10/14/18 ~ My soul magnifies You

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My soul magnifies you, Jehovah God. You are the Creator of my life and the Savior of my Spirit. The love you have for my soul overwhelms me. You give meaning to life when there are no answers. You give hope when nothing is working out right. You even allow me to share in a little of your glory and to show others what it is. You are my laughter and tears of joy. You are my contentment and my all.

Yesterday you made me forget myself a little while and talk to people about their problems and needs. It is still not enough. Make me reach out in more concern. Forgive me when I surround myself with my selfishness.

Thank you, Lord God of my soul, for taking notice of me, even though I am a sinner unworthy of your presence. I adore you and revere you. I fall at your feet in gratitude. You stopped at nothing to save me from Satan and hell, even though I do not always honor you. Your love is stronger than sin and Satan, danger and death. Your love transcends worlds and envelopes me in safety.

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10/7/18 ~ Good Business vs Christ’s Kingdom

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Far too often we as Christians confuse what is best and right in the world with what is best and right in the Lord’s church. Many congregations have chosen elders, not for their Scriptural qualifications, but rather, for their earthly business qualifications. That is wrong before God and deadly to Christ’s Kingdom. James addresses that very false and foolish theory when he reminds us that showing favoritism just because of wealth or business success is a sin (cf. James 2:1-9).

The real fact is that God’s standards are perfect for His church and are much better for life in general! Consider for a moment:

Good Business vs Christ’s Kingdom

Mark Twain once commented: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” His point, of course, is that so much of what people think that they know is not only wrong but dangerous.

A lot of the world’s business clichés are wrong for business and even worse for Christians. And yet those same teachings are happily propagated by both groups without intelligent thought.

Here are three business sayings that are actually deadly for businesses and yet are often cited in much the same way by Christians. They were never true for anyone and they always bring more harm than good.

Old saying #1: Failure is not an option. Meaning: We absolutely, positively must succeed.

Guess what: No matter how many times you repeat this saying, failure always remains an option. Closing your eyes to this fact makes you more likely to fail.

One business management consultant suggested that businesses should find all the employees who never make mistakes and fire them because employees who never make mistakes never do anything. Admitting that mistakes happen and dealing constructively with them when they do make mistakes less likely.

Paul was once mistaken about the usefulness of John Mark in ministry. But Paul overcame that to appreciate his brother in Christ (read Acts 13:13; 15:36-39 and 2 Timothy 4:11). Failure is NOT the end but merely the beginning of new opportunities!

Many things we may try for outreach will fail. That is simply a sign to try another approach. Closing your eyes to failure means closing your eyes to opportunities.

New saying: Failure happens. Deal with it God’s way!

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Old saying #2: The customer is always right. Meaning: We satisfy our customers’ every need.

Wrong! In businesses this often means loyal, hardworking employees are scorned in favor of unreasonable customers. Yes, there may be times when loyal employees are wrong but consistently favoring the unreasonable, ignorant outsider is a loss all around.

Churches frequently chase what is popular with the world and shun their God. People have actually left the Lord’s church because we won’t put them ahead of God in importance. That’s sad that they leave but they are still wrong and will have to answer to God for their disobedience.

New saying: God’s way is always right. Our job is to obey Him.

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Old saying #3: Grow or die. Meaning: A business is either growing or dying. A business can’t be successful if it’s not growing.

It’s interesting to see how growth has been elevated to an automatic good. We often imagine the New Testament church as being hundreds of people in each congregation. While that may have been true for some congregations at some times, it was never the norm. Of the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3, the smallest was the most faithful and therefore received the most praise from God.

Preaching the Gospel is our priority. We are not responsible for the growth but for the planting. Growth in numbers is always nice but our goal of spiritual growth will always produce the best results.

Even in the business world there in no correlation between growth and ultimate success. In recent years we have seen countless businesses that grew until they died. Growth for the sake of growth is never a good thing.

Take a look at the “mega-church” movement. How long do any of them actually last? Jerusalem and Ephesus might have been the closest to that status in New Testament times. By the end of the first century, Jerusalem was no more and Ephesus was becoming a leader in false teaching. If we are to grow, let us grow God’s way!

New saying:  Let God take care of growth. Take care of our jobs, our responsibilities to God, and let Him take care of His part.

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The scary thing about these and many other sayings is that they’re often accepted unquestioningly because they come in the shape of old mottoes which are repeated much like nursery rhymes used to educate children. That means it’s not enough to oust the old sayings, we need to replace them with new ones that are grounded in God’s word.

Any time you think that you can improve on God’s will and God’s way, you need to stop and realize that you are NOT God. Rather than let the world dictate how best to run the Lord’s church, let’s try letting God tell us how to best run our lives and our world.

— Lester P. Bagley

9/30/18 ~ Worship In a Nursing Home

Worship In A Nuring Home

          Some shuffle, some lean on walkers, some are pushed in wheelchairs.  Arthritis-laden legs bend, backs strain, and with the aid of shaking hands, they sink down now into their chairs.  Racing heartbeats ease to a slower pace.

            After a little rest, some are given songbooks.  The others cannot see.  The first song is announced.  Quivering lips part, cracking voices begin, and heaven opens.  A chorus fit for the King of Glory rises through the ceiling of the little room, bursts into the universe, and swirls into the Divine throne room.  The voices of gallant warriors, torn and broken in body.  The voices of strong warriors, courageous to the very finish.  The halting voices of conquerors boldly reaching for the crown.

            A little later they hear the words, “We are gathered around this table to once again commemorate our Lord’s death.”  Once again.  Yes, once again as many times as it takes until the victory is reached.

Bent hands, stabbed still by throbbing arthritis and shaking with palsy, reach out to touch the first symbol.  The bread has already been broken for them.  Yet it is with determination that each forces fingers to close around the little fragment representing that crucified Body.  Slowly, slowly it is taken up to the lips.  Some fingers fumble at this point and the fragment drops into a lap.  The painful procedure is again repeated until completed.

          Next, the cup is brought.  Blood symbol.  Symbol of death and life.  The little glass is so small it could embarrassingly spill.  A kind friend picks it up and places it into the palm of the awaiting cupped hand.  It is still shaking.  So two hands are used ~ one folded under the first to steady it.  The drink successfully reaches the lips and its contents triumphantly sipped.  Oh, what glory to still be able to honor the dying Savior after all these years!  The glass falls out of tottering hands.  It is caught by the tray.  But the mind has already started transcending this room for another far above.

            “Each week we give our contribution to a worthy cause,” they hear explained.  Presently the collection tray is brought around.  Dimes and quarters are brought out of coin purses, shallow pockets, envelopes, Bible leaves.  Some are wadded in cold hands.  Ever so slowly coins and dollar bills are carefully placed into the tray.  Not much?  It will help someone in need.

            The preacher now stands.  Many shift.  Seats are harder, circulation cramped, arthritis continues to distress aged joints.  He reads about being taken home to Glory some day.  Some watch him, some gaze at the floor.  He speaks of heaven.  They begin to feel left behind.  They think of those they ache to see again.  It has been so long.  They’ve fought so many battles.  A few tears slip down as due drops.  They dream of heaven in the morning….

            The sermon over, the last prayer said, they begin to leave.  Slowly….The room is nearly empty now.  They make their way down wandering halls to little rooms and resume their wait for the Mansions.  They sigh.  Battles of life have been met and fought.  Mountains climbed.  Desolations conquered.  So now it is a matter of waiting and encouraging those left behind to do the best that they, too, can do.  Tired.  Waiting.  But willing to go on until they touch the mark.  And then…. 

          And then….  they will start all over.  Only this time it will be different.  For this time there will be no pain, no foes, no failures, and never again will they grow old!   

~Katheryn Haddad

Sunday, 9/23 ~ Day of Atonement

From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Jewish Day of Atonement. Now that the earthly version of that remembrance day is actually in progress, let’s recall a bit about it so we might better appreciate it’s fulfillment in Christ.

The Day of Atonement

Chapter 23 of Leviticus sums up God’s plan for the seven annual feasts to the Lord. It is well worth reading and keeping in mind as you continue to the New Testament. Both the apostle Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews remind us that these things in the Old Law are but shadows of the reality, the better things in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1).

In each of these feasts sacrifice was both the major feature and the common link. (1) Passover, (2) Unleavened Bread (also the over-all name for the three celebrations) and the (3) First Fruits were Springtime feasts. Technically the First Fruits falls within the Unleavened Bread which itself is the extension of Passover while Unleavened Bread is the unique focus of this time. Together these form one of the three “feasts” for all God’s people to come together (Exodus 23:14-17).

This first feast is a reminder of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of His people from bondage (even at the terrible cost of the death of a lamb that substituted for the deaths that the Egyptians faced) and the hardships they endured. Yet it couples with the “First Fruits” (of barley harvest) that were a reminder of the joys of salvation even though they were just beginning that journey to the Promised Land. With the New Testament, we see the deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin (again with the terrible cost of, this time, the firstborn of God as the “lamb”) and the beginning of our journey to the eternal Promised Land.

On Sunday, fifty days after the final Sabbath day of that “first feast” was the second feast, the Day of Pentecost or the Feast of Ingathering. This marked the first fruits of summer wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22) and, in the desert, it celebrated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  The New Testament day marked the beginning of the Lord’s church as the time the “Law of Christ” came into effect, the “Last Days” of God’s plan of Salvation for all mankind.

In the Fall of the year, there was a third feast that began with the blowing of trumpets to signal the end of harvest time. It was time to gather God’s people together. Paul reminds us that one day the “last trumpet” will sound to mark the end of our harvest time of souls and the great final gathering together of judgment (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The joy of the end of harvest is tempered with the following Day of Atonement. On this day all God’s people were to humble themselves before the Lord (cf. Leviticus 23:26-32) and confess their sins. Failure to observe this day brought the ultimate penalty of being cut off from among God’s people. Atonement for sin was accomplished by sacrifice for sin and without purification by blood, there was no forgiveness, no hope (cf. Hebrews 9:22).

Our atonement, of course, comes through the gift of the perfect lamb of God. John describes our continued “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) as keeping us cleansed from sin. There is no further need for a sacrifice since this is the ultimate (Hebrews 10:18). In the Judgement Day, of course, there will also be a day of reckoning when those unworthy, those who have failed to humble themselves by obedience to the Lord, will pay the ultimate penalty of being eternally cut off from God and His people.

Following the atonement, there was one more reminder for God’s people. This involved seven days of living in tabernacles (tents or “booths”) to worship God. It both reminded them of God’s deliverance from Egypt and, above all else, that God was with them then and always.

The New Testament reminds us of the ultimate fulfillment. God has prepared an eternal “tabernacle” that God’s people will be welcomed into to live forever with Him: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:11). And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:3).

Our Day of Atonement has come with the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, His resurrection and His church, His body. Have you celebrated? Have you humbled yourself by obedience to Him? Are you prepared for that final Day of the Lord?

Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

— Lester P. Bagley

9/16/18 ~ Serious Bible Study

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the greatest failures of many so-called Christians is their failure to seriously read and study God’s word. A number of preachers ask how many have read their Bibles daily at the beginning of their sermons. Perhaps an even more pointed question would involve how many actually study and understand God’s word.

Bible Study: The Text Matters!

Understanding what you read, just like the man from Ethiopia in Acts 8:26-39, is VITAL to our salvation. And an important place to begin your reading is found in the front of most Bibles!

Since we read a translation made by fallible humans we are responsible to God for knowing the limits of their work. Don’t bother arguing with that since God never, ever promised that the denominational translators of any century and of any translation into any language would be inspired by God. If they were actually inspired by God they would have forsaken the erroneous teachings of their denomination!

