The Connectedness of Life

James Bender, in his book How to Talk Well, relates the story of a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned that the farmer did something very interesting. He shared his seed corn with his neighbors. The reporter asked: “Why would you share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering in competition with yours each year?”

     “Why sir,” replied the farmer, “didn’t you know? the wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” 
     We have a noxious weed that has spread all across the northwest called Russian knapweed. It was apparently introduced to our country by bee keepers from Russia since honey bees love it and it does make some of the very best tasting honey—we know because we usually have 24 bee hives on our place and that is their main source of nectar to produce their honey. While we really like the honey from our bees,  we don’t want to let our property be taken over by knapweed. It squeezes out the grass in our lawn and hayfield, so occasionally I have to spray it in the spring to control it. But, it also grows on our neighbor’s property, so we offer to spray his as well, otherwise the millions of seeds produced just blow over and make it impossible to control our knapweed.
     So, I understand the principle of the man growing his prize corn and that is the connectedness of life.  If we want to have a relatively weed-free yard, we have to help our neighbors have weed-free yards. We come to realize that the value of life is measured by the lives it touches. If we want to be successful, we have to help those around us be successful. The welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.  So, when we have something good, we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves but should share it. It is when we give that we receive—and in greater measure. That was a principle taught by Jesus, as recorded in Luke’s gospel: “Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Lk. 6:38). The imagery is of a container of grain filled to the brim and running over the edge.  God made us in such a fashion that “no man is an island,” that is, we are interconnected and what we do affects many around us. It’s kind of like the commercial on television for the Bank of America that shows how “we’re all connected to the same bank,” and says , “Life’s better when we’re all connected.”
     Unfortunately our old sinful nature rebels at the idea of helping others succeed and instead falls prey to the principle that was conveyed in a best-selling book from a few years back entitled Looking Out for Number One.  We have the inherent tendency to walk over others to try to get where we want to go. We try to achieve at the expense of others, often leaving a wake of hurt feelings and broken relationships and anger and bitterness. The disciples of Jesus were no different. They too had the same sinful nature inherited from Adam that we have. Matthew records: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (Mt. 18:1).  Two of the disciples, James and John, on another occasion, “came up to Him (Jesus), saying to Him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of You…Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left’” (Mk. 10:35,37).  The other disciples “began to feel indignant with James and John” (v. 41), probably because they hadn’t thought of asking Him first! 
     Jesus called His disciples together and shared a very radical idea, completely contrary to their mindset. He said: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:42-45).  “Christ came to earth to teach us that true success isn’t what we achieve by pushing others aside as we strive to win the prize. True success comes when we show love and concern for others, when we seek to share the best with them, and when we freely and joyously celebrate their victories (and successes).  The greatest joy (of course) comes when we share our faith with someone else”  and get to see the transformation God makes in their life when they trust Him for eternal life. When we see their joy, our joy is full and overflowing as Jesus promised in Luke 6:38.  It’s because God made us to be interconnected. Although the old flesh, which is in rebellion against God, tries to run rough shod over others in an attempt to achieve success and be happy, our new nature as believers is both God-centered and others centered, and produces in us true joy and “success” when we put Him and others first.  Paul wrote: “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).
     “Share the best that you have with others; then watch it grow and flourish”  (Quotes are from God’s Children by Richard Evans, 3-27-2015). Of course, the best thing that we have is eternal life in Christ. Pray that God will give you an opportunity to share Him with someone this week.
                        Forever His,
                                Pastor Dave
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The Power Within

Do remember studying potential versus kinetic energy in your high school physics or other science class?   If you don’t recall, here’s a little refresher:

