July 1, 2018 ~ Bless the Lord

sky, night, galaxy, milky way, stars, explorer, person, shadow, silhouette

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you thankful? Do have blessings? Are you a blessing? The first two questions seem perfectly normal to all of us. But that last question about being a blessing is both a bit more challenging and a bit more important. Let’s do a bit more study as we…

Bless the Lord

The dictionary says that the word bless primarily means a religious term to confer (give to someone else) or invoke (request from someone else) the favor of God. We pretty well understand that we can ask God’s blessing on ourselves, or we can ask God to bless someone else. God, after all, IS God and His blessing really means something.

The power of God’s people when faithfully doing His will is nothing short of amazing! Jesus taught us that as we go out to share the Gospel that we are to give our blessing of peace to others. It’s not really our power, our gift to give because we are human, but rather the power and authority of God’s commissioned “light of the world” that can extend God’s own peace as a blessing to this world.

Likewise, James (James 5:15) reminds us of the awesome power of prayer possessed by the faithful. The prayers of God’s people have the power to bring God’s healing to the sick and forgive sins! Certainly, in all these ways we ARE a powerful blessing to this world.

But let’s go back to the dictionary and look a bit further down at a third (in my dictionary, at least) and therefore somewhat lesser meaning. There it says that bless also can mean to express or feel gratitude to, to thank.

It may well come as a bit of a surprise to us to realize that we can actually bless God! Yes, when we actually DO God’s will and live as His faithful children on this earth we have great blessings to give to this world. And yes, we can also by that righteous living cause others to turn to God and thus we are a blessing to Him.

But we also have the ability, the power, the right, the honor to extend to God our own blessing as thanksgiving. In so doing we bless the Lord both by living as His faithful family members here on earth and by being appreciative of the great honor and power He has given to us.

The Bible uses the specific words “bless the Lord” or refers to blessing God more than two dozen times. Consider just a few of those:

Moses, in some of his final words, reminded God’s people that as they entered and lived in the Land that God had promised them to eat and be filled and then to bless the Lord their God (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Deborah, the Judge, and her general, Barak, sang of God’s deliverance and that the people blessed the Lord as Godly leadership served God (Judges 5:2). [Note that the NKJV and others correct the KJV’s erroneous translation of “praise the Lord” to “bless the Lord” since the Hebrew is not hālal but bārak, not praise God but bless God.]

As David crowned Solomon king to succeed him, he directed the nation to “bless the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:20). In the Psalms, David and the other writers frequently reminded themselves and all the faithful to bless the Lord (Psalm 16:7; 26:12; 34:1; 103:1; 104:1; 115:18; et.al.).

The concept of blessing the Lord is also seen in Jewish prayers. The blessing for bread is: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth. Various foods have similar blessings including this one: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. There’s even a generic blessing for all other foods: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, by Whose word all things came to be.

What we really need to see, appreciate and imitate is the lesson that God’s people have a responsibility to bless God. In the things we say and do in this world, in the way we deal with our fellow saints, in the way we are faithful, in the way that we respect and appreciate our God we must always BE a blessing.

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

 

Advertisements

6/3/18 ~ Hebrew words all Christians should know.

Related image

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you multilingual? Most of us would immediately say that we don’t know any language except English… and we would be completely wrong! Ask an English teacher how many words in our language are actually foreign words and you will be a bit surprised at the answer!

Have you ever ordered a filet mignon steak? That’s a French term (although we technically use it incorrectly as the French use it for pork tenderloin!). I suspect that, living in the Southwestern USA, you’ve also ordered tacos, enchiladas, and a lot of other Mexican foods and probably never once called them sandwiches or rolled flat-bread filled with… well, you get the point! English, like most languages, is made richer with the addition of words that, while technically foreign, are commonly used and understood by almost everyone.

Have you thought about the fact that as Christians our language is made richer by the use of words belonging to God and His people? Throughout the centuries, many of these terms and customs have been identified by God as special to us. If we lose the language of God then we lose the language of our family and our heavenly home! Let’s look at a few important terms that we should treasure and use if we really belong to God:

Hebrew Words All Christians Should Know

One that immediately should come to mind is Hallelujah. Every time we sing a song with the words “praise the Lord” and/or Hallelujah we are simply repeating the exact same thought.

Hallelu is the Hebrew term of encouragement to praise that is addressed to several people. Yah is a short version of YHWH, which is the personal, Covenant name of the Creator God, traditionally translated as Lord (English translations sometimes use Yahweh or Jehovah for this never pronounced sacred name).

So put together in English (in Hebrew it is actually a two-word phrase) it becomes Hallelujah. However, it really means much more than simply “praise God” as the “encouragement” in Hebrew carries the force of joyous praise in song or boasting in God. And when you remember that it is addressed to more than one person it becomes a direct command for us to together praise or boast in the Lord in song.

When we sing “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah” we are making a thoughtful statement about who we are and what we are doing as we acknowledge the one and only God!

Since Hallelujah includes “jah” or “yah” as God’s name, let’s also consider both El and Yah as they are important names and descriptions of God. El is a generic term used in several Middle Eastern Semitic languages. It can refer to any “god,” whether the one true God or a false god. Yah, on the other hand, is a very specific personal name (see above).

You should notice that MANY names in the Bible are compound words that include either of these two terms for God. For a few quick examples consider El-i-jah (my God is YHWH), El-isha (God helped), Dani-el (God judges or God is judge), Jo-el (YHWH is God, Jo being an alternate version of YHWH).

Since many names in the Bible were given with a special purpose or lesson in mind via God, it really helps to see the whole picture God is giving us when you use a good Bible dictionary to fully appreciate the names!

Every time a name in the Bible begins or ends with one of these forms of God’s name, there is a lesson waiting to be discovered. And seeing that lesson will enrich your understanding of what God is trying to tell you in His word!

Let’s look at one more word that’s very important to God and His people: Amen. In the Old Testament, it is used about 30 times and usually translated as amen or as truth. In the New Testament, it is used some 129 times and usually translated as verily or truly when used by Jesus in the Gospels and amen elsewhere.

In the New Testament, the word is borrowed directly from the Hebrew so it’s meaning is intended to be the same. The fact that the Holy Spirit repeatedly uses this specific Hebrew word in all languages and for all God’s people of every age ought to tell us that something important is going on. The Hebrew in its simplest meaning is, “so be it.” But it is used with much more force as an absolute affirmation of trustworthiness and certainty!

When God required His people to acknowledge all the curses that would befall them for failing to obey His commandments, this is the word that they had to use to acknowledge both the righteousness of God and their acceptance of it! (Read Deuteronomy 27:15-26)

Where today people might swear to solemnly affirm something, God’s people say, Amen. Where today people might cheer and clap to show approval of something really important, God’s people say, Amen.

When we would show approval or want to underline the importance of something in a sermon, a song or a prayer, we say, Amen.

Let’s make a very important point here with this word and its meaning to God’s people. If you attend a secular wedding or graduation ceremony, the people of the world tend to whistle, clap, stomp their feet and yell all kinds of things.

Should we make the Lord’s church conform to our modern world? Should we show approval of Godly things by acting like the friends and followers of Satan? Or should we follow the pattern of God’s people for at least the last nearly 4,000 years?

Should we scream, whistle, clap and stomp for a Godly point made in a prayer or sermon? Should we do that for someone who has just put on their Lord in baptism? Seriously? Is THAT the response of God’s people or are we just imitating Satan?

No, we don’t have to follow Jesus. We don’t have to use God’s words… unless we really want to imitate God instead of Satan. Perhaps by serious Bible study and learning God’s words, terminology and meaning, we can learn to do things God’s way!

Yes, it’s that important!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

4/22/18 ~ Spiritual Ugliness

Stock vector of '

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Beauty is something we all appreciate. A gorgeous sunset will cause us to whip out our cameras or call others to see. And how can anyone fail to appreciate a beautiful baby?

But what of our spiritual souls and lives? Are we beautiful before our Heavenly Father or are we covered in…

Spiritual Ugliness

Matthew 23 is Jesus’ vicious attack on false religion. Consider verses 27 and 28: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Today the word hypocrite usually means someone who pretends to be good and yet is inwardly or secretly bad. Our English word hypocrite is not an original word in our language. Rather, it is simply an anglicized word just like baptism. It only exists at all in English because of Jesus. He used the word some 18 times in the Gospel accounts and translators simply borrow the Greek word.

Just as people misuse baptism by pretending it has an English meaning apart from the Greek biblical usage, so, too, do we misuse hypocrite by taking it out of context and attempting to give it our own meaning.

The word Jesus uses is the Greek word for a stage actor. But to appreciate what He is telling us we must appreciate, like all statements in scripture, the context. In the old Greek world, actors had been respected. But by Roman times they were considered to have the same social status as a criminal or prostitutes. They were often foreigners, captives or slaves whose job was to entertain. While they performed some “classical” Greek plays and poetry, much of the stage was devoted to rude, vulgar and tasteless.

It appears that in New Testament times there was little or no “clean” comedy or theater. Much was essentially what we today would consider the lowest “X” rated kind of entertainment. It is accurate to say that Jesus is labeling people as the modern equivalent of a porn star!

With that ugly picture in mind, re-read Jesus’ words above. The degree of spiritual ugliness is important in seeing how God sees sin. Sin is never just a minor flaw or a tiny blemish on our character. It is always a fatal ugliness that God cannot ignore.

There is something disconcerting about us missing true ugliness and mistaking it for beauty. Have you ever picked up something without knowing what it was only to find out or realize that it was something truly disgustingly awful?

God gives us many examples. Solomon would illustrate it like this on one occasion, As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion (Proverbs 11:22). It’s not the beauty that appears on the outside, it’s the ugliness hidden within. Samuel was taught the lesson by God like this, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Hypocrisy and iniquity, sin or lawlessness are identified by Jesus as attributes of the utmost ugliness. When we are unclean before God we are ugly! When we use sin to deceive others as a false teacher we achieve God’s ultimate in spiritual ugliness!

Recall that the Pharisees were often admired as some of the most sincerely religious of the Jewish people and many times were among the most “conservative.” Yet God demands much more than sincerity and outward conservatism.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would say it like this: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Paul would tell Titus: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11–14).

With all the love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and hope that God provides to us, we should be the most beautiful people; fit to be the bride of Christ. Whatever you do, do not allow spiritual ugliness to ever be seen in you!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

I must leave it more glorious than I found it

Image result for today

Today is the only one I have for my usage and tomorrow possibly.  I will have another but today is the only one I have.  Every day is like every opportunity.  I accept it from Him in the morning and how I return it to him at evening is all in accordance with my love for Him.

I must go wherever He sends me polishing and brightening every soul I meet.  I must leave it more glorious for Him than I found it.

Oh, how I love God.  How can I say He is my God and I am His child if I do not glorify the day He has given me?  I cannot even imagine such an ingrate.  For those who love God, it would be virtually impossible.

I have oft been made to wonder how one thanks God for giving him one day of life.  What can I do? What can I say?  What words are going to adequately describe my feelings and be sufficient to even attempt to offer something toward the worthiness of the value of a day?

How incapable man is to even come near reaching the infinite value of a touch of appreciation deserved for just a moment of basking in its beauty, glory, and splendor.  Wherever one might be on this verdant globe, every single day one might see is a glory to God and I have shared in its existence!

Where does someone find the heart, the feelings, the words to express appreciation for only this moment? Only the thrill of the soul that stops to enjoy such a gift can within that jubilation pleasingly thank God, for he has fulfilled the intent of its creation.

The joy of a child of God!  Anything else is a worthless, meager, bereft attempt leaving the soul empty in the wonder of the purpose of its existence.  What a waste of all creation for the one and what an eternal ecstasy for the other.

In no other way can the wisdom of the wise and the foolishness of the fool be more clearly seen!  The moment when God’s purpose and man’s value meet and share the common joy of existence. They meet. They share. In that moment they are one. That is what all existence is all about. The oneness of God.

Malcolm Parsley, Korea

 

March 5 ~ Selling Heaven Short

Image result for God's throne

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Isn’t it wonderful that brother (or sister) So-and-so is in heaven? They must be playing golf every day with all their old friends!

How many times have you heard (or been involved in!) a conversation like that? Do we realize what an outright lie that is? Do we really know what heaven is and what it is all about?

Take a few moments to consider how often we cheapen and outright pervert God’s great promise:

Selling Heaven Short

Heaven is a place that everyone talks about and everyone hopes to go to… provided they don’t have to actually DO something to get there!

The reality of heaven is that it is a prepared place for a prepared people. Unless we “store up treasures there,” unless we obey our Lord and God, then we will never live there. Let’s take a look at heaven as God presents it and see how that compares with the nonsense that people often imagine is heaven.

Heaven is NOT golf, hunting, fishing nor is it about visiting with friends and loved ones!

That is NOT to imply we won’t know or care about friends and loved ones: In the Old Testament, when a person died, biblical writers said he was “gathered to his people” (cf. Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:29; Numbers 20:24; Judges 2:10).

In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, David confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23). David expected to see his child again – not just a nameless, faceless soul without an identity, but that very child.

Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even though it had been centuries since they’d walked this earth, they still maintained a clear identity (Matthew 17:3) – Peter, James, and John evidently recognized them (v. 4), which implies that we will somehow be able to recognize people we’ve never even seen before.

We will be able to have fellowship with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, David, Peter, Barnabas, Paul, or any of the faithful. For that to be possible, we must all retain our individual identities, not turn into some sort of generic beings.

Describing the Lord’s appearing and the resurrection of the saints who have died: 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. and thus we shall always be with the Lord’.

Paul’s purpose was to comfort some of the Thessalonians who thought their dying loved ones would miss the return of Christ. He says in verse 18, “Comfort one another with these words.” The comfort comes from the prospect of reunion. Little comfort this would be if in the reunion we could not even recognize one another. Paul’s promise that we will all be “together” forever implies that we shall renew fellowship with all whom we have known.

We will be reunited not only with our own families and loved ones, but also with the people of God from all ages. In heaven, we will all be one loving family. The immense size of the family will not matter in the infinite perfection of heaven. Our eternity will be spent in just that kind of rich, unending fellowship.

If you’re worried about feeling out of place in heaven, don’t. Heaven will seem more like home than the dearest spot on earth to you. It is uniquely designed by a tender, loving Savior to be the place where we will live together for all eternity and enjoy Him forever.

But we will NOT remember the lost! This is an eternal home for victors NOT losers (also take note of Revelation 21:8):

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Heaven IS all about our God and our Savior!

Back to that first point above.  While heaven includes God’s family and all the joy that is a result of that blessing, the real purpose of heaven is NOT family, friends and loved ones. The real joy and purpose of heaven is being with our God and Savior!

Every vision of heaven that John or any other prophet had of heaven is ALWAYS centered around God.

If God is not your priority here on earth, if He is not your first and greatest love, then you won’t have to worry about not enjoying heaven. You won’t be there!

Yes, that is shocking to many human beings, but the least of heaven’s blessings are about us. The priority of heaven, like our lives here on earth, is the focus on God.

Don’t imagine heaven as the place where God will wait on you and give you your heart’s desire.

Make God your heart’s desire, serve Him and learn the real blessings that God has in store for His family.

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

2/11/18 ~ Three things sin will always do

Image result for climbing a cliff

From the Preacher’s Pen…

In spite of what some people think, sin and death are not a preacher’s favorite things to talk about. That idea is akin to believing that doctors just enjoy seeing blood, guts, and disease because that’s what they often have to work with. The reality is that we do this job to alleviate suffering and hopefully prevent death. And that is the real reason that our Great Physician deals in these same issues with us.

Consider an illustration that I’ve used several times in sermons and articles before:

Three Things Sin Will Always Do

In life, there are two major ways that we learn. Some things we learn the hard way from personal experience. Some things we can hopefully learn from seeing the experience of others. We’ve all noticed that the lesson of personal experience is often far more effective at staying with us.

When it comes to the seriously deadly things in life, though, it is obvious that the lesson would be far better learned from the experience of others. That simple point brings us to much of God’s reason behind numerous lessons that He includes in His word.
Consider three lessons about the dangers of the things that sin will always do.

1) Sin will always… take you farther than you want to go!

The Hebrew writer (Hebrews 11:24-26) reflected that Moses made a grownup, adult choice not to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. That intentional choice meant that he lost the prestige, power, and authority of an Egyptian leader. That choice meant he would spend the majority of his adult life fleeing Egypt in the desert.

It would be easy and convenient for us to see his loss and miss the larger picture. Verse 25 reminds us that Moses made another choice: choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Why? Because he considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

Look at that last thought again. Reproach is literally the word for disgrace or insult. The worst thing that comes from faithfully following Christ is greater than the greatest riches of the treasures of this world!

Jesus put it this way, For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) I believe Moses would have said, Amen!

Clearly, the pleasures of sin for a season may yield a long and worthless harvest!

2) Sin will always… keep you longer than you want to stay!

Beware lest God gives up on you! One of the most frightening things that God may do to us is too simply allow us to have what we think we want. In Romans (cf. 1:24-32) the Apostle Paul repeatedly points out the consequences of God rejecting and abandoning those who choose sin over obedience to Him.

By choosing sin we force God to put us where we deserve. The result is dishonor (verse 24), degrading (verse 26), depravity (verse 28) and getting exactly what we earn with our sin. Our earnings (our wages of sin in Romans 6:23) include being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful (verses 29-31).

