Bethany Presbyterian Church http://bethanypresby.org Bridgeville, PA Wed, 01 Oct 2014 03:34:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 October 2014 Newsletter http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/newsletters/october-2014-newsletter/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/newsletters/october-2014-newsletter/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:51:32 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3694 Read the rest]]> Read the rest]]> http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/newsletters/october-2014-newsletter/feed/ 0 A Glimpse into the Past http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/pastor/a-glimpse-into-the-past/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/pastor/a-glimpse-into-the-past/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:03:30 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3692 Read the rest]]> Dear Friends,

What a joy it was to be in worship together last Sunday! Traveling back in time to experience a slice of worship as it was in the 1820′s…being welcomed by ushers in costume and awakened by “The Tithing Man”…and meeting The Reverend Alexander Cook were all part of a blessed worship.

I want to name some of those who helped make the service possible:

  • The Bethany Worship Team and John Henninger who helped arrange the service an picked the music.
  • Deb Gossic and Upper St. Clair High School who provided the hat and coat for Rev. Cook.
  • Bill Paviol and his associates who found the clothing for the ushers and Tithing Man and totally got into it!
  • Dave Oliver as the Preceptor, lining out the Psalm for singing.
  • Dolly Rastetter and Emily Brady for their narrating …and all their faithful leadership in the Bicentennial planning.
  • Pastor Robbie for the delightful and fitting children’s message.
  • The choir for jumping in with the singing and the spirit of the service.
  • Bud Marlett for gently informing me between services that the orginial Bethany structure was brick, not wood. (I got it right for 10:45.)
  • Bud and Janet for some of the costuming, including my tie and the dresses for the women ushers.
  • Jack Crawford for his photo journalism of the event.
  • Karl Salvini for the Scottish dress hat I wore before the early service and between services.
  • Charles Puff for his article on worship, circa 1820′s, which we reprinted from a 1976 bulletin.

And a big thanks to John Schneider. John did extensive research on Alexander Cook and provided me with a file full of background, context and even quotations from Rev. Cook. We spent a lunch together reflecting on Alexander Cook and the amazing renaissance man he was. The sermon simply would not have been possible without John’s research and input. Thank you John.

In naming so many people, I know I left someone out. It may have been you…so please accept my thanks to you!

Finally, to all who were able to be at worship, thanks for putting up with my attempt at a Scottish accent and hearing the message. You got it! You said so.

God bless you all, and see you on Sunday.

John Hamilton

Oh yes, “Beard On!”

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Devotional: Sep 29 – Oct 4 http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/bicentennial/devotional-sep-29-oct-4/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/bicentennial/devotional-sep-29-oct-4/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:58:46 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3690 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.)

Sept. 29, 2014 Acts 23:23-35

God delivered Paul from the hands of the men who had plotted to kill him. One of the most important Hebrew names for God in the Old Testament is Yahweh, literally meaning “He Is.” The Hebrews had other names for God, based upon what they knew and believed about Him – “Yahweh Yireh” (The Lord Will Provide, as He did for Paul), “Yahweh Nissi” (The Lord Is My Banner), “Yahweh Shalom” (The Lord Is Peace), “Yahweh Shammah” (The Lord Is There), “Yahweh Tsebbaoth” (The Lord of Hosts), “Yahweh Tsidkenu” (The Lord Our Righteousness), and “Yahweh Rapha (The Lord Who Heals You). Our God has many attributes – He is Spirit, changeless, all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, eternal, holy, sovereign, just, righteous, merciful, compassionate, and forgiving. God is love, truth, wisdom, and the source of all righteousness! Let us pray – Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 NIV); who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16 NIV); to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! (Jude 25 NIV). Amen and Amen!

Sept. 30, 2014 Acts 24:1-9

Paul is falsely accused by Tertullus, a lawyer representing the Jewish elders and those bringing the baseless charges against him. We, as believers, also have an adversary, one who accuses us day and night before the Lord (Revelation 12:10). He is the devil, or Satan. Devil is derived from the Greek word meaning “false witness” or “malicious accuser.” However, Satan is beating a dead horse. We have been cleansed of our sins by our Mediator, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who stands in the breech between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Christ is able to save us completely and He lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-25). The devil is not able to overcome Christ’s shed blood, His permanent priesthood, or His continual intercession for us! We have this hope of forgiveness and eternal life, and this hope does not disappoint us (Romans 5:5)! Pray for the Lord’s strength and perseverance to live each day for Him, and claim the hope that He gives you for your eternal redemption.

