1/6/19 ~ Memo from God

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

The year 2018 ended with a multitude of both sad and joyous events. In many cases, there were the same events such as when we lost brothers and sisters in Christ. Sadly we lost them to this world, but thankfully we take comfort in the promise that they are now home with our God. Perhaps this little reminder will help us keep the proper focus:

Memo from God

  • To: All My Sanctified Children
  • From: Your Heavenly Father
  • Subject: Problems in 2019

Good Morning. I am your Heavenly Father and your God. Your last year has been filled with many challenges. Your Father has brought you through all of them and will continue to secure and direct your way.

This year I will handle all of your problems. Please remember that I do not need your help.

If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, DO NOT attempt to resolve it by yourself! Kindly put it in the SFJTD (something for Jesus to do) box. It will be appropriately addressed in MY time, not yours.

Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold on to it or attempt to remove it. Holding on or removal will delay the resolution of your problem. If it is a situation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution.

Because I do not sleep, slumber or rest, there is no need for you to lose any sleep or be concerned. Rest my child and know that I will bless and care for you. If you need to contact me, I am only a prayer away.

— Your Heavenly Father

As Christians we are not of this world, we are not like everyone else and even our sorrow is different (1 Thessalonians 4:13) since we have hope and promise in Jesus. At the same time, Jesus fully expects us to “get some flack” from the world because of this (cf. Matthew 5:11-12).

This has always been true of God’s people, so consider a reminder of that fact:

Their Laws Are Different From Those Of All Other People

These were the words that the evil Haman told King Ahasuerus about the Jews (Esther 3:8). He was exactly right!

Haman thought this a perfectly good reason to destroy Mordecai and all the Jews because they were different. They had different laws, a different God and a different hope. But they were not different just to be at odds with everyone else, they were following the laws, the commands of God. As a people called out of bondage in Egypt they were given a new home, a new identity, and a new hope.

We today are likewise different and unique. We are called out of the bondage of sin and made to be a new family, a new nation with a new eternal home. We are no longer citizens of this world but of Heaven.

Our law is the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) and our God wants us to be distinctive, “different from all people” as those called by Him. Let’s never be guilty of trying to look or act or think like the world. As we live in this world, let’s never try to be a part of it.

We must remind ourselves every day that, even though the world constantly challenges us to be just like them, that is not our calling nor our duty. Indeed, our God challenges His people to come out and not be a part of this world that we might truly be clean and holy to Him (read 2 Corinthians 6:17).

May we, this year and always, think like, live like, act like God’s people and be proud of serving Him who has given His own life for us!

Remember your calling!

Remember your promises!

Remember that we are indeed, a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people that belong to God! And we are different from all other people so that we may proclaim the “Good News of Him” who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

— Lester P. Bagley

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12/16 ~ Losing a Loved One

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

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

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

Losing a Loved One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/30/18 ~ Worship In a Nursing Home

Worship In A Nuring Home

          Some shuffle, some lean on walkers, some are pushed in wheelchairs.  Arthritis-laden legs bend, backs strain, and with the aid of shaking hands, they sink down now into their chairs.  Racing heartbeats ease to a slower pace.

            After a little rest, some are given songbooks.  The others cannot see.  The first song is announced.  Quivering lips part, cracking voices begin, and heaven opens.  A chorus fit for the King of Glory rises through the ceiling of the little room, bursts into the universe, and swirls into the Divine throne room.  The voices of gallant warriors, torn and broken in body.  The voices of strong warriors, courageous to the very finish.  The halting voices of conquerors boldly reaching for the crown.

            A little later they hear the words, “We are gathered around this table to once again commemorate our Lord’s death.”  Once again.  Yes, once again as many times as it takes until the victory is reached.

Bent hands, stabbed still by throbbing arthritis and shaking with palsy, reach out to touch the first symbol.  The bread has already been broken for them.  Yet it is with determination that each forces fingers to close around the little fragment representing that crucified Body.  Slowly, slowly it is taken up to the lips.  Some fingers fumble at this point and the fragment drops into a lap.  The painful procedure is again repeated until completed.

          Next, the cup is brought.  Blood symbol.  Symbol of death and life.  The little glass is so small it could embarrassingly spill.  A kind friend picks it up and places it into the palm of the awaiting cupped hand.  It is still shaking.  So two hands are used ~ one folded under the first to steady it.  The drink successfully reaches the lips and its contents triumphantly sipped.  Oh, what glory to still be able to honor the dying Savior after all these years!  The glass falls out of tottering hands.  It is caught by the tray.  But the mind has already started transcending this room for another far above.

