Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

The Incredible Life

by admin ~ February 2nd, 2019

How do you know when your life is incredible? Wonderful? Is it because you’re getting everything that you want? You have the things you want, the friends you want, and the activities you want? Perhaps your health is good, so you feel good too. In one sense, many people could have an incredible life, if it could be judged on temporal, physical things. God has given us a lot in the world to enjoy. We can breathe. We have good food. The opportunity is out there to own a lot in this country still. What if your life is incredible but your eternity is pretty crummy? I mean really, really bad. There is a vast difference than a person who is with God through all eternity and one who misses that, to be separated from Him forever in Hell. You could have as good a life as you want and you can’t say that it’s incredible if you have an incredible life, ending with eternity in Hell. However, let’s for a moment assume that you are saved. Do you really judge your life by whether you are getting the things that you want? If you get all that you want, and then you weren’t obedient. That’s not incredible. What if you got nothing that you wanted, but you could and then you did serve God with everything that you’ve got? Is that an incredible life? I hope you think so, because like Jesus said, our life does not consist of the things that we possess.

Your Life Is a Postcard

by admin ~ January 26th, 2019

When I’m on a trip, I very often think of getting a postcard to send to folks back home. You can’t write much on a postcard, so you think about what’s important. It doesn’t take time to write it, but the little bit that you write can be significant. Your life is like a postcard. It really isn’t very long. You don’t have much space to write. You want to make sure that what you are writing is exactly what you want to say. You don’t have any space to waste. It just occurred to me that it’s like this tiny area on which I write the Pastor’s desk every week. I want to try to pack in as much as I can, but at least to get across my point. What is on your postcard? Does it look like the world? Does it look just like you, that is, is it about you? Is it your hobbies or about fun? Is it money, a career? Are you filling up the small space with what life is supposed to be about? The postcard summarizes your life. How would your life be summarized if you could put it into a few words, if someone else were to tell you what it was in just a couple of sentences? If it is going to be eternal, if it is going to about God and His Word, then that might need to show up in more ways, in more time, and with greater prominence. I’m asking you to think about it. Your life is a postcard.

The Father’s Business

by admin ~ January 20th, 2019

The terminology, business meeting, doesn’t occur in the Bible. In Luke 2 Jesus said as a twelve year old in His earthly life, a word supplied by the King James translators, business. Jesus was about His Father’s business, literally “my Father’s,” so His Father’s what? The temple of God, which was the earthly house of God, which Jesus calls His Father’s house, was God’s business. What was the temple about? It was about the worship of God. I’m not going to trace that through the Old Testament all the way to when Jesus said it, but the Father’s business is whatever He says in His Word. What we do with money from offerings is the Father’s business. The temple of God in the New Testament is the church. The first responsibility of the church is the worship of God, which is acknowledging God and giving Him what He wants. How does a church use the money in a New Testament way? The church should ensure that the church continues doing what God wants. The offerings of Israel took care of the Levites, who were to take care of the worship of God. The Levites didn’t have a means of taking care of themselves, as they weren’t given land by God. The people were to take care of them to take care the worship of God.

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.