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

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8/5/18 – A Tale of Five Good Deeds

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Years ago, back when the internet and email were just beginning to be used by many people, a good friend sent me a list of five lessons. I’m sure that they have all been retold many times and probably with some changes. But this is what he sent:

Five Lessons for God’s People

First Lesson: The Cleaning Lady

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “Hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Second Lesson: Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960’s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.

Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely,

Mrs. Nat King Cole.

Third Lesson: Always Remember Those Who Serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.

“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired.

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

Fourth Lesson: The Obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King’s’ wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Fifth Lesson: Giving When it Counts

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had somehow survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Like the stories Jesus told, these are simple little lessons that have some great spiritual lessons for us. In fact, these each have parallels in scripture… if only we will listen and pay attention.

So, how do you do with paying attention to others that you might win their souls? Do you truly reflect the character of Jesus rather than that of the society that you live in? Do you take time to honor those who serve? Are you a complainer or a doer in the Lord’s Kingdom?

And finally, since your Savior gave His all for you… what do you actually offer to give to Him?

Yes, these are important lessons and each one may show far more about who we really are than anything that we might say. As a Christian, a child of the King… who are you really?

— Lester P. Bagley

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July 1, 2018 ~ Bless the Lord

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you thankful? Do have blessings? Are you a blessing? The first two questions seem perfectly normal to all of us. But that last question about being a blessing is both a bit more challenging and a bit more important. Let’s do a bit more study as we…

Bless the Lord

The dictionary says that the word bless primarily means a religious term to confer (give to someone else) or invoke (request from someone else) the favor of God. We pretty well understand that we can ask God’s blessing on ourselves, or we can ask God to bless someone else. God, after all, IS God and His blessing really means something.

The power of God’s people when faithfully doing His will is nothing short of amazing! Jesus taught us that as we go out to share the Gospel that we are to give our blessing of peace to others. It’s not really our power, our gift to give because we are human, but rather the power and authority of God’s commissioned “light of the world” that can extend God’s own peace as a blessing to this world.

Likewise, James (James 5:15) reminds us of the awesome power of prayer possessed by the faithful. The prayers of God’s people have the power to bring God’s healing to the sick and forgive sins! Certainly, in all these ways we ARE a powerful blessing to this world.

But let’s go back to the dictionary and look a bit further down at a third (in my dictionary, at least) and therefore somewhat lesser meaning. There it says that bless also can mean to express or feel gratitude to, to thank.

It may well come as a bit of a surprise to us to realize that we can actually bless God! Yes, when we actually DO God’s will and live as His faithful children on this earth we have great blessings to give to this world. And yes, we can also by that righteous living cause others to turn to God and thus we are a blessing to Him.

But we also have the ability, the power, the right, the honor to extend to God our own blessing as thanksgiving. In so doing we bless the Lord both by living as His faithful family members here on earth and by being appreciative of the great honor and power He has given to us.

The Bible uses the specific words “bless the Lord” or refers to blessing God more than two dozen times. Consider just a few of those:

Moses, in some of his final words, reminded God’s people that as they entered and lived in the Land that God had promised them to eat and be filled and then to bless the Lord their God (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Deborah, the Judge, and her general, Barak, sang of God’s deliverance and that the people blessed the Lord as Godly leadership served God (Judges 5:2). [Note that the NKJV and others correct the KJV’s erroneous translation of “praise the Lord” to “bless the Lord” since the Hebrew is not hālal but bārak, not praise God but bless God.]

As David crowned Solomon king to succeed him, he directed the nation to “bless the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:20). In the Psalms, David and the other writers frequently reminded themselves and all the faithful to bless the Lord (Psalm 16:7; 26:12; 34:1; 103:1; 104:1; 115:18; et.al.).

The concept of blessing the Lord is also seen in Jewish prayers. The blessing for bread is: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth. Various foods have similar blessings including this one: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. There’s even a generic blessing for all other foods: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, by Whose word all things came to be.

What we really need to see, appreciate and imitate is the lesson that God’s people have a responsibility to bless God. In the things we say and do in this world, in the way we deal with our fellow saints, in the way we are faithful, in the way that we respect and appreciate our God we must always BE a blessing.

— Lester P. Bagley

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I must leave it more glorious than I found it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malcolm Parsley, Korea

 

11/19/17 ~ Thanksgiving in God’s Word

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever thought about what it is that makes you happy? In dealing with depression and sadness there is one common thread in all the advice, all the research, all the studies of what really works.

In order to move from sadness to joy, you have to first get moving. Unsurprisingly you never get anywhere else unless you get up and do something; you have to move. But the second ingredient always involves thankfulness.

If you never make the effort to appreciate, to see and be thankful then you are guaranteed to be miserable. It is not only a fact of human psychology, a fact of life; it is a fact of spiritual life, too.

Think for a few moments just how much God has done for you and let’s look at just a few lessons of…

Thanksgiving in God’s Word

It is easy to think of the Thanksgiving holiday as an American invention that happens once a year. But, as you probably realize, the original “holiday” in this country was a group of Christian people celebrating what their God had done to provide for them in difficult circumstances. And they understood what we should remember: Thanksgiving has always been celebrated by God’s people whenever they stop to realize and appreciate God’s blessings!

We have much to be thankful for every single day and should often go to our God in prayer for His many rich blessings. Let’s consider just a few of the lessons from God’s hymn book (Psalms) that remind us to be truly thankful.

1) God’s love never changes, never falters, and never ends. When Moses was on the mountain to receive the Law it was part of God’s announcement as to who He really is (Exodus 34:6-7). The Psalmist certainly had this knowledge of the Lord in mind.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

2) God’s faithfulness reminds us of what He calls us to with our faithfulness. It should never be a temporary thing for us because His faithfulness lasts literally forever!
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1-2)

3) Because God is God He is worthy of praise. Remember His awesome creative power and His eternal purpose for us, His people. Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His (Psalm 100:3).

4) God purposefully created you as an intricate work of careful design, and He cares about every single part of you.  For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13-17)

5) God is our greatest hope and encouragement when we face struggles in this life.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

6) God is the best antidote to our fears. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:10-11)

7) God is trustworthy. He will continue to bless us with what is best. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. (Psalm 37:3-5)

Consider how much He has done for you and give Him your all. You will never be sorry that you did. Are you truly thankful to the Lord?

— Lester P. Bagley

7/30/17 ~ Singing the Song of Joy

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how winners parade and show off how great they are? While losers might moan and complain that winners aren’t that great, the facts tend to speak for themselves, don’t they?

Have you ever noticed how winners parade and show off how great they are? While losers might moan and complain that winners aren’t that great, the facts tend to speak for themselves, don’t they?

In the Spiritual world, the same thing is true. Losers moan and complain while winners, real winners celebrate the joy of victory. Consider…

Singing the Song of Joy

The Jewish rabbis considered this one of David’s Kingship Psalms and saw it as highlighting the military victory of God. While David was a great king himself, he constantly reminded himself (and his people) that the Lord is the real king. It was this humility and love for his God that both kept him humble and showed his greatness.

Perhaps because many Christians today are unfamiliar with, or just uncomfortable with, the military lessons of God, many Christian commentators tend to simply view it as one of the “new songs” to be sung in heaven (cf. Revelation 5:9-14). Of course, when you read the book of Revelation (and the rest of the New Testament) you cannot fail to see the constant references to our God and Savior as both our great leader in the war against sin and Satan now and, one day, the great victor in eternity.

Military victories were important to David. The battles won subdued the hostile nations surrounding Israel and eventually brought peace, safety, honor, and riches to the nation of God’s people.

To Christians in the New Testament world seeing increasing persecution because the world did not agree with them or accept them, the same lesson of victory under Jesus’ kingship was both important and vital to their hope (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 4:8; 1 John 5:4; etc. where the terms for military victories are used). So consider David’s song as he challenges God’s people to join the “new song” and share in the reminder of joyful victory:

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,

For He has done wonderful things,

His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.

The Lord has made known His salvation;

He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His loving kindness

and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;

Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.

Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,

With the lyre and the sound of melody.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,

The world and those who dwell in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

Let the mountains sing together for joy

Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;

He will judge the world with righteousness

And the peoples with equity.

As many other Biblical writers remind us, our God is creator of all we see around us. And all of God’s creation should honor Him. The physical world does so by obeying the physical laws He created to govern all that exists (many of the Psalms remind us of this lesson as does the book of Job).

Interestingly enough all living creatures but humans obey the laws of God that govern their lives. For example, rats never suddenly give birth to elephants and whales never give birth to horses. Rocks never turn into plants or any other living thing. All in spite of the humorous, fantastical claims of some humans.

Only humans actively try to disobey the Creator in the lives they lead. And sadly, only humans are actually made in the very image of God.

Victory is truly in Jesus. And one day, as even David looked forward to, the Lord is coming to judge the earth in righteousness. Will you and I be found to have honored Him with obedient lives? Or will we be found in rebellion against Him who is and always will be the victor?

May we join with David in singing and living praise to our Lord. He HAS made known His salvation, He HAS revealed His righteous will. Will we obey it?

— Lester P. Bagley

7/16/17 ~ FAITHFULNESS

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever worked through some difficulty because of the love, care, and encouragement of a fellow Christian and the Lord? If so, do you also remember that there are a lot of people out there in this world that have no hope? Doesn’t that strike you as sad?

Does it strike you as even sadder still when you consider that many times Christians have no hope because they’ve left their first love, Christ? I’d like us to think a bit about a Christian attribute that’s sometimes called dedication, but the word God most often uses is faithfulness! Another word for this same attribute is reliability.

Without dedication, without faithfulness, without reliability, we cannot complete the tasks we have to do. Let’s consider the subject of faithfulness for a moment.

Faithfulness

We expect faithfulness and reliability from things and other people around us. Unfortunately, as Christians, one of our persistent sins is a lack of faithfulness to God. Are you unreliable as a Christian?

You would be angry if a store clerk repeatedly ignored you to serve their friends. But do you turn your back on God and miss worship when “friends” or even “family” come to visit? Shouldn’t we be more dedicated, more reliable, more faithful to God’s family?

If your newspaper were delivered to your house on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but to someone else’s house on the other days, you would be upset. Would you consider continuing to pay for that kind of service? Do you expect God to continue to bless you and respond to your needs and prayers when you serve and worship Him on your terms?

If your hot water heater provides you with an ice-cold shower part of the time, a luke-warm shower sometimes, and a hot shower only occasionally, would you consider it dependable? Should God consider us reliable for occasional attendance at worship or Bible study and occasional other kinds of service to Him?

How would you feel about your husband or wife spending a few nights each month with another man or woman? How does God feel about you forsaking His church and His people to be with denominational people, openly claiming that their priority is their feelings, wants and needs and not what God says and wants?

What would your bank say about you missing a couple of house payments every year? Would they understand that you really needed the money to buy presents for your family? Do you expect God to accept that your children and family are better served by your time with them but away from Him?

Sometimes we presume so much on God’s love…

…that we fail to demonstrate our responsibility for faithfulness. Do you see yourself as a volunteer in service to God or do you understand God’s view? “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). For a volunteer, almost anything seems acceptable, but for servants who are duty bound, faithfulness is required!

“100 percent!” is a challenge to each one of us to demonstrate our love, our commitment, our faithfulness to each other and to God. Let’s get busy, get involved and show God and each other how much we care, who we really belong to, and how much we appreciate….

…what God paid to purchase us from hell.

— Lester P. Bagley