Colossians 3b

Have you read your Bible today? Have you spent time in prayer? Have you been a help or a hinderance to your Savior? It’s a choice we all have to make each and every day. What’s your choice today?

Colossians 3b

Paul has gone to great lengths to deeply impress Christians that ALL Christians are as united in Christ as He is in us. Nothing of this earth’s criteria matters in the least to God. To Him we are either IN Christ and Christ is IN us, or we are nothing.

So what does God expect of us that He regards so highly?

Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; [13] bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. [14] Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. [15] Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

We need to realize how precious God’s children are to Him. If you want to get a mother or dad really mad at you, bully their children. If that angers us, imagine the anger of an all- powerful God against those that would harm His children. Check out 2 Thessalonians 1:5- 10 for Paul’s discussion of this very matter.

Now take that a step further. How does that oh-so-protective Heavenly Father expect His precious children to behave toward each other? That is Paul’s lesson here. Chosen of God, holy and beloved is how God sees each and every one of His saints. So we are called to act like it.

Actually, it’s much more than just any acting. We are admonished to put on the right attitudes. Two important lessons are being taught here. First, it is a choice for us whether or not to actually look like our Savior. Children often play dress-up and proudly display the fact that they look like mommy or daddy. We have to make a choice to look like Jesus every day. Otherwise, we choose to look like someone else.

Second is that we, having made the choice will dress right. You cannot imagine a soldier putting armor on the wrong way or putting on a suit and tie imagining that it’s just as good as armor! You can’t pretend to be the Light of the World while acting like the dregs of the world.

Note, too, that we can choose to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. When we are anything other than Christ-like, that is a choice, too!

The ultimate reason for making the right choice is because that’s the choice God has made for us. In Matthew 6:12 Jesus taught us to seek forgiveness from God as we have already extended forgiveness to others. If we fail to treat others right in God’s eyes, then prevent Him from treating us right!

Ultimately, it all comes down to love, that commitment form of God’s love that allowed Him to love us while we were still in sin (cf. Romans 5:8). When we clothe ourselves with God’s own love then we truly look like Jesus to the world and to God.

Having done this, we find the real peace and the reason we are called and finally, the real reason for thankfulness. So many look for the shortcuts to peace and joy, but there are none. The only way is through loving like and being loved by Jesus!

So how on earth do we accomplish all this? Paul has an answer for that:

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

God’s indwelling Holy Spirit is found in God’s word. That is the first ingredient that we have to instill in ourselves. Paul said, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21). Peter preached to those who’d been listening to God’s word, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). And Paul would also write, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Only by hearing the word of God that is taught or preached to us (either by reading the New Testament writers directly or by preaching/teaching from an individual) can we come to the faith to obey the word. And only in repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins can we not only BE forgiven but also receive the present, the gift of God’s own Spirit, His word living within us.

One of the confusing arguments some have is whether the Holy Spirit IS the word of God or is IN the word of God. Reality, like many things about God is a bit more complex. No one HAS the Spirit of God and contradicts or goes against God’s word. Peter assures us     (2 Peter 1:19-20) that God’s word is given by the Holy Spirit to be written down and given to us.

Since God doesn’t contradict or fight against Himself (cf. context of Matthew 12:25), His word IS our source of all knowledge of God’s will for us. That being said, the only way for us to have God’s word installed/instilled in us is by reading and study.

Doesn’t that seriously amplify our urgency for reading and studying God’s word? In doing so we are adding to the Holy Spirit that lives in us. Who would want more of God’s help and presence in their life?

Have you ever been told that “if you are smart” you will do something? If a driver is smart they won’t drive down the wrong side of the road. That’s the way to stay alive. If a Christian is smart, they will be continually in God’s word. That’s the way to eternal life!

So, if the word of Christ is richly living in us and we are being wise in God’s definition of wise, then we will teach and encourage each other with thankful singing. How can a Christian ever say, “I love God” and not “love singing?”

Before you answer, check Paul’s answer. If you are thankful and that’s what fills your heart, then you will! Apparently, just listening to others sing doesn’t fulfil God’s requirements. We need to participate just as we need to participate in all the other good deeds of serving our Savior. DO all the good things and be thankful, that’s where we find the real peace of God!

