During a recent heavy-snow winter, we had record snowfalls in Northwest Montana with anywhere from 13 to 18 feet accumulating in the valley (more in the higher elevations) from Thanksgiving through early January.  As the snow melted in the spring we had a “lake” in our field and a stream flowing through our front yard.  As the geese returned from their southern wintering grounds, we had geese swimming in our new “lake.”  Every year since that time, we have at least one pair of geese show up looking for the water.  They still often spend a few days grazing on any new grass that is up, and I’m sure, wondering what happened to the “lake.” 

     Well, today is the first day of spring, and sure enough four big “honkers” (Canada Geese) landed out by the old “lake” site and are currently feeding on the little patch of grass exposed under a lodgepole pine tree (our field is still covered with close to a foot of snow!). And, is their custom, one of the four geese stands watch for danger while the other three feed.  They are called sentinels and have a very important job, crucial to the safety of the others.  Many birds and other animals have that practice. We also have a couple rafters of turkeys that hang out in the area and as they are feeding, there is always one standing watch.  

     The crows have recently returned as well from their migration. You definitely know when they are back as they are very noisy and love to hang out in groups, which are called “murders”!  (So, if you only have two or three crows in a group is it an “attempted murder”?!)  Crows too have sentinels that keep watch while the rest are feeding and they put so much emphasis on the position that if a sentinel is careless and doesn’t pay attention and allows an enemy to approach without warning the flock (murder), the first feeding crow to notice the danger will sound the alarm and the sky will suddenly be full of crows making a terrible ruckus, but before flying away from danger they will likely attack the negligent sentinel and shred it to death with their sharp beaks. (Maybe that’s why a flock of crows is called a  “murder” !)  By the way, crows are very intelligent and great communicators, with a vocabulary of at least 50 different messages that they convey and as a result they work together extremely well to accomplish their goals.

     Sentinels have a very important job which needs to be taken seriously.  The welfare of the others depends upon their giving an alarm of any approaching danger.  That is not only true in the animal world, but also in the body of believers.  In the ancient world, cities often had walls around them for protection and had sentinels called “watchmen ” who stood on the walls to warn of impending danger.  The Israelites also had  prophets whose job it was to not only convey messages from God but also to warn  the Israelites of danger from false teachings that threatened the spiritual health of the people. In the book of Isaiah, we see the sins of Israel’s wicked prophets denounced: their spiritual blindness, and false sense of optimism. Isa. 56:10,11 says, “His watchmen are blind. All of them know nothing. All of them are dumb dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber…shepherds who have no understanding.” 

     Ezekiel was commissioned by God to be a watchman for Israel (Ezek. 3:17).  As a watchman, it was his job to warn the wicked of pending judgment. If He didn’t warn them and they died in their sin, God said, “his blood will I require at your hand” (vv. 18-21). God’s message to Ezekiel is repeated in Ezek. 33: 6-11.  

     Throughout biblical history, shepherding was one of the primary occupations and provided many illustrations of caring for the “flock of God” (We are called “His people and the sheep of His pasture” …Psa. 100:3). As David said, “The LORD is my shepherd” (Psa. 23:1), and Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). He protects His sheep and will not lose one of them (Jn. 6:39).  But “the hireling (who is not concerned about the sheep)…beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them” (vv. 12,13).

    God also has “undershepherds” to care for local flocks of His sheep–to guide and guard and graze them.  Sheep are very vulnerable and dependent for their welfare on a good shepherd who watches out for them. Paul told the elders from the church at Ephesus, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert…” (Acts 20:28-31).  

     We are living in a period close to the return of Christ when, as prophesied(I Tim. 4:1-4; II Tim. 3:1-7) there is a proliferation of false teachers who are luring believers away from the truth and confusing unbelievers as to what truth is or if there even is any absolute truth.  It is more important than ever that we have “watchmen on the walls,” sentinels who are warning of these threatening heresies and perversions of the truth. As believers, especially those in positions of leadership as pastors and elders, we serve as sentinels, warning the flock of these dangers and protecting from the many false teachers in the world as well as within the church.  And just as the sentinel crows or geese, we need to take our responsibility seriously. 

Forever His, 

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Pop Quizzes

          I’m sure most of us can recall from our school days those foreboding words, “Please take out a paper and pencil, we’re having a pop quiz!”  If we had been keeping up on our homework and paying attention in class, it didn’t have quite the shock factor that it did for those who hadn’t been doing so. To them they were frightening words, indeed! It was one thing to know when a test was coming and to study ahead for it, but there was no way to predict when we might  have a “pop quiz,” and some teachers seemed to love to give them–frequently!  So, it paid to stay on top of the subject throughout the course.

