Bethany Presbyterian Church Bridgeville, PA Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:26:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Devotional: Jul 21 – Jul 26 Mon, 21 Jul 2014 04:00:59 +0000 Read the rest]]> Experiencing the Devotional Readings

To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and then read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion. (Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.)

July 21, 2014 Psalm 70

Have you ever been in urgent need of God’s help, guidance, immediate attention, or deliverance? This prayer utters ten heartfelt petitions to God in only five short verses. “Please God’, “rescue me”, “come quickly”, “help me”, “please hurry”, “O Lord do not delay” are the most desperate pleas recorded here. Our Lord hears our urgency in the same way that He hears our praises and thankfulness – with His love, mercy, and compassion. Even in the midst of his immediate need for God’s help, David asks that all those who search for Him “be filled with joy and gladness in You.” He then prays that those who love God’s salvation “shout, ‘God is great’ “. The KJV says “Let God be magnified”. Will we magnify the Lord to the rest of the world even during our times of trial and testing? In the power of His Spirit within us, we can! We are promised victory because of what Christ has done for us (1 Corinthians 15:57)! Let’s all thank God for His help in our urgent times of need, and trust Him to enable us to be victorious in all circumstances.

July 22, 2014 Psalm 71

God’s love for us began long before our conception in our mothers’ wombs. Knowing that we’d be sinners, Christ died for us anyway (Romans 5:8). He had a plan for our lives long before we were born (Jeremiah 29:11 and Ephesians 2:10). And, before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for those who would eventually believe in Him (John 17:20-26). That love continued as the Lord formed us and watched over us “in utter seclusion” (Psalm 139:13, 15). We are aware of His love for us throughout our lives, even when we suffer hardship, because we are reminded to continue to follow and obey Him (Psalm 119:71). He walks with us always, including the tough times, and then restores and comforts us. God’s ultimate expression of His love for us came when His One and Only Son willingly went to the cross in our place and suffered our punishment, demonstrating His mercy and grace. He alone is worthy of our thanks, praise, worship, and obedience! Dear God our Father, Your unconditional and unending love for us is beyond our understanding. Help us to return that love through our obedience and worship of You and our acts of mercy toward others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

July 23, 2014 Psalm 72

Godly leaders are a blessing to those over whom they rule. Proverbs 29:2 tells us that “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan (NIV). Godly leaders care for the poor and needy, judging them fairly, defending their causes, and rescuing them from oppressive conditions. We, too, as believers in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, are called to care for the less fortunate and be merciful to them. Jesus said to learn the meaning of “desiring mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). James 1:27a tells us that pure and faultless religion in God’s eyes is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (NIV). In other words, God wants us to sacrifice ourselves in holy service to those in need, showing His mercy and love to them. In this way, we are really serving Him (Matthew 26:40). Let’s ask the Lord to help us not just to do “church work”, but to do the “Kingdom work” of showing mercy to others in need.

July 24, 2014 Psalm 73

Much of this Psalm parallels Jesus’ parable about the rich man and the beggar in Luke 16:19-31. Asaph the Psalmist wonders why the wicked appear to lead such carefree and unencumbered lives. They are proud, speak only evil, boast against Heaven, and enjoy lives of ease. In the parable, the rich man has everything and never reaches out to help Lazarus, a beggar who waits at Lazarus’ gate for scraps from his table. After their deaths, Lazarus enters Heaven, while the rich man goes to Hell. Abraham tells the rich man that by living in luxury but having no mercy, he was now being punished. Asaph writes that he envied the wicked because they don’t have the problems that everyone else has. We, like Asaph, can become bitter and hardened by thinking this way. And we, like him, can find wisdom, understanding, and peace in God’s sanctuary. There, we can worship Him and know we are pleasing Him. There, we can be encouraged by fellow believers in our walk with Him. We can pray to Him and be comforted by His Spirit. We can learn more about Him and His Word and grow in our faith. Then, we can say, as Asaph wrote, that “You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” Let’s all ask God to help us to draw closer to Him through worship, fellowship, ministry, and prayer, and resolve to let Him deal with evil.

July 25, 2014 Psalm 74

The Psalmist is likely writing about the fall of Jerusalem, at the hands of the Babylonians, in 586 B.C. He appeals to the Lord, reminding Him that He chose the Hebrews as His “own special possession.” He laments about the destruction of the Sanctuary and the rest of the city, and that God no longer speaks through His prophets. However, it was the Hebrews’ disobedience that led the Lord to vent His wrath against them. The destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied in Jeremiah 9:11-16 & 21:10, and vividly described in Jeremiah 39:1-2, 8. Ironically, the Psalmist asks God to remember His covenant promises to His people, even though the people violated and broke that covenant! The writer concludes with an appeal for the Lord to avenge His enemies, for Him to receive the praise of His people, and to restore their relationship with Him. God’s grace, mercy, and love for the nation of Israel is prophesied in Isaiah 60:10 and Zechariah 10:6, as well as several other passages in the Old Testament. Thankfully, the Lord is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15 NIV). Thank God for being merciful to us (not dealing with us as our sins deserve) and for His grace (giving us His blessings which we don’t deserve).

July 26, 2014 Psalm 75

We are reminded to always be thankful to God for what He has done in the past and what He’s doing now in our lives and in the world. We can’t thank Him enough, but are exhorted to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). We are also reminded that the Lord is near to us. Even the Hebrew name given to Jesus in prophesy, Immanuel, means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). In Christ, God came into this world as a man; not just any man, but as the Son of Man and the Son of God. And then, we are reminded to praise Him and always tell of His wonderful deeds.         1 Peter 2:9a gives us four reasons to praise the Lord – “we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” We are encouraged to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). A lost world needs to hear us declare our thanks our praise to Him, and the truth that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord! Pray for God to put His song of thanks and praise into your heart, so that you draw closer to Him and bring others to the Savior.

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Waiting on God Sun, 20 Jul 2014 04:00:12 +0000 Read the rest]]> Read the rest]]> 0 Pittsburgh Pirates Faith Night Tue, 15 Jul 2014 21:06:14 +0000 Read the rest]]> Around three weeks ago I attended a Pirates game with some of our church folks from Bethany’s Upwards Basketball and Cheerleading ministry. It was Faith Night at the ballpark, when players and coaches from the Pirates would speak with fans after the game, giving testimony to their faith in Christ.

I stuck in my pocket a pen and some paper – the Pirates’ game day booklet – to be prepared for any opportunity for an autograph of a ballplayer. You never know.

The game ended with a victory and then a long and spectacular display of fireworks. Then we ventured down to the area behind the first base dugout for the Faith Night gathering. To put it mildly, it was no intimate gathering. The several thousand fans gathered in the seats on the first base side of the field. Melany and found a couple open seats and settled in. Behind me was an older man brimming with energy and joy. He introduced himself as “Ken” and proudly proclaimed he was ninety two years old. “You’re ninety one, Dad,” his daughter gently corrected. He went on to tell me his story. He played in the Pirates’ farm system “in ’39 and ’40″, well on his way to the big leagues. Then he got called to go to war and travelled to Europe with ” thousands of us young guys on the Queen Mary.” By the end of the war he return to go to work and raise a family but kept in touch with his Pirates friends. ” The old Pirates still come to my place outside of Dubois to hunt and fish – Bobby Del Greco and Elroy Face and others. They’re younger than me. I’m ninety two.”

About that time the Pirates came out for Faith Night, joined by some New York Mets. Dozens were there to give visible testimony to their faith. Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison gave their testimonies. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and many others answered questions from children. Manager Clint Hurdle gave the keynote address, how an eternally patient God and a loving Christian woman led him to faith in Christ and out of a life of addiction to alcohol. At the end of the program the Pirates’ chaplain led us in prayer. The folks in our section took hands, and I took the hand of my friend, Ken. The program was over.