Oct. 1, 2014 Acts 24:10-13

Have you noticed that every time Paul is brought before some high council of elders and priests, the charges against him are contrived, misreported, and simply outright falsehood? Could it be that they’d rather try to obey the whole Jewish law than trust a Savior? Or do they want to live their lives free of any concern over right and wrong, belief or unbelief? Or are their hearts just hard and unable to receive the Good News of the Gospel? Jesus knew this would happen, and He said that folks will hate us because of Him (Matthew 10:22) and that the world hated Him first (John 15:18). David wrote that God looked down from Heaven to see if there were any who seek Him, but He found none (Psalm 14:2-3). Paul wrote that “because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23 GWT). So, it’s a spiritual thing – they’ve been blinded and deceived by Satan and prevented from seeing the light of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). What can we, as believers in the Lord, do? We can pray for softened hearts so folks can receive the Good News. We can lovingly share our testimony with others. We can live in such a way that folks see Christ in us, as we bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Let’s all ask God to help us to always have a reason to give folks for the hope that we have in Him, and that He helps these folks to seek Him and believe.

Oct. 2, 2014 Acts 24:14-16

Paul’s accusers contend that the Way (the new Christian church) is really a cult. A cult is actually a false religion or anti-Christian group that twists the truth of God’s Word and opposes His truth vehemently. The goal of a cult is to draw folks away from the truth of God and to indoctrinate them with its anti-Christian rhetoric and beliefs. Obviously, Christianity is not a cult, but stands in opposition to every false doctrine and belief with the light of God’s true Word (see 1 Corinthians 4:5). [As believers and members of the Way, we’re encouraged to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11 NIV).] Paul explains that he worships the same God that his accusers do, firmly believes the prophets, and has hope that God will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Then, in v. 16, he states that he has a clear conscience in the sight of God and all people because he worships the true God, believes in the prophets (who point the way to Jesus Christ), and has unshakable hope in God. His conscience is clear because of his resolute belief in and love for God and his absolute faith in Scripture as God’s living Word to all people. May our consciences be always clear as we declare the truth of the Good News to other folks. Let’s all ask the Lord to give us boldness and conviction to share that hope that we have in Him.

Oct. 3, 2014 Acts 24:17-21

Paul was not offering sacrifices to God in the Temple for his sins, because Christ had already done that once for all on the cross. He was likely making an offering akin to a thank offering or peace offering, and was therefore honoring the Lord in His Temple. In this age of the grace of God, what can we offer to Him in thankfulness for His many blessings and unconditional love? We can offer Him our broken and contrite hearts (Psalm 51:17), our sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), our obedience expressing our love for Him (1 John 5:3), our service to others (Ephesians 6:7-8), and prayer that pleases Him (Proverbs 15:8b). We can offer Him our time, talents, and treasure, and worship Him in Spirit and in truth. We can also bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). In other words, we can be living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1)! Dear God, please help us to offer our best to You always, in thought, word, and deed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Oct. 4, 2014 Acts 24:22-27

Governor Felix “was quite familiar with the Way.” He wasn’t a believer, but thought he had some general knowledge of this new religious group. His self-confident familiarity crumbled when Paul started talking about righteousness, self-control, and a future judgment of all people. Paul might have mentioned that God expects folks to be righteous in His eyes, and that the only way to do that is to believe in Jesus Christ. Felix may have had an attack of guilt, since his own life did not meet God’s holy criteria. Paul’s reasoning about self-control may have hit a sensitive spot in Felix’s heart, and maybe he knew that he lacked that level of self-discipline. Being thus confronted with these shortcomings in his life, Felix became truly frightened when Paul talked about the coming day of God’s judgment. Momentarily, Felix came to the realization that he may have to justify his unbelieving lifestyle to God, and that he may have to face His eternal punishment. When folks are touched personally by the truth of God’s Word, and honestly evaluate their lives in the light of His Gospel, they may react as Felix did. The Gospel message includes our holy God’s condemnation of sin and His having to deal with it by offering His one and only Son as an atoning sacrifice for us. The “fire and brimstone” message of the Gospel is that those who have not believed in Jesus Christ must face God’s final judgment without a Savior to mediate between them and God. All that’s left for them is “a fearful expectation of…raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Hebrews 10:27 NIV). Pray to the Lord that as you witness to others, they will take the entire message of the Gospel to heart, and that they will respond by trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

