5/27/18 ~ Baseball and the Christian Life

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

The Apostle Paul often used the sports and games of his world as lessons for Christians. While I doubt that everyone in New Testament times was a sports nut, they still made important lessons. Let’s take a look at a modern sport with a similar spiritual lesson for us:

Baseball and Christian Life

Manny Trillo had a 17-year Major League career with the A’s, Cubs, Phillies, Indians, Expos, Giants, and Reds. In that time he was a repeat All-Star and won multiple Gold Gloves for his defensive play. He set a Major League record (since broken) with 479 consecutive errorless chances. Think about that a moment: 479 straight times he could have made an error and did not.

The most amazing thing about this story is not that he didn’t make a mistake but rather his attitude. As great as Manny Trillo was with his glove, he knew there were always errors. A bad throw. A bad hop. Broken double plays. In baseball, there are (currently) 162 games a year. A minimum (usually) of 1,458 innings in the regular season. That’s not counting pre- and post-season games. Baseball is an every-day-of-the-week game.

In baseball, perfection is technically (just like in Christian living!) non- existent. True, there are tons of statistics kept to see how close you get to perfection. But Manny Trillo lived and played by the philosophy, “The best thing about baseball is you can do something about yesterday, tomorrow.”

If you make a mistake and want to actually fix it, there’s always tomorrow’s game. Next time, you have the opportunity to undo the mistake and do it right.

This holds true on defense and just as well on offense. If you follow baseball you will quickly notice that everyone’s batting average is measured in three decimal numbers. What that means is if you get a hit every single time that you come to bat you would be batting 1.000. But no one ever does that!

In fact, no one ever comes close! In a single season of baseball, the great Ty Cobb hit .420! (For you trivia fans, Nap Lajoie holds the record average with a .426 season.) Ty Cobb’s lifetime career average was .366.

The best players in baseball history missed hitting the ball 1½ to 2 times for every time they hit it. Their mistakes totaled one and a half to two times their successes and they were the best! The best of most players is closer to the twice as many whiffs for every hit!

So what does all this about baseball have to do with us as Christians? The New Testament is constantly advising us as Christians to take the same approach to our “game,” our lives. The very use of the words repentance and forgiveness are God’s reminders that we can have another chance. How we use that next chance will always be what shows our real character, our real spirituality!

I believe the Apostle Paul, with his interest in sports, would have appreciated this analogy. After all, he wrote, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

James wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a). And John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

God is very clear in telling us that we are not perfect. Just as “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and need Jesus to save them from their sins, we all continue to be imperfect.
Certainly, this doesn’t mean we stop trying to be perfect. No baseball player is worth anything if they are a quitter and the same is true of a Christian! But when you do and try and fail, then the answer is not to give up. The answer for saints is always found in keeping on keeping on, in trying our best to do better tomorrow!

The best thing about a mistake we make now is that we can do better. That sounds a lot like resolve, a stubborn faith in God that with His help we can always do better!
Persistent faith is what made each of the Old Testament heroes of faith (cf. Hebrews 11 and the events of their lives in the OT). Persistent faith is what makes us.
Will you be better tomorrow?

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/20/18 ~ What about the ignorant?

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Jesus placed a burden, a responsibility on the Apostles. According to Matthew 28:19-20 they had to go to all the world and teach them of God’s will and the salvation that is only in Jesus. In teaching that Good News they had to–much like the old court injunction–tell the truth… the whole truth… and nothing but the truth.

In telling all the truth (Jesus called it “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”) they were passing on to each new child of God the responsibility to also share the Good News with everyone else.

That leads us to an interesting and important question:

What About the Ignorant?

Have you ever noticed how often people have an opinion of God without actually consulting God’s revealed word? It is a frequent approach by people that do not actually follow the New Testament but, sadly, it is also often practiced by those claiming to be Christians.

Before you claim that this cannot possibly be so, consider how often you’ve heard someone discussing things about God’s will and say something like, “I think” or “I believe” as they give an opinion. Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of saying it yourself.

Opinions are nice things… sometimes. But we would all have to agree that failing to stop for a STOP sign is not a matter of opinion but a matter of law. The obvious principle for spiritual matters must be that, if God tells us the facts, if He sets the law of what is true and false, right and wrong, then we must agree with Him if we want to be right.

