God’s Miraculous Design for Plant Reproduction

     The answer to the proverbial question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is definitively answered in Genesis. God created adult plants and animals with the ability to reproduce. On the third day, “God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation…’ and the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them after their kind; and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:11,12). In His wisdom, God designed many diverse ways to prolong the life of every species of plant He created.
    Plants and trees have different ways of multiplying. Some reproduction is asexual and includes reproduction through rhizomes, or horizontal stems, that grow underground and from which roots and new shoots sprout.   We have a number of cottonwood trees on our property and I am constantly having to dig out shoots which are coming up in the lawn. Poplar and birch also reproduce with rhizomes. Some plants that have rhizome reproduction include most ground-cover plants such as mint and ivy and periwinkle.  Other vegetation involving asexual reproduction includes ferns, and mushrooms which make young plants from reproductive cells called spores. Cultivation is another asexual method of reproduction where a cutting is taken from a stem or branch and either first placed in water and then planted in the soil, or—in some cases—planted immediately in soil.  The new tree or plant will be an exact copy—or clone—of the parent.  Some plants, such as tulips and narcissus (including daffodils) grow and reproduce from bulbs which multiply each year. 
     Other reproduction is sexual through the exchange of pollen between male and female reproductive systems. A single tree can produce both male and female flowers. Many trees, such as pine, rely on wind pollination (which is happening in our area right now). The yellow dust-like pollen is carried by the wind to another tree of the same species that’s producing female flowers and cones. The female cones on a conifer produce a sticky substance near the ovule so wind-borne pollen will stick. Pollen can also be transported by “pollinators”—anything from bees to bats, hummingbirds, moths, beetles and butterflies.  Sometimes there is a very close relationship between a pollinator and the tree or plant they pollinate. Some birds’ beaks, for example, are specially designed by the Creator to crack open conifer cones, thus spreading the seeds. Some plants can only be pollinated by a specific species of insect or animal. The flowers that trees bear either function as female or male. Female flowers contain ovaries that develop into fruit while male flowers bear pollen that fertilizes the female flowers. Some trees bear flowers of only one sex (monoceious); others bear flowers of both (dioecious). 
     However pollination occurs, it isn’t the end of the reproductive cycle. The seeds (embryos)  that pollination produces still need to be distributed. Some seeds as with fruit trees and nut trees, are encased and drop to the ground or taken by deer, squirrels or birds to be spread. Animals may eat the nuts, pits, or seeds, which are then spread as the animal defecates.  We have a little pine squirrel, “Squeaky,” that last fall made numerous trips to the three flower planters on our deck. This spring we were surprised by the product of his/her work.  We had numerous sunflowers, plumb trees and chestnut trees coming up in our planters!  I transplanted them to our vegetable garden and next year will donate them to a friend who has a plant nursery! 
     Other seeds are wind-borne, much like pollen. Some find fertile soil and germinate. Maple trees have winged parachutes, cottonwood have fluffy cotton balls carried by the wind, sometimes for miles. Other seeds are encased in burrs which attach like Velcro to animals or to human clothing. Last fall, while out hunting, I walked through a weed patch and when I got home had to spend an hour pulling burrs off my clothing and pack.  Blackberries are scattered after being digested by birds. Tumbleweeds, after drying, are picked up by the wind and can travel quite a distance to distribute the seeds. There are some conifer trees, such as lodge pole pine, which have  serotinous cones which depend on heat during the seed production cycle. The cones are sealed by a resin that requires 122-140 degrees Fahrenheit in order to open. That is why after a forest fire, you will often see a very thick stand of lodge pole trees as the first to come back.  Lodge pole have both regular cones that cast their seeds upon maturity as well as serotinous cones.
     In one of the parables that Jesus taught, He referred to the Word of God as a seed which He sows in the world (the field) on different types of soil (the hearts of man). Some is sown on hard soil (Mt. 13:4), some on shallow soil (vv. 5,6), some on thorny (worldly) soil (v. 7), and some on fertile (receptive) soil (v. 8) where it germinates, grows to maturity and bears fruit (v. 23).  The seed, God’s Word, is broadcast (scattered) in a variety of ways (just as the seeds of plants and trees) and is carried by the Spirit of God however and wherever He wants. When the soil is fertile—a heart that God has prepared—the seed takes root and germinates into new life and grows and bears fruit.  The Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle: “For you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God (I Pet. 1:23).
     Just as our Creator designed vegetation with the ability to reproduce in a variety of amazing ways, He also designed man to reproduce, not only physically, but spiritually through “spreading the seed of the Word of God,” sharing the Good News of the Gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:1-4).  Are you planting the seed of His Word wherever you go? 
     Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
     
    
    
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In Memory

  President Harry Truman was once asked to speak at a fund-raising project to help the children of a White House guard who was slain in the line of duty. With great emotion he said, “You can’t imagine just how a man feels when someone else dies for him.”
     David must have had similar emotions in response to his three mighty warriors who risked their lives for him. When he expressed a longing for a drink from the well of Bethlehem, Adino, Eleazar, and Shammah volunteered, risking their lives to penetrate into the enemy Philistine camp at Bethlehem to get it for him. They were so devoted to their leader that they were willing to die to fulfill David’s wishes.  Their courage so moved David that he would not wet his tongue with one drop of that precious liquid. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord, saying, “Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” (II Sam. 23:17). Their act was as noble as if they had died for him.
     During the course of this country’s history, brave men and women have stepped forward from time to time, answering the country’s call to fight against would-be tyrants, dictators and despots and to defend the individual freedom that is our birthright. More than a million of these brave men and women have paid the ultimate price, laying down their lives for their country.
     Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day,” is a day of remembrance for those who have sacrificed their lives to keep this great nation free. It originated following the Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict of U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the end of the late 1860’s, Americans began holding springtime tributes to these thousands of fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reading prayers. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War Veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance to decorate graves of fallen comrades with flowers. He called it “Decoration Day.” On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. The South refused to acknowledge Decoration Day and honored their dead on separate days until after World War I. In 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” establishing Memorial Day as the last Monday in May (to ensure a three-day weekend). The change went into effect in 1971, although several Southern states have an additional day for honoring the Confederate war dead.
     Today we honor the men and women who wove the fabric of this nation into the flag that represents all our people, a flag that reflects our love of freedom and our dedication to the dignity of all mankind. There are millions of our citizens who voluntarily stand and have stood tall in the face of adversity against the enemies of freedom and those who would subjugate the masses for the benefit of a few. Many of those citizens have sacrificed their comforts, their health, and even their very lives so that the rest of us can enjoy the protection our forefathers envisioned when this nation was first settled 400 years ago.They deserve to be honored and respected. Many of them were also Christians, and they loved their country, especially because of its unique Christian heritage and its freedom to practice and propagate their faith.
     As we “remember” and give thanks for all who have given their lives to protect our freedoms, especially our freedom to openly serve and worship, we surely must remember, with even greater love and appreciation, the One who made the greatest sacrifice of all, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Lord, keep us mindful of the cost, the price of liberty as brave men and women have given their lives to conquer tyranny. Help us to reinforce our liberties with personal righteousness and prayer for our leaders (I Tim. 2:1-4). But most of all, we thank you, Lord, for the sacrifice You made to set us free from the bondage of sin and self and Satan. Amen!!
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
 “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I Jn. 3:16).
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Uniformitarianism Versus Catastrophism

      Forty years ago, May 18, 1980, we were attending the Sunday evening service at Faith Bible Church in Libby, Montana. (Yes, back in the day, churches did have Sunday evening services!)  This time of year in Montana it doesn’t really get dark until around 10 p.m., but that evening it became eerily dark early and as we left the church, we noticed that the ground and our cars were covered with a layer of gray ash—how strange! I guess if we had been listening to the news that day we would have known that at 8:27 a.m. Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington had erupted. In five minutes the 9,677 foot peak had lost 1300 feet of its top, the ash plume reaching 15 miles into the atmosphere, depositing ash across a dozen states.  It was the most catastrophic and deadly volcanic event ever experienced in the United States.  The event had the force of thousands of atomic bombs, destroyed 234 square miles of forest land and killed 57 people along with all the wild life in the area affected.  More than 3.3 billion cubic yards of rock and ice, moving at speeds exceeding 150 mph, tore the side of the mountain open, unleashing a devastating steam blast. Some 680 million cubic yards of material hit Spirit Lake, causing a huge tsunami that ripped across the hillsides north of the lake, shearing off an estimated one million fully grown trees, may of which ended up in the floor of the lake.
     “For nearly 150 years prior to the eruption, strict uniformitarianism reigned supreme in geology. Every geological process was thought to proceed as slowly as those observed today. Erosion and deposition were seen as steady, methodical processes requiring vast amounts of time to make a substantial impact” (“Mount St. Helens, Living Laboratory for 40 Years,” May, 2020 issue of Acts and Facts from The Institute for Creation Research). In 1980, Mount St. Helens not only dropped ash over 12 states, it also “dropped an outdoor laboratory in geologists’ laps, forcing them to accept catastrophic events as major contributors to Earth’s overall geologic story. They now have to accept the evidence that catastrophic events made major impacts on the rock record and that the normal everyday processes of deposition and erosion contribute very little” (Ibid). The geologists observed that laminated deposits can be produced quickly. For example, one deposit at Mount St. Helens resulted in the creation of a 25-foot-thick finely laminated unit in a matter of hours.
     Secular science has used the slow deposition and erosion processes observed presently as an argument for an earth that is several billions of years old.  For decades, people have been indoctrinated with the (false) notion that enormous periods of time are necessary to explain rock layers and rivers, such as in the Grand Canyon.  Mount St. Helens demonstrated that erosion and deposition can be much, much more rapid than taught by secular science. “The eruption’s steam blast, ash flows, and volcanic mudflows rapidly changed the landscape surrounding the volcano and its waterways.  After a small subsequent eruption on March 19, 1982, a mud flow from melted snow and ice flowed down the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley, carving a new canyon up to 140 feet deep. This ‘Little Grand Canyon’ is an approximately 1/40th-scale version of Grand Canyon, demonstrating the rapid scouring power of water” and how the global Noahic Flood and the power of the receding waters had ample water and power to carve canyons and erode mountains in a short period of time, indicating the earth is much younger than secular science has postulated.
     As we consider the amazing changes that took place in a matter of hours as a result of the Mount St. Helens eruption, just think about what happened with the Flood of Genesis which covered the entire earth. Scripture states that “all the fountains of the great deep (subterranean waters) burst open, and the flood gates of the sky (the water-vapor canopy that surrounded the earth) were opened” (Gen. 7:11) as the Flood began. This breakup most likely included worldwide volcanic activity that continued all over the earth for 150 days (Gen. 7:24; 8:2).  Imagine the devastation!  And then, consider the changes made to the earth as the waters receded, causing tremendous erosion. In order to provide room for all the water, God lowered the ocean floors and raised up the mountains (Psa. 104:6-9). 
     “When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it destroyed every living thing around it. Gas, ash and rock, heated to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, sterilized a 60-kilometer square area, leaving a gray lunar-looking landscape, devoid of plants and animals. Within a year, the first plant life had started to return. The recovery of the Mount St. Helens area was a wonderful living laboratory to investigate how ecosystems and species respond to and recover from major disturbances. Today, the 40-year-old zone is a lushly treed forest” (Ibid). Plants, insects, birds, and animals have reclaimed the devastated area. Noah and his family undoubtedly witnessed the same kind of rapid recovery in the years following the Flood.
     The Apostle Peter, in his second letter, prophesies that “in the last days, mockers will come…saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the foundation of the world” (II Pet. 3:4).  Uniformitarianism is the modern name for the doctrine prophesied by Peter, the philosophy that “the present is the key to the past.” No supernatural cause (such as God!) is needed. But, such people are willfully ignorant of the overwhelming evidence for dis-continuity, especially Creation and the Flood.  Peter goes on to write: “For when they maintain this (the teaching of uniformitarianism), it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded by water” (vv. 5,6). 
     If we only look at the present as the key to the past, we get an erroneous picture of reality. We need to consider the Biblical account of Creation (to make from nothing, resulting in “appearance” of age) and catastrophes such as the global Flood, as the lens through which we observe the world around us. It makes so much more sense when we “Go Back to Genesis” as the Institute in Creation Research always shares in their snippets on Christian radio. The eruption of Mount St. Helens gave us a great example of that from which to learn.
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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The Joy of Learning

  From 1979 to 1983, we had a Christian school at Three Lakes Community Bible Church where I pastored.  Each Wednesday was chapel day and I was responsible for the Bible lesson. We went through the Character Sketches series from the “Institute in Basic Life Principles.” Each week we examined a character quality such as contentment or gratefulness or kindness and looked at a Bible character from Scripture and a bird or animal from God’s Creation that illustrated that quality.   I find it interesting that when I see one of the students who attended our school, one of the things they often remember was those lessons from God’s physical world. 
     The Bible is full of illustrations based on the creatures God made and their unique characteristics.  Included in specific references to God’s creatures are 38 mammals, 34 birds, 11 reptiles, 1 amphibian, 16 insects, 4 mollusks, and 1 worm!  God assumes that we know or will find out the ways of things like sheep, foxes, lions, bears, eagles, and many other creatures so that when He uses them as illustrations, we can understand and apply what He is saying. As part of God’s character training for marriage and family responsibilities, God brought every animal and bird to Adam for naming. In order to give them accurate names, Adam had to understand their nature and ways (Gen 2:18-20). In his reply to Zophar (one of his supposed “comforters”), Job said: “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them teach you;  and let the fish of the sea declare to you” (Job 12:7,8).
     The wisdom which God gave to Solomon included a thorough understanding of the world of nature.  In his “book of wisdom” he  writes: “Go to the ant, oh sluggard, observe her ways and be wise” (Pr. 6:6); “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly” (Pr. 17:12); “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock….” (Pr. 30:19,19); “Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong folk, but they prepare their food in the summer. The rock rabbits are not mighty folks yet they make their houses in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks; the lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces” (Pr. 30:24-28).  
     Isaiah, trying to encourage the Jews of southern kingdom of Judah to renew their trust in God, writes: “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles….” (Isa. 40:31).  Jesus, in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 5-7), says: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they…And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?” (Mt. 6:26-30).
   Jake Hebert, in his article “Delighting in God’s Handiwork in the Classroom” (Acts & Facts, May 2020), writes: “One can’t help but wonder if secularization in our public schools is directly robbing children of the joy of learning.”  Psa. 111:2 says, “Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them.”  Statistics reveal that “the quality of education, at least here in the United States, has greatly deteriorated over the years. And there is simply no way that evolutionists can blame this educational decline on creationism or Christianity, since these worldviews have been effectively outlawed from public classrooms” (Acts and Facts).   For education to not only be high quality but also enjoyable, it must be based on truth, not humanistic, evolutionary theories taught as facts with no room for Creationism or Christianity.  If the “Works of the LORD” are removed from our studies, we are robbed of the true “joy of learning.” We were made to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Catechism), so if history is not taught as “His Story,” and science and math and the humanities are taught with no acknowledgement of an all-wise, all powerful Creator who is a God of order and that all of nature reflects His majesty, but rather, as is the case in public education, that we are mere products of time and chance and that everything around us merely evolved, then students are missing out on so much which could add to the joy of learning. 
     World history takes on a whole new meaning when we realize it is all an unfolding of God’s ultimate plan for this earth, and when we see the connection between it and the people we read about in Scripture.  Many students dread mathematics, but would they have warmed up to the subject if they had been told things such as how honeybees construct their honeycombs using the strongest geometrical shape of hexagons which also maximizes volume for a given amount of wax.  Calculus is needed to determine this, but the bees obviously didn’t figure this out on their own! Or, when we look at the amazing universe, how much more exciting to think that each of the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies was created and placed there by God who even has a name for each one (Psa. 147:4)! How much more exciting would a biology class be if instead of avoiding the overwhelming evidence for design in living systems, God’s handiwork was openly acknowledged and admired?
     Learning takes on a whole new excitement, fulfillment and joy when based on who God is and what He has done. 
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Prison Ministry

Over my years as a pastor, I have had the opportunity to minister to several fellow believers who made some bad choices and ended up being arrested and imprisoned. In one case, I had a weekly Bible study with one friend in the local jail as he awaited trial. He would, in turn, share the lessons with other  prisoners as he had opportunity.  He ended up being incarcerated for several years in the state prison. I continued to send him the “Wisdom of the Week” which he would share with fellow inmates.  I currently also send the “Wisdom of the Week” to another friend who is serving time in our state prison.   
     One of the recent issues of the monthly Anchor Devotional from Haven Ministries was written by inmates who also had made some poor decisions in life. Some were believers who got their lives turned around while in prison and others came to know Christ while in prison and had their lives completely transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They may have been behind bars but their souls had been set free by the truth (Jn. 8:32, 36). Yesterday’s devotional in Today in the Word from Moody Bible Institute related the story of Shon Hopwood who was arrested and pled guilty for robbing several banks in Nebraska in 1988. But while in prison his life was changed, and he began studying law in the prison library. He helped several inmates with legal advice, even preparing a court petition for one that ended up going to the Supreme Court!  He earned his law degree and is now a professor at Georgetown University and advocates for prison reform.
     The late Chuck Colson, who became a Christian just before being incarcerated for his part in the Nixon Watergate scandal, after serving seven months in federal prison, launched Prison Fellowship ministry which has now been reaching prisoners and their families for Christ for some 40 years. “Today, in more than 90 prisons across 27 states, more than 3,300 prisoners participate in the 12-month Prison Fellowship Academy (PFA) where a Biblical worldview is unlocking hope and new life in Christ for inmates. Recidivism rates, or re-arrests, of inmates who complete PFA are demonstrably lower than inmates who don’t go through the program” (Decision magazine, Sept. 2019).
     Between Dallas and Houston, just off Interstate 45,  “is what is arguably Texas’ toughest prison, the Coffield Unit, a maximum-security facility populated by some 4,000 inmates, most of whom are repeat offenders serving sentences for some of the worst crimes” (Decision). Gateway Church of Dallas now has a church planted inside the prison with its own pastoral staff. Close to 400 inmates gather regularly to hear the gospel and learn how to be disciples and to reach other inmates for Christ. At one worship service this past July, “Gateway pastors baptized 15 inmates from solitary confinement and 22 more from the general prison population” (Decision). Gateway plans to add campuses at other state as well as federal prisons. This was made possible by the signing of “The First Step Act” by President Trump in December 2018 which “says that when someone is incarcerated, we should be working to transform them away from behavior that got them there in the first place.”  Never before had faith-based groups had access to federal prisons.
     What a mission field exists in our prison system. According to the Bureau of Justice, more than 2 million people are in jail or prison in the U.S., representing the highest incarceration rate in the world!  Another 4.5 million are on probation or parole. And one in three Americans has a criminal record!  Of the 650,000 inmates who are released each year, two-thirds will be re-arrested within three years.  We spend $80 billion a year housing prisoners and, without a transformation of life through the message of the Gospel, most come out likely to commit crime again.
     Prison ministry began long before Chuck Colson’s “Prison Fellowship.”  When Joseph was in prison in Egypt under false charges by Potiphar’s wife, “The LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. And the chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper” (Gen. 39:21-23). Joseph had a ministry to the other inmates, especially to the king’s butler and baker who ended up with him in prison (Gen. 40).
     In the New Testament, Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi for healing a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and made profit for her masters. Because they lost their source of profit, her masters had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten and thrown into prison and placed in stocks. “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).  God sent an earthquake which shook the prison and opened the doors and loosened the chains. The jailer, thinking the prisoners had escaped was about to commit suicide, “But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!’” (v. 28). The jailer asked Paul and Silas, “ ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household’ ” (vv. 28-31). As a result of the testimony of Paul and Silas in prison, a whole family came to know Christ.
    The Apostle Paul was imprisoned twice in Rome for preaching the Gospel. During the first (for two years), he was under house arrest near the barracks of the elite Roman Praetorian Guard. During that time he wrote what we refer to as “the prison epistles” of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Rather than viewing his incarceration with anger and bitterness, Paul saw it as an opportunity to spread the Gospel. In his letter to the Philippian believers he wrote: “Now I want you to know brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian guard and to everyone else” (Phil. 1: 12,13). Evidently some of those who guarded him had been saved for as he concludes his letter, he writes: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household” (4:22).  Paul didn’t look upon his imprisonments as a “time out” from his ministry, but as a unique opportunity to share the gospel. He referred to himself as “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (not of Rome!).  He knew God had him there for a purpose.  One of the converts of Paul’s “prison ministry” was a run-away slave, Onesimus, who had stolen from his master, Philemon (of the Colossian church) and made his way to Rome where he encountered Paul (most likely in prison) and was led to Christ (Philemon 1:10).
     After his release, Paul wrote I Timothy and Titus and then was arrested again and imprisoned in Rome and this time ended up a martyr for Christ. While in his final imprisonment he wrote II Timothy, saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).  Part of “the course” God planned for Paul included time in prison. Not only were many reached for Christ through those difficult times in his life, but we still benefit from it for we have several books of the New Testament which were by-products.
     God doesn’t forget those in prison. He, after all is “The God of Second Chances” who loves to transform lives and bring new hope and purpose. Pray for those who have messed up in life and are in our prison system. Pray that they will hear about God’s love and forgiveness and gain eternal and abundant life in Christ. Pray for those who minister inside the prisons, like our chaplains, Prison Fellowship, and churches like Gateway Church in Dallas. If you personally know any who are behind bars, pray for them and write to encourage them, and minister to their families. In doing so, you are really ministering to Jesus (see Matt. 25:35-40).
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
 
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Nature’s (God’s) Purifier

     For those of us who have the privilege of drying your clothes outside on a clothesline (in the spring, summer and early fall), we get to enjoy that “fresh smell” of nature’s “purifier,” ozone.”  If you have gone outside after the rain, or especially after a thunderstorm, you have undoubtedly also smelled ozone in the air.  If you have been close to a lightning strike, the smell is very pungent.  Ozone is “tri-oxygen” or oxygen (O2) with an extra atom (O3), making it unstable. It reacts with other chemicals changing their chemical structure. For example, when ammonia (NH3) comes in contact with ozone (O3), the chemical reaction produces water (H2O) and nitrogen (N), and the smell of ammonia is gone, not just covered up. The ammonia no longer exists.  Ozone, along with ions (which are atoms or molecules with a net electric charge due to the loss or gain of one or more electrons and thus also unstable) are God’s design for purifying the atmosphere. 
     Man has utilized God’s purifiers and designed air purifiers and even a system for clothes washing using ozone and ions. We have an air purifier which involves both ozone and ion production. If we need to remove cooking smells from the room, we can just turn up the purifier and soon the smells are gone—not just covered up.  We also have an attachment for our washing machine which infuses the cold water with molecules including ions, ozone, and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2…a bleaching and antiseptic agent). The transformed water then enters the washing machine to deep clean and disinfect the laundry. The process is an effective cleaning method that is safe,100% natural and leaves no detergent residue behind. It sterilizes, disinfects, decontaminates, purifies and deep cleans—all without the use of detergent or hot water. (Also saves on laundry expenses!).
     God not only created the heavens and the earth and all they contain (Neh. 9:6), but He also maintains what He created, not allowing it to self destruct or be destroyed by mankind. Col. 2:16,17 says: “For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him; and He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”  God created this earth with a system of air and water purification through the hydrologic cycle, the movement of the oceans and tides (governed by the moon’s gravitational pull), and sun rays, and storms, and, of course the use of ozone and ions.  Even though we see death and suffering because of the results of sin and evil, we also see God’s amazing design in the midst of it all. The human body, with its ability to fight off infection and disease and heal from injury is just another example of God sustaining what He created. Just study, for example, how blood clotting works and you have to know that we were designed by the all-wise, all-powerful, Creator of the universe.
      But, God not only provided a means of purification and cleansing of His physical creation, He also provided a means of spiritual cleansing from the devastation of sin.  From before the world was even created, God had a plan of redemption for sin by sending His Son to become the sin-bearer (Eph. 1:4), Who would not just cover up sin, but remove it.  He did it through shedding His blood, laying down His life as a sacrifice and then being raised again to be our Intercessor in Heaven.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).  Throughout the Old Testament, prior to Christ coming as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), priests made thousands of sacrifices, applying blood to the altar, but only to cover sin until the Messiah came to remove it. “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”   But, “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Chris once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:1-4,10-14). 
     When we come to Christ to receive forgiveness, He doesn’t just “cover up” our sins. He removes them. He did it at the cross, once and for all. There is nothing we can do—nor need do—nor should do—to add to what He did. Remember His words form the cross: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).  Jesus paid it all.  When  we put our trust in His work at the Cross, the penalty for sin is “Paid In Full.”  Credited to our spiritual account is His (Christ’s) righteousness (II Cor. 5:21). 
                            “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
                            And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”       (There is a Fountain by William Cowper)
     Praise God for His wonderful design for sustaining what He created, and praise Him for His wonderful plan to “take away” our sin and give us eternal life in the Person of God the Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord!   And, His blood continues to cleanse us. As Christians, we still have the old nature, and still sin, but “…We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I Jn. 2:1), and “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteousness to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9)“…If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (v. 7).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
P.S.  I was praying this morning about what topic I should write about, when my wife opened a window and there was a beautiful fresh aroma from outside (ozone), prompting the above thoughts!
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The Sin Virus (Part II)

There is much controversy as to the actual origin of this current Covid-19 corona virus pandemic that has the world in its grip at this time.  But, finding someone to blame for how it started—or how it has been handled—doesn’t solve the situation.  I’m reminded of the scene in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. When God placed Adam “into the garden to cultivate and keep it, …the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “from any tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:15-17).  Satan, through the serpent (a beautiful creature in its uncursed state) tempted Eve, distorting what God had said and causing doubt about the goodness of God, and Eve, “seeing that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was able to make one wise, she took from the fruit and ate; and she gave to her husband with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen. 3:6-8).

When God confronted Adam and Eve with their disobedience, Adam said, “The woman You put here with me, she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Gen. 3:12). When God confronted Eve, her response was: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (v. 13) And thus began the blame game for the outbreak of the worst virus pandemic the world has ever faced—the “sin virus pandemic.” As bad as the Covid-19 pandemic has been, it will only infect a small percentage of the world’s population, whereas the sin virus has infected everyone who has ever been born (or will be born). “Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Ro. 5:12).  Of the small population of the world that will get the corona virus, only a small percentage of them will die.  But, the sin virus which infects all, is also fatal for all. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and “the wages (consequences) of sin is death…” (Ro. 3:23,6:23).

     The word “death” in the Bible means “separation.”  It includes  separation from fellowship with God (which happened immediately for Adam and Eve), separation of soul and spirit from the body (physical death, which ultimately happened to Adam and Eve and will happen to each of us unless the Lord comes to rapture us to heaven before we die…Heb. 9:27 cf I Thes. 4:13-18), and it includes eternal separation from God in hell, which the Bible calls “the second death” (Rev. 20:14).  No amount of “social distancing” or isolating ourselves can help us avoid this sin virus anymore than Adam and Eve’s attempts to cover their sin and hide from God were successful. We are each infected with this deadly virus and face inevitable death—physically and spiritually.  There is absolutely nothing WE can do to cure ourselves and avoid being separated from God. We can try to be good citizens, to be honest in our business dealings, to be hard workers, and to treat others with kindness and respect (which we should)—but we are still sinners, deserving of death.

But, praise God, He offers a cure for our sin virus and its consequences.  God offered Himself as the cure for sin. God the Son became a man, born of the virgin Mary, and did not inherit the sin nature from Adam. He lived a sinless life as the God-man, and then paid the penalty for sin by dying on the cross and incurring the wrath of God on our sin.  “He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).   “He Himself bore our sins in His body, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed (restored spiritually)” (I Pet. 2:24).  “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done (all our efforts to be pleasing to God and achieve eternal life)..but according to His mercy…” (Tit. 3:5).

    But, just because Jesus “died for all” (II Cor. 5:15) and “tasted death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), doesn’t automatically cure everyone of sin; it just makes the cure available to all, so that “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ro. 10:13).  Remember that Jesus was hanged on a cross between two thieves who were also being crucified. One of the thieves looked at Jesus and mocked, saying, “Are you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Lk. 23:39).  The other thief rebuked the first, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong,” (vv. 40,41). Then he looked to Jesus, saying, “Jesus remember me when You come into your kingdom!” (v. 42). “And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise’” (v. 43).  The one thief looked at Jesus mockingly, the other looked to Jesus repentantly, acknowledging who He was. One thief was cured of the sin virus, the other faced eternal death.

How about you, have you looked to Jesus, acknowledging that He is the Christ, the God-man, who died to pay for your sins and rose again from the grave? Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (cured from the sin virus)” (Jn. 5:24). The cure for sin is in a Person, Jesus Christ, God the Son, who took on the judgment for sin, so we could be cured. When we receive Him into our life as Lord and Savior, we have eternal life, for we have Jesus come to live in us. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:11,12).  Do you have the Son living in you? Then you have been “cured.”

 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

 

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