11/19/17 ~ Thanksgiving in God’s Word

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving in God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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7/30/17 ~ Singing the Song of Joy

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how winners parade and show off how great they are? While losers might moan and complain that winners aren’t that great, the facts tend to speak for themselves, don’t they?

Have you ever noticed how winners parade and show off how great they are? While losers might moan and complain that winners aren’t that great, the facts tend to speak for themselves, don’t they?

In the Spiritual world, the same thing is true. Losers moan and complain while winners, real winners celebrate the joy of victory. Consider…

Singing the Song of Joy

The Jewish rabbis considered this one of David’s Kingship Psalms and saw it as highlighting the military victory of God. While David was a great king himself, he constantly reminded himself (and his people) that the Lord is the real king. It was this humility and love for his God that both kept him humble and showed his greatness.

Perhaps because many Christians today are unfamiliar with, or just uncomfortable with, the military lessons of God, many Christian commentators tend to simply view it as one of the “new songs” to be sung in heaven (cf. Revelation 5:9-14). Of course, when you read the book of Revelation (and the rest of the New Testament) you cannot fail to see the constant references to our God and Savior as both our great leader in the war against sin and Satan now and, one day, the great victor in eternity.

Military victories were important to David. The battles won subdued the hostile nations surrounding Israel and eventually brought peace, safety, honor, and riches to the nation of God’s people.

To Christians in the New Testament world seeing increasing persecution because the world did not agree with them or accept them, the same lesson of victory under Jesus’ kingship was both important and vital to their hope (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 4:8; 1 John 5:4; etc. where the terms for military victories are used). So consider David’s song as he challenges God’s people to join the “new song” and share in the reminder of joyful victory:

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,

For He has done wonderful things,

His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.

The Lord has made known His salvation;

He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His loving kindness

and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;

Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.

Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,

With the lyre and the sound of melody.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,

The world and those who dwell in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

Let the mountains sing together for joy

Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;

He will judge the world with righteousness

And the peoples with equity.

As many other Biblical writers remind us, our God is creator of all we see around us. And all of God’s creation should honor Him. The physical world does so by obeying the physical laws He created to govern all that exists (many of the Psalms remind us of this lesson as does the book of Job).

Interestingly enough all living creatures but humans obey the laws of God that govern their lives. For example, rats never suddenly give birth to elephants and whales never give birth to horses. Rocks never turn into plants or any other living thing. All in spite of the humorous, fantastical claims of some humans.

Only humans actively try to disobey the Creator in the lives they lead. And sadly, only humans are actually made in the very image of God.

Victory is truly in Jesus. And one day, as even David looked forward to, the Lord is coming to judge the earth in righteousness. Will you and I be found to have honored Him with obedient lives? Or will we be found in rebellion against Him who is and always will be the victor?

May we join with David in singing and living praise to our Lord. He HAS made known His salvation, He HAS revealed His righteous will. Will we obey it?

— Lester P. Bagley

7/16/17 ~ FAITHFULNESS

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever worked through some difficulty because of the love, care, and encouragement of a fellow Christian and the Lord? If so, do you also remember that there are a lot of people out there in this world that have no hope? Doesn’t that strike you as sad?

Does it strike you as even sadder still when you consider that many times Christians have no hope because they’ve left their first love, Christ? I’d like us to think a bit about a Christian attribute that’s sometimes called dedication, but the word God most often uses is faithfulness! Another word for this same attribute is reliability.

Without dedication, without faithfulness, without reliability, we cannot complete the tasks we have to do. Let’s consider the subject of faithfulness for a moment.

Faithfulness

We expect faithfulness and reliability from things and other people around us. Unfortunately, as Christians, one of our persistent sins is a lack of faithfulness to God. Are you unreliable as a Christian?

You would be angry if a store clerk repeatedly ignored you to serve their friends. But do you turn your back on God and miss worship when “friends” or even “family” come to visit? Shouldn’t we be more dedicated, more reliable, more faithful to God’s family?

If your newspaper were delivered to your house on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but to someone else’s house on the other days, you would be upset. Would you consider continuing to pay for that kind of service? Do you expect God to continue to bless you and respond to your needs and prayers when you serve and worship Him on your terms?

If your hot water heater provides you with an ice-cold shower part of the time, a luke-warm shower sometimes, and a hot shower only occasionally, would you consider it dependable? Should God consider us reliable for occasional attendance at worship or Bible study and occasional other kinds of service to Him?

How would you feel about your husband or wife spending a few nights each month with another man or woman? How does God feel about you forsaking His church and His people to be with denominational people, openly claiming that their priority is their feelings, wants and needs and not what God says and wants?

What would your bank say about you missing a couple of house payments every year? Would they understand that you really needed the money to buy presents for your family? Do you expect God to accept that your children and family are better served by your time with them but away from Him?

Sometimes we presume so much on God’s love…

…that we fail to demonstrate our responsibility for faithfulness. Do you see yourself as a volunteer in service to God or do you understand God’s view? “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). For a volunteer, almost anything seems acceptable, but for servants who are duty bound, faithfulness is required!

“100 percent!” is a challenge to each one of us to demonstrate our love, our commitment, our faithfulness to each other and to God. Let’s get busy, get involved and show God and each other how much we care, who we really belong to, and how much we appreciate….

…what God paid to purchase us from hell.

— Lester P. Bagley

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