Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation Bible School, program

A delightful program this past Sunday, including the kids presenting the songs, with dance! Thanks to Laura (children's ministries director) and to Gregg (VBS music leader) and his team, and to all the VBS staff, children, and families for a wonderful week.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Imperfect and Broken (Newsletter article)

We are imperfect and broken creatures, thoroughly affected by the sin and corruption in the world. At the same time, we are surrounded by and, if we choose, immersed in the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It is wondrous and humbling to receive this gift from the holy and living God of the universe, to discover that we were designed to be “God-compatible” (an expression of Robertson McQuilkin’s), to say “Yes” to God and to be filled with the Spirit.

I was recently reminded of this mystery in my continuing reading of Augustine’s prayerful Confessions (Book XI, “Time and Eternity”, 31.41):
O how exalted are you,
and yet the humble of heart are your dwelling place!
Sometimes we get the wrong impression - that God’s grace toward us is something that we have managed to deserve or earn through our own goodness. Our hearts don’t remain humble and we forget that grace is a GIFT we can never merit. The Lord pointedly declares, through the prophet Ezekiel (20:44):
You shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name's sake, not according to your evil ways, or corrupt deeds.
Songwriter/singer/jazz pianist/producer Charlie Peacock wrote a song-tribute to his friend Jack Miller, based on Miller’s signature phrase (“Cheer Up Church”, Kingdom Come album):
it’s just like God to make a hero from a sinner
it’s just like God to choose a loser, not the winner
it’s just like God to tell a story through the weak
to let the gospel speak through the life of a man
who’ll be the first to say
cheer up church, you’re worse off than you think
cheer up church, you’re standing at the brink
don’t despair, do not fear, grace is near
In the grip of grace,
Pastor JP

Our Mission: Bethany Church exists to honor God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ.
Our Vision: 500 new disciples in 5 years

Monday, July 19, 2010


A pic from our father-child breakfast on Father's Day weekend.  Thanks for passing it along - had to share it!

As One with Authority, Jesus and the Word (3)

Luke 4:31-37 (message)

Luke 4:38-39 (children)

Over the last two weeks, we’ve been looking at Luke 4 and focused on a common theme: Jesus and the Word. Again we find it today. The amazed people say, “What kind of word is this?” (4:36). We have noted another recurring theme: the energy and presence of the Holy Spirit. Today this shows up once more in the statement of the unclean demon, “You are the Holy One of God” (4:34; Fitzmyer, 543).

In the first week, Jesus’ Sonship was manifested as being formed by the Scriptures. Last week, Jesus embodied the promise of Scripture and was rejected, both for that incarnation and for the inclusion of the mission. This week, as last week, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. This week, the focus is on his teaching “with authority” (4:32,36; Bock, 146). The “word”, “utterance”, or “teaching” (4:36) that amazes them is one that comes with “authority” and “power” to command unclean spirits. If we read further in the chapter, Jesus rebukes the fever of Simon’s mother and she is healed immediately. In the context of this chapter, the work of exorcism and healing is not separate from the work of teaching. It happens because Jesus teaches “with authority”. We have the proverb, “Actions speak louder than words.” This story is a bit different. In this story, there is no contrast between actions and words. Instead, in the story, “Words Act.”

Part of the reason Jesus’ words act is that there is no dissonance between word and action in his life. When we way “actions speak louder” it is because the words don’t match up. Part of becoming Christ-like is lining up our words and our actions. Here at Bethany we talk about a spirituality that is giving, faithful, and real. Lining up words and actions is getting real.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Youth Retreat

Nine senior high youth and three adults spent last weekend on a beach retreat.
Thanks to Penny and Sam for the use of their place!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vacation Bible School

Vacation Bible School begins on Monday July 19, each night of the week from 6:00 to 8:15. Classes are offered from 3 years old through youth, and will include the Bible story, crafts, music, games, snacks and discovery time. We'll dedicate our VBS staff in the July 18 worship services. Invite your friends and be in prayer for this wonderful week!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rejected: Jesus and the Word (2)

07/11/2010 Bethany, baptism at 9:00
Luke 4:14-30
Psalm 19 (call to worship)
John 8:2-11 (children)

Last week, we began this short series from Luke 4 on Jesus and the Word. From the temptation story, we saw Jesus revealed as Son of Adam, Son of God and three dimensions of his sonship:
Sonship as faithfulness to the Father
Sonship as filling with the Spirit
Sonship as formed by the Scriptures

Many of the themes from last week carry over into this portion of the chapter:
filling with the Spirit: “Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit” and “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”
formed by the Scriptures: Jesus is in the synagogue reading and teaching from the Scriptures. Jesus is presenting himself as the fulfillment of the promise of Scripture.
Sonship itself: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Jesus is speaking out of turn, not in line with his social station.

In addition, last week, when Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, those passages referred to stories in Exodus in which Israel had disobeyed. This time, Jesus reads from Isaiah – and this is not a direct quote from one passage but a combination of two passages from Isaiah. One of those passages is a critique of Israel’s religious practices – particularly their fasting – because it was not combined with justice, with “letting the oppressed go free”.

When Jesus refers to the stories of Elijah and Elisha, he is comparing Jewish religion in his own time with that earlier era, one of the darkest ones in Israel’s history, with institutionalized idol worship and insecure rulers.  Again, like the first portion of Luke 4, Jesus is presented as the one who fulfills what Israel could not (Bock, 136-137).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reading notes

From Augustine's Confessions, Book XI "Time and Eternity", 31.41:
O how exalted are you, and yet the humble of heart are your dwelling place! You "lift up them that are cast down," and they do not fall down, whose place aloft is you!

From Dave Browning, Deliberate Simplicity, citing Mother Teresa:
You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.

From Lamentations 3 (in the Bible), a prayer and lament that indicts God as the bringer of pain . . . just the sort of prayer we have trouble giving voice to, think is off-limits . . . but it is "in the book". Despite the direct and accusatory language, the prayer still turns back to trust. Prayer is an amazing road -- once we start down it we quickly find ourselves in the presence of God.

I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God's wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.
. . .
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 234th!

Nighttime at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, including text from the Declaration of Independence.

Three Rounds with the Devil (Jesus and the Word, Luke 4)

Luke 4:1-13, message focus
Romans 10:6-13, selections, call to worship
Genesis 3, children

This passage is not just about temptation. It is about Jesus, the focus of the gospel. We’re going to start by revealing some of the layers of meaning in the passage itself and then focus on what this reveals to us of Jesus.

Some analysis of the passage:
This passage follows the genealogy of Jesus in Luke, which works backwards from Jesus to Adam and ends, “son of Adam, son of God” (Luke 3:38).

Twice the devil specifically appeals to Jesus’ Sonship – to make bread, to fling himself from the temple pinnacle. In each case, however, the devil is trying to get Jesus to focus on privilege, exception, rights, rather than faithfulness to the Father. In each case, the devil attempts to subvert him, to make him into a rebellious son (Bock, 128).

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and their failure before the devil’s temptation, hang in the background here. In that story, the devil asked the woman, “Did God really say . . . don’t eat the fruit of any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:2-3). Eve, and Adam, whom the story says was “with her”, show an amazing lack of recognition as to what God actually does say. Jesus in the temptation story, however, is very clear about what the Word of God says.