Colossians 2a

 

Have you read your Bible today? Hopefully we are all spending some time in Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. And as we do so, remember that it is just as much a letter to our congregation as it is to any other church of God’s people.

JOIN THE SING-ALONG AT THE END.

Colossians 2a……………………

Have you ever wished you could have seen and heard Jesus in person? How about the Apostle Paul? Would our faith have been stronger? Would we have been less likely to ever fail?

Let’s explore that from the other side. If you had a grandchild that you’d not seen in person, would that be hard? Paul challenges us to see both of these lessons as he begins the second chapter.

Colossians 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, [2] that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, [3] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [4] I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.

[5] For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Just as Jesus really cared about all of us who would come to believe in Him and follow  Him without ever seeing Him in person (read John 17 and especially verses 20-23), so Paul struggled with the knowledge that countless of his readers would need extra encouragement in the faith for not having seen. Verses 1 and 2 of this chapter ought to always remind us of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, for that concern is the very exhibit of God’s care for us.

In the concern of both Jesus and Paul, never forget the vital lesson for us: Love like Jesus did! Jesus worded it like this: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34). And all the blessings, all the real understanding and knowledge of Christ is bound up in real love. If you would be really wise, smart and knowledgeable, love like Jesus did!

Colossians 2:6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

[7] having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

All the good and positive things are found in Jesus. All the good that we can ever be, is found in letting Him live in us. And those that really are in Christ will show it by their lives!

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. [9] For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, [10] and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; [11] and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; [12] having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. [13] When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, [14] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Verses 8 through 14 we need to examine very carefully, for in them are essential lessons. Never let a hollow, half-truth (or, more often a no-truth-at-all), teaching of human beings supplant the reality of all truth in Christ! There are NO latter-day prophets, no hidden truths that no one but you has ever understood, no other way of salvation than that in Jesus. Peter preached that same message in Acts 4:12. We must keep preaching it today!

Verse 9 tells us where to find God. Indeed, EVERYTHING of any value is IN Christ Jesus! Nearly 100 times the words are used in the New Testament. In Him is God. In Him are all good things and blessings. In Him are His people and their salvation.

Is it any wonder then, that IN Jesus we are made complete? He is ruler and authority over all. No man has the right to overrule Him. The only people that speak for Him are His saved ones as they speak His words.

In verse 11 Paul extends the comparison of this priority by comparing it to circumcision. Under the Law of Moses, males could physically show that they belonged to God. But in Christ, ALL (male, female, slave, free, this earthly nationality or that) are to exhibit by their lives that they belong to God.

In case you were wondering what we come to be IN Christ, this passage makes it clear. The old us dies and is buried. But in this case, we are buried with Jesus in baptism. And we are, just like Jesus, raised up through faith. People often mistake getting wet with being baptized. Unless it is for the right reason, done looking to our God and Savior, it doesn’t mean a thing.

The picture of our baptism is underscored several times (like here and in Romans 6) but always to those already IN Christ. The point is NEVER to go back and try being baptized again and again to fully appreciate and understand what’s happening. No, the point is always to point us back to that incredible moment when we submitted ourselves to something of incredible power and meaning with simple faith in God.

Baptism is never portrayed in the New Testament as something we know all about and appreciate when it happens. Otherwise, there would be far more explanation of baptism to those before they were baptized in Acts. Instead, all the incredible meaning of all the change is reserved for those who have now passed out of the death in the water into life in Christ.

Just like an infant failed to see the meaning and import of his circumcision until he matured, so we only begin to appreciate all the wonder of meaning of baptism as we mature in Christ. And the ultimate gift of life comes with the removal of our sins.

In verse 14 Paul turns to some unique legal technicalities to make his point. The crushing debt and burden of sin requires some great power to remove on God’s part and some extra effort on our part to appreciate.

The certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, may well suggest that, just as the Lamb’s Book of Life (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27) keeps record of those that belong to God, so, too, does another book record the sins that are charged against us. So how to rid that “book” of those charges?

David appreciated this lesson, too, in Psalm 51:1-2 as he describes sin with three “dirty” words: transgression = crossing the boundary or getting on the wrong side; iniquity = distortion of the soul; and sin = missing the mark. Each required a unique method to cleanse or correct: blot out = as on clay tablets; wash = scrub, high detergent for deep dirt removal; and cleanse = ceremonial purification.

Paul joins in this extra work of forgiveness by combining terms of physical destruction (tearing up) of the legal document and nailing it to the cross. You may recall that the charges against Jesus were “nailed” on the cross with Him (John 19:19-22). In a sense, the very reason for Jesus’ death on that cross was our sins. He really did die for us!

Now that Paul has gone to such lengths to show the amazing forgiveness of our sins by Jesus, so He now uses a unique analogy to display both our Christ and His triumph.

Colossians 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

To appreciate what Paul is picturing here requires us to travel back in time and see what the people of Paul’s day and time saw in these words. For this illustration, Paul shifts gears from the destructive power of the cross (to sin) and now portrays the great triumph.

In times past the tradition had been for a victorious Roman general to be awarded a triumphal procession. By the time of Paul, only the emperor could celebrate a triumph. So Paul’s first point is equating Jesus with the ultimate emperor.

To be honored with a triumph required an impressive victory against a major threatening enemy of Rome. Typically, the highest leaders of the enemy were defeated, disarmed and placed in cages like circus animals to be paraded through the streets of Rome itself. During the parade, Roman citizens both cheered their conquering, victorious, Caesar and booed, derided (and even threw things at, poked and prodded) and otherwise humiliated the defeated enemy as they followed the heroes in the parade. Finally, the procession ended at the Temple where the defeated enemy would be slaughtered as an offering to the gods.

This is the picture that Paul now paints for Christians. When Jesus won the victory over sin and death, He parades in triumph publicly. He makes a public display of them; literally a bold showing of disgrace of them as His triumph!

To the Christians reading this, they understand fully how it all ends. Satan and all his powers of sin and death are the ultimate losers. They deserve nothing more than for sport to be made of them as they are led to the presence of Almighty God, there to be sacrificed, put to death before Him!

It is important that we see what Paul is saying. Jesus the Christ, through His cross and sacrificial death has set everything in motion for victory!

NEVER let anyone or anything try to steal the reality of that victory from you! Don’t become the prize for some false doctrine loser. Our God holds the real power. His redemption of us and His choosing of us as His has placed us far above any one or anything that man or devil could ever offer.

Victory is in Jesus. Victory is Jesus. And we are called to be a part of His family and His eternal Kingdom. Don’t ever settle for anything less!

—Lester P. Bagley

 

The Lord’s Supper

 

The more we struggle to have fellowship together the more with either grow stronger or die. It all works just like bodily exercise and that’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8. If challenges make you work harder at prayer, reading and studying your Bible, and appreciating your dependence on God, then you will grow stronger. Are you working out and growing?

The Lord’s Supper

As designated by Jesus, the Lord’s Supper is made up of two parts or components. Let’s take a moment to think about those parts and how they relate to God’s word.

The first part of the Lord’s Supper

The bread that reminds us of Jesus’ own body given for us on that cross. In John 6:48ff Jesus taught even before His death about the association of His body and blood with salvation. In a discussion about the Manna as the original Bread-of-Life Jesus extends the comparison to His own body being the new Bread-of-Life for those who would live forever.

The picture that Jesus puts forth causes many of His disciples to reject Him (cf. John 6:60- 66). Certainly without the rest of the picture of Jesus’ atoning death it was a difficult concept.

Jesus’ final night before His death is spent with His disciples celebrating the Passover feast. Passover was instituted as a memorial feast to remind the Jews of God’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage (cf. Exodus 12 and especially note verse 15). Jesus uses this occasion to fulfil and renew the Old Testament picture by instituting a new “feast” for us to remember God’s deliverance of His people from the bondage of sin.

Luke 22 sets the stage for that night as it tells usNow the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching (verse 1). Following the events in Luke 22 we come to that night of the actual celebration of Passover and Jesus showing the New Covenant fulfilled meaning.

So, what kind of bread does Jesus use for that institution of and demonstration of the New Covenant fulfilled Lord’s Supper? Go back and check Exodus 12:15 again. There was NO leavened bread in ANY Jewish house in all of Jerusalem the night Jesus instituted this Supper! The ONLY possible conclusion is that Jesus used and demonstrated for us the use of unleavened bread for that commemorative supper.

What’s the big deal? Strangely enough, one of the early changes to New Testament practice seems to come as some churches began using leavened bread. By the sixth and seventh centuries it appears to be common practice in most churches.

Why? Apparently (from early Christian commentators) they wanted it to symbolize the risen Christ, so they used raised bread. Their reasoning also extended to the expressed desire to differentiate the Lord’s Supper from the Jewish Passover. Remember those “Judaizing” teachers Paul dealt with (cf. Galatians 5)?

Let’s back up a minute and ask a different question: Was there a purpose or meaning for Jesus using unleavened bread that might be important to God?

(6) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? (7) Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (8) Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Paul seems to give us a few good reasons to do it God’s way. First, Christ IS our Passover. He’s the fulfilment of the Old Testament example. It was, as so many other things there, pointing us to Jesus.

Second, while the primary focus of the bread we share is the body of Christ sacrificed for us, it is also a reminder of purity.  As God’s children we are called out of this world to BE God’s light, God’s family, God’s example in this world. If we are contaminated by even just a little of the world does it matter? The Holy Spirit seems to think it does!

Finally, the impurities themselves of malice and wickedness that Paul cites, we are purified and made sinless by Jesus. We cannot be half and half. We must have the right ingredients of sincerity and truth. The right ingredients matter!

So the bread we partake of is a picture of Jesus, the ultimate Bread of Life (better than Manna!). It is a reminder of our salvation from sin by Jesus’ sacrifice. It is a foreshadowing of the ultimate Passover when those purified by Jesus will be eternally passed over by eternal death. And it is a reminder of our call to holiness in being pure as we live for Him who died for us.

Do we appreciate how all this is tied into the Bible? Without time spent in reading and study of Scripture, we would never possess the information to see the big picture of what God is showing us in that little piece of bread.

So what about the cup?

Let’s begin with a few minor details. Again, does it matter if we use fruit of the GRAPE vine or could we use watermelon juice or something else. Should we just casually call it wine, if grape juice is the right thing, as many people do?

You may recall that words matter. They always have and they always will. No one bakes a chocolate cake by claiming that onions mean the same thing as chocolate. So what is the Bible telling us?

A little digging into the Jewish world of the New Testament shows us two things to answer these questions about Jesus’ words. First, “fruit of the vine” is a term that always, only means “grape vines.” While it is true that other things grow on vines, that’s never what this term used in the New Testament refers to. So we have to go with God’s definition.

The second problem is also simple. There is NEVER a single reference in the New Testament to the liquid used as “wine.” No Greek copy ever uses the specific word for wine, always and only the generic term “fruit of the vine.” In Jewish references to the Passover, comments are made regarding use of fermented or unfermented as being up to individual families’ taste or desire. The only specific set forth in Scripture for the Lord’s Supper is that it is juice of the grape. That’s what God says so it must be important.

Yes, but what does it MEAN? Certainly, like the bread, there are some lessons of importance that God is trying to get across to us!

Paul gives us a starting point: (23) For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; (24) and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (25) In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The cup (to be more specific, the fruit of the vine contents as the vessel itself has no significance) is the representation of Jesus’ blood of the new covenant. But what does THAT really mean?

To understand and appreciate where God is coming from we must go back to what He told His people beginning with Noah after the flood. Genesis chapter 9 begins with God’s blessings to Noah and his family as they begin their lives again on a renewed earth. He tells them that both plants and animals are for their use and food. But, in verse 4 God begins a short lecture about the blood of those animals.

Blood is life! There are many body parts and organs that you can live without. But without blood you are dead. In Genesis 9:5-6 God tells them that human lifeblood is so precious that He requires it as the ultimate payment for taking a life.Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:6).

Many years later God would give what we now know as the Old Covenant or the Law of Moses. In Exodus 24 Moses shared with the people of Israel all the law and words of the Lord and then offered the first sacrifices of that law. The blood of those first offerings was saved and half of it sprinkled on the altar with the sacrifices. But the other half of the blood was sprinkled on the people as Moses spoke: Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words (Exodus 24:8).

God actually went into some further detail with the priests and all of Israel about the importance of this picture:  For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement (Leviticus 17:11).  For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14)

That was the blood of life, the blood of the old covenant. Centuries later Jeremiah the Prophet would proclaim that a new day and a new covenant were coming (read Jeremiah 31:31-34). That New Covenant would be better, greater, stronger and more powerful as in it the Lord would forgive sin and remember it no more!

Jesus’s words (cf. Matthew 26:27-29) as He institutes the Lord’s Supper harken back to all that history. This cup is the picture, the new reminder of that new Covenant as Jesus had been teaching. Remember John 6?  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:53-54)

Here it is, the blood of life, of Jesus’ own life and not just some animal. And he gave it, not on a human altar but on that cross as He died in our place for our sins.

Is it any wonder that Paul would continue in 1 Corinthians by saying: Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27)? How on earth could we ever be worthy of such a gift, such a covenant?

The honest answer is that we cannot! But it was God’s gift to us to make us worthy. Paul continues: A person must examine themselves, and in so doing they are to eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Paul’s exact words are important. We must examine ourselves! And we MUST eat and drink! It’s not an option but a God given requirement to partake and do so correctly each time!

After all, Jesus did it and did it right for you, to make you a child of His family, bound by His covenant to be with Him forever. And that’s why John would later tell us: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

It’s not about us, for none of us could ever be worthy. It is ALL about Jesus our Savior who has given His own body and blood to purchase us and redeem us from sin and death.

May we all join in partaking, in sharing this gift, with each other and with our Lord and God. May we remember the price He paid for our sins. And may we remember that in Him we all together walk for eternity in light.

Let’s celebrate this greatest of all announcements!

—Lester P. Bagley

There’s a stirring deep within me.
Could it be my time has come
When I’ll see my gracious Savior
Face to face when all is done?

Is that His voice I am hearing?
“Come away, My precious one.”
Is He calling me? Is He calling me?

I will rise up, rise up,
Then bow down
And lay my crown
At His wounded feet.

I will rise up, rise up,
Then bow down
And lay my crown
At His wounded feet.

There’s a stirring deep within me….

Philippians 4 ~ I can do all things…

Oh how we look forward to one week from this Sunday! Do we have a greater appreciation for David’s words of Psalm 122:1? I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” May we continue to show our joy as we read, study and live the words of God!

Philippians 4

Chapter 3 concluded with the reminder that our citizenship is in heaven and we are awaiting our Savior’s return to take us home. Chapter 4 begins with because this is true, be faithful!

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my dear friends (Philippians 4:1). It is sad how often we take our brothers and sisters for granted. It’s true in our earthly families at times and even more so in our eternal family. Don’t ever neglect them!

Because that is true it is heartbreaking to see two faithful Christians at odds with one another. Paul continues with a plea for help from all the congregation: I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, my true comrade, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3) The responsibility to DO what is right before God is NEVER someone else’s job. Paul could have easily said this to the elders or the preacher or the deacons. But the simple fact is, that job belongs to ALL Christians. You do you is a cute ad for gambling, but YOU do CHRIST is what God expects of us all.

Joy is never far away from God’s people if they truly understand who they are. As Paul writes to those working hard at living the Christian life, he’s called them his joy and crown (verse 1 above) and now calls them (and us all) to rejoice. Show your joy in everything you do as a son or daughter of Almighty God!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to every person. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

It’s easy for us to feel alone, but the fact that the Lord is near is a reminder given several times. David said it like this: The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). He is in control, all we have to do is let Him know that we trust Him to do what is best. When we let go and let God take control is when we can enjoy His marvelous peace… no matter what happens to us here on earth!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — put these things into practice, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Recall Paul’s “finally” of chapter 3. He’s not done yet, but he is calling us to do something from now on! We are all aware of the countless things we have to think about and worry about. Think on or let your mind dwell on these things is actually even more forceful that you count your many blessings. To begin with it’s said as an imperative and secondly, it’s a call for an accounting. The soldiers in Philippi would have heard many times the order to give an accounting for their actions. Paul is, as God is, calling on us to be responsible for much more than just thanksgiving. We are responsible to God for doing all the things true, honorable, righteous, beautiful and worthy of praise and commendation. That’s a LOT of goodness. That’s a call to be holy, like our God is holy in all things. And this needs to be our focus as we give account of our holiness before God.

When we do these things, when this is our lifestyle as saints, then God promises His peace to be with us. It’s ridiculous for us to complain about a lack of God’s peace when we are not giving our all to Him! There’s an old saying (I’ve seen it attributed to at least a couple of different people) that goes like this: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. If we lack God’s peace, it is because we have failed to live in holiness.

Paul now turns to some very personal comments to his brothers and sisters in Philippi. They worry about him and he worries about them. But because they share the same Lord, they need to remember that God is taking care of them all. And that calls, no matter how hard it may seem sometimes, for even more joy and thanksgiving!

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned before, but you had no opportunity. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself. I know what it is to be in want, and I know what it is to have an abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret, whether I am well-fed or hungry, have plenty or am in need. I can do all things through the one who strengthens me. However, you have acted nobly, sharing with me in my distress. (Philippians 4:10-14)

Missionaries learn pretty quickly which congregations truly love the Lord and are faithful in supporting the Lord’s work. Nearly every missionary has been assured of love and support from a congregation only to receive nothing. Some congregations even become well known for their promises that are never kept.

And you Philippians know that in the beginning of my gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church joined with me in giving and receiving but you only, for even in Thessalonica you sent something more than once for my need. Not that I seek the gift; rather, I seek the interest that accrues to your account. I have received all I need and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gift you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for all time. Amen. (Philippians 4:15-20)

Philippi is not one of those churches that fail in their promises! Recall that it was actually the Macedonian churches (of which Philippi is the crown jewel) that gave even in their poverty that Paul would hold up as an example and a challenge to the Corinthian church (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-6). Philippi is the congregation that ought to hold their heads high for all they’ve done for the Gospel. We ought to always strive to be like Philippi!

When a congregation acts so as to bring praise to God, you know they are doing what is right. And a congregation that honors God in their deeds is a congregation that is truly a part of God’s family!

Paul concludes with greetings from saints and holy ones to saints and holy ones: Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send their greetings to you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:21-23) But above all else, Paul extends the blessing of God’s grace to be with the family of Christ.

May we lead our lives in such a way that Jesus will always be with us!

—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

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11/11/18 ~ Armistice Day

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians living in the capital of the Roman Empire reminding them to not only pay their taxes but to give honor to all those to whom honor was due (Romans 13:7). The peace that Rome had brought to the world of the New Testament times translated into freedom that allowed the rapid spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world.

That peace was purchased at the cost of countless lives of brave soldiers. Many of those Veterans would go on to become followers of Jesus and thus serve in both earthly and eternal ways.

Today (Sunday) is a very special day. It is set aside for remembering the sacrifice of our Savior. And it is also a special date set aside for remembering the sacrifices of all those veterans who have served us. Let’s take a moment to remember this…

Armistice Day

One hundred years ago today the First World War ended. The designated time was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The day would become known as Armistice Day. The war was called the War to End All Wars. It was not.

Slightly less than 21 years later the second World War would “officially” begin (September 1, 1939) with Germany’s invasion of Poland. In 1954, following the Korean War, Armistice Day in the USA was renamed Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

While Memorial Day honors all those who died in military service, Veterans Day honors all who have served, and currently are still serving in the Armed Forces. That means this day is host to a range of emotions from the sadness of lost lives to the joys of victory, even if that victory has never been fully realized in world peace.

As Christians, we of all people on this earth can understand and share the feelings of such a day. For us, it is not 11-11-11 but One.

The first day of the week brings to our remembrance the most horrible battle in all of eternity when Satan seemingly triumphed in the death and burial of Jesus.

The first day of the week brings to our remembrance the real victory of Jesus’ resurrection.

And, perhaps above all else, the first day of the week brings to our remembrance that another day is coming. That day will bring the only real, eternal peace that we have ever known. That day will begin with the triumphant return of our Savior to escort His own to eternal life and it will never end.

So for now, we remember. To those who have faced the horrors of war and the losses of friends and family, there is no forgetting. But there is something special in taking this unique moment of remembrance. There is something that brings a momentary comfort to the pain, the distress and points us to a more joyful memory of faithfulness in service.

Those words, those thoughts, those emotions are true for both our earthly remembrance of Veterans as they are for our weekly spiritual remembrance. May we remember, this day and always, the sacrifices of those who serve us with honor on this earthly plane. May we remember, this day and always, the sacrifice of our Savior who served and died for us that we might be with him throughout eternity.

~ Lester P. Bagley

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Sunday, 9/23 ~ Day of Atonement

From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Jewish Day of Atonement. Now that the earthly version of that remembrance day is actually in progress, let’s recall a bit about it so we might better appreciate it’s fulfillment in Christ.

The Day of Atonement

Chapter 23 of Leviticus sums up God’s plan for the seven annual feasts to the Lord. It is well worth reading and keeping in mind as you continue to the New Testament. Both the apostle Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews remind us that these things in the Old Law are but shadows of the reality, the better things in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1).

In each of these feasts sacrifice was both the major feature and the common link. (1) Passover, (2) Unleavened Bread (also the over-all name for the three celebrations) and the (3) First Fruits were Springtime feasts. Technically the First Fruits falls within the Unleavened Bread which itself is the extension of Passover while Unleavened Bread is the unique focus of this time. Together these form one of the three “feasts” for all God’s people to come together (Exodus 23:14-17).

This first feast is a reminder of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of His people from bondage (even at the terrible cost of the death of a lamb that substituted for the deaths that the Egyptians faced) and the hardships they endured. Yet it couples with the “First Fruits” (of barley harvest) that were a reminder of the joys of salvation even though they were just beginning that journey to the Promised Land. With the New Testament, we see the deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of sin (again with the terrible cost of, this time, the firstborn of God as the “lamb”) and the beginning of our journey to the eternal Promised Land.

On Sunday, fifty days after the final Sabbath day of that “first feast” was the second feast, the Day of Pentecost or the Feast of Ingathering. This marked the first fruits of summer wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22) and, in the desert, it celebrated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  The New Testament day marked the beginning of the Lord’s church as the time the “Law of Christ” came into effect, the “Last Days” of God’s plan of Salvation for all mankind.

In the Fall of the year, there was a third feast that began with the blowing of trumpets to signal the end of harvest time. It was time to gather God’s people together. Paul reminds us that one day the “last trumpet” will sound to mark the end of our harvest time of souls and the great final gathering together of judgment (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The joy of the end of harvest is tempered with the following Day of Atonement. On this day all God’s people were to humble themselves before the Lord (cf. Leviticus 23:26-32) and confess their sins. Failure to observe this day brought the ultimate penalty of being cut off from among God’s people. Atonement for sin was accomplished by sacrifice for sin and without purification by blood, there was no forgiveness, no hope (cf. Hebrews 9:22).

Our atonement, of course, comes through the gift of the perfect lamb of God. John describes our continued “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) as keeping us cleansed from sin. There is no further need for a sacrifice since this is the ultimate (Hebrews 10:18). In the Judgement Day, of course, there will also be a day of reckoning when those unworthy, those who have failed to humble themselves by obedience to the Lord, will pay the ultimate penalty of being eternally cut off from God and His people.

Following the atonement, there was one more reminder for God’s people. This involved seven days of living in tabernacles (tents or “booths”) to worship God. It both reminded them of God’s deliverance from Egypt and, above all else, that God was with them then and always.

The New Testament reminds us of the ultimate fulfillment. God has prepared an eternal “tabernacle” that God’s people will be welcomed into to live forever with Him: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:11). And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:3).

Our Day of Atonement has come with the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, His resurrection and His church, His body. Have you celebrated? Have you humbled yourself by obedience to Him? Are you prepared for that final Day of the Lord?

Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

— Lester P. Bagley

12/03/17 ~ WINTER

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingIt is, unfortunately, all too easy for us to forget that God really does know us and the struggles we face. That was, of course, a part of Jesus’ coming to this earth to face those struggles, those temptations as one of us. That uniquely qualifies Him as both our ultimate High Priest and our Savior (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

In Jesus’ life on this earth, He spent most of His time between the region of Galilee and Jerusalem. He would experience the seasons that He had once promised Noah and his descendants would never end until this earth itself is finally destroyed in judgment (cf. Genesis 8:22).

As our winter approaches, let’s consider a very special season in the life here on earth of our Savior.

Winter

Jesus knew of the Psalmists praise to Him as the one who had made both summer and winter (Psalm 74:17). Living in the land of Israel He would have known that the rains of winter would be vital not only to the Spring harvest but to the rivers and lakes that would lead to the lush produce of summer. He would have learned to both treasure and appreciate Solomon’s comment about the winter being past and the rain over and gone (Song 2:11).

Travelling the mountain roads and spending so much time in and around Jerusalem Jesus would have felt the cold. He would have seen the fall of snow and known the warmth of a fire like Jeremiah described in the king’s house one cold day (Jeremiah 36:22).

As Jesus prophesied of the coming destruction of Jerusalem He would counsel that God’s people pray that their flight would not be in the cold of winter (cf. Mark 13:18). Much like His lament over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34), He would sorrow for the pain His people felt even for their sins.

But in so many ways perhaps the worst winter of His life here on earth (certainly the most poignant!) would have been His final one in Jerusalem.

Many years before Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, God’s people had rededicated the Temple and rebuilt the Alter of God after a Greek king had desecrated it with offerings of pigs. Every winter they would celebrate God’s blessing, His deliverance and that time of rededication to show their thanksgiving.

John would describe that day like this: At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon (John 10:22-23).

For centuries the Jews had looked forward to the promised one of God, the Messiah, the God-with-us fulfillment of prophecy to come and give true meaning, true direction to their lives. He would, among so many other things, tell them what to do with the pile of stones discarded from the defiled altar. Even if it had been profaned, they were afraid of completely removing from the Temple grounds what had once been holy. And so it happened that, in Jesus’ last winter here on earth, He and a crowd converged at this moment in time and history.

Their question was bluntly stated, The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).

His answer was equally blunt, I told you, and you do not believe (verse 25). Even more blunt, was His next statement, But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep (John 10:26). And the reason that He knew all about God’s sheep was the simple fact that Jesus was God! (John 10:30)

It seems pathetic that today so many will argue that Jesus wasn’t and never claimed to be God. Why? Because the very crowd gathered to demand that He reveal that He was the fulfillment of Scripture, would pick up the rocks from that pile of stone and seek to kill Him for claiming to be God (John 10:33).

For all the drama, for all the threats, for all the hatred of God, the winter was not to be the time of death for the Savior. His sacrifice, His death would have to wait until the season of new life.

Winter, with all its chill, all its threats, all its harbingers of death, is not the promise.

Another winter was approaching many later when an elderly preacher would write a final letter to his longtime friend and fellow preacher. Paul would urge Timothy to come soon (2 Timothy 4:9) bringing his coat left at Troas (verse 13) and do so before winter (verse 21). Paul would write these words all the while knowing that this winter, much like that earlier winter for Jesus His Savior, would be his last (verse 6).

Winter, once more, with all its chill, all its threats, all its harbingers of death would still not be the promise of God.

Just as night precedes the new day, so Winter, for all its harshness is but the reminder that Spring and Life are coming. You see, God designed it just that way.

Winter, with all its chill, all its threats, all its harbingers of death, is never the end, never the promise.

As our Winter descends may we remember and live for the promise of Spring, the promise of resurrection and new life in Christ! Are you ready for death or life?

— 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