Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

Meaning to Our Existence

by admin ~ August 4th, 2018

Before he died, Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned, “The West is on the verge of collapse created by its own hands. Between good and evil, there is an irreconcilable contradiction. One cannot build one’s own national life without regard for this distinction. We, the oppressed people of Russia, watch with anguish the tragic enfeeblement of Europe. We offer you the experience of our own suffering. We would like you to accept it without having to pay the monstrous price of death and slavery that we have paid.” What Solzhenitsyn warned was what Neitzche predicted with his so-called “death of God” a century before: “What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. . . . For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.” For the Marxists, the state was god and for the Nazis, everything was blood and soil. However, without God there is no meaning to our existence. Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Our society now functions with no fixed ethics,” and “a small group of people decide arbitrarily what, from their viewpoint, is for the good of society at that precise moment and they make it law.” The world of the 21st century with increasing alienation from God easily could surpass the twentieth century in tyranny, ungodliness, and violence.

Continuationism and Cessationism

by admin ~ July 28th, 2018

Perhaps you’ve heard me use the terminology, continuationism and cessationism. In a brief manner, I want to help you understand. This is theological terminology that applies to other terms, “sign gifts.” The New Testament lists gifts of the Holy Spirit in two categories that relate to their purpose, one being gifts of edification and the other being gifts of authentication, confirmation, or accreditation. Those for confirmation, the latter category, are called sign gifts. They are signs that something or someone is of God, so they would signify that someone was an apostle, that a prophecy had been fulfilled, that what someone was saying was from God, or that God has changed the era and the institution through which He was working. When you look at scripture, the sign gifts are amazing or wondrous on a level that mark them as of God, so divine or supernatural. They would also say that God actually is in operation on earth, in events, or in history. A continuationist says these sign gifts are still occurring. A cessationist says they have ceased in the first century, that God isn’t giving those gifts to anyone at this time, because He has no purpose to do so. If someone still had a sign gift today, how would you know? It would have to fit everything that you see in scripture about sign gifts. You would judge the sign gifts by scripture. Nothing occurring today comes even close to fulfilling a sign gift. Those saying they have them are either deceived or lying themselves. We don’t have them today, because we don’t need them.

Churches Reproducing

by admin ~ July 14th, 2018

In the last few weeks, I’ve read a few articles and then discussions about the absence of young men becoming pastors. The idea was that it just isn’t happening that boys are growing up and surrendering to pastor a church or plant a church and pastor it. The detriment of this is that churches in the next generation won’t have replacements and there won’t be new churches, because there aren’t enough pastors arising from the next generation even to replace the ones that we have. What has happened and what is the problem? I don’t have the space here to explore that part of the equation, but I would say that a lot of the analysis I read is either wrong or misguided. I want to write from our perspective here at our church. Every Christian has responsibility for reproduction, fruit-bearing. Every individual believer should desire to reproduce himself. It’s like two parents having the 2.3 offspring required to stay even. An individual has to reproduce at least 1 and ideally 2 in his lifetime. If that happened, I believe everyone would hear the gospel. As this relates to a church, a pastor should reproduce his own replacement. That will happen here easily. I think we know that. However, there is at least one more thought—churches should also reproduce themselves. We’ve helped a lot of other churches reproduce and we’ve helped preserve already existing churches, but our church has not yet reproduced itself. It’s something we should think about. I don’t think it hasn’t happened due to lack of effort, but it should be a goal that we still keep in front of us.

God Wants to Be Known…., But His Way

by admin ~ July 6th, 2018

I was talking to someone about God’s revelation this week, and I mentioned to him something that I have said before. God wants to be known, but He hides Himself. On purpose, He doesn’t make it as easy as possible for us to see Him. He is very easy to see. However, He doesn’t jump through every hoop that we would want Him. Actually, He doesn’t jump through any hoops—He’s God. God does what He does. He does His will. With Him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, as James 1 tells us. What I told this younger man was that God doesn’t want the acknowledgment of His existence like someone would acknowledge the existence of his left foot. God wants to be sought after, sought for, wanted. He gives the amount of revelation necessary for anyone to get it, but the ones who do are those that really want it, so it is a threshold in that way. For those, who might say that they would receive Him, but He hasn’t given enough revelation, that’s not true. He’s given enough revelation. Someone won’t acknowledge it, because of rebellion. In the end, people stray from or ignore God, go their own way, because they don’t want God in charge of their lives. They play a game with God where His revelation is always just not enough. Even if He gave more, the bar would be raised like was in Jesus’ day with the religious leaders. They didn’t want revelation. They wanted an excuse for living how they wanted to live and in being in charge of their own lives. Some professing Christians, I believe, use the same excuse for their nonchalance and apathy.

God Created Motherhood

by admin ~ May 19th, 2018

When God created Eve, He created motherhood. He expected the woman to bear children, after the curse of sin bear them in pain. Then came the first two children, two sons, in Genesis 4. An initial message of deliverance was that Eve was the mother of all living, that mankind would survive because of the grace of God, despite sin entering the world and death by sin. The woman’s seed, her offspring, would bruise the head of the serpent, the promise of salvation for mankind. Motherhood weaves its way through Genesis with the covenant with Abraham and then the childlessness of Rebekah. The fulfillment of motherhood for her was the provision of God. The story continues in similar fashion until we get to the promise of a virgin being with child in Isaiah 7:14 and then the fulfillment with Mary in Bethlehem at the beginning of the gospel accounts. When Jesus describes His care for Israel and Jerusalem before His judgment on the nation, He compares Himself to a mother hen desirous to protect its chicks. From another perspective, God’s Word in regular fashion calls on children and sons in particular to hear the instruction of a mother, to let her teaching and warnings keep them from an early death and spiritual destruction. Hearken to the voice of thy mother when sinners entice thee. A mom seems to have more at stake with her children because so much of her success in life seems to be wrapped up in her children. She is often willing to go to further lengths than all other persons for the survival and then thriving of her children.

Winning Them and Keeping Them

by admin ~ May 12th, 2018

I didn’t coin the phrase, something I’ve heard like, “you keep them the same way you get them,” speaking of church growth methods or how a person comes into a church. The thought is to motivate a church and its members not to “get” people into the church in ways that one would not be able to “keep” them, because “keeping them” is the point. My beef with the phrase is that it still sounds like pragmatism, that is, it’s still about getting them and keeping them. What scripture presents is that it matters how you get them, whether you keep them or not. The Bible indicates that you, you yourself personally, are not getting anyone. God is supposed to be getting them and then He gets the glory for it. Using carnal means for getting people is not God getting them, but “you” getting them, which isn’t God’s will, because He doesn’t get the glory from that. With this explanation, you can’t keep anything that you didn’t get in the first place. God keeps them because He got them and if it is He that gets them, then He really got them. Sure, you want your church to grow, because more worshipers of God will glorify Him. You care about people, so you want them to be in a Bible preaching and practicing church. That is love: love for God and love for others. It matters if a church is built up, grows in size, but not at any cost. It has to be in a way that still brings glory to God. God has also told us how He wants it to occur and that is through the gospel – alone.

Open Minded

by admin ~ May 5th, 2018

I don’t know when it was that I first heard the terminology, open-minded. I found it first used in English literature in 1819 in a book titled, Solitude, by Johann Georg Zimmermann with the following sentence: “How frequently do we observe, even in persons of rank and fortune, who reside continually on their own estates, a haughty manner and arbitrary disposition totally incompatible with that candid conduct that open-minded behaviour, . . . . !” It was used a little over a dozen occasions in total up until the 20th century, so uncommon. Now whole books have been authored on open-mindedness, which might be tell-tale. The Economist in 1892 reads, “What is wanted is not a mixed body of advocates, each eager to show the goodness of his own particular case, but a jury of impartial, uncommitted, open-minded men, who have no prejudices one way or the other; who will hear the evidence fully, and who will report upon it on its merits.” The first dictionary in which it arises is The Century in 1895. I don’t think that being open minded advanced as a desired trait in relations to modernity. The opposite seems to be “narrow minded,” which is viewed in a negative way. Can someone be both narrow minded and open minded? Do the two contradict? You can’t learn without open-mindedness, it seems, and you’ll be easily swayed toward error without closed-mindedness. The two ideas themselves don’t contradict. However, an unwillingness to change, that is, to recognize, admit, and then believe the truth is closing the mind, no matter how narrow it is.

AB 2943 and Churches

by admin ~ April 28th, 2018

AB2943 passed the California assembly this week, 50-18-10, so overwhelmingly. The exact wording in it is the following: “Existing law prohibits mental health providers, as defined, from performing sexual orientation change efforts, as specified, with a patient under 18 years of age. Existing law requires a violation of this provision to be considered unprofessional conduct and subjects the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity. This bill would include, as an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual. The bill would also declare the intent of the Legislature in this regard.” The bill later says, “The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.” It also read, “Contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.” Based on how the law is interpreted, which would be normal as I’ve watched it, this would make evangelism or at least pastoral evangelism of the stated categories to be illegal, and the writing of biblical or theological books to help those categories as also illegal, essentially taking away freedom of speech and of religion. I’m writing this to inform you. There are many assumptions being made that offend God, reject truth, and infringe on God-ordained rights.

Social Justice

by admin ~ April 21st, 2018

I’ve been thinking some about the subject of social justice. I considered a very often quoted Old Testament text, which is Amos 5:24, “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” If you look at that verse in its context, which is not often the case with those quoting it, it relates to God’s relationship to the nation Israel. Consider the next few verses after that one (vv. 25-27, ending the chapter), “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.” God will bring justice, but it’s because of their false worship. Justice relates to God, breaking His laws. It’s not about equality, but about equity, two different words. Lady justice pictures it with her two scales. An illustration would be a classroom where students take a test, and when you grade it as a teacher, you give equal retribution, treat it according to the outcome. Someone got all the answers right, good grade, a few or more wrong, average, and many wrong, bad grade. You don’t give a D to everyone. Only those who missed a lot would appreciate a D for everyone. Karl Marx saw justice as giving the same outcome to everyone. That’s actually injustice in society. Marx thought history showed that the powerful, usually property owners, would uneven the ‘playing field’ to advantage themselves. The law would benefit themselves and hurt the poor, who did not or could not own property. Biblical justice treats every one the same and refused to give anyone an advantage, no matter if they are rich or poor, but including the rich. As this applies to the church, everyone is treated the same, judging everyone by the same standard.

Pleasure Palace

by admin ~ April 14th, 2018

While listening to a 24 lecture series on the history of London, I heard for the first time that I remember, the terminology, “pleasure palace.” Hampton Court was one of Henry VIII’s favorite houses. With its tennis courts, bowling alleys and lavish apartments, it was his pleasure palace, where he entertained foreign ambassadors and visiting guests. The Royal Pavillion was built in the Southern coastal city of Brighton by the fast living George Prince of Wales, later the Prince Regent and then King George IV, as a pleasure palace away from London and its prying eyes. Versailles in France was called The Place of Pleasure with its history and use. Luke 8:14 says, “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” The word “pleasures” translates the Greek word, haydone, which is the basis for the English term hedonism. That word is not a positive in scripture. It isn’t characteristic of a believer. Including Luke 8:14, the term is used 5 times in the New Testament (cf. Titus 3:3, James 4:1, 3, 2 Peter 2:13). The world is not intended as some kind of “pleasure palace,” where we can find use for disposable income. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17, God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” The Greek word translated “enjoy” is found there and in Hebrews 11:25, where Moses did not “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” It really is a matter of what we’re living for.