Made for Music

Music, both instrumental and vocal, has always played a key role in our lives. My mom and sister (as well as my wife, daughter, and multiple other family members) have played (or play) the piano.  I have played the French Horn since I was in the fifth grade, and my brothers-in-law all played instruments and we all sing or sang. I also remember the old  Sunday evening “singspirations” as several local churches would occasionally get together to sing hymns and praise choruses as well as have special music.  Frequently when family would be together for the holidays, we would get around the piano and sing.

     While in college, Kathy sang in choir at Prairie Bible Institute and I sang in the choir at Grace Bible Church while attending Montana State University. I also sang in the “COLLYP Quartet,”  which would do special Sunday evening services in the Bozeman area; and, while working at Hyster in Portland, I sang in our church choir there as well. (COLLYP = “College Young People”)

     Music is also a key theme in Scripture. There are 246 references to songs and singing as well as many references to using musical instruments to express joy and to praise our God.  A number of the Psalms are prefaced by: “For the Choir Director,” or “To the Chief Musician.”  Instruments and singing have, from the beginning of time, been a key vehicle of expressing our joy and praising our awesome God.  Psalm 100 begins: “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.” The concluding Psalm (150) is one of doxology calling for praising God because of His deeds and His greatness:  “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals…Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

     When the Apostle Paul wrote about being “filled (controlled) with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), he indicated that the result would be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (v. 19). Similarly, when you “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” it will result in “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16)

     In the most recent issue of Acts & Facts (Nov/Dec 2022) from The Institute for Creation Research, there is a very fascinating article, “Created to Sing” by President Dr. Randy J. Guliuzza and Industrial Engineer Aaron T. Guliuzza). The article shares that “singing produces lifelong benefits. It aids in brain development by establishing learning processes needed to assimilate astonishing amounts of information.”  As God engineered the human body, He linked together the auditory and neurological systems, and “made singing such a super-fun activity for toddlers that they gladly partake in this brain-building activity.”  Probably many of us still remember singing the “ABC” song, ending with,  “Now I know my ABC’s, next time won’t you sing with me?”  I still remember a silly song I learned in Spanish in high school.  And I’m sure most of you have hymns and choruses that still play over and over in your mind and often, subconsciously, break forth into singing.  Even folks who suffer from dementia and struggle with memory, can often remember the words of hymns that they learned years ago!

     “Our auditory and neurological systems were orchestrated (by God) to work together seamlessly to give us the ability to sing, play instruments, and enjoy music. Our brains contain an area that specifically analyzes music–an area clearly built for this purpose!”  Wow!  The more we learn about our human bodies and the many intricate systems that work together, enabling us not only to have life but to “grow in wisdom and stature” and to appreciate God’s created world around us and to express our joy and to praise God with our voices and our musical abilities, the more we can understand David’s words: “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psa. 139: 13-15 NIV).  (Note: “the depths of the earth” is a reference to the womb). 

 A key part of God’s amazing design of the human body is our ability to sing and play musical instruments, which He intended as a means of expressing our joy and praising Him.  It is interesting that Scripture also often makes reference to a “new song.”  In David’s testimony in Psa. 40, He said, “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear, and will trust in the LORD” (vv. 2,3). In Psalm 98:1 all creation is summoned to celebrate and rejoice over the establishment of the LORD’s kingship on the earth with a “new song.”  “O Sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done wonderful things.”  Again in Psa. 144:9, David writes: “I will sing a new song to Thee, O God; upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to Thee.” David was referring  to Israel’s “new song” of redemption (vv. 9-11) that will be sung in kingdom blessing (vv. 12-15).  

     When the Apostle John was caught up heaven to be shown things that would take place in the future (Rev.4:1), he saw a scene about the throne where they were worshiping “The Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 5:12). John writes: “And they sang a new song, saying ‘Worthy art Thou..’ ” (Rev. 5:9).  the final reference to the “new song” is in Rev. 14:3 where this “song of redemption” is being sung by all the redeemed saints in one gigantic choir. They are rejoicing over the accomplishment of God’s entire redemptive work before Christ’s return.

    We were “created to sing.” We were “made for music” so that in both time and eternity we could praise our Majestic Creator-Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is worthy “to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).  So, “Sing to the LORD a new song. Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised…Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name…” (Psa. 96:1-7). 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

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God’s Plan for Thanksgiving

     Probably the majority of Americans think of Thanksgiving Day as a custom which began with the Pilgrims in 1621. To them the day did not mean a day of turkey and dressing, candied yams, green-bean casserole, cranberry salad and pumpkin pie followed by Alka-Seltzer and a couple football games. To them it was a time centered on the Lord in gratitude for His bounty.  

