Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

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.

Fear Not

by admin ~ March 21st, 2020

Wow. I wasn’t alive in World War 1 or World War 2 or ones further back. We had several smaller wars, sometimes even called conflicts, but Korea and Vietnam were wars, and many died. It changed those people’s lives, who were in the middle of them. In my lifetime, however, I’ve never seen anything like this coronavirus thing. I’ve never had the kind of estimates I’m hearing from people, who don’t seem political. They vary a lot, from just bad to very, very bad. Some say, don’t panic. Others say, panic, or at lest take it very, very seriously. We are wanting to be appropriate here in how we apply, take it seriously. I’ve changed on some decisions. I canceled the work day. I texted people to tell them not to come if they’re sick. I’ve given some instructions for meeting. We canceled school for three weeks. I’m not going on a trip I was taking next week. A trip I’m taking in June, I insured the trip. I bought insurance in case I have to cancel. I’ve washed my hands many more times recently than I normally do. I’ve used way more hand sanitizer. A lot of people are on edge. As a Christian, I’m commanded not to fear. Fear not. God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear. This relates to God’s sovereignty, His love and goodness, power, and wisdom. It also relates to eternal life. People are more afraid of death. There will probably be greater opportunities for evangelism if we use them. People have stronger thoughts about death right now. We can use those as an advantage for God.

Work Not Going to Run Out

by admin ~ March 14th, 2020

I know who I see as obedient pastors, who pastor churches with obedient church members, and they are not seeing people saved in their churches. I know one that has seen none in a few years and another that has seen one in several years. In both cases, they evangelize earnestly every week. In our church we see great evangelism opportunities on a regular basis with several gospel presentations each week. In the last ten years, we have seen on average, perhaps 1 or 2 saved a year. That is a large number compared to the men and the churches to whom I’m referring. We see children of church members saved, but very few adults through the evangelism of our church. We were happy to see at about four years, the Teale’s see thirteen sign their charter for the official start of their church. These are not people whom they have led to Christ. They are mainly transfers. What’s happening? Is something wrong with the churches and the leadership? I don’t think so. They’ve plowed and plowed and sowed and sowed and watered and watered. The soil isn’t good. It’s gotten much, much worse. I say this to you to encourage you to be faithful, so that you won’t be discouraged with the results. We can be more faithful. I believe there are more out there to be saved in our area, and we haven’t come close to telling everyone. We’ve worked at it over many years, but we still have a lot to do, which is exciting. The work isn’t going to run out.

God Shares

by admin ~ March 8th, 2020

Our memory verse this week, Psalm 100:5 says, “For the LORD is good.” I want to connect that to the Wednesday series in Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” This is God the Father speaking about His Son. God the Father will divide him, His Son Jesus, a portion with the great, the great being the many for whom he bore sin. “He shall divide the spoil with the strong,” the strong being those are strong because they have made themselves weak. Like Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:10, and maybe he was thinking of Isaiah 53:12, “for when I am weak, then am I strong.” This fits in with, blessed are the meek. The meek shall inherit the earth of Matthew 5:5. The meek aren’t really weak, but they consider themselves to be weak relative to God. They need Him. We seek Him because we need Him, but when we receive Him, then we have His kingdom, His inheritance, His spoil, His portion divided to us with the Son. God the Father wants to share with us. Would we share with someone if we owned everything? I don’t think so. Even though all is for the glory of God, God shares with us, because He is Love. He is not in it for Himself. He doesn’t share His glory with another, but He shares every thing with us.

How Trials Work

by admin ~ February 29th, 2020

When Paul writes in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to them that love God,” the purpose is to “conform” those who love God “to the image of the Son” (8:29). The good is conforming to the image of the Son, God’s purpose for mankind. The all things can be bad things, which is why it is “all things,” not just the good things. God uses trials, which are a main feature of the sanctifying process in scripture. God uses trials and tribulations to work varied Christian graces and character traits into a Christian. He also chastises His children, but trials are different than chastisement. James writes about trials in his epistle, and the believer who endures them will be stronger and will indicate that he possesses genuine saving faith. Trying the faith, he says in the first chapter, works patience or endurance. That’s how trials work in the lives of a believer, fulfillling the idea truly, that when the going gets tough the trough get tougher. The tough would be believers. They will be hardened in their resolve to continue. I’ve heard it said, and it’s true, pain has a way of screaming at you when pleasure only whispers to you. A stronger message can be received through pain. It doesn’t mean that you’ve got to like the pain, but you’ve got to like the message, the lesson through the pain. The Apostle Paul wrote about the fellowship of suffering. Sometimes we do suffer for evil, and that doesn’t count, but even that can strip a believer of self-dependence. This is all good for those who love God.

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.