Created for Good Works

On a recent trip to Oregon to visit family, we went to the the gigantic Ikea store located next to the Portland International Airport. It is quite an amazing experience just wandering through their many displays organized as miniature rooms or even whole houses. You write down the number of the item you want to purchase and then when you arrive at the warehouse, you get a cart and go to the appropriate location and get your own item to take to the check out. Having a degree in Industrial and Management Engineering, I was especially impressed with the layout and efficiency of the whole facility for traffic and materials flow. What a great idea! As a full-blooded Norwegian, I have to believe the Swedes must have borrowed their idea for the giant retail store from the Norwegians!
Not only does Ikea have a great idea for their store layout, but they also draw upon the value people place on participating in the construction of a product. The majority of the furniture-type items you purchase at Ikea must be assembled when you get them home. Not only does that keep the prices down, but gives the purchaser a feeling of “ownership” of the product, increasing “product satisfaction.”
God created us to be workers. Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to care for the garden which God created for them (Gen. 2:15). Although work became much more tedious and challenging as a result of sin and the curse placed upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-19), there remained a sense of satisfaction in performing labor and achieving results for your efforts. “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24).
God, however, makes it clear in His Word that we cannot “work” our way into heaven. Since we were created to be workers, our old sinful nature tries to convince us that we ought to be able to do works that would put us in good favor with God and allow us to enter heaven. But, when it comes to our lost condition because of sin, the Bible says, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). There is absolutely nothing we can do on our own to be saved. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:4,5,8,9).
Although we are saved solely by the Grace of God and through the faith He gives us to believe in Him, we are saved to work. Paul goes on to write: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Before we ever came to know Christ as our Savior, God had a plan for our life, to labor together with Him to build up His kingdom. That is pretty mind boggling when we think that God allows us to work with Him to see His purposes fulfilled here on earth. Paul wrote: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature…Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself…and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:17-20). Wow, what a privilege, but what a responsibility we have!
To the believers at Philippi, Paul wrote: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13). We don’t and can’t work FOR our salvation, but are to work it OUT, i.e., to demonstrate its reality in our lives. Works can no more keep our salvation than they can earn it. It is not faith plus works, but grace through faith. Nevertheless, we are to show our faith by our works (Jas. 2:18). Good works—consisting of a righteous and gracious lifestyle, consideration of others and obedience to Christ’s commands—are the visible evidences of salvation. It is “God who is at work in us”, enabling us to “work out our salvation” in visible practice, through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
The Apostle Paul serves as a great example of one who was “working out” what God was “working in.” He said, “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). The Christian life isn’t just sitting back and watching God at work, it is working with and for Him, helping others to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s challenge to the Philippians was: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). The Greek word Paul used translated “striving together” is sunathleo, meaning “to wrestle or labor in company with.” You’ll notice we get our word “athlete” from that word. We need to strive together as a team, working for the kingdom of God, not just to build up our own little kingdom.
Think about all the unsaved folks around you and all the believers facing difficult challenges. Hey, we have work to do! That’s the purpose for which we were created and “recreated” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17).

Forever His,
Pastor Dave

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Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

 Anyone who thinks little things shouldn’t bother you has never been in a tent with one “little” mosquito, or has never had a “little” piece of gravel in their shoe, or a “tiny little” wood sliver in their thumb, or a “speck” of sawdust in their eye or a “little” paper cut on their finger! Remember the story of “The Princess and the Pea,” a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen in which a young lady, drenched from the rain, showed up at the palace and claimed to be a princess. To test her claim to royalty, she was invited to stay overnight. Unknown to the supposed princess, a pea was placed under 20 mattresses and feather beds to see if she had the physical sensitivity of royalty. The next morning she complained of being unable to sleep because of something hard in her bed!

