Why Do Birds Sing?

   At this stage of summer, about 5 a.m. we awake to the crowing of a rooster at the neighbors, followed by the crows which begin a big ruckus around 5:30 a.m., at which point I usually have to get up and shut the window if we are going to sleep any longer.  While the rooster and the crows are rather annoying, many birds make music that is very soothing and relaxing and it is fun to listen to what birds sing what songs in order to identify them. Besides the crows which return here in the spring, we hear the calls from robins, Canada geese, blue and stellar jays, house finches, wild turkeys, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house finches, rufus-sided towhees, and many more.
     Like the fragrant perfume from flowers like sweet peas or roses or lilacs, bird songs have a profound effect on the human senses. Listening to the music of birds makes the world seem a little brighter and can bring a bit of cheer to the human heart. Certain bird calls can evoke memories from our outdoor experiences.  The quacking of mallards reminds me of my childhood when I would go with  my dad to hide and wait for the ducks to come out in the grain fields from the wild-life refuge to feed in the evening. Another memory is of our family camping by Hebgen (“Quake”) Lake near Yellowstone Park. We were awakened by a loud, strange, crying noise. We walked toward the lake to investigate and caught our first-ever glimpse of huge sand-hill cranes.  The sound of Canada geese flying over, honking words of encouragement, makes me think of crisp fall days as they begin their migration southward.  Another call that elicits memories is that of the common loon, whose voice is associated with the northern wilderness of the United States, often heard at a mountain lake.
     Ornithologists have done lots of research regarding birds calls and music and have learned that birds definitely have a means of communicating various messages to one another.   Take the common loon, for example. They have four basic calls: 1)  A powerful wail which is used to search for a mate; 2) A yodel—only made by the male—which is a sign of aggression used to stake out the boundaries of its territory; 3) the hoot or talking call used to keep in contact with family members; and 4) the tremelo or “laugh” that resembles the call of a wolf. It is a signal of alarm—the only call made in flight, and is often called, “the call of the wilderness.”
     The red poll uses “call notes “ to keep in touch with one another during flight enabling them to take off and land at the same time—like, “ready, set, go!’ 
     One of our favorite birds, and one we see pretty much throughout the year is the black-capped chickadee. They are hardy little birds that will remain through the cold, wintry months and continue their bright cheerful songs and joyful activities. They are known as the “bird of the merry heart.” As they scatter looking for food in the winter, they call to stay in contact, and when one of them finds a new source of food, it communicates a message to tell the others. The bird is named after the melody it most commonly sings in the winter—“chick-a-dee-dee-dee.”  When the days begin to warm and the first signs of spring appear, their song changes to “phee’-bee.” They also serenade their mate during courtship with that song. During summer and fall another call is heard which involves three notes and sounds like “cheese’-bur-ger!”
     So, while the majority of the bird calls and songs we hear and enjoy are pragmatic for them as communication calls, alarm calls, migration calls, mating calls (love songs) or territorial calls. their songs are often “music to our ears.” It would also surely seem that there are times when song birds are just making music for the joy of it—like after a rainstorm when the earth has been refreshed by God.  Our favorites (besides the chickadees), are the rufus-sided towhees and the house finches—all of which have very pleasing melodies.  Others are rather raucous and annoying—like the jays, the crows and the flicker woodpeckers.  But, just think of the varieties of languages they speak—something that surely didn’t evolve with time and chance but is the product of our all-wise, all-powerful Creator God, who on the fifth day of the creation week said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens…and God created…every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Gen. 1: 20-22).  God created a huge variety of beautiful birds, each with its own language of communication, and as another act of His grace, he made man in such a way that we could enjoy their music. Each bird species also has some unique features and abilities from which we can learn a lot that we can apply to our lives. In the Old Testament book of Job, we read in Job’s reply to his so-called comforter, Zophar, “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you” (Job. 12:7).
     There are many birds mentioned in the Bible. Check it out and see how many you can find.
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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Find Your Niche

    Our youngest grandson Luke, who just finished 6th grade, loves sports of all kinds. He is currently playing baseball and although he is one of the team’s pitchers, he primarily plays shortstop for his defensive skills. There are others who pitch well so it is usually to the team’s best interest for him to be at the shortstop position.
     We like to watch the Seattle Mariner’s baseball games and each of their players has a special position where their skills are utilized the greatest. Some can play several positions quite well, but they usually have one which suits their skill set the best. Occasionally, due to a player getting injured, someone has to step into their spot who is not really equipped to play that position and it shows, and may make it difficult for the team.   What really makes a team gel is when each player does his best at his particular position and supports each other player in their roles, rather than being envious of the other player’s positions and wishing they could have their spot.  When each individual player works his hardest for the best of the team both on and off the field of play, that team has a good chance of success (providing, of course, that they have some talented players!). 
     When Paul writes about the body of Christ, the Church, he emphasizes how important it is for each member of the body to use the gifts they have been given by God for the good of the “team.”  To the Romans Paul writes: “For through the grace given to me I say to every  man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence, he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness…Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Ro. 12:3-10).
     In his letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul used the analogy of the human body with its many parts and emphasized how each part should be content with its God-given role and not wish it were something else. “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body,” etc.  (I Cor. 12:14,15ff).  And, just as God designed each part of our physical body to serve in a unique capacity for the good of the whole body, so He equipped each believer with a special set of abilities called “gifts of grace” or “spiritual gifts” to serve in a unique capacity “for the common good” of the church body (I Cor. 12:8,11). 
     Paul also mentioned these spiritual gifts given to each member of the body of Christ when he wrote to the church at Ephesus. After he lists some of the gifts (Eph. 4:11,12), he goes on to write about the purpose for each of our utilizing the gifts we have been given… “…to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:12-16). 
     Since believers are to exercise their gifts within a local assembly of believers (cf Heb. 10:24,25), it is important for the pastor and leadership team of each assembly to help folks discover and develop and deploy their gifts for the good of the body, much like the coach and his staff of a sports team need to see what special abilities each player has and help them develop those abilities and put them in a position where they can best benefit the team. 
     So, do you know how God has gifted you and are you using those gifts to serve the body of Christ and to minister to others? One day we will give an account to God for how we utilized the talents and gifts He gave us. He has blessed us to be a blessing. We are blessed when we use our gifts to bless others. Find your “niche” and be the best you can be at that position, always with the good of the team, the body of Christ, in mind.
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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The Cost of Freedom

  Towering above New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. For more than 100 years, the stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who are choking from the stifling air of tyranny and oppression. They’ve been drawn to what that monument symbolizes—freedom. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal are the deeply moving words by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
     A different monument towers over history, offering spiritual freedom to enslaved people throughout the world. It’s the Roman Cross where Jesus Christ hung 2,000 years ago. Prior to His arrest, trial beating and crucifixion, Jesus said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (Jn. 12:32,33).  At first the Cross repels. Then we see the sinless Son of God dying in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. From the Cross we hear the words, “Father forgive them” (Lk. 23:34) and “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30), proclaiming the believers’ “Declaration of Independence.”  All of humanity was under the tyranny of sin and death. But Christ, the sinless One took our place on Calvary and died for our sins. Having satisfied God’s righteous demands, He now sets free for eternity all who trust Him for eternal life. Jesus said to His disciples, “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:32,36).  The Apostle Paul wrote: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Ro. 8:2-3). “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). 
     I thank God for the freedom I enjoy as a United States citizen, but above all believers worldwide can praise God for the freedom that is found in Christ—freedom from the penalty of sin—freedom from the power of sin in our lives (freedom from bondage to the old sinful flesh) and ultimately freedom from the very presence of sin. Our greatest freedom is freedom from sin. But as with our national and political freedom, there was a high cost to our spiritual freedom. God the Son, although He was equal with the God the Father, emptied Himself of His glory in heaven, took the form of a bondservant and was made in the likeness of men; and He humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death—death on a cross (Phil. 2:6-8). The sinless Son became the suffering Savior in order to bear our iniquities (Isa. 53). What a price Jesus paid. Don’t ever take your spiritual freedom for granted—it was purchased at a great price on our behalf. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19). 
     As you celebrate our national independence today, don’t forget to also thank God for your spiritual freedom and for Christ’s sacrifice which made it possible.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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“I Just Thank You, Father, for Making Me Me”

    We are definitely living in a crazy time with some people not satisfied with how they were born biologically and decide to change sex, thinking they were really meant to be something other than how God made them. And then we have the issues that result from that with bathrooms in schools and public places such as shopping centers. Some have even decided they were meant to be another skin color and have again tried to become something other than how God made them. And, of course, some decide that their sexual orientation shouldn’t be determined by what sex they were made.
     I think we are experiencing what the Apostle Paul prophesied in his second letter to Timothy, when he wrote: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents…” (II Tim. 3:1-7).  
     As I contemplate this world turned upside down today where many are dissatisfied with how they were born and attempt to change that, I think of an old chorus we sang in summer  Bible camp and vacation Bible school. It may seem like just a fun camp song, but it has a very important basic theological teaching of accepting how God made us, that He made no mistakes. The song is entitled The Butterfly Song and the verses go like this:
                “If I were a butterfly, I’d thank You, Lord for giving me wings, and if I were a robin in a tree, I’d thank You, Lord, that I could sing. And if I were a fish in the sea, I’d wiggle my tail, and I’d giggle with glee.
                 If I were an elephant, I’d thank You, Lord, by raising my trunk, and if I were a kangaroo, I’d just hop right up to You. And If I were an octopus, I’d thank You, Lord for my good looks.
                If I were a wiggly worm, I’d thank You, Lord, that I could squirm, and if I were a crocodile, I’d thank You, Lord, for my big smile. And If I were a fuzzy wuzzy bear, I’d thank You, Lord, for my fuzzy wuzzy           hair.”
    
      And then, the chorus says:
                “But I just thank You, Father, for making me me. ‘Cause You gave me a heart, and you gave me a smile, You gave me Jesus, and You made me Your child, and I just thank You, Father, for making                 me me!”
     I guess at some point in our lives, we have all felt there were things about ourselves that we wish we could change. Growing up, I loved to play basketball and always wished I were tall. That didn’t happen!  But as a believer, I came to realize that God made me just the way he wanted me to be and that, as someone aptly said, “God don’t make no junk!”  The butterfly and the fish and elephant and the kangaroo and octopus, worm, crocodile and bear all utilize to advantage the features with which God created them.  As human beings, made in the image of God, with the ability to choose and to think and reason and act to better our life, we seem to be the ones of all His creation that becomes dissatisfied with how we are made and think we need to change, whether it is our skin color, sex, or physical features.  As I think about that, I realize how “in Your face” it is to the One who made us. It is really saying to God, “I’m afraid you blew it when You made me, and I’m going to do what I can to correct things.” 
     God has a special purpose for each one of us and makes us unique to fulfill that role. But, if we get the idea that God made a mistake with how He made us, then we can’t trust Him with anything else in our life either, and we are in for a very tough time.  When we try to do things our own way and leave God out we will never find ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment.  Now wonder we have such a high percentage of people today depressed and taking all kinds of prescription drugs (and non-prescription ones as well!)  to deal with their struggles.
     Although the Psalmist, David, didn’t have all the knowledge of medical science that we have today, he still understood what a marvel of God’s creative design he was. He wrote: “For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I Praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully mad; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psa. 139:14-16 NIV).  
     If you are going to experience all that God has for you in your life here on His earth, you must accept that He made no mistake when He made you. (“As for God, His way is perfect…” Psa. 18:30a).  Then, and only then, can you really put your complete trust in Him for the every-day events in your life.  We may think that we have handicaps because of how we were made, but God doesn’t look upon them that way.   They are really God’s “marks of ownership” in our lives.  Remember Moses’ excuse when God confronted him in the burning bush and said He was sending him to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage?  Moses said, “Who am I that I should go…Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou has spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 3:11; 4:10). How did God respond to that? “And the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blinid? Is it not I the LORD?  Now then go, and I even I will by with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say’” (Ex. 4:11,12).   What we consider to be challenges of our birth and our physical make-up are no problem with God.
     So, we need to stop and thank God for how He made us, especially for the feature we look upon as a handicap.  The Butterfly Song gives us great advice, We need to say, I may not be a butterfly or a robin or a fish in the sea, etc., “but I just thank You, Father, for making me me!”  Then tell Him you are available for Him to use you just as you are. You will be amazed what He can do in and through you!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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The Father Heart of God

We had the privilege of spending a few days with our family in Oregon this past week. In a world where the concept of “family” has become so confused and perverted from God’s design, it becomes even more meaningful and precious to be part of a family that follows the pattern God sets forth in His Word. We were able to get almost everyone together last Friday for a short time and then got to spend Fathers’ Day with our son and family, which hasn’t happened for many years. What a joy it was to be with our daughter and our son and their families. Not only do we share a biological bond but, as believers, we have the special tie of being brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Kathy’s sister, Trudy, also got to join us for our granddaughter’s dance recital so we got to visit with her as well and hear about her recent trip to China. We praise God for His grace in allowing us to experience the blessings of being part of a godly family. 
