Friday, December 27, 2013

A New Year

Let Us Do Good

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

I love to be set up for success. All my life I have been blessed by people who wanted the best for me, expected the best of me, and tried to help me do right. God continues to treat me far better than I deserve. Recent examples include:

• Being invited to speak for series and being assigned some wonderful topics • Being introduced by kind people who leave out the negatives and express optimism about the lesson that will be presented • Being invited to offer help during some crises and being thanked in advanced for the effort that will be made • Being asked to recommend some excellent people for new opportunities that seem tailor-made for their talents.

It’s a joy to be set up for success, but it’s also a joy to set others up to succeed. It’s one of the happiest applications of Galatians 6:9-10. We don’t get too tired to say a good word about the good work being done by others to the glory of God. When we summon the energy to do that, God will give us even more of His strength. We don’t get too tired to help those who are doing good work to the glory of God. Even if we can’t do much, every effort helps. Every effort counts. God never fails to notice.

We delight in equipping others (Ephesians 4:11-16). We delight in encouraging all things good. We don’t care who generates the idea or who first brings it to our attention. If it’s good, right, biblical, and encouraging, then we’re for it. We don’t care who is chosen to lead the effort. If that leader is one of God’s people, we’re onboard, happy, and willing to follow.

We delight in planting happy seed. “Have you thought about asking ___ to help. He has really impressed me.” “Maybe ____ could help us. She always has the best attitude.” We welcome fresh, solid ideas for advancing the kingdom. We love to see brethren grow, adding to their talents and their influence. We love the spirit of Philippians 2:3-4, because we know it is the very spirit of Christ (John 13:34-35).

What a joy to help set others up for success. What a joy to lead a conspiracy of encouragement in all things good. Such wise and active humility will be blessed by God.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Life Flow

Faithfulness in the Unpredictable

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Some weeks grab your attention more than others. Recently, we visited two funeral homes and attended two weddings within the span of four days. On the day of one of the weddings, our nephew and his wife welcomed the birth of their daughter. Within that same week, friends were bruised in a car crash, another friend had surgery, and yet another received a serious medical diagnosis. Life’s inevitable and unpredictable flow surely makes us think.

We never know what’s around the next corner, and that may be a huge blessing (James 4:14). It should move us to humility. It should move us to appreciate our wondrously changeless Creator. It surely helps us avoid worry (Matthew 6:34). It should always move us to prayer and to gratitude that things are as well as they are.

Parts of life’s flow are both pleasant and beautiful. We welcome the cooler temperatures and the changing of the leaves. If the Lord sends it, we’ll enjoy some lovely snowfall this winter. By the time spring comes, we’ll need the newness of the first green-gold leaves (think of Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Ever Stays”). We love precious weddings when God blesses young Christians to create new homes. There’s nothing more joyous than a birth, whether the arrival of a new child or the new birth that Jesus emphasized in John 3. There’s even a beauty in physical death when it’s remembered in light of John 14, 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 14:13.

Parts of life’s flow are unimaginably difficult. The illnesses, accidents, and disappointments of this sin-damaged world often break our hearts. We see people we love enduring unfair trials. Worse, we sometimes see people we love causing great pain. Even worse, we sometimes find ourselves contributing to the trials and pains of others. All this makes us long for the righteousness, purity, and peace of heaven (Revelation 21:1-4).

There are at least three things that we want to do in every circumstance of life’s uneven flow:

•We want to trust God even more than we trust ourselves (Hebrews 6:13-20).

•We want to serve God ahead of serving ourselves (Matthew 20:20-28).

•We want to love God even more than we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40).

In terms of what might happen tomorrow, we don’t know. In terms of what ultimately happens to all who are saved by grace through faith, we are certain (2 Timothy 4:6-8, Revelation 2:10b). One day we will awaken in God’s tomorrow, in God’s presence. One day we will be reunited with all the faithful of all the ages. One day we will see Him face to face, “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17b).


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Honor and Blessing

Lift Them Up To Honor

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“Render therefore to all the due taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7).

On June 4, 2013 Friends of the Overton Memorial Library hosted the eighth annual Honors Evening on the campus of Heritage Christian University. It’s one of my favorite occasions for many reasons. The concept flows directly from Scripture, I like books, and I like positive, happy, understated events.

You know what I mean by “understated.” No one is asked for money. Attendees are free to dress up or come casual. No RSVP is required. And nobody does too much “rah rah.”

I enjoy people’s reactions to Honors Evening. Some call or email asking, “What’s this about? What am I supposed to do? How much will this cost me?” Callers enjoy a sense of relief when they get the facts. My favorite callers are ones who are pleasantly surprised that someone chose to honor them. It doesn’t occur to these humble servants of God that their good works are being noticed and appreciated. We love reminding such people of Matthew 5:16.

Honoring those who are due honor is far too important to be limited to a single organization or to one night each year. There are countless wonderful ways to honor those who help us faithfully walk with God: • A gift to the Christian Children’s Home. • A gift to any faithful mission work. • A note, poem, or article of tribute. • Heart-felt words of respect and appreciation. • Telling good people how their example encourages and motivates you. • Imitation in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, and Hebrews 13:7.

We all know that this world works hard at bringing people down. Satan’s lies include: • You don’t really count. • Your actions don’t matter in the long run. • Nobody cares what you do. • Once you die, they’ll never even remember that you lived.

God counters each of these lies. • If He cares for the birds of the air, He surely cares for us (Matthew 6:26). • Our actions affect our eternal destiny (2 Corinthians 4:9-11). • He knows our actions can powerfully and positively affect others (Genesis 18:19). • Even death can’t stop the influence of the righteous (Hebrews 11:4 and 12:1-2).

Honoring those to whom honor is due invites God’s blessings. It points our hearts toward heaven. It reminds us of the true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and good that should fill our minds (Philippians 4:8). It fights pride and invites God to rule in our hearts. –Bill

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cruise Ship Disaster

I Will Praise You in the Storm

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

I’d never make fun of the unfortunate people who were on the Carnival Triumph when an engine fire left her dead in the water. I’m glad they’re back on land, and take no joy in their misery. However, several things either perplex or impress me:

I hate the media overkill, from excessive coverage to silly exaggeration. It wasn’t, as some asserted, “the cruise from hell.” I love hyperbole as much as the next guy, but no one died. Terrorists didn’t take the ship and threaten lives. Pirates didn’t take the ship and hold people hostage for months. The ship didn’t break apart throwing thousands into the sea. I’m not saying conditions were easy, but they were far from unimaginably bad.

I hate the fact that even as I write this, just a couple of days after the ship made port, at least one suit has already been filed. I own no stock in Carnival and have no knowledge of their history, but I’m certain that representatives of the company didn’t purposefully set fire to the engine room. And once the fire happened, it’s not like they could snap their fingers and immediately move the ship back to port. Some problems don’t have easy or immediate solutions—not even in our microwave world.

I hate the fact that a bus carrying some of the newly docked passengers from Mobile to New Orleans broke down. Those poor folks didn’t need any more pain. Remind me to avoid those infamous words, “At least things can’t get any worse.” In almost every case, they most certainly can. It’s smart business to be glad that things are as well as they are.

I was greatly impressed to hear suffering passengers praise the Carnival crew for its service and dedication. I’m glad to know there are good people who make the best of bad situations. I’m glad for the good hearts of people who can recognize the efforts of others even when those efforts can’t fully change the situation. There’s nobility in making the best of a bad situation.

I was glad that I wasn’t on the ship. Had I been there, I hope 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 and Philippians 4:4-9 would have guided me. I hope I’d have remembered 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 5:16, and Matthew 7:12.

In this sin-damaged world, bad things happen. Those bad things range from the inconvenient to the stunningly tragic. This cruise ship “disaster” might rank somewhere in the middle. Every day there’s another terminal diagnosis, another death, another job loss, another divorce, and more. Thank God, that every day there’s another statement of “cancer in remission,” another birth, another person blessed with a job, and another happy wedding. Wouldn’t do to ignore the pains and dangers, but it also wouldn’t do to dwell only on the negative. It’s not exactly a quote from the Bible, but it’s certainly a biblical concept: Blessed are the balanced who know God is good all the time in every situation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Seize the Moment to Draw Near

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

During a visit to Athlone Church of Christ in Cape Town, Africa, my assignment for the class and the sermon was simple: encourage the brethren. In class we talked about the nature and importance of encouragement. We looked at biblical examples of encouragers. We talked about ways we can be more encouraging to one another. I’m not sure about others, but it certainly encouraged me!

The sermon title was, “Satan’s Goals and God’s Goals in Conflict.” It’s so easy to be encouraging with a title like that. We know Satan’s goals: to distract, discourage, and destroy. He tries to get us to doubt God, deny truth, and devour one another (Galatians 5:15-21).

God’s goals are just as clear. He uses even conflict to help us learn to love one another (1 John 3:10-15). He teaches and commands loving behavior (1 Corinthians 13). He knows that love builds faith, hope, and character.

It seemed appropriate to use examples that were local and immediate. An outstanding young man was placing church bulletins inside the songbooks before handing them out. Three or four precious children were helping him, and he was welcoming their help. As the children handed out the books, I heard a few people say, “No thank you. I already have one.” My recommendation in the sermon ran like this, “Please accept the songbook. It won’t hurt you to have two. Please let those precious children serve with joy.”

One of the sweetest older brothers was to lead the closing prayer. Before he prayed for those who responded and for the congregation, he said something like this, “Brethren, I have been one of the ones denying our children the opportunity to serve with joy. Please forgive me. It will not happen again.” I continue to be moved by his humility.

He heard a suggestion of a better course of behavior; he embraced it immediately and enthusiastically. His example made the sermon. When it would have been so easy to have taken offense or to have saved face by saying nothing, he took the bold step of seizing the moment to draw closer to God. It was a perfect application of James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:6-7. His example blessed my heart and moved me to tears.

It’s one more reason to meet with the saints every time the saints meet. We never know how or when we will see the grace of God and be made better by it (Acts 11:23).