Making Disciples

We just had the joy of having our son, Grant, his wife, Arika, and their two children, Luke (10) and Lacey (soon to be 8) with us for the past week. Grant and I put on a tennis clinic here three mornings and one evening and the rest of the time was packed with activities. We went huckleberry picking, shooting, bike riding (several times), playing at the creek, swimming in the pool, going to a water park in Kalispell (90 miles away), hiking to a mountain lake (and picking huckleberries and fishing), floating the Kootenai River in a rubber raft, playing tennis, disc golfing (4 times), going for a walk, going to a nearby lake to fish for bass, playing Wiffle Ball, playing badminton and playing ping pong. As we start a new week and catch up on laundry, gardening and tennis lessons, we are a bit exhausted!  But what a fun time to have family around and enjoy doing things together. Earlier this summer we had a couple of our daughter’s children here for several days and again enjoyed many outdoor activities together. It was especially rewarding and fun to see how much our grandchildren have matured, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

One of the things that Luke and Lacey love to do when they come to Montana, is to go fishing.  They got to catch their first fish ever on previous trips here. When I first took them fishing, I had to do most of the casting and just let them reel the fish in. At first Lacey wasn’t even sure she wanted to do that much, but now they can both cast and reel in their own fish. Occasionally if we need to make a long cast, I will still do it for them. Luke also loves to net fish when we get them in.  The next step will be to help them learn to bait their own hooks and clean their own fish.  They did like eating the fish they caught!

I couldn’t help but think about Jesus’ command at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, often referred to as “The Great Commission.” Jesus, speaking to the eleven disciples, said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20). Jesus has authority over the spiritual world and the physical world and has authority to send us into the world with the good news of the Gospel (the death, burial and resurrection of Christ…I Cor. 15:1-4).  He has also given us specific instructions: we are to be disciple-makers.  The text literally says in verse 19, “Having gone (or “wherever you go”), make disciples…” And Jesus promised to be with us always. We can’t excuse ourselves from disciple-making because we lack strength or ability. As long as He is with us, we have all we need to obey His command.  When Jesus first called His disciples, He told several of them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19).  But, before Jesus sent any of them out to “fish for men” and to “make disciples,” He spent time with them, talking about fishing and demonstrating to them how to “fish for men.”  They were with Him on numerous occasions when they got to observe Him dealing with individuals about their need for forgiveness and eternal life. Then, after about three years of training them, Jesus sent them out to share the message of the coming Kingdom with others. When they finished, they got back together and shared the stories of their encounters.  Finally Jesus told them He would be leaving and going back to heaven, but that the Father would keep His promise and send the Holy Spirit to empower them and then they were to be witnesses “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ). 

     There were probably only 500 (I Cor. 15:6) or so followers of Christ when Jesus returned to heaven. He entrusted them with the task of reaching the whole world with the Gospel of Christ. Wow!  But it obviously worked, because today there are Christians scattered over the globe and many continue to come to Him for eternal life each day. Not only did they go and reach people for Christ, but they discipled them, helping them to become grounded in the Word so they in turn could reach others. It is called the “multiplication principle.” Each one we introduce to Christ should be trained so that they in turn can bring others to Christ and disciple them to do the same. We see many examples of this in Scripture. One is the Apostle Paul, discipled by Barnabas, who in turn helped a young man by the name of Timothy come to salvation. Timothy had been taught the scriptures by a godly mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois), and then likely came to faith when he heard Paul preach as he came through their town on a missionary journey. Paul began discipling Timothy who in turn became the pastor of the church at Ephesus. In His final letter before his martyrdom, Paul wrote to Timothy, including this exhortation: “You therefore, my son (in the faith), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:1,2). Note that in the progression of discipling we have Paul, Timothy, faithful men, others.  Through Paul’s discipling of Timothy and then giving him responsibilities, many others came to Christ and continued to make disciples.

When I used to travel around the northwest corner of Montana conducting Bible studies, I tried to—as often as possible—take someone with me. Not only was it enjoyable to have someone along for fellowship, it also gave them an opportunity to learn how to conduct a Bible study of their own one day. A couple of those who went with me in those days later became pastors and Bible teachers. That’s the principle that Jesus was laying down for us in Scripture regarding “making disciples.” It is the same principle that I applied in helping our grandchildren learn to fish. First you talk to them about it and then you demonstrate it to them to get them excited about trying it. Then you help them do it, and finally you let them do it on their own.  Thus I am able to pass on a skill taught to me by my dad and older brother.

In the second longest Psalm in the Bible (119 is longest), Asaph gives a challenge, writing: “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a 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 arise 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).

     It is fun and rewarding to pass on skills and passions to our children and grandchildren, but most of all we should be passing on our commitment to Christ, by going and “making disciples.” Who are you discipling?  (Remember, it is a command, not a suggestion!)

 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

 

 

 

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Wiping the Slate Clean

Yesterday pastor Dave Simmons at Three Lakes Community Bible Church (where I used to pastor) preached a message entitled: “Forget our Sins, but Remember Me” from Psalm 25 to prepare us for communion. In the Psalm, David prayed “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” (v. 7).  Pastor Simmons spoke about forgiveness of sin and how the word used in the New Testament means to “wipe the slate clean,” I was reminded of how many years ago when my folks were able to charge groceries at neighborhood market, they would go in at the end of each month to pay their bill and that amount would be removed from the ledger (or slate) and they had a zero balance. It was as if they had never had a debt.  Something else I remember well is that for each $10 they paid, we got a candy bar!  (of course, then they were only 10 cents.) 

     Scripture teaches that under the Old Covenant, sacrifices were made to atone for, or “cover” sin, but those sacrifices had to continually be made. The writer of the book of Hebrews says: “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins…” (Heb. 10:11).  So, when one priest died, another had to take his place. There was also no chair in the Tabernacle or Temple, implying the priests’ job was never done. But the passage in Hebrews goes on to say: “but He (Christ), having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:12,14). Earlier in Hebrews we read: “And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:23-25).  In Heb. 8:12 it says (quoting from Jer. 31:34) regarding our sins, “And I will remember them no more.” The Psalmist, David, truly knew what it meant to experience God’s forgiveness (see Psalm 32 and 51), and he wrote: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness (mercy) toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:10-121).  The prophet Micah, in speaking of the promised millennial blessings for Israel, wrote: “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19… And as someone said, “He will put up ‘NO FISHING’ signs!).
     So, when we trust Christ as our Savior, does He really no longer remember any of our sins?  And when we sin as a Christian and confess it to God, does He really forget it? God, who is omniscient, knows all things, but His promise is that He will not hold those against us. He “put them away” when He bore them on the Cross on our behalf.  “He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:20). Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). In  Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem at the Temple, recorded by Luke in Acts, he said: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The Greek word translated “wiped away,” or “blotted out,” is exaleipho (ex-al-i’-fo) and means to smear out, to obliterate, to erase, to blot out, to forgive sin.
     This was all made possible, because “…Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Other wise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). Here the Greek word for “put away” is athetesis (ath-et’-ay-sis) which means to cancel or to disannul.  So, indeed, through Christ’s substitutionary death, He has “wiped the slate clean.”  And that is why “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1).  Christ’s death, by the way, paid for our sins in full—past, present and future.  I confess sin as a believer, not to be saved again (that’s impossible), but to renew my fellowship with Him, The penalty was already paid at the Cross.
     To all this we can say, hallelujah, Praise the Lord!  But, along with this we have a responsibility for we are told by the Apostle Paul that we are to “…forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).   So, when we forgive someone, while our mind may never “forget” what they did to injure us, we must “wipe the slate clean,” not ever holding it against them again. When we forgive, we are willing to pay the price for what they did to us, and to keep our promise of forgiveness, never bringing it up again or using it against them. In the great chapter on love, I Corinthians 13, Paul wrote that love “does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered” (v. 5), i.e., it does not keep a record. When forgiven, the “slate is wiped clean.”
     Maybe you still have a ledger of wrongs done to you. How about forgiving those who injured you and getting rid of the list. It is our duty as a Christian, and it will set you free from the bondage you are in to them that unforgiveness brings. Oh, and then of course, if you need further incentive,  we have the sobering words of Jesus recorded by the Apostle Matthew: “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, your Father will not forgive your transgression” (Mt. 6:14,15).
                                                                                                                        Forever His,
                                                                                                                            Pastor Dave
    
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Are You An Onesiphorus?

 This past weekend was the 50-year reunion for my high school graduating class (1964…Libby High School).  As we drove up to the Fred Brown Pavilion (Fred was one of our teachers and long-time mayor of Libby) on the Kootenai River where we to had a potluck get-together, I wondered if we were in the right place as we saw all these “old-looking people” getting out of their vehicles. I thought maybe it was a special outing for the folks from the Libby Care Center!  Amazing how much we can change in 50 years. There were a couple who had changed very little, but most of us showed the evidence of what half a century can do for you!  Sadly, some 20 out of our class of 90 have already passed away. 

     One of my classmates, David Olson, who attended, stayed overnight with us. We did a lot together during high school, including playing in the band, he a trumpet and I a French horn. (We had a large band for a fairly small school, and a fantastic director, Fred Nelson—no relation.  We had the unique distinction of having eight French horns that played together at music festivals).  I practiced solos for festivals at the Olsons’ since his mom was my accompanist.  His family also took me out to their cabin on Crystal Lake and taught me to water ski.  In high school he was known as “Ole” and I as “Nellie.” We also shared in common our faith in Jesus Christ which gave/gives us an even closer bond.  “Ole” was also the “best man” in our wedding and a few years ago when Ole remarried after losing his first wife to cancer, I got to be in his wedding, which was a real honor. His new wife, Naomi, is a widow who has lost two husbands. She is a very godly woman so she and Ole have a great relationship and ministry for the Lord.
     It was such an encouragement and blessing to have Ole with us, to hear all the “God stories” in their lives and just to have a sweet time of fellowship in the Lord. We also had lots of laughs over the memories of our high school days.
     As I pondered the blessing of having someone who is a great encourager in our life, I thought about a particular individual in the life of the Apostle Paul who meant a lot to him. His name, “Onesiphorus,” sounds a bit like some kind of disease or infection, but actually it is a Greek word which means “useful,” or “profitable.”  Onesiphorus was a resident of Ephesus in Asia Minor (II Tim. 4:19) where Paul had helped start a church and pastored for a time. While he was there, Onesiphorus had ministered to him (II Tim. 1:18).  The Greek word for “ministered” or “served” that Paul uses in II Tim. 1:18, is diakonos, from which we get “deacon,” so it is also possible that Onesiphorus was a deacon in the church at Ephesus. Since Timothy, to whom Paul is writing, also pastored in Ephesus, he too would have known Onesiphorus and his family, and likely was blessed by them as well. Every pastor—myself included—is very thankful for those faithful members who come alongside to encourage and to help in the ministry. Some minister behind the scenes, but the Lord will one day openly reward them (II Tim. 1:18). 
     Paul was now in prison in Rome for the second and final time before being executed at the hands of the wicked Roman Emperor, Nero.  He was writing his final letter to his dear friend and understudy, Timothy, who was currently pastoring in Ephesus, urging him: “make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me…Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus” (II Tim. 4:9-12).  It was certainly a dark and lonely hour for Paul. Demas had forsaken him and his other associates had been sent to distant places of ministry.  But, there was one man who dared to leave Ephesus and come to Rome and risked his life looking for Paul and ministering to him—Onesiphorus (Mr. “profitable” and “useful”). Once in Rome Onesiphorus diligently looked for Paul so he might encourage him. It was apparently hard for him to locate Paul, for in his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: “…he eagerly searched for me, and found me” (II Tim. 1:17).  Perhaps some of the Roman Christians were still opposed to Paul as they had been during his first imprisonment (see Phil. 1:12-17). Or perhaps the Roman officials were not cooperative, and did not want their choice prisoner to receive any help. But, Onesiphorus persisted, risking his own life to stand with Paul and to assist him in any way he could. Once Onesiphorus located the hard-to-find, high-security prisoner, he ministered to his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This was not the only time that Onesiphorus had ministered in this way to Paul, for the apostle wrote: “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains” (II Tim. 1:16).   Onesiphorus could have just stayed in Ephesus and prayed for Paul—and he needed that—but instead he made the dangerous journey to Rome and ministered to Paul. Paul’s description of this man’s ministry was that “He often refreshed me.”  The Greek word he used means “to cool again,” like a burst of fresh air. How we thank God for Christians who are “a breath of fresh air,” especially in our hours of trial.
     Were it not for Paul’s letter to Timothy, we would never know that Onesiphorus had served Paul and the church, but the Lord knew, and “the Lord will remember him on that day” (II Tim. 1:18.)  (NOTE: It may be that Onesiphorus was the one who carried the letter—II Timothy—back to Timothy in Ephesus.) 
     So, are you an “Onesiphorus” to someone?  Are you a “breath of fresh air” to another believer who needs encouragement?  You can be. You should be.  Is there a fellow member of Christ’s body to whom you could offer this same kind of refreshing service? It might be an older person who needs help with chores around the home, a single mom who needs a day without the kids, or someone who lives alone who would love fellowship around a meal with your family, or maybe a pastor who needs someone to come alongside and minister to and with him. I’m sure if you ask God, He will provide some opportunities for they are inevitably all around.  I thank God for the “Onesiphoruses” like Ole in my life who have blessed and refreshed me. I trust that I will be available to the Lord to be that to others.
      
                                                                                             Forever His,
                                                                                                      Pastor Dave
    
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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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