     As I think of our earthly family, I can’t help but consider what it means to be part of the family of God and to have Him as our heavenly Father. Have you ever pondered what it is that motivates God, what makes Him act as He does towards His children?  Some say it is His holiness, others His love. But what exactly ties together all of God’s attributes?  It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with God without having a right concept of who He is.  God has revealed much about Himself and His attributes through His names that describe the way God deals with us. But, although God has used His names to unfold to us portions of His character, we still lack a complete picture because we don’t know how to tie them all together. By viewing God as powerful, for example, we may also view Him as impersonal. Or, if we focus on His love, we might assume we can do anything we like. If we concentrate on God as our provider, we might get heavily into debt, thinking that God will bail us out. If we focus on His holiness, we may live on a tight rope of fear. We need one concept of God that encompasses all the others, that pulls all this together. 
     That leads us back to the question: What motivates God? At the very center of His being, what is God?  God is first and foremost, above and beyond everything else, a father. Only with that as the central view of God do the other concepts fit together.  Jesus came to tell us that God is a father. Christ’s favorite way of addressing God and speaking about Him was “My Father,” “your Father,” “our Father.” That was the most prominent truth Jesus taught us about God. The word “Father” is applied to God 189 times in the Gospels alone (124 of those in John’s Gospel). Some today object when we refer to God as our heavenly Father, claiming that this discriminates against women and mothers. They would like us to change every reference to God in the male gender that appears in the Bible. I believe, however, that God is the heavenly Father of every Christian, and I don’t apologize for it. We are His children. In His model prayer, Jesus taught us to  pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9).
      Just what are the qualities of God’s Fatherhood revealed in Scripture?  Here are some:
        1)  Parental Authority  
            —  One of the greatest weaknesses today in the average home is that of discipline of children—
                consistent, firm, loving discipline.
            —  Children’s response to authority will largely depend on how they respected the authority of their
                 parents, especially dad who is held responsible (cf Eph. 6:4).  
            —  Children need to feel secure. Home needs to be a refuge, a place to enjoy. It will be if fathers fulfill                  Eph. 6:4: “Fathers , do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up
                in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  
            —  Our heavenly Father disciplines and trains us with a perfect balance of authoritative love, providing                  security, comfort, refuge, and joy (Heb. 12: 5-11).
        2)  Parental Faithfulness
            —  Every promise God has ever made to His children will be fulfilled (Nu. 23:19; Psa. 89:34-36; Ro.                   4:21; 11:28,29).
            —  His heart motive remains the same through time and eternity. He never changes. He only desires to               show love and forgiveness.
            —  Your childhood may be full of memories of broken promises of parents who may have been too busy               with jobs and friends or maybe you had an absent father or maybe you were even
                abused by your father, but Jesus said, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you…I am                 with you always even until the end of the age” (Heb. 13:15; Mt. 28:20).
            —  Parents may forsake you—God never will. “Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, He                remains faithful to us who are part of Himself, and He will always carry out
                His promises to us” (II Tim. 2:13 in the Living Bible).
         3)  Parental Generosity
            —  Parents love to give gifts to their children (and grandchildren!). Where does that desire come from?                 Jesus said, “What man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf
                will give him a stone? Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If                      you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
               shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Mt. 7:9-11).
            —  God is not stingy, possessive or materialistic. We may use people to get things, but God uses                        things to bless people. He “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17) cf Psa. 37:
                3-5; Eph. 3:20,21).  God is a generous God, as depicted by the father in the story of the prodigal                    son (Lk. 15:22,23).
        4)  Parental Affection
            —  Do you have any idea how attractive you are to God? God hates our sin, but loves us                                   unconditionally and will never change His mind about us.  We may have broken God’s heart but we
               are still the center of His affection, the “apple of His eye” (Psa. 17: 8).    
          —  God may have to discipline us, but He will never reject us once we are in His family. “Nothing can                 separate us from the love of God” (Ro. 8:31-39).   
        5Parental Attentiveness
            —  One attribute of God that not even the best parent can imitate is God’s ability to be with you all the                  time—24-7 (I Pet. 5:7; Psa. 139:13-18).
            —  Of all the 7 billion people on earth, God is always with me, thinking about me—and you.  How? I                     don’t know. Just enjoy it!  As far as you are concerned, it is just God and you. You don’t have to
                get His attention—He’s already listening. Don’t worry about taking His time—it’s all yours.
            —  And, just as we take delight in the activities, projects, etc. of our children, God always takes delight                in you and in the work of your hands.
        6)  Parental Acceptance
            —  We live in a performance-oriented society where acceptance is conditional—based on performance.                So often we convey to our children that we only accept them if they are successful.
