Oh Deer!

While we often are frustrated with having to protect all our plants, shrubs and trees from the resident whitetail deer herd, we also get rewarded by observing them over the course of the year to see their changes of “coats” from winter to summer and back again in the fall, and to see the bucks grow their antlers each year, starting with the velvet stage. This past week Kathy was out hanging up clothes and noticed a doe lying down nearby in our orchard. That was not unusual, as they seem to like to rest in the soft grass under the shade of our fruit trees. You can often see 5-10 of them resting their, especially on a hot day.  This particular doe, however, was in labor and soon gave birth to twins. We went upstairs (we have a bonus room over the garage) where we could observe without being seen or disruptive to the process. We took the screen off the window and videoed the amazing scene.
     As soon as the fawns are born, mom, always alert to the danger of roving predators like the coyote, begins bathing them. She often licks so vigorously, she knocks them over as they are struggling to stand for the first time on their wobbly legs. The young deer is able to stand within the first ten minutes of its life and within about an hour the fawns can sufficiently coordinate their wobbly legs to follow their mother to a resting place. One of the twins we saw born was a bit bigger than the other and was able to stand and walk within just a few minutes, although at one point as it was walking around mom instinctively looking for some nutritious milk, it lost its balance and went tumbling over backwards! The second, smaller fawn made numerous attempts to stand up before succeeding. Many times it would just about be up when mom would lick her baby and it would collapse back to the ground.
     Once the fawns get their “land legs,” mom will eat the placenta in order to eliminate any telltale sign which would betray the deer’s presence and then will take the fawns to a safe resting place where for up to three days the young animals remain practically motionless with their legs tucked under them, their neck stretched out, and heads pressed flat against the ground. The fawns, having been thoroughly cleaned by mom, are odorless, and their spotted bodies (more than 300 spots) blend inconspicuously with the surrounding, looking like light filtering between leaves of trees above. Mom will separate herself from her offspring so that her own scent will not endanger the fawn by attracting enemies, but she will return several times a day to feed her babies.
     Soon the fawns are ready to start exploring with mom, which will make them more vulnerable to predators. Another feature God designed for fawns’ protection was for its tracks to leave no scent. Adult deer have inter-digital glands located between the points of the hooves which deposit a waxy secretion causing the scent of the deer’s tracks to be stronger than any other animal. This is not the case with young fawns. But, as the fawns grow and become stronger, they are prone to wander, so mom has to clearly teach them that when she hides them they must stay there. Every time a fawn is disobedient, the doe firmly pushes it back down with its muzzle. If firmer measures are needed, the doe places a front hoof on the fawn’s back and forcefully presses it to the ground.  To the human observer, it might appear that the doe is pretty cruel, but she is protecting her young and teaching them how to survive in a hostile environment.  Since we are the only place in our neighborhood that does not have dogs, our property is sort of a “wildlife refuge” where the deer feel safe. We once had a doe leave her fawn on the step to our shop and didn’t return for her for about six hours. Even though at one point the sun began shining directly on the fawn (and I placed a wheelbarrow to shade it), the fawn stayed put, only moving once to change directions.
     I guess we humans can learn some lessons from the whitetail deer. We too live in a hostile world under the rule of Satan (Jn. 12:31 cf Rev. 12:9). Peter gives this warning: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5: 8). Jesus told his disciples: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). As believers, we need to recognize that our enemy will do all he can to destroy our testimony and our joy. The world system, ruled by Satan, is opposed to Christ and to all who represent Him on this earth. So, not only does each of us need to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” and to “put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10,11), but we need to be protectors and trainers of our children and grandchildren, and that includes discipline which is for their good. Unfortunately we are living in a “post- Christian culture” where child discipline is nearly non-existent. Just as God disciplines all His children (Heb. 12:5-11), so we as parents must discipline our children, to help protect them from the one who seeks to “devour” them.” The book of Proverbs is the best child-training manual ever written, yet today it is considered “out of date” and “barbaric” by many.  But, it, as part of God’s Word, is to be our final authority for faith and practice, not the ideas of man. Check out Proverbs 1:8,9; 3:12; 4:1-6; 6:2-22; 13:24; 19:18; 22:6,15; 23:13,14; 29:15,17.
     Fawns are weaned from their mother’s milk in four months, but much earlier, at about three weeks of age, the fawns are taught by mom how to forage on their own, shown what’s good to eat—including all those things which are advertised here as “deer resistant!” When our children are young, we read Bible stories to them and pray with them before bedtime, etc, but as they grow older, we need to help them get into the Word on their own and to learn how to talk to God. We need to help them establish a healthy, vibrant, personal relationship with God so that they, when on their own “will not depart from it” (Pr. 22:6) and will be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy.
        Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Courage

After the death of Moses, God commissioned Joshua to guide the Israelites into the Promised Land where they would face many challenges. God said to Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9). In that verse, we have the key to being courageous; it is knowing that “God is with you wherever you go” and in whatever you face. With God behind you (and with you, and going before you) you can face whatever is ahead of you. Eddie Rickenbacker said, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared!”
     It takes courage to stand up for what is right, for what you believe, especially in a culture that is headed in the opposite direction from where you are going, as is the case in our own nation today. It would be much easier—in a sense—to let things run their course, to just remain silent, to go with the flow. But, those who are not willing to bleed and die for what they hold dear will always be held hostage by those who are.
    Last week in his e-mail devotional, Richard Evans (REvans75@satx.rr.com) wrote (and I quote with his permission): “We have opportunities every day to demonstrate courage, to stand up for what is right in this world, to speak out loudly and clearly for the dignity of our fellow man, and to be prepared for the consequences of our actions. All too often we have opportunities to tell those we encounter every day of the message of Jesus Christ, a message of love and service, a message of victory through sacrifice and having the courage to do what is right regardless of the cost. In most cases the worst consequences we face may lead to a loss of prestige, loss of status, or money, or loss of relationship. There are many of our fellow Americans and citizens of other nations who face greater consequences and show far greater courage than most of us have been called to show.”
     Last Monday we celebrated Memorial Day. “We salute the men and women who have protected this nation, who have had the courage to stand tall even in the face of danger. They have served the cause of freedom. Many have put their lives on the line facing the very real possibility of death, in an effort to defend this nation, her principles, her people, and our way of life against those who threaten us.  In the early years of our country we relied on the protection of the oceans and the difficulty of foreign powers to bring danger home to our own shores. Recent years have seen our world shrink even smaller and we have been forced to realize that we cannot be an island of isolation safely hiding from the aggression and hatred of those in some distant land. Just as a small amount of poison can pollute the air and the waters, the evil and destructive nature of a small and isolated band can lead to the destruction of a nation and the demoralization and degradation of her people.”
     We salute the men and women in the military of the United States here at home and across the globe who work to insure the safety of their fellow soldiers, of the American people, and of all freedom-loving people around the world.   We salute them for sacrificing their own time, their comforts, and too often their lives to make this a better world for the rest of us. “They demonstrate the true meaning of courage. They show their devotion to the Christian principles upon which this nation was founded. They do it every day, not just in idle words of support, but in their actions, their devoted service and disciplined sacrifice for a grateful nation.”
     “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the courage You have given to our military men and women. We are awed by the many examples we have seen that most are acting in a manner that brings honor and dignity to them, to the military, to our nation, and to the people whose lives thay are seeking to better.  Father, protect them from harm, continue to give them the courage to serve Your principles, and help them make the world a little better for all Your children. Help those of us who enjoy the safety and security they are striving to protect do all within our power to show them our love, our support, and our undying gratitude. AMEN!”
     Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”  The Apostle Paul gives an illustration of that in his letter to the Philippians. He, of course wrote the letter from a Roman prison, where he was chained to a guard 24-7, but as a result had lots of opportunities, rather than griping and bemoaning his situation, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote: “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil. 1:12-14).
     Life is hard. Courage is essential!  Getting up in the morning is not for the faint of heart!  So, my brothers and sisters, “Be strong and courageous…for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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The Price of Freedom

One of my special memories of our family’s camping trip in Europe in 1985 was visiting the American military cemetery in Luxembourg where some 5,076 of our soldiers who gave their lives in WW II are buried. The scene was one of many symmetrical arced rows of shiny white crosses and clipped green, green grass. The overseas cemetery is just one of 25  (plus 27 memorials) that is carefully and respectfully maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commissions. Interestingly, right across the road from the American cemetery was a German cemetery for their soldiers who died in the same area during WWII. The crosses were gray and the grass was not mowed—quite a contrast!  Some 218,000 American soldiers who died in WWI or WWII are buried overseas in one of these 25 cemeteries. The smallest is Flanders Field with 411 graves and the largest is Manila America Cemetery with 53,486. Most families had the option of bringing their loved one back to the United States for burial or for burial in Europe near where he/she died. Some 30% chose the latter.
     We have also visited the 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. where approximately 400,000 are buried—those who gave their lives defending our freedom. What a moving scene to stand there and look upon the hundreds of rows of shining white crosses and the immaculately kept grounds, and to witness the marching of the guard before the tomb of the Unknowns. What an awesome sight to watch as he takes 21 steps, makes an about face, waits 21 seconds, and then walks 21 steps in the opposite direction. changing shoulders for his gun so that it is always on the shoulder away from the tomb.  The 21 steps, of course, alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignity. (Twenty one is the sum of the digits in the year ‘1776’ in which we gained and declared our freedom as a nation). The guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, so chances are you will get to witness that as well when you visit Arlington.
     Every cross in all these cemeteries across Europe and at Arlington—as well as many in thousands in local cemeteries across our nation—represents an individual—a son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother—who paid the ultimate price to protect the freedoms which we have experienced in this great nation, freedoms which continue to be attacked, and always will be until Jesus comes to set up His righteous rule. The thousands of crosses remind us that “freedom isn’t free,” but comes at great cost. Interesting isn’t it, that the cross was—and is—chosen as the symbol to represent the life of the person who sacrificed his for us. Our military heroes (and heroines) gave up all their tomorrows so that we could have ours. The empty cross, of course, is the symbol of Christianity, representing the means by which God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, sacrificed His life to set us free from the bondage to sin and to provide eternal life with Him in heaven.
      Liberty has always been a cherished concept to Americans, ever since the patriotic call of Patrick Henry for liberty or death. It was also a burning issue with the Jews at the time of Christ as they lived under the oppression of the Romans. Many early Christians were actually slaves or were in prison for their faith (as are many today). All those in bondage have longed to be free, and wars and revolutions have been fought to gain freedom. But, the worst bondage of all is slavery to sin. No army can free a person from sin. It is only Christ who can set a sinner free. Christ died-–on a cross—for our sins, and through faith in Him, we can receive full pardon and liberty. Not only did Jesus pay the penalty for our sins through His shed blood, but through His resurrected life (thus the empty cross) living in us as believers, we can have victory over the power of sin as well. Paul wrote: “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Ro. 6:6,18). Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth (and He is the way, truth and life…Jn. 14:6), and the truth shall make you free…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:32,36).
    Every Memorial Day we remember those who have died in the service of their country.  “The story of America’s quest for freedom is inscribed in her history in the blood of her patriots” (Randy Vader). Just as we stop to remember and say “thank you” to those who paid the price of our freedom, we need to also pause often to thank the One who paid the ultimate price to set us free from the bondage of sin. Jesus even gave us a “memorial” by which to do that. He instituted the Lord’s Supper at the final Passover meal with His disciples by passing the bread and cup and saying, eat this and drink this “in remembrance of me… For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Cor. 11:24-26).
         Forever Grateful
                Pastor Dave
    
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Running With Endurance

A key battle took place in Europe in 490 B.C. that brought freedom and democracy to Europe. It was the “Battle of Marathon,” in Greece, as they fought for freedom against oppression and slavery. After the battle, legend has it that the Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to relay the news of the victory. After a grueling run of 4-5 hours, Pheidippides declared “Nike!” (nee’kos) and dropped dead. He wasn’t telling them what kind of shoes he wore! “Nike” (or “nee’kos”) means “victory” or “conquer” in Greek.  So, how far was it from Marathon to Athens? It was 42.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles, the distance of the race run many times annually world-wide to commemorate that legendary feat by Pheidippides.
     I used to do a lot of jogging, but usually only 3-10 miles. I never ran a marathon, but those who do relate a phenomenon that takes  place after about 20 miles, when the body runs out of glycogen (stored sugar) and begins breaking down the protein in muscles and tissues for food. This is called “bonking” or “hitting the wall.” Every fiber of your body is telling you to stop!  The body should start to burn stored fat, but it can’t because some carbohydrate is needed to allow the burning of fat, but all is gone unless the runner has been snacking on energy bars and drinks. 
     As I think about this, I am reminded of Hebrews 12:1-3 which says: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us (the men and women of faith of Hebrews 11 who persevered by faith), let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” The author of Hebrews is challenging us to “run with endurance” the race He (Jesus) sets (uniquely) before each of us as believers. We have all the examples of Hebrews 11 of those who have done so and are now awaiting us in heaven. Our ultimate pattern, of course, is the One who never failed in His carrying out of the mission on which He was sent by His Father to provide redemption for mankind by being offered as “The Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29) for sin. The eternal plan included His suffering and death on a cross, as was prophesied in the Old Testament (Isa. 53 and Psalm 22).  Hebrews 11:3 tells us to “consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners.” 
     Jesus was misunderstood, rejected, arrested, falsely accused and tried, beaten, scourged with his body ripped to shreds to where bones and innards were exposed. He had a crown of thorns pressed down on His skull. He had spikes driven through his wrists and feet. He suffered from loss of blood, dehydration and shock. Like a marathon runner, every part of His body was telling Him to stop—to call on the angels to destroy the world and set Him free—but He endured the cross for you and for me.  And when Victory had been won, He too, like Pheidippedes, cried out “It is finished! And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit” (Jn. 19:30). “It is finished” is just one word in the Greek (tel-eh’-o, meaning “complete,” “accomplished.”). The Greeks had the ability to put “a sea of meaning in a drop of words!” God is a finishing God. He always completes what He starts. Paul said, “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).  Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection made freedom from the penalty and bondage of sin available to all who will come to Him, lay down their burden of sin at the cross and receive Him as Savior. Jesus gave this invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).
     When we put our trust in Christ for salvation, we enter into His victory. Paul expressed it this way: “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory (nee’kos) through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).  After listing things which cannot separate us from the love of Christ, things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, or even death, Paul writes: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Ro. 8:37). The word for “overwhelmingly conquer” is hoop-er-nik-ah’-oh, i.e. “super conquerors!”).  No wonder the writer of Hebrews, when challenging us to “run with endurance” told us to “fix our eyes on Jesus” and “consider Him” and how He endured all the suffering and death on our behalf. He never quit, Praise God!  He fulfilled what He came to do, having loved us, He loved us to the very end (Jn. 13:1) and is now seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Heb. 7:25) to guarantee our arrival in heaven (Jn. 6:39,40).
     Since He is the One keeping us, sustaining us, we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  But, to do so, we need to get rid of anything that is weighing us down or holding us back, and we need to deal with any sins to which we keep falling prey. Runners, to be efficient and run with endurance, train to get their bodies in top condition, and have self discipline to avoid those things that would be a hindrance of their competing well. If we do that, we can, with the Apostle Paul, say one day: “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7) and there will be a reward for us at the end of the race (v. 8).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
      
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God Cares For Us

I was rototilling our garden last week when I noticed only one of the two wheels was driving the tiller. I had tried to turn one direction and the tiller just wanted to spin in a circle—kind of like having only one oar in the water when rowing a boat!  I saw that an axle pin had fallen out. There wasn’t much hope of finding it in the loose dirt, so I went to look for another, but didn’t have any, so I improvised with a 16d form nail, bending it so it wouldn’t fall out. But after a few more minutes it did!  I tried another nail, bending it a bit more tightly, but alas it fell out again. As I shut off the tiller, I noticed my neighbor, Jay, standing at the garden gate. He had worked on the transmission for me a couple years ago and wanted to know how it was doing. I said, “It’s working great, but I’m down to one-wheel drive! My axle pin fell out and my improvisations haven’t worked.” He smiled and reached in his pocket and pulled out an axle pin! In fact he not only pulled out one, but three from his pocket!  Now who goes around carrying axle pins in their pocket?  He and his wife had purchased a sink at a yard sale and for whatever reason, the pins were under the sink, and Jay had put them in his pocket, having no idea that I would need one—but God knew!
     I wrote a “Wisdom of the Week” on another occasion about when we were traveling with our son in Oregon on a dark, wintry December evening when his transmission light had come on. We had stopped at Multnomah Falls parking lot and checked the fluid level which was quite low. We were the only vehicle in the dark parking lot when we got there, but then a van pulled up and parked beside us. They, like we, had been detoured because of the snow storm. I tapped on their window and asked the driver if he might possibly have any transmission fluid with him. The back of their van was packed tightly with belongings. He said he thought he did. As he opened the gate on the rear of the van, a quart of transmission fluid rolled out onto the parking lot!
     Now, I know that every time we need something, God doesn’t necessarily send someone to supply it, but He obviously knows the need, and on occasion, like any loving Father, does so in a rather obvious way, showing us how much He cares about even the small details of our lives, and demonstrating His omniscience (knowing everything) and omnipotence (power to do anything).  I’m reminded of the time Peter approached Jesus regarding paying the annual tax to support the temple. The tax collectors asked Peter whether or not their teacher (Jesus) was going to pay the tax. Members of the royal family were exempt from paying the tax. Thus Jesus, the Son of God, and of the line of David, was not personally obligated to pay for the support of God’s house, but since they didn’t understand that and to avoid being a stumbling block, He would pay. The tax was two drachmas (or a half-stater). Jesus said to Peter: “…lest we give them offense, go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and me” (Mt. 17:27). Hey, that’s a great way to pay your taxes!
     Remember the story of Elijah and the drought?  God told him to go to the brook Cherith where He sent ravens morning and evening to provide Elijah with bread and meat (I Kgs. 17:2-6). Then when the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to Zarephath to stay with a widow and her son. They had only enough flour and oil for one more meal, but neither one ran out while Elijah stayed there.
     All this to say, God knows our needs and does really care for us and occasionally provides in some unusual ways so we know He did it. He provides for us on a daily basis and we must not take for granted each breath we take and our “daily bread.” But also watch for those special times when He does the unusual to let us know He is still there watching over us and caring for us. And be sure to give Him the praise—whether it is for a quart of transmission fluid delivered to a dark parking lot at Multnomah Falls, or an axle pin for a rototiller that the neighbor “just happens” to have in his pocket!
    “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psa. 55:22).  “Casting all your anxiety (cares) upon Him, Because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7). “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?” (Mt. 6:26). God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs in your head (Means more to some than others!). Jesus said, “Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt. 10:1). 
     God knows all about our needs and really cares for us—for every detail of our lives. He promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Destination Known

This past Wednesday we had the “opportunity” to help transport children for the annual AWANA “Destination Unknown.”  Each vehicle load of children and two adults was given a list of Bible verses which provided clues to find a business or location in the community where someone gave you another set of verses that gave clues for the next location. If you were successful in finding each of the unknown destinations, you had a surprise waiting for you at the final one—in this case root beer floats. Some of the vehicles had to go back to the church for help on some of their clues, as they were unfamiliar with the business to which the Bible verse clues pointed.
    Before leaving the church to begin searching for the unknown destinations, the AWANA Commander gave a devotional about the two eternal destinations that we all face—heaven or hell. It is crucial for each one of us that we have assurance about where we are going—and hopefully for each of you, that is heaven, not hell. If you are not sure which, I pray that as you read this, God the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart and help you choose Christ and eternal life in heaven.
     I remember the time when as you went into a restaurant, they asked if you wanted the “smoking,” or “non-smoking” section. (And it really didn’t make a whole lot of difference which you chose, because the smoke permeated the whole facility!). Well, I guess those are the choices we all face in life spiritually—“smoking” (in hell) or “non-smoking” in heaven.  The Bible speaks more about hell than it does about heaven, yet there are those who deny its existence. Jesus mentioned it a number of times. When He spoke about His return in glory at the end of the Tribulation (The “Time of Jacob’s distress”…Jer 30:7), and His judgment of the Gentiles based on how they treated His chosen people, the Jews, He said: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (demons)…. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’” (Mt. 25:41,46). The same Greek word, by the way, is used for both “eternal punishment” and “eternal life.”  The Bible does not teach the annihilation of the wicked (unsaved).
     The Book of Revelation speaks of the time when Satan is cast into hell, saying, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). (NOTE: The beast or antichrist and false prophet were “thrown into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” 1,000 years before, prior to Christ’s Millennial reign on earth…Rev. 19:20).Then John goes on to describe the judgment of unbelievers at the “great white throne” saying, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judge, everyone of them according to their deeds. And death (bodies) and Hades (souls and spirits) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20: 11-15).  It is important to observe that the term “death,” as used in Scripture, does not mean the end of existence, but “separation.”  In the case of physical death, it is separation of soul and spirit from the body, and in the case of spiritual death, it is separation from God—eternally. Hell is a real place, a place of eternal torment. Though hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (demons), those who reject God’s offer of salvation through Christ will also end up there as their final destination.
     We have recorded in John’s gospel, these words of Jesus: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:28,29). Again, we see that there are two eternal destinations for all of mankind—one of eternal life with God and one of judgment, separated from Him.  This verse, by the way, does not mean we are saved by deeds, for only a saved person has “good deeds.”  Paul makes it clear that “There is none righteous…there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Ro. 3:10,11). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works (deeds), that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). “…a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
     When you put your trust in Jesus Christ alone (not your deeds or church membership or performance of some ritual) for your salvation, the Holy Spirit regenerates you, Christ comes to live in you, and “He who has the Son has life” (I Jn. 5:12).  At that moment you have eternal life and will not come into judgment, but have passed out of death into life (Jn. 5:24).   
     So, are you sure of heaven as your destination?  You can be. John continues in his first epistle: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (I Jn. 5:13). Eternal life is a present possession for each one who has asked Christ to be their Savior. You don’t have to wait until you die to find out where you are going. If you aren’t sure, why not make sure today. Jesus promised: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:40).  Amen! PTL!
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
    