            “Each week we give our contribution to a worthy cause,” they hear explained.  Presently the collection tray is brought around.  Dimes and quarters are brought out of coin purses, shallow pockets, envelopes, Bible leaves.  Some are wadded in cold hands.  Ever so slowly coins and dollar bills are carefully placed into the tray.  Not much?  It will help someone in need.

            The preacher now stands.  Many shift.  Seats are harder, circulation cramped, arthritis continues to distress aged joints.  He reads about being taken home to Glory some day.  Some watch him, some gaze at the floor.  He speaks of heaven.  They begin to feel left behind.  They think of those they ache to see again.  It has been so long.  They’ve fought so many battles.  A few tears slip down as due drops.  They dream of heaven in the morning….

            The sermon over, the last prayer said, they begin to leave.  Slowly….The room is nearly empty now.  They make their way down wandering halls to little rooms and resume their wait for the Mansions.  They sigh.  Battles of life have been met and fought.  Mountains climbed.  Desolations conquered.  So now it is a matter of waiting and encouraging those left behind to do the best that they, too, can do.  Tired.  Waiting.  But willing to go on until they touch the mark.  And then…. 

          And then….  they will start all over.  Only this time it will be different.  For this time there will be no pain, no foes, no failures, and never again will they grow old!   

~Katheryn Haddad

2/11/18 ~ Three things sin will always do

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

In spite of what some people think, sin and death are not a preacher’s favorite things to talk about. That idea is akin to believing that doctors just enjoy seeing blood, guts, and disease because that’s what they often have to work with. The reality is that we do this job to alleviate suffering and hopefully prevent death. And that is the real reason that our Great Physician deals in these same issues with us.

Consider an illustration that I’ve used several times in sermons and articles before:

Three Things Sin Will Always Do

In life, there are two major ways that we learn. Some things we learn the hard way from personal experience. Some things we can hopefully learn from seeing the experience of others. We’ve all noticed that the lesson of personal experience is often far more effective at staying with us.

When it comes to the seriously deadly things in life, though, it is obvious that the lesson would be far better learned from the experience of others. That simple point brings us to much of God’s reason behind numerous lessons that He includes in His word.
Consider three lessons about the dangers of the things that sin will always do.

1) Sin will always… take you farther than you want to go!

The Hebrew writer (Hebrews 11:24-26) reflected that Moses made a grownup, adult choice not to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. That intentional choice meant that he lost the prestige, power, and authority of an Egyptian leader. That choice meant he would spend the majority of his adult life fleeing Egypt in the desert.

It would be easy and convenient for us to see his loss and miss the larger picture. Verse 25 reminds us that Moses made another choice: choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Why? Because he considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

Look at that last thought again. Reproach is literally the word for disgrace or insult. The worst thing that comes from faithfully following Christ is greater than the greatest riches of the treasures of this world!

Jesus put it this way, For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) I believe Moses would have said, Amen!

Clearly, the pleasures of sin for a season may yield a long and worthless harvest!

2) Sin will always… keep you longer than you want to stay!

Beware lest God gives up on you! One of the most frightening things that God may do to us is too simply allow us to have what we think we want. In Romans (cf. 1:24-32) the Apostle Paul repeatedly points out the consequences of God rejecting and abandoning those who choose sin over obedience to Him.

By choosing sin we force God to put us where we deserve. The result is dishonor (verse 24), degrading (verse 26), depravity (verse 28) and getting exactly what we earn with our sin. Our earnings (our wages of sin in Romans 6:23) include being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful (verses 29-31).

Having made that choice to live in sin God further declares that we are both ignorant and worthy of eternal death (verse 32). Remember God uses exactly the same word for eternity in Hell that He does for the duration of Heaven. Eternity is a long time to stay where neither God nor any of His goodness exists!

3) Sin will always… cost you more than you wanted to pay!

If you really insist on choosing sin, then you have to pay for sin. Paul reminds the saints at Thessalonica that, if you don’t choose salvation, then you choose for God to help you believe any false thing that will lead to eternal death (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). That’s an astronomically high price to believe what you want and enjoy wrong instead of right!
As we’ve already noted, the well-deserved earnings of sin (Romans 6:23)… is death! But there’s also one more part to that same verse and to the story of sin. There is the gift of God!

