04/23/17 ~ They Fired the Preacher!

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs members of God’s family, one of the first things we should learn is the basics about the Bible. Obviously, no one can live right before God without knowing that we do not live under the Law of Moses. That leads us to learn the differences between Old and New Testaments and, while all lessons from God are important, some are more directly applicable to us today.

When we come to the New Testament we still must learn how to apply the lessons. The first four books, the Gospels, tell of the life and teachings of Jesus. While they are vital lessons for us we must understand that not everything is directly applicable to us today! For example, many people wrongly claim salvation by the “thief on the cross” method without understanding that it most certainly does NOT apply.

When it comes to how to be saved, the most important book of God’s word is the book of Acts. When we follow those instructions we are actually doing the things necessary to become Christians.

All the rest of the New Testament is written to the saved ones actually living under the New Covenant of Christ. It is here we must turn for God’s instructions on living IN Christ… and these are vital for eternal life!

Since the church began people have been trying to re-write God’s commands and will. One of the great errors that has been injected by the Devil into God’s way is the concept of clergy and laity, that is a “priesthood” of some special group other than all of God’s people.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest disappointments for so-called Christians at the Judgment Seat of God will be to learn that they are personally responsible for living and acting as saints, as royal priests of God. Consider this lesson:

They Fired the Preacher!!!

There are many excuses used for not assembling with the saints. Through the years, most of us have heard just about everything imaginable. Some folks are kept away by a rainy day while others are home-bound because their pets were unruly! As one man said, “Any excuse is as good as another.”

Here’s a little “preacher story” that has an important lesson for us. Read it and seriously consider if it is not the mindset of many in the church today.

The story is told of a preacher who began showing up late for services and even missing the “prayer meeting” altogether. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he did not show up at all one Lord’s Day because he had taken a drive in the country to see the beautiful fall colors. The elders met and decided to fire the man. The secretary summed it all up in the minutes of the meeting by saying, “It was clear he cannot be a minister here if he insists on acting like the rest of our members…”

I suppose we would all laugh if we could not see so much truth in the notation made by the secretary. Most preachers would be fired if they tried to get away with what some of the members do on a regular basis.

Whether we admit it or not, whether we like it or not, we do have a “double standard.” I am not suggesting, by any means, that the preacher should be allowed to get by with what some of the members get by with. Neither am I suggesting that we should hold the preacher up as our standard for Christianity, even though he should strive to be a good example (1 Corinthians 11:1).

What I am suggesting is that we ALL live our lives by the standard Christ set for us. “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21).

The question is: Do each and every one of us as Christians actually try to live like who we are called to be?

The challenge for us is to truly behave like children of God instead of anything less. Long ago Solomon warned us that “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

Are you prepared to be judged by God for who you really are and what you are doing? Are you personally living and acting like a saint, a royal priest of the Lord God?

The time to get it right… is now!

— Lester P. Bagley

04/15 ~ MORE HOLINESS

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingDo you ever struggle with your faith? Years ago I met a young Christian that claimed she didn’t think she had ever sinned. It was incredibly sad to realize that she felt that she really didn’t even need a Savior.

Do you ever struggle with your faith? Years ago I met a young Christian that claimed she didn’t think she had ever sinned. It was incredibly sad to realize that she felt that she really didn’t even need a Savior.

Do you ever struggle with your faith? Years ago I met a young Christian that claimed she didn’t think she had ever sinned. It was incredibly sad to realize that she felt that she really didn’t even need a Savior.

Years ago I met a man about to lose his physical life that claimed he didn’t think he needed any help, that he didn’t need someone to save him. As he ignorantly faced certain death, he, much like the Christian, failed to recognize real danger and was perfectly comfortable in believing a lie… even if it cost life and soul.

The Apostle John expressed the problem like this: 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. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10)

So let me ask again, “Do you ever struggle with your faith?” Let’s consider our need for…

More Holiness

Originally written with the title of “My Prayer,” this is one of many songs by the well-known 1800s songwriter P. P. Bliss. While a large number of secular songs are about lost love and difficulties in life, most hymn writers share the good news of positive love and lessons from God.

In P. P. Bliss’ case, he shared his joy with his wife Lucy. Just three years after he wrote what he often talked about as his favorite prayer song he and his wife lost their lives in a railway crash when a bridge collapsed. P. P. Bliss was last seen alive trying to rescue Lucy from the burning wreckage of the train.

The great lesson of this prayer is an important one for each of us as we are called to live like Christ’s family in this world where there are so many challenges to our faith.

More holiness give me, more strivings within.

More patience in suffering, more sorrow for sin.

More faith in my Savior, more sense of His care.

More joy in His service, more purpose in prayer.

Jesus’ request in the Garden of Gethsemane for God’s will to be done is not, as many see it, a cop-out for not getting our own way. Rather it is the most mature and difficult request we can make of our Father. A request for God to do what is truly best and that we will not be just okay with it but truly accept it as our will, too.

When we’ve truly let go of our lives and let God direct us, we can begin to grow in the right direction. Seeing His will and truly accepting it leads to real faith, real understanding, real joy and real purpose.

More gratitude give me, more trust in the Lord.

More pride in His glory, more hope in His Word.

 More tears for His sorrows, more pain at His grief.

  More meekness in trial, more praise for relief.

Gratitude is one of the easiest positive attitudes to fake and one of the hardest to truly feel. It’s based on humility and understanding that He is truly greater than we are.

Never are we more vulnerable than when we lose our pride in ourselves. Never are we more grateful than when we find our greatest pride in our Savior! When we truly kneel at the cross and make Him our greatest joy we begin to appreciate the giver and His matchless gift.

More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome,

More freedom from earth-stains, more longings for home.

More fit for the kingdom, more useful I’d be,

More blessed and holy, more, Savior, like Thee.

Purity! It is so easy to say and so hard to maintain. Like a young child trying to keep clean when there’s a perfectly good mud puddle around, we struggle to keep pure in a world filled with seemingly fun and desirable sin. It is a lifelong struggle but one that is oh so worth making if we would just remember what home is like.

Too many times we confuse God’s wonderful mercy and grace with a false sense of humility. Yes, we are sinners and yes, we are never worthy of God’s matchless gift of forgiveness. But the very moment we excuse our failure to do our very best in obedient service, we risk being totally unfit, unholy and unblessed.

Few Scriptures are more threatening to this excuse-making than Hebrews 6:4-6. As we are challenged to quit acting like babies and grow up (a challenge the Apostle Paul also made in Ephesians 4:14-16), we are reminded that if we do not grow into greater holiness that we will lose everything that Christ died to accomplish.

May we always continue to strive to be more fit for the kingdom, more useful, more blessed and holy, more like Jesus!

— Lester P. Bagley

Wings of Time

wings-of-time

What was that which just flew by

On wings of a whisper and a sigh ~

The form was vague, the hues o’er cast ~

In to the arms of eager past?

Now ’tis still, it’s ceased to flee,

And I am amazed at what I see.

Hard to perceive when viewed so near ~

Yesterday, last week, entire year.

Wait!  Not yet!  Do not depart!

Didn’t it just recently start?

How can it be?  It’s out of hand.

Nothing worked out like I had planned.

No mountain I see, nor great temple.

The year I built was plain and simple.

But I reflect with kinder view ~

The form its shape, the colors their hue.

At the time I just could not see

The value frustrations could be to me.

What God and I each had in mind

Often differed.  What did I find?

I touched a life and wiped a tear,

I held a child and calmed a fear.

A word of love was passed along,

A happy time was framed with song.

So now ’tis passed, as I’ve reflected,

Wasn’t so bad.  And I’ve erected

Amidst a world of ebb and flow

A loving, shimmering, fleeting rainbow.

Katheryn Maddox Haddad

04/02/17 ~ GENTLE TIME

cropped-header-jesus-hands-in-clouds2.jpg

When God created all things good

Something special He understood

We would need for pain to languish,

Softening life’s chance loss or anguish.

With tender heart and word sublime

He spoke into existence Time.

One moment’s word or deed is done;

An irrevocable web is spun.

Tossed about while tragedy batters,

A delicate life breaks and shatters.

But Time can mend the life that’s broken

With patient remedies softly spoken.

Stabbing pain  invades the flesh

Till thoughts and agonies enmesh.

No strength to bear; it’s past enduring.

Oh for relief that comes with curing.

Time brings tranquility’s soothing ray.

Fair Hope disarms what passes away.

Death robs a life ~ it cares not how.

Yes, bitterly we all must bow

As precious ones are snatched from sight.

Goodbye? Relent, oppressive plight!

Time whispers then, “I conquer all.

Be reunited when trumpets call.”

Some day our God will vanquish fears,

There’ll be no death, no pain, no tears.

He’ll change His children ~ all mortals we ~

To peaceful immortality.

With nothing left save the sublime,

He’ll then dissolve what we call Time.

K. C.  Haddad

3/26/17 ~ Faith in Desperate Times

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuilding     Have you ever had a hard time? Have you ever felt like just giving up? I would dare to say that most of us could answer “Yes” to those questions and probably more than just once or twice in our lives!
     God’s people are not immune to challenges to their faith and this has been true since God first put mankind on this earth.
     Psalm 42 marks the beginning of a section of Psalms of Korah and family. Korah was a Levitical musician placed in charge of temple worship by David and Solomon so these Psalms are intended to focus on worship. That idea might surprise us as it’s easy to imagine that true worship only comes from people without worries or problems.
In reality, true worship comes from real people with real struggles that are working through real difficulties toward being faithful to God. In other words, just like us!
     Consider the words of Psalm 42. Yes, we sing some of them in a song. And yes, they teach a beautiful lesson about longing for God. But when we look deeper we see just how real and how difficult that struggle is. And we also see what real faith really is!

Faith in Desperate Times

     Psalm 42 begins with the beautiful thought: As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. Yes, we long for God (or certainly should!) above all else. But just how serious, how desperate is that struggle?
     Consider the next two verses: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
     When we are truly at the end of our own solutions, in the depths of despair and struggles in this life, we begin to question God. Where are You? When are You really going to take control and show us the way?
     As things seem to continually go wrong it is easy to find ourselves remembering those times when we seemed faithful and strong and all seemed to be going well: These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
     What’s wrong with me? We seem to question everything, ourselves and even our God! Why do I doubt? Will I ever be strong again? Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
     Yes, I remember, God IS in control! He will be with me! I will talk to my Heavenly Father and tell Him of my struggles: The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.
     Yet almost as we begin to remind ourselves we find the doubt creeping in again. When we desperately want to be strong we find ourselves struggling yet again with doubt. Alas, everyone is against us and there is no reason for hope: I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
     As we fight this ongoing battle we need to always remember where our hope truly is. To struggle with our faith in desperate times is not a sin, it is truly a part of being human. Faith, real living faith, the kind that brings hope and salvation is faith that keeps on keeping on. Faith, real faith keeps looking back to God. As the Psalmist concludes his struggling reminder, Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
     When things are going wrong, when we are in despair, when we begin to question God and everything around us it is time to question despair. It is time to remind ourselves that our God is in control and that He will continue to be our help, our hope. Above all else, in times when our faith is struggling the most, it is time to look to God and hold on to our hope in Him.
     Like our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, in desperate times it is the most important time to stand by our God and accept that He will do all things to bless and further His will. In hard times it is time to long for God as though our very lives depend on Him… because they do!

— Lester P. Bagley

03/19/17 – SIN: Just a Thought

RacineBuildingSin is a concept, not an action.  Committing a sin results when the concept is put into action.  Sin is caused by desire, which can come from the spiritual, mental, social or physical realms of one’s life.  For it to be sin, it has to have a power of authority with laws which can be broken by the free choice of man.  If sin is not from a free choice, there is no justice for requiring obedience to the laws of the authority. 

Sin comes from the decision of the mind to supersede the law of the authority in order to accomplish their own desires. To supersede authority is to place one’s self above those in authority of the law.

This means one rejects all other authority below himself. By doing so, he claims total authority of his life which means he claims all responsibility for his existence and future requirements for his eternal existence.  

Concerning man and his sin against God, man would have to provide his own future results of his existence after the death of his body as to how and where he spends eternity. If man accepts and agrees to follow God, then God has the right to decide on the requirements for the eternal existence of that soul that submits to him.

Man has no way, and therefore no viable plan, as to how to do that!  To reject all higher authority than self sounds like a great idea for independence, but to be independent, one only has himself to depend on.  In reality, man is considerably dependent on God and, therefore, is totally unable to provide for his own needs after his death. This requires faith in the authority in which he places his dependence. The true Christian places his faith totally in God, His Word, and His will.

When man does not place his total faith in God, it is the proportion he retains for self-authority that causes him to not fully obey the authority of God.  And it is that portion that is fallible and will prevent man from doing what is required by God for eternal existence with Him.  He does not quit sinning, and that keeps him from being in the presence of God in heaven.

If man has not removed his sin of disobedience to God and kept it removed, he cannot live eternally with God and those who have had their sins removed by faith, confession, repentance, and baptism, and faithful service to God.

~ Malcolm E. Parsley, Seoul, Korea

 

 

3/12/17 ~ In Memory

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWhen we are remembering something or someone that is truly precious to us, we can never get enough of the memories. Each good memory leads to another and every single one of them becomes more priceless with time.

When we are remembering something or someone that is truly precious to us, we can never get enough of the memories. Each good memory leads to another and every single one of them becomes more priceless with time.

Do you suppose that is exactly how we should view the greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice ever given for us? Yes, we remembered last week, but is that enough? Or is there something truly worth our effort to keep on remembering?

In Memory

Now I make known to you, brethren, the good news which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Of all the great events in history, of all the great sacrifices any hero has ever made for his loved ones, there is one that clearly stands above all the rest. Consider the challenge for us to have the same character as this greatest of all heroes. He was the creator, the “in-the-beginning-God” that made us and everything else. Yet when He saw that His own death was the only possible thing that could redeem our eternal life from eternal death, He did not hesitate to lay aside His deity, His equality with God. He emptied Himself of all that He possessed to be a slave and a human being. As a man, he even gave again all that He was and had, to die. Not just any death would make the sacrifice complete. Not only did the lamb have to be perfect, but it had to die at the peak of its perfection, slaughtered so that its death might bring life to another. And so He died in seeming shame on that cross.

Were this all to the story, we would feel the need to build some great monument to His memory. But no building, no human structure could ever tell this story or show this love. God honored Him with an honored name above all others. A name so great that everyone past and present, everyone on earth, in heaven and every hero that ever existed would honor Him above all others. A name so great that no one could ever deny that He is now Sovereign Ruler over all and be brought to their knees to honor Him before God. (Cf. Philippians 2:5-11)

Does this sound like someone ordinary in any sense of the word? Does this sound like anyone we could ever be like? Does this even sound like someone we could possibly honor in any way great enough to show just how great He was?

Now, just suppose that this great hero above all heroes asked us to gather and honor Him by encouraging each other. Suppose He chose a day for that memorial, the day He Himself used to display that even death itself had no real, no lasting power over Him. Suppose that He asked us to recreate His own death, burial, and resurrection to show that we understood and accepted His gift. Supposed that He asked us from that point on to “celebrate” that same death on the very day that He arose from the grave. Suppose that He even asked that we continue this memorial day celebration until He returns to take us home to be with Him in Heaven. How would that day be honored?

Such a day, such a memorial event should see the whole range of human emotions from great solemnity and sorrow to great joy and rejoicing. But such a day, honoring such an event, by such a saved people could not really happen, could it? After all, there are really important baseball games or football games that deserve much more of our attention, aren’t there? Aren’t there so many nice things that we could do with our children?

There’s an old saying that “Good” is the enemy of “Great”! Too often we are willing to accept some much lesser thing than the true greatness of our God and Savior. The challenge is to aspire to the truly GREAT, to make the continued effort necessary to show our appreciation for what is the best of all.

If there is really any encouragement in our Savior, if there is really any love that we have for the one who died for us, if there is really any fellowship between us and God and between me and His family, if we really care… then we would maintain our love, our unity in spirit, our intent fixed on one purpose. We would never do anything so selfish or so conceited as to put ourselves above our brethren or our Savior. Indeed, we would strive to have the same attitude with our lives and service that Jesus had! (Cf. Philippians 2:1-5ff)

Time has passed and our home in heaven is drawing nearer. Do we appear to the world as those who understand and honor our Savior and His sacrificed life for us? Do we really honor Him? What are you doing this week in His memory?

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/5/17 ~ MEMORIES

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingMemories. To someone that has lost a loved one many memories can be as real as the present. When certain hymns are sung I can still hear my dad singing them as though he were right beside me. No doubt you too have memories equally strong.

To appreciate the power of memories just promise a child something special. That becomes their focus, their hope and they will do everything in their power to keep you focused on fulfilling that promise.

Memories tell who we are, what is really important to us, as well as what motivates us to move forward. And because of that fact, our God challenges us to keep certain memories ever with us.

Memories

Memories. The very word is prophetic as it conjures up all kinds of thoughts and remembrance for us. Memories have been the subject of many a poem, many a song.

Jesus through the Apostle Paul challenges us to remember a vital memory as we worship each Lord’s Day. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Memories. A song from the musical “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber carries that very title. It is, as many of his songs are, a memorable melody with some beautiful words. While not their original meaning, in fact, the words make a haunting picture of the disciples in the days following Jesus’ death and then His resurrection. Consider some of those words:

Midnight   Not a sound from the pavement / Has the moon lost her memory / She is smiling alone / In the lamplight / The withered leaves collect at my feet / And the wind begins to moan.

Memory / All alone in the moonlight / I can dream of the old days / Life was beautiful then / I remember the time I knew what happiness was / Let the memory live again.

Daylight / I must wait for the sunrise / I must think of a new life / And I mustn’t give in / When the dawn comes / Tonight will be a memory too / And a new day will begin.

 

Can’t you picture the loss the disciples felt? It seemed like, just as hope was dawning, all hope was suddenly taken away. And yet, that was not the end of the story. No, it was hardly the beginning. And soon, much like the song ends, there was the realization that, “A new day has begun!”

How do we remember the most significant person in all of history? How, when and where do we memorialize someone who loved us so much that he gave his own life for us?

We come together as family each Lord’s day in part to remember. Our Savior’s own words reminding us yet again of the matchless gift, the priceless treasure of His own life given so that we might live.

Time has passed since that gift, since His request that we keep the memory and our home in heaven is drawing nearer.

Do you still remember? Do you keep His sacrifice fresh and new in your mind, in your life?

Memories. Memories tell who we are, what is really important to us, as well as what motivates us to move forward.

Never forget those precious memories.

— Lester P. Bagley

2/27/17 ~ Seven Simple Steps

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingThe Apostle Paul was obviously a sports fan as his illustrations make clear. But, like most preachers, he uses those illustrations to emphasize spiritual lessons. In one comment he makes an important observation to Timothy that, “bodily exercise is of value for a little while, but godliness is of value for all things because it holds a promise for the present life and for the coming life.” (1 Timothy 4:8). Take a moment to consider a bit more the application of that lesson:

The Apostle Paul was obviously a sports fan as his illustrations make clear. But, like most preachers, he uses those illustrations to emphasize spiritual lessons. In one comment he makes an important observation to Timothy that, “bodily exercise is of value for a little while, but godliness is of value for all things because it holds a promise for the present life and for the coming life.” (1 Timothy 4:8). Take a moment to consider a bit more the application of that lesson:

Seven Simple Steps

Recently I saw a little article by a medical doctor that made me stop and think. He was writing, not about spiritual things, but about seven simple steps to regular exercise. But his comments actually have a much deeper spiritual lesson that we need to learn.

In the physical realm when we determine to eat better and exercise more in the New Year we often see those resolutions slip away within a month or so. In order to get over that hump and really form healthy habits, there are seven simple steps to take.

These steps are important because our brain’s cerebellum (Latin for “little brain”) is our habit center that helps to shape and control our behavior through repetition and reinforcement.

This little brain becomes our “little friend” when we try to establish a habit. The more connections, the firmer the habit. So developing a healthy habit begins by training the mind. Or, as the Apostle Paul says it, “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).

Think about that for a moment. Our God who designed and created us in His own image knows and tells us to do just exactly the same things that people only now have learned!

So here are those seven simple steps to train or transform our minds to actually be full-time the people God calls us to be:

1) Begin today. The longer we put something off the more likely we are to NOT actually do it! Latch on to any excuse to do it! The New Testament constantly, consistently reminds us that TODAY is the day of salvation. The time to start is never tomorrow!

2) Start simply. There’s no need to run a marathon the first time out. If weight-lifting is your aim, begin with what’s bearable. If you are a would-be runner, start with a brisk walk around the block. Or, as God puts it, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that, by it, you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

3) Aim for success. Once you’ve set your goals, work hard to achieve (and surpass) them. Rewards for achievement is a great motivator to keep going. Encouraging one another, cheering each other on is actually part of God’s plan for His people!

4) Research your sport. Reading and learning about what you love doing is as important as training to do it. Serious athletes are serious students of what they do, what they can learn and what others have learned. Serious Christians are always studying, digging, working hard to better their knowledge and understanding just like Paul told Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15).

5) Don’t overdo it. After a particularly tough run or sweaty workout, take it easy. Achieving exercise balance helps you avoid the injuries that can sideline healthy habits. Hint: check the Gospels for how often Jesus took time out (and asked His disciples to do the same) for prayer, for time to themselves rather than always being on the go or on call for everyone else.

6) Stay on track. Make exercise a top priority. “Neither rain nor sleep nor lack of time will keep me from my appointed workout.” How sad that so many so-called Christians never have a priority of worship, of study, of fellowship with God’s people. And no wonder they fail!

7) Make exercise a part of your life. If you love running, hang out with runners. If you’re a swimmer, join a swimming club. The example of friends offers ongoing encouragement. Are we surprised that God’s design for His family is constant contact and literally living in the body of Christ?

These seven steps are key to building long-lasting exercise routines. Following this routine to establish one healthy habit at a time allows each to become a foundation for the next.

In spiritual terms, we are building up the body of Christ by working together to truly DO God’s will and BE God’s people. Paul said it this way, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

— Lester P. Bagley

2/19/17 – FORGOTTEN

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingThis past week the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team reported for spring training. If you are a real baseball fan spring training is the time of year that all those ridiculous winter sports (you know, things like football and basketball) are over and may be safely forgotten for another year!

If baseball fans have good reason to be thankful, how much more so do we as Christians have reason to be grateful for all that our God has done for us? We are not just spectators but literally chosen by our God to serve Him on this earth as His “royal priesthood!”

As those who are recipients of God’s many rich blessings, we need to remember two very important things. First, the cost of remaking us into the Holy Ones that God needs us to be: the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God. And second, the reason that sacrifice was necessary was not because we are so wonderful but because we were so desperately in need of forgiveness.

Let’s remember just how great that gift from God truly is.

Forgotten

It was July 19 in the year 2000 and, as any summer in the US should include, there was a baseball game. In particular, there was a scheduled game for the Florida Marlins to host the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta’s newly acquired pitcher Andy Ashby was looking to show his new team what he could do for them. At the same time, Brad Penny was the rookie starting pitcher for Florida and he likewise looked forward to displaying his skills for his teammates.

The game was not really very good, certainly not destined to be memorable for the pitchers, both of whom lasted less than four innings with neither (as you might imagine) pitching very well. By the middle of the fifth inning, the score was tied six to six, not from good batting but rather from poor defense on the part of both teams.

Suddenly, rain poured down on the field and, as it continued, the game was called and everyone went home soaking wet.

The rules that major league baseball is played by state that if there is no clear winner by the end of the fifth inning and the game is canceled, all the statistics are blotted out. It is just as if no game had ever been played. The fielders had no record kept of any errors and the starting pitchers had their slates for the day likewise wiped clean. Today, if you look up the records of any of those individuals, their bad plays, errors, mistakes and every blunder of that day is gone. It simply does not exist!

For us as Christians, there is a similar official rule from God. When we repent, our sin is blotted out of God’s memory. It is as though it never happened! God reminded His people through the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah that, “I even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins!” (Isaiah 43:25) “… for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the prophecy God made through those men was directed at us on this side of the Cross (Hebrews 8:12 & 10:17).

Do we realize, do we appreciate just how great a gift God has given to us? The bumbling errors, the mistakes, the blunders, the bad plays and wrong decisions are the very thing that the blood of Christ, like that rainstorm, simply washed away from God’s sight and memory.

How sad it would be if such love, such forgiveness should be forgotten by us, made as though it had never happened. That same writer of Hebrews also goes on to remind us that “if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for [our] sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

For us, the decision is a conscious one made by God to forgive and by us to accept that forgiveness. He made that choice to forgive and forget your sins when He allowed His own Son to die for those sins. Have you made that choice to accept Him and His forgiveness?

If not, why not? Why not let it all be gone? And if you already have, do you live like it? Are we grateful enough to live for Him who died for us? We all have the opportunity (not to mention the command from our God Himself!) to share this Good News. Are we grateful enough to share what He’s done for us and what He can do for others?

Let’s live and encourage each other to live as thankful brothers and sisters in Christ this week!

— Lester P. Bagley