Freedom’s Fences

     I recall reading in James Dobson’s book Dare to Discipline about an experiment on a playground at a school where the children primarily hung near the buildings during recess until they built a fence around the school property. Then the children felt safer and utilized the whole area for their playtime.  We witnessed a similar thing in our neighborhood recently. A new family with young children had moved into a home that is on our walking route. We noticed the same thing happen. The place had no fence and the children hung out next to the house. But then the parents built a cute little fence out of pallets and now the children play in the whole yard around the house. 
     One of the principles of life is that “freedom has fences,” i.e., true freedom comes only when we live within the boundaries that are placed around us to protect us.  Many think that freedom comes from removing all the fences, getting rid of all restraints, but that ultimately leads to bondage to our old sinful natures. We all recently saw an example of that in the CHOP district in Seattle.  Getting rid of authority and police protection and rules and regulations leads to anarchy and chaos—it always has and always will. You would think we would have learned from examples in history, but it seems many have to find out for themselves. 
     From the very beginning of creation and the history of mankind, God placed restrictions or boundaries upon us. Adam and Eve were free to eat the fruit of any tree in the Garden of Eden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying, “for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Satan convinced Eve that God was not being fair or truthful and said, “You surely shall not die!” (Gen. 3:3).  Eve believed Satan’s lie and she and her husband both ate of the forbidden tree and today we live in a world of sin and chaos as a result. We all inherited the sinful nature that resulted from that act of disobedience (Ro. 5:12,19) and have the tendency to listen to Satan’s lies and to disobey God’s commands. 
     The sinful heart of man thinks that if we can throw off all of God’s restraints–like the protection of human life from conception to the grave, like marriage being for one man and one woman, like sex being reserved for marriage, like doing our own work honestly to provide a living for our family, like worshiping only the one true God and not substituting gods of our own making, like treating others with kindness and respect and not envying and coveting what they have, like submitting to the authorities God has placed over us—that we will really be free.  But, God has placed those boundaries around us because with our old, sinful natures, we need them.They are for our safety and security.  Without them, man does only “that which is right in his own eyes” as they did during the “dark ages” of Israel’s history, a period of some 350 years of seven cycles of sin, slavery, supplication and salvation.  We cannot experience true freedom without living within the boundaries God has set down for us.
     Our nation just celebrated our 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from the restraints place upon our people by Great Britain.  For the most part our nation was living within the guidelines that are laid out in God’s Word, the Bible. It was even the only textbook for awhile in our schools. It doesn’t mean there was no disobedience to God’s commands, but as a nation we trusted in God and His Word and the “fences” set down within which to operate freely. Then gradually there was a movement to “tear down the fences,” to eliminate God’s Word and all its restrictions and gradually our legislators started listening to the voices of those who wanted to practice things that God’s Word condemns and passed laws, upheld by the courts, to allow such practices.  Those who opposed were made out to be “intolerant” and “politically incorrect,” and hateful.  Slowly the voice of reason—based on the principles of God’s Word—has been squelched and now we are witnessing a nation that is struggling and polarized and experiencing violent protests, hatred, looting, killing and lack of respect for authority, even asking that we defund the very ones who have the responsibility to protect us and to keep us within the boundaries that remain. Wow, how far we have fallen! 
     We sing “God Bless America” and speak of “the land of the free.”  But we have forgotten that God can bless only when we are obedient to Him and we are free only when we stay within His boundaries.  The Psalmist writes: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psa. 33:12a), and the wisest man who ever lived (besides Jesus), Solomon, wrote: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Pr. 14:34).   Our president’s goal is to “Make America Great Again,” and that won’t happen because our economy is doing well, or we have a strong military, or our educational system improves and people are working, but rather we can only be great again if we really believe and live out our motto: “In God We Trust.”  As long as we trust in science or education or government we are putting our trust in man, and therein lies a big problem. The prophet Jeremiah wrote:  “Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD…Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD…The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it’ ” (Jer. 17:6-9).
     We need to understand that God’s standards (His fences) are for our good and that real freedom comes from living by those standards. The more we resist them and try to remove them the further we get into messes like we find our nation in right now.  We desperately need a revival in the church and for our nation to regain its senses and realize that God placed boundaries upon our lives for good reason and that life doesn’t work the way He intended without them. We need to be like the prodigal son in Scripture and return to our Father to serve Him.  He waits with open, loving arms for that to happen.  It is our only hope as a nation. Pray much for our country and leaders and for us as Christians to be the salt and light which we are intended to be. 
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Security

