6/17/18 ~ What is past

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you a time traveler? Many of us enjoy the past for the lessons it provides us for both now and the future. Hopefully, all of us learn from the past or else we are doomed to repeat those same mistakes over and over again.

In spite of learning from the past, there is an important fact that we must remember. We can never time travel to redo or undo the past and, while it can be a lesson (good or bad), it can never be undone…or can it? That is the beginning of a vital lesson for us as Christians about…

What is Past

Human beings living on this earth are bounded by time. Time is linear, a straight line that moves from the past to the future; yet only today actually matters. What is past is fixed forever and we can never redo it.

When we consider those simple facts, we are left with discouragement and despair. It is only when God is brought into the equation that there is any reason for hope!

Paul has a great discussion of those facts: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

As failures without God, we are spectacular failures! We were enslaved to the things of this world (Galatians 4:3) and blinded by Satan to the Light of Life (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Fortunately, Paul also tells us of the hope that only God brings: But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in
kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that [grace is] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

The past, OUR past, is failure! Living in a fallen world of sin every single one of us has made the fatal choice of sin over obedience to God. Now we either give up in despair or find the only possible way forward that is in Christ!

Paul reminds us: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The change or transformation that God uses to correct our failures is nothing short of a spectacular miracle! The Holy Spirit chooses an interesting word for that transformation that God does (and continues to do) to/for us: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2)

The Greek word “transformed” (metamorphoō) in those two verses gives us our English word metamorphosis. In the insect world that change is seen as a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The only other use of this word in the New Testament is at what we usually call the “transfiguration of Jesus” in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2. Jesus did NOT just sparkle or change to white robes for the occasion, but rather he was “transformed” by God’s power! When we are baptized, when we are born again by the water and the Spirit of God we are changed, transfigured by the power of God into the image of Christ.

Paul challenges us: Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he (God) says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:1-2, NET)

Today is NOT the past. Today is the time for transformation. It’s time to move on and keep moving on from being a sinful, ugly worm to the beauty of being Christ! May we live today and into the future with the proud proclamation: I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20)!

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Lester P. Bagley

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6/10/18 ~ Faithful People

 

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Far too often we become guilty of making excuses instead of doing what it right. Catch a child in some misdeed and listen to the countless, creative excuses as to why they had to do wrong.

God points out this very lesson along with our responsibility to grow up and do right: Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 14:20).

So let’s examine just how far God takes this responsibility to be…

Faithful People

Don’t you love hearing and learning wise counsel? Good advice that is really useful and meaningful is a treasure! God, of course, has a lot of that treasure to share and, if we would be faithful to Him, so do we!

Listen to some of Paul’s final words, So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

Now consider what he’s saying. An Apostle of Jesus Christ is facing his final days here on earth. He had a commission from his Lord and Savior to take the Gospel ~ the whole of the Gospel ~ to others in this world. Not only does he bring words of FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND SALVATION but he also brings the message to keep it going by teaching them to teach others (Matthew 28:19-20).

Paul is passing the torch to Timothy (as he did to others) in order for Timothy to pass it on himself. Consider again Paul’s actual words.

Be strong and not timid. God has constantly reinforced His people with this reminder to be courageous. He reminds us because we are apt to forget and let courage get away from us under severe trials.

The grace that is in Christ Jesus. Being strong is only real strength and only really useful when it is in the Lord. Paul had written many times to encourage strength in the Lord (cf. Ephesians 6:10) because real power only comes from the Lord (cf. Philippians 4:13). Strength enabled and empowered by God is going to be successful.

Entrust to faithful people the powerful truth that you have learned. It is not opinion or ideas that we have to pass on, but rather the truth that was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3) by the Apostles. What we have is so precious we must not just keep it but pass it on. And we pass it on, not to just anyone, but to those faithful ones that will continue to pass it on.

The qualification to TEACH is cited by Paul as a requirement of Elders (1 Timothy 3:2) but is, in reality, a requirement of all who would be worthy of God’s Good News.

Entrust to faithful people is a great honor and responsibility. The word Paul uses for faithful people (anthrōpos) is the generic term for human beings. Faithful (pistos), can only be defined by God as it refers to those that are reliable and trustworthy in God’s eyes.

People who will be able to teach others also is an absolute requirement for God’s people! We can never say that we just can’t do it. God calls us to do it! God not only says we can do it but empowers us. Notice the four generations Paul mentions: Himself, Timothy, faithful individuals and others. The chain of faithful teachers is one that reaches from the purity of the New Testament to us. And God calls on us to ensure that the chain continues into the future.

This is God’s vision of spiritual reproduction. Faithful Christians beget faithful Christians. If the Lord’s church is to be faithful in the future, it begins with us taking up our responsibility now.

Somehow, somewhere many supposed Christians have gotten the idea that they are without responsibility. Every real Christian owes a debt to those who taught them and a responsibility to teach others.

