Not Forgotten (Part I)

I’m sure each of us has at sometime been forgotten by a friend or loved one or fellow worker or…(and the list goes on).  Maybe someone made a promise they never kept and left you discouraged and possibly angry. Have you ever felt forgotten by God?  Do you ever wonder where He is when you really need Him?  It seems that every time a tragic event takes place—like the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York on 9-11-01— there are those who ask, “Where was God?”  Implied in the question is that either God is incapable of coming to our aid, or He is unaware of what is happening, or He doesn’t care. Obviously, we know from Scripture that none of these is true, for God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and cares deeply about us and what is happening to us at any given time. But in God’s infinite wisdom, He has a plan and purpose which He is carrying out which cannot be thwarted.  God never has to have a “plan B”!  But, He will always act on His timetable, not ours.
     There is an interesting statement in Genesis. God had Noah prepare an ark which would provide safety for him and his family during the judgment of the flood which covered the earth. After “He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the earth…and the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days” (Gen. 7:23,24), it says, “But God remembered Noah…and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided” (Gen. 8:1).  When it says, “God remembered Noah” it doesn’t imply He had forgotten all about him bobbing around in the giant barge filled with animals. Rather, it refers to God’s faithfulness in paying attention to the needs of His children. God is never aloof or otherwise occupied and not able or interested in coming to our aid. He is always there and will perform His purposes in His time.   
    God, speaking to and through the prophet Isaiah, said, “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purposes will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it’” (Isa. 46:9b-11).  God is never taken by surprise, is never overwhelmed by any situation, and never forgets us. To Israel, who throughout her history probably often felt forgotten by Him, God said: “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me” (Isa. 44:21). 
    When Nebuchadnezzar and his army conquered the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin in 596 B.C., 3,023 Jews were taken to Babylon (Jer.29:1 cf 52:28). They had now been there for 70 years and were undoubtedly discouraged and wondering “Where is God when we need Him?”  Jeremiah sent them a letter encouraging them, including these words from God: “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you (Jer. 24:6,7; Zeph. 2:7), to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope…And I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile’” (Jer. 29:10-14).
     Many of the Jewish people may again be wondering if God has forgotten them as they see the growing anti-Semitism worldwide and the plans that some of her neighboring nations have to push Israel into the sea and wipe her off the map. But, just think of the history of that little country since she once again became a nation in May of 1948. Think of all the attempts of enemy nations to destroy Israel. How did they do?  Has God forgotten Israel? Has He forgotten His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David?  Not at all. In fact the very existence of that little nation the size of Rhode Island and the influence she has had and still has on the world is strong evidence for the existence of Jehovah God who has protected His chosen people and will continue to do so. He most assuredly has not forgotten them.  Just as promised in Isaiah, God will accomplish His purposes and carry out His plans and will not forget His people. In fact, as we see in the letter to the Romans, one day “all Israel will be saved” (Ro. 11:1-27),  and God will fulfill all His promises to the Jews of a King and a Kingdom here on earth where Christ will reign on the throne of David for 1,000 years of peace and prosperity.
     Just as God will not forget the Jewish people, neither will He forget His children today. He knows all about your situation right now and is using it to accomplish His purpose in and through you—in His way and in His time. Just remember, “When you can’t see His hands, trust His heart.”  He will never leave you or forsake you (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5).  “Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that is happening along the way” (Pr. 20:24 LB). “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 NASB), i.e., He will make the course of your life spiritually successful.
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
    
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You and the Local Church

Our son Grant and family were here for a week and then our daughter-in-law, Arika, and granddaughter, Lacey, returned to Oregon on the train so Lacey could attend Bible camp last week. Grant and our grandson, Luke, stayed until this past Saturday to help us with work projects, which we very much appreciated since I am still recovering from shoulder surgery.  They headed back on Saturday so they wouldn’t miss church on Sunday! 
     That was a real encouragement to us to see how important attending church is to them. They are part of a church with a fantastic Bible teacher who preaches for a full hour as he preaches through the Bible on Wednesday night, Saturday night and Sunday morning (three services).  Obviously, God’s Word, when taught clearly and authoritatively, still meets needs as it always has and always will.
     Unfortunately, for many Christians today, attending church consistently is not a priority—is not an important part of their week. Church, to them, has become more of a “convenience store” if they attend at all.  Some professing Christians attend only twice a year—Christmas and Easter. Then there are those who only go twice in their lifetime—to get married and to get buried, when it takes six strong men to take them to church!
     There are many who have had a bad church experience so have dropped out completely.  But I doubt if they quit eating because their mother or wife burned the biscuits!  Others think they really don’t need church to grow as a Christian so have become “Lone Rangers,” trying to go it alone, with no support group or accountability or opportunity to use the gifts God has given them.  Perhaps those who don’t think they need church don’t think much of the One who founded it (cf Mt. 16:18)! 
     While there are no perfect churches because they are made up of imperfect people, it happens to be the institution through which Christ has chosen to carry out His continued ministry on earth until He comes in the air to take the Church to heaven. (In fact, if you find a “perfect” church, please don’t join it—you’ll ruin it!)  While every true, born-again believer is a member of the universal church, the local church (or assembly) is the visible church made up of professing believers who have banded together for worship, instructions and service (cf Acts 2:38-47).  The assembly might meet in a public building or in a home (Acts 11:22; 14:23; Ro. 16:1,5; I Cor. 1:2; Col. 4:5; Rev. 1-3).  Most of Paul’s letters were addressed to local assemblies of believers who gathered for the following purposes: Instruction (Eph. 4:11-16), Fellowship (koinonia = sharing with; having in common; partnership…Acts 4:31-35), Prayer (Acts 4:31-33), Praise (Acts 2:46,47; Psa. 147:1; 149:1; 150), Mutual Edification (Eph. 4:11-16; Ro. 12:10-13; I Cor. 12:4-7). Encouragement and Stimulation to action (Heb. 10:24,25), Evangelizaton (equipped for rescue work outside the church walls…Acts 1:8; Mt. 28:19; II Cor. 5:17-20) and Missions (sending and supporting missionaries…Phil. 4:10-18). 
     Ron Hutchcraft in a recent “A Word With You” devotional, spoke of how we are “Built to Be Attached.”  He used the analogy of how branches must stay attached to the tree if they are going to be full of life, grow and bear fruit. Similarly, “believers in Jesus Christ are built to be attached to His Body which He called the church. And when they’re not, they start dying…God intended following Jesus to be a team sport.”  Some have distanced themselves from the team and are trying to make it a solo sport, but it doesn’t work that way. “Jesus set up His church as the place where you can worship Him with your spiritual family, where you can serve Him, where you participate in the spiritual obediences like communion and baptism, where you get to know people that you need and who need you.”  Maybe you’ve been hurt by fellow believers or church leaders and have become disillusioned, maybe even embittered. “But you can’t just stay there. You may find a different body of believers to be a part of, but not being a part of one is just not an option for a believer who claims to be following Christ. If your eyes have been on people, or on your wounds, on the things that are wrong with a church, well then, you will tend to directly disobey our Lord and ‘give up the habit of meeting together’ (Heb. 10:24,25).” The church isn’t perfect but it is the institution Jesus has chosen to work through on earth. It  is our spiritual “home” on earth. If you’ve been away, it’s time to come home.
     “The church has many critics, but no rivals” (George Sweeting”).  A good indication of our spiritual temperature is our eagerness to go to church. The Psalmist, David, wrote: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psa. 122:1).  Psalm 84, which expresses the pilgrim’s passion for God’s house, includes these statements: “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD…How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house!  They are ever praising Thee…For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” 
     “If the church is central to God’s purpose, as seen in both history and the gospel, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center?” (John Stott). Remember: CH__ __CH means little unless UR in it!
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
    
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The Amazing Tartigrades

  I had the privilege yesterday to speak at our home church, Faith Bible. It was church campout weekend on the nearby Koocanusa Reservoir, and the pastor went with the campers to speak on Sunday. I spoke to the small group of folks who stayed behind (They needed to be fed too!).  My message was on “Experiencing God in Creation.”  In my research, I read an article in the Institute for Creation Research’s magazine, Acts and Facts, about a cute little creature that God made called the Tartigrades (also called moss piglets or water bears).
