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

Monday, July 16, 2018

God's Love for the Sufferer

I have recently had the privilege of talking with a few different people going through severe, long lasting, suffering in their lives. One common question both have brought, and one which I think dwells deep in each one of us when things don't go are way is, "Does God really love me if He's doing this to me?" One person stated that, "Scripture calls God our Father, but if your dad kept giving you only bad things would you really think he liked you all that much?" We each have this heart of doubt toward God's love as we experience difficulties and trials. In fact, in some ways it is a similar mindset to that of Job's friends who contend that God does good to those who are good (loved) and punishes those who are bad (unloved). It is a sad view toward exulting our works that completely overlooks the gospel and we are each tempted toward thinking like it especially in times of suffering.
So what is our hope? I have found Romans 8 a great comfort in my own life as I've processed through these times and thought and shared it with these folks as well. … Not the part of Romans 8 you're probably thinking though. =) Typically, if you're like me, you jump to v.28-29 that God is using this for our good and His glory. This is true and good, but doesn't answer the question if God still loves, or even likes us when we're suffering. For that, I give you v.31-39.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice, v.35 states that God DOES love us AND there are things that will come into our lives trying to separate us from that love. I think our sufferings fit fairly well under "tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword." However, just in case those don't cover it, we have v.38-39 give more, "death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing." Paul says that nothing can, "separate us from the love of God." He says that because of that love, we can get through the sufferings rather than doubting the love. Verse 37 states, "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." Look back at the end of v.39 though. Where does this love of God come from? "Which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." God's love is guaranteed for us in the gospel! But, just in case you doubt that, jump back to v.32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" If God killed His Son for you, how could He not give you His love ("all things")? Christ's death is not just a onetime demonstration of God's love. It is the proof of His eternally continuing love toward you and I whether we are living our best day or going through years of deepest suffering. 
God loves you and is for you! Walk and suffer well in that love!

Phil Smith

Friday, July 6, 2018

Loving the Abused

I've just now read the details regarding the reason ACBC changed locations for their upcoming conference on abuse to be held in Ft. Worth, TX October 1-3. Their explanation for the change of venue is worth the read for a helpful overview of a theology of ministry to the abused. 

These recent events just heighten my awareness for the need for the Church of Jesus Christ to improve our ability to compassionately and wisely respond to a growing trend of sinful, abusive behaviors of all kinds in our culture.

Ever since I was young, I can remember a strong sensitivity for those who are disenfranchised and abused. Now, more than ever, my heart is moved to care for the abuse victim and the sufferer. The more I'm called to help victims, the more I am aware of my own lack of understanding, training and skill-sets. For these reasons and more, I hope to attend this conference. I'd like to encourage you to consider attending as well. 

I desire is that Bethany Community Church and Bethany Biblical Counseling Ministries would be a safe place for victims to find help, hope and healing. 

May God give us the courage, wisdom and grace to practically minister the Gospel to the victims and to the perpetrators, for His Glory.

Helpful resources:
Rid of My Disgrace, Holcomb & Holcomb
Shame Interrupted, Ed Welch
Dorie, the Girl Nobody Loved, Dorie VanStone

Kent Kloter

Monday, June 4, 2018

Why I Love Summer Camp

Whenever I’m talking with people about Summer Camp (SC) I often refer to it a spiritual greenhouse for our students. I tell them it is a wonderful time and there are very few things like it that are so beneficial for our youth. Here are ____ of the main reasons why I feel this way…
1). It takes the kids away from their normal routine and comfortable environment. – If you’re like me you know you tend to get your life and schedule into ruts. SC helps our kids, early on in the Summer get out of those habits and help them start setting new ones to carry them through Summer. Some of these may include, regular time with the Lord in His Word and prayer, or fellowship with other believers.
2). It disconnects kids from the social influences around them. – Whether friends or social media we intentionally have rather strict phone use policies to allow the kids to be influenced during the week by people, messages, and beliefs that are valuable and life altering.
3). It allows the student to make friends with other people from the church. – Because the only people you have to hang out with at camp are folks from church it forces kids to step out of their comfort zone and be more connected with that Christian peer group.
4). It allows the kids to get to know their leaders better. – This has multiple parts to it. First, our SG leaders from youth group try to come be a part of the camp experience with the kids. This is often at great sacrifice of their own vacation days from work and sleep, yet they love our kids enough to invest their lives into them. Second, our BFC Senior Pastors also give up a portion if not all that week when they could be prepping their Sunday sermons and shepherding others in the church to come speak to our kids and then hang out with them talking and having fun.’
5). It intensely confronts them with God and how they’re living in light of who He is. – Having 2 teaching sessions a day, 2 SG meetings a day, and hundreds of conversations with leaders and peers throughout the week during games, free time, and over food, all about God and their spiritual life is hard to not have an effect and impact on a student. Kids have every opportunity to leave camp challenged to love God and live for Him.
6). SC is not seen as an end in itself. – We do not see SC as a time for a “spiritual/emotional high” that will then die back to the old way a student was living when they return home. Our youth leaders very intentionally connect with our students in the weeks following SC to ask how they’re doing at living out the commitments they made at camp, to encourage and equip them in living those desires out, and to challenge them toward doing so if they have lost them as a focus. 

Just like a plant that becomes healthy in a green house is then transported into the real world to grow, thrive, and be a benefit to others around it, we also seek to have our kids transition back into the realities of life having been grown and strengthened during camp while also being helped afterwards.
If you are a parents, grandparent, or have any connection with our youth kids, I would encourage you to help them with that process as well! Ask them what the Lord taught them while at SC. Ask how they are seeking to apply it into their lives now. Pray with them for God’s help to enable to carry out the commitments they made while at SC.

Those a just a few reasons / thoughts for why I love SC. What are some reasons you have?

Phil Smith

Friday, April 27, 2018

You Are the Salt of the Earth

In the Sermon on the Mount we read, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” We are helped in our understanding of our Lord’s words here by remembering two ways that salt functions. First, salt seasons. Think about the food you ate recently. Did you shake a little salt on it? Why? Because salt adds some season to the food! Second, salt preserves. Before the days of refrigeration salt was used to preserve food. It was rubbed into meat, for example, as a means of preserving the meat for later consumption. We could elaborate on why it is that salt adds savor or how it actually functions as a preserving agent, but the main point of the two uses of salt cited above is this: salt is different from the thing it comes in contact with.[1] Therefore, at the most rudimentary level, to be the salt of the earth is to be different from the world. In other words, there is a marked distinction between people who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and those who have not. Those who have been transformed by the powerful working of God now see life through a new lens and live in a way that is different than before (Col 3:1-4).

When followers of Christ fail to live in such a way that is distinct from the world, our witness is compromised, and we fail to live with purpose. The disciples were being reminded of the necessity of living the new life they’d been given in Christ. Although there is not a command explicitly given in Matthew 5:13, there is certainly a command implied: Be salty! In other words, live out your identity as a disciple of Christ. 

How do we function as the salt of the earth today? Let us consider several ways. 
First, we function as salt through the words we speak. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” If indeed our hearts have been transformed by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, our speech will reflect it. Indeed, our speech may be used to bless others (see Eph 4:29)! We speak words of kindness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members, and to those in community and in so doing we function as the salt of the earth.

Second, we function as salt in the way that we work. Again, Paul wrote in Colossians 3:22, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” We have the tremendous opportunity to be salty in the workplace by working hard, with integrity, and with excellence for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). 

Third, we function as salt in the way we treat others. When we remember the enormity of our sin against a holy God and the full forgiveness that has been extended to us through the cross of Christ (Col 2:13-14; Ps 103:12), we acknowledge that any suffering we incur at the hands of others pales in comparison to the suffering we deserve for our treason against King Jesus, and we show mercy to others as a result (Rom 12:14, 17).

Finally, we function as salt by living upright, pure lives. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (See also Titus 2:11-14).

If we’ve been washed by the blood of the Lamb our lives will be different. The words we speak, the way we work, the way we treat others, and the purity of our conduct bear witness that we are indeed the salt of the earth.

Blake Gerber

[1] See David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2001), 132.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Get Back Up!

In the Christian life there are times where we each fall and go back to our sin… This weird thing we hate and yet pursue (see Rom 7:1-20). The question that many ask themselves in those times though is, "What do I do after I've sinned yet again?" From my own life and that of others I've talked with it often seems our first instinct and common tendency is that of "wallowing" for lack of a better term. We tend to have this self pity-party consisting of faux-sorrow and leading to statements like, "I can't believe I did that again," or "how could God still love me and forgive me again for this," or other such things. What I've come to recognize is this reaction is in itself sin. It's my pride that I failed again. It's my pride thinking I ever could meet God's perfect and holy standard on my own. It's my pride thinking I had actually been acting good enough in such a way as to have earned God's forgiveness and love. I have failed to believe and return to the gospel… the only hope for a sinner like you and me.

Proverbs 24:16 sates, "
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity." I'm called to get back up, to rise again. However, instead of embracing this truth I often reject the righteousness offered to me that allows and calls me to get back up. God is clear in Rom 8:33, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." The righteousness I need has been given and it is from God, not my actions. Yet, for some reason I tend toward a heart of pride that would still want to reject God's righteousness and instead wallow in a lack of my own. How foolish is this though. It is not as if God is surprised by my wayward heart and sin. 1 John 1:8 states, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." To think any differently than that I might sin again is simply wrong, but the passage goes on to God's solution for these still unsubmitted actions in v.9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Rather than staying down with my face and proud heart firmly planted in the mud of my sin, I am instead called to look up once again to the cross at Calvary where my Savior died for me and recognize by His work I am still saved, loved, and free to live for Him and not for me. I must remind myself of the truth that the Christian life is not about being perfect. It is about growth in the pursuit of perfection. I must get back up! I must bring my sin to the cross, repent of it confessing and turning away AND THEN I must remind myself of the grace that is present for me, the Holy Spirit Who lives within me, and the empowering hope that I am not enslaved, I AM FREE. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36)! I must rise once again!

I should not be surprised by this hard work either. Over and over the Scripture talks about living this life for Christ and against sin as a battle (Ephesians 6:11-18, 2 Tim 2:3-5, 4:7). I must remember that the war is already won. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith." (1 John 5:4) and "but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57). These present battles are chances for me to reflect what has already been done through Christ for me. Therefore, I must rise again! The King has conquered! I want to reflect His glory and this truth in both the times I choose to pursue Him over sin and the times I fall and fail by getting back up! I must look to Christ.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin (Hebrews 12:1-4).

Get back up! For the glory of the King and by the power of the King, RISE! He has risen from the grave (Mat 28:6). Your victory is won (John 16:33). You stand perfect before God (Col 1:22). You have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). Rise once again dear brother and sister! Take hold of the promises that are yours in Christ! May we press on, living for the King and in His power. In our greatest successes and in spite of our darkest failures may we continually look to Him and get back up!

As a note of encouragement, I have always found this song by Shane & Shane extremely encouraging in the dark times of despair over sin…

Phil Smith