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A Visit from The Reverend Alexander Cook http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/a-visit-from-the-reverend-alexander-cook/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/a-visit-from-the-reverend-alexander-cook/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 04:00:08 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3685 Read the rest]]> Read the rest]]> http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/a-visit-from-the-reverend-alexander-cook/feed/ 0 Be Led by Your Dreams http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/pastor/be-led-by-your-dreams/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/pastor/be-led-by-your-dreams/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:46:06 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3688 Read the rest]]> Oh, I have so much to share for my Glimpses! A tender “glimpse” will be shared in my column in the next newsletter. Please don’t miss it.

I was blessed by being part of the radio theater, “Follow the Blackhorse Trail.” It was a rousing success, good turnout, and amazing work of creativity and determination by Bud Marlett. My biggest “glimpse” was of the glorious array of folks who helped, including guys you’d never imagine being on stage. They did it! We did it!

I was blessed by hearing stories of the mission and ministry from our $10 bills. Keep sending those to Pastor Robbie so we can share our stories. I left mine – doubled into $20 – at two local restaurants for the staff to bless someone who might need help for a meal.

I am so excited for our own Hunter Briggs who is the lead character, “Oliver”, in the musical production at the Strand Theater in Zelionople. It begins this weekend.

I am also excited for my wife, Melany, who is Interm Pastor at Covenant Community Presbyterian Church in Scott Township. She will be using her God-given gifts to serve in that setting.

I am blessed to be part of LOGOS. Help is still needed. What a joy to see the children learning, playing, singing and eating in the joy of Jesus!

I hope you will see glimpses of grace this Sunday as our first pastor, the Scotsman Alexander Cook preaches. Please pray for me as I prepare.

I finish by sharing one of the many pearls of wisdom from John Wooden, the late, legendary, and deeply Christian UCLA basketball coach:

“Don’t be pushed by your fears; be led by your dreams”

May we be set free of our fears and be led by our dreams as we serve our living Lord.

See you on Sunday,

John Hamilton

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the Bicentennial Dinner on October 18th!

You can do it this Sunday!

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Devotional: Sep 22 – Sep 27 http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/bicentennial/devotional-sep-22-sep-27/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/bicentennial/devotional-sep-22-sep-27/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 04:00:27 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3672 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.)

Sept. 22, 2014 Acts 22:17-23

Old habits are hard to break. Right after Paul’s conversion to Christianity, the Lord told him that he would be His ambassador to the Gentiles. However, we know that Paul spent many Sabbaths in Synagogues and finally in the Temple in Jerusalem, still trying to reason with the Jews. He himself was a Jew, from the line of Benjamin, and his heart was with his people. He devoted chapters 9-11 in his letter to the Roman church to God’s dealing with Israel, from their being chosen by Him as His special possession (9:4a) to the second coming of Christ (11:26-27). He expresses his love and hope for his brothers and sisters in many ways – wishing his being cut off from Christ forever could save them (9:4b), dealing with their unbelief (9:31-32), his heart’s longing and prayer for them (10:1), encouraging them to “call on the name of the Lord(10:13), telling them that they’ve heard the message (10:18) and that God has not rejected them (11:2), sharing with them God’s desire for them (11:11) and His hope for them (11:23). He concludes in 11:26 that “all Israel will be saved”, likely meaning that all those of Israel who turn to Jesus Christ for salvation will be saved (see 10:9-10). God has not abandoned the nation of Israel, and neither should we. Let’s pray that, as Jews around the world hear the Good News of the Gospel, as many as possible will come to true faith and trust Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Sept. 23, 2014 Acts 22:24-30

As Paul was about to be whipped, he and the commander get into a brief discussion about their citizenship. Paul reveals that he is a Roman citizen by birth. The commander, on the other hand, had to pay for his Roman citizenship. More importantly, Paul is a citizen of Heaven (as he later wrote in Philippians 3:20). We, too, can claim that same promise of God, as believers and as His children. By honoring the Lord through obedience to His Word, we can be His ambassadors, showing others the humility of a Godly life. In this way, we can draw others to Him, as they see our actions backing up our words of testimony (see 2 Corinthians 9:12-13). Paul’s Roman citizenship saved him from being beaten without having been convicted of a crime. Our Heavenly citizenship, bought with the highest price of Christ’s shed blood, saves us from having to pay the eternal penalty for our sinfulness. Dear God, help us to live lives worthy of our Heavenly home, and help us to draw others to your mercy and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sept. 24, 2014 Acts 23:1-5

