5/1/16 ~ Desertion

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingLet’s talk about dirty words for a moment. As children we learn NOT to say them. We may learn them from our friends at school but when we get home we quickly find out that such words are not used in our family. Worse, if we continue to use them there are consequences. Many people to this day cannot stand the taste of soap!

There are all kinds of dirty words and sometimes God uses them to remind us of just exactly how bad our sins really are. Let’s take a moment to consider one of those words that God uses and remember His lesson for our lives:

Desertion

Desertion! Isn’t it an ugly sounding word? It carries a similar sense of shame as do the related concepts of surrender, capitulation and traitor. Those terms are what, when I was a kid, were called fighting words. Nobody wants words like that used about them. Names like Mata Hari, Lord Haw Haw, Benedict Arnold and Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) exist in almost every society as symbols of this ugly concept.

In Galatians 1:6-7 the apostle Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (NASB). The word translated here as “deserting” is the Greek word metatithemi which is derived from the military term for laying down one’s shield in surrender. Greek mothers and wives would tell their sons and husbands to come back with their shields or on them as a reminder to never surrender. Any soldier reading Galatians would immediately be struck by the revolting concept of what Paul is saying to these Christians.

Perhaps you have shared Paul’s sense of amazement at a fellow Christian’s desertion and perhaps you have also wondered why and how someone could do such a thing. I find it interesting in comparing notes with others about deserters from the faith that one phrase is most prominent. “My needs are not being met by the church.”

Now, beyond all argument we, the church, need to be meeting each other’s needs and “bearing each other’s burdens.” However, the present popular doctrine of this world is, “It’s not my fault.” When a Christian fails, he or she (just like the people of the world) may be inclined to claim, “It’s not my fault.” The difference with many Christians is that, instead of blaming some other person, we blame God.

God is not Santa. I am not the master, but the servant. My life is not one of God meeting my needs, but rather is one of service to Him. Listen to the selfish words of the deserters: My life is a mess so I’ll quit the church. My wife (or husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brother, sister) doesn’t treat me right so I’ll abandon God. I prayed for the winning lotto ticket and He didn’t give it to me so I’ll show Him.

Do people really say such things and then quit the church, leave the Lord, ignore God? Yes, we do! Isn’t it about time for us to see our sin as sin. No matter how much we sugar coat sin, inside is still death. “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:15) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Where do you stand? Are you with Christ or are you a deserter? “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

In spite of what some deserters might say to defend their actions or entice you to join them, our only real freedom is in Christ, in serving Him, in being concerned for the things that best serve Him. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2) For those who know the real Savior, desertion, surrender, capitulation and traitor are titles they will never hold!

Let’s keep on keeping on and encourage each other to be likewise faithful so that we may never be branded as deserters.

— Lester P. Bagley

4/24/16 ~ When Jesus Was Judgmental

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWe’ve all come across people that live by the old saying, “My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts!” And one of the places many seem most willing to show that attitude is when it comes to the subject of being judgmental.

It seems like the verse of Scripture that most people have memorized (especially those of the world, but sadly it’s often true of Christians, too!) is “judge not”! What a great excuse for getting out of all responsibility! Just put the blame firmly on anyone who says anything you don’t like.

Reality is different, of course. “Judge with righteous judgment” is also a direct command from God so the “judge not” must be placed into context lest we erroneously apply it willy-nilly to everything!

A similar misapplication of Scripture occurs when we claim, “Well, you can’t be like that” with the meaning of “You are not Jesus so you can’t do anything that I dislike!” Those who misapply, misstate and otherwise pervert God’s word are NOT just good people exercising their right to their own opinion. By God’s own definition they are false teachers that must be refuted.

A few years back a brother in Christ wrote a great little reminder for us:

When Jesus was Judgmental

Many people find it convenient to oppose those who are judgmental. The word “judgmental” certainly has negative connotations. However, let’s consider what it really means. Being judgmental is declaring a thought, idea, doctrine or teaching to be truth. This position declares many other teachings or ideas to be untruths or definitely wrong or false.

Jesus was not afraid to be judgmental when truth needed to be declared or supported. His example shows us we must also be willing to be judgmental where truth is concerned.

