8/12/17 ~ Just Who Are Your Spiritual Heroes?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWe live in a world that is so proud of perversion that it has made evil its hero. Sadly, for those that belong to the Lord, this has been the challenge throughout history. The hard part is to maintain our purity and faithfulness even as we are surrounded by the filth of sin.

Consider the reminder that we need every day, every moment of our lives here on this earth:

Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?
Who Are Your Spiritual Heroes?

Social media seems to be telling us a lot about our hearts! Frequently Christians post from websites whose very names brag about their disdain for God or are filled with curse words.

Yes, most of us are well aware of the depths of sin and depravity that are in this world because of Satan. We are probably aware of the filth in a cesspool, too. But why on earth anyone would want to take a bath in one and brag about it is more than a little perverse.
So, are you certain that as a Christian you want to be advertising that you, just like the rest of Satan’s followers, are filthy in thought, talk, and deed? Or are we actually called by God to come out of the world and not be like them?

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “and do not touch what is unclean, and I will welcome you

And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)

In a similar vein, it is increasingly common for Christians to post regular quotes from various religious personalities.

Someone comments about the inspiring words of a former preacher who has renounced the teachings of Jesus. Another person brags about how wonderful it is to “fellowship” with a false teacher. And yet another finds their daily “inspirational quote of the day” in the writings of those false teachers that lead people away from God’s truth.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 11)

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 9-11)

Are you certain that the person you quote and admire actually is teaching the whole truth and counsel of God? Or are you, like God says, just participating in their evil deeds?
If you regularly draw your inspiration from pagans and false teachers what does that say about you and your heart?

Yes, I know that the Apostle Paul sometimes quoted secular or even pagan sources but it was always to make a point about God. And it always led to a lesson about God’s truth. A few moments spent in God’s word will remind you that these non-spiritual sources constitute the tiniest fraction of Paul’s lessons and were used only to address common thoughts before turning to God as the real authority.

Here’s a reminder from Jesus. It is not only a pointed lesson about the character of those we quote, but equally a lesson about what really resides in us!

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:45)

Be careful where you find your inspiration and what you advertise about yourself! Examine your heroes, examine your authorities, examine who inspires you to love and serve God.

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:9-12)

Make certain that all you say and do is fitting for a child of the King!

— Lester P. Bagley

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7/9/17 ~ Bless the Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how some songs just seem to apply to living as a child of God? Sure they may have originally been intended for a totally different audience but when you really consider the words they just seem to fit God’s family.One such song from the 1960s goes like this:

It’s such a pretty world today, look at the sunshine. 
And every day’s the same since I met you.
It’s such a pretty world today knowing that you’re mine
And happiness is being close to you.

Do you see what I mean? Wouldn’t David, the “sweet singer of Israel” have loved the thought?

When words, thoughts, ideas cause us to focus on God and recall both who He is and what He has done for us they ought to cause us to…

Bless the Lord

To many of us today the idea of blessing God may sound a little odd. We normally think of blessing as something that God does for us and not the other way around. However, the Scriptures provide some very certain statements about us blessing God, so let’s do a bit of study.

The Hebrew word most often translated “bless” is barak, literally meaning to kneel as for praise or prayer and thus to thank, bless, salute or wish well to. This word is used over 330 times in the Old Testament and is translated 315 times in the NASB as some form of “bless.” A good example is Psalm 103 where it occurs six times.

The first thing you may notice is that not all translations have the term “bless the Lord.” The NIV generally translates this as “praise” rather than bless. As you can see from the above definition, the meaning carried by this word is really a bit more than saying something nice about God. Let’s read Psalm 103 and see if we can get a better grasp of the idea:

Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit;
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The Lord performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us; Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more;
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
The lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant,
And who remember His precepts to do them.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Do you see the richness and beauty of what David is exclaiming in praise of God? We could never simply say “that’s nice” to the one who forgives our sins, heals our diseases, showers us with blessings and, above all else, saves us. When we study our Bibles, we come to realize that the God who created everything and guided all of history is the very one who loved us (you and me) so much that He sent His own Son to die for us. Wow!

Have you ever stopped and just looked up? Past the clouds, past the sun, past the stars, past all that we can see is still not as big as God’s love for us! And the everlasting love of God remains forever upon those who love and obey Him.

Yes, it is a pretty world today and every day when we know and serve God! And happiness, real joy, is found only in being close to Him.

Doesn’t that make you, like David, want to call out to all of creation to shower God with praise? Do you know who God is and what He has done for you? Do you belong to Him, obeying His words and serving Him? Then let’s join in lifting our voices, our very lives to praise, to thank, to salute, to bless the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

7/2/17 ~ Lord of Open Doors

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how often people see things differently? One person sees a bee as precious as it pollinates flowers and makes honey while another person sees a terrifying monster with no purpose other than stinging and harming people.

How do you see God? Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves about the…

Lord of Open Doors

Does your god restrict your life? Do you have a god that cramps your style? Is your god the god of “Thou shalt not’s”? That’s the kind of god many people see, one who always says “No” to anything fun, interesting or exciting. There are some very definite things God requires of us, but if the restrictive, negative and downright meanness of God is your view of Him, then you don’t really know Him. If that is how God looks to you, then you need to meet the real God, the one who is Lord of Open Doors.

Of all the doors most restrictive in life, the prison door must rank as one of the harshest. And of prison doors, the worst would have to be the one that slams shut on an innocent man or woman. Three times in the book of Acts we see innocent people imprisoned and find God opening literal prison doors.

First, in Acts 5:17ff we find the apostles thrown into prison by a jealous high priest and his associates, but God sends an angel to bring them out. Second, in Acts 12:6ff we see Herod murdering James the brother of John and arresting Peter to please the Jews. Again God intervenes and escorts Peter from his cell. And third, in Acts 16:26ff Paul and Silas are beaten and chained in the inner prison of Philippi. But Roman prisons are no more a match for God than those of Herod or the Jewish high priest.

Most of us would be greatly embarrassed to go to a friend’s house and have the door shut in our face. Even more embarrassing would be arriving at the door or gates of heaven and being shut out. Once again, the real God is concerned about those who belong to Him. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Does that sound like the Lord of Open Doors is someone who would restrict your life, cramp your style and cover you with “Thou shalt not’s”?

Listen to how God is described to the Christians of Philadelphia: “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.’” (Revelation 3:7b-8) That’s the real God helping faithful Christians.

Wait a minute, I’m not Super-Saint. I’ve made mistakes. What does the Lord of Open Doors have to do with me? If you are into do-it-yourself heart or brain surgery, your mistakes may be fatal. But for Christians the mistakes we make, even when we really mess up our lives, need not be fatal. God still loves and cares and wants to open doors for you, too. Notice what Jesus says to the “you’ve really blown it now” Christians of Laodicea: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) No matter what you’ve done, if you will allow God to do so, He’ll open doors for you.

If you are a Christian, even one who has totally failed, your God wants to be the Lord of Open Doors to you. If you’re not a Christian, boy does God ever have a gift for you! Isn’t it time that you got to know (or better know) the Lord of Open Doors? Sit down someplace away from everyone else for a few minutes and read Paul’s description of the real God who opened doors for him and who promises to do so for you!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

Doesn’t that sound like the God you want to know? Don’t miss out. Be an active part of Him and His family this week!

— Lester P. Bagley

4/30/17 ~ The Biblical Compass

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingThe first time we read the Bible we get it. After all, we only read other books one time to understand them. Of course, anyone taking a course in literature and tried to claim such an absurd thing would find themselves failing the course. Reality check: We seldom, if ever, fully appreciate and understand something the first time we see it!

Most of us are mature enough to understand that fact in life. And most Christians are able to see, like many of the people in the Bible, how rich are the ongoing lessons we learn about God and His will.

It should be a ritual with us to not just read God’s word but to think about it, to constantly inquire about what it says and how to appreciate and understand it.

Consider something as simple as the compass directions and let’s remind ourselves of how easy it is to miss so much.

The Biblical Compass

North-South-East-West

A great lesson for Bible study comes from an old illustration: To read the Bible always and only in translation is like listening to Bach, always and only played on the harmonica. You certainly get the tune, but you will miss pretty much everything else.

Now, if you are comfortable with hearing Classical music only played on the harmonica and think there’s nothing to be gained by listening to a great orchestra… well, you probably have no problem with lazy, effortless Bible study.

Yes, I realize just how hard it is to learn another language but I’ve also learned just how much can be gained by consulting someone that truly knows that language. In fact, many times we will actually learn more by taking the time to ask questions of those that know the language rather than just learning to speak or read a few words! (This is what makes the many books dealing with Biblical word studies so valuable if you don’t read the original languages.)

Let’s start with the compass and basic directions: north, south, east and west. Just like reading the Bible one time, we can understand those directions and at least get ourselves headed in the right direction. But does God have a little more to the lesson? Let’s check.

In Genesis 13:14 we read, The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward.”

These four directions are technical navigation terms in English, and, even if you simply read them in Hebrew you would normally get the same idea. (The pronunciations are tsafonah for north, negbah for south, kedmah for east and yamah for west.) It’s only when you do a bit more serious digging that you learn that those words used by God were filled with even more meaning for Abraham.

North (tsafonah) is connected to Mount Tsaphon (or Zaphon) in modern Syria (cf. Isaiah 14:13). This was the Canaanite version of Olympus as the “mount of assembly” where the gods’ met and thus a prominent landmark.

South (negbah), as you might guess, is the Negev desert or wilderness area south of the land of Israel. This was the area where Abraham traveled back and forth to Egypt and centuries later the nation of Israel would wander there for 40 years because of their lack of faith.

West (yamah) means “to the sea” as the Mediterranean Sea formed that huge barrier in that direction.

East (kedmah), of course, brings to mind the idea of where it all began. Abraham had traveled far from his old life and land in the east to this new land of promise. And even earlier in mankind’s history, the Garden of Eden was planted to the east (Genesis 2:8).

Much like a jigsaw puzzle, when we piece together God’s words they become a picture of all that surrounded Abraham, his life and the Biblical story to that point in history. And in those four words filled with so much meaning, is God teaching us an important lesson, too?

In the years to come God would use another phrase, “wherever you go” as a reminder of the same lesson. First, to Joshua that the Lord would be with His people to deliver them even in the Promised Land (cf. Joshua 1:7, 9). And then second, to the nation during the time of the Judges as a reminder that without God no place would be safe (cf. Judges 2:14-15).

Does God do the same for us today? If we are faithful to Him will he not give us safety and blessings from deserts to oceans? Does He keep us safe from pagan and false gods and the old ways of life?

There is a rich history in God’s promises to give His blessings to His faithful people. Perhaps the ultimate reminder comes as Jesus gives the Great Commission and concludes that, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

With such great promises and with a God that gives us such great directions, what kind of lives should we live this week and always?

— Lester P. Bagley

2/27/17 ~ Seven Simple Steps

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

Seven Simple Steps

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

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

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

This little brain becomes our “little friend” when we try to establish a habit. The more connections, the firmer the habit. So developing a healthy habit begins by training the mind. Or, as the Apostle Paul says it, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

2/19/17 – FORGOTTEN

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

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

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

Forgotten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

2/12/17 ~ Disciples Disciple, or They’re Not Disciples

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingLast week a preacher friend of mine remarked about some interesting facts. That led to some discussion among preachers and some good thoughts for us all. Here’s how it all began:

If you attend three times a week for worship, that is 4 hours per week or 208 hours per year. By the time you are 40 years old you have been in a total of 8,320 hours of religious education. By contrast, the university student graduating after four years spent 2,176 hours in the classroom. That equates to a 20 year Christian having essentially the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in the subject and a 40 year Christian having nearly a doctorate!

It is hard to believe that a person of average intelligence with over 8,000 hours in religious services is incapable of teaching others the fundamentals of the gospel. Equally shocking is that some of those people are so proud of the two Bible verses that they’ve read and memorized in all that time that they no longer feel there’s anything to learn from God’s word.

Do we really understand that…

Disciples Disciple, or They’re Not Disciples

Yes, we’ve looked at these Scriptures many times but look again:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). If we teach all that Jesus commanded then we teach them to go and teach others!

Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Most of these people had only known Jesus’ teachings for a few years at the longest and yet they spoke of what they knew.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14) It is embarrassing and downright wrong to not know and teach.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul uses the literal word for human beings. Teach, just like Jesus said, everyone. Teach them to be faithful and that means to faithfully teach.

As God’s New Testament “Royal Priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) we are also subject to God’s requirements for priests: For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts (Malachi 2:7).

Christians are told, Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever (1 Peter 4:11).

I think we get the picture. So, the real question remains, what are you doing for Christ? Jesus has more pew-sitters than He needs! Actually, His “need” for pew-sitters is zero! What the Lord NEEDS are those who will OBEY His will.

As Jesus sent His disciples out to teach He reminded them: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2) He is NOT saying to look for someone else to do the job but rather for us to do and seek others to also do!

Are you a disciple, a student of the Lord? Then show it by reaching out to the lost!

How? There are LOTS of ways but all of them require that you get up and do! Invite someone to come with you to Bible study. Have a Bible study in your home and invite others to come. Become a World Bible School teacher or nWorld English Institute teacher and teach online or by mail.

There are countless good ways to actually do God’s will. The only failure comes in just sitting and making excuses. Will you begin being an obedient disciple today?

— Lester P. Bagley

9/18/16 ~ Why Be Baptized

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWhenever we see something in God’s creation it ought to cause us to stop and remember our God and praise Him for the wonders we see. Whenever I see a baby it causes me to recall David and the wonders he saw in being fashioned by the hand of God. Whenever I see a new Christian it causes me to recall the wonder of that new birth and how it brings us into God’s family.

Many in the world claim to be children of God and yet have never been born into the family of God. Feeling that you are right with God counts for nothing if you are failing to actually obey what God tells you to do. (Remember last Sunday night’s lesson?) The Apostle Paul questioned some nice, seemingly godly people about just what the purpose was of their baptism (Acts 19:3).

When it was discovered that they had not been baptized for the right reason, they sought to correct that and thus fulfill God’s purpose. So it is an important – even vital – thing for us to remind ourselves of the real purpose of baptism…

Why Be Baptized?

Some years ago a sister in Christ brought me an article she’d found in the newspaper. The article discussed many things about baptism and why the author thought it important. What is so sad is that the author never once appealed to God’s word for help in understanding what it means to God. And, in so doing, he managed to delude himself – and undoubtedly many others – into missing the whole point of something God says is vital to our salvation.

Contrast that author and another gentleman some years later. This man spent a considerable amount of time studying the Bible. Why so much time and effort? Because he sincerely wanted to know and obey God’s will! As a result of actually looking at God’s word instead of what people thought, this man came to the same conclusion as countless honest hearts before him. His conclusion was that the things he had done in the past were NOT really what God calls immersion INTO Christ. He had not yet actually obeyed God in coming into the God designed contact with the blood of Jesus and having his sins WASHED away. And that man wanted to obey God and be a part of Christ’s body!

So what does the world often miss about being born into God’s family? According to the claims of the newspaper version of baptism, it is a way of “looking to Jesus for help” and an announcement to the public that we are now living for Jesus. Further, baptism is a confession (of faith in God), a proclamation (of faith in Jesus for salvation) and the dedication to a new life in Christ.

While all this sounds good (and indeed in many ways reflects some aspects of what God actually says), the problem is in not saying what God says on the subject. Stop and think for a moment: Anyone writing a thesis to prove some point always quotes acknowledged authoritative sources as proof that the conclusion is not merely one person’s opinion. A judge writes his “opinion” or decision in a case by quoting the relevant law that shows that judgement to be correct. In religious terms we sometimes talk about this as “speaking where the Bible speaks.” God’s word describes this as being sure we neither add to nor take from God’s word (Revelation 22:18-19); that we neither fall short (Hebrews 4:1) of or go beyond (2 John 9) what God says.

So, let’s ask God (through His word) just what He sees as the purpose of being baptized! Acts 2:38 says that we are baptized for (“in order to receive” in the Greek as well as the English meaning of the word) the forgiveness of our sins. Since salvation is being saved from our sins, baptism is also the time when God adds us to the church (Acts 2:47). Baptism, that is the active response or obedience to God’s command, washes away our sins (Acts 22:16). Thus we cannot be forgiven of or lose our sins in any other way! Furthermore, baptism brings us into contact with the death, blood, burial and resurrection.

John says of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5), “Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” While Paul tells us (Romans 6:3-4), “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” It is in baptism that we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) so that “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). And, just so we don’t misunderstand, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

So, is baptism just a nice way of telling the world that we are already saved? Or is it really that spiritual surrender that, through the incredible power of Christ Jesus, actually saves us? God answers through the apostle Peter, “baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Let’s strive to be those who believe (and base their beliefs, thoughts and ideas) solely upon the word of God. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Jesus Himself says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Lester P. Bagley

08/14/16 ~ What Is Spirituality?

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(Excerpt from Worship the First-Century Way)

The Bible never uses the actual word spirituality.  The closest it comes is “spiritually” and “spiritual.” The word spirit is a translation of the Greek word pneuma which means breathing or blowing.  We know that people breathe by its results, but we cannot see breath.  We know that the wind blows by its results, but we cannot see the wind. 

Jesus explained it this way:  ” ‘…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water AND the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit….The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit’ ” (John 3:5-8).

Spirituality is the same.  We cannot see spirituality.  We know someone has it by the results.  Romans 8:6 says we should “be spiritually minded” (KJV).  So from this, we know that spirituality has to do with the mind.  What else does it have to do with? 

  • The written law of God (Romans 7:6, 14)
  • The gift of salvation (Romans 15:27 & Acts 10:36, 18)
  • Truth, mind of Christ, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:2:13-16,  John 17:17)
  • Food of God, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 3:1 & Hebrews 5:12-14)
  • Seed, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 9:11 & Matthew 13:19)
  • Drink of Christ, water of eternal life (1 Corinthians 10:3-4 & John 7:38)
  • Miraculous powers that confirmed the Word was really from God (1 Corinthians 12:1, 12; 14:37; John 20:30-31)’
  • Our heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:44-46)
  • Sinlessness (Galatians 5:19-6:1)
  • Salvation, the blessings of heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6-7)
  • Worship (Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16)
  • Satan’s forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12)
  • Knowledge of God’s will (Colossians 1:9)
  • People in the church (1 Pet. 2:5 & 1 Timothy 3:15)

In a nutshell, we see that spirituality is linked to the Word of God which is called the law of God, the mind of God, truth, knowledge of God’s will.  It was also the miracles that confirmed the Word of God.  Therefore, we cannot have spirituality out of our imaginations.  Spirituality comes from the Bible.

Spirituality is also linked to sinlessness, salvation, worship, the church.  Of course, we do not know what things are sin unless we check with the Bible.  We do not know how to be saved unless we check with the Bible.  We do not know if we are in the church unless we check with the Bible

There is no scripture listed above regarding spirituality that is an emotion.  It all deals with the Word of God, the Logos.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14).  The term “word” is from the Greek logos from which we get another word, logic.

What many people today define as “spirituality” is an emotionalism akin to someone on a drug “high.”  Interestingly, the sin of sorcery condemned by God comes from the Greek word pharmakeia from whence our word for pharmacy or drugs.  It is a sin to act like we are on a drug high in the name of Jehovah God.  It is frightful, it is confusing, it is non-productive, and it is wrong (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

Spirituality, then, is not emotionalism.  Spirituality also is not what comes out of our imaginations.  Spirituality is knowing and following the Word of God.

There is a parallel to understanding spirituality with understanding fasting.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

In an era when fasting was practiced frequently (we modern Christians miss a blessing by not fasting), Jesus said people were going out of their way to look the part of holy people so others would admire them.  Today, in our worship services, especially where it comes to emotionalism, we are trying to look the part of holy people.

An unknown poet said,

  • Let us keep our fast within,
  • Till heaven and we are quite alone;
  • Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
  • Before the mercy-seat be thrown.

Fasting is an act of self-restraint.  It belongs to the sphere of self-discipline.  It is strictly a personal and private matter.  What is public is the results of fasting, the results of self-discipline.  But we cannot show the actual process of self-discipline.  In fact, we would spoil the process by attempting to show it, like wearing a “humble” button.

Just as a plant must begin its growth in the darkness of the soil, we begin our spiritual growth in the darkness of our own inner thoughts and prayer to God.  And just as we can never safely expose the roots of a plant, we can never show the exact process by which we develop and protect our own spiritual roots.  All moral and bodily restraint, all humbleness of body and spirit are represented by fasting, and it is a complete failure of self-restraint to want to show others our self-restraint.

It is the same with spirituality.  Spirituality (salvation) comes from reading the Mind of God, the Word of God (Romans 10:1-3, 17).  No one else can absorb the Mind of God, the Word of God into our minds for us.  We have to do it for ourselves.  It is a personal thing.  A private thing.  Developing faith from it all is something that cannot really be expressed in words.  It happens within our own minds.  Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) says Faith is the EVIDENCE of things hoped for.  And faith that comes from the Word of God and then following it leads to salvation (Romans 10:3, 17).

We should be grateful that salvation does not rely on emotions.  If it did, we’d be very confused about our salvation.  David understood the tug-of-war that occurs between emotions and logic.  Look at Psalm 42 where he struggled with his faith.

Here David begins a debate between his emotions (his soul) and his logic.  Let’s look in on the drama as David has a talk with himself:

SCENE:            His soul is panting for God, thirsting for God, trying to meet with God.  He’s been crying day and night asking where God is.

EMOTIONS:      Where is your God?  Remember how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng?

LOGIC:             Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

EMOTIONS:      My soul is downcast within me.

LOGIC:             Therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan….

EMOTIONS:      Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

LOGIC:             By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me ~ a prayer to the God of my life.

EMOTIONS:      I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

LOGIC:             Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Isn’t it wonderful that our salvation doesn’t depend on how spiritual we feel?  If it did, we’d be in and out of salvation, depending on how we felt.  I have known people who did gauge their salvation by their emotions

They’d say something like, “I cried and cried all one day because of my sins and asked God to forgive me.  Then I felt such release, and knew I was now saved.”  Then they’d say a few years later, “I thought I was saved, but I wasn’t really. This time, I cried and cried for several days because of my sins and asked God to forgive me.  Then I felt so good that this time, I knew he’d saved me.”

Then a few years later the rise in emotions would happen again, only this time, more intensely.  On and on the cycle went for them.  Thinking they knew for sure they were saved, then wondering, then doubting, then in hopelessness once again

Salvation does not depend on our emotions.  Salvation depends on what we logically believe about what Jesus did for us.  Are remorse, love. and gratitude involved in our salvation?  Of course.  Many emotions are involved.  But they are the result of our logically reading God’s word, and then logically accepting it and following it.

Remember, Romans 10:1-2 says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their ZEAL IS NOT BASED ON KNOWLEDGE.”

Why are we given the spiritual gift of salvation?  There is more than one reason.  The obvious one is so we can go to heaven.  But there is another reason.  Ephesians 2:8-10 explains, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ~ not by works so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, CREATED in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Spirituality and Touching Jesus

 The Spirit cannot be seen any more than breath or wind can be seen.  But the results of breath and wind can be seen.  So too, spirituality cannot be seen.  Only the results of spirituality can be seen.  The results are in our attitudes and deeds

For instance, Galatians 5:22-25 explains clearly, “But the fruit [result] of the Spirit [spirituality] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Furthermore, James, the brother of Jesus said, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘God, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Jesus told us how.  ” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).

Therefore, everything In this book about applying God’s Word in worship and in service is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time the announcements are made and someone responds, “I’ll take some food over to them on Monday,” that is spirituality

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we enter into prayer together after getting into each other’s hearts and lives and asking them, “What do you need prayer for?” that is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper and compare our imperfection and being deserving of death and hell with Jesus’ perfection and taking our punishment for us, as explained in God’s Word, that is spirituality

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we give money to help support evangelism, purchase Bibles, send food to the needy, that is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we sing praises to God in faltering voices but from deep within our soul, playing on the strings of our heart, that is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we read the Bible in order to know the Mind of God, so we can live the way he wants us to rather than what our imaginations think he wants, that is spirituality.

All we need to feel spiritual and special is to know God loves us.  No matter how many times we sin, he loves us.  No matter how many times we fall, God loves us

  • We are not special to God because of how good we are, but because how good God is.
  • Not because of anything we are, but because of who God is.
  • We’re not special because we are so loving, but because God is love.
  • Not because we are so full of life, but because God is life.
  • Not because we’re so intelligent and spiritual, but because God is.

If we want to speak in a special language, let us speak in the language of love.

Spirituality is sitting with a friend and telling them God loves them when they’re good and bad, and will help them overcome the bad.

Spirituality is going with a friend who wants to join a self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s telling them how much God will help them.  Then proving it with scriptures.

Spirituality is going to an enemy gossiping against you and saying God loves you both, and there’s nothing they can say or do to get you to stop loving them!

That’s spirituality!

That’s high!

 

7/31/16 ~ EasyBibleLearning.WorldBibleSchool.org

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