1/8/17 ~ Whatever Became of Happily Ever After?

From the Preacher’s Pen… How’s your new year going? Have you broken all your resolutions yet? Or are you keeping them? Is it going to be a good year?

RacineBuildingAs we look back to the past year we often remember events to gauge whether it was a good year or bad. But how do we judge the future? Will this year be good or bad?

The ideal is for all the future to be good. But is that realistic? Can there really be a happily ever after or is that just a sign of not understanding reality? Okay, so let’s consider for a moment…

Whatever Became of Happily Ever After?

As Christians and human beings, we see death. Everyone on this earth has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27) and, short of being here at the moment of Jesus’ return, we will all keep that appointment one day.

A few weeks ago I asked my grandson Joshua if he liked a movie that he’d been to see. His reply was, “No, not really.” When I asked him why his answer was right to the point, “Because everyone died.”

The older I get the more I identify with his answer. Having seen a fair share of violent and tragic deaths, I find myself much fonder of happy endings.

When you’ve seen death and the situations that surround those violent and tragic ones you change. Today the response is typically labeled as PTSD. It is simply an acknowledgment that at some point we’ve all had more than we can take of such situations.

So, if you are stressed and over-stressed by unhappy endings what do you do about it? Some literally go crazy. Others joke or use some mechanism to maintain sanity and deal with the situation. However you deal with it, the point is to deflect the effect of unhappy endings.

Some of the most recommended and effective aids in coping are using a support system of others who have shared the stress, hard exercise and work, relaxation, humor, prayer and, above all, commitment to goals.

God realizes that we are limited in our capacity to deal with such things and provides help. When you go back and look at that list of aids to cope you will see that it is a description of the New Testament church.

God has not called us to do it on our own. Christ’s church, His body is made up of those sharing the failures, the stress, and the goals. We share our sins, struggles, and failures (James 5:16). Our challenge is to be committed to the hard work and goals of reaching out to others with the Good News (Matthew 28:19-20). We work, relax, live and share all things together as family. And that communicating with each other and with God is irreplaceable if we would really succeed.

Oh, and about that happily ever after part, just keep three things in mind:

First, for happily ever after to succeed, we need to go back to the innocence of childhood in order to successfully get to heaven. Two reminders from Jesus: And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Children are amazingly able to deal with things adults don’t handle. Don’t complicate with grown-up fears and failures what can be handled by simply doing what you are told by your Heavenly Father.

Second, we must realize just how great the promise of happily ever after really is! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16–17)

Family members have all the privileges and all the honor that belongs to God.

Third, God doesn’t promise to just give us a trophy or a certificate of completion, He is making us a part of His eternal family, with eternal bodies and all that implies: Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50–53)

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 21:3–4)

The trauma, the challenges, the difficulties of here and now are nothing compared to the eternal happily ever after of God. It’s not just a matter of facing challenges with help, it’s the promise that the goal, the end is worth the difficulties of the journey.

Jesus explains it like this: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

Now is the time to lay down those worries and burdens. Now is the time to be a part of the family that helps with the here and now and looks forward God’s happily ever after.

— Lester P. Bagley

01/01/17 ~ To a New Year

From the Preacher’s Pen…

There are many things that people seem to think about with the arrival of a new year. RacineBuildingSome are planning diets after the holiday meals, others are hoping to get into better physical shape. The gyms will be full for the next few weeks and diet foods will sell well.

But in a month or so many will go back to their old way of life and the resolutions will be forgotten.

While the lessons are many and we are often reminded (at least once a year!) of them, there are also spiritual lessons that are even more important to remember!

To a New Year

When I think of a new year there are two great Biblical reminders that come to mind.

The first one is what Paul calls putting on the “New Man.” He says it like this: “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old man, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Now, before you ladies go to sleep, notice the two specific words that Paul uses in this passage.

“Man” is not the word for a male person but rather the generic term for human beings.

Likewise, “New” is not the usual word for something new in time. This is not a “new day in our week,” but rather is the Greek word that points specifically to something new in quality as opposed to what is old and worn out. A good example of the difference is found in the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea used for the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:60). It is not called “new” in the sense of being recently cut in the rock but rather is “new” as it has never been used.

Put those two words together and you get the picture: Our new being in Christ has never existed before. We are transformed (remember Romans 12:1-2?), changed by God into new beings with new desires and a new way of life. As Paul says it, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The second reminder comes with the “New Song.” You may be familiar with the song by that title in our songbooks and even know that it comes from the final book of God’s word as a reminder of the promised “New Song” in heaven (Revelation 5:9; 14:3). But you may be surprised to learn that the theme of the “New Song” begins in the Old Testament!

Again, let’s consider the two specific words used by God. The Hebrew word “new” is often used for what has never been seen or done before. In Ezekiel 18:31 God challenges His people to repent and “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31)

“Song” is the word especially used for a religious song and is used by Ezra and Nehemiah of the Levitical choirs (cf. Nehemiah 12:46).

The two Hebrew words occur together seven times in the Old Testament. Each time it is a “new song” being composed in response to what God has done and nearly always uses a form of the command formula of “Sing to the Lord a new song.”

The first occurrence is Psalm 33:3 and the phrase also forms part of the opening for Psalms 96, 98 and 149. Likewise, David declares that he will sing “a new song to You, O God” in Psalm 144:9.

Isaiah appropriately makes the final Old Testament reference as God looks forward to the fulfillment of His plans for man’s redemption and repentance. “Sing to the Lord a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them.” (Isaiah 42:10)

Now, when we move to Revelation and the final “New Song” of praise to the Lamb of God who bought our salvation with His own blood, we realize just how much it means.

As we begin a “New Year,” is there any greater promise than our renewal in Christ leading us toward that eternal “New Song” in heaven?

May we truly be a renewed, new people that rejoice in our new song this new year!

— Lester P. Bagley

#NewYear, #NewLife, #FreshStart, #NewStart, #Revival, #StartingOver, #RenewingHope, #Rededication

12/25/16 ~ Jesus, the Savior

From the Preacher’s Pen… Sunday, December 25, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus! No, I’ve not lost my mind and hopefully you haven’t lost yours either.

RacineBuildingThis Sunday, December 25, the first day of the week, we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior with our weekly Communion.  He lives and is never to die again! Paul says it like this: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. [10] For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:8–11)

Once He was born, like all of us, of human flesh. And, because of sin, humans die. But death could not keep Him, He lives again by the spirit and power of God. And God says that same power, that same promise is for us, too, as brothers and sisters of Christ the King.

Having acknowledged all that, it is still an amazing thing that our Savior once humbled Himself to submit to being born as one of us. Remember for a moment, the coming of…

Jesus the Savior

I am in awe of the Manger Scene and all that it means and represents for humans! But the story began so long before that day that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.

Three precious verses in God’s word remind us that before He even spoke the words creating this world and all its inhabitants, before that very first sin would bring contamination to all His perfection, He knew and planned it all! Read John 17:24 where He tells of the love and glory that predate the foundations of the world. Love and glory for the sacrifice to come.

1 Peter 1:18-21 reminds us that the saving blood of the Lamb of God was planned and known before the building of this world. And Ephesians 1:4 says that even then He chose us to be holy in Him.

I am in awe of the Manger Scene and all that it means and represents for humans! But the work and preparation began so long before that day that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.

Months before the Creator in the form of an infant would be born into this world, He laid aside His godly form to take on a form of an unborn child. Read Philippians 2:5-7 and realize the implications of that simple but awesome statement.

I’ve often wondered if Luke would not have dwelt a bit longer on that moment if the good doctor had written that passage rather than the Apostle Paul. As a physician, Luke had likely witnessed the amazing changes that led up to the near miraculous moment of birth on many occasions.

But Paul hastens to remind us that the ultimate goal is not the manger but the cross (Philippians 2:8).

I have to admit that I am still in awe of the Manger Scene. It is filled with so many great lessons for all mankind and for all time. Sadly, one of those lessons is how seldom it is seen and how quickly it is forgotten.

Just like our world, at this time of year we may be briefly amazed at the coming of the Savior and then forget Him for months and months. But perhaps this year we can resolve to be different.

Jesus’ earthly mother, like most mothers and daddies, could never forget. Luke very specifically reminds us that Mary treasured those events in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). A good doctor takes note of good parenting and love.

The important thing for us is that we remember, that we treasure the amazing, incredible, eternal life-altering events. Are you in awe of the manger and all that it means?

Will you be found sitting at the feet of Jesus as He teaches and encourages and challenges us through the year? Will you be found weeping and heartbroken at the cross? Will you be found rejoicing at the empty tomb and in amazed awe as He returns to heaven with the promise to come back one day for you?

Sad, isn’t it, how many people will look and not see, hear and not understand. Yes, that was repeated by several of the prophets and by Jesus Himself. And today the fact remains, many will miss the incredible coming of Jesus.

One day He will come again. And this time every eye will see Him, every knee bow before Him and every tongue confess Him. But then it will be too late to be a part of His family.

The time to see Him, to know Him, to follow Him is now. The time to truly be in awe of our Savior is now! Will you?

— Lester P. Bagley

12/18/16 ~ Generations of Love

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… Toward the end of most worship services, I make my way to the back hallway in order to speak to people as they leave. Sometimes I’m looking for someone in particular to encourage and many times I rejoice in the encouragement of God’s family.

Oftentimes there is someone already back there. Mothers and dads with little ones often have diaper duty or otherwise have to tend to fussy or overly active children. What a beautiful sight and lesson of love!

In all the comings and goings it sometimes happens that one of our young people end up “stranded” at the doors as they are too polite to go back where they were sitting in the middle of the closing song or prayer.

Often when that happens they end up standing next to me and holding my hand during the prayer. I see them holding hands with their parents, their siblings, and others around them. How precious it is to see love in actions and living lessons from our young people! Consider for a moment the lesson they show…

Generations of Love

Jesus frequently used the word love. It is a vital ingredient of our Spiritual life and yet it is often neglected.

In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” God’s “new commandment” is not that we should love, but that we are actually commanded to love as God has loved us.

Peter would struggle with this concept of such a great commitment (John 21:15-17), but eventually embraced it at the cost of his physical life (verses 18-19). Interestingly, Jesus in telling him all this concludes with the imperative command (Follow Me!) to obey even though hesitant.

Consider how our own worldly definition of love has changed. In my Grandparents generation, the love of children was often defined as “children are to be seen but not heard” and it was normally true that parents ate first and children the leftovers. Why?

Sadly, in a time when a significant percentage of children died the adults who could work and feed the family had to be the priority. (Most western civilizations have seen a relatively steady decline in infant and child mortality for the last few centuries. In the 1700s 300 to 500 deaths per 1,000 were the norm. By the end of the 1800s that number dropped to 150 to 200. By 1950 it had declined to between 20 and 40 per 1,000.)

In that world, the greatest love a parent could show was staying healthy enough to provide for the children that survived.

Following World War II Americans were better off in many ways yet struggling to say and show love in a changing world. As food supplies increased and diseases were controlled it became the expected norm that children would survive into adulthood. Parents literally had the expectation that each child would continue to live and be a part of the family.

With all that came the challenge to love to an entirely new degree. Like so many things that Satan corrupts, an increase in family love was quickly transformed into the permissive “free love” generation. Confusing love with sexual expression they reshaped the world into a no-commitment world ruled by selfishness.

Today? Our world pushes to enlarge the bounds of permissiveness and demands that everyone wins, that everyone is entitled to high self-esteem with no boundaries on their actions and no limits to their licentiousness. And still, real love is neglected.

Love, real love, love like God has for us is that agape love, that committed love. Real love, like an earlier generation, sometimes seems harsh that it might really serve the needs. Even today it remains true that real love of our children includes punishment and discipline.

Jesus had a fondness for children and several times the text points out that they were specifically infants and young children. Do you ever wonder why?

Watch a child love. Before parents teach them to fear and avoid, they shyly offer their gift, their trust until one day properly jaded by adults they learn the rudeness of neglecting love.

So, do we truly love? Are we committed to our Savior and the good of His Kingdom? Or are we simply fulfilling Scripture in being the selfish, jaded, negligent lovers of self that Paul warned Timothy about (2 Timothy 3:1-9)?

Love is something that is instilled by God in a child’s heart. How we cultivate it determines whether it grows and blossoms into Christ-like love in all their lives… or dies in bitterness and strife.

Love is something that is instilled by God and carefully taught to an adult’s heart. How we cultivate it determines whether it grows and blossoms into Christ-like love in all our lives… or dies in bitterness and strife.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in actions and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

— Lester P. Bagley

12/11/16 ~ The Church Doesn’t Need You to Make it “Cool”


From the Preacher’s Pen…
Far too often we hear people make the nonsensical comments about the BibRacineBuildingle not being relevant to today’s world. The fact remains that the Bible is the single most relevant book to today’s problems and today’s world that has ever been written.

Sadly, in addition to the nonsense being said, many in the church are trying to update God and His word to make God in their own image. That is both wrong and just plain stupid!

Consider the recent comments of brother Brad Harrub via Focus Press:

The Church Doesn’t Need You To Make It “Cool”

I cringe watching young preachers trying to sell faith as “cool” to a group of youths. They stand there in their Christian t-shirt and skinny jeans trying to package the Gospel as “hip.” These guys do not realize that by trying to appear cool and “authentic” to young people that they are actually coming across as just the opposite.

These preachers are trying hard to compete with professional entertainers and reality show stars. They use cool analogies, have impressive PowerPoint slides or videos, and have powerful stories in their lessons. In addition, they have a huge social media footprint— receiving hundreds of “likes” for every article or picture they post.

Sadly, these preachers forget that just 12 hours earlier these same young people were watching a movie with professional actors and million dollar movie sets, or attending a concert with a professional entertainer—they know what is authentic.

So in the end, the young people realize this for what it is: a middle-aged preacher trying desperately to be “relevant” and “cool.” As a result, the Gospel gets watered down, and young people leave the church because they never heard what they really needed to hear.

Here’s what I intend to teach my children regarding being relevant.

Jesus Christ did not call the church or Christians to be “relevant.” In John 15: 18-20 we read, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

What is your duty? What should you be doing? Consider the words Moses wrote, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Did you read anything about being “relevant,” “hip,” or “cool” (or wearing skinny jeans)?

However, many people seek to change the church or change the message in order to better “fit in” with our culture. Quoting Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, “To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22) they seek to be “hip” and “cool” to the younger generation.

Let me remind you that the Gospel is roughly 2,000 years old and has stood up to all kinds of attacks, insults, and weird new fads. It doesn’t need you coming along trying to make it cool. In fact, what many don’t realize is in that same letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote: “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).

The truth is, in too many cases we’ve worked so hard at being all things to all people that we’ve jettisoned the message of sin and Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection! People need to hear about their sin and what it has done to their relationship to God. They need to hear about the saving power of the Gospel. Your job is not to be “relevant.” Your job is to go and make disciples.

— Brad Harrub reprinted by permission from focuspressblog.com at /www.focuspress.org/2016/11/30/church-doesnt-need-make-cool/

May we continue to stand firm with God and His word. May we this week, and always, resist the urge to remake and reform God into our image.

May we have the courage to share the truth with a world that is lost in sin and desperately in need of listening to and obeying God! May we take care of doing our job for Jesus by going and making disciples of Him!

— Lester P. Bagley

12/4/16 ~Have I told you lately that I love you?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingA few times each year we get together with family. If your family is like our family and spread half way around the world it may be less than that. If your family lives relatively close by it may be much more frequent. But it is always a joyful and precious time when we get together with loved ones!

Do we feel the same joy in coming together as God’s family? If we were to make one New Year resolution, could there be a better one than that we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Apostle John reminds us of just how important that is:

“The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (1 John 2:10)

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

In both cases, the word that John uses for “brother” is a word used for unity and love of relatives and those that are especially close to each other. The closeness of relationship is seen in the same word being used for twins.

Are we really the family twins in relationship with fellow Christians? Consider a bit further:

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

Many of us remember the words of the song by that title and most of us as Christians realize how the thoughts of a love song often reflect our love for each other and for our God. At least two Christian brothers that I know use this song title as a way of reflecting on the special bond we share as God’s children. Isn’t it a beautiful reflection on the family relationship we share in Jesus’ family?

Some have called God’s Word and especially the New Testament God’s love song to His people. Certainly, there is an element of truth to that. How many times in both Old and New Testaments do we see the tremendous love of God displayed to His people? How can anyone read some of Paul’s letters (or John’s, or Peter’s for that matter) and not see the deep love that he had for his brothers and sisters in Christ? “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 John 3:1a)

Just as we all find it important to take the time and make the “effort” to tell our husband, wife, children, grandchildren, etc. that we love them, it is also important, yea essential, that we also remember to tell our Christian family that we love them, too! After all, has not our heavenly father richly blessed us with such wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let’s make the extra effort this week to appreciate just how blessed we are! Oh, and how much do I love you all? Let me borrow the words of my brother Paul:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11)

— Lester P. Bagley

 

11/27/16 ~ Oh, Jesus, I Didn’t Understand

RacineBuildingOh, Jesus, I didn’t understand.  Your flesh.  It was torn for me.  I was the one who should have received the lashing that turned Your back into meat.  And the thorny slivers on the cross.  The slivers that went into Your already shredded back to create gangrene.  The lashing and thorns were supposed to be for me, not You.  And the nails too, Jesus.  The nails too.  How could You go through that in my place?

 Oh, Jesus, I didn’t understand.  Your nakedness.  They stripped You instead of me.  I was the one who’s nakedness should have been exposed, and put on display for the whole world to gawk at and ridicule.  I was the one who was supposed to have been subjected to exposure, enduring both the heat of the day and the cold of that strange noon-time darkness.  How could you have endured this for me?

 Oh, Jesus, I didn’t understand.  Your blood.  It was shed for me.  If I had been the only sinner in the world, You still would have had to die to free me from hell.  That was my blood that was supposed to be falling off the cross that day, not Yours.  How could You love me that much?   

         Oh, Jesus, I didn’t understand.  Your every breath.  Taken away from You a gasp at a time as You hung there by merciless nails tearing away at your life, rendering your lungs almost paralyzed, piercing Your soul.  Each time You chose to ignore the screaming blood vessels in Your back and the unbearable spasms in Your arms and legs just so You could get just one more taste of breath, that should have been me.  How could You volunteer Your own body to be tortured like that in my place?

 Oh, Jesus, I didn’t understand.  In the flames of Your fever and the darkness of my sins, You descended to a horrible place where God does not go.  Completely forsaken by Your God.  Completely deserted by Love.  Not because You simply bore my sins, but You actually became my sins.  How could You, who struggled a lifetime to make sure You never sinned, become exactly what You hated for me?

 Oh, Jesus, I did not understand.  All my little lies, little things I took home accidentally and kept, the strangers I never encouraged, the friends I never shared my love for You with, my arrogance in not following you.  Oh, Jesus, I am so ashamed.  How can I ever make it up to You?  How can I tell You how sorry I am?  I want to see You face to face and tell You how much I love You.  How can I convince You to let me do that?

 Jesus personally replies, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).  Oh, Jesus, say no more!  I do believe that You are the Son of God!  I do believe!

 Jesus personally replies, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3).  I’m so glad You said that, Jesus!  I truly am sorry for all those sins I have committed that caused You to die!

 Jesus personally replies, “Whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:31f).  Well, isn’t it enough that I believe?  Do I have to get my friends involved?  If I told them I believed in You, they’d kill my reputation.  Are You sure, Jesus?

Jesus personally replies, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15).  “Jesus came…to be baptized….’It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness’ ” (Matthew 3:13-15).  

 Oh, Jesus, I wish you hadn’t been baptized and said I needed to be also.  My friends and pastor tell me I don’t need to be.  I know they didn’t die for me, but surely they wouldn’t steer me wrong.  Please, Jesus, not that!  Please….

Would it be okay, Jesus, if I just do the first two ~ believe and repent?  Everyone says that’s all I have to do to please You.  I’ll even throw in the third one and tell a few of my friends what You’ve done for me because I believe in You.  But the fourth one.  I know You Yourself said to, but I just couldn’t!  Please, spare me that!  Please, Jesus!  It would kill me….  

11/20/16 ~ Who is Really in Control?

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… Protesters in the streets using violence and theft to “prove” that their candidate and agenda should have won the election. “Demands” that California secede from the United States (an act that is by definition an act of treason – anybody remember a thing called the “Civil War”?).

What is the world and this country coming to? Why doesn’t God do something?

Perhaps it is time that we let God answer that question just as He has before. So let’s think for a moment about another time this issue came up and ask…

Who is Really in Control?

The story began long before God gave His answer. His Chosen People, His Holy Nation had been grossly disobedient for years. The nation had gone steadily downhill as both the people and their leaders intentionally disobeyed the commands of God and elevated themselves, their opinions and their worship of false Gods above the Lord.

As God’s people rebelled He began to humiliate them before the world. Some of their own government leaders (including some of the king’s own family) were taken into captivity by the new superpower of the world. The nation responded by rebelling against God yet again and placed their faith and alliances with a nation (Egypt) that God had warned them not to join.

God responded by again humiliating the nation, making the king a prisoner, installing a puppet king, and cleaning out much of the Temple and palace treasures. But the puppet king also rebelled and imagined that he had a right to disobey God’s will and His prophets.

This time God destroyed the nation, the capital (Jerusalem) and burned the Temple, the king’s house and every major building in the city. Some of the poorest were left to work the land and a governor was appointed (Gedaliah, 2 Kings 25:22) but killed by the remaining people only two months after his appointment. As a result, most of the rest of the nation became refugees (including the prophet Jeremiah) and fled to Egypt.

The book of Daniel includes several events over the years that God used to teach Nebuchadnezzar that it was the Lord, the real and only God, that was truly in control. But as the years passed the king of Babylon forgot the lesson and imagined that he as king was really in control.

The final lesson for Nebuchadnezzar came (Daniel chapter 4) much to the chagrin of Daniel. But it was this final lesson that would convince the king of Babylon of the truth and make him a godly man.

So, who is really in control of nations, kingdoms, states and all the earth? Yes, you know the answer but perhaps we should listen to God’s presentation of it:

“This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”

So before you worry again, God, the Most High is in control. Before you imagine that someone else is in control for even a single second, remember that you are NOT God, the president is NOT God, the governor is NOT God, the king is NOT God. The LORD is GOD and He is ruler and in control no matter what happens

If you find this truly extraordinary and perhaps even a bit daunting or even downright frightening, then you are in good company. Even Daniel felt that way (Daniel 4:19), but was wisely counseled by Nebuchadnezzar not to be alarmed.

One of the most amazing passages of Scripture is Daniel 4:34-37. Read it and realize that this is the sole passage of the Old Testament written by a Gentile, an outsider that God brought into His Kingdom to be one of the inspired writers (2 Peter 1:21).

What will it take for us to realize and acknowledge that God is really in control? What will it require for us to understand that all must be in submission to Him? What must God do for us to learn to be obedient to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and acknowledge that “all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:37).?

— Lester P. Bagley

11/13/16 ~ Fellowship and Prayer Meeting

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… One of the questions that we are often asked as Christians is why we don’t fellowship and do more things with other religious people. After all, we could accomplish so much more together! With all the “pastor” (do we actually remember how God uses this term or just cave in to the world’s meaning?) breakfasts and other fellowships, why aren’t we more active in participating?

To help us appreciate the answer, the Scriptural answer, consider a hypothetical letter written in the first century to ask the Apostle Paul to do the same thing.

Fellowship and Prayer Meeting

Dear Apostle Paul,

I am sure that you are aware of the great challenges facing our nation and the problems that religious people are having with our leadership. Our concerns and the needs of the people are not being addressed. Many people of faith are being either ignored or persecuted for their beliefs.

Because of these dangers, it is time for all religions to come together. After all, we are all going to the same place, just with different routes.

It is my pleasure to invite you to prayer breakfast and join in prayer for our great nation. We expect to have a wonderful time of fellowship and encouraging each other in our work. But, above all, we want to add our prayers together for our leaders and nation. Certainly, that will make them more effective and powerful!

For this momentous and important occasion, we are asking everyone to leave their differences aside. After all, we are all serving the same God(s) and everyone that is really spiritually minded will be there.

Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20) have already confirmed their attendance as have your fellow pastors from the Acro-Corinth temple of Aphrodite. So you will be in good company with old acquaintances.

Oh, we’ve also requested the Acro-Corinth pastors to help with the worship atmosphere. They have a wonderful spiritual music and performance department that is sure to uplift us all! Think about that. Christian-Pagan rock at its best. Our worship music is just like what the world offers except with “spiritual” lyrics!

Your leadership is especially needed as we appreciate your stand against that sect that thinks they are the only ones going to heaven and their crazy preacher, Stephen (Acts 6 & 7). Fortunately, he is no longer around so perhaps even his followers will join us.

Why, even your old friend and co-worker, Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) will be there. I’m sure you will enjoy having him on your prayer team!

We’ve also invited Diotrephes and the Apostle John and feel sure that they will also be a part of this important spiritual get together.

Looking forward to your reply,

— Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17), your friend in the faith

Yes, it is difficult to not be a part of what your friends and neighbors do when it comes to being religious. Yes, it is hard to be called out by God!

How would Paul respond to such a letter? Let him answer:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

11/5/16 ~ A Classy Person

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOver the next few days, we will learn just who will lead the United States for the next four years. Will that be the one that openly advocates Christians discarding their faith in order to accept sin as normal and okay? Or will it be the one that makes rash decisions and uses a lot of foul language? Yes, there’s a lot more to the choices and much of it is bad anyway you look at it.

Over the next few days, we will learn just who will lead the United States for the next four years. Will that be the one that openly advocates Christians discarding their faith in order to accept sin as normal and okay? Or will it be the one that makes rash decisions and uses a lot of foul language? Yes, there’s a lot more to the choices and much of it is bad anyway you look at it.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to choose and choose wisely. Having input into the godliness or ungodliness of our nation is a sobering duty with eternal consequences. Go back and read the prophets’ descriptions of Israel, what they believed and how they acted before God destroyed them. It is truly frightening to think that we could be held responsible for a similar failure of our nation!

So how should Christians vote? The answer is found in much more than just a list of whose name to check on a ballot.

The answer is found in how we live, how we act and how we present ourselves to the world. Are we truly, as Jesus put it, the light and seasoning of the world?

Consider for a moment just how and why each of us should truly be…

A Classy Person

Have you noticed that there are some really classy people in this world? No, I don’t mean those that dress in thousand dollar outfits, wear expensive jewelry and the finest makeup.

Many years ago I had a good friend that very much looked the part of an old Texas rancher. Well, he’d grown up ranching and still ranched but somehow there was something more to him. He generally wore blue jeans, a western style shirt with cowboy boots and hat. But they were somehow always neat looking even when he’d been out working cattle; respectable looking even when covered in dust and sweat! Something about his appearance made an announcement of class.

No, it was not any kind of superior attitude and it was certainly never a look of wealth, though he was an incredibly wealthy and generous man. Looking at him you could just see a head held high and class. Talking to him you got to know a man that humbly loved the Lord and went out of his way to support and be a part of the Lord’s work anytime, anywhere.

Think about actions in people’s lives. Have you ever had someone lower their voice to whisper to you a dirty joke or make some tasteless comment about another person? Somehow that person just seems a little slimy… a person truly lacking in class.

Have you ever noticed a person that dresses, acts, walks, talks like someone they are not just to impress, just to make others believe that they are something or someone they are not? Were you impressed? Were you fooled?

Now think about the spiritual side of this lesson. As a Christian who are you really?

Well, you may have been a nice worldly person. You made have been religious in your own way (remember Paul’s “compliment” to the very religious pagans of Athens in Acts 17?). On the other hand, you might have been a thief, murderer, addict or something similar. Paul gives a list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (one of many in Scripture) and reminds Christians (verse 11) that “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Perhaps you recall how Peter identifies the children of God: “But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). And Peter goes on to remind us: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

Yes, even royalty sometimes flaunt their position, their status in how they dress and act. But the truly classy ones just impress us with their humble attitude of true class.

Are YOU a classy person? Would anyone looking at you confuse you with, say, a prostitute or the lowlife of society? (That’s actually part of Paul’s lesson to Christian women in 1 Corinthians.) Would someone see you and think that in word and actions you were just another one of the heathens in town. (Also part of Paul’s lesson to Christian men in Corinth!)

So, to be practical, how exactly would a child of the King of Kings decide to support the murder of babies up to the minute of birth as a person’s “right?”

Or does your vote, your actions, your dress, your words reflect a thoughtful, loving child of God? Do people see someone that is worth knowing in how you act, what you say and how you live? Are you the light of the world?

If not, why not? Think about it, are you a classy person? Are you a child of the King?

— Lester P. Bagley

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