The Real “War to End All Wars”

World War I, known as “The Great War,” officially ended when the “Treaty of Versailles” was signed on June 28, 1918 outside the town of Versailles, France. Fighting, however ceased seven months earlier when an armistice—temporary cessation of hostilities—between the allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918 is generally regarded as the end of “the
war to end all wars.” In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of “Armistice Day” and it was celebrated with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. An act approved on May 13, 1938, made Nov. 11th a legal holiday, one dedicated to world peace. It was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of WW I, but in 1954, after WW II, the act was amended and called “Veterans’ Day,” a day to honor veterans of all wars for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
     Unfortunately, “the war to end all wars,” did not bring lasting peace. It wasn’t long until World War II broke out and then the Korean War and then came Vietnam and Desert Storm and on and on it goes with nations rising up against nations. Of course, almost every person would prefer to live in peace. Our annual observance of Armistice Day (now Veteran’s Day) wistfully expresses the hope that when the current war is settled, it will be the final war, and there will be peace. The word “armistice” is from the Latin and means “arms standing still.”
     But, there is no real peace; there were numerous wars back during Roman times and Babylonian times and medieval times and all times! Even today there are dozens of small “wars and rumors of wars” going on in any given year just as Jesus prophesied in Mt. 24:6 and they will continue until Christ, the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6) returns to “speak peace to the nations” and to  establish His kingdom of peace “to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:9,10). The fact is, there can be no lasting peace between nations or between men until there is peace between men and God. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can make such a peace, for He alone is the “Prince of Peace.” Indeed, He has already paid the price to make such true and eternal peace, for He “made peace through the blood of His cross,” and is thus able “to reconcile all things unto Himself” (Col. 1:20).     
     We must await Christ’s return to earth to reign before we have “world peace” but until that time we, as individuals, can experience both peace with God and the peace of God in our hearts.  Because Jesus shed His blood on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins (II Cor. 5:21), we can put our faith in Him and be reconciled to God. Paul wrote: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ro. 5:1).  We can also experience inner peace—the “peace of God.” Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian believers was: “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 Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).  Interestingly, the Apostle Paul wrote this letter while a prisoner in Rome!  But, Paul didn’t complain about his situation. He had “learned to be content in whatever circumstances” he found himself (Phil. 4:11). He was at peace with God and had the “peace of God ruling in His heart” (Col. 3:15). As Jesus shared with His disciples in the upper room just before His arrest and crucifixion, He told them He would be going to prepare a place for them but that their hearts need not be troubled, (Jn. 14:1-3) and went on to promise:  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (vv. 26,27). Notice that it was His peace which He promised. That is a peace that is not dependent upon outward circumstances. No matter what the turmoil and chaos in the world around us, we can have that “peace that surpasses all comprehension” guarding our hearts and minds.
     So, no matter what is happening in your life today, for this you have Jesus, and “He himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).
                Forever His…In His Peace,
                    Pastor Dave
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Another Godly Legacy

  Two days after the celebration of life service for Ellis (Al) Stewart (long-time friend and elder at Three Lakes where I pastored), I was involved in a memorial service for another dear saint, Phil Lemen, to whom God gave 96 years on this earth.
     After retiring from pastoring at Three Lakes, Kathy and I returned to Faith Bible Church which was our home church from the mid 1950’s through the late 1960’s. Kathy’s dad, Clarence Kutz, was the first pastor at FBC and our wedding  (June 16,1967) was the first service in the upstairs sanctuary, so this fellowship has always been very special to us.
     When we returned, we saw a few familiar faces from the past, but lots of new folks. Among them was the Lemen couple, Phil and Olivia. I started teaching the monthly Bible study at the men’s breakfast. Phil faithfully attended, and though in his nineties,  always learned the memory verses I assigned. Often he was the first one to quote them for us. Phil had much wisdom from his many years and shared lots of insights from Scripture and from his many life experiences. Though he had been a Christian for many years, He still had a great desire to keep growing spiritually. What an inspiration he was to us all!
     For a number of years, Phil and Olivia would drive to Texas and stay for the winter in a little community called “Bibleville,” which is next to Rio Grande Bible Institute. Those who lived there would help out at the school in whatever ways were needed. Phil and Olivia, among their other ministries, sang in a choir. They also enjoyed many special concerts and great Bible teaching.
     Just a few years ago they decided they could no longer make the trip south so sold their home there and remained here in the winter. I had started a weekly Bible study at a local Laundromat, “Moody’s Dirty Laundry,” Jay Moody, the owner and a friend and neighbor, has a classroom at the Laundromat where he often teaches EMT classes, so I asked if we could have a men’s Bible study there. Phil, again eager to keep learning God’s Word, began attending. Several of the fellows who attend have military backgrounds, as did Phil, so they had a great time sharing stores of their service days. Phil’s desire for spiritual growth right up to the very end was such an encouragement to all of us. He would often have a little twinkle in his eye during our studies which meant he had something valuable to offer. We will really miss him. But the impact he had on our lives and on his family will continue.
     At the memorial service, two of his sons got up to share memories of their dad. One son shared how Phil’s faith has been passed down to the next several generations, for not only are his children walking with the Lord, but also his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Phil definitely followed the command in Psa 78:5-7 regarding passing on your faith in Christ and His Word. It reads: “That they should teach them to their children. That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God.”  Phil was also a great man of prayer and he always participated in our prayer time at Bible study.  Once when his son had come to visit, he got in on Phil and Olivia’s morning devotions. After reading a devotional and the Scripture that accompanied it, Phil prayed. He prayed for every family member by name. He had been married before his marriage to Olivia (His wife had died and Olivia’s husband had died), and he prayed for all his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and then for Olivia’s side. He prayed for an hour for ninety-some individuals! 
     The other son who came for the memorial service shared how Phil would not always discipline them right away after they had done something wrong. Sometimes it would be two days before they found out what the punishment would be!  He finally asked his dad why he had done it that way and Phil shared that when he grew up his father would often discipline in anger in an abusive way and he was determined to never do that to his children. He broke the chain of abuse for which his family is very appreciative.
     As I considered the life of Phil Lemen, I  couldn’t help but think about a few of the spiritual giants of Scripture and what they had written about them as they approached the end of their earthly lives: “And Abraham breathed his last (KJV = “gave up the ghost”) and died in a ripe old age, and old man and satisfied with life (KJV = “full of years”) (Gen. 25: 8). The same is written of Isaac (Gen. 35:29), David (I Chr. 29:28), Jehoida (the priest…II Chr. 24:15) and Job (Job. 42:17). All these references describe men who died as believers, mature in their faith. We can now add to that list: “And Phil Lemen breathed his last and died in the ripe old age of 96, full of days, and has been gathered to his people!” He definitely fought a good fight, finished the course God set out for him, kept the faith and will receive a crown of righteousness (II Tim. 4:7,8).
     Thank you, Lord, for allowing Phil to be part of our lives these last few years.
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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A Godly Legacy

  Before we left for a trip to Oregon recently to visit family and watch some sporting events, we went to visit Ellis (Al) Stewart, an elder from Three Lakes Bible Church where I pastored.  Al had just returned from the hospital and had some serious breathing problems. He was on oxygen and would be pretty much confined to his home with someone there to care for him. Al was one of the first members of Three Lakes. I had the privilege of uniting him and Ida in marriage on Dec. 31, 1976. What a courageous man Al was. He married a widow with seven children!  But Al loved the Lord and that love poured over to his stepchildren–as well as to everyone else around him–and they soon accepted him as their own “papa.”
     Al set such a godly example for his family, friends, neighbors and church family. He spent much time in God’s Word and prayer and had committed many verses to memory. I would give memory verses in our men’s Bible study that he faithfully attended and he would always be one of those who learned them. Al and Ida had a burden for children and young people and in 1978 donated some of their property to start a Bible Camp. Several of us at Three Lakes worked very hard on the property and in July 1979 had the first week of camp at Elohim Bible Camp. It is now “Elohim Bible Camp and Retreat Center” run by Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, has a full-time director, and holds several weeks of summer Bible camp along with many retreats throughout the year and is also host to a  three-year Bible Training Center. Over the years thousands of children and youth have attended the camp with hundreds making decisions for Christ. Many have also graduated from the Bible Training Center and some of them are currently missionaries or are pastoring churches. All of that began with the burden and vision that Al and Ida had for young people.
     Al was also a great encouragement to me as pastor. He served in leadership for most of the time I pastored and we worked together on not only building the camp, but building the church and its additions over the years. We hunted together. (Every opening Sunday of rifle season, we would go to Al and Ida’s for lunch and then Al and I would take our guns for a walk in the woods! We both loved being out in God’s creation and had great fellowship, so it didn’t really matter if we shot anything. I did, however, get my first elk while hunting with Al.)  We also both enjoyed gardening so would share how our gardens were doing. Al also enjoyed watching sports and we would often watch some football together–even on his old fuzzy black and white television!  He would always ask our son Grant about how his basketball team had done when Grant was coaching in Troy. Al was also faithful about attending his grandkids sporting events.  But most of all, we shared a common love for the Lord and His Word. Al’s encouragement and example helped us through some difficult times at Three Lakes and was a big reason for my pastoring there for 37 years.
     While in Oregon, we got word that Al had gone to be with Jesus. We were so glad we had made the trip over to see him before we drove to Oregon. We were able to share lots of memories, a big hug and tell Al how much we loved and appreciated him.  Al had been our greeter at Church and one of our children’s favorite memories of Al was the big hugs they got when we got to church.
     A week ago Saturday I had a graveside and then a celebration service at Three Lakes for Ellis (Al) Stewart. He had just had his 81st birthday when God called him to heaven. The gymnasium/activity building where we met was packed with family and friends. Al had 114 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren!  Not all of them could be there, but many were, along with neighbors, friends and church family. What a blessed service of celebrating his life! I counted 16 of his family, friends and neighbors who got up to share their special memories of Al, all of them sharing how he showed his love to them in so many ways. And, many of them had come to know Christ as Savior because of him. He was “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Ro. 1:16). Al had a burning desire for the salvation of his family and would take special trips just to go and share the message of God’s love and forgiveness with family members.  
     When Al left this earth, he left behind all his property and possessions. He was pretty proud of the big bull moose head mounted in the living room of their “stone house.” He had lots of guns and fishing tackle and gardening equipment and paintings and crafts that Ida had made over the years. He had chainsaws and axes and a special cribbage board (he loved to play), but all of that got left behind. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can take nothing out of it either” (I Tim. 6:17).    But what Al did leave behind is the impact he had on all our lives–that godly legacy he left us. Each of us who knew him has been affected in some way by the life he lived. Our son Grant, and daughter Heidi each sent us emails of what Al meant to them and the godly influence he had on their lives. I knew I wouldn’t be able to read them at the service, so had someone do that for me. When I got up to share my devotional, I told the folks I didn’t really need to say much after what Grant and Heidi had written. They really said it all as they shared the role Al had played in their lives to help make them who they are today. Kathy and I too can honestly say that part of who we are is because of Al Stewart. We will all miss him greatly, but his influence will remain in each of our lives. He truly “fought a good fight, finished the course God set before Him and he kept the faith. As a result, there is a crown of righteousness awaiting him” (II Tim. 4:7,8).
     What about you–what kind of legacy are you creating that you will leave behind?  Who you are will be far more importanat than what you have.
            Forever His,
            Pastor Dave .
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Removing What Doesn’t Belong

Libby, Montana recently hosted its second annual chainsaw carving championship with competitors from across the United States as well as from Zimbabwe, Japan, Lithuania, Scotland, Argentina, Moldova, Slovakia, Ireland. Each carver had from Friday through Sunday morning to work on a major project and in addition, a couple of “quick-draw” (1 1/2 hour) contests were held. Their finished products were then judged and put up for bid at an auction. My, oh, my were they impressive!  Look up Libby, Montana Chainsaw Carving Championships online to see some of their amazing sculptures.
     We cut our own firewood out in the forest and I’m happy to just make straight cuts in the bolts as I buck them up to haul home and split. I can’t imagine the talent these men and women have, not only in the operation of their saws, but to envision what the finished product should look like to end up with such realistic looking, detailed birds and animals and people.  They are truly very gifted artists.
