When You Get Bumped

We have several grand or white fir trees which we planted 20-25 years ago. We usually decorate one of them as an outside tree for the Christmas season, but they are getting almost too tall to do so. It takes lots of lights and a tall ladder and long pole to put up and take down the lights. Whenever you bump  the branches, they emit a very fragrant aroma, especially when you mow around them in the summer. For this reason, we try to find a grand fir for our indoor tree too when we go looking for a Christmas tree. They provide a great “house freshener” for the two-three weeks we have the tree up.

     We also have a spring flower that grows from a large bulb. It is called the “crown imperial” and is very beautiful with its large orange blossoms. It blooms the same time as our daffodils and tulips. The bulbs multiply rapidly so we recently dug them after they had finished blooming and started to die down. We have given away lots of them. The unique thing about the crown imperial— besides its beautiful flowers and leaves— is that it smells a bit like a skunk when you bump it so the deer don’t like it, which, for us, is a real plus, as there are very few flowers, like daffodils, which the deer don’t eat.   The bulbs even smell pretty bad.
     As Kathy and I were talking about the grand fir versus the crown imperial, and what happens when you bump into or disturb them, we couldn’t help but think of the spiritual parallel.  What happens when we get bumped?  What kind of “odor” do we give off? One that is repulsive or one that is gracious and attractive? 
      The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthian believers penned these words recorded in II Cor. 2:15,16: “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life…” In context, it Paul is speaking of how the same Gospel brings life to the believer and death to the rejecter.  He was drawing upon the practice of a victorious Roman army parading home with its captives and spoil. The priests would precede them and burn incense, which to the triumphant Roman soldiers spoke of life and victory but to the defeated enemy spoke of the imminent death they faced at the hands of their captors.   Using this image of  incense,  Paul saw believers as the incense, giving forth the fragrance of Jesus Christ in their lives and labors. To other believers, we are the fragrance of Christ, but to unbelievers, we are the fragrance of death. In other words, the Christian life and ministry are matters of life and death. The way we live and work and play can mean life or death to a lost world around us. No wonder Paul cried out, “And who is adequate for these things” (II Cor. 2:16b).  He gave the answer in the next chapter where he wrote: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (3:5).  
     When we “get bumped,” it is what we are full of that spills out. If we are full of self, hatred, unforgiveness, and anger, then that is what will come forth when we are “disturbed” by someone. But, if we indwelled by Christ, and filled with (under the control of) the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18),  letting “the word of Christ richly dwell within us” (Col. 3:16), then what spills over when we are bumped will be the “fruit of the spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:21,22). When we are bumped,  or maybe even crushed, the fragrance we give off will be determined by what fills us.
     Have you been “bumped” by someone recently?  What spilled out? What kind of “aroma” did you give off?  Was it the “fragrance of Christ” or was it the stench of selfishness and pride revealed through anger and harsh words?  Is your life and labor attracting people to Christ or driving them from Him?  Something to consider. Something for which we will be held accountable.   The secret of giving off a pleasing aroma, of course, is to make sure you have Christ in your life and then moment by moment let the indwelling Holy Spirit be in control so that at the moment of “impact”  with someone, the fullness of Christ and the Holy Spirit in you is what will spill over. 
                                                                                                Forever His,
                                                                                                        Pastor Dave
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It Didn’t Just Happen

 We have a large vegetable garden including a “very sincere” patch of rhubarb!  We have a “Fresh Rhubarb for Sale”  notice at a local Laundromat.   This past week we had a couple ladies  (sisters) come out to get enough rhubarb for a pie. One of the sisters was visiting from Minnesota where she too has enjoyed raising big vegetable gardens and loves to make rhubarb pie and wanted to make one for her sister here in Libby. She of course, wanted to wander around in our garden and see all we had growing. I was glad I was fairly caught up on weeding and she was quite impressed. I told her, “It just happened!”  She responded, “Yeah, right!” She was well aware of the time we had spent to have the garden looking as it did.

     I was reminded of how many people—probably the majority now-a-days— can look at God’s amazing creation and say, “It just happened.” How can anyone look at the intricacies of a “simple” flower, or the unbelievable instincts of migratory birds, or the orderliness of our solar system that enabled our space program to actually send men to the moon, or to send a probe to take pictures of Mars, or the amazing reproductive abilities of both plants and animals, or the complexity of the human body and its hundreds of miles of nerves, blood vessels, etc, and say that these things “just happened.”  That’s why evolutionists insist on such huge dates for the age of the universe and the earth. They are hoping that “given enough time, the impossible becomes possible.”  Yet these same people will look at someone’s garden, or an oil painting, or a sculpture, or a restored classic car and they will acknowledge how much time and expert care must have gone into what they are admiring. And it is true, man has made—and continues to make—some wonderful things, demonstrating the abilities God as given us, as being made in His image (Gen. 1:26,27). 
     We like to collect rocks, as is evidenced by all those in the landscaping around our property. Let’s say we are hiking one day and, as usual, are looking along the path for special rocks to add to our collection, when we come upon an arrowhead. Naturally, it stands out from the rest of the rocks for there is evidence that it has been crafted by man. It didn’t happen just from natural processes and time and chance.  I am typing this “Wisdom of the Week” on a keyboard which uses a word processor to place the letters I am choosing to convey my thoughts on the computer screen so I can read them. The keyboard and accompanying monitor and hard drive surely didn’t “Just happen.” They were designed and built by someone who has skills which to me are unimaginable.  And think about this. If I sat a monkey in my chair and waited for him to type up the “Wisdom of the Week” as I dictated it to him, I wonder how long that would take?!  No amount of time makes the impossible become possible. God is the only one who can do the “impossible,” and He needs no time to do it. He used a week to create the universe with its billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and then to create the earth and everything on it and in it (Gen. 1,2; Neh. 9:6). He could have done it all instantaneously, but He chose a week to set the pattern for the work week (Ex. 20:9,10) and for His covenant with Abraham and the nation, Israel,  which he would father (Gen. 12:1-3). 
     One of the features of what God created—the trees, the stream beds, man, etc.— is that it had appearance of age built into it, yet it had just come into being.  Our earth may have the “appearance” of age, but according to genealogical records in Scripture, it has only been around 6,000 years since Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden. There are many scientific observations, such as the current size of the sun, the helium in the atmosphere, the strength of the polarity of the poles, the amount of salt in the sea, etc.,  which also provide evidence for a young earth. Evolutionists have added their millions and billions of years to grope for an explanation to what they see around them in nature. Since they cannot find any evidence for evolution currently taking place, they hope that going back in time it may have occurred. Embarrassingly for them, the only thing they have to look at is the fossil record which shows distinct species and no transitional forms.  As they look for “missing links,” they haven’t a “leg to stand on”!  Yet most stick to their theories (which end up being taught as “scientific fact”) because they do not want to acknowledge the existence of a Creator to whom they are accountable.
     One of the fascinating things about the origin of the earth, according to the only one who was there when it happened—God, is that some of the things were “created” (i.e., made from nothing—just spoken into existence), while others were “made” (i.e., constructed out of what God had already created…like making man from the dust of the ground, and then taking a rib from man and making a woman).  During Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see Him demonstrating the same power He used back at the creation of the universe (cf Jn. 1:1-3),  as He turned water into wine, healed blind eyes, restored withered arms, fed thousands with a boy’s sack lunch, etc. 
     It is sad when someone puts a lot of time into a product, be it a painting, an invention, writing a book, crafting a violin, or whatever, and someone else is given the credit for it. How much more tragic when people view what God has made and credit it all to time and chance. The Apostle Paul speaks of such folks in his letter to the Romans, saying, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly see, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse…Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures…For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Ro. 1:18-25).   
     When it comes to God’s creation, let’s give credit to Whom credit is due!  Scientist Isaac Newton said: “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”  Albert Einstein said, “Searching for God’s design is the source of true art and science.” Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”  “Looking out the window you really can tell He is a God of wonders and we appreciate being able to take a look out and enjoy the view…If there’s a story to tell, there’s a storyteller. If there’s a work of art, there’s an artist” (Astronaut Rick Husband, ten days before the Columbia space shuttle’s re-entry ended tragically).  Inventor Thomas Alva Edison admitted, “Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge.”  All of creation bears God’s autograph!  It didn’t just happen!
     And then think on this: Why is it that all of the instruments seeking intelligent life in the universe are pointed away from the earth???
                                                                                                                                    Forever His,
                                                                                                                                             Pastor Dave
                      
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What Happened to all the Leaves?

