5/29/16 ~ Are Family Values Important?

From the Preacher’s Pen… 

RacineBuildingThe Lord’s church is a family and there is nothing more beautiful to see than families that come together to study God’s word and to worship Him as one. God created the family relationship as His plan for humans and in it, we see our relationship to God.

Yes, that is a circle, a God designed circle to teach us an important lesson and keep us coming back to the point! Consider the thoughts of a fellow preacher and friend on this lesson for today:

Are Family Values Important?

Family values are receiving an immense amount of attention in the news of recent times. It has gained attention in this years’ political arena. Some protest that these have no place in the election discussions, while others believe that they are of vital concern. Heated arguments can be ignited by expressing views on either side of these issues.

That many people are vitally concerned about what they consider their “family values” cannot be denied, and all people could well take an interest. We are witnessing a time when pressures are upon families to give in to “change” – whatever that means.

The kinds of changes which some are touting would collapse the moral fiber of family life.

All humanity has been created in God’s image. Psalms 100:3 says, “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and now we ourselves, and the sheep of His pasture.” Since we are the offspring of God, He has a sovereign right to set the standard for our lives.

The first three divinely ordained institutions that God established was the family. Jesus contended with the religious leaders of the first century who were defending changes in family values. He said, “Have you not read, that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4-7). As one listens to the rhetoric of election campaigns, this precept from the Son of God should be the standard by which we measure every proposal to change family values.

In the biblical record, God established the family by creating one man and one woman who were to be joined together for life. This standard does not approve same-sex marriages, any more than it approves polygamy. Jesus also staunched the hemorrhaging divorces for every cause, stating one exception: “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)

God also takes notice of any mistreatment of those who are left alone and are defenseless in the world, especially of those who have been deprived innocently of their families. Israel sang this admonition: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widow is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families” (Psalms 68:5-6). They also were taught, “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and the needy; free them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalms 82:3-4). Would it not be better if we would turn back to the eternal moral principles set by God? To be sure the more we turn away from those principles the more problems we bring upon ourselves.

—Gene Greer, Heidenheimer, Church of Christ

In a world inspired by Satan to be anti-family and anti-God, may we truly cherish and always live our relationship as God’s family. Live the word this week and always!

— Lester P. Bagley

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05/22/16 ~ YOU Make the Difference

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingThis past week I received several advertisements of programs for churches to purchase that (according to the ads) are new, modern, not old fashioned like the New Testament and guaranteed to make a church grow! They offered to help your church “come out of the first century thinking about the Bible and the church.” Just think about that for a moment! For a sum of money, we can learn all the things missing from God’s way for the New Testament church. What a deal!

Do we remember exactly what made the first churches grow? It was the simple fact that those Christians loved the Lord and each other. Luke reminds us of their unity, their togetherness in Christ (Acts 2:43-47).

Even when persecutions grew and they were forced to flee for their lives they continued to preach the word! (Acts 8:4) The difference was never a program or even an individual person but the fact that each Christian lived and acted like Christ.

When we see solutions in a person rather than Christ in us, a plan other than God’s, we miss the secret of success. Consider the thoughts of this little article:

YOU Make the Difference

Once there was a congregation in which every member in it was just exactly like you.

Every member in that congregation worked just as hard as you do in this congregation. Each of them came together to worship with the rest of the Christians in that congregation just as often as you do here. When something needed to be done, they pitched in and helped just like you.

When someone was baptized or moved into town, they welcomed them into the fellowship of believers just as warmly as you do. Whenever a fellow member asked for forgiveness or prayers before the congregation, they comforted and encouraged that member the way you comfort and encourage people.

The leadership was the same way. They prayed for the souls of other Christians as often as you do. They tried to help those who were hurting or struggling about as often as you do. Whenever they saw a new face in the crowd each Sunday worship, they got to know them just like you do.

And when it came to making sure all the goals for the year could be met and all the growth that had been hoped for could happen, each member of that congregation gave the same percentage of their income as you give now. They gave about the same amount of time to working with church activities as you do. They donated their talents to the growth of the church the same way you do.

In everyday living, they put God first just as often as you do. At work, they talked with their co-workers the way you do. When put between a rock and a hard place, they didn’t care how much it cost them; they just did what they thought Jesus would do… just like you.

What do you suppose happened to that congregation?

— Adapted

Bragging about or even advertising what “I did” is never the New Testament picture. The focus is on each one doing and working the work of God.

As we examine ourselves and the work of this congregation we need to ask ourselves some serious questions: How am I doing in serving the Lord and His church here? What can I do to further the Lord’s work? Isn’t it time for each of us to get busy together in our Lord’s work?

— Lester P. Bagley

05/15/16 ~ The Source of Spiritual Growth

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… 

 

Have you noticed farmers? Hopefully we recognize that they provide not only food for our bodies, but lessons for our souls.

The Bible has a lot of illustrations of spiritual lessons from farming and Jesus added a lot more. After the flood Noah began farming (Genesis 9:20), a good thing to do if you want to eat.

The prophets found many lessons in farming for a nation that was so often unfaithful to the Lord. Isaiah (28:23-29) would remind them that the Lord knows how to get on with the job and not just keep doing the same thing over and over again.

In the New Testament James (5:7) reminds us of our need to be patient like a farmer while waiting for the Lord to complete His work. And it’s that thought that leads us to the lesson of…

The Source of Spiritual Growth

Some years ago an American agricultural school reported the results of a study into what it takes to produce a hundred bushels of corn from one acre of land. It requires 4,000,000 pounds of water; 6,800 pounds of oxygen; 5,200 pounds of carbon; 160 pounds of nitrogen; 125 pounds of potassium; 75 pounds of yellow sulfur and other elements too numerous to list. In addition, rain and sunshine are also required at just the correct times and in the correct amounts. While many hours of the farmer’s labor are also needed, it was estimated that only 5 percent of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man.

In spite of our own views as to our importance sometimes, those proportions seem similar in the spiritual realm. While we may plant, water and harvest (and be terribly impressed with our labors), it is God who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). His work is the one that really counts, that really brings worth to our efforts!

Now does that mean our efforts, our 5 percent, is really worthless? Ask a farmer. That seed won’t plant itself and his job is certainly vital to success of the crop… it’s just NOT the whole story.

So, is it important that WE plant the seed? That WE take the responsibility for fulfilling the Great Commission?

How about we give it a try. Plant the seed this week. Talk to someone about the Savior. Invite them to worship and study God’s word with you. Be a farmer for the Lord. Be a Christian!

— Lester P. Bagley

 

5/8/16 ~ Do You Know Who God Is?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingI drove right through a stop sign. No, I didn’t mean to do. I just was busy thinking about something else and failed to notice it. Fortunately, there was no one else there to run into or to run into me. Still, it was a bit of a shock to realize what I’d missed and what might have been the result.

I drove right through a stop sign. No, I didn’t mean to do. I just was busy thinking about something else and failed to notice it. Fortunately, there was no one else there to run into or to run into me. Still, it was a bit of a shock to realize what I’d missed and what might have been the result.

Most of us have had moments like that in our lives. They ought to remind us of much more serious things. Things like how easy it is to find ourselves so busy with life that we forget God and fail to see His loving care! That’s always a sign for us to stop a minute and rethink!

Sadly, sometimes we just blunder on with our lives never thinking and never knowing what we missed. And, perhaps worse still, when the inevitable crash comes we blame God.

Can you imagine facing the events of life without a loving Christian family? Can you imagine having trials without the avenue of prayer to our Heavenly Father? For that matter, can you imagine having blessings without anyone to share them with?

The simple fact is, when things go wrong and when things go right, it is always the perfect time to remember who we are and the wonderful family to which we belong. Let’s take a moment to consider a few thoughts from one of the psalmists to keep us going in the right direction this week:

Do You Know Who God Is?

It sounds humorous to hear a little child singing at the top of his lungs, “How Great I Am.” But, like many of the things children do, it would be ridiculous to hear an adult sing those same words. Having said that, it is important that we take care in our lives, our actions and in our words to remember just who is God and who is the human creation.

In studying with non-Christians we sometimes face the attitude: “I don’t know or care what the Bible says, I just can’t believe that God would…” How a person completes that sentence depends on what has happened that they don’t understand, or what it is they intend to do that is against God’s will.

The question of who is God and who is not is one that we all struggle with at times. God allows a wicked person to live a comfortable, long life while the child of Christian parents dies of cancer as the medical bills eat up the family savings. And we are moved to say, “I just can’t believe that God would allow that to happen. It’s just not right!”

Solomon, the wise man, also struggled with this anomaly and, finally, was moved to say, “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecclesiastes 8:12). Remember that passage and underline it in your Bible. Did you understand him? Still I know! Those are the words of a man who got confused about who was God and for a time forgot his God. Those are the words of a man who, in the end, remembered just who was God and wants us to remember, too.

In Psalm 46 the writer announces the proper place of God: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” He goes on to declare (using God’s own personal name lest we imagine someone else), “Jehovah of hosts is with us!” And the Lord God Himself challenges us to, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The worth of remembering just who is God is found in that same Psalmist’s closing words, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” To really be in God, to be a part of His family, is to know who is God. And that brings to us His peace that surpasses all human understanding.

— Lester P. Bagley