     America’s annual observance of Thanksgiving began in 1863 with a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.  But, the plan for a regular season of thanksgiving actually originated about 3500 years ago with the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), a week-long Jewish festival established by the Lord (See Dt. 16:13-17).  In the autumn, when the crops were gathered in, God planned that His people would stop and give thanks to Him for the material blessings. They also gave thanks for God’s provisions during their wilderness wanderings when they lived in tents (booths).  The Feast of Tabernacles was the last great feast of the Jewish year and the last of three feasts requiring every Jewish man to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (along with Passover and Pentecost).  It was a time of celebration, and the mood of the event was festive. As they made their way to Jerusalem, they sang the “Songs of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134), which describe the progress of the pilgrims as they traveled from a distant land (Psa. 120) to within sight of the Holy City (Psa. 121) and finally arrived amid great joy (Psa. 123-134). 

     Real thanksgiving comes from the heart. It is to be more than lip service. It is to be the heartfelt gratitude for benefits bestowed by our Heavenly Father. We see that attitude expressed by David in Psa. 103:1-5: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits…who satisfies your years with good things…” The Lord pours out His blessings of sunshine, rain, health, provision (not to mention all the spiritual blessings…Eph. 1:3) but knew we would tend to “forget His benefits” so gives us many reminders in Scripture to be thankful (Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:15; I Thes. 5:18). God must teach us to be thankful just as parents must teach their children to say “thank you.”  To be thankful starts with being “thinkful”!  As we “think” about the blessings of God, then out of our heart will come expressions of thanksgiving. If we pause to think, we’ll have cause to thank.  “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt. 12:34 cf Lk. 6:45). The greatest blessing/benefit of all, of course, is salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who as “The Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29), gave Himself for us to pay the penalty of our sins (II Cor. 5:21). “For God so loved the world (you and me) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life

(Jn. 3:16). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (II Cor. 9:15)

     God’s plan for us is “thanksgiving.”  Thanksgiving is the only sensible response to the character of God and the blessings He bestows. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (Jas. 1:17). “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17). “True worship flows from a grateful heart” (R.C. Sproul). We don’t need more to be thankful for, we just need to be more thankful! ” Gratitude should be our natural response to God’s grace. Gratitude should be a continuous attitude, not an occasional incident.  Ever wonder what an atheist must think when he feels grateful but has no one to thank?!

      “Nothing so takes the heart out of a person as ingratitude. Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others” (Cicero).  The road to spiritual apostasy is paved with the boulders of ingratitude (cf Ro. 1:21).  When you have truly thanked your God for every blessing sent, what little time will then remain to murmur or lament!

      As my brother-in-law, Ray Kutz, once said, “I’m always thankful when the roof doesn’t leak, the toilets flush and the lights come on!”  Amen!  Don’t forget to pause often to thank God for His many benefits, and even in the midst of trials, “give thanks,” for God is good (all the time!) and only allows those difficulties in our life for our good and His glory. Be thankful that you don’t already have everything your desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to? Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn. Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow. Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you special opportunities to see what God can do. Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build your strength and character (Ro. 5:3-5). Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons. Be thankful when you are tired and weary because it means you’ve made a difference. It is easy to be thankful for the good things (and we should be!), but a life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.  “In everything give thanks, for this God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:18). That’s “God’s Plan for Thanksgiving.” 

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Dave

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“…And God Lives On!”

     As the ducks and geese go by far overhead in their long migration to warmer climates for the winter, I think of a fun song, The Duck Song, that we used to sing at Bible camp. As I reflect on the words, it actually has a very deep, timely message for us today, as many of us are probably wondering what is happening to our country and world?   Here are the words of the song, and I think you will see what I mean:

               And the ducks go by (quack, quack, quack).

                He made the birds, He made the bees, all of the flowers, and all of the trees.

               Don’t you see?  He made you and me.

               Chorus:  “And the ducks go by (quack, quack, quack).

                     And things go up, and things go down,

                    and the world goes around, and around, and around, 

                    and God lives on!

               He died for you, He died for me

               He’s died to set His people free,

               Don’t you see? He made you and me.     (Chorus)

               1,2,3,4, He’s going to open every door for you,

               if you allow Him to. (Chorus)

     In spite of the current political turmoil and struggling economy and wars and rumors of wars and crime and mass shootings and threats of pandemics and people calling evil good and good evil, and all the uncertainties of the world in which we live, “God lives on!”   The ducks and geese overhead, unaffected by the things that concern us, continue on their annual fall migration, guided by the amazing GPS system installed in their DNA by our Creator God,  remind me that God is still on the throne, carrying out His purpose for this planet and for all His creatures, including mankind.  In the words of a contemporary praise chorus by Blessed Hope Chapel, “The world’s not falling apart, it is falling into place.” Like the ducks going by, the chorus reminds us that the Lord is in control regardless of what is happening in and to the world around us.  