When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well (John 4:1-42), she raised the question of the proper place to worship. She believed that it was acceptable to worship on Mt. Gerizim, whereas the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem.

Jesus solved the problem by saying, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). The Jews were correct to worship in Jerusalem, whereas the Samaritans were incorrectly still worshiping on Mt. Gerizim.

The Sadducees questioned Jesus regarding the resurrection. They believed there is no resurrection after death (Matthew 22:23). Jesus quickly corrected their false belief by referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He stated that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. He prefaced His statements by saying, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (v. 29).

When the Pharisee named Nicodemus approached Jesus, he declared Jesus to be a teacher from God. He said this with reference to the miraculous signs Jesus was doing (John 3:1-21). Jesus quietly changed the subject. He did not criticize Nicodemus. Jesus stated a truth that called for a specific action. The action demanded by Jesus was that for one to enter the kingdom, he had to be born of the water and the Spirit (v. 5). This was a judgmental statement by Jesus, as He used the word “unless” when stating one must be born again (v. 3).

Jesus was judgmental when He talked with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. They broached the subject of breaking the tradition of the elders (Mark 7). Jesus referred to Isaiah, declaring that the Pharisees made their worship vain by letting go of the commands of God. As a result, they were holding on to the traditions of men. Was there any way these Pharisees could misunderstand Jesus’ judgment regarding their question?

When God’s Word states a truth, one must accept that truth because it is from God. Declaring it to be God’s truth makes one judgmental, but Jesus was judgmental when the need arose.

We are on a sure foundation when we agree with God’s stated truths, even if others oppose us, calling us “judgmental.”

Windle Kee, Gospel Advocate, June 2008, reprinted by permission

Take note of our brother’s final comment. “We are on a sure foundation when we agree with God’s stated truths, even if others oppose us, calling us ‘judgmental.’”

Many criticize the Lord’s people for being too judgmental. If you examine the Scripture you will learn that usually the problem is exactly the opposite! God’s people are most often far too lenient and willing to accept error rather than stand for the truth.

May God give us the courage to always faithfully stand for the truth. And whatever you do, don’t listen to those who half teach Scripture to further their own traditions, ideas and teachings.

— Lester P. Bagley

4/16/16 ~ Twelve Years of Quarterly Church Atendance

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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When it comes to living like a Christian, it never fails to amaze me what it is that amazes other people! Yes, I know that’s an odd statement, but let me show you what I mean.

So many times I hear parents wondering just why it is that their children act like they do. Now I do understand that many times children rebel and act out against the very things that they have been taught. But far too many times what they do is act just like their parents have taught them.

Here’s a brief “news item” from a religious satire site. The author’s intent is to make fun of some of our ridiculous attitudes so that we will see just how foolish we sometimes are:

After 12 Years of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith

Fullerton, CA — Local father Trevor Michelson, 48, and his wife Kerri, 45, are reeling after discovering that after 12 years of steadily taking their daughter Janie to church every Sunday they didn’t have a more pressing sporting commitment—which was at least once every three months—she no longer demonstrates the strong quarterly commitment to the faith they raised her with, now that she is college-aged.

Trevor Michelson was simply stunned at the revelation. “I just don’t understand it. Almost every single time there was a rained-out game, or a break between school and club team seasons, we had Janie in church. It was at least once per quarter. And aside from the one tournament in 2011, we never missed an Easter. It was obviously a priority in our family—I just don’t get where her spiritual apathy is coming from.”

“I can’t tell you how often we prayed the prayer of Jabez on the way to a game,” added Janie’s mother.

“You know, the more I think about it, the more this illustrates how the church just keeps failing this generation,” lamented Trevor, citing a recently-googled study by Barna or someone.

The Michelsons further noted plans to have a chat with the pastor of their church after their younger son Robert’s soccer season calms down a bit.

Reprinted by permission, babylonbee.com/news/after-12-years-of-quarterly-church-attendance-parents-shocked-by-daughters-lack-of-faith/

So, just what exactly is our example to our family and others? Do we find ourselves amazed that people do not see how much we love God and want to go to heaven… when we act just like the world?

