11/3/18 ~ Degrees of Punishment and Reward

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago a dear brother and fellow preacher and I were looking at what the Scriptures say about degrees of punishment and reward. It is an interesting study and one that, like everything God teaches us, points us directly to the importance of handling God’s word correctly.

There is really no point in giving the false arguments and wishful thinking of those who disagree with God. So, let’s look at what Scripture actually says about…

Degrees of Punishment & Reward

Reward

To begin with, degrees of reward has virtually no real support. 1 Peter 4:18 is not so much a comment on degrees of reward as it is on the difficulty of salvation, much like Jesus’ lesson of the broad vs narrow ways. It is thus fitting that Peter is also the one to remind us (2 Peter 1:11) that, because of our Savior, our entrance into heaven is NEVER just “barely making it into the pearly gates” but rather is an “abundant” entrance.

Yes, there are several times that Jesus refers to varying rewards. “The five talent man received five more but the two talent man ‘only’ received two more,” you say. On the other hand, Jesus plainly provoked the ire of those who believe in degrees of reward with his lesson in Matthew 20:1-15. There He tells of the one working only the last hour of the day as receiving the same reward as the one that worked longer hours.

The balance between teachings that seemingly suggest greater rewards is offset by those teaching equality of reward for all. So we must conclude, as with any other imagined contradiction in scripture, that the idea of greater rewards is our misunderstanding of God’s point. John describes many of the eternal blessings of heaven (Revelation 21:1-4). But never does he suggest that anyone in heaven receives only some tears wiped away or only some pain removed or only some eternal life. Like Jesus’s example of the talents, the real reward is the gift of God and not to be measured.

Yes, there are plenty of people that see various rewards, some rich and happy in heaven and some miserable, or even temporary punishments to further qualify one for heaven. Since those positions take a lot of work at misunderstanding what God says they rightly belong to the study of denominational doctrines and other false teachings.

Punishment

Degrees of punishment requires a bit deeper study, but again, we have to be careful about the meaning inserted by false teachers. Matthew 12:41–42; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 11:31–32; 20:47 are all passages in which Jesus speaks of “greater condemnation” for some people. Note that it’s not always the same people, so the exact reason for the comparison (hotter seats next to the fires?) is not really stated. We must be careful not to make more than is actually said, since in each case Jesus’ point is that it is worse for you (His subjects) than for everyone else in general.

Two further passages make an interesting lesson as they are often seen as in opposition to each other: James 3:1 is used as a “popular excuse” NOT to teach the Gospel. In contrast, Hebrews 5:12 counters that interpretation by saying maturity in Christ requires ALL to be teachers. Is James perhaps using some of the same sarcasm Jesus often used to suggest that those rejecting Him felt that they “needed” less forgiveness than the “common” sinners? Certainly, James knew that failure to actually obey the “Great Commission” as part of our obedience to the whole of Christ’s teaching would NOT result in salvation!

2 Peter 2:21 is often used to “prove” a worse punishment for those that once were faithful. While they “could” have one of those “seats closer to the fire,” it certainly could also remind us that eternal punishment will certainly be a self-inflicted “worse” for someone knowing for all eternity that they had no excuse of ignorance to fall back on, while that same “ignorance” defense might allow others to feel a bit less tormented.

That last discussion also leads to the oft-debated “ignorance” plea. Will God actually condemn those that do not know His word? God never has accepted the “ignorance” plea as Leviticus 26:14, 18, 27; Deuteronomy 28:15; Romans 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17 all show. His standard has always been much like that of a parent, “did you DO what you were told” and unaccepting of the “I didn’t hear you” excuse.

Jesus made an interesting observation and gives us a bit more to think about in the explanation of a parable dealing with being prepared for Jesus’ return (Luke 12:39-40). When Peter asks about the target of that preparedness parable, Jesus responds with a lesson contrasting faithful servants and unfaithful servants thinking they can get away with something (Luke 12:41-46).

The conclusion Jesus draws is three-fold. First, the slave that willingly fails to obey will “receive many lashes” (Luke 12:47). Second, the slave that did wrong out of “ignorance” will receive “few lashes” (Luke 12:48). Third, the Lord’s final comment on the matter is the reminder that the more we know and are given by God, the more God requires of us (end of Luke 12:48).

Putting all this together brings us to two important lessons:

1) Our reward is based on grace. Our “merit” is that of Jesus who gave His life for us. Thus, the abundance of that inheritance is enjoyed by all because they gave their all. Without giving God our ALL, there is no hope of heaven.

2) Punishment is dealt out to those who do not OBEY the will of Jesus, whatever the excuse. One might well receive a technically lesser punishment for ignorance, but it will never be anything like the reward for obedient service. Spending eternity cheering partial failure is no more a win than any other loss.

There is no second-place finish when it comes to salvation. Either we “fight the good fight… finish the course” and “keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) and receive the same crown prepared for all, or else there is no crown, no win. God’s promises belong to those that faithfully DO His will. What are you doing when it comes to obedience to the Gospel?

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/28/18 ~ The True Story of Satan

Lucifer Morningstar [Tom Ellis] by BeMyOopsHi

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Inquiring minds want to know! That made a lot of money for a magazine, but over the years most people have realized that the articles were pure fiction. People have always enjoyed fiction. Adam and Eve enjoyed (however briefly) the fiction that eating from a certain tree would make them just like God. But fiction is still false and never has the lasting enjoyment of truth.

We’ve all heard a lot of fiction about the Bible and one of the greatest subjects is Satan. There are some imaginative stories about his name and where he came from. So, let’s check out a bit of fiction and replace it with truth:

The True Story of Satan

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he discusses hearsay (Matthew 5:21-48). His ultimate point is that people often misrepresent what God has actually said and that God expects His people to truly know and follow the real teachings of God. The Jews had made up so many stories, so many myths and fables that they often confused what God had actually said with what they thought or imagined on a subject.

The Apostle Paul dealt with much the same issue as he gave instructions to his fellow preachers Timothy and Titus. To Titus (1:13-14) he says that, because human lies are not trustworthy, those who teach them are to be severely reproved so that they may be sound in the faith not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.

Likewise, Timothy is commanded to point out these various sins to Christians (1 Timothy 4:1-6) and (verse 7) to have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. Paul goes on to describe this as self-discipline for the purpose of godliness.

Now, after all that, let’s get to Satan. What is his story? Where did he come from? Is he a fallen angel? Was he actually God’s chief angel? Oh, and very important, what about his name: Lucifer?

As far as what Scripture actually says… There is today no such being or person as Lucifer!

Wait a minute! Doesn’t the Bible say that Lucifer is the devil’s name? In fact, one of the frequent claims of the King James Version worshipers is that other Bibles leave out the name Lucifer and so they are frauds!

The King James Bible frequently consulted the Latin (in plain English, the very manuscripts most often corrupted by the Catholic church and used for their frequent false teachings) and from them chose to use a Latin word rather than the Hebrew. One has to suspect, though it’s hard to trace, that Lucifer was perhaps an early medieval name and myth about the angel that fell and became Satan. But in reality, no such story exists anywhere in Scripture.

The KJV turned a fairy tale into a wild story that’s repeated by “everyone” today. There are two “proof” passages. First is Ezekiel 28. Verses 1-10 are usually accepted as being about the human king of Tyre (after all, it says that in verse two). But verses 11-19 are claimed to be all about Lucifer. Just for reference, verse 12 says almost the same thing as verse two. The discussion in God’s own words is all about the king of Tyre. If you actually read it, there is nothing about Lucifer or Satan actually there at all!

The second “proof” text is, of course, Isaiah 14 and especially verse 12 where God this time applies the term to the King of Babylon. The KJV is the first to use the Latin term as a proper name and totally invent something that is never in the Bible.

The Hebrew has: “heleyl, ben shachar” which is literally “shining one, son of dawn.” This phrase means, again literally, the planet Venus when it appears as a morning star. In the Septuagint it is translated as “heosphoros” which also means Venus as a morning star.

The Latin word lucifer is first used in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. In Latin at the time, lucifer actually refers to Venus as a morning star. Isaiah is using this metaphor for a bright light, though not the greatest light to illustrate the apparent power of the Babylonian king which then faded. The KJV translators took an old Latin adjective and made it a proper noun to agree with their mythical beliefs. That’s neither good linguistics nor good theology!

As for Satan, we know absolutely nothing from God about where he came from! Is he actually a fallen angel? Scripture never says that. It DOES say a few other things on the subject:

2 Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan DISGUISES himself as an angel of light. Revelation 12:9 says that Satan was/is cast down (out of heaven presumably) with his angels at the crucifixion. And Matthew 25:41 says that the eternal fire (of hell) is prepared for the devil and his angels.

So, honestly, to say anything about Lucifer and Satan as being the same, or anything about where Satan came from is to indulge in either medieval fairy tales or sheer, ignorant speculation without a leg to stand on.

As God’s people, let’s make a point of NOT paying attention to myths and worldly fables… just like God tells us! Let’s stick with and place our trust in the firm foundation of God’s word as our God commands us to do.

Where Scripture actually speaks, let us speak boldly. Where Scripture is silent, let us keep the silence of God.

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/21/18 ~ I am resolved!

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Remember those New Year’s resolutions? A new year is always seen with optimism. We courageously make our resolutions without much of a backward glance at success or failure in times past. Yes, that will cause us to joke about previous resolutions that were unfulfilled, but it never seems to seriously diminish that new resolve. Of course, today those New Year’s resolutions are far behind us. In fact, it’s almost time to begin anew.

Actually, it IS a perfect time to begin anew! Today we begin our Gospel Meeting. Today we welcome James DuBose and his wife, Susie. We look forward to his lessons on fighting and winning the spiritual battle that is our earthly life. Wouldn’t NOW be a good time to renew our resolve?

I Am Resolved…

The song we sometimes sing says it well: I am resolved no longer to linger, Charmed by the world’s delight; Things that are higher, things that are nobler, These have allured my sight.

There are many good things that we may do with our lives. The earthly philanthropist, the heroic soldier or civilian may do many good things. But only in Jesus, only serving Him and the church He died for (see Ephesians 5:25) may we do the greater things. Terrorism and the events of 9/11 gave us all a new and much-improved standard for heroes. May we set our standards even higher, that we may no longer be enamored by lesser things. May we resolve to focus on Christ!

I am resolved to go to the Savior, Leaving my sin and strife; He is the true One, He is the just One, He has the words of life.

How sad when we allow earthly things to come between Christians. So often we are self-willed and self-centered, thinking that others (and even God) should do it my way. But Jesus calls us to leave our ways behind and take on His ways, His thoughts and His priorities. May we resolve that “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

I am resolved to follow the Savior, Faithful and true each day, Heed what He says, do what He wills, He is the living way.

Recently I read an article about a TV psychologist proclaiming to all who would listen that modern psychology made people’s lives better by teaching them to deal with things one day at a time. What a load of nonsense! Jesus Christ was teaching God’s people to do that some 2000 years ago! (Read Matthew 6:25-33 for one example.)

The challenge for us is to live like He wants us to! Let’s resolve to help each other be faithful and true, obedient and living for Him one day at a time. Let us “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).

I am resolved to enter the Kingdom, Leaving the paths of sin; Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me, Still will I enter in.

Certainly, the challenges to our faithfulness will be there today, this month, this year. But victors are those who rise above the challenges. Let us resolve to be living, active parts of the Kingdom, the body of Christ today and always. Of course, this resolve needs to be renewed each day! But as long as we begin today we can be successful!

I will hasten to Him, Hasten so glad and free, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee!

Let’s go together, encouraging, loving and helping each one from youngest to oldest, large and small. Let’s resolve to make today our finest day of service to our Savior, to the lost and to each other… as long as it is still called “Today!” Let’s resolve together to hasten to Jesus!

— Lester P. Bagley

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10/14/18 ~ My soul magnifies You

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My soul magnifies you, Jehovah God. You are the Creator of my life and the Savior of my Spirit. The love you have for my soul overwhelms me. You give meaning to life when there are no answers. You give hope when nothing is working out right. You even allow me to share in a little of your glory and to show others what it is. You are my laughter and tears of joy. You are my contentment and my all.

Yesterday you made me forget myself a little while and talk to people about their problems and needs. It is still not enough. Make me reach out in more concern. Forgive me when I surround myself with my selfishness.

Thank you, Lord God of my soul, for taking notice of me, even though I am a sinner unworthy of your presence. I adore you and revere you. I fall at your feet in gratitude. You stopped at nothing to save me from Satan and hell, even though I do not always honor you. Your love is stronger than sin and Satan, danger and death. Your love transcends worlds and envelopes me in safety.

9/9/18 ~ God, I’m coming back. Help me.

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“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3a).

Do you spend your life running away from the Lord? Do you do it with busy-ness, with resentments toward people, with anger that God does not make people stop being bad to you, with disbelief that he even exists?

Is it even possible to run away from the Lord? Eventually, it is. But for a long time, the Lord runs after you. He does things to get your attention such as he did by causing a storm at sea where Jonah was on board his escape ship.

Perhaps there are storms in your life. Have you ever thought of them as God trying to get your attention?  Perhaps you run here and there day after day, too busy to even think about God. But when disaster hits do you suddenly remember God so you can blame him for your hardships?

Yes, perhaps you sometimes do blame God, but at least you’re thinking of him. Perhaps it’s been years since you have thought seriously about God.

He has big shoulders. Go ahead and blame him for a while, then remember how he loves you and just wants you back.

But don’t wait too long. God only runs after you for so long. Eventually, he gives up. Don’t wait so long that God gives up on you and treats you the way you have been treating him.

“God, I’m coming back. Help me.”

8/19/18 – Seven Pillars of Wisdom

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

We’ve all done foolish things in our lives. But one of the most important lessons we have to learn is the difference between making a foolish mistake or error and being a fool. To be a great fool you can’t learn from the mistake, you can’t do better or try harder next time.

Of course, the Bible is full of reminders for us to learn. And Solomon even begins a lesson for us on how to build and sustain real wisdom:

 Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1).

Solomon naturally had a lot of good advice about wisdom. As his life demonstrated, all the wisdom and knowledge in the world doesn’t do much good without obedience. God would remind us of both great truths frequently in the New Testament. Without knowledge, we can never accidentally be right, and yet without wisdom in using that knowledge, we can easily be legalistically wrong.

Obviously, like so much else of God’s word, striking the right balance is key. Since we, God’s people, are the temple of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17), how are we to appreciate the wise way of building that temple?

Two of Solomon’s words form the key to his lesson. First, house is a unique word in Hebrew in that it seems to have such a broad meaning that there are many other words said to be nearly synonymous.

For example, a house may be a dwelling or building, a castle, a palace, a temple, a settled abode, a settlement or village, a dwelling, a refuge, a sacred place or sanctuary. Second, pillars may rarely be used for the foundations of a building, but usually, the term is reserved for the large load-bearing columns of temples or similar buildings.

One could then reasonably imply that wisdom’s house is not just a lower class, common building but rather an impressive permanent structure.

The word hewn is a somewhat technical reference to the work involved in the preparation of either a wooden or stone load bearing column of large size. The NIV misses the point in using set up for the total work that both fabrication and assembly involved.

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10), the proper starting place is the Lord! Without proper honoring of our God and Savior and knowledge of Him and His will, we have nothing to build on.

Since we are next going to look at a comment by James, one of the elders of the church at Jerusalem, let’s first remember a bit about who he was. Growing up as part of Jesus’ earthly family he at first failed to believe (John 7:5). He would be a witness of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:7) and eventually a faithful elder of the church (Acts 15:6, 13 and Acts 21:18). As such he took a strong stand for the Gentile Christians and also wrote a New Testament letter to Jewish Christians.

In that letter, he reminds us all of the great value of wisdom and reminds us that if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5). Next, he challenges us: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (James 3:13) And finally, he shows us: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Did you notice the link to Solomon’s lesson? James suggests the seven pillars begin with the great pillar of purity. Purer in heart, oh God, help me to be the song reminds us. Purity is the foundation, the strength and, in many ways, the hardest thing of all for us to keep. Go back and look at the many Old Testament laws related to purity. There are countless ways to fail and it’s always a challenge to keep pure and holy before our God!
Only when we begin with purity do we ever start to accomplish the other goals.

Peaceable, gentle and reasonable are not to be confused, as many do, with weakness or acceptance of wrong. Jesus exhibited all three qualities, even when he whipped men out of the Temple or was rebuking those proud of their sinful accomplishments!

Full of mercy and good fruits involves both the mental attitudes as well as the outward works. Mercy shown to others allows God to show mercy to us and the actions of doing good shows that we really mean it.

Unwavering and without hypocrisy make wisdom beyond the abilities of fraudsters. God has no need of quitters or lousy actors that do not actually live the life and walk the walk of His family.

Like Jesus taught in another lesson, a house ~ indeed a life ~ built on the sand is doomed. One must build on the firm foundation to endure. The obvious challenge and question for us is a simple one. On what are you building your life, your house for eternity?
 

— Lester P. Bagley

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8/5/18 – A Tale of Five Good Deeds

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Years ago, back when the internet and email were just beginning to be used by many people, a good friend sent me a list of five lessons. I’m sure that they have all been retold many times and probably with some changes. But this is what he sent:

Five Lessons for God’s People

First Lesson: The Cleaning Lady

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “Hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Second Lesson: Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960’s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.

Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely,

Mrs. Nat King Cole.

Third Lesson: Always Remember Those Who Serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.

“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired.

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

Fourth Lesson: The Obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King’s’ wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Fifth Lesson: Giving When it Counts

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had somehow survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Like the stories Jesus told, these are simple little lessons that have some great spiritual lessons for us. In fact, these each have parallels in scripture… if only we will listen and pay attention.

So, how do you do with paying attention to others that you might win their souls? Do you truly reflect the character of Jesus rather than that of the society that you live in? Do you take time to honor those who serve? Are you a complainer or a doer in the Lord’s Kingdom?

And finally, since your Savior gave His all for you… what do you actually offer to give to Him?

Yes, these are important lessons and each one may show far more about who we really are than anything that we might say. As a Christian, a child of the King… who are you really?

— Lester P. Bagley

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7/28/18 ~ Jesus, our Passover Lamb

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks of travel visiting and talking with congregations and with preachers and elders. I’ve observed congregations, preachers and elders that truly love the Lord and His church. Faithful saints that continue to mold their lives after Jesus and share the good news with others.

No, they are not perfect and no one is more aware of that fact than they are. But they are constantly in the Word of God and making the effort to actually be the people of God.

Sadly, there are the others, too. Those that have “left their first love,” those that have “gone out from us but are not really of us.” These continue to mock the Lord’s will and spurn the “faith that was once for all delivered” by God.

Each of these sights causes me to remember a special day of the Old Testament Law and to recall how much more it means to us now:

The Day of Atonement

Yes, I do know that this “Day” occurs in the Autumn. But bear with me for a moment and think.

Yom Kippur is the Hebrew term for the Day of Atonement. For Israel, it began with God’s forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). An annual reminder of both their failure and God’s mercy, it is so much more than that.

Israel’s failure is one of those “How COULD you ever do that” events. God had already told them the basics of honoring Him who delivered them from Egyptian bondage. They had already seen incredible miracles of His love and salvation for them. And yet they so quickly forgot, gave credit to the ridiculous and willingly did what they knew was wrong. They were human and they were failures in serving God.

While every day is important and holy, this day was the most holy day of the Jewish year. With this day they remembered their very essence, what made them who they are at their peak of greatness. They remembered God having a relationship with them that transcended the most horrible mistakes in their lives!

The celebration of this Day is likened to being angels. Only spiritual needs are to be catered to, a whole day of devotion to God in repentance and prayer. A day to not only BE better but to prepare to continue to be better for the next year.

Every single thing leading up to and on this Day is centered around God. The one thing they once forgot is now their priority. The one focus they lost is now their goal to remember forever. The failures of sin become the obsession. We must forgive others, we must obtain forgiveness for ourselves from others, we must strive to be better, and most especially, we must determine to honor our God!

There are all kinds of suggestions for help with all of this. There are great lists that challenge both thoughts and actions. And then, as the day draws to an end there is a solemn reminder that, as the first three stars appear in the evening, God has sealed your fate in the Book of Life.

At that point, all the questions turn to joyous confidence in forgiveness. A new year has begun with the resolve to BE the person God has called and intended you to be.

The first thing we ought to compare all of this to is our Day of Atonement. The day our Lord turned it all around by Him dying for our sins rather than visiting death on us as we so richly deserved. Our failures, our sins were what led Him to the cross to die, not for Himself, but for us.

Does that day alone make you go WOW! Does that totally amaze us that He would love us so much? Shouldn’t it?

The second thing we ought to compare all this to is every Lord’s Day, every First Day of the Week. Since we have so much greater blessings and so much greater forgiveness (1 John 1:7-8 says His blood keeps on cleansing us) we ought to be so much more mindful of His sacrifice.

Since God has always made clear that our forgiveness from Him is dependent on our forgiveness of others (cf. Luke 11:4), the third thing we ought to compare all this to is how well we do at forgiving. Forgiveness of sins is not limited to those that “deserve” it… because no one ever deserves it!

The final aspect of our comparison must be the future. How, in light of all God’s mercy for us, will we do in being faithful in the future? Paul put it like this: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

When we read of the Old Testament Day of Atonement we need to make the application to our even greater Day of Atonement in Christ. And when we see the failure of others, those that have “left their first love,” those that have “gone out from us but are not really of us,” we must resolve to do better. We must choose to not only accept atonement but to continue to live holy lives in the future!

How could they forget? How could we forget?

— Lester P. Bagley

7/22/18 ~ What Color is Heaven?

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“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

This amazing promise applies to us today. It also applies to eternity. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive heaven. That is why so much of Revelation is symbolic. The symbols are beautiful, so try going one step beyond reading how Revelation describes heaven, and make a drawing of what you think it looks like. Then colorize it all those beautiful colors. Revelation 21:12,13,21:

Each of the 12 GATES is named after one of the Tribes of Israel and has an angel guarding it. Make the gates pearl. Make the angel over the gate white or yellow.

Revelation 21:17, 18a: Make the WALL jasper, which is a light see-through green.

Revelation 21:16, 18b: Heaven is full of many MANSIONS (John 14:2). Make them a translucent (see-through) gold.

Revelation 21:21: The STREETS of the city are like crystal and gold. Make them a translucent (see-through) gold also.

Revelation 22:1: The RIVER OF LIFE runs through heaven coming out from the throne of God. Make it blue.

Revelation 4:6a: The CHRYSTAL SEA is in front of God’s throne. Make it blue.

Revelation 22:2: The TREE OF LIFE grows on both sides of the River of Life. Make it green and brown.

Revelation 22:2: The ALTER OF INCENSE from Christians’ prayers is in front of the throne. Make it gold

Revelation 21:23: God’s THRONE is jasper and the glory of God is so brilliant, there is no need of a sun. Make the area of the throne silver/white.

Revelation 4:5: Around the throne of God are the seven SPIRITS of God, symbolized by seven lights. Make them yellow.

Revelation 4:3a: Near the Spirits, there is a ruby red GLOW around the throne of God. Make this inner arch red.

Revelation 4:3b: There is a RAINBOW over God’s throne. Make the arch at the very top over the throne emerald green.

~Excerpted from 365 LIFE-CHANGING SCRIPTURES DAY BY DATE

 



6/15/18 ~ Praising God with Music

Colorful spiral and a music note in the middle , thumb

David told the Levites to appoint “singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals“. Heman was the first one they appointed (I Chronicles 15:16f) and he had two assistants ~ Asaph and Merari (I Chronicles. 6:39, 44). David put them in charge of the music in the house of the Lord and they performed their duties according to the regulations (verses 31f).

So what David appointed was a choir and orchestra.  And these musicians had a full time job! They were to minister before the Lord “according to each day’s requirements” of sacrifices as written in the Law of Moses. Heman and the others were responsible for sounding the trumpets and cymbals and playing the other instruments ~ lyres, harps and cymbals (15:19-21) ~ for sacred song (16:37-42). In addition to playing the prescribed lyres, harps and cymbals, trumpets were to be sounded to announce sacrifices, etc. (16:4-6).

By the time David was old, there were “four thousand…to praise the Lord with the musical instruments” (I Chronicles 23:5. And what instruments were they still playing? Cymbals, lyres and harps “for the ministry at the house of God” (I Chronicles. 25:1 & 6).

Years later after David died and his son Solomon had completed the grand Temple in Jerusalem (II Chronicles. 5:1), “all the Levites who were musicians…stood on the east side of the altar dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres, accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison as with one voice to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and the other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord” (verses 12-13).

Can you imagine such an orchestra and choir? The tinkling of the harps and lyres, with cymbals keeping the tempo, and trumpets calling attention to it all? And all those singers! Was God pleased? Indeed he was, for in the form of a cloud “the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God” (verse 14).

Three centuries later when Hezekiah was king, the same instruments were being played ~ cymbals, harps and lyres (II Chronicles. 29:25f). Why? Because they were prescribed by David, Gad the seer and Nathan the prophet as commanded by God through his prophets. (Acts 2:29-30 says David was a prophet too.)

Interestingly, although God specified every detail of the instruments that had to be played in the Old Testament, nothing like that was specified in the New Testament. Did God forget? Perhaps God took us to a higher plain in the New Testament era. We do know that in I Corinthians 14:15, we are told to both pray and sing with mind and spirit.

And in Ephesians 5:19 we are told to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” The term “make music” in the original Greek language of the New Testament is to play on strings. Since we are to make music in our hearts, then it looks like we are to play on the instrument of our heart. How beautiful!