     God’s Word states explicitly that “in the last days difficult times will come” (II Tim. 3:1).  The passage by Paul goes on to list conditions that will exist in “the last days,” conditions that will intensify as Christ’s return draws near (cf I Tim. 4:1-5). It indicates that there will be  mass corruption and a breakdown of law and traditional values, with people “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7).  

     So, while we need to continue to be “salt and light” as Christ’s ambassadors here on earth (MT. 5:13-16; II Cor. 5:20), and to “Preach the Word in season and out of season” and to always be ready to share with others about our hope (I Pet. 3:15), God will continue to carry out His plans and purposes for the earth and for mankind. Nothing will thwart His plans. In fact all that is happening is fitting into His plans. “The world is not falling apart; it is falling into place.”  Psa. 76:10 tells us that even “the wrath of man shall praise Thee,” meaning that man’s rebellion and evil doesn’t change God’s plans, but works to fulfill them, for God is sovereign and immutable–He has no need to have a “Plan B”!   God is still in charge. God reigns over everything. “God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne” (Psa. 47:8). “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Ro. 13:1). “…He removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan. 4:21). 

     We read in Isaiah: “I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me, there is no God…It is I who made the earth and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, and I ordained all their host…Declaring the end from the beginning…saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it’ ” (Isa. 45:5,12; 46:10,11). 

     So, come what may, God is still on the throne, saying, “Trust Me, I’ve got this!”  “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; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at it swelling pride” (Psa. 46:1-3). 

          “What tho wars may come, with marching feet and beat of the drum, for I have Christ in my   heart!

          What tho the nations rage as we approach the end of the age, for I have Christ in my heart!

          God is still on the throne, almighty God is He, and He cares for His own thru all eternity;

          So let come what may–whatever it is, I only say that I have Christ in my heart…”

               (I Have Christ in My Heart by Wendell P. Loveless)

     So, when you hear and or see a flock of ducks or geese heading south, be reminded that “God lives on!”

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

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Stand Firm!

     Living in a rapidly changing culture has prompted many messages by pastors and a number of books on how to maintain our Christian convictions and lifestyle when our culture is becoming more and more anti-Christian.  I think of How Should We Live Then? by Francis Schaeffer, How, Then, Shall We live? by Samuel Wells, and How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson

     There are also plenty of admonitions in Scripture challenging us to “stand fast” amidst all the ungodliness around us.  Solomon, the son of David, wrote: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching…if sinners entice you, do not consent…do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path…Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not proceed in the way of evil men…watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor the left; turn your foot from evil” (Pr. 1:8,10,15; 4:14,26,27).  The Apostle Paul wrote: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Ro. 12 2);  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers…come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord” (II Cor. 6:14,17); “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children…do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you…you are children of light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Eph. 5: 1,3,8);  “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). 

     We need to remember that God and His Word are unchanging. God said, “For I, the LORD, do not change…” (Mal. 3:6a).  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8 cf Psa. 102:25-27). “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8 cf Mt. 5:18).  No matter what trends our culture is following with respect to marriage, sexual orientation, gender identity, abortion, critical race theory, evolution, etc., God’s standards have not changed. His Word is as applicable today as it was when it was written. It never needs “updating.” 

     In 1964, Bob Dylan published a song that became very popular, “The Times, They Are a-Changin’ “.  Well, the times may be changing, but we are not to “adapt” to our changing culture, we are to “adhere” to God’s Word!  “Do not be conformed to this world” (Ro. 12:2 NASB), or as it reads in The Living Bible, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”  

      Starting with the scene in the Garden of Eden, Satan has always tried to get us to question what God has said (Gen. 3:1-5). He continues to use that tactic. Don’t fall for his lies. Stand fast! Paul told Timothy to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (II Tim. 2:13,14).  We need to do the same. 

     Far too many Christians, including many preachers, are afraid of what people may say or think if they don’t cater to and “fit in” to our modern culture, so they compromise and fail to boldly proclaim and live out the truths of Scripture. The times, they may be changing (and, boy are they!), but thank God, He never does, nor does His Word. So, dare to be different. Dare to be a Daniel, a Joseph, an Esther, a Peter, a Paul, a Martin Luther, a John Wycliffe, a William Tyndale, a Dietrich Bonhoeffer…  Stand fast on the truths of God’s Word. Don’t compromise. “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

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Feeling Clean

     One modern “luxury” that I really appreciate is running water and hot water tanks so I can take a shower.  I love to feel clean, especially before I go to bed at night.  Since we have lots of outdoor work to do at our place, I get dirty and sweaty a lot and may take several showers in one day.  My mother-in-law used to tell me I would wear out my skin!  I also like to hike, hunt, and cross-country ski, and it feels so good to come home and take a warm shower!  

     While I enjoy being physically clean, it pales in comparison to the feeling of being “spiritually clean.”  All of us know what it is like to feel that sense of having made a bad choice and done a stupid thing, one that violated the character of God, especially if it affected the life of someone else, maybe even a loved one.  We hate that feeling of guilt. It makes us feel unclean before God.  

      It all started in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve made a bad decision and disobeyed a clear command from God, they sensed their guilt and “nakedness” before God. Their response was to sew fig leaves together to cover themselves and they then ran and tried to hide from God (Good luck there!).  After God confronted them for their disobedience and pronounced His judgment upon their sin, He clothed them with garments of animal skins to restore them to fellowship with Himself (Gen. 3:16-21).His act also implied the slaying of an innocent animal in order to atone for sin.  This set the pattern for all the animal sacrifices and shedding of blood to atone for sin throughout the whole Old Testament period and also looked forward to “The Lamb of God (God Incarnate) who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29 cf Isa. 53:6; II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 2:9 I Pet. 2:24).   God’s plan was for the shedding of blood to atone for sin and to restore a right relationship with Him both in order to have eternal life and to have daily fellowship with Him. God said, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11).  

      People make all sorts of attempts at “sewing fig leaves” to cover up their guilt and feeling of uncleanness, but only God can make us clean through the shed of blood of the Innocent Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ.  “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus ‘Christ once for all…having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, (He) sat down at the right hand of God…for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14). 

     The two Agents that God uses in bringing about the cleansing from sin are the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to convict us of our sin and “lostness” and shows us that God the Son took our guilt and was punished on our behalf on the Cross.  When we acknowledge our spiritual uncleanness and trust in Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us (put on our account), and we are “clean,” washed in the blood.  Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (Jn. 15:3 cf Eph. 5:26). Peter wrote: “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). Titus adds: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit. 3:5).

      Having trusted in Christ and been cleansed from the guilt of sin, we are restored to right standing with God (“justified”… Ro. 5:1).  But, we still have our old sinful nature and if we don’t “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16 cf Eph. 5:18), we will still sin and need forgiveness (cleansing) to maintain our joy and our fellowship with God.  We don’t need to get saved again. We are only “born again” (Jn. 3:3) once, but we do need forgiveness for our sins as a Christian. When Jesus washed the disciples feet He said, “He who has bathed (been cleansed from sin through faith in Christ) needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you (referring to Judas)” (Jn. 13:10). 

     When we, as believers, listen to our old sinful nature and sin, we feel very unclean and if we do not confess that sin, we are miserable. We can do all sorts of things, like Adam and Eve tried, to cover up that guilt, but nothing will cleanse us except acknowledging to God that we have sinned and asking for (or thanking Him for) His forgiveness.  John, in his gospel and first epistle, encourages us to “Abide” in Christ (Jn. 15:4,5) and not sin (through the power of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Christ, we don’t have to), but “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteousness” (I Jn. 2:1,2).  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)

     You may recall the Old Testament account of when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then put her husband, Uriah, in a position on the battlefield where he was killed. Until David confessed his sin he was very miserable.  He couldn’t sleep and was affected physically as well. He said, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long, For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained…” (Psa. 32:3,4).  But then God, in His mercy, sent Nathan to confront David and he confessed his sin, saying: “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin…Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation…” (Psa. 32:5; 51:1-13).    David still had to suffer the consequences of his sin, but the guilt and feeling of being “unclean” were gone. David said, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity…” (Psa. 32:1,2). 

     It is great to feel clean–both physically and spiritually. Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life and been cleansed from the guilt of your sin?  If so, praise God!  If not, you need to! 

     If you are a believer and have some sin you have not confessed to God, don’t put it off. Don’t wait for a “Nathan” to come and confront you. Just agree with God that what you did was in violation of His character and His purpose for your life, thank Him for His forgiveness through His shed blood and ask the Holy Spirit to again be in control of your life.

      Forever His,

          Pastor Dave

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Where Will We Go From Here?

