Friday, July 21, 2017

Live in Illinois (or Wherever) for the Gospel

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with some church leaders who are ministering in a difficult environment. I won’t go into all the details of what they shared with me, but essentially these are brothers and sisters whose lives are in danger because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the dangers they face are partly due to policies enacted or at least tacitly encouraged by their government.

I asked them how they planned on responding to these dangers. “We are going to stay here and do what we always do. This is normal. We are here to share the gospel.”

What a great understanding of purpose...and a perspective that those of us in Central Illinois would do well to adopt. The temptation to want to leave Illinois due to frustration with leadership in Springfield or a poor economy is understandable. The failures of our state leadership are overwhelming. No other state in the union has mangled their budget this badly.

But our brothers and sisters in hard environments are not the only ones who have been called to a certain place to share the gospel. God didn’t call us to live in Illinois for the glory of our pocketbook. Our placement here is not ultimately about sound fiscal policy.

Yes, we should seek and pray for wise decision making on the part of our leaders. Yes, you need to be able to financially provide for your family and yourself. No, it is not inherently sinful to move out of the state.

But here are three encouragements:

First, understand why you are in Illinois in the first place. You have not been placed in Illinois so that you can become financially wealthy. God’s greatest desire for you is not that you would build really big barns (figuratively or literally, my farming friends). God has placed you here to be an ambassador proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to a community that desperately needs Him.

Second, stay in Illinois for the sake of the gospel. Don’t trade temporary trinkets for eternal treasure. Yes, your taxes may (will) be higher here than other places.

So what?

If you can’t stay focused on your gospel mission because of higher taxes, what are you going to do when true suffering comes? As long as the door for gospel ministry is open…exploit it!

Finally, leave Illinois for the sake of the gospel.
My prayer is that God would call some in our church to leave our community. But I don’t want this to be about fleeing a community with which you are disgusted. I want you to run to places God is calling you because you are passionate about sharing Jesus Christ with others who need to hear about His work on the cross and worship Him!

Pastor Daniel

Friday, July 14, 2017

Our Freedom in Christ Jesus (adapted from Colossians 1-2)

Grace and peace to you our brothers, you saints of God, we give thanks for you.
Your hope laid up in heaven waiting, the gospel message bearing fruit.

By God’s grace continue walking in a manner worthy of Him.
Praise Him for His kind deliverance from death and darkness, the power of sin.

Extol the One who grants salvation, the image of the invisible God.
He’s the firstborn of creation, He’s reconciled us by His blood.

We must continue in the faith, shifting not, but stable in,
The gospel hope, which we have heard, proclaiming Christ, He’s coming again!

Abounding in thanksgiving, yes, we who’ve received the Lord,
Walking in Him, built up in Him, but my brothers be forewarned,

There are those who’d take you captive by the cunning craft of man,
Those who hold onto tradition, the grace of God don’t understand.

For in the body of our Lord dwells all Deity,
And in Him we find our fullness, He’s o’er all authority.

Though at one time we were dead in trespasses and sin,
We’ve been forgiven, been made alive, yes, we’ve been raised with Him!

Christ, the One who set aside, the debt we could not pay,
This He took and to the tree did nail it on that day.

A public spectacle He made of all His enemies,
Tri’mphing over all of them, by grace we’ve been set free!

So, don’t be bound by regulations your freedom is in Christ.
The Head who holds His church together, our liberty, our life.

Blake Gerber, Discipleship Minister 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Some Thoughts from 1 Peter

I have been slowly making my way through the book of 1 Peter in my recent time with the Lord and have found a number of verses that have challenged me in my thinking so I thought I share them and my thoughts with you.

1:13 - Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Peter has just finished discussing our future salvation and calls us as believers to 3 actions…
1) prepare your mind – mental preparedness at least for me can take the hardest work. It is not enough just to do some good things, my mind is to be set toward thinking & acting like Christ.
2) keep sober in spirit – not getting distracted with a focus on the inner man. What does my heart and mind dwell upon?
3) fix your hope – even now in this present life, even in sufferings like Peter is discussing, my eyes are to look ahead to my future hope and take heart. I live for eternity
2:9 - But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
God has chosen me to be His child, but for what? To be like Israel was called to be, His representative. I'm to rejoice in what He has done for me and shout it from the rooftops that all may know my great Savior and King!
2:11 - Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
"This world is not my home, I'm just passing through." I have an eternal home and as such live and work for its betterment and currency. I'm not to get distracted by the allurements of this life. As a matter of fact, those allurements may actually seek to kill and attack my very soul. The things that seem to satisfy me the most in this life may actually be what take my life. My hope & joy must be found in Christ and my eternal home. All other hopes will distract and rob me of my true joy.
2:14 - and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Wow! What love! All my sin is paid for and gone! I am free! … but at a great cost. My freedom was purchased with the purpose that I now pursue righteousness. I'm not here for me or freed for my desires. I'm His and here for His purposes and glory. The Suffer Servant has taken my place of punishment to give me His place of peace. Hallelujah!
3:15 – but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
John 3:16 for apologetics =) … 2 major takeaways… 1) I'm called to set apart (sanctify) Christ as Lord in my heart. There is a choice I make on a moment-by-moment basis. Will He rule and reign or will I seek to take back my crumbling kingdom? 2) There should be a hope in me and people around me should see it. Do I ask and interact with God in such a way that His goodness and thinking about Him and eternity shine through in my daily life, actions, and conversations?
3:18 - For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.
A beautiful picture of our Savior… "the just for the unjust." The one who was perfect and deserved nothing but sheer bliss in the eternal presence of the Godhead, take the place of guilt and damned sinner, me, bearing my sin and my punishment and my death. Why? To restore me to God. For some reason, God chose to have and make possible a relationship with worthless me! Amazing!
4:11 - Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Peter is stressing that each individual in the church has been gifted and is called to serve in the church. How encouraging that their very actions of service come from God Himself. What hope we have to persevere in giving of ourselves to the love and care of the body when God is the one supplying all we need to do it! Notice the end result of this too God the Father and Jesus are glorified, not just by our work, but in our recognition that outside of God's powerful help we would be unable to care for His church as He desires… it's all Him!
5:2-3 – shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
"shepherd," "voluntarily," "with eagerness," "proving to be examples." I am so thankful for the elders God has placed in our church! Men who love and care for God's flock with gentleness seeking to meet all our needs. Guys who do so of their own volition and do it excitedly because they love the Lord and us, His people. Men who lead us well and point us to what Godliness, husbanding, fatherhood, and manhood look like in a very confused and confusing world and culture in which we live. May the Lord guard and keep each of them to the end!
5:6-7 - Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Humbling myself = casting my anxiety on God. It is pride that causes me to keep my worries and hold on to them, self reliance that keeps me from bringing my burdens to the King. My hope is in me to fix my issues… no wonder I am worried. Exaltation only comes after humbling and humbling is not something done to me, but something I am to do and seek. … It comes from looking rightly at God. "mighty hand," "He cares for you." As I remember these truths I should come boldly and gladly and… humbly to throne. That the all powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe loves me and cares for my small problems … How could I not bring them to Him and how foolish I must be to keep things from Him.
These have been some of the thoughts bouncing around in my head over these last few weeks. Hope some of them were helpful or connected with you!
Keep looking to Him!
Phil Smith, 
Youth Minister

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Copping out? Maybe...

It's my turn to blog this week, and it is Vacation Bible Camp week. Dilemma. Am I copping out by letting someone else write for me. Maybe. This blog post by Trevin Wax on the Gospel Coalition site is a much better post than you could squeeze out of me this week. I posted this to my Facebook page and some of you have liked it, so I thought I'd try for an even wider audience here.

Here is something to wet your appetite from the post:
"I often meet Christians who are uncomfortable with the idea of evangelism. Whenever I dig down to the root of the discomfort, I encounter issues related to the nature of truth, what it means to follow Jesus, and the role of worship. Here’s a fictional example of how this kind of conversation usually goes…" 
As I endeavor to continue equipping the saints at Bethany in evangelism, I think each of us would benefit from reading Trevin's post here.

Remembering the Gospel is for all of us, every day...
Pastor Ben

Friday, June 2, 2017

Bearing Burdens in the Context of Community

The Apostle Paul instructs the believers in the churches in Galatia to bear one another’s burdens, and tells them that when they bear one another’s burdens they will fulfill of law of Christ (Gal 6:2).  The instruction is clear: Bear burdens. But what is the law of Christ, the law that we fulfill in burden bearing?  The law of Christ includes the law of love, and the law of love says that believers are to love their neighbors as themselves (Gal 5:14). Followers of Jesus are repeatedly instructed in the New Testament to love one another (John 13:34, 15:12; Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9; 1 Pet 1:22, 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 2 John 5). Therefore, we can conclude that bearing one another’s burdens is a practical outworking of the love that believers have for one another. Burden bearing is to be a mark of the Christian.

How are we to do this? How do believers bear one another’s burdens? First, we recognize that the command to bear burdens is broad, encompassing numerous scenarios and situations. People find themselves under a barrage of burdens that they need help in bearing. We have physical burdens, emotional burdens, financial burdens, and spiritual burdens (to name a few!). Life in a fallen world is rife with difficulties and the Christian is not exempt from them. Furthermore, we must not think that we are to endure difficulties (burdens) alone. Second, if we are to bear one another’s burdens, we must be aware of what the burdens are. May I suggest that we bear one another’s burdens best in the context of community, community here being the local church? It is difficult, rather, it is near impossible to carry out the command to bear one another’s burdens if believers are not living among each other, doing life together, engaging with one another, praying for one another, encouraging one another, challenging one another, and more. Apart from this kind of interaction we will be largely unaware of the burdens that others bear. We bear burdens in the context of community. Upon conversion, believers become part of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). The body of Christ is made up of local assemblies of believers who covenant together to love and care for one another. The local church is the context in which believers live in community. Here we are made aware of the burdens that our brothers and sisters bear, and we are able, by God’s grace, to fulfill the law of love by bearing one another’s burdens. Our Savior teaches us that everyone will know that we are his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:35). Bearing one another’s burdens is a demonstration of our love and we bear one another’s burdens best in the context of community.

Blake Gerber
Discipleship Minister

Friday, May 26, 2017

Prayer Helps

This year for the Annual BFC Youth Summer Camp we are going to be discussing the topic of prayer. As a precursor to camp our youth group has started discussing and practicing praying together for the last few weeks. I, the small group leaders, and the kids have all commented that this process has been very helpful. It takes us from just teaching the kids about prayer to actually modeling and practicing praying with them. All that being said, I thought I'd share with you a brief outline we used with the hope that it might be a help and encouragement to you and your family in your own prayer times.

Prayer Practice (R.A.T.S.)

Repentance – confessing sin and thanking God for forgiveness & newness through Christ
·      Read Prov 28:13 & 1 John 1:9 together and briefly discuss what they mean in light of repentance
·      Take a few minutes to each individually come to the Lord confessing your sin to Him and then thanking Him it has been paid for by Christ and you have the Holy Spirit to enable you to live for Him

Adoration – praising God for who He is
·      Read Psalm 145 together
·      With your Bibles open have everyone take turns praying different parts of the chapter that strike you about God back to Him, praising Him

Thanksgiving – thanking God for what He has done, is doing, or will do
·      Read Psalm 34 together and briefly discuss different things David thanks the Lord for
·      Have everyone in the group take a turn thanking God for at least 1 thing

Supplication – making requests of God for Himself, others, and yourself
·      Look back at Psalm 34:4 and briefly discuss how it applies to supplication
·      Have everyone in the group go around and give a prayer request then have everyone in the group take turns praying for the person on their right

May this outline be a blessing and encouragement to you and your family!

Phil Smith
Youth Minister