Once we understand and accept this fact, then we realize the seriousness of continued study of His word. Only when we first actually listen to and follow God may we be in agreement with Him. Amos the prophet asked the question: Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3, NKJV) We find ourselves out of step and unable to walk with our God if we do not agree with Him!

So let’s consider the question: What about those ignorant of God’s will? We ask it often in many ways and many times we find ourselves giving an opinion that is completely out of step, out of agreement with God! What about the person that has never heard God’s will and dies in their ignorance? Surely God wouldn’t send that person to hell!

The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians in large part to deal with the question of how God will deal with unbelievers and false teachers when Jesus returns. Certainly, that question is of great importance to us today and is directly relevant to our question of ignorance.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8 Paul says: (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and results in your being considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering. (6) For it is a righteous thing for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (Mounce-NT translation)

You will notice that I quoted that from a very literal translation that is actually used for teaching Greek translation. But the fact is, nearly every single English translation agrees with the Greek that punishment is coming on those who do not know God as well as those that do not obey Him. As a matter of fact, the only English Bible I found that implies another meaning is a work known as The Message; a work known for repeated intentional mistranslation. It says, Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they’ve done, and thus completely misses the force of what God actually says.

So, we can safely conclude that the only way to claim ignorance of God’s word as an excuse in the Judgement Day is to pervert what God actually says. Oops! That’s NOT a good opinion to hold, is it?

Consider one last point. If people can go to heaven out of ignorance then there’s not any point in the Great Commission! Think about it! Why should we try so hard to teach people of Jesus if they would actually be better off in ignorance?

And that leads us to one last important lesson. What if we fail to do our job of telling the Good News? What if we fail to warn others of God’s way and judgment?

God actually has that discussion with Ezekiel the prophet in chapter 33, verses 1-20. Since Ezekiel was given a commission by God to speak God’s will (much like Jesus passed on to us all in Matthew 28:19-20), he is responsible only for his failure to preach the truth. If others listen and obey God’s will, their salvation is assured. If others choose to ignore God’s message then they bear the burden of their sin.

Never does God make an exception for ignorance. We know God’s will and we are responsible for sharing that Good News with others. It’s time for us to get busy because ignorance is death.

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/12/18 ~ Battle Buddies

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you helping or hurting the church, the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Are you a real soul winner for Jesus or just an old sorehead? Do you truly stand with your…

Battle Buddies

The fact is, we as Christians are often guilty of “shooting our wounded!”

The most demanding job in this world is that of actively living a Christ-like life! Having said that, we often imagine that what that means is living a totally self-righteous life. While Jesus lived a sinless life, he did NOT live it without friendships, encouragement, love, and support of others!

John is described as the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). While Jesus was close to all His disciples, there were some that especially provided even closer friendship and fellowship. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are also singled out as those that Jesus loved (John 11:5). Certainly, many of Jesus’ discussions with Peter show an especially close bond of encouragement.

If Jesus drew strength and reinforcement from that bond of friendship then we undoubtedly need the same thing, too. Solomon, another “wise man,” reminded us that there is a friend that is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Burnout is highest among those that work the hardest! Teachers, elders, preachers, deacons and all who faithfully serve the Lord are both worthy of honor and in danger of that dreaded disease.

Think of Paul’s admonition, The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). We usually focus on the “double honor” as being paid for their work, but part of the honor is also the appreciation and caring for that’s so richly deserved, even here on earth, for those that faithfully serve.

Over the years many of our finest elders, preachers, teachers and Christian servants of the Lord have burned out and even lost their faith. So, what can we do about it?

As we’ve already noted, Jesus had close, loving friends that were an encouragement to Him. Solomon, David and many others of God’s people depended on those friends that were closer than earthly family.

Let’s back up a moment and consider the problem from another angle. Suicide (both literally and professionally) is extremely high among soldiers with the most combat experience. And very similar things happen among the most proficient police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical professionals. The challenge of constantly having someone’s life (soul) in your hands and so often seeing it all go badly wrong too often is a huge burden to bear.

It seems like some of that pressure is evident in the apostle Paul’s writings. Too many battles fought with too little support from your own side is an awful burden to bear. You can hear it rather loudly in 2 Timothy 4.

The US Army began a program several years back known as the “battle buddy.” The idea is that a battle buddy assists his or her partner both in and out of combat. They are not just for company but intentionally for the reduction of suicide. Each battle buddy watches his partner’s actions and is expected to save their fellow soldier’s life by noticing negative thoughts and feelings and intervening to provide help.