            Potential Energy is the stored energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position or state.
            Kinetic Energy is possessed by a body by virtue of its movement. While kinetic energy of an object is relative to the state of other objects in its environment, potential energy is completely                 independent of its environment.
     I couldn’t help but relate this to the power we have within us through the indwelling Holy Spirit and whether it just remains potential energy (power) or becomes kinetic energy as we utilize that power in the environment in which God places us. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days on earth before ascending back to heaven.  On the day of His ascension, Luke records this: “And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me’” (Acts 1:4).  Jesus was referring to the promise that when He left, God the Holy Spirit would come: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you (in the person of Christ), and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:16-18). In His “Upper Room Discourse” just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion Jesus told His disciples He was leaving (Jn. 14:3) and then told them that because He was going (back) to the Father, they would do greater works than He had done while on earth (v. 12). How could that possibly be? (And I’m sure they were thinking of all His amazing miracles.)  It would be because the Holy Spirit would come to live in and empower them. The greater works wouldn’t be physical miracles so much as it was taking the Gospel to the far corners of the world and seeing lives transformed by its power (Ro. 1:16).  That is why Jesus went on to say, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy spirit) shall not come to you;  but if I go, I will send Him to you” (Jn. 16:7).  So, just before His ascension, Jesus commanded His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came, saying: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). Ten days later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to indwell them and what a change took place in their lives. From hiding out in fear, discouragement and confusion, they became bold witnesses, telling of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and how He died for the sins of the world and how people can be forgiven and have eternal life by trusting in Him. Peter, who had denied the Lord three times during the trial, became a bold preacher for Christ and ended up giving his life. In fact all of the apostles except John were martyred for their faith. How can we explain the transformation that took place except by the power they now had through the Holy Spirit who came to live in them.
     One of the great doctrines of Christianity is the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, who lives in the heart of each person who has trusted Christ for salvation (Ro. 8:9; I Cor. 6:19). And, since God is one (Dt. 6:4) and the fullness of the Triune Godhead dwells in each member of the Godhead, through the Holy Spirit we have God the Father and God the Son dwelling in us as well.   We have been filled up with “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).  Remember what Jesus promised His disciples as recorded by the Apostle John: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and WE will come to him, and make Our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23). With that in mind, note Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers: “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ, that you may be filled up with all fullness of God. Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:16-21).
     Wow, just think of what Paul was saying: “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God!” What a wonderful privilege—but what an awesome responsibility!  Why does God share His power with us? So that we can build great churches for our own glory? So that we can boast of our own achievements? NO!  Paul ended his prayer with: to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” The Spirit of God was given to glorify the Son of God (cf Jn. 16:;14). The church on earth is here to glorify the Son of God. And for this, the power of the Spirit within us is not a luxury—it is a necessity. And what we do in His power today will glorify Christ  “to all generations forever.” We have amazing power within us to work for His glory. Sadly, to many Christians it just remains as potential energy completely independent of its environment, like batteries in an unused flashlight. It is to be turned into kinetic energy, where it “relates to the state of other objects in its environment.”  We need to use the power of the batteries to “let our light shine in such a way that others may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). We are to “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13). We can’t work for our salvation—it is a gift of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8,9)—but we are to work it out, i.e., grow up in our salvation and make Christ known to others. Paul was a great example for us: “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29).  Paul turned all that potential energy of Christ within Him, into kinetic energy in his aggressive service for the Lord.
     How about you. How much of the power within you is becoming available to those around you as you interact with them, sharing the love and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever.
           Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Choosing the Right Road

 I had taken my nephew, Karl Kutz, with me to hunt for deer on a cold, wintry November day. Karl, who is now “Dr. Kutz,” a professor at Multnomah School of the Bible, was in high school at the time.  At one point in our hunt we decided to separate. I showed Karl where to hike to be sure he made it back to where our Jeep Wagoneer was parked. Soon after we separated, I spotted a nice mule deer which I started following. It took me in a direction I had not explored in that area before. I finally had a shot at the deer and got it, dressed it out and, not knowing for sure where I was, decided to bone it out, wrap the meat in the hide and drag it on the snow until I came to a road. I wasn’t sure what road it was that I hit or where it would lead me for sure but began walking in the direction, which according to my compass, I should go. Knowing Karl was probably waiting for me and worried about me, I walked as fast as I possibly could in the deep snow on the road. After about an hour, I came to a fork in the road. Now what?  I remembered Yogi Berra’s advice: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Well, that helped a lot!  I decided to stay to the right and another hour later I spotted the Jeep. PTL!  Karl was sitting inside, but I had forgotten to show him where I had hidden the key so he couldn’t start the Jeep to keep warm and was very cold, having been waiting for a couple hours.  We drove back to pick up the deer I had left behind and it was 7 miles one way!  I am so grateful that I’d taken the right road when I had to choose which way to go.

     The Kim family was not so fortunate. You may recall the tragic story which took place in the fall of 2006 in Oregon. James Kim, age 35, was a television personality and technology analyst for a cable television network in San Francisco. After spending Thanksgiving in Seattle, the Kims (James, Kati and their two daughters) set out for their home in San Francisco. On Saturday, November 25, having left Portland, Oregon on their way to Gold Beach on the Oregon coast, they missed a turnoff from Interstate 5 to route 42, a main route to the coast. Rather than returning to the exit, they consulted a map and picked a secondary route that skirted the remote Wild Rogue Wilderness of southwest Oregon. They encountered heavy snow at high elevation and turned by mistake off the Bear Camp Road onto a BLM logging road. It was a gated road, but BLM had left the gate open to avoid trapping hunters or others who might have ventured past it. After 23 miles on the logging road they stopped due to fatigue and the heavy snow that was falling. They kept the engine running to keep warm until they ran out of gas. They were able to collect enough dry wood and, along with some magazines they had with them, managed to get a fire going. Later they even burned their car tires to signal any rescuers that might be looking for them.
     Search efforts began November 30th when Kim’s co-workers filed a missing persons report with the San Francisco Police Department. State police, 80 civilian volunteers, members of the Oregon Army National Guard, and several helicopters hired by Mr. Kim’s father spent several days looking to no avail. On December 2, James finally left his family to look for help. On the afternoon of December 4, a local helicopter pilot spotted Mrs. Kim and her daughters walking on a remote road. He radioed for help and the three were air-lifted to the nearest hospital. On December 6, searchers found Mr. Kim’s body lying on his back in two feet of icy water in Big Windy Creek. After walking more than 16 miles he had succumbed to hypothermia—only a mile from Black Bar Lodge, which, although not open, would have provided food and shelter.
     For James Kim and his family, what was supposed to be a beautiful scenic drive in the mountains of Oregon turned into a heartbreaking tragedy. A state trooper said, “They believed they were taking the right  road.” They weren’t. A television reporter covering the story stood at the crossroads where that family had to choose which way to go. Pointing to one road, he said, “Just up this road a mile is a lodge with food and shelter.” Then he pointed down the other road, saying, “This road is deadly in the winter and the gate is normally closed. They chose this road.”
  Two roads—one that would lead to life, the other to death. That’s exactly how Jesus described the life-or-death choice every person must make between the “road that leads to destruction” and “the road that leads to life” (Mt. 7:13,14).  For the Kim family facing a fatal crossroads, there was nothing there to warn them of the road that would lead to death.   But, for the people you know, you are the person at the crossroads. You’ve been placed where you are to warn them away from an eternity without Christ, and to point them to road that will take them to heaven. That road is Jesus, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6).  God commands us: “…whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’; and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezek. 3:17,18).  Many people, like the Kims, think they are on the right road, one that will lead them to their destination (heaven), but as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
     So, first of all, are you on the right road? Have you chosen to trust Christ for eternal life?  If not, please consider doing that today, while there is yet time. If you have, then you have a responsibility to warn others. Pray daily a three-fold prayer based on Col. 4:3,4:
             1) “Lord, open a door of opportunity to bring up Jesus.”
             2) “Lord, open their heart, get them ready to hear about you.”
             3) “ Lord, open my mouth! Give me the right words and the courage to speak for you.” 
     Then go into each day looking for God-given opportunities to talk about Jesus. People really do need the Lord. Without Him, they are on a road that leads to eternal death.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
    
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So, What Did You Expect?

 At some point in our lives we have probably all been greatly disappointed or even angered because our expectations were not met.  Maybe we expected a bicycle for Christmas as a child  and just got clothes. Maybe we worked hard to get a promotion or to be chosen for a certain position and it didn’t happen. Maybe we went to a particular church expecting to have our needs met and were disillusioned. Maybe, because of our position, we expect to be treated in a certain way, but receive no such special treatment. Or, it may be as simple as expecting your favorite meal for supper and getting chopped liver instead.

     One of the major issues that brings people in to see a counselor is broken expectations which often result in anger and bitterness, especially if they are ongoing.  Life has a way of breaking our expectations. Then what?  How do we respond?  Is our day ruined when a package we are expecting doesn’t arrive or when our favorite team is expected to win by a wide margin and ends up losing? What does it do to your faith and attitude when someone you have been witnessing to about Christ tells you they don’t want you preaching to them anymore, just when you think they are about ready to receive Christ?   I think that Alexander Pope was onto something when he said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed.” Or maybe it is that we have misplaced our expectations.  If our expectations are of others and of situations turning out as we hope or things going our way, we will continue to be disappointed, angered, disillusioned, confused and probably become bitter and critical.
     Things were going well for Paul and Silas as they ministered in Philippi.  A business woman from Thyatira, Lydia and her household had become the first converts in Europe. She invited them to come to her house and stay and disciple them (Acts. 16:13-15). But a certain demon-possessed servant girl kept crying out to Paul and Silas and Paul finally turned to her and commanded the demon to come out. They may have expected folks to be grateful but the girl happened to be used to tell fortunes and her own masters were going to lose their livelihood and they became very upset and stirred up the crowd and city officials against Paul and Silas who were beaten and thrown into prison, and their feet fastened in stocks. Talk about an opportunity for Paul and Silas to complain to God and to be angry about the disappointing outcome of their ministry in Philippi, but instead they were “praying and singing hymns of praise to God at midnight and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).  God caused an earthquake that shook the jailhouse “and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened” (v. 26).  The jailer, when he saw the opened doors was going to take his own life, thinking the prisoners had all escaped, “But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!’” (v. 28).  When the jailer saw that Paul was right, he said, “’Sirs, what must I do to be saved.’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be save, you and your household’”(vv. 30,31). The scene could have turned out much differently had Paul and Silas become angry and disappointed with God for allowing the beating and imprisonment. It was their amazing attitudes of prayer and singing praises that resulted in the jailer and his family coming to Christ, and possibly some of the other prisoners as well. 
     The Apostle Paul never expected to be living a life of ease and comfort or to be well liked and well treated.  When he later wrote to the church that had been established in Philippi (possibly in Lydia’s home), he spoke of what his expectations were: “According to my earnest expectations and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20,21). And, by the way, guess where he was when he wrote the letter–in prison in Rome!  If our expection is to make Christ visible to those around us regardless of where we are or who we are with, we will find those expectations met and even exceeded. And Christ will be exalted.
        I wonder how often I have missed opportunities to share God’s love and forgiveness because I have made my life all about me, and my expectations and have been disappointed, angry and had a bad attitude. I need to continue to remind myself—as do you—that it is my purpose to glorify my Savior regardless of my circumstances.
     So, what do you expect? Are you expecting others to treat you a certain way, or expecting a certain outcome of a situation…well you are setting yourself up for a fall. It is inevitable that you will continue to be disappointed. Why not make it your only expectation to magnify Christ wherever you are and whoever you are with and in whatever circumstances. You won’t be disappointed.
                Forever His.
                    Pastor Dave 
Remember, what happens to us is not nearly as important as what God does in and through us.
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Daring to be a Daniel

So, what would/will you to do if you are put in a position where you either compromise your Christian convictions or face the possibility of losing your job, not getting your diploma, or maybe even losing your life.  That is happening to believers all over the world right now. Every day many believers are being persecuted and many are sacrificing their lives for their faith. But who would have thought that it would ever happen in our great United States of America, that was founded on Christian principles as a place of religious freedom?  Yet it is happening with increasing frequency. Here are but a few examples of some recent incidents that have made national news.

    An Air Force Academy Cadet wrote on his personal communications whiteboard: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Complaints soon reached atheist activist and hater of Christianity, Mikey Weinstein, director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who said the Bible verse created a hostile environment at the academy. He said, “It clearly elevated one religious faith over all others at an already virulently hyper-fundamentalist Christian institution. It massively poured fundamentalist Christian gasoline on an already raging out-of-control conflagration of fundamentalist Christian tyranny, exceptionalism and supremacy at USAFA!”  Exactly two hours and 9 minutes later, the Bible verse had been scrubbed the cadets whiteboard.
     The Pentagon warns that U.S. military personal could be court martialed for sharing their Christian faith with others. Guess who they asked to help the defense department to “develop new policies on religious tolerance, including a policy for court-martialing military chaplains who share the Christian Gospel during spiritual counseling of American troops”?—Mikey Weinstein!!
     A Christian photographer in New Mexico, owner of Elane Photography, refused to shoot a lesbian wedding and was sued for discrimination against a person’s sexual orientation. She lost her initial lawsuit and is currently appealing her case.
     Atlanta Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran, was suspended without pay by the mayor and ordered to complete a sensitivity training class because he gave an employee and anti-gay self-help book. Cochran stated: “It’s okay for the LGBT members of a community to express their views and convictions about sexuality and they should be respected for their views without experiencing hatred or discrimination, but when Christians express their belief regarding their faith, they too need to be respected without hate and discrimination. In the U.S., under our constitution, no on should be vilified, hated or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.”  It would seem we, as Christians must be tolerant and politically correct toward all other’s views—but they aren’t held to the same standard.
     Melkssa Klein, owner of Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Oregon denied a lesbian couple a wedding cake and because of the hate mail and threats had to close shop. She posted this note on the door of the bakery: “The fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong.  Your religious freedom is not free any more. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve Him with all our heart.”  (NOTE: A similar situation took place in Colorado, where a judge ordered a bakery to cater for same-sex weddings.)
     Barronelle Stutzman, Christian florist, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in the Tri-Cities in Washington, referred her friend and long-time customer to other florists because she could not in good conscience use her God-given artistic ability to design a wedding arrangement to celebrate a same-sex wedding. Although the couple obtained flowers for their “wedding,” the Washington State Attorney General, and later, the same-sex couple, sued Barronelle for violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the court ruled that both the state and the couple may collect damages and attorney’s fees from Barronelle’s business and personal assets. The 70-year old grandmother may lose her business, home and savings because she stood for her faith. (Alliance Defending Freedom is working on her case and if you’d like to help with expenses, go to her website for “Arlene’s Flowers” to contribute and give a word of encouragement. You might also contact Attorney General, Bob Ferguson to voice your concern over his actions.)
     When Eric Moutsos of the Salt Lake Police Department was asked to be part of a the motorcycle brigade leading a gay parade, he asked for an alternate assignment because of his religious convictions concerning homosexuality. He was placed on leave and later resigned. 
     And the list could go on and on. Even the head of our local hospital chaplains has been affected by the anti-Christian sentiment growing in our culture. He and his staff have a very beneficial ministry to our hospital and in addition, he has been visiting at our local, privately run, care facility. Someone complained about his presence there and the director ordered him to no longer set foot on the property!  He was the only one who visited with patients on regular basis and they would often call and request him to come. Now what? Who will be there for them?
     Back to our initial question: What would/will you do when put in a position where you either compromise your Christian convictions or risk losing your job, promotion, diploma, or maybe even  your life?
     Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge,” faced such a situation. He was a statesman in the court of heathen monarchs. Taken captive as a youth to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C., he spent the rest of his long life there as a governmental official and as a prophet of the true God. Because of his ability to interpret dreams, he was given a place of prominence and responsibility in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Daniel’s jealous rivals in the government of Babylon tried to “find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him”’ (Dan. 6:4). So, they talked the new king, Darius, into making and enforcing a statute that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides the king, “ for thirty day, shall be cast into the lions’ den” (v. 7).  What would Daniel do? He could easily have avoided being thrown into the den of lions. He could have just ceased praying for a month, or prayed in secret where no one could see him. But note his response: “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” Daniel was not intimidated by the pressure of persecution. He continued to serve God faithfully as he had always done. Part of his secret is revealed earlier in Daniel, where we read: “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself…” (1: 8).  I believe it is important for us to decide ahead of time what we will do when a situation comes where we have to choose to obey God or compromise our beliefs, rather than to wait for the heat of the moment to decide what to do.
     The Apostles faced similar opposition and were ordered by the Jewish Council to cease teaching about Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 5:28). How did they respond? “Peter and the Apostles answered and said, ‘We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29).  They did not compromise and were willing to pay the price for obeying God. All of the Apostles, in fact, except John, were martyred for their faith. (Tradition says John was boiled in oil and didn’t die, so was exiled to the Isle of Patmos.)
     As our culture becomes more and more anti-Christian we will have many opportunities to stand up for our beliefs. Dare to be a Daniel!  And pray for those who are currently being persecuted for their faith that they too would stand strong and be light and salt for our Savior.
                  Forever His,
                          Pastor Dave
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Sandcastles

Over Valentine’s weekend we were on the Oregon coast at Seaside to watch our grandson, Luke, play in a basketball tournament and to spend some time with our family and in-laws. We were treated with a beautiful sunny weekend with temperatures in the mid sixties and little wind. We spent quite a bit of time wandering on the beach—along with hundreds of others!  Someone had built a very elaborate sand castle which obviously had involved quite a bit of time as well as creativity. People would stop by and take pictures as they admired the handy work. The next day as we walked by the same location, there was—of course—no evidence of the work of art. It had been completely washed away and became once again just millions of grains of sand on the beach to walk upon.  At nearby Cannon Beach they will be holding their 44th annual Sandcastle Day Festival this June 7th with an estimated 1,000 participants  and some 8,000 spectators, as groups in every age category create their ornate and intricate sculptures starting at 6:30 a. m. The day after the contest, the impressive sculptures, just as the castle we saw at Seaside, will be obliterated and just part of the beach once again.

     I am reminded of one of Jesus’ parables recorded in both Matthew 7: 24-27 and Luke 6:46-49—the parable of the two foundations or of the wise man and the foolish man. It was the basis for a chorus we often sang in Sunday school. The foolish man built his house upon the sand and when the “rains came down and the floods came up, the house on the sand fell flat.” In contrast, the wise man built his house upon the rock and when “the rains came down and the floods came up, the house on the rock stood firm.” And the spiritual lesson? “So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings will come down as the prayers go up.” 
     If you have come to Christ for salvation, He is the foundation—“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).  He is the rock upon which we need to build our life (I Cor. 10:4).  When you are resting on Christ, you can build on that foundation things which will last, referred to by Paul in  I Cor. 3:12 as “gold, silver, and precious stones.” The person who has put his/her faith in Jesus Christ, can build on that foundation an edifice of Christian character that will weather the storms of misunderstanding, cynicism, criticism, suffering, adversity, disappointment, doubt and persecution when they threaten to—like ocean waves—overwhelm him. He can remain “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
     But, those who build on the sand, no matter how intricate, ornate, and crowd-pleasing their structure, will one day find everything come crashing down and the storms of adversity and ultimate judgment come. What is the sand? It is human goodness and human effort. It is the old weakness of the flesh, and as  Paul wrote: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…” (Ro. 7:18).  No matter how much effort and expertise goes into a sandcastle, no matter how impressive the sculpture, it is not going to withstand the power of the tide coming back in and will be washed away as though it had never existed.  Many in this world continue to work on their sandcastles as if they are going to last forever and somehow grant them entrance into heaven because of their efforts.  The prophet Isaiah, however, wrote: “…And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6).  Titus, in the New Testament, wrote: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). And the Apostle Paul wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works (building sandcastles), that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). 
     The obvious conclusion then, just as in the children’s chorus, is to “build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The Psalmist wrote: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” (Psa. 127:1).  The wise man builds his house on the rock, Christ Jesus. The foolish man builds his house on the sand. On what are you building your life?
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Manufacturers’ Warnings

  It is amazing how people will use a product for something other than it is intended and then try to sue the company or manufacturer to compensate them for injuries incurred. To cover themselves from liability, manufacturers have had to place some humorous warning labels on their products. Here are just a few examples:

