Life Expectancy

This last week I heard on the Moody station that we listen to (KMBI) that the life expectancy in the United States has declined each year for the past three years.  You would think with all our medical advancements and available hospitals and clinics that longevity would continue to increase, but, because of increasing rates of suicide, mental illness, drug overdoses, homicides and mass shootings, the average expected lifespan in our country has actually decreased for three consecutive years. And that doesn’t take into account the millions of babies that are aborted, since our society doesn’t consider those as lives taken before birth.
     Actuarial Science studies and helps to determine life expectancy and creates an “Actuarial Table” (or “Mortality Table”) which shows for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before their next birthday. Life insurance companies determine their rates based on these table.There are a number of factors which obviously have an affect on life expectancy, things such as where you live, what you eat, whether or not you get regular rest and exercise, and of course your DNA—what you have had passed on to you by your ancestors. 
     It is interesting to look at life expectancies in recorded history.  When we go back to time between creation and the Flood, when the earth existed in a sort of terrarium effect with a vapor canopy to protect from harmful suns rays, the average life expectancy of those mentioned in Scripture was 912 years!  Methuselah lived the longest at 969—wow!  The universal Flood which God sent to judge the earth because of the wickedness (Gen. 6:5) was caused by the deluge of rain upon earth from the vapor canopy dispelling and fountains of the deep breaking loose (Gen. 7:11,12,19,20). The new generations that populated the earth through Noah’s three sons and their wives experienced a much harsher world of seasons and weather changes, including an ice age. Life became much more difficult and there was no longer the vapor canopy to protect from the sun’s rays, and life expectancy dropped drastically to approximately 120. 
     As the curse on the earth and the affects of sin on the human body continued to take a toll, life expectancy dropped to what Moses wrote in the oldest of the Psalms and the only one credited to him: “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psa. 90:10).  Interestingly, several millennia later, we are still in that same range of life expectancy.  One factor I failed to mentioned in the above list of things that affect how long we live is that it is ultimately God who determines our lifespan.  Job, a contemporary of Abraham, wrote: “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and doesn’t remain…Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee, and his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass” (Job. 14:1,2,5).   In the New Testament, the author of the book of Hebrews writes “Inasmuch as it appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). 
     Each of us has an appointment with death and we won’t be early or late!  God has set a boundary on the length of each life.  That doesn’t mean we should be careless or reckless with our lives and our bodies, for we are the temples of God on this earth (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19,20) and are to be good stewards of the bodies God has given us as His dwelling place.  In His Psalm, Moses went on to say, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12).  The Apostle Paul, in his challenge to the believers at Ephesus, wrote: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (and do it!)” (Eph. 5:15-17).
     As a pastor for nearly four decades, I conducted many funerals and graveside services and observed that death is no respecter of age.  I was involved in services for a pre-born and for those who made the century mark and nearly every age in-between.  Although, as someone—it may have been Bob Hope—said, “If you make it to 100, you’ve got it made, for not many die over a 100!”  (that’s true, because not many get there!). 
     You could go to an “Actuarial Table” to see what the probability is that you will live until your next birthday, but the bottom line is, only God knows and He has determined the number of your days.  The important thing is that you be ready to meet the Lord at any time, for you are not even promised tomorrow. For many—maybe even some receiving this—this could be your last year or even last day day in your earthly body. And don’t forget that one minute after you die it is too late to decide your eternal destiny. That’s a decision you need to make now. If you have not done so, I urge you to consider that “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.   He who has the Son has life and He who has not the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:11,12).  
     At Christmas we exchange gifts with those we love, because we are celebrating the greatest Gift ever given when “God so loved the world (you and me) that He gave (us) His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Eternal life is in a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s gift to us. Have you received Him? If so, you can “know that you have eternal life”  (I Jn. 5:13).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Right Thinking

Ever wonder about what amazing minds and brain power Adam and Eve must have had, especially prior to their disobedience in the Garden when sin entered the world, and as a result the beginning of aging and ultimate physical death?  Remember, mankind alone was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26,27) with the ability to communicate with and to love and worship God.  Adam and Eve and their offspring were given the responsibility of filling the earth and subduing it and ruling over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living things that moves on the earth (Gen. 1:28).  Adam was also given the job of naming all the animals that God had created (Gen. 2:19,20).  Prior to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, they had a perfect relationship with God, with each other, with themselves and with their environment. Their thoughts about God, each other and the world God had created were totally right and pure.  That all changed when they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Their relationships with God, each other, themselves, and their environment were all broken and their thought processes became distorted by their newly acquired sinful nature. 
     Over the several thousand years since the Fall in the Garden, man’s old nature continues to plague each person who is born. In the Psalm which records David’s sin of adultery and murder, he wrote : “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psa. 51:5), indicating that life begins at conception and from that moment on we have to deal with a sinful nature that is in rebellion against God, and with distorted thinking about Him, ourselves and the world around us.  The Apostle Paul, in describing the response of man to God wrote: “For though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Ro. 1:21,22).  Today we have many who are considered to be highly intelligent but who have such distorted thinking about God, others, themselves and our environment. And many of them are in positions of leadership making decisions which affect the direction of our country in its moral and spiritual spiral downward.  Our world looks much like the one described in Gen. 6:5 when “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”   Only Noah “found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6: 8) and he and his family was spared in the ark when God sent the judgment of the Flood which destroyed all other life on earth.
     It didn’t take long, however, for sin to again take its toll, for man continued to be born with that sinful Adamic nature (Ro. 5:12,19). Today we see all around us the evidence of man’s evil and wickedness and wrong thinking. And not only has sin affected our moral compass but it has very much limited the capacity of our usage of the human brain which God so amazingly engineered. Medical science admits how little we really know about the human brain and believes we utilize only a small portion of its real capabilities (the result of the Fall).  A recent television series, Limitless, explored the unlocking of the human mind through medication with a miracle pill named NZT-48 which supposedly allowed the brain to work at superhuman efficiency, giving the user perfect recall and leaps of intuitive insight.
     In reality, there are no magical “smart pills,” but there is a way to restore our right thinking about God, others, ourselves and our environment. The brain is much like the hard drive of a computer. A computer has memory capacity and a central processor that can access memory and process information. But a computer won’t work properly unless it also has the right software.  The information stored in its memory banks must be accurate.  The computer’s programming must be consistent with its design and free of viruses or other malware that can slow its performance or cause it to crash. God designed our minds to operate with a biblical worldview. They cannot and will not function consistently and reliably with any other worldview. We are supposed to base our thinking and our ways upon God’s thoughts and God’s ways as revealed in God’s Word. While we can’t ever reach God’s level of thinking (Isa. 55:9). we can, by God’s grace, learn to reason correctly—in a way that is consistent with His nature.
     That begins by admitting our sinful, lost condition, and trusting Christ, His sacrificial death on our behalf and His burial and resurrection as the only means of being made right with God. When we do that, we are “born again” (Jn. 3:3) and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and through the Spirit, Christ also comes to live in us and we thus have a new, divine nature abiding within us (II Pet. 1:4) which give us the ability to renew our minds through spending time in God’s Word and obeying what we read (Ro. 12:2).  While the natural man’s mind cannot comprehend spiritual things (in fact, they are foolishness to him), the spiritual man (one indwelled by the Holy Spirit and Christ), “appraises all things,” and in fact, has “the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:14-16).
     Right thinking begins by thinking right about God, and that happens only when we come to know Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior.  The only solution to the mess we see in our country and the world is for people to come to know Jesus so that they can have their minds and thought processes renewed, as they become new creations in Christ (II Cor. 5:17).
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
    
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Thank-You Theology

Have you noticed that the further a culture falls away from God, the less grateful it becomes and the closer a culture comes to following God, the more grateful it is.  The same, of course is true for each of us as individuals.  If we are believers and the closer we stay in fellowship with God through time in His Word and in communication with Him and in fellowship with fellow believers, the more grateful our hearts and the less our circumstances matter in our attitude. 
     As I think about the theme of thankfulness in light of this being Thanksgiving week in the United States, I can’t help but reflect on the many times in Scripture when we find men and women offering thanks to God. Their example clearly teaches us to express our thanks, both for the tangible gifts God gives us—home, food, family, health, friends, a job, etc.—but also for the spiritual blessings He sends our way—“God sightings” of His love and mercy in our everyday lives. 
     Thankfulness is one of the major themes in Scripture and one of the greatest indicators of the condition of the human heart. In the King James Version,  “Thanksgiving,”  “Give thanks,” “Be thankful,” and “Thankfulness” appear a total of 133 times! Here is just a small sampling (from NASB):
            “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving…” (Psa. 50:14)
            “I will praise the name of God with song, and shall magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psa. 69:30)
            “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him, bless His name”                 (Psa. 100:4)
            “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your                         requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6)
            “Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as your                    were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Col. 2:7)
           “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be                    thankful” (Col. 3:15)
            “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2)
            “Therefore I will give thanks to Thee, O LORD, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Thy                        name”   (II Sam. 22:50)
           “O give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people…O give                thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for
            His loving kindness is everlasting” (I Chr. 16:8,34…repeated in Psa. 107:1; 118:1,29; 136:1,2,3,26)
            “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:18)
            “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father”                  (Eph. 5:20).
     You will note the we are to give thanks, not only in everything (I Thes. 5:18), but for everything (Eph. 5:20). And then we can throw in Phil. 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  So, Rejoice! Give thanks!  That’s easy to do when things are going well, but how about when we’ve lost our job, or have serious health problems, or a loved one dies?  Rejoice? Give thanks? You’ve got to be kidding! No, the Apostle Paul wasn’t kidding. He meant every word, for He knew the God revealed in the Bible. That was what the Psalmist had also discovered when He repeatedly wrote: “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His loving kindness (mercy) is everlasting.”  Until we are convicted in our heart that God is both Great and Good—all the time, we won’t be able to “Rejoice” or “Give Thanks” in and for all things.  Because Paul knew that God is sovereign and God is good, He could write: “And 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 (to be conformed to Christ’s image)” (Ro. 8:28,29). As a result of knowing the character of God, Paul had a “Thank-You Theology,” as illustrated when Paul and Silas were stripped of their robes, beaten with rods and placed in stocks in a filthy prison cell in Philippi for sharing the transforming power of the Gospel (Acts 16:16-24). Their response?  “But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (v. 25). 
     So, this Thanksgiving week, meditate on the verses above and ask God to show you that He is both Great and Good and develop a “Thank-You Theology.”
                    ”Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One;
                     Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.”   (Give Thanks  by Henry Smith)
     Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
                   
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Our Best Days

  During one of my recent physical therapy sessions for my shoulder, a couple of the therapists were discussing what period of their lives they expected to be the best, whether those days were behind them or in the present or yet ahead of them.  It seems each stage of our life— from grade school to high school, to college, to our first job, to marriage and starting a family, to having those first grandchildren, to retirement years— has both plusses and minuses. As we get into the latter stages of our lives, we often speak of the “good old days.”  And for a number of reasons, they were, but they also held some challenges for us which most don’t face now. 
     I think of the Israelites. They faced some very harsh times as for 400-plus years they were slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt who made them work extremely hard physically. God sent Moses to help lead them out and into the land He promised to them. After numerous miracles, escaping Egypt’s army by having the waters of the Red Sea part for them to cross, getting water by striking a rock, being provided with nutritious daily food called “manna” (which means, “What is it?”), they still complained to Moses saying: “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna” (Nu. 11:5,6).  In other words, In spite of the amazing provision of protection, food and water,  they were looking upon their time of slavery in Egypt as “the good old days.”  “Those were our best days!”  Wow, how distorted our perspective can become when we become whiners and complainers instead of grateful people. 
     In contrast to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, consider the Apostle Paul, who had spent his early days as “Saul of Tarsus,” persecuting the followers of Jesus. He was of the prestigious tribe of Benjamin, had been trained under the top Rabbis of Judaism and was advancing in his religion and was respected by his peers.  Then, as he was on the way to Damascus to arrest believers,  he had an encounter with the risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. and he was forever changed.  He became the missionary to the Gentiles but also shared the Gospel with his fellow Jews. Now he became the one persecuted for his faith in Jesus, including spending a number of years in prison where he wrote many of the letters we have in our New Testament.  As he looked back at his life, here is what he said, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:7-14). 
     Whereas the Israelites in the wilderness complained about their circumstances (just like they had done while slaves in Egypt…Ex. 3:7), Paul, writing his letter to the Philippian believers from prison in Rome, said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…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. 1:3,12-14).  What an amazing attitude! And Paul continues, “According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (vv. 24).  Paul was in a “Win-Win” situation. He was excited to live and continue his ministry to others, but he also knew if he were to be killed—which ended up happening later, beheaded at the hands of the Romans under Nero—that would even be better, for he would immediately be in God’s presence forever (II Cor. 5: 8).
     As the therapists were discussing when are the best of our days, I shared with them that, as a Christian, the best is always yet to come, although we can enjoy the present as well if we are serving Christ—no matter the stage or circumstances of our life.  For “to live is Christ, but to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Just before Paul was martyred, he wrote a final letter to Timothy in which we read: “…the time of my departure (death) has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8). 
     If you know Christ as your Savior, you can enjoy the presence of Christ in your life right now and can bear fruit for Him, but the best is yet to come!  That is the hope and assurance that we have in Christ, for we have “Christ in us the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  If you don’t know Christ, all you can do is make the most of your present days and you have no hope for the future. The worst is yet to come!  I urge you to put your trust in Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. He loves you and made a way for you to have a very bright future. Commit your life to Him today, while there is time.
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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In Remembrance

  In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced as the Allied powers signed a cease-fire agreement with Germany to bring World War I—“the war to end all wars”—to a close. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th  as the first commemoration of “Armistice Day.”  The original celebration involved parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.  The word “armistice” is from the Latin and means “arms standing still.” In 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance of that day.  An act approved on May 13, 1938, made November 11th a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to honor the veterans of WW I, but in 1954, after WW II and the Korean War, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” and November 11th became “Veterans’ Day,” a celebration to honor veterans of all wars for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Other countries such as Canada, Australia, and Great Britain also celebrate their veterans on or near November 11, naming their holiday “Remembrance Day.” 
     The early Christians also remembered those who had gone before them and lived out their lives of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, often laying down their lives for their faith, in order to spread the Gospel—the “Good News” of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ so that we could have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. In Hebrews 11, the author speaks of first-century Christians who kept and carried forward the faith, many of them suffering great atrocities and martyrdom (Heb. 11:32-40).   Hebrews 11 has been called God’s “Hall of Fame of Faith” and is a chapter that continues to be written as Christians continue to suffer persecution and death for their faith in Christ. 
     Just as we must not forget what our country’s veterans have done in the name of freedom from tyranny, we must also never forget what our Christian brothers and sisters have done in the name of freedom from sin and death. Their example should encourage us to stand firm for the faith today in spite of the adversity we face.  The author of Hebrews references this “great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews 11 and then encourages the readers to “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1).
     But, the writer of Hebrews doesn’t end there; he goes on to urge the readers (including 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” (Heb. 12:2).  He sat down because He finished the work He came to accomplish (Jn. 19:30)—the final sacrifice for sin. “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10: 10-14).
     Although Jesus returned to heaven forty days after His resurrection, He left us with a couple special ways to remember what He did for us. We call them “ordinances.”  One is water baptism of believers. It is an outward way to demonstrate to the world that we now belong to Jesus. It shows our identification with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection and is symbolized by our going into, under and out of the water. It speaks of our union with Christ and thus only needs to be done once.  It is our testimony of our death to sin and being alive in Christ and desiring to “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6: 4).
     The other ordinance of remembrance is the one that Jesus instituted when He celebrated that final Passover meal with His disciples in the Upper Room. (Mt. 26:17-30; Lk. 22:7-23). We call it “The Lord’s Supper” or “Communion.”   Jesus broke bread and passed it and also passed the cup (fruit of the vine)  indicating that He would bear our sins in His body (the bread…cf I Pet. 2:24) and shed His blood for our forgiveness (the cup…cf Heb. 9:22). He told His disciples to eat and drink “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). The bread remains bread but represents Christ’s body and the juice remains juice but represents His blood. It is an illustration like “I am the door” (Jn. 10:7).  While baptism speak of our union with Christ which takes place the moment we believe and will never change, and  thus only needs to be done once, the Lord’s Supper speaks of our continuous communion with Christ through the shedding of His blood for forgiveness of sin.  We are still united with Christ but our fellowship is hindered when we sin, so we have  need to confess our sins to maintain that fellowship (I Jn. 1:90).  We celebrate “The Lord’s Supper” on an ongoing basis. Some churches do it each time they meet, others once a month, but however frequently we do it, we do it “In Remembrance of Him” remembering His sacrifice for us and looking forward to the return He promised, to take believers to be with Himself
(Jn. 14:1-3).
     So, on this “Veterans’ Day” or “Remembrance Day,” be sure to thank God for those who have served this country to protect our freedoms. If you see a vet today, thank him/her for their service.  But also, thank God for the believers who have set an example for us of enduring faith, encouraging us to “run with endurance the race set before us.” Most of all, remember the Lord Jesus Christ, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” for you so that you could be free from the penalty and power of sin, and one day from the very presence of sin (Jude 24).
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
    
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A Lasting Impact

Can you name some well-known Bible characters from the Tribe of Judah?  You may think of David and Solomon and possibly their ancestors Boaz, Obed and Jesse. Hopefully you will think of the most significant offspring— “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5)—namely, Jesus Christ!  In order to qualify as “King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2), Jesus had to, of course, be a descendent of David, which He was through both Joseph (Mt. 1:1-16) and Mary (Lk. 3:23-31).  But, there is another offspring of Judah who had a key role in the history of the Jewish people that is not as well known. He would be a good Bible character for a child to go as, to a church “Harvest Party” where you dress up and share your story and others have to guess your name. He was gifted  by God to help build the Tabernacle.  We read about him in Ex. 31:1-5: “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”  
     Bezalel may not be a name you can quickly recall from your memory bank, but he, with the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the gifts God granted him, definitely had a visible lasting impact on the place built representing God’s presence among His people, the tabernacle.  Bezalel taught and supervised the other craftsmen, but when it came to the Ark of the Covenant, he himself did the work. Exodus 38 ends with an impressive list of the materials used, including more than a ton of gold, 3.75 tons of silver, and 2.5 tons of bronze. Every detail in that sacred building was for the praise of God’s glory. The altar and the mercy seat testified to His grace. The table of the showbread proclaimed His providence. The lampstand spread His light. But even the things that were not symbolic were for God. This is why the tabernacle was made so carefully, with such fine materials and elaborate decorations: it was all for the glory of God. And Bezalel was the artist whom God specially chose and equipped to make sure the tabernacle was an excellent, beautiful structure that would bring glory to God.
     God also gifted a young man, Todd Berget, who grew up in our community of Libby, Montana. He went to college to become a teacher and coach and for many years taught and coached (football and wrestling) here in Libby. He ended up teaching the “Alternative School,” a group of high school students who who were very privileged to have Todd mentor them with his many artistic abilities. In addition to the core basics, the students got to learn welding and art and were responsible for many additions to beautify our community. Todd and his students painted large murals on store buildings all over town and also made and painted beautiful fish to hang on the fence near the school. They are visible as you drive through town on Highway 2.  Todd loved the Lord and from that came a compassion for others, especially those who struggled in life.  He has had an impact on hundreds of young people who have grown up in our community.  As Tana Wilson wrote in a local paper (The Western News, Nov.1, 2019),  Todd saw the beauty in people and things that others often missed.”
    Sadly, for his family, friends and our whole community, Todd left us last Monday, Oct. 28th for his home in heaven.  Todd had battled health issues for a number of years and finally succumbed to them at age 54.
    He will be greatly missed, but he left us many reminders of what he contributed to our community with the gifts God granted to him. In addition to the many murals, and fish on a fence, Todd, with his unique talent for metal working, crafted some 40 Bald Eagles with wingspans ranging from 8 to 40 feet!  Many are on display around town as well as throughout the state of Montana.  When you drive through Libby, you will see two very large eagles right along the highway.  Because of Todd’s amazing craftsmanship—and generosity—our town became “The City of Eagles.” 
     Todd was also instrumental in starting a Sasquatch Festival in a beautiful nearby area, the Yaak  (where his family had a cabin),  next to Idaho and Canada. Large Sasquatches began showing up throughout Libby and surrounding area—thanks to Todd’s creative handiwork.  One of them in the Yaak even had to be removed because it was scaring the wildlife! 
     As you drive through Libby on Highway 2, you may also notice a very large fishing pole erected over Flower Creek where it flows by Rosauer’s grocery store—again one of Todd Berget’s creations.  His last year teaching the “Alternative School,” Todd also had his class design for our tennis courts a 14-foot tall racquet as a memorial to Richard Thompson who had built our courts and just resurfaced them before he passed away. We thoroughly enjoyed working with Todd to build, erect and paint the racket, which is located at the Libby Community Tennis Courts just a couple blocks off the highway.  Once again, Todd did an amazing job. Todd loved to do anything that would improve the appearance of our community and make it a special place for people to live and visit. In addition to the Sasquatch silhouettes, Todd also had the idea of making large wind chimes to hang under the old “haul bridge” over the Kootenai River. The bridge is now a walking and bike path and a beautiful place to view wildlife and the Kootenai and get some exercise, and if the wind is blowing, to hear the bridge “making music.” 
     Todd also loved to take old handsaws and cut them to make forest and wildlife scenes. If you took him two old saws, he would cut one for you for free.  His most recent—yet unfinished—project was a giant metal sculpture of a grizzly bear. Hopefully his friend from Alaska who had been helping on the project will be able to finish it for him.
     Needless to say, Todd Berget left his “big footprints” all over our community and state.  Yes, Todd was a physically big man, too—quite an imposing figure, especially when he appeared as Sasquatch for the festival in the Yaak. Todd had a great love for others and for the place he lived. He used his giftedness and passion to minister to others and to beautify the place he lived.  Todd, we will miss you. Maybe when we get to heaven we will see some Bald Eagle sculptures and Sasquatches decorating the streets of gold and the pearly gates of the city!
     Our Lord Jesus Christ has given each of us special talents and abilities to use for His glory, as well as spiritual gifts (if we are believers) for service in and through the church. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit..to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Cor. 12: 4,7). How are you using your talents and gifts?  What kind of impact are you having on your community, your church, and on individuals?  What kind of legacy will you leave behind when God calls you home?
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
    
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Physical and Spiritual Therapy

  Last May, a week before Memorial Day, Kathy and I went to play tennis with the Sunday afternoon doubles group. It was the first time since Kathy’s back surgery that she felt she would be able to play. We walked on the court and before we got our racquets out of our bags, I picked up a ball to toss to someone on the far court. As I did, I felt my shoulder pop and I couldn’t raise my arm over my head!  So, Kathy and I just hit, with my playing only with my left arm.  Bummer! On Memorial Day, we went back to just rally with each other, again with my playing left handed since my right shoulder had not improved. I ended up tripping and awkwardly falling on the court, smashing my glasses, cutting my knee and—ending up on my right shoulder! If it didn’t hurt before, it did then!
     I made an appointment to see the doctor who surmised that I had a torn rotator cuff.  I had the mandatory X-Ray (for insurance purposes) and then had an MRI and a visit with the surgeon who said that the MRI showed a significant tear in my rotator cuff.  It would require surgery to repair it and several months to heal.  I had surgery on July 3rd, and then had to be in a sling (with a pillow) for eight weeks!  (I did sneak it off a few times!)  Then my physical therapy started twice a week.  Now, when you’ve been in a sling for eight weeks, there are lots of parts—muscles, tendons, nerves—that have not been operating and are weak and need to figure out what to do again, and the process by which that happens is quite painful at times!  With their training and experience, the physical therapists know just which motions and exercises to work on to get back your range of  motion and then to strengthen the muscles that have become weak. “No pain, no gain” definitely comes into play!  Although I don’t look forward to the therapy sessions because of knowing each will be rather painful, at the same time I very much appreciate the therapists’ expertise and compassion. They are not there to see you suffer, but to help you recover and regain health and strength.  They have a genuine concern for their patients and get excited to see the improvements we make. 
     I can’t help but think of the comparison between physical therapy and our need for spiritual therapy.  When we have been physically broken—like a torn rotator cuff—we need to have surgery to fix what is torn or broken, but then we need to have therapy to regain motion and strength of that body member.  Similarly, we are all spiritually “broken,” and need surgery first to fix what is broken. That is, we are all born sinners and separated from fellowship with our Creator God. David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin, my mother conceived me” (Psa. 51:5). David was acknowledging that life begins at conception and that we have a sinful nature from that moment. The Apostle Paul wrote the familiar passage in His letter to the church in Rome: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23).  The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isa. 53:6a).  In other words, we are all broken and need surgery to be repaired. In His amazing plan, God provided a Divine Surgeon, His Son, Jesus Christ. God the Son came to this earth and took on human form, being born of a virgin, and thus without the sinful nature, lived a perfect life without sin, so that He could pay the penalty of sin, dying in our place, and rising from the dead to prove that God the Father was satisfied with His sacrifice on our behalf. “…But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:6b). “He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God  in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).  “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you are healed (spiritually)” (I Pet. 2:24). 
   When you are broken you need first to have surgery to be repaired and then you need therapy to be restored to health and usefulness.  Many people, not acknowledging their broken (sinful) condition, think they can be restored just through their own efforts and works, through church attendance, baptism, communion, tithing, etc., but the Bible makes it very clear that “we have been saved through faith; and not that of ourselves, it is the gift of God (God’s grace); not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). As Jesus told the religious leader of the Jews, Nicodemus, we must be “born again” (Jn. 3:3), that is, we must acknowledge our sinfulness (that we are broken) to God, and that only Jesus’ death in our place and His resurrection can heal us, can restore our fallen condition and make us right with God again so we can fellowship with Him and have eternal life (Jn. 5:24).
     Once we have done that, and are spiritually healed from our broken condition, we need spiritual therapy to become restored to health and usefulness as an “Ambassador for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20).   We need to become involved in a good Bible-teaching fellowship where we can be challenged by the Word of God to work on our areas of weakness. It will be painful at times, for the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin. Besides church attendance, we need to have our own personal time in the Word, allowing God to continue working on us, molding us into the image of Christ (Ro. 8: 29).  (In between my physical therapy sessions, I am given homework to make even further progress. I regain my range of motion and strength much faster if I do my homework!  The same is true for my spiritual therapy. I can’t depend solely on my time in church if I really want to be useful to God.)
     So, first of all, have you come to our Divine Surgeon to fix your sinful, broken condition?  If not, I urge you to consider doing so.  If you have, are you involved in spiritual therapy both at church and at home?   It will involve some pain, but it is so worth it.  The author of Hebrews wrote: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful (painful!), yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).   The Marines have a saying: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body!”  To grow strong physically or spiritually involves some pain—but the results are well worth it! 
        Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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