  Quite a few of our trees have already lost their leaves and it is only the end of June. What happened to them Well, we happen to have an infestation of forest tent caterpillars, which are leaf-eating, defoliating caterpillars which some call “army worms” because as they travel across the ground they look like marching soldiers. It has been a battle to keep them from destroying our roses and fruit trees. Some of the cottonwood trees have lost all their leaves (don’t mind that!). Our big mountain ash tree has also been stripped of all its leaves, as has a flowering crab.  These caterpillars, once they have fattened up on our leaves for 5-8 weeks,  congregate on the sides of the outbuildings, fence posts and rails, etc,  looking for a place to pupate, making yellowish-white cocoons from which an adult moth will emerge in 10 days and repeat the cycle by laying eggs on twigs in mid-summer. The eggs will overwinter and hatch in early spring. One day, in about an hour, we collected about 1 1/2 gallons of the worms and burned them in our fire pit. They are pretty yucky!

     They come in such huge numbers, it is impossible to stop them all. As we drive into town,  we pass over a creek which is lined with deciduous trees, mostly cottonwoods, and they are totally bare, looking like early April.  The trees and shrubs will grow new leaves before the end of the summer, but it will put a strain on their growth, or–as in the case of our fruit trees–on their fruit bearing.
     I’m reminded of the devouring “locusts” mentioned in the Bible. There are eight Hebrew words in the Old Testament which refer to locusts, some of them to the various stages of their development. Sometimes the words are translated as “caterpillars.” In any case they come in huge hordes and are extremely destructive.  The devastations which the locust is capable of producing made it a fitting instrument of one of the ten plagues in Egypt (Ex. 10:1-20).  They brought ruin and despair and men were powerless to resist them. In Joel, we see God’s prophecy against Israel for her rebellion and apostasy and it includes a judgment of locusts which stripped the land (1:4,5). It was a warning to Israel of the need to repent. We see a similar passage in Amos 7:1.  The locust is used in Scripture as a symbol of destructive enemies. In Jeremiah 46, we see Babylon’s army that comes to invade Egypt described as “more numerous than locusts and are without number” (v. 23 cf Isa. 33:4). One swarm of locusts was described as occupying a space of 10-12 miles in length and 4-5 miles in breadth and so deep the sun couldn’t penetrate, bringing temporary darkness.  No wonder the Orientals refer to the locusts as “the armies of God.”  When they come marching against you, nothing can stop them.
     While our tent caterpillars are a real pain, and cause some temporary devastation, the judgments God speaks of in His Word are much, much greater and unstoppable. But, as we see in Joel 1:4,5, God always gives warning first before the major judgment falls. As the locusts of Joel’s day acted as a warning light to the nation of Israel, God sends warning lights today as well to get our attention and bring us to repentance as a nation or as an individual. It would seem that there are a number of flashing red lights in our nation right now, warning us that we have turned our back on God and made some choices which go directly against His Word. Will we heed the warnings and repent? God’s message through Solomon to the Israelites was: “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chr. 7:14). I believe that our nation, having been so blessed and used by God, is in a condition much like Israel often found itself, as we read in Jeremiah 2:13: “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns , broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  As the passage indicates, sin always comes in twos. The first step of any sin is turning away from God and His way. The second is trying to replace His provision for us with something else. 
     Where is a warning light flashing in your life? You can stop and deal with the problem, or smash the warning light!  That’s what Israel usually did. They persecuted and even killed some of the prophets because they didn’t want to hear what they had to say. What a different way Scripture would read had Israel heeded God’s warnings and repented.  The same will be true of our lives. How different our future will be if we pay attention to the warning lights and make the necessary corrections to get back on track serving God with a whole heart, soul and mind. 
 
                                                                                                     Forever His,
                                                                                                            Pastor Dave                               
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“You’ll Never Make it as a Missionary!”

His step-father told him he was “worthless.”  His three brothers died in prison. His sisters have been married five or six times. His own life was headed for destruction. But then, a Christian classmate in college befriended him one night when he came into the dorm drunk, sat him down, gave him enough coffee to get him sober and began sharing the “Good News” about Jesus’ love and forgiveness and he prayed to receive Christ. That same classmate then went to Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, and invited him to come join him there, which though a brand-new Christian, he decided to do.

     He struggled at Prairie and had to have special tutoring. Some told him he was wasting their time and his money. He said he wanted to be a missionary. They said, “You’ll never make it as a missionary!”  With great concentrated effort, he managed to make it through Prairie and applied to some thirty different missions and was rejected by all of them. Finally “Operation Mobilization” accepted him. (He said, “They would accept anyone!”).  He thought he was headed to France, but ended up in India, where he found out he, as a white American, was very much disliked.
     But, he has now been a very effective missionary for almost 48 years, and we had the privilege and joy of having Doug Nichols and his wife Margaret (“Margi”) in our home this past weekend and having them share at three services at Faith Bible Church here in Libby, Montana. Margaret came from quite a different background than did Doug. Her folks were for many years missionaries in China. Doug met her at PBI.  He heard her sing a solo in the big choir concert and thought, “If God ever lets me have a wife, I want it to be that one!”  After a Doug’s couple years in India, they were married and have served together for 21 years in the Philippines and 24 years in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Doug, the “worthless” step-son, the one who would “never make it as a missionary,” serves as founder of ACTION and Global Missions Advocate/Mobilizer assisting with Global Diaspora Network, Filipino International Network, Christian Growth Ministries in the Philippines, advocate for needy children, and in leadership development. He travels extensively throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin and North America speaking on behalf of the glory of God in missions. Not bad for a “drunk from a dysfunctional family!”
     We were so blessed to have the Nichols stay with us this weekend, and to listen to all his stories of the faithfulness of God was such an encouragement to us personally and to the folks at Faith Bible. I trust that each of us was challenged by what he shared, and realize that all God needs for us to be used by Him is a willing heart. When I introduced Doug and Margaret at church, I shared briefly about his interesting background and asked the congregation if they felt qualified to be a missionary. Then I read from I Cor. 1:26-31 which says, “For consider your calling, brethren that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no one should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that just as it is written, ‘Let Him who boasts, boast in the LORD.’”  God doesn’t require great intellect, years of education, a charismatic personality, solid family background. God is looking rather for “FAT” Christians, i.e., those who are “Faithful, Available, and Teachable.”
     Another key to Doug and Margaret’s effectiveness as missionaries has been the heart they have for the needs of others, and their practice of reaching out in love to meet those needs. In Sunday School, Doug taught from the Book of Titus about good deeds, which are mentioned six times:  “worthless” 1:16; “example” in 2:14; “zealous” 2:14; “ready” in 3:1,2; “careful” (“thoughtful”) in 3:8; and “learn” in 3:14. He pointed out that “Good works do not justify–they glorify.” Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). Good deeds are the fruit of our lives in Christ. 
    Doug shared many examples of how doing simple things for others such as opening car doors, or helping folks on an airplane with their overhead luggage have opened doors for sharing the Gospel. In India, Doug contracted TB and had to go to a hospital for TB patients. There he tried to hand out gospel tracts but had the Indians tear them up and throw them back in his face. They didn’t want a white man taking the place of an Indian in their hospital!  But then one night he helped another patient get to the bathroom at two in the morning so he could relieve himself. The man was too weak to get out of bed to get there. Doug himself was weakened with TB but managed to carry the emaciated man to the bathroom and back. The next morning he was awakened by a tap on the shoulder and an Indian asked for one of his Gospel tracts and then another came, and another until everyone in the ward had received one. All because of Doug’s helping an old man get to the bathroom!
     Doug’s challenge to us was “Don’t waste your geography!” That is, no matter where you are, make a difference to someone. Be ready to meet a need, no matter how simple. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is heaven” (Mt. 5:16). Doug and Margaret have been doing that for close to half a century and have impacted thousands of lives for Christ. Each of us can do the same. If you are “Faithful,” and “Available,” and “Teachable,” you qualify as a missionary, no matter what others may say.
 
                                                                                Forever His,
                                                                                    Pastor Dave
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Where Are All the Dads?

 It is interesting to note the “deer culture” in which we reside. Our resident herd of white tail has thus far provided three fawns for our viewing pleasure (with several does yet to give birth).  Each evening around 8:30-9:00 p.m. the does bring them out for us to see as they meander out to spend some time in our hay and alfalfa field. But, conspicuous by their absence are the dads (the bucks). Oh, they show up in the fall to chase the does around but then they pretty much disappear to live their own lives while the does raise the fawns by themselves without any support or help.

    Our honey bees (some 24 hives) have a similar “culture.”  The worker or forager bees, the entry guards, the nursing bees, and of course the queen who lays the eggs, are all females. The males, the drones, hang out in the hive–even being fed by the females–just in case they need to fertilize a new queen. In fact, come fall, they leave the hive and die.  Again, the female bees do all the work.
     Now, before I get some angry replies from you ladies, I am surely not advocating that the human culture should follow suit!  God set up some very specific guidelines for the family.  Although our current society is trying to redefine “family,” according to the Bible, which is our final standard for faith and practice (our plumbline), a “family” is a father, mother, children, and grandchildren (Gen. 18:19; Dt. 4:9; 6:2).  God began the human race with a man and a woman (husband and wife) and told them to have children (Gen. 1:27,28). When the world became filled with wickedness, He saved one family and told them again to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 6:18; 9:7).  When men once more rebelled against Him, He led one family–Abraham’s–out to “live in tents” in order to preserve them (Gen. 12:1-3; Heb. 11:9).  Later, the promised land was taken by families (Nu. 33:54).  When God came to Earth, He was born into a family, and was even submissive to His earthly parents (Lk. 3:51)!
     In the family, which God established as the basic unit of society, He created a structure of order and responsibilities which are delineated throughout the Bible. Guess who he made responsible as the head of the home and for the instruction of the children?  The fathers. “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a new law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know even the children yet to be born, that they may rise up and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Ps. 78:5-7).  In Paul’s letters to the believers at Ephesus and in Colossae, the Apostle Paul outlined the roles and responsibilities of each member of the family: “Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord…husbands ought to love their own wives…as Christ does the church…Children obey your parents…honor your father and mother…and fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 5:22…6:4). 
     The family is obviously central in God’s purpose and plan for mankind.  It also follows that God’s enemy, Satan, has done–and is doing–all he can to disrupt the family unit so that children are no longer reared in a loving home by a mom and dad who help them come to know Christ and teach them the principles of God’s Word which they in turn can pass on to their children. Today, even to mention that marriage is to be of one man and one woman and family is father and mother and children, can get you in trouble for being “intolerant” of those who advocate an “alternate lifestyle.” Some are losing their jobs over being “biblical.” Wow, how far we have fallen. May God have mercy on our nation.
     As a result of Satan’s work and our listening to his lies (Jn. 8:44), our family structures are in a mess. A high percentage of children are being reared by single moms without the influence of a godly father, or of a father figure at all. Since “A child identifies his parents with God, whether the adults want that role or not, most children ‘see’ God the way they perceive their earthly fathers” (James Dobson). It is no wonder that we have a generation of young people and young adults who have a flawed view of who God is. Many grew up, or are growing up, without a dad, or with a passive father who is not a leader in the home.  We are reaping the by-product of “father-less families.”  That may work in the “deer culture” and the “honey bee culture,” but not in the human culture. When God created man, He provided a wife for him as a suitable helper and enabled them to reproduce and have children to instruct and nurture, with both father and mother playing an important, and essential role. Unfortunately, “The rate of failure in fatherhood is actually higher than in any other occupation” (George Sweeting).
     Even Sigmund Freud acknowledged the importance of the role of dads in the home. He said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”  A company held a contest for children with the theme: “The Nicest Thing My Father Ever Did for Me.” One child answered: “He married my mother.”
William Shakespeare too acknowledged the role of dads, saying: “It is a wise father who knows his own child.”
     There’s a good reason that we have set aside special days to honor moms and dads. They play a key role in the well-being of any society. I pray that dads will take their jobs seriously and lean hard on their “Heavenly Father” to become the earthly father they need to be. Dads, we desperately need your godly leadership.
 
                                                                                                Forever His,
                                                                                                        Pastor Dave

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When Heaven Breaks Through

We just returned from a trip to Oregon and after we got unpacked had enough time before dark (which this time of year is about 10:30 here) to go for a walk. The sunset and cloud configurations were really magnificent. We spent a very busy couple weeks with family, attending games, working on yards, preparing food for a graduation party (our grandson, Alec, graduated from a Christian high school in Lebanon) and it was nice to just relax and enjoy the beauty God creates for us–an opportunity for worship. We also took time to wander around our place and witness all the changes in just two weeks:  our vegetable garden had really taken off (although the deer got in and helped themselves to some of it!), the grass is badly in need of mowing, some trees were blooming and gave off a wonderful fragrance, and one of our resident deer proudly paraded by us with her brand new spotted fawn. 

     In the midst of the busyness and stresses of life, there are evidences of beauty all around us, glimpses of God’s goodness and mercy and beauty if we just pause and observe. They are like places in the walls of God’s creation where “heaven breaks through” if we only take the time to stop and reflect upon God’s love for us, and what better way to do that than to “stop and smell the roses.”  Before we left for Oregon we were hurrying to get caught up on our yard and garden. I was mowing out in our little fruit orchard and the aroma from the apple blossoms caused me to just stop and take it all in. I even went to get my wife to come and enjoy it with me. It reminded me of how God desires that we bear fruit for Him and how that must be a beautiful “aroma” to Him when we do.
     We also like to eat lunch out on our deck and watch the hummingbirds dart in and out from our feeder, demonstrating their amazing abilities of flight, which sometimes takes them whizzing right by our heads. We also have a  flower garden in the back with a little fountain and pond which the birds love. It is a joy to just watch them taking baths or searching for insects in the garden.
     While at our daughter and son-in-law’s place in Albany, Oregon, we worked hard to get their yard looking nice for a graduation party, but would take moments to just sit on the swing and look at the little lake which is below their property, watching the ducks, herons, red-winged black birds and listening to the many melodies they produced. As we worked on landscaping we also “got” to see a couple large, very beautiful garter snakes and found one baby bull snake. In the evening we would listen to the many frogs as they communicated back and forth around the lake.
     We live in a very messed up world, our own country included, but God is still on the throne orchestrating the events which carry out His purposes. In the midst of the ravages caused by our sinfulness, we can still see the glimpses of His mighty hand. We can still observe the wonderful works of our majestic, all-powerful God. Sometimes in life we must hurry, but we need to stop more often and notice all the wonders of our God, the places in this universe where “heaven breaks through” in the miracle of a sunrise or a sunset or in a spring thunderstorm. We need to stop and listen to a birds singing, or pause look at the beautiful flowers God has made and smell the fragrance of the lilac bush or the apple tree. I believe these are just little glimpses of the eternity that awaits us in the world that God will remake, removing all the devastations caused by sin.
     As David wrote in the Psalms: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psa. 19:1). “O LORD, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; The earth is full of Thy possessions” (Psa. 8:24).
 
     Be sure and take time today –and every day– to notice the many places where “heaven breaks through” and God demonstrates His glory. Worship isn’t just what we do in church on Sunday, it is enjoying God and what He has made, and praising Him for it, each and every day.
 
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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In Remembrance

Memory is one of God’s gifts to us in the way in which He made us. But, depending on how we use that gift, it can either work for us or against us. There are some things in the past, our rebellion against God and failure to follow His plan that we are to learn from, but not to dwell upon. The Apostle Paul wrote: “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). If we dwell on the past we can become captive to it and be incapacitated in the present. We need to learn from the past and press on. The poet George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

   But there are some things in the past God does want us to remember and meditate upon. The writer to the Hebrew believers wrote: “But remember the former days, when after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings” (Heb. 10:32). When the Israelites were preparing to enter their “Promised Land,” they had to cross the swollen Jordan River. God miraculously stopped the waters so they could cross on dry ground. Then He told Joshua to have the people take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and set them up on the bank at Gilgal and also to set up 12 stones in the middle of the river. They were to be “stones of remembrance” so that when future generations asked about them they could hear again the story of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan. They were to become a “memorial to the sons of Israel forever” (Josh. 4:6,7,21-24). The 12 stones taken “out of” the Jordan and set up at Gilgal spoke of redemption of Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan where they experienced victory and conquest. The 12 stones left in the Jordan to be overwhelmed by its waters were a reminder of condemnation from which we have been saved by God’s grace through Christ’s death under judgment in our place.

     In the life of every nation, there are “memories” that must be preserved if that nation is to retain an awareness of its unique role among the nations of the world and throughout world history. Again, God gave us a memory on purpose because there are some things in the past that, if we were to forget them, we would be impoverished in the present and the future. Obviously, on this special day, “Memorial Day,” we remember those who in all the wars of the history of our nation have paid the price—the price that freedom costs. Many of you reading this probably have lost friends or loved ones to the ravages of war. It is important for us to remember the loss and the grief that comes when we try to secure freedom, not only here in America, but around the world. When we don’t remember, it’s as if we are taking it for granted, and in a sense wasting the sacrifices that so many have paid for our benefit. After all, our military heroes gave up all their tomorrows so that we could enjoy ours.

     Each week we receive reports of brave young Americans laying down their lives for us and for our freedoms. Each of these young heroes has taken to heart the message engraved on the great bronze doors of the Navel Academy Chapel: “NOT FOR SELF BUT FOR COUNTRY.” I’m reminded of one individual who truly exemplified that motto. Many of you will remember the name Pat Tillman. He was a successful NFL football player for the Arizona Cardinals with a nifty $3.6 million a year contract. But, at one point in his life, he walked away from it, saying , “You know what? I know what sacrifice my father and others have made to secure freedom for this country. What have I done?” So, he left the NFL to sign up for the Army Rangers. Pat ended up giving his life in Afghanistan.

     Well, I know someone else who gave up a lot more than a $3.6 million contract to willingly put His life on the line for others. Jesus left the glories and comforts of His heavenly home where angels surround the throne and sing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” He left all the applause of Heaven and the relationship with his Father and volunteered to come into this world, to take upon the form of the humanity He had created, and paid the ultimate price of His own life, dying on a cruel cross (Phil. 2:5-8), so that we could be free from the bondage of sin. Jesus said, “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free….If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:32,36).

     We need to value our freedom in this great nation, and remember that it has come at a great price and we ought to constantly remember the great price our Savior paid to provide us with eternal freedom, “knowing that we were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19).   The price of our national freedoms was paid with the blood of young men and women who gave their lives fighting for our country. The price of our spiritual freedom from the bondage of sin was paid with the blood of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And just as we have a special day of remembrance for our military heroes, we also have a special time of remembrance for our Savior’s sacrifice on our behalf. He instituted the Lord’s Table or Communion as He spent the final Passover with His disciples. As He broke the bread and shared the cup which represented His body which was to be bruised and broken and His blood which was to be shed, He said, “do this in remembrance of Me” (I Cor. 11:24).

     Be sure to pause today to thank God for the young men and women who have who have paid the price for our political freedom and thank Him for our Savior who gave His life for us that we might be free from the penalty and power—and one day the presence—of sin.

 

                                                                        Forever His,

                                                                             Pastor Dave

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