            1)  On a Swedish chainsaw: “Don’t stop chain with hand!”
            2)  On a Sears hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.”
            3)  On a clothes iron: “Do not iron clothes on your body.”
            4)  On a push mower: “Do not use as a hedge trimmer.”
     We laugh at these and think: “How stupid can people be?”  Well, as someone has aptly said, “There is no limit to what stupid can do!”  And such stupidity or foolishness is not limited to the use of chainsaws, hair dryers, irons and push mowers, etc.,—it carries over into the spiritual realm as well. If you will, we are the products and God is the Manufacturer.  He has given us a detailed Owner’s Manual called the Bible which is full of instructions on how we are to operate as intended and some clear warnings about what will happen if we abuse or pervert His directions.
     Unfortunately when His Instruction Manual has been ignored or—as in some cases—outlawed, soon everyone begins doing “that which is right in his own eyes” as happened during the period of the Judges before Israel had a king (Judges 21:25). When we are not living in obedience to God’s Word, we are ruled by our old, sinful natures which are in rebellion against God. We are easy prey for the devil and the philosophies of man. The Apostle Paul warns us:  “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2: 8).
     God gave very clear instructions, for example, regarding marriage, that it is to be one man and one woman. He gave us that pattern from the very beginning way back in Genesis as He provided a wife for Adam, and then gave this directive for the future: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).  In His infinite wisdom, He designed men and women in such a way that they could become “one flesh” and reproduce to fill the earth. If you think about the features of male and female and their ability to reproduce, never through time and chance could that have happened through some process of evolution! It was the amazing design of the Creator.  God’s design was for children to be reared in a home with a mom and a dad who have become one through the physical intimacy of their marriage.  As you think about how traditional (i.e., biblical) marriage is being attacked today, you realize how many have, in ignoring or rejecting God’s Word, bought into Satan’s lies, just as Eve did in the Garden of Eden, when he said to Eve: “Indeed, has God said, ‘you shall not eat from any tree of the garden? …You shall not die…’” (Gen. 3:1,4).   God made us in His image (Gen. 1:26,27), and part of that is our free will to choose to obey or disobey, to follow the Manufacturer’s directions or to do it our own way. But, we can’t avoid the consequences of our choice.  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7,8).  “Flesh,” as used here refers to our old, sinful nature received from Adam as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Just think of all the problems our society faces—economically, emotionally, physically, spiritually—because of the disintegration of the family.  We are reaping what we have sown. We have failed to follow the instructions in the Owner’s Manual. 
     Perversion of God’s design for marriage is called immorality, and notice Paul’s warning: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18).  Then  in his letter to the Romans, Paul tells what the consequences will be: “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…For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function (God’s design) 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 (i.e., follow His Manual), God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Ro. 1:24-28). (There is no question of what God has to say about what our society calls alternate lifestyles. Look at the words I underlined in these verses!). 
     An even more tragic commentary on our current culture is that those who are showing their loyalty to God and are following His instructions are now being persecuted for refusing to bake a wedding cake, or prepare a floral arrangement, or take photographs for a homosexual wedding. Rather than being lauded for standing up for their Christian beliefs, they are being sued and are having their lives threatened. Wow, how far we have strayed and we will pay the price. How can we flippantly say “And may God bless America” at the end of a speech in which we have advocated activities contrary to God’s Word?  The Bible says, “Blessed is that nation whose God is the LORD…” (Psa. 33:12). “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Pr. 14:34).  We have been a blessed nation, probably more than any other on earth other than Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon, but we can’t be blessed any longer if we turn our back on God and His Word. Earlier in that chapter in Proverbs it says: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Pr. 14:12). 
     Manufacturers’ warnings are given for a reason: to protect us, knowing our tendency to do stupid things!  God, knowing the bent of our sinful nature, has also given us warnings—not because He is some celestial killjoy, but because He loves us and wants to protect us. He truly wants the best for us and gave His best to prove it by dying for our sins on the Cross.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
Anyone can have a wedding, but only God can create a marriage!”
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