Metaphors in the Bible

Metaphors

Whether we realize it or not, we are all familiar with metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech that refers to one thing by giving an example that helps illustrate the deeper meaning. The Bible frequently uses metaphors to illustrate God’s lessons for us. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!

There’s also a special form known as a simile that generally uses the word “like” to highlight the illustration. It’s important to note the obvious mistake in taking these illustrations too literally. Since nearly every single book of the Bible uses similes and metaphors we must understand how these important illustrations are used and not miss God’s lessons.

A couple of quick examples are in order: First, Solomon’s bride describes him as like a gazelle or a young stag (Song of Solomon 2:9). No one should mistakenly picture Solomon as a four-footed animal with antlers! Second, many of the voices that speak to John from heaven in his book of Revelation are described a like trumpets, like many waters, like loud thunder and like many harpists (cf. Revelation 14:2). Nothing in this should lead us to picture heaven as filled with actual trumpets, white-water rapids, thunder or harpists… unless we are deliberately missing the point of figures of speech.

All of this reminds us to read carefully and not miss the illustrated lessons of God. So let’s take a quick look at a few of the metaphors or word picture illustrations of the New Testament that are applied to us.

In John 10 Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd and sheep. He is the good shepherd that loves His sheep to the point that He will actually lay down His life for them (John 10:14-15). We are His sheep, called to follow Him, known by Him, protected by Him and obediently listening to Him (cf. John 10:27).

The lesson, of course, has nothing to do with us eating grass or being shorn for our wool. Rather it has everything to do with our relationship with our Savior.

Jesus call us both salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt both enhances flavor and is one of the oldest known preservatives. The New Testament world was well acquainted with salted meats, fish and pickled items. Salt was commonly bought and sold and there were salt mines and salt “farming” (at the Dead Sea, for example) all over the region (and world-wide, in fact).

The illustration of Jesus to compare His people to salt is a perfect one since it relates to everyday life. By the way, Jesus’ comment about salt becoming “tasteless” is interesting when you realize that the only way for that to actually happen is for it to be either so contaminated with something else that the taste is lost, or else it must be chemically changed into something else. Either way, it becomes useless by being changed into something else!

Jesus’ second illustration here is also easily understandable and relatable. Light is only useful when it is on and shining where it can be seen. Interestingly for this illustration is the fact that in John’s Gospel Jesus specifically says that, while He is IN the world, He is the Light of the world (John 9:5).

When we put these two lessons of the Light of the World together, we see the responsibility that Jesus is putting on us as His family. Since He has returned to Heaven, we are called to BE HIM in this this world. Paul, of course, comments on this very illustration when he says, It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). If Christ is alive in us, then we are responsible to BE HIS light in this world.

Putting God’s metaphors together makes a powerful lesson and helps us better appreciate our job, our responsibility in this world.

Next week we’ll look at a few more examples of these word pictures. In the meantime, may we as good sheep be good salt and good light for Jesus!

— Lester P. Bagley

Useless Prayers

The last few months have really brought home to us just how blessed we were. We see the lesson repeatedly in life that we don’t really appreciate what we have until we lose it. Our times together in fellowship were nice before the virus but were sorely missed and even more appreciated when we lost them for a time. Hopefully the same has held true for our time spent in Bible reading, Bible study and in prayer.

Useless Prayers

What a title! Is there really any such thing? Doesn’t God always hear our prayer? Can it really be true that God would not listen to and help us?

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, In one ear and out the other? Often it is said by a parent to a child and we have probably all both heard it at one time and repeated it ourselves.

Yes, God, being God, hears all prayers even as He knows all things that happen and, more importantly, knows all hearts and intents. So in a sense, if God ignores our prayers it is as though the request has gone through Him without catching His attention or intention to answer.

The obvious next question is really, Does or can that happen? So let’s begin with a few Scriptures:

  • He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9)
  • If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear; (Psalm 66:18)
  • When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, And let his prayer become sin (Psalm 109:7).
  • The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight (Proverbs 15:8).
  • The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, How much more when he brings it with evil intent (Proverbs 21:27)!
  • They cried for help, but there was none to save, Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them (Psalm 18:41).

The prophets also frequently warned God’s own chosen people of the danger. If you do not love and obey the Lord then He will not even listen to you. Check out just a few examples:

  • So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. (Isaiah 1:15)
  • Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them (Jeremiah 11:11).
  • Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them (Ezekiel 8:18).
  • Then they will cry out to the LORD, But He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time Because they have practiced evil deeds (Micah 3:4).
  • They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. (13) And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,” says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 7:12-13)

We often hear how willing God is to heed and save those that call on Him. But that  NEVER means, in God’s terms, that you can call on Him without obedience. God makes no bargains to save us any way other than that He has set forth in His word!

God puts this bluntly in Proverbs 1:28 when He says,Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me. If we are not willing to obey God’s will it is useless to seek His help!

Oh, but that’s all Old Testament teachings. Now, in the New Testament God has changed and we can fool Him. Isn’t that true?

Of course not! Listen to Paul: (6) For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, (8) dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

Did you catch verse 8? Yes, those that spurn God and do not know Him will pay the penalty of eternal destruction. But so will all those that do not OBEY Him.

Without obedience and faithful service to the Lord, He will not heed or answer our prayers. God actually hates those prayers and they become sin. Remember Psalm 109:7 (above)?

If our allegiance is not to the Lord then we are presumptuous in even making a request to God. If we desire God’s blessing then we need to get out hearts and lives right with Him.

The vital thing for us is to know and obey the word of God. Never stop listening to Him. Never stop doing His will. Peter puts it like this: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).

—Lester P. Bagley

Philippians 3 ~ Stealing Our Joy

Lord willing we will be meeting together at the building again in June. Keep on reading your Bible and never forget how much the Lord’s loves YOU!

Philippians 3

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again to you is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1) One of the big problems you always struggle with in translating something into another language is how literal you can be and still be understood. If you recall, in chapter 2 we noted Paul’s use of intestines as the source of tender affections. To translate his thoughts into English we typically would use the word heart.

The Greek word translated here as finally in most translations is loipos and it can sometimes refer to a final point being made. It’s actually the same word used by Jesus in Mark 14:41 when He inquires in the Garden, Are you still sleeping and resting? Of the 61 times the word is used in the New Testament, it is only translated as finally 6 times and all of those in Paul’s writings. So when we chuckle about Paul writing finally here and then again in chapter 4 verse 8, we are the ones missing the point. Paul is NOT coming to a conclusion as he begins chapter 3 but rather is simply making a transition in thought, shifting gears to his next point. In Galatians 6:17 the same word begins the sentence there and nearly every translation renders it from now on or henceforth. And that seems to be more in line with the point Paul is making.

Because of how great our Savior is and because we are to imitate Him (Paul’s lesson in the first part of chapter 2) AND because of the faithful brothers working with Paul and the Philippian church we should all from now on rejoice in the Lord. This is much larger than a conclusion and certainly not the end of what Paul has to say. In fact, he’s just about to start in on those that steal the Lord’s joy from God’s people!

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who practice mutilation. For we are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:2-3) We sometimes hear people say that God wants us to accept and go along with everybody. The same Jesus that taught compassion also used whips on those that reviled God. And Paul here makes it very plain that those who lead Christians astray with their false teaching are dangerous dogs.

Paul’s early dealings with teachers that taught compromise with Old Testament practices led to stern lessons to the Galatian Christians years earlier. As these false teachers continue to follow the Lord’s church and seek to corrupt each new congregation, so Paul condemns them every time they attempt to draw Christians away from the truth. And what better way to draw people away from Christ than by claiming that they are superior to Christians?

They are not entitled to think that! In no uncertain terms, they are nothing but dogs. Paul then identifies them as Jews that reject the Law of Christ. How? By striking at their own pride. Circumcision was the badge of honor, the mark that showed them superior to Gentiles. But Paul turns the tables and makes a joke of their circumcision.

The Greek word for circumcision is peritomē and the word for mutilation is katatomē. The play on words that sound alike but have totally different meanings is intentional. Make fun of Christ and teach something that leads people away from God and you are not deserving of kind words.

Occasionally today we find false teachers that brag about their degrees or who they studied under or in some other way imply that they are greater than God’s people. Many of the Apostles were dismissed as Galileans and Paul apparently heard a lot of similar dismissal as a Christian, too. And Paul, when pushed, would occasionally, just like Jesus, come out fighting with the whips.

[E]ven though I have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews. In regard to the law, I was a Pharisee; as for zeal, a persecutor of the church; as for the righteousness set forth in the law, I was blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and regard them as rubbish, in order to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that is based on faith —that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:4-11)

Paul’s point is NOT just that I’ve been there, done that and got all the human glory but rather that he has something even greater in Christ! We can never afford to lose sight of what REALLY matters. Just like James (4:13-17)) reminds us that we cannot plan tomorrow because God is what really matters, so Paul acknowledges the same truth.

Not that I have already obtained all this or have already reached my goal, but I press on in order to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider to have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14) Even when the whips have to come out against evil (or perhaps more correctly, especially then!) remember who you belong to!

So those of us who are mature should take this point of view; and if in anything you think differently, that too God will make known to you. In any case, let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15-16)

The word translated mature here is also translated as perfect in many translations. A point Paul also made to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1- 3; 14:20) was that right thinking is mature thinking. Just because someone “doesn’t see things that way” doesn’t mean that they actually have a right to their own viewpoint in God’s eyes. A child will see you as being an old, grumpy, mean person for not giving them candy for supper. That doesn’t mean their opinion is just as good as their parents’. It just means they haven’t grown up. And they still don’t get their own way because, immature or not, it’s wrong! Thus Paul concludes live like a Christian and grow up to take the correct attitude.

The idea that there are other opinions and other ways to be right before God is as prevalent today as in New Testament times. So Paul again reminds us much like the Old Testament that there is a way that SEEMS right to people (cf. Proverbs 14:12) and that means that there is the RIGHT way we need to follow.

Join in following my example, brothers, and pay close attention to those who are living this way, as you have us as an example. For many are living (I have often told you about them but now tell you even with tears) as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)

Just as nothing good comes of living the wrong way, nothing bad comes of living God’s way! When we suppress ourselves and fill our lives with Christ, then all the promises and all the blessings of God are before us.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)

It requires a lot of growing up to live responsibly. Sometimes we wish we could just be a child again with no responsibility, no expectations of acting like a grownup. But childhood misses out on all the beauty and richness of maturity. Family and friends are far more precious treasures when we’ve grown into them. And God, together with all His eternal promises, has far more in store for us than we could ever imagine here!

—Lester P. Bagley

1/19/20 ~ The Choice of Spiritual Blindness

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Have you ever closed your eyes and tried to walk around without seeing? If you do it for very long it becomes a great way to stub a toe, bash a shin or ever trip and fall over something.

Apparently, there’s a good reason that God gave us the ability to see. Jesus commented about a blind man leading another blind man in Luke 6:39. His conclusion was that they would both fall into a pit. And the lesson is even more important when it comes to spiritual matters!

Matthew 15:12-14 tells of another occasion when Jesus made this same point: Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

False teachers and unbelievers have become “offended” at something that God said. Jesus does NOT apologize or take back the truth! Instead He bluntly condemns the sinner for choosing to sin and plainly states that God will make certain that such people will be destroyed.

False teachers today still try to claim that the fact that “God is love” means He will ignorantly accept anything from us as acceptable. In believing such nonsense they show themselves to be heirs of those Jesus condemned.

Zephaniah the Prophet of God warned about the coming great day of the Lord (1:14) and warned that those who have sinned against the Lord would be made to walk like the blind and would have their blood be poured out like dust.

Peter echoes that lesson in 2 Peter 3 when he says: Above all you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come with scoffing, following their own lusts. And Jude shares the same point in Jude 17-19: But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Did you catch Jude’s last sentence there? Those that choose spiritual blindness (ignorance that mocks the truth of God’s word) are the ones who cause divisions, they are the worldly-minded ones and they are lacking God’s Holy Spirit! NEVER let Satan and his followers try to shift the blame! Those that disobey the Lord are entirely at fault, are entirely to blame for their error!

There is one more passage that we need to see before we finish this lesson. In 2 Corinthians chapter 3 Paul is speaking of the Jews who have closed their minds and eyes to Jesus and compares it to the veil that hid the face of Moses after he had been in the presence of God (verse 14). For those that close their minds to Christ the ONLY hope is still Christ!

Only in Christ is the blindness, the veil taken away (2 Corinthians 3:14). And, just to make the point even more plain, Paul says in verse 16: yet whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Spiritual blindness is a choice. When we make the choice to deny God, to not obey His will, we make a foolish choice. But the choice to see is still open to us! When we listen to and obey the Lord, sight is restored.

Choose wisely, choose well. What choice will you make?

— Lester P. Bagley

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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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9/29/19 ~ The Blessing of Forgiveness – Psalm 32

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Several of the Psalms are described as a Maskil. The word seems to be derived from a verb denotating to be wise. Thus the meaning suggests a contemplative or thoughtful Psalm such that considering and obeying it will make us wise.

The term is used in superscriptions (usually labeled verse 0) of Psalms 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89 and 142, as well as within Psalm 47 (verse 7). Let’s take a look at the very first usage and see what is so important that God is suggesting we think seriously about:

The Blessing of Forgiveness – Psalm 32

0 A Psalm of David. A Maskil.

1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. 6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. 7 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. 10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

Perhaps one of the first questions we should ask is: What was the occasion that brought David to write this Psalm? It is clearly a psalm about sin and forgiveness and many claim that it is simply one of David’s psalms after his sin with Bathsheba. Others suggest Psalm 32 is related to David’s movement of the Ark of the Covenant, the time of Absalom’s rebellion or his ill-conceived census of the nation.

What we do know for certain is that David wrote seven psalms known as penitential, repenting of sin (Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143). In each case he is struggling with one or more sins in his life that, as all sins do, has brought despair and sickness to body and soul.

Sin will do that, you know! And, as David so well points out for us, the only cure for sin is getting it out, confession that it might be forgiven.

Paul uses this Psalm in Romans 7 to remind us that forgiveness of sin is not because of anything wonderful that we do, but because of our great God. David fully agrees!

Forgiveness is healing that we all desperately need. And David closes with some important advice for us to learn:

Don’t be like a dumb animal. And don’t be like a dumb, wicked human, either. As Paul would put it to the Corinthian church, Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad, but because your sadness led to repentance; for you were made sad as God intended, so that in nothing you suffered loss by us. For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret; but worldly sadness produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

When sin comes into our lives, as it will do for every one of us, our only hope is to turn to the Lord. For those that persist in sin, there is only the insult of stupidity. For those that repent and return to God, there is love, joy and rejoicing.

Never make fun of those who repent. For they are doing exactly what we must all do if we are to be right with our Lord. And, above all else, may we learn to appreciate, to treasure and be ever grateful for the blessing of forgiveness! Again, the choice is ours. What will you choose?

— Lester P. Bagley

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Sunday 8/18 ~ High Maintenance Christians

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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

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7/21/19 ~ The Gift of Dreams

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Our look at several of God’s gifts to us continues. The gift of labor helps us to find value even as we grow and learn. Friendship teaches us to be a part of a team that we might accomplish more together than separately, and money teaches us what we may accomplish in doing for and helping others rather than selfishly doing only for ourselves. The gift of family gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly relationship envisioned by God for His people, while gratitude helps us to be truly thankful and enables us to count our blessings as we realize how rich and numerous they really are. The gift of laughter gives us a view of God’s own real joy and the gift of problems allows us to experience, know and understand in order to grow. God’s gift of learning shows that He treats us like adults as we grow to better know, understand and teach others.

Now let’s look at the gift of hope and dreams that we might observe and long for a bright future…

The Gift of Dreams

Hopes and dreams can, of course, be mere nonsense. Many people waste their lives dreaming of their boatload of money to arrive so that they can continue doing nothing. The old joke of “I hope I win the lottery even though I didn’t buy a ticket” is the same ignorant goal. The only way that dreams become reality is when our hope motivates us to work toward the goal.

Hope is defined as the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It is only real when there are grounds for believing that it may happen. Indeed, the older meaning of the word is a feeling of trust. To hope or dream of things without expectation or trust is, to put it simply, ridiculous.

The Old Testament uses several words that translate to English as hope. They carry the idea that this is a plan, a goal that requires trust and waiting for the completion. There’s even a word for vain or empty hope.

The Psalmist, like all of God’s people, uses these words frequently: Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24). For I hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God (Psalm 38:15). Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. (Psalm 42:5) I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and do Your commandments (Psalm 119:166).

In real hope there is the reminder that God is both the actual source and goal of the greatest dreams: Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope (Psalm 119:116). I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope (Psalm 130:5).

In the New Testament, the letters to Christians frequently remind them of their expectations, their dreams, their hope in Christ. You might well remember that Paul spoke of faith, hope, and love as the great gifts of God; greater even than the first-century miracles that were ending (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Recall some of Paul’s reminders about the importance of our dreams, our hope and how precious it really is: We exult in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2b). Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5). For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:24-25)

It is easy to understand how, when sin came into the world and the richness of God’s creation began to deteriorate, we as God’s creation might despair of ever seeing such beauty and an eternal home again. In reality, God replaced it with a dream, a hope, a goal far beyond the garden on earth that we lost… the dream, the hope of heaven (cf. Romans 8:20).

Be a part of the great dream! Be a part of God’s family that you might have the hope, the goal of that eternal home. Don’t miss out on any of God’s great gifts!

— Lester P. Bagley

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

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2/10/19 ~ The Key

KeyToHeaven

From the Preacher’s Pen… Have you ever forgotten or lost your keys? Whether it’s being locked out of your house or unable to get in and drive your car; having the keys–the right keys–is very important. And if that is a true lesson with house keys, or car keys, how much more so is it vital with Heavenly keys?

The Key

During the reign of King Hezekiah, Isaiah the prophet of God made a prophecy about the head of the royal household, Shebna. Apparently, from the context of Isaiah 22, Shebna was leader of the party that advocated an alliance with Egypt. God had repeatedly commanded His people to have nothing to do with compromise. Egypt represented all that was against the will of God. Agreement with them would never be right.

Before we continue, do we today sometimes have trouble understanding that same lesson?

God’s decree through Isaiah to Shebna was that Shebna had no right to even serve in the house of the king (Isaiah 22:15-16). God planned humiliation, deposition from his office and death as the shameful punishment for his compromise (Isaiah 22:17-19).

All this is the lead-up to a great lesson and prophecy of Jesus the Christ. Eliakim (meaning God will establish), son of Hilkiah (the faithful high priest) is to take over as head of the royal household. He will be faithful: Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder.  When he opens no one will shut; when he shuts no one will open. I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, and he will become a throne of glory to his father’s house. (Isaiah 22:22-23)

If some of those words about Eliakim, the one whom God would establish, sound familiar, there’s a good reason. In Revelation 3:8-12 God addresses one of the two truly faithful congregations, Philadelphia, and says:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie — I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”

Paul reminds us that whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4). So the whole purpose of us learning about Eliakim is to see the lesson for us today. And God goes to great lengths to make sure we see that lesson by repeating it to faithful saints!

Jesus has the authority and the keys to heaven. He used those keys to open the door for us. And He shares those keys (if we use them properly) with us to teach others the Good News of salvation (cf. Matthew 16:19).

Eliakim was given the keys to do the job that God needed done for His people. Jesus was given the keys for the same reason. The Christians at Philadelphia saw the value of those keys in keeping God’s word so that no one would take their crown. Do we?

Eliakim was also called a peg or nail in a firm place for being a reliable, faithful servant of God. But his work would one day fail with the fall of Judah (cf. Isaiah 22:23-25). Jesus, however, becomes the ultimate keeper of the keys and His promises are still faithful, His doors still open: This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil (Hebrews 6:19).

Have you got the key?

— Lester P. Bagley

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