In Memory

Memorial Day weekend is often considered the opening weekend of summer. But beyond the picnics and parades and family gatherings, lies a deeper meaning of an important day of remembrance.Memorial Day is an official federal holiday established in 1971 to remember the men and women of the armed forces who lost their lives while serving their country. The holiday was initially called “Decoration Day” and was instituted after the Civil War to commemorate both union and confederate soldiers who gave their lives. General John A. Logan designated a day for decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country. For years, Decoration Day (later called Memorial Day) traditions have included parades, decorating the graves of the fallen with American flags and a moment of silent remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time—a way of putting “the memorial back in Memorial Day.” G. K. Chesterton eloquently reminded us of the choice our fallen heroes had to make—a choice that ultimately defined their true character: “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”

     Memory is a gift from God. Sometimes we struggle because of recollection of traumatic events, and sometimes—especially as we grow older—we struggle with a faltering memory, but God has given us a memory on purpose because there are some things in the past that if we were to forget them, we would be impoverished in the present and the future. Obviously on a day like today, remembering those who have paid the price—the price that freedom costs. Thousands upon thousands of households have received that telegram or phone call or have had that knock on the door and are told that a loved one would not be coming home for they had made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country. It is important for us to remember the loss and the grief that comes when we try to secure freedom not only here in America, but around the world. When we don’t remember, it’s as if we are taking for granted the sacrifices that so many have paid for our benefit.
     Jesus understood this principle. Why do we have the Lord’s Table? Why do we celebrate communion and break the bread and drink the cup? Jesus said, “…do this in remembrance of Me” (I Cor. 11:24).  He knew that one of Satan’s strongest attacks on us is to get us to forget what Christ has done for us because it is the remembrance of what Christ has done for us that motivates us to love Him and serve Him. So, this whole pattern of remembering what happened yesterday for the importance of what needs to happen today is rooted in our own relationship with Jesus Christ. And hopefully remembering is not relegated to just one day, Memorial Day, but is a way of life for us as we live in thankfulness for the sacrifice that has been paid—not only for our national freedoms, but for our freedom from sin through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died in our place, bearing the penalty for our sins.
     A price has to be paid for freedom. God created us to be free, but Satan came along and sabotaged that with the tyranny of sin and placed us in bondage and robbed us of freedom. Jesus Christ came, God in the flesh (Jn. 1:14), made the ultimate sacrifice, that we might, through Him, be set free. Peter wrote: “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). By acknowledging our own sinfulness and believing that Jesus bore the penalty for those sins on the cross, giving His life on our behalf, was buried and rose again, we are set free from bondage to sin, self and Satan. Jesus said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). 
     One of the unique qualities of the United States of America has been its emphasis upon, and diligence to fight for freedom, not only for its citizens but for the citizens of other nations as well. That principle of freedom stems from the Christian roots of this great country. It is Christ alone who can provide true freedom, but also instills in us as believers, such a strong desire for freedom that we are willing to fight for it for ourselves and others. Unfortunately, many of the freedoms we have experienced because of the sacrifice of our courageous soldiers, we are now seeing undermined because we are failing to remember why we have them. We are turning our back on the only One who can provide true freedom. Freedom has “fences.” Those fences are the principles and commands of God’s Word. He who made us, knows what will keep us free and that is by living in alignment with His purpose for our lives. As we stray from following His Word, we find ourselves back under the bondage to sin, self and Satan. We have failed to heed the warning given by the Apostle Paul: “For you were called to freedom brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). He is writing to Christians but the principle applies to nations as well and I’m afraid we are turning our freedom into an opportunity for the old sinful flesh to exert itself, making decisions for our nation which fly in the face of God. We are—and will—reap the consequences (Gal. 6:7,8).
     So, today, in addition to pausing to remember those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of our nation, don’t forget to remember the One, who as the  Creator of the universe, came to earth to make the ultimate sacrifice to provide us with freedom. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15).
                    Forever His,
                              Pastor Dave
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Do You Know the Password?