     As we watched them work, to saw a bolt of wood, probably 24-36 inches in diameter start to resemble a bear or goose or dragon or Indian chieftain. With each chip that flew to remove something that didn’t belong, the sculpture became more and more recognizable as the image in the carver’s mind.   By the time they were done the bird, animal or person looked so very realistic, as you will see if you go to the website.
     I couldn’t help but think of how God is at work in our lives removing those parts of our old, sinful life that prevent others from seeing Christ in us. Paul tells us that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… (Ro. 8:28,29). God places the right people and circumstances in our lives to help mold us little by little every day, little by little in every way into the image of His Son. He does this, like the chainsaw carver, by removing what doesn’t belong in the finished product. The Bible uses a number of pictures that describe this process. One is the refiner who uses heat to remove the impurities (cf Isa. 1:25; Ezek. 22:19-22; Mal. 3:3).  Job, who really went through the “fiery furnace” of adversity, said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as (pure) gold” (Job 23:10). The furnace is never pleasant, but without the process, we would never have the finished product. Gold as normally found in nature, is mixed with impurities that, if allowed to remain, greatly cheapen its worth. Subjected to temperatures of several thousand degrees, however, the impurities and undesirable contaminants are burned up, leaving behind the pure, tested product. Without the heat you could never have the pure gold.
     In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter speaks of the refining process in our lives: “…though now for a little while, if necessary (and it is!), you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Christ” (I Pet. 1:6,7).  And the Apostle Paul, writes about how “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (i.e., Christ living in us…II Cor. 4:7). And he goes on to describe the process God uses to help others see that treasure in us: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary,  light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:8-18).
     We went several times to observe the progress of the carvers. Each time their product was more recognizable. That’s how it should be in our lives as well, as God works day by day to remove those things that detract from “Christ in us” which is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  As believers, each of is “work in progress,” at different stages of completion. So, PBPGINFWMY! (Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet!).

        Forever His,

                Pastor Dave

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God versus Alexa

A friend recently sent us the story of a Christian family that had gone out to a restaurant to eat. The dad asked his young daughter to say grace before their meal. Her prayer began: “Dear Alexa…”  at which the family members broke out in laughter. The little girl, very embarrassed said, “well, you know what I meant.” 
     In this day of amazing technology and artificial intelligence, we become accustom to asking “Siri” all sorts of questions and giving commands to “Alexa.” In doing so we are becoming rather lazy in doing our own research to solve problems or to perform simple tasks. Children can easily get into the habit of ordering others around just like they do Alexa. And, when it comes to prayer, that attitude can carry over to where we treat God like an artificial intelligence—a computer—like Siri or Alexa. We look upon Him as a genie in a bottle who is there to minister to our every need at our command.
     As a child, C.S. Lewis enjoyed reading the book Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. The children on a summer vacation discover an ancient sand fairy who grants them one wish each day. But every wish brings the children more trouble than happiness because they can’t foresee the results of getting everything for which they ask.
     The Bible does tell us ask and seek and knock (Mt. 7:7) and to make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6), but prayer is much more than telling God what we want Him to do for us. God is not an artificial intelligence or a genie in a bottle or a wish-granting fairy;  He is the Creator and the Sovereign ruler of the universe. “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psa. 100:3), so we are to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (v. 4a). We are to “Give thanks to Him and bless His name” (v. 4b).  When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He began by reminding them, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Mt. 6: 8). What we call “The Lord’s Prayer” (really the disciples prayer), is more about living in a growing, trusting relationship with our heavenly Father than about getting what we want from Him. The prayer begins with an acknowledgment of the holiness of God and a desire for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done (Mt. 6:9-13).  As we grow in faith, our prayers will become less of a wish list and more of an intimate conversation with the Lord.
     Toward the end of his life, C.S. Lewis wrote: “If God had granted all the silly prayers I’ve made in my life, where should I be now?” Prayer is placing ourselves in the presence of God to receive from Him what we really need. God’s answers are wiser than our prayers. Prayer isn’t the way to get God to do whatever we want. It’s an expression of our trust in His power, wisdom, and grace. Prayer is telling God we love Him and are entrusting our life into His hands to do what will bring Him glory in our situation.
     Also, there is nothing magical about prayer and the words we use. Prayer is not an “open sesame.” Because we close our prayer with “In Jesus’ name,” doesn’t mean we will be granted our requests.  “In Jesus’ name” is not words so much as it is an acknowledgment that Jesus is God the Son and our Mediator and that we can come to the Father only through Him. It is an expression of the desire that His will to be done.  I don’t believe in the power of prayer (the words we express to God). I believe in the power and presence of God, and that is what our prayer should express. Prayer may or may not change our situation, prayer changes us. It is our time of intimate fellowship with the One who made us and gave His life to buy us back from the bondage of sin. What a privilege prayer is. To think that God is interested in the details of my life and really cares about me and is thinking about me constantly is amazing (Psa. 139: 7-18).
     And, of course, we are to pray only to God—not to some artificial intelligence (a Siri or Alexa or fairy). We pray to the Father through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit (who even intercedes for us when we don’t know what or how to pray (Ro. 8:26). “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…” (I Tim 2:5,6). It is because of Jesus’ work on our behalf as our high priest, sacrificing His life and shedding His blood, that we can even come to the Father in prayer, but in Him (Christ) “we have boldness and confident access through faith” (Eph. 3:12). We can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in  time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
     Alexa and Siri may be a wealth of information and may perform some simple tasks for you, but God alone loves you and cares about you and can help in your time of need!  He alone can meet your deepest needs and provide eternal and abundant life. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and every-where present, available 24-7. And He loves to hear from us and commune with us. Amazing! Wonderful!  I’m so glad I’m a part of His forever family, and can pray: “My Father…”
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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The Depth of His Love

   I have a degree in Industrial and Management Engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman (Go Cats!).  Several of the courses I had to take were very challenging and difficult to wrap one’s mind  (mine at least) around—like calculus for example!  But through many, many hours of studying I was successful in passing those courses. PTL!
      I have discovered since that time that those challenging concepts were nothing compared to some of the deep teachings of God’s Word such as the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man, the Tri-unity of the Godhead, or how Jesus was both fully God and fully man at the same time. Unfortunately since our finite minds cannot comprehend an infinite God, we have the tendency to bring God down to a place where we can understand and explain and even control Him.  This has resulted in all sorts of false teaching and cults which have ignored or distorted the clear teachings of Scripture.
     We can definitely identify with what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then (in heaven)  I shall know fully, just as I also have been fully known (by God)” (I Cor. 13:12). One day Jesus will come for His Church and will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…” (Phil. 3:20).  “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:51). The Apostle John writes: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” ( Jn. 3:2).  Until that time, our minds will continue to struggle to comprehend the infiniteness of our God.
      Maybe one of the “deepest” concepts to grasp concerning our amazing God is the depth of His love for us. Paul, prayed this for the believers at Ephesus: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:17b-18 NIV).  God loved us so much that He sent His Son to give His life to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (Jn. 3:16). Jesus suffered torture and death by crucifixion on our behalf, bearing the wrath of God against our sin, and at any point could have “called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free, but He died alone for you and me.” “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 manifest 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 (satisfaction) for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).
     Because of God’s love for us, demonstrated by Christ dying in our place, when we put our trust in Him for salvation, we stand before God justified—just as if we had never sinned—because Jesus bore those sins in His body on the cross (I Pet. 2:24; II Cor. 5:21). He didn’t just cover our sins, but, as the Lamb of God, put them away (Jn. 1:29). “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). “For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back” (Isa. 38:17). “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and will not remember your sins” (Isa. 45:25).  He has cast our sins “into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19). The deepest part of the  Atlantic Ocean is the Puerto Rico Trench at 27,493 feet. In the Pacific Ocean, the deepest location is the Mariana Trench which is 36,070 feet deep!  Mt. Everest towers above sea level some 29,029 feet. How amazing is our God! His love for us—demonstrated by removing our sins—is even deeper and higher than these!
     How would it change our lives if we could really grasp the depth of Christ’s love? We believe in order to be saved, but are we walking fully in His love? If we completely believe that we are deeply loved, we will not feel empty, fearful, anxious, or lonely. And His love will overflow to others because we are filled with His fullness. That was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians and one we can pray for one another today. Lord, empower us today to grasp the width, length, height and depth of you unfailing, unconditional agape love. Amen!
                “O the deep, deep love of Jesus—Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. Underneath me, all around me, is the current of His love—leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above” (O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus by Thomas J. Williams).
                Forever in His Love,
                        Pastor Dave
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Showers of Blessing

After several weeks of hot, dry summer weather and nearby forest fires producing lots of smoke, what a blessing it was two weekends ago to receive the blessed rain that not only aided those fighting to contain and control the fires, but cleared the air which had become hazardous to breathe. It was a blessing as well for all the gardens, lawns, crops and vegetation which desperately needed moisture.   Hopefully we have some more rain headed our way this week as we have had a few really smoky days again.
     Farmers, from the beginning of time, have been dependent upon the early (spring) and late (fall) rains in order to produce their crops. As the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God told them that if they were obedient He would bless them with rain for their crops but if they disobeyed Him, He would withhold the rain. “And it shall come about if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all you heart and all you soul that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. And He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied. Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you” (Dt. 11:13-17).
     When King Solomon gathered the people together to pray and dedicate the temple, included in his prayer was this statement: “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they (the Israelites) have sinned against Thee, and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name and turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict them, then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy servants and of Thy people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Thy land, which Thou has given Thy people for an inheritance”  (I Kgs. 8:35,36).    Several years after Ahab became king over the northern tribes, married wicked Jezebel and began worshiping Baal. It tells us that “Ahab …did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him” (I Kgs. 16:30,31). Then Elijah, God’s prophet, “…said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word’” (I Kgs. 17:1). Baal, the Phoenician storm god, was held by Ahab, Jezebel and his other devotees to control the rain. Elijah abruptly announced to Ahab that Jehovah would be proved to be the One who does so. Indeed God did withhold the rain—for 3 1/2 years (cf Jas. 5:17,18)!  We thought it was difficult to go for two or three months without rain. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to go for 3 1/2 years! 
     God sends rains to refresh the earth (Lev. 26:4; Job 5:10; Psa. 65:10; 72:6; Isa. 55:10; Acts 14:17) and it falls on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt. 5:45). God can also withhold the rain as judgment on those whose hearts have turned away from Him in rebellion. When David lamented over the death of Jonathan and King Saul (even though Saul had been trying to kill David!), He prayed, “O mountains of Gilboa (where Saul died), let not dew or rain be on you, nor fields of offerings; for there the shield of the mighty was defiled” (II Sam. 1:21).   
     Of course rain can be a problem when more comes than the ground can absorb, as recently took place in Hawaii and will likely happen to the southwest coast of the United States in the next few days as a hurricane is headed their way. Rain, of course, came in judgment on the earth in the days of Noah, when it rained for 40 days and nights and all life on earth was destroyed except for Noah and his family and the animals that God sent to the ark.
     But normally, rain is a blessing, God’s blessing as He sends the early and late rains to refresh the earth, the air and to help all vegetation grow and produce. It is a symbol of how God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”  (Eph. 1:3).  The Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah and Ezekiel wrote much concerning a future time of blessing for the nation of Israel when they are restored to their land and their hearts are restored to worshiping the Jehovah God of Israel. Christ will return, the curse on the earth will be removed and the kingdom promised to God’s chosen people will finally come to fruition, with Jesus reigning for a thousand years from the throne of David. God spoke through Ezekiel saying, “ ‘And I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing. Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit, and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure in their land. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. And they will no longer be a prey to the nations, and the beasts of the earth will not devour them; but they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid. And I will establish for them a renowned planting place, and they will not again be victims of famine in the land, and they will not endure the insults of the nations anymore. Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,’ declares the LORD God” (Ezek. 34:26-31).
     That’s quite an encouragement when you look at the world today and all the hatred toward Israel and the Jews and at the many nations that have vowed to eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth. Our God reigns and no one can thwart His plans. Israel may have experienced many times of physical and spiritual dryness because of rebellion against God, but one day, as a result of a period called in Scripture “The time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7) or “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21), the Jews who remain on the earth will turn to Christ. Paul prophesies in Romans, that at that time, “all Israel will be saved” (Ro. 11:26).
     Praise God for His showers of blessing—both physically and spiritually. And Praise God for the blessings yet to come in the future to those who Know Him. I trust you are one of them. You can be. Put your complete trust in Him as Savior and Lord.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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