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

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