    The late Charles Schulz, a believer in Jesus Christ, often included some great theology in his Peanuts comic strip.  One of my favorites was repeated on August 4, 2019 and dealt with the need we have for security. Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty are sitting under a big shade tree and Patty asks: “What do you think security is, Chuck?” His response: “Security is sleeping in the back seat of the car when you’re a little kid and you’ve been somewhere with your mom and dad, and its night and you’re riding home in the car and you can sleep in the back seat. You don’t have to worry about anything. Your mom and dad are in the front seat, and they do all the worrying. They take care of everything. But it doesn’t last! Suddenly you’re grown up and it can never be that way again. Suddenly it’s over and you’ll never get to sleep in the back seat again! Never!” 
    I’m sure you can probably relate. Sometimes you wish you weren’t the adult in the room and could go back to sleeping in the back seat of the car while mom and dad are taking care of everything.  Well, it is possible, for we have a heavenly Father who tells us to “cast all our anxiety (care) upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).  The Psalmist, David, who I’m sure could also relate to what Charlie Brown expressed, wrote: “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psa. 55:22).    The Apostle Paul, wrote these words to encourage the believers at Philippi: “Be anxious for nothing (don’t worry about anything), but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).
     Webster defines “security” as: “The state of being of feeling secure; freedom from fear, anxiety, doubt, etc.; something that gives or assures safety, tranquility, protection, certainty.” Hey, that’s just what we see promised in the above verses, and many more in Scripture.  Isaiah, the prophet, wrote these comforting words “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3 NIV). David wrote: “I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely” (Psa. 16: 8,9).  The Apostle Paul wrote these words to his understudy, Timothy: “…for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (when I stand before Him)” (II Tim. 1:12). 
     We live today in a world of uncertainty. For the past 3 1/2 months we have experienced something unique in history where the majority of the population has been living under lock down, many having lost their jobs, and others having to work from their homes using the available technology. Students were not able to return to school or to participate in sports but had to take their classes online. The entire entertainment industry came pretty much to a screeching halt, as did the sports world. Shopping became interesting, with many commodities missing from shelves and workers and shoppers wearing masks.  Travel was curtailed, affecting the airline and rail industries.  The majority of the world had to “shelter in,” and still thousands contracted the Covid-19 virus and thousands have died from it. The political world has seemingly just totally lost its moorings and everything that happens gets politicized with anger, animosity and now protests and riots and vandalism and looting. People are threatening to “defund the police” whose job is to keep us safe. Things have become crazy and out of control.   Life has become very uncertain. We don’t know when this virus will finally run its course and people will settle down and life will get back to normal—whatever that will look like. It will definitely be a “new normal,” as some ways of living will have been permanently changed.  People have lots to be anxious over and many are fearful and lacking peace and confidence about the future, and with good reason.
     I’m reminded of an old hymn “In Times Like These” by Ruth Caye Jones:
                “In times like these you need a Savior, In times like these you need an anchor.
                Be very sure, be very sure your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock! 
                (Chorus)
                This Rock is Jesus, yes He’s the One, This rock is Jesus, the only One!  
                Be very sure, be very sure your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock!
                In times like these you need the Bible, in times like these oh be not idle.
                Be very sure, be very sure your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock!
           
                In times like these I have a Savior, in times like these I have an anchor.
                I’m very sure, I’m very sure, my anchor holds and grips the solid Rock!”
    Many—the majority in fact—are looking for security in all the wrong places: their financial resources or real estate; in their job, their position, their education or their skill set; or in religion and their church attendance or membership. But, there is real security in only one place—a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, who came to earth, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life revealing to mankind the character of God and then laid down His life as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Security comes from accepting Christ’s death on your behalf and inviting Him into your life as Savior and Lord.  We are secure from that day forward through eternity for we have “Christ in us the hope of glory,” and “He Himself said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’ ” (Col. 1:27; Heb. 13:5). Security comes, not from religion but a relationship with God the Son. John wrote in his first epistle, the “know-so epistle”: “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (I Jn. 5:11-13).
      Our security is in the almighty, unchanging God our Savior, Jesus Christ. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:31-39). AMEN!!  That is real security?
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
               
                
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Providential Programming

     Okay, a trivia question for you: “What is the official (national) bird of Norway?  For us in the United States, it is, of course, not the wild turkey as Benjamin Franklin proposed, but the majestic Bald Eagle.  For Norway, it is a very ordinary bird that behaves in very extraordinary ways, the white-throated dipper.  Our version in North America is the American dipper, a slate-gray robin-sized bird that resembles an overgrown version of its cousin the wren, with its stubby tail that sticks upward. 
     The dipper is the only perching bird that is exclusively aquatic. You would expect to see it perching in tree in your backyard or the forest, but instead, you will spot it along the shores of a fast-moving stream.  If you’ve ever been to Glacier Park and sat along one of the many frigid streams of ice-cold water, you have probably spotted a little bird that sits along the shore pumping its body up and down by squatting and standing up some 40-60 times per minute, and then suddenly flitting from rock to rock and at some point disappearing into the turbulent, icy water for minutes at a time (It can hold its breath for ten minutes!).  If you can keep an eye on the dipper you will see it literally walking on the slippery rocks on the bottom of the stream in search of food and then probably see it “flying” through the water upstream as it uses its wings like a penguin does to propel itself through the water and use the current to force its buoyant little body to stay under water. At times the bird vigorously “rows” its sturdy wings like oars to resist the current in order to steady its position.
     To all appearances this little perching bird has no special features to enable its exuberant activity by and in a fast-moving, icy stream of fresh water, often just having melted from a glacier or snow bank. But it moves in and out of the water easily, and effectively navigates the streams in spite of its physical limitations.  And to go with this unusual activity is the fact that the dipper constantly has a song to sing. Adverse weather seems not to affect it in the least.  Despite the dipper’s physical limitations (it is definitely not built like a duck!), the dipper joyfully and energetically goes about its search for underwater larvae and other edible morsels, all the time with a cheery song.
     Amazing! How does the dipper know to perform these underwater behaviors?  An un-programmed or otherwise undirected “trial and error” process (which evolution would require) isn’t an adequate explanation because failures equal drowning!  And a drowned dipper wouldn’t get a second chance to evolve such underwater survival skills!  Dippers, like other birds, need providential programming in place to fill their special niches in the life God planned for them.
     God did design the dipper some special features which enable it to perform such amazing activity in the icy, turbulent streams.  God made its plumage very dense. Its protective covering of feathers is thicker than either of its relatives the wren or thrush. The ends of the feathers are more loosely formed to prevent them from soaking up water. God also designed the dipper with a large oil gland at the base of its tail with which it waterproofs its feathers. Our amazing Creator also gave the dipper three eyelids for its rather small eyes, one of the eyelids cleans and wipes the cornea like a windshield wiper, keeping it clear of water and making it appear that the dipper is always blinking. Also, on its nose are two flaps which close off each nostral and prevent water from entering when the bird submerges (not even ducks have this feature).  The dipper can also decrease its heart rate by 55-65% and increase the amount of oxygen stored in its blood, for its prolonged foraging trips under water. The dipper doesn’t have webbed feet (like a duck) or toes (like a coot), but does have extra-long strong toes for gripping the slipper rocks and for pushing itself up stream.
     The slate-gray color of our American dipper helps it blend in to the rocks and logs along the stream.  Its nest (constructed mainly by the female), looks like a round ball about a foot in diameter and covered with live, green moss, which the dipper waters by standing on its nest and shaking off the water from its feathers.  The nest is built by rocks or logs or often behind a waterfall!  
     What a strange, amazing bird! God equipped this bird with the remarkable skills it needs to get its food in a harsh, frigid environment, all the while seeming to maintain a spirit of joyfulness, despite its apparent  physical limitations.  Talk about “Providential Programming!”
     It seems that we too often find ourselves to be inadequate for the harsh circumstances in which we find ourselves, but God has equipped us to by giving us the Holy Spirit and Christ living in us to deal with anything that comes our way and, if we trust in Him and not our own wisdom and strength, we “can do all things through Him who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13).  And we can do it cheerfully, in spite of our human limitations. Earlier in the same chapter of Philippians, Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4).
     Hopefully you live near a stream where you can go and observe these amazing little exuberant, cheerful creatures that God made, the dipper, and “let them tell you” of the goodness of God (cf Job 12:7,8).
       Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
   