   For most of us, using a password to gain access to something is a daily reality. We use passwords to log on to computers or internet websites, or to withdraw money from our bank accounts. Passwords are sometimes required to get into an exclusive club or event. And life can get a bit complicated when we don’t know or forget these passwords! 

     The use of passwords dates way back to the period 1380-1050 B.C. which is often referred to as the dark ages of Israel’s history following the death of Joshua. Israel experienced seven cycles of sin, servitude, supplication, salvation and silence. In spite of God’s persistent commands and Joshua’s persistent warnings, the people chose to accommodate rather than annihilate the Canaanites, thereby surrounding themselves with godless and immoral influences. “A task half done is as useless as a task never begun!”   Because of the nation’s compromising attitudes, God allowed neighboring powers to test Israel by war to find out if they would obey the commandments of the LORD (Judges 3:1-4). Failing these tests, Israel settled down into a downward spiral spiritually, politically and morally. Israel’s failure began with compromise and ended with anarchy. A lesson for all of us that we are to have contact with the world, but not to be conformed to the world (Ro. 12:1,2).
     The book of Judges in the  Bible takes its name from the 12 spirit-appointed military leaders the LORD raised up to deliver the nation during these dark ages of declension and apostasy with no central government (only a loose confederacy around the central shrine at Shiloh.)  At one point, when Jephthah was the judge in Israel, in contrast to a previous judge Gideon, Jephthah exhibited a proud “I-centered” attitude. The result was strife and war among brothers and long-lasting feuds (as characteristic of believers who have lost the sense of oneness in the body of Christ).  The men of Ephraim were jealous of Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites complaining that they had not been allowed to share in it. The Ephraimites mocked Jephthah’s people, the Gileadites, saying they were nothing but fugitives from Ephraim (Judges 12:1-4).  Jephthah and his men attacked the Ephraimites and cut off their way of escape at the fords of the Jordan. Before anyone was allowed to cross the Jordan, he was forced to say the password, “Shibboleth” (a flowing stream). The Ephraimites could not pronounce this word correctly; they betrayed their identity by saying “Sibboleth” (Judges 12:6).  Tragically, their jealousy and the civil conflict which resulted, cost the Ephramites 42,000 lives.
     As costly as was this example of not knowing—or being able to pronounce correctly—a password, there is another password which is even more crucial for it involves our eternal destiny. In a sense, “Jesus” is our password to gain access to God and heaven. Peter, in addressing the rulers, scribes, and priests in Jerusalem (Acts 4:5-6), said, “…there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (v. 12).  In the upper room, prior to His arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus had told His disciples that He would be leaving (going back to heaven, Jn. 14:1-3). Thomas asked how they could know the way to get where He was going (v. 5), to which Jesus replied: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (v. 6). Now, that doesn’t mean just by saying the word “Jesus” that we have eternal life and access to Heaven, it means to believe in the person, Jesus Christ, who He is (the Son of God, and God the Son), and what He did, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:24). “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…” (I Tim. 2:5,6). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).  There are many who use the name Jesus but haven’t entrusted their lives to the person. Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Mt. 7:21-24). 
     Not only is Jesus (the Person) the “password” for entrance to Heaven, but He is also the key to effective prayer. Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (Jn. 14:13,14).  Again, this isn’t a just a formula to be attached on to the end of prayers, but means praying for the same things which Christ would desire to see accomplished. It is like using a power of attorney which a very dear loved one has given you. Jesus is the One who makes it possible for us to draw near to God and who brings our petitions before God. In the book of Hebrews, this role of Jesus is described in terms of the high priest of the Levitical order. The writer of Hebrews tells us: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession, for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).  
     Christ is not only the “way to heaven” and to access the Father through prayer, but He is the key (password, if you will) to the entire Christian life. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). Every victory we achieve in our Christian walk is “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).  If you have never done so, go through the book of Ephesians and underline every phrase “in  Christ,” or “in Him.”  You will find many! We have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing…in Christ” (1:3).  Jesus, not just the name, but the Person, is the password we must know to have eternal life, and to experience the abundant life He promised while we are still here on earth (Jn. 1:10).  Do you know the password?
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Increasing Entropy

