Firmly Rooted

On our drive through eastern Washington and eastern Oregon, we often see tumbleweeds plastered up against a fence and occasionally “tumbling” across the road in front of us.  A tumbleweed is the ball-shaped structural part of the above ground anatomy of a number of species of plants. Once it is mature and dry, it detaches from its root or stem and rolls with the wind until it lodges up against a fence or building.  They remind me of the importance of being firmly rooted in order to “hold your ground” against the winds of adversity and false teaching and all the current craziness of “woke, “cancel culture,” transgenderism, LGBTQ, etc., sweeping across our country today. People have definitely lost their spiritual and moral moorings or roots and are like tumbleweeds pushed around by the winds of humanistic philosophies.      

Scripture emphasizes the importance of being deeply rooted in our faith and in contact with the source of “Living Water.”  The Apostle Paul warns us: “See to it that no ones takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2: 8).  In the previous verses He wrote: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus  the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…” (vv. 6,7).  To the church at Ephesus, Paul encourages the believers to grow in their faith so that, as a result, they not be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:12-14). 

If ever we needed to be well-grounded in our faith, it is in this present age of moral, political and spiritual dyslexia when good is called evil and evil is called good (Isa. 5:20) and Christians are being pressured to compromise their convictions in order to succeed, whether in academia, business, athletics, or pretty much any activity in which they are involved.  Our Christian support groups like ACLJ and ADF are swamped with cases, trying to help Christians fight for their rights, whether as a student in public institutions of learning, a baker, a photographer, a florist, etc..  How rapidly and drastically our nation has changed.   During this time of the heat of adversity, it is crucial to have our roots firmly planted and not be as the tumbleweed.  The Psalmist wrote: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in the season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatsoever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff (like tumbleweeds!) which the wind drives away” (Psa. 1:1-4a).   Note that the blessed man is one who delights in and meditates upon the Law (the Scriptures).      

God’s words to the prophet Jeremiah were very similar: “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, for He will be like a bush in the desert (a tumbleweed!)…Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD, for he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit’” (Jer. 17:5-8). 

So, in such a time as this, with all the craziness going on around us, we need to be firmly rooted in our faith by consistently being in the Word, delighting in it and meditating upon it. We also need to be trusting in our unchangeable, omnipotent God and not in man and his ungodly philosophies and policies. As Solomon exhorts: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Pr. 3:5,6).  And, of course, keep your armor on daily (Eph. 6:10-18) and be in constant communication with your Father through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit(I Thes. 5:17).       

Be a “tree firmly planted,” not a tumbleweed!  Tumbleweeds and trees both have roots. Tumbleweeds, however, don’t stay connected to their life-source, causing them to dry out and die. Trees, on the other hand, remain connected to their roots, enabling them to flourish and thrive, anchored to that which will sustains them in times of difficulty. When we hold fast to God, drawing strength and encouragement from the wisdom found in His Word and talking to Him in prayer, we too can experience the life-giving, life-sustaining nourishment He provides.              

Forever His,                    

Pastor Dave       

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

That Changes Everything

There are a number of key events that have literally changed the course of history. From a biblical viewpoint, we have the Flood of Noah which destroyed all life on earth except Noah and his family and the animals on board the ark (Gen. 6-8).  Then we have the Tower of Babel where God confused languages and scattered people across the globe (Gen. 10,11).  Another key event was God’s choosing of Abraham to become the father of the nation of Israel through which would come the Scriptures and the Messiah (Gen. 12).  Then, after about four millennia of earth’s history, we have the event that even changed our calendars from B.C.  (Before Christ) to A.D. (The year of our Lord), for “When the fullness of time came God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who are under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4,5). “The (eternal) Word (God the Son),  became flesh and dwelt among us…” (Jn. 1:14).      

He came to explain (reveal) God to us (Jn. 1:18), to live a perfect life so He could die and pay the penalty for all our sins. “God (the Father) made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed” (restored) (I Pet. 2:24).  Jesus did what He had promised and predicted. As the Good Shepherd, He laid down His life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11).  Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). 

But, was Jesus just another “martyr for a cause”?  What made his sacrificial death different from many others who had died as a result of standing up for what they believe and promote?  Well, consider this, during the first century, the Romans crucified some 20,000 individuals, but only one came back to life—Jesus Christ. His Resurrection makes all the difference. It changes everything!  There have been many religious leaders in world history and today many still follow the tenets they taught—men like Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed, Charles Taze Russel, Joseph Smith, et. al, but all died and remained that way. Only one rose from the grave—Jesus Christ. The Resurrection makes all the difference. It changes everything.    

