12/25/16 ~ Jesus, the Savior

From the Preacher’s Pen… Sunday, December 25, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus! No, I’ve not lost my mind and hopefully you haven’t lost yours either.

RacineBuildingThis Sunday, December 25, the first day of the week, we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior with our weekly Communion.  He lives and is never to die again! Paul says it like this: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. [10] For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:8–11)

Once He was born, like all of us, of human flesh. And, because of sin, humans die. But death could not keep Him, He lives again by the spirit and power of God. And God says that same power, that same promise is for us, too, as brothers and sisters of Christ the King.

Having acknowledged all that, it is still an amazing thing that our Savior once humbled Himself to submit to being born as one of us. Remember for a moment, the coming of…

Jesus the Savior

I am in awe of the Manger Scene and all that it means and represents for humans! But the story began so long before that day that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.

Three precious verses in God’s word remind us that before He even spoke the words creating this world and all its inhabitants, before that very first sin would bring contamination to all His perfection, He knew and planned it all! Read John 17:24 where He tells of the love and glory that predate the foundations of the world. Love and glory for the sacrifice to come.

1 Peter 1:18-21 reminds us that the saving blood of the Lamb of God was planned and known before the building of this world. And Ephesians 1:4 says that even then He chose us to be holy in Him.

I am in awe of the Manger Scene and all that it means and represents for humans! But the work and preparation began so long before that day that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.

Months before the Creator in the form of an infant would be born into this world, He laid aside His godly form to take on a form of an unborn child. Read Philippians 2:5-7 and realize the implications of that simple but awesome statement.

I’ve often wondered if Luke would not have dwelt a bit longer on that moment if the good doctor had written that passage rather than the Apostle Paul. As a physician, Luke had likely witnessed the amazing changes that led up to the near miraculous moment of birth on many occasions.

But Paul hastens to remind us that the ultimate goal is not the manger but the cross (Philippians 2:8).

I have to admit that I am still in awe of the Manger Scene. It is filled with so many great lessons for all mankind and for all time. Sadly, one of those lessons is how seldom it is seen and how quickly it is forgotten.

Just like our world, at this time of year we may be briefly amazed at the coming of the Savior and then forget Him for months and months. But perhaps this year we can resolve to be different.

Jesus’ earthly mother, like most mothers and daddies, could never forget. Luke very specifically reminds us that Mary treasured those events in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). A good doctor takes note of good parenting and love.

The important thing for us is that we remember, that we treasure the amazing, incredible, eternal life-altering events. Are you in awe of the manger and all that it means?

Will you be found sitting at the feet of Jesus as He teaches and encourages and challenges us through the year? Will you be found weeping and heartbroken at the cross? Will you be found rejoicing at the empty tomb and in amazed awe as He returns to heaven with the promise to come back one day for you?

Sad, isn’t it, how many people will look and not see, hear and not understand. Yes, that was repeated by several of the prophets and by Jesus Himself. And today the fact remains, many will miss the incredible coming of Jesus.

One day He will come again. And this time every eye will see Him, every knee bow before Him and every tongue confess Him. But then it will be too late to be a part of His family.

The time to see Him, to know Him, to follow Him is now. The time to truly be in awe of our Savior is now! Will you?

— Lester P. Bagley

12/18/16 ~ Generations of Love

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… Toward the end of most worship services, I make my way to the back hallway in order to speak to people as they leave. Sometimes I’m looking for someone in particular to encourage and many times I rejoice in the encouragement of God’s family.

Oftentimes there is someone already back there. Mothers and dads with little ones often have diaper duty or otherwise have to tend to fussy or overly active children. What a beautiful sight and lesson of love!

In all the comings and goings it sometimes happens that one of our young people end up “stranded” at the doors as they are too polite to go back where they were sitting in the middle of the closing song or prayer.

Often when that happens they end up standing next to me and holding my hand during the prayer. I see them holding hands with their parents, their siblings, and others around them. How precious it is to see love in actions and living lessons from our young people! Consider for a moment the lesson they show…

Generations of Love

Jesus frequently used the word love. It is a vital ingredient of our Spiritual life and yet it is often neglected.

In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” God’s “new commandment” is not that we should love, but that we are actually commanded to love as God has loved us.

Peter would struggle with this concept of such a great commitment (John 21:15-17), but eventually embraced it at the cost of his physical life (verses 18-19). Interestingly, Jesus in telling him all this concludes with the imperative command (Follow Me!) to obey even though hesitant.

Consider how our own worldly definition of love has changed. In my Grandparents generation, the love of children was often defined as “children are to be seen but not heard” and it was normally true that parents ate first and children the leftovers. Why?

Sadly, in a time when a significant percentage of children died the adults who could work and feed the family had to be the priority. (Most western civilizations have seen a relatively steady decline in infant and child mortality for the last few centuries. In the 1700s 300 to 500 deaths per 1,000 were the norm. By the end of the 1800s that number dropped to 150 to 200. By 1950 it had declined to between 20 and 40 per 1,000.)

In that world, the greatest love a parent could show was staying healthy enough to provide for the children that survived.

Following World War II Americans were better off in many ways yet struggling to say and show love in a changing world. As food supplies increased and diseases were controlled it became the expected norm that children would survive into adulthood. Parents literally had the expectation that each child would continue to live and be a part of the family.

With all that came the challenge to love to an entirely new degree. Like so many things that Satan corrupts, an increase in family love was quickly transformed into the permissive “free love” generation. Confusing love with sexual expression they reshaped the world into a no-commitment world ruled by selfishness.

Today? Our world pushes to enlarge the bounds of permissiveness and demands that everyone wins, that everyone is entitled to high self-esteem with no boundaries on their actions and no limits to their licentiousness. And still, real love is neglected.

