Study of Philippians

With all the extended time at home several have mentioned that they’ve already completed their entire planned year of Bible readings. That’s great! If you recall, we have several “plans” for reading through the Bible. If you need another one to get you through the rest of the year, just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it to you!

Philippians

When we look back on our lives, we see both good times and bad ones. But we certainly know which times we prefer to recall, don’t we? There is always something exceptionally precious about good memories, good friends and good things.

Can you imagine how Paul felt about the church at Philippi compared to those “problem children” congregations like Corinth? Oh, I’m certain he loved the struggling congregations that he helped and loved them very dearly, but there’s just something extra precious about a congregation that just plain extrudes love and encouragement.

That is not to imply that good congregations don’t struggle. We all do! But it means that when we accentuate the positive and try harder to actually DO all things God’s way, that we bless not only ourselves, but others richly!

So for the next few lessons we are going to take a closer look at the church of Christ in Philippi and see a few lessons that we can learn from them.

The Whole Praetorian Guard

To begin, let’s first look at some basic things about the letter, the city and the church. Paul writes this letter from a prison (Philippians 1:13) and is known by the whole praetorian guard. While the term praetorian guard was used for the guard of a governor’s palace, like in Caesarea Maritima where he spent a couple of years, it is far more commonly used of the guard in Rome itself. Then, when in Philippians 4:22 Paul sends greetings from Caesar’s household, it becomes virtually certain that the prison is in Rome.

Given the lighter, more hopeful tone of the letter in contrast to 2 Timothy, it thus seems certain that this letter is written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome between AD 60 and 62. That tells us a few important things to help appreciate Paul’s words.

On Paul’s second missionary journey he had a vision requesting the Gospel be preached in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). In response, Paul travels to Philippi and, in about AD 50 plants the Lord’s church there. Although the vision Paul had was a “man” calling him to Macedonia, the first Christians there were women, Lydia and her household (Acts 16:12- 15). The church there continued to grow to include the retired Roman soldier and official jail keeper of the city.

Mix of Jews and Romans

This congregation, a mix of male and female, Jew and Roman, represents the best of Christ’s people here on earth. Saints of different backgrounds faithfully blending into a Christian family.

Philippi was a proud city with a noteworthy military history. It had been the capital of Alexander the Great, who’d renamed it for his father Philip of Macedon. When captured by the Romans it was repopulated with soldiers and flourished as an official Roman colony continuing that long, proud military and political record. That would lead Paul to comment on these very things as representations of the church.

For some 10 years, the church in Philippi has continued to be faithful and grow, evidently in both number and in spirit. A part of their work has been the ongoing support of Paul and his mission work. They are to be commended, not only for their loyalty to Christ but to those Christian workers, for they were highly regarded by Paul for their generosity.

Paul and Nero

Let’s back up a moment and catch a few other facts that would have been well known by the early Christians reading this letter. In AD 50, as Paul first preaches the Gospel in Philippi, the Roman emperor, Nero, has already been emperor for some 13 years. Five years into his reign Nero had his mother killed. By the time of Paul’s imprisonment, he was well on his way to the extravagance and madness that would lead to the death of both Paul and Nero.

Putting all this together, Paul, even though technically “in prison,” writes a proud letter about Christian victory to the congregation he honors as his crowning achievement (cf. Philippians 4:1). To Christians well-informed of both their own proud military traditions and of the world capital of Rome and it’s splendor, Paul shares the even greater victory of Jesus! Even Caesar’s palace guard (and everyone else, too) knows of Paul and his Christ. And because of all this, the word of God is spoken and taught without fear (Philippians 1:12-14).

So great is our Savior and His reach into this world that greetings are shared from “Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22). Prison, whether in Philippi or Rome, means nothing to God and the Gospel will always be shared by those who love the Lord.

Remember the Victory

Yes, there would still be dark days ahead for Paul as there are for us. But if we constantly focus on the negative, on the minor defeats and allow them to consume us, we will miss both the great victory and the great power of our Savior!

As we read through Philippians, remember who they are, remember who Paul is, remember the setting and surrounding history; but above all else, remember the Lord. Remember the joy, the confidence and the victory that comes when we work together in Jesus.

Remember that, with God, one day these things will be the only things worth remembering of our time here on this earth.

—Lester P. Bagley

Joy to the highest degree

Read Article Below
Add Your Picture here.

Are you still reading your Bible? This year has certainly been a good reminder that we all need to spend time with our God. Let’s put it a different way. If you miss brushing your teeth for a day, would you just give up and never brush your teeth again? If you miss reading your Bible for a day, be sure to get back to doing something far more important than brushing your teeth. Take care of your eternal soul!

Joy

Let’s begin with a silly question or two. Do you prefer to be joyful or blah? Do you like being so joyful that you just can’t contain yourself? The simple fact is that this is likely one of the spiritual qualities that shines through even in our human forms.

It seems that people have often associated joy, real joy with God. Moses promised true joy to God’s people in celebrating the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 16:15) and offered God’s curses on those that failed to serve the Lord with joy and a glad heart (Deuteronomy 28:47). As David made the preparations for his son Solomon to build the Temple, he blessed those preparations with joy at the willingness of God’s people to make offerings to the Lord (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:17).

When God’s people returned to the Lord after the Babylonian captivity, Ezra observed the joy of restoring the house of the Lord and all the resulting blessings of faithfulness to God (cf. Ezra 6:16, 22). Nehemiah would outright say that their joy came from God (Nehemiah 12:43). And Zephaniah the prophet would remark how, when God’s people obeyed the Lord that, He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy (Zephaniah 3:17).

Look back at that passage from Zephaniah. The Hebrew uses three different words for God’s joy. The first two, He will exult over you with joy and He will rejoice over you are terms of an ecstatic, joyful dance. God simply cannot contain Himself and dances for joy. The final shouts of joy is a single word of jubilation and triumph as follows a successful battle or the winning of a war.

Apparently, God knows all about joy and not only shares that attribute with His people but actually feels that joy to the highest degree when His people are faithful. What a picture of our God!

The New Testament Greek is a bit more similar to the English in almost understating the idea of joy. Chara is variously translated as joy, gladness, rejoicing, cause of joy, occasion of rejoicing, bliss, gladness, happiness. You get the point, but God still manages to let His lessons be seen through.

When the Wise Men visit the young Jesus in Bethlehem, the KJV, NKJV and NASB all say that they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. The Greek is literally, they joyed (rejoiced) with very much mega-joy! It seems that the joy in seeing the Lord is almost beyond the terms of human expression! It seems to harken back to Nehemiah’s statement that the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The joy of the Lord. Now THAT is joy worth possessing and sharing.

But let’s move on a bit and also note how joy takes on some very special meanings as the New Testament moves into the lives of God’s people now. Paul reminds us that the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Joy is something that belongs, not only to God, but to Christ’s church, the Kingdom (from Acts 2 onward). In Galatians 5:22 Paul lists joy just after love as part of the fruit of the Spirit. You may also recall that joy and rejoicing are favorite terms for Paul to use as he writes to the always faithful and encouraging congregation of God’s people in Philippi.

Peter, in discussing Jesus our Christ says, though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). He goes on to say in verse 9 that the result or outcome of such joyful faith is the salvation of our souls!

There is one other form of that New Testament word, sugchairō, and it very specifically means joy that is shared. Luke uses this word for Elizabeth when, in her old age, her son, John, is born and her neighbors and relatives are all rejoicing with her (Luke 1:58).

There’s an old saying that is found in many languages and cultures around the world. It says that sorrow shared is halved and joy shared is doubled. God’s people have known that to be a fact all along. Paul told the Corinthians if one member suffers, all the members suffer with them; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with them (1 Corinthians 12:26). He goes on to define love as not rejoicing in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Joy is a trait, a power, a gift of God. Satan and sin have no joy but rather come to steal our joy. And joy shared with God and His people is even more powerful!

Before we finish, though, consider one more Bible verse about that marvelous gift of God. The elderly Apostle John would write, I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth (3 John 4). What greater joy can there be on this earth than to love, be with and work alongside God’s people? What greater joy can there be than to share God’s love with another and watch them go to heaven with us?

Be faithful. Be prayerful. Be IN God’s word. And be joyful in all, for that is God’s gift to us!

—Lester P. Bagley

 

 

 

Worship

Have you read your Bible today? Several people have said that they’ve gotten ahead in their reading schedule with all this extra time at home. Is there really such a thing as spending too much time with someone you love? Most of us have loved ones that are no longer living and would dearly love a bit more time to talk with them again. Don’t let God ever be the one you miss like that! Keep reading and keep praying… always!

Worship

We use the word worship in a lot of ways. When we are assembled together to sing, pray and study God’s word, we call that worship.

But we also recognize that worship is how we live our daily lives for God. Worship can also involve our remembrance of our Savior in the Lord’s Supper or in our financial giving. And worship is certainly involved in sharing the Gospel with others.  How else can we truly honor our God and commitment to Him? The Bible has a lot to say about our worship, both the right kind and the wrong.

What we sometimes miss with our English language is that often God uses different words to speak of worship that help us see His lessons. Without a bit of extra study we may even miss God’s point and confuse ourselves. So let’s do a little digging and study about this word.

To begin with, we’re not going to get the whole point of worship in a brief study. The Old Testament uses some five different words (and 14 forms of those words) that are all commonly translated as something to do with “worship” over 100 times. So obviously there’s a great deal of study to be done there in preparing us for the New Testament. But let’s set that aside for a bit and move on to the New Testament.

The New Testament writers use seven different Greek words about 70 times that are all translated into English as something involving “worship.” So obviously there’s something going on here that we should dig into.

The first reference to worship in the New Testament comes from the Wise Men and it (proskuneo) refers to the kind of honor we usually see in a movie. This is the most used term for worship in the NT. It means to do reverence or homage by falling down and/or by kissing the hand. This is an overt act of recognizing someone else as your unreserved superior, as in your king.

In Matthew 2:2 this is the worship that the Wise Men have come to offer the “King of all the Jews.” But it’s also the word that Herod the Great uses (Matthew 2:8) to tell them to report back to him the location of this King that Herod might also go to, bow down and thus swear allegiance to the one greater than him. Of course we know that was not Herod’s intention at all, but that is what he said.

Interestingly, this is the very word next used by Satan as he comes to tempt Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:9-10). Satan is offering to give up to Jesus and turn everything over to Him if only Jesus will “fall down and worship.” Do you see what Jesus heard Satan demand? If Jesus completely surrenders and acknowledges Satan as His Lord and Master. If Jesus acknowledged Satan as His God, then Satan’s won!

Of course Jesus quickly reminds Satan that kind of allegiance and worship only belongs to God! Luke echoes this same important lesson in Luke 4:7-8. Evidently Satan does not deserve any honor, any allegiance from us, either!

John 4:20-24 also uses this word for worship. It begins with the Samaritan woman trying to trap Jesus into an argument that began with Sanballat and Nehemiah (Sanballat opposed rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls because God rejected the Samaritan false worshippers and he went on to institute the worship on Mount Gerizim). So the woman is claiming to truly honor God in a place God had forbidden (cf. 2 Chronicles 6:6 and Psalm 78:66-69). Is it any wonder that Jesus goes on to explain that TRUE worship is about really honoring God as God by doing what He says and with His Spirit in control?

The most frequent use of this word is in Revelation (cf. Revelation 4:10; 9:20; 11:1; 13:8, 12, 15; 14:7, 11; 15:4; 19:10; 22:8). You will notice that most of these verses are talking about how God is honored in heaven by His people. If we cannot acknowledge God as our one and only master here, we will never be allowed to worship Him there!

The next common word translated worship in the New Testament (sebo) means to stand in awe, to be devout, pious, to adore. The term is used of proselytes (Acts 13:43; 16:14; 18:7; 13:50; 17:4, 17), converts to Judaism from the Gentile world, in reference to their faithfulness. When you see what a Gentile had to give up to fully embrace the Law of Moses it certainly says something about their faith!

Interestingly, this is the word Jesus uses for His rebuke of supposedly religious people who teach human beliefs rather than Godly doctrine. Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 both show Jesus citing them as fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of vain or useless worship.

The word is also used by Jews that rejected Jesus in an accusation against Paul (Acts 18:13) that he was persuading people to dishonor rather than honor God. Then in Acts 19:17 its used by the pagan silversmith Demetrius to accuse Paul of causing people to not worship the false goddess Artemis. Apparently, when you worship God in His way you will catch criticism from all sides for not pleasing them rather than God!

There’s one other word that’s used several times that we also need to look at. In Romans 12:1 Paul says, Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. The word (latreia) Paul uses is frequently translated as service or work. It is used to refer to both the duties, work of a slave and for the work of priests in offering sacrifices and other parts of a worship service. Paul is clearly saying that a part of our worship of God involves giving ourselves completely to God for His use.

The writer of Hebrews uses this word (Hebrews 9:6) to refer to the physical acts of worship of the Jewish Priests of the Temple, Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship. But there’s one other use that is important to appreciate, too.

One of the foolish things we are sometimes told by so-called Christians (those who have no wish to actually obey God), is that there really is NOT any pattern of worship in the

New Testament. It ought to be considered such a ridiculous argument that we immediately switch off even listening to it. But sadly, many do not do so.

So, is there really anything that God expects us to do as worship to Him? Or are we really free to make up anything we wish and claim it’s okay with God? As foolish as that seems to obviously be (God’s never, ever, suggested that people do as they please to serve Him), some will still claim that there are no regulations, no rules of how to worship God either in our assemblies or in our lives.

Well, as always, the most important voice to listen to is God. Read Hebrews 9. It begins with these words in verse 1: Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. The writers lesson is about the fact that regulations, rules of how to serve God are always a part of serving God. Now he’s going to talk about the specific work of Jesus, but he’s left us with a reminder that God has always had things that have to be done in the right way, at the right time.

In a very real sense, you are not worshiping God unless you give Him your all. It can never be a grudging; here I’ll follow You if that’s what I have to do. We must honor Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And we have to follow his rules, obey Him rather than sin, self and Satan. Nothing less is true worship by God’s definition… and that is all that matters!

—Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

“Religion”

How’s that Bible reading going? If you find something “better” to do, either thank Satan for what he’s given you… or get back to reading God’s word… EVERY DAY!

Religion

One of the most important reasons to keep reading and studying God’s word is the simple fact that this world is filled with opinions of God based on ignorance. God has NEVER accepted ignorance nor opinion as a substitute for Godly knowledge, and THAT can only come from knowing God’s word!

Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet, Priest and final Judge of Israel, would dedicate her firstborn son to the Lord with a prayer that reminds us, There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:2-3)

As the northern Kingdom of Israel faced destruction for their unfaithfulness, two prophets of the Lord would expose the sin of “lack of knowledge” as the reason for that failure before God (cf. Isaiah 5:13 and Hosea 4:6). It is not just evident but imperative that we actually know what God says before offering an opinion or, especially, an attempt at obedience.

We are acquainted with the lame expression of some people that they, “love Christ, just not the Church.” Paul destroys that false teaching in Ephesians 5:25-32 as he asserts that Christ’s Church is by God’s definition the very thing He died for and the very thing He saves. If you despise His Church, then you despise Christ. Just as there is only one Lord, He only has one church (cf. Ephesians 4:4-5). If you are not the church of Christ, then you are not saved… according to God.

That brings us to another expression many people love to acknowledge without knowing God’s position on the subject. This one involves religion. Is religion good or bad? Is it right or wrong? It turns out that, just like the ONE church there is only ONE religion in God’s eyes.

A recent popular post on social networking says: Many turn from Jesus because of a bad experience with “Religious” people. We must remind them that Jesus also had a bad experience with “Religious” people: He was crucified by them.

Religion Will Not Save You. Only Jesus Saves.”  Okay, some people claim religion will not save you! What does God say? Let’s begin by understanding that a word, a title, a description may be used to refer to something good and right yet may also be used in a bad sense to refer to the exact opposite. We often use the words true or real when referring to the good sense and fake, or false or bad to point out the opposite meaning. Paul uses this procedure in 1 Corinthians 5:11 to reference the so-called brother that blatantly sins.

In the same way, there is God’s religion and there is false, man-made religion. They are not the same and the fact that people have invented a fake version of what is right does not change the fact that we are saved by religion… as God defines it!

Let’s go to the New Testament where the words for the concept of religion are used very specifically. First, Acts 17:22: So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.” Paul uses the word  deisidaimōn which means reverencing the gods and divine things, religious; in a bad sense, superstitious. By this he is complimenting their careful and precise discharge of religious services. A seeming compliment that he then shows to be wrongly based.

Acts 25:19 uses a form of this same word to refer to a Roman discussion where Christianity is labeled simply a faction of Judaism. Again, the word can refer to, depending on context, either a real religion or a superstition. In this case Festus, the Roman governor, is labeling both Judaism and Christianity as just another superstitious religion while missing the point that this is really the true religion of God.

Second, is the word used in Colossians 2:23 where Paul writes, These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. His word is ethelothrēskia and is a compound word that means rather specifically a self-imposed religious piety. It certainly makes clear Paul’s attitude toward false or fake religion, doesn’t it?

The third word is used first in Acts 26:6: since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. Here Paul is using thrēskeia, a common word referring to worship or religion. As used here it is clear that Paul is claiming to have been a part of the true religion of the old covenant.

Paul will use this same word in a warning in Colossians 2:18 in a negative way: Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind. But he makes it very clear that the opinion of worship of angels and other false things is NOT the worship or religion of God.

Finally, James brings us the ultimate point of the lesson about religion and whether it has any place in our lives as he says, If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27) There are plenty of religions in this world. People can, and do, worship all kinds of things including themselves and their own ideas. But there is also the one true religion that worships and obeys the Lord.

We sometimes only read the first half of James 1:27 and miss the rest of the lesson. Just as vital as caring for those individuals in need, pure and undefiled religion in God’s eyes is keeping oneself unstained by the world. Yes, Jesus saves! But His salvation only comes with obedience to Him. You must BE the Church of Christ. You must live and teach the pure religion of God or you will not be saved.

—Lester P. Bagley

 

11/24/19 ~ The Unused Cup

Blog-Unused Cup

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Hopefully, we’ve all noticed that frequently our visiting preachers remind us of the importance of God’s “Great Commission” to His church, His family. All the things we do as God’s family to encourage each other, to honor and praise God, to help those with physical needs must be focused on saving souls!

If we feed the hungry but fail to point them to salvation in Christ, we’ve wasted our time. If we praise God with our lips in “worship” but fail to bring the lost to Him, we’ve wasted God’s time. If we make each other “feel” better without drawing closer to God in obedience then we are merely serving Satan, not the Lord.

If we would actually accomplish God’s will we must do God’s will! One of my favorite stories is a great lesson in keeping our priorities right. Let’s remember…

The Unused Cup

James A. Garfield, twentieth President of the United States, resigned as an elder of the church of Christ in 1881 to take office. His statement to the congregation was, I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.

Thirty years earlier at age 19, he was planning to take a riverboat trip with friends but injured his foot while chopping wood. While his friends were on their trip a preacher came to town and James Garfield, as he put it, surrendered my heart to the Lord and was baptized into his kingdom at the age of 19.

Eight years later in 1853, he began preaching and continued to faithfully serve the Lord. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1862 and, in 1880, became the first sitting member of Congress to be elected to the presidency. He remains the only sitting House member to gain the White House.

The first week after his inauguration as President of the United States, a member of his cabinet insisted on an urgent meeting at 10:00 Sunday morning to handle a threatened national crisis. Garfield refused to attend because he had a more important appointment. The cabinet member demanded to know what it was. The president replied, I will be as frank as you are. My engagement is with the Lord to meet Him in His house at His table at 10:00, and I shall be there. He then left with Mrs. Garfield and went to Sunday morning worship.

President Garfield’s appointment at the Lord’s table was a reference to the Lord’s Supper, the memorial of the sufferings of Christ observed by Christians every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The Apostle Paul gave the following instructions to Christians concerning their appointment at the Lord’s table:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

An invitation has been extended to each one of us as humans to come in obedient faith (Acts 16:30-31), confessing Jesus as Lord before men (Romans 10:9-10), turning away from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31) and being immersed for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38) so that we, too, may take our reserved seat at the Lord’s table with those who will inherit eternal life. 

Consider the declarations of your “Unused Cup”…

“I am an unused cup for communion… left last Sunday from the worship service, giving testimony of an appointment unkept, a trust broken….”

“I was filled in anticipation… that some Christian would drink of my contents and be reminded of the price of their redemption.”

“Here I sit— unused… Yet I bear witness of a love extended, a fellowship desired, and a grace made available. This is the NEW covenant in my blood, Jesus said.”

“Here I remain… reminding one and ALL that God’s gift MUST be claimed. He forces neither Himself nor his blessing on anyone — but He eagerly awaits acceptance.”

“There is a cup for YOU each Lord’s dayand no one else can ever use it! It is a sacred appointment that each of us has with the Lord to do this in remembrance of Him (cf. Hebrews 10:24-29).”

Yes, there IS an appointment to be kept for the child of God at the Lord’s Table AND there is ALSO a seat reserved for YOU! The Lord’s Table is set… Will you keep YOUR appointment?  (Or will you betray him?)

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

 

Sunday 8/18 ~ High Maintenance Christians

Image result for lazy christian

From the Preacher’s Pen… There’s an old saying that you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Jesus put it a bit more bluntly, He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters (Matthew 12:30).

The spiritual side of that simple fact requires us as Christians to be constantly examining ourselves. Consider if we are…

High Maintenance Christians

I would guess that most of us have heard the term High Maintenance applied to people. It refers to those people that require a huge amount of attention and effort in order to keep moving and be at all useful.

Yes, there are frequent commands from Jesus for us to care for each other. However, just like the frequently used false teaching of you can’t judge me, the concept that other Christians must cater to my every whim, beck and call is a lie.

Let me say this plainly, no Christian has the responsibility to baby you and give in to you! YOU have the responsibility to care more about other Christians than they do you!

Paul discusses this very same lesson in Galatians 6. When we deal with a brother or sister struggling in sin we have (not the elders, preachers or someone else in the congregation) the responsibility as Christians to help, to bear (share in) their burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). But the moment we imagine that this means everyone owes us, Paul reverses the responsibility to each one must bear their own load (Galatians 6:3-5).

So, is this REALLY a problem? Obviously, the fact that Paul took time in the New Testament to deal with the problem suggests that it IS a problem.

Having said that, I doubt anyone would be surprised to learn that this same problem is frequently written about, preached about from pulpits and discussed by elders and preachers everywhere. (A quick search on line results in dozens of articles, sermons, lessons, and discussions!)

Since it is a common problem, how do we deal with it? How much time do we give to the chronic complainers? One preacher explained the problem like this:

A little investigation will show that this “high maintenance” individual has never done any of these things for anyone else. Usually these folks are not particularly friendly, almost never show hospitality, don’t visit the sick, never see about the needs of others, and generally ignore any situation that doesn’t involve their own interests or desires. They are self-centered and full of self-pity.

What each and every Christian MUST learn is that there are NO Scriptures that set ME up to be glorified. The Lord’s church not only BELONGS to the Lord, but it exists for the sole purpose of DOING HIS WILL.

Too often we find ourselves, our egos in competition with that of James and John or the rest of the Apostles for who’s the greatest. Jesus destroyed that idea in Mark 9:35 when He said, If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Paul continues that same lesson as God demands that we look outside of our own self and realize that we are called to serve and not to be served. To the Philippians Paul says it like this: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each person should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude toward one another should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Are you a “high maintenance” member? Or are you the faithful one that just keeps on serving the Lord, putting Him first, worshipping Him regularly, reliably serving wherever you can?

Nothing is more time consuming and disheartening than a car that is unreliable, that constantly requires repairs. Nothing is more discouraging to fellow saints or the Lord Himself than a Christian that acts the same way.

Certainly, there are times that we all need uplifting, repairs and encouragement. But always remember that our job, our responsibility to God is to BE the ACTIVE servant. Be the one who volunteers to teach without being sent a gilt-edged invitation. Be the one who reaches out to the lost to share the Good News. Never be a High Maintenance Christian!

Lester Bagley

RacineBuilding

4/14 ~ The Most Important Version of the Bible

 

Related image

From the Preacher’s Pen…

I have a question for you that practically every faithful Christian in the Lord’s church would like to have answered. Why do Christians make hateful comments and do things that are a disgrace to the Lord’s body?

The answer? Because they’d rather serve the Devil than Jesus!

Now comes the really important question: Are you one of those or do you really belong to Jesus?

You see, many people fail to become Christians and many Christians grow discouraged and leave the church because of the words and actions of so-called (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11) Christians. When we are called to be the light of the world, we become totally useless when that light of God is not seen in our lives.

There’s an old sign that reads:

Wanted: Encouragers (we have a surplus of critics already)!

Let’s examine that lesson a bit more, but starting from another perspective…

The Most Important “Version” of the Bible

One of the questions that I’m often asked is: “What’s the best Bible translation?” The answer to that question is important and there are easily dozens of translations to choose from. Many are grossly inaccurate. Others are either oversimplified or almost unintelligibly hard to read. So which is the most accurate? Which is the safest? Which should I use? Which should my children use?

What IS the most important version of all?

The saddest part of the question comes when brethren start to divide the Lord’s church over “versions” and in so doing neglect that most important “version” in God’s own eyes!

I realize that impressive arguments are made for many versions. Unfortunately, many who make the loudest arguments wouldn’t know an alpha from an omega or an aleph from chopped liver. If someone knows nothing (or knows only incorrect information) about the Biblical manuscripts, the translation process and the languages involved, how could their opinions have much value?

The fact is, each “version” has strengths and weaknesses, pluses and minuses that weigh on their value. Having said that, I’m still going to take a stand! There remains that very important “version”, that vital letter of Christ Himself, that one version that we are all required to have and have right! It’s one that we must make sure is in our library, or rather, in our lives! And it’s found in 2 Corinthians 3:3.

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3, NIV 2011)

While Paul is specifically talking about those Christians at Corinth, the point is clear for us: As Christians, as children of God, we are Christ’s letter written with the “Spirit of the living God,” written in our hearts.

Now, what kind of version are you and I? Do you and I get the translation correct? Do we correctly show the Spirit and will of God in our lives, in our words and deeds? And how do you and I read to a world that is lost in sin? Does it matter if we incorrectly translate or show the love of God? Does it matter if we falsely teach something that is not God’s will? Countless numbers of people in this world will not see or read one of those written versions, but they will see us. What do we do to ensure that the one translation of God’s word that they do see is the most accurate Christ-like one and nothing is lost in the translation?

There’s an old Gospel song entitled “The World’s Bible” that says:

  • Christ has no hands but our hands
  • To do His work today,
  • He has no feet but our feet
  • To lead men in His way;
  • He has no tongue but our tongues
  • To tell men how He died,
  • He has no help but our help
  • To bring them to His side.
  • We are the only Bible
  • The careless world will read,
  • We are the sinners’ gospel,
  • We are the scoffer’s creed;
  • We are the Lord’s last message
  • Given in deed and word,
  • What if the type is crooked?
  • What if the print is blurred?
  • What if our hands are busy
  • With other things than His?
  • What if our feet are walking
  • Where sin’s allurement is?
  • What if our tongues are speaking
  • Of things His life would spurn?
  • How can we hope to help Him
  • And welcome His return?

Read 2 Corinthians 3:2-6 once more and let’s make sure that our accuracy is from God; that we correctly reflect God’s will and Spirit and love in our lives this week. Together, we can be the light of the world, the best of all Bible translations to the world around us.

And in so doing we will BE the encouragers and loving saints that God has called us to be!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

 

3/24/19 ~ Responsibilities to the Church

Image result for bride of christ rushing to jesus

From the Preacher’s Pen…

Is it over? Or is it just beginning?

Do you remember the saying: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!”? Yesterday will never be ours again and tomorrow will always be beyond our grasp, but today we can control who we are and how we act. The Hebrew writer says it like this, Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

As we grow up, as we mature there are opportunities, duties, and responsibilities that are ours. They cannot be shirked; they cannot be put off or left to someone else. They must be done, and they must begin today. Consider some of our…

Responsibilities to the Church

The church is God’s invention. It originated in the mind of God and was foretold by His prophets (Isaiah 2:2-3) and by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:18). It began, as recorded in Acts chapter two, with the saved ~ all of them ~  being added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47). The church is Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23) and He is its head (Colossians 1:18). As the head, Jesus has all authority over the church and thus we are required to be submissive to His revealed will in the New Testament. No one can truly love Jesus then only “invite Him into their heart” without obeying the things the Lord commands.

Since the church is the Lord’s, we must understand our responsibilities to our Savior in order to please Him. Responsibility or duty is not always a pleasant task (although it can often be so) but it is something we feel committed toward. Consider three of our responsibilities toward the Lord and His church:

We must place the Lord and His church first in our lives. (Matthew 6:33)

First does not mean placing him second, third, or twenty-third. First means first! In every decision and activity of life, we must consider spiritual things first. A soldier in an earthly army may be court-martialed for “action unbecoming.”

Do you actively think how your plans and actions will reflect upon Christ and His church? Could a Christian possibly imagine that their personal happiness is more important than what the Lord requires? Would religious divisions, divorce, and similar tragedies occur so frequently if we placed Jesus first in our lives? This is not a finger pointing exercise, but a challenge for you and me. Who and what occupies first place in your life?

We must work for the Lord and His church. (John 9:4)

Do you know what the word is for a soldier found to be working for a government other than his own? Traitor! Employers sometimes complain of employees that have “quit and stayed.” That is, they don’t do their share of the work and yet continue to expect their pay. Our Lord wants us to be engaged in good works (Ephesians 2:10) that glorify the Father (Matthew 5:16).

This work brings our faith alive (James 2:26) and makes it the light that cannot be hidden. Jesus charges us (the church) with the mission of sharing the Good News with the lost (Mark 16:15-16). If ten to twenty percent of a congregation does one hundred percent of the work, how much could be done by one hundred percent of us working? Rather than making excuses and/or blaming others for our inactivity, examine yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if we could say with the Lord, I have glorified You on the earth: I have finished the work You gave me to do (John 17:4)?

We must love and seek the fellowship of the Lord and His church. (1 John 1:7)

Can you imagine a soldier that preferred the company of traitors or of the enemy? Can you imagine a Christian that would intentionally miss a worship and study assembly of the church? Supposed that the church members were making mistakes in their lives and in many ways seemed unlovable. Would not your responsibility be to patiently meet with, pray for, and otherwise encourage them to be more like Christ? We could not understand a mother who claimed to only love her baby when it was clean, dry and fed. John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to not ask what their country could do for them, but rather what they could do for their country. Does Jesus expect any less of us?

God sent His son to die for you, redeem you from hell and set you on the path to eternal life. Does He not have the right to expect you to take up your responsibilities? John writes, How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1) It is a privilege and an honor to be in fellowship with God and His people. With honor comes responsibilities that we need to shoulder and bear with pride. Let’s determine to do that together beginning right now!

— 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.