It tells us that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be—God the Son, God in human flesh—fully God and fully man—and that the Father who poured out His wrath on our sin while Jesus hung on the cross was fully propitiated (satisfied...Ro. 3:25). Our sins were paid for in full.  The resurrection confirmed that Jesus’ mission to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10) had been fully accomplished. “He (Jesus Christ) was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of (on the basis of) our justification” (Ro. 4:25).     

As the chorus of the  Don Francisco song, He’s Alive, goes, “He’s alive and I’m forgiven, Heaven’s gates are open wide.”  The Apostle Paul tells us that “If Christ had not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstborn of those who are asleep” (I Cor. 15:17-20).  We “were dead in trespasses and sins…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been save) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:1,4-6).

Through faith in Christ as our Savior, we become identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrection and positionally we are even seated in Heaven in Christ.  That changes everything for us. We have assurance of eternal life and a new purpose for living. Paul writes: “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1,2).  “…as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:4). 

During the trial and suffering that Jesus endured, his disciples—except for John—returned to the upper room to hide out, thinking they too might be killed for associating with Jesus.  They were, of course ecstatic to find out He had been raised from the dead, but were still in confusion and helpless, but Jesus said to them, “Behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49).  “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). 

Ten days after Jesus ascended back to heaven (fifty days from His resurrection), the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and empowered them, and every believer since that time. The resurrection and the coming of the Spirit changed everything.  The disciples who had been cowering in fear went out to boldly proclaim the Gospel, the good news of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.  On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, Peter, who was unwilling to acknowledge (during the trial) that he even knew Jesus, stood and preached a powerful, convicting message and some 3,000 Jews repented and received Christ as their Messiah-Savior (Acts 2:14-41).  All the apostles (except John) ended up being martyred for their faith. The resurrection and coming of the Holy Spirit changed everything!      

Have you met the resurrected Christ?  Have you accepted His death on your behalf?  Have you asked Him into your life to be your personal Savior and Lord?  When you do, it changes everything. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17).  

He is Risen!!     

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave        

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Our Mediator/Intercessor

Our modern communication system is pretty mind-boggling when you think of how far we have advanced in the past 50-60 years.  In today’s world, we have nearly instant communication with anyone, anywhere—providing you can get cell service or internet access.  We happen to live in an area—northwest Montana—where our cell service is spotty. We often have to go outside to get our text messages to send or to visit with someone on the cellphone.  We still have a number of “dead zones” with no cell service at all.   And our internet service is also quite unpredictable.  

   When I was growing up, we had a big black corded wall phone, were on a party line and answered to two rings.  Calls came through a local switch-board operator, who would manually push and pull cable plugs to connect callers to the right receivers.  The operator was an important mediator, without whom communication would become impossible.     

What a blessing that, as Christians, we have immediate access to our Father in heaven (24-7) through our Lord Jesus Christ, who after dying for our sins and being buried, rose again and ascended to the right hand of the Father, there to act as our Intercessor and mediator. We read in the book of Hebrews: “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14).  The Apostle Paul wrote: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Ro. 8:33,34).   

The priests of the Old Testament, who acted as intercessors on behalf of the people, had to continually make sacrifices and when one priest died, another had to take his place. Concerning this, the writer of Hebrews says, “And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:23-25).

Paul, in writing to his young understudy, Timothy, who was pastoring at Ephesus in Asia Minor, said, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all…” (I Tim. 2:5,6).  Paul reminded Timothy—and us—that Jesus acts as the (only) mediator between individuals and God. Our requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgivings go directly to the Father through Jesus. Hebrews tells us that since we have “a great high priest who has ascended into the heavens” (4:14), we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). 

The great thing about our 24-7 access to God through our Mediator, is that there are no “dead zones,” no “busy signals,” no concern of time zones or getting “put on hold.”  (Have you ever been on hold so long on a call that you forget who you called and have to ask when you finally get a ‘live’ person to talk to?!).  We have access to God anywhere anytime. Sometimes we don’t quite know how to express what’s on our heart, or we are so emotionally distraught we don’t know what to say. Well, we have “Another Intercessor” living right within us that takes over to speak on our behalf—the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Triune Godhead. “The Spirit also helps our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Ro. 8:26).  Praise God, He’s got us covered!     

In some faith traditions, people do not speak directly to God, they depend on the intercession of a human intercessor—someone thought to be holier than themselves who addresses God on their behalf. Today, celebrate the fact that Jesus is your Mediator, and you can speak to God anytime you’d like, even if all you can get out is “God, help!” or, “I can’t, You can. Please do!”          

