Friday, January 27, 2017

The Art of Discernment

When I was attending Christ Seminary in South Africa, I had a professor who used to state, "everything preaches." What he meant was, that whatever you're interacting with in life is pushing you toward thinking a certain way. It is informing you of its creator's worldview and asking you to align with it. Today that "everything" is a continually growing category. It entails movies, tv, music, books, video games, teachers, textbooks, billboards, advertisements, magazines, facebook, instagram, and many others forms of media including this very blog post. =)

Typically, as Christians we have two possible responses to this. On the one hand we may recognize this about the movies, music, and many other such things we or our kids listen to and decide it isn't worth the risk and we will simply not partake of those sort of things. On the other hand, we may instead belittle the effects the messages have on us and our thinking and instead take it all in as we like without giving it a second thought.

I would suggest that neither option is fully healthy or biblical. Certainly there are some things not worth giving an ounce of our thought to that are almost purely tainted by sin and would do far more damage to our souls than any benefit they may offer. However, if we are not careful, this thinking can be taken to an extreme where we actually seek to ostracize ourselves from the world and sequester ourselves into a "holy huddle" of only Christians and Christian things. This can be an even greater danger in parenting since kids who grow up in this environment eventually will move out and enter a world filled with media. If they have never learned how to interact with it in a healthy way they will tend to either become self-righteous in not pursuing it, or they will run full bore into it unheading to the danger it presents their souls.

The other option of taking it all in and ignoring the messages being presented is just as bad. Psalm 1 and 1 Cor 15:33 show that what and who we spend time around will affect us negatively if they encourage us in anti-God thinking. Partaking of media freely and without pause, pondering, or thought can very subtly yet quickly lead to a deadening and coldness of our soul to the Lord. We will naturally tend toward sinful thinking of ourselves without the help and encouragement of others toward it, outside of the Holy Spirit's arresting and enabling work (Rom 12:2). Carelessly adding voices into our lives that speak anti-God lies and self-gratifying thoughts into our already battling souls is a recipe for disaster.

Well than what I'm I supposed to do with all this media I and my family are bombarded with daily? I would suggest that discernment is the answer. Phil 1:9-10 states, "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." Paul adds in 1 Thes 5:21-22, "but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." As Christians we are to run everything we take in through the lens of Scripture and determine whether what is being said is right or wrong. While that sounds easy, it is not and takes great focus and work. The author of Hebrews actually says it takes practice, "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Heb 5:14). It is not something we simply turn on or off. It is a lifestyle we must work to cultivate as we take in all the media from the world around us and as a parent is especially important to cultivate and train your child in before they have to practice out on their own.

The next thought that probably comes to your mind is, "this is completely overwhelming and too hard." In response I would submit two verses to you. First, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (Jam 1:5). God can give you the discernment you feel you lack if you will ask Him for it. Second, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Eph 3:14-16). God enables and empowers you by the Holy Spirit to that which He expects of you. You ARE completely incapable of this in yourself, BUT your God is not. Discernment is both possible and necessary for your Christian life.

All that to say, I recently was asked by a youth student about a topic relating to one of their blogs which lead me to later read it. I was very impressed with her desire to practice discernment as she takes in media. I think her actions set a neat example for us to think through and follow as we too are "preached" at by the many avenues of media today. Here is a copy of her most recent blog post she gave me permission to post here and I wanted to share with you...

Phil Smith
Youth Minister

Sherlock: Why does life have value?

**Warning: Spoilers for the season finale of "Sherlock" are contained in the following post!**

A week ago today Sherlock season 4, and possibly the entire show, came to a riveting close. It was quite the season, filled with mind-bending twists and turns, intriguing character development, and despicable (and I mean it in the true sense of the word) villains. The final episode of the season, appropriately titled "The Final Problem," was an intense, uncomfortably dark story that tested the series' heroes more than any episode so far. In it, we are acquainted with Euros Holmes, Sherlock's brilliant, insane, desperately evil sister. She has been, as we come to find out, the real mind behind the evils that have plagued Sherlock Holmes, even going back to his early childhood. She has had her hand on almost every heartbreak, every terrible, tortuous event that happens to Sherlock during the course of the series, and in this episode we get to see her work  up close.

Euros manages to lure Sherlock, his best friend John, and brilliant older brother Mycroft to the prison in which she has been held (or, as we learn, has come to control) for the majority of her life. Once trapped, she puts them through a series of tests, sadistic games, for reasons not completely clear. Insanity? Yes. Hatred? Probably. Revenge? Maybe. But its also pretty clear that she just enjoys it. She has finally met people who have a chance of standing up to her intellectually, but they are limited by morality, by love for each other, and by a regard for human life. And her goal is to exploit those so-called "weaknesses," and to test the power it gives her over them.

​This episode of Sherlock explored, perhaps more than any other episode up until this point, the fundamental differences between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." Never before in this show have we seen so evidently two radically different types of characters and what it looks like when they clash. Their fundamental differences lie, I believe, in one key area: their value of human life.

To Euros, human life is of no value. She sees men as tools, playthings even, to be used until they're worn out. She is, in her own mind, a god--and probably not just a god, but the god. Her intellectual capabilities give her the means to use, abuse, and control; and in her own godless universe, why should that change?

Sherlock and his companions, on the other hand, see human life in a completely different light. When faced with the gut-wrenching choice to shoot one man to save the life of another, neither John nor Mycroft can do it. And when Sherlock must choose which of his companions to murder to get to the next segment of Euros' "game," he threatens, to his sister's shock and dismay, to end his own life instead.

So why does Sherlock, who, in this version of the classic stories, is a self-proclaimed atheist, put such immense value on the life of another human being? Because, from an evolutionary standpoint, shouldn't the life of a human have just as much value as that of a dog, horse, or monkey? What kept John from pulling the trigger, even when he had a man literally begging John to shoot him to save the life of his captive wife? I believe the answer is this: as humans created in the image of God, we are created with a subconscious understanding that human life has value. And, I would argue, the reason it has value is that God gives it value.

One of the earliest decrees given by God in Scripture can be found in Genesis 9:1-7.  In it, the Creator gives humankind dominion over all other creation. He sets them apart, per say. He goes on to declare: "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."

From the beginning, God has chosen to give men value. And, as creatures all created by God, we have engrained in our consciences an understanding, an instinct, that we don't have the right or authority to take something of such incredible value as human life.

So while Sherlock might claim to not believe in a higher power, his actions indicate that he subconsciously answers to one. He recognizes that mankind has a special place in creation, and I doubt that he could provide a solid explanation on why that is. But I believe, as Christians, that we can. Our worth as humans can only be found in one thing, and that's through a loving Creator who has chosen to give us immense value for the glory of His name.

Rebekah's post and others like it can be found at her blog (

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fool for Jesus


There are two kinds of fools in the Bible. The first fool is found in Proverbs, and is characterized as one who lacks discernment, discipline, and is for the most part unteachable. From God’s perspective this person has no hope and is headed for trouble, difficulties, and eventual judgment. Proverbs admonishes us to do everything we can to avoid being labeled this kind of fool.

But there’s another kind of fool that God esteems. I’m speaking of the person that the world labels a “fool” because of their commitment to the Gospel.
I Corinthians 3:18, says this:
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.”

In other words, we have only two options in this life: to be wise by the wisdom of this age, or to become a fool in the eyes of this world by boasting in the cross of Christ. This is the kind of fool that I desire to be and that you should desire to be as well. 
As I consider this in the context of worship on Sundays, gathering with God’s people, being reminded again and again of God’s gracious work in my life, I realize I want to be a greater fool in the eyes of the world.  I am thankful to be a part of Bethany Community Church, a church that values the gospel, that treasures God’s Word, that cherishes Christ’s work of salvation. 
I want to be unconcerned about the applause of the world, and live alone for God’s glory.  And when unbelievers say I’m a fool for basing my entire life on the perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, I want to thank them with all my heart.
May each one of us be more of a fool in the eyes of men, so that we might be wise in the eyes of God, and so that Jesus Christ alone might receive glory through our lives.
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ten Reasons Why We Suffer


I have heard many speak recently to what it is like to “suffer well”. I will be teaching more on this on Monday night, Jan. 16th from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at the church building for the Gospel Institute, but below are some thoughts for you to consider. This Monday is TRY IT NIGHT at the Gospel Institute, so please come join us with no strings attached. All are welcome to join us. 

Ten reasons why human beings suffer:

1. Satan – God has given Satan limited rulership of this world, limited in time and in his ability to wreak havoc. Satan can do nothing that God does not allow him to do. (see Job 1:10; 2:1; 1 Cor. 15)

2. The Fall has brought exhaustive entropy. The universe is running down. We live in a world of deterioration>decay>destruction>death.

3. The world system is ruled by Satan; a fallen system of ideals, beliefs, etc.

4. Personal Entropy – The effects of personal, physical deterioration create a myriad of hardship and struggles that tempt us to sin.

5. The flesh and the noetic effect on the human mind – flawed thinking, internal distress, emotions, sin-nature, passions; lust of the flesh/eyes/pride of life

6. The Law of Harvest – The consequences of our own sin can bring great suffering.

7. Punishment – God punishes the wicked, e.g. Pharaoh, Sodom, Gomorrah.

8. Evil – suffering as a result of being sinned against by others, e.g. Naboth at the hand of Jezebel and Ahab.

9. Discipline from God - to the believer; David suffered as a result of God's discipline for his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah.

10. Display God’s Glory – God orchestrates all suffering for his ultimate glory, however sometimes God chooses to use specific events of suffering to display His glory, e.g. the blind man (John 9:1-7), the crucifixion.

Suffering is also the topic of our 2nd annual counseling conference. For more info on the conference, go here.

Pastor Kent

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How to Deal with Our Emotions

image from

Pastor Ben here. For my turn on the pastors' blog, I've asked a guest blogger to share! And she's a good one. My wife, Casey, shares thoughts from her recent message she shared at beREAL, our church's monthly women's meeting. Both men and women will be blessed to read this!
How do we deal with our emotions of happiness, worry, discontentment, pride, compassion, sadness, anger, despair, joy, anxiety, and numerous others? 
Adapted from Feelings and Faith by Brian Borgman (all quotes from the book unless otherwise noted), here are some principles we can use to biblically handle our emotions.  

1) How can our emotions sometimes be dangerous? Emotions have been given to us by God. They are a reflection of God himself. As we read our Bible we learn that God reveals his character using different emotions: love, compassion, delight, anger, sadness (Zeph 3, Gen 6, Psalm 95, Psalm 103). In the garden, Adam and Eve had the perfect balance of emotions. However, post fall, emotions have been infected by sin.  Our thoughts, words, deeds are prone to sin and so are our emotions. Often times we find ourselves controlled by our emotions or unable to see truth clearly because our emotions are leading us, not us leading them. We make decisions based on our “feelings” and often times in today’s culture we are told to “follow your heart” or “do what makes you feel good.” These are dangerous words to live by and cause us to base our truth and perception of reality on our experiences and self-preservation.  Have you ever wondered why you or people around you seem to remain stagnant or stuck in their walk with God? Not being able to handle their emotions biblically can often be a reason. Our sinful emotions can affect how we view ourself, God, other people. I’m sure we can all relate to looking for something or someone to make us feel better, whether that’s a relationship, or a new pair of shoes, food, or staying in bed all day neglecting our responsibilities.  

2) What do sanctified emotions look like? Just like any other area of the Christian life, our emotions need to be sanctified as well. The goal being a more balanced emotional life. Think about Jesus, who as a man experiencing our world, had the perfect balance of emotions. He had love, compassion, delight, anger, grief. He was angry and stern but it was always controlled, because it as God’s glory he was defending (John 2).  He had joy but it wasn’t centered on his personal comfort but was instead focused on his obedience to and relationship with his Father.  Sanctified emotions are handled by the truth which is found in the person of God. “The Word through the Spirit helps us not to suppress our emotions but to cultivate and communicate them with spirit-empowered self-discipline. “This means that we don’t deny or pretend we don’t have emotions, it means that we express them and process them through the lens of God’s character and faith in him.
If we look at Psalm 42 and 77 we notice that the authors experience these emotions in particular: depression, fear, anxiety, sadness, suffering. The psalmist often wonders where God is and what is he doing.
  Sometimes the psalmist experienced emotional pain because of their own sin, sometimes it was the result of others’ sin towards them. The psalmists were honest about their distress but it did not result in sin or shaking their fist at God. The psalmists’ emotional pain resulted in praising God for who he is and what he has done.  They rested in the fact that they could depend on God to be faithful. “We are meant to feel the pain of adversity but we must resist allowing that pain to cause us to lapse into sinful thoughts about God” (Trusting God by Jerry Bridges).

3) How do we handle our emotions biblically?  We first have to confess our sinful emotions.  “Authentic repentance is determination to change for Christ’s sake with Christ’s help.” After we recognize and confess our sinful emotions, we have to preach the Gospel to ourselves. “Nothing gives emotional stability, authentic joy, and unshaken satisfaction like resting in the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone.” Here are 4 ways the Gospel can help us have emotional stability:

a. Romans 8:31-32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” Because our sin is against an infinitely Holy God we deserve and eternal, infinite punishment.  God’s wrath is what we are saved from. God has already taken care of our biggest problem. He will help us in our emotional instability.  He has given us his Son; the ultimate treasure. 

b. Hebrews 12:3-4. Whatever suffering we face does not compare to the suffering that Jesus endured for us on the cross. This causes us to put our problems in the right perspective, to be thankful instead of having a sense of entitlement. All we have is by God’s grace: a realization of how much I have and how little I deserve. 

c. I Cor. 10:13. Because of the Gospel, we have resurrection power which means we can no longer say “I can’t do this.” You can rule over your emotions. We have every spiritual blessing and all we need for life and godliness.

d. Because of the Gospel, we have future grace.  Grace for each upcoming difficulty, based on God’s past and current faithfulness (Psalm 77), we can depend on his promises and we have the hope of heaven where we will be free of anger, depression, bitterness, anxiety. 

For most of us our emotional struggles are not a result of a major life circumstance but more often they involve dealing with the everyday or every hour highs and lows. A few months ago, my daughter came to me and was overwhelmed by all the things on her to-do-list.  She had reached the tipping point. We all have that tipping point: our to-do-list, a difficult relationship, a constant nagging temptation or sin struggle.  Will we tip over and spill out sinful emotions like anxiety, anger? Or will we plan for war in peace time and search our hearts and recognize what biblical truth we need to cling to at that moment. I am thankful that my daughter desired not to be ruled by her anxiety but instead we looked together at verses such as Matt 6:31-34 and Lam 3:22-24. We don’t always respond rightly at the tipping point but if we are continuing to humble ourselves and seek God’s help, he promises to sanctify us.

Sometimes an unexpected blessing (ex. everything is going my way, life is good) can cause us to be emotionally unstable. Sometimes a change in hormones, a lack of motivation, sleep or energy affect our emotions. We often times find ourselves in an emotional spin cycle that we can’t get out of.  We can fall into the trap of excusing our sin by saying “I just don’t feel like…” fill in the blank: obeying, reading, disciplining, serving. What truth do we need to access at this moment?  Psalm 119:24 says the word is our counselor. Many times in the Psalms we see the phrase “Hope in God” over and over because we need to remember who God is and that we can trust him. This battle must be won in the mind and then must by followed up by action. “Power comes in the doing. Stop the self-pity and do what you are supposed to do.” As we obey in faith we ask God to increase our love, increase our joy, increase our delight, increase our compassion. All around us there can be chaos, conflict, strife but if we can let the truth of God’s word rule our mind then right thinking produces right feelings. “When negative thoughts fill my mind, I know to look to God and his Word for guidance.” 

Thanks for reading!
Casey Davidson