    
    
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

God’s Amazing Design

     As I have mentioned in previous “Wisdom of the Week” articles, we have a neighborhood whitetail deer herd which creates problems with our attempts at gardening and growing flowers, shrubs and trees. We have found very few things they actually don’t eat, especially in the fall, as they prepare for winter. We have to put cages or fences around anything we wish to protect.  But, at the same time we are provided with lots of entertainment seeing God’s beautiful creatures and their antics throughout the year.  We have a little rabbit that found a home under our beehives—of all places—and this last week we happened to catch sight of a doe and the rabbit playing chase. Pretty comical. 
     We also had the first fawn show up this past week, in the backyard of our neighbor with three dogs (two of them Great Danes!).  We heard the neighbor’s son hollering at the dogs and went to investigate to discover they had found a new fawn in their yard. We took over some latex gloves and another neighbor who had arrived managed to catch the fawn (which could already run) and take it out into our field and place it in some deep grass near the neighbor’s fence.  Toward evening the doe showed up and got her fawn—yea!  A couple years ago we had the privilege of watching twins being born in our orchard and were able to video the amazing scene. 
     Because of the increase of wolves, mountain lions and grizzly bears in our area, many of the deer have moved into residential areas for safety.  Since a whitetail deer will live 10-12 years, a doe, which can reproduce at age two and often has twins and occasionally triplets, can produce a family of up to 130 in her lifetime!  At one time there were an estimated 50 million whitetail deer in the United States, but by the late 1800’s, they had dropped in numbers to near extinction. Public concern saved the animal and populations are now close to 10 million (We are doing our part!).
     In late May or early June, the does have their young. It takes only 10-15 minutes for the doe to give birth to a fawn. She begins bathing the fawn to clean it up (and remove any smell), usually licking so vigorously that she knocks the fawn off its wobbly feet.  She also eats the placenta and signs of the birth to eliminate any telltale sign which would betray the deer’s presence to a predator. The fawn is usually able to stand within just a few minutes and as soon as it can walk—in about twenty to thirty minutes—the doe leads the fawn to a place of safety. (In the case of the fawn in the neighbor’s backyard, mom forgot about the fence that her fawn couldn’t get under, over or through!)  The doe will take the fawn to a safe place to rest for the next 2-3 days during which the fawn remains practically motionless with its legs tucked beneath and its neck stretched out and head pressed flat against the ground, or curled up in a fetal position.  God, in His wisdom, to protect the fawn from predators (which resulted from the curse He placed on the earth after sin…Gen. 3:14-19), provides the fawn with a spotted coat enabling it to blend inconspicuously with its background, the spots resembling shadows on the ground caused by sunlight filtering through the trees. In addition, the fawn is odorless for several weeks.  If the fawn stays motionless, a predator could walk right by it and the infant, with its protective coloring and lack of odor would be undetected.
     During those first two or three days, the doe will separate herself from the fawn so as to not attract predators, but she will return briefly several times a day to feed the fawn with her rich milk which contains twice the solids and three times the fat and protein of that of a Jersey cow. On that diet, the fawn quadruples its weight in a month!  (And adult weighs 150-300 pounds.) 
     Soon, as the fawn gains strength from the nutritious milk, and is more sure on its legs, it is prone to start wandering and exploring. The doe, in order to protect her fawn will be firm in discipline, insisting that her little one lay down and stay there until told it’s okay to move. She will push the fawn to the ground with her muzzle, or front hoof placed in the fawn’s back pressing it to the ground.  The fawn needs to learn to obey. It is really a matter of life and death. 
    Predators such as coyotes, cougars and wolves can quickly pick up the scent of an adult deer long after it has passed by. Inter-digital glands located between the points of the split hooves deposit a waxy secretion on the ground—but this is not the case of the fawn until it has sufficiently developed its running skills—just another way our wonderful Creator designed the whitetail deer. 
     Besides its quickness and speed and ability to hide, the whitetail deer comes equipped with razor-sharp front hooves which it uses as very effective weapons to inflict serious wounds on an enemy. The rattlesnake is one such enemy.  The deer leaps into the air and pounces on the snake. The quickness with which the deer attacks with its sharp hooves will kill and tear the snake to shreds.  God also equipped the whitetail deer with a very sensitive nose, sonar-like hearing and keen eyesight. They have the ability to focus on both nearby and distant objects at the same time. So, while it has its head down eating, at the same time it keeps an eye out for trouble.  Because their eyes are set high and spread wide apart, the deer can see almost completely around itself.
     If the whitetail deer were able to respond to its Maker, it would echo with the Psalmist, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb, I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works…” (Psa. 139:13,14 NKJV).  And just think, If God so wonderfully designed His creatures—like the whitetail deer—we, as the “crown of His creation,” can—and should—rejoice in His design of us, His care of us,  and His purpose for our lives to be able to communicate with and love Him and to spend eternity with Him through the sacrifice He made to pay for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
                                Forever His,
                                        Pastor Dave
     