Forever His            

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Motivated By Love

While in Oregon last week, we heard the news of the death March 17 of iconic Boston Marathon runner Dick Hoyt, who competed in 32 Boston Marathons, beginning in 1980 through 2014.  Due to some health issues, he had planned to participate in his final marathon in 2013, but that got postponed until 2014 (when Dick was 72)  due to the tragic “Boston Marathon Bombing.”  Over the course of his lifetime, Dick participated in 72 marathons and 257 triathlons.  What an amazing feat!  But, that is only part of the story.  You see, when he ran, he pushed his son, Rick, in a specialized wheel chair. Rick was born with cerebral palsy and was a spastic quadriplegic.      

In 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed. Dick, inspired by his son, agreed to run with him and they finished next to last, but that was just the start. Together they competed in more than 1,000 races, including marathons and triathlons and in 1992, even completed a run and bike across the U.S. covering 3,735 miles in 45 days.  Dick said, “Rick’s the heart and I’m the body.” He did what he did because of his amazing love for his son.  He has inspired thousands of runners, fathers and disabled athletes.  For those of you who are or have been runners, you know how grueling it is to run 26.2 miles. At some point, your body is shouting for you to quit. Well, imagine doing that pushing another person in a wheelchair!  And to do it hundreds of times!  Wow, what great love on display!     

Well, I know another story of a Father’s great love which motivated Him to make a huge sacrifice—for each one of us.  The Bible tells us, “For God (the Father) so loved the world (of humanity—each of the billions who have lived, are living or will live), that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus Christ), that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:16,17).  As you consider the means by which God made salvation available to all who believe, you can’t help but be overwhelmed with how much He must love us, for Jesus had to die in our place and, according to prophecy (Psa. 22; Isa. 53), had to die by one of the most cruel means ever used for capital punishment—crucifixion.  Not only did Jesus endure the pain and suffering of being nailed to a cross, but before that He was beaten and whipped until His body was shredded and bleeding. He was too weak to even bear the beam for the cross all the way to the crucifixion site.  As awful as all the physical suffering, by far the worst part of His vicarious death (suffering on our behalf) was that the Father had to pour out wrath on His Son as He bore our sins. Remember Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46).       

The Apostle Paul wrote: “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).  Peter adds, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live in righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed” (I Pet. 2:24).  As Jesus conducted His earthly ministry, He was constantly mindful of the main purpose for which He came to earth, born of a virgin, living a sinless life, all to be able to pay the penalty for our sins.  He often said, “My time has not yet come,” or “the hour has not yet come” in reference to that event on Mt. Calvary. At any point He could have decided that we weren’t worth dying for and just returned to the glory of heaven, but His love for us—and for His Father—drove Him to complete His task. “Having loved His own, He loved them to the end” ( Jn. 13:1 ). The writer of the book of Hebrews  tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of 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. 12:1b,2).   Praise God, the work of redemption was done (cf Jn. 19:30), and Jesus “sat down.”  There is nothing we can or need to add to what He accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection.  “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices. which can never take away  sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:11-14).

What amazing love! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5: 8).  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11).  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10). 

And, the story doesn’t end there.  That same love that sent the Son to die for us, comes to abide in us when we trust Christ as Savior.  Paul said, “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5).   At the moment of salvation, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and “the fruit of the Spirit is love,……” (Gal. 5:22). The same love that motivated God to sacrifice His Son for our sins, now abides in each believer.  When we allow the Holly Spirit to control us, we will be motivated by that same unconditional, “agape” love, which will characterize our lives as being His disciples (Jn. 13:34,35).        

Forever His,

Pastor Dave 

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

God and Government

As a Christian with a biblical world view, it has been very disturbing to see the direction our country is heading. An example is the “Equality Act” which was recently debated in the House of Representative.  It would essentially amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which states that you may not discriminate against someone in regards to employment, housing, education, credit, etc., and would add to that list sexual orientation and gender identity, forcing everyone to accept as normal, the LGBTQ and Transgender community.      

During the debate on the House floor, prior to voting on the bill, Republican Greg Steube stood up and condemned them for their open rebellion against God. He said: “When men or women claim to be able to choose their own sexual identity, they are making a statement that God did not know what He was doing when He created them. The gender confusion in our culture today is a clear rejection of God’s design. Whenever a nation’s laws no longer reflect the standards of God, that nation is in rebellion against Him and will inevitably bear the consequences. We are seeing the consequences of rejecting God here in our country today!”  (Amen!  Rep. Steube nailed it!). Then something really shocking (but not surprising) happened and it reflects where much of our country is right now.  Representative Jerry Nadler, in response, said, “What any religious tradition describes as God’s will is no concern of this congress!”     