Do we sing, “Oh, How I Love Jesus” while we forsake Him every chance we get to do something “better” and more “fun?”

Do we truly have our priorities straight when it comes to God and the things that matter for eternity?

Let me suggest that, if you are not too busy this week and don’t have anything else more important to do, you spend some time with God and get your priorities fixed!

On the other hand, maybe those worldly things will actually look that important to us as we spend eternity separated from God. What do you think?

— Lester P. Bagley

4/10/16 ~ 6 Things Christian Young People Need to Know Before Leaving Home

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… We have an incredible group of young people. As they grow up in Christian families we MUST continue to pray for them and teach them. There are, of course, a million important lessons that we need to get them firmly grounded in before they leave home. Here’s a great reminder of some of the most important ones:

6 Things Christian Young People Need to Know Before Leaving Home

Four out of every five young people who attend a church of some kind during their teenage years will fail to maintain the same level of engagement as they move into adulthood, according to the Barna Group. There is a wide range of reasons for this, and a number of angles that should be examined, but as I’ve written here before, one of the biggest areas in which we can improve is in the expectations we have for young people.

Instead of just hoping that they hang on, or assuming that they’ll eventually work their way into being strong Christians as adults, parents (and elders, once the young people become Christians) need to aim to help young people become warriors in every church. Having a head start on so many who convert later in life, we should help all young people grow into faithful service from an early age. How do we do so? It all starts with setting fair expectations and helping them reach those. Here are six things every Christian young person should know before leaving home, and every Christian parent and church leader should work towards with the young people they’re training and discipling. They need to know:

  1. Why they believe and behave the way they do. We’ve learned by observing past generations that it doesn’t work to just tell young people that they can’t have sex before marriage, they can’t get drunk or do drugs, or they aren’t allowed to do any number of other sins with which they’ll be tempted. “Because I said so” doesn’t work, and vaguely throwing out “because the Bible says so” won’t either until they understand why it matters what the Bible says. It’s because we’ve failed to explain that that we have so many who view the Bible as a list of dos and don’ts and who call Christians hypocrites because we can’t follow “the Bible says so” perfectly.

We should be able to articulate why we do what we do and don’t do the things we don’t do, namely because God wants what is best for us and has provided for our joy according to His Word (as Psalm 119 makes clear). Phrases like “The Bible says so,” “We’ve always done it that way,” and “Because that’s what you’re going to believe when you’re under my roof” aren’t good enough. Young people are smart enough to grasp the reasons for our obedience (John 14:15), and parents should be able to help them develop that love for God by teaching them the why and not just the what.

  1. How to defend the existence of God, the creation account, and biblical inerrancy. They’re going to get hammered with evolution, atheism, biblical errancy, and every other attack on their faith that the world can throw at them. In fact, if they’re in middle school or high school, they’re probably already dealing with many of those issues. The world isn’t waiting for them to become adults to wage war on their worldview, and we can’t afford to wait, either. David Kinnaman of the Barna Group points out 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]

It is critical that parents keep an eye on what their children are learning about science, God, and the Bible and teach the truth. Church leaders, I beg you to set aside time to regularly have classes on Christian evidences, how we got the Bible, and other areas in which the faith comes under attack. Dr. Brad Harrub’s “Convicted” was incredibly effective in teaching both the youth and the adults at my congregation.

  1. How to connect with their church family. If Christian teens feel out of place in adult classes or have difficulty fellowshipping with people outside of their age group, their transition out of youth, college, singles or other targeted ministries into the “main church” will leave them feeling disconnected. For many, this leaves them to fade into the background. Others seek out churches with more young people, sometimes even if they have to compromise doctrine to do so.

Parents can help their children connect with all Christians through regularly having other Christians into their homes and fellowshipping with all ages in the church family. Church leaders have to help cultivate a family environment by putting an end to the complete segregation strategies that have proven fruitless and regularly work to have events that bring everybody together to serve, fellowship, study, and worship as one body.

