3/26/17 ~ Faith in Desperate Times

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuilding     Have you ever had a hard time? Have you ever felt like just giving up? I would dare to say that most of us could answer “Yes” to those questions and probably more than just once or twice in our lives!
     God’s people are not immune to challenges to their faith and this has been true since God first put mankind on this earth.
     Psalm 42 marks the beginning of a section of Psalms of Korah and family. Korah was a Levitical musician placed in charge of temple worship by David and Solomon so these Psalms are intended to focus on worship. That idea might surprise us as it’s easy to imagine that true worship only comes from people without worries or problems.
In reality, true worship comes from real people with real struggles that are working through real difficulties toward being faithful to God. In other words, just like us!
     Consider the words of Psalm 42. Yes, we sing some of them in a song. And yes, they teach a beautiful lesson about longing for God. But when we look deeper we see just how real and how difficult that struggle is. And we also see what real faith really is!

Faith in Desperate Times

     Psalm 42 begins with the beautiful thought: As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. Yes, we long for God (or certainly should!) above all else. But just how serious, how desperate is that struggle?
     Consider the next two verses: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
     When we are truly at the end of our own solutions, in the depths of despair and struggles in this life, we begin to question God. Where are You? When are You really going to take control and show us the way?
     As things seem to continually go wrong it is easy to find ourselves remembering those times when we seemed faithful and strong and all seemed to be going well: These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
     What’s wrong with me? We seem to question everything, ourselves and even our God! Why do I doubt? Will I ever be strong again? Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
     Yes, I remember, God IS in control! He will be with me! I will talk to my Heavenly Father and tell Him of my struggles: The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.
     Yet almost as we begin to remind ourselves we find the doubt creeping in again. When we desperately want to be strong we find ourselves struggling yet again with doubt. Alas, everyone is against us and there is no reason for hope: I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
     As we fight this ongoing battle we need to always remember where our hope truly is. To struggle with our faith in desperate times is not a sin, it is truly a part of being human. Faith, real living faith, the kind that brings hope and salvation is faith that keeps on keeping on. Faith, real faith keeps looking back to God. As the Psalmist concludes his struggling reminder, Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
     When things are going wrong, when we are in despair, when we begin to question God and everything around us it is time to question despair. It is time to remind ourselves that our God is in control and that He will continue to be our help, our hope. Above all else, in times when our faith is struggling the most, it is time to look to God and hold on to our hope in Him.
     Like our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, in desperate times it is the most important time to stand by our God and accept that He will do all things to bless and further His will. In hard times it is time to long for God as though our very lives depend on Him… because they do!

— 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

2/4/17 ~ A Really Cheap Sacrifice

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWithout a doubt keeping ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ faithful is hard. It is the most difficult task of our earthly lives and the most important.

Without a doubt keeping ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ faithful is hard. It is the most difficult task of our earthly lives and the most important.

Without a doubt keeping ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ faithful is hard. It is the most difficult task of our earthly lives and the most important.

Over the years I’ve struggled with keeping my focus in worship. It’s just so easy to become distracted by a million others things.

Over the years I’ve watched countless fellow Christians do the same thing. A parent becomes distracted by their children and finds it hard to refocus. We can’t be bothered to open our Bibles and follow the lesson. A teenager so engrossed in whispering to their friends that worship to God becomes unimportant. A young adult more interested in their phone than in God. An elderly person worrying more about lunch burning than in the worship of God.

You get the picture. And, if you are honest with yourself and your God, you realize that it is a flaw we all have and that we desperately need to fix. Consider for a moment the sin of…

A Cheap Sacrifice

Pssst! Hey, buddy! You want to buy a really cheap sacrifice? I mean, you can really save time and money here! And the best part is, God will never know the difference!

Very near the end of Old Testament inspired writings the prophet Malachi rebuked God’s people for robbing God in their offerings. Cheating God with cheap sacrifices was just the beginning (see Malachi 1:6-14). They offered to Him defiled offerings; the lame, blind and sick with what God calls an evil attitude.

When we offer to God a cheap sacrifice, we humiliate ourselves and disrespect (profane) our God!

Malachi goes on to rebuke the priests for failure to speak up against wrong: “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).

Think about that for a moment. If, as Christians, we are the royal priesthood of God (1 Peter 2:9) then every one of us is responsible to God for preserving the true knowledge of His word. As we are commissioned by Christ to teach the Gospel to others, we must answer to Him if we fail to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

If you think that this lesson is too pushy, then you need to continue reading Malachi as God accuses His people of robbing, cheating God of His offerings and sacrifices (Malachi 3:8-9). God’s blessings are ONLY promised to those that stop cheating Him (Malachi 3:10-12).

David the King (and prophet of God, remember?) taught us a great lesson as he refused to accept a free offering for his sin and a thanksgiving to God offering from Ornan. The fact that a good and godly man willingly offered the place, the oxen, wood and wheat for a sacrifice to the Lord could not atone for David’s need to offer a SACRIFICE. Without paying full price for those things David would have been offering a cheap and worthless sacrifice (read the full incident at 1 Chronicles 21:18-27).

Okay, okay! I get it. The wrong Old Testament sacrifice and failure to know and teach the truth are big things. But that has nothing to do with paying attention in worship. Or does it?

When Peter (1 Peter 2:1-5) tells us to grow up and offer “spiritual sacrifices” that are “acceptable to God,” what does he mean? The Hebrew writer (Hebrews 13:15-16) tells us that, through Christ, we “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Doesn’t it seem like God is telling us that worship, praise, and service to Him are ALL a part of our sacrifices as priests of the Most High?

Paul sums up the extent of our worship and sacrifice as he commands us: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

In the final analysis, our lives are to be lived entirely, consciously and conscientiously as the royal priests of the Lord God!

Do you really work at obeying God? No! It’s NOT easy! It takes hard work and extra effort to say and do the right thing. We are never going to be at our best and “on top of our game” all the time. But we are going to try and try again whenever we fail.

So, are you simply an excuse maker? Are we just offering God the leftovers of our lives? Do we really expect to get to heaven by humiliating ourselves with disrespectful offerings? Are you giving God a cheap sacrifice of your life in service to Him?

Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to begin getting it right in giving God our very best!

— Lester P. Bagley

1/29/17 ~ Love That Will Not Let Me Go

From the Preacher’s Pen… Are you appreciative? Do you express your gratitude and thankfulness for the kindnesses and love that people show to you?

RacineBuildingHonestly, there are few attitudes more despised and despicable than thanklessness. If you give someone a present and their response is to show their displeasure and contempt, you are not likely to give them another. Rather you will view them as rude and unappreciative and rightly so.

As you may suspect, these very attitudes and tests of our attitudes are seen by God. How should we treat Him who loved us so much? Consider some thoughts drawn from a song in our hymnbooks about His great love.

Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Have you ever been loved when you didn’t deserve it? Yes, there are actually people who will answer this in the negative. People are so in love with themselves and so conceited that they always imagine they are entirely lovable. In spite of there being many people like that, they are by definition, abnormal.

So, have you ever been loved when you didn’t deserve it? It’s unlikely that you remember much about being an infant. In many ways that is fortunate for infants can be very self-centered, ungrateful creatures. When they are hungry they really don’t care about anyone else. They demand that all attention be focused on them as though no one else and nothing else is of any importance whatsoever.

We excuse their behavior as they are, after all, infants. They don’t know any better. But when a 10 or 12-year-old acts the same way you take a much different view of their actions. And if an adult should act like that you would pretty much despise them and such awful behavior.

Now to the important question: Do we sometimes treat our God and Savior that way?

Fortunately for us, God’s response to us is much more like that of the loving parent to an infant that lacks understanding and maturity. And for that, we must be ever grateful!

A while back I read a comment by a person who had once been an unbeliever in God. That person was asked what it was that changed his mind to believe in God. The answer was that it was the words of a song sung by Christians as he visited their worship. The congregation seemed to sing with such feeling, as though it really meant something to them.

Yes, there is an important lesson to us about our singing. If we despise making any real effort to sing with the spirit and with the mind (Paul’s comment of 1 Corinthians 14:15), we dishonor God! We joke about “making a joyful noise to the Lord” but God is never amused at a lame offering as He always demands our best to truly be a sacrifice of praise. But clearly, the finest singing without the right words is likewise vain worship.

Okay, so we offer to God our best worship in song in order to teach and encourage each other. But what song touched this man’s heart when other words did not?

O Love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul was daily reminded of the love that would not let him go!

O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

God is the God of second chances! And third and fourth and fifth chances, too! When you read the stories of the faithful men and women of God you do not read of perfect people. Their flaws and failures are evident for all to see. Yet they constantly respond to the love that keeps on seeking them out. And they always seek the promise that lies beyond this life.

The writer of Hebrews put it like this: “… [T]hey desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16)

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

Everything of God’s plan, promises and purpose pointed to the cross; that awful, wonderful moment when He took on our sin, our failure. At the foot of the cross we are forced to see the price, the loss, the cost in full that was paid for us. But it’s only at the empty tomb that we behold the purpose, the promise of life eternal.

The love that cost our Savior His life is the love that will not give up on us. He, Himself, is the ultimate gift given with the ultimate promise of an eternal home in heaven.

So, are you appreciative? Do you express your gratitude and thankfulness for the kindnesses and love that people show to you? Or are you one of those rude, uncaring ones? It is, after all, a choice that we must consciously make.

With all the promise, the plan, the love that is extended to you… what will you choose?

— Lester P. Bagley

 

1/22/17 ~ To Complain or Not to Complain

RacineBuildingYour children fight all the time and nothing you do will stop them. So? Isaac and Rebecca’s twin boys did too. One ran away from home and was gone twenty long years just so they wouldn’t kill each other. But by being separated, these two powerful personalities were able to become all that God intended for them to be ~ founders of the Edomite and Israelite nations.

You’ve been uprooted three times in the last three years and are having to move again. So? Abraham and Sarah moved twelve times over a period of fifty-five years while her husband, Abraham, searched for his elusive dream. But, by following her husband with blind faith, she was an example for him to follow Jehovah with blind faith.

You are too fat/thin, you’re too tall/short, your skin is too dark/light, your toes are too long/stubby. So? Ugly Leah had to listen to her husband talk about how much more he loved her sister who was so amazingly beautiful. But Leah bore children for twenty years before her gorgeous sister had any, and she lived much longer than her stunning sister. This helped Leah have proper priorities so she could become the one her husband dependent on to raise all the children, even her sister’s.

Your son got in trouble with the authorities and was sentenced to ten years in prison. So? Amran’s and Jochabed’s son, Moses, got in trouble with the authorities in Egypt and was exiled from family and friends for 40 years. But this gave Moses a chance to be well remembered by those same authorities when he returned to free his fellow Israelites, and know where to lead them to live as freed slaves.

You have a terrible disease and it is making life a living hell for you. So? Miriam was stricken with leprosy, a disease that deforms the body and takes away all feeling so that the process of fastening shoes or anything else is almost impossible. But this helped her realize she had to choose between the calf god her brother, Aaron, had made and she and she had apparently worshiped, and Jehovah, the true God.

Your wife or husband died and all your children died. So? Naomi’s husband and sons all died. But, when she was through mourning, she spent more time mentoring her daughter-in-law who eventually was a great-grandmother of King David and ancestress of Jesus.

Your husband or wife is a monster. So? Esther married the king of Persia who, when he failed to conquer Rome, beat the ocean in a temper tantrum. But living with a spouse like that gave her the courage to face half a nation that was intent on killing off her people.

The Psalm of Complaint

David, who started a large portion of his psalms with a complaint, dedicated the entire 39th Psalm to trying to work through his problem. Let’s look at the Living Bible version to see what God was explaining to us through him:

Lesson One: Don’t provide non-Christians with proof that Christians are no different than anyone else. “I said to myself, I’m going to quit complaining! I’ll keep quiet, especially when the ungodly are around me” (v. 1).

Lesson Two: When you’ll burst if you don’t complain anyway, tell God. “But as I stood there silently, the turmoil within me grew to the bursting point. The more I mused, the hotter the fires inside. Then at last I spoke and pled with God” (v.2-3).

Lesson Three: Step back and see our complaint in perspective with the truly important things in life. “Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you” (v 4-5).

Lesson Four: Ask yourself how the world would get along if you weren’t around to complain about things. “Proud man! Frail as breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend” (v. 6)

Lesson Five: Face it: Complaining is a sin. “And so, Lord, my only hope is in you. Save me from being overpowered by my sins, for even fools will mock me then” (v. 7-8).

Lesson Six: Remember, God can use the bad Satan causes to happen to you, to get you to shut up and pay more attention to what God has to say. “Lord, I am speechless before you. I will not open my mouth to speak one word of complaint, for my punishment is from you” (v. 9).

Lesson Seven: An ungodly person will be destroyed by bad things, but a godly person will survive to praise God still. “When you punish a man for his sins, he is destroyed, for he is as fragile as a moth-infested cloth; yes, man is frail as breath. Spare me, Lord! Let me recover and be filled with happiness again” (v. 11,13).

The Great Complainer

Revelation 12:10 says, and Job chapter demonstrates, that Satan is the great accuser. What better synonym could be applied to a complainer? Satan causes bad to happen to us and then sits back, waiting for us to blame God for causing all our problems, and then for us to desert God. We’re just playing into Satan’s hands when we do.

Look at the contrast. Every time Satan influences someone to sin, God says, “I can forgive.” Every time Satan influences someone to become sick, God says, “I can heal him.” “Every time Satan causes someone to die, God says, “I can bring him back to life forever.”

Spiritual Warfare

Do you see the dynamic interchange that is going on? It is so much more than you and I see. We’re not at war with these people we’re complaining about. Not really.

Ephesians 6:12 explains we’re not at war with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers in spiritual realms! Daniel 10 explains that even our prayers seem to provide strength to God’s angels as they fight Satan’s angels

Wow! God is allowing us to fight Satan right along side of him. What glory! What honor to be counted worthy! That’s the very reason the world was created. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God [forgiveness, healing, eternal life] should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms according to his eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:10f).

Indeed, as soldiers of the cross, how can we be “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37) unless we have something to conquer? How can we have “Victory I Jesus” unless there is something to be victorious over?

This is the very reason we should “consider it pure joy” whenever we face trials (James 1:2). God believes in us and trusts us. Do we believe in him and trust him?

#Complaining, #Accusing, #Satan, #Problems, #Traps, #Angels, #Psalm, #Blaming, #Overcoming

10/9/16 ~ PSALM 25

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingMany of David’s Psalms are known to come from specific events in his life. But sometimes there is no known connection to any particular happening. While our ignorance sometimes bothers us, it is also a good reminder that occasionally God’s people just struggle with life in general and need to turn to God.

Sometimes we feel the burden of life and appreciate how desperately we truly need God’s help, His guidance and His forgiveness. That feeling is a good thing. It shows that we are keeping ourselves in tune with God and what is really important in this life if we would be children of the king.

So, for a moment, let’s turn to one of those psalms of the sweet singer of Israel and borrow his words to God:

Psalm 25

A prayer of David for deliverance, guidance, and forgiveness

In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.

Yes, God knows our struggles and if we really want to be His obedient children He will help us. May we have the courage this week to turn to the Lord and seek His help. May we have the courage to accept His guidance that we might truly be refreshed by His forgiveness!

— 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

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.

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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?

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5/8/16 ~ Do You Know Who God Is?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingI drove right through a stop sign. No, I didn’t mean to do. I just was busy thinking about something else and failed to notice it. Fortunately, there was no one else there to run into or to run into me. Still, it was a bit of a shock to realize what I’d missed and what might have been the result.

I drove right through a stop sign. No, I didn’t mean to do. I just was busy thinking about something else and failed to notice it. Fortunately, there was no one else there to run into or to run into me. Still, it was a bit of a shock to realize what I’d missed and what might have been the result.

Most of us have had moments like that in our lives. They ought to remind us of much more serious things. Things like how easy it is to find ourselves so busy with life that we forget God and fail to see His loving care! That’s always a sign for us to stop a minute and rethink!

Sadly, sometimes we just blunder on with our lives never thinking and never knowing what we missed. And, perhaps worse still, when the inevitable crash comes we blame God.

Can you imagine facing the events of life without a loving Christian family? Can you imagine having trials without the avenue of prayer to our Heavenly Father? For that matter, can you imagine having blessings without anyone to share them with?

The simple fact is, when things go wrong and when things go right, it is always the perfect time to remember who we are and the wonderful family to which we belong. Let’s take a moment to consider a few thoughts from one of the psalmists to keep us going in the right direction this week:

Do You Know Who God Is?

It sounds humorous to hear a little child singing at the top of his lungs, “How Great I Am.” But, like many of the things children do, it would be ridiculous to hear an adult sing those same words. Having said that, it is important that we take care in our lives, our actions and in our words to remember just who is God and who is the human creation.

In studying with non-Christians we sometimes face the attitude: “I don’t know or care what the Bible says, I just can’t believe that God would…” How a person completes that sentence depends on what has happened that they don’t understand, or what it is they intend to do that is against God’s will.

The question of who is God and who is not is one that we all struggle with at times. God allows a wicked person to live a comfortable, long life while the child of Christian parents dies of cancer as the medical bills eat up the family savings. And we are moved to say, “I just can’t believe that God would allow that to happen. It’s just not right!”

Solomon, the wise man, also struggled with this anomaly and, finally, was moved to say, “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecclesiastes 8:12). Remember that passage and underline it in your Bible. Did you understand him? Still I know! Those are the words of a man who got confused about who was God and for a time forgot his God. Those are the words of a man who, in the end, remembered just who was God and wants us to remember, too.

In Psalm 46 the writer announces the proper place of God: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” He goes on to declare (using God’s own personal name lest we imagine someone else), “Jehovah of hosts is with us!” And the Lord God Himself challenges us to, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The worth of remembering just who is God is found in that same Psalmist’s closing words, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” To really be in God, to be a part of His family, is to know who is God. And that brings to us His peace that surpasses all human understanding.

— Lester P. Bagley