All this leads us to a serious error intentionally promoted by the King James translators and perpetuated by most English translators since. The translators did NOT translate a word used by God in the same way every time God says it. What they did do is to make the Bible more interesting (their concept) to read by varying the words in the original inspired text, or by adding words or thoughts to better explain the original meaning. That goal, that attitude (actually stated in the original preface of the KJV translators to the reader) can seriously obstruct and obscure what God is saying and makes at least part of the translation a commentary rather than an accurate copy of the text.

Difficulties in Translating Word for Word

Now, to be fair, it must be noted that ALL translations into ANY language have some difficulties in exactly translating every word and/or thought from the original texts. Three examples illustrate this difficulty and help us appreciate the difficulties involved in translating the Bible:

First, the word order is often different with different languages. Thus a statement that is very clear in the original requires some modification (or even the addition of some words) to convey the same meaning in the translation. For example: John 1:1 in a word–for–word translation ends with the phrase and God was the Word. But the subject has the article and the predicate does not, thus the English meaning is the Word was God.

Also, notice a word-for-word translation of Acts 2:36 would say: Assuredly, therefore, let know all [the] house of Israel that both Lord him and Christ made God, this Jesus whom you crucified. The meaning is NOT that Christ made God but rather that God designated Jesus as THE one; both sovereign, ultimate or supreme ruler and savior, messiah, anointed one.

Second, sometimes a literal translation makes no sense to someone outside the original culture. For example, The philosophers in Athens asked about Paul, “What would this spermologos [literally ‘seed–picker’] say?” The meaning of their sarcastic term used in the query in modern English is better rendered as “babbler” or “gossiper” (Acts 17:18), and even then we may be missing the force of the insult.

Third, one cannot always translate the same word uniformly in each occurrence. For example, the Greek word splanchnon literally means “intestines, bowels, entrails.” Acts 1:18 is easily understood when it says the body of Judas fell and “his bowels gushed out.” But Philippians 1:8 talks of Paul longing for you “in the bowels of Christ.” Only when we understand that the Greeks used splanchnon for the seat of the emotions (the heart to English speaking peoples) can we really translate the meaning of the words into English.

The choices that translators use to move from one language to another can help or hinder our understanding of the inspired writer’s words. And all this reminds us of the importance of continued diligent study and digging into God’s word rather than just a quick and simplistic reading!

Can We Trust the Bible?

If the text as conveyed by God Himself, and our making a great effort to study and understand exactly what the Holy Spirit said is so important, then the real question becomes can we trust our Bibles? Let’s look at a few facts about the text itself.

People questioning the accuracy of the New Testament may quote a figure of some 200,000 errors in the text. This large number is obtained by counting all the variations in all of the manuscripts. Thus, if a given word is misspelled in 4,000 different manuscripts, it counts as 4,000 “errors.” In reality, it was only one slight error that was copied 4,000 times!

Such error counting is a ridiculous attempt to undermine our faith in the Word of God. Indeed, our large number of “errors” is in direct proportion to our large number of manuscripts and, in the end, increases (not decreases) our certainty of what the New Testament says. Even a brief examination of a work such as Metzger’s A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament shows that we have 100% certainty of every doctrine and major teaching and, what’s more, nearly that same degree of certainty of the minutest details of the entire text of God’s Word!

Accuracy? The total textual variations (does not include such things as Greek vs Roman spelling of names, etc. which are of no consequence) exist for only 40 lines out of about 20,000 lines (about 400 words). None affecting any doctrine or teaching not duplicated elsewhere.

The facts say that God has delivered His inspired word to us. It is there for us to learn from and obey. But, and this is the important lesson, we must study and work to understand and handle correctly what God has said. No simple, easy solution without diligent effort will substitute. The question for us is…

What do we do with it?

