Promise Keeping

 While living in Portland where I worked for Hyster Company, we also managed the apartments where we lived.  The apartment owner, Bob,  found out I liked to hunt and asked if I could set up an elk hunting trip back in Montana from where we had moved.  So, I made arrangements for a hunting trip in Montana.  He had an attorney friend who was going to fly us over. We invited Bob to join us for an early breakfast the morning we were to leave. We waited and waited and Bob didn’t show up. Later in the day I was able to reach him and he said something had come up and the attorney couldn’t fly that day.   We set another date for our trip. Well again, a no show. Later that day, his son showed up at the apartments and asked if his dad was around, as he was to meet him there. I said, “That’s interesting. We are supposed to be on a hunting trip to Montana!”  He never did show up or call that day.  Needless to say, I was very disappointed. We discovered as we worked for him that it was a pattern of his life, making it very difficult for our job.

     Have you ever made a promise that you haven’t kept? I’m sure we all have at one time or another. Sometimes we may just completely forget about it. Other times we may never have intended to follow through, or maybe we made a promise we were incapable of fulfilling. It makes it difficult for those to whom we made the failed promises to trust our word anymore.  It is especially damaging on relationships with your spouse, children, parents, friends, and if it happens at work, it could cost you your job. It is really important that we be a person of our word. 
     I know of only one Person who can be trusted completely to keep the promises He makes, and that is God. He alone is all-knowing and all-powerful and loves unconditionally. Whatever He promises, we can be totally assured He will do.  For example, He promised to make of Abraham a great nation, and bless him and make his name great and make his descendants like the stars of the heavens and the sand on the seashore. He also promised that in his “seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”  (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:17,18).   But, Abraham and his wife Sarah grew old and were childless. It wasn’t until Abraham was 100 and his wife 90 that God provided the promised seed, Isaac, through whom would come the nation of Israel, through whom one day would come the ultimate “seed,” Jesus Christ, who will one day soon come to reign on earth and every nation on earth will be blessed. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote regarding God’s promise to Abraham: “yet, with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Ro. 4:20,21).
     When you think of how many times the lineage of Christ was down to just one individual, you can see the obvious hand of God carrying out His plan and keeping His promise. No one, not even Satan, could stop Him.  Think of how often the Jews have suffered severe persecution and near annihilation and how even today there are many nations that wish to destroy her. But, throughout the Old Testament we read of all the promises God has made to that nation, His chosen people. All those promises will be fulfilled, for our God is sovereign. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it’” (Isa. 46:8-11).  Regarding God’s promises to Israel, we read in I Kg. 8:56: “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.”
     Way back in Genesis, after the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God promised that a “seed of a woman”’ would come that would defeat the enemy, Satan. Throughout the Old Testament, we see additional, more specific references to that “seed of the woman.” For example, Isa. 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son (the “seed of a woman”), and she will call His name Immanuel”… “which translated means ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:23). We learn that this promised seed would be called the Messiah (Hebrew), or Christ (Greek).  The promise (covenant) God gave to Abraham was repeated to Isaac and Jacob and another promise made to King David that his kingdom will be forever (through the Messiah that would come through his family and one day reign on his father’s throne). 
     The last of the prophets, however, came and went, and the promised One still hadn’t come. There was, in fact a silent period of 400 years from the last prophet Malachi who heard from God, until John the Baptist came on the scene. But, as recorded in Gal. 4:4, “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…”  God kept  His word. He always does and always will.  Jesus, after telling His disciples He would be leaving (Jn. 14:31-38), promised: “…I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (v. 3). Just as Jesus came at just the right time (Gal. 4:4), He will return at just the right time.   He also promised that after He left, the Father would send the Holy Spirit to live in them and guide, teach, and empower them (Jn. 14:26; 16:7).  Again, God kept His word, and just 10 days after Jesus ascended to heaven, on the day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers (Acts 2:1-3). Paul wrote: “in order that in Christ Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13).
     God’s Word is full of promises to us as believers. We have, for example, the promise of eternal life through believing in Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection on our behalf (Jn. 3:16; 5:24; Ro. 10:9,10; Gal. 2:8,9,16).  Titus spoke of “…the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Tit. 1:2).  We have assurance of our eternal life in Christ, for Jesus Himself promised: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise Him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:39,40). Peter, in his second epistle, wrote: “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises , in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (II Pet. 1:4).
     So, when we consider all the precious promises of God, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).  And keep in mind, you can’t break God’s promises by leaning on them!
                                                   Forever His,
                                                        Pastor Dave
“Nothing binds us one to another like a promise kept, and nothing divides us like a promise broken” (Leighton Ford).
“God never made a promise that was too good to be true” (D. L. Moody).
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Fighting at the Feeder

 I’m sure if you’ve ever put out a hummingbird feeder, you have witnessed some pretty amazing aerial combat as one of the hummingbirds—usually a brightly colored male—will sit near the feeder to drive away any who try to take “his” nectar. It makes for some pretty entertaining displays of speed and agility. It gets a bit scary if you are sitting on the deck eating a meal and they are zooming by you, sometimes very closely. Our son thought for sure he was going to die with a hummingbird beak stuck in him! 

     We also have a bird feeder in the back yard which is the scene of some pretty heated competition. Currently we have five large, noisy, stellar jays (also called Canada jays), several flicker woodpeckers, lots of little black-capped chickadees, a pair of doves, and three big Chinese ring-neck pheasants that daily vie for first place at the feeder. It is pretty fascinating to watch the “pecking order” on display.  Even though the jays are a bit larger and more aggressive than the doves, we have watched as a single dove held her ground at the feeder in spite of the stellar jays who were “encouraging” her to leave. Then we saw quite an amazing sight as the one jay got up on the roof that covers the feeder, and literally kicked snow down upon the dove a couple times to get her to leave—she wasn’t phased by the tactic!  A couple days later we saw the same thing take place when an “alpha male” flicker woodpecker was sitting in the feeder and not interested in leaving no matter the harassment from the jays. Again, a jay—probably the same one—got up on top of the roof and kicked snow on the flicker! 
     We observe similar competition if we toss out some apples or apple peels where the deer can get them. They have quite the ‘’pecking order” as well and are really not very nice to each other. Often it is a “grandma” doe that kicks others away so she can have first choice—often it is her own “kids” and “grandkids” that she pushes away! 
     It is not just the birds and animals, however, that display such selfishness and greediness as seen in their “fighting at the feeder.” We human beings, the crown of all God’s creation (Psa. 8) manifest the same selfish, me-first, nature.  For those of you who may have participated in the “Black Friday” sales recently, what was it like? Did people patiently wait for you to take a place in line ahead of them?  Hardly. It was everyone for himself and there was likely pushing and shoving. Hopefully there were no injuries, but some have literally been trampled at these events.
     I remember in grade school kids running to be first in line for just a drink of water or to get into the lunch room. In fact I remember on one occasion being tripped and falling on the gravel, tearing my new jeans and bloodying my knee. (If only I hadn’t been in such a hurry to be one of the first!).  I remember going to the wood pile behind the sawmill to get mill ends that were dumped there several times a day. They were free for the taking and the scene at the wood pile was much like that at our bird feeder!  Amazing how people will push and shove their way to get the “best” 2×4 ends!
     Do you remember what the most common topic of discussion was among Jesus’ disciples? It is recorded numerous times in the Gospels. Mark 9:33-35, for example reads: “And they came to Capernaum and when He was in the house, He (Jesus) began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ (Obviously, Jesus knew) But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.” Luke 9:46 says: “And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be the greatest” (cf Mt. 18:1).  Matthew and Mark record one occasion when a couple of the disciples, the brothers James and John, and their mother, came and asked Jesus if the two might have special positions in the kingdom: “And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of you’ (wow, pretty brazen!). And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ And they said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left’” (Mk. 10:35-37).  Matthew records that their mother also asked (Mt. 20:20-28). When the other disciples heard about the proud, self-seeking request, it says they “began to feel indignant with James and John” (Mk. 10:41).  In other words, they were angry because they hadn’t asked first!   This seeking to be first was a recurring matter among the disciples right up to the meeting around the table at the Last Supper just before Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion, as we see in Luke 22:24: “And there arose also a dispute among them as to  which one of them was regarded to be the greatest.”
     So, why this drive to be first, to trample over others to get ahead and get the most and the best?  It is because of sin entering the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they went against God’s clear command and ate of the forbidden tree, a change took place within them as they now had a nature that was in rebellion against God. That nature, which we call the Adamic or sinful nature, or the old man, or the flesh, was then passed on from Adam to each who has been born (with the exception of Christ, who was born of a virgin). The Apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Ro. 5:12).  And, one of the characteristics of that old nature is selfishness and greed. It is a “me-first” mentality.  Not only did God place a judgment upon mankind as a result of the sin in the Garden (recorded in Gen. 3:16-19), but He also placed a curse upon the earth which included the plant and animal kingdom (cf Jer. 12:4; Ro. 8:20). Animals no longer lived at peace with man and with each other, but began devouring one another and being unkind even to their own kind.
     When Jesus observed the debate among His disciples as to who was the greatest, His response was always: “But many who are first will be last and the last first” (Mt. 19:30; 20:16; Mk. 9:35); “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whosoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:26-28 cf Mk. 10:42-45).
     As believers, indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we now have a new nature (although the old has not yet been eradicated…Gal. 5:16-18) and, in dependence upon Christ who also lives within us through the Holy Spirit, we can manifest the fruit of the Spirit  which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23). We can obey the command to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4). Obviously, we still struggle with the desires of the flesh (the old Adamic nature), but praise God we now can have victory over the flesh and actually be Christ-like in our relations to others, putting their needs above ours. What a different world we would have if more did that. Well, one day, when the Prince of Peace returns, that will be the case. But, meanwhile, let’s do our part to show others what Christ is like.
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
“All the graces of a Christian spring from the death of self” (Madame Guyon).
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What Should We Learn From Creation?

As I was hiking up a rather steep mountainside this past Saturday, I would stop occasionally to let my lungs catch up on the needed oxygen to provide fuel for my body to continue. As I did, I was reminded of an article I just read from the Alpha Omega Institute entitled Your Amazing Lungs.  “Every time you breathe in and out, your wonderfully designed lungs are working to keep you alive, without you ever thinking about it.”  God designed our lungs as part of our respiratory system with the job of taking in fresh air (oxygen) and getting rid of stale air (carbon dioxide). Our trachea (windpipe) carries air from our nose and mouth down into the lungs where it splits into two large tubes (bronchi), one going into the left lung and the other to the right. Each of these then splits into smaller tubes which split many more times into about 30,000 tiny tubes—the thickness of human hair—called bronchioles. At the end of each of these hair-like tubes are about 600 million tiny air bags called alveoli, which if spread out would cover a tennis court!  Each alveoli is covered with very small blood vessels called capillaries which “pull out the oxygen and carry it to your heart, which then pumps the oxygen-filled blood to all the cells in your body. Once your cells use up the oxygen they need, they get rid of carbon dioxide and other wastes by sending them back to the lungs where they are dumped into the alveoli” where they are picked up by the bronchioles and sent back up through the bronchi tubes so we can exhale the stale air.

     To operate this amazing respiratory system, God installed a dome-shaped muscle called the diaphragm just below the lungs, and a rib cage and rib muscles surrounding the lungs. They alternate relaxing and tensing, allowing your lungs to inflate and then forcing the air back out. And, to keep the lungs from sticking to the rib cage when they expand, God covered them with slippery layers called pleural membranes. Your brain senses the amount of oxygen in the blood, and the amount of waste (carbon  dioxide), and causes you to breather faster—like when ascending a mountain!—or slower, depending on what the cells of your body need. “This is all happening whether you are walking, running, or sleeping…all without you having to think about it!”
     Now, if we didn’t have an all-wise, all-powerful, Creator who designed this amazing respiratory system, tell me how in the world given time and chance this could have developed on its own?  It had to all work together perfectly from the beginning, with all the parts of the system there and functional. And that is just one of the many mind-boggling features of our human bodies. As you examine the circulatory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, etc., you discover the same amazing, complex design which took a loving, infinitely intelligent Designer and Manufacturer—our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle John, in speaking of Jesus Christ as “the Word,” wrote: “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn. 1:3).  Paul wrote: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16,17).  Not only did He design and create all things, but He is also sustaining them, keeping the universe from falling apart.  When you think of the maintenance required to keep your vehicles running and your house functional and your yard from becoming a jungle of weeds, think about the task of holding the universe together!  What a mighty God we serve!
     When you view a beautiful painting, or listen to a musical masterpiece, like Handel’s Messiah, or see the products constructed by a talented craftsman, you recognize first of all that these didn’t just happen, but that they took the painters, composers, or designers and builders years of training and developing their talents and then much pain-staking work to produce.  When we view the results, we learn much about the one who produced it.  We learn to detect who the author, composer, painter, architect, builder, etc. was from his product.  We also know that the producer is always greater than the product.
The same is true when are awed by majestic mountains, waterfalls, sunsets, snowflakes, butterflies, honeybees, hummingbirds, the human body, etc.  We know that they didn’t just happen, but were designed and built by someone with infinite wisdom and power, Someone who is far greater even than what He made.  We recently attended the annual Christmas Bazaar held at our local museum. There local crafters display and sell their wares. It is always so impressive to see the creativeness and abilities evidenced in anything from intricate wood carvings to beautiful candles and jewelry or fancy baked goods.  What a variety of talents and ideas!Guess where that all came from? We were made in the image of our wonderful Creator (Gen. 1:26,27). One big difference is that we always need raw material to work with—He didn’t. He could just speak things into existence.  We also often have many failures on the way to producing what we show to others. They don’t see all the rejects that led to the finished product they view. Thomas Edison, that great inventor, said he “found ten thousand ways not to make a light bulb” before he succeeded. Well, God always gets it right on the first attempt—good thing, huh!!
     So, as you view the beauty of God’s creation today, just remember–He is infinitely greater than what He has made. He transcends His creation.    
                                Forever His,
                                            Pastor Dave
“The Signature of wisdom impressed on the works of God proclaims His glory” (Sir Isaac Newton).
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Standing in the Gap

One of the saddest passages in the Bible is found in Ezekiel 22:30,31, where we read: “ ‘And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,’ declares the Lord GOD.” God was looking for a man capable of advocacy for Israel when its sin had gone so far. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were faithful, but apart from them, there was no one to stand in the gap and lead the people to repentance and draw the nation back from the brink of the judgment that came in 586 B.C. (Jer. 7:26,36; 19:15) at the hands of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. Only the Messiah, God the Son, will have the character and the credentials sufficient to do what no man can do, intercede for Israel (cf Isa. 59:16-19; 63:5; Rev. 5). He was rejected by them at His first coming to earth, so the effects of this judgment continue today (look at the mess in the Middle East and all the nations which want to destroy Israel). But one day, as a result of the judgment of the Great Tribulation, they will turn to Him in faith at His Second Coming (Zech. 12:10; 13:1). The Apostle Paul, in speaking of the duration of Israel’s temporary rejection, wrote this to the church at Rome: “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed…that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (the Church is complete); and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel). And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Ro. 11:26-27).

    As I think of how much God had done for the nation of Israel and yet how the people, rather than continue to be thankful and serve Him faithfully, turned their backs on Him and worshiped false gods, I can’t help but thinking about our own Nation which began as a place where God could be worshiped openly both in private and in the public sector. We even put “In God We Trust” on our coins and added the phrase “One Nation Under God” in the pledge to our flag. The Bible was the textbook for most of our early public schools and many of the colleges and universities began as Bible schools and seminaries. We had huge spiritual awakenings and revivals and have sent out thousands of missionaries world-wide to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as well as to minister to the physical needs of others. No other nation on earth has helped out other nations in their time of disaster and need as has the United States of America. But, look where we are now—like Israel, we fit Paul’s description in Rom. 1:21-28: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 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. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
     Sound a little like our nation?! As we witness the spiritual decline, the corruption, the anti-Semitism, the anti-Christian world view of leadership in our nation, what are we as believers to do? Are we to just tolerate the curtailment of our freedoms?  At what point are we to speak out and act?  As we think about how the early Christians suffered and were murdered on the floors  of pagan arenas and theaters because they wouldn’t trade their faith for freedom, or were bound to stakes, waiting for flames to consume them because they refused to forsake their Savior, no one anticipated that the most horrific crimes against Christians would be perpetuated in our lifetime. The evil against Christianity today equals or exceeds that of previous eras. Open Doors USA, which serves the world-wide persecuted church says that in at least 50 countries today, Christians suffer extreme persecution at the hands of groups like the Islamic Boko Haram in Nigeria, and ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The secular media remains relatively silent due to its ideological prejudice or animosity toward Christianity, but how does one explain the muteness of the majority of American Christians who should be speaking out, especially since the jihadists who now seem far away proclaim their intent to take down America next.  It seems that the church marquee had it right: Apathy is our most serious problem. But who cares?  There is no better statement on the perils of apathy than that of German Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller, whose outspoken opposition to Adolf Hitler (while most churches and Christians remained silent) earned him seven years in horrible Nazi concentration camp:
                        First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
                                Because I was not a socialist.
                        Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
                                Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
                        Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
                                Because I was not a Jew.
                        Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.       (From Prelude to Apocalypse by Elwood McQuaid in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Israel My Glory)
     I am very grateful that in our country today, we have numerous individuals and groups who ARE willing to stand in the gap.  They are standing up for our Christian freedoms in the public venues as well as from behind the pulpit, and praise the Lord, they are winning many victories in the courts on behalf of those who are suffering injustices for their stand for their Christian faith and values. Here is a partial list of such organizations, which we need to pray for and support as we are able, and as the Lord leads:  Alliance Defending Freedom (Alan Sears), The Christian Legal Society, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ…Jay Sekulow), the Justice Foundation, Family Research Council, Freedom Alliance (Oliver North and Thomas Kilgannon), Traditional Values Coalition (representing some 43,000 churches in America), Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital (a Christian outreach ministering to top-level government officials, representing Christian beliefs and values).  While we greatly appreciate what these organizations are doing in standing in the gap, we also know that we need to do our part. We will face some tough times in the days ahead as we find more and more that our commitment to share the Gospel will run counter to the laws of the land. “We must ask ourselves: At what point do we have to become lawbreakers rather than betray our faith?  At what price are we willing to take the cross into the world and identify with our Savior? How do we both love the people of the world and yet oppose the agenda of those who would crush the Gospel. I believe it is time that we all begin to live for eternity—not time, and for Christ, not ourselves” (Erwin Lutzer in When a Nation Forgets God).  How about you? Are you willing to be one who Stands In The Gap?   If so, God will show Himself strong on your behalf, and may your tribe increase!
                                 Forever His,
                                        Pastor Dave
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Little Reflectors

 My brother (age 82!) was here to hunt again this year so we hiked about 40 miles over the six days in some pretty cold weather. The temperatures started out at about 5 degrees each morning and reached 25-26 for highs. It hasn’t been above freezing now for more than a week. But, what beauty the cold created on the landscape. The trees, shrubs and grass were thick with frost and ice crystals formed in the air, making it look like it was snowing out of clear blue skies. As the sun came up, its rays reflected off the frost and the ice crystals in the air making them look like millions of diamonds. It was so beautiful. And there was such a contrast between the shady and sunny areas. It remained quite cold and dreary in the shade, but the sun not only made everything beautiful, but warmed our cold bodies as well.  I couldn’t help but think about C. S. Lewis’ Land of Narnia where it was “always winter, but never Christmas.” That’s what our world would be like if Jesus, the “Light of the World” hadn’t come to visit this planet. We wouldn’t know what the “warmth” of the Son would be like. And we wouldn’t see the beauty around us as His wonderful creation.

     The ice crystals, without the sun reflecting off of them, were just that, ice crystals, but with the addition of the sun’s rays, they became little mirrors, each reflecting the light from the sun.
An unknown author tells the story of a student who asked his German professor of Greek culture and history, “What is the meaning of life?”  To answer the  question, Dr. Papaderos took out his wallet and pulled out a very small round mirror the size of a quarter. It was the remains of a broken motor cycle mirror that as a boy he’d found on the road. He had scratched the edges of the piece of mirror on a stone until it became round. He played with it as a toy and was fascinated by the fact that with it he could reflect light into the most inaccessible places where the sun would never shine. It became a game for him to see where all he could reflect the light from the sun. As he grew into manhood, he understood that this was not just a child’s game, but a lesson for him for what he could do with his life. He came to understand that he was not the light or the source of light, but that light—truth, understanding, knowledge—is there and it would only shine in many dark places if he reflected it.  Dr Papaderos then took his “little reflector” and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto the student’s face. (Story taken from God’s Children, Nov. 8, 2014, by Richard Evans).
     The Apostle John wrote regarding the Word (Christ), In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (overcome/extinguish) it” (Jn. 1:1-5).  God sent a man by the name of John (not the Apostle) to introduce this “Word” to the world. “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (vv. 7-9). John (the Baptizer…as we know him) was not the light source, but was to “bear witness of the light,” that is, he was to reflect light from the “true light” (Jesus Christ). When John’s followers grew jealous over the many who were starting to follow Jesus, John told them, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but ‘I have been sent before Him.’…He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3:27-30). 
     Our responsibility, as believers, is much like that of John the Baptizer. We are to introduce Christ to the world of people around us. We are to reflect the light of His love and forgiveness and mercy and compassion. And just as was true of John, we are not the light, but we are to “bear witness of the light.”  And, since we are living on this side of the Cross and of the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers, we actually have the light source, Jesus Christ, living in us through the Holy Spirit. As we abide in Him (Christ) and allow the Holy Spirit to be in control of our life, we will reflect Christ, the “light of the world” (Jn. 8:12) into the darkness of this world.  In His sermon on the mount, Jesus told His disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden (You will be watched!). Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 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. 5:14-16). 
     If we are going to be “little reflectors” of the “true light,” we must be letting His light shine in our hearts first; that is, we must first be walking in the light of His love. It’s only as the light is shining that the ice crystals, the little mirrors, will reflect the suns rays. We are called to be faithful and obedient, growing deep within the core of our being in an intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Then that light will be reflected to our family, friends, neighbors, and everyone with whom we have contact. It will shine into the darkest corners and crevices and the darkness won’t be able to overcome it or extinguish it.  What kind of “little reflector” are you?
                    Forever His,
                                   Pastor Dave
God doesn’t place His lighthouse on some distant shore. He places it within you. It’s a light that never dims or flickers—penetrating the deepest part of your heart with truth, love, and life.
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As A Deer

 Often on one of our many hot days this past summer we would see one of our resident deer herd getting a drink at a little fountain in the front yard or at the bird bath. When we drained our soft-side swimming pool and had a little water still in the bottom of the collapsed pool, the deer would reach in to get a drink. Deer need water on a regular—usually daily—basis, whether it is from a mountain spring or creek or lake or from a bird bath or fountain or swimming pool.

     The Psalmist drew upon the deer’s thirst for water as he began Book II of the Psalms (chapters 42-72).  Delighting in the Lord is a theme that permeates this section of the Psalms.The tone is established from the very beginning, Psa. 42:1, where we see the image of a deer running through the forest, maybe having been chased by a predator, until finally quenching its thirst in a cool stream. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.” The verse speaks of a person passionately desiring God’s presence and power. The writer’s longing for God remained despite the bad situation in which he found himself (Psa. 42:3-8). Perhaps as a prisoner-of-war or in exile, he was grieving and feeling downcast and disturbed. The people around him were taunting and tormenting him. Though he couldn’t sense God’s presence at that moment, he remembered worshiping Him and was committed to trusting in His absolute faithfulness. The Psalmist speaks to himself saying, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (v. 5).
     It is significant that the Psalmist spoke of a deer not a camel. Camels can go for up to three months in the desert without water. Unfortunately we seem to have a lot of camel Christians—not deer panting for the water brook. To too many, God is just a 911 number that we resort to when we are in trouble.  If we are to experience consistent spiritual growth we must have a longing for God. The Apostle Paul wrote: “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10).  Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, said to His disciples: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt. 6:6).
     How little of genuine soul thirst there is in these days of materialism and pleasure-seeking. We somehow forget or fail to realize that we were created to have fellowship with God. God’s purpose for our life isn’t success or happiness but holiness. The only way we find true significance is in an intimate relationship with the only truly significant One in the universe, our Lord Jesus Christ, and that comes only as our soul pants for God as a deer pants for the water brooks. So, a good question to ask ourselves is, “How thirsty am I for God? Will a casual sip or two satisfy? Am I a camel Christian that can go for days, weeks, or even months without a drink from the fountain of Living Water? Or is it more like I’ve been running a race on a hot summer day and someone has just put a cold water bottle into my hand? If your longing for God’s presence is somewhere in between, as it may be for most of us, turn the opening verses of Psalm 42 into your heart’s prayer.  We need to have a desire for all that is Christ-like in both our inner and outward life.
     In His challenging book, Words Aptly Spoken, Dr. Bob Moorehead summarizes what should be My Public Declaration.  
           “I’ve caught the vision, made the decision, stepped over the line; the die has been cast, the step has been taken, the confession has been made, the promise has been spoken, I have become a follower of Jesus Christ!  My past is redeemed, my present secured, my future made hopeful, my bridges have been burned, my old life crucified, my new life sanctified, the journey begun, the goal is from sight to faith, from guilt to wholeness, from darkness to light, from prison to freedom, I’m on my way!
             Nothing will deter me, drag me, deceive me, detour me, derail me, deprive me, de-program me or destroy me…I won’t look back, turn around, slow down, fall down, or go down. I’ve entered the race; full of power, delivered from weakness; full of hope, delivered from despair; full of faith, delivered from doubt; full of courage, delivered from Satan; and full of boldness.  Obstacles won’t tire me; pleasures won’t allure me; for I’ve made the choice, settled the account, sealed the orders, filed the flight plan, and am on my way. I’m done with low vision, sight walking, mini-dreaming, meaningless meandering, dwarfed doings, petty projects and cheap talk. I’m through with halfhearted commitment, mediocrity, broken promises and shoddy discipline. With a new mind, I’ll think holy thoughts; with a new tongue, I’ll speak a new message; with a new walk, I’ll go different places; with new eyes, I’ll see             different visions. I’ve been bought with a price, sealed with His Spirit and guaranteed an inheritance. From this day forth, I’ll live like a prince coming into his inheritance.”
             Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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The Church and Politics

The adult Sunday school class at the church we attend has been going through a series by Chip Ingram entitled Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues. We have looked at what the Bible says about truth, abortion, the environment, sex, homosexuality and the past two weeks we have covered The Church and Politics. Although it wasn’t intentional on behalf of the teacher, it is interesting, and great timing, that we should be covering The Church and Politics just before the November elections (tomorrow).  Many folks think there are two subjects that are off limits for discussion: religion and politics. Granted they can create some very heated conversations, often without much light, but as believers, we happen to have a dual citizenship, so we have a responsibility to both the kingdom of heaven’s work here on earth and also to the government under which we live.  Balancing those two out is what is difficult.

Since we are so prone to the swinging of the pendulum, we tend to either become separatists who believe that the church should have nothing to do with the political realm, or we become activists who feel the church should be highly involved in helping to influence the governmental system.  As Chip Ingram discovered when he was a young pastor, the issue of the church and politics is possibly the greatest polarizing issue in the church, with some folks on each end of the spectrum of separatism versus activism and the majority somewhere in between.  As he struggled with how to navigate through this maze of the Church and politics, he came up with four biblical absolutes as a framework to help us think clearly about the role of the Church in politics. Here they are:

  1. There are two kingdoms in conflict: an eternal heavenly, spiritual kingdom and an  earthly, temporal, secular kingdom.   a.  Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My  kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews;    but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (Jn. 18:36).   b. Jesus is building a kingdom which is in conflict with earthly, physical kingdoms.
  2. Every believer has dual citizenship and thus dual responsibilities.  a. The Pharisees and Herodians, trying to trap Jesus into siding either with the Jews or the Romans, asked Him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Mk. 12:13-15). If he said “Yes,” then He would be siding with the Romans. If He said “No,”  then He would be siding with the Jews. Either way, they had him in a trap. But, Jesus answer, which amazed them, was “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God,                 the things that are God’s” (Mk. 12:17).   b. As believers, not only are we citizens of an earthly kingdom, but “…our citizenship is (also) in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Phil. 3:20).  So we have a responsibility to support our government (even though it may be evil—like the Roman government) and to support the Kingdom of God.
  3.  Human governments are ordained by God to restrain evil (Ro. 13:1-7).  a.  As Paul said, “…There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God…” and “…it is a minister of God to you for good…”   (Keep in mind that the Roman government was very ungodly and corrupt!)   b.  The government is God’s servant to restrain evil, but cannot produce righteousness.
  4.  The church is ordained by God to make disciples.  a.  In His commission to the disciples, Jesus said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the   nations…baptizing…teaching…” (Mt. 28:18-20). b.  The role of the church is to produce additional followers of Christ, training them to disciple others.  c.  When Christians live like Christians they will have an impact on their family, the church, the community, the culture, and the government, and thus the nation (Think about Joseph and Daniel).  The early church was powerful because it focused on Jesus’ command to disciple others and thus to change one life at a time through the Gospel, something that the government cannot do and wasn’t intended to do.

So, how do we apply these basic biblical principles in our daily living with respect to the church and politics?  Here are the ways Chip Ingram suggests:

  1. Let the Church be the Church—to exalt Christ.  a. Through prayer: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and for all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires  all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:1-4). We love to complain about those in office. How often do we pray for them?  Pretty convicting, huh!   b.  Through preaching and teaching the truth of God’s Word, helping others to develop a biblical world view on subjects like the home, marriage, work, sexuality, etc. “I solemnly charge you…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (II Tim. 4:1,2). c.  Model the truth, righteousness, justice…be the salt and light you are intended to be in a dark and decaying world so that when others see your good works, they will “glorify  your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:13-16). 
  2.  Don’t expect the government to achieve what only the church can accomplish.  a.  We may be thinking, “Oh, if only tomorrow’s election turns out the way I want it..” not realizing we are subconsciously believing our government can produce righteousness–it cannot!  It’s job is to restrain evil.  b. At some point in our history both major political parties have been in control—so where has that taken us spiritually as a nation?  c.  A particular political system is not the answer to the human heart—only God has that answer.
  3. Don’t expect the church to accomplish what only individual believers can achieve.  a.  We (individually) have a responsibility to both our government and nation and to our Heavenly  Father and His kingdom of righteousness. We should not demand that our local assembly of believers corporately promote our passion. But we had better be doing so individually by living a Christ-like life and getting involved wherever possible to have an influence for Him, whether it is writing letters to our representatives, attending city council meetings, running for school board or governor or president!  God’s program to build His kingdom is one of penetration, of infiltration. We are salt, but if we stay in the salt shaker, we have no influence on the earthly kingdom.  b.  One thing you need to for sure do, and that is to vote tomorrow (If you haven’t already by absentee ballot).  It is not only our right as a citizen of this great nation, but it is our responsibility.  Of the 60 million registered voters in the U.S. who claim to be evangelical Christians, only 20 million voted in the last presidential election. That’s really a sad commentary on our responsibility as Christians.   And when you vote, be a “kingdom voter” who votes, not based on political parties, but on biblical principles and what candidate most closely shares those values. The majority of Americans vote based on who can best keep the economy going, meaning they vote very selfishly considering who can help me be the most comfortable and have the most stuff. Also a tragic commentary on our nation.

“The future of America will ultimately rest, not on politicians, but on the fervency of God’s people in sharing their faith as credible witnesses to the Christ who saved them. Unless the culture changes, America will not change, and that change is brought about one life, on family, and one community at a time” (Erwin Lutzer, Pastor of Moody Church, in his book When a Nation Forgets God).

 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

 

 

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