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