1/31/16 ~ What Makes You Tick?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever read the instructions for something you wanted to assemble or use? For some reason that is a touchy subject for some people! Some feel that they are somehow ignorant if they read the instructions and want to prove themselves by trying to do everything on their own. It’s just a matter of pride!

I knew a pilot many years ago that was very experienced and had flown many different kinds of aircraft. One day he was introduced to a new aircraft and informed that it had some unique features and he needed to read and learn the aircraft before flying it. He arrogantly assumed that there was nothing a manual could teach him and decided to take off without bothering to read the “instructions.” He paid for his arrogance a few minutes later… with his life.

On the other hand I can also tell you many stories of others who lived through their experiences simply because they had “read the book” and, in a moment of difficulty, found that they had the necessary information to save their lives. Sooner or later those “instructions” are going to be vital!

Consider another example: Take a watch or clock apart into all the separate gears and pieces. Now, put it back together. Does it work? Chances are that you will have left over pieces and a non-working timepiece! What’s wrong? Without the instructions it’s is hard to know! So let’s look a little closer for a spiritual lesson:

What Makes You Tick?

When I was somewhat younger I was given an old wind-up alarm clock. Being a perfectly normal boy, its workings on the outside were not near as interesting as all those gears, springs and moving things inside. The results were obvious: I took it apart to see what made it work, what made it tick. I learned a lot from that old clock, not the least of which was a deep appreciation for things well designed and constructed.

What makes a child of God tick? I suppose we could give many answers but one that seems to say it with exceptional beauty is David in Psalm 63 (NRSV):

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Do you see the picture of absolute, utter dependence on God? Like a person in love who cannot see any other being except their beloved; like someone lost in the desert, dying for water, there is nothing else of real consequence to the Christian that compares with God.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

The story is told of a Russian cosmonaut that, while floating in space, proclaimed that he could see no sign of God. A Christian, on hearing that remark commented, “If the cosmonaut’s tether-rope had broken he would have quickly seen God!”

How can anyone miss seeing God in the rich beauty of His creation that surrounds us? How could anyone gather with God’s people to worship and miss the power and glory that is present? And how could anyone fail to praise Him who loved us so much?

So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

When we truly see all that God has made and when we begin to understand God and all His love, we find ourselves helpless to do anything else but praise Him!

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

Only a fool could say in his heart, “There is no God.” And only a dead, unloving heart could fail to sing for joy at what God has done for you and me.

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

What makes a child of God tick? The answer is God, knowing Him and appreciating Him. Let the one who makes you tick wind you up and keep you going this week. Let Jesus be your Savior, your Lord, your master, your God this week.

— Lester P. Bagley

1/24/16 ~ Hebrews

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever tried to tell a small child something when they don’t want to listen? They can squirm and babble and do a million things to keep from paying any attention to what you are saying. It is frustrating and annoying, isn’t it?

Now consider the same lesson from God’s perspective and you will see that the letter to the Hebrews is just as relevant to us as it was to the first ones that read it.

Hebrews

Today’s world is filled with so-called religious people that have literally hundreds of ideas about how God should do things and on what they imagine is right. Every single one of these comes about when we do not listen to God!

The book of Hebrews was written to remind us of how blessed we are to live under God’s ultimate and final revelation. Don’t look elsewhere, God’s answer is here and we need to let Him take control and transform our lives! But to do that, we must first listen to Him.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV)

Right from the very beginning of the book God’s message is plain, just as plain as He made it repeatedly throughout time to His people. Whatever else you may have heard, whatever else might have been okay at one time, here is what you must do now!

Just to clarify things, there is never going to be another way! There will NOT be a change of plans in the 1800s given by some man or woman who has new information from God! There will NOT be a famous preacher in the 1900s or the 2000s (or any other time!) authorized to preach a new revelation from God.

What there IS, now and for the rest of time, is Jesus Christ and His plan, His way, His message. The only question is: Who will YOU listen to, God or someone else?

Perhaps the best and most frequently used word to describe the book of Hebrews is better! Notice how the author paints this picture:

Chapter 1 begins with the absolute statement that Jesus is God’s final word. God has saved the best for last! The writer then goes on for most of ten chapters to remind us just how great God’s best really is. Jesus the Christ is superior to the angels and because of that He offers us true holiness and a great salvation.

Our Christ is greater than the great servant of God, Moses, for Jesus is the son and heir. He is a greater High Priest than Aaron and his order. In fact, Jesus is from an older, superior priesthood and He is the eternal High Priest. (Worth noting is how this lesson ties in with Peter’s assertion of our royal priesthood, 1 Peter 2:9.)

In order for us to better appreciate His superior High Priesthood chapters 8–10 detail Christ’s superior covenant, tabernacle and sacrifice. And if we are presented with God’s best we ought to exhibit a superior, fully assured faith.

Again the author reaches back to the old way and the great faith of men and women who lived their lives under that inferior covenant. Chapters 10–12 challenge us to not only remember and examine their faith but to do even better because of our superior blessings and promises. If they could do so well and be so faithful without our advantages, how much more ought we to do in our position?

The lesson is a vital one for us. We desperately need to stop looking elsewhere and invest our lives and eternal souls in what is real, what is the best, what is God’s final word on salvation: Jesus the Christ and His New Covenant.

God is laying it on the line. It’s time that we started listening to and obeying Him. This is, after all, our final chance!

— Lester P. Bagley

1/17/16 ~ Thoughts on the Lord’s Supper

From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the things about our worship that surprises some people is our partaking of the Lord’s Supper on every first day of the week. Many offer various arguments for not doing so: It makes it too common; We forget the real importance of it when we do it so often; or some similar thought is the most common.

In spite of all these almost all serious Bible students and scholars agree that every first day of the week was the habit of the New Testament church. And yet the fact still remains that it does make it hard to really worship and have meaningful communion every week.

Of course we never let that “meaningless habit” corrupt other things that are really important to us, do we? You probably don’t want to tell your husband or wife that you only want to kiss them and tell them that you love them once a year so that it will mean more!

So let’s take a moment to consider just how much the Supper means and why we want to make the effort to keep our love for it and our Lord alive.

Thoughts on the Lord’s Supper

To begin with, our identifier of this event as the “Lord’s Supper” comes from 1 Corinthians 11:20. In Paul’s discussion (verses 17-34) of both what the Corinthians were doing wrong and of the real meaning of this event we learn many important lessons.

The place of honor belongs to Jesus! It is the Lord’s Table, on the Lord’s Day, the household of the Lord and His people. We are the guest, not Jesus.

Many times we talk about who “presides” at the Lord’s Table. Are we not being a bit presumptuous? As Jesus established this feast He did so to bring to fruition the ultimate meaning of both the “Passover” and the “Exodus.” Only when we see Him leading our exodus from sin and His blood shed to allow death to pass over us do we begin to realize that He is the host that invites us to dine with Him. He presides and it’s all about Him as our Savior.

This is done as a remembrance, a memorial of Jesus and what He did for us. We “celebrate” our “Memorial Days” in strange ways. Where the intent was once to solemnly remember those that gave their lives for our freedom and our country, many today imagine that it is about barbeques and the start of summer vacations. Should it not be even more important for us to correctly remember Jesus and His sacrifice?

To the Jews it is vital that Passover be a personal experience. You are eating the lamb slain for salvation, even though the one on your plate is not the actual one that died to save the family by its blood, it is to be thought of as though it were; so, too, for us His body and blood. In every generation each person recalls the events and regards them as “we” and never as something that happened to our ancestors.

Our remembrance also contains some uniqueness far beyond that original Passover. Even as we remember the cost of our deliverance and its solemnity, we rejoice not just in a “Promised Land” but in a risen and living Savior!

Even more than a remembrance Paul reminds us of our fellowship, our participation, our sharing, our communion. 1 Corinthians 10:16-18 tells us that our bread and our cup are united in Jesus (actually that of all the saints wherever they physically are since Paul in Ephesus and his readers in Corinth are likewise sharing in the same cup and bread). What a powerful expression of unity in Christ’s family that we united not only with Him but with all the family!

To eat the Lord’s bread and drink from His cup also reminds us of our fellowship, our participation in the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25). This is far beyond the usual relationship of friendship and even loyalty as it is a family feast uniting the bride and groom (church and Christ) or, in another analogy, the head and body (Christ and church).

One last vital thought to also keep in mind: This Supper of the Lord is an announcement, a very special and important announcement that we are called to make until that day that He comes to take us home! 1 Corinthians 11:26: “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

In partaking of this Supper we remind ourselves and all the world that He came, died and rose again to save us from sin. And one day soon He is coming back again to take us home.

Remember that “us” for the Supper? It is never portrayed as a solo event but as a family gathering. Like the best of family reunions with those we love the most, we need to linger, to appreciate, to enjoy, to remember.

As the title of one of our songs so well portrays it, Come Share the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

 

1/10/16 ~ A Christian

From the Preacher’s Pen…

It is a very old discussion but still relevant and important that we understand about names. After all, one of the first things a person learns is to identify by name all people and objects that they come into contact with. So let’s consider the religious side of this.

A Christian

What’s your name? Does it really matter? Oh, come on, you are just being difficult. Shouldn’t we answer to whatever name someone else wants to call us?

I dare say that the preceding arguments are pretty ridiculous. After all, your name matters as it identifies you. It is really not a matter for discussion. Our identity is not for someone else to choose.

When it comes to religious names there are many who insist on some special name to define them. Of course you cannot claim every name that comes along that you like. There must be a defining name that is your identity.

By their own admission, there are many people that insist that they are Christians, or somewhat Christian, or some hybrid variety of Christian, but they especially want to be identified some other way. So if your identity is some man or woman who founded your particular religion or denomination, then that identifies who you really are. If your identity is some particular teaching (doctrine) that you champion above all other Biblical teachings, then that identifies who you really are. Those are just simple facts.

Now, let’s go back to the Bible (always a good way to learn the right way to do things) and consider that name given to God’s people of the New Testament.

The earliest followers of Christ were simply known as that, followers, or students (disciples) of Jesus. Acts 9:2 suggests that the Jewish leaders persecuting these followers of Christ identified them as “the Way.” After all, they were teaching people “the way of God” (Acts 18:26).

Aside from such descriptions, the first real “name” appears in Acts 11 at the end of verse 26 where it says, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Some years later this name seems to be in widespread use as Agrippa understands that Paul’s teachings would make Agrippa a Christian (Acts 26:28). Likewise, Peter would tell us to “glorify God in this name” if we were to suffer for this name (1 Peter 4:16).

What I find interesting in this choice of names is the simple thought that the Christians didn’t name themselves. But rather, they were called (or named) “Christians” by those watching their lives. I wonder if it would be the same today. Could someone look at your life or look at my life and name us as a Christian?

It gets even more humbling when you consider that the name most likely came from their enemies. What an honor that even those who disagree with us most would claim that we are “just like Christ!”

So, who are you? What are you proud of being? Obviously some are like the denominations in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) or the denominations of today and take great pride in some person or teaching for their identity. But doing so divides or separates us from the real body of Christ.

You would think there was something wrong with a person that went around claiming to be Mr. Smith AND Mr. Jones. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that a Christ-like-person would also want to be known by another religious name?

Our identity is a precious thing and we work hard to preserve it. If your identity is ever stolen you will learn just how true this is! So how precious is our spiritual identity?

Another writer summed it up this way, “If being Christian were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

What is your name? Who are you really? After all, it does matter both now and throughout eternity!

— Lester P. Bagley

 

1/3/16 ~ Speak Where the Bible Speaks, Be Silent Where the Bible is Silent

From the Preacher’s Pen ~ 

As we begin a new year of serving our Lord we can find no greater challenge than that of faithful service to God. Since the beginning people have imagined that God ought to be pleased with us doing what we want. Throughout time God has tried to break us of that false notion and teach us to follow and obey Him.

A fellow preacher writes of this very challenge in the words of past preachers of the truth. Let’s think and learn to:

“Speak Where the Bible Speaks; Be Silent Where the Bible is Silent”

My entire life I have heard this saying, “Speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is silent,” or phrases very similar. I have heard this phrase lauded, I have heard it ridiculed, and I have heard it misused. Recently, a reader of this blog asked me to address this phrase and what it really means. I would love to do just that.

Where Did the Saying Come From? First of all, this isn’t a quotation from Scripture, but a quotation from a preacher named Thomas Campbell. In 1809, Campbell spoke to a large crowd of people, who were described as being, “Sick of the animosities and controversies between rival sects, and disgusted with the petty differences which occasioned alienation and strife…” They sought some way to be united and to use Scripture alone as their guide in all matters of faith.

Thomas Campbell’s speech that day was described in this way:

Having opened the meeting in the usual manner, and, in earnest prayer, specially invoked the Divine guidance, proceeded to rehearse the matter from the beginning, and to dwell with unusual force upon the manifold evils resulting from the divisions in religious society–divisions which, he urged, were as unnecessary as they were injurious, since God had provided, in his sacred Word, an infallible standard, which was all-sufficient and alone-sufficient, as a basis of union and Christian co-operation. He showed, however, that men had not been satisfied with its teachings, but had gone outside of the Bible, to frame for themselves religious theories, opinions and speculations, which were the real occasions of the unhappy controversies and strifes which had so long desolated the religious world. He, therefore, insisted with great earnestness upon a return to the simple teachings of the Scriptures, and upon the entire abandonment of everything in religion for which there could not be produced a Divine warrant.

Near the conclusion of his address, he spoke these now famous words, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” A profound silence was said to have fallen over the crowd, as the weight of that thought sunk into their minds.

What Did It Mean? Many debate and try to twist the meaning of these words today, but make no mistake, the meaning of those words were clear on that day. The first man to speak up said, “Mr. Campbell, if we adopt that as a basis, then there is an end of infant baptism.” To which Campbell replied, “If infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it.”

There it is, the plain and simple meaning of the phrase: The church should do what Scripture authorizes us to do and not do what Scripture says nothing about. Fill in the blank with any religious practice, “If ________ be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it.”

Campbell’s statement was summed up this way:

There should be no contention, henceforth, in regard to the opinions of men, however wise or learned. Whatever private opinions might be entertained upon matters not clearly revealed must be retained in silence, and no effort must be made to impose them upon others. Thus the silence of the Bible was to be respected equally with its revelations, which were by Divine authority declared to be able to “make the man of God perfect and thoroughly furnished unto every good work.”

There may in deed be many matters about which Scripture is silent and men may draw any number of conclusions and opinions about those matters. However, those opinions and conclusions should not be brought into the faith and worship of the church. They should be “retained in silence.” Incidentally, this seems to be the precise teaching of Romans 14 as well.

What It Does NOT Mean

  1. It does not mean what God has not authorized is necessarily sinful. We have often taken this to the next level and said we can know for certain that practices about which God is silent must indeed be sinful. That was not the intention of the phrase. Campbell believed “that all matters not distinctly revealed in the Bible should be held as matters of opinion and of mutual forbearance.”

But just because something is not sinful, or may not be sinful, does not mean you or I have the authority to introduce it into the faith or worship of the Lord’s church without express authority from God.

  1. It does not mean when the Bible is silent about something, we can do whatever we want. Many have begun to twist this phrase and insist it means the exact opposite of what Campbell meant. They now insist it means, “Where the Bible is silent, do whatever you want, just don’t make any laws about it.” Campbell knew there would continue to be chaos and disunity if men continued doing that.

It was obvious to the crowd the day this phrase was first spoken, If we make this the basis of our unity, then there are many things which we must STOP doing.

  1. It does not mean we are not allowed to use church buildings. When this phrase is quoted, many say something like, “Then why do you have a church building? The Bible is silent on that.” Actually, Scripture is NOT silent on a meeting place. In fact, the commands to assemble necessitate a meeting place. In a follow up writing, Campbell said about matters like this:

That if any circumstantials indispensably necessary to the observance of Divine ordinances be not found upon the page of express revelation, such, and such only, as are absolutely necessary for this purpose should be adopted under the title of human expedients, without any pretense to a more sacred origin, so that any subsequent alteration or difference in the observance of these things might produce no contention nor division in the Church.

The church is authorized to adopt certain “human expedients” that are necessary for doing what God has expressly commanded us to do. Consider this example: If someone commissioned you to bake a cake, you’d be authorized to use an oven and purchase flour, as these things are necessary for doing what you’ve been told to do.

Bottom Line: I am not a follower of Thomas Campbell. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. But I happen to believe Campbell was right. I believe we would be better off if we adopt – and stick to – this mentality, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”

I believe Scripture is not only inspired, I believe it is all sufficient. I believe it is, “Profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for EVERY good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

It is presumptuous, divisive, and spiritually dangerous to introduce things into the faith and worship of the church that are not expressly authorized in Scripture. Let us walk circumspectly, dear church.

— Wes McAdams online at RadicallyChristian.com

Works Cited: Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell and Thomas Campbell’s, Declaration and Address

I really appreciate this article. And, in many ways one of the best lessons is found in the “Bottom Line:” I am NOT a follower of Thomas Campbell (even thought I am related to him). In fact, I am NOT a follower of the Restoration Movement or any other “movement.” I AM a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in God’s word and the church that He died for. We desperately need to abandon our allegiance to anyone or anything else!

How about you? Will you truly be a follower of Jesus Christ?

— Lester P. Bagley