It is a real challenge to have the self-confidence to stay strong without that “buddy” support. Nowadays the “battle buddy” concept is not only for support in combat but for the ongoing support for living life outside of combat. The lesson readily applies to Christians that are sincerely fighting the good fight of faith.

Go back to 2 Timothy 4 and note verses 9-11: Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. Do you hear the loss of too many? Do you see the importance of those close friends, those “battle buddies” that remain faithful?

You will recall that Jesus ALWAYS sent his disciples to work in (at least) pairs. Paul routinely traveled and worked with one or more fellow workers.

John tells us, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But it remains for James to demonstrate the practice as he says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)

It seems like God is trying to tell us something there! The way to survive the trials is with the working together, the praying for one another. Only together can we accomplish much!

Look at four additional scriptures that address this issue: A friend loves at all times, & a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10). With all humility & gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

There are souls to save here. And the only way we can save the souls of fellow saints is to stand strong and firm with them in the Lord. Only together can we accomplish much!

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/6/18 ~ Going Beyond or Falling Short

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever noticed how some things are “just right” the way they are? It is important for us to remember that “no substitutes, no additions, no changes” is a vital truth of God’s word. We sometimes say that a miss is as good as a mile, and with God, that is especially true. However you miss, it is still a miss and nothing can make that miss a hit. As Christians, we need to make certain that we never…

Go Beyond or Fall Short

While we often remember Balaam for his later failure to honor God, we need to also remember his early faithfulness. Balak, king of the Moabites, was making every effort to persuade Balaam to go against God’s commands. Balaam’s reply to Balak’s servants was, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God” (Numbers 22:18).

Do we have the same courage to be so determined to obey our God? Can we truly say that we are so faithful to Him that we will do nothing little or big that is contrary to His commands?

As the New Testament is still being written, God constantly includes reminders that the “perfect” revelation, will and instructions of God are the standard that all future generations will adhere to for what is right and wrong. Paul told the church at Corinth that was so inordinately proud of their miraculous spiritual gifts that they were all coming to an end.

The gifts of prophecy would be done away with, the “tongues” (speaking a language you had never learned so you could teach the gospel to someone of that language) will cease. Even the gift of miraculous knowledge (knowing the will of God without the effort of study and preparation beforehand) would end. All that was partial and imperfect was to end when the perfect revelation was complete (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

Strangely enough, many years ago someone informed me that this view, this understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 was unique to the “churches of Christ” and that no other “Bible scholars” saw it that way. Think about that argument for a moment. Even IF the only people that agreed with God (just like in Balaam’s case) were those that actually worshipped God, then that would still make it right! Nothing you can believe, say or do will ever make a wrong right.

Worse still, is the fact that many (most?) Bible scholars even in the denominational world (people that will accept some error or false teaching as okay) admit that there is no other way to interpret Paul’s words! Like Balaam, many times people that plead their case for disobeying God, nevertheless admit that what God actually says is both true and required if we would obey Him!

The writer of Hebrews challenges us with the same idea. We cannot afford to even seem or appear to come short of God’s standard. That will lose us our reward (cf. Hebrews 4:1). As John pens the final words of God in the Revelation, he includes God’s command to read, hear and obey “these words” without change (cf. Revelation 22:18). God promises to add the “plagues” to those that add to His word. Sounds like God is serious, doesn’t it?

Since Jesus promised that God (His Spirit) was the author of all the Apostles’ teaching passed on to us (cf. John 14:26; 16:13; Matthew 28:20), it is obligatory that we only believe, teach and practice the same things! That is literally what Jesus commands of all teaching by His people in Matthew 28:20. Hopefully, we all know and understand the concept of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Everything God speaks to His people is important! That precept is stated in many ways throughout the Bible and repeated by Jesus to Satan (Matthew 4:4). Every word that comes from God is our life. Obviously, words are important and we ignore them at our peril!

That leads to an important reminder. Any time we take a statement of God out of context, we sin and lose sight of godly teaching. An excellent example is found in 2 Timothy 2:14. When Paul tells Timothy not to wrangle about words, he is NOT talking about teaching and learning (like we often hear argued) what God says!

Paul is talking about the word arguments that he and Timothy had repeatedly dealt with, the myths and genealogies (worldly and pagan things as in 1 Timothy 1:3-4) and includes the old wives’ tales of 1 Timothy 4:7. Worldly words, ideas, “theological” arguments outside of the revealed word of God have no place alongside the actual holy words of God. By God’s definition, His word and only His word is the absolute truth (cf. Psalm 119:160 and confirmed by Jesus in John 17:17).

Since our Lord is truly the great God and Savior (cf. Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1), we learn and obey His words in His context and meaning. We are not called to just obey basic concepts. Our God is able to say exactly what He means and His wisdom is what we need to learn and obey. The psalmist reminds us of those who rebelled against the words of God and spurned His counsel (Psalm 107:11).

One of Jesus’ warnings shortly before He left this earth was of “false prophets” that would come after He left (Matthew 24:24). In some of the last words from God to His people, John would remind us that “many false prophets” are out there in the world and we are not to believe them. Once again, the standard we compare them to is God (1 John 4:1).

If these things taught by God are all true, then we have a responsibility to learn, believe, practice and continue to teach God’s word. The truth, the facts, the way of salvation, the way of worship and service to God, and the way we are to live is all settled. As Jude concluded, we are to contend for (defend) the faith, the truth that was once for all delivered to us (Jude 3).

We have God’s word, God’s standard, God’s requirements for us, our lives and our teaching. If we would be true to God, we must neither go beyond nor fall short of what He says!

— Lester P. Bagley

4/29/18 ~ How did you “receive” Christ?

Jesus' Baptism

From the Preacher’s Pen… How did you become a Christian? Is it appropriate to ask that question of anyone? Paul shows us plainly in Acts 19:1-5 that it is appropriate and necessary.

So, in light of all the worldly false teaching out there, let’s ask ourselves the important question:

How Did You “Receive” Christ?

It never fails to amaze me how often a Biblical term that has been used since Bible times suddenly becomes popular with the denominational world. But what makes it truly perverse is the fact that they give it their own “spin” instead of using it the way God does.

An obvious example is the term “born again Christian.” In God’s view, there are no other Christians than those who have been born again. Jesus explained it with great clarity to Nicodemus in John 3:3-7, you must be born again to ever see (be a part of) the Kingdom of God!

And yet suddenly a few years ago the denominational world proposed that Christians needed to become “born again Christians” by something other than the water and the Spirit.  Sorry, that’s not God’s way.

Hopefully, you are familiar with the concept of belief. Believing Christ or believing in or on Christ is used repeatedly in the New Testament. But no one actually “believes” Christ who does not obey Him. John 3:36, for one example, makes it plain: He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Another popular term involves “receiving Christ.” Sure, God does use that term as John 1:12 speaks of those who received Him as opposed to those who reject Him. The flagrant error comes with the explanation that this means “taking Jesus as your personal Savior.”

Sadly, for those that teach such, the New Testament never urges anyone to “take Jesus as your personal Savior.” So, in the context of the Scripture, what does it really mean to “receive Jesus?”

To begin with, John wrote those words about “receiving Christ” over 50 years after the Lord’s church began. Jesus’ church began with Peter and the other Apostles fulfilling prophecy and God’s direct commands by preaching on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection. On that day and forever since the Lord’s people of His church have preached the message of “repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Luke would record those words in the book of Acts about AD 60.

The Apostle John had been there that day and had preached and taught the same message. Since John preached the truth don’t you suppose that he meant the truth and not some other doctrine?

Now let’s cut to the chase: You “receive Jesus” when you obey Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-11). When you “receive Jesus” you become a part of the church, the body that He died for (Acts 2:38, 47; Ephesians 5:23, 30).

While God never speaks of accepting Jesus as your “personal savior,” He repeatedly speaks of the body, the church of Christ. If you are going to actually listen to what God says, we are called to accept Jesus as our “corporate” or joint savior!

When John penned the words, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12), he meant just what he and the other New Testament teachers and preachers had always meant!

Those who receive Jesus are those who obey Him. Those who believe Him do His will. Those who do the right things commanded by Jesus are those that become children of God. John repeatedly points this out, both in his Gospel account of Jesus and in his letters to Christians (cf. John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 2:3–4; 3:22; 5:3).

So, have you actually received Christ in His way? Did you repent of your sins? Were you added to the Lord’s family by being born again through baptism? Nothing less is obedience to God. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Will you do so?

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/15/18 ~ Does it really matter why we do anything?

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever heard someone say that there are people in the world that are much better people than Christians? The discussion is really a beat-down of godly people with two intentions.

  • First, it claims that Christians are just imperfect hypocrites that don’t deserve any credit for anything good that they may do.
  • Second, it claims that, when an ungodly person does something good, it actually ought to impress God and count for some kind of “points” toward salvation.

So lets’ take a moment to examine the question…

Does it Really Matter Why We Do Anything?

To begin with let’s notice an observation that author T.S. Eliot once made about one of his characters:

The last temptation is the greatest treason:

To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

His point was that the character actually was just fooling himself into believing that something right could be done for a selfish reason. In much the same way it is sometimes argued that people do deeds just as good, or perhaps even better than Christians. Yet God does not give praise to the “good deeds” of the ungodly.

So, does it actually make a difference why we do something? Is T. S. Eliot right in telling us that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is the worst kind of self-deception?

Let’s consider a simplified example. If doing the right thing for the wrong reason is okay with God, that means everyone that dives into the water or willing goes underwater for any reason has actually been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins!

Virtually no one would ever accept that argument! Of course, immersion in water for the wrong reason is not what God calls baptism! Why would any other good deed done for the wrong reason (in God’s eyes) somehow confuse God?

Now consider something that the Apostle Peter said: For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? (1 Peter 4:17-18)

Since it requires a great sacrifice by Jesus and a repentance with actions that show the truth of our repentance (that’s what Acts 26:20 actually says!), it is NOT ever going to be done any way other than intentionally! And lest we miss the point Peter plainly states that the ungodly (those that fail to do God’s will for whatever reason) and the sinner (those that reject doing God’s will) will have no chance at salvation.

The apostle Paul puts the positive spin on it like this: For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Only in those who are obedient children of God does the good work become godly good work.

Consider how great it is to serve the Lord God and bring glory to our Heavenly Father! How sad to think that someone would do great things and fail to give the honor and glory to God!

Yes, some may do good things without being Christians. But only Christians do things because of what God has done for them. Only those actively obeying God’s will are credited with doing the “deeds worthy of repentance!”

Will you serve Him who died for you?

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/8/18 – True Heroes

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

I guess that by now everyone knows that I think we have one of the greatest groups of young people ever in this congregation. Perhaps one of the areas in which our teens impress me most is their courage. It is not easy for anyone to live in a world that believes that what God defines as wrong and sinful is accepted as right and good. And yet our teens face that challenge on a daily basis and still try to maintain both their Christ-like standards and their desire to tell others of the right.

Of course, that is God’s will for every one of us but to uphold those standards when your teachers and fellow students many time do not requires great faith. Do we appreciate what great examples our young Christians are for us all?

God says that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). We must remember that fact!

Following the terror events of 9-11 many people, even schools, openly prayed. Today most have gone back to the old ways of rejecting God. In fact, prayers are banned from many public functions by the US Supreme Court decisions in direct violation of Constitutional law that prevents any part of the US government from making ANY laws with regard to religion in this country!

At the same time, our government affirms the “right” to murder unborn babies. How long before it is considered a “right” to murder older children? Have we perhaps gone mad?

While athletes and even teenagers violating the law are held up as “heroes” and examples for all, it seems even more amazing that some can actually do what is right and thus show the world what real heroes are. Consider a couple of examples from the world of true heroes and let’s appreciate the spiritual lesson. And let’s resolve that we will have the courage from here on to place God’s will and what is right before what men may say, do, teach and even demand from us as laws:

True Heroes

Do you remember the heroes of the September 11th United Airlines Flight 93? Three typical American men on that flight, armed only with plastic butter knives, talked one last time to their wives and families and then attacked the hijackers on board their flight. These three knew of the devastation that had already occurred on the ground in New York and Washington and sought to prevent it happening again. They were successful! But before they made that heroic attempt they did one other thing, they prayed.

A few years later on June 28, 2005, a small four-man Navy SEAL team of Operation Red Wings was pinned down by a large enemy force and called for help. At that point, no one knew that only one of those four would survive. Without hesitation, the nearest aid consisting of 11 Navy SEALs and 8 Army Night Stalkers boarded their helicopter to attempt a rescue. Upon arrival to the area, the helicopter was shot down with the loss of all 19 men.

It would take some time and great effort to eventually recover all those lost men. But when they did there was an interesting dog tag found in the helicopter wreckage. It read: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.

We would, like most folks, consider all those people to be heroes. But think for a moment what kind of persons God declares to be heroes. I guess our first thought would be Hebrews 11 and those oft referred to as heroes of faith. Perhaps some would think of the good example of those brave heroes Peter and John who stood before the Supreme Court of their country and declared, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

But what of some more modern heroes? Do we recall the New Testament Christians who died in Hitler’s concentration camps? Even today there are brethren who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus in countries like Afghanistan, China and India to what is almost our own backyard in Mexico.

And how about our young people, faithfully serving the Lord and being such a good example to us all when many of their fellow students and teachers are proud to teach and practice sin? What of our elderly Christians with their many years of service and their still constant devotion to the Savior?

Do we remember that Jesus Himself said that these modern heroes of faith are in God’s measure even greater than those of the Old Testament? “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)

Did you hear what Jesus said? It’s really the same comment that the Hebrew writer would use to conclude his list of heroes of faith: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

Do you remember that dog tag I mentioned above? Do we as Christians have the courage to live like that? Do you love the Lord and the church He died for enough to say: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Heroes are just ordinary people who, in times of crisis, do extraordinary things. Let’s remember the real heroes this week! Truly, the Lord’s church is made up of those heroes. Let’s resolve to be faithful, loving, prayerful, encouraging this week and show just who and what we really are!

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/18 ~ Who Packed Your Parachute?

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Together we serve the Lord! One of the great lessons of God’s word involves the reminder of our togetherness in Christ. While we can study God’s word, pray, even sing praises by ourselves, we are taught by God to do what in many ways is our most intimate remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice with our fellow saints, the Lord’s Supper.

Just how important are our fellow saints?

Who Packed Your Parachute?

Joseph Charles Plumb Jr. graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964. He earned his Navy pilot’s wings in 1966 and went on to fly the F-4 Phantom. Flying from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk for his 75th mission, with only five days before he was to return home, his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and rode his parachute safely to the ground only to be captured. He would spend the next 2,103 days as a POW in the prison camps where, like so many others Americans, he was tortured.

Years later after his return home to the States, he and his wife were eating in a restaurant when a man came up to him and told him. “You’re Plumb. You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and were shot down.” Plumb admitted that was all true but asked how this man knew these things. His reply was, “I packed your parachute. I guess it worked!” Plumb shook his hand and thanked him for a job well done. For Plumb, this became a lifelong lesson to be shared with others.

For us as Christians, this same lesson is vital. We often remind ourselves, and rightly so, that no one can be saved by someone else’s works. While that is true, it is equally true that we cannot be saved alone.

Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), that includes each one of us, but that is because He died for His church (Ephesians 5:25). We, together are the body, the family of God and are called to be the light of the world.

No fighter pilot packs his own parachute, builds and services his aircraft, refuels and rearms it. No Christian does it all either! Two illustrations from Scripture well illustrate this lesson.

First, Paul liked to remind us of the human body. Just as it is made up of multiple parts that keep each other alive and functioning, so, too, is Christ’s church: For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4–5)

It is that vital, one and only body, that we must belong to and be a part of for our salvation (cf. Ephesians 4:4, 12). It is that same one body that continues our proper functioning and growth as we build in love (Ephesians 4:16).

Second, God pointedly uses the words “one another” to reinforce our working together or failing together. Consider just a few of the 50 some times that God uses this single Greek word for “one another:”

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10).

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19).

Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:13).

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another (Titus 3:3).

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16).

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:8-10)

But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us (1 John 3:23 – Jesus gave us that “new commandment” in John 13:34).

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

Every Christian has spiritual parents who helped teach them and bring them to the Lord. Every Christian who remains faithful has spiritual brothers and sisters who encourage them. Never forget those that packed your parachute. And never forget the importance of packing someone else’s. Together we serve the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

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Let there be Light

Mitch Teemley

Many scientists are disinclined to believe in God (although poll numbers vary greatly). It is interesting to note, however, that among those who study science at its extremes, rather than at the bio-materialistic mid-levels, belief is quite high. A majority of quantum physicists, for example, allow for the likelihood of a creative consciousness behind the universe, which is now understood to be more concept than concrete reality.

“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” ~Arno Penzias, Nobel prize in physics

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence…

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