Friday, February 24, 2017

Sunday is Coming!

Occasionally after a morning service, I will hear someone say, “Hey Mike, great worship this morning!” After thanking them and walking on it hits me: What did they mean? Did they like the music? Did the band sound good today? Were they impressed by the new Christmas clothes? All I know is something affected them. They had a good experience in the service. What is a good experience? Was it God-focused?
One of the statements in our church’s worship philosophy says this: "Our worship will be God-centered; a high priority of the vertical focus of our Sunday morning service; the ultimate aim is to so experience God that He is glorified in our affections.” Some time ago I read through a Christian bookstore flier, I noticed an ad for a new worship album that mentioned the term “experience” six times. We all love “worship experiences” with God. Experiences aren’t evil. But the concept of worship as an “experience” is fairly foreign to Scripture. I say “fairly” because there are times when worshipping God was definitely an experience! (2 Chronicles 5:11-14; Acts 4:31; 1 Corinthians 14:23-25) The goal of gathering as God’s people is not to feel something but to acknowledge and remember something. That “something” is the Word, works, and worthiness of God, especially as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) If I pursue goose bumps or heightened emotion during a meeting, God becomes simply one of numerous options I can choose to seek them from. This doesn’t minimize the importance of pursuing encounters with the living God characterized by profound emotion and awareness of the Holy Spirit’s active presence. Scripture is filled with examples of longing for, pursuing, and delighting in God’s presence. (Psalm 84:1-2; 1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 16:11) I become aware of God’s nearness by dwelling on His nature, promises, and acts, not by pursuing an emotional fix. This week may our hearts fight for God’s glory, may our minds focus on God’s truth, and may our lives exemplify God’s joy and faithfulness. I am already looking forward with excitement to Sunday as we will focus our worship on God. My prayer is that as we come together to worship on Sunday, you will be able to “magnify the Lord with me and . . . [we will] exalt His name together.” (Psalm 34:3)

Pastor Mike

Friday, February 17, 2017

Greetings from Lafayette, Indiana!

Just a quick note as Casey and I are at a church in Lafayette for a training conference on biblical counseling. We are enjoying the learning and the fellowship with other BCCers while we are here. Let me tell you...if you want to laugh a lot, sit with Mark Herrmann, Gary Baranowski, and Bill Winkler for a meal. These men love the Lord and know how to have a good time.

Casey and I are in a track at the conference where you work on certification through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). We've appreciated being shepherded well through the process. The leadership at the conference has helped us to see that the process is doable by God's grace. We've accomplished a lot on the certification path while here and will have more to go after we leave. 

Being here reminds us of our love for Bethany Community Church and the focus on the glory of God by proclaiming and preparing. We are so thankful for a church that desires to honor God through the careful study of the Bible and its commands to care for others. The sufficiency of the Bible is so critical for counseling and discipling others through teaching and personal discipleship. We were given this definition of the sufficiency of Scripture yesterday...“Scripture is sufficient to frame the entirety of both human experience and the context in which that experience occurs according to God’s essential purpose for people to reflect His personhood by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Jeremy Pierre, Scripture is Sufficient for What? In Scripture and Counseling, p. 105).

How encouraging that the Bible equips us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17) in every context--with the starting point of the gospel! 

Pastor Ben

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

God Made Your Grandma

My wife, Casey, has begun writing a bit more, and those that help with this blog have okayed for some of that writing to be published here. I think you'll be blessed. 
-Pastor Ben

We all know that suffering is designed by God to sanctify us and to teach us that all we have is Christ.  But what about enjoying God’s good gifts that He gives us? Are these meant to sanctify us and teach us that all we have is Christ? In Joe Rigney’s book Things of Earth, we learn that, yes, even God’s blessings are designed to cause us to become more like Jesus as we enjoy them the way God intended. Have you ever felt just a little guilty for enjoying a vacation by the beach, or maybe a big slice of your grandma’s homemade apple pie, or maybe you’re not sure how excited to be when your child takes first place in his/her activity? We know that it is all too easy to worship the created instead of the creator, so we don’t want to find our joy and identity in earthly things (Romans 1:25).  But after all God did create the beach, and He did create apple trees, and He did give your child the ability to do whatever he/she is good at. Oftentimes our successes and material blessings can help reveal idols in our heart as we find ourselves worshiping these things instead of God.  The seasons of suffering in our lives should cause us to depend on God because our circumstances are difficult.  Likewise, the seasons of prosperity should cause us to depend on God because we know that all is from Him.  These good gifts reveal His character and should cause us to worship (James 1:17). We learn to treasure God by enjoying His gifts. Rigney writes, “Receive God’s gifts gladly, give thanks for them, and then be as generous with others as God has been with you.” He goes on to write, “Gratitude demands humility, since only those who acknowledge their dependence, their need, and their delight in the goodness and kindness of another can be grateful.” We know from the apostle Paul that we are to give thanks in all things (I Thes. 5:18). It is obviously easier to give thanks in all things when those things are enjoyable gifts.  It is therefore sometimes easier to become prideful and self-reliant when enjoying God’s earthly blessings. We must by God’s grace enjoy His good gifts as He intended them to be enjoyed. Seasons of suffering and blessing are both meant to point us toward Christ.  In both our tragedies and our triumphs, God gives us Christ, and that is enough. Rigney closes his book with these words:
“All you have is Christ,
--whether you have him in all the good gifts that he lavishes on you;
--whether you have him in all the gifts that you gladly receive and then freely give away in the cause of love;
--or whether you only have him in the loss of everything else that is precious to you.”