Love, real love, love like God has for us is that agape love, that committed love. Real love, like an earlier generation, sometimes seems harsh that it might really serve the needs. Even today it remains true that real love of our children includes punishment and discipline.

Jesus had a fondness for children and several times the text points out that they were specifically infants and young children. Do you ever wonder why?

Watch a child love. Before parents teach them to fear and avoid, they shyly offer their gift, their trust until one day properly jaded by adults they learn the rudeness of neglecting love.

So, do we truly love? Are we committed to our Savior and the good of His Kingdom? Or are we simply fulfilling Scripture in being the selfish, jaded, negligent lovers of self that Paul warned Timothy about (2 Timothy 3:1-9)?

Love is something that is instilled by God in a child’s heart. How we cultivate it determines whether it grows and blossoms into Christ-like love in all their lives… or dies in bitterness and strife.

Love is something that is instilled by God and carefully taught to an adult’s heart. How we cultivate it determines whether it grows and blossoms into Christ-like love in all our lives… or dies in bitterness and strife.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in actions and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

— Lester P. Bagley

12/11/16 ~ The Church Doesn’t Need You to Make it “Cool”


From the Preacher’s Pen…
Far too often we hear people make the nonsensical comments about the BibRacineBuildingle not being relevant to today’s world. The fact remains that the Bible is the single most relevant book to today’s problems and today’s world that has ever been written.

Sadly, in addition to the nonsense being said, many in the church are trying to update God and His word to make God in their own image. That is both wrong and just plain stupid!

Consider the recent comments of brother Brad Harrub via Focus Press:

The Church Doesn’t Need You To Make It “Cool”

I cringe watching young preachers trying to sell faith as “cool” to a group of youths. They stand there in their Christian t-shirt and skinny jeans trying to package the Gospel as “hip.” These guys do not realize that by trying to appear cool and “authentic” to young people that they are actually coming across as just the opposite.

These preachers are trying hard to compete with professional entertainers and reality show stars. They use cool analogies, have impressive PowerPoint slides or videos, and have powerful stories in their lessons. In addition, they have a huge social media footprint— receiving hundreds of “likes” for every article or picture they post.

Sadly, these preachers forget that just 12 hours earlier these same young people were watching a movie with professional actors and million dollar movie sets, or attending a concert with a professional entertainer—they know what is authentic.

So in the end, the young people realize this for what it is: a middle-aged preacher trying desperately to be “relevant” and “cool.” As a result, the Gospel gets watered down, and young people leave the church because they never heard what they really needed to hear.

Here’s what I intend to teach my children regarding being relevant.

Jesus Christ did not call the church or Christians to be “relevant.” In John 15: 18-20 we read, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

What is your duty? What should you be doing? Consider the words Moses wrote, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Did you read anything about being “relevant,” “hip,” or “cool” (or wearing skinny jeans)?

However, many people seek to change the church or change the message in order to better “fit in” with our culture. Quoting Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, “To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22) they seek to be “hip” and “cool” to the younger generation.

Let me remind you that the Gospel is roughly 2,000 years old and has stood up to all kinds of attacks, insults, and weird new fads. It doesn’t need you coming along trying to make it cool. In fact, what many don’t realize is in that same letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote: “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).

The truth is, in too many cases we’ve worked so hard at being all things to all people that we’ve jettisoned the message of sin and Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection! People need to hear about their sin and what it has done to their relationship to God. They need to hear about the saving power of the Gospel. Your job is not to be “relevant.” Your job is to go and make disciples.

— Brad Harrub reprinted by permission from focuspressblog.com at /www.focuspress.org/2016/11/30/church-doesnt-need-make-cool/

May we continue to stand firm with God and His word. May we this week, and always, resist the urge to remake and reform God into our image.

May we have the courage to share the truth with a world that is lost in sin and desperately in need of listening to and obeying God! May we take care of doing our job for Jesus by going and making disciples of Him!

— Lester P. Bagley

12/4/16 ~Have I told you lately that I love you?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingA few times each year we get together with family. If your family is like our family and spread half way around the world it may be less than that. If your family lives relatively close by it may be much more frequent. But it is always a joyful and precious time when we get together with loved ones!

Do we feel the same joy in coming together as God’s family? If we were to make one New Year resolution, could there be a better one than that we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Apostle John reminds us of just how important that is:

“The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (1 John 2:10)

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

In both cases, the word that John uses for “brother” is a word used for unity and love of relatives and those that are especially close to each other. The closeness of relationship is seen in the same word being used for twins.

Are we really the family twins in relationship with fellow Christians? Consider a bit further:

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

Many of us remember the words of the song by that title and most of us as Christians realize how the thoughts of a love song often reflect our love for each other and for our God. At least two Christian brothers that I know use this song title as a way of reflecting on the special bond we share as God’s children. Isn’t it a beautiful reflection on the family relationship we share in Jesus’ family?

Some have called God’s Word and especially the New Testament God’s love song to His people. Certainly, there is an element of truth to that. How many times in both Old and New Testaments do we see the tremendous love of God displayed to His people? How can anyone read some of Paul’s letters (or John’s, or Peter’s for that matter) and not see the deep love that he had for his brothers and sisters in Christ? “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 John 3:1a)

Just as we all find it important to take the time and make the “effort” to tell our husband, wife, children, grandchildren, etc. that we love them, it is also important, yea essential, that we also remember to tell our Christian family that we love them, too! After all, has not our heavenly father richly blessed us with such wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let’s make the extra effort this week to appreciate just how blessed we are! Oh, and how much do I love you all? Let me borrow the words of my brother Paul:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11)

— Lester P. Bagley