6/15/18 ~ Praising God with Music

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David told the Levites to appoint “singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals“. Heman was the first one they appointed (I Chronicles 15:16f) and he had two assistants ~ Asaph and Merari (I Chronicles. 6:39, 44). David put them in charge of the music in the house of the Lord and they performed their duties according to the regulations (verses 31f).

So what David appointed was a choir and orchestra.  And these musicians had a full time job! They were to minister before the Lord “according to each day’s requirements” of sacrifices as written in the Law of Moses. Heman and the others were responsible for sounding the trumpets and cymbals and playing the other instruments ~ lyres, harps and cymbals (15:19-21) ~ for sacred song (16:37-42). In addition to playing the prescribed lyres, harps and cymbals, trumpets were to be sounded to announce sacrifices, etc. (16:4-6).

By the time David was old, there were “four thousand…to praise the Lord with the musical instruments” (I Chronicles 23:5. And what instruments were they still playing? Cymbals, lyres and harps “for the ministry at the house of God” (I Chronicles. 25:1 & 6).

Years later after David died and his son Solomon had completed the grand Temple in Jerusalem (II Chronicles. 5:1), “all the Levites who were musicians…stood on the east side of the altar dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres, accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison as with one voice to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and the other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord” (verses 12-13).

Can you imagine such an orchestra and choir? The tinkling of the harps and lyres, with cymbals keeping the tempo, and trumpets calling attention to it all? And all those singers! Was God pleased? Indeed he was, for in the form of a cloud “the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God” (verse 14).

Three centuries later when Hezekiah was king, the same instruments were being played ~ cymbals, harps and lyres (II Chronicles. 29:25f). Why? Because they were prescribed by David, Gad the seer and Nathan the prophet as commanded by God through his prophets. (Acts 2:29-30 says David was a prophet too.)

Interestingly, although God specified every detail of the instruments that had to be played in the Old Testament, nothing like that was specified in the New Testament. Did God forget? Perhaps God took us to a higher plain in the New Testament era. We do know that in I Corinthians 14:15, we are told to both pray and sing with mind and spirit.

And in Ephesians 5:19 we are told to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” The term “make music” in the original Greek language of the New Testament is to play on strings. Since we are to make music in our hearts, then it looks like we are to play on the instrument of our heart. How beautiful!

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7/8/18 ~ Fun With Bible Numbers

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MATTHEW

315. _____ The generations listed by Matthew from Abraham to David were 14, from David to the Babylonian captivity were 14, and from the Babylonian captivity to Jesus Christ were 14 (Matthew 1:17). How many generations were listed in all?

 

316. _____ In Psalm 51:5, David said he was conceived in sin. In Deuteronomy 23:2, the Law stated that if an illegitimate son was born, 10 generations following would be considered ceremonially unclean and not able to go to the Tabernacle (later, the Temple). Judah had an illegitimate son named Phares. His son was Esrom, his son Aram, then Aminidab, Naason, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse and finally David. What generation was David from Phares? What generation built the Temple?

 

317. _____ At the time of Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east saw the star and came to see Jesus (Matthew

 

_____  2:1, 2). WISEMEN comes from the Greek word usually referring to astrologers in Persia (today’s Iran). Persia was about 1,000 miles from Bethlehem. A day’s journey was about 10 miles; but on a longer journey, it would be about 5 miles with herds for food and more supplies. How many days did it possibly take the wise men to arrive in Bethlehem? That’s about how many months?

 

318. _____ Joseph was warned by God to flee Bethlehem and hide in Egypt since Herod would kill all babies under age 2 (Matthew 2:13). It was approximately 100 milies to the border of Egypt from Bethlehem, and another 200 miles to the Nile River where most of the cities were. How many miles away was their probable destination?

 

319. _____ With a day’s journey averaging 5 miles, about how many days did it take them to travel?

 

320. _____ Herod was very jealous of his kingship, and even slew these members of his own family because they were getting too popular: His brother-in-law, his grandfather-in-law, his favorite wife, his two sons (Josephus, pp. 317-355). How many of his own family did he kill to protect his crown?

 

321. _____ Jesus was actually born BC 6 (the Christian calendar was a few years off), and late in BC 4 King Herod died. If this was the time Jesus was “called out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:15), he would have been how old then?

 

322. _____ After Jesus was grown and baptized by his second cousin John the Baptist, he fasted and prayed 40 days (Matthew 4:2). About how many weeks did he go without food?

 

323. _____ Afterwards, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and called two brothers, Peter and Andrew, then two more brothers, James and John ~ all fisherman (Matthew 4:18~21). How many of his 12 apostles were not fishermen?

 

324. _____ Jesus healed a woman with a flow of blood for 12 years (Matthew 9:20). How many months was she ceremonially unclean and kept from Temple worship?

 

325. _____ Two sparrows were sold for a father (Matthew 10:28). How many cents did one sparrow cost if one farthing is worth .08 cents?

 

326. _____ From 5 loaves and 2 fishes Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 14:17~21). If there were as many women as men and as many children as men, how many people in all may have been fed?

 

 

327. _____ During the 4th watch of the night Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:25). The first watch started about 6:00 PM. A watch lasted 3 hours. What time did he walk on the water?

 

328. _____ Later, with 7 loaves and a few fishes, Jesus fed another crowd of 4,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 15:36~38). If there were as many women as men and as many children as men, how many in all may have been fed?

 

329. _____ Jesus said we should forgive our brother (friend) 70 x 7 (Matthew 18:22). If taken literally, how many times should we forgive one person?

 

330. _____ Jesus told the parable of a king who was kind to a servant who owed him 10,000 talents (Matthew 18:24~28). If it was a silver talent, it was worth $12,000. How much did the first servant owe the king?

 

331. _____ The above servant had a servant of his own who he had arrested and thrown into jail for owing him 100 pence. A pence is worth $1. How much did the second servant owe the first servant?

 

332. _____ How much more did the first ungrateful servant owe than the second servant he had jailed?

 

333. _____ Jesus told another parable of a farmer who hired laborers for a penny a day (Matthew 20:2). A penny then was worth about 35 cents (average day’s wages). How much per hour did they earn in a 12~hour working day?

 

334. _____ Jesus told the parable of ten brides maids going to a wedding (Matthew 25:1~3). Five were wise because they took along enough oil to keep their lamps lit that evening and last them until the feast began. How many were foolish because they didn’t plan ahead?

 

 

335. _____ Jesus told the parable of a man being given 10 talents, another 5 talents, and another 1 talent (Matthew 25:15) to invest for him. Assuming these were talents of silver, how many dollars was the first man given?

 

336. _____ How many dollars was the second man given?

 

337. _____ How many dollars was the third man given?

 

338. _____ How many dollars did the master give them in all?

 

339. _____ The first two doubled what they had received (Matthew 25:16, 17) and returned it to their master. How much did they together return?

 

340. _____ Judas was offered 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15). If a piece of silver was a shekel of silver worth $4, then for how many dollars did Judas betray his Lord?

 

341. _____ When Jesus was betrayed, He could have brought down 12 legions of angels to save him (Matthew 26:5). A legion is about 5,000. How many angels would that have been?

 

342. _____ When Jesus was crucified, there was darkness from the 6th hour to the 9th hour (Matthew 27:45). The first hour of the Jewish day began about 6:00 AM. What time did it turn dark during the crucifixion?

 

(Excerpted from the book FUN WITH BIBLE NUMBERS by Katheryn Maddox Haddad)

 

 

July 1, 2018 ~ Bless the Lord

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you thankful? Do have blessings? Are you a blessing? The first two questions seem perfectly normal to all of us. But that last question about being a blessing is both a bit more challenging and a bit more important. Let’s do a bit more study as we…

Bless the Lord

The dictionary says that the word bless primarily means a religious term to confer (give to someone else) or invoke (request from someone else) the favor of God. We pretty well understand that we can ask God’s blessing on ourselves, or we can ask God to bless someone else. God, after all, IS God and His blessing really means something.

The power of God’s people when faithfully doing His will is nothing short of amazing! Jesus taught us that as we go out to share the Gospel that we are to give our blessing of peace to others. It’s not really our power, our gift to give because we are human, but rather the power and authority of God’s commissioned “light of the world” that can extend God’s own peace as a blessing to this world.

Likewise, James (James 5:15) reminds us of the awesome power of prayer possessed by the faithful. The prayers of God’s people have the power to bring God’s healing to the sick and forgive sins! Certainly in all these ways we ARE a powerful blessing to this world.

But let’s go back to the dictionary and look a bit further down at a third (in my dictionary, at least) and therefore somewhat lesser meaning. There it says that bless also can mean to express or feel gratitude to, to thank.

It may well come as a bit of a surprise to us to realize that we can actually bless God! Yes, when we actually DO God’s will and live as His faithful children on this earth we have great blessings to give to this world. And yes, we can also by that righteous living cause others to turn to God and thus we are a blessing to Him.

But we also have the ability, the power, the right, the honor to extend to God our own blessing as thanksgiving. In so doing we bless the Lord both by living as His faithful family members here on earth and by being appreciative of the great honor and power He has given to us.

The Bible uses the specific words “bless the Lord” or refers to blessing God more than two dozen times. Consider just a few of those:

Moses, in some of his final words, reminded God’s people that as they entered and lived in the Land that God had promised them to eat and be filled and then to bless the Lord their God (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Deborah, the Judge, and her general, Barak, sang of God’s deliverance and that the people blessed the Lord as Godly leadership served God (Judges 5:2). [Note that the NKJV and others correct the KJV’s erroneous translation of “praise the Lord” to “bless the Lord” since the Hebrew is not hālal but bārak, not praise God but bless God.]

As David crowned Solomon as king to succeed him, he directed the nation to “bless the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:20). In the Psalms, David and the other writers frequently reminded themselves and all the faithful to bless the Lord (Psalm 16:7; 26:12; 34:1; 103:1; 104:1; 115:18; et.al.).

The concept of blessing the Lord is also seen in Jewish prayers. The blessing for bread is: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth. Various foods have similar blessings including this one: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. There’s even a generic blessing for all other foods: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, by Whose word all things came to be.

What we really need to see, appreciate and imitate is the lesson that God’s people have a responsibility to bless God. In the things we say and do in this world, in the way we deal with our fellow saints, in the way we are faithful, in the way that we respect and appreciate our God we must always BE a blessing.

— Lester P. Bagley

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July 1, 2018 ~ Bless the Lord

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you thankful? Do have blessings? Are you a blessing? The first two questions seem perfectly normal to all of us. But that last question about being a blessing is both a bit more challenging and a bit more important. Let’s do a bit more study as we…

Bless the Lord

The dictionary says that the word bless primarily means a religious term to confer (give to someone else) or invoke (request from someone else) the favor of God. We pretty well understand that we can ask God’s blessing on ourselves, or we can ask God to bless someone else. God, after all, IS God and His blessing really means something.

The power of God’s people when faithfully doing His will is nothing short of amazing! Jesus taught us that as we go out to share the Gospel that we are to give our blessing of peace to others. It’s not really our power, our gift to give because we are human, but rather the power and authority of God’s commissioned “light of the world” that can extend God’s own peace as a blessing to this world.

Likewise, James (James 5:15) reminds us of the awesome power of prayer possessed by the faithful. The prayers of God’s people have the power to bring God’s healing to the sick and forgive sins! Certainly, in all these ways we ARE a powerful blessing to this world.

But let’s go back to the dictionary and look a bit further down at a third (in my dictionary, at least) and therefore somewhat lesser meaning. There it says that bless also can mean to express or feel gratitude to, to thank.

It may well come as a bit of a surprise to us to realize that we can actually bless God! Yes, when we actually DO God’s will and live as His faithful children on this earth we have great blessings to give to this world. And yes, we can also by that righteous living cause others to turn to God and thus we are a blessing to Him.

But we also have the ability, the power, the right, the honor to extend to God our own blessing as thanksgiving. In so doing we bless the Lord both by living as His faithful family members here on earth and by being appreciative of the great honor and power He has given to us.

The Bible uses the specific words “bless the Lord” or refers to blessing God more than two dozen times. Consider just a few of those:

Moses, in some of his final words, reminded God’s people that as they entered and lived in the Land that God had promised them to eat and be filled and then to bless the Lord their God (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Deborah, the Judge, and her general, Barak, sang of God’s deliverance and that the people blessed the Lord as Godly leadership served God (Judges 5:2). [Note that the NKJV and others correct the KJV’s erroneous translation of “praise the Lord” to “bless the Lord” since the Hebrew is not hālal but bārak, not praise God but bless God.]

As David crowned Solomon king to succeed him, he directed the nation to “bless the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:20). In the Psalms, David and the other writers frequently reminded themselves and all the faithful to bless the Lord (Psalm 16:7; 26:12; 34:1; 103:1; 104:1; 115:18; et.al.).

The concept of blessing the Lord is also seen in Jewish prayers. The blessing for bread is: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth. Various foods have similar blessings including this one: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. There’s even a generic blessing for all other foods: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, by Whose word all things came to be.

What we really need to see, appreciate and imitate is the lesson that God’s people have a responsibility to bless God. In the things we say and do in this world, in the way we deal with our fellow saints, in the way we are faithful, in the way that we respect and appreciate our God we must always BE a blessing.

— Lester P. Bagley

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6/24/18 ~ Proof of Obedience

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

When I leave the USA to travel overseas, and again when I return home, I am required to show proof of my citizenship. Apparently, I can’t just claim to be Superman from the planet Krypton and get away with it!

Is the same thing true with serving God? Does what we actually say and do matter? Let’s consider God’s requirements for…

Proof of Obedience

We all understand those simple facts about citizenship when it comes to earthly matters. What’s sad is that many people assert you can just fool God by claiming (perhaps very loudly as Elijah once suggested to the followers of Baal in 1 Kings 18?) to be a Christian even if you never actually do and prove the things that really go into making a Christian.

When the world says, “Just accept or welcome Jesus into your heart and you will be saved” they are NOT quoting from Scripture but rather are contradicting everything God actually says! In Matthew 7:21 Jesus flatly states, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. In the next two verses (22 and 23)

He expands their complaint to the Judgement Day: Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Without proof, without obedience, we are NOT saved and we are NOT Christ’s family! So the urgent need becomes a question of HOW to prove our claim. The answer from God is that our obedience to God is our proof!

The doctrine of faith alone (the more accurate meaning is: wishful thinking!) resulting in salvation is never taught by God. Jesus demands that we understand this: Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46) If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15) If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)

The Apostle John obviously faced the same false teaching and attitude as he repeatedly told Christians that the proof of their faith was in the obedience: By this, we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).

And if we need it more clearly explained, John continues: The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:4-6)

Walking in the light (1 John 1:7) is never just doing our own thing, our own way. God tells us that the very definition of loving God is obedience: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

As God pictures the story of salvation in Revelation, He reminds us that Satan is enraged by faithful obedience: So the dragon was enraged with the woman and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17)

Finally, God reminds us that real faithfulness is obedience: Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

What we DO is the proof of who we are: Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:7-8a).

When you put it all together the real question is simple: Who do YOU belong to? We can claim until the cows come home that we are God’s people, but unless we actually obey Him and live like it, we are deceiving ourselves but not fooling God in the least.

So, how shall we live and act this week?

— Lester P. Bagley

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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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5/27/18 ~ Baseball and the Christian Life

Image result for baseball sign stats hits errors runs

From the Preacher’s Pen…

The Apostle Paul often used the sports and games of his world as lessons for Christians. While I doubt that everyone in New Testament times was a sports nut, they still made important lessons. Let’s take a look at a modern sport with a similar spiritual lesson for us:

Baseball and Christian Life

Manny Trillo had a 17-year Major League career with the A’s, Cubs, Phillies, Indians, Expos, Giants, and Reds. In that time he was a repeat All-Star and won multiple Gold Gloves for his defensive play. He set a Major League record (since broken) with 479 consecutive errorless chances. Think about that a moment: 479 straight times he could have made an error and did not.

The most amazing thing about this story is not that he didn’t make a mistake but rather his attitude. As great as Manny Trillo was with his glove, he knew there were always errors. A bad throw. A bad hop. Broken double plays. In baseball, there are (currently) 162 games a year. A minimum (usually) of 1,458 innings in the regular season. That’s not counting pre- and post-season games. Baseball is an every-day-of-the-week game.

In baseball, perfection is technically (just like in Christian living!) non- existent. True, there are tons of statistics kept to see how close you get to perfection. But Manny Trillo lived and played by the philosophy, “The best thing about baseball is you can do something about yesterday, tomorrow.”

If you make a mistake and want to actually fix it, there’s always tomorrow’s game. Next time, you have the opportunity to undo the mistake and do it right.

This holds true on defense and just as well on offense. If you follow baseball you will quickly notice that everyone’s batting average is measured in three decimal numbers. What that means is if you get a hit every single time that you come to bat you would be batting 1.000. But no one ever does that!

In fact, no one ever comes close! In a single season of baseball, the great Ty Cobb hit .420! (For you trivia fans, Nap Lajoie holds the record average with a .426 season.) Ty Cobb’s lifetime career average was .366.

The best players in baseball history missed hitting the ball 1½ to 2 times for every time they hit it. Their mistakes totaled one and a half to two times their successes and they were the best! The best of most players is closer to the twice as many whiffs for every hit!

So what does all this about baseball have to do with us as Christians? The New Testament is constantly advising us as Christians to take the same approach to our “game,” our lives. The very use of the words repentance and forgiveness are God’s reminders that we can have another chance. How we use that next chance will always be what shows our real character, our real spirituality!

I believe the Apostle Paul, with his interest in sports, would have appreciated this analogy. After all, he wrote, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

James wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a). And John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

God is very clear in telling us that we are not perfect. Just as “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and need Jesus to save them from their sins, we all continue to be imperfect.
Certainly, this doesn’t mean we stop trying to be perfect. No baseball player is worth anything if they are a quitter and the same is true of a Christian! But when you do and try and fail, then the answer is not to give up. The answer for saints is always found in keeping on keeping on, in trying our best to do better tomorrow!

The best thing about a mistake we make now is that we can do better. That sounds a lot like resolve, a stubborn faith in God that with His help we can always do better!
Persistent faith is what made each of the Old Testament heroes of faith (cf. Hebrews 11 and the events of their lives in the OT). Persistent faith is what makes us.
Will you be better tomorrow?

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/29/18 ~ How did you “receive” Christ?

Jesus' Baptism

From the Preacher’s Pen… How did you become a Christian? Is it appropriate to ask that question of anyone? Paul shows us plainly in Acts 19:1-5 that it is appropriate and necessary.

So, in light of all the worldly false teaching out there, let’s ask ourselves the important question:

How Did You “Receive” Christ?

It never fails to amaze me how often a Biblical term that has been used since Bible times suddenly becomes popular with the denominational world. But what makes it truly perverse is the fact that they give it their own “spin” instead of using it the way God does.

An obvious example is the term “born again Christian.” In God’s view, there are no other Christians than those who have been born again. Jesus explained it with great clarity to Nicodemus in John 3:3-7, you must be born again to ever see (be a part of) the Kingdom of God!

And yet suddenly a few years ago the denominational world proposed that Christians needed to become “born again Christians” by something other than the water and the Spirit.  Sorry, that’s not God’s way.

Hopefully, you are familiar with the concept of belief. Believing Christ or believing in or on Christ is used repeatedly in the New Testament. But no one actually “believes” Christ who does not obey Him. John 3:36, for one example, makes it plain: He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Another popular term involves “receiving Christ.” Sure, God does use that term as John 1:12 speaks of those who received Him as opposed to those who reject Him. The flagrant error comes with the explanation that this means “taking Jesus as your personal Savior.”

Sadly, for those that teach such, the New Testament never urges anyone to “take Jesus as your personal Savior.” So, in the context of the Scripture, what does it really mean to “receive Jesus?”

To begin with, John wrote those words about “receiving Christ” over 50 years after the Lord’s church began. Jesus’ church began with Peter and the other Apostles fulfilling prophecy and God’s direct commands by preaching on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection. On that day and forever since the Lord’s people of His church have preached the message of “repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Luke would record those words in the book of Acts about AD 60.

The Apostle John had been there that day and had preached and taught the same message. Since John preached the truth don’t you suppose that he meant the truth and not some other doctrine?

Now let’s cut to the chase: You “receive Jesus” when you obey Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-11). When you “receive Jesus” you become a part of the church, the body that He died for (Acts 2:38, 47; Ephesians 5:23, 30).

While God never speaks of accepting Jesus as your “personal savior,” He repeatedly speaks of the body, the church of Christ. If you are going to actually listen to what God says, we are called to accept Jesus as our “corporate” or joint savior!

When John penned the words, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12), he meant just what he and the other New Testament teachers and preachers had always meant!

Those who receive Jesus are those who obey Him. Those who believe Him do His will. Those who do the right things commanded by Jesus are those that become children of God. John repeatedly points this out, both in his Gospel account of Jesus and in his letters to Christians (cf. John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 2:3–4; 3:22; 5:3).

So, have you actually received Christ in His way? Did you repent of your sins? Were you added to the Lord’s family by being born again through baptism? Nothing less is obedience to God. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Will you do so?

— Lester P. Bagley

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