06/18/17 ~ What Makes a Father?

From the Preacher’s Pen

RacineBuildingOne of the saddest things to see is a child without loving parents. There is never any substitute, any treasure that can replace a father’s and mother’s love. Undoubtedly that is why God is so often portrayed for us in scripture as our Heavenly Father. Yes, He is God, Creator and Judge for us. But above all else, He is our Father.

Since today is “Father’s Day” it’s important for us to understand a bit about just what these strange creatures really are. While mothers are nice, warm, loving creatures, fathers can be more intimidating on the outside. Try this little article on for size and especially note how well it describes not only good earthly fathers but also, in so many ways, our Heavenly Father. And let’s join in paying tribute to all of our great fathers today!

What Makes a Father?

A father is a person who is forced to endure childbirth without an anesthetic. He growls when he feels good and laughs very loud when he is scared half-to-death.

A father never feels entirely worthy of the worship in a child’s eyes. He is never quite the hero his daughter thinks. Never quite the man his son believes him to be. And this worries him sometimes. (So he works too hard to try to smooth the rough places in the road of those of his own who will follow him.)

A father is a person who goes to war sometimes…and would run the other way except that war is part of his only important job in his life, (which is making the world better for his child than it has been for him).

Fathers grow older faster than people, because they, in other wars, have to stand at the train station and wave goodbye to the uniform that climbs on board.

And, while mothers cry where it shows, fathers stand and beam, outside – and die inside.
Fathers are men who give daughters away to other men who aren’t nearly good enough so that they can have children that are smarter than anybody else’s.

Fathers fight dragons almost daily. They hurry away from the breakfast table, off to the arena which is sometimes called an office or a workshop. There, with calloused hands, they tackle the dragon with three heads; Weariness, Works, and Monotony. And they never quite win the Fight, but they never give up.

Knights in shining armor; fathers in shiny trousers. There’s little difference as they march away each workday.

I don’t know where a father goes when he dies, but I’ve an idea that, after a good rest, wherever it is, he won’t just sit on a cloud and wait for the son he adores or the girl he’s loved and the children she bore. He’ll be busy there too…repairing the stars, oiling the gates, improving the streets, smoothing the way.

— Unknown

You may well imagine that there are many important jobs in life and that they are fulfilling jobs to be enjoyed and appreciated. But there really is no job that compares to being a parent. No job contributes so much to the future. No job means so much to another person, another soul.

Oh yes, any father or mother will quickly tell you about the struggles. But the greatest and most fulfilling joys will be kept deep inside… to treasure! Twice Luke very specifically tells us of events in the early life of Jesus on Earth that Mary “treasured in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51). And we can only imagine the moment when the risen Jesus first appeared to her.

Matthew seemed especially fond of the term “Heavenly Father” and used it more than any other New Testament writer. Don’t you wonder what in his life might have caused him to find that so precious?

Jesus in John’s Gospel (John 8:34-47) pointedly told those who rejected Him that God was NOT their father. They found the idea properly appalling, yet failed to correct their relationship. How sad to have and embrace an evil, wicked father!

Hopefully, we get the picture and the lesson. As we rightly honor earthly fathers, let’s always remember the ultimate standard is set by God. May we truly honor our Heavenly Father this day and every day as the one who brings us life and all things good and righteous.

— Lester P. Bagley

 

6/11/17 ~ Look Around, Act, and React

wings-of-timeHave you ever wondered why so many churches are relatively inactive out in the world? Perhaps we have overlooked something: Inactivity is what we in our classrooms were taught years ago and what we, in turn, teach when we become the teachers ourselves in the next generation. How?

 We teach by our actions that Christianity is (1) going to worship services, (2) listening, (3) discussing, (4) going home. For all the world knows, they see us entering a building and coming out again; and that’s the end of that! We are not any different and they are not any different. No wonder people of the world think Christianity is boring. If that is all we do, then it is.  But it doesn’t have to be.

 Studying alone is not Christianity ~ never was and never will be. Faith alone is not Christianity either. They are both dead by themselves (James 2:17). Christian worship services are spiritual feasts where we eat of the bread of life. But if all we do is eat with no exercise, we get spiritually fat and lazy. Now, who wants that? No one, really, of course.

RacineBuilding The purpose of the worship assemblies is specifically spelled out in Hebrews 10. It is ironic how we use the first half of verse 25 by itself to reprimand those who do not attend all our worship gatherings when they could if they wanted to. By putting this with the rest of verse 25 we condemn many so-called “active” Christians also who are missing the whole purpose of the assemblies. Notice:

 [WHO?] Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. [WHAT?] Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. [WHEN/HOW?]  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another ~ and all the more as you see the Day approaching. [WHY?] If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

 Let us show each other how to love and be filled with good works, and then encourage each other to do them. Otherwise, we sin willfully; there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins but rather a terrifying judgment. Remember, the devils know all about God and believe and tremble (James 2:19), and it does not benefit them anything. Let us put behind us always being a learner by just “being there every time the doors are open;” for that only makes us a hearer of the word and not a doer…like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was (James 1:23,24).

 Do not misunderstand. Being at the worship services and Bible classes is extremely important and should not be minimized for one moment. In fact, Hebrews 10 states that we should assemble ourselves together “all the more” as we see the day of judgment approaching. Actually, the early Christians met daily (Acts 2:46). But as the old popular song asks, “Is that all there is?” No, of course not.    

 As important as these times of study and worship are, as important as eating is, this is only the beginning, not the end in itself. This provides the spiritual bread of life so we can go out with spiritual energy and be able to do our Christian daily works. In fact, it creates a cycle. The more Christian works we do, the more spiritual food we need, the more we want to attend Christian assemblies so we can get more spiritual food to go out and do more work.

 Actually, once you become vitally involved with daily Christian works, the worship hours will develop a new meaning to you. Suddenly you will realize that it does not matter that much if the song leader drags the songs, the Bible reader stumbles over a word or two, the preacher preaches the same sermon again. For while you are doing all your Christian works during the week, you are loving in action, you are showing people God (who is Love), you are Love’s ambassador. Thus you learn to love your Christian brothers and sisters so much that you do not even realize they are not perfect. 1 Corinthians 13:5 states that love is not provoked by the weaknesses of others, or by anything else. Love does not notice, but prevails.

 Out in the world day by day you will be loving others so much that you will be overwhelmed by the tremendous capacity of love you feel from God through those around you. And you will want to adore and sing praises to him and thank him, and learn more and more about him all the time ~ all the more as you see the day approaching. It will no longer be a matter of HAVING to go to worship, but LOOKING FORWARD to going because your very heart would burst if you could not.

 In the Old Testament, sacrifice was the center of worship. In the New Testament era sacrifice is still the center of worship. Hebrews 13:15,16 states, Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Not only do we sacrifice the fruit of our lips in worship, but also the incense of prayer (Revelation 8:4) and the incense of giving (Philippians 4:15,18).

 Perhaps you do not need any encouraging to do or keep up your good works; but maybe those others who do need it will be there at the assembly waiting for you to come and encourage them. On the other hand, there will be times when you will be needing encouragement; this happens to everyone. According to Hebrews 10:25, we encourage one another when we assemble together. We must never let the other person down. That is God’s plan, God’s way.

 The worship period is only the beginning of our worship, the beginning of our service. In the worship assembly, we offer the sacrifice of our lips, our ears, and our minds. Notice carefully Romans 12:1. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God ~ which is your spiritual worship. The King James Version states that it is your reasonable service. It is only reasonable to expect a Christian to be full of good works and to encourage others to be. That is the fulfillment of worship to God.

Matthew 7:16,20 both quote Jesus as saying, By their fruits you will recognize them. John 15:16 recalls Jesus explaining to his disciples, I chose you to go and bear fruit ~ fruit that will last. Romans 7:4 tells us what our purpose in life is once we are born anew as Christians. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

 Are you bearing fruit? Are you a Christian in every way? Do you claim to be Christ-like? Jesus said in John 15:5, I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. Are you apart from Jesus? Have you been doing nothing? Jesus went on to warn in verse 6, If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. Jesus said we must bring forth fruit. He commanded it.

Let us not be one of those to whom he said, And why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not what I say? Matthew 7:21 gives this warning: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord!” “Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

 We often use the above verses to illustrate that, if some religious groups do not organize themselves according to the instructions in the Bible, do not become Christians according to the Bible, and do not hold worship services according to the examples of the Bible, they should question their salvation.

 This may be true. But we must not forget that it applies just as strongly to those who call out, “Lord!” yet do not go into the world around them and bring forth some fruit. 1 John 3:18 gives this gentle warning, Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth

 Today, dare to put your Christianity in to practice. Today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and every day until it has spanned the rest of your life. Make the decision for today, and for tomorrow’s today, one day at a time. You will soon find that such practice becomes a driving force in your life which you cannot stop. You will become addicted to it! 1 Corinthians 16:15 speaks of a family who had Addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints (KJV). Yes, this can happen to you, and It isn’t that hard to do.

 How can you get started if you have not been used to doing daily good works and bringing forth these fruits? Again, go back to Hebrews 10:22-27. Assemble yourself more and more with other Christians so you may give and receive encouragement. This is the first vital step. Your Bible classes and worship services are two forms of assembling.

 Other forms of assembling include setting aside one or two days a week to get with someone you can work with and spend time visiting people. Have class projects, and take some of the work home with you to do before the next class time. Have a quiet time set aside each day at home for private works if not employed outside your home.

 Try to do as much as possible by twos or more. We need each other. This will help you not put things off you know you should be doing and deep down really do want to do. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins James 4:17). Jesus recommended it. The disciples practiced it. This is God’s wisdom. Do not depend on yourself alone. The early Christians were always together doing some sort of good work. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46,47).

 You can’t miss it! If you are daily teaching and doing good works with each other, there will be many conversions to Christ, for people will notice the church (kingdom of Christians) think favorably of it, and want to be a part of it so they may have the happiness and peace you have. That’s how it works. It did in the first century; it does now.

 Even the contribution at your congregation will go up automatically, spontaneously. Not because someone told you and the other Christians to, but because you will be so involved in good works, you will see more and more needs even in a monetary form. You will want to give so you through your money, as well as time, will be able to accomplish those good works.

 We too often think of giving as something we have to do or the preacher will harass us. (Sometimes, though, if a preacher preaches on it twice a year, we think of it as harassing. Guilty consciences?) After you get to work, you no longer think of giving as putting some money in a cold impersonal plate, and it going to pay for just the building, the utilities, salaries, and class books. Your money will be doing many good works and you will be glad.

 Giving of our money is just one part of the giving and seed planting involved in your Christian life.

 Remember, you are to offer your body as a living sacrifice. Everything you give is just a part of that sacrifice. And the more of one thing a person gives – such as time – the more of other things that person wants to give. Our whole way of thinking changes.

 Every time you buy something, you will catch yourself thinking, “How can I use this for God?” After all, everything we have is God’s anyway (James 1:17). You will find you can use your new house to entertain in. You can use your new stove to new refrigerator for cold drinks, storing fruits, vegetables, etc. to share with those you enjoy being with and enjoy helping. You can use your new car to pick up people to go to Bible class, to take to the doctor, to take shopping, etc. When you get new clothes, you can give your outgrown ones to someone who needs them. When your children buy new toys, they can share them with their friends. And, of course, everything we have been blessed with through the years -not necessarily recently ~ we can share with others. After all, God is sharing them with us!

 In another sense, Jesus said in Matthew 25:34-40: Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brethren of mine, you did for me.”

 In the midst of beginning your new life of service, you must be aware of subtle and not-so-subtle forces to stop you. There will always be those weak Christians who may criticize you for all your good works. Or shall we call it persecution? They may claim all kinds of things about your motives for doing the good works. They might even make up a few things about you that are false. As hard as it is to say – it is harder even to do – you must never let this discourage you and stop you. Instead, turn it around and use it as a spiritual thermometer to see how well you are doing as a Christian. Remember, the more good David did to Saul, the more Saul hated him and tried to kill him. And the more good Jesus did, the more the “faith-only” religious people hated him and tried to kill him.

 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:10-13a). See there? It’s your thermometer. Worldly Christians or weak Christians (same thing) certainly criticize you. The more you work, the more Satan will try to get you to stop – even through your own friends and family.

 Perhaps it is that those who shout the loudest are those who deep down envy you the most. so take note of those people. Get better acquainted with them, and invite them to do some of these Christian works with you. After awhile, they will probably say that you have changed and aren’t so overbearing and all those other things they perhaps used to call you. Actually, what it really will be is that they will have changed and will see you now through the eyes of love and brotherliness, a fellow worker. This has happened over and over through the history of the world, and is probably the best way to get rid of a critic ~ make them a participant.

 Lastly, be careful of your motives. At first your motives to do good works will be good, but as more and more people begin to condemn or praise you for doing them (they will do both), your motives may change you into being a people pleaser rather than a God pleaser. Always keep in mind 1 Corinthians 13:3: If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 Whenever you go out to do a good work, refer to yourself as so-and-so from the church or the body of Christ. Your motives will not be as easily misunderstood, and you will always be reminding even yourself of your purpose in doing these things. Christ is your purpose. You are a fellow worker with him (2 Corinthians 6:1). By glorifying his church, you will be glorifying Christ, the Head. And this is what you want above all else on earth.

 Now take the challenge! Of course you can do it! 

 

5/28/17 ~ Memorial Day

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingNe ob Livi Caris, is a Latin phrase meaning “Forget not” or “Do not forget.” It has been used for centuries as both a military motto and a military family motto as a reminder to keep, cherish and honor those who have gone before. As Christians, we, above all others, should understand and remember. Think for a moment about…

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.

Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red / That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies / That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Since 1922 the VFW and other veterans’ organizations sell poppies or artificial poppies as a reminder of the day and its importance.  (From the website at usmemorialday.org)


Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day (a day to remember all who served). Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving. Sadly, many people think of Memorial Day only as a day for remembering the end of school, the beginning of summer break, get together time with family or even as one of the national BBQ holidays.

But if you ask a combat veteran about the day you would hear of much more poignant memories. Memories of the precious young lives taken much too soon. Lives of the real heroes that gave their all and never came home. Lives given in sacrifice that can, and should, never be forgotten by those who share in the horrors.

This Memorial Day we should take the time to remember the ultimate gift, the ultimate sacrifice given by those young men and women to bring us peace.


Hopefully, you also remember that there is a deep spiritual lesson here, too. As we gather around the Lord’s Table each first day of the week it is an ever fresh, ever painful, ever precious Memorial Day.

Here we remember the Savior who bought our life with His own. As He gave the ultimate sacrifice for us, so the memory is to be cherished above all memories. And we find it almost inconceivable that someone would use that precious time for any lesser purpose… if only they knew, if only they cared.

Of course, our Memorial Day as God’s children has one more item even more precious than any earthly remembrance. We do this, we share this memory in celebration on the very day that He rose again to live forever.

Never forget the precious lives of those heroes that sacrificed so much for us. Remember and honor them this week.

And for the hero of Calvary, the very Son of God who sacrificed for you and me, let us not only remember, but share the precious good news this day and every day of our lives.

Ne ob Livi Caris, “Do not forget!”

— Lester P. Bagley

5/21/17 ~ On Guard

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingThe wisest man that ever lived warned us that every word of God is proven as trustworthy (Proverbs 30:5). And Jesus, himself, reminded even the Devil that we live by every word that comes from God (Matthew 4:4). It would seem that God is trying to get us to diligently examine exactly what He says to learn what Peter called “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Words of eternal life! Should we not love to dig deeply into what God says and how He says it that we might appreciate His rich lessons? Consider one such example:

On Guard!

In fencing (the sword fighting kind) there is a French term, en garde, that serves as a warning to prepare to defend yourself. It translates very well to the English language as on guard.

In the New Testament, there is a similar word that the Holy Spirit uses some two dozen times with a very similar meaning. As a military term, it carries the sense of urgency in paying attention or being alert to deadly threats with the understanding that failure means certain death. The lessons that God uses it for are well worth examining and heeding.

In the Gospels, the word is used by Jesus to warn the disciples especially about the dangers of the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees and other false teachers (cf. Matthew 7:15; 16:6, 11). The grave danger of false prophets or teachers is obvious when you see God comparing the situation to a soldier guarding dangerous prisoners or on watch while at war.

In a beautifully positive sense, Lydia is described as having her heart opened by the Lord to respond (literally, be on guard) to the words spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14). Certainly, this is an important way for us to be on guard to the truth of God’s word, too!

The lesson is similar to how Paul would some years later remind Timothy of the importance of devoting himself, paying attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). Here again the actual word used is the be on guard term. Clearly,  your attention to reading God’s word as part of our worship together is as important as a soldier being watchful in hostile territory.

Again, the urgency is obvious when Paul warned the Ephesian elders to “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). We too must be “on guard” for both ourselves and those souls that the Lord entrusts to our care.

Failure to be on guard can also be subtle in that it causes us to gradually drift away from the truth (Hebrews 2:1). Thus Peter urges us to keep paying attention to guarding until the time when Jesus comes again (2 Peter 1:19).

The real question is: Are we truly on guard with our Lord for the truth of His word and for that which is right before God?

Knowing the threats and dangers we face in this world and knowing the power of Satan… are you ready at all times. Now is the time to be… en garde!

— Lester P. Bagley

Do and Do-Not-Do

From the Preacher’s Pen… 

RacineBuildingDo you actually belong to God? It’s easy to claim anything you want, but others will eventually see through the false claims and recognize the fakes, the frauds that are out there.

Do you actually belong to God? It’s easy to claim anything you want, but others will eventually see through the false claims and recognize the fakes, the frauds that are out there.

So how do we tell? God has a very simple standard: Those that actually know and do His will belong to God. Those that fraudulently teach, misrepresent the truth and do something that is not God’s will do not belong to Him and should never be listened to or fellowshipped.

Consider this lesson a bit further:

Do and Do-Not-Do

One of the earliest lessons that we learn as human beings involves right and wrong; things we do and things that we should not do.

Sometimes those lessons are learned by making mistakes such as when we burn ourselves on a hot stove. Other times we can learn those lessons by listening to instructions and obeying them. And sometimes we just fail to learn at all and end up making the same mistake over and over again.

The Apostle John as an elderly preacher had both learned that lesson himself and taught the same to literally generations of Christians. Earlier in his life, as one of the “Sons of Thunder,” he was anxious to call fire from heaven to destroy a city (Luke 9:54). But with years came knowledge and as he writes the letter of 1 John to younger Christians he repeatedly advises them of the importance of love.

Unlike many people, John (and God, too!) understands that love, real love involves teaching obedience. Because that is true we find that while 1 John contains some 46 references to love, the letter also contains a multitude of direct references (some 50) to obedience, what to do and what not to do.

Let’s consider a few of those lessons: John begins (1 John 1:6) with the blunt reminder: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” God is never going to be fooled by what we claim when it is repudiated by how we act. The word that many versions translate as “practice” is actually the verb “to do.” So claiming to be a child of God (have fellowship with Him) and yet failing to walk in the light means that we are failures. As we fail to actually do God’s will we fail to actually be God’s family.

In case we missed that point John repeats it in 1 John 2:4: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Say whatever you want, claim whatever you desire but without obedience to God, actually doing His will, you are nothing but a liar.

So how much failure can we “get away with?” That is the wrong question and God’s answer is none! In Scripture, the very concept of “what can I get away with” is always contrary to obedience. The very idea of “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) contains the attitude, the desire, to do only what is right and never what we can get away with.

Just in case we missed that point, John underlines it with several specifics that we might try to get away with. Hating our brother or sister is defined as “walking in darkness” (1 John 2:11). Loving the world or the things in/of the world is to miss out on God’s love (1 John 2:15)!

In some ways, the most severe criticism from God comes in 1 John 2:21. With God’s word as our guide, we cannot claim ignorance! We can never tell God, “I didn’t know better.” If we fail to know the truth the fault is ours, not His. There is never any excuse for ignorance because it always means that we chose not to learn, not to obey.

Wait, can’t I just get away with doing a few things wrong? 1 John 3:10 points out that failure to do right, failure to practice or work at doing the right things is proof… proof that we are children of the Devil and not of God.

Well, I’m sure that I can find someone that believes and teaches that I can get away with what I want! Actually, you can! There are countless “teachers” and “preachers” out there that will tell you what you want to hear. So you really do NOT have to do all this hard work of knowing and doing right! Unfortunately, for those that wish to live this way John labels their teachers as false prophets that we should never listen to, never believe (1 John 4:1).

One of the earliest lessons that we learn as human beings involves right and wrong; things we do and things that we should not do.

If we would be family members of the King of Kings, if we would actually belong to the Royal Priesthood of God we must actually do the things He calls us to do. In spite of all the religious claims out there, we must get it right and do only what is God’s will or else we are wrong (read 1 John 5:12).

In the end, we only fool ourselves when we fail to truly know and do God’s will.

— Lester P. Bagley

5/6/17 ~ Are You Missing God’s Blessings?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the most difficult jobs that you will ever have will be on the Judgment Day trying to convince the Lord God that you should be in Heaven! Jesus on several occasions talked about that day when people would try to talk their way into His eternal kingdom (cf. Matthew 25).

One of the most difficult jobs that you will ever have will be on the Judgment Day trying to convince the Lord God that you should be in Heaven! Jesus on several occasions talked about that day when people would try to talk their way into His eternal kingdom (cf. Matthew 25).

Unfortunately, none of those efforts actually work. If we do not really DO God’s will and truly live like His people then we cannot talk our way into heaven.

That should lead us to remember God’s frequent lessons about missing out on His blessings. So let’s take a few moments to consider…

Are You Missing God’s Blessings?

There’s a story about a young man who was about to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in the dealer’s showroom. Knowing that his father could easily afford it, he told his father what he wanted.

As his graduation day approached, the young man waited for some sign that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the day of his graduation, his father called him into his private study and told him how proud he was to have such a fine son and how much he loved him. Then the father handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and discovered a lovely, leather-bound Bible with his name embossed in gold. Angrily he threw the Bible down and yelled at his father, “With all your money you gave me a Bible?” and stormed out of the house.

Years passed but the son never spoke to his father again. He married, had a family, a beautiful home and a successful business. But one day he finally realized that his father was getting very old and perhaps he should go and see him. Unfortunately, before he could make the trip, he received a call that his father had passed away.

When he finally arrived at his father’s house, sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father’s papers and found the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears filling his eyes he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” As he read the words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had wanted so long ago. On the tag was the date of his graduation and the words, “PAID IN FULL.”

Do we, too, miss God’s rich blessings when they come in ways that we didn’t expect? Could we be disappointed with God, estranged from Him, only to discover the truth too late?

God’s most precious blessings are reserved for those who love Him enough to act like it. Think about the rich lessons in God’s word. Life, understanding, knowledge and ultimately wisdom are found in those lessons. The wrapping, the packaging may not be what we would like or expect so we miss what is most valuable when we fail to open our eyes.

Last Lord’s Day two of our brothers in Christ presented lessons from God’s word. They were words of life… if you cared enough to listen. Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings we take time to study the Bible together, time to listen and consider some of God’s lessons. If you miss out what do you gain? A nice movie or a ball game or countless other things you could be doing will not get you to heaven and they certainly won’t make a worthy excuse before the Judgment Seat of God. Are you really so foolish as to imagine that they will?

Jesus asked the question like this: “What will it profit a person if they gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Don’t let it happen to you! Open your heart and eyes, be faithful to Him every day in every way this week and allow Him to truly bless you in being an active, living part of God’s family here in Casa Grande! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

— Lester P. Bagley

4/30/17 ~ The Biblical Compass

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingThe first time we read the Bible we get it. After all, we only read other books one time to understand them. Of course, anyone taking a course in literature and tried to claim such an absurd thing would find themselves failing the course. Reality check: We seldom, if ever, fully appreciate and understand something the first time we see it!

Most of us are mature enough to understand that fact in life. And most Christians are able to see, like many of the people in the Bible, how rich are the ongoing lessons we learn about God and His will.

It should be a ritual with us to not just read God’s word but to think about it, to constantly inquire about what it says and how to appreciate and understand it.

Consider something as simple as the compass directions and let’s remind ourselves of how easy it is to miss so much.

The Biblical Compass

North-South-East-West

A great lesson for Bible study comes from an old illustration: To read the Bible always and only in translation is like listening to Bach, always and only played on the harmonica. You certainly get the tune, but you will miss pretty much everything else.

Now, if you are comfortable with hearing Classical music only played on the harmonica and think there’s nothing to be gained by listening to a great orchestra… well, you probably have no problem with lazy, effortless Bible study.

Yes, I realize just how hard it is to learn another language but I’ve also learned just how much can be gained by consulting someone that truly knows that language. In fact, many times we will actually learn more by taking the time to ask questions of those that know the language rather than just learning to speak or read a few words! (This is what makes the many books dealing with Biblical word studies so valuable if you don’t read the original languages.)

Let’s start with the compass and basic directions: north, south, east and west. Just like reading the Bible one time, we can understand those directions and at least get ourselves headed in the right direction. But does God have a little more to the lesson? Let’s check.

In Genesis 13:14 we read, The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward.”

These four directions are technical navigation terms in English, and, even if you simply read them in Hebrew you would normally get the same idea. (The pronunciations are tsafonah for north, negbah for south, kedmah for east and yamah for west.) It’s only when you do a bit more serious digging that you learn that those words used by God were filled with even more meaning for Abraham.

North (tsafonah) is connected to Mount Tsaphon (or Zaphon) in modern Syria (cf. Isaiah 14:13). This was the Canaanite version of Olympus as the “mount of assembly” where the gods’ met and thus a prominent landmark.

South (negbah), as you might guess, is the Negev desert or wilderness area south of the land of Israel. This was the area where Abraham traveled back and forth to Egypt and centuries later the nation of Israel would wander there for 40 years because of their lack of faith.

West (yamah) means “to the sea” as the Mediterranean Sea formed that huge barrier in that direction.

East (kedmah), of course, brings to mind the idea of where it all began. Abraham had traveled far from his old life and land in the east to this new land of promise. And even earlier in mankind’s history, the Garden of Eden was planted to the east (Genesis 2:8).

Much like a jigsaw puzzle, when we piece together God’s words they become a picture of all that surrounded Abraham, his life and the Biblical story to that point in history. And in those four words filled with so much meaning, is God teaching us an important lesson, too?

In the years to come God would use another phrase, “wherever you go” as a reminder of the same lesson. First, to Joshua that the Lord would be with His people to deliver them even in the Promised Land (cf. Joshua 1:7, 9). And then second, to the nation during the time of the Judges as a reminder that without God no place would be safe (cf. Judges 2:14-15).

Does God do the same for us today? If we are faithful to Him will he not give us safety and blessings from deserts to oceans? Does He keep us safe from pagan and false gods and the old ways of life?

There is a rich history in God’s promises to give His blessings to His faithful people. Perhaps the ultimate reminder comes as Jesus gives the Great Commission and concludes that, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

With such great promises and with a God that gives us such great directions, what kind of lives should we live this week and always?

— Lester P. Bagley

04/23/17 ~ They Fired the Preacher!

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs members of God’s family, one of the first things we should learn is the basics about the Bible. Obviously, no one can live right before God without knowing that we do not live under the Law of Moses. That leads us to learn the differences between Old and New Testaments and, while all lessons from God are important, some are more directly applicable to us today.

When we come to the New Testament we still must learn how to apply the lessons. The first four books, the Gospels, tell of the life and teachings of Jesus. While they are vital lessons for us we must understand that not everything is directly applicable to us today! For example, many people wrongly claim salvation by the “thief on the cross” method without understanding that it most certainly does NOT apply.

When it comes to how to be saved, the most important book of God’s word is the book of Acts. When we follow those instructions we are actually doing the things necessary to become Christians.

All the rest of the New Testament is written to the saved ones actually living under the New Covenant of Christ. It is here we must turn for God’s instructions on living IN Christ… and these are vital for eternal life!

Since the church began people have been trying to re-write God’s commands and will. One of the great errors that has been injected by the Devil into God’s way is the concept of clergy and laity, that is a “priesthood” of some special group other than all of God’s people.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest disappointments for so-called Christians at the Judgment Seat of God will be to learn that they are personally responsible for living and acting as saints, as royal priests of God. Consider this lesson:

They Fired the Preacher!!!

There are many excuses used for not assembling with the saints. Through the years, most of us have heard just about everything imaginable. Some folks are kept away by a rainy day while others are home-bound because their pets were unruly! As one man said, “Any excuse is as good as another.”

Here’s a little “preacher story” that has an important lesson for us. Read it and seriously consider if it is not the mindset of many in the church today.

The story is told of a preacher who began showing up late for services and even missing the “prayer meeting” altogether. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he did not show up at all one Lord’s Day because he had taken a drive in the country to see the beautiful fall colors. The elders met and decided to fire the man. The secretary summed it all up in the minutes of the meeting by saying, “It was clear he cannot be a minister here if he insists on acting like the rest of our members…”

I suppose we would all laugh if we could not see so much truth in the notation made by the secretary. Most preachers would be fired if they tried to get away with what some of the members do on a regular basis.

Whether we admit it or not, whether we like it or not, we do have a “double standard.” I am not suggesting, by any means, that the preacher should be allowed to get by with what some of the members get by with. Neither am I suggesting that we should hold the preacher up as our standard for Christianity, even though he should strive to be a good example (1 Corinthians 11:1).

What I am suggesting is that we ALL live our lives by the standard Christ set for us. “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21).

The question is: Do each and every one of us as Christians actually try to live like who we are called to be?

The challenge for us is to truly behave like children of God instead of anything less. Long ago Solomon warned us that “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

Are you prepared to be judged by God for who you really are and what you are doing? Are you personally living and acting like a saint, a royal priest of the Lord God?

The time to get it right… is now!

— Lester P. Bagley

04/15 ~ MORE HOLINESS

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingDo you ever struggle with your faith? Years ago I met a young Christian that claimed she didn’t think she had ever sinned. It was incredibly sad to realize that she felt that she really didn’t even need a Savior.

Do you ever struggle with your faith? Years ago I met a young Christian that claimed she didn’t think she had ever sinned. It was incredibly sad to realize that she felt that she really didn’t even need a Savior.

Do you ever struggle with your faith? Years ago I met a young Christian that claimed she didn’t think she had ever sinned. It was incredibly sad to realize that she felt that she really didn’t even need a Savior.

Years ago I met a man about to lose his physical life that claimed he didn’t think he needed any help, that he didn’t need someone to save him. As he ignorantly faced certain death, he, much like the Christian, failed to recognize real danger and was perfectly comfortable in believing a lie… even if it cost life and soul.

The Apostle John expressed the problem like this: 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. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10)

So let me ask again, “Do you ever struggle with your faith?” Let’s consider our need for…

More Holiness

Originally written with the title of “My Prayer,” this is one of many songs by the well-known 1800s songwriter P. P. Bliss. While a large number of secular songs are about lost love and difficulties in life, most hymn writers share the good news of positive love and lessons from God.

In P. P. Bliss’ case, he shared his joy with his wife Lucy. Just three years after he wrote what he often talked about as his favorite prayer song he and his wife lost their lives in a railway crash when a bridge collapsed. P. P. Bliss was last seen alive trying to rescue Lucy from the burning wreckage of the train.

The great lesson of this prayer is an important one for each of us as we are called to live like Christ’s family in this world where there are so many challenges to our faith.

More holiness give me, more strivings within.

More patience in suffering, more sorrow for sin.

More faith in my Savior, more sense of His care.

More joy in His service, more purpose in prayer.

Jesus’ request in the Garden of Gethsemane for God’s will to be done is not, as many see it, a cop-out for not getting our own way. Rather it is the most mature and difficult request we can make of our Father. A request for God to do what is truly best and that we will not be just okay with it but truly accept it as our will, too.

When we’ve truly let go of our lives and let God direct us, we can begin to grow in the right direction. Seeing His will and truly accepting it leads to real faith, real understanding, real joy and real purpose.

More gratitude give me, more trust in the Lord.

More pride in His glory, more hope in His Word.

 More tears for His sorrows, more pain at His grief.

  More meekness in trial, more praise for relief.

Gratitude is one of the easiest positive attitudes to fake and one of the hardest to truly feel. It’s based on humility and understanding that He is truly greater than we are.

Never are we more vulnerable than when we lose our pride in ourselves. Never are we more grateful than when we find our greatest pride in our Savior! When we truly kneel at the cross and make Him our greatest joy we begin to appreciate the giver and His matchless gift.

More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome,

More freedom from earth-stains, more longings for home.

More fit for the kingdom, more useful I’d be,

More blessed and holy, more, Savior, like Thee.

Purity! It is so easy to say and so hard to maintain. Like a young child trying to keep clean when there’s a perfectly good mud puddle around, we struggle to keep pure in a world filled with seemingly fun and desirable sin. It is a lifelong struggle but one that is oh so worth making if we would just remember what home is like.

Too many times we confuse God’s wonderful mercy and grace with a false sense of humility. Yes, we are sinners and yes, we are never worthy of God’s matchless gift of forgiveness. But the very moment we excuse our failure to do our very best in obedient service, we risk being totally unfit, unholy and unblessed.

Few Scriptures are more threatening to this excuse-making than Hebrews 6:4-6. As we are challenged to quit acting like babies and grow up (a challenge the Apostle Paul also made in Ephesians 4:14-16), we are reminded that if we do not grow into greater holiness that we will lose everything that Christ died to accomplish.

May we always continue to strive to be more fit for the kingdom, more useful, more blessed and holy, more like Jesus!

— Lester P. Bagley