I am reminded of Psa. 33:12:  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” and Pr. 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”  I also pulled out my file of quotes from our founding fathers and past presidents. Here are a few that are applicable:     

1)  “The propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained” (George Washington in his inaugural address April 30, 1789).     

2)  “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible” (President George Washington).     

3)  “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” (President George Washington).     

4)  “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves” (President Abraham Lincoln).     

5)  “I’ve lived a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men” (Benjamin Franklin…cf Pr. 21:1; Dan. 4:33-35).     

6)  “We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the government, far from it. We have staked the future of our political institutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves   according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments” (James Madison).     

7)  “That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests” (Andrew Jackson, on his deathbed, in reference to the Bible).     

8)  “If we ever forget that we are ‘One Nation Under God,’ then we will be a nation gone under” (President Ronald Reagan).     

9)  “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly   inadequate to the government of any other” (President John Adams).            

Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church, in his book What Happens When a Nation Forgets God, writes: “When God is separated from government, judgment follows”  Ann Graham Lotz (daughter of Billy Graham) wrote this: “How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?” (Amen!)  It is easy for us—politicians included—to say, “God bless America,” but it will only happen to the extent that the people—including the political leaders—are willing to bless and honor God.  Unfortunately, as reflected by the “Equality Act,” and Nadler’s comment, God and His Word are being squeezed out of every level of our culture: government, education, entertainment, and the main stream media.  Statements such as the one made by Rep. Nadler, are really saying, “in Your face, God. We don’t care what you have to say. We are going to do as we well please!”  Hmm, that sounds a bit familiar. Remember the period of spiritual darkness in Israel’s history when “everyone did that which was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25)? So, how did that go?  Check out the book of Judges and see!      

When God speaks, He doesn’t stutter!  He says what He means and He means what He says. His Word says, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).  For Adam, God provided Eve, and performed the first wedding, bringing them together as one (Gen. 2:18-23).  To mess with gender identity or marriage of one man and one woman, is to pervert what God has done.  As we see from the current trend in our culture, we are in trouble. God have mercy!  Pray much for our nation and leaders. Pray for hearts to be turned to God. That is the only answer.              

Forever His,                

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

My Precious

Many of you have probably watched Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy which portrays the image of the emaciated creature Gollum in his obsession with the “precious ring of power,” which he calls “”My Precious.”  The picture painted is one of greed, obsession, even insanity in the search for meaning, fulfillment and significance.  In his love-hate relationship with both the ring and with himself, Gollum’s voice echoes the hunger in the human heart. Whether it’s directed at one thing in particular (like the precious ring of power) or just a vague longing for “more,” we’re sure that once we finally get our “precious,” we’ll be satisfied. Tragically, what we thought would give us meaning and significance and wholeness leaves us feeling even emptier than before.      

Ty Cobb, one of baseball’s all-time greats, made a revealing admission. He said, “For years I ate baseball, I slept baseball, I talked baseball, I thought baseball, I lived baseball.”  But then he added, “When you get beyond those years of playing professional baseball, you can’t live on baseball.”  Certainly there is a vast multitude of purposes or things to which we can devote our energies, but none of them, in the end, will prove sufficient.  King Solomon, with his great wealth and position, tried everything the world had to offer and said: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me, because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool…He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with the income. This too is vanity”  (Eccl. 2: 17-19; 5:10). 

Solomon concluded: “I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him…Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them’..The conclusion, when all has been heard, is fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person (Eccl. 3:14; 12:1,12,13). 

We are each built for significance and meaning, and the problem isn’t that we search for it, but that-–too often—we search for it in all the wrong places such as position, power, prestige, riches, possessions, accomplishments. One pursuit alone gives enduring satisfaction and significance in life. The Apostle Paul expresses it in his letter to the Philippian believers: “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). Knowing Christ, trusting Christ, living for Christ, serving Him in whatever we do—this is the one and only pursuit that will fill that emptiness in our life and give it real meaning.  Other things can provide “pleasure (and meaning) for a season” (Heb. 11:25) but ultimately leave us empty and longing for more.  Only God can ultimately satisfy this longing heart of mine. He made us that way: to find our joy and satisfaction and fellowship in Him.  Everything else falls far short.  A man gave his grandson Jay a special T-shirt that he had really been wanting, for his birthday. He put it on right away and proudly wore it all day. When he appeared the next morning in the same shirt, his dad asked him, “Jay, does that shirt make you happy?”  Jay replied, “Not as much as yesterday!”     

That’s the problem with material acquisition: even the good things of life can’t give us the deep, lasting happiness we strongly desire. The world offers happiness and meaning through material accumulation or achievement but no material acquisition or accomplishment with accolades will continue to provide the satisfaction that we felt initially.  That’s because we were made for God and nothing less than His filling our life will do. True satisfaction is found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  And, in contrast to the riches and prestigious positions of the world which are only available to a small percentage of the people, God’s riches and becoming “children of God” are available to all.  “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ro. 10:13).   God offers eternal life to all who will trust in Christ for salvation (Jn. 3:16).  And to each one who receives Christ into their life, He “gives the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12). “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Ro. 8:17a).  And Jesus came not only to provide eternal life through faith in Him, but also “abundant life” to those who allow Him to be Lord in their life (Jn. 10:10).  Wow, talk about providing meaning and significance!  God offers us “His Precious” to become “Our Precious,” and we will never be disappointed or disillusioned with what God provides—plus it is forever, unending! The joy and satisfaction will never run out!  PTL!!  Amen!!              

Forever One of His,                

Pastor Dave                       

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

The Master’s Mandate

In what is often referred to as “The Great Commission,” Jesus gave the apostles their marching orders before He returned to heaven. Matthew records it for us: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..’” (Mt. 28: 18-20).   It literally translates, “going (having gone or wherever you go), make disciples..”  The command—the “Mandate of the Master”— is to “make disciples.”      

Just moments before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gathered His disciples together and “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised… (the coming of the Holy Spirit…Acts 1:4 cf Jn. 14:15-26; 15:26,27; 16:13-15)…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnessed both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).  They did wait in Jerusalem and ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers and all who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation ever since are also indwelled by the Holy Spirit, equipping and empowering us to fulfill Jesus’ mandate of “making disciples of all the nations.”  The fact that there are believers today in every corner of the globe is evidence that God’s plan worked and will continue to until the beginning of the eternal state.      

Each one of us who knows Christ as Savior has that same mandate given to us to “make disciples.”  As I was thinking about our responsibility to pass on to others—starting with our family—what God is doing in our lives, I thought of an example from the world of sports.  We have been fans and followers of Duke men’s basketball team under head coach Mike Krzyzewski for many years.  Mike was born 2-13-1947, so just turned 74 and continues to have a passion for the game of basketball.  “Coach K” played basketball for Army from 1966-1969. He became assistant coach at Indiana from 1974-1975 and then head coach for the Army from 1975-1980.  He became head coach at Duke in 1981 and has continued there through the present, compiling a career overall record of 1,167-358.  His tenure at Duke has included 12 NCAA  Final Fours and 5 national championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015).  His teams have also finished first in The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) 12 times, and have won 15 ACC tournaments.  “Coach K” has won more basketball games than any other coach in history—and he’s not done yet!  Three times he has been named “Naismith College Coach of the Year.”  He has been either assistant or head coach of our national team, helping them win 5 gold medals in the Olympics.     

Over his amazing career at Duke, “Coach K” has been offered a head coaching position in the NBA by the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trailblazers, New Jersey Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers offered him a five-year contract and part ownership in the team. The Nets offered him a $15 million per year contract.  He turned them all down, indicating he loves where he is and the program at Duke and it isn’t about more money.      

One of the impressive things about “Coach K’s” career is the number of his players that have gone on to successful professional careers. Currently there are 37 “Dukey’s” playing professionally (Kentucky is the only other school with that many).  Maybe the most impressive aspect, however, of “Coach K’s” time at Duke is the number of his young assistant coaches that he has mentored who are now head coaches of major college programs:  Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Mike Brey at Notre Dame, Jeff Capel at Pittsburgh, Chris Collins at Northwestern, Johnny Dawkins at Central Florida, Bobby Hurley at Arizona State University, Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette. In addition, Quin Snyder is coach for the Utah Jazz.  That is quite a list of “disciples” I’d say!     

I see a similar list when I look in the New Testament at the life of Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).  Paul, in his three missionary journeys, compiled quite an entourage of helpers that he mentored and then left in charge at the churches that were established in Asia Minor and in Europe.  Not only did they have the privilege of working side by side, learning from Paul, but he wrote them letters of encouragement and exhortation.  His final three letters of I Timothy, Titus, and II Timothy were written to encourage two of his understudies whom he left to pastor in Ephesus and Crete.  Paul’s “mission statement” is given in his letter to the believers at Corinth in Greece. He writes: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…”(I Cor 15:3). He passed on what God had taught Him.  Note Paul’s challenge to young Timothy as he faced the challenging task of pastoring at Ephesus in Asia Minor (Turkey today): “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witness, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:1,2). In other words, “Go and make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples….”   That is Christ’s mandate to each of us.  What God is doing in us and teaching us through His Word is not to end with us, but is to be passed on through our working with, teaching and mentoring others, helping equip them to do the same.  (For a list of some of those who worked with Paul besides Timothy and Titus, see Ro. 16: 1-16 where he lists others such as Phoebe, Prisca and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Adronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, et al.)     

We are stewards of the spiritual treasure God has given us. It is our responsibility to guard the deposit and then invest it in the lives of others. They in turn, are to share the Word with the next generation of believers. Discipleship, like coaching, is a lot of work, but it is how the Lord builds His church. It is His “Spiritual Mandate.”  We need to put more of our time and resources into equipping the saints, rather than entertaining them. A generation of believers who cannot articulate what they believe and why they believe it will greatly compromise the effectiveness of the church in carrying out our mandate.       So, how are you doing?  Who are you mentoring?  Don’t keep it to yourself!          

Forever His                

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Where Did Love Come From?

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day in recognition of a humble Christian, Valentinus, who remained dedicated to his biblical ideals. Not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned by Roman Emperor Claudius II.  According to tradition, the jailer had Valentinus tutor his daughter. Julia, who had been blind from birth. In addition to teaching her about Roman history, God’s creation and arithmetic, he also told her of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice for her sins.  She knelt with him in his prison cell and prayed. In addition to being born anew, suddenly she could also see. On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to  God and he signed it: “From your Valentine.” His death sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D.  On each February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day, messages and gifts of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world.       

As I was thinking about what “love” means, I was wondering how an atheist or evolutionist explains the existence of love. Where did it come from? How did it start?  What really is “love”?  The Greeks had six words to describe various types of love:  1) Agape…unconditional love, no strings attached, an “in-spite-of” kind of love; 2)  Eros… sexual passion, and “if” kind of love [“If you fulfill my desires, I will love you”]; 3) Philea… friendship, brotherly love; 4)  Storge…love of parents for their children and children for their parents; 5)  Philautia…self love; 6)  Xenia…Love of strangers and guests, hospitality.     

We use the word “love” to express our affection not only for people but also for activities and objects.  But what really is love and how did it originate? Where do we get the capacity to love?  If man evolved from inorganic matter, where did love come from?  I would guess that atheists and evolutionists have difficulty explaining its existence.      

We didn’t evolve from non-living matter by a process of time and chance over eons of time. We were made on day six of God’s creation week, and made in the image of God. “Then God said, ‘Let Us (a reference to the Triune God) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’…And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:26,27).  We are not given an explanation for what it means to be made in the image of God, but by studying what God is like, we get an idea of what man is like. God is able to govern, to make decisions, to express emotions, to think. And God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit who have an intimate relationship with one another yet exist as one God.  Man is made of body (through which we have world consciousness through our five senses) and soul (through which we have self consciousness; also the source of emotions and desires), and spirit (through which we have God-consciousness and can communicate with and respond to Him). We read in I Thes. 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We also know that “God is love” (I Jn. 4: 8).  Love is His supreme quality. For all eternity, there has been perfect love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The word used in Scripture to describe and define this love is the Greek word agape, which refers to unconditional, no-strings-attached  love. It is not “I will love you if,” or “I will love you because of who you are or what you have or what you have done,” but “I will love you because of who I Am.”  So, just what is love?  Someone said “defining love is like painting a picture, not of Jell-O, but with it!”   But the  Bible clearly describes and defines love. Probably the most familiar verse in all of the Bible says: “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). In His first epistle, John wrote: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.   In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).

From these and other verses about God’s love (like I Cor.13:4-7) we see that agape love is “A spontaneous act of sacrifice to meet a need, expecting nothing in return,”Love isn’t a feeling you have (although it involves feelings); it as a voluntary, sacrificial action of your will in giving to meet a need.   God didn’t wait for us to “get our act together” before He loved us. Paul writes: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:6-8).

If that isn’t exciting and amazing enough, we, as Christians, now have that same love (that sent Jesus to die for us) dwelling within us. “…because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5). The moment we trust Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and “the fruit of the Spirit is love….” (Gal. 5:22).  The thing that should characterize a Christian’s life, just as it is the supreme quality of God, is love—love for God and love for others.  Just before going to the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34,35).  In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul said that no matter how gifted we are, if we don’t show love, we “are nothing” and all our activity “profits nothing” (I Cor. 13:1-3).      

My prayer for you, as Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers is: “that God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).         

  Forever His,            

Pastor Dave    

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

People Who Impact Our Lives

Can you tell me who won Super Bowl XL and who the MVP was?  Can you tell me what the most popular movie was in 2015 and who were the lead actors?  Can you tell me who our 33rd president was?  Can you tell me who won the Daytona 500 in 2011?  Unless you are a trivia genius and could compete well on Jeopardy, I doubt you can answer those questions. While these are people who have made great achievements and had their “moment in the sun,” unless you knew them personally, they probably had little impact on your life, and have long since been forgotten.     

But, let me ask you a few more questions. Can you remember the names of any of your grade school teachers?  Who was your favorite and why?  What about in junior and senior high? Who were your principals and who were your favorite teachers and why?  If you played sports, what coaches do you remember?  If you grew up attending Sunday school, do you remember any of your teachers?  Or, how about some of your youth leaders and pastors in the church where you grew up. I’m sure you remember the names of your best friends growing up and have lots of memories of those days with them.  Do you remember the names of any of your neighbors?  What did they mean to your family?  How about co-workers? Can you name some of the people you have worked with and how they affected your life?     

It is obvious that while we might try to remember the names of entertainers, sports heroes, presidents, etc. to do well on a trivia test, they aren’t the people who really impacted our lives. Rather, it is has been those with whom we have personal interaction: our teachers, youth leaders, pastors, coaches, neighbors, friends and people with whom we worked.  They have all left “footprints” in our lives,  as through our interaction with them we have become the person we are today.  Probably not all our memories are good ones, however, regarding the people who have impacted our life, for people often fail us too and even sometimes turn against us. But, even those interactions affect who we are and what we have become.  Some live with lots of anger and bitterness and carry a lot of baggage with them wherever they go because they have been burned or hurt by others they had trusted, making it hard to develop good relationships now.      

I guess it all depends on the impact another Person has had on our life, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have trusted Him for eternal life and are allowing His Word and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ (Ro. 8:29), then we are able to turn even the bad experiences into growth opportunities, for we are, through Christ, able to forgive and to love unconditionally. Then instead of holding anger and bitterness toward those who have hurt us, we have become more compassionate and forgiving… In other words, we are becoming more and more Christ-like. The Person that has the most impact on our life should, of course, be Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  The more we focus our life on Him and spend time in His Word, the more we are impacted in a positive way by our interactions with others—whether good of bad.      

The Apostle Paul wrote often in his letters about those who had impacted his life, and he even includes a few who opposed him or forsook him in his time of need.  But all of them made Paul the person of God that he was.  In closing his letter to the church at Rome, for example, Paul mentions Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea, Prisca and Aquila, his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,”  “Epaenetus,,,the first convert to Christ from Asia.” hard-working Mary, “Adronicus and Junias,” his “kinsmen and fellow prisoners,”  Ampliatus, and “Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ,” and about a dozen more! (Ro. 16:1-16). There were many others too, such as Timothy, Barnabas, Silas, Titus, etc. who had impacted Paul’s life.   Obviously, Paul had established relationships with many who had “left their footprints” on his life, helping him to become the effective ambassador for Christ that he was. And he stopped often to thank God for them.     

We should do the same. And we should let those people know, if they are still on this earth, the impact they had on our life.  Also, we should consider how we are affecting the lives of the people around us. We are either encouraging them in their pursuit of a relationship with God or we are hindering them. Hopefully, each of us is having a positive impact on those with whom we “rub shoulders.”  It will depend on whether or not we are walking with the Lord and being controlled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.     

Take a moment soon to let someone know how grateful you are for how they impacted your life.     

  Forever His,       

  Pastor Dave     

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Save the Date

Weddings today are often a grand event, many costing many thousands of dollars.  Fewer couples are getting married in a church. Many rent a special event center; some even go out of country for their ceremony.  As a result, many young couples start out their married life with the burden of financial debt.  One of our friends suggests that couples should elope, save all the money they would have spent on a big, fancy wedding, and use the money as a down payment on a house; then after they have been married five years have a big celebration with family and friends. Sounds like a great idea!     

Prospective wives spend months, even years, planning and preparing for the big day: reserving a site for the wedding and for the reception, finding the perfect dress, ordering dresses for all the attendants, ordering flowers and food, even creating a website to track their preparations—and for places to order their wedding gifts!  Often the couple will send out a “Save-the-Date” card, inviting their family and friends to reserve that day so they can attend the wedding.     