  1. How to study for themselves. If they leave home with brains chock-full of memory verses and facts and figures about the Bible but don’t know how to study a text for themselves, what have we really given them? It’s an inherited faith, not a growing, developing faith. The implication in many churches that young people and teenagers need dumbed down classes is insulting. Some of them are doing things like calculus and physics in school. They can handle lessons on how to break down a text or explore a Scriptural topic.

Unfortunately, some parents might not feel adequate to equip their children with Bible study skills because they themselves aren’t quite sure where to start on deep study. There’s no reason why congregations can’t offer how to study the Bible classes (for anyone of any age who wants to attend) every few years. If you want to teach your children but aren’t sure how, ask an older member, an elder, your preacher, or anyone who can help you learn to spend some time with your family in learning how to study. Read books on the subject. Do whatever it takes to learn and pass it on, because few things are more important than for our young people to know how to use their Bibles (2 Timothy 2:15).

  1. How to teach others. The gospel message is meant to be shared (Matthew 28:18-20). As they go to college or start careers and make new friends as they go, young people can and should be some of our most powerful assets for getting the word about Jesus Christ out to the world. If they’ve obeyed the gospel, then they know enough to tell others the basic message. From there we can help them grow to know how to handle various questions they might encounter and how to reach out to others.
  2. Their role and sense of purpose in the work of the church. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11-16 about the different roles and types of service that are necessary in the church, and why each individual part needs to contribute according to what God has given them. Not every young person is going to grow up to be a preacher, elder, or Bible class teacher, and that’s not a bad thing. What’s important is that we all know our role and execute it as well as possible to the glory of God, and what’s important for young people is that they start to find that role and grow into it over time. It doesn’t just happen overnight.

Parents, help your children find where they can be of service to the church. Elders, don’t hinder these young people, but help them find areas of service and people who can help them grow in this area. If they leave home but don’t feel they have anything to contribute to the church, just serving as pew warmers, we’ve failed both them and the church, since God has given us all grace to serve.

Everyone (including young people) has free will, and there’s no automatic, 100% path to youth faithfulness, but by engaging young people and helping them fill these expectations by the time they leave home, their faith will be strengthened and the church will be blessed. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. If you have more thoughts on what young Christians should know before they leave home, please take a second to share your thoughts in the comments.

— By Jack Wilkie, focuspressblog.com/2015/04/14/6-things-christian-youths-need-to-know-before-leaving-home/

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

May we truly love our youth enough to keep them in our prayers and keep on teaching and encouraging them. It is a God given command that we do these things. May He bless us with the strength to love both our God and our young people as He calls us to do!

— Lester P. Bagley

4/3/16 ~ 6 Popular False Beliefs About Christianity

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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I recently read a discussion between two preachers regarding how wrong Christians and the church today are for not accepting anyone who professes to be a Christian but doesn’t actually follow the teachings of the New Testament. Apparently many preachers, like their congregations, never bother to actually read God’s word or let it affect their beliefs! Unfortunately, this same attitude towards God and His commands has been popular for a long time… and it is still wrong!

As I was reading the discussion, another brother was writing an excellent article dealing with many of the same issues that are actually in line with God’s word:

6 Popular False Beliefs About Christianity

One of the most popular names that we think of regarding Protestantism and Christianity in the 16th century is Martin Luther. One thing for which Luther was known is the concept of adiaphora, from the Greek meaning “things indifferent.” It is the concept that there are things in the Bible and in Christianity that do not matter. Is this an accurate concept? Are there things in the Bible that don’t matter? Is anything really adiaphora?

Sure, some things are, like the eating of meats that Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 8. But that doesn’t mean everything is. However, the denominational world seems to think that very little truly matters. Here are six popular statements made in support of this claim:

