12/25/16 ~ Jesus, the Savior

From the Preacher’s Pen… Sunday, December 25, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus! No, I’ve not lost my mind and hopefully you haven’t lost yours either.

RacineBuildingThis Sunday, December 25, the first day of the week, we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior with our weekly Communion.  He lives and is never to die again! Paul says it like this: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. [10] For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:8–11)

Once He was born, like all of us, of human flesh. And, because of sin, humans die. But death could not keep Him, He lives again by the spirit and power of God. And God says that same power, that same promise is for us, too, as brothers and sisters of Christ the King.

Having acknowledged all that, it is still an amazing thing that our Savior once humbled Himself to submit to being born as one of us. Remember for a moment, the coming of…

Jesus the Savior

I am in awe of the Manger Scene and all that it means and represents for humans! But the story began so long before that day that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.

Three precious verses in God’s word remind us that before He even spoke the words creating this world and all its inhabitants, before that very first sin would bring contamination to all His perfection, He knew and planned it all! Read John 17:24 where He tells of the love and glory that predate the foundations of the world. Love and glory for the sacrifice to come.

1 Peter 1:18-21 reminds us that the saving blood of the Lamb of God was planned and known before the building of this world. And Ephesians 1:4 says that even then He chose us to be holy in Him.

I am in awe of the Manger Scene and all that it means and represents for humans! But the work and preparation began so long before that day that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.

Months before the Creator in the form of an infant would be born into this world, He laid aside His godly form to take on a form of an unborn child. Read Philippians 2:5-7 and realize the implications of that simple but awesome statement.

I’ve often wondered if Luke would not have dwelt a bit longer on that moment if the good doctor had written that passage rather than the Apostle Paul. As a physician, Luke had likely witnessed the amazing changes that led up to the near miraculous moment of birth on many occasions.

But Paul hastens to remind us that the ultimate goal is not the manger but the cross (Philippians 2:8).

I have to admit that I am still in awe of the Manger Scene. It is filled with so many great lessons for all mankind and for all time. Sadly, one of those lessons is how seldom it is seen and how quickly it is forgotten.

Just like our world, at this time of year we may be briefly amazed at the coming of the Savior and then forget Him for months and months. But perhaps this year we can resolve to be different.

Jesus’ earthly mother, like most mothers and daddies, could never forget. Luke very specifically reminds us that Mary treasured those events in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). A good doctor takes note of good parenting and love.

The important thing for us is that we remember, that we treasure the amazing, incredible, eternal life-altering events. Are you in awe of the manger and all that it means?

Will you be found sitting at the feet of Jesus as He teaches and encourages and challenges us through the year? Will you be found weeping and heartbroken at the cross? Will you be found rejoicing at the empty tomb and in amazed awe as He returns to heaven with the promise to come back one day for you?

Sad, isn’t it, how many people will look and not see, hear and not understand. Yes, that was repeated by several of the prophets and by Jesus Himself. And today the fact remains, many will miss the incredible coming of Jesus.

One day He will come again. And this time every eye will see Him, every knee bow before Him and every tongue confess Him. But then it will be too late to be a part of His family.

The time to see Him, to know Him, to follow Him is now. The time to truly be in awe of our Savior is now! Will you?

— Lester P. Bagley

11/29/15 ~ Peace and Thanksgiving

From the Preacher’s Pen ~

Every time that you go to the doctor they take a certain set of “vitals.” The reason is to establish a “baseline” or standard for you and your body and to compare it to healthy standards. Ideally you would have a single doctor or family physician that would see you for most of, if not all, your life. That doctor’s records would then show how you progressed over time and give important information about your health.

As those “vitals” deviate from the norm you would be checked out and corrections made. We know what it’s like to have our body temperature, our weight, blood pressure or some other readings vary and then have to be treated to get things back in line.

It should come as no surprise that the Great Physician establishes a healthy “norm” for us as Christians. In the New Testament the majority of the letters to churches and individual Christians deals with this exact set of circumstances. Such passages as Galatians 5:16-24 remind us of both the signs of sickness of the soul in “deeds of the flesh” and the signs of good spiritual health in the “fruit of the Spirit.”

Let’s take a moment to consider some of those “vitals” as we consider…

Peace and Thanksgiving

Our official holiday of Thanksgiving is past and the New Testament book that we are studying today is Colossians. What makes this convergence so beautiful is what Paul tells the Colossian Christians: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Think about that a moment. In John 14:25-26 as Jesus foretells His death and eventual departure from this earth, He promises God’s Holy Spirit is coming to be with His disciples. The purpose is to teach and remind the Apostles of all that Jesus had said. The Great Commission commands that they pass on through teaching all these things that Christians might also pass them on to others (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).

As Jesus continues the thought (John 14:27) He describes this gift that He is leaving behind as God’s own peace like this: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

In Romans 14:17 Paul reminds us: for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus had said before him, Paul associates God’s peace with His Spirit that is in His people. The constant, consistent picture painted by God is that as Christians are IN Christ so is God in His fullness (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) IN us! (Cf. Romans 6:11; 12:5 along with 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 and dozens more!)

Just in case you are wondering how we tell that we truly have the Lord’s Spirit in us, Paul gives a test in Galatians 5:22-23 with the “fruit of the Spirit.” Since those qualities include faithfulness any danger of fake Christians is eliminated!

Now let’s put all that together with Paul’s comment that we began with in Colossians 3:15. God’s own peace is to not only live in us but rule in us. Indeed, that is exactly what we have been called to be: united with our Savior (Romans 6:1-7).

As is always important, let’s read the next verse, 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.

So, do you really belong to Christ? Does Christ and His word richly dwell in you? Are you active in fulfilling the Great Commission to share the Good News? Do you participate in the teaching and encouragement in singing? Are you truly thankful?

Is your Thanksgiving complete? As God’s son or daughter you have incredible promises and almost unimaginable blessings from your Heavenly Father! How can we be anything else but grateful and joyous when we belong to Christ? And how could we possible fail to share God’s Good News with others this week?

~ Lester P. Bagley