Monday, April 26, 2021

Evangelism Encouragements and Free Book Offer from Sunday, 4/25/21

Below are the words shared by Pastor Ben on Sunday, 4/25 related to evangelism and Bethany Community Church:

2 Timothy 4:1–2 says
[1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

As believers, we get the joy of being a part of God's evangelism ministry to the world--telling other beggars where we, as beggars, found bread. What a delight to be a part of God's mission. Does He need us? No. But He delights in including us in the mission. Think of a father and young son working on a project in the garage. The good father tells his son--come over here and help me drive this nail. The son, smiling from ear to ear, wraps his hands around the hammer, the father wraps his hands around his son's hand, and the work begins. Both delighting in the work.

The Great commission starts, "Go and make disciples"...locally and to the ends of the earth and ends with "and I’m with you always." His hands are around ours!
As a church, we want to see a culture of evangelism where the Father calls us to join Him in the work of evangelism--and we joyfully put our hands to work as His hands envelop ours.

Our church's purpose is to glorify God by proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and preparing His people to worship Him together.
When it comes to the proclaiming side of that purpose, we use 3 words starting with the letter "I" to help us understand what that means:

We involve ourselves in the lives of those around us who do not know Jesus, so we look for opportunities to be introduced to new relationships with unbelieving neighbors, co-workers, and others in their community. We do this because we believe not everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.

We deepen these new relationships and old relationships by giving sacrificially of our lives in order to care for those who do not know Christ.

Along the way, we exhort our friends and acquaintances to place their faith in Christ alone. We do this by being equipped to do all of the above with theologically strong and question-based strategies to share the gospel.

Let me share an example of one BCCer putting his hands to the joyful work of evangelism. Craig Hodges, one of our elders, shared with me that:
A man came to his house to pick up an online item Craig was selling. In the conversation, the man mentioned that he wanted to retire in the next few years and hoped to have 10 years remaining to enjoy life. Craig had been reading a book on evangelism "God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally" by Doug Pollock and his comment struck Craig as an obvious opening to talk about the hope that a believer has for after this life. So Craig asked him whether he believed it would make a difference after he dies whether he had this 10 years to enjoy or not. His response revealed a "mash" of ideas about Christ, Karma, Positive Energy, and good works he has done. He did have some church involvement in his earlier years. Craig says, "I shared with him that I knew I didn't have good works to earn God's favor and that I had sinned against God. Jesus came as a savior to reconcile us with God and through Him I can have eternal life, far better than 10 years after retirement. Because we had limited time, I asked him if he had a Bible and would he be willing to go back and read the book of John. He said he would. I've already thought of ways I think I could be better prepared and share better next time."

Was it about Craig getting it perfect? No! It was about Craig being faithful to do what God has called us all to do--joyfully look for opportunities to turn everyday conversations into conversations about Christ.

Daniel will be preaching on evangelism today and we want to give a free book to every household on the topic. This book talks about being a church with a culture of evangelism.
It's called Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles. All of our elders and deacons already have one. If we run out, there is a sign up sheet to get yours.

In the book is:
1-A resource that can help you walk through the gospel with someone. I've not seen many better than this one. It's called What is the Gospel?
2-Also, there is a bookmark prepared by us in the book with ideas for how you can be faithful in the joy of evangelism. Here are some of the things on the bookmark about how to invest, impart, and implore. Some things listed include:
-Being intentional to invite someone each time you are heading to this building

-Popping in on a neighbor with some cookies and asking if they have any prayer requests

-Coming to a June training on Sunday mornings to get more help in how to turn conversations to spiritual ones--The easiest one? "Did you know that I am a church goer? What are your opinions on God and the church?"

It's our practice for someone to lead us as a church in prayer during our service. Join me now in prayer for those who don't know Christ and for our outreach to them:

We are so grateful for your kindness to us in sending your Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty of sin that we deserved to pay ourselves.

Thank you for the gospel message today. We want to respond to it. Not in a way where we believe we can pay you back--that would be impossible! Not in a way where we are guilted into action by legalism. May our response be one that is overwhelming joy in knowing you and knowing you deeply. If this is the case, we realize that the gospel will pour out of us with no fear, no awkwardness, no shame. We simply are sharing about our closest relationship, the one with our Savior, with those who need a Savior.

