Saturday, December 29, 2018

Fighter Verses for 2019

Would you like 'rootedness', 'fruitfulness', 'durability', and 'flourishing' to characterize you in 2019?

Who wouldn't?

Well, that's exactly what's promised to believers who delight in God's Word and meditate on it day and night.

Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man who[se]...delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
What better way to meditate regularly on God's Word, and thus experience these promises, than by memorizing scripture? Life-giving, fruit-producing meditation is the point of memorizing. Many of us have experienced the grace of this discipline, and yet it is often the most neglected. So, let's help each other out...

We are encouraging the Bethel church family to commit to the Fighter Verses program for 2019. Will you join us?

Fighter Verses was developed by Desiring God and is available for iPhone (or iPad) or Android devices. There is a one-time cost of $2.99, but what you receive is worth way more than the cost of a cup or two of coffee. You'll have full access to 5 years worth of verses, and a TON of other helpful resources built right in. For instance, every verse has been put to song, so you can hear your verse sung. There's also a blog with devotional thoughts that go along with each week's verse(s).

The app looks like this (note the 'F' for 'Fighter Verses' emblazoned like a cross on the shield):

Why not commit as a Community Group, encouraging each other to stick with it when you start to get lazy and let it slide? Text each other with ways the verse of the week has encouraged you.

If you don't have a smart phone, you can still use the program. You can buy a flashcard pack HERE, or you can go to and see the verses there. We will also be printing the verses in the bulletin each week, and will be using each week verse(s) for our devotional at prayer meeting each week.

"Blessed is the man or woman whose delight is in the law of the LORD...[who] meditates day and night...." Let's believe this is where blessing will be found in 2019, and let's go get it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Honest Answers: "How Did We Get the Biblical Canon?"

"Honest Answers" is a very helpful series of videos produced by Southern Seminary. Here's an excellent one by Dr. Robert Plummer entitled, "How Did We Get the Biblical Canon?"

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Beautiful "Scum of the Earth"

Voice of the Martyrs produces a video each year for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. These videos provide a window into the real life suffering of our brothers and sisters around the globe. This year, they tell the story of life for Christians in Pakistan. Take five minutes and view the video HERE. It is a heartbreaking, yet beautiful picture of the power of the gospel.

These Pakistani Christians are walking in the footsteps of Jesus (Philippians 2:7-8) and the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4:8-16). They may be treated like second-class citizens in their country, but there is no second class in the kingdom of God. Their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and they are the meek who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). And one day, when Jesus returns, the great reversal will take place, and "many who are first will be last, and the last first" (Matthew 19:30). Then the world will know that Pakistan's trash is actually God's treasure. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Testimony of Tragedy and Grace in Rome

For those of you who attended our missions conference back in April, you got to know Leonardo De Chirico and the ministry of his church (Brecchia de Roma) in Rome.

Laurie sent me this powerful video testimony of Reid and Kyra Karr, missionaries who served together with Leonardo for six years. While on furlough back in the States, shortly before their intended return to Rome, Kyra was tragically killed in a car accident. 

After Kyra's death, Reid returned to Rome and continues to serve Christ there. Watch this powerful testimony to the mighty sufficiency of God's grace:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Introduction to Genesis Resources

We began our series through the book of Genesis this past Sunday. As promised, I wanted to point you to some excellent introductory material for your own study. The more you dive into this great book, the more you'll benefit from it.

First off, be sure to read Genesis for yourself! Take time in the next week or two or three to read it the whole way through. And then do it again. One of the most profitable exercises in Bible study is repeated reading. We often see things on the second or third (or 57th) reading that we didn't see the first time.

The best "one-stop shop" for resources can be found over at The Gospel Coalition. They've put together a free "Introduction to Genesis" course.

This "course" combines great resources from The Bible Project (including four introductory videos), the ESV Study Bible, and an overview sermon of the whole book of Genesis by Mark Dever.

Here are two of The Bible Project videos to whet your appetite:

The first is on the background to Genesis 1-11:

The second is on the details of Genesis 1-11 in their "Read Scripture" series:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Falling Plates

James Askren recently pointed my attention to this video by Cru. It's powerful. Maybe you know someone who needs to see it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Proverbs 18:10, Illustrated

I thought I'd voice my "Amen!" to Lily's visual "sermon" here. She drew it a few Sundays ago. Don't you love the looks on the faces of "the righteous"?

In the Bible, "the righteous" are not stoic, super-saints. They are the honest, humble ones who know their need, and where to run for help (a la Psalm 32).

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Financial Time Travel - A Little Wisdom in a Word Picture

An insightful way to look at borrowing and saving (quote by CPA Brent Esplin, found in a YNAB newsletter, emphasis added):
While physical time travel is still only fantasy, financial time travel is a reality. Modern finance provides us the necessary tools to send money to our future selves through saving and investing and to send money from our future selves back to the present through borrowing.
In other words, when you borrow or use credit, you are forcing your future self to pay for your past self's decisions. When you save or invest, you are blessing your future self (and other persons you love) with your past self's decisions. No ground breaking discoveries here, but a helpful way to capture some financial wisdom in a word picture.

Speaking of financial time travel, the most significant form is summed up by Randy Alcorn's "Treasure Principle" (when you give money away as an act of grace and worship - see 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 and Matthew 6:19-24): You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.

Monday, May 21, 2018

7 Marks of a Good Apology by Brad Hambrick

Brad Hambrick is the Pastor of Counseling at the Summit Church in NC. His website is filled with biblical counseling wisdom and resources.

In the message yesterday on Psalm 51, I summarized part of his helpful post entitled, “7 Marks of a Good Apology Vs 8 Marks of Bad Apology” I'd encourage you to go read the whole thing, but here's the summary I quoted yesterday: 

Repentance is when we quit trying to make our dysfunction “work” and embrace the life-giving alternative to our sin that God offers.
7 Marks of a Good Apology
1. Address Everyone Involved.
When you fail to seek forgiveness you leave that person believing you think your actions were acceptable to God
2. Avoid If, But, and Maybe.
Our first tendency in repentance is to soften what we admit. Words like if, but, and maybe have no place in repentance. “If” calls into question whether what you did was really wrong. “But” transforms repentance into accusation. “Maybe” indicates you are not convinced your actions were wrong and invites a conversation (or debate) that is likely to go badly and, regardless, is not repentance.
3. Admit Specifically.
Generic confession is often a sign of insincerity. “We all know what happened,” is no excuse for brevity. Hearing that you can be specific without falling into blame-shifting or self-pity is an important indicator that you are a “safe” person and that restoration is wise.
4. Apologize (Acknowledge the Hurt).
Sin has consequences; both intentional and unintentional. Repentance expresses empathy and often takes responsibility for the dominoes that fall as a result of our sin. This is not groveling or penance (both of which are emotionally manipulative). It is an exercise in other-mindedness. 
5. Accept the Consequence.
Repentance is not a plea-bargain or negotiation. Repentance is not a time when we establish the “acceptable terms” for our sin. …we are not presenting a contract or deal, but that we are seeking to be restored to a person.
6. Alter Your Behavior.
The repentant conversation is not the culmination of the journey.
…repentance, …is rooted in the Gospel paradigm of dying to self to find life.
7. Ask for Forgiveness & Allow Time.
…forgiveness is commanded by God, but Scripture never calls on the confessing party to be the one who reminds others of this command or to insist that it be obeyed. As a general rule to promote humility and patience, allow at least as much time for forgiveness as it took you to come to repentance. It is hypocritical to expect someone else to process suffering (your sin against them) faster than you changed your sin.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Unequally Yoked" is Unwise

We just finished our study through the book of 2 Corinthians this past Sunday. When we looked at Paul's instruction to "not be unequally yoked with unbelievers" (2 Cor 6:14), I quoted from an article by Kathy Keller on why a Christian should never marry an unbeliever.

Here's part of what I quoted (emphasis added), but I'd encourage you go and read the whole thing:
Over the course of our ministry, the most common pastoral issue that Tim and I have confronted is probably marriages—either actual or proposed—between Christians and non-Christians. I have often thought how much simpler it would be if I could remove myself from the conversation and invite those already married to unbelievers do the talking to singles who are desperately trying to find a loophole that would allow them to marry someone who does not share their faith. 
Despite the fact that the Bible is clear on the matter (e.g. 1 Cor 7:39 and 2 Cor 6:14), 
…variants of the serpent's question to Eve—“Did God really say?” are floated, as if somehow this case might be eligible for an exemption, considering how much they love each other, how the unbeliever supports and understands the Christian's faith, how they are soul-mates despite the absence of a shared soul-faith. …
There are only three ways an unequal marriage can turn out … :
  1. In order to be more in sync with your spouse, the Christian will have to push Christ to the margins of his or her life. This may not involve actually repudiating the faith, but in matters such as devotional life, hospitality to believers (small group meetings, emergency hosting of people in need), missionary support, tithing, raising children in the faith, fellowship with other believers—those things will have to be minimized or avoided in order to preserve peace in the home.
  2. Alternatively, if the believer in the marriage holds on to a robust Christian life and practice, the non-believing PARTNER will have to be marginalized. If he or she can't understand the point of Bible study and prayer, or missions trips, or hospitality, then he or she can't or won't participate alongside the believing spouse in those activities. The deep unity and oneness of a marriage cannot flourish when one partner cannot fully participate in the other person's most important commitments.
  3. So either the marriage experiences stress and breaks up; or it experiences stress and stays together, achieving some kind of truce that involves one spouse or the other capitulating in some areas, but which leaves both parties feeling lonely and unhappy.
Does this sound like the kind of marriage you want? One that strangles your growth in Christ or strangles your growth as a couple, or does both? Think back to that off-cited passage in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about being “unequally yoked.” Most of us no longer live in an agrarian culture, but try to visualize what would happen if a farmer yoked together, say, an ox and a donkey. The heavy wooden yoke, designed to harness the strength of the team, would be askew, as the animals are of different heights, weights, walk at different speeds and with different gaits. The yoke, instead of harnessing the power of the team to complete the task, would rub and chafe BOTH animals, since the load would be distributed unequally. An unequal marriage is not just unwise for the Christian, it is also unfair to the non-Christian, and will end up being a trial for them both. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Circumstantial Joy? Help for a Hypocritical Parent

I've been thinking and praying lately of how to shepherd one of my kids. And I've felt the need to tell this child that their mood, their happiness, seems always to be tied to their circumstances. If things are going well, it's likely that this child will be happy (though not guaranteed!). If things are not going their way, we will all know it.

I'm hoping this revelation is an eye-opener. I want to challenge this child to fight for Joy -- the grace-born kind that can be present despite circumstantial troubles and disappointments.

I was pondering and praying about this as I walked this morning. And then I saw the finger pointing back at me.

And even more ironically, I saw how I have often allowed the mood of said child to steal my joy! It seems my joy is all-too-often tied to my circumstances. And I know I've often made my family feel it.

So, I had some repenting to do. And I have some grace to pursue. Blood-bought, Spirit-delivered grace that can bear the fruit of joy no matter the circumstances. And then, my children just might believe me when I tell them of this Joy. And they might even follow me in pursuing it, no matter how bad the day.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Wave that Throws You Against the Rock

No stranger to suffering, Charles Spurgeon once said,
"I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages."
Dave Furman is also no stranger to suffering. He's written a book telling his story, and of God's gracious designs for our pain. Here's a brief introduction to how he is "Learning to Kiss the Wave":

Learning to Kiss the Wave: Dave Furman's Story from Crossway on Vimeo.