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

 

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3/18 ~ Who Packed Your Parachute?

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Together we serve the Lord! One of the great lessons of God’s word involves the reminder of our togetherness in Christ. While we can study God’s word, pray, even sing praises by ourselves, we are taught by God to do what in many ways is our most intimate remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice with our fellow saints, the Lord’s Supper.

Just how important are our fellow saints?

Who Packed Your Parachute?

Joseph Charles Plumb Jr. graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964. He earned his Navy pilot’s wings in 1966 and went on to fly the F-4 Phantom. Flying from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk for his 75th mission, with only five days before he was to return home, his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and rode his parachute safely to the ground only to be captured. He would spend the next 2,103 days as a POW in the prison camps where, like so many others Americans, he was tortured.

Years later after his return home to the States, he and his wife were eating in a restaurant when a man came up to him and told him. “You’re Plumb. You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and were shot down.” Plumb admitted that was all true but asked how this man knew these things. His reply was, “I packed your parachute. I guess it worked!” Plumb shook his hand and thanked him for a job well done. For Plumb, this became a lifelong lesson to be shared with others.

For us as Christians, this same lesson is vital. We often remind ourselves, and rightly so, that no one can be saved by someone else’s works. While that is true, it is equally true that we cannot be saved alone.

Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), that includes each one of us, but that is because He died for His church (Ephesians 5:25). We, together are the body, the family of God and are called to be the light of the world.

No fighter pilot packs his own parachute, builds and services his aircraft, refuels and rearms it. No Christian does it all either! Two illustrations from Scripture well illustrate this lesson.

First, Paul liked to remind us of the human body. Just as it is made up of multiple parts that keep each other alive and functioning, so, too, is Christ’s church: For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4–5)

It is that vital, one and only body, that we must belong to and be a part of for our salvation (cf. Ephesians 4:4, 12). It is that same one body that continues our proper functioning and growth as we build in love (Ephesians 4:16).

Second, God pointedly uses the words “one another” to reinforce our working together or failing together. Consider just a few of the 50 some times that God uses this single Greek word for “one another:”

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10).

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19).

Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:13).

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another (Titus 3:3).

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

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).

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:8-10)

But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us (1 John 3:23 – Jesus gave us that “new commandment” in John 13:34).

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

Every Christian has spiritual parents who helped teach them and bring them to the Lord. Every Christian who remains faithful has spiritual brothers and sisters who encourage them. Never forget those that packed your parachute. And never forget the importance of packing someone else’s. Together we serve the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/11/18 ~ Children Leaving the Church

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the greatest concerns for any Christian parent is the faith and salvation of their children. It was true for God our Heavenly Father and it’s true for us all. After all, the younger generation is going downhill, isn’t it?

Let’s take a moment to consider these issues a bit more.

Children Leaving the Church

Children began to be the tyrants; they no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offenses against good tastes; they tyrannized their teachers.

Those words represent the thoughts of people like Socrates and Plato (and probably a lot of others) over 300 years before Jesus was born. Some 1100 years earlier than that, Moses and God told the people: Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

If you fast-forward to the dividing of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, you realize that the Hebrews as a nation also failed in teaching their children.

Failure! It sounds so awful and it is! It began with Adam and Eve failing to instill godly behavior and attitudes in their child, Cain, just as they had failed to obey their Heavenly Father in the Garden of Eden. The sad fact is that we don’t do much better. No matter what we try, we seem to always see a younger generation that, in rejecting the wrongs and failure of their parents, go on to do even worse. Good intentions for stupid, sinful behavior is worth nothing either when we do it or the younger generation does it!

Jesus loves the children. How are we doing as parents? Are we stealing the love of Christ from their hearts by simply putting the wrong motives there? We can give our children all the physical richness in the world but if we are not giving them CHRIST then we are giving them nothing!

Do we really wonder why the majority of children grow up and leave the church? Consider the harsh realities of a few facts: This week your children will spend 30 hours in a school being lectured by godless, immoral people. They will spend more time with their friends than they do with their family. As they grow up the time spent with Satan’s world steadily increases.

To offset this, they will spend less than 4 hours in church each week, with only about half or less of that time actively studying the Bible. They will also spend an average of less than 15 minutes in family prayer, mostly at mealtime. At most, only 3 percent of teens read the Bible daily and less than 20 percent of all those attending any “church” do so. Are you really going to act surprised when they choose the world over God?

Since this problem has been around for so long, we know a number of things that do NOT work. Sadly, most of those things are the very things we insist on trying again and again. Doing what you and I think, instead of what God says, will NEVER work. Judges 17:6 and 21:25 serve as a constant reminder that doing what is right in our own eyes is certain failure.

Let me suggest that trying all the methods of the denominational world is imitating Satan and therefore foolish. Many Christians are still enamored with “Children’s Church” or countless other ways to get the kids out of worship into fun. What makes it so interesting is that denominational leaders are increasingly pointing out how wrong those kinds of programs were. They actually make things worse! (I just have to add here that the same thing has happened with “special holy days,” and instrumental music, and nearly every single change in worship, doctrine or practice for the last several centuries.)

Isn’t it just a tad ironic that parents claim a 5 or 6-year-old can’t sit through a half hour of Bible lesson? Doesn’t Satan just laugh at us when that same child sits through more than that every day at school… and learns what this world wants him or her to know? Every day in school our teenagers sit through hours of false teaching about sin, sex, and denial of God. How do you counter that much filth? There are countless things that both don’t work and actually make matters worse. So what DO we do?

Go back and re-read that very first scripture. There are the words of life!

We begin by being 100 percent committed to God ourselves! God doesn’t get 20 percent of our time. If you are not willing to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might, you are just playing with religion. What is your very first priority from the moment you awake until the moments before you fall asleep?

Is God’s word really “on your heart?” No, that doesn’t mean you “like” God so much that you are going to get around to Him someday. Do you read and study God’s word daily? Do you talk to Him about everything?

Only when we begin to put God first will we ever be able to teach our children (or anyone else) the truth! And when we teach, we teach diligently as well as teaching with every single aspect of daily life.

All those great Bible facts that Curt shares with our young people every Sunday morning? Why not reinforce that at home? How many of us can count to 100? That’s a part of kindergarten studies. How many of us can name the 66 books of the Bible in order? It’s time to get to work and be serious about learning and teaching God’s word!

Yes, our children will leave the church, they will go out and live in sin, sexually and otherwise. They are possibly going to do that in spite of everything we do. But if we do NOTHING, if we allow the world and sin and Satan to control every part of their lives, then we have willingly given their eternal souls away.

Make every effort to live like a child of God so that you share both words and example with your children and everyone else!

— Lester P. Bagley

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Let there be Light

Mitch Teemley

Many scientists are disinclined to believe in God (although poll numbers vary greatly). It is interesting to note, however, that among those who study science at its extremes, rather than at the bio-materialistic mid-levels, belief is quite high. A majority of quantum physicists, for example, allow for the likelihood of a creative consciousness behind the universe, which is now understood to be more concept than concrete reality.

“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” ~Arno Penzias, Nobel prize in physics

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence…

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March 5 ~ Selling Heaven Short

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Isn’t it wonderful that brother (or sister) So-and-so is in heaven? They must be playing golf every day with all their old friends!

How many times have you heard (or been involved in!) a conversation like that? Do we realize what an outright lie that is? Do we really know what heaven is and what it is all about?

Take a few moments to consider how often we cheapen and outright pervert God’s great promise:

Selling Heaven Short

Heaven is a place that everyone talks about and everyone hopes to go to… provided they don’t have to actually DO something to get there!

The reality of heaven is that it is a prepared place for a prepared people. Unless we “store up treasures there,” unless we obey our Lord and God, then we will never live there. Let’s take a look at heaven as God presents it and see how that compares with the nonsense that people often imagine is heaven.

Heaven is NOT golf, hunting, fishing nor is it about visiting with friends and loved ones!

That is NOT to imply we won’t know or care about friends and loved ones: In the Old Testament, when a person died, biblical writers said he was “gathered to his people” (cf. Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:29; Numbers 20:24; Judges 2:10).

In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, David confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23). David expected to see his child again – not just a nameless, faceless soul without an identity, but that very child.

Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even though it had been centuries since they’d walked this earth, they still maintained a clear identity (Matthew 17:3) – Peter, James, and John evidently recognized them (v. 4), which implies that we will somehow be able to recognize people we’ve never even seen before.

We will be able to have fellowship with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, David, Peter, Barnabas, Paul, or any of the faithful. For that to be possible, we must all retain our individual identities, not turn into some sort of generic beings.

Describing the Lord’s appearing and the resurrection of the saints who have died: 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. and thus we shall always be with the Lord’.

Paul’s purpose was to comfort some of the Thessalonians who thought their dying loved ones would miss the return of Christ. He says in verse 18, “Comfort one another with these words.” The comfort comes from the prospect of reunion. Little comfort this would be if in the reunion we could not even recognize one another. Paul’s promise that we will all be “together” forever implies that we shall renew fellowship with all whom we have known.

We will be reunited not only with our own families and loved ones, but also with the people of God from all ages. In heaven, we will all be one loving family. The immense size of the family will not matter in the infinite perfection of heaven. Our eternity will be spent in just that kind of rich, unending fellowship.

If you’re worried about feeling out of place in heaven, don’t. Heaven will seem more like home than the dearest spot on earth to you. It is uniquely designed by a tender, loving Savior to be the place where we will live together for all eternity and enjoy Him forever.

But we will NOT remember the lost! This is an eternal home for victors NOT losers (also take note of Revelation 21:8):

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Heaven IS all about our God and our Savior!

Back to that first point above.  While heaven includes God’s family and all the joy that is a result of that blessing, the real purpose of heaven is NOT family, friends and loved ones. The real joy and purpose of heaven is being with our God and Savior!

Every vision of heaven that John or any other prophet had of heaven is ALWAYS centered around God.

If God is not your priority here on earth, if He is not your first and greatest love, then you won’t have to worry about not enjoying heaven. You won’t be there!

Yes, that is shocking to many human beings, but the least of heaven’s blessings are about us. The priority of heaven, like our lives here on earth, is the focus on God.

Don’t imagine heaven as the place where God will wait on you and give you your heart’s desire.

Make God your heart’s desire, serve Him and learn the real blessings that God has in store for His family.

— Lester P. Bagley

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2/25/18 ~ Playing Legal Games With God

 

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

I guess we’ve all noticed that there are some games we like to play and others that really don’t interest us. One of those games that many play and enjoy is the “game” of perverting God’s word.

Recently in a conversation, I was told that God will save even those that are disobedient to His will, so we have nothing to worry about. I quickly checked my Bible to see if God had perhaps changed His will. But, no, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (and a host of other similar scriptures!) was still there. When Jesus comes again He will come taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So how is it that people can twist and pervert God’s word like that? Let’s consider the subject of…

Playing Legal Games with God

Back in 2012 an 81-year-old woman with a sore jaw died just weeks after a hospital in Detroit mistakenly performed brain surgery on her. A jury awarded her family $20 million. But appeals courts and the state Supreme Court reversed the decision claiming that it was simple medical malpractice and not negligence. Yet the hospital had admitted that the surgery was an error of negligence!

What was shocking to nearly everyone involved in this case is that, in an amazing display of legal gamesmanship, the courts reversed the actual evidence and facts. What the judges did allowed a crime to be committed and the criminals to be declared innocent with no hope of any future justice in the case.

As appalling as this case is, it has become relatively commonplace in the American legal system. Right and wrong are no longer decided by facts and laws but by who can play the best game.

Again, as appalling as all this is in the world, it is also a favorite game for people to play with God, His word, and His laws. For, you see, in spite of all the nonsense we attempt to use to cover the facts, God has clearly defined right and wrong and people have felt free to play legal games!

Solomon faced the problem in his day and declared, He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 17:15).

Many years later this same legal game was being played in Isaiah’s time and caused God to comment: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)  Do we disobey God, commit some sin, then either declare that it’s okay or imagine that God has to forgive us so we are free to do wrong? Even under the Old Law God recognized and forbade His people from playing legal games. The word He often used for this sin of playing legal games with sin is presumptuousness.

Many translations use this same English word but some translate it as

  • premeditated
  • contempt
  • arrogance
  • willful
  • flagrant

Do you see God’s word pictures of His view of our legal games?

Consider some specific examples: The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. (Deuteronomy 17:12-13) Paul would echo this command to Timothy in dealing with elders (or any other Christian by implication) who sin like this (read 1 Timothy 5:19-20).

The term false teachers (or prophets) is used for those teaching or advocating playing legal games with God, and they deserve the same treatment by those faithful to God: But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). Again the New Testament echoes this lesson (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 1 John 4:1-6, etc.)

 David, even as he wrote of his praise to God, would also remember to ask, Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression (Psalm 19:13).

We as Christians face a world that loves to play legal games, even with God’s own words and commands.

  • You will be told that God doesn’t care how you worship and serve Him.
  • You will be told that all you have to do to be saved is pray a “sinners prayer” that’s never found in the Bible.
  • You will be told that God has nothing against homosexual behavior or that sex outside of marriage is okay.
  • You will be told a million things by those playing legal games with God.

And they will all still be lies that will cost you your soul if you believe them for God still says that the soul that sins will die (cf. Ezekiel 18:20).

So how about it? Are you smart enough NOT to play legal games with God? Are you smart enough to actually obey what God says? It is a choice we need to make right now!

— Lester P. Bagley

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2/18/18 ~ Drawing Near to God

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the great failures of many Christians is their failure to seriously read and study God’s word. Several preachers ask how many have read their Bibles daily at the beginning of their sermons. While that offends some people (apparently, we think it is okay to take offense at someone pointing out our sins!), perhaps an even more pointed question would involve how many actually study and understand God’s word.

Understanding what you read, just like the man from Ethiopia in Acts 8:26-39, is VITAL to our salvation. One of the helpful ways of studying the Bible is to follow God’s use of words, how He chooses to communicate important lessons to us.

To study like that requires more effort than simply reading. Putting more effort into an actual understanding of both what is read and how that fits the context of all God says is exactly what brought salvation to the man of Ethiopia. And that same effort will bring understanding and salvation to us.

So let’s do a little digging, a little bit of serious study into one of God’s lessons that will help us come closer to Him and to understanding what He says to us.

Drawing Near to God

One of the many rich lessons of the book of Hebrews involves a word picture that the author repeats seven times. The word is proserchomai and, especially in relation to coming to God, is translated as draw near or approach or come to (cf. Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22). This same Greek word is usually used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew qērab, which means come near or approach but also includes the idea of closeness to what or who is being approached.

Outside of the Bible, Greek writers use this word with more force than simply going somewhere. It is sometimes used in a hostile sense as going to a fight or battle, but usually in the sense of being concerned about someone and going to someone or something of great importance. It was also used in the religious sense of going to or before a deity. Just as in our world a word might be reserved for a deeper meaning rather than just being a simple synonym, so, too, the New Testament writers and the Holy Spirit chose words with richer meaning for special lessons.

This is the word that Matthew uses (Matthew 4:3) for Satan coming near to Jesus in order to tempt Him. It is also the word chosen later for the angels as they came to minister to Jesus. Both uses portray an incredible lesson for us. First, that Satan would dare to come so close and appear so intimate with Jesus. Isn’t that also a warning to us about how the Devil will try to get close to us? And second, the important job of angels in providing aid and comfort to Jesus. They did for Him just as they are sent out to be “ministering spirits… to render service” to God’s people (Hebrews 1:14).

On many other occasions, God reminds us of both the closeness of the wrong things and the intimacy of our right relationship with Him. Paul commands that we reject those and withdraw ourselves from those that (literally) do not draw near to the words of Jesus and godly doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Contrast this with Peter’s command that we come to Jesus as our living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:4).

Clearly, God calls His people to be more than just friendly with both God and His godly people! Just as we are never to be intimate with sin, wickedness and the worldly, so are we called to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Why? Simply because He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25). We draw near to God, become intimate with Him and our family in Him here on earth so that we will be a part of the family for eternity in Heaven.

Will you draw near to God and His family here on earth so that you will be together as family for eternity? The choice really is up to you. Choose wisely!

— Lester P. Bagley

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2/11/18 ~ Three things sin will always do

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

In spite of what some people think, sin and death are not a preacher’s favorite things to talk about. That idea is akin to believing that doctors just enjoy seeing blood, guts, and disease because that’s what they often have to work with. The reality is that we do this job to alleviate suffering and hopefully prevent death. And that is the real reason that our Great Physician deals in these same issues with us.

Consider an illustration that I’ve used several times in sermons and articles before:

Three Things Sin Will Always Do

In life, there are two major ways that we learn. Some things we learn the hard way from personal experience. Some things we can hopefully learn from seeing the experience of others. We’ve all noticed that the lesson of personal experience is often far more effective at staying with us.

When it comes to the seriously deadly things in life, though, it is obvious that the lesson would be far better learned from the experience of others. That simple point brings us to much of God’s reason behind numerous lessons that He includes in His word.
Consider three lessons about the dangers of the things that sin will always do.

1) Sin will always… take you farther than you want to go!

The Hebrew writer (Hebrews 11:24-26) reflected that Moses made a grownup, adult choice not to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. That intentional choice meant that he lost the prestige, power, and authority of an Egyptian leader. That choice meant he would spend the majority of his adult life fleeing Egypt in the desert.

It would be easy and convenient for us to see his loss and miss the larger picture. Verse 25 reminds us that Moses made another choice: choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Why? Because he considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

Look at that last thought again. Reproach is literally the word for disgrace or insult. The worst thing that comes from faithfully following Christ is greater than the greatest riches of the treasures of this world!

Jesus put it this way, For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) I believe Moses would have said, Amen!

Clearly, the pleasures of sin for a season may yield a long and worthless harvest!

2) Sin will always… keep you longer than you want to stay!

Beware lest God gives up on you! One of the most frightening things that God may do to us is too simply allow us to have what we think we want. In Romans (cf. 1:24-32) the Apostle Paul repeatedly points out the consequences of God rejecting and abandoning those who choose sin over obedience to Him.

By choosing sin we force God to put us where we deserve. The result is dishonor (verse 24), degrading (verse 26), depravity (verse 28) and getting exactly what we earn with our sin. Our earnings (our wages of sin in Romans 6:23) include being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful (verses 29-31).

Having made that choice to live in sin God further declares that we are both ignorant and worthy of eternal death (verse 32). Remember God uses exactly the same word for eternity in Hell that He does for the duration of Heaven. Eternity is a long time to stay where neither God nor any of His goodness exists!

3) Sin will always… cost you more than you wanted to pay!

If you really insist on choosing sin, then you have to pay for sin. Paul reminds the saints at Thessalonica that, if you don’t choose salvation, then you choose for God to help you believe any false thing that will lead to eternal death (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). That’s an astronomically high price to believe what you want and enjoy wrong instead of right!
As we’ve already noted, the well-deserved earnings of sin (Romans 6:23)… is death! But there’s also one more part to that same verse and to the story of sin. There is the gift of God!

That brings us to one important final lesson about sin, and that is the one thing that God can do if you let Him. He will save you from your sins! Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Did you catch all that? Sin will actually do all these horrible things for and to you. But God offers a choice. He offers hope and another way.

Yes, it IS a FREE GIFT! But don’t let the price tag confuse you, as so many have. That gift, that promise is ONLY to those IN Christ Jesus. And the only way that you can be IN Christ Jesus today is to be born into the family, the body of Christ.

If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). There is NO promise for those of us living on this side of the cross for salvation from sin without baptism! Without that uniting with Christ in burial (baptism!) and death (to sin), there is NO uniting with him in resurrection (cf. Romans 6:3-7).

Without freedom from sin, there is no life! Remember those three things that sin will always do for you. And make the choice to unite yourself with Christ in His way as the one thing that can save you.

— Lester P. Bagley

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2/4/18 ~ Traditions, Customs, Habits – Part II

 

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Last week we began a look at God’s view of traditions, customs and habits. We found that God objects to His people serving Him without intentional thought or consideration of what they are doing. There is no accidental faithfulness! Habits may help us head in the right direction, but if we forget why we are serving the Lord or do them for the wrong reason, it becomes a bad habit.

Inventing our own traditions that contradict God’s will or imitating the wrong customs of false teachers is considered by God as a direct path away from Him. We cannot use the world’s “good ideas” to improve on what God wants us to do.

Consider a bit more of God’s view of this lesson and some important positive lessons for us about…

Traditions, Customs, and Habits – Part 2

Some of the things we do, the habits or customs we keep, have no real right or wrong value. They are just part of our family or cultural tradition, the norm. But some of the seemingly common traditions, customs, and habits in Jesus’ own life are much more important for us to imitate. They help us realize what it truly means to be a part of God’s family.

Consider some of Jesus’ traditions, customs, habits and the positive lessons for us:

Mark 10:1: And rising up, He went from there to the region of Judea, and beyond the Jordan; and crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them. What a powerful lesson in evangelism! Is it normal and habitual for us to share the Good News?

Luke 2:27: And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law. The fact that God’s Law demands our worship, obedience, and service doesn’t make it easy or convenient. We are the ones responsible for making it a habit of our’s to do the right thing.

Luke 2:42: And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast. Of all the lessons that we can teach our children, none is better than doing what is right together as a family.

Luke 4:16: And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. Many years ago a friend commented that he envied me growing up in a faithful family simply because he had no tradition of obeying and serving God in his early life. And yet we all work hard to learn and keep customs that are important to us! How important is your faithful service to God? Important enough to work hard at making it a habit?

Luke 22:39: And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. Jesus found strength in regularly taking time out to pray, to cultivate holiness. How often do we take time to be holy?

Jesus also found Himself wrongly criticized for his attitude toward customs. In Acts 6:14 Stephen is rebuked: “for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” In reality, Jesus had said just the opposite! (Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”) While Jesus kept many traditions without criticizing them, He was also discerning enough to reject those that were meaningless (cf. Matthew 15:2).

Traditions, customs, habits can lead to good, positive religious practices:

Esther 9:27, 32: the Jews established and made a custom for themselves, and for their descendants, and for all those who allied themselves with them so that they should not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation, and according to their appointed time annually. (32) And the command of Esther established these customs for Purim, and it was written in the book.

The “unnamed feast” that Jesus attended in John chapter 5 appears to be Purim and, like so many other Old Testament events He would show that the great fulfillment of them was found in Him.

Luke 1:9 shows a time when God carefully used tradition to bring about fulfillment at exactly the right time. In this case, a priest “just happens” to be in the Temple to learn of God’s preparations for the coming of the Savior (according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense). A similar instance occurs in Luke 4:16 when Jesus reads the Sabbath reading at the beginning of His ministry… and it “just happens” to be fulfilled in Him!

Of course, you realize that there are no “just happens” with God and His purpose. Traditions, Godly traditions are part of God’s purpose to accomplish His will!

Traditions, customs, habits can have a positive context for our Christian practice:

Acts 17:2: And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 11:2: Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

2 Thessalonians 2:15: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by a letter from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:6: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

Hebrews 10:25: not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.

Once again we are reminded of the many good customs and traditions but also notice how the writer of Hebrews carefully reminds us of both good and bad habits. Let’s face it, according to God, there are some “traditions” that we as Christians should never forsake!

Are you spiritual enough to appreciate the fact that some customs are good, positive and right in God’s sight, and, just as important, that some are wrong?

May we never be found holding on to those things that are not good for our souls just because we’ve always done it that way. Likewise, may we never be found forsaking and making fun of those things that bring us closer to God.

As the Apostle Paul reminds us, Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

— Lester P. Bagley

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1/28/18 ~ Traditions, Customs, and Habits – Part 1

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Do you have any bad habits? I guess most of us do. It seems that in religious matters whenever we talk about habits, customs or traditions they are always bad. Perhaps that is just a bad habit?

In real life, we begin to appreciate the fact that many times those habits are not only good but actually things we work hard to develop! We teach our children to brush their teeth at regular times because we need to instill in them the good habits, the tradition of automatically doing the right thing!

Let’s consider a bit of God’s view of this important lesson:

Traditions, Customs, and Habits – Part 1

In so many jobs and hobbies in life, we work very hard to develop the right and good ways to do things. One such technique involves a subject known as “muscle memory.” Simply put, that involves practicing a skill until your automatic reaction is to do it the right way without consciously thinking about what you are doing.

A person skilled in missing or bending every nail that they hit with a hammer doesn’t have much future in carpentry! But with consistent practice, you can have that skill. At that point doing the right thing becomes a good habit.

God uses this same lesson for us in both positive and negative ways. Consider some of the bad or negative traditions, customs or habits of His people he has commented on:

Isaiah 29:13: Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Doing the right things for God as His people is so important that God actually commanded us to teach these things to our children, to hand down to them the right traditions, the customs and habits that God wants us to have (cf. Deuteronomy 11:19). But as important as it is to DO the right things, we must also understand why we do it for it to be beneficial.

Leviticus 20:23: Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. Learning to do all the wrong things is never going to help us. There is no competition for the best nail-bending carpenter!

Matthew 15:2-3, 6: “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” (3) And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”… (6) he is not to honor his father or his mother. ‘And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.’” Traditions that complement obedience to God’s will are good. But those customs that lead us away from what is right are worse than useless!

Colossians 2:8: See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Traditions that belong to the ideas, philosophies, or plans of people that lead us away from God’s will are always destructive and wrong!

What are some dangerous customs for Christians today? How should we go about avoiding these bad customs? Do you see how a tradition could appear good but really lead us away from or become a substitute for the truth?

Traditions, customs or habits can refer to ordinary cultural practices without regard to God’s Law:

Ruth 4:7: Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. Many things in God’s word are better understood and appreciated if we take the time to learn more about that world, it’s customs and culture. As with Psalm 23, we can easily completely miss God’s rich lessons if we fail to take the time to appreciate the traditions, customs and habits of the world where the lesson is set.

John 19:40: And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. An understanding of what this verse and others like it tell us in the context of the New Testament world would prevent people from believing in a hoax like the Shroud of Turin.

We all have them! What are some customs of your family that fit this category? Are there other good customs that you’ve seen in other families? How well do we do with the traditions of others that differ from us?

Okay, so we hopefully see a bit more importance in God’s lessons on traditions, customs, and habits. They are NOT always wrong. They CAN be very helpful to our understanding and next week we’ll see just how far God takes that important lesson for us.

— Lester P. Bagley

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