Lord, we pray for the 18 .... All the missionaries we support as a church body. We pray for them to be faithful and joy-filled in their outreach. We pray for them not as super heroes of the faith--as they are people just like us--but we pray for them as fellow ambassadors in the faith. May we all be more like your Son Jesus is proclaiming His name.

God, we pray for local churches in our area. We pray for faithfulness and joy in sharing the gospel for these local expressions of your global body. May we be united in the gospel and reach the dying around us--may there be no arrogance in our speech, our social media, our writing, our attitudes. May those that do not know Christ be drawn to You by our humility and desire to listen.

Father, I pray for BCC...may we continue to build a culture of evangelism here. In the midst of the personal trials, sickness, and suffering, may we be a light to our care givers, our families, our neighbors/co-workers, store clerks and yes, even online shoppers coming to our home to pick up a purchase.

Help us to invest into new relationships, impart our lives to new and old relationships, and implore all to receive Christ alone so they, too, can be 100% sure they are going to heaven.
Thank you, Lord.
In Jesus Name,


Monday, April 19, 2021

Meditations on 1 Peter (Part 1): Expect Suffering

Several years ago, when I first heard the term “theology of suffering” I thought, ‘Hhmm, not my favorite topic.” But as I listened, I became more aware that God’s Word addresses the subject often and that I needed to let God’s Word shape my thinking about the topic of suffering. Shortly after this, the Lord brought me into my own period of intense personal suffering, and I quickly realized that whatever my professed theology of suffering was, my practical theology of suffering was simply, “Run the other direction as quickly as possible!”In my own journey to make sense of how a good, sovereign God connects with the intense personal pain of suffering, I have often turned to the book of 1 Peter, written to encourage those facing difficult times to remain faithful. Recently I led a Bible study through the book of 1 Peter and was once again challenged to evaluate how I think about and respond to hardships in my life. As I’ve studied and meditated on 1 Peter over the last nine weeks, four words have helped me summarize a few of the key ideas of Peter’s teaching on suffering: Expect, Embrace, Entrust, and Engage. I’d like to spend some time looking at each of these words.

First of all, as believers in Christ we are to expect suffering. In 1 Peter 4:12 Peter exhorts the believers, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Especially in our American culture of prosperity, we are often surprised at suffering. We are so used to having so many comforts. Some days my biggest immediate problem is that the internet is out, and I can’t stream the movie I want to watch. Meanwhile, much of the population of the world lacks access to food, water, shelter, and the security of political stability. My acquaintances may laugh at me or think I’m stupid if I voice my allegiance to Christ, but around the world my brothers and sisters are thrown in jail, kicked out of villages, or even killed. I am used to a life of comfort and ease and am surprised by even the slightest hardships.

My access to money and resources tempts me to think I have control over my life. I expend a lot of effort obtaining comfort and avoiding hardships, not that all of these efforts are wrong. They are not, but when all my efforts don’t keep all hardship at bay, I am surprised. The effects of the Fall still break into my life. So many factors are outside of my control. My best efforts can’t eliminate the decaying of my body. My best efforts can’t prevent the pain and losses of life. My best efforts can’t hold back encroaching death. My best efforts can’t stop other people from making sinful, foolish choices that hurt me. And I am often surprised at that.

In so many religions in the world, people go through all kinds of rituals, sacrifices, and behaviors to keep bad things from happening to themselves or their families. I think even subtly, we adopt a similar mindset. Almost automatically, difficult circumstances draw out the questions, “What did I do wrong? Is God angry with me? What sin caused this to happen?” If I do well enough at the Christian life, I hope God might spare me hardships. We may even think if I serve Him well enough, then God owes me a life free of suffering. So when suffering comes we are surprised.

But we have a Savior who clearly said, “In this world you will be have trouble. Others will hate you because they hated me first.” And we have a Savior who laid out the path of the Christian life – suffering, then glory (1 Pet. 1:11) This has always been God’s plan. The Savior would walk a path of suffering. Then He would be exalted in glory. We are called to follow our Savior down this same path (1 Pet. 2:21). Suffering should not surprise us. It should not catch us off guard. Our God has told us to expect it.

Kim Anderson