5/20/18 ~ What about the ignorant?

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

That leads us to an interesting and important question:

What About the Ignorant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/12/18 ~ Battle Buddies

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

Battle Buddies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/6/18 ~ Going Beyond or Falling Short

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

Go Beyond or Fall Short

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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

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

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

How Did You “Receive” Christ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you do so?

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/22/18 ~ Spiritual Ugliness

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Beauty is something we all appreciate. A gorgeous sunset will cause us to whip out our cameras or call others to see. And how can anyone fail to appreciate a beautiful baby?

But what of our spiritual souls and lives? Are we beautiful before our Heavenly Father or are we covered in…

Spiritual Ugliness

Matthew 23 is Jesus’ vicious attack on false religion. Consider verses 27 and 28: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Today the word hypocrite usually means someone who pretends to be good and yet is inwardly or secretly bad. Our English word hypocrite is not an original word in our language. Rather, it is simply an anglicized word just like baptism. It only exists at all in English because of Jesus. He used the word some 18 times in the Gospel accounts and translators simply borrow the Greek word.

Just as people misuse baptism by pretending it has an English meaning apart from the Greek biblical usage, so, too, do we misuse hypocrite by taking it out of context and attempting to give it our own meaning.

The word Jesus uses is the Greek word for a stage actor. But to appreciate what He is telling us we must appreciate, like all statements in scripture, the context. In the old Greek world, actors had been respected. But by Roman times they were considered to have the same social status as a criminal or prostitutes. They were often foreigners, captives or slaves whose job was to entertain. While they performed some “classical” Greek plays and poetry, much of the stage was devoted to rude, vulgar and tasteless.

It appears that in New Testament times there was little or no “clean” comedy or theater. Much was essentially what we today would consider the lowest “X” rated kind of entertainment. It is accurate to say that Jesus is labeling people as the modern equivalent of a porn star!

With that ugly picture in mind, re-read Jesus’ words above. The degree of spiritual ugliness is important in seeing how God sees sin. Sin is never just a minor flaw or a tiny blemish on our character. It is always a fatal ugliness that God cannot ignore.

There is something disconcerting about us missing true ugliness and mistaking it for beauty. Have you ever picked up something without knowing what it was only to find out or realize that it was something truly disgustingly awful?

God gives us many examples. Solomon would illustrate it like this on one occasion, As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion (Proverbs 11:22). It’s not the beauty that appears on the outside, it’s the ugliness hidden within. Samuel was taught the lesson by God like this, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Hypocrisy and iniquity, sin or lawlessness are identified by Jesus as attributes of the utmost ugliness. When we are unclean before God we are ugly! When we use sin to deceive others as a false teacher we achieve God’s ultimate in spiritual ugliness!

Recall that the Pharisees were often admired as some of the most sincerely religious of the Jewish people and many times were among the most “conservative.” Yet God demands much more than sincerity and outward conservatism.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would say it like this: “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. 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.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Paul would tell Titus: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11–14).

With all the love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and hope that God provides to us, we should be the most beautiful people; fit to be the bride of Christ. Whatever you do, do not allow spiritual ugliness to ever be seen in you!

— Lester P. Bagley

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

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

So lets’ take a moment to examine the question…

Does it Really Matter Why We Do Anything?

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

The last temptation is the greatest treason:

To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you serve Him who died for you?

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/8/18 – True Heroes

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/31/18 ~ Children in church

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

It is always interesting and instructive to observe our sister congregations in this world. It is especially so as we see the issues that they and their preachers and elders deal with. 

Recently the young preacher at Deming, New Mexico, shared some thoughts on a subject I often comment on because of God’s emphasis on the importance of our children. So let’s consider…

Children in Church

To You Who Bring Small Children to Church:

There you are sitting in worship or Bible study. Your child, or toddler, is restless. Perhaps they’re even a little boisterous. You try to silence them, and nothing. You try to pacify them with food or toys, and nothing. Eventually, you resort to the last thing you wanted to do: you pick them up, and before a watching audience, you make the march out of the auditorium. All the while, you’re a little embarrassed. Maybe you’re a little frustrated too. You might even think to yourself, “There’s no point in coming to church. I get nothing out of it because I have to constantly care for my kid.”

I want you – you mothers and/or fathers – to know just how encouraging you are to so many. The little elderly woman who often feels alone beams with a smile at the sight of you wrestling with your little one. She’s been there before. She knows how hard it can be, but she smiles because to hear that brings back precious memories. To see young parents and their small children brighten her day, and she may have just received bad news this week about her health, but seeing the vitality of young ones removes – if but for a moment – her fears.

The older man who always seems to be grouchy notices you too. He’s always talking about how children in this day have no respect or sense of good. But, he sees you – a young family – in church, and you don’t miss any gathering. Like clockwork, he can depend on the sight of you and your young family. You give him hope that maybe the church isn’t doomed after all because there are still young parents who love God enough to bring their restless children to worship.

Bring your children to church. If we don’t hear crying, the church is dying. As hard as it might be for you as a parent who is half-asleep, keep on doing what you’re doing. You are an encouragement, and you are starting off your children’s lives as you should.

— (Author Unknown) via 9th Street church of Christ, Deming, NM

Two of the most precious resources, in God’s eyes, are our children and Godly parents. They deserve our encouragement and help in every way possible!

PARENTS: never grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Never! While it seems you often miss so much of what’s being said and it can be incredibly hard to focus, you are teaching and training for eternity.

YOUNG CHILDREN: you are never too young to start listening and participating in worship. If you can read you can turn to every scripture and follow along. Whether you can read or not you can always sing! And, since our public prayers are about participation for us all, you can thank God for your blessings and ask Him for your concerns. The secret to worship for us all, young or old, is DOING and not just sitting there like a bump on a log.

We possess a great gift and treasure in our children. Let’s work hard at both appreciating them and teaching them!

— Lester P. Bagley

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I must leave it more glorious than I found it

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Today is the only one I have for my usage and tomorrow possibly.  I will have another but today is the only one I have.  Every day is like every opportunity.  I accept it from Him in the morning and how I return it to him at evening is all in accordance with my love for Him.

I must go wherever He sends me polishing and brightening every soul I meet.  I must leave it more glorious for Him than I found it.

Oh, how I love God.  How can I say He is my God and I am His child if I do not glorify the day He has given me?  I cannot even imagine such an ingrate.  For those who love God, it would be virtually impossible.

I have oft been made to wonder how one thanks God for giving him one day of life.  What can I do? What can I say?  What words are going to adequately describe my feelings and be sufficient to even attempt to offer something toward the worthiness of the value of a day?

How incapable man is to even come near reaching the infinite value of a touch of appreciation deserved for just a moment of basking in its beauty, glory, and splendor.  Wherever one might be on this verdant globe, every single day one might see is a glory to God and I have shared in its existence!

Where does someone find the heart, the feelings, the words to express appreciation for only this moment? Only the thrill of the soul that stops to enjoy such a gift can within that jubilation pleasingly thank God, for he has fulfilled the intent of its creation.

The joy of a child of God!  Anything else is a worthless, meager, bereft attempt leaving the soul empty in the wonder of the purpose of its existence.  What a waste of all creation for the one and what an eternal ecstasy for the other.

In no other way can the wisdom of the wise and the foolishness of the fool be more clearly seen!  The moment when God’s purpose and man’s value meet and share the common joy of existence. They meet. They share. In that moment they are one. That is what all existence is all about. The oneness of God.

Malcolm Parsley, Korea