I heard someone call his church once, “A small church with a big ministry.” By almost anyone’s judgment of size of church, our church isn’t very big. A lot gets done by our church if you consider especially what people do at Bethel Christian Academy. I recognize that I want more as leader of our church. What I want is what you can do, not more than that. I want the best life for you, which includes the best from you for our church. I could spend time talking about what we do well. However, I want to draw your attention to two ways especially that we could improve, that I’m writing this because I want you to think about it, and not necessarily in this order. One, individuals in our church need friendship and encouragement. I’m not telling you to “be friends.” I’m telling you that you could be a friend to someone else. That doesn’t mean you hang out together all the time. It means that you keep up with someone and show concern. You could spend a little time with someone. I’m talking about spending time talking about the Word of God and how that person could and should grow as a Christian. If people are not what you think they should be, how is it that you think you could help them? Anyone in our church could judge someone to be in need of a better Christian life or personal, spiritual growth. What are you doing to contribute toward that?
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
This month will end the 29th year since the first service here in the Bay Area, meaning that the following October 18 will mark 30. I can say in those 29 years that God has never been unfaithful to me and that He has not failed in those 29 years to keep His promises to me. I can say that I have not kept all my promises to Him in those 29 years. Despite that, He has been very good to my family. I can say that, whatever bad there is, it is not because of God. If there is anything that is bad, it is because of us, including me. If it is good, it is because of God, not because of me. If I’ve been good, it’s not because of me, but because of God. If you’ve heard good preaching, it is because God’s Word is wonderful, so very good. If good things have happened in your life, they are because of God. God deserves all the glory. Because God is faithful and He has never failed any of His promises, I am confident for the future of our church. I believe worse days are ahead for our world and this country. I can find no biblical teachings or promises that I could give you that would result in a different assessment. Things could get worse at a slower pace based on what occurs in this election. However, I believe the brightest days are ahead for our church. The world will get darker and we will become brighter. I have that confidence because of God’s promises and His faithfulness.
Most of the ten commandments are “Thou shalt not.” Based on a particular view them, one that isn’t true, you could keep them by doing nothing. Think of something parallel to that. Your child says, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” You could ask, “Did you do anything right?” If my dad said, “Come here,” I was doing something wrong if I stood there. Doing nothing was bad. In a way, it was doing what I wanted to do instead of what they were telling me to do. I wasn’t submitting to their authority, which they did possess. The way my parents knew I was cooperating was by answering them when they asked me a question, verbalizing that I was hearing and understanding what they were telling me, and then moving into action on whatever they were telling me to do. Some might call this “positive feedback.” As a teacher, I don’t allow students to rise from their desks whenever they want. They must ask permission. If a student disobeys, I might order him to rise and put his name on the board. I was with another man a few years ago who was pulled over for a traffic violation. He pulled over in cooperation with the police offer. He sat in his seat until the officer ordered him to do something. He kept both hands on his steering wheel for the officer to see. He spoke respectfully. Not doing any of these could have turned that situation in the opposite direction.
When you look at the history of government, with the exception of a real theocracy, where God ruled Israel, it seems like you see five types: some form of one man rule, the rule of the so-called “elite,” the rule of the majority, no rule at all, or the rule of law. You can eliminate one man rule, because that is either one man ruling for the elite, an oligarchy, or it is some transition to no rule, total anarchy. You can eliminate no rule, because that is usually the reaction to some form of on man rule or rebellion against the rule of law. The rule of the majority is a mob rule that turns into no rule or the rule of the few. In the end, there are two enduring forms of government that are interchange with one another, the rule of the few elite, an oligarchy, or the rule of law, some form of representation under the rule of law, a republic. Our founding fathers designed a republic. The threat to our government is an oligarchy, which will manifest itself in various ways, one of which is corporatism, where a few rich people make sure their candidate is in power. The threat proceeds from the denial of absolute truth. In the absence of faith in natural law, the revelation of God’s will to man, history shows the fall of a nation that will start with some form of oligarchy. God is displaced by man. Men submit to this form because of its accession to their own lusts.
In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus posed a question related to a tower falling with many deaths, “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Fifteen years ago today, my wife woke me to say that terrorists flew a passenger plane into one of the World Trade Center buildings. 2,996 people died with 6,000 others injured by those attacks. On September 11, 1683, the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire defeated the Ottoman Turks in their siege of Vienna, halting the Moslem advance in Europe. 20,000 Turks died in the attack. Everyone is going to die. The more important question is, where will you spend eternity? Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Jesus used a tragic event to bring a crucial reminder concerning the punishment of sin. Everybody dies and everybody deserves to die. On this anniversary of 9/11 there are many things we should never forget. We should never forget the still real potential of a terrorist attack on American soil. However, even more we should never forget the eternal punishment we will face without genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 17:30, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.”
When you say “church” to most people, they don’t know what it means. You hear a lot out in the world. You hear “building,” a church building is a church to many, even though it isn’t a church. It’s often a denomination, like the Lutheran Church, which isn’t a church. Some call “church,” organized religion. Church isn’t organized religion. The people who say that don’t want anyone to be in charge of their lives: they often want all the good things that God gives without having to submit to Him, which occurs through the church. To many, church is a social structure that is meant to meet physical needs, like food, and then help people out of other physical problems, like drug addiction. “Church” is an assembly of immersed believers, having New Testament ordinances and officers, and gathers together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission. “Church” is the body of Christ. Christ is the Head of the church. Each body part submits to the Head, and Christ rules believers through the church. Is Christ ruling you through this church or are you somewhat influenced in your own ideas about what church is? It isn’t a club that you join to bring a certain quality of life for you. You’ve been given everything already, and through the church, you can give to God. You could never repay Him, but you can serve Him, worship Him, in light of His goodness to you.
Ephesians 6 commands fathers (parents in essence) to “bring them [children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In the age in which we live, this is making your child a disciple of Jesus Christ. The public school would not make that impossible, but based on biblical principles, it would make it exceedingly difficult. The school system would provide a battle against obedience to the command in Ephesians 6 and the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission with children. Bringing children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is bringing them up in the truth. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). God deposited His truth with the church for keeping (pastoral epistles), that is, believing, obeying, and teaching. He didn’t give the truth to the state. He didn’t even give it to the family. He gave it to the church, so “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” occurs within the church. Timothy is delivering that command to the church. It is very, very unlikely, if not impossible, to fulfill the command in Ephesians 6 without a church (Christian) K-12 education. No truth can be truthfully understood outside of a biblical (Christian) perspective. That is the true story about the world. I’m saying a Christian school is required. It’s important we keep it going here and do what we need to do for our church and with the view to help others.
Jesus talks about the end of summer in Matthew 24:32, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh.” What does that mean? When the tree buds, it’s spring. It’s really not very complex. In this time of year when the sap begins to flow through those branches, they become somewhat swelled and tender as that life begins to pulsate and pour through and push out the end of the branch in the form of a leaf. There is a tenderness to the tree. There is a need to care carefully for that tree in that period of time. When its branch is tender, because it’s soft with swelling sap and it pushes out its leaves, you know its spring, and spring means summer is near and summer means harvest. In Matthew, harvest is a time of rewarding that which is good and of burning and punishing that which is evil, so what the Lord is saying that when you see the leaves come forth in the spring, you know that the coming of summer is near and there will be soon a harvest. They would perceive the harvest to be the second coming, the coming of God’s judgment. Jesus is saying that the generation that sees the signs that He is talking about in Matthew 24, signs that He is coming, you know the end is near, like harvest follows summer. It’s a simple metaphor, but for you, think of the Lord’s coming with the end of summer.
You’ve heard the analogy or metaphor, “black hole.” I use it on a regular basis (hopefully not too much). Actual “black holes” are very mysterious and subject to much speculation in what people call ‘the field of science,’ perhaps astrophysics or astronomy. If you look at a dictionary definition, a basic one, you get one, “a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape,” and, two, “informal, a place where people or things, especially money, disappear without trace.” The metaphor is the latter. I use it for time. You look to where you will expend your time and if it seems like something just eats up time, you might call it a “black hole” as it relates to time. You put more and more in and it just eats up the time with what seems like very little to show for it. I believe that we can feel that way about serving the Lord. We do something for the Lord that takes a whole lot of time and it seems like there is very little to show for it. It seems that way, but it is not true. Whatever you pour into the Lord’s work has value, even if you don’t see any results. The actual black hole can be what you do in the world. It might not seem like a black hole, but it actually is one. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58 that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Work for the Lord, right work and properly motivated, never goes into a black hole. None of it is loss.
The Apostle Paul writes and explains in Romans 6 why sin won’t have dominion over you any longer once you have been declared righteous, justified, by grace through faith. The first fourteen verses say you have a new life, which isn’t the same as the old, a righteous life, not a sinful life. Then verses 15-23 argue that we have a new master, the old master being sin and the new master being righteousness. If your master is righteousness, if Jesus Christ is your Lord, then you won’t live in sin any longer. You have a new master. With Romans 6 in mind, one should expect a believer, someone with a new life and a new master, to live for his new master. His life will be characterized by righteousness, that is, doing right, obeying the Lord. Sure, there will be a struggle, but he is not under the dominion of sin any more. He was in Adam, but now he is in Christ. He is an entirely different family with a new nature. An assumption of successful pastoring is that the church is made up of people with a new life and a new master. A pastor can’t get people without life and with the old master to obey righteousness and to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. He can help those who are already saved. They want to do what’s right. They aren’t by nature going to be indifferent to or fighting his righteous leadership. They will be fully cooperative, because that is who they are.