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A Unique Opportunity

We had a very unique and blessed opportunity yesterday as we participated in a special church service for the installation of our new pastor, Ed (and Mary) Quillin.  Having retired from Pastoring at Three Lakes Community Bible Church near Troy, Montana, Kathy and I have been attending Faith Bible Church in Libby. Kathy’s dad, Clarence Kutz,  was the first pastor of the church way back in 1955!  Since he retired, there have been quite a number of pastors and a number of them left because of problems and left a hurting church. More than a decade ago Pastor Laurie Stuck came to FBC and really helped the church heal and become healthy again. But, Laurie and his wife Barb, felt that they needed to move to Yakima to help care for elderly, failing parents, so Pastor Stuck retired a few months ago and they now live in Yakima. Dave (and Kathy!) Butler came to serve as the interim pastor and did a fantastic job of teaching God’s Word and caring for the flock.
     Meanwhile, the Search Committee selected a new pastor candidate, Ed Quillin, who was unanimously elected by the membership. Yesterday the worship service was an official installation of Pastor Ed. The District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church, Lee Kisman, came and gave a charge to Pastor Ed and Mary.  Dave Butler returned to give a charge to the congregation. The associate (youth) pastor, Garret Dietrich, also gave a brief charge to the new senior pastor. In the congregation were also two of us as retired pastors, so we had seven pastors present. Along with our wives, we made up more than 10% of the congregation. That, in itself, is quite unusual, but it was also quite amazing to see the smooth transition of leadership take place without any tension or division. The congregation was saddened to see the Stucks leave, and had already grown to love and appreciate Dave Butler, but at the same time is excited to see what God is going to do under the new shepherd as he guides and guards and grazes the flock.
     When you think of the turmoil and chaos and anger and divisive hatred that often accompany the change of leadership in a church or in government of a nation, what we witnessed yesterday was a pretty amazing display of what the grace of God can do when allowed. And the charges given were spot on biblically.
   First the associate pastor, Garret, read Paul’s charge to his understudy Timothy, whom he had left in charge of the church at Ephesus,  to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (II Tim. 4:2).  
     Next, Rev. Lee Kisman, gave a charge to the new pastor based on I Tim. 4:16 where Paul charges Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…”  It is crucial that a person in leadership stay healthy spiritually (and physically) in order to set a good example for the flock (cf I Tim. 1:16; 4:12) and not negate the message by failing to “walk worthy of their calling” (Eph. 4:1), for, as the southern gospel song goes, “Your walk talks louder than you talk talks!” When a pastor doesn’t walk the walk, his integrity is doubted, his ministry is discredited, the saints are discouraged and devastated, the congregation is decimated and the adversaries of God celebrate.  And, of course the shepherd of the flock must “pay close attention to their teaching.”  He must “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” ( Tim. 2:15). A pastor must “Retain the standard of sound words (doctrine)…” and “Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to us” (II Tim. 1:13.14).
     Then Pastor Butler gave a charge to the congregation, based on Heb. 13:17,18 to “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Prayer for us…to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.” While we must not blindly follow our spiritual leader, but be like the Bereans who, regarding the teaching of the Apostle Paul,  “examined the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), we are to submit to the authority of those God has placed over us for our spiritual welfare, and not be a troublemaker (sowing discord) that causes them grief. They have a sobering responsibility. James writes in his epistle: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).   So, above all we need to pray for our spiritual leaders. There will be no power from the pulpit unless there is prayer from the pews!  Pray for their spiritual protection and victory against the enemy who would try to discourage and destroy their ministry. Pray that they are diligent and focused to rightly divide the Scriptures. Pray for their marriage to stay healthy and strong. Pray for their encouragement and joy to remain. Pray that they not become weary in well doing but remain steadfast. Do all you can to bring them joy and not grief in their shepherding of the flock.
     Finally the former pastor, Laurie Stuck, closed the service, as he “handed off the baton,” and prayed for Pastor Ed and for the church body.
     It was a beautiful service and exciting to be part of what I’m sure brought glory to God and was just a little taste of what heaven will be like and what the church can and should be.
 
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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