But not for me. I turned to Ken and told him that I had been hoping to get an autograph from a Pirate ballplayer. “Yeah,” he agreed, as he gazed toward the players on the field. ” know which one I want,” I informed him. “You.”

So right there with the crowd departing, right there at the top of the page that says, ” Pirates Roster”, he took my pen and signed his name, “Ken A. Bundy”.

Then we shook hands and went our ways.

Greatness comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes in the swinging of a bat and hitting a game winning home run in a National League pennant race. Sometimes it comes in faithfully serving your country in time of war, raising a family and living out your faith joyfully and passionately, loving the Lord and life at age ninety two…or whatever.

If you want to be great, think small. Do the little things, the everyday things-like work and family, faith and serving others- with the love and joy of Jesus.

And maybe someday someone will ask you for your autograph.

Come by my study at the church and see for yourself. It is on the coffee table, the Pirates Game Day booklet- “Cutch’s picture on the cover, Ken Bundy’s autograph on page 29.

See you on Sunday,

John Hamilton

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Devotional: Jul 14 – Jul 19 Mon, 14 Jul 2014 12:41:13 +0000 Read the rest]]> Experiencing the Devotional Readings

To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion. (Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.)

July 14, 2014 Psalm 64 (David Calls God)

Ring, ring….God – Hello?

David – Dear Lord, this is your servant, David. I want to register a complaint.

God – What is the nature of your complaint?

David – My enemies are constantly making threats against me. Their words are like sharp arrows spoken from sharp tongues. They also think nothing of ambushing the innocent and they encourage each other to perpetrate evil continually.

God – Anything else?

David – Yes, as a matter of fact. As they make their evil plans, they say to themselves, “Who will ever find us out?” They think that they’ve come up with a flawless plan. The human heart and mind are bent toward wickedness.

God – The unrepentant suffer from that Adam and Eve disobedience thing. In the Garden, they believed the serpent instead of obeying Me and brought a curse upon all of man (and woman) kind. If you recall, that’s why I destroyed every living thing with the flood. I started over with Noah and his family and told them to be fruitful and multiply. I created the twelve tribes of Israel, but, their nation became so large in Egypt that the new Pharaoh feared their numbers and made them slaves. I heard their cries of anguish and had My servant Moses led them out of Egypt. In the wilderness, I gave them my Ten Commandments and made a covenant with them. But, many still sin and don’t understand that I really don’t want their animal sacrifices. I want them to obey Me and have a relationship with Me and walk with Me all their lives. You wrote about this in Psalm 51.

David – I’m so glad that we’ve had this conversation. What started as a complaint has become for me a better understanding of You and Your plan for Israel and the world. You will deal with Your enemies and, as a result, people will fear and honor You and proclaim Your mighty deeds. And the godly will find shelter in You and praise You.                                                                                                                                                                                   Us – Dear Lord and God, thank You for protecting us and guiding us into a deeper and closer relationship with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


July 15, 2014 Psalm 65

We should not allow the sin in our lives to cast a shadow over God’s love for us and His many blessings. When we confess to Him, He freely pardons us, through our faith in Christ, and restores us to a right relationship with Him (Romans 5:18). When we pray to Him, He hears us and is able, in His mighty strength, to do more than we are able to ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Our Heavenly Father desires to bless us with all good things, both spiritual and temporal (John 1:16). For all these reasons, we need to abundantly thank Him for abundantly blessing us. Being so blessed, we want to give back to Him by serving others with His love and mercy. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing! “The river of God has plenty of water: it provides a bountiful harvest…” (verse 9b). Let’s all pray for God’s continued blessing from His river of grace and let’s thank Him for our bountiful harvest.

