Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

Reading the Bible

by admin ~ January 12th, 2019

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:13, Give attendance to reading. Scripture doesn’t say a lot about reading the Bible because at that point, people didn’t have a copy. Some people really read the Bible, and that would be the priests in the Old Testament and then the pastors in the New Testament. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra reads scripture to the people and they had a very strong reaction to it. In Deuteronomy 17, the king of Israel was to keep a copy of scripture with him and read it, live it and rule by it. Joshua 1 though says to meditate on the book of the law. If you don’t have a copy of it, then you meditate on it, and, of course, from David in Psalm 119, to memorize scripture. If you don’t have a copy, then you’ve got to memorize it and then meditate on it. If I were in isolation and kept from scripture, I could spend time in all the verses or passages I already know and glean much from them. You won’t know scripture if you don’t read it or at least hear it read. You can have both today. We should go further, like 2 Timothy 2 says to study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman, rightly dividing the word of truth. You want to know the Bible, because you want to know and then obey what God said. Bible reading is for that.

Goals Again

by admin ~ January 4th, 2019

In Philippians 3:14, Paul said, he pressed toward the mark. In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” He pressed toward the mark and he finished his course. Something was laid out for the Apostle Paul that he was headed for and to which he arrived. We know that there are priorities. We are to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). We are to redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16). Certain things we can do are better than other things that we can do. You have to think about what you are going to do, evaluate what is most important, plan to do that, and then prepare to make sure it gets done. All this requires making goals, working in those things, putting it on the calendar. It also means leaving things out. We must abstain, which scripture says a lot about, even flee things. The will is a major component of sanctification. We’ve got to think about what we’re going to do and involve our will as it relates to getting those things done. Many principles apply, such as bringing glory to God, doing what is advantageous, attempting to edify, and thinking about what is a good testimony to unbelievers. There are many more, but you get the idea. This is our goal Sunday. Let’s do that.

Celebrating Christmas

by admin ~ December 30th, 2018

We come around to Christmas again. My whole time as pastor has been questioning of some, not of the birth of Christ, but the holiday. I’m sure the idea is that people don’t want to dishonor the Lord. One year my wife and I did not have a tree, because we were so tiny in number that it would affect the group toward being disgruntled, since one family attending at that time was against it. It wasn’t a big enough of an issue for us to have a tree and then cause the waves there. We wanted them to be happy. As I have continued, it’s been a regular question. I’ve answered what I believe about it again and again. Obviously, I don’t think it is wrong to celebrate Christ’s birth in December. We use words that have ancient associations with paganism, like all the days of our week. I think Wednesday is Woden day and Thursday is Thor day and those are both pagan. I think all seven days are a problem, but we still use the terms. Was Jesus born in December? Was the birth associated with the winter solstice and pagan worship? I’ve talked about all those in the past. I stick with this. Christ’s birth is important. It should be celebrated. Christ should be praised. It is a major theme and an important focus. It is a good opportunity to bring glory to the Lord.

Testing

by admin ~ December 22nd, 2018

One Greek word, peirasmos, and its related words, translate “trial,” “temptation,” “tempted,” “tried,” “test,” and “tested.” The meaning depends on the context, but I want to focus on “test,” “testing,” and “tested.” Testing in the New Testament is only for believers, and communicates at least two ideas: one, testing a believer for the purpose of helping him grow, and, two, testing a believer to see if he really is a believer. On the latter, a person wants to know if his faith is genuine, because his eternal destiny is at stake. He is tested by God and that helps him find out. This is one way he gets the assurance of his salvation – not his security, his assurance. The security of a truly saved person is not at stake. Assurance is also important. People without assurance will lack in motivation to sacrifice for the Lord. Why live the Christian life if you are not sure about it? You won’t. Testing is a means of vindicating a Christian life, manifesting its genuineness. We are living in an era where professing Christians don’t want testing. They want ease. They want the assurance without the testing. At the same time, real Christianity is going to be tested more than ever in the United States. It is harder to be a Christian, or in other words, the testing is more difficult. Professing Christians don’t want the testing, so they look to a Christianity compatible with the avoidance of testing. There isn’t one. These people are not Christians. You either avoid testing or you avoid Christianity. The avoidance itself is flunking the test. Take this into strong consideration.

Rules Versus Relationship?

by admin ~ December 8th, 2018

Rules Versus Relationship. When people say these three words, as if the two, rules and relationship, contrast with one another, we should understand that they don’t. You can’t have a relationship without rules. Rules are a basis for a relationship as seen in the model for relationship, the relationship between the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t just rules. It is relationship, it is true. It’s about the relationship, but it isn’t in contradiction to rules. By the way, it’s never been about rules for me or our church. Contrasting the thought should be vexing, that a life is just about keeping rules. No proof exists that we have ever thought that and we have preached against it. Just because we stress a rule or defend a rule, doesn’t mean that we think that the rules are merely about keeping rules. The relationship between the Father and the Son, the model relationship, is one in which the Son kept all the rules. He pleased the Father. Not keeping the rules would break the relationship. You won’t have a relationship if you murder the person or steal from the person. These are two obvious examples. Actual love relates to concrete terms, which would for us include repentance and forgiveness. Operating within rules concedes there is meaning in life and greater than ourselves. It harms or breaks a relationship to offend someone, which is to break a rule. An offense of God is breaking a rule of God. A rule, the noun, is about rule, the verb. God rules over us and that is our relationship to Him, and He does that through rules. We please Him by keeping them.

Faith Of Our Fathers

by admin ~ November 30th, 2018

When considering what to write here this week, “faith of our fathers” came to mind, so I decided to look into the song. I think my interest related to a patriarchal society and the attack on fatherhood by liberals or postmoderns, calling the patriarchal society only a social construct, that is, an environmental development, not instituted by God. However, what I learned about the hymn was that it was a Roman Catholic one written in 1849 by Frederick William Faber in memory of Roman Catholic martyrs from the period of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth of England. Faber wrote an Irish version with seven stanzas and England with four. The Irish continued to sing their version at their hurling matches all the way until the 1960s. The tune to which it has been sung is different in the UK than it is in the United States. The one in the U.S. is called “St. Catherine.” Protestant churches have adapted the song for their hymnals with the third verse removing Roman Catholic references to Mary. It is also a very common song sung in Seventh Day Adventism. If one judges the hymn itself, not knowing the history behind it, the words and tune are good. They are acceptable. The original message was the persecution of Roman Catholicism by another state church, the Anglican church. It is understandable why Henry was so angry with Roman Catholicism. It was a rare moment in history where Roman Catholics suffered the same fate that they had subjected true believers for large portions of their own history.

Thanksgiving

by admin ~ November 20th, 2018

Hebrew, the language of Israel and the Old Testament, has no distinct verbiage of “thanks” or “gratitude.” The verb that is translated, “thank,” is yadah, which is also translated, “praise.” The first use was in Genesis 29:35 by Leah, “I will yadah Yahweh,” when she bore her son, Judah. Yadah is first translated “thanks” in 2 Samuel 22:50. Occurring earlier is the English word “thanksgiving,” first in Leviticus 7:12, which is a word that denotes a sacrifice of thanks or praise, that is, a thank offering. This word, translated thanksgiving, is more in the nature of what today we think as thanks. Before there was a day called “thanksgiving,” the word existed in the English Bible. The Old Testament concept, which one would assume is consistent with the New Testament idea, because God is the same God, is that thanks is an offering, a giving. Someone offers God thanks. Thanks is an offering. I think it is like the following. God has done everything necessary for life and goodness for men. Every good thing comes from God. God then does many specific things at a particular point in time, which give an occasion for specific thanks. An offering is given to God that confesses or acknowledges that God did the good thing, gave the good thing, so that He gets the credit for the provision. It is purposeful, distinct, a pause in time, a stepping back, and a denial of self. God takes the forefront in the intellect, emotion, and will of the person or group.

Nationalism

by admin ~ November 17th, 2018

Today is November 11, 2018, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of the completion of World War 1, also known as the Great War. Guns sounded at 11 on 11/11 to end it. This summer my wife and daughters and I were touched to visit the United States Cemetery in Normandy, France and walk among the tombstones of those who died there in the invasion of Europe. That was a different war, but it was a moving experience to be where that second event occurred not long after the first one. In Europe this week, commemorating and memorializing, President Macron of France said, “Nationalism is rising across Europe, the nationalism that demands the closing of frontiers, which preaches rejection of the other. It is playing on fears, everywhere. Europe is increasingly fractured.” He is using the anniversary for political purposes. I ask, what does Macron expect? Even if France itself doesn’t represent a scriptural way of life. Scripture shows stable and cohesive national identities are the will of God. This is one means God has used to preserve the truth and His way of living in this world. There is no unifying factor in the whole world and there never will be until the Antichrist takes it by force, and then more preferably, Jesus rules over the entire world according to His will. Our soldiers fought for our nation and for principles that Americans had in common, which were worth dying for. We can be thankful for them and those men and what privileges we still hold dear, that allow us to meet in freedom to worship God today as a church.

Word of Truth

by admin ~ November 11th, 2018

“Word of truth,” those three words, are found five times in the Bible, so they are a meaningful phrase. The tenor of the words as one sees the primary usage is one of spiritual warfare, using the Word of God to do so. The Bible is powerful in accomplishing supernatural work. It is warfare in that it is a spiritual battle that has more at stake than any physical battle ever, because it is eternal. The first usage is Old Testament, Psalm 119:43, and the rest New Testament, starting with 2 Corinthians 6:7, where the ministry of Paul is described and is said to be “By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” The other usages are identical. Ephesians 1:13, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed.” 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,, rightly dividing the word of truth.” James 1:18, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Every New Testament usage is the same. The battle is for the soul. Satan, using the world system and the flesh, wants to bring down man, God’s creation, in combat against God, down to Hell with Him. He uses false doctrine in people’s minds, so the battle is there. This is also where it is won. The Word is scripture and the truth is what is used to win this in people’s minds. Our Word of Truth Conference is fulfilling this goal.

The Gift of Prophecy

by admin ~ November 3rd, 2018

I was asked this week about the gift of prophecy that we see in 1 Corinthians 13:8: “Prophecies, they shall fail.” And then in v. 9, “we prophesy in part.” This is a gift in 1 Corinthians 12 and is regulated in 1 Corinthians 14. Do people still prophesy? BDAG, the foremost lexicon, from looking at allits usages, says the Greek word in 1 Corinthians 13:8 is “act of interpreting divine will or purpose.” I’ve explained in a simple way it is either foretelling or forthtelling God’s revelation. We think of prophesy as predicting future events, and it is, but that’s not all it is. The word is understood that way in a popular way, but it isn’t a scriptural understanding of the word. People use it that way because the prophets did make predictions. That’s not all they did. Mainly they were forthtelling, not foretelling. A prophet gives God’s revelation. There is no new revelation today, but someone is still prophesying when he forthtells the Word of God, which is still revelation, even if it isn’t new. Prophets tell people what God said. The gift of prophecy is still for today, even though new revelation has ceased. Prophecy is a gift of edification. It isn’t anything miraculous. Sign gifts have ceased. The office of the prophet has ended, but prophesying still continues. The prophet would get his message directly from God. Today prophesying is the exposition of scripture. Someone declares what God says. As a gift of edification, it is telling what is God’s will. It must be divine. It isn’t speculative or an opinion. It is definitively what God wants someone to believe and practice.