10/30/16 ~ Keep

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs children, we begin to learn to communicate by words. As any parent or child can tell you, the exact words you use make a great deal of difference. Certain words will cause you to get in trouble and other words will bring you loving hugs.

The same lesson is true of Christians. We learn the language of God and the meaning of the words that God or even mature, adult Christians use are of great importance.

Real Bible study involves the careful consideration and weighing of the words that God uses. Perversion or twisting of God’s words is what Satan does (remember what he told Eve or the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4?).

To the nation of Israel God gave the basics of His law in 10 words. Most translations use the English word “commandment” but God refers to them (Exodus 34:28) as the “words of the covenant, the 10 words.” In misunderstanding something so seemingly inconsequential we foster the concept of checking off 10 items with God instead of keeping all of His commands.

It is easy for us to object to serious, in-depth study and many will boldly proclaim that God doesn’t what us to actually work hard at learning and doing His will (but remember 2 Timothy 2:15). But no one can actually claim to be a student, a disciple of Christ and skip the real study. Learning God’s precepts (check out the use of that English word in your Bible as it refers to the detailed instructions, procedures, regulations of God) brings joy and understanding (cf. Psalm 19:8).

Solomon (Proverbs 30:5) tells us that every word of God is tested (refined) and Jesus Himself reminded Satan that man lives on every word that comes from God (Matthew 4:4).

Consider for a moment one of those words of God’s language and some of the lessons that He uses it to teach us:

Keep

The Greek word tēreō is usually translated as “keep” (or “kept”), “hold fast” (Revelation 3:3, KJV), “watch” or “guard.” It comes from the word for a military guard (tēros, which is not used in the NT).

The word is used some 80 times in the New Testament and often for the concept of carefully guarding or keeping God’s commandments. It is also used in the literal sense as in Acts 12:6 where the guards guard the prison where Peter is held.

However, it is the figurative use that provides us with both encouragement and a challenge!

One of the great proofs of our salvation is recorded by John (1 John 2:3-5): By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.

The proof of truly being a child of God is found in our obedience to Him and His word! A careful reading of 1 John will show this same fact stated in several ways. (John in his Gospel and first letter uses this term some 25 times. Obviously, it is important!)

John specifically mentions that keeping (or guarding) God’s commandments is the key to effective, God-answered prayer (1 John 3:22). In Jesus’ great prayer for His disciples (John 17) He repeatedly talks about guarding His own. He calls for us to guard ourselves in God and asks the Father to guard us. Jesus compared the results of our keeping His commandments with His keeping of the Father’s commandments (John 15:10). Putting those thoughts together we see a complete picture of God’s family as their faithfulness to God in obedience to Him results in the real love of God!

Other New Testament uses encourage us to purity of life. Paul tells Timothy (and us all) to keep ourselves pure (1 Timothy 5:22). James echoes that in writing that pure religion involves keeping ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27). If we would stay pure in this wicked world we must be ever vigilant of our lives and guard ourselves from what will defile us.

When we come to the end of our lives we need to be able to say with Paul that we have fought the good fight, finished our course and kept (observed attentively and guarded protectively) the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)!

Keeping or guarding the faith means so much more than just checking off a couple of good deeds done. It is our life and who we really are in action. And its importance to us all is found in Jesus’ reminder, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death” (John 8:51). May we learn to keep the things of God!

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/23/16 ~ World Christian Broadcasting

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the many efforts we as a congregation support to take the Gospel to the world is World Christian Broadcasting. While short-wave radio is not so important in America it does reach much of the rest of the world. A few months ago we as a congregation were contacted by World Christian Broadcasting and asked to be part of a special contribution Sunday for that work. One week from today is that special contribution Sunday! We’ve already committed $1,000 to that goal and whatever you give in addition toward that work will be sent along with that $1,000. Please use either the envelopes provided (on the table in the foyer) or mark your checks as being for World Christian Broadcasting). Here are the latest updates on that work:

World Christian Broadcasting

Dear Brothers and Sisters In Christ, We have a dream. That dream is simple but profound. We dream that Christians will come together on October 30, 2016, in an unprecedented way to share the Gospel with the entire world.

We live in a world fraught with hopelessness, danger, and division. The life-giving news of Jesus is needed more than ever. But many parts of the globe are off limits to conventional mission efforts. For political, geographical, and religious reasons, many nations and their people are closed to outside influences. Missionaries cannot cross their borders.

Jesus declared long ago, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every person.” How can we fulfill those words, words that seem to be an unattainable dream? For World Christian Broadcasting, the mission of Jesus is the very reason for our existence. The message of Jesus sent from World Christian Broadcasting’s shortwave stations cannot be stopped by any border, any ideology, any person.

Even in an internet world, shortwave remains the most effective and efficient way to reach people around the world. It is estimated that there are three billion shortwave receivers in the world. One billion of those are turned on at any given time with each one having three listeners.

Sunday, October 30, is the day hundreds of churches around the United States will be making a special offering for the ministry of World Christian Broadcasting. That is an important day for which we need your prayers and support. In addition to the six languages we broadcast now, we are hopeful to be able to add personnel who can provide Portuguese broadcasts to Brazil, Korean programs to both North and South Korea, and also broadcasts in French.

This is a once-in-a-generation moment! Would you prayerfully consider helping us reach more people? The need has never been greater.

— Andy Baker for World Christian Broadcasting

We have many mission works that we support and countless others are doing the work of the Lord out there. We must, just like the New Testament congregations, do our part both in local work and in supporting the work out there in the rest of the world. Since World Christian Broadcasting coordinates with the missionaries in the field, we are really helping all those already out there. Be an active part of the Lord’s work! Pray mightily for all the Lord’s workers. After all, they are our brothers and sisters working alongside us on this earth! And give that we might enable them to continue and increase that work. Please give much prayerful thought to this work and to your opportunity to add to our contribution.

—Lester P. Bagley

Worship In a Nursing Home

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Some shuffle, some lean on walkers, some are pushed in wheel chairs.  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 song books.  The others cannot see.  The first song is announced.  Quivering lips part, cracking voices begin, and heaven opens up. 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 old-couplefinish.  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 their 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 in 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 emptied glass falls out of tottering hands.  It is caught by the tray.  But the mind has already started transcending this room to another far above.

“Each week we give our contribution to a worthy cause,” they hear explained.  Presently the collection tray is brought around.  Dimes, quarters and dollar bills are brought out of coin purses, shallow pockets, envelopes, Bible leaves.  Some are wadded in cold hands.  A faithful wife slips a dollar bill into the hand of her nearly paralyzed husband.  Ever so slowly coins and dollar bills are carefully placed into the tray.  Not much?  It will help a burned-out family in town.

The preacher now stands before the little assembly.  Many shift.  The 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 dew drops.  They dream of heaven in the morning.

The sermon over, the last prayer said, they begin to leave.  Slowly….  But it hadn’t always been that way.  In years past they had taken time out of busy weeks, gathered up their newly scrubbed children, and gone down the road to the church building.  They had sung heartily and kept their children still.  Afterward, they had bustled about from one group to another discussing crops or jobs, new recipes or styles, gospel meetings or new buildings.

That was an eternity away.  Now they await another eternity ~ it is much nearer.  Dreams have been formed and some dissolved.  Children born and some have died.  Homes built and some broken.  Bodies that once were strong and vigorous, minds that once were full of exciting daily activities, spirits that once were robust.

Now all are tired.  No, they never reached perfection.  Some are impatient still.  Some still cannot always tell the truth.  Some still pout.  Some occasionally lose tempers. All continue with faults.  But because of it all, they are most grateful for Jesus’ grace.  Despite failings, He sees them as victors through Him, and loves them now as at the beginning.

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’s a matter of waiting and encouraging those left behind to do the best 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.

K. C. Haddad

10/9/16 ~ PSALM 25

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingMany of David’s Psalms are known to come from specific events in his life. But sometimes there is no known connection to any particular happening. While our ignorance sometimes bothers us, it is also a good reminder that occasionally God’s people just struggle with life in general and need to turn to God.

Sometimes we feel the burden of life and appreciate how desperately we truly need God’s help, His guidance and His forgiveness. That feeling is a good thing. It shows that we are keeping ourselves in tune with God and what is really important in this life if we would be children of the king.

So, for a moment, let’s turn to one of those psalms of the sweet singer of Israel and borrow his words to God:

Psalm 25

A prayer of David for deliverance, guidance, and forgiveness

In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.

Yes, God knows our struggles and if we really want to be His obedient children He will help us. May we have the courage this week to turn to the Lord and seek His help. May we have the courage to accept His guidance that we might truly be refreshed by His forgiveness!

— Lester P. Bagley

Who or What is a Christian?

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According to my children, I am a history geek! Of course that comes from my children who are all history geeks! Perhaps it is in part because many of the courses I once taught included the word “History” in the title. Now that I’ve confessed my geekishness (is that even a word?), I will also admit that my favorite part of history involves the history of God’s people.

One of the earliest writings by Christians outside of the New Testament (c. 130 AD) is known as The Letter of a Disciple to Diognetus. No one knows who Diognetus was nor who the Christian author was. There is speculation that he was a disciple of the Apostle John but nothing that can be confirmed.

What we do know is that Christian Apologetics, defending the faith to unbelievers, has been a part of preaching and teaching from the beginning of our Lord’s church (see Peter’s first sermons and speeches in Acts).

What we also know is that his defense of Christianity comes at a time when persecutions were increasing and the faith of believers was being challenged by the world. In other words, in a time much like ours!

Let’s consider what this writer had to say:

Who or What Is A Christian?

Christians live in their own native lands, but as aliens; as citizens, they share all things with others; but like aliens, suffer all things. Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country.

They marry and have children just like everyone else; but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed. They are at present “in the flesh” but they do not live “according to the flesh.” They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws, and go beyond the laws in their own lives.

They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are short of everything and yet have plenty of all things. They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor.

Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others. When they do good, they are punished as evil doers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens, are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility.

To put it simply — the soul is to the body as Christians are to the world. The soul is spread through all parts of the body and Christians through all the cities of the world. The soul is in the body but is not of the body; Christians are in the world but not of the world.

Like most lessons, our challenge is to move these things from the classroom into our everyday lives. Remember, we are the light of the world and we are the ones required to let the world see the good that God might be glorified (Matthew 5:14-16).

It is easy for us as Christians to be overwhelmed by the worldly ways around us. Because we see and hear it so much we can end up responding to life’s difficulties just like the world does. Jesus reminds us several times that while we are “in” this world we are not “of” this world (cf. John 15:19; 17:14, 16). Paul challenges us to not conform to or be like this world so that we will show God’s will in and around us (Romans 12:2).

The daily challenges we face in living like Christians are not new, indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ have faced them from the very beginning. The test for us here and now is to recognize our challenges, face them with resolute determination and use the power of God to overcome.

An old saying challenges us with a question: If you were charged with being a Christian and taken to court, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

We have countless opportunities to show who we are as God’s people and to teach others about Jesus! Are YOU involved in WBS or WEI? Are YOU contributing to our special contribution for World Christian Broadcasting? If NOT, what ARE you doing for Jesus? Who or what are YOU?

Let’s determine that, with God’s continued help and blessing, we will act like who we really are! Let’s resolve to better share the Good News with those lost in sin! Let’s be more ready and willing to encourage each other and remember we are the King’s family and not of this world!

— Lester P. Bagley