July 16, 2014 Psalm 66

We’re almost half way through this Prayer book, and maybe you’ve noticed the Hebrew word “Selah” (NLT translates “Interlude”) appearing occasionally in the body of some Psalms. It is used three times in this Psalm, and about 73 times in 39 of the Psalms. An investigation of the Hebrew meaning of Selah reveals many possible interpretations. Since the Psalms were accompanied by music, many believe it is a musical term affecting the flow of the tune or an instruction to the singers and musicians. Other scholars think it could indicate a pause or break in the prayer, possibly exhorting the singer or reader to reflect upon what was just sung or read. That’s a most intriguing and profound translation of the word, and certainly appeals to us as we read through the book. In this Psalm, it appears after verse 4, where we’re told that God’s entire creation will praise Him (see Psalms 65:13, 69:34, 98:8, Isaiah 44:23, & Luke 19:39-40). Then, once again, after verse 7, where we read that God rules forever and “watches every movement of the nations.” Finally, it appears after verse 15, where the writer is sacrificing burnt offerings to the Lord. Burnt offerings were a voluntary demonstration of a person’s godly devotion and acknowledgement of their sins before the Lord. The word “Selah” can thus serve as a reminder for us to continually pause and meditate upon what we read in the Bible. God’s Word is worth our thoughtful and prayerful reflection as we seek to go deeper into its meaning for our lives and to encourage us in our faith. Let’s all pray for the Lord’s patience and wisdom as we journey through the Scriptures, so that we can better understand them and sing His praises and be filled with His joy!

July 17, 2014 Psalm 67

In the Great Commission, described in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells His disciples to make disciples of everyone on earth, to baptize them in the Trinity’s name, and to teach them obedience of all His commands. A tall order, to be sure. But, Jesus assured them that He would be with them in this endeavor. He promised to give them His Holy Spirit to fill them with Heaven’s power (Luke 24:49). In our Psalm, David is prophesying about the fulfillment of the Great Commission. He beseeches the Lord’s assurance that His ways and saving power would be known in all the earth. God will be praised and the people will be filled with joy because He rules with justice and guides them throughout life. David also foresees the soul harvest of many believers for the Lord, and God’s blessing upon those who spread the truth of His love and mercy. Do you see yourself in this dramatic sharing of the Gospel to all people? It hasn’t happened yet, but we all need to continue to spread the Good News whenever we have the opportunity. Pray for the Lord to use you mightily to tell a world in desperate need of a Savior all about Him and the salvation He brings.

July 18, 2014 Psalm 68                            

Most Bible commentators believe that this is a song about returning the Ark of the Covenant from the home of Obed-edom to Jerusalem, as described in 2 Samuel 6:11-15. During that procession, there was much jubilation, celebration, and praise for the Lord because the Ark represented His presence with His people. The fact that there are seven different names used to describe God in this Psalm could point to an enlightened understanding of the person of God at the time. There are also other wonderful truths stated in this Psalm. In verse 5, God is called a “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows.” This speaks of His mercy and compassion, behaviors that we are encouraged to emulate (Hosea 6:6 & James 1:27). Verse 10 refers to us a “needy people”, because of our brokenness and need for a Savior (Romans 3:23). Verse 19 says that “He carries us in His arms” (Isaiah 40:31). Verse 20 refers to God as the “God who saves” (2 Peter 3:9). Then, in verse 35, we’re assured that the Lord gives us power (Acts 1:8) and strength (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Thank God for being your defender and provider, and trust Him to equip you for every good work in service to Him.

