11/12/17 ~ Provocation

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingI don’t know if you are a fan of the Bee Gees or not, but they wrote and/or performed literally thousands of songs. Of the songs that they wrote, over 2,500 other singers have recorded them. So you probably have at least heard a some of their songs and may even have some favorites. One of their catchy and popular love songs was simply titled “Words” and it includes the reminder that “words are all I have to take your heart away.”

If you are not a fan of the Bee Gees perhaps you have at least heard the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And you may also realize just how false that little taunt really is. That, of course, is the point of the love song. Words can reach out and touch a heart and turn it to the right things.

Words really do have power. They have the power to challenge and inspire us, and the power to hurt and discourage us. And that is why the study of the words of God is so important. “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life” are lyrics that we sing to remind us as Christians of this very important lesson.

Take a moment to consider one of God’s extraordinary words, and both the bad and the good lessons that it offers to us:

Provocation

Have you ever used a stick to push someone or some animal along? Have you ever used words to provoke someone? Children may taunt someone with the intention of hurting their feelings and, sadly, adults may do the same thing. The word “provocation” means just that, trying to motivate them in some way by poking and prodding them.

In Deuteronomy, Moses uses the term several times to refer to the repeated disobedience of God’s people and how it caused Him to be angry (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25; 9:7, 18, 22; 32:16, 21). This would become a sadly repetitious theme in the relationship between God and His people as Judges 2:12 points out: and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger.

The time of the monarchy is all too similar to the time of the Judges as the kings, like the whole nation before them, repeatedly disobeyed God until they provoked Him to bring first the end of Israel and a few years later the captivity of Judah.

Provocations! Disobeying, dishonoring and ignoring the Lord and His will until such time as He would be fed up and punish them.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul did not want to take John Mark on the second missionary journey after Mark’s desertion on the first journey. The word that Luke used of the angry dispute between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) pictures an explosion. This provocation was so great that Paul and Barnabas split up for a time.

Sometime later on that very same journey, Paul would again be provoked as he observed the multitude of idols in the city of Athens (Acts 17:16). Like God when Israel and Judah chose to worship the false gods of the nations around them, it was appalling to see the extent of their provocations of the Lord Himself.

It’s often said that preachers’ lessons are directed at themselves as much as anybody else. Certainly, Paul understood that principle as he wrote his letters. Perhaps that is partly why he chose this same word of great provocation to be a reminder to us all in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked.

As strong as this word is in the negative form it is also used in a positive way with an equally strong lesson from the Holy Spirit. In Hebrews 10:24 we are urged by God to …consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Some translations actually use the literal translation of provoke.

How much effort do we give to encouragement? Have you ever been really good and angry, incensed and downright explosively angry? That is exactly how much effort God expects us to put into our positive encouragement of His people! What a thought! Explosively good and positive for God!

One last picture from God’s word to keep this all in the proper perspective comes from the Apostle Peter. Certainly, Peter knew about an explosive attitude and at times could be as volatile as any of us. Yet he writes to us to sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Think about that a moment. What follows involves us actually treating our God as the Holy Lord that He is!

Okay, so what’s the rest of Peter’s point? Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

We are called to BE the dynamite of God; His power used in this world of spiritual battle against the forces of Satan. And yet we use that very power for good in encouraging our fellow saints to serve and fight the good fight.

May we always be provoked to love and serve our Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

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The “I Love You” Game

Mitch Teemley

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I have a friend who’s unhappy in his marriage and is thinking of leaving. This is the conversation I hope to have with him.

“What should I do?” he asks, not really wanting to hear the answer.

“Put it to a vote.”

“What?”

“How would she vote?”

“Well, right now she’s hurt.”

“And the other two? They get a vote.”

“What other two? We don’t have kids.”

“God. He invented the thing, so guess what his vote will be.”

“Yeah.” He rolls his eyes. “And?”

“Us.”

“Us?”

“The person you created when you became ‘one flesh.’ Remember? The preacher said, ‘You are no longer two, but one. And, therefore, what God has joined together, let no one tear apart’ (Matthew 19:6). So you know how Us is gonna vote. Oh, and by the way, you already voted when you promised not to tear Us apart.

“But I don’t think I…

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11/5/17 ~ Lessons From God

From the Preacher’s Pen

RacineBuildingEveryone lives by some standard, some criteria for what is right and wrong, honorable or dishonorable. If we would look forward to God’s promises and blessings we must use His standard, the Bible, for our standard of right and wrong.

While God’s word, the Bible, is filled with many lessons for us, I would like to suggest a few things worthy of our time and effort to work on. Let’s consider a few…

Lessons from God

1. Wake Up! The Psalmist said, This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). God makes time for us. We should make time for Him and appreciate all that He has done for us. Everything in the Bible is a reminder pointing us to God. Don’t sleep, though, and miss out on what is really important.

2. Dress Up! No, the clothes you may be wearing today are not the point. We’ve all met someone that is beautiful and well-dressed but was so ugly in attitude that no one could stand them. Likewise, we’ve met people that are truly beautiful regardless of their clothing or looks. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Improve your looks with a beautiful heart!

3. Shut Up! God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking. He who guards his lips guards his soul (Proverbs 13:3). Say nice things and learn to listen… especially to God!

4. Stand Up! Stand for something or you will fall for anything! There are many things in this world that we may choose to stand up for, but none of them will ever be as great as choosing to stand with God. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

5. Look Up! When we forget God, we forget our real power and ability. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

6. Reach Up! Don’t just acknowledge God as being there, do His will and faithfully follow Him! Trust in the Lord with all your heart, & lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, & He will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

7. Lift Up! Many people imagine that they serve in God’s Secret Service. He doesn’t have one! And if you don’t let anyone else know about God the chances are you don’t talk to Him either. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).

Many people in this world imagine that they know and serve God without ever learning and obeying His will. If you would really know God, His greatness, His promises and, above all, His forgiveness and blessings, then you must learn to live for Him.

Be a part, an active, living part of His family this week and always!

Lester P. Bagley

Celebrating 100 years this week

Facebook-Homecoming

0-UP FROM DESERT-COVER-MEDIUMWe are 100 years old as of 2017.  A history of our congregation has been put in book form. It is 400 exciting pages covering the first thirty years.

Nearly all of our original members came from families rich in the Restoration Movement.  They came here from Oklahoma and Texas, then from Arkansas and Missouri.

Tent2Casa Grande, a mining town in Arizona, began mostly as a tent city. The first meeting place of the church of Christ in the city was also a tent.

The city began with one street—Main Street—across from the railroad tracks. The city of Casa Grand began in 1912 because of silver and gold deposits, along with other minerals. The church of Christ began in 1917, five years later, because of the city. Twenty years after the church of Christ began, it had 200 members. Both were here to stay.

Here are the first members:

Facebook-Event Collage

  • 1917 – The Darters and Sharps
  • 1918 – The Griffiths
  • 1919 – The Preuitts
  • 1920 – The McNatts
  • 1921 –  The Fritzingers and Tindalls
  • 1922 – The Benders
  • 1926 – The Tacketts
  • 1927 – The Germans
  • 1928 – The Amblers and Wilsons
  • 1929 – The Sheltons and Sanders’s
  • 1930 – The Hendrix’s
  • 1931 – The Fosters and Eastridges
  • 1932 – The Foxes
  • 1933 – The Whites, Sweets, and Williams’s
  • 1934 – The Whiteheads
  • 1935 – The Frasers
  • 1936 – The Prices, Mastersons/Halls, Gebharts, Hills, Wittens
  • 1937 – The Hons, Coyles, Higgins’s, Wuertz’s
  • 1938 – The Wallers, Turners, Fegusons
  • 1939 – The Taylors
  • 1940 – The Grubbs’s and Bentles
  • 1941 – The Crows, Barnes’s, Wilsons, Jones’s
  • 1943 – The Wilsons and Chisums
  • 1944 – The Forsheys, Brysons, an Goffs
  • 1945 – The Carters and Kinsers
  • 1946 – The Lamberts, Brumages, and Owens’s
  • 1947 – The Lowes and Caruths

Hon-Adrian&Lena1941Our first full-time preacher was Adrian Hon. His parents had taken him to Japan as missionaries around 1910 when there was still a bounty on the heads of Christians.  His ancestors were preachers back 100 years before.

 

1800s-Cartwright-Reddick&Sarah

Adrian’s wife’s family ~ the Cartrights ~ came to Phoenix in the 1800s and began the first non-denominational church of Christ in Arizona.

 

THIS IS AN OPEN INVITATION TO ANY DESCENDANT OR ANYONE IN OUR COMMUNITY TO COME HELP US CELEBRATE NEXT WEEKEND. 

Everyone, come home! Come home to the church your parents and grandparents and great grandparents worshiped with. After 100 years, we have held on to their legacy. We think they would be proud of us. Don’t you?

If you cannot come, leave your congratulations for the members below. We would love to hear from you.

 

 

10/8/17 ~ Wrestling & Boxing

From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the hardest lessons of our Christian walk and life is RacineBuildingto remember its true seriousness. We get tired and want to quit. Nothing exciting happens and we want to quit. It all seems to require that motivation that we so often lack. How can we do this?

Reality is not kind. We face the same difficulty in almost every area of life. While many would like to win the prize or be the best, few are willing to put in the hard work that makes it all happen.

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of this serious contest that we are involved with:

Wrestling and Boxing

As you might well expect, the ancient Olympic sports were based on skills used in warfare. Of course, it didn’t take long for the sports to develop to the point that the combatants were no longer soldiers but specialists in their sport. By New Testament times there were three combat sports and they were both highly popular and well developed with specialists in each area.

The apostle Paul was evidently a sports fan and used both sporting fights as well as real warfare as examples of important lessons for those he taught. We can best appreciate those spiritual lessons for us with a bit more appreciation of what he was actually talking about.

Wrestling was the first sport added to the ancient Olympics that did not involve running. It quickly became the most popular organized sport in ancient Greece. You scored a point by making your competitor touch the ground with his back, shoulder or hip. Points were also awarded for forcing them out of the wrestling square or by conceding defeat. Three points were necessary to win. A popular position was to be on top of your opponent and strangle him!

The word for wrestling (palē) is only used once in the New Testament. Ephesians 6:12 says, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Boxing is nearly as old as wrestling and also immensely popular. The boxer wrapped leather thongs around his hands to protect them. There were no rounds and no weight categories so the two men typically hit each other in the head until one could no longer continue. The Romans added metal studs to the leather wrappings and later made the fights to the death! (In 393 AD boxing was abolished as excessively brutal and did not return to popularity until the late 1500s in London.)

Since the rules prevented any kind of fighting other than punching and the most effective way to win was hitting the head, Paul makes the point of boxing, in such a way, as not beating the air in 1 Corinthians 9:26. When we fight the good fight of faith we always go for the win!

Pankration was the ultimate fighting sport of the Olympics and had almost no rules. The Greek term literally means all of your power, strength, might. It was a combination of boxing, wrestling, kicking, holds, locks, chokes. The only things banned were biting and gouging out your opponent’s eyes. Some contests were actually won by breaking bones or disemboweling the opponent!

While the formal word for the pankration is not used in the New Testament, the concept words are employed to remind us of just how vicious and savage is our spiritual warfare.

Paul says, This command [to be faithful] I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight [wage all-out war as a soldier] the good fight [a military campaign or battle] (1 Timothy 1:18). And a little while later he also says, Fight the good fight of faith [literally, strive, fight, struggle, do what is necessary to win the great contest]; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

Finally, Paul brings up the subject again in some of his final words as he says, I have fought the good fight [the same words he used in 1 Timothy 6:12], I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27; Colossians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:1-4 and remember how serious this is! Our fight for Christ against Satan and his followers is not a “police action,” it is not a skirmish or a dispute. It is all out war to the eternal death! The devil has declared all-out war on us… and we must do the same to him.

— Lester P. Bagley

 

10/1/17 ~ Good Counsel or Bad?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever gotten advice that you later wished you’d heeded? Or perhaps you’ve received some advice that was later found to be completely wrong and worthless. Either way, we are constantly bombarded with advice. The difficult decision to make is whether it is worthwhile or useless.

Let’s seriously consider the choice of…

Good Counsel or Bad?

With experience, we begin to learn that good advice, good counsel comes from those who are truly wise and good and follow the way of the Lord. Bad advice comes from those who are evil, and its worthlessness is only exceeded by the worthlessness of those who give it.

While it is evident that God gave good advice to be faithful to everyone beginning with His “advice” to Adam and Eve in the Garden, the first time that the word for counsel or advice is used in the Bible is Exodus 18:19. Here Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gives wise counsel about the practical way of dealing with the immense job of leading God’s people. From this point on God will specifically use this word some eighty times in the Old Testament for us to learn the lesson.

Thus begins the lessons of both good and bad counsel that may be accepted or rejected and the consequences thereof. David’s son Absalom provides an interesting example as he chooses to ignore the counsel of Ahithophel and accepts the counsel of Hushai (2 Samuel 17). On this occasion, God intervened so that what would have been good counsel by Ahithophel for Absalom and evil for David is rejected. Instead of Absalom defeating his father David and taking the crown, he follows the advice of Hushai who is faithful to both the Lord and King David.

All of this presents us with some important things to remember:

1) Wise and good counsel is from God! The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11). Only with Him do we find the advice that is always for our good. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you (Psalm 32:8).

2) We should also highly regard and follow the counsel of the godly. Not all human counsel is equally worthwhile! How blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (Psalm 1:1).

A wise person will hear and increase in learning, and a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). In this case, the Hebrew word for counsel is a nautical term used for steering a ship (also Proverbs 11:14; 20:18; 24:6). Godly, biblically accurate counsel will always steer us in the right direction.

3) When we follow God’s wisdom we become the teachers, the counselors of others for good. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine (Proverbs 8:14). Indeed, the New Testament challenges the godly to speak with both the words and authority of God (1 Peter 4:11; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9).

So, where do we get this good and wise counsel from God Himself? Paul first answers that question with where NOT to get it: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them. (2 Timothy 3:13-14)

The positive answer is found in: …and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the person of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

May we always forsake the useless human counsel and listen to and heed the wise counsel from God!

— Lester P. Bagley

9/24/17 ~ Concentrate Me, Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingSome years ago I was talking to a young person about the concept of God making us holy. Misunderstanding the word “consecrate” they replied that they understood the idea that God was concentrating us.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes our young people better understand and express difficult lessons? Let’s dig a little deeper into those words.

Concentrate Me, Lord

The Old Testament several times uses the word “consecrate” to describe the procedure of making the priests ready for their service to God (cf. Exodus 30:30; 32:28-29). The word comes from the concept of “cut off” to imply that those that serve the Lord are completely set aside to that task. They were not to be like other people but rather holy to the Lord.

Most of us are perhaps more familiar with the word concentrate. Take concentrated orange juice for example. You understand what it is. Fresh orange juice has most of the water removed (that’s why you add water to re-constitute it!) and you are left with very strong, thick, pure orange flavor and solids (vitamins, minerals, pulp, etc.) that make up orange juice.

Now, put that in a spiritual perspective. If we allow God to distill us, remove the things that make us impure then we are left with the most Christlike parts.

Consider James’ recommendation: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4) Isn’t that God concentrating and consecrating us?

Or Paul’s thought: 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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:3-4). God has chosen us to be concentrated, holy and like Him.

That’s exactly how God views the church, the bride of Christ: So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:26-27). Set apart, distilled down to be pure essence of godliness.

Peter advises us to: Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “you shall be Holy, for I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:13–16)

Do you see the point? We have to be changed from that old person of sin, selfishness and ignorance into the holy people of God’s own family. Our consecration, being made holy by our holy God boils us down, distills us into a concentrated form that is more powerful and more precious than anything we could otherwise be.

I’m often amused at the degree of nonsense that many people will believe. You can find great discussions about why concentrates like orange juice are bad, evil, wicked and unhealthy. In reality, the ONLY difference is that the water is removed and EVERYTHING else is still there.

Likewise, it is often amusing that we forget that CONSECRATION in a Christian is just removing the ungodly parts. The result in our lives is that ALL the godly, useful, spiritual parts are still there. They are just stronger for having less of the unspiritual mixed in with them. We are CONCENTRATED with Christ for God’s use!

We need to ask ourselves what we really are. Do we still retain the contaminants of the world? Or are we allowing God to change us into the consecrated, holy, concentrated, pure body of Christ that we are called to be?

— Lester P. Bagley

 

9/17/17 ~ Warrior Songs

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs the Apostle John tells of his vision of the new, eternal, holy city (Revelation 21), he specifies not only those that will be there (verse 7) but also those that will be excluded (verse 8). In that list of exclusions, God places the cowardly at the top of the list.

Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Greek philosopher that was born in 535 BC and died in 475 BC. During his lifetime Ephesus was part of the Persian Empire, but events were building up to the expulsion of the Persians. Five years before his death, 300 Spartans become the symbol of courage against overwhelming odds in the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). Their sacrifice would contribute greatly to the road to freedom for the Greek nation.

There’s a military quote attributed to Heraclitus that is well appreciated for its accuracy:

  • Of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are nothing but targets,
  • 9 are real fighters and we are lucky to have them for they make the battle.
  • Ah but the one, one of them is a warrior…
  • and he will bring the others back.

The observation is true not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual one. So it is fair to ask: Are you a coward or a warrior when it comes to serving Jesus Christ? Consider God’s lesson of…

The Warrior Songs

Over the centuries many cultures were famed for their great warriors, and one of the great tributes to those heroes were songs. Songs of their fame. Songs of their great deeds. Songs of their immense courage. Songs of their sacrifice and death. Heroes are not born, you see, but they are motivated and trained.

It should come as no surprise to us that God calls His people to such a great challenge. The Apostle Paul reminds us,

  • Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
  • Put on the full armor of God,
  • so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
  • For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
  • but against the rulers, against the powers,
  • against the world forces of this darkness,
  • against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
  • Therefore, take up the full armor of God,
  • so that you will be able to resist in the evil day,
  • and having done everything, to stand firm.
  • (Ephesians 6:10-13)

The fact is, once sin came into the world, this has always been an important part of God’s message to His people. After 40 years of working under the leadership of Moses God challenged him to encourage Joshua to do the job he would soon take over. And when Joshua begins the job the first thing God calls on the elders and all the nation to do is to encourage Joshua to the work he is called to do.

Throughout the years of the Judges, there were many songs to commemorate and praise the strong men and women who faithfully followed God. But perhaps David, the Sweet Singer of Israel, would set the tone for the warrior songs of God’s people for all time.

Psalm 18 begins with this ancient attribution: For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said…

David goes on to sing the song of His Lord and God as the great warrior, the great victor in saving David from all harm. What a beautiful reminder of what his son, Solomon would observe years later that victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31).

One of the great Messianic Psalms (Psalm 91) is often referred to as the Warrior Psalm or as the song of comfort to military families. Again the reminder comes that God is the great deliverer and reason for our victory. Satan would apply the promise of God’s angels guarding God’s warriors to Jesus as a challenge to throw Himself from the Temple (see Psalm 91:11-13 and Matthew 4:5-6). Is there any greater comfort for “Soldiers of Christ” than to realize how God controls every single detail to protect and bring victory to His people, His warriors?

Years after David died his son Solomon would sing a warrior’s song of a victorious reminder that

  • Unless the Lord builds the house,
  • They labor in vain who build it;
  • Unless the Lord guards the city, 
  • The watchman keeps awake in vain
  • (Psalm 127:1).

Yet it would be David himself, perhaps the greatest warrior of God’s people, that would sing what is often thought of as the ultimate song of all God’s warriors:

  • Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
  • Who trains my hands for war,
  • And my fingers for battle
  • (Psalm 144:1).

He would go on to praise the God of salvation who brings not only deliverance from the dangers of battle but the ultimate joy, peace, safety and blessing for the victor. And David’s ultimate conclusion in verse 15 would be:

How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

Let’s return to Paul’s application of this lesson for us in Ephesians 6. Preparation, conditioning, training are the vital things a warrior does to get ready. If we lack the time to be in the study of God’s word and in prayer to prepare us for the fight we will never win. And no warrior ever imagines for a single moment that they are perfectly prepared. That training goes on every moment you are not actually in combat. The goal is to develop that keen edge of readiness to instantly do the right thing when the time comes.

How serious is the battle that we face? It is literally deadlier than any flesh and blood battle ever fought! Our enemy is Satan himself with all his spiritual powers. Without God’s own help, without His full armor, we cannot face the murderous attacks of the evil one. But with His help, with God’s own Spirit within us, we can truly accomplish all things.

In the end, that’s exactly what saints really are: the most magnificent, well trained, confident, deadly warriors that fight the good fight of faith and take hold of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12)! This is our calling! And this is the very purpose of our “good confession” as we put on our Christ.

This is our life in Christ! As we serve, as we live for Him, as we destroy the power of Satan in the lives of those we turn to the Lord we join the chorus of those who sing the warrior songs.

And one day we will complete the good fight. We will finish the course. We will have kept the faith and be ready for the crown (2 Timothy 4:7-8)., the crown that is reserved for us all as victorious Soldiers of Christ. And then we sing, not the warrior’s song of fighting the good fight, but the eternal song of victory in Heaven.

  • I have fought the good fight,
  • I have finished the race,
  • I have kept the faith.  
  • From now on there is reserved for me
  • the crown of righteousness,
  • which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day,
  • and not only to me but also to
  • all who have longed for his appearing.

Without the warrior’s song, there is no victor’s song. So, are you ready to sing the warrior’s song with God’s people that you might also join in the victor’s song one day?

— Lester P. Bagley

9/2/17 ~ Did Jews Under the Old Testament Tithe?

RacineBuildingActually, the Jews were required to give more than a tenth. (1) Deuteronomy 26:12 said the Jews had to give an extra tithe every three years for their welfare program. So, if someone tithed $900 a year, s/he would have to tithe an average of $300 more per year for the welfare program, equaling $1,200 year. If the yearly income was $9000, this would take it up to 13.3% a year. (2) Also, according to Leviticus 27, they had to pay for their vows, which in many cases were really special prayer requests. (3) They also had to buy animals for sacrifices for intentional sins, unintentional sins and sins requiring restitution. (4) If they wanted to thank God for anything, they had to buy grain for a sacrifice (Leviticus 1-5). If they didn’t have to buy the animals or grain, they had to take them out of their own supply, thus depleting their own “pay check.” (5) And every time one of their flocks or herds had a first-born, they had to sacrifice it ~ another depleting of the “pay check.”

So the good Jew under the Law of Moses did not just tithe. He ended up giving about one third of his income. Galatians 5:3 says that, if we keep one part of the Law, we have to keep all of it. There were over 600 burdensome commandments in the Law of Moses!

Exercise to Determine Your Annual Giving Budget Under Law of Moses

Vows

  • Genesis 28:20 – To have a safe journey (“traveling mercies”)
  • Leviticus 27:2 – To dedicate someone for special service to God
  • Numbers 21:2 – To be delivered from enemy army
  • 1 Samuel 1:11; Proverbs 31:2 – To have a child
  • 2 Samuel 15:7-8 – To return to homeland and reconciled to family
  • Psalm 22:11, 25; 66:13 – To be freed of troubles and desertion by friend
  • Psalm 76:11; Isaiah 19:21 – To prove allegiance to God before others
  • Psalm 116:8, 14, 18-19 – To thank God for a verdict of not guilty
  • Job 22:27; Jonah 2:7-9 – To recover from illness

(Leviticus 27:2-7) – Find your category by gender and age. Multiply the number of shekels required times $5.00. How much would one vow cost you? _____________ At one vow a month, how much would that be a year? _________________ Add that figure to your annual giving budget below.

First-born People & Livestock

Since each family only has one first-born their entire existence, we will not count this in the Annual Giving Budget below.

Numbers 3:45-47 – If your herds had twenty females giving birth for the first time in a year, you would owe how much in shekels to buy back (redeem) all five from becoming burned offerings? _____________ How much would that be in dollars? Add that your Annual Giving Budget below.

Animal Sacrifices

Let us give an average value of $25.00 per animal (5 shekels of silver).

Leviticus 1:6, 8-13; 8:18-21; 16:24 – This BURNT OFFERING was wholly consumed by fire. It was voluntary to atone for unknown, unintentional sin, expression of devotion, or complete surrender to God. If you asked God to forgive you for unknown, unintentional sins every week at $25.00 each, that would be how much in a year? ___________ Add that below to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 4:1 – 5:13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22 – This SIN OFFERING was required to atone for a specific unintentional sin (probably done in public) and involved confession, forgiveness, and cleansing from defilement. If you asked God to forgive you for one unintentional but public sin a month at $25.00 per animal sacrificed, that would be how much in a year? _______________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7:1-6 – This GUILT OFFERING was required for sins requiring restitution of an added 20% such as for stealing (intentional) or destroying property (unintentional). Let’s say you are real good and never get into this kind of trouble. Don’t add it to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Grain Offering

Grain offerings were usually cooked and eaten by the priests. They were flour, oil, incense (flavoring), bread, and salt. Let us give each such offering a $5.00 value.

Leviticus 2; 6:14-23 – This THANKSGIVING OFFERING was voluntary. Let’s say you, a good Jew, have a positive attitude and thank God for things once a week. How much would your grain offerings add up to during the year? __________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

Leviticus 3; 7:11-34 – This FELLOWSHIP OFFERING was voluntary and another form of thanking God for his goodness. Let’s say you make this kind of offering once a month. How much would your grain offerings add up to during the year? _________ Add that to your Annual Giving Budget below.

 

Annual Giving Budget of Good Jew

$____________ Tithing for the year

$____________ One-third of tri-year welfare tithe

$____________ One vow a month for a year

$____________ Twenty first-borns in herd for the year

$____________ One unknown sin a week (burnt offering)

$____________ One unintentional sin a month (sin offering)

$____________ One thanksgiving offering a week for a year

$____________ One fellowship offering a month for a year

$____________ TOTAL GIVING FOR A GOOD JEW

8/27/17 ~ DARKNESS

From the Preacher’s Pen… 

RacineBuildingThis past Monday we saw here in Casa Grande a partial eclipse of the sun. For a short time, the moon covered a portion of the sun. While it never got completely dark, it did make for an eerie orange color to the daylight.

Of course in other areas to the north of us, there was a strip across the continent of totality, total darkness. It was a good time to remember a bit about the subject of darkness and light and our God…

Darkness

This world began in darkness (Genesis 1:2) but with the actions of God, light was created and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:4). As creation continued God created the sun to govern the day and separate the light from darkness… and it was good (Genesis 1:18).

As human beings experienced life on this earth they understood that night and darkness were more dangerous times. Harm could hide in the darkness and be unseen until too late. But they also learned that with God it was not so. The Psalmist would write: If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:11-12) And darkness would increasingly be associated with sin, Satan and the wicked (Proverbs 4:19).

When Israel, the northern kingdom of God’s people, was destroyed for their sin the prophet Isaiah would continue to preach to the southern kingdom of Judah about the dangers of that darkness (Isaiah 8:22). But there was always hope, always the promise of God that one day… The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them (Isaiah 9:2). And, On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see (Isaiah 29:18).

Even as the storms gather and difficulties seem to take over, the promise would always shine through: For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you (Isaiah 60:2). Years later as the darkness overwhelmed the nation Jeremiah would echo the same lessons.

And darkness fell

Yes, there would be a return from captivity for many of God’s people but even then they recognized that their real hope, their real light was still to come.

And then one day the light came into the world… and they missed Him. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5) God would even explain it to them (Matthew 4:12-16) and yet they would not see.

They refused to see the light until one day it was extinguished again: Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)

Darkness! Darkness over all when there should have been only light for you to see, it was NOT an eclipse. By the laws of nature that the Creator Himself had hard coded into His creation there simply cannot be an eclipse of the sun at Passover. Never. Not going to happen. And yet there was darkness… and fear… and wonder… and then it was over.

The darkness actually failed as the Christ was seemingly extinguished, the light of the world supposedly gone out.

In so many ways darkness seemed to almost win. For three days a unique spiritual gloom seemed to reign. And then the Great and Glorious Day of the Lord came (Acts 2:20). The light was victorious!

In the coming years the sermons of God’s spokesmen would ring with the reminder:

The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

The darkness is gone

The light, the Light of the world is here. And He has called you to live for Him… now and forever.

— Lester P. Bagley