The Laws of Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the second longest Psalm in the Bible (119 is longest), Asaph gives a challenge, writing: “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Ps. 78:5-7).

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

 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

 

 

 

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Wiping the Slate Clean

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

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

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

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