     Or, consider the tragic story of Korean Airlines flight 007 that was shot down over Soviet territory on Sept.1,1983, leading to increased tensions between America and the USSR.   Flight 007 was on the last leg of a flight from New York City to Seoul, South Korea, with a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. When the commercial jet left Anchorage, the flight computer compass was off 1.5 degrees. The “slight” discrepancy didn’t make much difference for the first few miles, but the further the flight got from Anchorage, the greater the error became and by the time it was nearing its intended destination, KAL 007 was more than two hundred miles off course and ended up in Russian air space.  Soviet jet fighters were scrambled to intercept the Korean Airliner. They tried unsuccessfully to make contact with the passenger jet. Failing to receive a response, one of the fighters fired a heat-seeing missile. KAL 007 was hit and plummeted into the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 passengers and crew—all because of a mere compass error of “just” 1.5 degrees.
     Little things can make a big difference, but not just in a negative way, also in a very positive way.  Remember the boy’s “little” lunch that ended up feeding thousands of people (once place in the hands of Jesus) with 12 baskets of leftovers (Jn. 6:1-13)?  Remember “little” David, the shepherd boy, who took on Goliath, the Philistine giant. David was probably barely more than 5 feet tall and Goliath was around 9’ 9” tall (probably weighing 500 lbs.) and armed to the hilt (I Sam. 17:4-7).  His armor and weapons weighed more than “little” David, who only had a sling and five “little” stones.  The Philistine giant said to David, “ ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.’  Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you…’” (I Sam. 17:44-46).  
     And don’t forget the amazing story of Gideon who started out with 32,000  soldiers to go against 135,000 Midianites. The odds were  more than 4-1!  But God reduced Gideon’s band of men down to 10,000. Now the odds were 13 1/2  to 1 against the Israelites, but God said, “That’s still too many,” and reduced Gideon’s army down to 300—that’s 450-1 odds!  God said, “Just right!”  Maybe it was because the Israelites had some secret weapons. Well, do trumpets and pitchers and torches count?  But it worked (Judges 7:1-8:10),  for “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31).
     King Hezekiah and Israel faced the hordes of wicked, ruthless Assyrian soldiers under King Sennacherib who were coming against Jerusalem. After doing what he could to prepare for the attack, King Hezekiah spoke to the people, saying, “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria, nor because of all the multitude which is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles…” (II Chr. 32:7,8).
     When Ezra and Zerubbabel returned from captivity and organized the rebuilding of the temple which had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 596 B.C., there were some who complained that it was not nearly as big and beautiful as Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12,13; Hag. 2:3). The LORD, speaking through Joshua, the high priest, said: “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10).
     Small things can make a big difference.  I recently planted some tomatoes seeds to get a head start for our garden, seeing as how we still have a foot of snow or more (got 4 more inches today) covering our garden spot!  The tomato seed is really small, but when it germinates and the plant matures it will produce many pounds of yummy tomatoes.  Jesus, remember, spoke of having the faith of a tiny mustard seed and you can move mountains (Mt. 17:20). 
     This past Friday was the funeral service to honor the life of Billy Graham, whom God used in a mighty way to reach millions of people with the Gospel of Christ.  Sometimes as we consider the “giants” of the faith who had such big impacts for the Kingdom of God, we think, “What can I do? I’m no Apostle Paul or Billy Graham.” But, remember God can use “little” things to make a big difference.  That might mean a kind word spoken to someone who is having a bad day. It might mean sending a card or note to someone who is hurting or to someone who has blessed your life. It might mean taking a plate of cookies to someone who has moved into the neighborhood. It might mean befriending someone new in church or new in the community. It might mean visiting someone in the care center who is lonely, who maybe doesn’t have family around. Remember, Jesus said, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mk. 9:41). Remember, “Little is much when God is in it!”
One of the men who attends the men’s Bible study that I teach, shared this poem (called “My Daily Prayer”…source unknown)  with our group, one he has made the goal for each day. It is a good one for all of us, knowing that little things can make a big difference:

                If I can do some good today,
                If I can serve along life’s way,
                If I can something helpful say,
                Lord, show me how.
                If I can right a human wrong,
                If I can help to make one strong,
If I can cheer with a smile or song,
                Lord, show me how.
                If I can aid one in distress,
                If I can make a burden less,
                If I can spread more happiness,
                Lord, show me how.  
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave                
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Gone Not Just Covered!

   For about three months of the year the landscape around here is especially beautiful with the blanket of snow that comes sometime in November and with remnants that may linger until as late as March or early April.  All the “collectibles” (also known as “junk”) are covered and out of sight. But as mid-February comes around and the temperatures warm (usually!), the snow begins to melt and the ugly starts to show up again. The snow banks along the roadside are especially grungy with the grime and grit from the highway thrown to the sides by the snowplows.  But then comes a new blanket of snow, as we got last night, and all is beautiful again—for a brief time!  Eventually the snow will be gone in the valleys and until the new growth shows up, the landscape will not be so pretty.

     I can’t help but think of how much that is like our trying to cover up our sin and ugliness.  We may work really hard through all sorts of self-help remedies and seminars to improve our areas of weakness. We may try our best to keep a list of do’s and don’ts, but we ultimately fail.  We may think that joining a church and reading our Bible and giving of our resources will compensate for our mistakes.  But, it is all like whitewashing an old rotten fence. It is only temporary and doesn’t deal with the real problem. 
     During the Old Testament times, under the Mosaic Covenant, the priests made sacrifices for their sins and the sins of the people, but they had to do so continually, because the sins were only covered, not put away.  Conspicuous by its absence in the Tabernacle and Temple was a chair. The priest’s work was never done, so he didn’t sit down.
      But, then came the ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus Christ, introduced by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of  God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The author of the Book of Hebrews, speaking of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, wrote: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness, for as the Law made nothing perfect, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God…And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He (Christ), on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:17-19,23-25).  “But when Christ appeared as a high priest…He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:11-13).  “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:24-26).  “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near…For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:1,2,4).  “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” (10:10-14).
     When I put my trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for MY sins, and believe that He was raised from the dead, indicating the penalty was paid in full,  I am no longer under condemnation (Ro. 8:1). “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). He will “remember them no more” (Isa. 43:25). He has “cast them into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19) and put up “No Fishing” signs!
     I don’t have to worry about the “snow melting” one day and revealing my ugly sin causing me to miss out on eternal life. My High Priest, Jesus Christ continues to apply His blood to my account and intercedes on my behalf (Heb. 7:25).  I will be in heaven one day, not because I worked really hard at doing the right things, but because of Jesus Christ my Savior and High Priest. “For God (the Father) made Him (God the Son) to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
     As believers in Jesus Christ, we can exclaim along with Jude, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen!” (Jude 1: 24,25).
     “Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone. Now my soul is free and in my heart’s a song. Buried in the deepest sin, yes that’s good enough for me. I shall live eternally—Praise God, my sins are G-O-N-E, Gone!”
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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More Precious Than Gold

It has been quite a struggle for many of our athletes in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It has to be disappointing, having put in years of diligent, self-sacrificing training, and then to fail to make the podium and receive a medal.  Just the privilege of qualifying to compete in the Olympics, of course, is a great honor, but then to do poorly against the world-class competition must be quite a let-down. Our cross-country ski team, for example, put in months of rigorous training, and yet failed (again) to medal. It is amazing the sacrifices young people make to spend years of disciplined training just to have a chance to compete.  For those who do medal, especially to achieve gold, it must be such an exhilarating feeling to stand atop the podium, have the medal placed around their neck and hear the Star Spangled Banner played as Old Glory is raised.
     But, there is something far more valuable, far more precious than receiving a gold medal at the Olympic Games. The Apostle Paul, using the Isthmian games as an illustration when writing to the believers at Corinth (Greece), said in reference to the athletic competitors: “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” (I Cor. 9:25).  Whatever our earthly rewards, they are only temporal. The winners of the Isthmian games received a perishable pine wreath. Today, the top three finishers receive medals of gold, silver and bronze. A gold medal weighs about 180 grams, of which only 6 grams is actually 24-karat gold, the rest is silver and copper. At today’s prices, a gold medal is worth about $400. (If it were pure gold, it would weigh about 3.35 pounds and be worth about $76,000!). But, no matter its value, it is temporal and, along with all other trophies, awards, and possessions, must one day be left behind, when our brief stay on earth is over. Job, who suffered the loss of his family and possessions, said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there” (Job 1:21).  King Solomon, who was the wealthiest person of his time, wrote: “As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand” (Eccl. 5:15). You will never see a U-haul behind a hearse! 
     Far more precious than gold or any other earthly treasure or achievement, is to have eternal and abundant life which is available through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to serve Him faithfully and one day hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21). The judge of the original Olympic Games in Greece sat on a seat called the bema (bay’-ma) and rewarded the winners of the competitions.  Paul tells that “We (all who have received Christ as Savior) must all appear before the judgment seat (bema) of Christ, that each may be recompensed (rewarded) for his deeds…” (II Cor. 5:10).  The Apostle Paul was looking forward to that time. As he spent his last days in a Roman prison before being executed, he wrote a final letter to his beloved friend and coworker, Timothy, saying; “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. 4:7,8).
     The United States was allowed only a single pairs figure skating team—the fewest since the first winter games in 1924 in Chamonix, France.  Earning that spot was a married couple, Alexa Scimeca Knerim and Chris Knerim, who won the nationals title in 2015 and 2018. But, the years in between were tough for them. Alexa suffered from a debilitating stomach illness. They battled to work their way back to qualify for this winter’s Olympics in Pyeongchang. Since they were our only pairs entry, they also competed in the team event in which the U.S. received a bronze medal. But, they struggled in the pairs event and failed to come close to medaling. Chris, especially had a difficult time.  But, the Knierms are followers of Jesus Christ and were skating, not just to receive a medal, but for the glory of God. They are secure in their identity in Christ, which was not dependent on the outcome of their competition.  Their love for the Lord and for each other was obvious as the camera zeroed in on their expressions and as they were being interviewed. Even though Alex struggled much more than his wife in the competition, she never blamed him or showed any anger toward him, an obvious demonstration of the unconditional love which they share because of their personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
     I’m reminded too of another Olympic athlete, Eric Liddell who was born in China to Scottish missionaries.  Because of his convictions as a Christian, Eric refused to compete in the heats for the 100 meters—his specialty— at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris because they were held on Sunday. Instead, he spoke at a local church from Isaiah 40, emphasizing the need for us to stop striving for the world’s empty promises and to rest in the LORD. Later in the week, Eric ran in the 400 meters—not his specialty—and won a gold medal!  His life is chronicled in the 1981 “Best Picture” movie, Chariots of Fire. After the Olympics, Eric returned to serve with his family in China and ended up in an internment camp when the Japanese invaded in 1943. He had an opportunity to leave in a prisoner exchange made by Winston Churchill, but let a pregnant woman go in his place. He died a year later of a brain tumor.  I’m sure he, like the Apostle Paul, heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and will receive many imperishable rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
     What’s more precious than gold and silver and bronze?  Peter tells us: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18). Have you trusted in the precious blood of Christ shed to pay for your sins.  “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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The Gospel Comes to Samoa

Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18).  The church began at Pentecost, just 10 days after Christ ascended back to heaven. The Holy Spirit came to indwell believers and Peter preached a powerful sermon about the death and resurrection of Jesus and some 3,000 Jews became believers that day (Acts 2).  Many others also believed and were added to the church in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.  Soon, a very religious Jew, Saul of Tarsus, came to faith in Christ and was chosen by God to be the missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Saul (also called Paul) along with Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and Luke, took the Gospel throughout Asia minor and then over to Europe. Others spread the Good News about Christ’s suffering on our behalf to Africa.
     It is fascinating to follow the building of Christ’s church as it has spread (as Jesus predicted) to the “remotest parts of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).  As new converts grew in the faith and were trained in Scripture, they usually sent out missionaries to yet unreached areas. In 1884, for example, Christian missionaries from Europe went to Pyongyang, North Korea which became the center of Christianity in Northeast Asia until about 1942 when communists took over.  In fact, Pyongyang became known as “The Jerusalem of the East!”
     On August 24, 1830, Rev. John Williams and other missionaries from the London Missionary Society, aboard the schooner Messenger of Peace, anchored at Savaii, Samoa in the South Pacific.  With their arrival, Christianity came to the island and spread quickly. The receptivity of the people to the gospel was rooted deeply in their respect for the political structure of their culture in which the religious leader was the top authority in all matters concerning the moral life of the village. God had been at work—as He always is—preparing the people for the arrival of the “Good News.” Only 14 years later Malua Bible College was established to train young men as village pastors and missionaries to other Pacific Islands including Fiji and Tonga. Before long, the native Samoan religion had been replaced by Christianity. 
     Although European whalers and traders started to arrive at the Samoa Islands in the late 1700’s, by far the most important agents of change in Samoa were the Western missionaries, bringing the Gospel of Christ, which converted the majority of the population from belief in gods of the sun, earth, heavens and sea to the one true God. More than 90% of all Samoans in both Samoa and American Samoa are professing Christians and more than 90% of them attend church at least weekly.
     Now, fast forward to the National NCAA football championship game in January.  Alabama had a stunning come-back victory over Georgia that was fueled by freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who came into the game in the second half, replacing the starting quarterback, and led his team to an exciting victory. In a remarkably humble interview after the game, especially given what he’d just accomplished on national television, Tua said: “I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With Him all things are possible.”
     Tua was considered the best high school football player in Hawaii, playing quarterback at Honolulu’s Saint Louis High School. Many compared him to another alum from Saint Louis High School who was also as quarterback, and the one Tua patterned his game after–Marcus Mariota, who took his Oregon Ducks to the national championship game against Ohio State. Mariota also won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 and now plays for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. Marcus is also follower of Jesus Christ and is quick to give God the glory for his accomplishments.
     So what do these two Christian football players from Saint Louis High School in Honolulu have to do with the evangelization of Samoa?  (Glad you asked!)  Tua and Marcus share a Samoan heritage, a heritage that includes the passing on of strong faith in Christ.  Sports Illustrated did a story about Tua Tagovailoa and his family back in 2015. The article is filled with Bible verses and tells readers that the entire Tagovailoa clan gathers “every evening for prayer and teaching,” and to sing a Samoan hymn that “asks God to be present in everything they do.”
     Samoa and American Samoa, despite their small population, produce a disproportionately large number of world-class athletes. By one estimate, “a Samoan male is 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than an American non-Samoan” (Breakpoint Jan. 12, 2018). And the majority of those who do are Christians. You may recognize some other names like: Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu, Marques Tuiasosopo and Mosi Tatupu. 
     In addition to football players, Samoa has produced numerous well-known rugby players, wrestlers (Dwayne Johnson, for example!), and many in the mixed martial arts. 
     Little did those missionaries in the 19th century know what an impact they would have world-wide one day by bringing the gospel to those beautiful islands in the South Pacific.  Christianity’s influence on Samoan life and culture is hard to dispute. This legacy and heritage are on display in stories like that of Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota. The missionaries who brought Christianity to the Polynesian world wound up transforming an entire society (or, more accurately, the  message they brought did.) Paul the Apostle got to witness  that same exciting  transformation of lives and cultures. No wonder he wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Ro. 1:16), and: “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). You won’t change a culture through political or military domination. Culture can only be changed through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t be ashamed to share it with your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.  Only God knows how far it may spread from there.
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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It is Not a Choice; It is a Life!

  Bob and Pat were serving as missionaries in the Philippines when she became pregnant. They had been praying for a son whom they could name Timothy after the young man that the Apostle Paul introduced to Christ, who ended up joining Paul in ministry from his second missionary journey on, and who was left in charge of the work at Ephesus and Asia Minor.  Pam was taking a series of aggressive antibiotics to combat amebic dysentery when she discovered the pregnancy.  She immediately stopped the medicine but the doctors advised an abortion because of the irreversible damage the drugs had presumably caused. Pam recalls how they told her it was “just a mass of fetal tissue.” But, as a Bible-believing (and behaving) Christian, Pam knew that what was in her womb was not just “fetal tissue,” but the life of a pre-born human being so couldn’t go through with an abortion, knowing she would be ending that life within her.
     Six months into the pregnancy, she was hospitalized for excruciating pain when doctors said the placenta had detached from the uterine wall. Again she was counseled to have an abortion as doctors warned of the dangers to her own health and predicted the pregnancy would end in stillbirth. Pam still resisted, just not believing that it was right to take a life—even to save hers!  Two months later, on August 14, 1987,  future Heisman Trophy winner, Timothy Tebow was born!  In December of 2007, Tim became the 73rd Heisman winner and the first sophomore to ever receive this prestigious award. When the 6 feet 3 inch, 235 pound quarterback of the Florida Gators, nicknamed “Superman” by Gator fans, embraced the 25-pound bronzed statue with his massive hands, He said, “I’d just like to first start off by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave me the ability to play football, and He gave me a great family…”
     Tragically 45 years ago today, on Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to make it legal for women to abort their unborn child at any time throughout their entire nine months of pregnancy for any reason.  Since that fateful decision by five out of nine individuals some 62 million “Tim Tebows” have never seen the light of day. Approximately one out of three babies never reaches their earthly destination. Today we are missing from our nation millions of doctors, teachers, scientists, entertainers, athletes, politicians, lawyers, laborers, nurses, artists, inventors, musicians, pastors, evangelists…all missing from our country.  We are a great nation, one that has been greatly blessed by God, but how can we expect to continue to be blessed when we kill every third child He sends to us?  I believe you can tell much about a nation by the value they place on human life—at every stage, from conception through old age.   “America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness, and for the unalienable right of life. The most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent. Every person, however frail or vulnerable, has a place and a purpose in this world. Every person has a special dignity. The right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government. It comes from the Creator of life” (past President, George W. Bush).  The Supreme Court by its fateful decision on Jan. 22, 1973, violated the intent of the Constitution which is supposed to protect the right to life.  “It is not a choice, it is a life!” 
     We are living in a crazy time when almost daily, somewhere in our country (today included—at a school Texas) shootings occur and there is the constant threat of terror attacks—but the most dangerous place by far is in the womb of a pregnant woman!  The chance of being killed by an abortionist is about 33%!  There has  been a total of about 1.2 million American war casualties from the Revolutionary War through Afghanistan, and we grieve over each one, for it meant the loss of a son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister.  But just think that we—calling it “pro-choice” have lost about 62 million young lives that never had a chance to grow up and become part of our earthly family and contribute to our society.
     The Psalmist wrote: “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…” (Psa. 127:3-5a). Children are the one blessing from God that we chose to limit and often eliminate!
     Pray for our governing leaders, especially our Supreme Court, that they will once again understand the value of every life, and make the biblical and constitutional decision to uphold life from conception on. If we are not “pro-life,” we are “pro-death.”  God is for life—He created it. Concerning life, David wrote: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion!  You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” (Psa. 139:13-16 from The Living Bible).
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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If We Remain Silent

Ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3), and then the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel and the scattering of these language groups throughout the earth (Gen. 11), people groups have been at war with and discriminating against other people groups, trying to set themselves up as the “superior” group.  The history of the world is one of war and conflict and ethnic cleansing. We have examples of this in Scripture as well as in our history books and daily news broadcasts. When Esther (a Jewess) was queen to King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes) of Persia (modern-day Iran), she discovered a plot to annihilate her people. The book of Esther records  the exciting story of how her cousin Mordecai (who had raised Esther) challenged her to take a stand for their people, saying, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14).
     Others, like Adolph Hitler, have also tried to annihilate the Jews. And sadly, many who saw what was happening remained silent. God, of course, did not let His “Chosen People” be destroyed, but some six million Jews lost their lives during the horrendous “Jewish Holocaust.” Today we have many Arab nations who have made it clear they desire to push Israel into the sea and eliminate the Jewish race.
     Throughout history we have had courageous individuals who have been willing to stand up for their convictions and against those who are persecuting certain people groups.  Daniel, taken captive as a youth to Babylon during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, remained faithful to Jehovah God and was rewarded by being thrown to the lions, but “God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths” and Daniel suffered no harm, for which the king was actually very relieved and pleased because he really liked Daniel and knew he was truly a man of God.
     Many others have “dared to be Daniels.” Continuing to live faithfully for God in the midst of persecution, they have boldly taken a stand for their biblical convictions even at great cost to themselves. One such “Daniel,” and the one whose birthday we celebrate today, was Martin Luther King, Jr., born Jan. 15, 1929. He became a Baptist minister and activist and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights movement. In 1963, in the March on Washington, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He expounded American values to include the vision of a “color blind” society. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.   “Martin Luther King. Jr. Day” was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. 
     In one of King’s speeches he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  He obviously didn’t remain silent about the things that really mattered to him!  Neither did Queen Esther. Neither did Daniel nor untold others who have stood up for the needs of others and for the truths of God’s Word, especially the Gospel, the “good news” of Christ’s death on our behalf to pay the penalty of our sins.  The Apostle Paul, who at one point had been persecuting Christians (followers of Jesus called at that time “The Way”) but then met the risen Christ while on his way to Damascus to arrest believers, was converted and became a missionary to the Gentiles that he had once despised, said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentile)” (Ro. 1:16).  Paul knew first-hand the power of that Gospel to change lives and he began boldly proclaiming it to the Gentile world as well as to his fellow Jews (cf I Cor. 15:1-4). He ended up in prison for it on several occasions and ultimately lost his life at the hands of wicked Nero of Rome.
     Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, also began boldly sharing the message of the death and resurrection of Christ for sin and were called before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin) who forbade further preaching. We read the account in Acts 5:18-20: “And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.’”  They couldn’t remain silent knowing people’s eternal lives depended on the message they had to share.
     The same is still true. God has placed us here on purpose for a purpose and that is to boldly proclaim, by how we live and what we say, that same message of the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. We are here “For such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).   Don’t forget M.L.K.’s statement: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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