 

 

 See if you can tell me what the following observations have in common:

         1)  Since we have had quite a few days without rain, we have had to start 
              sprinkling our lawn and garden. I have planted the “early” things in the   
              garden, such as potatoes, peas, onions and radishes, but after
              sprinkling, I noticed today that we have a blanket of green showing up that I
              didn’t plant—weeds of all sorts.  If left unattended, the garden would be 
              over-run with weeds.
        2) This past year we have had to replace the transfer case and a coil in our
            Chevy Trailblazer and put new tires on the car.
          3)  We have some cedar bevel siding on our house that needs to be replaced
             due to it splitting from the heat of the sun over the years.  And it looks like
             most of the siding and trim are due for a paint job.
          4)  The well pump, after 35 years of service, failed last summer and had to be
             replace, as did our pressure tank.
          5) I had to spray our field again this spring as the daisies and knap-weed have
           started taking over and would ruin the hay that we have cut.
          6)  I need to buy some new (tennis) court shoes. I help with the high school
            tennis team and also give lessons during the summer and go through at least
            one pair of shoes each year.
        7)  The beautiful spring bouquet of narcissus and bleeding hearts that my wife
            had on the table needs to be thrown in the compost as they have wilted.  
    So, what do these have in common?  They are all evidence of a law of science called “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” which is also known as “The Law of Increasing Entropy.”  Entropy means “disorder,” and comes from a root word meaning “to turn within.” Whenever a system is isolated (“turned within”) it always tends to disorder. Entropy always increases, never decreases. In other words, things tend to become more random, disorderly, deteriorate, fade, run down, and wear out.  “The First Law of Thermodynamics,” by the way, is the “Law of the Conservation of Mass and Energy,” which means that nothing is being  created or destroyed, merely changes from one form of energy to another.  But, in changing from one form of energy to another, there is a loss of usable energy, which is “The Law of Increasing Entropy.”  For example you can’t “un-burn a candle.”  The elements that made up the candle are still around, but in a different, more random, form. Another example would be to fill a glass with water and place a couple ice cubes in the water, then let it sit on the table. Soon the ice melts and eventually the water evaporates. The hydrogen and oxygen that made up the water and ice are now part of the atmosphere, existing in a less complex, more random form (disorder has increased). 
      Interestingly, if you go back to the book of Genesis in the Bible, you will find where these two laws of Thermodynamics began. We read that “In the beginning (of time), God created (made form nothing), the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).  After giving details of the six days of creation in which God “made the heaven of heaven with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them”’ (Neh. 9:6), “God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. Thus the heavens and all the earth were completed, and all their hosts, and by the seventh day, God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” God was finished with His creation—The First Law of Thermodynamics!  But then man sinned and God placed a curse upon the earth which involved aging, deterioration and death (cf Psa. 102:26).   It included such things as weeds and thorns, making it difficult to grow crops. Hence we have The Second Law of Thermodynamics put into place.  Scientific observation of these two undeniable laws, is really an observation of the truth of God’s Word, the Bible.  And these two laws go totally against the theory of evolution that is being taught as scientific fact in our public classrooms from grade school through college. Evolution says that over time things become more complex and less disorderly, but nature shows us the very opposite; things tend towards disorder and death and randomness.  The mutations that take place that science believes brought about the evolutionary process actually work in the opposite direction for they are predominantly destructive.
     So, why do educators believe in and teach evolution as science and not a theory, and why do they consider creationism to be solely religion and having no place in the class room?  Ultimately the reason is that they choose not to believe in a Creator God to whom they are accountable. If in our mind we are the mere product of time and chance, then we are accountable to no one (at least in our thinking).  The tragic thing about the teaching of evolution—in the face of all the evidence for a recent creation by an all-wise, all-powerful God—is that it becomes a watershed for all sorts of perversion such as homosexuality, abortion, same sex marriage, etc., for if we don’t believe we are made in the image of God, but are merely a high order of evolved animals and that all life came from non-living matter, then there really are no absolutes, no standards by which we should live, and everyone’s opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. (By the way, another law of science which refutes the evolutionary theory, is “The Law of Biogenesis,”’ which states that “life begets life,” that “life cannot come from non-living matter.” 
     The bottom line is that man has bought in to Satan’s lies rather than to believe what God said, and we are facing the consequences in our tumultuous society today. Would you say, from observation, that our society today is more or less “orderly” than it was, say 50 years ago?  Granted, we have always had some disorder and unrest, but the more we ignore and operate in opposition to God (become a closed system without God’s input and guidance), the more disorderly we will become. After all, we not only observe the law of “Increasing Entropy” in nature, but in society. The solution: We need to get back to believing and following God’s Word, for it alone provides the truth about nature, and about life and behavior and how to get along with one another. As God promised to Israel, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” II Chron. 7:14).  The key to a turn-around in our nation lies in the hands, not of politicians, not of our educators, not of our financial experts, but in the hands of believers (“My people”). It is time for a revival of the Church, for us believers to humble ourselves and pray and start living lives worthy of our calling.
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Threat Detected

 We have a relatively new sound system at church and those running the sound board are still learning how to use all the fancy features. On Easter Sunday, after our pastor candidate spoke and we had a closing hymn, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, I was asked to close in prayer. As I was praying, we started hearing the message again over the speakers. The message had been recorded and was somehow  playing back as CD copies were being made.  It was a bit awkward to say the least. If the Holy Spirit was working on people’s hearts, it was obvious that Satan was doing his best to distract them from making any decisions for Christ.  Then a week ago, as we were closing in prayer at the end of Sunday School, where our adult class is going through a CD series by David Jeremiah on fear, suddenly over the speakers we hear “Threat detected!”  Amen to that!  We had just heard a great message on trusting in the Lord and delighting in Him, based on Psalm 37.  I’m sure that God was working in our hearts as we prayed, showing us how we could apply this passage to our lives, but again, Satan wanted to distract us.

     We know that “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:10).  So, we are to “Be of sober spirit, (and) be on the alert, (for) your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5: 8). The warning concerning the devil was given not only to young Christians but also to the elders (see I Pet. 5:1). Satan works hard to cause Christian leaders to fall, not only destroying that  leader’s influence for Christ, but also giving occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (cf II Sam. 12:14). But the devil doesn’t always come as a roaring lion; he is a great deceiver (Rev. 12:9), and will also appear as an “angel of light” (II Cor. 11:4), appealing to our pride or our aesthetic sense, or our appetites, or our desire for material things—whatever he discerns might usurp the preeminent place of Christ and His Word in our lives—and then tempts us with a convincing rationale that will cause us to let it do just that. Peter, obviously, could speak from bitter experience (cf Lk. 22:31-34).  Note particularly in the context of I Pet. 5:8 that Peter is especially warning against greed (v. 2) and pride (vv. 5,6).
     Satan is deceptive and powerful (Eph. 6:12; II Cor. 2:10,11), but we need never fall to his temptings if we simply—along with staying sober and alert—do also as James says: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Believers are able to be victorious over Satan because of our position in Christ and the effectiveness of our weapons (Eph. 6:10-18). Since God has “seated us with Him (Christ) in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6), no one is able to touch us without touching Christ Himself. Paul reminds us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (II Cor. 10:4).  Our position in Christ makes it impossible for Satan to gain the victory over us as long as we do as James exhorts us: “Submit to God.”  Christ has all power over Satan and his forces of evil (demons).  But Satan, who is very cunning (cf Gen. 3:1), will attempt to draw us out of our dependence on Christ and cause us to rely on our own strength to defeat him, rather than on the strength we have in Christ. Eph. 6:11 refers to the “schemes” (NASB)  or “wiles” (KJV) of Satan. Satan uses subtle methods to lure us out of our stronghold in Christ. If Satan can get the believer to doubt or to become discouraged, he has greater hopes of succeeding in his schemes. The moment we no longer rely on our position in Christ, we fall under Satan’s power. We need to heed Jesus’ words recorded by Luke: “Watch ye therefore and pray always” (Lk. 21:36 KJV).  The Apostle Paul didn’t view the Christian life as being easy, and he encouraged Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12a). As believers, especially when we are intent on growing in Christ and sharing our faith with others, we are under attack. We are at war.  Satan will do whatever he can to distract us from focusing on Christ and to rob us of our joy and destroy our testimony for Christ.  It is important that we not be overconfident and think we can defeat Satan on our own.
     So, stay alert in order to detect the enemy’s subtle threats and respond as David, who “spoke the words of this song to the LORD in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies: ‘The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, Thou dost save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; and I am saved from my enemies” (II Sam. 22:1-4).
     Praise God that “greater is He (Christ) who is in us, than he (Satan) who is in the world” (I Jn. 4:4). When a “threat (from the enemy) is detected,” submit to God, keep your armor on, and  “you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph. 6:18). And don’t forget how Jesus dealt with Satan’s temptations (Mt. 4:1-10), He quoted Scripture. That’s why it is so important for us to memorize God’s Word to make it available to the Holy Spirit when we face Satan’s temptations. David said, “Thy word I have treasured (hidden) in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Psa. 119:11).
     Stay alert today—and each day—for any threats from the enemy, submit to God (depending upon Him), resist the devil (using God’s Word), and he will flee from you.
                                Forever His,
                                        Pastor Dave
            Spiritual victory comes only to those who are prepared for battle (I Pet. 1:13).
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Creatures of Habit

  In the middle of April each spring, we await the arrival of the hummingbirds. Some of them undoubtedly have traveled hundreds of miles before they reach our back yard, but they always know to come to the window and make us aware they are back and are thirsty!  So, how do they know just exactly where to go? Well, obviously God, their amazing Creator, guides them in ways we don’t fully understand. But also, they are creatures of habit. They, and many many other birds, animals and fish, will return to the exact same locations each year to raise a new family which will in turn come back the next year.  We have also been watching the ospreys return to our area and repair the same nests that they used last year and the years before that.

     We also have several trails through our property which are getting deeper and deeper as the local deer herd wanders through each day, always traveling on the same paths. Our neighbors’ dogs, when they see us outside, come running to the fence to beg for dog biscuits, and they always take the same path—which has become rutted like the deer trails—to the fence. The deer and dogs, like the migrating birds, are creatures of habit.
     But, it isn’t just the birds and animals that are such creatures of habit; we humans have the same characteristic.  Consider, for example where you sit in church each Sunday. Chances are the pastor knows just where to look to see if you are there!  And, if a visitor shows up before you get there and takes your seat, you aren’t quite sure what to do!  You probably have many other routine patterns or habits in your life too. Maybe you have a routine each morning before your day begins, and if you travel to a job, you probably take the same route each day.  When I was working as an engineer for Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon, I got transferred at one point out to the testing grounds in Troutdale. It took a while for my brain to reprogram the new route to work. Then, we also moved from an apartment complex to a home in Gresham and several times I found myself—without thinking—taking my old route home.  Changing our routines or habits is not an easy, automatic transition.  Our brains are like the old vinyl records (for those of you who remember what they were!) and our subconscious keeps falling into the grooves of the patterns that have been repeated over time.  We have to consciously make the effort to make any changes that disrupt that pattern.  “A habit is something you can do without thinking—which is why most of us have so many of them!” (Frank A. Clark). 
     Habits can be either beneficial or detrimental to our physical and spiritual well-being. Some habits, such as substance abuse, can become addictions which control our lives and ruin our health and in time will cost us our lives.  Some habits, such as an immoral lifestyle, cause not only physical problems, but emotional, mental, and spiritual problems as well. Someone said, “A bad habit is like a soft chair—easy to get into but hard to get out of.” We will probably need help to “get out.”  And, the longer we have had the habit, the harder it may be to conquer it. Changing our habits, like climbing a long flight of stairs, is easier to do when we are young.  It is possible that a man could live twice as long if he did not spend the first half of his life acquiring habits that shorten the other half!! 
     But, as baseball catcher, Tim McCarver, once said, “Good habits are as easy to form as bad ones.”  You just keep repeating them until they become part of your lifestyle and daily routine. For example, I have had several back surgeries so need to work hard to keep my back and core muscles in as good a shape as possible so I can to function. So each morning before breakfast, after I take a hot shower to relax, I do a series of stretching and core exercises.  It has become a habit—a good one for me.  We have friends who have been missionaries for many years and stayed with us in our home recently. He has a motto: “No Bible, no breakfast!”  So, each morning before he eats breakfast, he first “feeds” on God’s Word.  It has become a habit for him—and a good one for all of us to consider.  A habit I have developed, since I usually awaken before it is time to get up, is to have a prayer time. I have a number of people for whom I have committed to pray daily.  Remember the story of Daniel and the lions’ den in Daniel chapter 6?  Daniel’s peers were jealous over the king’s appointment of him “over the entire kingdom” (v. 3).  And, since “they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful…” (v. 4), they decided to have the king “establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides (the king) for thirty days shall be cast into the lions’ den” (v. 7). Daniel’s response, knowing the possible consequences, truly reveals his solid commitment to His God. We read: “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” (v. 10).  In other words, it was Daniel’s habit to pray and he didn’t stop just because of the king’s edict, even though he knew it might cost him his life.
     So, Bible reading and Bible study, and praying are great habits to have. The writer of Hebrews mentions another and that is regularly attending the services of a local assembly of believers. He wrote: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day (of His return) drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25).  The Apostle Paul mentions another habit that is surely a good one to develop and that is an attitude of gratitude, of being thankful. To the Ephesians he wrote: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:20).  And to the church at Thessalonica, he wrote: “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:18).
     By nature, we are creatures of habit. What are some of the habits you have developed over time and how do they affect you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?  Are there some habits you need to remove from your life?   The best way to break a habit is to drop it.  If you need help, and you probably will, God would love to help you, but you need to ask Him. If you need a support group (such as Celebrate Recovery), those are also available.  Then, to fill in that “groove” in the gray matter so you don’t keep falling into it, replace the bad habit with a good one. What good habits need to become part of your life? Start today—not tomorrow—to develop them.
                    Forever His,
                            Pastor Dave
     “The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones” (Somerset Maughan).  But, remember, “I can do all things (drop bad habits and develop and keep good habits) through Christ, who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
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Planting the Garden

 One of the things that my mom passed on to me is a love to garden. My first major “employment,” in fact, was weeding my mother’s garden for 25 cents and hour!  But in doing so I gained an appreciation for having my hands in the dirt and helping the garden grow and be healthy so we could have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Every year when spring is approaching, I get excited about rototilling our rather large garden and getting things planted. Most years I try to get the early things in (potatoes, peas, onions, radishes) during the first warm spell in April and then plant the rest of the seeds (corn, beans, lettuce, carrots, etc.) during the first warm stretch in May. Sometimes we have a killer frost in June so have to be careful to cover things. We have a rather short growing season so have to gamble a bit in starting as early as possible.

     I recently, ran across a little devotional that my mother had hand written. It is called The Spring Garden. The Bible verses I have added.  
                THE SPRING GARDEN
            1. First plant three rows of Peas:
                a.  Perseverance:  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait for it” (Ro. 8:24,25).
                b.  Politeness: “And be kind (polite) to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
                c.  Prayer:  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).
             2.  Next to them plant three rows of Squash:
                a.  Squash Gossip:  “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander (gossip) is a fool. When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable. But he who restrains his lips is wise…He who goes about as a talebearer (a gossip) reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter” (Pr. 10:18,19; 11:13).
                b.  Squash Selfishness: “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).  
                c. Squash Apathy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).  “…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
            3.  Then plant three rows of Lettuce:
                a.  Let us be Loyal:  “A friend loves at all times (is loyal), and a brother is born of adversity” (Pr. 17:17).
                b.  Let us be Truthful: “But speaking the truth  in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15). 
                c.  Let us Love One Another: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:11).  
            4.  And no garden is complete without Turnips:
                a.  Turn up for Work:  “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (II thes. 3:10).  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23).   
                b.  Turn up for Church: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24,25).
                c.  Turn up with a Smile: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Pr. 15:13).      
     Wouldn’t this world be more like the Garden of Eden if we all planted seeds like these?   Lord, lend my Your trowel.
                                                                                    An avid gardener,
                                                                                            Pastor Dave
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The Hardest Instrument to Play