Paul tells the high council that he’s always had a clear conscience in God’s sight. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (copyright 1995, 1986, by Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 295) defines conscience as “a person’s inner awareness of conforming to the will of God or departing from it, resulting in either a sense of approval or condemnation.” That awareness and sense of approval or disapproval come from the Holy Spirit (see Romans 9:1). Although the word does not appear in the Old Testament, there are several references to it. The most notable is the first one, when Adam and Eve knew they’d disobeyed God and hid from Him in the Garden (Genesis 3:7-8). One of the more striking instances in the New Testament is Judas’ remorse over betraying our Lord (Matthew 27:3). These are examples of a guilty conscience, which God uses to give us a course correction. Paul would later write in 2 Corinthians 1:12 that his conscience has confirmed that his sincere and holy conduct with these believers are from God, proof of his clear conscience. A believer’s conscience has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, so that he or she may willingly serve God (Hebrews 9:14). We are also warned against encouraging another believer to act contrary to his or her conscience (1 Corinthians 8:12). Our consciences are like a traffic light at an intersection – green means go, but red means stop! Let’s all pray for a clear conscience before God, and ask His help for us to keep it clear in His sight.

Sept. 25, 2014 Acts 23:6-11

Paul began his defense to the high council by stating his hope in the resurrection of the dead. He knew that this would serve a dual purpose – giving them a witness of God’s power, and also causing strong disagreement between the Sadducees and Pharisees. God’s holy Word has that polarizing effect on folks. Hebrews 4:12 gets to the heart of the matter – “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” To believers, it is God’s truth, God Himself! To unbelievers, it relentlessly searches their hearts, minds, souls, and spirits, and demands a reckoning of their lifestyle, values, and beliefs. Jesus said we should not suppose that “I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NIV). He then quoted Micah 7:6, saying that following Him would cause divisions within a family household! God’s words of Scripture demand a decision from us – do we believe Him or not, do our lives conform to His holiness or not, do we want to follow Him, or not? Hopefully, a good ending comes from the endless discussions and disagreements over the words of Scripture, and some folks come to the knowledge of the truth. Let’s not stop witnessing for Christ and pray that hearts, minds, and spirits are changed so that those who hear us make a decision to follow Jesus.

Sept. 26, 2014 Acts 23:12-15

Satan thought he’d won his war with Jesus on Good Friday. Jesus died on the cross, and the devil thought that he’d defeated the Son of God forever. Dr. Tony Compolo, evangelist, pastor, and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern College, has spoken on this subject in a presentation entitled “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’.” He describes this false victory and the blind overconfidence of Satan, and then reassures us that Easter Sunday is comin’, and the resurrected Christ utterly defeated the devil once and for all. Lucifer lost the war, but is still fighting a battle against us, the followers of Jesus Christ. The forty men who took an oath (the KJV calls it a curse, vv. 12 and 14) not to eat or drink until they’d killed Paul were minions of Satan, in his continuing effort to destroy Christianity. 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us that Satan is always looking for someone to devour, but that we should resist him in our faith. He also “masquerades as an angel of light” (1 Corinthians 11:14 NIV), but “comes only to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10 NIV). We are assured, however, that “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4b KJV) and that “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20)! Let’s pray for the Lord’s strength to resist the devil so that he will flee from us.

Sept. 27, 2014 Acts 23:16-22

Forty men had vowed to kill Paul as he would be brought back before the high council, under false pretense, for further questioning. However, God used Paul’s young nephew, who overheard the plot being explained to the priests and elders, to alert the commander. Our God is sovereign, with limitless power to control the affairs of mankind, the natural world – anything in His created universe and in Heaven. He used plagues of blood, frogs, flies, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and even death to free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. He led the Hebrews in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and fire at night. He parted the Red Sea, brought water from a rock, and fed the Hebrews with manna and quail. He used ravens to feed Elijah and kept filling the flour jar and the oil jug belonging to the widow at Zarephath while Elijah stayed with her. He enabled Balaam’s donkey to talk after it saw the angel of the Lord and used a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jesus did great miracles also – turning water into wine, enabling Peter to catch fish, calmed the storm on the lake, walked on water and enabled Peter to do likewise, fed thousands of people with a little food, and cursed a fig tree, just to name a few. Jesus said, “What is impossible for people is possible for God” (Luke 18:27). Let us give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

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Exchanging gods for God http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/exchanging-gods-for-god/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/exchanging-gods-for-god/#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 04:00:52 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3666 Read the rest]]> Read the rest]]> http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/exchanging-gods-for-god/feed/ 0 The Lunchable http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/pastor/the-lunchable/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/pastor/the-lunchable/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:28:51 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3669 Read the rest]]> They were getting ready for preschool, this young five year old and his grandmother. The boy insisted that he pack a “Lunchable” for snack. The grandmother explained that it was too messy and required help from his teacher. The boy then insisted, refusing every alternative offered by the grandmother. Back and forth they went as the clock ticked. “All right, take it if you want!” the grandmother snapped.

The boy hung his head fighting back tears. It was a quiet ride to preschool, a hollow victory for the boy.

As they emerged from the car, the “Lunchable” tucked in his backpack, she gazed into his eyes, “Jamie, I am so sorry. ‘Gamma’ should not have snapped at you like that. Will you forgive me?”

“Sure” he responded brightly “You always forgive me when I’m grumpy at you.”

“He gets it!” she told me later. “He gets grace!” It was my glimpse of grace.

Now it’s yours.

And there are more for you, for us all. Keep looking…listening…trusting.

This Sunday for worship, we continue in our study of Acts with an amazing story of Paul and Barnabas being declared as “gods” by the adoring crowd. See their reaction in Acts 14.

On Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM in the Great Room, is “Follow the Blackhorse Trail” a 1940′s era radio theater on the beginnings of Bethany Presbyterian Church. Come and join us.

And after the performance, step into the “Green Room” (the Youth Room) and share your testimony about how you have seen God at work though Bethany. How have you been blessed to be a blessing?

See you on Sunday,

John Hamilton

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Devotional: Sep 15 – Sep 20 http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/bicentennial/devotional-sep-15-sep-20/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/bicentennial/devotional-sep-15-sep-20/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 04:00:34 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3662 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.)

Sept. 15, 2014 Acts 21:20-25

The Jerusalem council letter to Gentile believers eased their minds about circumcision and outlined three practices which they should avoid, according to the Jewish law (Acts 16:22-29). This would facilitate unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. In this passage, Paul is encouraged to submit to the purification ritual in the Temple (Numbers 6:9-20), involving shaving his head in chapter 18, verse 18. In both of these cases, Paul was attempting to remove any barriers or issues that may prevent him from winning souls for Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-20). He was not compromising the Gospel message by doing these things (he still preached that salvation only came through faith in Jesus Christ), but he would not allow practices that were nonessential to salvation to stand in the way of leading someone to Christ. Paul also very emphatically stated later that circumcision is nothing, and what matters is “keeping God’s commandments” (1 Corinthians 7:19), having “faith expressing itself in love” (Galatians 5:6), and being a “new creation” (Galatians 6:15 NIV). According to these three verses, circumcision was a nonessential for salvation, but obedience to God, expressing faith in love, and being a new creation were essentials for the Christian life. Let’s not get hung up on do’s and don’t’s, but let’s persevere in Godly obedience, loving others, and being transformed spiritually! Dear Lord and God, please bless us with Your wisdom and understanding, and enable us to live freely and joyfully for You. We thank You and praise You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sept. 16, 2014 Acts 21:26-30a

Paul was a lightning rod! He couldn’t even get away with being in the Temple and following Jewish tradition without being falsely accused. These Asian Jews were likely non-believers, and possibly still trying to obtain God’s favor through obedience to the Jewish Law. If they knew of Paul prior to his conversion, they’d know of his being circumcised at eight days old, of the tribe of Benjamin, and that he was a zealous Pharisee and legalistic in his approach to the Law (see Philippians 3:5-6). He was one of them prior to his conversion, and he preached the Prophets and their message about a Savior afterwards (Acts 13:32-33, 26:6-7, & 22-23). However, the Lord told him that he’d have to endure much suffering for Him (Acts 9:16). God had delivered Paul from suffering and had been with him through many trials and tribulations; this was another time when Paul would rely on His leading and guidance and presence. We may be called upon to suffer for the Lord in our lives, but let’s not forget that His loving presence and guiding hand will never leave us. Let’s all look to God for His unconditional love and His promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

Sept. 17, 2014 Acts 21:30b-36

The rioters grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the Temple, and “immediately the gates were closed behind him.” It was obvious that these people thought that Paul had defiled the Temple, and by closing the gates they were assured that he would not be able to enter it again anytime soon. This could also have been a sign from the Lord, since Acts never mentions Paul entering the Temple or a synagogue again; he is a prisoner for the rest of the Book. God had other plans for Paul. While in chains he would be able to write his letters to the believers in the new churches he had planted and nurtured on his three missionary journeys. He wrote to Timothy that, even though he is “chained like a criminal, God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9b NIV). This is the classic case of God closing one door, but opening another.   What’s the take-away for us at Bethany? Be open to God’s course corrections and accept them willingly and joyfully. His plan for us is perfect and His will is accomplished in the most adverse circumstances. According to Proverbs 16:9 and 19:21, we can make many plans, “but the Lord determines our steps” and His “purpose will prevail.” Let’s commit to always being open to God’s will and to trusting Him to provide the best path for us to take.

Sept. 18, 2014 Acts 21:37-40

Why was the commander surprised? Paul spoke in the Greek language to him, indicating that Paul was a learned man and not a rabble rouser nor a trouble maker. He had the commander’s attention, so that he allowed Paul to speak to the angry crowd. God may have closed the Temple doors to Paul, but He opened another door by giving Paul another opportunity to share his testimony with those who needed to hear it. Paul may have had this moment in mind when he wrote to the Roman believers that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (8:28 NIV). The Lord did work for Paul’s good, because Acts never again records him being whipped, beaten, or mistreated, even though he was likely a prisoner for the rest of his life. Do you feel imprisoned by failing health, unemployment, addiction, depression and despair, family or marriage problems, or some other trouble? Your love for God avails the promise of Romans 8:28 to you, and He will “bless you and protect you…be gracious to you…and give you His peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Dear Father God, help us to know that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we are never separated from Your love and grace. Help us to rely on You always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sept. 19, 2014 Acts 22:1-10

Paul certainly got the attention of the crowd by speaking Aramaic, their native language. He then proceeded to establish a common ground with them, by explaining his zealousness for God’s laws. This attitude was ingrained in him from a young age, through his training with Gamaliel, a highly respected rabbi in Jerusalem. Paul understood the peoples’ desire to protect the integrity of the Temple and their anger at him, and he shared how he himself persecuted Christians before his meeting Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul showed them that he was one of them, zealous “to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today” (v.3). We, too, can learn from Paul’s evangelistic method. When we share our testimony with others, finding a common ground with them will put them more at ease and help them to be more receptive to our message. Our job is to plant the seed of faith and water it, but God makes it grow                     (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Once we plant the seed and water it (by encouraging the person and answering their questions), God takes over, and we can pray for the person to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Pray to the Lord that He leads you to someone who needs to hear the message of His love and mercy, and trust Him to help you prepare he or she to receive the truth of the Gospel.

Sept. 20, 2014 Acts 22:11-16

When he was talking to Paul, Ananias referred to the Lord as the “God of our ancestors.” After hearing Jesus speak directly to him during his encounter with Him, this title for God may have had new meaning and significance for Paul. Ananias continued by telling Paul that God had chosen him to meet and see Jesus, the Righteous One, and hear Him speak. Paul may have begun to believe that if God arranged all of this, and if Jesus is the Righteous One prophesied by Jeremiah in in 23:5 and 33:15 (the Righteous Branch, NIV), then Jesus is the promised Messiah! He may have also realized that all of his zeal for God and His laws was misplaced and misdirected. Paul likely felt unspeakable and indescribable joy, and also great sorrow and remorse for persecuting the true followers of the Way. He described this Godly sorrow and its effect on believers in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. Read this short passage. Have you ever experienced something like this and wanted to make things right with God? That kind of sorrow leads to repentance and salvation and leaves no regret. Pray Psalm 139:23-24 and receive God’s forgiveness!

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Rescue in the Rubble http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/rescue-in-the-rubble/ http://bethanypresby.org/2014/09/sermons/rescue-in-the-rubble/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 04:00:49 +0000 http://bethanypresby.org/?p=3653 Read the rest]]> September 14, 2014 Service

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