1/13/19 ~ The Importance of Prayer

Image result for reaching up to God

From the Preacher’s Pen… Last Lord’s Day evening we enjoyed a time devoted to prayer. It was both a good and a needed time for the family of Christ here at Casa Grande. And it provided us with a great lesson to always remember about the…

Importance of Prayer

In 1 Samuel 12, the nation of Israel had brought God’s anger on them for wanting to be like other nations and having a king to rule over them. As the God-chosen, now-rejected  Judge of Israel tells them of God’s decision to give them a king, Judge Samuel warns of the consequences of forgetting and disobeying the Lord once again.

Following that stern warning given on the day that the wheat harvest was to begin, Samuel asks the Lord to send thunder and rain so the people would know their wickedness was great in this rejection of the Lord (cf. 1 Samuel 12:17-18).

In horror, the nation asked Samuel to pray for them, that they might not die (verse 19). Samuel tells them not to fear but rather to be faithful (verses 20-22, 24-25). And then, in one of the great lessons for all of God’s people, Samuel replies, Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way (1 Samuel 12:23).

Samuel’s point was that it was his duty, his responsibility as a man of God to pray even (especially!) for those in rebellion against God and that he had to speak up and tell them what was right before God.

That responsibility still belongs to us today!

Paul directed us to pray and be thankful for all people (1 Timothy 2:1) and specifically kings, rulers, and all who are in authority (verse 2). Of note is the fact that this includes those we disagree with or even disapprove of as Paul’s statement actually includes the Roman emperor that would one day have Paul executed. So, once again, God’s “all” means ALL!

Another point worth noting is that Paul also tells us that this prayer for all is both good and acceptable in God’s sight (verse 3). And the reason for this prayer is that God wants all people to be saved and know His truth (verse 4).

We, like Samuel and all those called to serve the Lord, have the responsibility to tell others, to teach the Good News of God. And once more we see clearly that the “Great Commission” is the great responsibility of God’s people.

When we pray, just as when we live all aspects of our Christian life, we must remember NOT to get bogged down in the mire of “me’s!” Our God is NOT some mystical “Santa Claus” waiting for our personal shopping list of wants. Our God IS the God of salvation to ALL and gives to His family members the job of sharing that Good News and bringing others to Him.

James reminds us that prayer is a MUST, a requirement when things go wrong (James 5:13). The reason for this is that prayer is POWERFUL. How powerful is it? Offered in faith it can restore the sick, it can stop or start the rain (cf. James 5:13-18).

But perhaps the most awesome illustration of the power of prayer is that it can forgive sins! (James 5:14). Of course, it can never be used contrary to the will of God, but since the will of God is for salvation, how often do we miss its true power?

Notice something else James says about the power of prayer in verse 16: The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much. The KJV uses the words effectual fervent prayer. So just what is unique about this kind of prayer?

The Greek word used by James is energeō and, as we might suspect just by looking at the word, it is where we get our word energy. So, to accomplish much, our prayers have to be filled with or be backed by real faith, real power, the working energy of a royal priest of God Most High! For prayer to work, it must be backed by the life of a child of the King of Kings!

Prayer is a powerful tool that cannot be used by just anybody. Prayer is the power of the Lord God placed into the hands and lives of His children. To use it, we must first have the Spirit of the Living God in us. We gain that Spirit when we are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38) and it continues to fill us with the power of God as we faithfully serve Him.

Walk away from God, fail to faithfully serve Him and His spirit will leave you as it left King Saul. And without the Spirit of God, you lack the power of God.

Once more we have come full circle in God’s word. His power, His blessings are reserved for His family. In Him are all the promises and the responsibilities of serving as on this earth. Our job, our mission is to use all the tools that God gives us to reach out and share the Good News of Salvation. Reach another soul and you empower them with the power to reach others.

May we never underestimate the power of prayer!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

 

1/6/19 ~ Memo from God

Image result for scroll from God

From the Preacher’s Pen…

The year 2018 ended with a multitude of both sad and joyous events. In many cases, there were the same events such as when we lost brothers and sisters in Christ. Sadly we lost them to this world, but thankfully we take comfort in the promise that they are now home with our God. Perhaps this little reminder will help us keep the proper focus:

Memo from God

  • To: All My Sanctified Children
  • From: Your Heavenly Father
  • Subject: Problems in 2019

Good Morning. I am your Heavenly Father and your God. Your last year has been filled with many challenges. Your Father has brought you through all of them and will continue to secure and direct your way.

This year I will handle all of your problems. Please remember that I do not need your help.

If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, DO NOT attempt to resolve it by yourself! Kindly put it in the SFJTD (something for Jesus to do) box. It will be appropriately addressed in MY time, not yours.

Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold on to it or attempt to remove it. Holding on or removal will delay the resolution of your problem. If it is a situation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution.

Because I do not sleep, slumber or rest, there is no need for you to lose any sleep or be concerned. Rest my child and know that I will bless and care for you. If you need to contact me, I am only a prayer away.

— Your Heavenly Father

As Christians we are not of this world, we are not like everyone else and even our sorrow is different (1 Thessalonians 4:13) since we have hope and promise in Jesus. At the same time, Jesus fully expects us to “get some flack” from the world because of this (cf. Matthew 5:11-12).

This has always been true of God’s people, so consider a reminder of that fact:

Their Laws Are Different From Those Of All Other People

These were the words that the evil Haman told King Ahasuerus about the Jews (Esther 3:8). He was exactly right!

Haman thought this a perfectly good reason to destroy Mordecai and all the Jews because they were different. They had different laws, a different God and a different hope. But they were not different just to be at odds with everyone else, they were following the laws, the commands of God. As a people called out of bondage in Egypt they were given a new home, a new identity, and a new hope.

We today are likewise different and unique. We are called out of the bondage of sin and made to be a new family, a new nation with a new eternal home. We are no longer citizens of this world but of Heaven.

Our law is the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) and our God wants us to be distinctive, “different from all people” as those called by Him. Let’s never be guilty of trying to look or act or think like the world. As we live in this world, let’s never try to be a part of it.

We must remind ourselves every day that, even though the world constantly challenges us to be just like them, that is not our calling nor our duty. Indeed, our God challenges His people to come out and not be a part of this world that we might truly be clean and holy to Him (read 2 Corinthians 6:17).

May we, this year and always, think like, live like, act like God’s people and be proud of serving Him who has given His own life for us!

Remember your calling!

Remember your promises!

Remember that we are indeed, a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people that belong to God! And we are different from all other people so that we may proclaim the “Good News of Him” who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

12/30/18 ~Changes in Worship Year by Year

Related image

Restoring First-Century Worship

      Believe it or not, a large part of the way most protestant denominations worship today is a direct influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and their influence was the Old Testament.  Some readers will throw up their hands in horror at the thought.  Follow the pope?  Never!  But it is true.

            Many Catholic additions to and changes in our worship were resurrected from the Old Testament Law of Moses.  Most are nearly carbon copies of Jewish worship except for animal sacrifices.  There is even a movement among Protestants to rebuild the Temple on its old foundation in Jerusalem.  What in the world for?!  God destroyed it.  How arrogant of us.

            Infant baptism was introduced in 187 AD, copying the Jews who circumcised babies.  They made it church law in 1457.  Sprinkling as a form of baptism was introduced in 250 AD, but was not very well accepted until the twelfth century. 

            Also in 250, some bishops began saying people could not receive the Holy Spirit, even after baptism, unless it was conferred by the bishop.  This became church law in 1275.

            In 318 AD, it was declared that the church creed has supremacy over anything written in the Bible.

            In 451 AD the church said that people had to go to the clergy for a clear interpretation of the scriptures.

            That same year, priests began wearing sacred vestments, copying priests under the law of Moses, and it was made church law in 850 AD. 

            Also in 451, the Roman Church insisted church heads refrain from changing their dress to the more modern styles, saying they must imitate the clothing of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  It was also in imitation of the Jewish practice of the priests wearing special vestments for respect.  It was made official in 850 AD.

            In 600 AD the church declared that its traditions were to be kept in matters of salvation and worship, regardless of what the Bible said.

            In 666 AD musical instruments were introduced into Christian worship, copying the Jews who had instruments during the daily worship at the temple.

            In 1079 candles were introduced into worship, copying the use of candles in the Jewish temple, and it became church law in 1611.  Incense was introduced into worship in 1079 copying the use of incense in Jewish worship, and it became church law in 1213.

            In 1095, common Christians were told they could take the bread if given by a bishop, but not the cup ever, by copying Old Testament Jewish priests who drank the wine part of the sacrifices. 

            In 1215, taking the Lord’s Supper was declared to be necessary only once a year, copying the Jews who celebrated the Passover Feast once a year, and it became church law that same year. 

            In 1274, the church announced that presbyters (elders) were the same thing as pastors, and pastors were the same thing as priests.  Therefore, priests and pastors could head the local congregations.  This was copied from Aaron’s descendants in the Old Testament being priests.

            In 1495, choirs were introduced, copying the choirs in the Jewish temple.  In 1547, the use of choirs became official, and their wearing of vestments like the priests was required.  This copied the Jewish use of choirs in the temple and their wearing fine linen vestments.

            In 1547, the Catholic Church declared ministers and pastors had to be ordained, copying Jewish priests and Levites being ordained in the Law of Moses. 

12/23/18 ~ What Kind of Shoe are You?

Image result for many shoes

From the Preacher’s Pen…

If you knew Kristi Martin or attended her funeral you would know how much she loved shoes. And it was her love of shoes that caused me to remember a little story. Think about it for a moment:

What Kind Of Shoe Are You?

Often we hear: “If the shoe fits, wear it!” or “I’d hate to be in his shoes!” Perhaps each of us would fit one of the following styles:

Loafer: “Thou wicked and slothful servant” (Matthew 25:26). “Be not slothful in business” (Romans 12:11).

High Heel: A person is not “to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3).

Overshoes: Puts on Christianity only when the going gets rough. Wants the prayers and visits of others only when in trouble.

House-shoes: This person wants things easy, comfortable. He is scared off by building programs, mission work, benevolent work, etc. He can’t worship in bad weather. “Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1).

Sandal: Just a skeleton of a Christian. Has not grown in service. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1Peter 2:2).

Sunday Shoes: Once-a-week Christian. “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Work Shoes: The active Christian who is always on the job for the Lord. “I must work the work of Him who sent me, while it is day: the night comes when no man can work” (John 9:4). “Son, go work today in my vineyard” (Matthew 21:38).

We should all remember: “Now (today) is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). May I ask you again: “What kind of shoe best describes you???”

–Author Unknown


 

So, what kind of a servant of Jesus Christ are you? Just like those shoes, God many times uses the illustration of clothing and what we wear as a lesson about Godly living. So, how does the shoe fit you?

There are so many opportunities for us to give of our time and our love. Where can you serve? Is there someone you can invite to study God’s word? Someone you can invite to worship? Someone who’s struggling that you could encourage? Someone who needs a friend and a kind word that you could help?

Just like you don’t want to be caught with the wrong shoes or inappropriate clothing for the occasion, make certain that you are always prepared to be a servant for Jesus. As Peter puts it, But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Get your correct shoes on and the right attire, and serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength this week!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

12/16 ~ Losing a Loved One

Related image

From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the great blessings of God’s family is seeing that family sincerely pull together in hard times. In this world of sin and death, we have so very many opportunities to show the love of our Father. And none is more precious than when we share burdens simply because we are family.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve rejoiced together as Joe and Christopher put on their Lord in baptism. We’ve shared the burdens of a brother as he struggled with his life and service to the Lord. And we’ve shared in losses, at least in this present world, of one of our own in the congregation and another their close family member. Consider a bit of God’s perspective on…

Losing a Loved One

Loss of a loved one is something that every person either knows from experience or will know sometime during their life. It hurts, even for Christians, it is always painful to lose someone you know and love.

God understands that pain and that loss. Can we even begin to imagine what it was like for the Father to see Jesus die on that cross? How could God destroy the earth for the sinfulness of people (cf. Genesis 6:5) in the flood and not annihilate those mocking and murdering His Son?

The only answer to such a question is that God loved us, really loved us! (cf. John 3:16) What amazing love that God could give us such a gift! So, when we deal with loss we need to begin with the reminder that God truly does understand our pain. And God goes to great lengths to try and explain to us that this pain, horrible as it is, is not the whole story.

In 1 Corinthians 15:55 Paul would concede that death is a sting; a sting brought on by sin; sin that was introduced into this world by Satan. But that sting is overwhelmed, literally devoured by victory in Jesus. That is a picture worth hanging on to by God’s people!

While Jesus gave us a tiny glimpse of “Paradise” in Luke 16:19ff, Paul says that, at least from the standpoint of the living, it compares to sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) with the real focus on resurrection, reunion and being with Jesus at His return. Both Jesus and Paul are trying to get us that remain to remember that the faithful child of God has nothing to fear in death. Or, as Paul would even more bluntly state it, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

Consider one more lesson, this time from David. For many years David was the God chosen, anointed king of Israel while an ungodly man remained on the throne. Many times David faced death from both Saul and from all the external enemies of God’s people. On one of those occasions, as David had to pretend to be insane to escape death at the hands of Abimelech the Philistine king, a Psalm was born.

Psalm 34 is written to recall the sheer terror of facing death, the heartbreak of being alone and, above all else, the always present reality of God being with us! Given those circumstances, given all that horror of loss and great misery, how would you begin the story?

David begins it like this: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth… O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:1, 3). Death and loss, misery and despair are not the ordinary human companions of praise and worship. But then again, God’s people are not ordinary humans!

Notice just a few of David’s other proclamations in this Psalm: I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears (34:4). O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him! (34:8) The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry (34:15). The righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. (34:17-19)

Yes, our God understands about losing a loved one. Our God has promised to always, ALWAYS be there with us no matter how hard it seems, how broken-hearted we are. And above all else, our God has promised to help us through those trials and deliver us from all our troubles.

Trust the Lord your God! Hold tightly to Him who loves you and will keep you in His care!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

 

Creeping and Drifting…

Related image

From the Preacher’s Pen… I once heard of a mayor who firmly believed that traffic warnings were overdone. He was elected just because he felt it excessive to always be telling people how to run their lives and what not to do. So, his solution was to get rid of all the traffic control in his city. No more stop lights, no more stop signs, no more yield signs, no more signs preventing people from driving however they wanted.

As you might expect, things didn’t go well in that town. As traffic snarled and accidents abounded, pedestrians were increasingly run down and people eventually became so angry that they replaced their mayor with one that promised to put the rules back in place and restore order.

Hopefully, you realize the lesson has important parallels for us in God’s word. Let’s look a moment at…

Creeping and Drifting

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we share, I felt the necessity to write to you urging you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

Jude presents an important reminder of the fact that sin does not appear to us dressed up with horns and a pitchfork. Satan and his false-teaching followers know how to creep in without our notice. The warning from God is clear; we must always be on the alert, watchful lest the Devil and his ungodly companions sneak in and cause us to also do wrong.

The NIV renders verse 4 like this: For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Watch out for the dangerous, unnoticed, secretly slipping in ungodly people who are perverting God’s will! Do we get the point?

What is amazing in light of God’s clear teaching is how often someone will suggest that we “let them talk and have their say. After all, won’t everyone recognize false teaching?” Do we really have a God-given responsibility to protect those babes and immature ones in Christ? Let’s check with God on that: Reject a factious [divisive, Paul literally calls them a heretic] person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11) Paul also warned the elders of the Ephesian church that savage wolves were going to be a threat to the church and that they would be leading people away from salvation (cf. Acts 20:25-30).

God’s lesson for us is important: There is danger out there and it will sneak in and destroy our lives and the Lord’s church if we let it. Be careful, always watchful, always devoted to the truth in God’s word! Okay, as soon as we observe the big bad wolf huffing and puffing at our door, we will immediately stop him and never allow ourselves to be led astray!

The problem with this boast is that God also warns us of another danger… that of drifting. The Hebrew writer warns: …  we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:1-3a)

Danger does not always come with a sign and a warning. Indeed, it is especially deadly when it creeps in. We miss the signs when they are almost unnoticeable. We drift ever so slowly away. It is dangerous simply because it is insidious, easily missed until it is too late.

All the warnings in the world are useless without us first knowing God’s will. Reading your Bible daily is a beginning. Studying intently on your own and with your fellow Christians will help even more. James puts it like this: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22–25)

Be careful not to allow either creeping or drifting into your life for the Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

low either creeping or drifting into your life for the Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

Loving the Lord

Related image

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever been in love? Do you remember what it is like to be in love? One of the greatest difficulties for us as human beings is remembering to really keep our love alive and not grow tired of someone.

A simple illustration: The first time you held your newborn child, remember that feeling of love, that care and concern, that desire to protect and care for them? Now, fast forward six months. Check out the sleep-deprived parent of that same child with a cold and cutting their first tooth. The frustration at a given moment may well seem to overshadow the love you once felt.

The fact is, like the Apostle Paul said so well in 1 Corinthians 13, we must constantly remember what real love is and how it acts. So, let’s take a moment to reflect on God’s lesson about our love for Him:

Loving the Lord

Let’s begin with Romans 8:28 where Paul said, And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Two things we must keep in mind here: First, God’s “good” is promised for those that love Him. Second, God defines loving Him as how we live in obedience to Him.

Without obedience, we don’t really love Him and we cannot expect His blessings. You can easily check that fact with John’s words of 1 John 5:2, By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and observe His commandments.

This has ALWAYS been God’s definition of really loving Him! Deuteronomy 6:5 states the basic standard: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

From that passage forward God corrects numerous misunderstandings. Deuteronomy 11:1 emphasizes keeping all of His requirements, statutes, ordinances, commandments. As Jesus reminded Satan (Matthew 4:4), every word of God is important!

In Deuteronomy 11:13 and 22 God reminds us that all our blessings are contingent on faithful love and service, our obedience to Him.

Deuteronomy 13:3 is one of the many times God underscores the reminder that false teachers are NOT to be followed. In fact, they are a test that God uses to find out if we really love Him!

To simplify all this, Deuteronomy 30:16 tells us that loving God to the point of total obedience is the absolute basis of all blessings and life. That’s actually the same concept as Paul stated in Romans 8:28.

The songs of God’s people carry the same lessons:

  • O love the Lord,
  • all you His godly ones!
  • The Lord preserves the faithful
  • and fully recompenses the proud doer.

(Psalm 31:23)

  • Hate evil, you who love the Lord,
  • who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
  • He delivers them from the hand of the wicked

(Psalm 97:10).

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Jesus also echoed that same great standard of loving God in Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27. Real love is, for God is the all-consuming passion of faithful service to our Lord.

Leave it to the Holy Spirit through Paul to state the boldly obvious negative: If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. The Lord has come! The Lord comes! (1 Corinthians 16:22) Consider for a moment the force of what Paul says there. Even as he pronounces a curse on those that do not love the Lord, he offers a double blessing that the Lord has already come and that He is coming again (the Aramaic term Paul uses translates to both meanings).

So, how’s your love? Are there difficult times? Certainly! Are there events that make you question your love? Things that make you question His love? We all face these challenges and it is worth remembering that Jesus did, too! But keeping the faith, truly loving the Lord our God and Savior means that we must also remember the whole story!

Yes, a parent of a six-month child with a cold that’s cutting teeth will certainly struggle. But we remind them, we remind ourselves of what love really means. And we keep on loving and caring for that child. We treasure the precious moments as they grow, even when they are a challenge to us. Why? Because that is love, real love!

Do you love the Lord? Are you aware of all He puts up with in our lives? And yet He goes on loving us, encouraging us, blessing us, patiently waiting for us to show our love for Him.

Do you love the Lord?

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding