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Together for Joy

This is this year’s stewardship series.

Holy Ground

Spiritual practices make space for us to hear God’s voice. The habit of recognizing God’s presence in every moment of our lives and in every part of creation allows us a proper perspective on all things. As spiritual practices begin to help us to hear God’s voice more clearly, and, to experience His love and care for us more fully, they also help us hear God’s voice more frequently and with familiarity. Like any friendship, the more time we get with a person the more we know them. The more we know what God is like, the more we can echo the character of Christ and His kingdom to the world around us. This is discipleship.

There is no single method, no wrong time or place to accept God’s invitation to enjoy his presence. The spiritual practices we will share with you over the next few weeks have been significant to us as staff, but they are only a few of many that have been practiced by our faith ancestors in many cultures and locations and times. Not all practices are helpful for all people at all times. Allow these ideas we share with you to spark your imagination and consider trying some variation of them that make sense for you to enjoy God’s presence in a new way, to hear his voice speaking love and truth to your heart. May these spiritual practices and the reminder of God’s invitation to you make space for deep listening and life-giving transformation.

The Culture of the Kingdom

We are living in troubling times.

… a pandemic that has crippled much of the world and has throwing people into panic that produces anxiety — socially, economically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually;

… racial tension fueled by police misconduct;

… violence in our communities, including riots, looting, arson, and shootings;

… a local and national election cycle that has been riddled on all sides with name calling, bullying, fear mongering, and outright lying.

It’s safe to say that the culture of America is under considerable duress.

Culture is the summation of the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group. America has a culture, the foundation of which is described most explicitly in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In these documents we find how things are to get done, how changes can be made, how people are to behave with one another, where the power is given, and how the use of power is kept in check in order to fulfill the principles and practices described in those founding documents.

There are many cultures in our world. I believe, however, that for those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, there is one culture that is meant to be above all others. This Culture of the Kingdom of God is most clearly described in the Holy Bible. It contains all that is needed to encourage, equip, and by the Holy Spirit, empower people to live into and up to its standards. This brief series will unwrap some (not all) of the cultural distinctives of God’s Kingdom.

Pastor Craig

A Wondrous Variety: Engaging Your Spiritual Gift

When we put on a pair of sunglasses our world is colored – everything is seen through that color. So it is with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Gift List found in Romans 12:6-8 (which have been called the “motivational gifts of the Spirit”) help us see life in a particular way. The list of seven gifts found there are, I believe, the principle gifts of the Holy Spirit – that is, shared broadly throughout the church both for building it up and extending its message and blessing to the world.

[Pastor Craig]

Praying the Blues

There’s a lot of hard stuff going on in the world today. A pandemic … racism … and so much else. The art of lament is the art of expressing our grief, sorrow, and anger in the face of tragedy. It is a spiritual act as much as a mental and physical one. Join us for a time of exploring how God’s people navigated times of grief and tragedy in the scriptures, and what we might learn to apply to our lives today.

Follow Me

Transitions are challenging. Transitions can be thrust upon us … pandemics like Covid-19 … tragic and life altering accidents … the death of a loved one – to name a few.

Transitions can also be chosen in order to reach goals; rigorous workouts are chosen that take us from out-of-shape to great-shape; choosing the “vitality pathway” to become a healthy and missional church; electing a Pastoral Search Committee to find a new Lead Pastor … to name a few.

Transitions are also inevitable. Change happens – nothing stays the same; infants become children, then adolescents, then young adults, then middle aged; many employees become managers … and some become employers; many people move from the single life to married life … and vice versa. And of course, we all get older – which brings with it many changes.

The above thoughts sprang from a book by Jeff Manion entitled “The Land Between”. Written a decade before the days of the Coronavirus, or the “vitality pathway”, or a transition Pastor, the author uses the experiences of the Hebrew people in the years they spent between slavery in Egypt and arrival in the land of Canaan (the Promised Land). He reveals the inevitability and the challenges of transitions.

The book resonated in me a helpful launching point for a sermon series following Easter.  As we continue in transition with Covid-19 and a “new normal” (which doesn’t seem normal at all);  as we continue to roll out the work of the Vitality Team and subsequent Dream Again Team; and as we continue in transition at Bethany as the Lead Pastor Search Team seeks a new Lead Pastor it might be helpful for us to learn again from God’s “chosen people” the kinds of reactions to change that diminish and reveal our lack of trust in God as well as the kinds of responses to change that increase and reveal our trust in Him.

I encourage you to consider reading the book The Land Between: Finding God  in Difficult Transitions” by Jeff Manion.

Better yet read the original material on the ‘land between’ in the Bible. For avid readers who want detail read Genesis 12-50, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. For those who prefer an overview and summary read Deuteronomy.

Let’s learn and grow together in these challenging days of transition how to trust in God. Listen to the author’s prayer for us in these days … “(I pray) that God will visit you with grace in your season of transition. I pray that the barren landscape of trial will become the fertile soil for new growth.  May our gracious God revive your spirit and restore your laughter.  May you find Him in your pain and trust Him in your waiting.  May the One who redeems all things meet you powerfully as  you journey through the “Land Between”. [Jeff Manion]

Diamond in the Rough

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.” [Galatians 5:22]

February 2: Love is the Fruit

February 9: Joy is Love Smiling

February 16: Peace is Love’s Goal

February 23: Patience is Love’s Perseverance

March 1: Kindness is Love in Little Doses

March 8: Goodness is Love’s Generosity

March 15: Faithfulness is Love’s Reliability

March 29: Gentleness is Love’s Leadership Style

April 5: Self-Control is Love’s Boundaries (Palm Sunday)

April 12: A Grand Opening (Easter Sunday)

Teach Us to Pray

“This, then, is how you should pray,” said Jesus:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

January 5: Our Father

January 12: Today

January 19: As We Forgive

January 26: Deliver

Prepare the Way: Advent 2019

description coming soon

Cultivating the Kingdom

Our annual Stewardship series is focused on what stewardship is all about: God’s call for our partnership with Him in cultivating His Kingdom here on earth. These three weeks we’ll focus on our new vision statement: Inviting people to know God, inspiring people to follow Jesus, and involving people to serve our neighbors, both near and far.

Becoming Overcomers: Letters to the Seven Churches

His name is Mark Wellman, and he’s a nationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and motivational speaker. Despite being paralyzed in a mountain climbing accident, Mark is best known for the first historic paraplegic ascent of the sheer granite face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Mark is an overcomer.

Our Fall Sermon Series at Bethany will raise up for us the teaching and call of God in our lives to be OVERCOMERS, to be people who face the challenges of life and overcome the distractions and the discouragements that try to rob us of our faith and vitality as followers of Jesus Christ. Each Sunday we will consider the message given by the Apostle John to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. The focus will be on what each church is called to OVERCOME so we can discover together what is transferable to each of our lives, and to Bethany Covenant Church.

Surprise, Surprise: Jesus is Coming Back

Summer Singles

Every so often we come to a time of year when there just isn’t a way to put everything into a nice little package. The solution? “Summer Singles,” where each of the messages are different but the goal remains the same: to bring us into a deeper understanding of the character and quality of the Creator of the universe.

Eyes Be Opened

What did the accounts of those who first saw Jesus have in common? “And their eyes were opened.” Join us as we explore, in the wake of the resurrection, the stories of those who first encountered Jesus, and how we continue to see how Jesus is working in our midst.

Guilty: Reflections on Our Humanity and Our Need for a Savior

The world is broken, we are broken, and we often find ourselves in prisons of our own making. What puts us in prison? Join us this lent as we explore the vices and virtues of Proverbs 6, and ask, what makes us guilty … and how does Jesus free us from bondage?

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes (or “eyes that look down on others”), a lying tongue (or “a tongue that can’t be trusted”), hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes (or “conceives evil plans”) and feet that are quick to rush (or “sprint”) into evil, a false witness who pours out lies (or “a false witness who breathes out lies”), and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. [Proverbs 6:16-19]

The Art of Living a Worthy Life Together

Who's in the Manger?

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” While this is true, the biblical story of a savior in a manger is not without credible evidence; the story of Jesus happened in a time, in a place, for a reason. And the story still has an impact today. This advent, join us as we unpack the eyewitness, scientific, profile, and cultural evidence of Jesus’ birth.

The Forgotten Ways: Marks of a Healthy, Missional Church

It’s been said with no small amount of irony that the one constant in life is change. But with change comes the opportunity to grow, and it is most often those times of change that God uses to help us become more like Him. Once upon a time, Abram was called by God out of his good, comfortable life and told to go to a new land, to found a new nation and a new people. Once upon a time, God freed Israel from their enslavement in Egypt and Called them to the Promised Land. Join us as we follow Israel as it journeys through the wilderness of Sinai, out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, as the trappings of the world are burned away and in its place, a new name and a new identity: the People of God. In this series, we’ll navigate the ECC Vitality Pathway and learn ten marks of a healthy, missional Church, one that lives by the practices and the character of Jesus.

Knowing God

This 2-part sermon series is a fly-over of the “Vitality Pathway” preparing us for the following series (The Forgotten Ways) where we dive deeper into what a healthy missional church looks like. In week one (Sept. 2) we will respond to the Covenant catechism question: What is the highest and most important knowledge? Read the texts – Ephesians 1:15-23 and John 17:3. In week two (Sept. 9) we will respond to the question: What is God really up to? Read the following texts – John 14:26; Philippians 2:7-8; and Ephesians 1:20 & 2:6-10

Love Is

If I speak in the tongues of humanity or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

[1 Corinthians 13, NIV]

Second Life: After the Resurrection

The Resurrection changed everything. Each day, more and more people encountered the Risen Jesus in their own way, and today is no different. Join us as we explore some of the stories of the first encounters people had with Jesus after His Resurrection.

The Way: The Gospel of Mark

We learn in Acts 9:1-2 that the early followers of Jesus were called People of the Way. They were people who were committed to living the “ways of Jesus.” As followers of Jesus we are to be increasing in our purity, peacefulness, gentleness, mercifulness, fruitfulness, steadfastness, honesty, love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and temperance. People wonder, how can we change the world we live in? How can we bring about change? I see no other option than being formed in the ways of Christ. It’s the narrowest road, but it’s the most impactful.

The Book of Mark is written very much like an ancient biography looking to answer three questions: Who was Jesus? What was Jesus like? Why is Jesus worth writing about? Mark focuses his book on Jesus, the power of Jesus and the virtues and deeper character of Jesus’ life with the message, ‘go and do likewise.’

I see many people today trying to navigate the tensions, divides, anxieties and relationships of life under their own power and the world’s best wisdom. In Mark we see that Jesus’ power and Jesus’ ways and wisdom will allow us to do that better than any other way.

Wait for the Light: Advent and Christmas 2017

There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan — The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

[Isaiah 9:1-7]

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