            —  Praise God, we don’t have to perform in a certain way to come to Him and experience His love and                 we don’t have to perform to continue in His love. As someone said, “Don’t wrestle…nestle.”
            —  Paul tells us to “Accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Ro.                 15:7).
        7)  Parental Sacrifice
            —  Loving parents make sacrifices for their children. Love always makes sacrifices to meet needs—                    that’s what the Father heart of God is like. He made the greatest ultimate sacrifice to meet the
                greatest of all needs. We were dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, but “God so loved               the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him
              should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 cf I Jn. 4:9,10). The greatest display of the                      “Father heart of God” was at Calvary.
     Is He your heavenly Father?  Have you accepted what His Son did for you at Calvary?  If so, “…you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!’” (Ro. 8:15).  
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Spiritual Photosynthesis

We normally have an indoor plant on our kitchen table. We try to turn it often so that it grows symmetrically.  Since plants are dependent upon energy from the sun, they turn to reach the sunlight.  We usually have a number of sunflowers planted in our vegetable garden and it is interesting to watch them turn their “heads” to follow the sunlight.  God created an amazing process for plant growth called photosynthesis, a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy—normally from the sun—into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms’ activities of growth and fruit bearing. This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules such as sugar which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water—hence the name photosynthesis from the Greek phos (light) and synthesis (putting together). Light acts as the catalyst as carbon dioxide and water combine to form sugar, with oxygen being released into the atmosphere as a by-product. Photosynthesis maintains atmospheric oxygen levels and supplies all of the organic compounds and most of the energy necessary for life on earth. What an amazing Creator God who designed all this when He created vegetation and placed the sun at exactly the right distance from the earth to supply the energy for the process of photosynthesis.  And He didn’t have to experiment until He got it right. It all worked perfectly from the very beginning.
    
     Trillions of leaves, as they respond to the energy from the sun, and utilize the processes designed by God, provide the means to grow all the food, fiber, and materials we need for existence on this earth. All by simply presenting themselves to the sun. As I observe this amazing phenomenon, I realize that a similar process takes place as we “turn toward the Son,” Jesus Christ, daily to be energized by Him as He shines His righteousness toward us so we can thrive, grow and bear fruit.  It all begins for us when God’s light shines into our spiritual darkness to show us the truth about the Son and He gives us the faith to trust Him for eternal life. Paul wrote: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Cor. 4:6). Once new life has “germinated” in our hearts, and we become “new creations in Christ” (II Cor. 5:17), we have the potential to grow in Christlikeness and become fruit bearers, That process takes place as we daily “turn toward the Son,” by spending time focusing on Him and His Word, the Bible. As we do that, a “spiritual photosynthesis” takes place in which the truths of Scripture, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, start to become part of our lives as we grow little by little in His image.  And, just as in the process of photosynthesis which adds life-giving oxygen to the atmosphere, our lives begin emitting the love of God to a world desperately in need of life through Christ.
     God’s intricate plan of photosynthesis for plants to provide food and materials for animal and human life on this earth has been a great success. Here we are some 6,000 plus years since He put this plan into action and we are still raising gardens, crops of all kinds, and harvesting trees to provide for the needs of mankind. His plan for “spiritual photosynthesis” has also been a great success. When Jesus returned to heaven 40 days after His resurrection, He left only a handful of believers on earth with the responsibility of reproducing spiritually and spreading the Good News of His death, burial and resurrection to the entire earth (Acts 1: 8). Today there are millions of believers world-wide, those who have experienced deliverance from the darkness and bondage of sin through faith in Jesus Christ and who are in turn sharing their faith with others, even though for some it means great persecution, possibly death. God’s plan is working—it always does. 
     Plants automatically turn their leaves toward the sun. That’s how God made them. As believers in Christ, we have to do so as a choice, for God gave us a free will. We must daily purposely expose ourselves to the Son if we are going to grow and bear fruit and multiply. In our busy lives it is easy to become distracted by all the urgent demands upon our time, and neglect our time with the Lord and His Word.  We need to live intentional lives, putting Christ first above all other demands, so that we can grow in Him and be used by Him to reach others. The continuing growth of our lives individually, and His church collectively, depends upon it. Have you purposefully “turned toward the Son” today? 
                Forever His,
                          Pastor Dave
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The Greatest Comeback in History

     We enjoy watching the Seattle Mariners baseball games and last week were treated to the biggest comeback in their franchise history. They were playing away at the San Diego Padres and trailed 12-2 going into the 6th inning. Since we had the game recorded, at that point we decided the game was basically over and just started fast forwarding to see if there was any more scoring. Suddenly we saw that  the score was 12-7, so we decided to back up and watch from the 6th inning on. We saw the most incredible inning with the Mariners scoring 9 runs with 2 outs. They ended up winning the game 16-13 and were 11 for 12 with runners in scoring position—statistics that are really unbelievable if we hadn’t seen it happen. Wow, so glad we didn’t just erase the game before we got to see all the excitement!
     This past March we also witnessed the largest last-minute comeback ever in NCAA basketball history during the playoffs. Texas A & M trailed Northern Iowa by 12 points with just 34 seconds left. Danuel House, A & M guard told his teammates something his mom had drilled into him for years, “Never give up!”  House had missed his first 9 shots of the game. In fact his first field goal came with only 25.8 seconds remaining in regulation.  Due to a whole series of bizarre plays that went in favor of A & M they outscored UNI 14-2 in those final 34 seconds and ended up winning in double overtime!  Oh, by the way, Danuel House ended up with 22 points!
     The biggest comeback in NFL history took place during the playoffs on Jan. 3, 1993 between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers. The Bills trailed at half-time 28-0 and in the third quarter were down 35-3. They mounted their comeback from the 32-point deficit and won the game 41-38.
     Many individuals have also had amazing comebacks against tremendous odds. I think of Dave Dravecky, who pitched for the San Diego Padres from 1982-1987 and the San Francisco Giants from 1987-1989. While with the Padres, a couple teammates led him to salvation in Christ. With the Giants, Dravecky and teammates Scott Garrelts, Alee Hammaker and Jeff Branley became known as “the God Squad.”  But then a cancerous tumor was found in his pitching arm and on Oct. 7, 1988 he underwent surgery which removed half of the deltoid muscle and froze the humerus bone in an effort to eliminate all the cancerous cells. Doctors advised Dave to wait until 1990 to pitch again, but by July 1989 he was pitching again in the minors and on Aug. 10 made a highly publicized return to the majors, pitching 8 innings and defeating Cincinnati 4-3. In his next start, 5 days later, he pitched 3 no-hit innings but then started to feel a tingling sensation in his arm and during the 6th inning his humerus bone snapped, the sound audible in the stadium! It was a clean break and he had hopes of pitching again when it was healed, but during the celebration at the end of a pennant-clinching game against the Cubs that same year, Dave’s arm broke again when he joined in the post-game celebration on the mound. The cancer had returned and after a couple more surgeries his arm had to be amputated. Dave became a motivational speaker, wrote several Christian books, and, along with his wife, Jan, founded a Christian ministry called Endurance.
     History is replete with stories of great comebacks by sports teams, individuals, and even nations, but all of these exciting stories pale in comparison to  what must surely be considered “The Greatest Comeback In the History of the World,” and that is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Although He had on numerous occasions predicted his death AND resurrection, when Jesus was crucified and His body placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and a large stone rolled in front, sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers, even His own disciples fled in fear and confusion and grief. They didn’t expect to see their beloved Master again. It would seem that the enemy, Satan had won, that he had been successful in bring to an end the life of the One who had come to crush him and provide life to all who would believe in Him. Even the women who came early that Sunday morning were on a mission to finish anointing His body, not expecting to see an empty tomb and hear those earth-shattering words from the angels: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Lk. 24:5b-7).
     That is the greatest, most significant and life-altering comeback in history.  We may have the privilege to see an exciting comeback in an athletic contest or to see an individual who has faced great adversity come back and succeed, but there is no event that can change our life like Jesus’ coming back from the dead. His resurrection is really the foundation of Christianity and what makes it unique from all world religions. As the Apostle Paul wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. BUT NOW Christ has been raised from the dead…For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:17-22). We have overwhelming evidence for Christ’s resurrection, from the empty tomb, the Scriptures, the changed lives of the disciples, to transformed lives all through history since that time. Is yours one of them? Have you trusted the risen Christ as your personal Savior. His mission in coming to earth was to die and pay the penalty for our sins and His resurrection proved the debt was paid, but we must appropriate it by faith in His finished work. When we do, we become “new creations” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17). Our lives change, like Dave Dravecky’s did when his teammates introduced Him to the risen Savior. His coming back to pitch after cancer surgery was impressive, but his real comeback was moving from a state of spiritual death to that of eternal life the moment he trusted Christ as his Savior. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn 5:24)—now that’s a real comeback!
                        Forever His,
                            Pastor Dave
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