11/11/18 ~ Armistice Day

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians living in the capital of the Roman Empire reminding them to not only pay their taxes but to give honor to all those to whom honor was due (Romans 13:7). The peace that Rome had brought to the world of the New Testament times translated into freedom that allowed the rapid spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world.

That peace was purchased at the cost of countless lives of brave soldiers. Many of those Veterans would go on to become followers of Jesus and thus serve in both earthly and eternal ways.

Today (Sunday) is a very special day. It is set aside for remembering the sacrifice of our Savior. And it is also a special date set aside for remembering the sacrifices of all those veterans who have served us. Let’s take a moment to remember this…

Armistice Day

One hundred years ago today the First World War ended. The designated time was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The day would become known as Armistice Day. The war was called the War to End All Wars. It was not.

Slightly less than 21 years later the second World War would “officially” begin (September 1, 1939) with Germany’s invasion of Poland. In 1954, following the Korean War, Armistice Day in the USA was renamed Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

While Memorial Day honors all those who died in military service, Veterans Day honors all who have served, and currently are still serving in the Armed Forces. That means this day is host to a range of emotions from the sadness of lost lives to the joys of victory, even if that victory has never been fully realized in world peace.

As Christians, we of all people on this earth can understand and share the feelings of such a day. For us, it is not 11-11-11 but One.

The first day of the week brings to our remembrance the most horrible battle in all of eternity when Satan seemingly triumphed in the death and burial of Jesus.

The first day of the week brings to our remembrance the real victory of Jesus’ resurrection.

And, perhaps above all else, the first day of the week brings to our remembrance that another day is coming. That day will bring the only real, eternal peace that we have ever known. That day will begin with the triumphant return of our Savior to escort His own to eternal life and it will never end.

So for now, we remember. To those who have faced the horrors of war and the losses of friends and family, there is no forgetting. But there is something special in taking this unique moment of remembrance. There is something that brings a momentary comfort to the pain, the distress and points us to a more joyful memory of faithfulness in service.

Those words, those thoughts, those emotions are true for both our earthly remembrance of Veterans as they are for our weekly spiritual remembrance. May we remember, this day and always, the sacrifices of those who serve us with honor on this earthly plane. May we remember, this day and always, the sacrifice of our Savior who served and died for us that we might be with him throughout eternity.

~ Lester P. Bagley

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11/3/18 ~ Degrees of Punishment and Reward

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago a dear brother and fellow preacher and I were looking at what the Scriptures say about degrees of punishment and reward. It is an interesting study and one that, like everything God teaches us, points us directly to the importance of handling God’s word correctly.

There is really no point in giving the false arguments and wishful thinking of those who disagree with God. So, let’s look at what Scripture actually says about…

Degrees of Punishment & Reward

Reward

To begin with, degrees of reward has virtually no real support. 1 Peter 4:18 is not so much a comment on degrees of reward as it is on the difficulty of salvation, much like Jesus’ lesson of the broad vs narrow ways. It is thus fitting that Peter is also the one to remind us (2 Peter 1:11) that, because of our Savior, our entrance into heaven is NEVER just “barely making it into the pearly gates” but rather is an “abundant” entrance.

Yes, there are several times that Jesus refers to varying rewards. “The five talent man received five more but the two talent man ‘only’ received two more,” you say. On the other hand, Jesus plainly provoked the ire of those who believe in degrees of reward with his lesson in Matthew 20:1-15. There He tells of the one working only the last hour of the day as receiving the same reward as the one that worked longer hours.

The balance between teachings that seemingly suggest greater rewards is offset by those teaching equality of reward for all. So we must conclude, as with any other imagined contradiction in scripture, that the idea of greater rewards is our misunderstanding of God’s point. John describes many of the eternal blessings of heaven (Revelation 21:1-4). But never does he suggest that anyone in heaven receives only some tears wiped away or only some pain removed or only some eternal life. Like Jesus’s example of the talents, the real reward is the gift of God and not to be measured.

Yes, there are plenty of people that see various rewards, some rich and happy in heaven and some miserable, or even temporary punishments to further qualify one for heaven. Since those positions take a lot of work at misunderstanding what God says they rightly belong to the study of denominational doctrines and other false teachings.

Punishment

Degrees of punishment requires a bit deeper study, but again, we have to be careful about the meaning inserted by false teachers. Matthew 12:41–42; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 11:31–32; 20:47 are all passages in which Jesus speaks of “greater condemnation” for some people. Note that it’s not always the same people, so the exact reason for the comparison (hotter seats next to the fires?) is not really stated. We must be careful not to make more than is actually said, since in each case Jesus’ point is that it is worse for you (His subjects) than for everyone else in general.