Having made that choice to live in sin God further declares that we are both ignorant and worthy of eternal death (verse 32). Remember God uses exactly the same word for eternity in Hell that He does for the duration of Heaven. Eternity is a long time to stay where neither God nor any of His goodness exists!

3) Sin will always… cost you more than you wanted to pay!

If you really insist on choosing sin, then you have to pay for sin. Paul reminds the saints at Thessalonica that, if you don’t choose salvation, then you choose for God to help you believe any false thing that will lead to eternal death (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). That’s an astronomically high price to believe what you want and enjoy wrong instead of right!
As we’ve already noted, the well-deserved earnings of sin (Romans 6:23)… is death! But there’s also one more part to that same verse and to the story of sin. There is the gift of God!

That brings us to one important final lesson about sin, and that is the one thing that God can do if you let Him. He will save you from your sins! Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Did you catch all that? Sin will actually do all these horrible things for and to you. But God offers a choice. He offers hope and another way.

Yes, it IS a FREE GIFT! But don’t let the price tag confuse you, as so many have. That gift, that promise is ONLY to those IN Christ Jesus. And the only way that you can be IN Christ Jesus today is to be born into the family, the body of Christ.

If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). There is NO promise for those of us living on this side of the cross for salvation from sin without baptism! Without that uniting with Christ in burial (baptism!) and death (to sin), there is NO uniting with him in resurrection (cf. Romans 6:3-7).

Without freedom from sin, there is no life! Remember those three things that sin will always do for you. And make the choice to unite yourself with Christ in His way as the one thing that can save you.

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

8/20/17 ~ Things We Cannot Do Without

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… Over the years there were a few times that I had to undergo a process called survival training. While the goal is teaching you and giving you the confidence to accomplish things even in dangerous circumstances if the course is really worth anything the ultimate test is really a question of “pass” or “fail” at surviving.

In a very real way, this world is that kind of course. Either we learn and properly practice the things that enable us to live forever with God or else we fail and face eternal death.

With that sobering thought in mind, let’s consider some…

Things We Cannot Do Without

If you’re ever stuck out in the wilderness, remember what survival experts call ‘the Rule of 3s’: You can live 3 minutes without air. In a harsh winter environment — it’s snowing, say — you have 3 hours to survive without shelter. Without water, you will die in 3 days (note that in the Arizona summer you may not last that long!). Finally, you can make it 3 days without food (but it won’t be easy!).

God’s word also has some lessons about things a Christian simply cannot survive without. Let’s consider seven things that are vital for us:

1) God — Paul spoke of the time before Christ when the heathen nations were outsiders, strangers to God’s covenants of promise with Israel. He says that they had no hope and were “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

2) The Precious Shed Blood of Christ — The writer of Hebrews reminds us that, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). And Peter challenged us to remember, “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

3) The Sinlessness of Christ — Our “high priest” understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses because He “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The fact that He was perfect and sinless allowed God to accept His sacrifice as the price for our sins, or as Paul puts it: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

4) Faith — “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Of course “faith” here is God’s definition of true, obedient hope and trust in Him; rather than contemporary man’s idea of just wishful thinking.

5) Works — James reminds us that in God’s definition of terms faith and service or works are inseparable (James 2:18-20) and plainly says that faith without works is just dead, useless faith.

6) Holiness — Like so many other words in Scripture we are required to use God’s definition and not Satan’s perversion of God’s will. Hebrews (12:14) reminds us that if we lack that holiness or sanctification we will not see the Lord!

7) Birth into God’s Family — Again, the world is quick to follow Satan’s definition of God’s commands and terminology. In doing so they reject God’s blessings and promises just as Adam and Eve did. To gain God’s promises and blessings today requires that “new birth.” Baptism can never be just getting wet (1 Peter 3:21). It is submission to God and obedience to His commands and will. Baptism is uniting with Jesus in His death, burial AND His resurrection (Romans 6:4-7). Without it, we are not free from sin and we will never see heaven!

Yes, there are many things that are vital to our Spiritual life and health. In addition to the survival ‘Rule of 3s’ there are countless poisons, wild animals, falls from cliffs and innumerable other dangers out there that we must avoid to live. But hopefully, we also understand that without the basic important things we face no hope at all.

How about your spiritual life? Have you begun with the basic, vital items? Because, if you are lacking any of these you are starting out by dying. If you would live then seek Christ… this week and always!

— 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

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