Philadelphia Pastor Blogs

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Courageous Living

This article is printed by permission of Dave Braneky, Pastor of Baptist Church of West Chester, PA. The article was originally published on the church blog.

Profile picture(1)Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I invite you to ponder what you think you would have done in the following situations:

What would you have done if you were a utility meter reader in a small town in Montana in the 1980’s and you noticed lots of people in their late 40’s and early 50’s were home during the day and on oxygen tanks?   Would you have ignored this weird thing?  Or would you’ve tried to find out what was making these people sick?

If you were a lawyer sent to Afghanistan in 2008 to train Afghan lawyers for nine months, would you have decided to stay in Afghanistan after the first nine months, set up your own law office and continue to represent female clients in Afghan courts even after you’ve been detained, accused of being a spy, running a brother and have had a grenade thrown at your office?

If you were a doctor campaigning for total transparency in medicine, calling upon doctors to reveal their conflicts of interest to patients, would you continue your campaign after people threatened your life and your livelihood?

If you were a religious leader, would you have confronted soldiers in your military telling them to return the prisoners and plunder they brought back from war?

What would you have done in these situations?  Would you have had the courage to keep researching for a reason for why your neighbors were sick?  Would you have had the courage to keep representing Afghan women?  Would you have had the courage to continue your campaign for total transparency?  Would you have had the courage to confront the soldiers in your military?

Three of these stories are from the recent past as heard on NPR’s Ted Radio Hour.  The other is an ancient story from II Chronicles 28:8-15.  This Sunday we’re going to explore what does it take to be courageous?  Is it an automatic response or a conscious choice?  Can everyone be courageous?  How can we live courageous lives?  What role does our Christian faith play in living courageously?

See you on Sunday,

Pastor Dave


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How Prayer Reveals the Heart

This article is printed by permission of Rev. David Scudder. Rev. Scudder has served as senior pastor of Bethel Chapel Church at 4100 K St. in Philadelphia since 1992. His blog is printed weekly in the Juniata News, a local paper in Philadelphia. www.BethelChapelChurch.com

kneeling_in_prayer-300x214If you pray, why do you pray? That may sound like a silly question, but it’s not. Many people don’t understand the main reason God gave us prayer. I often meet people who tell me that they pray a lot. When I ask them what they are praying about, the answer usually relates to what they want God to change about their lives. Their prayers are centered on having better health, better relationships, or less stress.

It is true that bringing our physical needs to God is an important part of prayer (Matthew 7:11), but here is a challenge for all of us: Praying for things is NOT the main purpose for prayer.

I think Pastor John Piper hit the nail on the head when he said that “…prayer is not finally about getting things from God, but getting God.”

Prayer, in other words, is primarily a way to get to know God better. The Bible talks a lot about having a passion to know God better: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1); “Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me through Your righteousness” (Psalm 119:40); “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

If we have surrendered our lives to Christ, then we have been adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5). Our Father in heaven wants us to spend intimate time with Him, just as anyone does in a good relationship. Because we are so prone to forget how much we need God, He often uses difficult circumstances to remind us to spend more time with Him. Hard times reveal what is in our hearts. That is how prayer reveals our heart. Do we just want to be comfortable, or do we want to experience more of God’s presence?

I recently found a quote by George MacDonald (1824-1905), a Scottish author, poet, and Christian pastor that challenged my heart: “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.” Charles Spurgeon said much the same thing in a different way: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” “Rock of Ages” is a common name for God. It is the storms of life that show us how much we need Him.

If you long to know God better, then every genuine prayer of yours will be a success. I know this is true because God has made this promise: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Do we just want God to do things for us, or is it our heart’s desire to be closer to Him?

Pursuing Christ in private prayer is important, of course, but Rev. Donald Whitney points out that “praying regularly with others can be one of the most enriching adventures of your Christian life.” Praying with others who also love Jesus helps us pursue a closer relationship with God. That is why we have regular times of prayer here at Bethel Chapel Church (Wednesdays at 7:00 PM and Sundays at 9:15 AM). All in the community are invited.

We would love for you to join us as we seek to get closer to Jesus. We want to partner with you as you pursue a better relationship with the God of the universe through Christ. “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).


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Two Lies About Our Broken World

This article is printed by permission of Rev. David Scudder. Rev. Scudder has served as senior pastor of Bethel Chapel Church at 4100 K St. in Philadelphia since 1992. His blog is printed weekly in the Juniata News, a local paper in Philadelphia. www.BethelChapelChurch.com

ebola-liberia-300x200I thought that Christmas is supposed to be a time of good news, but wow, we sure have been flooded with bad news lately, haven’t we? Ebola, police shootings, the beheading of Christian children by ISIS in the Middle East, inflation, rising health care costs, almost daily reports of huge identity thefts, and I could go on. Just listing those things makes me depressed.

What is even more depressing is that we probably only hear a small fraction of the bad news. That makes me wonder what God thinks when He looks down on us. Actually, though, I guess I don’t have to wonder. God has already told us. God said that humans “do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (Psalm 82:5).

There is no doubt about it. We live in a broken world. As we look at all the bad news, though, there are at least two lies you and I must be careful to avoid.

Here is the first lie: “I’m not one of the bad guys.” It’s easy to look at all the hurtful and hateful things that other people do and then secretly feel a little superior. We convince ourselves that we are not part of the problem. Is that actually true, though? Some people certainly do much worse things than others, but how does God feel about our “respectable” sins.

“…there is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:1b–3). Wow! Could it possibly be true that “there is no one who does good”?

The answer depends on the definition of “good.” The Bible explains that, left to ourselves, we can’t do anything to measure up to God’s holy standards. Even when we do what we think is good, our intentions are not always pure. Overall, we tend to be self-focused instead of God-focused. Jesus “died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). If we aren’t living our lives focused on Christ, we’re still part of the problem.

Here is a second lie we tend to believe: “We just need to do a better job of controlling people’s behavior.” Our thinking goes something like this: What we need is a better justice system with swifter punishment, more police, politicians that aren’t corrupt, or something along that line. There is some truth in both lies, but the Bible NEVER says that we just need more self-control or bigger police forces.

Not one time does the Bible propose more laws as the solution to our broken world. It should be obvious that more laws and stricter punishments won’t really solve the problem. Remember that our government is passing more laws all the time. How has that helped?

Here is the key to our trouble. The heart of our problem is our heart. The sad truth is that we have been born with hearts that are terminally ill.“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus could not have made it any clearer: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21–22).

What will solve our heart problem? I’m glad you asked.

What we all need is a radical change of heart and only God can do that. You could think of it as needing a spiritual heart transplant. No one can perform that kind of surgery except God. The good news is that God is willing to do that when we are tired of our sinful ways. God promises to “give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

If you turn to Christ, you can celebrate this Christmas with a new and joyful heart. With King David you can say, “I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). If you have any questions or would like some assistance in doing this, feel free to use the information at the top of this article to contact me. Turning to Christ is the only way to have a genuine, authentic, Merry Christmas!


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