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

Colossians 3a

  • CHILDREN AND PARENTS, JOIN IN AS WE SING TOGETHER BELOW
  • “I WASHED MY HANDS THIS MORNING…AND LENT THEM BOTH TO JESUS”

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 3a

There’s an old song that asks the question: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Other songs remind us that we were not among those who actually saw or walked with Christ when He was here on this earth.

But Paul has a different lesson for us as Christians. He reminds us that we actually are participants in the resurrection of our Savior.

Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your mind on the things  above, not on the things that are on earth. [3] For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Just like Romans 6 talks about baptism as a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, so, too, does Paul remind us and the Colossian Christians that this is very much the reality of being IN Christ. As much as baptism is a dying to our old self of sin, so, too, it is a resurrection. And we are not ever alone in that resurrection. Paul reminds us that we in Christ have been raised up with Christ!

Yes, Scriptures warn us not to think too highly of ourselves and to be humble. But God also reminds us just exactly who we are in His sight! If Jesus was raised from the dead to be restored to His position of authority beside God, then what are we raised for with Him? One of the hardest lessons in life is getting our priorities straight. It’s easy to spend all day on some insignificant task only to realize at the end of the day that we failed to accomplish the really important thing we needed to do.

In the exact same way, we so often spend our day, our week, our entire lives as Christians focused and worrying about tiny, insignificant things. Jesus would comment about the worry of food and clothing when we know that God takes care of all that for even the birds. How much more does He care for us? (Cf. Matthew 6:25-28)

If we are IN Christ we must be, just as He had to be, doing our Father’s business (cf. Luke 2:49). If we are IN Christ our priority must be on the things of God, not on the things of this world. Now there’s a hard lesson for us to learn!

Lord, how can I possibly have time to worry about you and your will? Don’t you know, God, how important all these myriads of other things in this world are? The hardest part  is, He knows. Jesus knows just how unimportant all this busy work is when there is the work of God to be done.

The real question is: Do we know who we are? We died! We need to visit the cemetery and have a look at all the dead people there and see what they are doing! Have you ever noticed? How busy are they? How many conversations are they having? What are they doing?

The answer is, nothing! They are dead! And the answer for me and my life and my priorities and my ideas is exactly the same.

Lord, give us more dead people to serve you! Too often we are dead Christians instead of dead non-Christians! When we put on Christ the old me dies and the ONLY priority is Christ living in me! How much could we accomplish if we actually remembered that? Lord, please hide the me and reveal the you!

One of the world’s favorite sayings is, I need to take time for me. God says the right time for me time is when Christ comes again. How much of you and your time and your life does Jesus really want?

Colossians 3:5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. [6] For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, [7] and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, [10] and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — [11] a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

To be blunt, the real reason so many so-called Christians continue to indulge in sin is because they don’t really belong to Jesus! Paul’s next lesson is, if you are IN Christ then start living like it!

Paul begins with a list of sexual sins and broadens it in a couple of pointed ways. Jesus extended adultery to include the desire for adultery even without the actual action (Matthew 5:28). Paul also adds greed and equates the whole realm of sexual sins with idolatry.

In our world of casual sex and sex as a normal part of any degree of relationship, how does a Christian feel about all this? Far too many have simply caved in to the Devil and gone along with the practices of the world. New Testament Christians faced exactly the same compromises! If the pagan temples could sell sex and everybody in the Greco-Roman world was accepting any kind of sexual perversion as “normal” then why not Christians?

God’s answer to that question is simple. You might just as well worship an idol! Many Christians today are happy to pervert God’s standard for morality and yet still be proud that they don’t worship some little false god statue. God sees no difference and  the eternity for one sin is the same as for the other.

As Christians we are called to be new, to have a do-over that avoids all the mistakes we once made. Further, Paul says that renewal is for ALL of us as Christians. Don’t pretend that you are somehow better than others, we are all sinners that have fallen short of God’s glory. And we ALL need to be renewed that we might together live for Jesus.

God doesn’t care what you’ve done, what your ancestry is, or where in society you fit in. None of that matters to God! The thing, the ONLY thing that matters is Christ! Are you IN Christ? Is Christ IN you? If so, then all of us as family, God’s family, have to work together to accomplish God’s work and will on this earth.