July 19, 2014 Psalm 69

Once again, David is in distress because of undeserved suffering. In this Psalm, however, he writes with a definite Messianic tone. Several verses speak of Jesus’ pain and sorrow in the hours leading up to His crucifixion. In the King James Version, he writes that for God’s sake, he has had to endure shame and reproach. Jesus likewise had to bear these. David’s zeal for God’s house “hath eaten me up”, and Jesus’ clearing of the Temple prompted His disciples to remember this verse (John 2:17). David felt that his enemies’ reproach for God had fallen on him. Certainly, Jesus knew that, because the world hated him, it would also hate His followers (John 15:18). David looked for someone to take pity on him and comfort him, but found no one. Jesus likewise was abandoned by disciples after His arrest in the Garden (Mark 14:50). David wrote that, in his travail, “in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Jesus was also given vinegar on the cross when He said “I am thirsty” (John 19:28b-29). We are therefore reminded that God did not hesitate to subject His one and only Son to suffering, death, and the punishment of Hell, all for our sakes (Isaiah 53:4) . Since God had so smitten His Son, we should expect some rain to fall in our own lives along the way. We, like David, have realized our spiritual poverty and sinfulness, and have said to the Lord – “Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it” (verse 18 KJV) and “But I am poor and sorrowful: let Thy salvation, O God, set me up on high” (verse 29 KJV). Dear Lord and God, please give me the strength to endure my trials and suffering, and inspire me to praise and thank You for walking with me always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Truth and Grace Sun, 13 Jul 2014 04:00:45 +0000 Read the rest]]> July 13, 2014 Service

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Devotional: Jul 7 – Jul 12 Mon, 07 Jul 2014 13:23:44 +0000 Read the rest]]> Experiencing the Devotional Readings

To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion. (Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.)

July 7, 2014 Psalm 58   

Justice – we want to see it done swiftly! We want the innocent to be vindicated and the wicked to get what they deserve! In the good old US of A, that requires honest judges and juries who will not show favoritism and who will decide honestly and fairly. Of course, we should let the Lord deal with injustice and those who perpetrate it. God has said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35 NIV). We also must remember what Jesus said, that we’re to love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, pray for them, and treat them as we’d like to be treated (Luke 6:27-28, 31). So, we’re to take the high road when it comes to judging others, being godly in our treatment of them, and let God take care of the details. In other words – let go and let God. Ask the Lord to give you a tender heart toward those who hate you, curse you, and hurt you, and twist justice, and to help you rest in the knowledge that He can and will deal with injustice in the world.

July 8, 2014 Psalm 59

In verse 10 of this Psalm, David states that “my God will stand with me” (NLT) in the midst of his troubles. Before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus assured His disciples that “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). This truth brings much comfort to us as we endure all kinds of trials, knowing that our God stands with us and gives us strength. David also asks the Lord not to kill his enemies, but punish them with the spiritual consequences of their sins. Because of their disobedience toward God, Adam and Eve experienced a spiritual fear (Genesis 3:8-10) and Solomon wrote that “the fears of the wicked will be granted” (Proverbs 10:24a). Sin causes a depravity of conscience (Isaiah 59:4 & 8), robs those who deliberately commit it of God’s blessings (Jeremiah 5:25), brings God’s judgment (Jeremiah 4:18 and 5:25), and deprives them of His peace (Isaiah 57:21). But God’s love allows all of these punishments to come upon the disobedient and unrepentant in the hope that they will repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and restoration. What’s the take-away for us? God’s love is evident when He stands with believers during the tough times and is also evident in His treatment of unrepentant folks. Thank the Lord for the endless ways He shows you His love and trust Him to help you share that love with others.

July 9, 2014 Psalm 60

Have you ever found yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation? Like David and the nation of Israel, have you felt rejected by God, or felt His anger? Did it seem like the Lord was being so hard on you that you were disoriented and confused? We probably have all experienced a time like this at some point in our lives. But, we have hope, because David tells us that God raised a banner for those who honor Him, “a rallying point in the face of attack.” In the Old Testament, banners were used to rally the Israelites in war time. Exodus 17:8-15 describes their battle with the Amelekites, and how Moses raised his staff as a banner to rally the Hebrew army. After the Israelite victory, Moses built an altar and called it “Jehovah-nissi” (KJV) or Yahweh-Nissi (NLT), meaning “the Lord is my Banner.” Who is our banner and rallying point in times of trial? Like Paul, we can answer – “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:25 NIV)! With God as our banner, we have the victory in all situations. So, David concludes this Psalm with the assurance that with the help of the Lord, we can accomplish mighty things!          And Romans 8:37 tells us that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (NIV). During our bicentennial, let’s all rally around the Lord our Banner, and in fervent prayer, thank Him for providing His victory in our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

July 10, 2014 Psalm 61

“O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer!” Does the Lord listen to, hear, and answer our prayers? Yes, a resounding Yes! We are to approach His throne with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace (Hebrews 4:16). We are to pray in His will (1 John 5:14) and pray in humility and repentance (2 Chronicles 7:14). We are to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7) and be steadfast and hold on to His words (John 15:7). We are to confess our sins to each other and lift each other up in prayer before the Lord (James 5:16) and be assured that He hears us in our distress and lowly state (Jonah 2:1-2). These are only a few of the Scriptures that speak of the assurance that God does hear and answer our prayers. Like David, we seek God’s refuge and protection in His “towering rock of safety” and His “fortress.” How can we live forever in God’s sanctuary (verse 4)? As we draw closer to Him in faith, living according to His will, and praying without ceasing, we discover that anywhere we commune with Him is His sanctuary, and we can tell Him that we are “safe beneath the shelter of Your wings!” “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer!”

July 11, 2014 Psalm 62

It’s not natural to wait. We get irritable and stressed. A long line at the check-out, an abnormally long red light, waiting for assistance at the service desk, waiting for the mechanic to be finished with our car, waiting to go through security at the airport, circling in a holding pattern at our destination – the list goes on and on. However, while we’re steaming and stewing, we are not allowing our faith in God to kick in and don’t realize that He is in control. Our impatience trumps our ability to take ourselves out of the situation and to rely on the Lord. Twice in this Psalm David writes that he will “wait quietly before God” because victory comes from God and he has put his hope in the Lord. When we decide to wait on God, we’re telling Him that we trust Him to work the situation out and get us through it. We’re trumping self with our hope in God. True victory comes when we realize that nothing in this world is more important than our relationship with Him. When we believe that He is in complete control of our lives and the world around us, nothing will shake our faith in Him. When we believe that His perfect plan is unfolding before our very eyes, we are more willing to wait on Him. This takes strength and courage (Psalm 27:14), but patience is better than pride (Ecclesiastes 7:8b). And the Lord will strengthen us with His power so we can have endurance and patience (Colossians 1:11). Ask God to give you the patience needed to wait on Him and to give you the peace that “goes beyond anything we can imagine” (Philippians 4:7a God’s Word Translation).

July 12, 2014 Psalm 63

David searches for God in earnest, to satisfy his soul’s thirst and his body’s longing for Him. He finds Him in the sanctuary, during worship. He finds Him in the endless ways God loves him and helps him. He finds God when he praises Him in prayer and song. David even finds God during the night when he meditates on His words and His love. Besides these ways, how else may we search for the Lord in our lives? We can read His word and claim His promises to us. We can get involved in ministry and work to expand His kingdom on earth. We can look for Him working in the lives of others in service and sharing the Good News. We can tell others about His great and unconditional love for them. We will find Him if we look for Him with all our heart and all our soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). How are you searching for God? Dear Lord, you are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We thank You for all of Your blessings. Please help us to seek You earnestly and grow in our faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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Dual Citizenship Sun, 06 Jul 2014 04:00:38 +0000 Read the rest]]> Read the rest]]> 0 Devotional: Jun 30 – Jul 5 Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:30:43 +0000 Read the rest]]> Experiencing the Devotional Readings

To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion. (Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.)

