Blind Guides

So, one of neighbors called a couple days ago and said there was a Great Dane dog wandering around in his yard. Figuring it belonged to another of our neighbors, he led the dog down our driveway and I met him to help him take the dog home. But I noticed as they approached that this Great Dane was all white except for a couple black spots on the hind end.  One of our neighbor’s Great Danes is black and the other is black and white.  This was definitely not one of them. It had albino features with pink eyes and pink nose and very white coat. Oh, and also, the dog was both blind and deaf. She had been bumping into the sides buildings when our neighbor found her. Since the rescuing neighbor has four dogs of his own, he couldn’t really keep it while we looked for the owner, so I offered to put it in our back yard. I stayed with her while Kathy began making some phone calls and the neighbor also made some calls and started canvassing the neighborhood looking for the owner.
     Meanwhile, we had quite an interesting time. I felt really badly for the dog, that appeared to have been well-cared for, and since she was not in familiar surroundings she really wanted me to stay by her side. She was a very sweet dog and very playful. It was pretty chilly outside, and it looked as if the Great Dane was an inside dog so I tried taking her inside—what a mistake that was! She began checking out the house, but, not being able to see, was running into lamps, end tables, etc. So, I took her back outside while Kathy continued making calls. We were beginning to wonder what in the world we would do if we had to keep the dog overnight.
     Well, praise the Lord, after a few more minutes of “dog-sitting”’ in the back yard, I heard Kathy say that the owner was on the way. We were all very grateful and relieved, the dog included who obviously could smell the presence of her owner when she arrived. The gate in their back yard (just a few blocks away) had been left open by mistake. It is very fortunate that the dog wandered into our neighbor’s yard rather than out onto the highway where she—being blind and deaf—would have been very vulnerable.
     As I observed the plight of the blind, deaf Great Dane, I couldn’t help but think of a statement Jesus made about the hypocritical Pharisees. He said: “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Mt. 15:14). Again in Mt. 23:24-26, Jesus said: “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee,  first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”
     The Pharisees themselves were spiritually blind. They didn’t realize that their adherence to the Law plus all the traditions they had added, had not gained them a right standing with God. They were attempting to establish their own righteousness through the Law, but as the Apostle Paul later wrote, “…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Ro. 3:20). The Law just exposed sin, it made no provision to atone for it. That’s why Jesus came. Paul, writing to the churches in Galatia, said, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified……for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:26,21b).  Elsewhere, Paul wrote that “…the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (II Cor. 4:4). 
     The Pharisees were spiritually blind, “stumbling around” and constantly bumping into things (worried about all sorts of nit-picking details which were of no real consequence because of their false conception of how to become righteous), yet they were trying to be the spiritual guides of others. Jesus could see through their phoniness and firmly pointed it out to them.  There is probably no more dangerous place to be spiritually than to think you are okay when you are in reality lost and will suffer eternal judgment if you stay in that state. And then the tragedy is compounded when these spiritually blind folks attempt to guide others. Jesus 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 (believing in Jesus….Jn. 6:40). 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. 7:21-23).
     Just as it was sad to see this blind, deaf Great Dane wandering aimlessly, so it is very sad to observe folks who are spiritually blind, wandering aimlessly, bumping into things. And then it is even more difficult to watch as some of them are actually in positions of leadership guiding others down their same path. I pray that God will open the eyes of their hearts to see the truth of who Jesus is and to give them a desire to know Him and experience the new birth and gain their spiritual sight. Paul, whose background was Saul of Tarsus, the proud Pharisee, when he encountered the risen Christ and had his spiritual eyes opened had a burden for his fellow Jews who were still living in blindness and wrote: “Brethren, my heart’s desire for them is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Ro. 10:1-4).
     Upon what are you basing your hope of eternal life? 
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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All From a Plate of Cookies

It all started with a plate of cookies brought to some new neighbors in Arlington Heights in Chicago. The Lee Strobel family had just moved in.  That led to an invitation to church. Mrs. Strobel (Leslie) went with the neighbors to their church where she responded to the pastor’s message by trusting Christ as her Savior. Lee, who was an avowed atheist, responded by contemplating divorce but he saw such positive changes in his wife that he spent the next two years investigating Christianity, applying his training as a journalist and lawyer (Lee had a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale Law School). Lee saw the evidence for the claims of Christ and the validity of Christianity and he too trusted Christ for eternal life. The Strobels’ children and grandchildren have all become Christians through the influence of Lee and Leslie.
      Lee, who had been the award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, became a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois from 1987-2000 before shifting his focus to writing and hosting a television program called “Faith Under Fire.” He also has a video apologetics (defense of the Gospel) website.  He wrote a series which addresses challenges to a  biblically inerrant view of Christianity. The series includes : The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus, The Case for Christianity.  He has also written some children’s books.
     Probably thousands of people world-wide have come to Christ through Lee Strobel’s books, his television program, his website and his speaking engagements.  And to think, it all began with a plate of cookies from a Christian neighbor when the Strobels moved to Arlington Heights!  Little did the lady who baked the cookies realize what all would transpire as a result of her act of kindness that ultimately led to the salvation of her neighbors and a ministry that has in turn brought the truth of the Gospel to thousands who have made a choice for Christ.
     I’m reminded of a promise Jesus made recorded in Mt. 10:42 and Mk. 9:41: “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” We may think that we have little to offer in service to the Lord, but, as someone aptly said, “Little is much when God is in it.” When it is willingly offered to the Lord it is amazing what He can do with it. Think about the young boy who gave up his “sack lunch” of five barley loaves and two fish which Jesus used to feed a group of 5,000 men plus women and children and even had 12 baskets of leftovers! (Jn. 6:1-13). As a result of that boy’s sack lunch, offered in service to the Lord, it says, “When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.’” (v. 14). Undoubtedly many of them believed in Christ.
     Don’t ever underestimate the power of a small act of kindness done in the Name of the Lord. Only eternity will reveal the results of such acts. Even a plate a cookies given to a new neighbor may open the door to the Gospel and where it goes from there, as with the Strobel family, only God knows. There will be thousands in heaven because of that one plate of cookies!
     What act of kindness could you show someone today in service to Christ?
            Forever His.
                Pastor Dave
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   Have you noticed that saying “thank you” seems to be becoming a lost art, especially among the youth. I help out with coaching the high school tennis team and I really appreciate how our head coach works at having all the players thank the opposing coach at an away meet for hosting the matches. I’m afraid many of our young people are growing up in homes where that doesn’t happen, because it is a pretty rare thing to hear a “thank you” from them when you have done something for them.  I was visiting with a good friend this last week who had recently  hosted some teens in his home and provided goodies and entertainment for them and when they left only one bothered to thank him—sadly pretty typical.
     But, as Solomon said “…there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:10).  A lack of gratitude has been around since sin entered the human race. It is part of the old nature.  Luke records an event in the life of Jesus when He was on His way to Jerusalem and entered a certain village where ten leprous men cried out to Him, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk. 17:11-13). Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. (A priest had to certify the cleansing of a leper before they could rejoin the community.)  And as they did, they were cleansed (v. 14).  Of the ten, only one returned to thank Jesus. He “turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His (Jesus’)  feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.  And Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  (vv. 15-18).
     As believers, we need to recognize that every day is a gift from God and that “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (Jas. 1:17) and  have an attitude of thanksgiving. We need to express gratitude to those who minister to us in some way and we especially need to express thanks to God, and not just for the good things but for all things. Eph. 5:20 says, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”  And in I Thes. 5:18 we have this command: “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Since God uses all things in our life to conform us to His image (Ro. 8:29) we can give give thanks knowing that “God causes all things to work together for (our) good (and His glory) to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28).
     One of the things that characterizes those who have ignored God and His creation and have not honored Him as God, is that they fail to give thanks and become futile in their speculations and their foolish heart becomes darkened and professing to be wise, they become fools and start worshiping creation instead of God (Ro. 1:21-23).  Tragically the passage goes on to indicate that because they have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator..God gave them over to degrading passions (engaging in homosexual practices)…” (vv. 24-27).  Sound a bit familiar when you look at our culture today?!
     So, as we enter this Thanksgiving week, be reminded of the need for “thanksliving.”  Of all people, we who belong to Christ have so much for which to give thanks. We have new life, eternal life, abundant life, sins forgiven, a place reserved in heaven, a Father who cares for us with everlasting love and only desires what is best for us, who provides us with hope in the midst of despair, peace in the midst of turmoil, joy in the midst of sorrow. We have a Good  Shepherd who guides and guards and grazes us as His sheep. God, we thank You for all You have done and do for us and we praise You for who You are and who we are in You through our relationship with God the Son, Jesus Christ.
     Happy Thanksgiving,
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
P.S.  Thank you folks for reading the “Wisdom of the Week” devotionals and for sending them on to friends and family. Thanks for your responses and kind words of encouragement. Thanks for your prayers. We appreciate you.
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“I’d Rather Be…”

  I’m sure you have seen bumper stickers that say: “I’D RATHER BE FLYING… GOLFING… FISHING… HUNTING” etc.  Maybe you even have such a sticker on your vehicle.  There are many things I enjoy such as hiking, hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, spending time with family, going for a walk, photography, carpentry, helping neighbors with projects, gardening, yard work, getting firewood, doing jigsaw puzzles, Sudokus, and crossword puzzles, playing board games, playing my French horn, playing and teaching tennis. I also have enjoyed playing basketball, volleyball and softball, but due to several back surgeries, have had to forego those sports. I also enjoy watching sporting events both live and on television. But normally, if we say “I’d rather be…..,” we are speaking of something of which we are very passionate. Well, while I enjoy all the things I have listed, my real passion is to know Christ and to share Him with others, and to study and teach His Word, the Bible. 
     God has made us in such a way that we can enjoy art, music, athletics, gardening, hiking, etc., but the basic desire He placed in us is to know and worship Him.  Until we establish that as our passion, our life is not fulfilled. I have always enjoyed science and math and graduated from Montana State University with a degree in Industrial and Management Engineering. I enjoyed working at Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon doing engineering work. But then, God did a very special work in my heart and my passion became sharing Christ and learning and teaching His Word. That led to my resigning from Hyster Company and joining Rocky Mountain Bible Mission in Montana (where I grew up) and ultimately pastoring a church for many years. Even though I retired five years ago as pastor of Three Lakes Bible Church, I currently am teaching three Bible studies plus doing this “Wisdom of the Week” devotional.  I love studying God’s Word and sharing its truths with others and watching how it changes their lives.  That is my passion and I trust will be until God takes me home.
     I can understand what Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 3:7-14).  I believe the reason Paul had that as his goal was because he was motivated by the love of Christ. He wrote to the Corinthian church: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (II Cor. 5:14,15). In other words, after all He’s done for us, how can we do less than give Him our best and live for Him continually.  I believe once our heart is moved by God’s amazing grace and the love of our wonderful Redeemer and what He sacrificed on our behalf, we can’t help but become passionate about knowing Him more and more and sharing Him and His Word.  It becomes the driving force of our life. Oh, we will still enjoy—probably more so—the temporal things/activities of earth—but our real love will be for Christ and His Word and the souls of others—in other words for that which is eternal. 
     Because Saul of Tarsus was transformed by the grace of God to become Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles, He willingly made himself a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus (Ro.1:1), and motivated by God’s love—was able to fight the good fight, keep the faith and fulfill his ministry no matter what adversity he faced. His testimony to the elders of the Ephesus church was: “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). 
     So, what is your passion?  What is it that drives you?  What is it that you would rather be doing?  When your passion becomes knowing Christ, studying and sharing His Word, everything else you do pales in comparison, but at the same time amazingly allows you to enjoy all of life more, for you are now able to obey Paul’s admonition:  “whatever you do in word or deed,  do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”  (Col. 3:17).  You are even able to “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. (Knowing) it is the Lord Christ whom you serve”’ (Col. 3:23,24).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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A Short History of Liberty

  I was going through a file the other day and ran across a a very interesting article by Dean Russell reprinted from The Freeman dated January 1955 and entitled “A Short History of Liberty.” From Biblical times, such as during the period of the judges, and throughout history, we see a pattern that has been repeated over and over of disobedience, discipline, desperation and deliverance.  While the cycle of sin, servitude, supplication and salvation was experienced by God’s chosen people, Israel, we see a remarkably similar pattern among other people groups or nations in the history of the world.  Dean Russell in his article shares ten stages of progress from bondage to liberty. Since we have just completed maybe the most bizarre election campaign in the history of the United States of America and have finally arrived at election day, I thought it would be timely to share a summary (and edited version) of this article, because many of us, due to the spiritual decline of our nation, and the chaos in the world, and the hatred toward the nation of Israel,  have been contemplating the future of our nation and the seeming soon return of the Lord to fulfill the prophecies of Scripture which will conclude history and usher us into the Millennial Kingdom and eternity. 
1.  BONDAGE:  At some point in their histories, all peoples have ended up, due their rebellion against God’s will and Word, in some form of bondage at the hands of an oppressive nation or because their own domestic rulers. As the people recognize they were no longer free, they began to ask themselves “why?”, which leads to contemplation and soul searching, out of which comes…
2.  FAITH:    If people in bondage have no faith—either in a personal Creator or impersonal ideal—they will remain slaves and eventually die out or be absorbed by another culture. But an intelligent faith will almost always develop into …
3.  UNDERSTANDING: A person’s faith needs to be buttressed by an understanding of why it is evil to force any peaceful person to conform to the will and ideas of another person. Otherwise, he is apt to remain a faithful slave or attempt to become a slave owner. But the combination of faith and understanding results in the necessary… 
4.  COURAGE:   You may depend upon it, courageous men with faith and understanding will neither remain in bondage nor keep others in bondage. Even against great odds, this combination leads to…
5.  LIBERTY: Liberty is a relationship among persons wherein no person molests any other peaceful person in his ideas, possessions, or actions. Liberty may also be viewed as the responsibility one assumes for himself and recognizes in all others, for there can be no liberty where there is no responsibility. Liberty has never existed completely among any people at any time; but where it has existed to a high degree, the resulting freedom to work, trade, choose, win, lose, and bargain has always meant…
6. ABUNDANCE:  But if an abundance of material things is the primary aim of a person, his life is devoid of any real meaning (Eccl. 5:10; Lk. 12:15), for if the goal is abundance, its achievement logically results in…
7.  COMPLACENCY:  Complacency and self-satisfaction (the “full barns” of Jesus’ parable in Lk. 12:16-21 inevitably lead to…
8.  APATHY:  With apathy comes a dullness and a loss of interest—a “let George do it” philosophy and there will always be many political Georges around to accept this invitation to seize the reins and the whip. This always degenerates into… 
9.  DEPENDENCY:  For a time, it is possible for dependents to be unaware that they are dependents. As they continue to shed the personal responsibilities which are freedom, they also continue to delude themselves that they are still free people—“We never had it so good.” Or they may be deluded into believing that they are still free so long as they themselves are able to participate in the mechanical processes of selecting their rulers—“We can still vote, can’t we?”  But dependents are at the mercy of the persons or groups or parties upon whom they depend for their housing, or security in old age, or subsidies, or education, or medical care, or any of the other “aids” from political authority which cause persons to depend on others instead of themselves. Sooner or later, this dependency becomes known by its true nature…
10.  BONDAGE: Fortunately, the record shows that people can regain their faith, understand, and courage. They can again become persons and citizens who are responsible for their own welfare, rather than on subsidization (entitlements). The record shows that people can, by their own intelligent actions, regain their liberty any time they want.
     Quite an interesting article, especially since it was written some 61 years ago!  As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). The key, of course to true freedom is God’s Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32…And not just from knowing it, but from doing it (v. 31).  The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, “But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:15-17).  No matter what the political climate, we can personally experience true freedom by inviting Christ into our life as Savior and Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us through the Word of God (Gal. 5:16,18,22,23). And, as a nation, I believe God’s promise to Solomon concerning Israel is true for us as well: “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 forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chr. 7:14).  Pray with me that we believers in this nation will awaken to our responsibility to live a separated life and be the salt and light to our nation to see a renewal take place. These may be disturbing days to live as Christians, but they are also very exciting, anticipating God’s building His Church and carrying out His purposes for mankind and soon bringing everything to a place of completion.
     I trust you have voted or will still be doing so today. In the previous presidential election, the current president was elected by a mere 5 million votes while some 25-30 million registered evangelical Christians failed to vote!  Just think about that! We have a great privilege and responsibility as citizens of both heaven and earth, to have a voice, voting no only for individuals but thinking of the consequences in terms of issues that affect our values  and the future of our nation. Pray for the salvation of our leaders (I Tim.2:1-4).  Pray for revival of the church. Pray that our nation will move from dependency and bondage to faith.
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Lessons From Wood Splitting

  Since we burn wood as our main source of heat and also provide kindling and campfire wood for a local grocery store, I have split a lot of wood over the years. Someday I may have to invest in a wood splitter, but as long as I am physically able I would like to continue splitting, as it is good exercise—and a good way to work out any frustrations!   I have learned, as has anyone that splits wood, that there are some secrets to making the job a bit easier. One, of course is selecting wood that splits easily. There are some species of wood that are almost impossible to split unless you let it freeze first. Another secret is to look for a small split somewhere in the grain and begin splitting opposite that split. Usually you will find that the split opens wider and you can get the halves to separate. Once you have split it in half, it is considerably easier to split pieces off of each half.  You also need to look to see where the knots are and avoid them.  Sometimes on a difficult piece I have to use a splitting wedge, or maybe even two. Once you have a small crack, you can insert the wedge, which provides quite a bit more leverage to split the piece. It also helps, when you are splitting, to continue hitting along one line across the bolt of wood until you develop a crack. If you just strike the wood at random, you probably will not be very successful.
     As I was splitting some wood this past week, I thought about how Satan tempts us to listen to him instead of to God and to lead us into sin. He looks for some little crack, some weakness in our life and attempts to gain a foothold there. Sometimes he uses one of his “wedges” to drive into the crack in order to split us open. His goal, of course is to defeat us, to destroy our faith, to rob us of our joy and to ruin our testimony for Christ. If we are a born-again Christian, Satan has lost us for eternity (Jn. 6:35-40; 10:27-30), but he will attempt to make our life miserable so that we don’t lead anyone else to faith in Christ. He looks for an area of our life where we have a weakness and he will try to make an inroad, and if we listen to his lies, he can gain influence and even control. 
     Satan’s approach to Eve in the Garden of Eden, since she as yet had no inherent weaknesses, was to get her to question God’s goodness and God’s Word. He continues to use that tactic on us, but also, since we have sinful natures, and areas of vulnerability, he looks for those areas and tries to drive a wedge into our walk with God and our Christian testimony for the Lord.  For example, in his letter to the believers at Ephesus, Paul wrote: “Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity” (Eph. 4:26). Anger, in itself is not a sin. Jesus, on several occasions, demonstrated anger against sinful behavior such as turning the Temple into a place of money-making, or against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  But, anger, when not dealt with in an appropriate manner, leads to bitterness and often to aggressive acts against people. It gives the devil an opportunity to have an influence in our lives. Paul lists a number of other possible ways we might give Satan opportunity in our lives. He mentions lying, stealing and unwholesome speech (Eph. 4:25,28,29).
     Since each of us is born with a sinful nature (cf Psa. 51:5), we have a bent toward rebellion against God, and, based on our personality, heritage, and environment, it will manifest itself in unique ways. We may be prone to pride, gossip, lying, anger, impure thoughts, retaliation, sexual perversion,  laziness, addictions, or any number of other weaknesses that might give the devil an opportunity for influence in our lives.  When we trust Christ for eternal life, we become new creations in Him (II Cor. 5:17), but our old, sinful nature will be with us until we receive our new, glorified bodies (I Cor. 15:42-52).  Though we are no longer slaves to our old nature, it is still there and will provide the devil opportunities if we “walk in the flesh” instead of “walking in the Spirit” (Read Romans chapters 6 and 7). As believers, we always have a choice. We can listen to our flesh (old nature), or we can listen to and obey God. Paul says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). We “walk by the Spirit” when we listen to God’s voice and obey His Word, living in dependence upon Him rather than our own strength. We “walk by the Spirit” when we “…consider ourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” and “…do not let sin reign in our mortal body that we should obey its lusts…and do not go on presenting the members of our body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present ourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom 6:11-13). When we do that, we are submitting to God and thus resisting the devil, and according to the promise in James 4:4, “he will flee from you.”