Next, Paul reminds us that there’s something to work on for every single one of us: Colossians 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [19] Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. [20] Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. [21] Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Before we complain that God has never heard of “equal rights” we must remember that as Lord God He gives us all a position of responsibility. Wives have a responsibility, just as husbands do. Notice that each of the responsibilities are reciprocal as they represent commands give to all of us as Christians. Are any of us supposed to do things that are unfitting or unbefitting to the Lord? Can any of us do the right things and feel bitter about them? Even our giving to the Lord has to be without grudging (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7)!

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. [23] Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, [24] knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. [25] For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

Slavery has a long history. Virtually every human society has practiced slavery and within each it has varied from the most degrading humanly possible to extremely well valued and treated. Just like in everyday life, the hateful bullies have always been there as well as the extremely compassionate.

But there is one serious thought for Christians to consider before we judge too harshly either way. Those that serve God faithfully are often described (many times by themselves) as slaves. Perhaps even more pointedly, the wicked and disobedient are also slaves (cf. Romans 6:19). So in reality we have to make a choice as to who is our master!

Having said that, Paul’s instructions to slaves and servants (Paul’s word here is the common word for slave that included a lot more than we typically think of) is extremely pointed. No matter who or what those you serve are like, your responsibility is to be Christ like!

Since our own Savior set aside His Godhood to become one of us and die for us (cf. Philippians 2:5-8), we are called to do the same. Not just in service to God, but in service to sinful men that we might redeem some of them. In all this we are really serving the Lord our Savior!

Paul also sneaks in a negative reminder. All who do wrong will be caught and punishment will never be spared to those that imagine they are somehow special. God knows how to punish fairly all those that deserve it.

Our mission is to live in such a way that when God and everyone else looks at us they see Christ instead of us. Now there’s a challenge!

—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

 

 

 

10/6/19 ~ The Glory of God

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

There are so very many things about God that we fail to understand! Even when God does reveal a portion to us as human beings it is difficult to fully appreciate it. Still, it is important that we keep looking and learning. After all, can you imagine what medicine would be like today if doctors quit learning and researching a few hundred years ago?

Let’s look a bit deeper at God and especially from the standpoint of a word the Apostle John emphasizes:

The Glory of God

Let’s begin with a Hebrew word used to describe the divine presence of God, Shekhinah. Now this word is never used in the Bible, rather it is a term used to describe the presence or dwelling of God with His people.

The root word comes from the concept of settling, inhabiting or dwelling. Other words derived from this root include the concept of neighbor and, especially, a holy place such as the Tabernacle or Temple.

You probably recall that those holy places were described as the evidence of God dwelling among His people. Since the Jews frequently associated this word with the Holy Spirit and Jesus tells us, For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst (Matthew 18:20), we should also get the idea that this concept is an important lesson for us as Christians.

With this understanding in mind, it should become more readily apparent what John said: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The New Testament writers wrote of actually seeing and experiencing the presence of, the Glory of God here on this earth. They wrote as eyewitnesses for us to learn the reality, the truth of what God has done for us.

With Jesus’ first miracle John reminds us: Jesus did this, the first of his signs, at Cana in Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11). In Jesus’ presence here on earth and in the works (miracles) that He did, the Glory of God is actually seen by humans.

Later, as John concludes the New Testament, he reveals this statement from Jesus to His people (His church): Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).

Acts 2:38 reminds us that with baptism comes both forgiveness of sins AND the gift of God’s own Spirit to live in us. Paul affirms this repeatedly as he reminds us that we are the temple of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit and that Christ lives in us.

We have not only seen the Glory, the divine presence of our God but He actually lives in us to help us serve Him!

It is only when we begin to appreciate all this that God’s horrendous declaration of those who spurn Him chills us with its great meaning. John tells us: for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:43).

Look at that statement again. The word approval in the NASB or praise (KJV) is really the word glory in Greek. Now, do you see how great a curse this statement truly is? Those that fail to faithfully believe in and obey Jesus love the glory of men rather than the glory of God!

 Could we possibly become so proud of the presence, the glory of other people that we spurn the glory of God? How incredibly sad!

One day the glorious presence of God will be revealed and seen by all the world. That day is not about God’s glory being seen by us so much as it is about His being seen and acknowledged by the rest of the world.

Christians, as those who belong to Christ, already have seen the glory of the Lord for He lives in them and directs their lives. When we remember that, we will live like it and truly let our light, the light of God Himself, shine out in our lives to enlighten the world.

— Lester P. Bagley

 

 

Sunday 9/4 ~ What We Share in Christ

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Relationships are always a challenge. Being friends with someone takes effort and so, too, does being family. Many times we take those relationships for granted and end up estranged, no longer close as we once were. For those family and friends that we really consider important to us, we make the effort to keep close, to not only maintain but grow that relationship. The same lesson applies to our relationship with our God and Savior.

What We Share in Christ

As Christians, we enjoy a very special relationship with each other and, especially, with Christ. Like any especially close and important connection, it is important that we not only maintain but grow that rapport. Let’s look at a few of the snapshots that God gives us of just how special that connection is.

To begin, we must first remember the constant New Testament lesson that all God’s promises and spiritual blessings are only available to those that are IN Christ.

In Christ, we are crucified together with Him. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20). Crucifixion was the ultimate capital punishment of the New Testament world. On the rare occasion that someone survived they were forever horribly disfigured, mutilated for life. It is no wonder that Peter (2 Peter 2:17-22) describes how much worse it is in God’s judgment for those that once were in Christ!

In Christ, we die with Him. In Christ, we are buried with Him. In Christ, we are raised with Him to a new life. Romans 6 is a great lesson about how and why we are united with Christ. And it all begins with/in baptism! How could anyone ever believe that baptism is not a vital ingredient in our salvation?

Romans 6:1-14: 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Our real accomplishment is in losing ourselves, our will, our lives in a total change of priorities. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).

It is never a partial thing with God. Either we are fully IN Him or we are outsiders. So, are you truly IN Christ?

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/24/17 ~ Concentrate Me, Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingSome years ago I was talking to a young person about the concept of God making us holy. Misunderstanding the word “consecrate” they replied that they understood the idea that God was concentrating us.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes our young people better understand and express difficult lessons? Let’s dig a little deeper into those words.

Concentrate Me, Lord

The Old Testament several times uses the word “consecrate” to describe the procedure of making the priests ready for their service to God (cf. Exodus 30:30; 32:28-29). The word comes from the concept of “cut off” to imply that those that serve the Lord are completely set aside to that task. They were not to be like other people but rather holy to the Lord.

Most of us are perhaps more familiar with the word concentrate. Take concentrated orange juice for example. You understand what it is. Fresh orange juice has most of the water removed (that’s why you add water to re-constitute it!) and you are left with very strong, thick, pure orange flavor and solids (vitamins, minerals, pulp, etc.) that make up orange juice.

Now, put that in a spiritual perspective. If we allow God to distill us, remove the things that make us impure then we are left with the most Christlike parts.

Consider James’ recommendation: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4) Isn’t that God concentrating and consecrating us?

Or Paul’s thought: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:3-4). God has chosen us to be concentrated, holy and like Him.

That’s exactly how God views the church, the bride of Christ: So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:26-27). Set apart, distilled down to be pure essence of godliness.

Peter advises us to: Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “you shall be Holy, for I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:13–16)

Do you see the point? We have to be changed from that old person of sin, selfishness and ignorance into the holy people of God’s own family. Our consecration, being made holy by our holy God boils us down, distills us into a concentrated form that is more powerful and more precious than anything we could otherwise be.

I’m often amused at the degree of nonsense that many people will believe. You can find great discussions about why concentrates like orange juice are bad, evil, wicked and unhealthy. In reality, the ONLY difference is that the water is removed and EVERYTHING else is still there.

Likewise, it is often amusing that we forget that CONSECRATION in a Christian is just removing the ungodly parts. The result in our lives is that ALL the godly, useful, spiritual parts are still there. They are just stronger for having less of the unspiritual mixed in with them. We are CONCENTRATED with Christ for God’s use!

We need to ask ourselves what we really are. Do we still retain the contaminants of the world? Or are we allowing God to change us into the consecrated, holy, concentrated, pure body of Christ that we are called to be?

— Lester P. Bagley

 

3/26/17 ~ Faith in Desperate Times

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuilding     Have you ever had a hard time? Have you ever felt like just giving up? I would dare to say that most of us could answer “Yes” to those questions and probably more than just once or twice in our lives!
     God’s people are not immune to challenges to their faith and this has been true since God first put mankind on this earth.
     Psalm 42 marks the beginning of a section of Psalms of Korah and family. Korah was a Levitical musician placed in charge of temple worship by David and Solomon so these Psalms are intended to focus on worship. That idea might surprise us as it’s easy to imagine that true worship only comes from people without worries or problems.
In reality, true worship comes from real people with real struggles that are working through real difficulties toward being faithful to God. In other words, just like us!
     Consider the words of Psalm 42. Yes, we sing some of them in a song. And yes, they teach a beautiful lesson about longing for God. But when we look deeper we see just how real and how difficult that struggle is. And we also see what real faith really is!

Faith in Desperate Times

     Psalm 42 begins with the beautiful thought: As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. Yes, we long for God (or certainly should!) above all else. But just how serious, how desperate is that struggle?
     Consider the next two verses: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
     When we are truly at the end of our own solutions, in the depths of despair and struggles in this life, we begin to question God. Where are You? When are You really going to take control and show us the way?
     As things seem to continually go wrong it is easy to find ourselves remembering those times when we seemed faithful and strong and all seemed to be going well: These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
     What’s wrong with me? We seem to question everything, ourselves and even our God! Why do I doubt? Will I ever be strong again? 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. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
     Yes, I remember, God IS in control! He will be with me! I will talk to my Heavenly Father and tell Him of my struggles: The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.
     Yet almost as we begin to remind ourselves we find the doubt creeping in again. When we desperately want to be strong we find ourselves struggling yet again with doubt. Alas, everyone is against us and there is no reason for hope: I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
     As we fight this ongoing battle we need to always remember where our hope truly is. To struggle with our faith in desperate times is not a sin, it is truly a part of being human. Faith, real living faith, the kind that brings hope and salvation is faith that keeps on keeping on. Faith, real faith keeps looking back to God. As the Psalmist concludes his struggling reminder, Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
     When things are going wrong, when we are in despair, when we begin to question God and everything around us it is time to question despair. It is time to remind ourselves that our God is in control and that He will continue to be our help, our hope. Above all else, in times when our faith is struggling the most, it is time to look to God and hold on to our hope in Him.
     Like our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, in desperate times it is the most important time to stand by our God and accept that He will do all things to bless and further His will. In hard times it is time to long for God as though our very lives depend on Him… because they do!

— Lester P. Bagley

1/8/17 ~ Whatever Became of Happily Ever After?

From the Preacher’s Pen… How’s your new year going? Have you broken all your resolutions yet? Or are you keeping them? Is it going to be a good year?

RacineBuildingAs we look back to the past year we often remember events to gauge whether it was a good year or bad. But how do we judge the future? Will this year be good or bad?

The ideal is for all the future to be good. But is that realistic? Can there really be a happily ever after or is that just a sign of not understanding reality? Okay, so let’s consider for a moment…

Whatever Became of Happily Ever After?

As Christians and human beings, we see death. Everyone on this earth has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27) and, short of being here at the moment of Jesus’ return, we will all keep that appointment one day.

A few weeks ago I asked my grandson Joshua if he liked a movie that he’d been to see. His reply was, “No, not really.” When I asked him why his answer was right to the point, “Because everyone died.”

The older I get the more I identify with his answer. Having seen a fair share of violent and tragic deaths, I find myself much fonder of happy endings.

When you’ve seen death and the situations that surround those violent and tragic ones you change. Today the response is typically labeled as PTSD. It is simply an acknowledgment that at some point we’ve all had more than we can take of such situations.

So, if you are stressed and over-stressed by unhappy endings what do you do about it? Some literally go crazy. Others joke or use some mechanism to maintain sanity and deal with the situation. However you deal with it, the point is to deflect the effect of unhappy endings.

Some of the most recommended and effective aids in coping are using a support system of others who have shared the stress, hard exercise and work, relaxation, humor, prayer and, above all, commitment to goals.

God realizes that we are limited in our capacity to deal with such things and provides help. When you go back and look at that list of aids to cope you will see that it is a description of the New Testament church.

God has not called us to do it on our own. Christ’s church, His body is made up of those sharing the failures, the stress, and the goals. We share our sins, struggles, and failures (James 5:16). Our challenge is to be committed to the hard work and goals of reaching out to others with the Good News (Matthew 28:19-20). We work, relax, live and share all things together as family. And that communicating with each other and with God is irreplaceable if we would really succeed.

Oh, and about that happily ever after part, just keep three things in mind:

First, for happily ever after to succeed, we need to go back to the innocence of childhood in order to successfully get to heaven. Two reminders from Jesus: And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Children are amazingly able to deal with things adults don’t handle. Don’t complicate with grown-up fears and failures what can be handled by simply doing what you are told by your Heavenly Father.

Second, we must realize just how great the promise of happily ever after really is! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16–17)

Family members have all the privileges and all the honor that belongs to God.

Third, God doesn’t promise to just give us a trophy or a certificate of completion, He is making us a part of His eternal family, with eternal bodies and all that implies: Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50–53)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)

The trauma, the challenges, the difficulties of here and now are nothing compared to the eternal happily ever after of God. It’s not just a matter of facing challenges with help, it’s the promise that the goal, the end is worth the difficulties of the journey.

Jesus explains it like this: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

Now is the time to lay down those worries and burdens. Now is the time to be a part of the family that helps with the here and now and looks forward God’s happily ever after.

— Lester P. Bagley

9/25/16 ~ Spirituality

From the Preacher’s Pen ~ 

RacineBuildingWe, the spiritual, are at all times guided by our conscious submission to and dependence on the guidance of His Holy Spirit.  Prayers of thanksgiving and requests for help are constantly going up.  We live in a state of searching to see the gifts He has bestowed on us, and our thanks is given for each one.

The joy of submission never leaves our heart, and the joy of our soul is to find constant service to others. Our heart is never selfish, and the prayers for those of greatest need are the pleasure of our tongues. The beauty and cleanness of our Father’s earth are our loving concern.

No task is ever too great. We know if the Father has called us to the task, He has also provided the means whereby it can and must be done.  Our love for all has never been greater and is still growing.

There are no enemies left in our heart to forgive, and no offense remains greater than what we have no already forgiven. Fear, anger, hate and revenge are not a part of our character.

Each day is awakened to the joy and anticipation of the opportunities and services to Him that await our love and sincere service. Each night finds us prone in thanksgiving for the many challenges of strengthening, challenges with which His Holy Spirit has blessed our soul.

And, as the world around us fights its many wars, we sleep in the peace that only He can provide. We are His, and He is ours.

~~Malcolm E. Parsley

Korea News Report, Church of Christ Mission

(NOTE:  Malcolm has been a missionary in Korea since 1961 and has baptized thousands into Christ.)

 

 

08/14/16 ~ What Is Spirituality?

RacineBuilding

(Excerpt from Worship the First-Century Way)

The Bible never uses the actual word spirituality.  The closest it comes is “spiritually” and “spiritual.” The word spirit is a translation of the Greek word pneuma which means breathing or blowing.  We know that people breathe by its results, but we cannot see breath.  We know that the wind blows by its results, but we cannot see the wind. 

Jesus explained it this way:  ” ‘…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water AND the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit….The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit’ ” (John 3:5-8).

Spirituality is the same.  We cannot see spirituality.  We know someone has it by the results.  Romans 8:6 says we should “be spiritually minded” (KJV).  So from this, we know that spirituality has to do with the mind.  What else does it have to do with? 

  • The written law of God (Romans 7:6, 14)
  • The gift of salvation (Romans 15:27 & Acts 10:36, 18)
  • Truth, mind of Christ, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:2:13-16,  John 17:17)
  • Food of God, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 3:1 & Hebrews 5:12-14)
  • Seed, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 9:11 & Matthew 13:19)
  • Drink of Christ, water of eternal life (1 Corinthians 10:3-4 & John 7:38)
  • Miraculous powers that confirmed the Word was really from God (1 Corinthians 12:1, 12; 14:37; John 20:30-31)’
  • Our heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:44-46)
  • Sinlessness (Galatians 5:19-6:1)
  • Salvation, the blessings of heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6-7)
  • Worship (Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16)
  • Satan’s forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12)
  • Knowledge of God’s will (Colossians 1:9)
  • People in the church (1 Pet. 2:5 & 1 Timothy 3:15)

In a nutshell, we see that spirituality is linked to the Word of God which is called the law of God, the mind of God, truth, knowledge of God’s will.  It was also the miracles that confirmed the Word of God.  Therefore, we cannot have spirituality out of our imaginations.  Spirituality comes from the Bible.

Spirituality is also linked to sinlessness, salvation, worship, the church.  Of course, we do not know what things are sin unless we check with the Bible.  We do not know how to be saved unless we check with the Bible.  We do not know if we are in the church unless we check with the Bible

There is no scripture listed above regarding spirituality that is an emotion.  It all deals with the Word of God, the Logos.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14).  The term “word” is from the Greek logos from which we get another word, logic.

What many people today define as “spirituality” is an emotionalism akin to someone on a drug “high.”  Interestingly, the sin of sorcery condemned by God comes from the Greek word pharmakeia from whence our word for pharmacy or drugs.  It is a sin to act like we are on a drug high in the name of Jehovah God.  It is frightful, it is confusing, it is non-productive, and it is wrong (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

Spirituality, then, is not emotionalism.  Spirituality also is not what comes out of our imaginations.  Spirituality is knowing and following the Word of God.

There is a parallel to understanding spirituality with understanding fasting.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

In an era when fasting was practiced frequently (we modern Christians miss a blessing by not fasting), Jesus said people were going out of their way to look the part of holy people so others would admire them.  Today, in our worship services, especially where it comes to emotionalism, we are trying to look the part of holy people.

An unknown poet said,

  • Let us keep our fast within,
  • Till heaven and we are quite alone;
  • Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
  • Before the mercy-seat be thrown.

Fasting is an act of self-restraint.  It belongs to the sphere of self-discipline.  It is strictly a personal and private matter.  What is public is the results of fasting, the results of self-discipline.  But we cannot show the actual process of self-discipline.  In fact, we would spoil the process by attempting to show it, like wearing a “humble” button.

Just as a plant must begin its growth in the darkness of the soil, we begin our spiritual growth in the darkness of our own inner thoughts and prayer to God.  And just as we can never safely expose the roots of a plant, we can never show the exact process by which we develop and protect our own spiritual roots.  All moral and bodily restraint, all humbleness of body and spirit are represented by fasting, and it is a complete failure of self-restraint to want to show others our self-restraint.

It is the same with spirituality.  Spirituality (salvation) comes from reading the Mind of God, the Word of God (Romans 10:1-3, 17).  No one else can absorb the Mind of God, the Word of God into our minds for us.  We have to do it for ourselves.  It is a personal thing.  A private thing.  Developing faith from it all is something that cannot really be expressed in words.  It happens within our own minds.  Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) says Faith is the EVIDENCE of things hoped for.  And faith that comes from the Word of God and then following it leads to salvation (Romans 10:3, 17).

We should be grateful that salvation does not rely on emotions.  If it did, we’d be very confused about our salvation.  David understood the tug-of-war that occurs between emotions and logic.  Look at Psalm 42 where he struggled with his faith.

Here David begins a debate between his emotions (his soul) and his logic.  Let’s look in on the drama as David has a talk with himself:

SCENE:            His soul is panting for God, thirsting for God, trying to meet with God.  He’s been crying day and night asking where God is.

EMOTIONS:      Where is your God?  Remember how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng?

LOGIC:             Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

EMOTIONS:      My soul is downcast within me.

LOGIC:             Therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan….

EMOTIONS:      Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

LOGIC:             By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me ~ a prayer to the God of my life.

EMOTIONS:      I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

LOGIC:             Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Isn’t it wonderful that our salvation doesn’t depend on how spiritual we feel?  If it did, we’d be in and out of salvation, depending on how we felt.  I have known people who did gauge their salvation by their emotions

They’d say something like, “I cried and cried all one day because of my sins and asked God to forgive me.  Then I felt such release, and knew I was now saved.”  Then they’d say a few years later, “I thought I was saved, but I wasn’t really. This time, I cried and cried for several days because of my sins and asked God to forgive me.  Then I felt so good that this time, I knew he’d saved me.”

Then a few years later the rise in emotions would happen again, only this time, more intensely.  On and on the cycle went for them.  Thinking they knew for sure they were saved, then wondering, then doubting, then in hopelessness once again

Salvation does not depend on our emotions.  Salvation depends on what we logically believe about what Jesus did for us.  Are remorse, love. and gratitude involved in our salvation?  Of course.  Many emotions are involved.  But they are the result of our logically reading God’s word, and then logically accepting it and following it.

Remember, Romans 10:1-2 says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their ZEAL IS NOT BASED ON KNOWLEDGE.”

Why are we given the spiritual gift of salvation?  There is more than one reason.  The obvious one is so we can go to heaven.  But there is another reason.  Ephesians 2:8-10 explains, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ~ not by works so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, CREATED in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Spirituality and Touching Jesus

 The Spirit cannot be seen any more than breath or wind can be seen.  But the results of breath and wind can be seen.  So too, spirituality cannot be seen.  Only the results of spirituality can be seen.  The results are in our attitudes and deeds

For instance, Galatians 5:22-25 explains clearly, “But the fruit [result] of the Spirit [spirituality] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Furthermore, James, the brother of Jesus said, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘God, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Jesus told us how.  ” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).

Therefore, everything In this book about applying God’s Word in worship and in service is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time the announcements are made and someone responds, “I’ll take some food over to them on Monday,” that is spirituality

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we enter into prayer together after getting into each other’s hearts and lives and asking them, “What do you need prayer for?” that is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper and compare our imperfection and being deserving of death and hell with Jesus’ perfection and taking our punishment for us, as explained in God’s Word, that is spirituality

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we give money to help support evangelism, purchase Bibles, send food to the needy, that is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we sing praises to God in faltering voices but from deep within our soul, playing on the strings of our heart, that is spirituality.

Do we want to touch Jesus?  Every time we read the Bible in order to know the Mind of God, so we can live the way he wants us to rather than what our imaginations think he wants, that is spirituality.

All we need to feel spiritual and special is to know God loves us.  No matter how many times we sin, he loves us.  No matter how many times we fall, God loves us

  • We are not special to God because of how good we are, but because how good God is.
  • Not because of anything we are, but because of who God is.
  • We’re not special because we are so loving, but because God is love.
  • Not because we are so full of life, but because God is life.
  • Not because we’re so intelligent and spiritual, but because God is.

If we want to speak in a special language, let us speak in the language of love.

Spirituality is sitting with a friend and telling them God loves them when they’re good and bad, and will help them overcome the bad.

Spirituality is going with a friend who wants to join a self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s telling them how much God will help them.  Then proving it with scriptures.

Spirituality is going to an enemy gossiping against you and saying God loves you both, and there’s nothing they can say or do to get you to stop loving them!

That’s spirituality!

That’s high!

 

7/31/16 ~ EasyBibleLearning.WorldBibleSchool.org

RacineBuildingWBS Logo-redGod’s message brings hope, joy, love and life.  Learn how by mail or online FREE.  Learn in your home at your pace with “penpal” helpers and online friends ~ with no one knocking on your door.

Course 1:  The Way to Life ~ The Bible is like a map for living, providing direction and purpose for every person everywhere. Why consider the Bible? Is it trustworthy? Can it truly address my every need?

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Course 3:  This is Good News ~ God’s message in the Bible is “good news”.  How should I respond to it? What is faith that “saves”?

Course 4: Knowing Jesus ~ Jesus makes reemarkable promises to those who “know” Him.  Is Jesus God’s Son? Is He alive today? How can I know Jesus?

Course 5:  Born of Water and Spirit ~ Jesus speaks of being “born again” to live a new life. Can I really have a fresh start in life? How can I face life and death with assurance?

Course 6: The Family of God ~ God has chosen a family of His very own, and He wants you to be a part of it. Who has God chosen? What does the word “church” really mean? What is His purpose for my life?

Course 7: Live a Life of Love ~ God offers every person a new purpose and a joyful life. How does he want me to live? Is there real spiritual power at work in my life? How can I help others?

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