June 30, 2014 Acts 19:23-27

This is our last passage in the Book of Acts until Sept. 1. But, after reading these five verses, you can imagine the persecution that awaits Paul. There were so many citizens of Ephesus whose livelihoods were connected to idols and the occult that the loss of business would be financially damaging to them. These silversmiths and idol makers were also concerned about the loss of influence and prestige of their great (and false) god Artemis! The power of the devil is undeniable in an unbeliever, and in a believer who allows him to infect his spirit. He’s the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9), the father of lies (John 8:44), and the spirit at work in those who refuse to obey God (Ephesians 2:2). Without faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible to resist his temptations. However, greater is the One within us than is in the world (1 John 4:4). Paul’s mission was to turn Jews and Gentiles from unbelief (in Jesus Christ) and from doing the devil’s work, to belief and faith in Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Thank the Lord for adopting us as His children and giving us His Spirit so we can live for Him and accomplish His purpose for our lives.

July 1, 2014 Psalm 53

The Bible has documented the depravity of mankind from beginning to end. God lamented that He made man because of his continual evil (Genesis 6:5). In this Psalm, we’re told that God looks down to find a godly person with wisdom who seeks Him, but He finds none. Paul writes that both Jew and Gentile are under the power and curse of sin (Romans 3:9). The Book of Revelation tells us that the battle between good and evil will rage until the end of time. In Romans, chapter 7, Paul describes his own struggle with the sin in his life. He wants to do good, but evil is right there with him, and instead of the good he wants to do, he does what he hates. He writes about our sinful nature that opposes God and everything He represents. Paul cries out – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death (7:24 NIV)? We need a regenerated nature so we can truly recognize God’s love and hope for us. Paul himself found the answer to his spiritual dilemma: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord (7:25 NIV)! David asks a similar question at the end of this Psalm – Who will rescue Israel? He then states, with confidence, that when God restores His people, there will be much rejoicing. That rescue and restoration comes through faith in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection brought forgiveness and the hope of eternal life. Let’s all acknowledge to God our struggle with the sin in our lives, and trust Him to help us to sin less, and seek His grace more and more.

July 2, 2014 Psalm 54

Once again, as in previous Psalms, David asks the Lord to deliver him from his enemies (and David had his share of them). After acknowledging that God is his helper and keeps him alive, David promises to sacrifice a voluntary offering to God, to worship and praise Him. According to Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, this was likely a Fellowship, Peace, or Thank offering, all of which could be offered spontaneously to the Lord. David was recognizing that he had fellowship with God because He helps him, he had peace with God because he trusts Him, and he was thanking God for all He’s done for him. What can we likewise offer to God in recognition of His fellowship, His peace, and in thanksgiving to Him? We can offer our true worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and by offering ourselves as holy and living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1). We can offer our broken and contrite hearts to God (Psalm 51:17), our obedience       (1 John 5:3), and our prayers (Revelation 5:8b). In these ways we can draw continually closer to Him and have His peace reign in our hearts. Dear Lord and God, because of Your great love for us, help us to return that love to You in worship, in contrition, in obedience, and with our fervent prayers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

July 3, 2014 Psalm 55

Once again, David prays about troubles that are overwhelming him and enemies who are angrily hunting him down, one of which is his close companion. He expresses his fear and trembling because the “terror of death” continually haunts him. Being a broken human, he has visions of flying away from his trials and storms. We probably all have been overwhelmed by tribulation in our lives, and have possibly considered “checking out” for a while for a quick respite and hoped that, upon our return to reality, our troubles have lessened or are over altogether. But if a close friend is the source of our emotional or spiritual pain, it is especially hard to deal with. However, physically or emotionally running away from our problems will not erase them or lessen their pain. We, like David, must come to the place where we “call on God” to rescue us (v. 16) and decide to “give (our) burdens to the Lord”, trusting that He won’t permit us to “slip and fall” (v. 22). Then we can proclaim, as David did in 2 Samuel 22:2, that “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (NIV). During our times of trouble and pain, let’s all ask the Lord to lead us to rely completely upon Him and His promise to be our rock, fortress, and deliverer.

July 4, 2014 Psalm 56

David had many opportunities during his 40 year reign as king to write about his enemies pursuing and taunting him. Here, he acknowledges that when he’s afraid, he puts his trust in God. He also writes not once, but three times, that he praises God for “what He has promised” (verses 4 & 10). David’s faith and belief in the Lord had matured to the point that God didn’t have to actually do something in his life to receive his praise, but he praised God for what He had promised to do. After each of these statements, David asks rhetorically why he should be fearful. He knows that God has promised to deliver him in his troubles and help him get through his trials. He concludes with sacrificing a thank offering to the Lord for His rescuing him from death and preventing his feet from slipping into sin against his enemies. As we celebrate our bicentennial at Bethany, let’s encourage each other to have greater faith in the Lord, so that we can offer a prayer of praise to the Lord for His great and precious promises to us.

July 5, 2014 Psalm 57

This Psalm was thought to have been written by David while he was being pursued by King Saul and hiding in a cave. In the midst of his fears and troubles, David realizes that God has a purpose for his existence and he trusts Him to fulfill that purpose. That realization had to build up David’s resolve and courage to get through his season of trial and tribulation and to live in expectation of the Lord’s guiding hand and revelation of His will for David. Then, after describing his enemies as fierce lions with sharp teeth, he prays for God to be exalted and for His glory to shine on the world. Webster’s New World College Dictionary (copyright 1997, Simon & Schuster, Inc., page 472) defines exalt as “to raise on high; elevate; lift up; to praise; glorify.” Instead of reacting harshly against his enemies, David wants God to be elevated, praised, honored, and glorified. He also wants the Lord’s glory, His splendor and magnificence, to shine on the earth, so that all people would turn to God and seek Him. Our spirits can be calmed during troubled times, knowing that God still has a loving purpose for us to fulfill. We can also lift up His name and praise and glorify Him in the sight of others, drawing them to the God within us instead of hearing us lament over our situation. Regardless of the circumstances in our lives, let’s prayerfully trust God to give us a greater purpose and to give us the faith to praise and glorify Him always.

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Knock! Knock! Sun, 29 Jun 2014 04:00:18 +0000 Read the rest]]> June 29, 2014 Service

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Grace at Vacation Bible School Thu, 26 Jun 2014 20:16:03 +0000 Read the rest]]> Dear friends in the Lord,

I want you to know of the incredible ministry that you are a part of through your prayers and offerings and Christ-like love as Bethany.

We have had scores of young children singing, playing, crafting, learning and giving…to Jesus. It is a great and holy week at VBS.

One of the joys is seeing the glorious variety of ages and colors of the participants, teachers and helpers and students. The theme is “Truth Force, International Spy Academy”. They discover that God’s word in Scripture is perfectly reliable and points to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

I wish you could see the joy and love that overflows in the hearts, on the faces and in the hallways of Bethany. Your church is blessedly at work. Our church is blessed to be a blessing.

This Sunday worship will be abbreviated; I know, how many times have you heard that one before? But it will be, I promise. That will enable those at the 10am service to go straight to the VBS program; and it will enable VBS children and families to worship with us at 10am as they sing and share a highlight or two. Then upon the benediction we will go downstairs for the full VBS program.

So…come to worship on Sunday – at 8:15 or 10am – for a 45 minute service featuring an amazing story from Acts 12: 1-19…about the church prayer group who prayed for an answer and then didn’t believe it…even when it came knocking on their door! “Knock, Knock!” And get a sampling of the Vacation Bible School music. And then join us- if possible- for the full program right around 10:45 am.

See you on Sunday,

John Hamilton

The Hrach family was able to worship with us last Sunday. It was a joy to see them.

The Screwtape Letters class will NOT meet this Sunday. It will resume next Sunday at the same time and place- 9:20 am in the Chapel.

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