     Since our battle against the adversary, the devil, is a spiritual one, we are admonished by Paul to “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). After listing the armor for us, Paul emphasizes the way we put it on—”…pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert” (v. 18). We need to be in constant communication with God and always “be on the alert, for your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5: 8). After listing the believer’s armor in Eph. 6, Paul tells us what our offensive weapon is to ward off the devil’s schemes. It is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (v. 17).  Remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan He quoted Scripture to resist him. That is the weapon we need to use. So, it is really important to faithfully spend time in God’s Word, and to memorize verses, especially ones that deal with our area of weaknesses, so we have them available when we are tempted. David said, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Psa. 119:11). 
     If you need help finding verses to deal with your area of weakness, let me know and I can send you—by email—a copy of a book I have published, called Topical Treasury of Bible Verses.
     Well, I have a trailer load of wood that needs splitting, so I had best go get at it. Maybe God will teach me some more lessons!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Guard Duty

When we had our Christian School at the church I pastored, each Wednesday morning was chapel, and I did a series from Institute for Basic Youth Conflict called Character Sketches which used a character from the Bible and an animal from nature that both illustrated such things as loyalty, faithfulness, perseverance, ingenuity, etc. Recently a local dentist who attended our Christian school asked me if he could borrow the series to share with his children. He said, that the chapel sessions, and the animal sketches in particular, really stand out in his memory and he wants to pass on the lessons to his own family. I, too, often think back to some of those lessons and frequently share them, either in a Bible study or “Wisdom of the Week” devotional.
     Character Sketches from IBYC wasn’t the first to use God’s creation to teach biblical principles. Scripture has many references to lessons we can learn from God’s fascinating animal world. In Job’s reply to one of his supposed comforters, he said, “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you” (Job. 12:7). Solomon, in his “book of wisdom,” wrote: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Pr. 6:6-8).
     One lesson we learned during our chapel studies was from the crow and spoke of the important role of the “sentry” crow who was the lookout while the others were feeding. If the sentry failed to give a warning of danger, it could cost the lives of some of the flock. The role was to be taken very seriously because if a crow failed to protect the flock the other crows would kill it. You have probably observed a flock of geese feeding in a field (or along the freeway or on a golf course in the green grass). If you will notice, there is always one of the flock that is not feeding but is constantly looking around for any danger, ready to warn the flock. We have lots of wild turkeys in our area and they wander through our place probably at least once a week. I noticed this past week as they were feeding in our little orchard that one of them was standing guard just as with the crows and Canada geese. 
     Then this past Sunday at church our pastor spoke of  the responsibility of a pastor to guard the flock (the local assembly of believers) from predators (false teachers).  In Matthew 7:15 we have Jesus’ warning: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” When the Apostle Paul met with the elders from the church in Ephesus, he too warned them, saying: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts. 20:28-30). Each of us has a responsibility to be in God’s Word in order to be able to detect false teaching when it arises, but pastors and elders, as shepherds of the flock, have a special role to play—like the sentries for the flock of crows or geese or turkeys—to guard the flock, to warn of dangerous teaching and movements that could lead them astray. 
     Paul left his understudy Timothy to pastor the flock in Ephesus and wrote to him encouraging him to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (II Tim. 1:13,14).  Similarly when Paul visited the island of Crete, he left Titus there to shepherd those churches. He then wrote to him encouraging him to appoint elders in every city and gave the qualifications he should look for, for these leaders would have to deal with many false teachers who would attempt to distract the believers into following them. He told Titus that these deceivers and false teachers “must be silenced…because they  (will be) upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (Tit. 1:10-12).
     October is “Pastor Appreciation Month,” a time to tell and show your pastor how much you appreciate him and his faithful teaching and care for the flock, especially for his willingness to be on constant “guard duty” for the flock to protect it from all the predators, especially from the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  Having pastored a church for many years, I fully understand the pressures and discouragements and temptations that face a pastor as he serves as guardian of the flock. Pray much for your pastor and let him know often—not just in October—how much you appreciate him and his wife. They have one of the most difficult, demanding, jobs in the world.
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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