  1. “It doesn’t matter if I’m baptized; as long as I confess my faith in Christ I’ll be saved.” There are very few things that God leaves up to us, and our salvation is definitely not one of them. Christ regulated our salvation when He said in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved ….” Peter did the same thing in 1 Peter 3:21 when he said, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you ….” Our salvation is regulated. Baptism is regulated. It is not left up to us to decide how we are saved as God has regulated that no man is saved apart from Christ, or apart from belief, repentance, confession, and baptism.
  2. “It doesn’t matter how I worship; as long as I’m worshipping, God will accept that.” In Hebrews 9:1, the writer says, “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship ….” This means that the second covenant, the covenant under which we live, also has regulations for worship. All too often we want to say that worship is left up to us, and we can worship in any way that we please. God, however, regulates our worship. We are to meet together regularly (1 Corinthians 14:23-25), on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:24), to sing with our hearts being the instrument (Ephesians 5:19), to give (1 Corinthians 16:2), to teach (Acts 20:7), and to pray (Acts 2:42). Christ said that when we come together, we are to worship in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). We are not left to worship any way we want because it is regulated by God.
  3. “It doesn’t matter how I live; as long as the Bible does not specifically forbid my actions, I will be acceptable in the eyes of God.” One of the most prevalent mindsets in regard to the topic of indifference is, “As long as the Bible doesn’t condemn it, I am free to participate in it.” In regard to this point, here are three questions to consider. First, was Noah permitted to use any kind of wood because they were not specifically forbidden? No one would say that he could use any wood he chose, because he was commanded to use gopher wood. Was a priest allowed to come from a tribe other than Levi? Hebrews 7:11-16 says that a priest was not allowed to come from the tribe of Judah because Moses had said nothing about priests coming from that tribe. Were Nadab and Abihu allowed to bring any kind of fire before the Lord? They were killed because they brought unauthorized fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-3). In all these cases, God did not have to forbid everything that was wrong. All He had to do was state what was right. It is the same way with us today; when God commands something, everything else is forbidden.
  4. “It doesn’t matter what I believe; as long as I’m a good person, God will not send me to hell.” Another idea that is prevalent in our society is that if I live a good life, then God would not send me to Hell. However, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” First, we are not saved by works or anything that we can do, but by faith. How good a life we live does not earn us our salvation, and that’s a theme that is found throughout Scripture. Secondly, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We can live as good a life as possible but that will never get us to Heaven. The only way for man to be saved is through Jesus Christ and obedience to His will.
  5. “It doesn’t matter if I go to church; as long as I’m a Christian, I will be saved.” An interesting aspect of this statement is that if we are saved, then we are Christians and a part of the church. So why do we not attend the worship service? In Acts 2:47, Luke tells us that God “added to their number (the church) day by day those that were being saved (Christians).” There is no such thing as a Christian that is not part of the church. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the Bible says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The Hebrew writer tells us to meet together because it helps stir up love, good works, and encouragement. This is not just for others, but we too gain those benefits when we come together with our brethren.
  6. “It doesn’t matter if I’m active in my local church; as long as I’m attending service, I’m alright [sic] with God.” There is an important question to consider in regard to this statement. In the previous statement, Hebrews 10:24-25 was mentioned, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

How can we be encouraged, loved, and have good works stirred up within us if we do not talk and interact with our brethren? The Bible speaks often of prayer, love, encouragement, stirring up good works, and growing in Christ through association with fellow Christians. How can we obtain these things from people with whom we do not interact? The answer to that question is this: we can’t! We cannot be who we are supposed to be as Christians, or reap the full benefits of being a Christian, if we are not interacting with Christians.

So, back to our initial question, is adiaphora real? Well, there are things that do not matter, like talking sports to our friend or the place and time we worship. However, those things are still regulated. Our salvation is regulated, worship is regulated, our lives are regulated, and church is regulated. So if God regulates everything in some form, how can there be room for adiaphora?

It is important that we guard against viewing things that God has regulated as though they are not regulated. Additionally, we must never allow ourselves to be indifferent toward our worship of and service for the Lord. This kind of indifference will keep us from pleasing God (Revelation 3:15-16). Indifference, in regard to the things of God, is one of the great issues that the church faces today.

Spencer Shaw, reprinted with permission, focuspressblog.com/2016/03/21/6-popular-false-beliefs-about-christianity/

Opinions, personal thoughts and ideas have no place in our lives if we are using them to replace what God tells us to do. Above all else we need to listen to God and heed His will!

May we have the courage to be obedient as we live our lives for the Savior this week.

— Lester P. Bagley