10/1/17 ~ Good Counsel or Bad?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever gotten advice that you later wished you’d heeded? Or perhaps you’ve received some advice that was later found to be completely wrong and worthless. Either way, we are constantly bombarded with advice. The difficult decision to make is whether it is worthwhile or useless.

Let’s seriously consider the choice of…

Good Counsel or Bad?

With experience, we begin to learn that good advice, good counsel comes from those who are truly wise and good and follow the way of the Lord. Bad advice comes from those who are evil, and its worthlessness is only exceeded by the worthlessness of those who give it.

While it is evident that God gave good advice to be faithful to everyone beginning with His “advice” to Adam and Eve in the Garden, the first time that the word for counsel or advice is used in the Bible is Exodus 18:19. Here Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gives wise counsel about the practical way of dealing with the immense job of leading God’s people. From this point on God will specifically use this word some eighty times in the Old Testament for us to learn the lesson.

Thus begins the lessons of both good and bad counsel that may be accepted or rejected and the consequences thereof. David’s son Absalom provides an interesting example as he chooses to ignore the counsel of Ahithophel and accepts the counsel of Hushai (2 Samuel 17). On this occasion, God intervened so that what would have been good counsel by Ahithophel for Absalom and evil for David is rejected. Instead of Absalom defeating his father David and taking the crown, he follows the advice of Hushai who is faithful to both the Lord and King David.

All of this presents us with some important things to remember:

1) Wise and good counsel is from God! The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11). Only with Him do we find the advice that is always for our good. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you (Psalm 32:8).

2) We should also highly regard and follow the counsel of the godly. Not all human counsel is equally worthwhile! How blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (Psalm 1:1).

A wise person will hear and increase in learning, and a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). In this case, the Hebrew word for counsel is a nautical term used for steering a ship (also Proverbs 11:14; 20:18; 24:6). Godly, biblically accurate counsel will always steer us in the right direction.

3) When we follow God’s wisdom we become the teachers, the counselors of others for good. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine (Proverbs 8:14). Indeed, the New Testament challenges the godly to speak with both the words and authority of God (1 Peter 4:11; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9).

So, where do we get this good and wise counsel from God Himself? Paul first answers that question with where NOT to get it: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them. (2 Timothy 3:13-14)

The positive answer is found in: …and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the person of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

May we always forsake the useless human counsel and listen to and heed the wise counsel from God!

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/24/17 ~ Concentrate Me, Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingSome years ago I was talking to a young person about the concept of God making us holy. Misunderstanding the word “consecrate” they replied that they understood the idea that God was concentrating us.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes our young people better understand and express difficult lessons? Let’s dig a little deeper into those words.

Concentrate Me, Lord

The Old Testament several times uses the word “consecrate” to describe the procedure of making the priests ready for their service to God (cf. Exodus 30:30; 32:28-29). The word comes from the concept of “cut off” to imply that those that serve the Lord are completely set aside to that task. They were not to be like other people but rather holy to the Lord.

Most of us are perhaps more familiar with the word concentrate. Take concentrated orange juice for example. You understand what it is. Fresh orange juice has most of the water removed (that’s why you add water to re-constitute it!) and you are left with very strong, thick, pure orange flavor and solids (vitamins, minerals, pulp, etc.) that make up orange juice.

Now, put that in a spiritual perspective. If we allow God to distill us, remove the things that make us impure then we are left with the most Christlike parts.

Consider James’ recommendation: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4) Isn’t that God concentrating and consecrating us?

Or Paul’s thought: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:3-4). God has chosen us to be concentrated, holy and like Him.

That’s exactly how God views the church, the bride of Christ: So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:26-27). Set apart, distilled down to be pure essence of godliness.

Peter advises us to: Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “you shall be Holy, for I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:13–16)

Do you see the point? We have to be changed from that old person of sin, selfishness and ignorance into the holy people of God’s own family. Our consecration, being made holy by our holy God boils us down, distills us into a concentrated form that is more powerful and more precious than anything we could otherwise be.

I’m often amused at the degree of nonsense that many people will believe. You can find great discussions about why concentrates like orange juice are bad, evil, wicked and unhealthy. In reality, the ONLY difference is that the water is removed and EVERYTHING else is still there.

Likewise, it is often amusing that we forget that CONSECRATION in a Christian is just removing the ungodly parts. The result in our lives is that ALL the godly, useful, spiritual parts are still there. They are just stronger for having less of the unspiritual mixed in with them. We are CONCENTRATED with Christ for God’s use!

We need to ask ourselves what we really are. Do we still retain the contaminants of the world? Or are we allowing God to change us into the consecrated, holy, concentrated, pure body of Christ that we are called to be?

— Lester P. Bagley

 

9/17/17 ~ Warrior Songs

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs the Apostle John tells of his vision of the new, eternal, holy city (Revelation 21), he specifies not only those that will be there (verse 7) but also those that will be excluded (verse 8). In that list of exclusions, God places the cowardly at the top of the list.

Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Greek philosopher that was born in 535 BC and died in 475 BC. During his lifetime Ephesus was part of the Persian Empire, but events were building up to the expulsion of the Persians. Five years before his death, 300 Spartans become the symbol of courage against overwhelming odds in the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). Their sacrifice would contribute greatly to the road to freedom for the Greek nation.

There’s a military quote attributed to Heraclitus that is well appreciated for its accuracy:

  • Of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are nothing but targets,
  • 9 are real fighters and we are lucky to have them for they make the battle.
  • Ah but the one, one of them is a warrior…
  • and he will bring the others back.

The observation is true not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual one. So it is fair to ask: Are you a coward or a warrior when it comes to serving Jesus Christ? Consider God’s lesson of…

The Warrior Songs

Over the centuries many cultures were famed for their great warriors, and one of the great tributes to those heroes were songs. Songs of their fame. Songs of their great deeds. Songs of their immense courage. Songs of their sacrifice and death. Heroes are not born, you see, but they are motivated and trained.

It should come as no surprise to us that God calls His people to such a great challenge. The Apostle Paul reminds us,

  • Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
  • Put on the full armor of God,
  • so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
  • For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
  • but against the rulers, against the powers,
  • against the world forces of this darkness,
  • against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
  • Therefore, take up the full armor of God,
  • so that you will be able to resist in the evil day,
  • and having done everything, to stand firm.
  • (Ephesians 6:10-13)

The fact is, once sin came into the world, this has always been an important part of God’s message to His people. After 40 years of working under the leadership of Moses God challenged him to encourage Joshua to do the job he would soon take over. And when Joshua begins the job the first thing God calls on the elders and all the nation to do is to encourage Joshua to the work he is called to do.

Throughout the years of the Judges, there were many songs to commemorate and praise the strong men and women who faithfully followed God. But perhaps David, the Sweet Singer of Israel, would set the tone for the warrior songs of God’s people for all time.

Psalm 18 begins with this ancient attribution: For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said…

David goes on to sing the song of His Lord and God as the great warrior, the great victor in saving David from all harm. What a beautiful reminder of what his son, Solomon would observe years later that victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31).

One of the great Messianic Psalms (Psalm 91) is often referred to as the Warrior Psalm or as the song of comfort to military families. Again the reminder comes that God is the great deliverer and reason for our victory. Satan would apply the promise of God’s angels guarding God’s warriors to Jesus as a challenge to throw Himself from the Temple (see Psalm 91:11-13 and Matthew 4:5-6). Is there any greater comfort for “Soldiers of Christ” than to realize how God controls every single detail to protect and bring victory to His people, His warriors?

Years after David died his son Solomon would sing a warrior’s song of a victorious reminder that

  • Unless the Lord builds the house,
  • They labor in vain who build it;
  • Unless the Lord guards the city, 
  • The watchman keeps awake in vain
  • (Psalm 127:1).

Yet it would be David himself, perhaps the greatest warrior of God’s people, that would sing what is often thought of as the ultimate song of all God’s warriors:

  • Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
  • Who trains my hands for war,
  • And my fingers for battle
  • (Psalm 144:1).

He would go on to praise the God of salvation who brings not only deliverance from the dangers of battle but the ultimate joy, peace, safety and blessing for the victor. And David’s ultimate conclusion in verse 15 would be:

How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

Let’s return to Paul’s application of this lesson for us in Ephesians 6. Preparation, conditioning, training are the vital things a warrior does to get ready. If we lack the time to be in the study of God’s word and in prayer to prepare us for the fight we will never win. And no warrior ever imagines for a single moment that they are perfectly prepared. That training goes on every moment you are not actually in combat. The goal is to develop that keen edge of readiness to instantly do the right thing when the time comes.

How serious is the battle that we face? It is literally deadlier than any flesh and blood battle ever fought! Our enemy is Satan himself with all his spiritual powers. Without God’s own help, without His full armor, we cannot face the murderous attacks of the evil one. But with His help, with God’s own Spirit within us, we can truly accomplish all things.

In the end, that’s exactly what saints really are: the most magnificent, well trained, confident, deadly warriors that fight the good fight of faith and take hold of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12)! This is our calling! And this is the very purpose of our “good confession” as we put on our Christ.

This is our life in Christ! As we serve, as we live for Him, as we destroy the power of Satan in the lives of those we turn to the Lord we join the chorus of those who sing the warrior songs.

And one day we will complete the good fight. We will finish the course. We will have kept the faith and be ready for the crown (2 Timothy 4:7-8)., the crown that is reserved for us all as victorious Soldiers of Christ. And then we sing, not the warrior’s song of fighting the good fight, but the eternal song of victory in Heaven.

  • I have fought the good fight,
  • I have finished the race,
  • I have kept the faith.  
  • From now on there is reserved for me
  • the crown of righteousness,
  • which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day,
  • and not only to me but also to
  • all who have longed for his appearing.

Without the warrior’s song, there is no victor’s song. So, are you ready to sing the warrior’s song with God’s people that you might also join in the victor’s song one day?

— Lester P. Bagley

9/2/17 ~ Did Jews Under the Old Testament Tithe?

RacineBuildingActually, the Jews were required to give more than a tenth. (1) Deuteronomy 26:12 said the Jews had to give an extra tithe every three years for their welfare program. So, if someone tithed $900 a year, s/he would have to tithe an average of $300 more per year for the welfare program, equaling $1,200 year. If the yearly income was $9000, this would take it up to 13.3% a year. (2) Also, according to Leviticus 27, they had to pay for their vows, which in many cases were really special prayer requests. (3) They also had to buy animals for sacrifices for intentional sins, unintentional sins and sins requiring restitution. (4) If they wanted to thank God for anything, they had to buy grain for a sacrifice (Leviticus 1-5). If they didn’t have to buy the animals or grain, they had to take them out of their own supply, thus depleting their own “pay check.” (5) And every time one of their flocks or herds had a first-born, they had to sacrifice it ~ another depleting of the “pay check.”

So the good Jew under the Law of Moses did not just tithe. He ended up giving about one third of his income. Galatians 5:3 says that, if we keep one part of the Law, we have to keep all of it. There were over 600 burdensome commandments in the Law of Moses!

Exercise to Determine Your Annual Giving Budget Under Law of Moses

Vows

  • Genesis 28:20 – To have a safe journey (“traveling mercies”)
  • Leviticus 27:2 – To dedicate someone for special service to God
  • Numbers 21:2 – To be delivered from enemy army
  • 1 Samuel 1:11; Proverbs 31:2 – To have a child
  • 2 Samuel 15:7-8 – To return to homeland and reconciled to family
  • Psalm 22:11, 25; 66:13 – To be freed of troubles and desertion by friend
  • Psalm 76:11; Isaiah 19:21 – To prove allegiance to God before others
  • Psalm 116:8, 14, 18-19 – To thank God for a verdict of not guilty
  • Job 22:27; Jonah 2:7-9 – To recover from illness

(Leviticus 27:2-7) – Find your category by gender and age. Multiply the number of shekels required times $5.00. How much would one vow cost you? _____________ At one vow a month, how much would that be a year? _________________ Add that figure to your annual giving budget below.

First-born People & Livestock

Since each family only has one first-born their entire existence, we will not count this in the Annual Giving Budget below.

Numbers 3:45-47 – If your herds had twenty females giving birth for the first time in a year, you would owe how much in shekels to buy back (redeem) all five from becoming burned offerings? _____________ How much would that be in dollars? Add that your Annual Giving Budget below.

Animal Sacrifices

Let us give an average value of $25.00 per animal (5 shekels of silver).

Leviticus 1:6, 8-13; 8:18-21; 16:24 – This BURNT OFFERING was wholly consumed by fire. It was voluntary to atone for unknown, unintentional sin, expression of devotion, or complete surrender to God. If you asked God to forgive you for unknown, unintentional sins every week at $25.00 each, that would be how much in a year? ___________ Add that below to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 4:1 – 5:13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22 – This SIN OFFERING was required to atone for a specific unintentional sin (probably done in public) and involved confession, forgiveness, and cleansing from defilement. If you asked God to forgive you for one unintentional but public sin a month at $25.00 per animal sacrificed, that would be how much in a year? _______________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7:1-6 – This GUILT OFFERING was required for sins requiring restitution of an added 20% such as for stealing (intentional) or destroying property (unintentional). Let’s say you are real good and never get into this kind of trouble. Don’t add it to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Grain Offering

Grain offerings were usually cooked and eaten by the priests. They were flour, oil, incense (flavoring), bread, and salt. Let us give each such offering a $5.00 value.

Leviticus 2; 6:14-23 – This THANKSGIVING OFFERING was voluntary. Let’s say you, a good Jew, have a positive attitude and thank God for things once a week. How much would your grain offerings add up to during the year? __________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 3; 7:11-34 – This FELLOWSHIP OFFERING was voluntary and another form of thanking God for his goodness. Let’s say you make this kind of offering once a month. How much would your grain offerings add up to during the year? _________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

 

Annual Giving Budget of Good Jew

$____________ Tithing for the year

$____________ One-third of tri-year welfare tithe

$____________ One vow a month for a year

$____________ Twenty first-borns in herd for the year

$____________ One unknown sin a week (burnt offering)

$____________ One unintentional sin a month (sin offering)

$____________ One thanksgiving offering a week for a year

$____________ One fellowship offering a month for a year

$____________ TOTAL GIVING FOR A GOOD JEW