Where Was God

     On that fateful morning of 9-11-01 our nation stared evil in the face and lost 2,977 innocent American lives in the process as we witnessed the horrific scene of the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.  Four planes were hijacked by Islamist terrorists; two plowed into the WTC towers, one into the Pentagon, and another–probably headed for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.– crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  

     Where were you on September 11, 2001? You could probably answer immediately.  Part of our God-designed humanness is marking significant events, memorializing, remembering, like Samuel did after God miraculously delivered the Israelites from the Philistines. He “took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer (the stone of help), saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us’ ” (I Sam. 7:12).   On this 20th anniversary of that dark day in our nation, patriots remember those we lost, their families and friends, and the heroes who rallied to rescue survivors. 

     While most remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963 or on that January day in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after lift-off, or when terrorists attacked high-profile buildings on 9-11-01, many have asked the question: “Where was God?”  If God is all-powerful, and all loving, why didn’t he prevent these tragic events from taking place?  

     God does love us and God is sovereign, but we also live on an earth that is suffering the consequences of sin and as a result we have evil and war and natural disasters. Could God stop all this? Yes!  And one day He will, but in His time, not ours.  And in the midst of it all He is doing some amazing things, for which we need to set up Ebenezer stones of God’s mercies that have always risen from the ruins of the lives of His people, even from the rubble of 9/11.  

     This month’s Anchor Devotional from Haven Ministries relates some of the amazing stories that came “out of the rubble” of 9/11.  “George Slay worked on the 91st floor of the North Tower. When he felt the first plane crash just above his office. He dove beneath his desk as the building shook and everything began to disintegrate. He prayed and prayed to God to save him. He and others went down a stairwell, and once at the bottom, were caught up in a cloud of dust and debris from the explosion. He would learn that no one on floors 92 and up made it out alive. George knew powerfully that day that God is our ever-present help, the One we cry out to when the earth seems to be crumbling around us (Psa. 46:1,2).  

     Janelle had visited The Brooklyn Tabernacle church in New York City where several times she had heard Pastor Jim Cybala share the Gospel, but she wasn’t ready to give her life to Jesus. Then came 9/11. “She worked on the 50th floor in the WTC. Escaping down the stairs with a crowd of people, she stepped out around the 8th floor to take off her high-heeled shoes. As she did so, the North Tower collapsed, killing all in that stairwell, but somehow sheltering her alongside of it in a pocket of air. She was rescued 27 hours later. Janelle spent those 27 hours praying to the God she’d been keeping at bay” and finally surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. 

     “A Calvary Chapel pastor in Old Bridge, New Jersey, Lloyd Pulley noted that there were 15 people in his congregation who worked in the WTC on 9/11. Remarkably, each one of them had a story of why they were late or were not at the WTC that day 20 years ago.”  In the days following, Pastor Pulley and several from the congregation set up in Union Square to listen to and pray with people, ministering to thousands of New Yorkers who were hungry for answers and open to hearing the Gospel.  

    ” Army Staff Sergeant Chris Braman was working in the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11. He felt the Lord had been preparing his heart for that day. Previously his faith was incidental. But when he was confronted with death, mass destruction, and the reality of man’s frailty, his knowledge of the Lord became a relationship with the Lord.” When explosions went off all around him, he asked God for strength and for three days helped carry some 63 people to safety.

     Then there was the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland that took in 38 diverted commercial planes carrying nearly 7,000 people when authorities closed North American airspace on September 11. For a week, every person in Gander stopped what they were doing to put their lives on hold for strangers. They opened their homes, baked meals, gave rides to stores and contributed bedding and offered encouragement in every way they could, becoming reflections of a God’s compassion for those in need. Because of what He’s done for us, we can extend hospitality to others in need who happen to “land” in our path. 

      And the list goes on and on!  Where was God on 9/11?  He was very much at work, bringing souls into His Kingdom and showing His mercy and compassion to those in need. God’s mercy always outweighs evil! “God Is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea (or the towers come crashing down); though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride” (Psa. 46:1-3). 

     Forever His,

            Pastor Dave

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Created to Work

     One question I get a lot is, “Are you enjoying your retirement?”  It is true that just over a decade ago, I retired from being the pastor of Three Lakes Community Bible Church, but then I list what we have been doing since: Kathy and I each teach a Bible study on Thursday mornings during the school year; in addition, I teach a couples’ Bible study on Thursday evening and, of course, do the “Wisdom of the Week” devotional each Monday; I fill in the pulpit on occasion; during the spring I help out with the high school tennis team and I teach tennis lessons in the summer; we supply kindling and campfire wood for a local grocery store, so make many trips to the woods to get a supply which we have to split and bundle; we have a big garden and raise lots to share with others; we have about one and a half acres of lawn to mow; we go for a walk every day.  I would say that we still appreciate what it means to “work.”  

     Many seem to think that work is part of the “curse” and they can’t wait to retire to quit working, but if you go back to Genesis you will see that work became difficult as the result of the “fall” (Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden), but it wasn’t the result of sin. Adam and Eve were placed in the beautiful Garden that God created for them and He told Adam to “cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 3:15).  Work was something wonderful. In fact, it was a reflection of the image of God. Didn’t God work by speaking the word and all of creation came to be?  Then every commentary on every day of creation God said that He saw what He had done and “it was good” (Gen. 1:10,12,18,21,25), and on the sixth day, after creating mankind in His image, He said “it was very good!” (v. 31).  God is a creative, productive God and we are made in His image. We are created to work, to be productive, to be creative. 

     Work gives us the opportunity to serve someone else. One of the great traps of our culture is that we’ve been taught that life is about “me” and what I deserve. Unfortunately, that brings a lot of emptiness, hollowness, shallowness, loneliness and misery–no matter how much money we may make.  Work becomes satisfying when we do something that we know benefits others. It’s more than getting a paycheck; it should give us a sense of purpose.  It is true that work is the ordinary means God uses to supply what we need to live. The Apostle Paul emphasized the central place of work in the life of the believer when he appealed to this general rule:  “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (II Thes. 3:10).  The church has a responsibility to care for those who are unable to provide for themselves or their family (Gal. 2:19; Jas. 1:27; Acts 6:1-6), but the church should also expect its members to live responsibly. While not everyone can work, those who can should. In this way God provides for us and enables us to help those who are genuinely in need. 

     God designed work to be a part of all that we are and all that we do.  But, tipping our hats to Labor Day, it is still true that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”–a workaholic!   In fact, it also probably makes Jack an “early-dying” boy!  God designed us to work, but he also designed us with the need for rest and relaxation.  Remember, even God–though He does not grow weary as we do in our finite bodies–ceased from His work of creation on the seventh day and enjoyed what He had made and used that as a pattern for our work week.   Balance is the key word, but I just want to speak up for work on this Labor Day, since it is something that God planned to be a very important expression of ourselves and of who He is and a way to bring Him glory. God gave you an amazingly creative brain, a fantastic human body and gave you strength to learn skills and to get an education. All that came from Him so that what you and I produce in the workplace really is to His credit and to His glory. When you work in your garden or yard or build houses or use your nursing skills to help someone or fix someone’s plumbing or electrical problem, or work on their computer or put parts on an engine in an assembly line, we should do all to glorify God who enabled us to have those skills.  

     Granted, work in this fallen world can be very trying, stressful, and difficult, but we still have a responsibility to obey Paul’s exhortation: “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 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).  And with the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit and Christ in us, we can do that (Phil. 4:13).    Happy Labor Day!

     Forever His,

           Pastor Dave

P.S.  The Bible says nothing about retirement!!

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Keep It Simple

     When my wife joined the hospital board, she discovered that there are many terms and acronyms thrown out which, unless you are familiar with the medical field, are rather foreign to you and leave you wondering what in the world they are talking about. I suggested that for new board members they really need to have a glossary of terms and acronyms so you know what they are communicating. 

     The same is true in most fields of interest. Take baseball for another example. There are a plethora of acronyms, which, unless you follow the sport, you have no idea what they stand for.  For batters you have “BA” (batting average), “HR” (homeruns), “RBI” (runs batted in), “SLG” (slugging percentage which is determined by total bases), “SB” (stolen bases), “OBP” (on-base percentage), “RISP” (batting average with runners in scoring position), etc. Recently a couple new stats have been added: “OPS” (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), “EQA” (equivalent batting average, taking into account the pitcher faced and the ballpark played in), and “WRC+” (Weighted Runs Created Plus…which calculates the runs the player helped to create taking into account pitchers faced and ball park).

     When you are trying to communicate with someone not familiar with your field of interest and expertise, it is best to simplify your terminology.  The same is true as Christians share about their faith and about Christianity. It is easy to use “Christianese” terminology, words with which we are familiar, but which probably mean little, if anything, to the unsaved individual or new Christian.  We throw around terms like “born again,” “sanctification,” “rapture” ,”Second Coming,” and maybe some of God’s attributes like “immutability,” “omnipotence,” and “omniscience,” assuming our audience understands their meanings.  There is obviously a time and place for discussing such terms, but when we are talking to the general public, we need to use the “Kiss Principle”–Keep It Simple Stupid!

     The Apostle Paul, who was very well educated in Judaism, trained by Rabbi Gamaliel, and after his conversion experience on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9), spent two/three years in the wilderness being taught directly by Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-18), could easily have used lots of big words and persuasive speech, and at times–depending on his audience–did so, but he also knew that he needed to keep the message to most very simple. Notice what he said about his visit to Corinth in Macedonia: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (I Cor. 2:1-5).   

     Paul could easily have used his credentials (see Phil. 3:4-7) to influence people to come to Christ, but he drew their attention instead to what really matters, Jesus and the Cross and His resurrection.  To the churches in Galatia (Asia Minor) he wrote: “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).  Paul’s message, and ours as well, should be all about Jesus, who alone is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6).  

     There is a time and place for getting into the “meat” of the Word (I Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-6:1) and doing some in-depth teaching, but remember when sharing with those without Christ, or new-born Christians, “Keep It Simple!”  Talk about Jesus.  Focus on the “Good News” (the Gospel...Ro. 1:16,17).

     Forever His,

          Pastor Dave

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According to Its Nature

     German cars are known for their innovative technologies, high performance, and classy appearance. Some that might come to  mind:   Mercedes, BMW (Bavarian Motor Works), Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen and Opel.  

     Well, there is another marvel of German engineering, and it is not an automobile, but a breed of dog called the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP), which we happen to have had the opportunity to “dog sit” this past week for a few days while the owners (directors of Camp Elohim) had a chance to get away for a much-needed break after a very busy, fruitful summer Bible camp season.  We realized right away that this very distinctly colored dog (“Ridge” by name) was a very “high-maintenance” pooch. I did a little research to find out their background and discovered that, like the vehicles mentioned above, the GSP was the product of some ingenious German engineering in the mid to late 19th Century. Bred to be a multi-purpose hunting dog, the GSP was the result of cross-breeding a bird dog with various German scent hounds. The English Pointer was brought into the mix to give the new breed some elegance.  The resulting “German Shorthaired Pointer” as it was called, is a high-energy, fairly large, tautly muscled athletic dog with an amazing sense of smell and a natural bent to find birds and even mice. The GSP has a mind of its own and is easily distracted so obedience training is highly recommended. They need lots of exercise and going for a walk with them doesn’t do it; they need to run–and oh my, can they ever run! We took “Ridge” to the local dog park and watched as he ran with a couple of lab-mix dogs and had them with their tongues hanging out trying to keep up, while Ridge was ready to keep going!

     We have a backyard with lots of flowers and trees and a bird feeder, so Ridge thought he was in “doggy heaven” as he raced around following all the delightful bird smells. It was quite the sight when a big wild turkey decided to land on the fence by the feeder, not realizing Ridge was standing below!  

     While the German engineers may be credited with coming up with this particular breed of dog, when God created birds and animals, as recorded in the book of Genesis (“Book of Beginnings”), He placed within dogs genetics which would allow for cross-breeding to develop new species like the “Labradoodle” and “German Shorthaired Pointer.”  Each breed of dog also has its unique characteristics and tendencies.  For the GSP, it is racing around checking out all the trees and bushes for birds, or the shelves in the garage for mice!

      Mankind also has some natural characteristics and tendencies. We are all, no matter what our national heritage, born with a bent toward sin.  We often blame certain weaknesses, such as a temper or stubbornness, on our background, but it happens to come with being part of the human race, and it began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and their nature changed. Everyone born since that time–except Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin–has received that sinful “Adamic” nature which is called by the Apostle Paul in his letters “the old man” (Col. 3:9), “the flesh” (Ro. 7:5,25; 8:1,3-5,8-13) and “the natural man” (I Cor. 2:14).  We also refer to it as “the old Adamic nature.”  We sin because we are sinners. It is our nature to do so. Paul wrote in Eph. 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” 

     It is very obvious to all of us who have reared children that you don’t have to teach them to lie, cheat, steal, and be self-centered. It all comes very naturally, for each of us is born that way. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven he (and we) must be “born again” (Jn. 3:3), that is “born of the Spirit” (vv. 7,8).  When we put our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, believing in His death on our behalf and his burial and resurrection, we “become children of God” (Jn.1:12 cf I Jn. 3:2) and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and through Him, Christ and the Father also dwell in us. We become “partakers of the divine nature” (II Pet. 1:4).  While we will have the old nature still dwelling in us until death, we no longer have to let it rule our lives. We will still listen to it occasionally and end up sinning, but we don’t have to.  As one of our elders at Three Lakes Community Bible Church (where I pastored) put it when he received Christ, “God changed my ‘wanter.'”  He now had a desire to obey and serve God. That was from the new nature (God) dwelling in him.  

     Just as the German Shorthaired Pointer has some natural tendencies that make it necessary for obedience training, so we too, with our tendency to rebel and disobey God (Isa. 53:6), need “obedience training,” which comes when we are born from above, enter God’s family, and He begins the training process, helping us start to let the Spirit control our lives instead of our old sinful flesh. And–PTL–if we “walk by the Spirit we will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  

     Forever His,

          Pastor Dave

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Golden Opportunities

With a year’s postponement of the Summer Olympics due to the Covid Pandemic,  and all the political controversy and LGBTQ issues, and the banning of spectators on site, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games lost a lot of their attraction to many. There were only 15.5 million “Prime Time” viewers compared to 26.7 million for the Rio Games in 2016.   It is hard to cheer for athletes representing our country who don’t seem to like our country and who refuse to even stand for our national anthem.        

What a shame that these few athletes gave us a bad taste for watching the Olympic competition, because many of our athletes were very excited about having the privilege of competing for the United States and proudly wore the U.S.A. uniform and, if winning a medal, also proudly displayed the Stars and Stripes representing their country.  A number of these athletes are Christians and used their achievements as a platform of ministry for Jesus Christ as well.       

One of the most inspirational moments was watching the interview (that went viral)  with Tamyra Mensah-Stock, the first African American to win gold for the U.S. in wrestling. She was just bouncing all around during her interview and stated, “I love representing the U.S….I love living here. I love it! And I’m so happy to get to represent the USA.”  How refreshing!  Her testimony of God’s faithfulness in an  interview with Faithwire  before the Olympics put it all in perspective as she said, “It’s by the grace of God I’m even able to move my feet. I just leave it all in His hands and I pray that all the practices my coaches put me through pay off, and every single time, it does.”      

Sydney McLauglin, in her interview after winning the gold medal in the 400m hurdles, said: “What I have in Christ is far greater than what I have or don’t have in life.  I pray my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God.”      

Another born-again female runner, Athing Mu,  shocked the world at the Tokyo Olympics by winning gold in the 800m as a 19-year old. She’s also the first U.S. woman to win the event since 1968. In an interview prior to the Olympics, she said, “As a follower of Christ, our main goal is to live in the image of Jesus.”   She not only represented our country well, she was an ambassador for Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:20).       

And then there is the amazing story of American 35-year-old 400m sprinter Allyson Felix who, competing in her fourth Olympics, earned the distinction of becoming the most decorated U.S. track star in history, adding her 10th medal ( a bronze in the 400m), and her 11th medal (gold in the 4x400m relay) to surpass Carl Lewis with his 10 Olympic medals.  Allyson (nicknamed “Chicken Legs” by her teammates at Los Angeles Baptist High School) almost didn’t live to participate in this summer’s Olympic games in Tokyo.  She had already won six gold medals and three silvers before becoming pregnant in 2018. Faced with a choice between her career and her child, Allyson endured a challenging pregnancy that nearly took her life and that of her unborn baby girl (Camryn) who was delivered at 32 weeks by emergency C-section.  Felix lost 70% of her endorsement pay with Nike after becoming pregnant. Nike wanted her to get an abortion to preserve her career, but Allyson, as a follower of Jesus Christ, chose life, and the stress of juggling motherhood and being an Olympic sprinter over an abortion.  I’d say God honored and rewarded her for her decision as she displayed a couple weeks ago in Tokyo. Her smile during the interviews was contagious!     

There were athletes from other countries as well who also used their “Olympic platform” to exalt their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  After defeating New Zealand for the gold in men’s rugby, the Fiji national team sang a hymn: “We have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of the Lord, we have overcome.”  What a wonderful reminder that whether we win in rugby or anything else, the most certain thing in the world is what Jesus Christ has done for us, not what we will ever do.  To God be the glory!!     

Just thought you might be encouraged to hear some of the positive things that came out of the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo.  Praise God for those who used their “golden opportunities” to express their real reason for living.  They have something which far supersedes any Olympic medals they may have received.  May their tribe increase!   

“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). 

Forever His,           

Pastor Dave

(Note:  Some of the above information came from John Stonestreet of Prison Fellowship Ministries).

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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

We enjoy watching the Seattle Mariners baseball games. We DVR them so we can zip through and watch a game in about half the time compared to watching live.  One of the things that amazes us about their home field, T-Mobile Park in Seattle, is the work the grounds crew does in preparing the field for each game. The grass is mowed/rolled in such a way as to create beautiful, symmetric designs.  They, of course, have laser guided mowers that not only cut the blades of grass but roll them in a certain direction to create the patterns on the field.  When I mow our lawn, without the aid of a laser to guide my mower, I try to keep my eyes on an object in the direction I am headed in order to mow a straight row with which to start.       

Paul gave his understudy, Timothy, a challenge regarding how to study Scripture that incorporates this same principle,  He wrote: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15 KJV).  The word “dividing” (orthotomeo in the Greek) means to “cut straight.”  It was used of stonemasons, farmers plowing fields, and tent makers (who needed to cut material straight so the pieces fit together evenly).  As we study a passage of Scripture, we are to interpret it accurately by using the proper  principles of interpretation (referred to as hermeneutics) and to be guided by the author, the Holy Spirit (our “laser” guide!). Jesus promised before He left the earth that God would send us the “Spirit of truth” who would come to “guide us into all the truth” (Jn. 16:13).  So, as you read and study Scripture, say to God, “Open my eyes that I may behold the wonderful things from Thy Law” (Psa. 119:18), and then apply some basic rules of interpretation:     

Use a Literal, Grammatical, Historical  Approach.  Take the Bible to mean exactly what it says, i.e., taking it at face value whenever it is at all possible. “If the literal sense makes good sense, use no other sense, lest it result in nonsense!”  Unless something is obviously a figure of speech, parable, or symbol, regard it as literal.      

Study the BackgroundInterpret in light of the historical, geographical and cultural background. Events took place at certain times in history in unique cultures.  Investigate to see who wrote it, to whom and why?   

Study the Individual Words.  Words can change their meaning over a period of time. Our English translations can be a bit misleading at times. It is good to examine the Greek or Hebrew word and what meanings it has. Words may have a different meaning in the biblical setting than in our modern culture.      

Examine the Context.  Every Scripture has only one primary interpretation, although it may have many practical applications and possible additional prophetic revelation. Examine the immediate context (verses before and after), intermediate context (the paragraph or chapter), and the distant context (the whole book itself with the entire Bible in view). Many verses (or phrases), if taken alone–out of context–can lead to doctrinal error. “text without context is pretext!”    

Compare Scripture with Scripture.  Interpret each passage in light of the Bible’s teaching as a whole; i.e., “interpret Scripture with Scripture.”  “The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible!”  The premise for this is that the Bible does not contradict itself. It is essentially one revelation–a book with 66 chapters–giving one message about God and His plan of redemption for mankind through Jesus Christ. Heresies and false doctrines “seem” to have biblical authority because those who teach them use Scripture, but they only use certain passages (usually out of context) while ignoring others. It is called “Scripture plucking!”   

Determine the Author’s Intention.  The author of each book had a purpose in writing. It is not just an academic treatise. If the author doesn’t tell you his purpose (as John did for his gospel…Jn. 20:30,31), read, reread, and watch for recurring words, phrases and ideas. Keep in mind who the author was writing to or about. Check your conclusions with the “experts,” but don’t go there first.      

Handle Special Interpretive Problems with Care.  Learn to recognize “types,” “figures of speech,” “poetry,” and “prophecy.”       

Recognize Dispensations.  One cannot really understand Scriptures unless he realizes that God has progressively revealed Himself in distinct stages which we call “dispensations,” when God has dealt with people through different external forms at different periods of history–although salvation by grace through faith has remained the same in every dispensation.      

Distinguish between Standing and State.  Distinguishing between our position in Christ and our every-day practice (condition) is essential in order to understand our security in Christ. Our standing (position in Christ) is permanent, our state (condition) may fluctuate from day to day or even moment by moment.   

Distinguish between Israel and the Church.  God has a special program for Israel, which will be carried out just as Scripture prophesies, which is distinct from His program for the Church (which began at Pentecost). The church has not replaced Israel!  This is a critical premise for proper interpretation of Scripture. The kingdom (Millennium) promised for Israel will still take place.     

If we will apply these principles of interpretation and approach God’s Word with a mind subject to God, we will be able to “Rightly divide the Word of Truth” and be “approved workman who are not ashamed” (II Tim. 2:15).
     

Forever His,         

Pastor Dave     

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You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

In the spring, a few weeks before time to plant our garden, I start our squash, pumpkin and cucumber vines and tomatoes inside.  I started four different varieties of squash and a couple of pumpkins and cucumbers.  This year our labels fell off the containers so as I transplanted them into the garden, I didn’t know what I was actually planting where, so it has been interesting to watch as the fruit is developing!  Normally I try to keep the pumpkins away from the squash so they don’t cross pollinate. This year we may get some new hybrids, like squakins!  The vines look quite similar on the winter squash and pumpkins and you can’t really know for sure what you have until the fruit forms.     

Jesus, as recorded by Matthew, said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  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. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit…So then, you will know them by their fruits.  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” (Mt. 7:15-21).      

Mattthew also records several of the parables Jesus taught, one of which was about the wheat and the tares. It speaks “of a man who sowed good seed in his field. But… his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat…But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.”  The landowner’s workers asked if they should go and dig up the tares, but he replied to them: “No, lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn'” (Mt. 13:24-30).        

The parable shows Satan’s activity and deception during this age in counterfeiting wheat (true believers) with tares (false professors like those referred to in Mt. 7 as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”).  The tares were probably darnel, a type of weed which is hard to distinguish from wheat until the head of the wheat matures.  The harvest time refers to judgment, when the tares will be gathered and burned and the wheat gathered into the barns.  At that time, the counterfeits that looked much like the real thing will be exposed and judged. Jesus said, “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…'” (Mt. 7:22,23).   (Note: probably refers to the judgment at the end of the Tribulation and prior to the setting up of Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom).     

Counterfeits are hard to spot, but ultimately “you will know them by their fruits.” Only God knows their hearts. We can’t be root inspectors, but we can be fruit inspectors.  Do those who profess to be Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:22,23: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,  and self-control”?  If not they are either a false professor (counterfeit) in whom the Holy Spirit does not dwell (Ro. 8:9), or a carnal Christian as Paul describes in I Cor. 3 who is allowing the flesh to control his/her life instead of the Holy Spirit.       

Satan, the enemy, sows his “tares” (“wolves in sheep’s clothing”) in the church to try to destroy its effectiveness, to cause strife and division, and to lead the church into false doctrine and practice.  So, beware!  Check out the fruit!
     

Forever His,         

Pastor Dave


P.S.  I will let you know what kind of “squawkins” we end up with!

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Our Job Description

          While I was pastoring at Three Lakes Community Bible Church we wrote up job descriptions for the various ministries at the church such as deacons, elders, senior pastor, Sunday School Superintendent and teachers, janitors, ushers, greeters, worship leaders, etc.  The basis of a good working relationship is a clear job description. When you take a job or position, you need to know what is expected of you. It gives you a sense of direction and purpose and also holds you accountable. 

     So, what is our “job description” as a Christian?  What does God expect of us? What are we supposed to be doing until we are called home to heaven?  Well, Scripture makes it pretty clear.  What did Jesus say repeatedly as He called His disciples?  When Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee He saw brothers Peter and Andrew fishing and “He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mt. 4:18-20).  Later, Jesus passed by a tax collector’s office and “He said to him, ‘Follow me,’ and he arose and followed Him” (Mt. 9:9).  After Jesus had assembled the Twelve Apostles, He said to them again, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24).  

     Our basic job description?  Follow Jesus!  Jesus wasn’t looking for “fans;” He was looking for “followers.” He never asked us to sit on the sidelines or in the stands and cheer for His cause. He wants us to be actively involved on the “playing field.” He wants us to be fully committed to His cause and a participant in what He is doing. To follow someone you must be going in the same direction and participating in what they are involved in. In this case, it is rescue work. Jesus came to “seek and to save that which is lost” (Lk. 19:10). 

     During His earthly ministry, because of His many miracles and amazing teaching, Jesus attracted quite a crowd, but the majority was interested only in what Jesus could do for them, not in actually committing their lives to follow Him. But, Jesus didn’t come to win a popularity contest, He came to share the truth and to give His life as a ransom for sin (I Tim. 2:5,6). Following Him involved a cost and a risk–it still does.  Eleven of the twelve Apostles were martyred for following Jesus.  The twelfth, John, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos.  Paul the missionary to the Gentiles was beheaded by the Romans under Nero. When Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me,” (Mt. 16:24), He was asking us to be willing to die for Him.  

     A “fan” is defined as “an enthusiastic admirer,”  someone who cheers from the stands, knows the players, and keeps their stats.  But he is merely a spectator, rooting for his team. There is no real sacrifice. If the weather is inclement, he can always stay home and watch from the comfort of his recliner!  And if his team goes on a losing streak or they change coaches or players, his enthusiasm wanes and he may even start rooting for another team. I’m sure you can make the spiritual parallel! Jesus has lots of fans who cheer for Him when things are going well, but walk away when it’s a difficult season, fans who sit safely in the stands or in their home, cheering, but know nothing of the sacrifice and pain of the field, fans of Jesus who know all about Him, but they don’t really know Him intimately. 

     Following Jesus means that we are “all in” in every aspect of our lives, not just on Sunday and maybe one evening a week.  Being a follower of Jesus is a 24-7-365 involvement and in each facet of our lives. Many like to “compartmentalize” their Christianity, only giving Jesus access to certain areas of their lives and keeping the rest to themselves.  Most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor changes in our lives, but He wants to turn our lives upside down. He’s not into “touch-up” work.” He’s into “extreme makeovers.”  When Jesus called His disciples, He “messed” with the rest of their lives–He still does!.  As Paul wrote to the believers at Colossae, “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23).  We are to be abandoned to Jesus in every aspect of our lives, holding nothing back, being “all in.”  “All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily.”   

     So, are you a follower of Jesus or just a fan?  Our job description, as a Christian, is to be a follower, to be “all in” for Him, no matter where it leads, no matter what the cost.  “He is worthy!” (Rev. 4:12; 5:12). 

     Forever His,

          Pastor Dave

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The Risks of Rescue Work

     When I took a water safety and lifesaving course, our instructor warned us of the risks of going into the water to rescue a drowning victim and to only do so if every other attempt had failed, for many people drown while trying to rescue others.  We learned techniques to use if we should have to go into the water and approach a person who is in need of rescue.  

     Have you ever wondered if you would be willing to risk your life to save someone else? Many in military conflicts have been faced with that issue,  Many Europeans faced that decision during World War II. Even now, nearly eight decades later, stories of men and women who risked their lives to save Jewish people from death continue to emerge. I recently read (in Israel My Glory, Jan/Feb 2021) the amazing story of Marcel Marceau, considered the world’s greatest mime, who passed away in 2007.  With his white-painted clown face, he was famous for his walking-against-the-wind routine and wiping his hand back and forth across his face to change from happy to sad.  

     But, what most people don’t know is that he was Jewish, born Marcel Mangel, son of a Jewish butcher. Growing up in Strasbourg, France along the German border, he faced–as a teenager–the momentous decision of whether to risk his life to save others.  On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, vicious anti-Jewish riots known as “Kristallnacht” (“Night of Broken Glass”)  swept across Germany. Jewish homes and businesses were looted and destroyed and Jewish people by the thousands were beaten and many killed. By night’s end, 35,000 Jews were hauled off to concentration camps and hundreds of Jewish children had become orphans. 

     A wealthy Strasbourg woman “bought” 123 Jewish orphans from the Nazis and brought them to France, turning them over to Marcel’s cousin, Georges Loinger, head of the Jewish Boy Scouts of France. He recruited Marcel to calm and entertain them, and through mime, overcome the language barrier.  

     When Hitler invaded France in 1940, Marcel fled with the orphans to Lyon, but in 1942, Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon,” became head of the Gestapo. He was known for torturing and murdering Jews, including children.  Marcel and his brother made three trips across the Alps to get the orphans into neutral Switzerland. The journey was treacherous. German soldiers patrolled the mountains to catch those fleeing. Marcel used mime to calm the children when the Germans stopped them to check their papers (Marcel and his brother had forged documents for the children to hide their Jewish identity).   By the end of the war, some 10,000 youngsters had been rescued. 

     Marceau escaped the holocaust himself, but his father was sent to Auschwitz where he perished in 1944.  Not realizing that Auschwitz was a death camp, Marcel would sit and wait for the train from Poland, hoping his father would return. 

     Marcel never thought of himself as a hero and only shared about rescuing the children a few years before he died at age 84. He spent his life entertaining others, but he lived with the sad memories of all the war took from him and of the orphaned children. His remarkable story was made into a movie, Resistance, in 2020. Marcel (Mangel) Marceau risked his life to save others. 

      Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, came from heaven to earth to not only risk His life, but to lay down His life to rescue lost sinners who are being held captive by the adversary, Satan, who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5:8).  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:10).  The Apostle John, in his first epistle, wrote: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:10). 

     God loved us enough to send His “only begotten Son” to die for us so that we might believe in Him and have eternal life–be rescued from being “dead in trespasses and sin” (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:1)–the greatest rescue mission ever undertaken!  “God was in Christ, reconciling (rescuing) the world unto Himself…” and He has now “committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; be reconciled to God”  (II Cor. 5:19,20). 

     Are there people around you who are “drowning in sin” and need to be rescued?  If you know Christ, then you are their lifeguard. Just remember, there are risks in rescue work. Make sure you depend on the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit who live within you. They are the “soul winners” (Rescuers)–not you!

     Forever His,

          Pastor Dave

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Vaccinations

Vaccination shots for the Covid-19 virus have surely caused a lot of discussion and controversy.  Many have been hesitant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons (in their thinking), from the vaccine altering your DNA to it being a step to the “Mark of the Beast” of the Tribulation period, without which you cannot buy or sell (or travel or attend events, etc).     

Several pharmaceutical companies raced to be the first to release the serums which were then sent throughout the world to combat the spread of the coronavirus.  Around half the population of the U.S.A. (ages 12 and up) have now been vaccinated. The CDC is still discussing whether booster shots will be needed.  And there have been a number of variants of the virus which have been spreading as well.  Our conversations are permeated with talk about vaccination.  Yesterday we drove to Kalispell to shop and as we entered Walmart, a gentleman leaving the store offered me his cart, saying: “I’ve had both my shots!”     

To simplify how vaccines work, you receive just enough of the virus for your immune system to adjust to fight it, developing an immunity that will protect you from the full impact.  That’s why vaccines, like the flu shot or the Covid-19 vaccine, can make you feel sick for a day or two, but are effective in the long run.   A vaccine is typically a good thing, but what if rather than saving you, it cost you everything?     

Many people today have a spiritual inoculation (vaccination) preventing them from receiving genuine new birth and transformation.  They have been inoculated with religion, but do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They think they are okay because they once said a “sinner’s prayer,” or they raised their hand at an evangelistic meeting, or they attend church, or they have been baptized, or they have taken communion, or …  They call themselves Christians but have never really gotten the “real thing.”  They “got religion,” but they don’t have Christ living within them.  They received just enough religion to think they’re safe, without allowing the Holy Spirit to transform their soul, change their life and alter their eternity.       

A prime example from Scripture is Nicodemus, the very religious Pharisee who came to visit Jesus one night. Although Nicodemus didn’t ask the question, Jesus knew what was on his heart, and said to him: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (go to heaven)” (Jn. 3:3).  Nicodemus’ heritage and religiosity wasn’t enough for him to go to heaven. He had to experience being “born of the Spirit” i.e., “from above” (v. 6) in order to have eternal life.  Earlier in his gospel, John wrote: “…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12,13).  In other words, there are things to be believed (about Jesus and His death and resurrection) and a person to be received (asked into our life as our personal Savior and Lord).  A Christian is not someone who “got religion,” but a person in whom Christ dwells, having been invited in.  Later in his first epistle, John wrote: “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:11,12).  Then John adds these encouraging words: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” (v. 13). 

We can really know that we are “saved,” have eternal life, have been “born again,” and have a place reserved for us in heaven. How?  If we have believed on the Son and invited Him into our life, acknowledging that it is only by what He did for us (His grace) that we can be saved, that eternal life is in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, not in a church or ritual or “religion,” we have “the life.” It is a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe who became our Redeemer through dying for our sin.       

Have you only been “inoculated” or do you have the real thing?  Have you been “born again?” Are you a “new creature” in Christ?  Does your life show it?  Do you love God’s Word? Do you enjoy fellowship with fellow believers?  Do you have a burden for the souls of family and friends?  Do you have a sensitivity to sin?  Do you have a desire to serve God, to love Him with all your heart, and to love your neighbor?  If not, you may have just been vaccinated with religion and need to trust in Christ alone for eternal life.     

Forever His,           

Pastor Dave

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