     Tests, including “pop quizzes,” are always designed to evaluate where we are in comprehending the subject, and to reveal areas where we need more work. It is not only for the teacher’s benefit, but for ours as well.  As much as we would just as soon not have to take tests, it is essential for our progress.   

     Well, the same is true in our spiritual growth process. God periodically tests us to show us where we are and to demonstrate areas on which we need to work.  And they are  all “pop quizzes,” in that they come unannounced.  So, again, it pays to stay consistently in the Word and in fellowship with Him.  Throughout all my school years I noticed there were always a few students who never “cracked a book,” so come test time they would cram the night before, that is, providing the test was announced.   But if it was a “pop quiz,” they were in trouble.   Since all of God’s tests for us come unannounced, it is important to always be prepared.

     Abraham experienced many tests in his life, beginning with God calling him to leave his home in Ur and to go to the land that God would show him. God promised to make of him a great nation and bless him and through him to bless all the nations on earth (Gen. 11:31–12:3).  When God made this promise, Abraham had no son.  Hebrews tells us “By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).  God’s promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah wasn’t fulfilled until they were well past child-bearing years. Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when Isaac was born, for “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?”  (Gen. 17:15-21; 18:9-14).   But, an even greater test would come 

     When Isaac was about 13 years old, God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham…Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you’ ” (Gen. 22:1,2).  Talk  about a tough “pop quiz”!  I can’t imagine what a shock that must have been to Abraham and Sarah, but the very next verse says: “So Abraham rose early in the morning” split some wood for the burnt offering, and took two young men and his son Isaac and “went to the place of which God had told him” (v. 3).   Abraham didn’t argue with God about how that would destroy all plans for making of him a mighty nation. He trusted that if he had to sacrifice Isaac, God would raise him back up (Gen. 22:5). 

     Our earthly teachers test us for their benefit as well as ours. God, being omniscient, doesn’t need to test us to find out how we will do. It is primarily for our benefit to apply what we have been learning about God from His Word.  It gives us an opportunity to be “doers of the Word, and not merely hearers” (Jas. 1:22).  And it is a testimony to those watching our life of what God can do when we trust Him and depend upon Him. We know that it was Abraham’s faith in God’s revealed Word that resulted in his being counted righteous (Gen. 15:6; Ro. 4:3; Jas. 1:23), but he was also justified before others by his works, “when he offered up Isaac on the altar.  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” (Jas. 1:21,22).   In Paul’s writings, “justification” means to declare a sinner righteous in the sight of God; here in James it means “to vindicate” or “show to be righteous” before God and men. Abraham’s justification in Paul’s sense is recorded in Gen. 15:6. Abraham’s justification in James’ sense took place 30 or more years later in the patriarch’s crowning act of obedience in offering Isaac (Gen. 22). By this act he proved the reality of his Gen. 15 faith.  

     The tests God gives us provide an opportunity to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith.  It is during times of testing that we confirm the reality of our faith and others can see God at work in and through our lives.  

     We can’t avoid the “pop quizzes” in our Christian walk, but we can be prepared by abiding in Christ (Jn. 15:1-8) and His Word (Col. 3:16 cf Josh. 1:8). And when the tests come, we have the same promise God has given to every saint throughout history: “I will be with you wherever you go (and in whatever you go through)” (Josh. 1:9b).  God said: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10). 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

When the Chips Are Down

     There are a number of idioms that are commonly used which come from gambling, especially from poker.  I used one of them in a message I gave about being “All In,” which, in poker, means that you have put all your chips on the table. You are risking it all, holding nothing back. That is the type of people for whom God searches and whom He uses–no, not people who gamble all their money away!  He is looking for people who are wholly devoted to Him. II Chron. 16:9 reads: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…”  God is looking for those who will be totally committed, holding nothing back, allowing Him to be Lord of all their life–every aspect,  just as the Apostle Paul challenged: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men” (Col. 3:17,23). 

     Another idiom that is often used  ( also from poker) is “when the chips are down.”  In poker it means you have made your bet, you are now committed, and must await the outcome of the game to determine your fate, good or bad.  It is a critical, nerve-wracking  time when things are now out of your hands. The idiom has come to refer to a crucial and important moment with a potentially bad outcome–a situation that is urgent or desperate, or both. It usually refers to a difficult situation when things are not good.  

     At such a time, you find out who your real friends are–those who stand by you in those difficult times when things are out of your control and you need wise counsel on how to proceed.  To whom do you turn at such times?  Maybe you are in such a situation right now. To whom do you turn for advice?  Hopefully it’s a wise friend or family member whose words are rooted in Scripture and faith. 

     Unfortunately, sometimes we listen to people who don’t have a biblical worldview, but speak from cultural trends or peer pressure. We saw a sign this week that said: “It’s always wrong to do wrong no matter how many are doing it; and it’s always right to do right even if no one else is doing it.”  Camped at the border of the Promised Land, on the verge of claiming everything God had promised, the Israelites chose to listen to the fearful majority report of the ten spies rather than to the faith-filled minority report of Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 13). Both groups agreed that the land was beautiful and fruitful but the ten were alarmed and frightened by the fortified cities and fearsome warriors. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, knew that the Lord would win the victory as He had promised. Their attitude was, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Ro. 8:31).  Moses and Aaron supported their report (Num. 14:5-9), but the people didn’t listen. The bottom line: Israel refused to trust the Lord and obey His command to enter the land. They failed to live up to their identity as His “treasured possessions” (Ex. 19:5,6).  How often have we, at a crucial moment in our lives,  stood at the border of God’s promised blessing, and yet lacked the faith and courage to take the next step? Instead we follow the crowd and take the easy, comfortable path, and miss out on God’s rich blessings. 

      The Psalmist, David, often found himself in crucial, even desperate situations when “the chips were down,” especially when he was being chased all over the country by King Saul who wanted to eliminate him. David, “between a rock and a hard place,” would turn to the only One who could help–The LORD his Shepherd (Psa. 23:1). In Him He found a safe place. He wrote: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (Psa. 46:1-3, 11).  “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds feet, and sets me on my high places…The LORD lives, and blessed by my rock; and exalted by the God of my salvation” (Psa. 18:30-33,46).  

     So, “when the chips are down,” seek counsel from mature believers in whom “the word of Christ richly dwells” (Col. 3:16), but above all, “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). (NOTE: The word for “trust” comes from a root meaning “to lie helplessly face down” –i.e., “when the chips are down,” turn to Jesus and to the Word). 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

P.S.  Other idioms from poker:  “You bet,” “roll the dice,” “bet the farm,” “chip in,” “call someone’s bluff,” “best bet.”   Disclaimer:  I have never played poker!

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Decision Making

     So, how do you know if you are doing the will of God for your life?  While working at Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon, I had the great privilege to introduce my boss, his brother and our secretary to my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was so exciting to see their lives change and to dig for answers to their questions. I soon was having a Bible study with a couple Christian brothers during our lunch break.  We also started a home Bible study and saw how getting into God’s Word was bringing spiritual growth in all of our lives.  My wife Kathy and I began discussing and praying about the possibility of becoming involved in full-time vocational Christian ministry to share God’s Word with others. 

     I had been doing volunteer work locally with Campus Crusade for Christ and, again, saw the transforming power of the Gospel as people responded to the message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to pay for their sin. So, I knew that if I left my engineering job at Hyster that CCC was the possibility of future ministry.   But, on our previous summer visit to our home area in Montana, we had visited with Rocky Mountain Bible Mission regarding a possibility of serving as missionaries in Northwest Montana for them.  Kathy’s dad, pastor Clarence Kutz, had recently retired from pastoring Faith Bible Church in Libby and he and his wife Irene had joined RMBM.  The Mission invited us to come work with them as an understudy to Pastor Kutz.  Or, we could join CCC in Portland.  Most likely that would involve an eventual move to a new area to minister for them.

     So, what to do?  We had two very viable options of Christian ministry.  Or, I could stay at Hyster where it would likely soon mean a move to one of their plants in Illinois.  As we prayed about what to do, we didn’t hear any voices from God or have any signs of which choice to make.  We didn’t “cast lots” or put out a “fleece” to determine God’s will. We found it in God’s Word.  Ironically, it was one of the leaders with CCC that helped us with our decision, pointing out to us Psalm 37:4,5: “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.”  We were delighting in the Lord, and had a passion to serve Him.  We also had a desire to return to Montana to minister and to rear our family (our children were ages two and four). As we weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each of our options, we chose to leave Hyster and join RMBM and return to Montana. That’s not to say that God wouldn’t have used us if we had made a different decision. If our hearts are right with God, if we are consistently spending time in His Word, and if we make ourselves available to Him, God will use us wherever we go or in whatever we are doing providing we stay within the moral will of God as revealed in His Word.  