     Tartigrades are “cute” microscopic eight-legged, segmented, aquatic animals that may live in moss around your home, eat algae, are compact enough to stand on a pencil tip, and are the toughest creatures yet discovered. One sample group spent 10 days in space with no oxygen. They were exposed to UV radiation 1,000 times greater than at the Earth’s surface, but after they were retrieved, they proceeded to reproduce normally. They can also withstand pressures six times greater than the deepest spot in the ocean (about 7 miles).  They’ve been known to exist in a dehydrated state for more than a century and return to normal activity when exposed to water!  The secret of their survival is the ability to shut down their metabolism completely while maintaining their cellular structure. They have the ability to switch off all living processes and then start them up again. What an amazing example of God’s engineering and design skills as the Omnipotent, Omniscient Creator!
     The seemingly infinite universe with its billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars is jaw dropping and beyond our finite ability to comprehend, but as you focus in on the features of our planet Earth where God designed for us to live and to manage all the flora and fauna He created, you realize that each plant and each creature He made has very special, unique, amazing features. Everyone is a reflection of the greatness of our God. Take any one of His plants or animals and do a detailed study and you will just stand in awe.  Here are just a few examples in addition to the Tartigrades:
     1.   Plants with tender roots, sometimes more slender than a thread, that penetrate hard, rocky soil.
     2.  The photosynthesis process that locks the energy of sunshine into food for a leaf—still not fully
           understood by scientists.
     3.  The coloring on the wing of a swallowtail butterfly due to 750,000 tiny colored scales.
     4.  The Archer Fish which calculates the height and speed of an insect flying up to 20 ft. overhead, and in                the instant of hurling a jet of water from under the surface, calculates also the angle of refraction and the           quantity of water needed to bring down its prey.
     5.  The Bombardier Beatle which combines gases to produce an explosion to frighten away its enemy                    without blowing itself up!
     6.  The Arctic Tern, which carries within its small brain the inbred instinct to navigate from the Arctic Circle              to  the Antarctic and back—25,000 miles.
     7.  The supersonic squeal of bats which gave the world radar during WW II; Bats using their sonar, can fly              through the moving blades of a fan without hitting the blades!
     8.  The silent flight of owls due to the unique design of their serrated feathers—a concept being applied to              the blades on turbines to make jet engines quieter.
     9.  The four legs of the giant elephant all bend forward in the same direction. No other quadruped is so                    made. God planned that this animal would have a huge body, too large to live on two legs. For this                      reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it can rise from the ground easily.  The horse rises
          from the ground on its two front legs first. The cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.
     No wonder, Job in his response to his supposed comforter, Zophar, told him to check out God’s creatures and learn from them: “But ask the beasts and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind?” (Job. 12:7-10).
     The same God who made each of His creatures uniquely and purposefully, made you and me. The lives of each of us may be ordered by the Lord in a beautiful way for His glory, if we will only entrust Him with our lives. If we try to regulate our own lives, they will be a mess and failure. Only the One who made us can successfully guide us to a profitable, purposeful, meaningful end.  The Psalmist, David, wrote: “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psa. 100:3).  David, himself a shepherd, understood sheep and the need for a good shepherd who cares for the sheep, and found God to be that “Good Shepherd.” He also wrote the beloved 23rd Psalm, which begins with “the LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…” In other words, He is all I need, and He meets my every need.
      If God put so much care into the design of His creatures, just imagine how much engineering and loving design went into making us,  the “crown of His creation” (Psa. 8:5). David speaks of that in Psa. 139:13-18: “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee” (Amen—PTL!).
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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One Small Step for Man

Fifty years ago this week, astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered what remains one of the most iconic statements in history—apart from Scripture—“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the moon and the next day spent 2 1/2 hours outside the spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module. The three were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon, and later also received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
     Neil Armstrong’s first moon walk and inspirational statement were the product of a huge team effort. It resulted in the accomplishment of an amazing feat that went beyond what seems humanly possible.  Space travel was not unique when the three astronauts blasted off from Cape Canaveral in July 1969, but at that point, nobody had landed or walked on the moon. Any number of things could have gone wrong. Since many scientists are evolutionists and believe in a universe that about five billion years old, there was a great concern about landing in 40-50 feet of meteoric dust on the moon’s surface. What a pleasant surprise—and evidence for a recent creation no more than 10,000 years ago—when they landed on a mere 1/8 inch of dust!
     Armstrong, a committed Christian, put his faith and fate in God’s hands and in the God-given abilities of the vast team that made his personal achievement possible as the first human to set foot on the moon. But more than two decades later Armstrong walked somewhere else that he considered more significant than his moon walk. Perhaps the most under-reported story about Armstrong concerned his visit to Israel in 1994. He was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meier Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had walked here. “These are the steps that lead to the Temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.” Neil asked if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.  Armstrong responded: “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon!” 
     The secular world remembers Armstrong as an aerospace engineer, a Navy Fighter pilot, a university professor and, of course, the first man in history to walk on the moon. But those who were closest to the famous astronaut—his widow, Carol, his two sons, Eric and Mark, his brother and sister, and his Christian family—remember Neil Armstrong as a man of faith.
     Neil Armstrong died Aug. 26, 2012—a great American and devoted Christ follower. Of course, you wouldn’t know about his Christian faith from the obituaries in the liberal media, nor would you know he loved the Lord from the perfunctory tribute offered by President Obama. But, Armstrong’s life cannot be told without mentioning his walk with Christ.  More important to him than even his walk on the moon or walking where Jesus walked, was his walk with Christ in his daily life, and to hear from His Master upon arrival in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord” (Mt. 25:21).      
     No matter how great your accomplishment in this life, no matter what accolades the secular world gives you, what really matters is your walk with Christ and the spiritual legacy that you leave behind. What will those closest to you—your family, co-workers—remember about you?  “There’s only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”  What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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Weeding Glasses

   Because of the amount of time I spend pulling weeds not only here in our flower and vegetable gardens, but also when In Oregon at both our son’s and daughter’s places and at the Christian school where our son and daughter-in law teach, our son jokingly said that I may soon need a new pair of “weeding glasses!”  As I thought about that, I guess there may have been some truth his quip. If you are going to pull weeds, you need to know what are weeds versus plants that should remain. So, that brings up the question of what makes something a weed or a noxious weed versus a valued plant or wildflower?  One person’s wildflower may be another person’s weed!
     For many years, I have been interested in identifying wildflowers that grow in our area of northwestern Montana, so have taken many, many flower pictures when hiking or hunting and try to identify them.  We also make inspirational note cards which we sell at our local “Copy This Send That” store.  This past Saturday we took a walk in an area where we had recently cut some wood and noticed a flower we had never seen. We went back to get some pictures and to try to identify it—so far no luck.  But we are guessing, though it is quite pretty, that it is actually a noxious weed since it has grown up on and near a newly built road and has spread quickly.  It probably came in on the equipment that built the road in an area where I have spent a lot of time over the years and have never seen it there before.
     Several years ago, in the same area, during hunting season, I spotted a unique dried flower which, again, I had never seen in the area or anywhere else in the many places we have hiked.  I went back in the spring to see it in bloom. Since it had already multiplied, I dug up a sample and sent to the University of Montana Biological station where it was identified as Viper Bugloss, a noxious weed originating in France!
    A native plant is one that is part of the balance of nature that has developed in a particular region or ecosystem over hundreds of years. An invasive plant (species) is one that is non-native, and has spread rapidly, disrupting native plant communities of ecosystems. Not all non-native plants introduced to a new area are invasive. Some do not threaten the existing ecosystem.  A weed is a plant that is not valued in the place where it is growing and poses a threat to agriculture and/or the natural ecosystem. A noxious weed is a plant that is particularly troublesome, causing damage to crops, gardens, livestock, or the public health and environment.
     Here are a few that qualify in our area as noxious weeds: spotted knapweed, orange hock weed, leafy spurge, hound’s tongue, Canada thistle, cut-leaf daisies, curly-leaf pondweed, Dalmatian toadflax, and common tansy.
     The challenge Is to be able to detect what are valuable plants and what are destructive weeds. Many of the plants categorized as noxious weeds are actually very attractive flowers!  The problem is they crowd out the plants that are valued and agriculturally beneficial.  It is amazing here in our area how over the years we have lived here, spotted knapweed got started and spread so rapidly to the forests on logging roads as seeds were carried by trucks and equipment.  Sadly it has squeezed out grasses upon which the elk and deer graze. One plus is that the knapweed blossoms are frequented by honey bees and make great-tasting honey!
     From lots of experience weeding our gardens, I have developed some pretty effective “weeding glasses,” to detect what are weeds and what are the plants I have started to produce corn, beans, lettuce, carrots, etc.  I wouldn’t dare send a non-gardener out to weed the vegetable garden without a pair of “weeding glasses” or I would probably lose some of what I am trying to grow.
   Interestingly, in the Bible, we see examples of how the enemy, Satan, comes and sows noxious weeds among the grain. In Matthew 13:24-30 we have Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares.  Tares were weeds, probably darnel, whose blades closely resembled wheat, but could be distinguished from wheat when fully ripe.  Satan has sown his counterfeits in the church and they often are hard to distinguish from the real thing.  We definitely need “weeding glasses.” That is, we need to be so familiar with God’s Word and in tune with the Holy Spirit, that we can spot Satan’s counterfeits, even though, like many noxious weeds, they are attractive, and look a lot like that which they are counterfeiting.  Jesus often warned about false prophets who would infiltrate the church. He said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Mt. 7:15).  He went on to say, “you will know them by their fruits” (v. 20).
     If we are going to be “fruit-bearers” for Christ, we need to be able to detect the true from the false, by becoming very familiar with the real thing, through letting “the Word of God richly dwell within us” (Col. 3:16) and by being “diligent to present ourselves approved to God as a workman who does not to need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Then we will have “weeding glasses” to be able to spot that which is phony and there to squeeze out the productivity in our lives for Christ.
     Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
P.S. Thanks for praying for the shoulder surgery (last Wednesday, July 3rd).  Although it involves much pain, hopefully it will remedy the torn rotator cuff. Pray for patience for the patient! 
    
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What It Means to be Free

Since this week we in the United States of America celebrate our freedom as a nation, I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be free.  For the thirteen colonies in America it meant to be free from the limitations placed upon them by the Crown (England). They soon adopted that now-famous document known as The Declaration of Independence which includes this statement: “…these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”  But, just what does it mean to us, individually, to be free?  I recall a story about a boy named Bobby who wanted to go swimming in a nearby water-filled gravel pit, but his mother said he couldn’t because it was too dangerous. Bobby raised a ruckus in protest, so his mother punished him by making him sit on a chair in the kitchen. After a long period of silence, he asked, “Mommy, can God do anything He wants to do?” Bobby’s mother replied, “Yes, Bobby, He can.”  Again he was quiet. Then he said, “God doesn’t have parents, does He?”
     Bobby thought he would be perfectly free if it were not for his mother. He didn’t realize that what he wanted to do was foolish. Nor did he understand that when he became an adult he still wouldn’t be able to do everything he desired. There would always be someone in authority over him putting restrictions upon him.  He would always need people and laws to keep him from doing something wrong or dangerous.
     Many people think that freedom is being able to do whatever they please whenever they please how ever they please—having no restrictions placed upon them.  Unfortunately that sort of describes our society today that has decided to remove all restraints to really experience true freedom. I’m reminded that God placed Adam and Eve in a perfect environment where they experienced the beauty of God’s freshly created earth. They had access to all the fruit in the garden—except for the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16,17). God warned them that if they ate of that tree they would “surely die.”  God tested their obedience to Him by placing that one restriction upon them. Along comes Satan (the fallen angel Lucifer) to suggest to them that God couldn’t have really meant what He said. Satan, speaking through the serpent, said, “You surely shall not die” (Gen. 3:4).  If He’s a good God, surely He wouldn’t withhold anything from you. 
    If Bobby’s mother were a good mother, surely she wouldn’t put restrictions upon him!  Satan continues to whisper his lies to people who think that to really be free means to have no restrictions regarding marriage, sex, abortion, gender, etc. In other words, there are no absolutes and “everyone can do that which is right in their own eyes.” Well, guess what, that is nothing new. There’s a whole book in the Bible that describes a 350-year period of time in the history of Israel when they did that very thing, ignoring the commands from God and ended up being subjugated by an enemy nation and then crying out to God for help. God would send a judge to help them return to following God’s laws and things would be okay for a short time and then the pattern would repeat. They went through that cycle of Disobedience, Discipline, Desperation, and Deliverance some seven times! (After all, seven is the perfect number!)
     Bobby’s mom knew, better that he did, what was best for him and her restrictions were for his good. God, the perfect parent, knows what is best for His children. After all, He made us (Psa. 100: 3). True freedom doesn’t mean living without restraints or rules or limitations. True freedom comes from living obediently within them. Freedom has fences. They are there for our protection. We have unchanging truths and principles given to us in the Word of God, the Bible. We have guidelines for marriage, for example, which is to be between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:18-24 cf Mt. 19:5). Any who go outside of that absolute are “abandoning the natural function” and will “receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Ro. 1:26,27). And God will “Give them over to a depraved mind to do those things which are not proper” (v. 28).
     To justify the things which go contrary to the Word of God, many say those things are “outdated” and no longer apply to a “progressive” society, that is one that is “freeing” itself from old, archaic traditions and customs. This is the “enlightened age” when we don’t go by these old, rigid guidelines. Hey, that sounds just like what happen to Israel. Obviously we don’t learn from history!  Today we have political leaders who are crying out for free borders, free education for all, free health care for all, free sex with anyone you wish, woman’s freedom to chose whether or not to give birth to her child. 
     I guess what we are experiencing, just like every other nation in history, is that freedom is hard to handle, because our old, sinful natures demand to be free to do as we please and then we forget that God’s guidelines are for our good. Our founding fathers understood that and tried to incorporate protections in the Constitution and the first ten amendments to the constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the checks and balances of our governing structure. But we have many now declaring these documents, just like the Bible, are obsolete and need to be revised. How scary is that!  No wonder our nation is in political chaos. Our nation claims to be a “free nation,” yet we find ourselves in tremendous bondage, bondage to the sinful nature of man which is in rebellion against God.
     Real freedom comes from being obedient to the truths of God’s Word, from making them the standard for our beliefs and behavior. Jesus said, “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32...and not just from knowing it, from doing it!). Jesus Himself, being God incarnate, is “The Truth.” He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn. 14:6).  He also said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
     Real freedom is not the right to do as you please, but the liberty to do as you ought. That comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and through obedience to the truths of His Word. So, while we celebrate this Fourth of July and the independence our country, let us especially thank God for the freedom from sin and Satan and self (our old nature) that we have in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  Freedom is following Jesus.
    Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
P.S. I would appreciate your prayers as I have shoulder (rotator cuff) surgery early Wednesday morning and for the weeks that follow to allow it to heal.
(I am a “doer” so it will be a lesson in patience).
    
    
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Operation Auca (Part II–Footprints)

    In the previous “Wisdom of the Week,” I shared the story of the five young missionary men who felt called by God to take the gospel to the Waorani tribe in the rain forest of Ecuador.  (Note: Waorani, Waodani and Huaoroni are alternate spellings and mean “all the people.”) They called their mission “Operation Auca.” Auca, meaning “savages,”  was the name given to the Waorani by the neighboring Quechua tribe because of their violence and practice of revenge killing.  The missionaries established a nearby base, along with their wives and children, and began making flights over the Waroani villages to drop gifts. On January 3, 1956, they felt it was time to make contact with the Auca so held a prayer time with their families, said “good bye” to their wives, boarded their little airplane and then flew and landed on a sand bar (which they called “Palm Beach”) by the Curary River. First they were visited by two women and one Waorani man, who, of course, had no way to communicate with the missionaries that they were looking for Dayuma, a Waorani woman who had fled some time ago when her people were being attacked.
    When the two Waorani women, Dayuma’s aunt and half-sister, and Waorani man (Nanke) returned to the village, Nanke, who wasn’t supposed to be with the women (he was married!), decided he’d better make up a story to save his hide so told the village tribesman that the foreigners with the airplane on the sandbar had killed Dayuma and ate her!
     On Sunday, January 8, Nate Saint flew their plane over the area and spotted a group of ten Waorani headed toward the beach. He radioed his wife, Marj, asking the women to pray for them and he would contact her again at 4:30 p.m, but that call never came, for they were speared to death by those tribesmen. It should be noted that the missionaries did have a rifle with them, but only for protection against wild animals. They had agreed that should their lives be endangered, they would not kill any Waorani, reasoning that if they (the missionaries) were killed, they would go to heaven, but if the tribesmen were killed, they would not.  They were willing to lay down their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ who lay down His life for us to provide forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
     The death of the five missionaries galvanized the missionary effort in the United States, sparking an outpouring of funding for evangelization efforts around the world and the commitment of many young men and women as well as some older saints to missionary service. Several years after the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Nate Saint on “Palm Beach” in Ecuador at the hands of the Auca Indians, the widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, and the sister of Nate Saint, Rachel, returned to Ecuador as missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International) to live among the Waorani. Their first peaceful contact was with Dayuma, whose disappearance had resulted in the misinformation fed to the Waorani who went out to spear the missionaries!  She became the first Waorani convert to Christianity, and was instrumental in helping Elisabeth and Rachel in reaching out to many of the Waorani with the gospel. Many responded and trusted Christ for eternal life. Included among the converts were some of those, such as Mincaye, who was involved in killing the missionaries. Through their new lives in Christ, the culture changed from one of violence and revenge killing to one of love and forgiveness.
     Pat Kelley, who spoke at our church on June 9, was assigned by SIL International to work among the Waorani people to teach and supervise literacy classes, to prepare literacy materials and to train literacy instructors and community health and first aid promoters. She worked with the sons and daughters of those who had killed the missionaries, but whose families (including Mincaye’s) were now strong Christians.  One of the murderers, Ayebae, became the first composer of a Christian song in Waorani!  Another, Yowe, helped clear the landing strip for the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilots that come and go from the village. He also prays for and with all the pilots when they land! Chiquita, who led the men who murdered the missionaries, also received Christ and when asked by an Anthropologist who interviewed him whether he would like to go back to his old culture as some say they should, said “Let them try it!” 
     Dawa, a Waorani woman who accompanied the men to the sandbar when the missionaries were killed, also became a believer and said there was no way she wanted to go back to “the way of the spear.” She said, “No more spearing people!” 
     There are those who say missionaries are wrong to make converts to Christianity of tribes people, knowing it will change their culture. Well, just ask the Waorini about that! Some cultures need to change, for they are under the grip of our adversary, the devil, and only God can change that. It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to change lives and the Waorani are surely great examples of that power. Steve Saint, son of martyred Nate Saint, was baptized in the Curary River next to the sandy beach where his father had been killed. Steve was baptized by Kimo and Kyuwi, two of his father’s killers who had become believers.  Now that’s the grace of God in action!
     The Waorani went barefoot and were able to tell who had come to visit them just by looking at the tracks in the mud or sand. Well, there were tracks left in the sand on that fateful beach where five missionaries were killed, but today those same footprints can be seen taking the Good News of the Gospel to other tribes.  Pat Kelley said, “those are my “heroes,” the Duyamas, and Mincayes and Yowes and Ayebaes, and Kimos and Kyuwis.”  They are passing on their faith to the next generations and to neighboring tribes.  Am I?  Are you? What kind of “footprints” are we leaving?
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
P.S.  For more details about the amazing story of the Waorani/Auca Indians, see the movie, End of the Spear or read the book, God in the Rainforest
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