Although the phrase “bride of Christ” is not in the New Testament, the idea appears throughout (II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-27; Rev. 19:7; 21:9), providing great insight concerning our union with Christ, the “Bridegroom.” It pictures the intimacy we enjoy with Him, like that of a husband and wife—the most private, personal bond possible in life. Christ’s love for believers, called “the church,” is the model for a husband’s love for his wife (Eph. 5:25).  John the Baptist first used this analogy . He taught that Christ is the Bridegroom, and believers are His bride. John referred to himself as “the friend of the bridegroom” (the “best man”) (Jn. 3:28-30).     

In the marriage custom of the first century, parents of a young man selected a bride for their son. The parents then called in a man who acted as a negotiator called “the friend of the bridegroom” (Jn. 3:29). He made all the wedding arrangements and ceremonially presents the bride to the groom. Until then, the groom didn’t speak.  Marriage ceremonies involved two stages: the betrothal and the wedding.  At the betrothal (similar to our “engagement”), the families of the bride and groom met and the young man would give the young woman either a gold ring or some article of value or simply a document in which he promised to marry her. The bridegroom’s family paid the dowry, and the couple exchanged vows, becoming legally bound to one another as husband and wife. The young man would say to his bride: “See by this ring/or token that you are set apart for me according to the Law of Moses and Israel (Jacob).”  A betrothal, unlike our “engagements,” could only be broken by divorce.     

The actual wedding didn’t take place until months (often a year) later at a time generally determined by the bridegroom’s father (cf Mt. 24:36).  During the betrothal period, the couple remained separated while the bridegroom prepared a home for his bride in the midst of his family or clan, a place where the new couple could live in the shadow of his father. One of the expressions for marriage in that culture was “adding a room to your father’s tent” (cf Jn. 14:1-3). Meanwhile the bride was to keep herself pure and prepare herself for married life, and wait in excited anticipation for the bridegroom to come and get her.  When he finally came, he would take her to his father’s house for the wedding ceremony and festivities. Along the way, the “wedding parade” would be joined by many friends and neighbors in a very joyous procession. At the father’s house there would be a wedding feast—usually lasting a week— to celebrate the happy occasion. The bride was then led to her place under a canopy beside her husband, where the “friend of the bridegroom” would pronounce his benediction upon the newlyweds.     

The wedding customs are quite a picture of how we, “chosen and drawn by the Father”  to be the bride for His Son (Eph. 1:4; Jn.6:44; Heb. 13:20), have been betrothed to Christ, the Bridegroom, and sealed by the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee/pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13,14). We are preparing ourselves for the Bridegroom to reappear and take us to His Father’s House for the wedding ceremony (Jn. 14:1-3). Then will come the wedding feast, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9).     

When will this big day come; when our Bridegroom comes to take us to His Father’s house?  Just as in the marriage customs of the first century, only the Father knows.  Jesus had been telling His disciples about the final events that will take place on earth before His Kingdom is set up and His disciples responded, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3).  Jesus shared with them some of the signs of His coming, but then added,“But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt. 24:36).  In other words, there is no “Save-the-Date” card for our Lord’s return. We are to be ready at all times. Jesus said, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Mt. 25:13).      

Jesus did, however give a couple “signs” to watch for regarding the time of His return: “just as it was in the days of Noah…and the days of Lot…It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Lk. 17:26-30 cf Mt. 24:37).  As you read about the condition of mankind before the Flood when “the wickedness of man was great on the earth and every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), and the conditions in Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot lived before God destroyed them for their wickedness and sexual perversion (Gen. 18,19), you realize that is very descriptive of our world as well. (Ro. 1:18-32; I Tim. 4:1-3;; II Tim. 3:1-7) also describe the conditions of the “later times” before Christ returns, and, again, describe the world in which we live. When you add to these “signs” all the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel, the “time clock of the Bible,” you know that His return must be soon.  We may not know what “day or hour,” but we are not to be oblivious to “the signs of the times” (Mt. 16:2,3). We need to recognize that Jesus could return at any moment to take His bride to the Father’s house. We need to be prepared and watchful. First, we need to “be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” (II Pet. 3:10), i.e., make sure you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for your eternal life, and then “…abide in Him, so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28).  We need to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:12,13).   We should keep ourselves in a state of spiritual readiness, “because you do not know the day or the hour.” Live each day as if it He might return today—He could!  We should live such that we will “love His appearing” (II Tim. 4: 8).  “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).  

Forever His,        

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment