3/27/16 ~ Spring!

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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We’ve finished our survey of every book in the Bible. No, that doesn’t imply that we know it all but it certainly helps us see the big picture of God’s word!

In a couple of weeks we will begin our Commentary on Acts study. Obviously this is a very different kind of study as we look much more in depth at a single book and its message. Such studies require a lot more time and effort dealing with the inspired words revealed to us by God. We will actually begin our study with getting to know our Bibles. More about that soon!

Today (and every day!) it’s time to look around us and appreciate the hand of God! So let’s think about…

Spring!

Finally, just when you thought winter would never end, spring has at long last arrived. Spring, when the bitter cold winds give way to the milder reminders of the summer to come. Spring, when the earth bursts forth in beauty and everywhere you turn the flowers blossom and the birds sing.

Now living here in central Arizona (and especially this year) we may not really get that long, cold winter thing but we can really enjoy the beauty of Springtime! Just a single look at the flowers blossoming is enough to remind us of the beauty that God surrounds us with.

Ah, Spring, when a young man’s thoughts turn to love…

Now, I don’t know if you are already in that category or not, but let’s turn our thoughts to love. Solomon wrote about the beauty of springtime and God’s gift of love, “My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along. For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!’” (Song of Solomon 2:10–13)

The words of the Song, whether used in reference to the relationship between man and woman or between God and His people (are not these the two most beautiful relationships of God’s creation?), expresses the most beautiful of relationships in the most beautiful of terms. “For your love is better than wine.—And his banner over me is love.” (Song of Solomon 1:2; 2:4b)

Recently a sister in Christ made an insightful comment to me as we discussed the work of the church. “We already have enough people emphasizing the negative. I’ll show the positive!” What a beautiful attitude and one well worth us imitating.

Can there be any better time than now to re–dedicate ourselves to each other in service to our Lord? Is there any greater gift that we can bestow upon each other and the community around us than the love we share in Christ?

Let us, like the earth around us, burst forth anew in love and devotion to God and to each other as we rekindle our lights for this world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck–measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16)

It’s springtime, let’s get going and growing!

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/20/16 ~ Evangelism

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

As we surveyed the Old Testament we noticed that everything pointed to Christ. Hopefully as we complete our survey of the New Testament today we continued to notice the exact same thing. Jesus Christ is the focus of all of God’s word. He is the author of everything from creation to salvation.

With the New Testament there also comes one other important focus… evangelism. Taking the news of Moses’ Law from God to other peoples and nations was never a part of the Old Testament world. But to Christians the taking of the good news of Jesus Christ is the central part of our mission, our lives in service to God’s Kingdom.

The Great Commission sets the New Testament apart from the Old as clearly and definitively as does the sacrifice of Jesus that gives meaning to all we do. Think about that for a moment!

God reminds us how beautiful are the feet of those who rush to serve the Lord! You’ll find that thought echoed by Isaiah (Isaiah 52:7) and again by Paul (Romans 10:15). So it’s appropriate that we keep God’s focus on evangelism, remind ourselves and challenge ourselves to keep up the good work. We need to keep telling others of Christ and inviting them to come with us to be part of God’s eternal family!

Evangelism

Since, as Christians we are always focused on evangelism, we need to keep in mind how easy it is to become discouraged. Satan could better tolerate almost any other theme from Christians than this one, thus he is going to be most active in discouraging it. The vital thing for us to see and remember is that Satan is losing!

A while back I read a report from a preacher in the Lord’s Church in Athens, Greece. He told of a Syrian geologist who was raised in another religion but had now put on his Lord in baptism to become a New Testament Christian. The man plans to return to Syria after studying at one of the brotherhood schools of preaching and establish a church there (no known congregation exists in Syria at present). Another man, this one a “priest” doing extra educational studies, had given up his “priesthood”, and instead undertook studies (also at one of the schools of preaching) to equip himself to preach and teach God’s word. Of course those of us in Casa Grande have heard the stories of many among the Muslim world that have become Christians because of some of our Bible teachers in the congregation here.

These stories are repeated almost daily in places all over the world. Evangelistic work is in progress in countless countries, many of them impossible to get into just a few years ago. People are responding to the Gospel of Jesus and striving (many times in the face of great obstacles) to faithfully serve Him.

The world is changing in so many ways and none so important as the open doors to the Gospel. Our world, our town, our neighborhood are filled with souls that are lost in sin, slaves to Satan and they don’t even know it. Don’t miss your opportunities to tell them of the Savior!

Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to clearly communicate the Good News. Consider this silly little story just because it illustrates how we sometimes fail to really communicate:

  • Christian: Are you a member of the Christian family?
  • Non–Christian: No, I think they live two miles down the road in the white house on the left.
  • Christian: Let me try again. Are you lost?
  • Non–Christian: No, I’ve lived in this town for over thirty years now. I know right where I am.
  • Christian: Let me put it this way—are you ready for the Judgment Day?
  • Non–Christian: When will it be?
  • Christian: Could be today, could be tomorrow!
  • Non–Christian: Well, when you know exactly, be sure to let me know. My wife will probably want to go on both days.

Let your friends and neighbors see Jesus in you, in how you care, in what you do. Tell them of the Jesus that is your friend, your Savior. And if you don’t feel you know Him well enough to share that way, then get to know the real Jesus.

People the world over know Coca–Cola is the real thing! Certainly we can be as active in sharing the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ who died to save us all, as we are in promoting soda pop!

Do you want to see Satan losing this week? Do you want to see the success of God, His word and His people? Then be an active part of God’s Kingdom. Tell someone of Jesus this week. Invite someone to come with you to worship and study God’s word. Live, talk and act like a child of the King!

— Lester P. Bagley

3/13/16 ~ The Unused Cup

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

As we continue to see from God’s word, the “Great Commission” is our commission, our charge from God for what He expects us to accomplish here on earth as His family.

The way to actually accomplish what God asks us to do is to begin now! Let me share a favorite story of mine to remind us of just how important it is that we continually encourage one another and that we get our priorities right from the start…

The Unused Cup

Early one Sunday morning, a group of party leaders came by the White House to see President James A. Garfield to discuss a bill they thought should be passed by Congress. They were surprised when he said he had a very important appointment and would only talk to them later that afternoon.

“But Mr. President,” one man asked, “What could be more important than THIS?”

Garfield arose and walked to the door, turned to the party leaders and said, “Gentlemen, I have an appointment at the Lord’s table!” He then left with Mrs. Garfield and went to Sunday morning worship.

President Garfield’s “appointment at the Lord’s table” was a reference to the Lord’s Supper, a memorial of the sufferings of Christ observed by Christians every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The Apostle Paul gave the following instructions to Christians concerning their “appointment at the Lord’s table”:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for YOU; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

An invitation has been extended to each member of the human race to come in obedient faith (Acts 16:30-31), confessing Jesus as Lord before men (Romans 10:9-10), turning away from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31) and being immersed for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38) so that they, too, may take their “reserved seat” at the Lord’s table with those who will inherit eternal life.

Consider the declarations of an “Unused Cup”…

“I am an unused cup for communion… left last Sunday from the worship service, giving testimony of an appointment unkept, a trust broken….

“I was filled in anticipation… that some Christian would drink of my contents and be reminded of the price of their redemption.

“Here I sit— unused… Yet I bear witness of a love extended, a fellowship desired, and a grace made available. ‘This is the NEW covenant in my blood,’ Jesus said.

“Here I remain… reminding one and ALL that God’s gift MUST be claimed. He forces neither himself nor his blessing on anyone — but He eagerly awaits acceptance.

“There is a cup for YOU each Lord’s day… and no one else can ever use it! It is a sacred appointment that each of us has with the Lord to do this in remembrance of Him” (cf. Hebrews 10:24-29).

Yes, there IS an appointment to be kept for the child of God at the Lord’s Table AND there is ALSO a seat reserved for YOU! The Lord’s Table is set…

Will you keep YOUR appointment?

