12/24/17 ~ Jesus’ Birthday

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Christmas time is one of the two times each year that many people actually take a moment to acknowledge Jesus. Christians sometimes feel the need to hastily stomp out any talk of Jesus during December. That is both sad and wrong! Others want to be like the world and embrace all the false teaching and nonsense (like the “Three Wise Men” visiting the baby in the manger and on the night he was born – something that never happened!). Some, however, feel that it is a good time to take the “opening” like this and use it to begin to gently share the truth.

If we as Christians are to both encourage one another and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, we must understand the truth ourselves! But that doesn’t always mean we hastily cram the whole thing down the throat of the first person we meet who doesn’t understand!

Jesus and the Apostles sometimes corrected misconceptions such as when Paul and Silas were called “gods” at Lystra (Acts 14:8-18). On other occasions, they simply never commented one way or the other on them. Jesus, for example, took advantage of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) to teach truths about Himself, and yet never preached a sermon on whether or not the traditional story actually was a “miracle” by God.

Both examples teach us important lessons. We still enjoy a season of joy and family get-togethers without violating God’s will. We make sure we really understand the truth behind what God says (or doesn’t say) about the man-instituted “holiday.” And finally, we use the opportunity to gently, kindly, lovingly share the real Good News.
Let’s begin with what we really know…

Jesus’ Birthday

To begin with, I guess most of us realize how dangerous it is to accept something that everyone tells you is “common knowledge.” Just a quick look at advertising through the years and the many hazardous things that have been marketed as “safe” should be enough to make us all very cautious about accepting things that “they” or “everyone” say or believe.

Perhaps one of the most loudly proclaimed dangers to our society at this time of year is the danger of taking the Christ out of Christmas. So, let’s do a little research into the subject.

You can find at least one or two websites that claim to “prove” that Jesus was actually born on December 25. They even claim that shepherds commonly take their sheep into the mountains even in heavy snow. Since such claims are easily checked against reality we can safely discard their assertions.

In contrast, there are numerous historical (and other) websites (not to mention numerous books — you remember those old printed things without a computer chip in them, don’t you?) that give you the historical facts about the origins of Christmas as a “Christian” day. In short, the pagan Roman feast day honoring the birth of Sol (the Sun god) continued to be celebrated by many, if not most, Roman Christians. Religious leaders in Rome “proclaimed” it in 354 AD as Christ’s birthday so they could give a “Christian” meaning to their revelry. Unfortunately, leaders in other parts of the Roman Empire had other days they wanted to use with their local people and there was widespread disagreement over what day to call the birthday of Jesus even then.

As little as a century ago, most denominational churches that now “celebrate” Christmas as Jesus’ birthday decried it as pagan and unfit for Christians. A couple of snippets from history will suffice:

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition, had this comment: “Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ)… Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church…. It was not instituted by Christ or the apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up afterward from paganism.”

\The Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition, said: “Christmas… was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth….” (The “Communion,” which is instituted by New Testament Bible authority, is a memorial of the death of Christ.) … A feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century, the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

Most encyclopedias, or other authorities, will tell you that Christ was not born on December 25. The Catholic Encyclopedia frankly states this fact: “The exact date of Jesus’ birth is entirely UNKNOWN, as all authorities acknowledge — though many think that the Scriptures at least strongly indicate that it was in the early fall — probably September — approximately six months after Passover.” [There are those who argue for almost every event in the Jewish calendar as being the “one most likely” to have been the time of Jesus’ birth. –LPB]

Even widely respected commentators such as Adam Clarke commonly noted this same fact and often preached it from the pulpits of both America and Europe.

So, when was Jesus born and why such a frantic outcry today? Honestly, it is more a matter of what people want than what God says! We want to have what we want and be like other people! We don’t want to be different! We demand that God give us what we want! And, sadly, most religious leaders find it easier to give in and give up than to keep on teaching the truth!

For those who would honor God’s word and God’s wishes, there is an interesting parallel. When Moses died, God buried him “in the valley in the land of Moab… but no man knows his burial place to this day.” (Deuteronomy 34:6) And yet visitors to the Bible Lands are shown the “exact” burial place of Moses! Lest you think that to be a modern invention, many think it was pointed out even in New Testament times. Is it really surprising that folks are trying to “point out” the exact day when Jesus was born?

When you consider the facts as actually revealed by God do you suppose that God might have intentionally withheld the date of Jesus’ birth because He knew we would focus too much on it as the special day of remembrance and worship? Could God have actually wanted us to remember not the birth but the resurrection as the vital focal point of faith?

The earliest Christians remembered Christ’s coming (His birth and life on earth) along with His atoning death and His victorious resurrection all year long. That remembrance for them was made even more precious by their worship together on the Lord’s Day. Isn’t that what we should do?

Take advantage of the season. Rejoice with family and friends as we are together. Always remember (and teach each other and our children) the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about God’s matchless gift of His Son coming to this earth for us!
Let’s remember to kindly and gently “let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Let’s “never grow weary of doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13) and “encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Let’s work to make this week and the coming year a great one in our service together to the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

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12/03/17 ~ WINTER

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingIt is, unfortunately, all too easy for us to forget that God really does know us and the struggles we face. That was, of course, a part of Jesus’ coming to this earth to face those struggles, those temptations as one of us. That uniquely qualifies Him as both our ultimate High Priest and our Savior (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

In Jesus’ life on this earth, He spent most of His time between the region of Galilee and Jerusalem. He would experience the seasons that He had once promised Noah and his descendants would never end until this earth itself is finally destroyed in judgment (cf. Genesis 8:22).

As our winter approaches, let’s consider a very special season in the life here on earth of our Savior.

Winter

Jesus knew of the Psalmists praise to Him as the one who had made both summer and winter (Psalm 74:17). Living in the land of Israel He would have known that the rains of winter would be vital not only to the Spring harvest but to the rivers and lakes that would lead to the lush produce of summer. He would have learned to both treasure and appreciate Solomon’s comment about the winter being past and the rain over and gone (Song 2:11).

Travelling the mountain roads and spending so much time in and around Jerusalem Jesus would have felt the cold. He would have seen the fall of snow and known the warmth of a fire like Jeremiah described in the king’s house one cold day (Jeremiah 36:22).

As Jesus prophesied of the coming destruction of Jerusalem He would counsel that God’s people pray that their flight would not be in the cold of winter (cf. Mark 13:18). Much like His lament over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34), He would sorrow for the pain His people felt even for their sins.

But in so many ways perhaps the worst winter of His life here on earth (certainly the most poignant!) would have been His final one in Jerusalem.

Many years before Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, God’s people had rededicated the Temple and rebuilt the Alter of God after a Greek king had desecrated it with offerings of pigs. Every winter they would celebrate God’s blessing, His deliverance and that time of rededication to show their thanksgiving.

John would describe that day like this: At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon (John 10:22-23).

For centuries the Jews had looked forward to the promised one of God, the Messiah, the God-with-us fulfillment of prophecy to come and give true meaning, true direction to their lives. He would, among so many other things, tell them what to do with the pile of stones discarded from the defiled altar. Even if it had been profaned, they were afraid of completely removing from the Temple grounds what had once been holy. And so it happened that, in Jesus’ last winter here on earth, He and a crowd converged at this moment in time and history.

Their question was bluntly stated, The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).

His answer was equally blunt, I told you, and you do not believe (verse 25). Even more blunt, was His next statement, But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep (John 10:26). And the reason that He knew all about God’s sheep was the simple fact that Jesus was God! (John 10:30)

It seems pathetic that today so many will argue that Jesus wasn’t and never claimed to be God. Why? Because the very crowd gathered to demand that He reveal that He was the fulfillment of Scripture, would pick up the rocks from that pile of stone and seek to kill Him for claiming to be God (John 10:33).

For all the drama, for all the threats, for all the hatred of God, the winter was not to be the time of death for the Savior. His sacrifice, His death would have to wait until the season of new life.

Winter, with all its chill, all its threats, all its harbingers of death, is not the promise.

Another winter was approaching many later when an elderly preacher would write a final letter to his longtime friend and fellow preacher. Paul would urge Timothy to come soon (2 Timothy 4:9) bringing his coat left at Troas (verse 13) and do so before winter (verse 21). Paul would write these words all the while knowing that this winter, much like that earlier winter for Jesus His Savior, would be his last (verse 6).

Winter, once more, with all its chill, all its threats, all its harbingers of death would still not be the promise of God.

Just as night precedes the new day, so Winter, for all its harshness is but the reminder that Spring and Life are coming. You see, God designed it just that way.

Winter, with all its chill, all its threats, all its harbingers of death, is never the end, never the promise.

As our Winter descends may we remember and live for the promise of Spring, the promise of resurrection and new life in Christ! Are you ready for death or life?

— Lester P. Bagley

11/26/17 ~ The Christian Family

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the great lessons we learn in life is the fact that many things can be done in a right way or a wrong way. The same holds true with God and His lessons.

God commanded His people through Moses that, You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice (Exodus 23:2). Just because many people are doing it does not make it right.

At the same time, we are admonished to be active participants in God’s family as we serve Him together. Paul looked forward to fellowship with the Christians at Rome so that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:12).

Let’s consider a bit more of the lesson of working with…

The Christian Family

A popular book several years ago was the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It extolled the “virtues” of independence and individuality at any price.

The seagull is a popular subject for photography, and many people who go to the beach end up with some kind of souvenir bearing the picture of a seagull. It is easy to see why people like this figure. A seagull exults in freedom. When flying alone, he thrusts his wings back with powerful strokes, climbs higher and higher, and then swoops down in majestic loops and circles.

In a flock, though, the seagull is a different bird. His majesty dissolves into infights and cruelty. The concepts of sharing and manners do not seem to exist among gulls. They are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a ribbon around the leg of a gull, making him stand out from the rest, you sentence him to death. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood until he dies.

If we must have a bird as a model, there is certainly a better choice. Consider the wild goose. The V formation they use in flying enables them to fly with more ease and speed. The point position is the most difficult because of wind resistance, so the geese rotate this position every few minutes. The easiest flight is experienced in the two rear sections of the formation, and the stronger geese permit the young, weak, and older birds to occupy these positions. It is also thought that the constant honking is, at least in part, done as encouragement to the weaker geese.

The seagull teaches us to break loose and fly alone, but the wild goose teaches us to fly in a “family.” We can fly further with our Christian family than we could ever fly alone and, as we fly, our efforts constantly help others in our family.

Hopefully, we see and understand the lesson here. Paul seemed to have to deal frequently with both false teachers and those Christians that were all too willing to follow them rather than the truth of God’s word. Read his highly insulting “compliment” of this attitude in 2 Corinthians 11:4.

The fact is, it is a sin to allow ourselves to be sucked into Satan’s web. No matter how good the forbidden fruit looks, we must see through the false, good-looking false teachers and their false teachings and stand firm in the truth.

Of course, all this is also a frequent theme of Paul to congregations. How much more could we accomplish if we both stand firm in the faith and actually encourage each other in what is right in God’s sight? Being united is sin is no honor. Being united is what is truly God’s will and way is!

So, what is your choice? In nearly every congregation that we see in the New Testament, there are those infamous for their firm stand for wrong. In most of those congregations, there are also those that remain faithful and stand for the right.

Just as Joshua recommended long ago, it’s time for you to choose your stand. Are you with the Lord or with some false god?

Hopefully, we will choose the family of God and stand firm with our Heavenly Father.

— Lester P. Bagley

11/19/17 ~ Thanksgiving in God’s Word

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever thought about what it is that makes you happy? In dealing with depression and sadness there is one common thread in all the advice, all the research, all the studies of what really works.

In order to move from sadness to joy, you have to first get moving. Unsurprisingly you never get anywhere else unless you get up and do something; you have to move. But the second ingredient always involves thankfulness.

If you never make the effort to appreciate, to see and be thankful then you are guaranteed to be miserable. It is not only a fact of human psychology, a fact of life; it is a fact of spiritual life, too.

Think for a few moments just how much God has done for you and let’s look at just a few lessons of…

Thanksgiving in God’s Word

It is easy to think of the Thanksgiving holiday as an American invention that happens once a year. But, as you probably realize, the original “holiday” in this country was a group of Christian people celebrating what their God had done to provide for them in difficult circumstances. And they understood what we should remember: Thanksgiving has always been celebrated by God’s people whenever they stop to realize and appreciate God’s blessings!

We have much to be thankful for every single day and should often go to our God in prayer for His many rich blessings. Let’s consider just a few of the lessons from God’s hymn book (Psalms) that remind us to be truly thankful.

1) God’s love never changes, never falters, and never ends. When Moses was on the mountain to receive the Law it was part of God’s announcement as to who He really is (Exodus 34:6-7). The Psalmist certainly had this knowledge of the Lord in mind.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

2) God’s faithfulness reminds us of what He calls us to with our faithfulness. It should never be a temporary thing for us because His faithfulness lasts literally forever!
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1-2)

3) Because God is God He is worthy of praise. Remember His awesome creative power and His eternal purpose for us, His people. Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His (Psalm 100:3).

4) God purposefully created you as an intricate work of careful design, and He cares about every single part of you.  For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13-17)

5) God is our greatest hope and encouragement when we face struggles in this life.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

6) God is the best antidote to our fears. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:10-11)

7) God is trustworthy. He will continue to bless us with what is best. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. (Psalm 37:3-5)

Consider how much He has done for you and give Him your all. You will never be sorry that you did. Are you truly thankful to the Lord?

— Lester P. Bagley

11/12/17 ~ Provocation

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingI don’t know if you are a fan of the Bee Gees or not, but they wrote and/or performed literally thousands of songs. Of the songs that they wrote, over 2,500 other singers have recorded them. So you probably have at least heard a some of their songs and may even have some favorites. One of their catchy and popular love songs was simply titled “Words” and it includes the reminder that “words are all I have to take your heart away.”

If you are not a fan of the Bee Gees perhaps you have at least heard the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And you may also realize just how false that little taunt really is. That, of course, is the point of the love song. Words can reach out and touch a heart and turn it to the right things.

Words really do have power. They have the power to challenge and inspire us, and the power to hurt and discourage us. And that is why the study of the words of God is so important. “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life” are lyrics that we sing to remind us as Christians of this very important lesson.

Take a moment to consider one of God’s extraordinary words, and both the bad and the good lessons that it offers to us:

Provocation

Have you ever used a stick to push someone or some animal along? Have you ever used words to provoke someone? Children may taunt someone with the intention of hurting their feelings and, sadly, adults may do the same thing. The word “provocation” means just that, trying to motivate them in some way by poking and prodding them.

In Deuteronomy, Moses uses the term several times to refer to the repeated disobedience of God’s people and how it caused Him to be angry (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25; 9:7, 18, 22; 32:16, 21). This would become a sadly repetitious theme in the relationship between God and His people as Judges 2:12 points out: and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger.

The time of the monarchy is all too similar to the time of the Judges as the kings, like the whole nation before them, repeatedly disobeyed God until they provoked Him to bring first the end of Israel and a few years later the captivity of Judah.

Provocations! Disobeying, dishonoring and ignoring the Lord and His will until such time as He would be fed up and punish them.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul did not want to take John Mark on the second missionary journey after Mark’s desertion on the first journey. The word that Luke used of the angry dispute between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) pictures an explosion. This provocation was so great that Paul and Barnabas split up for a time.

Sometime later on that very same journey, Paul would again be provoked as he observed the multitude of idols in the city of Athens (Acts 17:16). Like God when Israel and Judah chose to worship the false gods of the nations around them, it was appalling to see the extent of their provocations of the Lord Himself.

It’s often said that preachers’ lessons are directed at themselves as much as anybody else. Certainly, Paul understood that principle as he wrote his letters. Perhaps that is partly why he chose this same word of great provocation to be a reminder to us all in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked.

As strong as this word is in the negative form it is also used in a positive way with an equally strong lesson from the Holy Spirit. In Hebrews 10:24 we are urged by God to …consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Some translations actually use the literal translation of provoke.

How much effort do we give to encouragement? Have you ever been really good and angry, incensed and downright explosively angry? That is exactly how much effort God expects us to put into our positive encouragement of His people! What a thought! Explosively good and positive for God!

One last picture from God’s word to keep this all in the proper perspective comes from the Apostle Peter. Certainly, Peter knew about an explosive attitude and at times could be as volatile as any of us. Yet he writes to us to sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Think about that a moment. What follows involves us actually treating our God as the Holy Lord that He is!

Okay, so what’s the rest of Peter’s point? Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

We are called to BE the dynamite of God; His power used in this world of spiritual battle against the forces of Satan. And yet we use that very power for good in encouraging our fellow saints to serve and fight the good fight.

May we always be provoked to love and serve our Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

11/5/17 ~ Lessons From God

From the Preacher’s Pen

RacineBuildingEveryone lives by some standard, some criteria for what is right and wrong, honorable or dishonorable. If we would look forward to God’s promises and blessings we must use His standard, the Bible, for our standard of right and wrong.

While God’s word, the Bible, is filled with many lessons for us, I would like to suggest a few things worthy of our time and effort to work on. Let’s consider a few…

Lessons from God

1. Wake Up! The Psalmist said, This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). God makes time for us. We should make time for Him and appreciate all that He has done for us. Everything in the Bible is a reminder pointing us to God. Don’t sleep, though, and miss out on what is really important.

2. Dress Up! No, the clothes you may be wearing today are not the point. We’ve all met someone that is beautiful and well-dressed but was so ugly in attitude that no one could stand them. Likewise, we’ve met people that are truly beautiful regardless of their clothing or looks. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Improve your looks with a beautiful heart!

3. Shut Up! God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking. He who guards his lips guards his soul (Proverbs 13:3). Say nice things and learn to listen… especially to God!

4. Stand Up! Stand for something or you will fall for anything! There are many things in this world that we may choose to stand up for, but none of them will ever be as great as choosing to stand with God. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

5. Look Up! When we forget God, we forget our real power and ability. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

6. Reach Up! Don’t just acknowledge God as being there, do His will and faithfully follow Him! Trust in the Lord with all your heart, & lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, & He will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

7. Lift Up! Many people imagine that they serve in God’s Secret Service. He doesn’t have one! And if you don’t let anyone else know about God the chances are you don’t talk to Him either. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).

Many people in this world imagine that they know and serve God without ever learning and obeying His will. If you would really know God, His greatness, His promises and, above all, His forgiveness and blessings, then you must learn to live for Him.

Be a part, an active, living part of His family this week and always!

Lester P. Bagley

Celebrating 100 years this week

Facebook-Homecoming

0-UP FROM DESERT-COVER-MEDIUMWe are 100 years old as of 2017.  A history of our congregation has been put in book form. It is 400 exciting pages covering the first thirty years.

Nearly all of our original members came from families rich in the Restoration Movement.  They came here from Oklahoma and Texas, then from Arkansas and Missouri.

Tent2Casa Grande, a mining town in Arizona, began mostly as a tent city. The first meeting place of the church of Christ in the city was also a tent.

The city began with one street—Main Street—across from the railroad tracks. The city of Casa Grand began in 1912 because of silver and gold deposits, along with other minerals. The church of Christ began in 1917, five years later, because of the city. Twenty years after the church of Christ began, it had 200 members. Both were here to stay.

Here are the first members:

Facebook-Event Collage

  • 1917 – The Darters and Sharps
  • 1918 – The Griffiths
  • 1919 – The Preuitts
  • 1920 – The McNatts
  • 1921 –  The Fritzingers and Tindalls
  • 1922 – The Benders
  • 1926 – The Tacketts
  • 1927 – The Germans
  • 1928 – The Amblers and Wilsons
  • 1929 – The Sheltons and Sanders’s
  • 1930 – The Hendrix’s
  • 1931 – The Fosters and Eastridges
  • 1932 – The Foxes
  • 1933 – The Whites, Sweets, and Williams’s
  • 1934 – The Whiteheads
  • 1935 – The Frasers
  • 1936 – The Prices, Mastersons/Halls, Gebharts, Hills, Wittens
  • 1937 – The Hons, Coyles, Higgins’s, Wuertz’s
  • 1938 – The Wallers, Turners, Fegusons
  • 1939 – The Taylors
  • 1940 – The Grubbs’s and Bentles
  • 1941 – The Crows, Barnes’s, Wilsons, Jones’s
  • 1943 – The Wilsons and Chisums
  • 1944 – The Forsheys, Brysons, an Goffs
  • 1945 – The Carters and Kinsers
  • 1946 – The Lamberts, Brumages, and Owens’s
  • 1947 – The Lowes and Caruths

Hon-Adrian&Lena1941Our first full-time preacher was Adrian Hon. His parents had taken him to Japan as missionaries around 1910 when there was still a bounty on the heads of Christians.  His ancestors were preachers back 100 years before.

 

1800s-Cartwright-Reddick&Sarah

Adrian’s wife’s family ~ the Cartrights ~ came to Phoenix in the 1800s and began the first non-denominational church of Christ in Arizona.

 

THIS IS AN OPEN INVITATION TO ANY DESCENDANT OR ANYONE IN OUR COMMUNITY TO COME HELP US CELEBRATE NEXT WEEKEND. 

Everyone, come home! Come home to the church your parents and grandparents and great grandparents worshiped with. After 100 years, we have held on to their legacy. We think they would be proud of us. Don’t you?

If you cannot come, leave your congratulations for the members below. We would love to hear from you.

 

 

9/2/17 ~ Did Jews Under the Old Testament Tithe?

RacineBuildingActually, the Jews were required to give more than a tenth. (1) Deuteronomy 26:12 said the Jews had to give an extra tithe every three years for their welfare program. So, if someone tithed $900 a year, s/he would have to tithe an average of $300 more per year for the welfare program, equaling $1,200 year. If the yearly income was $9000, this would take it up to 13.3% a year. (2) Also, according to Leviticus 27, they had to pay for their vows, which in many cases were really special prayer requests. (3) They also had to buy animals for sacrifices for intentional sins, unintentional sins and sins requiring restitution. (4) If they wanted to thank God for anything, they had to buy grain for a sacrifice (Leviticus 1-5). If they didn’t have to buy the animals or grain, they had to take them out of their own supply, thus depleting their own “pay check.” (5) And every time one of their flocks or herds had a first-born, they had to sacrifice it ~ another depleting of the “pay check.”

So the good Jew under the Law of Moses did not just tithe. He ended up giving about one third of his income. Galatians 5:3 says that, if we keep one part of the Law, we have to keep all of it. There were over 600 burdensome commandments in the Law of Moses!

Exercise to Determine Your Annual Giving Budget Under Law of Moses

Vows

  • Genesis 28:20 – To have a safe journey (“traveling mercies”)
  • Leviticus 27:2 – To dedicate someone for special service to God
  • Numbers 21:2 – To be delivered from enemy army
  • 1 Samuel 1:11; Proverbs 31:2 – To have a child
  • 2 Samuel 15:7-8 – To return to homeland and reconciled to family
  • Psalm 22:11, 25; 66:13 – To be freed of troubles and desertion by friend
  • Psalm 76:11; Isaiah 19:21 – To prove allegiance to God before others
  • Psalm 116:8, 14, 18-19 – To thank God for a verdict of not guilty
  • Job 22:27; Jonah 2:7-9 – To recover from illness

(Leviticus 27:2-7) – Find your category by gender and age. Multiply the number of shekels required times $5.00. How much would one vow cost you? _____________ At one vow a month, how much would that be a year? _________________ Add that figure to your annual giving budget below.

First-born People & Livestock

Since each family only has one first-born their entire existence, we will not count this in the Annual Giving Budget below.

Numbers 3:45-47 – If your herds had twenty females giving birth for the first time in a year, you would owe how much in shekels to buy back (redeem) all five from becoming burned offerings? _____________ How much would that be in dollars? Add that your Annual Giving Budget below.

Animal Sacrifices

Let us give an average value of $25.00 per animal (5 shekels of silver).

Leviticus 1:6, 8-13; 8:18-21; 16:24 – This BURNT OFFERING was wholly consumed by fire. It was voluntary to atone for unknown, unintentional sin, expression of devotion, or complete surrender to God. If you asked God to forgive you for unknown, unintentional sins every week at $25.00 each, that would be how much in a year? ___________ Add that below to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 4:1 – 5:13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22 – This SIN OFFERING was required to atone for a specific unintentional sin (probably done in public) and involved confession, forgiveness, and cleansing from defilement. If you asked God to forgive you for one unintentional but public sin a month at $25.00 per animal sacrificed, that would be how much in a year? _______________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7:1-6 – This GUILT OFFERING was required for sins requiring restitution of an added 20% such as for stealing (intentional) or destroying property (unintentional). Let’s say you are real good and never get into this kind of trouble. Don’t add it to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Grain Offering

Grain offerings were usually cooked and eaten by the priests. They were flour, oil, incense (flavoring), bread, and salt. Let us give each such offering a $5.00 value.

Leviticus 2; 6:14-23 – This THANKSGIVING OFFERING was voluntary. Let’s say you, a good Jew, have a positive attitude and thank God for things once a week. How much would your grain offerings add up to during the year? __________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 3; 7:11-34 – This FELLOWSHIP OFFERING was voluntary and another form of thanking God for his goodness. Let’s say you make this kind of offering once a month. How much would your grain offerings add up to during the year? _________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

 

Annual Giving Budget of Good Jew

$____________ Tithing for the year

$____________ One-third of tri-year welfare tithe

$____________ One vow a month for a year

$____________ Twenty first-borns in herd for the year

$____________ One unknown sin a week (burnt offering)

$____________ One unintentional sin a month (sin offering)

$____________ One thanksgiving offering a week for a year

$____________ One fellowship offering a month for a year

$____________ TOTAL GIVING FOR A GOOD JEW

8/27/17 ~ DARKNESS

From the Preacher’s Pen… 

RacineBuildingThis past Monday we saw here in Casa Grande a partial eclipse of the sun. For a short time, the moon covered a portion of the sun. While it never got completely dark, it did make for an eerie orange color to the daylight.

Of course in other areas to the north of us, there was a strip across the continent of totality, total darkness. It was a good time to remember a bit about the subject of darkness and light and our God…

Darkness

This world began in darkness (Genesis 1:2) but with the actions of God, light was created and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:4). As creation continued God created the sun to govern the day and separate the light from darkness… and it was good (Genesis 1:18).

As human beings experienced life on this earth they understood that night and darkness were more dangerous times. Harm could hide in the darkness and be unseen until too late. But they also learned that with God it was not so. The Psalmist would write: If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:11-12) And darkness would increasingly be associated with sin, Satan and the wicked (Proverbs 4:19).

When Israel, the northern kingdom of God’s people, was destroyed for their sin the prophet Isaiah would continue to preach to the southern kingdom of Judah about the dangers of that darkness (Isaiah 8:22). But there was always hope, always the promise of God that one day… The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them (Isaiah 9:2). And, On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see (Isaiah 29:18).

Even as the storms gather and difficulties seem to take over, the promise would always shine through: For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you (Isaiah 60:2). Years later as the darkness overwhelmed the nation Jeremiah would echo the same lessons.

And darkness fell

Yes, there would be a return from captivity for many of God’s people but even then they recognized that their real hope, their real light was still to come.

And then one day the light came into the world… and they missed Him. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5) God would even explain it to them (Matthew 4:12-16) and yet they would not see.

They refused to see the light until one day it was extinguished again: Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)

Darkness! Darkness over all when there should have been only light for you to see, it was NOT an eclipse. By the laws of nature that the Creator Himself had hard coded into His creation there simply cannot be an eclipse of the sun at Passover. Never. Not going to happen. And yet there was darkness… and fear… and wonder… and then it was over.

The darkness actually failed as the Christ was seemingly extinguished, the light of the world supposedly gone out.

In so many ways darkness seemed to almost win. For three days a unique spiritual gloom seemed to reign. And then the Great and Glorious Day of the Lord came (Acts 2:20). The light was victorious!

In the coming years the sermons of God’s spokesmen would ring with the reminder:

The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

The darkness is gone

The light, the Light of the world is here. And He has called you to live for Him… now and forever.

— Lester P. Bagley

8/20/17 ~ Things We Cannot Do Without

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… Over the years there were a few times that I had to undergo a process called survival training. While the goal is teaching you and giving you the confidence to accomplish things even in dangerous circumstances if the course is really worth anything the ultimate test is really a question of “pass” or “fail” at surviving.

In a very real way, this world is that kind of course. Either we learn and properly practice the things that enable us to live forever with God or else we fail and face eternal death.

With that sobering thought in mind, let’s consider some…

Things We Cannot Do Without

If you’re ever stuck out in the wilderness, remember what survival experts call ‘the Rule of 3s’: You can live 3 minutes without air. In a harsh winter environment — it’s snowing, say — you have 3 hours to survive without shelter. Without water, you will die in 3 days (note that in the Arizona summer you may not last that long!). Finally, you can make it 3 days without food (but it won’t be easy!).

God’s word also has some lessons about things a Christian simply cannot survive without. Let’s consider seven things that are vital for us:

1) God — Paul spoke of the time before Christ when the heathen nations were outsiders, strangers to God’s covenants of promise with Israel. He says that they had no hope and were “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

2) The Precious Shed Blood of Christ — The writer of Hebrews reminds us that, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). And Peter challenged us to remember, “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

3) The Sinlessness of Christ — Our “high priest” understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses because He “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The fact that He was perfect and sinless allowed God to accept His sacrifice as the price for our sins, or as Paul puts it: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

4) Faith — “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Of course “faith” here is God’s definition of true, obedient hope and trust in Him; rather than contemporary man’s idea of just wishful thinking.

5) Works — James reminds us that in God’s definition of terms faith and service or works are inseparable (James 2:18-20) and plainly says that faith without works is just dead, useless faith.

6) Holiness — Like so many other words in Scripture we are required to use God’s definition and not Satan’s perversion of God’s will. Hebrews (12:14) reminds us that if we lack that holiness or sanctification we will not see the Lord!

7) Birth into God’s Family — Again, the world is quick to follow Satan’s definition of God’s commands and terminology. In doing so they reject God’s blessings and promises just as Adam and Eve did. To gain God’s promises and blessings today requires that “new birth.” Baptism can never be just getting wet (1 Peter 3:21). It is submission to God and obedience to His commands and will. Baptism is uniting with Jesus in His death, burial AND His resurrection (Romans 6:4-7). Without it, we are not free from sin and we will never see heaven!

Yes, there are many things that are vital to our Spiritual life and health. In addition to the survival ‘Rule of 3s’ there are countless poisons, wild animals, falls from cliffs and innumerable other dangers out there that we must avoid to live. But hopefully, we also understand that without the basic important things we face no hope at all.

How about your spiritual life? Have you begun with the basic, vital items? Because, if you are lacking any of these you are starting out by dying. If you would live then seek Christ… this week and always!

— Lester P. Bagley