Two further passages make an interesting lesson as they are often seen as in opposition to each other: James 3:1 is used as a “popular excuse” NOT to teach the Gospel. In contrast, Hebrews 5:12 counters that interpretation by saying maturity in Christ requires ALL to be teachers. Is James perhaps using some of the same sarcasm Jesus often used to suggest that those rejecting Him felt that they “needed” less forgiveness than the “common” sinners? Certainly, James knew that failure to actually obey the “Great Commission” as part of our obedience to the whole of Christ’s teaching would NOT result in salvation!

2 Peter 2:21 is often used to “prove” a worse punishment for those that once were faithful. While they “could” have one of those “seats closer to the fire,” it certainly could also remind us that eternal punishment will certainly be a self-inflicted “worse” for someone knowing for all eternity that they had no excuse of ignorance to fall back on, while that same “ignorance” defense might allow others to feel a bit less tormented.

That last discussion also leads to the oft-debated “ignorance” plea. Will God actually condemn those that do not know His word? God never has accepted the “ignorance” plea as Leviticus 26:14, 18, 27; Deuteronomy 28:15; Romans 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17 all show. His standard has always been much like that of a parent, “did you DO what you were told” and unaccepting of the “I didn’t hear you” excuse.

Jesus made an interesting observation and gives us a bit more to think about in the explanation of a parable dealing with being prepared for Jesus’ return (Luke 12:39-40). When Peter asks about the target of that preparedness parable, Jesus responds with a lesson contrasting faithful servants and unfaithful servants thinking they can get away with something (Luke 12:41-46).

The conclusion Jesus draws is three-fold. First, the slave that willingly fails to obey will “receive many lashes” (Luke 12:47). Second, the slave that did wrong out of “ignorance” will receive “few lashes” (Luke 12:48). Third, the Lord’s final comment on the matter is the reminder that the more we know and are given by God, the more God requires of us (end of Luke 12:48).

Putting all this together brings us to two important lessons:

1) Our reward is based on grace. Our “merit” is that of Jesus who gave His life for us. Thus, the abundance of that inheritance is enjoyed by all because they gave their all. Without giving God our ALL, there is no hope of heaven.

2) Punishment is dealt out to those who do not OBEY the will of Jesus, whatever the excuse. One might well receive a technically lesser punishment for ignorance, but it will never be anything like the reward for obedient service. Spending eternity cheering partial failure is no more a win than any other loss.

There is no second-place finish when it comes to salvation. Either we “fight the good fight… finish the course” and “keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) and receive the same crown prepared for all, or else there is no crown, no win. God’s promises belong to those that faithfully DO His will. What are you doing when it comes to obedience to the Gospel?

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/28/18 ~ The True Story of Satan

Lucifer Morningstar [Tom Ellis] by BeMyOopsHi

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Inquiring minds want to know! That made a lot of money for a magazine, but over the years most people have realized that the articles were pure fiction. People have always enjoyed fiction. Adam and Eve enjoyed (however briefly) the fiction that eating from a certain tree would make them just like God. But fiction is still false and never has the lasting enjoyment of truth.

We’ve all heard a lot of fiction about the Bible and one of the greatest subjects is Satan. There are some imaginative stories about his name and where he came from. So, let’s check out a bit of fiction and replace it with truth:

The True Story of Satan

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he discusses hearsay (Matthew 5:21-48). His ultimate point is that people often misrepresent what God has actually said and that God expects His people to truly know and follow the real teachings of God. The Jews had made up so many stories, so many myths and fables that they often confused what God had actually said with what they thought or imagined on a subject.

The Apostle Paul dealt with much the same issue as he gave instructions to his fellow preachers Timothy and Titus. To Titus (1:13-14) he says that, because human lies are not trustworthy, those who teach them are to be severely reproved so that they may be sound in the faith not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.

Likewise, Timothy is commanded to point out these various sins to Christians (1 Timothy 4:1-6) and (verse 7) to have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. Paul goes on to describe this as self-discipline for the purpose of godliness.

Now, after all that, let’s get to Satan. What is his story? Where did he come from? Is he a fallen angel? Was he actually God’s chief angel? Oh, and very important, what about his name: Lucifer?

As far as what Scripture actually says… There is today no such being or person as Lucifer!

Wait a minute! Doesn’t the Bible say that Lucifer is the devil’s name? In fact, one of the frequent claims of the King James Version worshipers is that other Bibles leave out the name Lucifer and so they are frauds!

The King James Bible frequently consulted the Latin (in plain English, the very manuscripts most often corrupted by the Catholic church and used for their frequent false teachings) and from them chose to use a Latin word rather than the Hebrew. One has to suspect, though it’s hard to trace, that Lucifer was perhaps an early medieval name and myth about the angel that fell and became Satan. But in reality, no such story exists anywhere in Scripture.

The KJV turned a fairy tale into a wild story that’s repeated by “everyone” today. There are two “proof” passages. First is Ezekiel 28. Verses 1-10 are usually accepted as being about the human king of Tyre (after all, it says that in verse two). But verses 11-19 are claimed to be all about Lucifer. Just for reference, verse 12 says almost the same thing as verse two. The discussion in God’s own words is all about the king of Tyre. If you actually read it, there is nothing about Lucifer or Satan actually there at all!

The second “proof” text is, of course, Isaiah 14 and especially verse 12 where God this time applies the term to the King of Babylon. The KJV is the first to use the Latin term as a proper name and totally invent something that is never in the Bible.

The Hebrew has: “heleyl, ben shachar” which is literally “shining one, son of dawn.” This phrase means, again literally, the planet Venus when it appears as a morning star. In the Septuagint it is translated as “heosphoros” which also means Venus as a morning star.

The Latin word lucifer is first used in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. In Latin at the time, lucifer actually refers to Venus as a morning star. Isaiah is using this metaphor for a bright light, though not the greatest light to illustrate the apparent power of the Babylonian king which then faded. The KJV translators took an old Latin adjective and made it a proper noun to agree with their mythical beliefs. That’s neither good linguistics nor good theology!

As for Satan, we know absolutely nothing from God about where he came from! Is he actually a fallen angel? Scripture never says that. It DOES say a few other things on the subject:

2 Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan DISGUISES himself as an angel of light. Revelation 12:9 says that Satan was/is cast down (out of heaven presumably) with his angels at the crucifixion. And Matthew 25:41 says that the eternal fire (of hell) is prepared for the devil and his angels.

So, honestly, to say anything about Lucifer and Satan as being the same, or anything about where Satan came from is to indulge in either medieval fairy tales or sheer, ignorant speculation without a leg to stand on.

As God’s people, let’s make a point of NOT paying attention to myths and worldly fables… just like God tells us! Let’s stick with and place our trust in the firm foundation of God’s word as our God commands us to do.

Where Scripture actually speaks, let us speak boldly. Where Scripture is silent, let us keep the silence of God.

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/14/18 ~ My soul magnifies You

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My soul magnifies you, Jehovah God. You are the Creator of my life and the Savior of my Spirit. The love you have for my soul overwhelms me. You give meaning to life when there are no answers. You give hope when nothing is working out right. You even allow me to share in a little of your glory and to show others what it is. You are my laughter and tears of joy. You are my contentment and my all.

Yesterday you made me forget myself a little while and talk to people about their problems and needs. It is still not enough. Make me reach out in more concern. Forgive me when I surround myself with my selfishness.

Thank you, Lord God of my soul, for taking notice of me, even though I am a sinner unworthy of your presence. I adore you and revere you. I fall at your feet in gratitude. You stopped at nothing to save me from Satan and hell, even though I do not always honor you. Your love is stronger than sin and Satan, danger and death. Your love transcends worlds and envelopes me in safety.

10/7/18 ~ Good Business vs Christ’s Kingdom

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Far too often we as Christians confuse what is best and right in the world with what is best and right in the Lord’s church. Many congregations have chosen elders, not for their Scriptural qualifications, but rather, for their earthly business qualifications. That is wrong before God and deadly to Christ’s Kingdom. James addresses that very false and foolish theory when he reminds us that showing favoritism just because of wealth or business success is a sin (cf. James 2:1-9).

The real fact is that God’s standards are perfect for His church and are much better for life in general! Consider for a moment:

Good Business vs Christ’s Kingdom

Mark Twain once commented: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” His point, of course, is that so much of what people think that they know is not only wrong but dangerous.

A lot of the world’s business clichés are wrong for business and even worse for Christians. And yet those same teachings are happily propagated by both groups without intelligent thought.

Here are three business sayings that are actually deadly for businesses and yet are often cited in much the same way by Christians. They were never true for anyone and they always bring more harm than good.

Old saying #1: Failure is not an option. Meaning: We absolutely, positively must succeed.

Guess what: No matter how many times you repeat this saying, failure always remains an option. Closing your eyes to this fact makes you more likely to fail.

One business management consultant suggested that businesses should find all the employees who never make mistakes and fire them because employees who never make mistakes never do anything. Admitting that mistakes happen and dealing constructively with them when they do make mistakes less likely.