     Many Christians seem to think that there is only one perfect choice when they face decisions and they look for confirmation from some inner voice from God or from some special sign from Him. Meanwhile they spin their wheels doing nothing.  But, God has already given us all we need for making wise decisions. He has given us the Scriptures and the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us through the very Scriptures that He inspired as well as the  circumstances which He ordains (the sovereign will of God). And the Holy Spirit is not alone. Jesus, while with His disciples in the Upper Room, promised concerning the Holy Spirit: “…He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:17-20).  Thus we are “filled up with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). 

     Through the equipping with the all-sufficiency of Scripture (II Tim. 3:16,17) and the fullness of the Godhead dwelling within us, we have all we need to make wise decisions in every area of life and have no need for special signs or inner whispers from God to direct us.  Scripture is the voice of God!  Justin Peters said, “If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible. If you want to hear Him speak audibly, read it out loud!”  (God Doesn’t Whisper by Jim Osman, page 270). God has “granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (II Pet. 1:3), and that knowledge comes through His written Word.  So, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…,” (Col 3:16), make sure your decision is within the guidelines of Scripture, ask for wisdom and make a decision, saying, “Lord willing, this is what I am going to do.”  For an example in Scripture, read Romans 1:9-15; 15:14-33 and see how the Apostle Paul made decisions in his ministry to the Gentiles. He made plans to visit Rome for he had a “longing” to do so (v. 23). Or read the story of David in I Sam. 24:1-7 where he had opportunity to kill the man (King Saul)  who was hunting him down. David said, “Far be it from me  because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’s anointed” (v. 6). David was careful to distinguish between his own interpretation of the circumstances and God’s command to obey His instruction and do the right thing (obey Scripture),

     In the Scriptures we have commands and guidelines which constitute the moral will of God. Scripture tells us everything we need to know to make decisions. We don’t need to hear an inner “still small voice” or put out “fleeces.”  God has revealed all we need to make good choices. Obey the moral will of God (His Word), apply wisdom (look at the advantages and disadvantages) and choose what you desire. On that basis, the biblical model for decision-making, we are free to do what we want with God’s blessing.  

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

P. S.  I highly recommend God Doesn’t Whisper” by Jim Osman ( a pastor in Sandpoint, ID) and Decision Making and the Will of God by Gary Friessen

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Old Age

     What would you say is our nation’s deadliest job?  You might be surprised to know that it is the United States presidency.  There have been 46 presidencies with 45 individual presidents. Out of the 45, eight died in office before their term ended, four by assassination (Garfield, McKinley, Lincoln and Kennedy).  So, approximately 18% died while in office!  That’s a pretty high mortality rate. 

     You’ve undoubtedly heard that our 39th president, Jimmy Carter is now in hospice care at his home.  He is our nation’s longest-lived president at age 98 (born Oct. 1, 1924).  Regardless of what your opinion is of President Carter’s political views, he stayed actively serving and growing during his record 42 years after retirement, even teaching Sunday School up until not very long ago.

     I have a book I’m working on called Pithy Grabbers for All Occasions in which I have organized quotes and little sayings by topic, so this morning I looked up “Old Age” and found a few by Jimmy Carter: “Too many folks spend their lives aging rather than maturing.” “It is better to be seventy years young than forty years old!”  “Anybody who can still do at sixty what he was doing at twenty wasn’t doing much at twenty!”  

      I preached at a local church yesterday and talked about the people that God uses.  We saw that God is not limited by our background, social status, vocation, education or weaknesses. And, He is not limited by age. Noah began building the ark when he was 480!  Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when the promised seed Isaac was born. Moses was 80 when God called to him from the burning bush to go and lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. When the Promised Land was being divided up, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Caleb, one of the spies (along with Joshua) who gave a positive report, said: “…now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim (giants) were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the LORD has spoken…Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb…because he followed the LORD God of Israel fully” (Josh. 14:10-14).  

     God can use us, no matter what our age, if we are wholeheartedly following Him.  Remember too that  “Jehoash (or Joash, which means “Jehovah has given“) was seven years old when he became king…and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem…and did right in the sight of the LORD all his days…” (II Kgs. 11:21-22). And “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem…and he did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left”  (II Kgs. 22:1-3).   Then during the Apostle Paul’s ministry he wrote to his young understudy, Timothy, saying: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (I Tim. 4:12).   God is not limited by the age of those He uses, providing they are Faithful, Available and Teachable (“FAT” believers!).  

     Age is a matter of the mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!  You can’t control the length of your life, but you can control the depth! And, by the way, comedian George Burns,  who died just weeks after his 100th birthday, said: “If you live to be 100, you’ve got it made. Very few people die past that age!” 

     So, to stay youthful, stay useful. God can use you at any age–if you are willing. Stay Faithful, Available, and Teachable.  If you are reading this today, God is not finished with you yet. Let me leave you with words from the Apostle Paul:  “Therefore we do no lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day…Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord”  (II Cor. 4:16; I Cor. 15:58). 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

P.S. You are not too old as long as you can pray and ask: “How can I make the most out of the time I have left?”

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

The Source of True Love

     Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a special time to express your love in tangible ways.  An ad in a local card store read: ” ‘YOU ARE MY ONE AND ONLY’… Valentine cards, now on sale: Three for $5.”  (Think that one through!).  A young woman was taking an afternoon nap. After she woke up, she told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine’s day. What do you think it meant?”  “You’ll know tonight,” he said. That evening, the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it–only to find a book entitled, The Meaning of Dreams!  

     The story of Valentine’s Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor Claudius II, and a humble Christian martyr Valentinus who, according to tradition, ministered to the blind daughter of the jailer, including introducing her to Jesus Christ. 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.” He was executed the next day, February 14, 270 A.D. near a gate that was later named “Porta Valentine” in his memory. 

     It wasn’t until the 14th century that Valentine’s Day was established as a time to send messages of affection, love and devotion to loved ones.  The oldest known Valentine still in existence today is a poem written in 1415 by Charles Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. 

     Throughout history, man has expressed his thoughts on this thing called “love,” sometimes perceiving it as something wonderful, beautiful, and intense, and other times expressing the sorrow and anger caused by love scorned. Whatever the case, no one can deny that love is a powerful energy and emotion so intense in fact that mothers have immediately been overcome with Herculean strength to lift a car or huge boulder off their child. 

     But, just what is love?  Someone said, “Painting a picture of love is like painting a picture, not of Jello, but with it!”  It seems to be a rather mysterious thing that involves both our mind and heart and affects our relationships with and actions toward others.  Love is an essential ingredient for survival in a world of evil and hatred. Everyone needs to be loved–especially when we don’t deserve it.  “Anyone in the world can make something out of their life if they have one person that really loves them” (Glasser).  “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own” (Robert Heinslein). The best way to conquer an enemy is with the weapon of love. “Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained” (C.S. Lewis).  Love and time are the only things in all of the world that cannot be bought, only spent. 

     There are many barriers that separate people: language, culture, social status, political and religious beliefs, worldviews. Love transcends and breaks through those barriers. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). 

     Most of what the world calls “love” has strings attached. “I will love you if….” (eros love) or “I love you because…” (phileo love),  but the love spoken of in Scripture is agape love, which is unconditional love and the only source is God (“God is love”…I Jn. 4:8),  and it is demonstrated by giving to meet a need of those who are undeserving and cannot earn it.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:8).  “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).  Note that while love involves feelings, it is primarily shown in action.  “God so loved that He gave…” (Jn. 3:16).  Love acts voluntarily and gives sacrificially to meet a need of another (who isn’t necessarily deserving).  We were lost in sin, in rebellion to God, and He lay down His life to pay for our sins so we could have eternal life and fellowship with Him.  “Amazing Love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me!”   Here’s God’s “Valentine” to us:

                    “For God so loVed the world

                            that He gAve

                                 His onL



                                           That whoever believes 

                                            In Him should 

                                            Not perish,

                             but have Everlasting life.”           John 3:16

Happy Valentines!

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Who Am I, That I Should Go?

     I have the privilege again this week of teaching a class at the Mountainside Ministry Training Center for International Messengers, a mission organization that trains missionaries for either short or long term ministries which are primarily in eastern Europe or Africa.  Over the approximately four-month session several come to teach on subjects like evangelism, discipleship, cross-cultural ministry, bibliology and hermeneutics, interpersonal relationships, spiritual warfare, etc, to help equip these folks for the ministries for which God has given them a passion. 

     I couldn’t help but think of the training given in the  military, preparing and equipping young men and women for service to our country and to defend against any enemies that would threaten our nation and freedom.  In a similar sense, as believers, we too need to be trained and equipped to face the enemy of our souls who would do all he can to defeat and discourage us and to take away our freedom in Christ.  Those who go forth as missionaries are often being put on the front lines of a fierce spiritual battle and need to be prepared in order to succeed.

     I am teaching a course on “Our Identity In Christ,” convinced that it is crucial for each of us, as believers, to know “who we are,” and “whose we are.”  We can take lots of other training to be equipped for service, but unless we understand our identity in Christ, we will fail.  A great example is found in the story of God’s calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. As God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush that was not consumed, He said: “I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians….Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ” (Ex. 3:10-13).  

     Interestingly, God didn’t answer this question for it doesn’t matter who we are, it matters who He is. He has the ability, we are to be available. God already knows that we are inadequate. That’s why He is selecting us, so that His strength might shine through our weakness, and our life might radiate His glory (see I Cor. 1:26-2:5).   The Apostle Paul, though he had an impressive list of credentials to have confidence in the flesh, counted all these things as loss and rubbish “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:4-8). He learned that God’s grace was sufficient for all His needs and ministries, acknowledging “for when I am weak, then I am strong… Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me…” (II Cor. 12:7-10).  He testified: “And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves, to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate as servants of a new covenant…” (II Cor. 3:4-6).   

     Apparently Moses wasn’t listening to what God had said: “I have seen the affliction of My people…So I have come down to deliver them…” (Ex. 3:7,8).  God already told Moses that He (God) would deliver them.  In response to Moses question of “Who am I, that I should go?” God said “Certainly I will be with you…”(v. 12).  But Moses continued to argue, saying, “If I do go and they ask who sent me, what do I tell them?” (v. 13).  And God responded saying: “I AM WHO I AM…Tell them I AM has sent me to you…THIS IS MY NAME FOREVER…” (VV. 14,15).  God was referring to His name Jehovah, the holy, just, righteous God who hates sin but loves the sinner and thus provided for redemption–the eternal, self-sufficient God who was there, is there and will be there. 

     God was telling Moses who He is and that He would be going with Moses, in fact even promised, “I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Ex. 4:12).  Moses just didn’t get it and continued making excuses, saying in essence, “God, you’ve got the wrong man. Send someone else!” (v. 13).   Moses was definitely having an “identity crisis.”  He needed to realize that it wasn’t about who he was at the time; it was who God was and would continue to be and that He would be with Moses. 

      When it came time for Joshua to succeed Moses and lead the people into the Promised Land, God made this promise to him: “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (Josh. 1:5).  Then He gave Joshua this challenge: “Be strong and courageous for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them…be careful to do all the law which Moses My servant commanded you…This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success…Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (vv. 6-9).  

     Now, on this side of the cross and Pentecost (when God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers), as believers, we have God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit taking up residence in us the moment we trust Christ for salvation.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the resurrected Christ working in and through us. And we have the same promise as was given to Moses and Joshua: God will be with us and never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5 cf Mt. 28:18-20).  Just as was true with Moses, it is not a question of who I am; it is a matter of who He is–the almighty Creator of the universe, living in us. Jesus Christ shed His blood and laid down His life on our behalf that we could have forgiveness for what we have done (sinned) and He was resurrected and ascended back to heaven, but, through the Holy Spirit, comes to live in us to deliver us from what we are (sinners), giving us power over the sin nature which remains in us until we receive our glorified bodies. Through the indwelling triune God and through the equipping of the Word of God as it renews our minds, we are enabled to “do all things through Christ” (Phil. 4:13).  No matter what comes my way, no matter where He should lead me, nor matter what He calls me to do, “For this I have Jesus,” and He will never leave or fail me. He is my new life, so “for me to live is Christ” (Phil.1:21).   He is my new identity. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). It is not who I am. It is whose I am!

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

He Is Able

     I miss a lot of the old gospel choruses and hymns we sang in the past. Most had a melody that was easy to learn so they stuck with you; and most were also doctrinally sound and had a good biblical lesson we could apply.  One of my favorite such choruses was He Is Able.  

                “He is able, He is able

                 I know He is able,

                 I know my Lord is able to carry me through.        (repeat)

                 He healed the broken hearted 

                 And set the captives free

                 He made the lame to walk again

                 And caused the blind to see

                 He is able, He is able

                 I know He is able,

                 I know my Lord is able to carry me through.”

     Despite man’s arrogant pride and great technological advancements and an overwhelming amount of information available at the “click of a mouse,” man is utterly unable to save himself or to make himself acceptable to God. Neither is he able to keep himself saved; nor is he able to defeat sin and conquer death. 

     But, God is able!  The apostle Paul writes: “Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).  The word “able” (Greek dunamai) is closely related to the word for “power” (dunamis), both speaking of God’s spiritual dynamics. He is omnipotent (all-powerful). His ability is unlimited and His power “works within us.”   Therefore, “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him…”(Heb. 7:25). 