     Someone asked me before the general election two years ago (2020) whether I thought it was a crucial election?  I replied that I was convinced we were at an unprecedented crossroad in our nation and that the outcome of the election would play a big role in the direction our country took with respect to our having any semblance of a “Christian nation.”  The midterm elections of 2022 which are just days away will impact whether we continue in our spiral of spiritual and moral decline or whether there will be a reprieve with people “coming to their senses” and realizing the value of following biblical principles regarding the many issues we face today.  

  Our country surely has not been a perfect one for it is composed of sinners just like all other nations, but I believe that God uniquely established this nation to be a lighthouse to the world. (NOTE: This does not mean that God has given up on His Chosen nation Israel but will still fulfill His plans and promises for Israel…Isa. 41:17-20; Jer. 29:11; Ezek. 37:21-28). The early strongholds of Christianity in Europe that resulted from the Reformation soon lost their separation from the world system and the church and state merged, leaving most churches cold and dead.  It was a sad sight for us to witness when we visited Europe in the mid 1980’s to see the majority of the churches with either closed doors or a mere handful of older people attending.  

     When our nation began, there was a strong emphasis on the truths of God’s Word and the freedom of worship.  Our governing structure was set up on the basis of morality and accountability to a Creator God.  When Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat and politician, visited America in the 1830’s he made the observation that “America’s Christian culture was unique in all the world” (Decision Magazine, Oct. 2022, p. 8).  Oh, politics was full of its conflicts and competition then as well, but the issues contested were quite different from those we face today:  abortion, the definition of marriage, the agenda of the LGBTQ, the Critical Race Theory taught in our schools, the push for transgenderism and confusion over whether you are male or female or maybe something else!  We see more and more oppression of the expression and living out of our Christian values at school, in the military and in the work place increasing the cases being defended by groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, and the American Center for Law and Justice.  

     Democracy presents a culture with a challenge: how to wisely use your freedom.  We face a similar challenge as Christians who, by God’s grace, have been set free from the Law by our faith in Christ and His atoning death and subsequent resurrection (Ro. 3:25,26).  God’s Word exhorts us not to use our freedom in Christ to do as we please, following the desires of our old nature, but to use that freedom to serve God as a bondslave of Christ. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13 cf Ro. 6:15). “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (I Pet. 2:16).   

     Without submission to God and His Word, democracy deteriorates. We become like Israel during the dark days of spiritual decline recorded in the book of Judges where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).   When a nation ceases to honor God and suppresses (and even opposes) the truth, we become a people without any moral compass and become “those who call good evil and evil good” (Isa. 5:20).  

     We can discuss all the things wrong with our dysfunctional nation but what our country really needs is a genuine revival with repentance and a return to biblical values governing our lives.  That has to begin with the church of Jesus Christ (and I’m not referring to the LDS!) to truly be His ambassadors and the salt and light we are intended to be to act as the preservative and shine the light of Jesus in the dark world around us (II Cor. 5:20; Mt. 5:14-16).  The only thing that will change America is for people to have changed hearts, transformed by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (Jn. 15:3; Eph. 5:26). 

     As believers we are citizens of both heaven and of our own nation (cf Eph. 3:20,21). As citizens of this nation we have the privilege of voting and electing leaders who shape the values of our nation. So,  please, look at the stand candidates take on key issues that affect your biblical worldview and vote accordingly.  But remember, political change is not our ultimate goal.  Our highest calling is to bring people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We are not called to “save America”!  We’re called to proclaim the Gospel (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). People need the Lord!  

     What would really Make America Great Again is to let Jehovah God be Lord, to humbly repent as the Ninevites did at the preaching of Jonah, turning from their wicked ways and violence and acknowledging the one true God (Jon. 3:5-10). 

      Many politicians conclude their speeches with “and God bless America.”  Well, God can’t bless us if we continue to turn our back on Him and push Him out of public life. But we do know that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psa. 33:12) and that “RIghteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34).  So, where we go from the crossroad that we are at will be determined by what place we give to the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:16)

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

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God’s Amazing Design

     We had the privilege this past week of hiking with some friends to a mountain lake in the Cabinet Wilderness near our home in northwest Montana. What a beautiful time to be up in the mountains where the colors show up in the fall a little ahead of in the valley. The huckleberry bushes had turned from green to a bright crimson. With the sun filtering through the tall fir, hemlock and spruce trees, the scene was alive with “burning bushes.” Complementing them were the shades of yellow and orange from the mountain ash and mountain maple. As we hiked, I couldn’t help but often utter, “Wow,” as I was just in awe of the strokes of the brush of our Master Artist, the Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who designed these plants and trees to display all this color as autumn arrives. The trees and bushes in the valley are also beginning to display their beautiful fall array of colors. What a beautiful time of year!!

     When God created plants and animals, He incorporated in their DNA the ability to adapt to cooler temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight in the fall and winter months. The whitetail deer that frequent our place year-round have already put on their “winter coats” which will help them survive as temperatures plummet this winter. They are also eating everything in sight to build up their fat reserves for the coming months when food will be scarce. 

     God designed many plants and trees to drop their leaves before winter when it would take a lot of energy and water to keep their leaves healthy when it is cold and dry and with fewer hours of sunlight.  As the leaves drop, the place on the branch where they attach is sealed up for the winter to protect the tree. As the leaves drop to the ground they also help insulate the roots of the tree from the cold which will soon freeze the ground. All part of God’s plan!

     But why such an amazing display of color before the leaves drop?  Well, again it is another manifestation of the magnificent wisdom of our Creator. Within each leaf, God placed different molecules called “pigments” to help provide the tree with food and to protect it. These pigments give the leaves their color. The pigment causing leaves to be green is “chlorophyll” which uses sunlight to make food for the tree.  During spring and summer when there is plenty of sunlight, plants make a lot of chlorophyll.  But in autumn, as the temperatures drop and the hours of sunlight decrease, the tree breaks down the chlorophyll into smaller molecules which are absorbed so that when spring arrives, the trees can use those molecules to remake the chlorophyll. 

     As the chlorophyll breaks down, the other pigments in the leaves can display their colors.  The “carotenoid” pigments are different shades of yellow and orange. Other pigments, called “anthocyanins,” are red, pink or purple. These pigments also protect the leaves from being eaten or getting sunburned.  

     So, as a by-product of this amazing design of our Creator, we get to observe the beauty of fall.  I believe God had us in mind when He incorporated these features in the plants and trees He created. Just as “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psa. 19:1), so do the plants and trees all about us point us to our awesome God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17).  As you observe the changing colors of fall, give God the praise for His wonderful design and thank Him for allowing us to enjoy it all with Him. Remember, after the six days of creation, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).  Amen!

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

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Where Are You Storing Your Treasures?

     Have you noticed the proliferation of storage units springing up everywhere. We have many of them in our little northwest corner of Montana, but as we travel through Idaho, Washington and Oregon, we notice the same phenomenon–storage units of all sizes to store small items as well as boats, campers and RV’s, etc.  People are obviously acquiring more and more “stuff” to where they no longer have room for it all. 

     There is a seemingly inordinate desire for “more.”  Jesus warned about the pointlessness of focusing on the temporal. He said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Lk. 12:15).  In other words, life is to be about more than the “stuff” accumulated in this temporal existence. The “stuff” of this life must never become an end in itself.  

     Jesus illustrated this principlewith a parable of a rich man whose barns were not big enough to hold his abundant crops and his goods, so he built bigger ones (Lk. 12:13-31).  Apparently it never occurred to him to give the excess away to others who might be in need. He was so self-absorbed that he only focused on the need to build more “storage units” to hold his abundance (vv. 17,18).  He was proud of his accomplishment and planned to enjoy his excess for many years (v. 19). 

    You will notice there is no mention of God in his plans. He was like the one addressed by James in his epistle: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (Jas. 4:13-16).  The wealthy barn builder in Jesus’ parable made no provision for his soul (Lk. 12:20a) and God called him a fool (v. 20b).  When  he died, he might have left much “stuff” behind, but he had made no provision for his eternal future. He had not “laid up treasure in heaven” (Mt. 6:19-21). The man’s purely temporal perspective left him no provision for eternity. The mere possession of wealth is not an indication of standing in favor with God (See James 1:9-11; 5:1-6).  Wealth’s only legacy is its fleeting nature (Lk. 6:24,25). King Solomon, who became one of the wealthiest men to ever live, experienced the futility of focusing on the temporal. When he pursued purpose and significance in his “stuff” (and he had unbelievable possessions) his conclusion was that it was “striving after wind” (Eccl. 2:11). He concluded that “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity…The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments…” (5:10; 12:13).  

     Paul, in writing to his understudy, Timothy, also addressed the issue of wealth, saying: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (and the ‘stuff’ it can buy) is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness….Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on  God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (I Tim. 6:6-11,16-19). 

     Having an abundance is not sinful, unless we have acquired it in a dishonest way. But we are not to look for our significance in our possessions. Rather, if we are so blessed, we are to be generous in using our abundance for “good works” and sharing with those in need. To the Ephesians, Paul wrote: “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need” (Eph. 4:28).  

      Above all, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Mt. 6:33). 

Forever His,

      Pastor Dave

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An Amazing Monarch

     If you’ve watched any news today you have most likely witnessed the love and respect of the world for a godly woman, Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned over Great Britain for an amazing 70 years.  Eighty percent of the folks in GB have never known any other ruler!  The code words to notify England’s newly elected prime minister of the queen’s death were: “London Bridge Is Down.”  We have visited London and have seen the impressive “London Bridge,” which is really symbolic of the nation itself, just as Queen Elizabeth was symbolic of Great Britain and the Commonwealth over which she ruled for seven decades. As I read eulogies honoring her life and read quotes from her Christmas messages, I realize what a remarkable monarch she was, but even more so, what a remarkable and exemplary follower of Jesus Christ she was, one whose faith definitely shaped all she did and said.  She was a definite gift from God, not only to a nation but to the global community. As one eulogist said, “She was a beacon of grace, humor, humility, generosity and deep faith.” 

    Queen Elizabeth often spoke of her trust in Christ and the difference it made in her life. There is no question as to the identity of the King she served–the One whom Scripture calls “The King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:16). She may not have been outspoken about her politics, but Queen Elizabeth was never shy about her steadfast devotion to Jesus Christ, the King she served. There was no doubt about where she put her trust, as indicated by her Christmas speeches over the years, such as this one from 2014: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, He stretched out His hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.”  Her Christmas message in 2002 included this statement: “I Know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God…I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian Gospel.” 

     Queen Elizabeth offered an extraordinary example of consistent godliness in one of the longest and most public global ministries in the history of the world.  Those who had the privilege of meeting her and spending time with her (as Billy Graham did on numerous occasions) said that she had the unique ability to make people feel comfortable and valued.  

     Queen Elizabeth’s amazing 70-year rule came to an end but the throne of Jewish King David, through His descendent Jesus Christ,  will endure forever and as believers we will reign with Him forever as well. In II Sam. 7:8-17 we read about the Covenant God made with David to “establish his kingdom forever” (vv. 13,14,16).  David’s descendants ruled over Israel until Babylon conquered them in 586 B.C.  Israel has not had a descendant on the throne since that time, but then “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son (Who was born a descendant of David), born of a woman, born under the Law” (Gal. 4:4; Ro. 1:3). The Magi who came to worship Him, familiar with Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Mt. 2:2). Jesus was rejected by the Jewish people and He ended up being crucified (All part of God’s redemptive plan…Acts 2:23). But He rose from the dead and after 49 days ascended back to heaven. He will remove His Bride, the Church from the earth in what we call the “rapture” (I Thes. 4:13-18), and then through a period called “The Great Tribulation” or the “time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) distress” will bring Israel to a place of repentance (Ro. 11:25,26), and then will return to set up His Millennial (1,000-year) reign, sitting on the throne of David in fulfillment of the promise He made. 

     God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel saying: “Therefore I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey…Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd” (Ezek. 34:22,23).  It is not a reference to King David but David’s greatest descendant, the Messiah (cf Isa.9:6,7; 55:3; Jer. 23:5)

     Today, at the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, the world honors the reign of an amazing monarch and her 70-year reign, but we eagerly await the return of the King she served so faithfully, the Lord Jesus Christ, for, as believers, “Our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20,21). 

Forever His,

        Pastor Dave

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Why Go To Church?

     During the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic, many schools and businesses had to shut down, Classes started being taught by Zoom and many workers were able to do much of their work from home via the computer and the amazing capabilities of the Internet.  The majority of churches also closed their doors and those with the capabilities, started having their services online.  Now that things have returned to “somewhat normal,” not everyone went back to their workplace but continued to do much of their business from home.  There are also those who found “attending church ” from the comfort of their home to be attractive and continue to do so, and have not resumed going to the services of their local church.  There are also those who have had bad experiences in a local church so quit attending altogether. 

     This brings up  the question of “Why do we go to church?”  What is the purpose of the local church and is it really important for believers to attend one? Can’t we just study on our own, maybe attend a home Bible study group, and watch an online service of our choice. There are so many to choose from–some with good, solid Bible teaching, and some which are more of a “show” don’t really practice sound doctrinal teaching. 

     The word for church (ekklesia) means “called out ones.” It has the idea of a group that has been called out for a purpose. In general use, it simply means “assembly.”  Ekklesia is used more than 100 times in the New Testament, primarily in reference to local churches, but also as a designation for all true believers in Christ, which we refer to as the “universal church” and includes all who have trusted Christ since the day of Pentecost and are thus baptized into the body of Christ (the church) by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; I Cor. 12:12,13).The church, therefore, is distinct from the nation of Israel in God’s plans and purposes. The Apostle Paul made it clear that the church was a “mystery,” hidden and not revealed until the time of Christ and the apostles (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 3:1-10). It will continue on earth until the Lord Jesus comes “in the air” and raptures it out of the world (I Thes. 4:13-18; II Thes. 2:1). 

The focus of ekklesia in the New Testament is not on the universal aspect of the church, but on the church as it existed in local areas, like Philippi, Rome, Corinth, Jerusalem, Ephesus, etc.  The New Testament letters were written to these local assemblies of believers. Once a person came to faith in Christ and became a member of the universal church, he united with a local group of believers. There seemed to be no question of whether or not they needed to be part of a local church. They sensed their need for fellowship and for commitment to other Christians. 

     So what is the biblical purpose for the local church?  From the New Testament we find three basic purposes indicated. The first is evangelism. The church is to be God’s lighthouse in a world darkened by sin and satanic blindness (Mt. 5:13-16; II Cor. 4:3,4).  The church’s external ministry is to take God’s good news (the Gospel...Ro. 1:16; I Cor. 15:1-4) to those who do not know Christ (Mt. 28:19,20; Acts 1:8; II Cor. 5:18-20). The gospel may be presented within the walls of a church building, but the primary place for evangelism is the “marketplace” (where you live, work, socialize, and recreate). 

     The second purpose of the church is edification–to build up and strengthen believers, equipping them for ministry (Eph. 4:7-16; Acts 2:42-47). When the local church gathers, it does so primarily to build up believers, not to evangelize. When evangelism is the emphasis of the local gathering, it is a detriment to the edifying of its own people. While it is appropriate to give any unsaved who may be in attendance an opportunity to trust Christ for eternal life, that should not be the primary focus of the church services. The focus should be on equipping the saints so that they become effective in lifestyle evangelism outside the local assembly.  

     Certain elements are fundamental to carrying out edification: teaching the Scriptures, worshipprayer and fellowship (Acts 2:42-47).  Clear, systematic teaching of the “whole counsel of God”  (Acts 20:27; II Tim. 2:1,2; 3:16,17) is essential for a believer’s spiritual growth and is foundational to a healthy, maturing church.  Worship, another vital element, is the heart response to the Lord for who He is and what He Has done. Without real and vibrant worship, the church becomes man-centered and self-centered. Just because a church has a “worship service”  does not mean that worship actually takes place. Every local church needs to analyze its services to determine if true praise and worship are going on or if the services are characterized by empty ritual. God desires the worship of His people, but detests formalism (Mt. 23:23-28; Jn. 4:23,24; Psa. 145-150).  A third necessary element is public prayer. The church should provide times for thanksgiving, confession, and requests (Acts 2:42).  Fellowship is a fourth necessary ingredient.  It is not merely potluck dinners or shaking hands after the Sunday service. Fellowship is sharing about the Christian life, both successes and failures, with other believers. It is sharing one’s life and resources. It is encouraging, supporting and even confronting other believers. For many churches today, this is a missing element. Even small churches become impersonal when biblical fellowship is missing. 

     Along with evangelism and edification, a third major purpose for the local church is purification. The church is to be characterized by purity and holiness because that is the nature of the One it serves and worships (I Pet. 1:16). Though sanctified positionally, the Christian still has to deal with the world system, Satan and the sin nature in his own life. Because the word of God taught and applied will have a cleansing effect, the church has an important role in teaching all of God’s Word and encouraging members of the assembly to apply it to their own lives in order to grow in Christlikeness (I Jn. 3:1-3). Being part of a local church provides us with an accountability group. 

     As believers we are members of the “universal church,” the “bride of Christ,” and will one day soon be removed from the earth (by death or the rapture) to forever be with the Lord, but meanwhile we are to be part of a local assembly of believers where we can worship corporately, and be built up in our faith and be equipped to effectively serve the body of Christ and to be a witness to those around us outside of the assembly.  The author of Hebrews writes: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25). When we are “born again,”  the Holy Spirit equips us with special abilities to serve and help build up the body of Christ (Ro. 12:3-8; I Cor. 12; Eph. 4:7-16).  These are not for our personal benefit so much as “for the common good” (I Cor. 12:7), meaning that they are to be primarily exercised to help build up a local assembly of believers.  None of us has all the spiritual gifts but each of us has some of the gifts, so the church needs us and we need the church!  So, don’t leave the church in the lurch!  Be part of a local assembly and use your gifts to help that church grow and be a lighthouse in your community.  It’s good for your soul!

Forever His,

       Pastor Dave

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