Monday, January 14, 2019

What Peter Has To Say About Suffering

As my turn rolls around to post on the church blog, I thought I would share some of the emotions and thoughts that can easily come to mind when enduring hardship. Most of what has been/will be written comes from my own processing as I consider my diagnosis of an inherited retinal disease. My guess is that many of you can relate to these thoughts in the midst of struggle.

1) This is not fair!
God showed his grace to my family as we started reading 1 Peter together the morning before my diagnosis. The context of 1 Peter is dealing with those suffering from persecution, but the applications of suffering, I believe, can extend to other types of suffering beyond persecution. 

1 Peter 4:12-13 says:
[12] Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. [13] But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (ESV)

We shouldn’t be surprised by trial in life. One could argue that we should be surprised when we are NOT going through trial. The effect of the fall of man upon the world and man is far reaching. Don’t think that it is not fair when experiencing trial. It is better to think that trial and suffering are expected and can be used for God’s glory—if only it means that one will grow closer to Jesus.

More soon…
Pastor Ben

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Few Thoughts on How to Maximize the Church’s Spiritual Benefits for Your Kid

At BCC we believe that God has called parents to be the primary people involved in the discipling, training, and raising up of their children.* As such, the goal of all the ministries we do with kids from infants to collegians is to partner with parents to help them in that process. Within our church and the many kid ministries we offer, however, I think at times it can be difficult for parents to see how best to take advantage of and use the church for the support it wants to offer. In light of that, here are 6 suggestions for ways you as a parent can maximize our church for the spiritual benefit of your family.

1. Encourage note taking during the sermon – This can begin even before a child is able to write well and can start with having them draw a few pictures from things discussed. Later a child can copy notes from their parents during the sermon to learn how to do so. For older kids this is an excellent practice for them to learn as it will benefit other areas of their life as well, like getting the most out of lectures at school and being more effective at studying.

2. Review the sermon – This may look different from family to family with some doing it over a meal or together at night, while others may do this individually with their kids. It could happen Sunday or sometime during the week or over the course of the week (note taking is very helpful for this =) ). There is a great deal of freedom but the idea is to take some time to discuss not just what was covered during the sermon on Sunday, but how it might apply to your child’s individual life situations and circumstances. For younger children finding one main point of application is good. For older kids it might involve walking through the sermon with them and finding a few application points. One note I would give is that as a child gets older you might find it beneficial to move more of the talking to them. You ask questions and let them figure out answers. Let them determine applications as they will be far more relevant than hearing something else mom and dad want them to fix. Be patient and let them fight for answers that are truly theirs and when they ask questions you don’t have answers to take the time to study them together. =)

3. Review the Sunday School lesson – Similar to reviewing the sermon, reviewing what your child learned in Sunday School or any other kids related teaching time can be very helpful. First, since that time is directly focused on your child’s age and place in life the applications can be more readily available. Second, as your child has interacted with leaders and peers during that time it also may have lead to other further discussions and situations you can expand on further.

4. Get to know your child’s teachers and leaders – Building into your child is a two-way street. Leaders want to know how best they can partner with you in caring for your family. It greatly encourages them when you open the door for conversations. Ask how they feel your child is doing and if there are any areas of growth or concern they’ve seen in your child. Tell them about what you’ve seen or things going on at home. I have seen this be such a help to parents in a number of ways. At times it means a child’s hypocrisy of looking good at church and living very ungodly at home is revealed and helps them be challenged to not live a pharisaical life. On the other hand, leaders sometimes see neat spiritual steps a child has made that we parents can miss in the daily grind of working with our kids and it is very encouraging to hear.

5. Help your child get to know Christian peers & their families – This can work in many different ways, but one of the neat benefits of having our kids somewhat separated by their grades is it allows for them to focus on making friendships and building deep relationships with peers who will progress with them through their childhood and into adulthood. We by no means believe every kid in our church is saved or living for the Lord, but I would suggest that church is the best place to find some that are. Have play dates if you have younger kids where you let them make friends while you get to meet other Christian parents that are walking the same road you are on. If your kids are older have parties at your house and make it a fun place to be for them to deepen friendships with other kids who are hopefully pursuing the Lord. Friendships are often not stumbled into. Rather they are made and worked at. Teaching your child that and helping facilitate it can lead to real, deep, biblical relationships they may get to enjoy for a lifetime.

6. Study the sermon &/or Sunday School passage ahead of time – Similar to the idea of review, this helps your child be more keenly prepared to listen to and learn from lessons being taught while at church. This helps prepare their minds and hearts as they come into teaching times and helps them realize those times can be a blessing for them spiritually, encouraging them to focus and listen carefully as God’s Word is presented.

Each of these suggestions is here to help, not create more for you to do in an already busy schedule! I know I can feel at a lack for how best to shepherd my family at times and I love that our church is so intentional to help in that process. Hopefully these suggestions can be used or they spark an idea in you that might help you as you seek to be intentional in the shepherding of your family as well!

Phil Smith

Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 6-9, 20-25; Psalm 78:3-8; 127:3-4; Proverbs 1:8-15; 3:1-2, 11; 13:1, 24; 22:6; 29:15, 17; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:5-11

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Focusing on Christ this Christmas

Recently, I sent the following email to care group's outreach coordinators to send on to their care groups. Hope it encourages you this Christmas.
Pastor Ben

Christmas can sometimes be a "same old, same old" time of getting together with the same folks to talk about the same, surfacey things. Are you willing and prepared to initiate spiritual conversations? Whether your family has a strong Christian presence or most of your family are not believers, talking about spiritual things is normal (not a scary, rare thing) for those that follow Christ. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching".

Below are a few resources you can open to equip you with questions you can ask your family and friends this season. Enjoy talking about the Lord during the celebration of His birth!

1) How to Talk about Christmas: 5 easy questions to start a conversation about Jesus.

2) 10 Questions to Ask at Your Christmas Gathering

Monday, October 29, 2018

The World vs. The Gospel

The world: You are great. Believe in yourself. You can do everything you put your mind to.

The Gospel: God is great. Believe in Him. He can and has done everything. 

The world: You are not in need. You are awesome.

The Gospel: You have more of a need than you realize. God is awesome.

The World: Save yourself from sorrow. Build your kingdom here on earth.

The Gospel: Jesus saves you from your deepest sorrow—your sin. Build his kingdom here on earth.

The world: Life is about you. Make your best choices. 

The Gospel: Life is about living for a greater purpose. Make the best choice—Jesus. 

--Pastor Ben

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Our Identity In Christ

Recently I have started reading through 1 Corinthians and found one passage jumped out at me as far as thinking about my identity. When I was in college I came in contact with a guy that was seemingly better than me at everything, and I mean everything. He was better at sports, speaking, reading, interacting with people,… you name it he did it and better than me. I felt I needed be validated, to find something I could be known for or best at. I found myself trying to even find just one area of my life in which I could be better than him to support my existence. I never did.
However, by God’s grace I did find something else out. My purpose in life is not to be the best or most well known person at something. My personhood, identity, and reason for existence are not wrapped up in my accomplishments. They will fail me. There will always be someone better than me. I am not on this planet to accomplish or be known for some grand thing. Rather, I am here for another and His exaltation. It was a humbling experience. From our very earliest age we are encourage to somewhat think of ourselves as great and the centers of our universe and it hurts to find out that simply is not true to how God made His world. Yet in this we can actually begin to find our truest hope, meaning, identity, and purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 states,
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
To state it bluntly, Paul is saying, most of you are not too bright, rather weak, nobodies. Not exactly an ego boost. However, from this we actually see the blessing of God choosing us in our lowliness to come to Him. Verses 29-31 go on in the passage to show us that God has intentionally chosen us as the lowly that we might be humble before Him and instead find our identity in Christ and His work that He ultimately be praised.
Rather than seeking to build ourselves up then, our job is to recognize our lowliness and build Christ up. This gives us great hope! Our abilities will degrade with age (Ecclesiastes 12:1-5). Our looks will fade over time (Proverbs 31:30). The next generation will overtake us in knowledge. If our hope and identity are in these things our purpose for existence will ultimately come to nothing. However, if our purpose is based in the eternal Christ than we can have joy as our lives fade like the grass of the field (1 Peter 1:24) knowing that ultimately we are here for Him and can be satisfied in how He chooses to use us on a daily basis. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10). He has always been great. I have always been nothing in comparison to Him. I simply get the privilege of recognizing this truth more and more over time and learning to rest all the more in Who He is and His great love toward me rather than my “accomplishments.”

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” – 2 Corinthians 4:7
“And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

May God continue to grow each of us in humility that He might be seen as greater by us and those around us!
Phil Smith

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Partnering with Parents in Our Youth Ministry

At BCC we firmly parents are the primary people God has placed in the life of kids raise them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).  With that in mind, our goal as a Youth Ministry is to come alongside parents and help them in whatever way we can to accomplish that high calling God gives them.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is assessing where your child is at spiritually. Living with them day in and day out we often times have a general “feeling” of where they’re at, be even that can be skewed based on the day and thinking about how to help progress them in their Christian walk can seem very daunting.
This year I’m very excited as we introduce a new tool to hopefully help our parents in that process. Like all tools, it is not perfect, but I think if you give it a try you may find it to be useful in the shepherding of your kids. It is a Discipleship Assessment Chart. The chart consists of 4 columns the 3 in color (green, red, & blue) deal with the specific areas of Head (what we know about God), Heart (our affections toward God), & Hands (our actions of service toward God and others). These columns are then divided into 4 rows. Within each column’s row there is a label and description of the lifestyle of someone that would fit that box. To reasonable determine where you see yourself or your child at in each of the 3 categories simply start at the bottom and work your way up till you find that box that best defines your child currently. After you’ve done this for all 3 columns you can then get a feel for where your child might fit in the process of discipleship by seeing their equivalent level from the 3 colors column in the 4th black and white column on the left.

The goal of this tool is not really to be a rating system for you or your child, but rather to put what you see about their spiritual life into tangible words. Second, the tool then helps to give a picture of what your child would look like to progress further up each column. This enables you to meet set goals that are both tangible and attainable as you seek to disciple your child in spiritual growth.
A few final notes with this tool… First, I would encourage you as a parent after you’ve looked this through yourself to consider sitting down with each of your children and asking where they see themselves on the chart and then having a discussion about it. Second, as I stated at the start, the goal of our ministry is to partner with our parents. Every one of our youth Small Group leaders has already gone through this chart over the course of last year and they would love to meet with you as a parent and process through how they can join you in encouraging your child’s spiritual growth. Consider taking them up on that offer! =)

Click here for a PDF of the full chart.

Phil Smith

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Some Encouragement for You

Is there any heart discouraged as it journeys on its way?

Does there seem to be more darkness than there is of sunny day?

Oh, it’s hard to learn the lesson, as we pass beneath the rod,

That the sunshine and the shadow serve alike the will of God;

But there comes a word of promise like the promise in the bow —

That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.

When the flesh is worn and weary, and the spirit is depressed,

And temptations sweep upon it, like a storm on ocean’s breast,

There’s a haven ever open for the tempest-driven bird;

There’s a shelter for the tempted in the promise of the Word;

For the standard of the Spirit shall be raised against the foe,

And however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.

When a sorrow comes upon you that no other soul can share,

And the burden seems too heavy for the human heart to bear,

There is One whose grace can comfort if you’ll give Him an abode;

There’s a Burden-Bearer ready if you’ll trust Him with your load;

For the precious promise reaches to the depth of human woe,

That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow.

When the sands of life are ebbing and I know that death is near;

When I’m passing through the valley, and the way seems dark and drear;

I will reach my hand to Jesus, in His bosom I shall hide,

And ’twill only be a moment till I reach the other side;

It is then the fullest meaning of the promise I shall know.

“When thou passest through the waters, they shall never overflow.”

Author unknown

Shared by Kent Kloter