      It begins for us when we respond to the good news (the gospel) about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in payment for our sins (I Cor. 15:1-4), because the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro. 1:16).  God “is able to establish you according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…” (Ro. 16:25). 

     Even when the great sorrows and temptations come–and they do and they will–He is able!  “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (I Cor. 10:13).  In fact, He is able to meet every need of our lives and even enables us to help others. Although the context is speaking of monetary stewardship, the principle of II Cor. 9:8 really applies to all of our Christian life: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” 

     Finally, “...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” (II Tim. 1:12).  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).   That leads us toone of the most profound, encouraging statements of the entire New Testament,  Jude 24: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of his glory blameless with great joy.”   

     That deserves a hearty, “Praise the Lord, Amen!”  He is able!

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

God’s “Tuning Fork”

     From grade school through college, I played a French Horn in band and orchestra.  After warming up our instruments, before we began to play a particular piece of music, we would always tune our instruments either to the first-chair clarinetist or violinist, playing a concert A. Or we would all tune up to a u-shaped steel tuning fork (invented in 1711 by British musician John Shore), which when set to resonating, sounds the pure tone of the note A (440 Hertz frequency), which is the pitch of the violin’s second string, the viola’s first string and an octave above the first string of the cello. If our instruments weren’t all in tune with the same pitch, our music would sound very dissonant and unpleasant to the ear. All it takes is one instrument to be out of tune to adversely affect the sound of the entire band or orchestra. It was our responsibility to listen carefully as we were playing to make sure we were still in tune with the rest of the instruments and we would occasionally have to adjust our instrument even after the concert had started.  To this day, when listening to a band or orchestra, I can still detect an instrument in the group that is out of tune or that plays a wrong note.

     God has given us a “tuning fork” to which we must adjust our lives if we are going to make harmonious music pleasing to the ear and to Him. It is His inspired Word, the Bible.  It is only as we “tune” our lives to the commands and principles of His Word, that we can have right relationships, not only with God, but with one another. As we observe the world around us today with all its chaos, hatred, anger, division and conflict, it is because many are not operating “on the right frequency.” Many, like in the dark period of Israel’s history of the judges, are doing “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) with no regard for the absolute standards of God’s Word. Many have no regard for God’s standards for gender (male and female as established at birth), marriage (between one man and one woman), the sanctity of life (beginning at conception), the leadership structure for a church, etc. 

     On this day, our nation celebrates the life of civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, who, in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” wrote these words: “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the Law of God. An unjust law is out of harmony with the moral law.”  In his civil rights crusade, King refused to obey what he regarded as an immoral law that did not square with the law of God.    

     Occasionally our high school band would join with other bands for a concert. Imagine what it would have sounded like if each of the bands had tuned up to a different note rather than all tuning to concert A!  Well, that’s what happens when everyone decides there is no absolute standard and does what pleases themselves. You have a world like the one we live in today.

     There are those, even among professing Christians, who believe we need to adjust God’s Word to fit our current culture, that the Bible is really “outdated” for this period of time and needs to “be amended” to fit today. Jesus dealt with a group of people in His day that felt the same.   Jesus uttered some sharp words of rebuke for the scribes and Pharisees, who had distorted the plain teachings of Scripture with numerous “interpretations” that enabled them to ignore whatever teaching they found inconvenient. The Lord Jesus always took the Scriptures literally and as divine authority and we should as well. Jesus said, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished…The scripture cannot be broken” (Mt. 5:18; Jn. 10:35).  Skeptics have maintained that the Bible is full of contradictions; evolutionists may ridicule the account of creation, and sinners in general may try to wriggle away from its moral constraints, but the Scripture cannot be broken! Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (Jn. 12:48).  Jesus is the living Word of God, and the Scriptures are the written Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 3:16,17; II Pet. 1:20,21)

     Many modern “progressive Christians” and cultists are following the example of the Pharisees rather than that of Christ, and are “distorting the Scriptures to their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:16).  Peter continues with this admonition: “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (vv. 17,18).  Paul wrote a similar warning in his letter to the Colossian believers: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (and God’s Word!) (Col. 2:8).   Make sure that God’s Word (His “tuning fork”) is always your standard for faith and practice. 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

When is it Okay to Pray?

