Lessons from a Honeybee: Part 1–Six Weeks to be a Bee

What would you do if you had only 42 days to live?  Would you spend the last six weeks of your life working from sunup to sundown—time after time delivering a cargo that weighs almost as much as you do? Would you do that hundreds of times a day?  Would you do all that for 42 days just so you could produce a teaspoon of honey?
     Well, if you were a honeybee, you would. Each day she leaves her hive to visit hundreds of flowers, searching for nectar. After arriving back at the hive, she uses up about 20 minutes of her precious time to unload her nectar. Then it is off chasing flowers again—from sun-up to sun-down each day, all for just a thimble-full of honey.
     After just six short weeks after hatching, she is exhausted, wing-weary, and worn out. She leaves her hive for the last time, and she goes out into the fields to die. She never complained about it, but “Miss Bee” didn’t get much time to enjoy life. Actually, she spent her entire life helping other bees. All of the honey she produced was stored for use by bees she would never see. All she used was enough for “fuel” to fly to and from the nectar sources. That’s pretty unselfish! She may have produced only a couple ounces of honey, but she did all she could. And because her fellow workers did all they could do too, the hive ended up making between 30 and 60 pounds (2 1/2 – 5 gallons) of honey in one summer’s work. That’s a lot of teaspoons!  And, that’s a lot of teamwork!  To make one pound of honey, bees visit approximately two million flowers and fly more than 55,000 miles!  Talk about dedicated workers!  A true wonder of God’s creation!!
     We can learn much from the creatures God has made and the honey bee can teach us a lot about how God want’s us to live.
            1)  First, He wants us to learn how to do things to help others. He doesn’t want us to act like we did when we were babies—always wanting someone to do things for us, and fussing until they do. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”’ (Phil. 2:3-5). We are to follow Jesus’ example. He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). So, if you are not satisfied with your “lot” in life, build a service station on it!
            2)  Also, God wants us to understand that everything we do for Him—no matter how small—is important. Remember the story of the poor widow who put into the Temple treasury chest two small copper coins—worth a penny. Jesus said that she “put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mk. 12:41-44). And don’t forget what Jesus was able to do with a boy’s lunch of five barley loaves  and two fish—He fed 5,000 men plus women and children and they collected 12 baskets of leftovers (Jn. 6:1-13). Nothing is too small or unimportant when placed in God’s hands. “Little is much when God is in it!”
            3)  Finally, think about the importance of team work (More about that next week). While one forager bee can only collect a couple ounces of nectar for honey, collectively the thousands of workers in the hive can produce up to 60 pounds (5 gallons) of honey in one summer!  What if each bee decided that since her work didn’t amount to much she wouldn’t bother to contribute to the hive?  “I think I will just keep it for myself. I worked hard for it. Let others fend for themselves!”  With that attitude the hive wouldn’t survive and we wouldn’t benefit from the honey they produce in abundance beyond their own needs. Team work is so important in the Body of Christ. Paul stressed in his letters to the churches that God has given us each special abilities called spiritual gifts that are to be used “for the common good” ( I Cor. 12:7).  He said that “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. 4:16).  Maybe it seems to you that your part in the Body is so insignificant that “why bother?”  But, there are no unimportant parts of the Body. We are all needed for the proper functioning and growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.
     Are you giving unselfishly of your time and talents and treasures?  Are you contributing what you have, no matter how small it seems to you? Are you working as a team player, adding your part to the success of the team?  Let’s learn from the bees!
                        Forever His,
                            Pastor Dave
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Bees: A True Wonder of God’s Creation

   When we recently returned from a trip to Oregon to be with family, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our bees were back. Many years ago, we got a couple honey bee hives from a friend who had become allergic to bee stings so had to get rid of his hives and bee equipment. We had a great time learning about bees, and how to care for them and to extract the honey. We have a small orchard and a large vegetable garden and lots of flowers so our bees had lots of work to do and many nectar sources. Extracting the honey in our kitchen was a very messy, sticky job, but the product made all the work well worth while. Then  a local bee-keeper started attending our church so we donated our few hives to him. In exchange, he brings us 16 hives each May, does all the work tending them, picks them up at the end of the summer, and we get several gallons of honey after extraction season—can’t beat that.
     Our local bee-keeper takes his hives down the west coast in the late winter and early spring to pollinate orchards and then brings the hives back to the local areas for late spring and summer. Not only do these bees supply nutritious, yummy, never-spoiling honey, but they also provide an essential service in pollinating crops. Each year, in their search for nectar and pollen, bees pollinate about 100 crops in the U.S. alone, worth an estimated $10 billion to the economy!  Honey bees are one of God’s amazing designs. On the third day of Creation week, God created vegetation, “plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them after their kind” (Gen. 1: 11), but to reproduce, this vegetation would require insects like the honey bee to help pollinate them, so on the sixth day, along with birds, animals and man, God created insects (1: 25). 
     In addition to the service honey bees provide in pollination, and the yummy, healthy honey (and several other products) that bees provide, maybe the most valuable contribution of the honey bees is the lessons about life—especially our Christian walk—that they teach us. So, for the next several weeks, I would like to share some of those lessons with you. But, first some interesting “bee facts” to whet your appetite:
            1)  Honey is actually nectar from blooming plants that bees have repeatedly regurgitated and
                 dehydrated.  The flavor and color of honey can differ with each hive. The blossoms the bees tend                    give the honey different colors and flavors. (Our honey comes primarily from a noxious
                 weed, Russian spotted knapweed!).
            2)  Fertilized eggs become female offspring and unfertilized eggs become males (drones).
            3)  The queen is the largest bee in the colony (longer than both the drones and the worker bees).                           Worker bees select a two-day old larvae to be reared as a queen. If a queen’s egg production                         drops or she is injured, she is replaced.
            4)  A hive cannot exist with two queens, so if a hive becomes too crowded, a new queen will be reared                  and take a portion of the worker bees with her and leave to start another hive. This group is called                  a “swarm” and always keeps the queen in the center the thousands of bees as they search  for a                    new home. You might see them in a big cluster on a nearby tree branch as they send out scouts to                  find that new home.
            5)  The drones’ (males) only job is to be available to fertilize a new queen if needed. In the fall they                       are “kicked out” and the hive becomes an all-female society over the winter! 
            6)  Hoping to improve helicopter construction, engineers studied super-slow motion film of bees in                        flight. After careful analysis of bees’ bodies, they concluded that bees should not be able to fly!
            7)  Utah is known as “The Beehive State,” but California, Florida and South Dakota produce more                        honey.
            8)  To make one pound of honey, bees visit approximately two million flowers and fly more than                            55,000 miles!  Talk about dedicated workers—a true wonder of God’s creation!
     God’s Word tells us to observe His creation and learn from it. For example, in Prov. 6:6,25 it says, “Go to the ant, O sluggard. Observe her ways and be wise.  The ants are not a strong folk, but they prepare their food in the summer…” We can learn a lot about how to live our lives by observing God’s creation…like ants and honey bees. Next week we will talk about “Six Weeks to be a Bee”. Stay tuned!
                        Forever His,
                                    Pastor Dave
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Send It On Ahead

  As I mentioned in last week’s “Wisdom of the Week,” my brother, Dennis, passed away suddenly from a heart attack on April 13th. He had been out golfing and wasn’t feeling well so drove himself to the hospital where they kept him overnight for observation. He was expecting to go bowling the next day, but God had another appointment for him. In the morning he suffered a massive coronary and within minutes was gone. Last week I wrote about the brevity of life and how our days are numbered and only God knows their total. We are not guaranteed having a tomorrow, so need to be sure to be ready spiritually, having assurance of eternal life through trusting in Christ’s  death, burial and resurrection in payment for our sins.
     We spent several days this past week in Butte, Montana (It snowed while we were there!) going through Dennis’ house and garage. We were joined by my sister and brother-in-law, Audrey and Jim Burton, and encountered an overwhelming, unbelievable amount of stuff. Dennis was a bachelor all his life and quite obviously was a hoarder, never able to throw things away. A neighbor lady, and good friend of Dennis’, who was very helpful, said that he really liked to get things in the mail.  Most of the “things” were never used, read, and sometimes were even opened. Just to give you a sample of what we encountered: we bagged up 1,000 shirts, three big garbage bags of socks and one of underwear and one of shorts. We counted 216 caps.  He also collected Danbury Mint figurines, of which there were at least a hundred, and model cars, and airplanes,,, We sent some 2,500 magazines to recycle and left around 750 books at the house…and the list goes on.  Unfortunately we did not find one Bible. We found a Gideon New Testament given to Dennis in 1947 when he was probably a sophomore in High School.
      We just couldn’t wrap our minds around what we experienced.  It was sad to see how much Dennis had spent on stuff that doesn’t really matter for eternity when he could have been helping to build the Kingdom of God. There are only two things (in addition to God, of course) that are eternal and they are God’s Word and the souls of men.  Everything else is temporal and we leave it all behind (for the family to deal with!) when we die.  I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul!  Job, who had a lot of worldly goods and then lost them all overnight, when he got the message about his losses (including his ten children), “…arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, Blessed be the name of the LORD’” (Job. 1:20,21).  No matter how much of this world’s goods we are able to gain, we leave it all here when we go, and as Solomon, who was the wealthiest man of his time, pondered the future of his “things,” and wrote: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity” (Eccl. 2:17-19).
     Our experience really made us reexamine our priorities and recall Jesus’ admonition in His sermon on the mount: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for your selves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Mt. 6:19-21.33).
     None of us knows how many days we have left, but let’s dedicate them to building up God’s Kingdom instead of our own. In other words, though you “can’t take it with you,” you “can send it on ahead!”  And, as we turn our unneeded assets into ministering God’s Word to the souls of men, not only will we be laying up treasures in heaven, but we will simplify the job for family and friends who have to go through our stuff when we die!  That’s a win, win!
    Well, if it weren’t for the fact that we both came down with the stomach flu, we would be busy sorting stuff to get rid of!  Oh, a praise is that the neighbor lady who had befriended Dennis and helped us so much last week, is interesting in buying his house (not a fancy one!) and would be willing to deal with everything we had to leave there. We will make her a really good deal!!
       Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Are You Ready?

I got a call early this past Thursday morning from a neighbor of my brother, Dennis, telling me that she was at the hospital in Butte (Montana) where Dennis was having a major heart attack. The neighbor called back just a few minutes later to say that he had not made it.  Wow!  Dennis, who just turned 85 April 1st, had been very healthy all his life and was still golfing, bowling and playing tennis on a regular basis, and even played basketball weekly until they lost use of the facility where they were playing.  He had also come to Libby each fall for many years and spent a week hunting with me (involving lots of hiking).  Dennis did recently have a slight stroke while staying in Arizona with my sister and brother-in-law who go to Yuma each winter, but he recovered quickly and had returned to Butte and seemed to be doing well. 
      It is a reminder of just how frail life really is and how none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.   Psalm 90:10 (the one written by Moses) says: “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.”  James writes: “Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that’” (James. 4:13-15). 
     Jesus told a parable about a rich man who wondered how he would store his bumper crops since his barns weren’t big enough to hold it all. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones for his grain and goods. Then he would be able to say, “ ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ ” (Lk. 12:19-20). 
     Dennis, who was 14 years older than I am, played a key role in my life as I grew up. He was the one who taught me a number of sports and took me hunting and always gave generous gifts to me and to us and our children at Christmas. I had always considered him sort of “invincible.” But, he, and my other older brother, Arnold, had left home before my folks and sister and I were exposed to the Gospel and came to know Christ as Savior and Lord. During the years of continued contact with Dennis, I would try to share with Him about the need to trust Christ for eternal life and that just living a “good” life won’t do it. But, being the little brother (youngest in the family) I didn’t get a very positive reception. Although Dennis would always sit through our morning devotions when he stayed with us, he would never go to hear me speak (as pastor) or attend an evening Bible study. He did, however, attend services with my sister and brother-in-law in Arizona when he stayed with them. But whenever we would start talking about spiritual matters he would close us out.  I just pray that he had responded to the messages of the Gospel he heard—and saw.  If not, it is too late now.  “Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  None of us will get a second chance. We must make a choice about Christ while on this earth and we don’t know how long that will be. In responding to one of his “comforters,” Zophar, Job said: “Since his (man’s) days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee, and his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass” (Job. 14:5).  
     God has set a limit on our number of days. Each of us has an appointment with death, and it is an appointment we will keep. We won’t be able to “reschedule”!    So, it is so important that we are ready. Satan tempts folks to think, “I’ll consider Christ at some point, but not right now. I have some things I would like to do first. I have lots of time.”  But, we don’t know that, and we don’t know whether or not we will even be in our “right mind” later. We could die in a car wreck or have a heart attack and be gone—just like that—with no time to consider the offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Christ.  So, if you are reading this and you haven’t yet acknowledged your sinfulness and need for a Savior, trusted Christ’s death on your behalf and believed in His being raised from the dead to prove your sins are paid for, I strongly encourage you to do so now—before it is forever too late.  Paul wrote, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2).  If God is speaking to your heart, don’t ignore Him; don’t think you have lots of time to consider His offer.  Commit your life and your eternal destiny to Him now.  If you have a friend or loved one who may not have yet trusted Christ, prayerfully share this “Wisdom of the Week” with them.  It is urgent—a life and death matter.
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Winning and Losing

Well, “March Madness” is over. If you aren’t a basketball fan, you are probably really glad. For a couple weeks, between the NCAA and NIT tournaments for both men’s and women’s teams, and throw in tournaments for small colleges and Christian colleges, there were several hundred games played—many of which were televised.
      Just for fun, our family fills out brackets for the NCAA tournament to make it a little more exciting as we watch our favorite teams perform.  Two of the teams I picked for the “Final Four” made it—Oregon and Gonzaga, and Gonzaga made it to the championship and would have won if the game had ended three minutes earlier!  Since we live near Spokane, there are lots of “Zag” fans here. We have followed most of their games on TV for the past several years so it was very exciting to see them do so well this year, ending up with the best record, 37-2, in Division I men’s basketball.
     We happened to be in Spokane for Christian Workers Conference many years ago when the Zags made their first “Sweet Sixteen.” The town went nuts. It was pretty fun.  This year they had one of their best teams ever and it looked like they might go all the way, but faltered right at the end of the championship game with the North Carolina Tarheels.  It was hard watching the emotional let down suffered by the players at the end of the game.  In spite of a fantastic season and the accolades received by the team and players ( Mark Few was “Coach of the Year” and Przemek Karnoski was “Center of the Year”), it is still really hard to lose that final game. It seems that is what is remembered most.
     As you think about it, counting the “play-in-games,” 68 teams enter the NCAA Tournament, and 67 of them end their season with a loss!  Only one ends up with a win. These teams qualify for the tournament either by their record over the season or by winning their conference tournament so they are all good teams with a winning record but all but one ends up losing their final game.  At the end of the tournament, they play some video clips of highlights of the tournament and you see all the highs and lows of emotions, from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory.   And yes, there is crying in men’s basketball!
     The Apostle Paul, who used athletics a number of times in his letters to illustrate spiritual truths, writes in a letter to the Corinthian believers about the discipline and training of a runner or boxer in order to be victorious. Paul draws upon his readers’ knowledge of the Isthmian games held near Corinth every two years. He says: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (I Cor. 9:24-27).
     Paul wasn’t saying he was concerned about “losing his salvation,” but rather was talking about being “disqualified” from effective service and suffering loss of reward if he didn’t remain faithful. The Greek word he used translated “disqualified,” adikomos, has reference to a “cracked pot”—not one thrown away, but one put on the shelf. When Paul came to the end of his ministry, a prisoner in Rome and soon to be put to death by Emperor Nero, he wrote in his final letter: “…the time of my departure 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. 4:6b-8).
     While only one can win a race or the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, all believers who have self-discipline and remain faithful in serving their Lord, will receive “imperishable” crowns (rewards) in eternity. Heaven is not a “reward,” but a gift to those who have trusted in Christ for salvation (Eph. 2:8,9). In that sense, all believers are “winners,” having escaped the condemnation and judgment in hell we deserve (Ro. 8:1), but when we, as Christians, stand before God at the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (II Cor. 5:10), and give account (Rom. 14:10-12), “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it (his foundation in Christ…vv. 10,11) remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss (of rewards), but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire” (I Cor. 3:13-15). 
     To succeed in athletic contests requires much discipline and training. You have to be committed to the endeavor. For a team it requires unselfishness and teamwork and “chemistry.”  Paul’s challenge to us is to consider how much effort athletes put in just for the possibility of receiving a perishable, temporary reward and then think about how much more valuable to have similar discipline and dedication toward building up God’s kingdom, where the rewards are eternal. “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:3,4). 
     Oh, may we “run to win,” that one day we may hear from our Lord and Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt. 25:21). May we have an “abundant entrance” into Heaven. “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28).
                    Forever His,
“Go Zags!”  Maybe next year!
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

PI Day

   A family at the church we attend celebrates March 14 (3-14) as “PI DAY.” They invite their neighbors to bake a pie and come join in a “pie social” at their place on that day, since the mathematical constant of the ratio of a circle to its diameter is always 3.14, which, since the mid-18th Century has been designated by Pi, the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet. Pi is taken from the first letter of the Greek word perimetros, meaning circumference. Pi is a mathematical constant, no matter the circle’s size.  Being an irrational number, Pi cannot be experienced exactly as a fraction. Its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern. It has been calculated to 10 trillion digits! 
     A number of people have attempted to memorize as many digits of Pi as they could. On March 21, 2015, Fajveer Meena, a 21-year-old student at VIT University in Vellore, India sat blind folded before a panel of judges and over 10 hours quoted 70,000 digits of Pi!  In 2006, Akira Haraguchi (age 60), a mental health counselor, recited 100,000 decimal places for pi in 16 hours!  (WHY!?)
     Since Pi relates to circles, it is involved in many trigonometric and geometric formulae and occurs in the proofs of many equations defining the universe God created.  Our amazing God created His universe and planet earth with such order and precision that we have the maths and sciences which are mere observations and utilization of that order. Besides Pi, we have many other constants that are used in formulae and calculations. Another such physical constant is Planck’s Constant ( h ) which relates to energy and frequency.
     Since God’s creation is a reflection of who He is, we know that God is a God of order and precision and constancy. The Apostle Paul writes:  “…since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” (Ro. 1: 20).  What God made and how it operates reveals to us what God, the designer and creator,  is like.  Just as we have “physical constants” like Pi and Planck’s Constant, that can be counted on to always be the same, we have a God who never changes. He cannot be other than who He is. His written revelation, the Bible, confirms this. The Psalmist wrote: “You remain the same, and Your years will never end” (Psa. 102:27). And we read in Heb. 13:8 that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” We know that circumstances change, and people change. We can count on some people more than others, but we are all frail and fickle at some point and are either incapable of keeping or fail to keep our promises.  That’s not the case with God. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent (change His mind); Has He said, and will He not do it? or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes…” (II Cor. 1:20.  “Yet with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief…being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Ro. 4:20,21). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (I Thes. 5:24).   “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself” (II Tim. 2:13).
     Since we can always count on God to remain the same, we can also count on His revealed Word, the Bible,  to be unchanging. Paul tells us that “All Scripture is inspired (God-breathed) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16,17).  The physical things God created are deteriorating, winding down, and growing old because of the curse God put on creation when Adam sinned in the Garden (Ro. 5:12), but God and His Word are unchanging, will never grow old and obsolete. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40: 8 ).
      God’s truths are absolute and unchanging. They don’t have to be “amended” to accommodate a changing culture!  Just as there are physical constants which we can count on to never change, there are also “spiritual constants” which we can count on, in fact on which we can stake our eternal destiny. Jesus is just who He claimed to be: “The way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). He is the only  “mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 5:6).  And everyone who comes to Christ (being drawn by the Father), believing in His atoning work on their behalf, will not be turned away, but will be given eternal life (Jn. 6:37-40). Jesus Himself said, “For God so loved the world (you and me), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).  That’s a promise you can count on. It comes from the Creator of the universe who never changes and would never deceive you, and who is willing and able to fulfill every promise to us. “For whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be (not “might be”) saved!” (Ro. 10:13).
     Have you called upon Him? 
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
P.S.  Maybe next March 14 (if the Lord tarries His coming), you can have a neighborhood “PI NIGHT” and talk about the Creator of physical and spiritual constants.
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment

Second Chances

Last year at this time we had the privilege of staying at a friend’s condo in Scottsdale, AZ and taking in some pre-season baseball games in the “Cactus League.”  Along with their return players from last year, each team has numerous players that are trying hard to impress the coaches and to get an opportunity to play in the Major League (starting next Monday).  Some will, but many will be assigned to minor league teams with the hopes of doing well and possibly getting called up, and if not, ending up at spring training again next year.
     Matt Bush was a star shortstop in high school who could throw in the 90’s.  In 2004, he was the first pick by his hometown San Diego Padres, signing for $3.15 million. He had a thing for fancy cars, so with his signing bonus, purchased a Range Rover for $75,000, and soon added a BMW, an Escalade, an Audi, a Bentley and five Mercedes!
      Unfortunately Matt not only had a thing for expensive cars, but also had a drinking problem. He had grown up with an alcoholic father and had his first drink at age 11.  He was drinking on a regular basis by Junior High.  Because of his drinking problem, Matt was arrested  three times in the space of four months in 2009.  While drunk, he crashed the Escalade  in a parking lot. It took six policemen to subdue him.
Matt relates how he hated himself for what he had become and felt like a total failure. He hated himself during practice and games. Then he would jump in an expensive car and felt like somebody. He said, “Those were my devils: money, fame, and cars, but all the while I was hollow inside.”
     It bottomed out with one more joyride in 2012, one in which Bush crashed three times in just hours. He backed into a car on an illegal U-turn, then hit a light pole, and finally ran into  72-year old Anthony Tufano who was riding a motor cycle, leaving him unconscious on the asphalt, his brain hemorrhaging, his lung collapsed, his face fractured, his ribs cracked and eight vertebrae broken. Matt was arrested and sentenced to 51 months in prison in Jasper, Florida. (He had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and then to the Tampa Bay Rays.)  Matt had $600 left in his bank account, his long-term girlfriend stopped writing to him, his agent dropped him, and his parents couldn’t afford to fly from California to visit. Matt was extremely depressed and had thoughts of suicide (But God had other plans!).
     He never touched a baseball for his first two years in prison. He didn’t read about baseball or watch any baseball on television. But one day some inmates invited him to play right field for their softball team against a visiting church team.  One of the visiting batters smashed a line drive off the right-field wall. The batter was trotting casually from second to third when a screaming, laser-like throw traveled 250 feet through the air to the third baseman. The inmates finally discovered who Matt Bush was!
     In February 2016, he was  released to a half-way house where got his hands on an old, scuffed baseball. Often inmates would pick a target for him—a tree, a distant road sign—and he hit each one. Then his dad mailed him a couple gloves and three baseballs and he began throwing again. He was soon visited by Ray Silver, minor league manager and player advisor  for the Texas Rangers.  Silver had a baseball academy in Florida where Bush had lived for a couple months in 2010. Silver helped players deal with alcoholism and drug addictions and shared his Christian faith. He had helped another #1 pick, Josh Hamilton, manage his addiction and return to baseball after a four-year lay-off, to become the American League MVP.
     Silver would come weekly to counsel Bush and to play catch in a restaurant parking lot. The Rangers sent scouts to the half-way house to visit with Matt and watch him throw. 
     In spite of Bush’s horrendous record of alcoholism and arrests, Jan Daniels, the Ranger president and general manager, who has a reputation for giving second chances, decided to give Bush another chance. Bush told Daniels he wanted to be held accountable. He wanted a “zero-tolerance policy” written into his contract that guaranteed his release if he broke certain rules. The team requested that his father travel with him at the family’s expense throughout the season and stay with Bush in his hotel rooms. (Even Josh Hamilton had relapsed twice.)  His 12-step sponsor also stays in continuous contact.  Matt Bush is back throwing 98-100 mph for the San Francisco Giants. He has been given a second chance and will need to continue to make one good decision at a time, followed by another and another.  But, PTL he’s back!
     I can’t help but think of numerous Bible character who had glaring weaknesses and made some very bad choices and messed things up royally, but God restored them and gave them a fresh start. One of them, King David of Israel, even committed adultery and then murder to try to cover his tracks. He was very miserable, unable to sleep and suffering physically, but God sent Nathan to confront him. David repented and God restored him to fellowship, although David’s family suffered the consequences of his sin for years to come. Psa. 32:3,4 describes David’s condition before he repented: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”  But then comes the change: “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide…and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin” (v. 5).  Psalm 51:1-13 gives further detail of David’s confession: “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness..blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit….”
     If we are willing to turn to God and admit our sin, God is ready and able to forgive and give us a fresh start.  Oh, we may still face some of the results of our sin (reaping what we sowed …Gal. 6, 7,8), but we can have our joy and inner peace restored and be back walking with the Lord. And, by the way, God called David, “A man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 cf I Sam. 13:14). 
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
Posted in Wisdom of The Week | Leave a comment