Worship

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

Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Lester P. Bagley

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Hearing and Obeying

 

Jesus declared that the greatest commandment of all is: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:29-30) If we truly love our Lord, then how can we not spend time with Him in prayer and reading His words to us?

Hearing and Obeying

Language is a funny thing. If I say the word bank without any context what do you think of? Did you think of the place for money or the side of a river? Sometimes words give us a clue about their meaning by changing their spelling (like to, too and two) but you can’t see spelling in spoken language so, again, the context of what is said will tell you the meaning. These rules of language are challenging to anyone learning a language and that explains a lot of the early time spent in school. Until we know and use the language properly, we cannot really communicate with others.

Even when you know the words of a language, it can be a challenge sometimes because of different cultures. Saying something polite and proper in Southern USA English might well be insulting or derogatory in Northern USA English. And the American language in general can be far different from English as spoken elsewhere in this world!

The next challenge then comes in using more than one language. A word that means one thing to you, might well mean something totally different to someone speaking another language. An example would be the word gift. While it sounds like something you would want to give someone in English, in the German language it means poison. Perhaps not the best thing to impress a pretty girl with!

All this brings up the subject of translation. How do we convey the actual original meaning of a word or thought from one person to another? And taking all this into account we begin to realize the problem with translating the Bible!

What God is telling us through His word, the Bible, is important to our lives here and to our eternal lives. So getting these words and meanings right is essential! And it’s for that reason we spend much time in both reading and studying God’s word.

By now you must be wondering what all this has to do with the title. Simply this, in the Old Testament Hebrew, the word for hearing and the word for obedience are exactly the same word. If you hear or listen to (even in reading) what God says, then you are expected to obey Him.

Perhaps you’ve used similar terminology to someone else (or had it used to you). As a person is doing the wrong thing, you ask the question: Didn’t you hear what I said? What you are really asking is, Why aren’t you doing what you were told?

The Hebrew word for hearing AND for obeying is shama. You never really hear or know what God is telling you unless you obey Him!

This lesson begins with Adam and Eve. After they chose to sin and disobey God, They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). This is the very first (of over 1000 occurrences of this word) use of shama in the Hebrew Bible. A short time later Adam responds to God, He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). It was hearing the sound of God that they had failed to obey that caused the entire problem! And Moses in writing the account carefully links this all together.

Just as Genesis tells of the beginnings of things, so it begins the travesty of, We heard you, God, but we didn’t obey you!

As the story continues in Genesis 3:17 God tells Adam, 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. Think for a moment about that. Did Adam sin by simply hearing what Eve said? Did Eve sin simply by virtue of Satan saying something? Or was the sin in obeying, in doing what they knew was wrong?

Whenever you see the words related to hearing, listening, understanding or obeying in the Old Testament you need to realize that it is the same word and the same lesson! If we hear God and fail to understand, fail to obey Him, then we might just as well have never heard Him at all!

The Psalmists would use this same word over 70 times and its most frequent use is in the request of God to hear a prayer or request or to praise God for having heard. For God to hear our prayers is for God to act, to answer our prayers.

So true is this that we even get the reminder in the New Testament that everyone knows that God does NOT hear the prayer of sinners, those unwilling to obey Him (cf. John 9:31). By the way, this understanding also gives us the insight to recognize why God heard the prayers of Cornelius since his prayer was from one who would obey God when he understood or heard what God required him to do.

All of this comes together to teach us one more lesson. While a lot of people today imagine that salvation comes by the simplistic act of reciting Jesus’ name or acceptance of the facts of the existence or even the work of Jesus, that is never true. Belief in Jesus requires hearing (in God’s terminology) God’s word, believing it involves obeying it… all of it or else you really haven’t listened to God at all.

Whenever the New Testament talks about hearing, believing and obeying it is talking about, from God’s perspective, exactly the same thing!

When we read our Bibles, we are reading God’s word. Unless we understand, accept and obey His word we might just as well have ignored Him to begin with. God has made that lesson plain from the very beginning of His word to the very end. In Revelation 12:17 Satan is enraged and makes war on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. A short while later God says that those who stand out as the faithful are, the holy ones who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

From beginning to end, from first to last we must be those that hear and obey God’s word. Keep reading and keep obeying!