Do you really know Jesus? Or are you just some impostor trying to look like a Christian?

If you feel that any of this is harsh, that’s because it is. Paul and God want the false and  the fake out of us and out of Christ’s church. Look back at verses 10 and 11 one more time. God wants His people to be the ones that have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

Those words are important, they are imperative, not optional. There is no room in Christ’s church, His body, for those that allow outward, humanistic appearances to count for anything.

Our world imagines that prejudice is something we’ve invented in the last few hundred years. It’s not. People of one background or appearance or culture or whatever have always imagined that they are somehow better because they are different.

The reality is, they are nearly right! Those that belong to God and are faithful to Him and His will ARE MORE than just better. We are sanctified, set apart as special, made holy by Jesus. The Hebrew writer says it like this: By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

It’s certainly ridiculous to imagine a Christian meeting Jesus in person and complaining about His skin color, His heritage, His eye color, or any other feature. It is equally ridiculous for a Christian to look down on a brother or sister in Christ for such things.

When we see a brother or sister in Christ, we see Christ for it is Christ who lives in them as He does in each of us. When we see anyone outside of Christ, we see either someone who is in need of Christ or someone who has rejected Christ. But NEVER will we see anyone any greater on this earth than a brother or sister in Christ!

If any of this sounds a bit like many of the earthly problems of our world today, that’s because that is exactly what Paul, what the Holy Spirit of God speaking through Paul, is trying to get through our thick heads. Being one with Christ, being in Christ and Him being in you, is where it’s at, it’s what’s most important.

The churches of the first century struggled with getting over their prejudices, and they, just like us, had many to get over. But get over it we MUST if we would see Jesus, either here on this earth or in eternity.

Finally, notice again that all this is written by Paul, by God in imperatives. Getting rid of immorality, getting rid of prejudice, getting rid of all kinds of sin is NOT optional!

DO the right things because they are right before God. Nothing else in this world matters. Nothing!

—Lester P. Bagley

Colossians 1b

It is ALWAYS a great day to read and study God’s word! Have you got anything better or more important to do than to spend time with God today? Don’t leave out the essential things and end up focused on the least significant ones.

Colossians 1b

Last time we were about ready to go into Colossians 1:15 but noted a bit of just who it is that Paul is about to describe. So let’s pick up with that thought…

Paul is about to go into a discussion of Jesus Christ (sometimes noted as Jesus the Christ for reasons soon to be evident). Jesus is from the Latin form of the name his parents called him (cf. Luke 2:21). In Hebrew the name is Yeshua or in English, Joshua, and it means: Yahweh (God’s formal name, sometimes rendered Jehovah) is Salvation. Christ is a title rather than a name (and thus sometimes spelled out as Jesus THE Christ) meaning anointed or chosen one. Such anointing and choosing was typically done of kings, emperors and similar rulers over great kingdoms. You may recall the events leading to David’s anointing as king in place of Saul. The Hebrew word is usually translated in English as Messiah and typically refers to those anointed or chosen by God.

It is important to take a moment to appreciate this term and you may wish to do a bit more study of Biblical usage of this idea. Specifically, how does it relates to us?  First, there are many Messiahs. David was selected by God and thus was, like many others of God’s Old Testament leaders, a Messiah.

Peter, in Acts 3:20, specifically designates Jesus as the Messiah appointed for you! In context Peter is speaking of Jesus and His new covenant now in effect. While Jesus lived on this earth, He was the Light of the world (read John 9:5). But that job was always to be passed on. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls His followers, disciples, the light of the world.

As Christians, we are those called and chosen by God for this holy position. Peter expressed it like this:  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble     (2 Peter 1:10).

What’s that word for the called, chosen, anointed by God for His service? Messiah! The ultimate Messiah of God has called us to be His representatives here on earth. Those baptized into Christ have put on Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-7). As such,  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).

Jesus was called by God to bring salvation to the world. His family, Christians, are called to carry on that work here on earth until Jesus comes again. And all that brings us right back to the last half of Colossians chapter 1.

line-silver

Just who is this savior of ours, really?  Here’s Paul:

Colossians 1:15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.

