Not Ashamed

 We were privileged to spend some time with our family members in Oregon over the past couple weeks. As usual, we got to help out with some work projects which we enjoy and also got to watch our son’s volley- ball team win four matches (they went undefeated in their conference) and our grandchildren’s soccer matches in which they each scored a goal and their teams won. As we were watching our granddaughter Lacey’s soccer match there was one priceless moment of which we wish we could have had a picture or video. One of the opponents, forgetting that you can’t use your hands, had reached down to pick up the ball when she remembered the rule and, with her hands about a foot apart—palms facing inward—she stopped and just stood there with a very sheepish grin on her face. It was like getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar!

     I was reminded of how, as believers, we are to exhorted to, as “little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28).  To “abide in Him” is to continue walking in obedience to His Word in dependence upon Him, being “filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).  One day—and it could be any time and probably very soon—Jesus will return for His Church, the Bride of Christ, and we will be caught up to meet Him in the air and will be ushered into Heaven. We need to live expecting His return at any moment such that we won’t be ashamed to see Him come, having been caught in sin—with our hand in the cookie jar!  Oh, if we know Him as Savior, we will be caught up along with every other believer, but we should live so that we are excited to see Him come and not be embarrassed that we are not presently living for Him and His kingdom.  We want to have an “abundant entrance” into heaven (II Pet. 1:11). That is the hope and reality for a Christian who lives a faithful, obedient, fruitful life here on earth. Peter’s point is that a Christian who pursues the virtues listed in verses 5-7 (moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) will not only enjoy assurance in the present, but full, rich rewards in the future life (cf I Cor. 4:5; Rev. 22:12).
     The Apostle Peter speaks of how believers are going to suffer, but we need to be sure it is for the right reasons. “and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (I Pet. 3:16,17).
     The Apostle Paul’s challenge to young Timothy was to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). If we are to “abide in Christ” and not be ashamed when He returns, we need to be diligent in our study of Scripture, applying good rules of Bible interpretation, and then applying it to our lives.  And, as Paul said, that takes work. It is so much easier just to let others do the work and we just stay on the fringes and give a token commitment. God desires and deserves our all, our best. After all, think of what He has done and is doing for each one of us.  “How can we do less than give Him our best and live for Him completely.”  It should be the desire of each of us to one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Mt. 25:21). Is it your goal to be able to say—with the Apostle Paul—at the end of your life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:7,8)?
     Are you living such that you are loving his appearing?  If not, today would be the day to start, to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33).
                        Forever His,
                                   Pastor Dave
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How Vanilla Proclaims the Glory of God

 It has probably been 30 years ago that we invited a couple, Dave and Mary Jo Nutting of the Alpha Omega Institute to come to Troy, Montana to conduct a creation seminar. It was held in the auditorium at Troy High School. We had protestors (evolution advocates) who stood outside to discourage people from attending.  God prevailed and the seminar was well attended. Each who came saw the amazing evidence for a recent creation. Ever since that time we have received their little periodical entitled Think and Believe which contains information about creation versus evolution and especially recent discoveries and how they fit the creation model. The recent issue of Think and Believe (Sept/Oct 2014, vol. 22, No. 5) had a fascinating article about “Vanilla Ice Cream and Evolution” written by Dave Nutting. 

     It seems that the Totanaco Indians in southeast Mexico were first to produce vanilla and when they were conquered by the Aztecs they were forced to pay tribute to them in vanilla. “The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, used it to help flavor his chocolate drink, consuming supposedly some 50 “pitchers” of it per day!  In the 1520’s, Hernan Cortes, while on a military campaign to conquer the Aztecs, also developed a taste for vanilla and brought some it, along with cocoa, back to Europe” where it became a favorite drink, but the Europeans were unsuccessful in producing their own vanilla beans. “They could grow the vine which produced the beautiful orchid flower, but they could only produce beans in Mexico.” 
    The problem was they didn’t know how to pollinate the orchid, whose bloom opens on only one morning of its cycle and if it isn’t pollinated within 12-24 hours, it withers. Adding to the problem is a hood-like membrane that covers  the part of the orchid which produces pollen. It wasn’t until 1836 that the secret of the pollination of the vanilla orchid was discovered by Charles Francois Antoine Morren when he traveled to Mexico to research the mystery. “He discovered that a little Mexican Melipona Bee landed on the orchid, lifted up the little hood-like membrane, collected the pollen, and then flew off to the next flower. This completed the pollination of the orchids, which later produced a vanilla bean.”  The Mexican Belipona Bee is apparently the only insect that knows how to pollinate the vanilla orchid. Here’s where the wisdom of our Creator God comes into play and evolutionists have a great dilemma, for they believe there were millions of years between the appearance of the vanilla orchid and the arrival of the Melipona Bee.  How could the vanilla orchid have survived?  And then, “how did that little bee learn the trick of lifting the hood on the flower to get at the pollen?  Did both co-evolve or co-adapt as some evolutionists propose? If so, it would take unguided, random development in two unrelated organisms which miraculously come together at just the right time in a symbiotic relationship. However, trial-and-error processes fail to reasonably explain this development. All the parts need to be working and in place in both the bee and the orchid to produce a bean.”  A much more reasonable, believable explanation is that the vanilla orchid and the Melipona Bee were both purposefully created by our all-wide, all-powerful God to give the world that great tasting vanilla! 
     “Today, vanilla is being produced in many other countries. Most of the production comes from Madagascar and Indonesia.  This was made possible in 1841 by a 12-year old slave, Edmond Albius, who discovered and developed an efficient hand-pollination method which is still used today.”  
     So, think about it. “EVEN VANILLA PROCLAIMS THE GLORY OF GOD!”     In the Genesis account of creation, we read that on day three: “And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:12,13).  On the fourth day, God put the sun and moon into operation “to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness” (1:18).  Then, on the fifth day of creation, God created the sea creatures and birds. On the sixth, and final day of creation, “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things (worms, insects, etc.) and beasts of the earth after their kind’; and it was so” (1:24).  The sixth day, of course, was climaxed by God making man in His own image and likeness to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (1:26). All the language of the Genesis account indicates that these days of creation were literal, 24-hour days, not ages of time. Think about it—if they were ages of time, the vegetation didn’t have light to survive nor insects to pollinate. God created the vanilla orchid and provided the Melipona Bee to pollinate it and gave it the know-how to do it.  Aren’t you glad!  I think we should all celebrate today by having a bowl of vanilla ice cream with some chocolate syrup, as we contemplate the amazing ingenuity of our Creator God who made all of this possible for us to enjoy! 
                              Forever His,
                                    Pastor Dave
(Thanks Dave Nutting for such a stimulating article in your Think and Believe. To receive the publication,  write to Alpha Omega Institute, PO Box 4343, Grand Junction, CO 81502 or call 1-800-377-1923 or check out their website: www.DiscoverCreation.org)
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Victim or Victor

We had a Christian school at our Church for some thirteen years, peaking at about 90 students in K-9. What a blessing for our teachers to be able to base their lessons on the truths and principles of God’s Word rather than on the philosophies and traditions of our secular society. While most of our students came from pretty solid Christian homes, we still experienced behavioral problems with which we had to deal. As the pastor, I was the overseer for the school so ended up often having to help deal with discipline. It is amazing how seldom children, young people—or adults—are willing to face up to their own wrongdoing and accept responsibility.  It seemed to always be someone else’s fault—”They started it!”  “He hit me first!”  “She called me a bad name!”  etc, etc…  

     In our society today as a whole, many feel they are victims—of a dysfunctional home, of their heritage, of their circumstances.  Rather than facing responsibility, they blame their background. “My father was an alcoholic.” “My mother beat me.” “My sister was always the favorite in the family.” “Kids made fun of me.”  And on and on…
     We have a friend who is a jailer and tells us that the majority of people arrested and put in jail—or prison—claim they couldn’t help being what they are or doing what they did.  “If you knew my wife, you would understand why I beat her!”  “If you knew my family, you’d know why I am the way I am!”……
     Well, as King Solomon wrote in the Old Testament, “…there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9), for when we go all the way back to the beginning of creation (about 6,000 years), we discover that as soon as sin entered the world through the disobedience of the first couple, Adam and Eve, the “blame game” began. As God confronted Adam after they ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16,17), Adam’s response was: “The woman that You gave me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12).  So God turned to the woman, Eve, and said: “ ‘What is this you have done?’  And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Gen. 3:13,14).  Ever since then, man’s old sinful nature, inherited from Adam (Ro. 5:12, 19) does not want to admit to wrongdoing, but tries to pass the blame to someone or something else to avoid responsibility and accountability.
     While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the “Law,” “The people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain and … assembled about Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us, as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said, to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ …and he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt (Ex. 32:1-4).  “And it came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water, and made the sons of Israel drink it.” Then Moses said to Aaron (his brother), ‘What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?’ And Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, “Make a god for us who will go before us…’” (vv 19-23).   Aaron was left in charge in Moses absence and was the one responsible for the golden calf, not the people (although they too were guilty). But Aaron put the blame on the people: “You know, Moses, how they are prone to evil!”
    
     When King Saul was commanded by God to “strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (I Sam. 15:3), he only partially obeyed. He “spared king Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings , the lambs, and all that was good…” (v. 9).  When the prophet/judge/priest Samuel arrived, “Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.’ But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but the rest we have utterly destroyed.’” (vv. 13-15).  Samuel asked Saul, “ ‘Why did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?’ Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil…to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.’  And Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as the iniquity of idolatry…’” (vv. 19-23).  King Saul repeatedly tried to place the blame upon the people for his disobedience . (NOTE: Wicked Haman who got King Ahasuerus to make a decree to kill all the Jews was an Agagite!… Est. 3:1.) 
     Well things haven’t changed. Our sinful flesh still won’t accept responsibility and attempts to pass the blame for sinful behavior, saying: “I’m a victim—of my circumstances, by upbringing, etc.  No one can use that excuse for we are individually accountable for our own behavior and need to face our responsibility for wrong doing. And especially as Christians, we cannot say “The devil made me do it,” or “That’s just how I am.” We happen to be new creations in Christ (II Cor. 5:17) with a new nature that cannot sin (I Jn. 3:9). Christ now lives in us through the Holy Spirit (Gal. 2:20), and “…in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Ro. 8:37). “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).  We are not victims but victors. For we can all, as believers, say: “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
     
     If you are a believer, and find yourself struggling under difficult circumstances, “What in the world are you doing under there?”
                                                        Forever His,
                                                            Pastor Dave
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The Laws of Harvest

 Well, our growing season ended this past week as we had two killer frosts with overnight temperatures of 24 and 27 degrees F.  Most of our garden was pretty much ready to harvest anyway except some of the tomatoes. We covered them, but the vines froze even through the covers. So, we spent a couple days harvesting all the squash, pumpkins and tomatoes, and pulling out all the frozen plants to give our deer herd some special treats!  They gathered around the garden fence as we pulled out the vines, corn stalks, etc. Guess they were excited for the harvest too!  We still have to dig potatoes, but otherwise our garden is done for the year—but not really, as we now begin working toward next year’s production by hauling in a big trailer load of manure, spreading it, rototilling it in and then covering it all with leaves when they fall.  In other words, gardening is a lot of work, but the rewards are great as we have lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and plenty to share with others.

    In order to have a bountiful harvest, there needs to be the preparation of the soil, which starts now in the fall and then continues in the spring as I rototill once more. Then the seeds must be sown. You can’t have a harvest without the sowing of seed—that’s pretty obvious!  Then there must be consistent watering, and for the plants started inside and set out there must be the covering if it is going to frost.  Then as the seeds germinate and the plants push up through the soil, there needs to be weeding, mulching and continued watering. Then finally, after 4-5 months comes the reward for all the labor—an abundant harvest of fruit. 
     I am reminded of Jesus’ statement to His disciples, as recorded by the Apostle John: “By this is My Father glorified that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (Jn. 15:8,16).  Our main purpose here on earth is to glorify God, and Jesus says one of the ways in which we do that is by “bearing much fruit.”  In fact fruit bearing gives evidence that we really are a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ. It indicates that we are abiding in the “Vine.” Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).  We are placed in the “Vine” (Jesus Christ) at the time we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ for salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote: “But by His (God’s) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30).   As we “abide” in Him by allowing Him to be our source of wisdom, strength, purpose, significance and service, He begins, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, producing fruit in and through our lives. It is important to notice Jesus said we are to “go and bear fruit” (Jn. 15:16). He is the producer, we are the bearer. Just as a branch merely bears  or supports the fruit which the vine produces, our lives should bear or support the fruit God produces in and through us. 
     So, just what is the fruit of which Jesus spoke? For starters, it is the “fruit of the Spirit” which is “love , joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23). That is, it is Christlikeness which is the result of our “abiding in Him,” and being “conformed to His image” (Rom. 8:29). Again these qualities of love, joy, peace, etc. give proof of our having been “born again” (Jn. 3:3) and becoming “new creatures” (II Cor. 5:17) in Christ. For example, Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).  Then, as we abide in Christ, and are “filled with” (controlled by) the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within (us)” (Col. 3:16),  we also bear fruit through good works, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). These “good works” are really just Christ at work through our lives in ministry to others as we become available through abiding in Him and in His Word. Again, this fruit of “good works” bears evidence of our relationship with Christ. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit…So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Mt. 7:16-20).
     Finally, we also “bear fruit” when we “reproduce according to our kind,” i.e., when we help another sinner find forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ. And what does that take? It takes preparing the soil (their heart) through befriending and loving them, and praying for them.  Then It takes sowing the seed, which is the Word of God, in their life. We build bridges of relationship with them so that we can share the truths of God’s Word with them concerning their need for Christ and what He has done for them. Then it takes watering through continuing to love them and pray for them. Then as the seed (God’s Word) germinates in their heart and springs forth to new life (I Pet. 1:23), it takes continuing to water and weed and care for the new tender plants (new believer), helping them to grow and mature in order that they too may “bear much fruit.” 
     These are “The Laws of Harvest.”  Paul wrote: “…for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  If we don’t sow, we don’t reap, and we reap what we sow. We need to sow the “precious seed” of the Word of God. “For you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (I Pet. 1:23).   But we don’t just sow the seed and then neglect the garden. We continue to water, weed and care for it. Jesus told His disciples (and us) to “Go and make disciples…” (Mt. 28:19). 
     Is your life glorifying to God? Are you a fruit-bearing Christian? Do others see the “fruit of the Spirit” in your life? Is your life characterized by “good works”?  Are you sowing the seed of the word of God in hearts and helping people come to know Jesus as their Savior? Are you discipling others to help them grow and also bear fruit?   If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, what changes do you need to make in your life, knowing that this is God’s purpose for your continuing on this earth?
                                                                                       A fellow gardener,
                                                                                                   Pastor Dave
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A Tribute

 While attending college at Montana State University in Bozeman (Go Bobcats!), I made some very close friends through the college youth group (COLLYP) at the church I attended, Grace Baptist (Now Grace Bible).  I ended up rooming with one of those friends, Tom Lough, in the basement apartment of some folks (the Youngwards) from church. We also had one of Tom’s Electrical Engineering classmates, Bob Schomburg, staying with us. Bob was very studious and would often be in studying while Tom and I were out playing catch. Tom had the only car so we were dependent upon him to get us to and from the campus. I remember during one finals week that we had just finished a test and all three of us had gone to the library to study for our next exam. The library was completely full of students so we found ourselves back outside wondering where we should go. Bob said, “Why don’t we try the library.”  He was so focused on how he’d done on the exam he had just finished he didn’t even realize we had just walked through the whole library! 

     Tom and I had a calculus class together with a professor from Switzerland who was a bit difficult to understand and who had some interesting idiosyncrasies.  He almost always wore sloppy overshoes during class and when he finished writing something on the chalk board, he would ask before he erased it, “May I put it away now, please?”  He would also call roll at the beginning of class and when it came to Tom, it was “Rober Tomas Luff.”  I remember staying up too late studying for an exam in that class and falling asleep during the test—not to be recommended!
     Tom and I played intramural basketball and softball together, sang in a COLLYP quartet which went around to little rural churches in the area and sang, gave testimonies and shared the Word. It was a great bonding time for us, and a time of spiritual growth. I also remember going home with Tom one time to Kalispell and staying with his folks. Before each meal we would kneel at the table and have prayer together. That was the godly legacy passed on to Tom. 
     When we graduated from MSU, I took a job at Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon and Tom went to work for Montana Power Company in Butte, Montana. He also worked as a volunteer for the Christian youth ministry called Young Life. When I resigned my job at Hyster in the spring of 1974 and went to work for Rocky Mountain Bible Mission back in northwest Montana, we had to raise financial and prayer support. Tom was one of our first supporters. Later, when I resigned from the mission to be the full-time pastor at Three Lakes Community Bible Church, Tom continued to support the ministry of the church. Then in May of 2011 when I retired from pastoring Three Lakes, Tom continued to support us in the ministries in which we are currently involved. He has been so faithful all these years. What an encouragement to us.  I am reminded of those who supported and encouraged the Apostle Paul in his ministry and what a blessing they were to him. For example, he wrote this to the believers in the church at Philippi:  “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epahroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:10-19). 
     After not seeing Tom since college graduation in 1968, he called a few years ago and said he was going to be in Kalispell (90 miles from Libby) and invited us to come have lunch with him. We did and had a great time of fellowship and catching up on what had been going on in our lives. It was such a joy to spend some time with a close friend and supporter who has been a key part of our ministry for the past 40 years. Then just recently we noticed that the “Wisdom of the Week” was not going through to him, so I mailed a hard copy to his home in Butte asking if he had a new email address.  I received a call from his wife saying that he had been out mowing the lawn and dropped dead from a heart attack. Quite a shock!  We will miss him a lot—and not just because of his faithful financial support, but more so because we lost a prayer supporter who upheld us daily before God’s throne, something we desperately need. We praise God for “Robert Thomas Lough,” a choice servant of God. I’m sure that he had an “abundant entrance” (II Pet. 1:11) into heaven and heard “Well, done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord” (Mt. 25:21). 
     And oh, by the way, Tom does have a new address, “For to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).   We look forward to seeing him again. Meanwhile we thank God for him and the blessing he has been to us and our ministry.
                                                                           Forever His,
                                                                                       Pastor Dave
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The Privilege of Work

So, what did you do this “Labor Day” weekend? We spent today putting shingles on a neighbor’s roof!  For the past week we have been helping reroof their house and today got one side shingled. We recently finished helping put new siding on the house as well.  Oh, we also squeezed in a trip to get firewood, made some campfire wood bundles for Rosauer’s grocery store, taught some tennis lessons,  mowed lawn and worked in the garden.  And we are supposed to be retired!  The thing is, nowhere in the Bible does it speak of “retirement.” As long as we are physically able, we enjoy labor and helping others and continuing to minister as God provides opportunities.  I also filled the pulpit at Faith Bible Church a week ago. 

     In Scripture we see that God created us to work.  In Gen. 1:28 it says of Adam and Eve, “…Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  Later, in Gen. 2:8,15, we read: “And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed…He put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”  Sin, by the way, had not yet taken place. Work was not part of the curse. Having to labor for one’s living was not a divine punishment for man’s sin as people sometimes interpret it, but rather a divine benefit for man’s good. Work, however, did become much harder as a result of the curse on the earth because of sin (See Gen. 3:17-19). In Exodus, the Israelites are commanded to work as well as to rest: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work…” (Ex. 20:9,10).  Clearly God designed us to work and to rest.
     Similarly, even in the new earth, when sin and suffering will be gone forever, there will still be work to do. In Rev. 22:3 we read: “And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him.”  We don’t know what our assignments will be there, but they will somehow be commensurate with our faithfulness in serving the Lord here (See Rev. 22:12). It is, therefore, a God-given privilege to be able to do useful work, whether that work consists of preaching God’s Word or improving God’s world. “Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might…” (Eccl. 9:10).  A false separation of the secular and sacred has arisen throughout Church history. During the middle ages, monasteries and nunneries were built to  house those who wished to separate themselves from secular society and do “God’s work.” They believed their sacred callings to be exalted above those who stayed to work in the secular world. Even today many view those in “full-time ministry” to be answering God’s call to a more “sacred” occupation. But, biblically, all Christians—be they parents or physicians, carpenters or plumbers, janitors or nurses, or whatever—are in “sacred” occupations.  We are each called to live for Christ in the sometimes mundane, ordinary work-a-day settings of our lives. No  matter what the job may be that has provided for us to do, it is important to remember to obey the admonition given by the Apostle Paul in Col. 3:17,23,24: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do you work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
     So, pleasing God doesn’t mean that we must busy ourselves with a set of “spiritual” activities. As the Puritans said, “Whether cleaning house or preaching sermons, shoeing horses or translating the Bible, any human activity may constitute an offering to God.”  That truth is to guide everything we do. Caring for an elderly parent, cleaning up after a child, helping a neighbor on a project, checking out customers at a grocery store, filling out a patient’s chart at a nurses’ station, sitting in traffic(!), cutting firewood, sawing lumber…should all be acts of worship, which they are if done as unto the Lord and for His glory. Pascal wrote a remarkable prayer that can help each believer in facing the routine tasks of life: “Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name.” The Apostle Paul exhorted: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).
                                                                                                                                        Forever His,
                                                                                                                                                Pastor Dave
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Appropriately Dressed

  While attending Montana State University in Bozeman, I got involved in what we called “COLLYP” (College Young People) at Grace Baptist/Bible Church. We had about 50 students from MSU that participated and over the four and 1/4 years that I was there, we grew very close and I made some good friends. Nearly every weekend we had some activity together. My sophomore or junior year we had a retreat at Luccock Park near Livingston, returning to Bozeman on a Sunday afternoon. I was due at an initiation ceremony for Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honorary, and since there was no time to go and change I just got dropped off on campus and walked into the auditorium in my shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes, sunburned and unshaved.  Lo and behold, the professors were in caps and gowns and most inductees were wearing suits and ties!  (Guess I didn’t get the memo!)  Needless to say, I was a bit embarrassed at not being appropriately dressed.

     I’m sure all of us at one time or another wondered what we should wear to a particular event or activity. We wondered how others would dress and if we would fit in or be out of place. Probably there have been times when we felt a bit out of place because of the way we were dressed, or maybe even greatly embarrassed as I was. But, in the big scheme of things, it’s no big deal. We get over it and life goes on. But, when it comes to appropriate clothing for coming into God’s presence, there is only one garment acceptable. One of the beautiful biblical metaphors of salvation is that of clothing appropriate for coming into God’s presence. In Isaiah 61:10 we read: “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD. My soul will exalt in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness…”  Such clothing is not something we ourselves can make or purchase; it must be prepared and provided by God.
     Adam and Eve, when they found themselves separated from fellowship with God because of disobedience, sensed their “nakedness before God” and ran and hid. They experienced guilt for the first time and were ashamed. They tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together, but to no avail (Gen. 3:7). Their Creator, now Redeemer, had to provide a covering, which He did by first slaying innocent animals and then making “garments of skins for Adam and Eve and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Notice the name used for God in that passage: “LORD God” (“Jehovah Elohim”).  “Elohim” is the name used for God in the creation account (Gen. 1,2) and means “the strong, faithful, covenant-keeping God. “Jehovah” means “the holy, just, righteous God who hates sin but loves the sinner and thus provided for redemption.
    So, we see that the only garment with which we can enter God’s presence is the one He Himself provides and it comes through the shedding of blood of an innocent substitute, one who dies on our behalf. We see this pattern all throughout the Old Testament as priests killed animals and applied their blood to the altar on behalf of the people. We see the word “atonement” used some 80 times in the KJV. It is a translation of the Hebrew kaphar which means literally “to cover” and figuratively “to expiate or placate or cancel; to forgive, pardon or put off.”  In the New Testament we only find the word “atonement” used one time in the KJV and that is Rom. 5:11: “Through Christ we have received the atonement.”  Christ’s death on the cross for our sins is referred to as “the Atonement.” It was there that the pattern, started way back in the Garden of Eden, was fulfilled, as Jesus came as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The Apostle Paul put it this way: “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). When a penitent sinner recognizes he can’t achieve his own righteousness by works, and repents and calls on the mercy of God, the Lord covers him with His own divine righteousness by grace through faith. Titus wrote: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”(Tit. 3:5-7). (Also see Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Phil. 3:7-9.) 
     The “garments of salvation” are invaluable yet offered at no cost to us because the Provider paid the price in full. We can be clothed in the “garments of salvation” (Christ’s righteousness) simply through faith in Him and His death for sin and His burial and resurrection (which by definition happens to be the “Gospel”—I Cor. 15:1-4). God offers redemption and reconciliation to sinners without cost, because He was completely satisfied (“propitiated”) by the price paid by His Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself for us. “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19). “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…” (Ro. 3:24,25). “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I Jn. 2:2).
     When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, trusting in His atonement through His death and resurrection, we become children of God (Jn. 1:12,13) and are clothed with “royal robes,” the “garments of salvation.” Tragically, many think they will be able to enter God’s presence with their own “home-made” garments of self-righteousness (their version of Adam and Eve’s “fig leaves”.)  Many think that doing more good than evil deeds will get them into heaven. Others think that being religious, or belonging to a religious group or denomination or church will make them acceptable to God. But, Isa. 64:6 tells us that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (rags).”  Zephaniah referred to those who had turned from the true God as those “who clothe themselves with foreign garments (KJV  has strange apparel)” (Zeph. 1:7,8).  Everyone without Christ’s righteousness is under the condemnation of sin and is clothed with “foreign garments” or “strange apparel.”
     So, the question is, “What are you wearing?”  Are you covered with the “garments of salvation” or are you still dressed in “strange apparel.” There is only one way you will be able to stand one day in God’s presence in heaven and that is to be clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  I read the story about a Christian woman who had few of this world’s goods. She was soon to enter the presence of the King of Heaven. A friend sat by her side, and seeing her peace and joy, said, “Are you not afraid to go into God’s presence?”  She made this reply: “No ma’am, I am too well dressed for that, since He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” What a glorious testimony. She was appropriately dressed. Are you?
                                                                           Forever His,
                                                                                    Pastor Dave
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