Paul was once mistaken about the usefulness of John Mark in ministry. But Paul overcame that to appreciate his brother in Christ (read Acts 13:13; 15:36-39 and 2 Timothy 4:11). Failure is NOT the end but merely the beginning of new opportunities!

Many things we may try for outreach will fail. That is simply a sign to try another approach. Closing your eyes to failure means closing your eyes to opportunities.

New saying: Failure happens. Deal with it God’s way!

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Old saying #2: The customer is always right. Meaning: We satisfy our customers’ every need.

Wrong! In businesses this often means loyal, hardworking employees are scorned in favor of unreasonable customers. Yes, there may be times when loyal employees are wrong but consistently favoring the unreasonable, ignorant outsider is a loss all around.

Churches frequently chase what is popular with the world and shun their God. People have actually left the Lord’s church because we won’t put them ahead of God in importance. That’s sad that they leave but they are still wrong and will have to answer to God for their disobedience.

New saying: God’s way is always right. Our job is to obey Him.

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Old saying #3: Grow or die. Meaning: A business is either growing or dying. A business can’t be successful if it’s not growing.

It’s interesting to see how growth has been elevated to an automatic good. We often imagine the New Testament church as being hundreds of people in each congregation. While that may have been true for some congregations at some times, it was never the norm. Of the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3, the smallest was the most faithful and therefore received the most praise from God.

Preaching the Gospel is our priority. We are not responsible for the growth but for the planting. Growth in numbers is always nice but our goal of spiritual growth will always produce the best results.

Even in the business world there in no correlation between growth and ultimate success. In recent years we have seen countless businesses that grew until they died. Growth for the sake of growth is never a good thing.

Take a look at the “mega-church” movement. How long do any of them actually last? Jerusalem and Ephesus might have been the closest to that status in New Testament times. By the end of the first century, Jerusalem was no more and Ephesus was becoming a leader in false teaching. If we are to grow, let us grow God’s way!

New saying:  Let God take care of growth. Take care of our jobs, our responsibilities to God, and let Him take care of His part.

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The scary thing about these and many other sayings is that they’re often accepted unquestioningly because they come in the shape of old mottoes which are repeated much like nursery rhymes used to educate children. That means it’s not enough to oust the old sayings, we need to replace them with new ones that are grounded in God’s word.

Any time you think that you can improve on God’s will and God’s way, you need to stop and realize that you are NOT God. Rather than let the world dictate how best to run the Lord’s church, let’s try letting God tell us how to best run our lives and our world.

— Lester P. Bagley

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

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.”

9/2/18 ~ Who Will Go?

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From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the important lessons that parents are supposed to teach their children is to grow up, get a job and stand on your own two feet. If we fail in teaching them to mature and be able to go out on their own, we have failed them in the worst possible way as they will never attain that independence necessary to survive in this world.

In much the same way God teaches us to do likewise. Paul explained this concept to Timothy this way: You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

Because this is true, evangelism or sharing the Good News of Jesus is the defining characteristic of every mature Christian. God should never have to ask the question…

Who Will Go?

While many of the prophets were given glimpses of the coming of the great King and His Kingdom, few were shown as much detail as the prophet Isaiah. Like the other messianic prophets, Isaiah would be shown practical comparisons between the people and the events of his day and the fulfillment of those lessons in Christ. Consider one such lesson of Isaiah 6:1-11:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. (2) Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (3) And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” (4) And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. (5) Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

(6) Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. (7) He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (8) Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

(9) He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ (10) Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”

(11) Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate.

Isaiah both learned and taught us several lessons that day. First, when we really begin to comprehend who God is and compare that to who we are we are not just in awe, but we are humbled. Our failure and unworthiness before the Lord leave us without hope.

Second, it is the Lord who extends the offer of salvation to us. Forgiveness of sins seems so trivial until we measure it to with eternity. Only God can change eternal death as our earned wage (Romans 6:23) into eternal life.

Third, while God many times uses the unrighteous to accomplish His will, the job of sharing the Gospel is reserved for the cleansed, the saved. No one else can carry the truth but God’s own people (note 1 Corinthians 1:21).

Fourth, for those unwilling to be saved, God will utterly reject them and even help them to be lost. As severe as this sounds, God repeats the same lesson today. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and realize that God means what He says!

Fifth, how long will God let this all go on? Isaiah shows the negative side of the answer: until all the lost that want to be lost have lost everything. The Apostle Peter would remind us of the positive side of that same answer in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, would complete the circle. No one can carry the truth of salvation but the saved! The Apostles were to go proclaim the message, to teach and then to baptize those who would accept the gift of forgiveness of sin. Then the forgiven are to be taught everything that their teachers knew; they are to be trained to do the same that others may hear and live.

So, who will go? Only the saved! Only those that understand and appreciate the gift will seek others to share in it.

The lost are going to reject God, fail God and keep on being the losers that they have chosen to be. They will never share the Good News because they are ignorant and proud of it.

The question for us is simple: Which one are you? Who will go?

— Lester P. Bagley

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8/26/18 ~ Misuse of the Bible

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever noticed and read those warning labels on things? There is a national center for poison control that tells people what to do if they’ve not read or obeyed the poison warning labels. Likewise, there is a center known as CHEMTREC that handles emergency information for hazardous materials in general. Unless you are a parent, a person who fails to read warning labels or a HAZMAT specialist you may not show much concern for such labels.

While your Bible may not have a big warning label on the outside, it does have a lot of warning labels inside. Why? Like all those other warnings one of the primary reasons is to help us avoid…

Misuse of the Bible

Hopefully, we appreciate the danger of NOT using the Bible. If we make ourselves God and feel we have the right to make the rules to live by we become nothing less than a fool (Proverbs 12:15). When God’s people tried it (Deuteronomy 12:8) God told them that it was forbidden. Sadly, years later during the time of the Judges, it became the norm, the standard of failure by which God’s people were known (Judges 17:6 and 21:25).

When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, everyone is wrong. Okay, so ignoring the Bible, ignoring God’s word is always wrong, but what if we just misuse or twist or pervert something God says. Is that also wrong?

Peter gave some instructions about such things in 2 Peter 3:14-18: (14) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (15) and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, (16) as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (17) You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (18) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

From the beginnings of the New Testament church, some people have attempted to twist what God says into their own way. In changing what God says we fail the tests of peace, spotlessness, and blamelessness.

Think about that for a moment. In trying to hold fast to the truth that God has revealed we are often accused of being the ones who disrupt the “peace” in not accepting what is wrong. Yet God says just the opposite! Those who fail to hold fast to God’s way upset God’s peace and are described by God as ignorant, unstable and headed for destruction. That really does NOT sound like a good alternative!

God’s word is our only real authority. Paul reminded Timothy: (15) and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (17) so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Once again it is only in God’s word that we find wisdom and salvation. Scripture is what is both inspired by God and useful for us in every way.

Consider a further statement from Peter: (19) So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. (20) But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, (21) for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Pay attention! Make certain that you follow what is right by God’s definition! Peter’s statement that no prophecy, no Scripture is a matter of singular interpretation actually implies two points. First, you are not allowed to interpret what God says in the way you want! The old accusation of, “That’s just the way YOU see it but I see it in my own way” is nonsense. There is a right way to understand what God says without putting our own spin on it! Second, no Scripture is to be spun and “interpreted” out of the context of the whole of God’s word. Making God contradict Himself or finding your favorite Scripture to believe in while ignoring the rest is mishandling God’s word!

Distortion of what God says has long been a popular technique of Satan. Remember what he did with God’s words to Eve in the Garden of Eden? Doing this is just as dangerous as ignoring God’s word completely.

God’s lesson to us is to remember that many people twist the Scriptures to make them fit some opinion, some idea, some doctrine of their own. After all, making something sound Biblical is the basis of most false and erroneous teaching. Jesus quoted Isaiah as evident of the ongoing truth that: (8) This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. (9) But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)

While some seek to pervert, misapply or mis-teach what God says, others would claim to have received a new revelation, a new command from God. Again, this is something that God anticipated and forbids. Deuteronomy 4:2 is a direct warning against this: You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Proverbs 30:6 provides a similar reminder while many of the Old Testament prophets pronounced God’s curses on those who falsely claimed to speak for the Lord. In much the same way, it seems appropriate that the final book of the New Testament would conclude with a similar warning: (18) I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; (19) and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19). Given that this has always been God’s position on changing His words, the prophetic warnings seem to apply to all of the Bible.

One final case should be considered. What about a new revelation, a new prophet, a new way of salvation? Couldn’t God make another change? Actually, God has already addressed that question. The New Testament refers to this current time of Christ’s law as the LAST days. This is the end, the final plan of God. The Hebrew writer says it like this: (1) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (2) in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

So, NO, there is no other way to see it. There is no other way to obey, please and serve God and there never will be another way for people here on this earth. We either do it God’s way, see things the way He says to see them or we are wrong.

Our faithfulness is measured by our obedience to God’s word without any room for our own opinions. Failure to believe and follow this pattern results in us being carried away by error, losing our faithfulness and thus our salvation. Don’t be a loser and misuse or mishandle God’s word!

— Lester P. Bagley

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