[17] He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [18] He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. [19] For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, [20] and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Did you catch all that? One of the dumbest things people have ever dreamed up is trying to separate Jesus from God. Yes, I know that the labels for Jesus, the Son, etc. point out Him here on earth even as the label, the Father, is in heaven. The prophet Isaiah says of the Son that was given, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and Matthew (1:23) cites this very prophecy as referring to Jesus.

Even while here on earth Jesus pointed out their unique oneness (cf. John 10:30). And Paul now doubles down on what God has always been telling us. This is what God looks like if we could see Him as a human being!

The term firstborn of all creation trips many into imagining that Jesus was created by God. In legal terms, both Greek and Hebrew refer to the firstborn as the one deserving of extra honor, inheritance and authority. Psalm 89:27 uses this very concept in prophecy of Jesus as the one made or appointed as having the highest honor. None of this is to imply that Jesus is either created or less in authority than God, but rather He is creator of ALL things, just as John also said in John 1:3.

If ALL the fullness of God is IN Him then He, Jesus our Christ is both our God and our Savior. Note that this term is actually used by Paul in Titus 2:13 and by Peter in 2 Peter 1:1. Even greater than who Jesus is, is the fact that He Himself makes peace between us and God by His own bloodshed on that cross. Is it any wonder that Paul pours all this out in wonder and amazement?

We possess in Jesus both the greatest gift ever given, and the greatest job ever assigned! This is the one that calls and chooses US to take His Good News of Salvation to this world that is dying in sin! How are we realizing that great Commission?

Now that Paul has set the unimaginable parameters of our unlimitedly great God and Savior, he then returns to what He has done for us with all that greatness:

Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, [22] yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — [23] if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

Remember that budding Gnosticism problem? The idea that God has called us to either extreme of sin without measure or avoid everything in life here on earth as sin, is dangerous. We are called, chosen by God for the very purpose of holiness! Yes, it is a constant struggle to keep holy but that NEVER is an excuse to settle for anything less.

How do we keep holy, blameless and beyond reproach? Well certainly NOT by failing to be faithful nor by moving away from the Gospel. God’s word and God’s way are the same. If we go searching anywhere else, then we are moving away from God.

As Paul challenges others to keep holy, he admits to both working in that direction with them and facing the same challenges:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

  • Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
  • that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, [27] to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [28] We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. [29] For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within

Just like grazing animals seem to always think that the grass on the other side of the fence is better, so do we often imagine how easy it is for others to be Christians while we have to struggle. God gives us all a burden and the help and strength to bear it. The hardest part for us to see, as God sees, is how much we really can bear.

When it comes to Christian burdens and Christian living, it’s really all about the Gospel. God has entrusted to us His precious promises. We are, in so very many ways, the world Bible. An old poem (and song from it) reminds us well of this:

  • Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
  • He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
  • He has no tongues but our tongues to tell men how He died;
  • He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
  • We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
  • We are the sinner’s Gospel, We are the scoffer’s creed;
  • We are the Lord’s last message, Given in deed and word.
  • What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
  • What if our hands are busy with work other than His?
  • What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
  • What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn?
  • How can we hope to help Him And hasten His return?

The message of salvation contains a great mystery that God’s people have longed to understand in ages past. God’s great mystery, however, is not a mystery any longer and it is certainly not some vague, unidentified, unknown thing that only crazy people can know. God’s great mystery is that salvation is in Christ for all.

Our job is to share that Good News, that Mystery of Old that is clearly seen and fulfilled in Christ’s church.

That takes us back a bit to Paul’s concept of his own work and that of all Christians in verses 24-25 and tied to verses 28-29. As strange as it may seem, our job of taking the Gospel into all the world is NOT about the lost!

Yes, we are calling the lost to Jesus but that is ever only the beginning of the job! The Great Commission (also echoed by Peter in 1 Peter 2:9) is all about bringing the lost into Christ’s church and keeping them there. Jesus did NOT make the Great Commission just going and baptizing, there’s more!

After Matthew 28:19 your Bible continues to verse 20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

We make a huge error in trying to separate our preaching, teaching and Christian living. They are NOT three things but, in God’s eyes, ONE.

Paul, the “preacher” to the Gentiles was really a servant, minister, deacon of the church and the Gospel (Colossians 1:23-25), as we all are. Our job is to fully preach the word to the church, the called-of-God, the being saved ones.