When I started fifth grade in Polson, Montana, I got to choose an instrument to play in band. Since my folks could not afford to buy an instrument, I got a loaner from school. I began on a baritone, but since I was vertically challenged, the horn case dragged the ground when I walked the mile to and from school (uphill both ways of course!).  So, the band director, Fred Nelson, switched me to a French horn, which just barely cleared the ground. I have been playing one ever since. Fred Nelson (no relation) was a great band director and I was sad when he transferred to Libby the next year and we had a new director, Mr. Schlaughter.  After sixth grade in Polson, my mom, who had been teaching at little rural schools in the area, got a job in—Libby!  I was excited to have Mr. Nelson back as my band director. I worked really hard, practicing faithfully, and taking some private lessons from Mr. Nelson, and by the time I reached high school, had worked my way up to play first chair. When I was a senior, we had something very unique in the Libby High School band—eight French horns and we performed a double-quartet at the district and state music festival—something which had never happened from a little school in Montana!  I made some great friends among the band members,one of whom, David Olson, was the best man at our wedding, and continues to be a great friend and brother in Christ.

     I discovered that a French horn is a difficult instrument to play since it has so many feet of tubing through which you must blow to make a sound—especially a “double horn” which has two sets of slides and plays in the keys of B flat and F.  You have to be pretty windy to play such an instrument! I guess God was preparing me for what He had in store for me later—preaching for nearly forty years!!  But, there’s an instrument much more difficult to play than a double French horn. Any guesses what it is?  ….Second fiddle!  In a band, the person from whom you take your cues and tune up your instrument, is the first-chair clarinet, but in an orchestra, it is the first chair violin (fiddle). So, to play second violin or fiddle, is to serve in a secondary role or subsidiary capacity.  Since about 1800, the term—second fiddle— became used metaphorically to refer to having to serve in any secondary role, when you wish you could be “first chair.”  Our old, sinful nature is bent toward being “numero uno.”  Often you will hear someone say, “I’m getting sick and tired of playing second fiddle to ______________________, especially when I deserve to be number one.”
    It was no different, if you will recall, with Jesus’ disciples before the Holy Spirit came to empower them and through whom Jesus could live in them. One day “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…Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left’” (Mk. 10: 35-37).  Wow, what a bold, arrogant thing to do. It angered the other disciples, probably because they hadn’t asked first (v. 41).  In Jesus’ response, 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 (willing to play second fiddle), 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” (vv. 42-45).   The role of a disciple (follower) of Christ  is that of a servant, even if he is in a position of leadership. In fact the more people you may have under you because of your position, the more you have to serve. Jesus demonstrated that in so many ways, like when He (the Creator) humbled Himself to become a man (Phil. 2:5-7 cf Heb. 2:14,15), like when He washed the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:1-5), but especially when “he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2: 8).
    The Apostle Paul challenges believers, as those in whom Christ dwells, to “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Included in that exhortation is to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility 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” (vv. 3,4).  In other words, it is not all about you, what you want, what you expect; it is about Him and serving others in His name, being willing to play “second fiddle.”  Some people seem to like to have the light shining on them and make sure people recognize what they have accomplished and have become. But God’s word tells us that “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 your 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” (Col. 3:17,23,24). Don’t be like Diotrephes that John mentions in his third letter, saying: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say” (III Jn. 1:9).  It may be difficult, but with Christ’s strength you can do it—learn to play “second fiddle.” (NOTE: It will require lots of practice,)   For every first fiddle, we need lots of “second fiddles.” 
             Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
               
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