Does quarantine and the shut down of the economy save the most lives? Or is that what must be done based on political expediency, because of the evil influence of the contemporary media? If a hot spot develops and people die from opening business again, will that give the election to another candidate, even if in fact it saves more lives. In a risk and reward assessment, that does more than short term analysis, someone could figure the total loss of life over a longer period of time due to consequential military conflict, poverty and sickness related to poverty, depression, drug use, domestic violence, and other results of closing up for business. Does America today have the degree of self-government necessary to look at more than the short term for decisions?

The Big Picture of Covid 19: God or Satan?

by admin ~ April 25th, 2020

It seems that there are two ways that churches are treating this pandemic, of whatever sort it is, which is hard to put in historical context. It seems like one of the bigger things that has ever come along. The first way is to treat it like it is of the devil, so that Satan is using it to shut down churches. The government takes Satan’s bait and then churches go along by not meeting. In addition, the people in the churches weaken spiritually without the assembling and the churches become useless in the world. That isn’t my interpretation. I see it as a second way, that is, this pandemic is of God, which I’ve described like a warning shot, a bow shot in maritime lingo. It’s not that serious relative to how bad the world and its people are, but it is enough of a slap on the hand, that it becomes a preemptive strike to the actual one, which will come later. This could give the world an opportunity to listen to the gospel, because people can see the frailty and transience of life. People could listen to God. It shows God is in charge. A little virus can kill people or even just an overreaction of an immune system. I don’t think this is weakening of our church. I don’t know, but I think it is strengthening our church. Our whole church, I believe, is getting closer to God. Maybe the churches complaining are weak churches that are getting weaker, because they are not built on scripture, but on gimmicks. If it was the Lord’s will for us to meet, we would meet. We’ve suspended gathering, not because we are afraid of dying, but out of love for others.

More Covid-19

by admin ~ April 17th, 2020

It has occurred to me that people have a stronger expectation for the Lord’s return, as least among those looking for the coming of our Lord. Why is that? Revelation is filled with plagues. The Covid-19 is called a plague. None of the plagues that I can see in Revelation are diseases. Death in chapter 6 might be a disease. Many think so. There are so many ways that people will die, that disease seems like a likely way. I saw part of an interview with the attorney general of the United States and he said that he thought that this was the biggest threat, more than global warming (not that global warming is one). I had someone ask me to pray for the end of this plague. I don’t think that Satan is in control of this disease. I believe that God is allowing it. He could be causing it and that would be right. Mankind deserves judgment. Except we repent, we shall all likewise perish. Everyone deserves bad times. Good times are what we don’t deserve and yet we get so many of those. We would hope that people would wake up. We have ladies in our church, who are preparing to deliver a child. The birth pains are used as a metaphor of the signs of the coming of the Lord. They get the attention of a woman, that her child might be close to coming. Covid-19 isn’t a sign, but it serves to get our attention, because of the similarity with signs, yet to a far lesser extent. What has heightened it is the condition of mankind. We are not accustomed to living in these types of onditions that were normal for most of history. We might be looking up.

It Might Not Seem Real

by admin ~ April 10th, 2020

When I was a child, I remember looking forward with amazement at what was before me. It didn’t seem real. I saw other people having arrived at those events of life, but I was just seeing them experience them. I’m not saying this should have been something I was anticipating, but the first one was fifth grade basketball. I played on an actual team, sort of like the ones I watched when I attended Indiana high school basketball games. These seemed like heroic figures. Then it was football. Then it was marriage. I remember my wedding day. That was surreal. I didn’t feel different, but I was pinching myself. Then came our first child. That was another one of those unreal happenings. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but that’s not the right way to see life. I know, easy for me to say, who has already gone through all those. What’s wrong is first, the greatest event is salvation. It just is. When you received the Lord Jesus Christ, that ranked ahead of everything. The next big event really is either when we see Jesus Christ at His return or our own death. I’m writing this in part because this coronavirus experience is a first for me. It is a historic event that we are in the midst of living. We don’t even know how this is going to end. No one can predict right now. I’m wondering when the major crime spree will start, where people hurt someone to take their food, because their family is starving. What’s important are not these events, none of them. What’s important is exalting God and pleasing Him every moment.

Scriptural Thinking Related to the Coronavirus

by admin ~ April 2nd, 2020

The coronavirus gives a multitude of scriptural thinking to consider. It reminds that life is short, like James 4:14 says that your life is a vapor. It shows that life is precarious so that we can’t control everything about our futures, which recalls the next verse, James 4:15, saying that if the Lord wills we will do this or that. We don’t want to be presumptuous. We are not in control of the future. Only God is. I gave several biblical lessons on Wednesday night when I talked about suffering. One of them is that the tiny virus can kill thousands of people. This says that our lives are dependent on the grace of God. God sustains this universe and we have it good only because of God. This is an example of it. If God wanted to allow a virus with a 100% death rate, He could do that. I’m saying this is at least from Hebrews 1:3, that God upholds all things by the Word of His power. In that same sermon, I said there were at least 32 different reasons in scripture for suffering and right now I could list all of those. I gave six in that sermon, and I’m not going to repeat those, but the Bible gives a lot of good reasons for suffering. If God wanted us to die, He could allow us to die. As we think about God from the perspective of Jesus in Matthew 6, He taught us not to worry. Why? Because He will take care of us like He takes care of the sparrow and He takes care of the lily of the field. He takes very good care of those, so we should assume that He wants to take care of us. Could death be His way of taking care of us in certain instances? Yes.

Joy In Trials

by admin ~ March 28th, 2020

On Wednesday night in our first livestream, I preached on the providence of God, which is an important doctrine for interpreting such events. This Wednesday night I will preach on why God allows suffering, another great related topic to understand according to scripture. What else is there to get? How about this? Count it all joy. We fall into diverse trials, troubles, or temptations. Joy relates to the ultimate fulfillment that we experience through the beginning of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, what we have studied on Sunday evenings. This is being blessed, truly blessed. This is in James 1:2. When you know what life is about, you know that you can fulfill it in the worst of times. This is not about making you happy, but giving your life meaning that brings sustaining satisfaction. That can be done in the best of times and the worst of times. The era in which we live brings a lot of superficial conveniences that mean the best of times. People have to give up their regular pub time, their concerts, and their professional sports among other things. These cumber us about. Even when Martha was cumbered about with much serving, that was viewed as lesser to Mary’s part, which was to spend time with Jesus. You can be alone in a prison cell and spend time with Jesus, if you know Him and you know enough of His Word to meditate upon. We’ve been given a wealth of resources for believing and practicing scripture, but with it has come the softening priv-ilege. This is nothing close to the Black Plague, but it gets our attention.