That brings us to one important final lesson about sin, and that is the one thing that God can do if you let Him. He will save you from your sins! Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Did you catch all that? Sin will actually do all these horrible things for and to you. But God offers a choice. He offers hope and another way.

Yes, it IS a FREE GIFT! But don’t let the price tag confuse you, as so many have. That gift, that promise is ONLY to those IN Christ Jesus. And the only way that you can be IN Christ Jesus today is to be born into the family, the body of Christ.

If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). There is NO promise for those of us living on this side of the cross for salvation from sin without baptism! Without that uniting with Christ in burial (baptism!) and death (to sin), there is NO uniting with him in resurrection (cf. Romans 6:3-7).

Without freedom from sin, there is no life! Remember those three things that sin will always do for you. And make the choice to unite yourself with Christ in His way as the one thing that can save you.

— Lester P. Bagley

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11/26/17 ~ The Christian Family

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingOne of the great lessons we learn in life is the fact that many things can be done in a right way or a wrong way. The same holds true with God and His lessons.

God commanded His people through Moses that, You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice (Exodus 23:2). Just because many people are doing it does not make it right.

At the same time, we are admonished to be active participants in God’s family as we serve Him together. Paul looked forward to fellowship with the Christians at Rome so that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:12).

Let’s consider a bit more of the lesson of working with…

The Christian Family

A popular book several years ago was the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It extolled the “virtues” of independence and individuality at any price.

The seagull is a popular subject for photography, and many people who go to the beach end up with some kind of souvenir bearing the picture of a seagull. It is easy to see why people like this figure. A seagull exults in freedom. When flying alone, he thrusts his wings back with powerful strokes, climbs higher and higher, and then swoops down in majestic loops and circles.

In a flock, though, the seagull is a different bird. His majesty dissolves into infights and cruelty. The concepts of sharing and manners do not seem to exist among gulls. They are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a ribbon around the leg of a gull, making him stand out from the rest, you sentence him to death. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood until he dies.

If we must have a bird as a model, there is certainly a better choice. Consider the wild goose. The V formation they use in flying enables them to fly with more ease and speed. The point position is the most difficult because of wind resistance, so the geese rotate this position every few minutes. The easiest flight is experienced in the two rear sections of the formation, and the stronger geese permit the young, weak, and older birds to occupy these positions. It is also thought that the constant honking is, at least in part, done as encouragement to the weaker geese.

The seagull teaches us to break loose and fly alone, but the wild goose teaches us to fly in a “family.” We can fly further with our Christian family than we could ever fly alone and, as we fly, our efforts constantly help others in our family.

Hopefully, we see and understand the lesson here. Paul seemed to have to deal frequently with both false teachers and those Christians that were all too willing to follow them rather than the truth of God’s word. Read his highly insulting “compliment” of this attitude in 2 Corinthians 11:4.

The fact is, it is a sin to allow ourselves to be sucked into Satan’s web. No matter how good the forbidden fruit looks, we must see through the false, good-looking false teachers and their false teachings and stand firm in the truth.

Of course, all this is also a frequent theme of Paul to congregations. How much more could we accomplish if we both stand firm in the faith and actually encourage each other in what is right in God’s sight? Being united is sin is no honor. Being united is what is truly God’s will and way is!

So, what is your choice? In nearly every congregation that we see in the New Testament, there are those infamous for their firm stand for wrong. In most of those congregations, there are also those that remain faithful and stand for the right.

Just as Joshua recommended long ago, it’s time for you to choose your stand. Are you with the Lord or with some false god?

Hopefully, we will choose the family of God and stand firm with our Heavenly Father.

— Lester P. Bagley

8/27/17 ~ DARKNESS

From the Preacher’s Pen… 

RacineBuildingThis past Monday we saw here in Casa Grande a partial eclipse of the sun. For a short time, the moon covered a portion of the sun. While it never got completely dark, it did make for an eerie orange color to the daylight.

Of course in other areas to the north of us, there was a strip across the continent of totality, total darkness. It was a good time to remember a bit about the subject of darkness and light and our God…

Darkness

This world began in darkness (Genesis 1:2) but with the actions of God, light was created and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:4). As creation continued God created the sun to govern the day and separate the light from darkness… and it was good (Genesis 1:18).

