6/15/18 ~ Praising God with Music

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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!

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7/8/18 ~ Fun with Bible Numbers

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 MATTHEW

 

  1. _____ Joseph was warned by God to flee Bethlehem and hide in Egypt since Herod would kill all babies under age 2 (Matthew 2:13). It was approximately 100 milies to the border of Egypt from Bethlehem, and another 200 miles to the Nile River where most of the cities were. How many miles away was their probable destination?

 

  1. _____ With a day’s journey averaging 5 miles, about how many days did it take them to travel?

 

  1. _____ Herod was very jealous of his kingship, and even slew these members of his own family because they were getting too popular: His brother-in-law, his grandfather-in-law, his favorite wife, his two sons (Josephus, pp. 317-355). How many of his own family did he kill to protect his crown?

 

  1. _____ Jesus was actually born BC 6 (the Christian calendar was a few years off), and late in BC 4 King Herod died. If this was the time Jesus was “called out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:15), he would have been how old then?

 

  1. _____ After Jesus was grown and baptized by his second cousin John the Baptist, he fasted and prayed 40 days (Matthew 4:2). About how many weeks did he go without food?

 

  1. _____ Afterwards, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and called two brothers, Peter and Andrew, then two more brothers, James and John ~ all fisherman (Matthew 4:18~21). How many of his 12 apostles were not fishermen?

 

  1. _____ Jesus healed a woman with a flow of blood for 12 years (Matthew 9:20). How many months was she ceremonially unclean and kept from Temple worship?

 

  1. _____ Two sparrows were sold for a father (Matthew 10:28). How many cents did one sparrow cost if one farthing is worth .08 cents?

 

  1. _____ From 5 loaves and 2 fishes Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 14:17~21). If there were as many women as men and as many children as men, how many people in all may have been fed?

 

  1. _____ During the 4th watch of the night Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:25). The first watch started about 6:00 PM. A watch lasted 3 hours. What time did he walk on the water?

328. _____ Later, with 7 loaves and a few fishes, Jesus fed another crowd of 4,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 15:36~38). If there were as many women as men and as many children as men, how many in all may have been fed?

 

329. _____ Jesus said we should forgive our brother (friend) 70 x 7 (Matthew 18:22). If taken literally, how many times should we forgive one person?

 

330. _____ Jesus told the parable of a king who was kind to a servant who owed him 10,000 talents (Matthew 18:24~28). If it was a silver talent, it was worth $12,000. How much did the first servant owe the king?

 

331. _____ The above servant had a servant of his own who he had arrested and thrown into jail for owing him 100 pence. A pence is worth $1. How much did the second servant owe the first servant?

 

332. _____ How much more did the first ungrateful servant owe than the second servant he had jailed?

 

333. _____ Jesus told another parable of a farmer who hired laborers for a penny a day (Matthew 20:2). A penny then was worth about 35 cents (average day’s wages). How much per hour did they earn in a 12~hour working day?

 

334. _____ Jesus told the parable of ten brides maids going to a wedding (Matthew 25:1~3). Five were wise because they took along enough oil to keep their lamps lit that evening and last them until the feast began. How many were foolish because they didn’t plan ahead?

 

 

335. _____ Jesus told the parable of a man being given 10 talents, another 5 talents, and another 1 talent (Matthew 25:15) to invest for him. Assuming these were talents of silver, how many dollars was the first man given?

 

336. _____ How many dollars was the second man given?

337. _____ How many dollars was the third man given?

 

338. _____ How many dollars did the master give them in all?

 

339. _____ The first two doubled what they had received (Matthew 25:16, 17) and returned it to their master. How much did they together return?

 

340. _____ Judas was offered 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15). If a piece of silver was a shekel of silver worth $4, then for how many dollars did Judas betray his Lord?

 

341. _____ When Jesus was betrayed, He could have brought down 12 legions of angels to save him (Matthew 26:5). A legion is about 5,000. How many angels would that have been?

 

342. _____ When Jesus was crucified, there was darkness from the 6th hour to the 9th hour (Matthew 27:45). The first hour of the Jewish day began about 6:00 AM. What time did it turn dark during the crucifixion?

7/8/18 ~ Fun With Bible Numbers

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MATTHEW

315. _____ The generations listed by Matthew from Abraham to David were 14, from David to the Babylonian captivity were 14, and from the Babylonian captivity to Jesus Christ were 14 (Matthew 1:17). How many generations were listed in all?

 

316. _____ In Psalm 51:5, David said he was conceived in sin. In Deuteronomy 23:2, the Law stated that if an illegitimate son was born, 10 generations following would be considered ceremonially unclean and not able to go to the Tabernacle (later, the Temple). Judah had an illegitimate son named Phares. His son was Esrom, his son Aram, then Aminidab, Naason, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse and finally David. What generation was David from Phares? What generation built the Temple?

 

317. _____ At the time of Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east saw the star and came to see Jesus (Matthew

 

_____  2:1, 2). WISEMEN comes from the Greek word usually referring to astrologers in Persia (today’s Iran). Persia was about 1,000 miles from Bethlehem. A day’s journey was about 10 miles; but on a longer journey, it would be about 5 miles with herds for food and more supplies. How many days did it possibly take the wise men to arrive in Bethlehem? That’s about how many months?

 

318. _____ Joseph was warned by God to flee Bethlehem and hide in Egypt since Herod would kill all babies under age 2 (Matthew 2:13). It was approximately 100 milies to the border of Egypt from Bethlehem, and another 200 miles to the Nile River where most of the cities were. How many miles away was their probable destination?

 

319. _____ With a day’s journey averaging 5 miles, about how many days did it take them to travel?

 

320. _____ Herod was very jealous of his kingship, and even slew these members of his own family because they were getting too popular: His brother-in-law, his grandfather-in-law, his favorite wife, his two sons (Josephus, pp. 317-355). How many of his own family did he kill to protect his crown?

 

321. _____ Jesus was actually born BC 6 (the Christian calendar was a few years off), and late in BC 4 King Herod died. If this was the time Jesus was “called out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:15), he would have been how old then?

 

322. _____ After Jesus was grown and baptized by his second cousin John the Baptist, he fasted and prayed 40 days (Matthew 4:2). About how many weeks did he go without food?

 

323. _____ Afterwards, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and called two brothers, Peter and Andrew, then two more brothers, James and John ~ all fisherman (Matthew 4:18~21). How many of his 12 apostles were not fishermen?

 

324. _____ Jesus healed a woman with a flow of blood for 12 years (Matthew 9:20). How many months was she ceremonially unclean and kept from Temple worship?

 

325. _____ Two sparrows were sold for a father (Matthew 10:28). How many cents did one sparrow cost if one farthing is worth .08 cents?

 

326. _____ From 5 loaves and 2 fishes Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 14:17~21). If there were as many women as men and as many children as men, how many people in all may have been fed?

 

 

327. _____ During the 4th watch of the night Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:25). The first watch started about 6:00 PM. A watch lasted 3 hours. What time did he walk on the water?

 

328. _____ Later, with 7 loaves and a few fishes, Jesus fed another crowd of 4,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 15:36~38). If there were as many women as men and as many children as men, how many in all may have been fed?

 

329. _____ Jesus said we should forgive our brother (friend) 70 x 7 (Matthew 18:22). If taken literally, how many times should we forgive one person?

 

330. _____ Jesus told the parable of a king who was kind to a servant who owed him 10,000 talents (Matthew 18:24~28). If it was a silver talent, it was worth $12,000. How much did the first servant owe the king?

 

331. _____ The above servant had a servant of his own who he had arrested and thrown into jail for owing him 100 pence. A pence is worth $1. How much did the second servant owe the first servant?

 

332. _____ How much more did the first ungrateful servant owe than the second servant he had jailed?

 

333. _____ Jesus told another parable of a farmer who hired laborers for a penny a day (Matthew 20:2). A penny then was worth about 35 cents (average day’s wages). How much per hour did they earn in a 12~hour working day?

 

334. _____ Jesus told the parable of ten brides maids going to a wedding (Matthew 25:1~3). Five were wise because they took along enough oil to keep their lamps lit that evening and last them until the feast began. How many were foolish because they didn’t plan ahead?

 

 

335. _____ Jesus told the parable of a man being given 10 talents, another 5 talents, and another 1 talent (Matthew 25:15) to invest for him. Assuming these were talents of silver, how many dollars was the first man given?

 

336. _____ How many dollars was the second man given?

 

337. _____ How many dollars was the third man given?

 

338. _____ How many dollars did the master give them in all?

 

339. _____ The first two doubled what they had received (Matthew 25:16, 17) and returned it to their master. How much did they together return?

 

340. _____ Judas was offered 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15). If a piece of silver was a shekel of silver worth $4, then for how many dollars did Judas betray his Lord?

 

341. _____ When Jesus was betrayed, He could have brought down 12 legions of angels to save him (Matthew 26:5). A legion is about 5,000. How many angels would that have been?

 

342. _____ When Jesus was crucified, there was darkness from the 6th hour to the 9th hour (Matthew 27:45). The first hour of the Jewish day began about 6:00 AM. What time did it turn dark during the crucifixion?

 

(Excerpted from the book FUN WITH BIBLE NUMBERS by Katheryn Maddox Haddad)

 

 

July 1, 2018 ~ Bless the Lord

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

Bless the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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6/24/18 ~ Proof of Obedience

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

When I leave the USA to travel overseas, and again when I return home, I am required to show proof of my citizenship. Apparently, I can’t just claim to be Superman from the planet Krypton and get away with it!

Is the same thing true with serving God? Does what we actually say and do matter? Let’s consider God’s requirements for…

Proof of Obedience

We all understand those simple facts about citizenship when it comes to earthly matters. What’s sad is that many people assert you can just fool God by claiming (perhaps very loudly as Elijah once suggested to the followers of Baal in 1 Kings 18?) to be a Christian even if you never actually do and prove the things that really go into making a Christian.

When the world says, “Just accept or welcome Jesus into your heart and you will be saved” they are NOT quoting from Scripture but rather are contradicting everything God actually says! In Matthew 7:21 Jesus flatly states, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. In the next two verses (22 and 23)

He expands their complaint to the Judgement Day: Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Without proof, without obedience, we are NOT saved and we are NOT Christ’s family! So the urgent need becomes a question of HOW to prove our claim. The answer from God is that our obedience to God is our proof!

The doctrine of faith alone (the more accurate meaning is: wishful thinking!) resulting in salvation is never taught by God. Jesus demands that we understand this: Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46) If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15) If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)

The Apostle John obviously faced the same false teaching and attitude as he repeatedly told Christians that the proof of their faith was in the obedience: By this, we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).

And if we need it more clearly explained, John continues: 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; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:4-6)

Walking in the light (1 John 1:7) is never just doing our own thing, our own way. God tells us that the very definition of loving God is obedience: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

As God pictures the story of salvation in Revelation, He reminds us that Satan is enraged by faithful obedience: So the dragon was enraged with the woman and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17)

Finally, God reminds us that real faithfulness is obedience: Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

What we DO is the proof of who we are: Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:7-8a).

When you put it all together the real question is simple: Who do YOU belong to? We can claim until the cows come home that we are God’s people, but unless we actually obey Him and live like it, we are deceiving ourselves but not fooling God in the least.

So, how shall we live and act this week?

— Lester P. Bagley

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6/17/18 ~ What is past

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you a time traveler? Many of us enjoy the past for the lessons it provides us for both now and the future. Hopefully, all of us learn from the past or else we are doomed to repeat those same mistakes over and over again.

In spite of learning from the past, there is an important fact that we must remember. We can never time travel to redo or undo the past and, while it can be a lesson (good or bad), it can never be undone…or can it? That is the beginning of a vital lesson for us as Christians about…

What is Past

Human beings living on this earth are bounded by time. Time is linear, a straight line that moves from the past to the future; yet only today actually matters. What is past is fixed forever and we can never redo it.

When we consider those simple facts, we are left with discouragement and despair. It is only when God is brought into the equation that there is any reason for hope!

Paul has a great discussion of those facts: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

As failures without God, we are spectacular failures! We were enslaved to the things of this world (Galatians 4:3) and blinded by Satan to the Light of Life (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Fortunately, Paul also tells us of the hope that only God brings: But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in
kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that [grace is] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

The past, OUR past, is failure! Living in a fallen world of sin every single one of us has made the fatal choice of sin over obedience to God. Now we either give up in despair or find the only possible way forward that is in Christ!

Paul reminds us: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The change or transformation that God uses to correct our failures is nothing short of a spectacular miracle! The Holy Spirit chooses an interesting word for that transformation that God does (and continues to do) to/for us: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2)

The Greek word “transformed” (metamorphoō) in those two verses gives us our English word metamorphosis. In the insect world that change is seen as a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The only other use of this word in the New Testament is at what we usually call the “transfiguration of Jesus” in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2. Jesus did NOT just sparkle or change to white robes for the occasion, but rather he was “transformed” by God’s power! When we are baptized, when we are born again by the water and the Spirit of God we are changed, transfigured by the power of God into the image of Christ.

Paul challenges us: Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he (God) says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:1-2, NET)

Today is NOT the past. Today is the time for transformation. It’s time to move on and keep moving on from being a sinful, ugly worm to the beauty of being Christ! May we live today and into the future with the proud proclamation: I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20)!

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Lester P. Bagley

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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

Image result for horseshoes around stake

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