Do we read our Bibles to begin with? Do we go to our Bible to learn God’s will for us? Do we accept what God says and obey Him? Or do we learn just enough “proof texts” to get by? Do we abide in the word or are we just passing through?

If we DO diligently read our Bibles do we understand it? Apparently from the example of that man of Ethiopia some more serious effort for learning and study is necessary.

If that is true (and God says it is!) then how serious is our study? Could the Ethiopian have learned as much studying with, say, one of the Sadducees? If not, how do we ever imagine that some denominational false teacher is just as good as a New Testament believing and obeying Christian teacher?

If we are diligent, conscientious, hard-working students of God’s word like Paul challenged Timothy to be (2 Timothy 2:15), then we are right with God. Anything less means that we stand before God as embarrassed by our failure.

Reading and seriously studying your Bible, God’s inspired word, CANNOT be done by attending one or two Bible studies a week. It cannot be achieved by briefly remembering your favorite verse or letting your Bible fall open to read an occasional verse.

The question comes from God: Are you seriously in the Word, studying, learning and talking with the author (in prayer to God) every day? If not, your Heavenly Father is offended so don’t bother being offended at the question. Why not begin seriously reading and studying God’s word today?

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/9/18 ~ God, I’m coming back. Help me.

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“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3a).

Do you spend your life running away from the Lord? Do you do it with busy-ness, with resentments toward people, with anger that God does not make people stop being bad to you, with disbelief that he even exists?

Is it even possible to run away from the Lord? Eventually, it is. But for a long time, the Lord runs after you. He does things to get your attention such as he did by causing a storm at sea where Jonah was on board his escape ship.

Perhaps there are storms in your life. Have you ever thought of them as God trying to get your attention?  Perhaps you run here and there day after day, too busy to even think about God. But when disaster hits do you suddenly remember God so you can blame him for your hardships?

Yes, perhaps you sometimes do blame God, but at least you’re thinking of him. Perhaps it’s been years since you have thought seriously about God.

He has big shoulders. Go ahead and blame him for a while, then remember how he loves you and just wants you back.

But don’t wait too long. God only runs after you for so long. Eventually, he gives up. Don’t wait so long that God gives up on you and treats you the way you have been treating him.

“God, I’m coming back. Help me.”

9/2/18 ~ Who Will Go?

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From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the important lessons that parents are supposed to teach their children is to grow up, get a job and stand on your own two feet. If we fail in teaching them to mature and be able to go out on their own, we have failed them in the worst possible way as they will never attain that independence necessary to survive in this world.

In much the same way God teaches us to do likewise. Paul explained this concept to Timothy this way: You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

Because this is true, evangelism or sharing the Good News of Jesus is the defining characteristic of every mature Christian. God should never have to ask the question…

Who Will Go?

While many of the prophets were given glimpses of the coming of the great King and His Kingdom, few were shown as much detail as the prophet Isaiah. Like the other messianic prophets, Isaiah would be shown practical comparisons between the people and the events of his day and the fulfillment of those lessons in Christ. Consider one such lesson of Isaiah 6:1-11:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. (2) Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (3) And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” (4) And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. (5) Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

(6) Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. (7) He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (8) Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

(9) He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ (10) Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”

(11) Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate.

Isaiah both learned and taught us several lessons that day. First, when we really begin to comprehend who God is and compare that to who we are we are not just in awe, but we are humbled. Our failure and unworthiness before the Lord leave us without hope.

Second, it is the Lord who extends the offer of salvation to us. Forgiveness of sins seems so trivial until we measure it to with eternity. Only God can change eternal death as our earned wage (Romans 6:23) into eternal life.

Third, while God many times uses the unrighteous to accomplish His will, the job of sharing the Gospel is reserved for the cleansed, the saved. No one else can carry the truth but God’s own people (note 1 Corinthians 1:21).

Fourth, for those unwilling to be saved, God will utterly reject them and even help them to be lost. As severe as this sounds, God repeats the same lesson today. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and realize that God means what He says!

Fifth, how long will God let this all go on? Isaiah shows the negative side of the answer: until all the lost that want to be lost have lost everything. The Apostle Peter would remind us of the positive side of that same answer in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, would complete the circle. No one can carry the truth of salvation but the saved! The Apostles were to go proclaim the message, to teach and then to baptize those who would accept the gift of forgiveness of sin. Then the forgiven are to be taught everything that their teachers knew; they are to be trained to do the same that others may hear and live.

So, who will go? Only the saved! Only those that understand and appreciate the gift will seek others to share in it.

The lost are going to reject God, fail God and keep on being the losers that they have chosen to be. They will never share the Good News because they are ignorant and proud of it.

The question for us is simple: Which one are you? Who will go?

— Lester P. Bagley

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8/26/18 ~ Misuse of the Bible

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever noticed and read those warning labels on things? There is a national center for poison control that tells people what to do if they’ve not read or obeyed the poison warning labels. Likewise, there is a center known as CHEMTREC that handles emergency information for hazardous materials in general. Unless you are a parent, a person who fails to read warning labels or a HAZMAT specialist you may not show much concern for such labels.

While your Bible may not have a big warning label on the outside, it does have a lot of warning labels inside. Why? Like all those other warnings one of the primary reasons is to help us avoid…

Misuse of the Bible

Hopefully, we appreciate the danger of NOT using the Bible. If we make ourselves God and feel we have the right to make the rules to live by we become nothing less than a fool (Proverbs 12:15). When God’s people tried it (Deuteronomy 12:8) God told them that it was forbidden. Sadly, years later during the time of the Judges, it became the norm, the standard of failure by which God’s people were known (Judges 17:6 and 21:25).

When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, everyone is wrong. Okay, so ignoring the Bible, ignoring God’s word is always wrong, but what if we just misuse or twist or pervert something God says. Is that also wrong?

Peter gave some instructions about such things in 2 Peter 3:14-18: (14) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (15) and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, (16) as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (17) You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (18) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

From the beginnings of the New Testament church, some people have attempted to twist what God says into their own way. In changing what God says we fail the tests of peace, spotlessness, and blamelessness.

Think about that for a moment. In trying to hold fast to the truth that God has revealed we are often accused of being the ones who disrupt the “peace” in not accepting what is wrong. Yet God says just the opposite! Those who fail to hold fast to God’s way upset God’s peace and are described by God as ignorant, unstable and headed for destruction. That really does NOT sound like a good alternative!

God’s word is our only real authority. Paul reminded Timothy: (15) and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (17) so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Once again it is only in God’s word that we find wisdom and salvation. Scripture is what is both inspired by God and useful for us in every way.

Consider a further statement from Peter: (19) So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. (20) But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, (21) for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Pay attention! Make certain that you follow what is right by God’s definition! Peter’s statement that no prophecy, no Scripture is a matter of singular interpretation actually implies two points. First, you are not allowed to interpret what God says in the way you want! The old accusation of, “That’s just the way YOU see it but I see it in my own way” is nonsense. There is a right way to understand what God says without putting our own spin on it! Second, no Scripture is to be spun and “interpreted” out of the context of the whole of God’s word. Making God contradict Himself or finding your favorite Scripture to believe in while ignoring the rest is mishandling God’s word!

Distortion of what God says has long been a popular technique of Satan. Remember what he did with God’s words to Eve in the Garden of Eden? Doing this is just as dangerous as ignoring God’s word completely.

God’s lesson to us is to remember that many people twist the Scriptures to make them fit some opinion, some idea, some doctrine of their own. After all, making something sound Biblical is the basis of most false and erroneous teaching. Jesus quoted Isaiah as evident of the ongoing truth that: (8) This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. (9) But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)

While some seek to pervert, misapply or mis-teach what God says, others would claim to have received a new revelation, a new command from God. Again, this is something that God anticipated and forbids. Deuteronomy 4:2 is a direct warning against this: You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Proverbs 30:6 provides a similar reminder while many of the Old Testament prophets pronounced God’s curses on those who falsely claimed to speak for the Lord. In much the same way, it seems appropriate that the final book of the New Testament would conclude with a similar warning: (18) I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; (19) and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19). Given that this has always been God’s position on changing His words, the prophetic warnings seem to apply to all of the Bible.

One final case should be considered. What about a new revelation, a new prophet, a new way of salvation? Couldn’t God make another change? Actually, God has already addressed that question. The New Testament refers to this current time of Christ’s law as the LAST days. This is the end, the final plan of God. The Hebrew writer says it like this: (1) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (2) in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

So, NO, there is no other way to see it. There is no other way to obey, please and serve God and there never will be another way for people here on this earth. We either do it God’s way, see things the way He says to see them or we are wrong.

Our faithfulness is measured by our obedience to God’s word without any room for our own opinions. Failure to believe and follow this pattern results in us being carried away by error, losing our faithfulness and thus our salvation. Don’t be a loser and misuse or mishandle God’s word!

— Lester P. Bagley

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8/19/18 – Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Image result for pillars in sky

From the Preacher’s Pen…

We’ve all done foolish things in our lives. But one of the most important lessons we have to learn is the difference between making a foolish mistake or error and being a fool. To be a great fool you can’t learn from the mistake, you can’t do better or try harder next time.

Of course, the Bible is full of reminders for us to learn. And Solomon even begins a lesson for us on how to build and sustain real wisdom:

 Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1).

Solomon naturally had a lot of good advice about wisdom. As his life demonstrated, all the wisdom and knowledge in the world doesn’t do much good without obedience. God would remind us of both great truths frequently in the New Testament. Without knowledge, we can never accidentally be right, and yet without wisdom in using that knowledge, we can easily be legalistically wrong.

Obviously, like so much else of God’s word, striking the right balance is key. Since we, God’s people, are the temple of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17), how are we to appreciate the wise way of building that temple?

Two of Solomon’s words form the key to his lesson. First, house is a unique word in Hebrew in that it seems to have such a broad meaning that there are many other words said to be nearly synonymous.

For example, a house may be a dwelling or building, a castle, a palace, a temple, a settled abode, a settlement or village, a dwelling, a refuge, a sacred place or sanctuary. Second, pillars may rarely be used for the foundations of a building, but usually, the term is reserved for the large load-bearing columns of temples or similar buildings.

One could then reasonably imply that wisdom’s house is not just a lower class, common building but rather an impressive permanent structure.

The word hewn is a somewhat technical reference to the work involved in the preparation of either a wooden or stone load bearing column of large size. The NIV misses the point in using set up for the total work that both fabrication and assembly involved.

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10), the proper starting place is the Lord! Without proper honoring of our God and Savior and knowledge of Him and His will, we have nothing to build on.

Since we are next going to look at a comment by James, one of the elders of the church at Jerusalem, let’s first remember a bit about who he was. Growing up as part of Jesus’ earthly family he at first failed to believe (John 7:5). He would be a witness of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:7) and eventually a faithful elder of the church (Acts 15:6, 13 and Acts 21:18). As such he took a strong stand for the Gentile Christians and also wrote a New Testament letter to Jewish Christians.

In that letter, he reminds us all of the great value of wisdom and reminds us that if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5). Next, he challenges us: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (James 3:13) And finally, he shows us: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Did you notice the link to Solomon’s lesson? James suggests the seven pillars begin with the great pillar of purity. Purer in heart, oh God, help me to be the song reminds us. Purity is the foundation, the strength and, in many ways, the hardest thing of all for us to keep. Go back and look at the many Old Testament laws related to purity. There are countless ways to fail and it’s always a challenge to keep pure and holy before our God!
Only when we begin with purity do we ever start to accomplish the other goals.

Peaceable, gentle and reasonable are not to be confused, as many do, with weakness or acceptance of wrong. Jesus exhibited all three qualities, even when he whipped men out of the Temple or was rebuking those proud of their sinful accomplishments!

Full of mercy and good fruits involves both the mental attitudes as well as the outward works. Mercy shown to others allows God to show mercy to us and the actions of doing good shows that we really mean it.

Unwavering and without hypocrisy make wisdom beyond the abilities of fraudsters. God has no need of quitters or lousy actors that do not actually live the life and walk the walk of His family.

Like Jesus taught in another lesson, a house ~ indeed a life ~ built on the sand is doomed. One must build on the firm foundation to endure. The obvious challenge and question for us is a simple one. On what are you building your life, your house for eternity?
 

— Lester P. Bagley

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8/12/18 ~ A new body like Jesus’

Image result for our glorified body

From the Preacher’s Pen…

A couple of Sunday’s ago we looked at Mark’s record of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8) and noted the fact that Jesus’ appearance was changed. Likewise, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him and Luke says (Luke 9:31) their appearance was said to be “in glory” or “splendorous.” It appears that what the Gospel writers are trying to tell us is that, for a brief time, Peter, James, and John saw something of the eternal “body” of eternal beings with God.

We obviously understand very little about eternity, being presently confined to this temporal world. At the same time, God does make several attempts to tell us more about what we are to be in eternity. So, let’s take a look at just what it means to have…

A New Body Like Jesus’

Let’s begin with Luke’s account of Jesus’ Transfiguration. You can read the entire account in Luke 9:28-36, but for the moment let’s focus on the appearance of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in verses 28-32: Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.

God tells us several significant things. The appearance of Jesus’ face and clothing changed. Matthew 17:2 describes it as His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. Mark simply sums it all up as Jesus was transfigured or literally that He metamorphized before them (Mark 9:2). Both Matthew and Mark describe the change to Jesus’ clothing into being extremely white (Mark remarks that no laundry on earth could make them that white while Matthew says they were as white as light).

Luke, however, explains that Jesus’ face became different (literally, became another face) and His clothing white and gleaming. While most translations simply combine the two words Luke uses to make it extremely or dazzlingly white, the precise word Luke used means to flash like lightning!

Luke also tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared in glory (splendor) using the same word that he uses for the apostles seeing Jesus’ glory in verse 32.

A safe conclusion is that the general appearance of Jesus was much like that of Moses and Elijah who are now eternal beings.

So what does all this have to do with us and our eternal bodies? For that, we must look at some later lessons from the apostle Paul. In Philippians 3:20-21 he reminds us of who we as Christians really are, and what we are going to be when Jesus returns: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

As citizens of that eternal city, we look forward to going home to live. But our home is not a temporal, time-bounded place. Rather it is beyond time; it is eternal and that requires a body like God. So how do we get that new body of glory like His? By the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Our present bodies are described by Paul (verse 21) as humble (NASB), lowly (NKJV) or vile (KJV). While some may find the KJV term extreme, it is actually the one closest to Paul’s actual word! The term he used for our current body is literally the body of humiliation! He’s not insulting what God has created but rather recognizing that a body made perishable by the humiliation of sin and death, a body that will return to the dust from which it was made, is unfit for an eternal heaven.

Our new body will be transformed, remodeled, the outward form changed into a body conformed (sharing the likeness) to Jesus’ eternal body. Where humans were originally created in God’s image or likeness, now we are to be recreated into His image again. Just as Jesus created us before so now He will re-create us like Him for eternity!

Paul would give an extended lecture on this transformation process, its necessity and its implications to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). Apparently, from Paul’s forcefulness (You fool! of verse 36), some Christians were inventing all kinds of nonsensical stories much like today.

Changed we must be in order to belong to Christ on this earth. And changed we will again be in order to belong to Christ for eternity in heaven. That change will be just like the change He went through to return to heaven.

What does this all mean for us? Paul says it this way, Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

So, knowing who you really are as a Christian and who God intends you to be for eternity, how will you live your life this week?

— Lester P. Bagley

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