Without taking up our responsibility, we are not faithful.

— Lester P. Bagley

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6/3/18 ~ Hebrew words all Christians should know.

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you multilingual? Most of us would immediately say that we don’t know any language except English… and we would be completely wrong! Ask an English teacher how many words in our language are actually foreign words and you will be a bit surprised at the answer!

Have you ever ordered a filet mignon steak? That’s a French term (although we technically use it incorrectly as the French use it for pork tenderloin!). I suspect that, living in the Southwestern USA, you’ve also ordered tacos, enchiladas, and a lot of other Mexican foods and probably never once called them sandwiches or rolled flat-bread filled with… well, you get the point! English, like most languages, is made richer with the addition of words that, while technically foreign, are commonly used and understood by almost everyone.

Have you thought about the fact that as Christians our language is made richer by the use of words belonging to God and His people? Throughout the centuries, many of these terms and customs have been identified by God as special to us. If we lose the language of God then we lose the language of our family and our heavenly home! Let’s look at a few important terms that we should treasure and use if we really belong to God:

Hebrew Words All Christians Should Know

One that immediately should come to mind is Hallelujah. Every time we sing a song with the words “praise the Lord” and/or Hallelujah we are simply repeating the exact same thought.

Hallelu is the Hebrew term of encouragement to praise that is addressed to several people. Yah is a short version of YHWH, which is the personal, Covenant name of the Creator God, traditionally translated as Lord (English translations sometimes use Yahweh or Jehovah for this never pronounced sacred name).

So put together in English (in Hebrew it is actually a two-word phrase) it becomes Hallelujah. However, it really means much more than simply “praise God” as the “encouragement” in Hebrew carries the force of joyous praise in song or boasting in God. And when you remember that it is addressed to more than one person it becomes a direct command for us to together praise or boast in the Lord in song.

When we sing “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah” we are making a thoughtful statement about who we are and what we are doing as we acknowledge the one and only God!

Since Hallelujah includes “jah” or “yah” as God’s name, let’s also consider both El and Yah as they are important names and descriptions of God. El is a generic term used in several Middle Eastern Semitic languages. It can refer to any “god,” whether the one true God or a false god. Yah, on the other hand, is a very specific personal name (see above).

You should notice that MANY names in the Bible are compound words that include either of these two terms for God. For a few quick examples consider El-i-jah (my God is YHWH), El-isha (God helped), Dani-el (God judges or God is judge), Jo-el (YHWH is God, Jo being an alternate version of YHWH).

Since many names in the Bible were given with a special purpose or lesson in mind via God, it really helps to see the whole picture God is giving us when you use a good Bible dictionary to fully appreciate the names!

Every time a name in the Bible begins or ends with one of these forms of God’s name, there is a lesson waiting to be discovered. And seeing that lesson will enrich your understanding of what God is trying to tell you in His word!

Let’s look at one more word that’s very important to God and His people: Amen. In the Old Testament, it is used about 30 times and usually translated as amen or as truth. In the New Testament, it is used some 129 times and usually translated as verily or truly when used by Jesus in the Gospels and amen elsewhere.

In the New Testament, the word is borrowed directly from the Hebrew so it’s meaning is intended to be the same. The fact that the Holy Spirit repeatedly uses this specific Hebrew word in all languages and for all God’s people of every age ought to tell us that something important is going on. The Hebrew in its simplest meaning is, “so be it.” But it is used with much more force as an absolute affirmation of trustworthiness and certainty!

When God required His people to acknowledge all the curses that would befall them for failing to obey His commandments, this is the word that they had to use to acknowledge both the righteousness of God and their acceptance of it! (Read Deuteronomy 27:15-26)

Where today people might swear to solemnly affirm something, God’s people say, Amen. Where today people might cheer and clap to show approval of something really important, God’s people say, Amen.

When we would show approval or want to underline the importance of something in a sermon, a song or a prayer, we say, Amen.

Let’s make a very important point here with this word and its meaning to God’s people. If you attend a secular wedding or graduation ceremony, the people of the world tend to whistle, clap, stomp their feet and yell all kinds of things.

Should we make the Lord’s church conform to our modern world? Should we show approval of Godly things by acting like the friends and followers of Satan? Or should we follow the pattern of God’s people for at least the last nearly 4,000 years?

Should we scream, whistle, clap and stomp for a Godly point made in a prayer or sermon? Should we do that for someone who has just put on their Lord in baptism? Seriously? Is THAT the response of God’s people or are we just imitating Satan?

No, we don’t have to follow Jesus. We don’t have to use God’s words… unless we really want to imitate God instead of Satan. Perhaps by serious Bible study and learning God’s words, terminology and meaning, we can learn to do things God’s way!

Yes, it’s that important!

— Lester P. Bagley

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