— Adapted

Who can we encourage regularly? Each faithful Christian needs and appreciates a regular dose of encouragement. Don’t you? Each Christian who is struggling with some challenge in life needs and appreciates a regular dose of encouragement. Don’t you?

Each Christian who feels overwhelmed in the battle, who may be slipping a little and in danger of drifting away needs and appreciates that extra word of encouragement and that extra shoulder to help bear the burden.

Need more opportunities? That Christian who has drifted away and who’s heart is growing cold and indifferent toward their Savior might yet respond to an extra dose of encouragement and in so doing you might fan the flame of their faith back to life.

That non-Christian neighbor or friend might well be waiting for you to invite and encourage them just one more time that they might come to know their Savior.

Always keep in mind, in heart and in active practice the encouragement of God to us: But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

And with all this in mind, let’s go out and have a great week of service together to our Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

3/6/16 ~ The Teaching the Church Can No Longer Neglect

From the Preacher’s Pen ~

One of the things that it is impossible to do is please all people. It’s a huge challenge to prepare a meal for several people without making something that someone doesn’t like and leaving out the preferred food of another.

Nowhere in the church is that principle more evident than when it comes to preaching and teaching. Jesus could not please everybody with every lesson or topic. Perhaps we should learn from Him the simple fact that we should not try to please people but God!

Here’s an excellent article by brother Jack Wilkie concerning one of those vital areas:

The Teaching the Church Can No Longer Neglect

One of the lessons that has stuck with me most in the years since preaching school is the idea that it is not just the preacher’s job to teach the truth, but to teach it in a way that makes it connect to the world the listener lives in. It’s not enough to teach the truth if you don’t help people see how it relates to their day to day lives.

Of course, sometimes that’s an easy task. For example, the basic Gospel message of redemption from sin applies to every one of us every day. But sometimes those things in the Bible that aren’t as immediately relevant can fall through the cracks and be neglected. From recent statistics, one such area seems to be standing out as one in which the church is falling behind.

That area would be the issue of apologetics. A recent Pew Research poll found that 50% of highly religious people (those who attend weekly) believe that the Bible and science contradict. What that tells you is that on any Sunday in your average American church, half of the people in the pews believe that God’s Word is incompatible with science. In his book “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church – And Rethinking Faith,” David Kinnaman found that 52% of churchgoing 13-17 year olds want to go into a science-related career, and yet only 1% of youth leaders had discussed science and Christian evidences in the year leading up to the study.[1]

Is it really that big of a deal, though? Well, tell me if it’s okay for someone to write off Genesis 1-11 and still claim to believe in God. If God isn’t to be taken seriously on the accounts of the creation, the garden, the flood, and the tower of Babel, why should we stop there? Can’t we just erase any other Bible teaching that is inconvenient or that makes us look bad among the culture? If those verses can’t be trusted, but Jesus cited some of them, why would we think that He is credible? While the number in many of our congregations may not be as high as 50%, it’s a major issue if we have anybody sitting among us who sees the Creator as being scientifically illiterate.

With all the things we have to address, it’s easy for apologetics to fall behind other subjects as a secondary issue sometimes. But if we’re truly going to connect the truth of the Bible with the lives of the people in the pews, we have to teach on these issues of science and Christian evidences. We might assume that we’re all on the same page about God in the building, but as soon as everyone walks out the doors and into the world for the week, they’re going to be bombarded with peer pressure that pushes them to compromise their faith. Young people in particular are favorite targets of those who want to create the false “science vs. the Bible” dichotomy and force them to choose. A church that doesn’t teach their members how to defend their faith against these attacks is failing every last one of them.

— Jack Wilkie, from focuspressblog.com, October 26, 2015

[1] – David Kinnaman and Aly Hawkins, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church – And Rethinking Faith,” Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. 139.

Focus Press (a great publication written by some outstanding men of God) deals with many topics and is well worth your time. You can read many of their articles at the website above.

The prophets challenged God’s people of old with the reminder that God’s people were being destroyed for lack of knowledge. Make the effort to keep growing and learning that it may never be said of you!

Let’s be those that actually teach and appreciate the “whole counsel of God” this week and always!

— Lester P. Bagley