—Lester P. Bagley

1/19/20 ~ The Choice of Spiritual Blindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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11/24/19 ~ The Unused Cup

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

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

The Unused Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the declarations of your “Unused Cup”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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Sunday 8/11 ~ The Gift of Love

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From the Preacher’s Pen… As we conclude our look at some of the many gifts that God has given us, it’s time to see, realize and appreciate…

The Ultimate Gift, the Gift of Love

Think back at the many gifts that God has given us — given us that we might learn to be like Him here on Earth and eternal life might be truly meaningful in Heaven. God gave us the gift of labor, not as punishment for sin, but rather that we might grow and learn the true value of all things.

Friendship teaches us to be a part of a team, to work together that we might accomplish much more than any individual ever could. Money is a gift to teach 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 and truly see the challenges of growth.

God’s gift of learning shows that He treats us like adults as we mature to better know, understand and teach others. Dreams teach us of the beauty of hope and faith that we might aspire to greater things. The gift of a day, today, the time that God gives us that must not be wasted. Last, we saw the gift of giving that allows us to see the joy of sharing as we help others.

Each of these gifts helps us build more than just a passing knowledge or even a passing relationship with God. Each gift helps mold us into those that not only appreciate God’s grace and gifts but into those that reach out to others with the same joy that they might also be a part of God’s family.

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All this brings us to the ultimate gift. That is NOT just the gift of experiencing God’s love, but of becoming like God in caring for others more than we care for ourselves. Living in God’s love is not living for ourselves but for others!

Consider how God shows us the ultimate gift: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16) We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Did you notice how God moves from showing and teaching us about the ultimate gift to challenging us to do the same? We can never be stingy recipients. God’s gift is NOT for us to hoard; in fact, it becomes useless that way.

You may recall that the New Testament word most used for God’s love is actually about commitment. God LOVED us, was committed to our salvation even when we were unlikable, unlovely, contaminated by sin.

And He calls us to LOVE in exactly the same way! A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34). And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:35)

Let me suggest that you read two longer passages carefully: 1 John 4:7-12 and Ephesians 3:14-19. Why? Because without showing this love you will never see Heaven, you will never even really know God and His infinite love, grace, and mercy. Moses puts it like this: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Jesus says it this way: If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12). And John summed it all up like this: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).

We are surrounded by God’s wondrous gifts. Let us learn and practice the lessons that we might live as heirs of the King, as those whose responsibility here on earth is to declare the glorious deeds of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

— Lester P. Bagley

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7/7/19 ~ The Gift of Problems

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From the Preacher’s Pen… Our look at several of God’s gifts to us continues. The gift of labor helps us to find value even as we grow and learn. Friendship teaches us to be a part of a team that we might accomplish more together than separately. The gift of 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. The gift of gratitude helps us to be truly thankful and enables us to count our blessings as we realize how rich and numerous they really are and the gift of laughter gives us a view of our God’s own real joy.

Now let’s look at a gift that seems completely wrong when we first see it, only to offer great blessings…

The Gift of Problems

James begins his brief letter with what seems an astounding claim: 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 complete result, so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.

There is an incredibly important lesson in this gift of God. To begin with, it challenges our concept of joy, happiness, and laughter until we remember that old formula that we looked at last week: he who laughs last, laughs best. We see that it is absolutely true with God and, with God’s gift of problems and trials, we learn how it can be true in our lives.

Let’s begin by considering our physical bodies and strength. There’s an old saying about exercise that says there is no gain without pain. Muscles strengthen and grow only by repair and replacement of old tissue. So there really is no gain without the pain.

In another sense, the same is true of learning. It takes effort, hard work to increase our knowledge and thus our value to both man and God. That last part, our value to God, is most important. Isaiah quotes God and reminds us that God’s people went into exile for their lack of knowledge (Isaiah 5:13). And Hosea was told even more bluntly that God’s people were destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

Clearly, without the problem, the difficulty of sincere effort to, as Paul puts it, diligently work hard we cannot be approved by God as those that are not ashamed because they accurately handle His word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Let’s go back to James’ claim that we began with. Problems, various trials can be a gift of God that helps us grow stronger. Endurance doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill. It requires much effort, but the result is the increase in strength that allows us to do and accomplish more.

Consider Paul’s lesson: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

More than just the simple endurance of being able to last longer under stress and strain, God gives us problems, tribulations and trials that we might grow our hope and faith.

In rehabilitation medicine, a patient is challenged, stressed in a very careful, methodical way to improve. We might jokingly suggest that the therapist is just sadistic, enjoying the pain of someone else. But the reality is that, done properly, this is a carefully administered training procedure that brings not just stability, but real gain in performance.

Another term used for all this is tough love. The concept is simple: only real love teaches the difficult lessons. Anything else is simply setting you up to fail. In the same way, God is not interested in tearing down and destroying us, His people. His gift is the gift of growing and maturing us that we might not only handle more difficulties in life but rather that we might have the strength to overcome, to win the battles we face with sin and Satan. His goal is to truly make us more than conquerors (cf. Romans 8:37).

Never forget that our problems and challenges are a loving gift from God. Without them, we would immediately be crushed by the first real threat from the Devil. Real love doesn’t just protect us from problems. Real love teaches us to be victors over the challenges that we face.

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/7 ~ False Prophets and False Teachers

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Once human beings came into the world it didn’t seem to take long before lies and sin came on the scene. Once Moses led God’s people out of Egyptian slavery it didn’t take long before they began to turn back to the false gods of their past. Likewise, once the Lord’s church begins on the day of Pentecost, it doesn’t take long for God’s people to begin perverting the teachings of their Savior and trying to change His church. And today’s world is not any different. So let’s consider a bit about those we meet of the…

False Prophets and False Teachers

Here’s a question for you to think about: If someone is actively teaching error on several Biblical subjects and happens to make a statement that is Biblical, do they magically become a teacher that you should quote and honor?

There are several examples from popular “big name” preachers of today that many Christians like to quote as authorities on spiritual matters. In many cases, those denomination preachers have actually admitted that they are not teaching the truth of the Bible but their own opinion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly to those who seriously study God’s word, the Apostle Paul faced similar challenges in the New Testament world. Consider his words to the Christians at Corinth: But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:12-15)

Not only will Satan’s servants disguise themselves as being servants of God but Paul says that his (and our!) job is to cut off their opportunity to teach error. According to God’s will, we MUST speak out against them or be just as deceitful as they are! We are surrounded by many who claim to be Christians but, in reality, they are Satan in disguise. Now at this point, you may feel that is a harsh statement but bear with me for just a moment.

One of the most popular false teachings is, of course, fake methods of salvation. Can someone who teaches salvation by chewing a particular brand of bubblegum actually be worthy of our adoration in their other teachings? Of course, that’s ridiculous! So how can we listen to and not condemn the false teachers of “send me money to be saved” or “just pray the ‘Sinners Prayer’ to ask Jesus into your heart and be saved”?

None of those teachings come from God’s word. Not a single one of them will actually lead to salvation. And not a single person who teaches them will be from God!

Let’s also check another one of those false claims: knowing how to read the Bible and know exactly when Jesus is going to return. Hardly a week goes by without at least one claim of such special knowledge.

Such claims must either be true or false. They cannot be half true. Jesus (Matthew 24:24) warned of false Christs and false prophets and Paul rather bluntly calls their works “lying” or “false” wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). If they are false, then we must realize that it is Satan that’s at work in the disguise of Christianity.

Several years ago while we were living in New Zealand, one man prophesied that a major earthquake would strike the Taupo region on a given date. A short time before that date a denominational paper ran an explanation of why this great proof prophecy might go wrong… just in case it didn’t happen!

Other similar “prophets” proclaim that God has revealed to them that some worldly event or other is the “sign” of Christ’s return. Many of them set dates (usually several years in the future), others are busy trying to explain why their previous dates were wrong, and others have never been heard from again once their prophetic date has passed.

The result of all this has been seemingly a lot of interest in Christianity, but it is, in reality, a shallow faith and interest that disappears once their particular prophet is proven wrong. Such a reaction is exactly what we would expect of the work of Satan. Think for a moment about those prophecies. Since they are made in God’s name, the prophet must be judged by God’s standard. In the book of Deuteronomy, God sets forth the definition of false prophets.

To begin with, if a person should make prophecies that come true but the prophet counsels rebellion or disobedience to the revealed word of God, then that person is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). The first standard for prophets is their consistency with what God has already told us. Therefore our first line of defense is to know God’s word and use it as our standard.

The second test is then whether or not the prophecy comes true. Deuteronomy 18:22 says, If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him! (NIV). Notice that there is no room for second or third chances and no excuses.

So what about those ongoing predictions of the signs of the end? God’s already revealed word says that it is not for us to know the times set by God, that no man does know when that time is and that when it does come, it will come “like a thief in the night” (see Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10). Furthermore, it will not be a secret when Christ does come, rather everyone, both living and dead, will know it (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 1:7).

So what response can there be by God’s people to false teachers and prophets? When God speaks, He is right. When man speaks presumptuously for God, man is wrong. The world does not need “well-meaning” false prophets. The world does desperately need the pure truth of God’s revealed word that can save souls. We are not to be concerned about things that He didn’t tell us; rather, our responsibility is to spread the true Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. Doing that will build true faith in the God who is always right and will brand the false prophets for what they really are!

— Lester P. Bagley

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3/31/19 ~ Careful How You Judge

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Many times over the years I have had people tell me what they thought about someone. Somewhere along the way we as Christians began to actually believe Satan’s lie that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” God thinks otherwise!

An opinion based on solid ignorance is not the equal of actually knowing! That lesson extends into countless areas of our daily Christian life. But perhaps none is more soul-destroying than letting our ignorance cause us to miss fellowship with God’s people or the opportunity to teach someone the Gospel.

Sharing the Gospel is our job as God’s family of light in this world. Like Jesus, we must be busy doing our Father’s will. So remember to be…

Careful How You Judge

One spring, sometime before the Civil War, a boy in search of work came to Worthy Taylor’s prosperous Ohio farm. The farmer knew nothing much about the boy except that his name was Jim, but he gave him a job. Jim spent the summer cutting stove wood, bringing in the cows and making himself generally useful. He ate in the kitchen and slept in the hayloft.

Before the summer was over, Jim had fallen in love with Taylor’s daughter. When the farmer refused to let him marry her — telling him bluntly that he had no money, no name, and very poor prospects — Jim disappeared.

Thirty-five years passed before Taylor one day pulled down his barn to make way for a new one. On one of the rafters above the hayloft, he discovered that Jim had carved his full name: James A. Garfield. Garfield was then the president of the United States.

All of us have made mistaken judgments about another person. We think this person can’t amount to anything; he will never make a contribution, or he will never be productive. But the years pass; the person matures; he is trained and applying his skills; he becomes a success.

Who could have foreseen that Peter could become the bold proclaimer of Christ after his denial? Who would have thought that Paul would be so faithful after a life spent in persecuting Christians? Who could have predicted that John could become the writer and preacher known for his love after being nicknamed a “Son of Thunder?”

There’s one case that may well be the way we most commonly make this mistake: Thinking someone is not interested in the Gospel. It’s easy to judge someone as not interested and a waste of time but we never can really know their heart until we try. The gruff, grouchy, uncaring exterior may well hide a heart that’s hurting, looking for answers, looking for Jesus.

The only way to know for certain is to offer them the chance to see the Savior. Have you ever thought how many excuses Philip might have offered instead of talking with that Ethiopian nobleman? He’s reading his Bible so he already has his mind made up! He probably already goes to church somewhere! He’s surrounded by guards and I can’t bother him!

Take care that you are not the judge who writes off someone who just might (perhaps with your encouragement?) become a faithful child of God. Here’s a great scripture to think on this week:

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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