As human beings experienced life on this earth they understood that night and darkness were more dangerous times. Harm could hide in the darkness and be unseen until too late. But they also learned that with God it was not so. The Psalmist would write: If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:11-12) And darkness would increasingly be associated with sin, Satan and the wicked (Proverbs 4:19).

When Israel, the northern kingdom of God’s people, was destroyed for their sin the prophet Isaiah would continue to preach to the southern kingdom of Judah about the dangers of that darkness (Isaiah 8:22). But there was always hope, always the promise of God that one day… The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them (Isaiah 9:2). And, On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see (Isaiah 29:18).

Even as the storms gather and difficulties seem to take over, the promise would always shine through: For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you (Isaiah 60:2). Years later as the darkness overwhelmed the nation Jeremiah would echo the same lessons.

And darkness fell

Yes, there would be a return from captivity for many of God’s people but even then they recognized that their real hope, their real light was still to come.

And then one day the light came into the world… and they missed Him. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5) God would even explain it to them (Matthew 4:12-16) and yet they would not see.

They refused to see the light until one day it was extinguished again: Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)

Darkness! Darkness over all when there should have been only light for you to see, it was NOT an eclipse. By the laws of nature that the Creator Himself had hard coded into His creation there simply cannot be an eclipse of the sun at Passover. Never. Not going to happen. And yet there was darkness… and fear… and wonder… and then it was over.

The darkness actually failed as the Christ was seemingly extinguished, the light of the world supposedly gone out.

In so many ways darkness seemed to almost win. For three days a unique spiritual gloom seemed to reign. And then the Great and Glorious Day of the Lord came (Acts 2:20). The light was victorious!

In the coming years the sermons of God’s spokesmen would ring with the reminder:

The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

The darkness is gone

The light, the Light of the world is here. And He has called you to live for Him… now and forever.

— Lester P. Bagley

7/9/17 ~ Bless the Lord

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingHave you ever noticed how some songs just seem to apply to living as a child of God? Sure they may have originally been intended for a totally different audience but when you really consider the words they just seem to fit God’s family.One such song from the 1960s goes like this:

It’s such a pretty world today, look at the sunshine. 
And every day’s the same since I met you.
It’s such a pretty world today knowing that you’re mine
And happiness is being close to you.

Do you see what I mean? Wouldn’t David, the “sweet singer of Israel” have loved the thought?

When words, thoughts, ideas cause us to focus on God and recall both who He is and what He has done for us they ought to cause us to…

Bless the Lord

To many of us today the idea of blessing God may sound a little odd. We normally think of blessing as something that God does for us and not the other way around. However, the Scriptures provide some very certain statements about us blessing God, so let’s do a bit of study.

The Hebrew word most often translated “bless” is barak, literally meaning to kneel as for praise or prayer and thus to thank, bless, salute or wish well to. This word is used over 330 times in the Old Testament and is translated 315 times in the NASB as some form of “bless.” A good example is Psalm 103 where it occurs six times.

The first thing you may notice is that not all translations have the term “bless the Lord.” The NIV generally translates this as “praise” rather than bless. As you can see from the above definition, the meaning carried by this word is really a bit more than saying something nice about God. Let’s read Psalm 103 and see if we can get a better grasp of the idea:

Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit;
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The Lord performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us; Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more;
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
The lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant,
And who remember His precepts to do them.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Do you see the richness and beauty of what David is exclaiming in praise of God? We could never simply say “that’s nice” to the one who forgives our sins, heals our diseases, showers us with blessings and, above all else, saves us. When we study our Bibles, we come to realize that the God who created everything and guided all of history is the very one who loved us (you and me) so much that He sent His own Son to die for us. Wow!

Have you ever stopped and just looked up? Past the clouds, past the sun, past the stars, past all that we can see is still not as big as God’s love for us! And the everlasting love of God remains forever upon those who love and obey Him.

Yes, it is a pretty world today and every day when we know and serve God! And happiness, real joy, is found only in being close to Him.

Doesn’t that make you, like David, want to call out to all of creation to shower God with praise? Do you know who God is and what He has done for you? Do you belong to Him, obeying His words and serving Him? Then let’s join in lifting our voices, our very lives to praise, to thank, to salute, to bless the Lord!

— Lester P. Bagley