9/30/18 ~ Worship In a Nursing Home

Worship In A Nuring Home

          Some shuffle, some lean on walkers, some are pushed in wheelchairs.  Arthritis-laden legs bend, backs strain, and with the aid of shaking hands, they sink down now into their chairs.  Racing heartbeats ease to a slower pace.

            After a little rest, some are given songbooks.  The others cannot see.  The first song is announced.  Quivering lips part, cracking voices begin, and heaven opens.  A chorus fit for the King of Glory rises through the ceiling of the little room, bursts into the universe, and swirls into the Divine throne room.  The voices of gallant warriors, torn and broken in body.  The voices of strong warriors, courageous to the very finish.  The halting voices of conquerors boldly reaching for the crown.

            A little later they hear the words, “We are gathered around this table to once again commemorate our Lord’s death.”  Once again.  Yes, once again as many times as it takes until the victory is reached.

Bent hands, stabbed still by throbbing arthritis and shaking with palsy, reach out to touch the first symbol.  The bread has already been broken for them.  Yet it is with determination that each forces fingers to close around the little fragment representing that crucified Body.  Slowly, slowly it is taken up to the lips.  Some fingers fumble at this point and the fragment drops into a lap.  The painful procedure is again repeated until completed.

          Next, the cup is brought.  Blood symbol.  Symbol of death and life.  The little glass is so small it could embarrassingly spill.  A kind friend picks it up and places it into the palm of the awaiting cupped hand.  It is still shaking.  So two hands are used ~ one folded under the first to steady it.  The drink successfully reaches the lips and its contents triumphantly sipped.  Oh, what glory to still be able to honor the dying Savior after all these years!  The glass falls out of tottering hands.  It is caught by the tray.  But the mind has already started transcending this room for another far above.

            “Each week we give our contribution to a worthy cause,” they hear explained.  Presently the collection tray is brought around.  Dimes and quarters are brought out of coin purses, shallow pockets, envelopes, Bible leaves.  Some are wadded in cold hands.  Ever so slowly coins and dollar bills are carefully placed into the tray.  Not much?  It will help someone in need.

            The preacher now stands.  Many shift.  Seats are harder, circulation cramped, arthritis continues to distress aged joints.  He reads about being taken home to Glory some day.  Some watch him, some gaze at the floor.  He speaks of heaven.  They begin to feel left behind.  They think of those they ache to see again.  It has been so long.  They’ve fought so many battles.  A few tears slip down as due drops.  They dream of heaven in the morning….

            The sermon over, the last prayer said, they begin to leave.  Slowly….The room is nearly empty now.  They make their way down wandering halls to little rooms and resume their wait for the Mansions.  They sigh.  Battles of life have been met and fought.  Mountains climbed.  Desolations conquered.  So now it is a matter of waiting and encouraging those left behind to do the best that they, too, can do.  Tired.  Waiting.  But willing to go on until they touch the mark.  And then…. 

          And then….  they will start all over.  Only this time it will be different.  For this time there will be no pain, no foes, no failures, and never again will they grow old!   

~Katheryn Haddad

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Sunday, 9/23 ~ Day of Atonement

From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Jewish Day of Atonement. Now that the earthly version of that remembrance day is actually in progress, let’s recall a bit about it so we might better appreciate it’s fulfillment in Christ.

The Day of Atonement

Chapter 23 of Leviticus sums up God’s plan for the seven annual feasts to the Lord. It is well worth reading and keeping in mind as you continue to the New Testament. Both the apostle Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews remind us that these things in the Old Law are but shadows of the reality, the better things in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1).

In each of these feasts sacrifice was both the major feature and the common link. (1) Passover, (2) Unleavened Bread (also the over-all name for the three celebrations) and the (3) First Fruits were Springtime feasts. Technically the First Fruits falls within the Unleavened Bread which itself is the extension of Passover while Unleavened Bread is the unique focus of this time. Together these form one of the three “feasts” for all God’s people to come together (Exodus 23:14-17).

This first feast is a reminder of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of His people from bondage (even at the terrible cost of the death of a lamb that substituted for the deaths that the Egyptians faced) and the hardships they endured. Yet it couples with the “First Fruits” (of barley harvest) that were a reminder of the joys of salvation even though they were just beginning that journey to the Promised Land. With the New Testament, we see the deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin (again with the terrible cost of, this time, the firstborn of God as the “lamb”) and the beginning of our journey to the eternal Promised Land.

On Sunday, fifty days after the final Sabbath day of that “first feast” was the second feast, the Day of Pentecost or the Feast of Ingathering. This marked the first fruits of summer wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22) and, in the desert, it celebrated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  The New Testament day marked the beginning of the Lord’s church as the time the “Law of Christ” came into effect, the “Last Days” of God’s plan of Salvation for all mankind.

In the Fall of the year, there was a third feast that began with the blowing of trumpets to signal the end of harvest time. It was time to gather God’s people together. Paul reminds us that one day the “last trumpet” will sound to mark the end of our harvest time of souls and the great final gathering together of judgment (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The joy of the end of harvest is tempered with the following Day of Atonement. On this day all God’s people were to humble themselves before the Lord (cf. Leviticus 23:26-32) and confess their sins. Failure to observe this day brought the ultimate penalty of being cut off from among God’s people. Atonement for sin was accomplished by sacrifice for sin and without purification by blood, there was no forgiveness, no hope (cf. Hebrews 9:22).

Our atonement, of course, comes through the gift of the perfect lamb of God. John describes our continued “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) as keeping us cleansed from sin. There is no further need for a sacrifice since this is the ultimate (Hebrews 10:18). In the Judgement Day, of course, there will also be a day of reckoning when those unworthy, those who have failed to humble themselves by obedience to the Lord, will pay the ultimate penalty of being eternally cut off from God and His people.

Following the atonement, there was one more reminder for God’s people. This involved seven days of living in tabernacles (tents or “booths”) to worship God. It both reminded them of God’s deliverance from Egypt and, above all else, that God was with them then and always.

The New Testament reminds us of the ultimate fulfillment. God has prepared an eternal “tabernacle” that God’s people will be welcomed into to live forever with Him: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:11). And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:3).

Our Day of Atonement has come with the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, His resurrection and His church, His body. Have you celebrated? Have you humbled yourself by obedience to Him? Are you prepared for that final Day of the Lord?

Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

— Lester P. Bagley

9/16/18 ~ Serious Bible Study

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the greatest failures of many so-called Christians is their failure to seriously read and study God’s word. A number of preachers ask how many have read their Bibles daily at the beginning of their sermons. Perhaps an even more pointed question would involve how many actually study and understand God’s word.

Bible Study: The Text Matters!

Understanding what you read, just like the man from Ethiopia in Acts 8:26-39, is VITAL to our salvation. And an important place to begin your reading is found in the front of most Bibles!

Since we read a translation made by fallible humans we are responsible to God for knowing the limits of their work. Don’t bother arguing with that since God never, ever promised that the denominational translators of any century and of any translation into any language would be inspired by God. If they were actually inspired by God they would have forsaken the erroneous teachings of their denomination!

All this leads us to a serious error intentionally promoted by the King James translators and perpetuated by most English translators since. The translators did NOT translate a word used by God in the same way every time God says it. What they did do is to make the Bible more interesting (their concept) to read by varying the words in the original inspired text, or by adding words or thoughts to better explain the original meaning. That goal, that attitude (actually stated in the original preface of the KJV translators to the reader) can seriously obstruct and obscure what God is saying and makes at least part of the translation a commentary rather than an accurate copy of the text.

Difficulties in Translating Word for Word

Now, to be fair, it must be noted that ALL translations into ANY language have some difficulties in exactly translating every word and/or thought from the original texts. Three examples illustrate this difficulty and help us appreciate the difficulties involved in translating the Bible:

First, the word order is often different with different languages. Thus a statement that is very clear in the original requires some modification (or even the addition of some words) to convey the same meaning in the translation. For example: John 1:1 in a word–for–word translation ends with the phrase and God was the Word. But the subject has the article and the predicate does not, thus the English meaning is the Word was God.

Also, notice a word-for-word translation of Acts 2:36 would say: Assuredly, therefore, let know all [the] house of Israel that both Lord him and Christ made God, this Jesus whom you crucified. The meaning is NOT that Christ made God but rather that God designated Jesus as THE one; both sovereign, ultimate or supreme ruler and savior, messiah, anointed one.

Second, sometimes a literal translation makes no sense to someone outside the original culture. For example, The philosophers in Athens asked about Paul, “What would this spermologos [literally ‘seed–picker’] say?” The meaning of their sarcastic term used in the query in modern English is better rendered as “babbler” or “gossiper” (Acts 17:18), and even then we may be missing the force of the insult.

Third, one cannot always translate the same word uniformly in each occurrence. For example, the Greek word splanchnon literally means “intestines, bowels, entrails.” Acts 1:18 is easily understood when it says the body of Judas fell and “his bowels gushed out.” But Philippians 1:8 talks of Paul longing for you “in the bowels of Christ.” Only when we understand that the Greeks used splanchnon for the seat of the emotions (the heart to English speaking peoples) can we really translate the meaning of the words into English.

The choices that translators use to move from one language to another can help or hinder our understanding of the inspired writer’s words. And all this reminds us of the importance of continued diligent study and digging into God’s word rather than just a quick and simplistic reading!

Can We Trust the Bible?

If the text as conveyed by God Himself, and our making a great effort to study and understand exactly what the Holy Spirit said is so important, then the real question becomes can we trust our Bibles? Let’s look at a few facts about the text itself.

People questioning the accuracy of the New Testament may quote a figure of some 200,000 errors in the text. This large number is obtained by counting all the variations in all of the manuscripts. Thus, if a given word is misspelled in 4,000 different manuscripts, it counts as 4,000 “errors.” In reality, it was only one slight error that was copied 4,000 times!

Such error counting is a ridiculous attempt to undermine our faith in the Word of God. Indeed, our large number of “errors” is in direct proportion to our large number of manuscripts and, in the end, increases (not decreases) our certainty of what the New Testament says. Even a brief examination of a work such as Metzger’s A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament shows that we have 100% certainty of every doctrine and major teaching and, what’s more, nearly that same degree of certainty of the minutest details of the entire text of God’s Word!

Accuracy? The total textual variations (does not include such things as Greek vs Roman spelling of names, etc. which are of no consequence) exist for only 40 lines out of about 20,000 lines (about 400 words). None affecting any doctrine or teaching not duplicated elsewhere.

The facts say that God has delivered His inspired word to us. It is there for us to learn from and obey. But, and this is the important lesson, we must study and work to understand and handle correctly what God has said. No simple, easy solution without diligent effort will substitute. The question for us is…

What do we do with it?

Do we read our Bibles to begin with? Do we go to our Bible to learn God’s will for us? Do we accept what God says and obey Him? Or do we learn just enough “proof texts” to get by? Do we abide in the word or are we just passing through?

If we DO diligently read our Bibles do we understand it? Apparently from the example of that man of Ethiopia some more serious effort for learning and study is necessary.

If that is true (and God says it is!) then how serious is our study? Could the Ethiopian have learned as much studying with, say, one of the Sadducees? If not, how do we ever imagine that some denominational false teacher is just as good as a New Testament believing and obeying Christian teacher?

If we are diligent, conscientious, hard-working students of God’s word like Paul challenged Timothy to be (2 Timothy 2:15), then we are right with God. Anything less means that we stand before God as embarrassed by our failure.

Reading and seriously studying your Bible, God’s inspired word, CANNOT be done by attending one or two Bible studies a week. It cannot be achieved by briefly remembering your favorite verse or letting your Bible fall open to read an occasional verse.

The question comes from God: Are you seriously in the Word, studying, learning and talking with the author (in prayer to God) every day? If not, your Heavenly Father is offended so don’t bother being offended at the question. Why not begin seriously reading and studying God’s word today?

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/9/18 ~ God, I’m coming back. Help me.

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“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3a).

Do you spend your life running away from the Lord? Do you do it with busy-ness, with resentments toward people, with anger that God does not make people stop being bad to you, with disbelief that he even exists?

Is it even possible to run away from the Lord? Eventually, it is. But for a long time, the Lord runs after you. He does things to get your attention such as he did by causing a storm at sea where Jonah was on board his escape ship.

Perhaps there are storms in your life. Have you ever thought of them as God trying to get your attention?  Perhaps you run here and there day after day, too busy to even think about God. But when disaster hits do you suddenly remember God so you can blame him for your hardships?

Yes, perhaps you sometimes do blame God, but at least you’re thinking of him. Perhaps it’s been years since you have thought seriously about God.

He has big shoulders. Go ahead and blame him for a while, then remember how he loves you and just wants you back.

But don’t wait too long. God only runs after you for so long. Eventually, he gives up. Don’t wait so long that God gives up on you and treats you the way you have been treating him.

“God, I’m coming back. Help me.”