     Just a week ago, on “Monday Night Football,” Damar Hamlin, defensive back for the Buffalo Bills, suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle against the opposing Cincinnati Bengals. The crowd which had been very noisy cheering for their teams in a game with playoff implications, suddenly became very quiet as they realized the seriousness of the situation on the field as medical personnel worked to revive Damar.  Many of the players from both teams gathered on the field and knelt in prayer for Damar.  One of the Cincinnati fans in the stadium turned his big poster over and on the blank side took his magic marker and in big, bold letters said: “PRAY FOR DAMAR.”  He remained in the stands until they had pretty much emptied when the game was cancelled, encouraging all to pray. News sites as well, on television and  live, had messages about the event and encouraged people to pray for Damar and his family.

     The next day, on “NFL Live,” Don Olavsky, ESPN sports analyst, said, “Lots of people are telling Damar and his family, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you,’ but I would like to stop and pray for him and, with probably millions of people watching, Don, acknowledging the sovereignty of God and the power of prayer,  prayed a very moving prayer for Damar and his family.  {NOTE: Damar suffered a second cardiac arrest at the hospital, but after an induced coma, he has made amazing progress  (PTL!), and, with his family by his bedside, he sat up and watched the game yesterday between his Bills and the New England Patriots. The Bills won 35-23 including two kickoffs returned for touchdowns (there had been only four in the whole NFL all year!)}

     I find it very interesting that a culture that has done so much to eliminate prayer from any public venue suddenly turns to God when an emergency arrives, like the attack in New York City on 9-11-01, or a serious injury to a football player during a game!  It seems that though many don’t believe we should live out our faith in public they still turn to God when difficulty comes (“No atheists in foxholes”).  

     As I observed the public prayer for Damar, I couldn’t help but think back to the story of Joe Kennedy, assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington who was fired for his practice of quietly praying briefly on the 50 yard line after each home game. Joe had a difficult childhood, spending time in and out of foster homes. As he finished high school, his pursuit of discipline and stability in his life, led him to join the Marine Corps, where he served our country for 20 years. His deployments included Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He observed the lack of religious freedom in other parts of the world, which made him very grateful for living in the U. S.  Before leaving the Marine Corps, he committed his life to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

     Joe was invited to join the coaching staff for the football team at Bremerton High School in 2008.  He made a commitment to God that he would give thanks at the conclusion of each game for what the players had accomplished and for the opportunity to be part of their lives through football.  For seven years it was his practice to go out to the 50 yard line after each game and pray quietly for 15-30 seconds. Over time, some of the players asked if they could join him and some invited players from opposing teams to join them. None of the players were ever coerced to join Joe. But in 2015, an admiistrator from a visiting school complained about his practice and Joe was ultimately fired from his coaching job, claiming his practice was a government endorsement of religion.  

     The First Liberty group, believing that no American should be forced to choose between their faith and the job they love, heard about his situation, and offered to take his case to court. Well, Joe Kennedy’s case ended up making it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled this past summer (June 22, 2022) in favor of Joe. He will be back coaching next fall (at BHS) and will undoubtedly be seen quietly praying on the 50 yard line after each game! 

     What a privilege it is for us to offer our praise to God as well as to bring our petitions before Him in prayer.  Because we have a Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins and who now is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven to intercede for us (Heb. 6:14-15; 7:23-25), “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 6:16).  The Apostle Paul gives us this exhortation and accompanying promise:  “Be anxious for nothing, 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 Jeus” (Phil. 4:6,7).  

     Prayer often seems to be our last resort, but it should always be our first response. As believers, we should always be in communion with God, “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).   There is power in prayer (Jas. 5:16b). When ESPN sports analyst, Don Olavsky, prayed for Damar Hamlin, he said, “I believe in prayer and the impact that it has.”  It has an impact, not only on situations, but maybe more so, on the hearts of people.  When we pray we are acknowleding the sovereignty of God, of His control of the affairs of man, and of His love and mercy to minister to our needs.  

     So, when is it okay to pray?  Well, Paul writes: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:16-18).   And what did Jesus say about prayer?  “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all time they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Lk. 18:1), i.e., don’t be discouraged because answers do not come immediately. Keep praying!  Prayer keeps us close to the heart of God. Prayer helps us to have an eternal versus temporal viewpoint. prayer demonstrates that we are not adequate in ourselves, but that our adequacy is from–and in–God (II Cor. 3:5). 

     Don’t forget to include Damar Hamlin and family as your pray today. Pray for his physical restoration and for the spiritual restoration of his family and teammates. Pray for all those impacted by the events of a week ago when Damar’s life nearly ended on the football field.  As Josh Allen, quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, was interviewed after the game yesterday and asked about the amazing recovery of Damar Hamlin, his first words were: “To God be the glory.”    Amen!

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment