Colossians 4b

Have you taken time to talk to your Heavenly Father today? Have you taken time to listen to His words to you? Communication is always important and failure to connect with God is a good way to ruin what could have been a good day. Take time to read your Bible and pray… today!

Colossians 4b

Paul always closes his letters with greetings from those with him and to other Christians known to the recipient. It is easy for us to neglect these endings as unimportant personal notes. To do so is to miss much of the richness of Christian fellowship with God’s family, our family! One preacher friend of mine many years ago highly recommended a diligent study of just these closing remarks as a sermon series and important lesson for us all.

Colossians 4:10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also  Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); [11] and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.

Aristarchus is no stranger to the Christians of this region having been (apparently) one of the converts in Ephesus and working with Paul ever since (cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Philemon 1:24), even to accompanying him to Roman imprisonment. While there is no record to suggest he is a literal prisoner with Paul, his faithfulness to stay with and work with Paul even in prison is acknowledged.

The next faithful co-worker is John Mark. The last we’d heard of him (Acts 15:39) was when he caused the split between Barnabas and Paul at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. While Scripture is silent over their contact during the intervening years, the lesson is plain: Do NOT allow disagreements, even harsh ones, to keep coming between faithful members of God’s family! Forgiveness and reconnection may take time, but if both parties are really faithful, it’s always worth the effort.

Jesus who is called or also named Justus is sometimes a shock to people. It is worth remembering that the name Jesus is another form of the Hebrew name Joshua also often transliterated as Yeshua. It was then, as it is today, a popular name among god-fearing people. The uniqueness of our Savior’s name is often (as Paul has done frequently in this letter) spelled out as the Jesus who is the Anointed (as King) one of God (Christ). This Jesus or Joshua is also a fellow preacher and brother known sometimes by the name, Justus.

Notice, too, something that Paul tells us here. Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus/Justus are the only ones currently with Paul that are Jews (from the circumcision). That becomes important when you continue reading and learn that Epaphras, Luke and Demas (verses 12 and 14) are in the other (Gentile) category. People often ask why we would think Luke was a Gentile and the answer is: Because Paul said he was.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. [13] For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. [14] Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.

The New American Standard calls Epaphras a bondslave while the King James uses  servant (as does the NIV) and the New King James uses bondservant. What is interesting is that Paul uses the exact same word (doulos) that he’s used in Colossians 3:11, 22; 4:1 where the word is nearly always translated as slave (KJV and NKJV use servants and bondservants). Since this word most often refers to slaves the reminder is again given that we all choose a master to serve, either God or Satan. Which one do people see you serving? Epaphras has already been introduced (Colossians 1:7) as apparently the preacher that started the work in Colossae and perhaps Laodicea and Hierapolis as well.

It sometimes surprises Christians in today’s world that preachers feel such a strong spiritual connection to congregations that they’ve worked with. After all, we hire and fire preachers today without much thought that they might have actually been something much different than simple employees for our whims. And we certainly don’t imagine that after all the problems we’ve caused for them that they might actually be laboring earnestly for us in their prayers, do we? After all, we know that New Testament preachers were greatly concerned about congregations, even those that had done wrong (cf. 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians). Perhaps it is high time we as preachers and congregations both get back to the Bible in ALL our attitudes and actions.

Next, Paul mentions his close friend Luke. It is certainly possible that Luke’s Gospel has already been circulating among these congregations and they are either eagerly awaiting his follow up book of Acts, or have already received it.

Finally, Paul includes the (then) faithful preacher Demas. What a sad footnote he becomes in the history of the Lord’s church. A once faithful preacher, fellow worker with the Apostle Paul and brother in Christ that would go on to become forever after known as a deserter (2 Timothy 4:10). Above all else, we need to remember NOT to be a Demas!

Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church  that is her house.

When we have joint singings and fellowships with neighboring sister congregations do we realize that such actions are actually scriptural? Colossae and Laodicea (about 12 miles apart) seem to know and interact with each other in a similar way.

Nympha, a feminine name, is changed to the masculine name Nymphas in many later manuscripts (especially those used for the King James translation) and there are also some early manuscripts that use their house rather than her or his house. Also difficult to know is the location of this person/group of Christians. Are they at Laodicea or perhaps just part way between Colossae and Laodicea? In the end, we are left wondering about details that everyone in the these two congregations understood perfectly.

Worthy of note, too, is the designation of the church being IN the house or the equally probable idea that a Christian home with a Christian family actually constitutes a group of the Called Out People of God (the New Testament meaning of church). We may well be adding something to Scripture to make all the unfounded claims about the New Testament House Church Pattern as advocated by many twentieth century writers when all God is really trying to point out that a family of Christians is a special thing without reference to the place of worship. We certainly KNOW that this is true of the church at Corinth as Paul specifically  mentions  their  coming  together  for  worship  and  the  Lord’s  Supper  (cf.    1 Corinthians 11:17-22 where Paul makes this clear) is something other than someone’s home or House Church.

Colossians 4:16 When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. [17] Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Since the earliest copies of Ephesians lack the destination city, it is carried by Tychicus who is also coming to Colossae, and the letter lacks the usual personal greetings to a destination congregation, most conservative scholars have concluded that the letter was intended to be shared among the congregations in the area of Ephesus. That makes it  likely that the letter coming to Colossae for their attention is what we call the Ephesian letter. Also, Paul makes it clear that Colossians is intended for other congregations. After all, God’s word and His dealing with both problems and concerns is really for us all!

Archippus is also mentioned in Paul’s accompanying personal letter to Philemon (Philemon 2) where Paul says that letter is to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that is your house. That has led many to conclude that Archippus is the son of Philemon and known to the congregation as a faithful Christian, perhaps a deacon or preacher in the congregation.

It is easy for us to become comfortable with the denominational idea of a single preacher / leader / pastor for a congregation that does all the work. Such is NOT the case in the New Testament church. Those with elders (the actual Biblical “pastors” of the church), were equipped with preachers by definition (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9) and oftentimes one or more of them filled the full-time role of “preacher” (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17). Nearly every New Testament “missionary” was a team effort so it should be no surprise to us that preaching and teaching in a congregation is also a team effort.

Having noted these facts, whatever the exact details of Archippus’ status, as a preacher and thus leader within the congregation, he is (like all such) deserving of utmost encouragement in the job! Just like elders, we have the responsibility to make their job easier by the service we give to them and the Lord (cf. Hebrews 13:17).

Colossians 4:18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

Since Paul often used a “secretary” to write (called an amanuensis, cf. Romans 16:22), he adds his own personal greeting and concludes with the Christian blessing of God’s grace. Never forget who you are and what you have to share that is so precious in God’s eyes!

—Lester P. Bagley

Philippians, chapter 1

We all enjoy good news and there is no better news than the Good News of Jesus Christ. As you read and study God’s word always remember His love and care for you!

Philippians 1

In school we all learn the basics of letter writing. There are different styles and rules for writing formal letters and more personal letters. Several of the interesting archaeological discoveries of the last century or so have included a trove of different types of letters from the Roman and Jewish world of the New Testament. One of the lessons we learn is that the NT letters are not just pseudo-religious literature but deeply personal letters that resulted from a real and personal connection shared between our Savior, the human authors, and the saints in every congregation.

Paul begins this letter as befits that connection and the real sense of love that is shared by those in Christ.  From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1-2).

As children of God we are called to see and think the best about our brothers and sisters. No matter what struggles and even many times failures we have as God’s family, we are God’s chosen, holy ones. While hard to live up to on our own, the reality is that we accomplish this role, not because of our own greatness, but because of God’s wonderful grace and the same shared grace of our family in Christ.

Paul and Timothy in their first real work together had established the congregation at Philippi. Together they still work and encourage, not as bosses, but as servants of the Savior. They write uniquely to a congregation that continues to be led by elders (episkopos meaning overseer, bishop, guardian) and deacons (diakonos meaning servant, minister).

But notice, too, that the leadership is named second to all the saints. In Christ’s church the real “boss” is always God and every member is most important as a part of God’s family.

The address is tied into the uniquely Christian blessing of grace and peace. Only when we see the importance of working together will we ever appreciate God’s plan for His family, the church. Every single complaint and whine about me, me, me is always going to be wrong. Just as other NT writings demand both that leaders be honored and be servants to all, so, too are we only right with God when we put Christ and His church first and ourselves last.

I thank my God every time I remember you. Always in every prayer of mine for all of you I pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all share with me in the grace of God. (Philippians 1:3-7)

Thanksgiving, just like prayer, Bible reading and study and other things, is a way of life for God’s people. If we are not grateful people, then we are really not Christ’s family. A real Christian always has the joy of Christ, no matter how difficult the challenges. When we fail to see the good, the blessings, the joy then we need the eye exam for, in Christ, we are missing the whole picture.

For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may determine what is essential, and so be pure and without blame on the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:8-11)

When we possess the joy of Christ we pray for our brothers and sisters. Yes, no one gets to heaven on the works of someone else. But it’s important for us to also remember that no one gets to heaven by themselves, either. We must bless each other, or we fail to bless God. Interestingly, Paul ties all this into purity. When we are a blessing to the church, God’s family, then we are filled with Jesus and honoring God. Paul is not belaboring the point; he’s showing just how vital it is to us all!

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has turned out to advance the gospel even more, so that it has become known throughout the entire palace guard, and by everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ, and that most of the brothers, having gained confidence in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare more than ever to speak the word of God without fear. To be sure, some are proclaiming Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of a sense of hostility, not sincerely, intending to increase my distress while I am in prison. (Philippians 1:12-17)

We are sometimes amazed by people that seem to see the good in everything. But when we begin to appreciate how great our God really is, we begin to understand that He really can bring His good from all things for His people. Over the centuries God has shown that He can even use people that imagine they are harming God’s cause and people to bring His blessings. There are no events, no people, no power that can ever stop our God. So often for us that is hard to remember, but it is always true!

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed;  and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is my earnest expectation and hope that I will in no way be put to shame, but that with complete boldness, now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

If I am to go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; yet I do not know which I would prefer. I am hard pressed between the two, in that I have the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is much better by far, yet for your sake it is better that I remain in the flesh. So, convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that when I come again to you, your boasting in Christ Jesus might abound because of me. (Philippians 1:18-26)

Not only is there joy and blessings no matter whatever happens to us on this earth, but Christians absolutely cannot lose with Christ! Literally, the worst that could ever happen to us on this earth is for us to leave and go home to be with God. That’s actually what we are here for, our greatest purpose is to be with God. Until that time we are blessed with family that blesses us and we can be a blessing too, but we can never lose that joy and fullness in Christ!

Wait, a minute, are you saying we can never be lost? Honestly? Well, God says that the only way His people can lose… is to be quitters. Paul puts it like this:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or remain away, I may hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way frightened by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you — and that from God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him, since you are experiencing the same conflict which you saw me in, and now hear that I still face. (Philippians 1:27-30)

For a Roman soldier, like many of those in Philippi, there was nothing worse than fear. The solution to fear in combat is training. Training until the discipline is so deeply ingrained in each soldier that they will stand side by side in the worst heat of battle. Only when they do so, is victory assured. Fear is the enemy of victory. Faith, side by side with fellow faithful soldiers, defeats fear!

There is no easy way out. There is no reward for nothing. But in Christ, with Christ’s family we face the greatest challenges Satan and the world have to offer… and we will always emerge as victors!

—Lester P. Bagley

Joy to the highest degree

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

Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Lester P. Bagley

 

 

 

September 8 ~ The Place of Mankind: Psalm 8

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From the Preacher’s Pen… 

When we think of David we tend to first think of him as the King and source of the lineage that would lead to Jesus. But we also need to see him as a prophet and a teacher of God. Notice an important psalm that shows us both of these attributes:

The Place of Mankind – Psalm 8

One of the lessons that we must learn about God and prophecy is that He often teaches more than just one lesson to His people with a seemingly single prophecy. Isaiah (7:10-17) offers one of the great examples of this as a prophecy is made to king Ahaz. We tend to only see the second lesson of Mary giving birth to Jesus in the New Testament, but the lesson promised to Ahaz was an equally powerful lesson in God’s power to control human events.

Recognizing God’s ability to teach more than one lesson through prophecy, let’s take a look at David’s Psalm 8: 

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

First, we notice the powerful lesson of praise of God. His greatness is beyond human understanding. His power is mightier than our utmost imagination. His majesty compels us to bow before Him in awe.

Second, it begins to dawn on us that as great as our God is, and as tiny and insignificant as we are in comparison, that is NOT His view of us, His creation! He sees His people as only a little lower than God, Himself! He crowns His human creation with glory and majesty. What an amazing idea!

Notice something here. The Hebrew behind all English translations (whether King James, American Standard, New American Standard or any other English translation) actually says (verse 5) that God has made mankind a little lower than God! The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament from before the time of Jesus) introduces the word “angels” and it is this translation that is used by the writer of Hebrews (2:7) in application to Jesus.

So, David the prophet has declared mankind to be made a little lower than God. Recall that we are made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27 and 9:6), yet evidently, we are not equal to God (a lesson also taught throughout the Bible). And, apparently, by the book of Hebrews’ comment, we are actually a little lower than the angels in current status. But that is not the end of the story.

As we begin to compare the extension of the lesson by the Hebrew writer (read Hebrews chapter 1), we begin to see God’s purpose in placing us (for a time) as lower than Him, lower even than the angels. God is showing us His real power, His greatness. All of creation is for the purpose of elevating His people, qualifying them to be with Him as His family. Just as God displayed His greatness by elevating Jesus, so He makes His creation, us, His people to be that chosen family, that royal priesthood, that holy people, that are called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10).

God, as great, powerful and majestic as He is has always planned to make us, His creation, a part of His own family. Just as Jesus was “made” for a little while to be lower than God or the angels, so we too are now. But, just as God planned and did restore Jesus to His glory as God, so too one day we will be elevated to be with our God, our Father.

This raises an interesting question. If God has made all the plans and provisions for us to enjoy this greatness, this honor, then how will we respond? Will we accept the honor, do His will and faithfully serve Him? Or will we reject it all? The choice is ours to make. What will you choose?

— Lester P. Bagley

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7/27/19 ~ The Gift of a Day

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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 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 and dreams teach us of the beauty of hope and faith.

Next, let’s look at…

The Gift of a Day

Time seems to be the one ingredient that we always are lacking. How many of us would gladly have one more day with a loved one that is no longer with us? At the same time, how often do we put off time with a loved one until another day?

The gift of a day is often best appreciated when we can no longer have that day back. And in that simple fact is an urgent lesson from God.

Deborah, the judge of Israel, reminded Barak, her general, that this is the day (Judges 4:14) of victory over the enemy. David was reminded of the same lesson by his soldiers as Saul lay sleeping (1 Samuel 24:4). Barak and David would both use the opportunity to show their spirit as soldiers of God, although in quite different ways.

It was that same lesson that David would later share in Psalm 118:24: This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. The important lesson is, of course, so much more than just being happy today. Today is a blessing that is best used wisely. How we use it speaks volumes as to who we really are.

The writer of Hebrews repeats this lesson some five times. Two of those are God’s lesson to not be like the generation that died in the desert and use today to listen to and obey God (Hebrews 3:7, 15). Another (Hebrews 4:7) is cited as a prophecy by David reciting the same thought to us: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.

Hebrews 3:13 stands out as both a humorous comment and a joke to keep us thinking: 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.

In God’s own kind, lighthearted way we are reminded that we only ever have today. As the old saying reminds us, Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised, it is only today that we have. The question for us is, how will we use today.

If you knew that you were going to die tonight, how would you live today? If you knew this was the last time to say, “I love you” or hug someone, would you make a point of treasuring that time today?

Let’s be even more introspective.  If you knew that today was the very last day for you to prepare for eternity, what would you do?

You see, today really is the day that the Lord has made. And He made it for you to use and treasure… not waste. Use it to show love and tenderness. Use it as the day of salvation, for that is indeed what it is (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:2).

Use it wisely that you might value every moment God gives you. Use it wisely so that when tomorrow comes, there will be no regrets. Use it and treasure it as God’s gift to you.

— Lester P. Bagley

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6/14/19 ~ The Gift of Family

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at several of God’s gifts to us as human beings. 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. The gift of money teaches us what we may accomplish in doing for and helping others rather than selfishly doing only for ourselves.

Now we need to consider a gift that teaches a lesson that goes beyond friendship…

The Gift of Family

If ever there was a gift of God that we fail to appreciate, it is probably the gift of family. Since sin came into this world, we as human beings only see at best a dysfunctional family.

Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy and sadly so often we see family as rivals. Sisters compete with each other; parents yell at the kids and children rebel against their parents. And all too often it ends in bitter grief when we realize what we have lost.

For a real example of family working together, we have to open our eyes and see the example of Jesus. Consider Philippians 2:5-11: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Real family, godly family honors and promotes each family member as they work together! At the age of 12, Jesus was already active in God’s work. And yet he honored and obeyed His earthly parents and his mother made note of it: And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).

No less than 20 times in John’s Gospel alone does Jesus specifically refer to His Father and the work that they do together. When Thomas asked to be shown the Father (John 14:8), Jesus explained their work together was so united that simply seeing Jesus was the same thing as seeing the Father.

The New Testament letters to churches are filled with lessons on our relationship with one another as Christians and the very words used describe us as brothers and sisters. To the Galatian church families (Galatians 5:19-21) Paul tells of the deeds that family will NOT do: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.

At the same time, Paul also gives (Galatians 5:22-23) the actions that identify God’s family as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And then, as one last reminder of what not to do, Paul says: Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26).

As Christians, we have a choice to make when it comes to God’s gift of family. We can do it wrong like the world in our homes and in the household of God. That dysfunctional family doing it wrong is of Satan, sin and this world.

Or we can choose to do it right and truly BE God’s family that is filled with gratitude and support for each other.

Family is a gift of God. Angels do not have families. Demons do not have families. Only God and His family do it right!

How are you using God’s gifts and blessings?

— Lester P. Bagley

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“I have a hurt leg too.”

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  •  This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
  • “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”
  • Matthew 8:17

A boy about nine years of age had evidently hurt his leg during football practice. The young mother of one of the boys was taking them, shoulder pads and all, out for supper after practice. The young man who had been injured had difficulty get­ting out of the van. As he limped across the parking lot he decided he would be embarrassed if all of those strangers inside the restaurant were to see him limping. 

I was inside in the foyer and saw his difficulty in walking. Just as I went out the door I heard the boy tell his friends that he would wait for them in the van. Want­ing to see what would happen, I stepped aside. While pretending to be looking in my purse for my car keys, I watched the boy out of the corner of my eye. All of his friends went back and gathered around him and tried to persuade him to go in, but he obviously was too embarrassed. 

One of his friends, a sensitive-looking young­ster, walked up to him, put his arm around him, and said, ‘My leg hurts too. Come on; we’ll go in together.’ The hurt fellow laughed lightly and started off with his friends who were now all limping by the time they got to the door.  Twelve young boys, ages eight and nine, were hobbling toward the restaurant door. I had heard it all and couldn’t help but comment. So I said, ‘Pardon me, young men, but do all of you have hurt legs?’ They all answered as one, ‘Yes, ma’am!’ 

I hesitated a moment and then said, ‘One of you boys has some wonderful friends.’ As they turned to walk through the door, a single voice was heard saying, ‘Yes, I do!’

  • As told to Malcolm Parsley
  • 60-year missionary in Korea

Sunday 4/28 ~ The gift of labor

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

In a recent discussion with a small group of Christians, one brother made the point that, according to the translation he was using, “the love of money” is NOT THE root of ALL evil but rather the root of all KINDS of evil. His point is actually 100 percent accurate!

While many translations imply that the statement of 1 Timothy 6:10 is that money is the root of ALL evil(s), the actual statement of Paul fails to use the article the with root. The result, according to the rules of grammar, is that, in English, a root is Paul’s meaning. Money is one of several (by implication) of the significant roots that cause sin.

Unfortunately for many people with their imagined beliefs and false teachings, words DO matter. Their interpretation and meaning are not left up to us to mean whatever WE want them to mean. As Peter reminds us (2 Peter 1:20), no Scripture stands alone, isolated from the rest of God’s revealed will for us to interpret however we want. In other words, if a Scripture seems to contradict something else in God’s word, you are understanding it wrong!

A similar misconception causes us to miss a blessing that God gives when we confuse it with sin.

The Gift of Labor

In Genesis 3:17-19 God pronounces a curse on Adam for allowing someone else to convince him to sin (his wife, verse 17) and for his resulting disobedience to God’s command. First off, did you catch that first sin? It is OUR sin if we listen to false teaching, bad advice and follow it to disobey God!

So let’s read that passage: 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Now, one of the oft-heard lessons from this passage is that part of man’s curse is to work. The problem with that? It’s NOT there! Yes, men (and women) have to work for their living. Paul goes so far as to teach that the one who is not willing to work, should not be fed (2 Thessalonians 3:10)!

But wait! There’s more! When God first created Adam and Eve, He gave them work to do (read Genesis 2:15) in keeping the garden of Eden. Yes, God planted the garden but it was up to Adam and Eve to take care of it in order to continue to eat of its fruits.

Labor for one’s living is NOT God’s punishment for sin, but rather a blessing for our good!

Take a look at another passage that reminds us of this lesson. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13: 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor — it is the gift of God.

Did you catch that? The labor that we do to earn our food is good! Indeed, it is the gift of God!

Jesus’ mission here on earth was to do the work that God had for Him to do here (cf. John 9:4). Dozens of times Jesus mentioned His work and our work. And the New Testament is filled with references to our responsibility to do the work of God. That is what we are called to do while on this earth. And, lest we forget, our eternal home in Heaven will be filled with blessings for sure, but will also require us to work, to serve God (cf. Revelation 22:3).

As children of God, He has given us the blessing of the most useful work ever in being the light of this world. Paul sums up the challenge this way: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/24/19 ~ Responsibilities to the Church

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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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12/16 ~ Losing a Loved One

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the great blessings of God’s family is seeing that family sincerely pull together in hard times. In this world of sin and death, we have so very many opportunities to show the love of our Father. And none is more precious than when we share burdens simply because we are family.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve rejoiced together as Joe and Christopher put on their Lord in baptism. We’ve shared the burdens of a brother as he struggled with his life and service to the Lord. And we’ve shared in losses, at least in this present world, of one of our own in the congregation and another their close family member. Consider a bit of God’s perspective on…

Losing a Loved One

Loss of a loved one is something that every person either knows from experience or will know sometime during their life. It hurts, even for Christians, it is always painful to lose someone you know and love.

God understands that pain and that loss. Can we even begin to imagine what it was like for the Father to see Jesus die on that cross? How could God destroy the earth for the sinfulness of people (cf. Genesis 6:5) in the flood and not annihilate those mocking and murdering His Son?

The only answer to such a question is that God loved us, really loved us! (cf. John 3:16) What amazing love that God could give us such a gift! So, when we deal with loss we need to begin with the reminder that God truly does understand our pain. And God goes to great lengths to try and explain to us that this pain, horrible as it is, is not the whole story.

In 1 Corinthians 15:55 Paul would concede that death is a sting; a sting brought on by sin; sin that was introduced into this world by Satan. But that sting is overwhelmed, literally devoured by victory in Jesus. That is a picture worth hanging on to by God’s people!

While Jesus gave us a tiny glimpse of “Paradise” in Luke 16:19ff, Paul says that, at least from the standpoint of the living, it compares to sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) with the real focus on resurrection, reunion and being with Jesus at His return. Both Jesus and Paul are trying to get us that remain to remember that the faithful child of God has nothing to fear in death. Or, as Paul would even more bluntly state it, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

Consider one more lesson, this time from David. For many years David was the God chosen, anointed king of Israel while an ungodly man remained on the throne. Many times David faced death from both Saul and from all the external enemies of God’s people. On one of those occasions, as David had to pretend to be insane to escape death at the hands of Abimelech the Philistine king, a Psalm was born.

Psalm 34 is written to recall the sheer terror of facing death, the heartbreak of being alone and, above all else, the always present reality of God being with us! Given those circumstances, given all that horror of loss and great misery, how would you begin the story?

David begins it like this: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth… O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:1, 3). Death and loss, misery and despair are not the ordinary human companions of praise and worship. But then again, God’s people are not ordinary humans!

Notice just a few of David’s other proclamations in this Psalm: I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears (34:4). O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him! (34:8) The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry (34:15). The righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. (34:17-19)

Yes, our God understands about losing a loved one. Our God has promised to always, ALWAYS be there with us no matter how hard it seems, how broken-hearted we are. And above all else, our God has promised to help us through those trials and deliver us from all our troubles.

Trust the Lord your God! Hold tightly to Him who loves you and will keep you in His care!

— Lester P. Bagley

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