11/26/17 ~ The Christian Family

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the great lessons we learn in life is the fact that many things can be done in a right way or a wrong way. The same holds true with God and His lessons.

God commanded His people through Moses that, You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice (Exodus 23:2). Just because many people are doing it does not make it right.

At the same time, we are admonished to be active participants in God’s family as we serve Him together. Paul looked forward to fellowship with the Christians at Rome so that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:12).

Let’s consider a bit more of the lesson of working with…

The Christian Family

A popular book several years ago was the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It extolled the “virtues” of independence and individuality at any price.

The seagull is a popular subject for photography, and many people who go to the beach end up with some kind of souvenir bearing the picture of a seagull. It is easy to see why people like this figure. A seagull exults in freedom. When flying alone, he thrusts his wings back with powerful strokes, climbs higher and higher, and then swoops down in majestic loops and circles.

In a flock, though, the seagull is a different bird. His majesty dissolves into infights and cruelty. The concepts of sharing and manners do not seem to exist among gulls. They are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a ribbon around the leg of a gull, making him stand out from the rest, you sentence him to death. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood until he dies.

If we must have a bird as a model, there is certainly a better choice. Consider the wild goose. The V formation they use in flying enables them to fly with more ease and speed. The point position is the most difficult because of wind resistance, so the geese rotate this position every few minutes. The easiest flight is experienced in the two rear sections of the formation, and the stronger geese permit the young, weak, and older birds to occupy these positions. It is also thought that the constant honking is, at least in part, done as encouragement to the weaker geese.

The seagull teaches us to break loose and fly alone, but the wild goose teaches us to fly in a “family.” We can fly further with our Christian family than we could ever fly alone and, as we fly, our efforts constantly help others in our family.

Hopefully, we see and understand the lesson here. Paul seemed to have to deal frequently with both false teachers and those Christians that were all too willing to follow them rather than the truth of God’s word. Read his highly insulting “compliment” of this attitude in 2 Corinthians 11:4.

The fact is, it is a sin to allow ourselves to be sucked into Satan’s web. No matter how good the forbidden fruit looks, we must see through the false, good-looking false teachers and their false teachings and stand firm in the truth.

Of course, all this is also a frequent theme of Paul to congregations. How much more could we accomplish if we both stand firm in the faith and actually encourage each other in what is right in God’s sight? Being united is sin is no honor. Being united is what is truly God’s will and way is!

So, what is your choice? In nearly every congregation that we see in the New Testament, there are those infamous for their firm stand for wrong. In most of those congregations, there are also those that remain faithful and stand for the right.

Just as Joshua recommended long ago, it’s time for you to choose your stand. Are you with the Lord or with some false god?

Hopefully, we will choose the family of God and stand firm with our Heavenly Father.

— Lester P. Bagley

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11/19/17 ~ Thanksgiving in God’s Word

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever thought about what it is that makes you happy? In dealing with depression and sadness there is one common thread in all the advice, all the research, all the studies of what really works.

In order to move from sadness to joy, you have to first get moving. Unsurprisingly you never get anywhere else unless you get up and do something; you have to move. But the second ingredient always involves thankfulness.

If you never make the effort to appreciate, to see and be thankful then you are guaranteed to be miserable. It is not only a fact of human psychology, a fact of life; it is a fact of spiritual life, too.

Think for a few moments just how much God has done for you and let’s look at just a few lessons of…

Thanksgiving in God’s Word

It is easy to think of the Thanksgiving holiday as an American invention that happens once a year. But, as you probably realize, the original “holiday” in this country was a group of Christian people celebrating what their God had done to provide for them in difficult circumstances. And they understood what we should remember: Thanksgiving has always been celebrated by God’s people whenever they stop to realize and appreciate God’s blessings!

We have much to be thankful for every single day and should often go to our God in prayer for His many rich blessings. Let’s consider just a few of the lessons from God’s hymn book (Psalms) that remind us to be truly thankful.

1) God’s love never changes, never falters, and never ends. When Moses was on the mountain to receive the Law it was part of God’s announcement as to who He really is (Exodus 34:6-7). The Psalmist certainly had this knowledge of the Lord in mind.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

2) God’s faithfulness reminds us of what He calls us to with our faithfulness. It should never be a temporary thing for us because His faithfulness lasts literally forever!
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1-2)

3) Because God is God He is worthy of praise. Remember His awesome creative power and His eternal purpose for us, His people. Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His (Psalm 100:3).

4) God purposefully created you as an intricate work of careful design, and He cares about every single part of you.  For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13-17)

5) God is our greatest hope and encouragement when we face struggles in this life.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

6) God is the best antidote to our fears. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:10-11)

7) God is trustworthy. He will continue to bless us with what is best. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. (Psalm 37:3-5)

Consider how much He has done for you and give Him your all. You will never be sorry that you did. Are you truly thankful to the Lord?

— Lester P. Bagley

11/12/17 ~ Provocation

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingI don’t know if you are a fan of the Bee Gees or not, but they wrote and/or performed literally thousands of songs. Of the songs that they wrote, over 2,500 other singers have recorded them. So you probably have at least heard a some of their songs and may even have some favorites. One of their catchy and popular love songs was simply titled “Words” and it includes the reminder that “words are all I have to take your heart away.”

If you are not a fan of the Bee Gees perhaps you have at least heard the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And you may also realize just how false that little taunt really is. That, of course, is the point of the love song. Words can reach out and touch a heart and turn it to the right things.

Words really do have power. They have the power to challenge and inspire us, and the power to hurt and discourage us. And that is why the study of the words of God is so important. “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life” are lyrics that we sing to remind us as Christians of this very important lesson.

Take a moment to consider one of God’s extraordinary words, and both the bad and the good lessons that it offers to us:

Provocation

Have you ever used a stick to push someone or some animal along? Have you ever used words to provoke someone? Children may taunt someone with the intention of hurting their feelings and, sadly, adults may do the same thing. The word “provocation” means just that, trying to motivate them in some way by poking and prodding them.

In Deuteronomy, Moses uses the term several times to refer to the repeated disobedience of God’s people and how it caused Him to be angry (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25; 9:7, 18, 22; 32:16, 21). This would become a sadly repetitious theme in the relationship between God and His people as Judges 2:12 points out: and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger.

The time of the monarchy is all too similar to the time of the Judges as the kings, like the whole nation before them, repeatedly disobeyed God until they provoked Him to bring first the end of Israel and a few years later the captivity of Judah.

Provocations! Disobeying, dishonoring and ignoring the Lord and His will until such time as He would be fed up and punish them.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul did not want to take John Mark on the second missionary journey after Mark’s desertion on the first journey. The word that Luke used of the angry dispute between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) pictures an explosion. This provocation was so great that Paul and Barnabas split up for a time.

Sometime later on that very same journey, Paul would again be provoked as he observed the multitude of idols in the city of Athens (Acts 17:16). Like God when Israel and Judah chose to worship the false gods of the nations around them, it was appalling to see the extent of their provocations of the Lord Himself.

It’s often said that preachers’ lessons are directed at themselves as much as anybody else. Certainly, Paul understood that principle as he wrote his letters. Perhaps that is partly why he chose this same word of great provocation to be a reminder to us all in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked.

As strong as this word is in the negative form it is also used in a positive way with an equally strong lesson from the Holy Spirit. In Hebrews 10:24 we are urged by God to …consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Some translations actually use the literal translation of provoke.

How much effort do we give to encouragement? Have you ever been really good and angry, incensed and downright explosively angry? That is exactly how much effort God expects us to put into our positive encouragement of His people! What a thought! Explosively good and positive for God!

One last picture from God’s word to keep this all in the proper perspective comes from the Apostle Peter. Certainly, Peter knew about an explosive attitude and at times could be as volatile as any of us. Yet he writes to us to sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Think about that a moment. What follows involves us actually treating our God as the Holy Lord that He is!

Okay, so what’s the rest of Peter’s point? Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

We are called to BE the dynamite of God; His power used in this world of spiritual battle against the forces of Satan. And yet we use that very power for good in encouraging our fellow saints to serve and fight the good fight.

May we always be provoked to love and serve our Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

The “I Love You” Game

Mitch Teemley

gty_marriage_divorce_ll_110819_wg

I have a friend who’s unhappy in his marriage and is thinking of leaving. This is the conversation I hope to have with him.

“What should I do?” he asks, not really wanting to hear the answer.

“Put it to a vote.”

“What?”

“How would she vote?”

“Well, right now she’s hurt.”

“And the other two? They get a vote.”

“What other two? We don’t have kids.”

“God. He invented the thing, so guess what his vote will be.”

“Yeah.” He rolls his eyes. “And?”

“Us.”

“Us?”

“The person you created when you became ‘one flesh.’ Remember? The preacher said, ‘You are no longer two, but one. And, therefore, what God has joined together, let no one tear apart’ (Matthew 19:6). So you know how Us is gonna vote. Oh, and by the way, you already voted when you promised not to tear Us apart.

“But I don’t think I…

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11/5/17 ~ Lessons From God

From the Preacher’s Pen

RacineBuildingEveryone lives by some standard, some criteria for what is right and wrong, honorable or dishonorable. If we would look forward to God’s promises and blessings we must use His standard, the Bible, for our standard of right and wrong.

While God’s word, the Bible, is filled with many lessons for us, I would like to suggest a few things worthy of our time and effort to work on. Let’s consider a few…

Lessons from God

1. Wake Up! The Psalmist said, This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). God makes time for us. We should make time for Him and appreciate all that He has done for us. Everything in the Bible is a reminder pointing us to God. Don’t sleep, though, and miss out on what is really important.

2. Dress Up! No, the clothes you may be wearing today are not the point. We’ve all met someone that is beautiful and well-dressed but was so ugly in attitude that no one could stand them. Likewise, we’ve met people that are truly beautiful regardless of their clothing or looks. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Improve your looks with a beautiful heart!

3. Shut Up! God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking. He who guards his lips guards his soul (Proverbs 13:3). Say nice things and learn to listen… especially to God!

4. Stand Up! Stand for something or you will fall for anything! There are many things in this world that we may choose to stand up for, but none of them will ever be as great as choosing to stand with God. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

5. Look Up! When we forget God, we forget our real power and ability. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

6. Reach Up! Don’t just acknowledge God as being there, do His will and faithfully follow Him! Trust in the Lord with all your heart, & lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, & He will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

7. Lift Up! Many people imagine that they serve in God’s Secret Service. He doesn’t have one! And if you don’t let anyone else know about God the chances are you don’t talk to Him either. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).

Many people in this world imagine that they know and serve God without ever learning and obeying His will. If you would really know God, His greatness, His promises and, above all, His forgiveness and blessings, then you must learn to live for Him.

Be a part, an active, living part of His family this week and always!

Lester P. Bagley