1/7/17 ~ Faith is our starting point to reaching out

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs we begin a new year we begin a new opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those around us in this world. We have several new tools (both books and DVDs) to help us with both what we should say and with reaching out to others.

Without the knowledge of and obedience to the Lord, everyone on earth faces a dim future. Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that we all have an appointment with death, and then an appointment with judgment before God.

What happens in that final appointment to your family, friends, neighbors, and others you meet begins with you! Ezekiel chapter 18 is a great lesson from God about our personal responsibility. If we share the truth of God and His will, then we accomplish our part of that duty. If we fail, then we must bear the responsibility for each and every soul we lose.

Let’s think for a moment about the starting point for us in…

Faith

Faith is not just a “religious” word, but a word that we understand in almost every area of life. Faith is putting your complete trust or confidence in someone or something. The opposite in someone is literally betrayal and disloyalty, and in something it is uselessness.

Think about that a moment. A person or a thing that you cannot depend on is dangerous. Even if you try to make sure that you never have to depend on someone or something that is dangerous, you still must be careful knowing that you can never really trust them. Faith or trust, real trust is reserved for very special people and things!

The real reason that Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land was because he broke God’s trust in him. Isn’t that a shocking thought? That is exactly what God told Moses in Deuteronomy 32:51 and, to make things worse, God went on to describe that as a failure to respect or treat God as holy.

The writer of Hebrews (in Hebrews 11:6) explains it like this: without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

We often imagine that faith as a Christian is a one-way street. It isn’t! In reality the faith that God calls us to is a two-way street. Faith is trusting God so completely that He can trust us!

In Hebrews chapter 11 that is the very point the writer is emphasizing. By faith (verse 4) Abel offered a better sacrifice and God, Himself, became the proof, the testimony, the witness of that faith. Faithful to God means God will be faithful to us!

Psalm 146 is a great song of praise to the Lord and the author reflects that he is unable to trust earthly people, even royalty, in the same way that he can trust God (cf. verse 3). Not only is God the creator of all things, but God is the one that keeps faith, is trustworthy, forever (verse 6)!

In working rescue, we inspected and tested our equipment every single day. A rope that might be called upon to lift you or someone else to safety could never be just okay or good enough. If it had the slightest flaw, the tiniest break or abrasion, it was considered unsafe. After all, it could easily be my own life that depended on it, so no one would ever take the chance of what was unworthy of complete trust.

Do we see the point and make the spiritual application? Faith is not ever just a whimsical liking or fondness or even a half-hearted belief in God. Faith is the knowledge that God has been tested and proven faithful (actually what Hebrews 11:1 says!). Faith is never wishful thinking. Faith is confident, intelligent trust.

Peter and the other Apostles came to know that Jesus was really the Promised One (John 6:69). Paul was willing to suffer things on this earth without shame because he was convinced of his God’s faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:12). And John (1 John 4:16) calls us to know and believe the love God has for us.

When it comes to our God, there is no room for wishy-washy faith. As His own chosen family, His Royal Priesthood, His Holy Nation, we are called to, not just trust (if that is even possible!) but to trust and obey. Indeed, we are called to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

Faith is our firm foundation, our starting point to reach out with the Good News! Will you be displaying real faith this year?

— Lester P. Bagley

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12/31/17 ~ Putting the “personal” back in evangelism

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

By now you’ve heard some comments being made about various books and DVDs that we are going to make available for reaching out to people in our community. And you are going to be hearing more as the new year progresses. The obvious question is: Why?

RacineBuildingThe answer is simple. We can put ads in the newspaper, mail out nice brochures and generic invitations to the “Occupant” and perhaps reach a person or two. But when you and I personally invite or talk with or share something with someone they are much more likely to respond.

 

 

There are those in our congregation that are constantly reaching out to friends, neighbors, and others they meet to invite them to attend a worship assembly, to study the Bible, to think about Godly things. That’s all it takes, that’s all that evangelism really is; sowing the seed! More than any tool, more than any technique, more than any other thing, the secret to evangelism is you and me.

Consider just how far-reaching this all is as we think for a moment about…

Putting the “Personal” Back in Evangelism

Evangelism, telling the Good News of Jesus Christ, is the primary job of Christians here on this earth. Perhaps because it is so important, it is also the focus of some of the greatest nonsense perpetrated on Christians.

Literally thousands of books are written claiming to show us the only truly successful way to evangelize, and a comparable number of teachers will come teach us their own guaranteed way to “double the size of your church in just 10 weeks” or other similar nonsense. Nonsense? Surely all those catchy titles and great preachers (I know they are great because most of them will tell you how great they are and how superior their method is to anyone else!) couldn’t be wrong, could they?

Let me suggest something for you to consider. Every problem that the New Testament church has ever had from the days of the New Testament right up to the struggles congregations have in 21st century America has been the direct result of someone trying to improve on what God has already said! Every single time another book is written explaining the greatest technique that we’ve all missed, I wonder how many more souls will be lost.

Why would I say such a thing? How could I possibly fail to appreciate all the improvements and good ideas out there? I’m glad you asked! Let me show you by way of a preacher and a book that I do have respect for…

  • Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
  • For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
  • Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
  • For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
  • Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:1-11)

Hopefully, you see the point. To teach what God wants us to do and to be is to teach God’s word! To tell the Good News the best and most successful way is to follow God’s instruction book! To be right about what we say, what we do, what we call things, how we worship, how we lead our lives, how and what we teach our children and countless other things, we just need to follow our Savior and His word.

To God’s people coming out of years of bondage and idol worship, God taught them His word and demanded that they both follow it themselves and teach it to their children in order to have life, health, prosperity and a future! (Cf. Exodus 12, Deuteronomy 4). And Peter (along with Jesus, Paul and the rest of the New Testament) reminds us that this is still true today and for all time!

“Personal” evangelism is not another class or method or book or some preacher’s secret. “Personal” evangelism is nothing more than teaching and encouraging each other, teaching our children, conversing with our families, friends, and neighbors about the eternally important things (cf. Acts 8:4). “Personal” evangelism is personally living like God’s child!

Evangelism is listening to what God tells us and then sharing that same message with others. Every child of God does just that if they are serving the Lord. Yes, there are good tools (and we are going to be talking about them and using them this year!) to open doors, to get people started in learning the word of God. But in the end, it is all up to you. No one else can do your job of telling those you know and meet.

For each one of us, the essential ingredient is our love for God! “Hear, O Israel! Jehovah is our God, Jehovah is one! You shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)

Do you love the Lord enough to share the Good News? Let’s determine to make our new year one of living like who we are called by God to be, a new year of encouraging and loving one another that we might share that eternal Good News!

— Lester P. Bagley

12/17/17 ~ Into the Night

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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We’ve all noticed how a phrase or idea can be good or bad depending on how it is used. In looking up a word in a dictionary recently I ran across a discussion of words referring to things that can be good or bad. Something that is “six of one and half a dozen of the other” is one such description. Another one would be something that “cuts both ways” or had both good and bad aspects.

It shouldn’t be surprising that God in His use of language also uses words that can be good or bad depending on the setting. Love is an excellent example. Loving like God loves is good. Loving your husband or wife is good. But loving wealth or any earthly thing more than God is wrong. Likewise, loving sin is wrong.

Let’s look at another term that God frequently uses so that we can see both lessons, the good and the bad, that He illustrates with it:

Into the Night

If you ever need to get out of town secretly, night can be a perfect cover. That was actually the case with Joseph and Mary as they left Bethlehem for Egypt under the protective cover of night (Matthew 2:14). They wisely used God’s time of darkness to preserve the life of the King of kings.

Many years later the Apostle Paul would work, presumably at his tent making trade, both night and day in order to aid the Thessalonian congregation (2 Thessalonians 3:8).
On the other hand, Jesus would warn His disciples of the importance of working for the Lord while we have the light of life since the time after life gives no such opportunity (John 9:4). Notice, too, that in saying that Jesus reminds us that there is no second chance in death. We must do the Lord’s will now, in the light of life, or miss out on the very life that leads to salvation.

Like many of God’s lessons, there is a good and positive lesson where we see night and darkness as a help, a blessing to God’s people. At the same time, nighttime and darkness can be associated with a more negative lesson and many times with the ultimate negative of death, sin, and evil.

That same cover of darkness that once brought safety to the infant Jesus, would later hide the deeds of Judas as he instituted the chain of events that would bring about the Savior’s death (see John 13:29). And once again a good night would be turned into evil.

Paul would praise those Christian widows that faithfully serve the Lord “night and day” in spite of having no earthly relatives and family to aid them (1 Timothy 5:3-5). They would be the ones that God commanded His congregations to assist.

Paul would also use both night and day to pray for his younger fellow preacher, Timothy (2 Timothy 1:3). How well do we use the time God provides to us?

Of course on many occasions, God would use night and darkness to illustrate the realm of Satan, evil and wickedness. The greatest contrast would then be with the light or day of God where righteousness lives. Just as light overwhelms and shines out of the darkness, so our Savior overwhelms the darkness of sin to shine in us (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6).

Light and dark cannot truly partner together, as one or the other will always win. That fact is used to remind us as Christians that we cannot be partnered with either sin or those who persist in sin (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Yes, we were once in darkness, but now, as those who have accepted the call to be God’s light of the world, we must live exclusively as God’s people (Ephesians 5:8). There should be no going back!

We are rescued from darkness (Colossians 1:13) and, as heirs, sons and daughters of God, we are not to participate in darkness (Ephesians 5:11) for that is the kingdom of Satan and his forces (Ephesians 6:12). Instead, we are to live and walk exclusively in the light (1 John 1:5-6).

Only in that exclusive walk may we truly have fellowship with God’s family and the ongoing cleansing of all sin (1 John 1:7). Only in the light do we become and remain the chosen people of God (1 Peter 2:9).

With this final use of light comes the end of night with all its pitfalls and dangers. Our eternal city in Heaven will see no night and no need for the protections against the menaces of darkness (Revelation 21:25). And the ultimate reason for the end of night and darkness will be that our eternal Lord and God is the light of Heaven.

The difference between right and wrong, between good and evil is as plain as day and night. Will we wisely use the time allotted to us here on earth? Will we prepare for the coming of night when this physical, earthly life is over? Will we prepare ourselves for an eternal, terrifying, horrible night? Or will we prepare for the eternal day of blessing?
The choice, our choice, your choice should be as obvious, too.

— Lester P. Bagley

12/10/17 ~ Love Songs of God

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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There is always a danger in oversimplifying anything. To say that the basic ingredients of a cake are all that’s needed to actually have cake is to miss the importance of both so-called minor ingredients and all the work that goes into properly mixing, baking and ultimately serving a cake.

When it comes to the Bible we hear many similar simplifications both by teachers discussing the scriptures and from within God’s word itself. Hopefully, we are intelligent enough to appreciate those simplifications and the lessons they teach as well as incorporate them into the larger overall lessons from God.

One example of this lesson is what we commonly call the “five steps to salvation.” They serve the purpose of summarizing God’s will. But no one that really studies God’s word believes for a single moment that by quickly checking off five items on a list that they can then get back to their lives and, somehow, magically be saved. And yet there is much to be learned from what that simple lesson tells us of God.

A similar summary is sometimes expressed like this: The New Testament is God’s love letter to us. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that all of the Bible is God’s love letter, but even then we need to realize how much there is to that statement.
To begin with, what about our love for Him. Love cannot last as a one-sided affair. So consider and explore for a moment a few of the lessons of the…

Love Songs of God

One of the most prominent themes of God’s relationship with His people is that of love. So important is this theme that John bluntly says that, without love, we do not know God (1 John 4:8). He would go on to say that if we live in love, God’s kind of love, then God lives in us (1 John 4:16).

Throughout God’s word, He portrays the relationship that He has with His people as the perfect love of husband and wife. Solomon in the Song of Solomon would paint perhaps the ultimate picture of love between husband and wife here on earth. With that picture God would paint the ultimate picture of love between God and His bride.

The Psalmists would remind us of our Lord’s righteousness and love of righteousness (Psalm 11:7). They would remind us of our love for Him (Psalm 18:1) and challenge us as God’s people to love our Lord (Psalm 31:23).

Certainly, one of the greatest tragedies in scripture is that of Hosea as the prophet sees portrayed in his own life the same love story that God shares with His people. A relationship that begins with love will turn to sorrow in unfaithfulness, love rejected, only to have true love continue.

Love that gives, even when hurt and rejected, is love that is true. Love that forgives and keeps on loving is the only love that is worthy of its name. All else is merely infatuation, fake love without strength or purpose.

The New Testament reminds us that it is the ultimate fulfilment of God’s Old Testament lessons and illustrations. Paul applies that to the love of Jesus for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:21-32). He loved us even while we were unlovable, while we were still sinners (cf. Romans 5:8).

Perhaps it is only natural that when humans think of love, real love, that they so often use terms from God’s word for that ultimate standard.

A few weeks ago I turned the radio on in the car and heard an older (1964) song. Listening to the words I thought of this very point:

  • There’s a new world somewhere they call the promised land 
  • And I’ll be there someday if you could hold my hand   
  • I still need you there beside me  no matter what I do  
  • For I know I’ll never find another you

One of the greatest pleasures of our children and grandchildren is holding that little hand and sharing the tenderness of a moment. How precious to know that our God loves us like that and loves us enough to walk with us.

  • But if I should lose your love, dear, I don’t know what I’d do  
  • For I know I’ll never find another you

How bitterly sad that moment when Adam and Eve realized they would never again be able to walk together with God in the Garden. How agonizing to imagine that we could never again take His hand and walk with Him.

  • It’s a long, long journey, so stay by my side   
  • When I walk through the storm, you’ll be my guide, be my guide   
  • If they gave me a fortune, my pleasure would be small.   
  • I could lose it all tomorrow and never mind at all.   
  • But if I should lose your love, dear, I don’t know what I’d do   
  • For I know I’ll never find another you.

How precious are those promises and hopes of His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His love.  The very knowledge of God’s love for us ought to cause us to love and give Him our all.

Solomon’s ultimate story of love between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, is called the Song of Songs. James would remind us that, if we are cheerful, we should sing songs (James 5:13). Certainly, it is most appropriate of us as Christians that we should sing of His love for us. (Be sure to check out your hymnbook and notice how many songs deal with God’s love for us and our love for Him!)

If we lose God’s love we will have lost everything for all eternity. We will never find another one like our God. Let’s make sure we never lose such love!

— Lester P. Bagley

(Lyrics from I’ll Never Find Another You by Tom Springfield)

Jesus Rises from the Grave

The Life Project

Matthew 28:1-15

Matthew’s account of the events that day, the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, varies from that of Mark and Luke, and while we can discuss that some other time, I would point out that Matthew’s account carries forward His emphasis throughout the narrative of both Kingdom and the messianic mission of Jesus; in fact, these two themes are virtually inseparable: Jesus’ messianic mission was to establish His kingdom, which is not of this world. No, I haven’t forgotten that Jesus came to die on the cross for the redemption of Mankind; rather I am asserting that He did so in order to establish the Kingdom as a present reality.

Early on the first day of the week, which is the day after the Sabbath (Sunday), the women come to see the tomb. Unlike Mark and Luke, Matthew doesn’t get into the exact purpose for this. They…

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The “I Love You” Game

Mitch Teemley

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I have a friend who’s unhappy in his marriage and is thinking of leaving. This is the conversation I hope to have with him.

“What should I do?” he asks, not really wanting to hear the answer.

“Put it to a vote.”

“What?”

“How would she vote?”

“Well, right now she’s hurt.”

“And the other two? They get a vote.”

“What other two? We don’t have kids.”

“God. He invented the thing, so guess what his vote will be.”

“Yeah.” He rolls his eyes. “And?”

“Us.”

“Us?”

“The person you created when you became ‘one flesh.’ Remember? The preacher said, ‘You are no longer two, but one. And, therefore, what God has joined together, let no one tear apart’ (Matthew 19:6). So you know how Us is gonna vote. Oh, and by the way, you already voted when you promised not to tear Us apart.

“But I don’t think I…

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10/8/17 ~ Wrestling & Boxing

From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the hardest lessons of our Christian walk and life is RacineBuildingto remember its true seriousness. We get tired and want to quit. Nothing exciting happens and we want to quit. It all seems to require that motivation that we so often lack. How can we do this?

Reality is not kind. We face the same difficulty in almost every area of life. While many would like to win the prize or be the best, few are willing to put in the hard work that makes it all happen.

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of this serious contest that we are involved with:

Wrestling and Boxing

As you might well expect, the ancient Olympic sports were based on skills used in warfare. Of course, it didn’t take long for the sports to develop to the point that the combatants were no longer soldiers but specialists in their sport. By New Testament times there were three combat sports and they were both highly popular and well developed with specialists in each area.

The apostle Paul was evidently a sports fan and used both sporting fights as well as real warfare as examples of important lessons for those he taught. We can best appreciate those spiritual lessons for us with a bit more appreciation of what he was actually talking about.

Wrestling was the first sport added to the ancient Olympics that did not involve running. It quickly became the most popular organized sport in ancient Greece. You scored a point by making your competitor touch the ground with his back, shoulder or hip. Points were also awarded for forcing them out of the wrestling square or by conceding defeat. Three points were necessary to win. A popular position was to be on top of your opponent and strangle him!

The word for wrestling (palē) is only used once in the New Testament. Ephesians 6:12 says, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Boxing is nearly as old as wrestling and also immensely popular. The boxer wrapped leather thongs around his hands to protect them. There were no rounds and no weight categories so the two men typically hit each other in the head until one could no longer continue. The Romans added metal studs to the leather wrappings and later made the fights to the death! (In 393 AD boxing was abolished as excessively brutal and did not return to popularity until the late 1500s in London.)

Since the rules prevented any kind of fighting other than punching and the most effective way to win was hitting the head, Paul makes the point of boxing, in such a way, as not beating the air in 1 Corinthians 9:26. When we fight the good fight of faith we always go for the win!

Pankration was the ultimate fighting sport of the Olympics and had almost no rules. The Greek term literally means all of your power, strength, might. It was a combination of boxing, wrestling, kicking, holds, locks, chokes. The only things banned were biting and gouging out your opponent’s eyes. Some contests were actually won by breaking bones or disemboweling the opponent!

While the formal word for the pankration is not used in the New Testament, the concept words are employed to remind us of just how vicious and savage is our spiritual warfare.

Paul says, This command [to be faithful] I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight [wage all-out war as a soldier] the good fight [a military campaign or battle] (1 Timothy 1:18). And a little while later he also says, Fight the good fight of faith [literally, strive, fight, struggle, do what is necessary to win the great contest]; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

Finally, Paul brings up the subject again in some of his final words as he says, I have fought the good fight [the same words he used in 1 Timothy 6:12], I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27; Colossians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:1-4 and remember how serious this is! Our fight for Christ against Satan and his followers is not a “police action,” it is not a skirmish or a dispute. It is all out war to the eternal death! The devil has declared all-out war on us… and we must do the same to him.

— Lester P. Bagley

 

10/1/17 ~ Good Counsel or Bad?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever gotten advice that you later wished you’d heeded? Or perhaps you’ve received some advice that was later found to be completely wrong and worthless. Either way, we are constantly bombarded with advice. The difficult decision to make is whether it is worthwhile or useless.

Let’s seriously consider the choice of…

Good Counsel or Bad?

With experience, we begin to learn that good advice, good counsel comes from those who are truly wise and good and follow the way of the Lord. Bad advice comes from those who are evil, and its worthlessness is only exceeded by the worthlessness of those who give it.

While it is evident that God gave good advice to be faithful to everyone beginning with His “advice” to Adam and Eve in the Garden, the first time that the word for counsel or advice is used in the Bible is Exodus 18:19. Here Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gives wise counsel about the practical way of dealing with the immense job of leading God’s people. From this point on God will specifically use this word some eighty times in the Old Testament for us to learn the lesson.

Thus begins the lessons of both good and bad counsel that may be accepted or rejected and the consequences thereof. David’s son Absalom provides an interesting example as he chooses to ignore the counsel of Ahithophel and accepts the counsel of Hushai (2 Samuel 17). On this occasion, God intervened so that what would have been good counsel by Ahithophel for Absalom and evil for David is rejected. Instead of Absalom defeating his father David and taking the crown, he follows the advice of Hushai who is faithful to both the Lord and King David.

All of this presents us with some important things to remember:

1) Wise and good counsel is from God! The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11). Only with Him do we find the advice that is always for our good. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you (Psalm 32:8).

2) We should also highly regard and follow the counsel of the godly. Not all human counsel is equally worthwhile! How blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (Psalm 1:1).

A wise person will hear and increase in learning, and a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). In this case, the Hebrew word for counsel is a nautical term used for steering a ship (also Proverbs 11:14; 20:18; 24:6). Godly, biblically accurate counsel will always steer us in the right direction.

3) When we follow God’s wisdom we become the teachers, the counselors of others for good. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine (Proverbs 8:14). Indeed, the New Testament challenges the godly to speak with both the words and authority of God (1 Peter 4:11; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9).

So, where do we get this good and wise counsel from God Himself? Paul first answers that question with where NOT to get it: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them. (2 Timothy 3:13-14)

The positive answer is found in: …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. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the person of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

May we always forsake the useless human counsel and listen to and heed the wise counsel from God!

— Lester P. Bagley

9/24/17 ~ Concentrate Me, Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingSome years ago I was talking to a young person about the concept of God making us holy. Misunderstanding the word “consecrate” they replied that they understood the idea that God was concentrating us.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes our young people better understand and express difficult lessons? Let’s dig a little deeper into those words.

Concentrate Me, Lord

The Old Testament several times uses the word “consecrate” to describe the procedure of making the priests ready for their service to God (cf. Exodus 30:30; 32:28-29). The word comes from the concept of “cut off” to imply that those that serve the Lord are completely set aside to that task. They were not to be like other people but rather holy to the Lord.

Most of us are perhaps more familiar with the word concentrate. Take concentrated orange juice for example. You understand what it is. Fresh orange juice has most of the water removed (that’s why you add water to re-constitute it!) and you are left with very strong, thick, pure orange flavor and solids (vitamins, minerals, pulp, etc.) that make up orange juice.

Now, put that in a spiritual perspective. If we allow God to distill us, remove the things that make us impure then we are left with the most Christlike parts.

Consider James’ recommendation: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4) Isn’t that God concentrating and consecrating us?

Or Paul’s thought: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:3-4). God has chosen us to be concentrated, holy and like Him.

That’s exactly how God views the church, the bride of Christ: So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:26-27). Set apart, distilled down to be pure essence of godliness.

Peter advises us to: Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “you shall be Holy, for I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:13–16)

Do you see the point? We have to be changed from that old person of sin, selfishness and ignorance into the holy people of God’s own family. Our consecration, being made holy by our holy God boils us down, distills us into a concentrated form that is more powerful and more precious than anything we could otherwise be.

I’m often amused at the degree of nonsense that many people will believe. You can find great discussions about why concentrates like orange juice are bad, evil, wicked and unhealthy. In reality, the ONLY difference is that the water is removed and EVERYTHING else is still there.

Likewise, it is often amusing that we forget that CONSECRATION in a Christian is just removing the ungodly parts. The result in our lives is that ALL the godly, useful, spiritual parts are still there. They are just stronger for having less of the unspiritual mixed in with them. We are CONCENTRATED with Christ for God’s use!

We need to ask ourselves what we really are. Do we still retain the contaminants of the world? Or are we allowing God to change us into the consecrated, holy, concentrated, pure body of Christ that we are called to be?

— Lester P. Bagley