Where do we get the absurd idea that getting people baptized is a job we are called to do? Our job is to finish the job! It does no one any good to get wet or hear the Gospel if we don’t keep on teaching and encouraging them until the end. Christians are often good at starting the job but not finishing the job.

We are called to proclaim Him, admonishing every human being and teaching every human being with all wisdom, so that we may present every human being complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). The job is not done until we cross the finish line.

And the best way to cross the finish line is in working together with fellow saints and with Jesus. Let’s do it His way!

—Lester P. Bagley

 

Useless Prayers

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

Useless Prayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Lester P. Bagley

When the Wicked are Winning

One of the hard lessons of this present epidemic is the fact that it will come and go. The last couple of weeks saw a resurgence here in Arizona and with at least one known case among us (although his was during our original two-month quarantine and so very unlikely to have affected anyone else in the congregation). So, out of an abundance of caution we are not meeting for two Sunday’s. BUT we can still all be praying and reading God’s word, can’t we? Take advantage of this time to get closer to God!

When the Wicked are Winning

Have you ever had a discouraging day when it seems that the whole world has gone crazy and evil is winning no matter what? Oh, wait! Was that yesterday, the day before, and even today? I guess when it comes right down to it, we all will get exactly where David is coming from with one of Psalms.

Psalm 109 is a prophetic Psalm that is used by Peter referring to Judas Iscariot in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:20). The Judas in David’s life was his close friend and advisor, Ahitophel. Once renowned for his wisdom, when Absalom revolted,  he deserted David and supported Absalom. So David, like Jesus, understood betrayal at its greatest (cf. 2 Samuel 15 – 17).

Equally interesting is Jewish tradition that says the Psalm originated in David’s advice to Solomon as Solomon takes the throne. Much like Peter’s sermon reminds those who would be Christians of God’s curses for betrayal, so too, does David council his son and newly crowned king.

David is old and feeble now. His time on this earth is rapidly growing to a close. He’s seen much of both good, faithful friends and those that seem so but are not. God’s lessons are meant to be shared that others might learn too. The preface to this Psalm tells one more important point to remember. The story of God’s ultimate victory over betrayal and sin is to be sung. In addressing the Psalm to the “chief musician” David places it among the worship songs for the temple services.

Now put all this together. In this world, there is always wickedness, betrayal, false friends who will bring harm and not blessing to God’s faithful people. How are we to see them? Yes, we cannot hold a grudge and hate them, for that brings the illness of sin into our own hearts. It’s not our place to judge them for vengeance belongs to God.

And yet, God does not expect His faithful children to be ignorant, sweetness, and doormats to Satan and his minions. Not only does God bring His harshest judgments to the ungodly and sinners (cf. Proverbs 11:31 and 1 Peter 4:18) but God expects His people to take comfort in knowing that this is so!

So with all this background in mind, let’s consider God’s inspired words and David’s advice to his son, the young king:

Psalm 109   

  • O God of my praise, Do not be silent!
  • For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me;
  • They have spoken against me with a lying
  • They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without. In return for my love they act as my accusers;
  •  But I am in 5 Thus they have repaid me evil for good And hatred for my love.
  • Appoint a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand.
  • When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, And let his prayer become sin.
  • Let his days be few; Let another take his office.
  • Let his children be fatherless And his wife a widow.
  • Let his children wander about and beg; And let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.
  • Let the creditor seize all that he has, And let strangers plunder the product of his labor.
  • Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, Nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children.
  • Let his posterity be cut off; In a following generation let their name be blotted out.
  • Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, And do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
  • Let them be before the LORD continually, That He may cut off their memory from the earth;
  • Because he did not remember to show lovingkindness, But persecuted the afflicted and needy man, And the despondent in heart, to put them to death.
  • He also loved cursing, so it came to him; And he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from
  • But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, And it entered into his body like water And like oil into his
  • Let it be to him as a garment with which he covers himself, And for a belt with which he constantly girds
  • Let this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD, And of those who speak evil against my

The fact is, the wicked of this world follow Satan and his will. It is evident in every one of their misdeeds and their hatred for what is good and right before God. And God will NOT allow them to get away with it. They ARE going to be punished and stripped of every good thing. But that is not the end of the story…

  • But You, O GOD, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me;
  • For I am afflicted and needy, And my heart is wounded within
  • I am passing like a shadow when it lengthens; I am shaken off like the locust.
  • My knees are weak from fasting, And my flesh has grown lean, without
  • I also have become a reproach to them; When they see me, they wag their head.

Yes, God’s people will struggle with evil that seems to be winning. It will bother us that the wicked seem to get away with everything. But that is not the end of the story…

  • Help me, O LORD my God; Save me according to Your lovingkindness. 27 And let them know that this is Your hand; You, LORD, have done it.
  • Let them curse, but You bless; When they arise, they shall be ashamed, But Your servant shall be
  • Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor, And let them cover themselves with their own shame as with a

God’s people need to understand that God is always in control. God’s people need to hang on to the fact that the righteousness of God is going to destroy evil and all those who practice it (read what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). And God’s people need to stand proudly, forgiving, blessing even when cursed. Just let God do His job and take care of them. Because God will judge harshly and rightly even as He glorifies His people. But that is not the end of the story…

  • With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise
  • For He stands at the right hand of the needy, To save him from those who judge his soul.

You see, our job is to stand firm with God. We must not only acknowledge His righteousness but obey and follow it. Let’s lift up our voices in praise to God that He has found us worthy to endure, to face the test of a wicked world that seems to be winning.

Let’s sing the song of victory, not despair. Let’s praise the Lord for He delivers us and saves us. Let’s live like it!

—Lester P. Bagley

Philippians chapter 2

How’s your Bible reading going? As life begins to get back to outside activities and people are less constrained inside all the time, we need to be extra cautious. Not so much about a virus, but cautious that we do not ever forget to take time to spend with God!

Philippians 2

Paul often constructs amazingly complex sentences that are filled with important meaning. He does so here as he begins chapter two. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from love, if any fellowship in the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, united in spirit, with a single purpose (Philippians 2:1-2).

Encouragement is paraklēsis. It’s the word that formed Joseph the Levite’s name given him by the Apostles (Acts 4:36) and is frequently used (some 29 times) in the New Testament. It’s about as positive a word for encouragement as you can imagine as it carries the idea of earnestly calling for cheering, supporting, joyful, glad, help. It’s also pretty obvious what the Apostles were trying to convey in giving this “name” of superlatives for encouragement to “Barnabas.” Now Paul begins his appeal to Christians uniting in service with “any” ultimate goodness of encouragement in Christ!

The second standard is any comfort of or from love. Love, of course, is the word used of God’s selfless concern of commitment to us, even when we didn’t deserve it. The comfort (or consolation in some translations) is paramythion, a gentle cheering, encouragement.

The third standard then is any fellowship in the Spirit. Paul often put the arm-twisting pressure on Christians to live up to the standard they are called to in Christ. Here he’s asking his audience to check and see if they are really a part of God’s family.

The fourth standard is any affection and compassion. Compassion is pretty much the exact idea of the Greek word, but affection is splanchnon, a word the King James often translates (precisely and literally, I might add) as bowels. To the Greeks the tenderest affections come from the intestines. As humorous as we might find that, our use of the heart (a muscle that pumps the blood around your body), is just as funny, isn’t it?

So, Paul has loaded up his call for Christians to truly be united in every conceivably good and positive way possible to work together in the Lord. That’s Paul’s challenge to us all. Yes, it’s a mouthful and complex but his purpose is to have Christians begin with the understanding that God’s people are truly living, working, thinking as God’s family here on earth. Jesus simplified this to you are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

If we are to live our lives on this earth as the human representations of God, then we must act like it toward one another. Christians that don’t love (totally committed to) the church, the body of Christ are total failures! But failure is not an option and not at all Paul’s point here.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each person should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude toward one another should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, although he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross! Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11)

Live up to God’s standard! Our job is to BE Christ Jesus living here on this earth! Read John 14:19 where Jesus promises to live in His disciples, even though He’s no longer “living” in this world; also note 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20 and 1 Peter 4:2. This really IS our purpose as Christians. Paul’s portrait of the humility and true greatness of Jesus is purposely painted here for us to grasp the importance of being just like that!

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more now in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work on behalf of his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe, holding fast the word of life, so that I may have reason to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18)

There is nothing sadder than to see Christians act just like the world. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves! No grumbling, no arguing and none of the other sins that are identifying marks of the world that follows Satan. No excuses! Live and die as the light of God shining in this world of darkness!

Paul loved to brag about his faithful fellow workers in Christ and he does so now on Timothy and Epaphroditus, one of the members of the church at Philippi. And Paul, just like when he’s bragging about his Savior, doesn’t cut any corners. After all, Christians who live and act like Christ are the greatest people on this earth.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be encouraged by news about you. For I have no one else of like mind who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all look out for their own interests, not for those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven character, how as a child with his father he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him just as soon as I see how things will turn out for me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming soon.

In the meantime I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need, because he has been longing for all of you and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill; he almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me as well,  so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may no longer be anxious. Therefore welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and hold such men in honor, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you were not able to give me. (Philippians 2:19-30)

We have every reason to be proud of those we work with in God’s kingdom. After all our God has done for us, after all the blessings He’s given us, after all we’ve promised to do in service to Him, there really isn’t any room for self. Imagine a congregation that puts God first in everything, a group of Christians that so loves the Lord and each other that they give their all just like Jesus gave His all for us. What could they accomplish together for the Lord? What can we accomplish together for the Lord?

—Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

Joy to the highest degree

Read Article Below
Add Your Picture here.

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

 

 

 

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

4/26/20 ~ A Child is Born

A new year begins with resolutions and hopes of doing better. But those resolutions often see a precipitous decline as other things crowd our time. This year we have been blessed by God with extra time to acknowledge Him, read His word and go to Him in prayer. How are we using that blessing?

A Child is Born

While December 25th is perhaps one of the least likely times for the birth of our Savior, many other times have drawn speculation as appropriate times for such a momentous occasion. One of those times is around this time of year. At Bethlehem the fields would have been filled with newborn lambs as preparations for Passover were underway. Wouldn’t it be interesting if God chose to bring the Lamb of God into the world at the same time? That would put Joseph and Mary at the Temple near Passover to offer thanks to God for their first-born child.

It is, of course, a futile speculation. However, in spite of us NOT knowing His birthday, we do know that God and His faithful people anticipated that momentous day for centuries before it finally came. And in that promise and hope there is an important lesson for us.

It began with a world that had just lost its hope, its reason for life. Adam and Eve had just brought sin into the world and in so doing destroyed their relationship with God. Even as God pronounced sentence on them for their sin, He gave a promise of a child being born that would change everything (cf. Genesis 3:15).

In the centuries to come God’s people repeatedly looked forward to a child being born. Abraham was a century into his life before his son of promise was born. Amram and Jochebed would see a son born at a dangerous time who would survive to lead God’s people. That son would prophecy shortly before his own death that God would one day bring another into this world that would supplant Moses as the great lawgiver.

Under Moses God’s people would be brought to the land promised as the home for that ultimate Son of God. As the people of God moved in and filled the land, they wavered between worshipping the true God and forgetting all His promises. In the coming years a child would be born that would lead God’s people as an exceptional king and his son would rule in an extraordinary time of peace. Solomon would build and dedicate a Temple to God that would be filled with praises and the promise of a coming child. But the time was not yet.

Following Solomon’s death the nation split and dark days reigned for the northern kingdom as they were led for the most part by unfaithful kings. The southern kingdom wavered between faithful and unfaithful kings as they watched their northern brethren approach their destruction. It was in those darkest days that a child would be born and grow up to be the great prophet… Isaiah.

Isaiah would, under God’s direction, write of the dark days and the hope to come:

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. (Isaiah 9:1-5)

And then, even in the midst of dark days would come a child:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

A child is born, but not just any child. This one would be so much more than just one of us. For this would be God Himself coming to live and ultimately die for us, to reconcile us all to God, for our salvation. Consider a song that highlights this moment in time:

When A Child Is Born

  • A ray of hope flickers in the sky
  • A tiny star lights up way up high
  • All across the land dawns a brand new morn
  • This comes to pass when a child is born
  • A silent wish sails the seven seas
  • The winds of change whisper in the trees
  • And the walls of doubt crumble tossed and torn
  • This comes to pass, when a child is born
  • A rosy hue settles all around
  • You got the feel, you’re on solid ground
  • For a spell or two no one seems forlorn
  • This comes to pass, when a child is born 

And all of this happens, because the world is waiting. Waiting for one child; Black-white-yellow, no one knows…But a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter, Hate to love, war to peace and everyone to everyone’s neighbor, And misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten forever.

  • It’s all a dream and illusion now,
  • It must come true sometime soon somehow,
  • All across the land dawns a brand new morn,
  • This comes to pass when a child is born.

With all of our failures and sin, of all the lessons that God shares with us, one of the most stunning, the most precious, is hope.

There is never a time when God has forgotten us. He always remembers and His promise always stands. For He is the author of hope.

We have so often turned away from God. We have imagined that there was not time enough in our lives for God. We have forgotten He is the author of hope.

So whether you are filled with joy and doing well, or you are struggling and miserable, remember the promise of God. For that child was born. He came to be your savior, to die for you. He came that you might one day go home with Him forever. He came that you might always have hope!

—Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding

Sunday 8/25 ~ Psalm 3

 

 

Image result for arise lord and save me

From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the hardest lessons for us to accept as human beings is that we are not unique. The struggles, worries, and doubts that we have are actually common. We all struggle, we all worry and we all doubt. The answer to these and all the other challenges in our life is to look to God for our help.

Let’s consider a man of God who appreciated that lesson:

Psalm 3

Have you ever made a mistake? Ever done something really wrong and known that you were going to be punished for it? Have you ever thought that your punishment was worse than the crime?

Certainly, as children, most of us have been caught and punished for doing something wrong. And we very possibly have thought, at least at the time, that the punishment was unfair and more than we deserved.

David, a man that truly loved and tried to obey the Lord made such a mistake. Years earlier David had taken the wife of one of his soldiers and gotten her pregnant. To cover up his first sin he murdered her husband and then for some months continued to hide all his sins. But God sees and knows our hearts and our sins.

Nathan the prophet exposed David’s sins and in doing so had David pronounce the King’s own sentence on the criminal. Yes, God forgave David’s sin and allowed David to live and not die, but there were still consequences and David was told that there would be a fourfold payment made in his life for that sin.

One of those consequences of David’s sin would come years later as his son Absalom stole the throne and sent David fleeing for his life. So what do you say to God in such circumstances? Does God really even love us enough to be with us in such times of self-made distress?

Listen in on David’s prayer to God:

1 O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me.

2 Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.”

3 But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

4 I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain.

5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about.

7 Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people!

Notice how David and God address our questions, our doubts? Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.”

So many times we hear input from the ungodly on spiritual things and just accept it as true. The fact is, God so dearly loves those that possess His Spirit that He is reluctant to abandon them. The Holy Spirit stays with God’s people to encourage and keep them on the right track. Oh, yes, we can choose to shun God’s spirit and sin so as to cause God to abandon us (cf. Saul the King), but it has to be our choice.

David then moves from the accusations of the ungodly to the confidence that God provides: But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.

Ultimately, for those that truly belong to God, there is nothing to fear from the ungodly: I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about. Of the multitude of lessons we as God’s people still need to learn and treasure, the confidence of God’s salvation is certainly one of the most difficult. Salvation belongs to the Lord!

No, that does NOT mean God’s going to save you regardless of how you live. Yes, David still faced many dangerous days in the years ahead and yes, those dangers were the result of David’s folly. But those who belong to God, those who continue to reshape their lives even in failure to the pattern that God provides, they are guaranteed that the Lord will continue to walk with them, bless them and keep them from even greater evil.

The only real question for us is, Do we love God that much? The New Testament defines that status as being IN Christ. It’s not enough to like God, to do a little of His will and a lot of our own. Being IN Christ requires a lifestyle of obedience to the Lord. Failures are only fatal when we allow ourselves to give up, give in to Satan and quit living in Christ.

Have you ever made a mistake? Welcome to the club! Now get up and get busy serving the Lord because He still loves you and blesses you!

— Lester P. Bagley

RacineBuilding