Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

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.

Wisdom and “Smarts”

by admin ~ March 31st, 2018

Today’s pastor desk will include somewhat connected statements of wisdom. There is a major difference between being smart and being wise. There are some very smart people, who are not very wise. We should strive to be smart, but it’s more important to be wise. James said, pray for wisdom, not smarts. You need some smarts to be wise, because you have to know the right things to apply to your life, but if you know it all and you don’t know how to live it, you’re missing most of what you need. On this point, someone said, experience may be the best teacher, but the tuition is very high. It would be better to listen to someone, who already knows what he’s talking about, based upon scripture. However, until it’s tested, it’s only your opinion, not a conviction. All over scripture you will see that sin makes sense only to sin itself and then to apostates, but it should not make sense to you if you are saved, and it won’t if you’re living for the Lord—instead, sin makes you irrational, actually crazy. People locked into a sin, I’ve noticed, are impervious to scripture, logic, or facts, will always say it’s someone else’s fault, hate anyone who tries to tell them the truth, no matter how humbly nor lovingly, and will always find dire and horrendous fault with anyone who tries to part them from it.

The Strength of Manhood for Pastors

by admin ~ March 24th, 2018

In Titus 2 Paul gives instruction for behavior in the church. At one point, he calls it “behaviour as becometh holiness.” He calls what he is teaching the church, “sound doctrine” (v. 1) and “the doctrine of God” (v. 10), that he wants Titus to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (v. 15). For what Titus says, that Paul writes to him, he commands that “no man despise thee” (v. 15). On top of all this, Paul wants all this behavior “that the word of God be not blasphemed” (v. 6). The word of God would be blasphemed by not behaving in the way that Paul teaches. How big a deal is that? All of this is so important that Paul characterizes it in a very great way and brings with it a lot of serious talk. He says, “Rebuke with all authority.” That really sounds, you know, mean – to rebuke with all authority. How about, rebuke with tremendous sympathy and sensitivity? Paul was a man. Titus was a man. It was required in the qualifications of the pastor, to be a man. Acting like a man means strength, which is necessary for maintaining the behavior God wants. People are more concerned about the style and the sympathy today, then they are the actual right behavior and, therefore, call it “toxic masculinity.” It’s not true. We need strength today and a stand on what God says.

Evangelism, Not Token

by admin ~ March 17th, 2018

Nothing in the Bible tells us how many hours to evangelize every week. The strong impression someone should get from the New Testament as a whole is that we are never to stop evangelizing. This is like the command from Paul, pray without ceasing. We don’t pray nonstop, but it is characteristic to the extent that it could be called, without ceasing. Jesus says, don’t hide your light or lamp under a bushel or basket. The inclination is toward preaching the gospel, at least being a Christian testimony. This might be passing out a tract. If we are going to preach the gospel to everyone and everyone hasn’t yet received the gospel, then we need to keep going until that is done. It won’t get done by not doing it. Everyone is responsible to do that. We should want to do that, because there is no greater message and no more important message, if it is true. It is true, but whether we believe it is true could be measured by how much we talk about it. I bring up the topic of how much to evangelize, because faith in Christ is different than sheer fulfillment of obligation. You get your minimal or token evangelism in, so you won’t need to do it for awhile, and you’re happy for that. That’s not belief. That’s not love. The Bible doesn’t give us a requirement, but that doesn’t mean none.

Counting the Cost

by admin ~ March 4th, 2018

If salvation doesn’t cost anything, then where did the idea of “counting the cost” come from? They seem like a contradiction, or do they? The concept actually comes from Jesus in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” When you believe in Jesus Christ, you’ve got to really believe, and really believing means believing that Jesus is Lord. That means that He owns you as His servant, so you’re actually giving everything up to Him. The reality is that you get everything, but in a temporal way, you are giving up your own self, your own life, your soul. Are you willing to do that, because that is believing in Him? That is counting the cost, and Jesus illustrates that. If you believe in Jesus Christ, saving faith, then you believe that He is better than everything, He is good, and you trust Him, which means trusting that you are better off with Him. Do you believe that or not? That is counting the cost. Am I really giving that up or not, or am I just going through the motions here? Actual costing you something would be something of value. Your life, you assess, as Paul did, is dung, so you count it, as He said, as loss. You win Christ, who is of eternal benefit and all that goes with Him.

What to Give Up

by admin ~ February 24th, 2018

Very often in describing salvation, I explain that you don’t have to give up anything to be saved, except for everything. Someone might ask if you have to give up smoking to be saved. Someone doesn’t get saved by giving up smoking. However, smoking might be the reason why someone doesn’t receive Jesus Christ, believe in Him, knowing that smoking is not in accordance with faith in Christ. Repentance might require the willingness to give up smoking, since that’s what stands between someone and Christ. We don’t have to give up anything in particular to be saved, except that we can’t keep going our own way in be saved. You can’t worship Jesus Christ and everything else. It is Him or nothing. If someone has the grace of God through salvation, He can give things up that are worthless. Paul said that all things were lawful, that is, they might be permissible, but they were not necessarily expedient, that is, necessary. If something keeps you from running your race as fast as you should, then you lay it aside to run the race that is set before you. I ask myself why certain meaningless things really matter to me. Sometimes what really matters doesn’t matter and what doesn’t matter, really does matter. If we believe in Jesus Christ, then we should consider what it is we should give up for Him.

Jesus Is the Joy of Living

by admin ~ February 17th, 2018

I was thinking of a song I sang in congregations while growing up and into my adult life, Jesus Is the Joy of Living. The idea just popped into my head, while considering what to write. I wondered about the song, because the music seemed like it came from a certain revivalist era. I read about the author and composer, Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960), who wrote 1500 religious and secular songs in his lifetime, trained at the London Royal Academy of Music, attended Westminster Seminary, a Presbyterian pastor, but had worked with Billy Sunday for his campaigns. His music mainly doesn’t match the content of the old hymns and the psalms. Overall, I don’t like the trajectory his songs took church music with less focus on God and exegetical language. They are not up to that standard, but some of them serve as good hymns and spiritual songs, worthy of being sung. Even as I meditated on the song of which I’m speaking, I loved the biblical truth again, Jesus is the joy of living. It is true. The next line helps tell why, He’s the King of life to me. There is a love and affection that Ackley communicates that represents worship in spirit. The end of the first verse reads, “Ev’ry blessing of His favor fills my heart with hope so bright.”

Evidence for God

by admin ~ February 10th, 2018

Does God give us the maximum amount of evidence for believing in Him? In other words, could He give more than what He does? Yes. We don’t know how much more He could do because there is no limit on what He can do, and unlimited manifestations of His power are something that we can’t comprehend. We know that God limits Himself in the amount of evidence He might show, because He says He does that again and again. He has a purpose for discontinuing the revealing of Himself to the same extent. He could do greater and more. Two places that came to mind is the teaching of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, to Isaiah in Isaiah 6, which is then quoted in a few places in the New Testament, Matthew 13 and John 12. At one point Jesus said He wouldn’t show any more signs, except for one, the resurrection. He even stops preaching where people do not want to hear, and does what He calls, dusting His feet. Whatever evidence we have, therefore, is the evidence that God wants us to have. The evidence is limited to that which would require faith, because faith is what is necessary for someone to please God. God withholds some of the evidence He could give, because He wants man to want Him.

Externalism

by admin ~ February 4th, 2018

A word not found in scripture, but one that could represent some wrong thinking, belief, or practice is “externalism,” which is sometimes mistaken for another non-scriptural word, “legalism.” Legalism, as I understand it, is adding works of any kind to grace, and, therefore, nullifying grace. One could call it peformance-based Christianity, where your salvation and sanctification are dependent on your performance, instead of the grace of God. It’s wrong, and the book of Galatians among other places in the New Testament shoots that down. Externalism is related to legalism, but it also could be different than it. Externalism is where your Christian life is what I have called, “painted on.” You figure out what is a token amount of Christian living or works to represent a Christian life in order to look good enough as a Christian. On the inside, you might be generally ignoring God, thinking about yourself, and mainly worldly things. Your affections are not set on above. You are not seeking first God’s kingdom. You are looking just so-so and just getting by with the least possible. You might just get by with keeping all the rules or the ones that will keep you under the radar of men, but God knows your heart, it’s not close to Him.

Minister or Ministry

by admin ~ January 27th, 2018

Scripture says a lot about who you spend your time with. It matters. Very often you will hear me say that someone is either a ministry or minister. Those two categories divide up your associations into what is acceptable. People who are a ministry are those who welcome scriptural help, either as an unbeliever listening to the gospel or as a believer for his edification or spiritual growth – teaching, correction, reproof, instruction, encouragement, and comfort. As long as someone is listening to scripture, he is a ministry. You can spend time with that person. Then you have those who will help you, because they are living a righteous, obedient life, that is a great example and challenge to you. These are not people who will drag you down spiritually, but will lift you up spiritually. Your life is short. You are redeeming your time, trading for what is eternal. What is eternal is about God and the souls of men. What is about the souls of men is evangelizing and edifying others and being edified by others. If it is not that, then it is trading your life for something temporal. It is not pleasing to God. Spend your time with those who will listen to God’s Word and with people who will challenge you with God’s Word.