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Messages from the Mountains

     We live near the beautiful Cabinet Mountain Wilderness Area and over the years have had the privilege of doing lots of hiking in the area, including making it to the top of a number of the mountains. What an amazing view and perspective you get when on a mountaintop!  I also had the opportunity a few years ago of taking a scenic flight over the Cabinets, and within just over an hour seeing all the places we have hiked, spending many hours just to reach one of the destinations.  Mountains are so majestic and seem to represent power and authority and stability.  We speak of having “mountaintop” experiences as highlights in our lives.  But, in our humanity, we always have to return to the valleys and live out our everyday lives. 
     While many actual mountains are connected with key events in Scripture, they are also used figuratively as symbolic of strength and stability. In Psalm 30:7, King David, in reference to the stability of his kingdom, writes: “O LORD, by your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong…” David also speaks of the mountains as symbolic of the righteousness of God (Psa. 36:6).  The prophet, Isaiah was given a vision of the glory of the future kingdom and writes: “Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills and all the nations will stream to it” (Isa. 2:2).  Daniel, in prophesying of the coming kingdom on earth, writes about the “stone” which crushes the earthly kingdoms and becomes “a great mountain that fills the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35). 
     Mountains have served as the site of many significant events in Bible history.  Noah’s ark, after surviving the world-wide flood, “rested upon the mountains of Ararat (which reach 17,000 feet in elevation)” (Gen. 8:4).  (It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for “rested” is the same as the word for “Noah.” Also, the ark came to rest on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, which—after considering the calendar change God made at the time of the Passover [Ex. 12:2,6] is the same day Christ was raised from the dead (Jn. 19:4; I Cor. 5:7).
     When God requested that Abraham offer up his promised son, Isaac, He sent him to the mountains of Moriah, where Solomon later built His Temple in Jerusalem (II Chr. 3:1).  “Moriah” means “The place to see God,” or “The place where God provides.” It was there that God did provide the ultimate sacrifice for sin, His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life (Jn. 3:16 cf Gen. 22: 8).
     It was, of course, Mt. Sinai that Moses ascended (twice) to receive the Law for the Israelites during the third month after their exodus from slavery in Egypt (Gen. 19:1).  Mt. Sinai is usually identified as Jebel Musa, a 7500-foot peak at the southern end of the “V” formed by the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba. At the foot of the peak is a plain 2 1/2 miles long and 1/2 mile wide in which the people could easily have camped for the more than 11 months that they were there.
     In the central part of Palestine are two mountains rising about 3,000 feet on either side of the narrow valley of Shechem. On Mount Gerazim Moses stood and promised a blessing to the Jews if they would obey God’s commands. Then he stood on Mount Nebal and proclaimed a curse upon the people if they would not obey God’s commands (Dt. 11, 27).
     Carmel is a mountain range, rising to 1800 feet, which juts out into the Mediterranean near modern Haifa, Israel.  It was there that the prophet Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the Asherah (mother of Baal) to a contest to see whose god was the true God–Jehovah God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or Baal.  They would prepare offerings upon an altar and call upon their god to send fire to consume it. The Baal worshipers cried out to their god, danced around the altar, cut themselves, but to no avail. Then Elijah prayed and God sent fire to consume not only the sacrifice but the altar itself and licked up the water in the trench around the altar (I Kgs. 18).
     When Jesus began His public ministry, He went into the desert (probably near Jericho) where he fasted for 40 days and was then tempted by the devil, who “took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory” (Mt. 4; 8).  Satan, the usurper, had become the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31), and offered these kingdoms to Jesus if He would just bow down and worship him.  Satan’s offer was genuine, but, of course Jesus—as the God-Man— couldn’t, and wouldn’t worship Satan, or He would not have fulfilled His mission to go to the cross and die for sin. Jesus will one day rule over the world, in His time.
     Probably the most familiar of all Jesus’ teachings also took place on a mountainside in Galilee. It is referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount,” and contains the Beatitudes (Mt. 5-7). Later in His ministry, “Jesus took with Him Peter and James, and John his brother, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves.  And He was transfigured before them…and behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him” (Mt. 17:1-3).  This event probably took place on Mt. Hermon, with an elevation of 4200 feet.  The transfiguration gave the three disciples a preview of Jesus future exaltation and the coming kingdom.  Peter wanted the experience to continue and offered to build tabernacles there for Jesus, Moses and Elijah (v. 4).  When we have those “mountaintop experiences,” we want them to last!
     Near the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He sat on the Mount of Olives and answered His disciples’ question about the signs of His coming and the end of the age (Mt. 24:3).  Jesus’ response (Mt. 24,25) is referred to as “The Olivet Discourse.” Shortly after that Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples and then returned to the Mount of Olives where He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, tried, and taken to a hill on the outskirts of Jerusalem called “the skull” (Golgotha in Hebrew and Calvary in Latin). It was probably in a prominent place near the public highway. Some claim that Moriah (where Abraham took Isaac) and Calvary are identical.
     When the Lord returns to judge the nations of the earth and to set up His Millennial Kingdom, He will set foot again on the Mount of Olives on the east of Jerusalem and it will split in two… “and the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. All the land will be changed…and the people will live in it, and there will be nor more curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security” (Zech. 14:4-11).  Seven years before that, the Church will be removed as Christ comes in the air for His Bride (I Thes. 4:13-18).  “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
    
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

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
     
    
    
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

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).
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

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
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

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
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

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
 
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment