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?

RacineBuilding

(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

RacineBuildingWBS Logo-redGod’s message brings hope, joy, love and life.  Learn how by mail or online FREE.  Learn in your home at your pace with “penpal” helpers and online friends ~ with no one knocking on your door.

Course 1:  The Way to Life ~ The Bible is like a map for living, providing direction and purpose for every person everywhere. Why consider the Bible? Is it trustworthy? Can it truly address my every need?

Course 2:  God Has Spoken ~ God reveals Himself and His will for each person in the Bible. What does God say about Himself? How can I be “right with God”?

Course 3:  This is Good News ~ God’s message in the Bible is “good news”.  How should I respond to it? What is faith that “saves”?

Course 4: Knowing Jesus ~ Jesus makes reemarkable promises to those who “know” Him.  Is Jesus God’s Son? Is He alive today? How can I know Jesus?

Course 5:  Born of Water and Spirit ~ Jesus speaks of being “born again” to live a new life. Can I really have a fresh start in life? How can I face life and death with assurance?

Course 6: The Family of God ~ God has chosen a family of His very own, and He wants you to be a part of it. Who has God chosen? What does the word “church” really mean? What is His purpose for my life?

Course 7: Live a Life of Love ~ God offers every person a new purpose and a joyful life. How does he want me to live? Is there real spiritual power at work in my life? How can I help others?

Sign up for Course 1 here:  EasyBibleLearning.WorldBibleSchool.org

 

 

 

 

7/24/16 ~ God’s Word

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingFive times the inspired writers of the New Testament warn Christians of the difference between the truth of God and His word and the fake, myths, fables or made up stories of others. (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14 and 2 Peter 1:16).

Yet, today we still find that people often equate human nonsense with the word of God. There is no comparison! Consider this brief reminder of the veracity of God’s truth:

God’s Word

Isn’t it fascinating what people will think of to discount and disobey God’s Word? Does anyone remember the time leading up to the year 2000? There were all kinds of articles about predictions and prophecies of the coming millennium disasters (oops! I guess they were wrong about that one!).

In going through some old clippings that I’d saved, I found one about a religious writer and his declaration that he alone had finally figured out when and how “the end” would come. It seems that before the year 1999 ended the world would be destroyed by a nuclear war and that would precipitate the Lord’s Second Coming. Hmmm, unless I’ve forgotten how to read a calendar, that “prophet” seemed to have missed his prediction.

The problem is that such people claim to get their information from God’s Word or from some special revelation direct from God. Pardon me, but the real God is just not that stupid! And people who make such claims bring ridicule on God and His word and upon all who believe in God and harm the work of the Lord and His church.

God’s take on this subject? “Wise men store up knowledge, But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.” (Proverbs 10:14)

Another popular headline claim that is still being made has to do with some great discovery from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here, too, the claim was made about disaster predictions for our day and time.

What the Dead Sea Scrolls really do contain are copies of every Old Testament book but Esther and other religious writings, commentaries and community documents of a group of religious people who lived in New Testament times. While there are some similarities between these people’s beliefs and the teachings of the New Testament, there are no real surprises. These religious people are concerned with many issues that are also discussed by other Jewish writers of the time as well as New Testament writers. That people concerned with the things of God would be interested in such matters should come as no surprise to us.

What is significant about the Dead Sea Scrolls is the fact that they verify the reliability of the OT portion of our Bibles! There are copies of OT books that are centuries older than any previously known copy and there are no doctrinal changes, indeed few technical literary differences that exist. In fact, the majority of differences are older vs newer spellings of the names of people and places!

But how can we be certain? Have a read! The entire OT Bible text as preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls is available. You can not only read it but also compare all the differences with other Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts, a whole variety of other ancient OT manuscripts that have been preserved and the OT text as it appears in our modern Bible translations.

What you will find is that God’s Word has been most carefully preserved through the centuries and we may have great confidence that what we read is actually what was originally written by the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The popular, outrageous and silly claims of those who discount and disobey God’s Word should not bother God’s people. “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:12-14)

Our faith is firmly grounded in factual reality and not in myths or made up stories of man! Let’s keep the faith, this week and always!

— Lester P. Bagley

5/29/16 ~ Are Family Values Important?

From the Preacher’s Pen… 

RacineBuildingThe Lord’s church is a family and there is nothing more beautiful to see than families that come together to study God’s word and to worship Him as one. God created the family relationship as His plan for humans and in it, we see our relationship to God.

Yes, that is a circle, a God designed circle to teach us an important lesson and keep us coming back to the point! Consider the thoughts of a fellow preacher and friend on this lesson for today:

Are Family Values Important?

Family values are receiving an immense amount of attention in the news of recent times. It has gained attention in this years’ political arena. Some protest that these have no place in the election discussions, while others believe that they are of vital concern. Heated arguments can be ignited by expressing views on either side of these issues.

That many people are vitally concerned about what they consider their “family values” cannot be denied, and all people could well take an interest. We are witnessing a time when pressures are upon families to give in to “change” – whatever that means.

The kinds of changes which some are touting would collapse the moral fiber of family life.

All humanity has been created in God’s image. Psalms 100:3 says, “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and now we ourselves, and the sheep of His pasture.” Since we are the offspring of God, He has a sovereign right to set the standard for our lives.

The first three divinely ordained institutions that God established was the family. Jesus contended with the religious leaders of the first century who were defending changes in family values. He said, “Have you not read, that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4-7). As one listens to the rhetoric of election campaigns, this precept from the Son of God should be the standard by which we measure every proposal to change family values.

In the biblical record, God established the family by creating one man and one woman who were to be joined together for life. This standard does not approve same-sex marriages, any more than it approves polygamy. Jesus also staunched the hemorrhaging divorces for every cause, stating one exception: “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)

God also takes notice of any mistreatment of those who are left alone and are defenseless in the world, especially of those who have been deprived innocently of their families. Israel sang this admonition: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widow is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families” (Psalms 68:5-6). They also were taught, “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and the needy; free them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalms 82:3-4). Would it not be better if we would turn back to the eternal moral principles set by God? To be sure the more we turn away from those principles the more problems we bring upon ourselves.

—Gene Greer, Heidenheimer, Church of Christ

In a world inspired by Satan to be anti-family and anti-God, may we truly cherish and always live our relationship as God’s family. Live the word this week and always!

— Lester P. Bagley

4/24/16 ~ When Jesus Was Judgmental

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWe’ve all come across people that live by the old saying, “My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts!” And one of the places many seem most willing to show that attitude is when it comes to the subject of being judgmental.

It seems like the verse of Scripture that most people have memorized (especially those of the world, but sadly it’s often true of Christians, too!) is “judge not”! What a great excuse for getting out of all responsibility! Just put the blame firmly on anyone who says anything you don’t like.

Reality is different, of course. “Judge with righteous judgment” is also a direct command from God so the “judge not” must be placed into context lest we erroneously apply it willy-nilly to everything!

A similar misapplication of Scripture occurs when we claim, “Well, you can’t be like that” with the meaning of “You are not Jesus so you can’t do anything that I dislike!” Those who misapply, misstate and otherwise pervert God’s word are NOT just good people exercising their right to their own opinion. By God’s own definition they are false teachers that must be refuted.

A few years back a brother in Christ wrote a great little reminder for us:

When Jesus was Judgmental

Many people find it convenient to oppose those who are judgmental. The word “judgmental” certainly has negative connotations. However, let’s consider what it really means. Being judgmental is declaring a thought, idea, doctrine or teaching to be truth. This position declares many other teachings or ideas to be untruths or definitely wrong or false.

Jesus was not afraid to be judgmental when truth needed to be declared or supported. His example shows us we must also be willing to be judgmental where truth is concerned.

When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well (John 4:1-42), she raised the question of the proper place to worship. She believed that it was acceptable to worship on Mt. Gerizim, whereas the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem.

Jesus solved the problem by saying, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). The Jews were correct to worship in Jerusalem, whereas the Samaritans were incorrectly still worshiping on Mt. Gerizim.

The Sadducees questioned Jesus regarding the resurrection. They believed there is no resurrection after death (Matthew 22:23). Jesus quickly corrected their false belief by referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He stated that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. He prefaced His statements by saying, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (v. 29).

When the Pharisee named Nicodemus approached Jesus, he declared Jesus to be a teacher from God. He said this with reference to the miraculous signs Jesus was doing (John 3:1-21). Jesus quietly changed the subject. He did not criticize Nicodemus. Jesus stated a truth that called for a specific action. The action demanded by Jesus was that for one to enter the kingdom, he had to be born of the water and the Spirit (v. 5). This was a judgmental statement by Jesus, as He used the word “unless” when stating one must be born again (v. 3).

Jesus was judgmental when He talked with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. They broached the subject of breaking the tradition of the elders (Mark 7). Jesus referred to Isaiah, declaring that the Pharisees made their worship vain by letting go of the commands of God. As a result, they were holding on to the traditions of men. Was there any way these Pharisees could misunderstand Jesus’ judgment regarding their question?

When God’s Word states a truth, one must accept that truth because it is from God. Declaring it to be God’s truth makes one judgmental, but Jesus was judgmental when the need arose.

We are on a sure foundation when we agree with God’s stated truths, even if others oppose us, calling us “judgmental.”

Windle Kee, Gospel Advocate, June 2008, reprinted by permission

Take note of our brother’s final comment. “We are on a sure foundation when we agree with God’s stated truths, even if others oppose us, calling us ‘judgmental.’”

Many criticize the Lord’s people for being too judgmental. If you examine the Scripture you will learn that usually the problem is exactly the opposite! God’s people are most often far too lenient and willing to accept error rather than stand for the truth.

May God give us the courage to always faithfully stand for the truth. And whatever you do, don’t listen to those who half teach Scripture to further their own traditions, ideas and teachings.

— Lester P. Bagley

4/3/16 ~ 6 Popular False Beliefs About Christianity

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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I recently read a discussion between two preachers regarding how wrong Christians and the church today are for not accepting anyone who professes to be a Christian but doesn’t actually follow the teachings of the New Testament. Apparently many preachers, like their congregations, never bother to actually read God’s word or let it affect their beliefs! Unfortunately, this same attitude towards God and His commands has been popular for a long time… and it is still wrong!

As I was reading the discussion, another brother was writing an excellent article dealing with many of the same issues that are actually in line with God’s word:

6 Popular False Beliefs About Christianity

One of the most popular names that we think of regarding Protestantism and Christianity in the 16th century is Martin Luther. One thing for which Luther was known is the concept of adiaphora, from the Greek meaning “things indifferent.” It is the concept that there are things in the Bible and in Christianity that do not matter. Is this an accurate concept? Are there things in the Bible that don’t matter? Is anything really adiaphora?

Sure, some things are, like the eating of meats that Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 8. But that doesn’t mean everything is. However, the denominational world seems to think that very little truly matters. Here are six popular statements made in support of this claim:

  1. “It doesn’t matter if I’m baptized; as long as I confess my faith in Christ I’ll be saved.” There are very few things that God leaves up to us, and our salvation is definitely not one of them. Christ regulated our salvation when He said in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved ….” Peter did the same thing in 1 Peter 3:21 when he said, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you ….” Our salvation is regulated. Baptism is regulated. It is not left up to us to decide how we are saved as God has regulated that no man is saved apart from Christ, or apart from belief, repentance, confession, and baptism.
  2. “It doesn’t matter how I worship; as long as I’m worshipping, God will accept that.” In Hebrews 9:1, the writer says, “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship ….” This means that the second covenant, the covenant under which we live, also has regulations for worship. All too often we want to say that worship is left up to us, and we can worship in any way that we please. God, however, regulates our worship. We are to meet together regularly (1 Corinthians 14:23-25), on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:24), to sing with our hearts being the instrument (Ephesians 5:19), to give (1 Corinthians 16:2), to teach (Acts 20:7), and to pray (Acts 2:42). Christ said that when we come together, we are to worship in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). We are not left to worship any way we want because it is regulated by God.
  3. “It doesn’t matter how I live; as long as the Bible does not specifically forbid my actions, I will be acceptable in the eyes of God.” One of the most prevalent mindsets in regard to the topic of indifference is, “As long as the Bible doesn’t condemn it, I am free to participate in it.” In regard to this point, here are three questions to consider. First, was Noah permitted to use any kind of wood because they were not specifically forbidden? No one would say that he could use any wood he chose, because he was commanded to use gopher wood. Was a priest allowed to come from a tribe other than Levi? Hebrews 7:11-16 says that a priest was not allowed to come from the tribe of Judah because Moses had said nothing about priests coming from that tribe. Were Nadab and Abihu allowed to bring any kind of fire before the Lord? They were killed because they brought unauthorized fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-3). In all these cases, God did not have to forbid everything that was wrong. All He had to do was state what was right. It is the same way with us today; when God commands something, everything else is forbidden.
  4. “It doesn’t matter what I believe; as long as I’m a good person, God will not send me to hell.” Another idea that is prevalent in our society is that if I live a good life, then God would not send me to Hell. However, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” First, we are not saved by works or anything that we can do, but by faith. How good a life we live does not earn us our salvation, and that’s a theme that is found throughout Scripture. Secondly, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We can live as good a life as possible but that will never get us to Heaven. The only way for man to be saved is through Jesus Christ and obedience to His will.
  5. “It doesn’t matter if I go to church; as long as I’m a Christian, I will be saved.” An interesting aspect of this statement is that if we are saved, then we are Christians and a part of the church. So why do we not attend the worship service? In Acts 2:47, Luke tells us that God “added to their number (the church) day by day those that were being saved (Christians).” There is no such thing as a Christian that is not part of the church. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the Bible says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The Hebrew writer tells us to meet together because it helps stir up love, good works, and encouragement. This is not just for others, but we too gain those benefits when we come together with our brethren.
  6. “It doesn’t matter if I’m active in my local church; as long as I’m attending service, I’m alright [sic] with God.” There is an important question to consider in regard to this statement. In the previous statement, Hebrews 10:24-25 was mentioned, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

How can we be encouraged, loved, and have good works stirred up within us if we do not talk and interact with our brethren? The Bible speaks often of prayer, love, encouragement, stirring up good works, and growing in Christ through association with fellow Christians. How can we obtain these things from people with whom we do not interact? The answer to that question is this: we can’t! We cannot be who we are supposed to be as Christians, or reap the full benefits of being a Christian, if we are not interacting with Christians.

So, back to our initial question, is adiaphora real? Well, there are things that do not matter, like talking sports to our friend or the place and time we worship. However, those things are still regulated. Our salvation is regulated, worship is regulated, our lives are regulated, and church is regulated. So if God regulates everything in some form, how can there be room for adiaphora?

It is important that we guard against viewing things that God has regulated as though they are not regulated. Additionally, we must never allow ourselves to be indifferent toward our worship of and service for the Lord. This kind of indifference will keep us from pleasing God (Revelation 3:15-16). Indifference, in regard to the things of God, is one of the great issues that the church faces today.

Spencer Shaw, reprinted with permission, focuspressblog.com/2016/03/21/6-popular-false-beliefs-about-christianity/

Opinions, personal thoughts and ideas have no place in our lives if we are using them to replace what God tells us to do. Above all else we need to listen to God and heed His will!

May we have the courage to be obedient as we live our lives for the Savior this week.

— Lester P. Bagley