7/30/17 ~ Singing the Song of Joy

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how winners parade and show off how great they are? While losers might moan and complain that winners aren’t that great, the facts tend to speak for themselves, don’t they?

Have you ever noticed how winners parade and show off how great they are? While losers might moan and complain that winners aren’t that great, the facts tend to speak for themselves, don’t they?

In the Spiritual world, the same thing is true. Losers moan and complain while winners, real winners celebrate the joy of victory. Consider…

Singing the Song of Joy

The Jewish rabbis considered this one of David’s Kingship Psalms and saw it as highlighting the military victory of God. While David was a great king himself, he constantly reminded himself (and his people) that the Lord is the real king. It was this humility and love for his God that both kept him humble and showed his greatness.

Perhaps because many Christians today are unfamiliar with, or just uncomfortable with, the military lessons of God, many Christian commentators tend to simply view it as one of the “new songs” to be sung in heaven (cf. Revelation 5:9-14). Of course, when you read the book of Revelation (and the rest of the New Testament) you cannot fail to see the constant references to our God and Savior as both our great leader in the war against sin and Satan now and, one day, the great victor in eternity.

Military victories were important to David. The battles won subdued the hostile nations surrounding Israel and eventually brought peace, safety, honor, and riches to the nation of God’s people.

To Christians in the New Testament world seeing increasing persecution because the world did not agree with them or accept them, the same lesson of victory under Jesus’ kingship was both important and vital to their hope (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 4:8; 1 John 5:4; etc. where the terms for military victories are used). So consider David’s song as he challenges God’s people to join the “new song” and share in the reminder of joyful victory:

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,

For He has done wonderful things,

His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.

The Lord has made known His salvation;

He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His loving kindness

and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;

Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.

Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,

With the lyre and the sound of melody.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,

The world and those who dwell in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

Let the mountains sing together for joy

Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;

He will judge the world with righteousness

And the peoples with equity.

As many other Biblical writers remind us, our God is creator of all we see around us. And all of God’s creation should honor Him. The physical world does so by obeying the physical laws He created to govern all that exists (many of the Psalms remind us of this lesson as does the book of Job).

Interestingly enough all living creatures but humans obey the laws of God that govern their lives. For example, rats never suddenly give birth to elephants and whales never give birth to horses. Rocks never turn into plants or any other living thing. All in spite of the humorous, fantastical claims of some humans.

Only humans actively try to disobey the Creator in the lives they lead. And sadly, only humans are actually made in the very image of God.

Victory is truly in Jesus. And one day, as even David looked forward to, the Lord is coming to judge the earth in righteousness. Will you and I be found to have honored Him with obedient lives? Or will we be found in rebellion against Him who is and always will be the victor?

May we join with David in singing and living praise to our Lord. He HAS made known His salvation, He HAS revealed His righteous will. Will we obey it?

— Lester P. Bagley

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7/23/17 ~ LEADERSHIP

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the strangest ideas that humans have tried to impose upon the Lord’s church is the idea of “who’s the boss.” Actually, that same failure goes back much further in time with God’s people since the concept of a human boss (rather than God) led Israel to reject the Judges that God appointed and demand a King to rule over them (see 1 Samuel 8:4-7). In demanding an earthly “boss” they were really rejecting God’s rule over them.

Is that not the same thing that Christians do today when they demand a “Reverend” or a “Pope” or any other formal boss over the Lord’s church here on earth? Is that not the same thing that congregations do today when they allow a “head elder” to run the church?

Let’s consider God’s plan for real leadership in the family of God’s people:

Leadership

The best kind of leadership is by example. The symbol of the US Army infantry is a soldier with a rifle in one hand, looking back behind him. Why? His rifle is pointing forward, the other arm giving a “Come on” motion, and the leader is shouting back, “Follow me!”

In World War II General Eisenhower would demonstrate the art of leadership with a piece of string. He’d put it on the table and say: “Pull it and it will follow you wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere at all. It’s just the same way when it comes to leading people. They need to follow a person who is leading by example.” Indeed, every really great military leader has led from the front.

Now, this information is not unique to military matters. In fact, God has known and put into practice this very technique with His church. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (NRSV). We are not asked by God to do something that He is unwilling to do or that is beyond our abilities, rather we are asked to be part of the team, working together with Him.

Jesus taught this same principle to His followers. When they asked who was greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, He declared that it was the servant who worked with His people rather than some grandiose leader filled with a sense of his own importance. At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4; also see Matthew 23:10-12; Mark 9:23-37 and Luke 22:24-27)

Shepherds of God’s flock are told not to “lord it over the flock” but rather to “be an example” (1 Peter 5:1-3). Likewise, all of us as Christians are to be united in mind, in love, in spirit, and in purpose. We show who and what we are by doing “nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” What’s more, we are to “not merely look out for your [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others [our fellow Christians]” (Philippians 2:1-4).

The best kind of leadership is by example and since each one of us as members of Christ’s body are to take the leadership in service, let’s all do our 100 percent best for the Lord and for each other this week!

— Lester P. Bagley

7/16/17 ~ FAITHFULNESS

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever worked through some difficulty because of the love, care, and encouragement of a fellow Christian and the Lord? If so, do you also remember that there are a lot of people out there in this world that have no hope? Doesn’t that strike you as sad?

Does it strike you as even sadder still when you consider that many times Christians have no hope because they’ve left their first love, Christ? I’d like us to think a bit about a Christian attribute that’s sometimes called dedication, but the word God most often uses is faithfulness! Another word for this same attribute is reliability.

Without dedication, without faithfulness, without reliability, we cannot complete the tasks we have to do. Let’s consider the subject of faithfulness for a moment.

Faithfulness

We expect faithfulness and reliability from things and other people around us. Unfortunately, as Christians, one of our persistent sins is a lack of faithfulness to God. Are you unreliable as a Christian?

You would be angry if a store clerk repeatedly ignored you to serve their friends. But do you turn your back on God and miss worship when “friends” or even “family” come to visit? Shouldn’t we be more dedicated, more reliable, more faithful to God’s family?

If your newspaper were delivered to your house on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but to someone else’s house on the other days, you would be upset. Would you consider continuing to pay for that kind of service? Do you expect God to continue to bless you and respond to your needs and prayers when you serve and worship Him on your terms?

If your hot water heater provides you with an ice-cold shower part of the time, a luke-warm shower sometimes, and a hot shower only occasionally, would you consider it dependable? Should God consider us reliable for occasional attendance at worship or Bible study and occasional other kinds of service to Him?

How would you feel about your husband or wife spending a few nights each month with another man or woman? How does God feel about you forsaking His church and His people to be with denominational people, openly claiming that their priority is their feelings, wants and needs and not what God says and wants?

What would your bank say about you missing a couple of house payments every year? Would they understand that you really needed the money to buy presents for your family? Do you expect God to accept that your children and family are better served by your time with them but away from Him?

Sometimes we presume so much on God’s love…

…that we fail to demonstrate our responsibility for faithfulness. Do you see yourself as a volunteer in service to God or do you understand God’s view? “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). For a volunteer, almost anything seems acceptable, but for servants who are duty bound, faithfulness is required!

“100 percent!” is a challenge to each one of us to demonstrate our love, our commitment, our faithfulness to each other and to God. Let’s get busy, get involved and show God and each other how much we care, who we really belong to, and how much we appreciate….

…what God paid to purchase us from hell.

— Lester P. Bagley

7/9/17 ~ Bless the Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how some songs just seem to apply to living as a child of God? Sure they may have originally been intended for a totally different audience but when you really consider the words they just seem to fit God’s family.One such song from the 1960s goes like this:

It’s such a pretty world today, look at the sunshine. 
And every day’s the same since I met you.
It’s such a pretty world today knowing that you’re mine
And happiness is being close to you.

Do you see what I mean? Wouldn’t David, the “sweet singer of Israel” have loved the thought?

When words, thoughts, ideas cause us to focus on God and recall both who He is and what He has done for us they ought to cause us to…

Bless the Lord

To many of us today the idea of blessing God may sound a little odd. We normally think of blessing as something that God does for us and not the other way around. However, the Scriptures provide some very certain statements about us blessing God, so let’s do a bit of study.

The Hebrew word most often translated “bless” is barak, literally meaning to kneel as for praise or prayer and thus to thank, bless, salute or wish well to. This word is used over 330 times in the Old Testament and is translated 315 times in the NASB as some form of “bless.” A good example is Psalm 103 where it occurs six times.

The first thing you may notice is that not all translations have the term “bless the Lord.” The NIV generally translates this as “praise” rather than bless. As you can see from the above definition, the meaning carried by this word is really a bit more than saying something nice about God. Let’s read Psalm 103 and see if we can get a better grasp of the idea:

Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit;
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The Lord performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us; Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more;
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
The lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant,
And who remember His precepts to do them.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Do you see the richness and beauty of what David is exclaiming in praise of God? We could never simply say “that’s nice” to the one who forgives our sins, heals our diseases, showers us with blessings and, above all else, saves us. When we study our Bibles, we come to realize that the God who created everything and guided all of history is the very one who loved us (you and me) so much that He sent His own Son to die for us. Wow!

Have you ever stopped and just looked up? Past the clouds, past the sun, past the stars, past all that we can see is still not as big as God’s love for us! And the everlasting love of God remains forever upon those who love and obey Him.

Yes, it is a pretty world today and every day when we know and serve God! And happiness, real joy, is found only in being close to Him.

Doesn’t that make you, like David, want to call out to all of creation to shower God with praise? Do you know who God is and what He has done for you? Do you belong to Him, obeying His words and serving Him? Then let’s join in lifting our voices, our very lives to praise, to thank, to salute, to bless the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

7/2/17 ~ Lord of Open Doors

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how often people see things differently? One person sees a bee as precious as it pollinates flowers and makes honey while another person sees a terrifying monster with no purpose other than stinging and harming people.

How do you see God? Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves about the…

Lord of Open Doors

Does your god restrict your life? Do you have a god that cramps your style? Is your god the god of “Thou shalt not’s”? That’s the kind of god many people see, one who always says “No” to anything fun, interesting or exciting. There are some very definite things God requires of us, but if the restrictive, negative and downright meanness of God is your view of Him, then you don’t really know Him. If that is how God looks to you, then you need to meet the real God, the one who is Lord of Open Doors.

Of all the doors most restrictive in life, the prison door must rank as one of the harshest. And of prison doors, the worst would have to be the one that slams shut on an innocent man or woman. Three times in the book of Acts we see innocent people imprisoned and find God opening literal prison doors.

First, in Acts 5:17ff we find the apostles thrown into prison by a jealous high priest and his associates, but God sends an angel to bring them out. Second, in Acts 12:6ff we see Herod murdering James the brother of John and arresting Peter to please the Jews. Again God intervenes and escorts Peter from his cell. And third, in Acts 16:26ff Paul and Silas are beaten and chained in the inner prison of Philippi. But Roman prisons are no more a match for God than those of Herod or the Jewish high priest.

Most of us would be greatly embarrassed to go to a friend’s house and have the door shut in our face. Even more embarrassing would be arriving at the door or gates of heaven and being shut out. Once again, the real God is concerned about those who belong to Him. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Does that sound like the Lord of Open Doors is someone who would restrict your life, cramp your style and cover you with “Thou shalt not’s”?

Listen to how God is described to the Christians of Philadelphia: “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.’” (Revelation 3:7b-8) That’s the real God helping faithful Christians.

Wait a minute, I’m not Super-Saint. I’ve made mistakes. What does the Lord of Open Doors have to do with me? If you are into do-it-yourself heart or brain surgery, your mistakes may be fatal. But for Christians the mistakes we make, even when we really mess up our lives, need not be fatal. God still loves and cares and wants to open doors for you, too. Notice what Jesus says to the “you’ve really blown it now” Christians of Laodicea: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) No matter what you’ve done, if you will allow God to do so, He’ll open doors for you.

If you are a Christian, even one who has totally failed, your God wants to be the Lord of Open Doors to you. If you’re not a Christian, boy does God ever have a gift for you! Isn’t it time that you got to know (or better know) the Lord of Open Doors? Sit down someplace away from everyone else for a few minutes and read Paul’s description of the real God who opened doors for him and who promises to do so for you!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

Doesn’t that sound like the God you want to know? Don’t miss out. Be an active part of Him and His family this week!

— Lester P. Bagley