Given the Keys

On our recent trip to Oregon, we ended up working for two weeks at North Clackamas Christian School where our son and his wife teach and where our two youngest grandchildren attend.  Their maintenance man, who was attending college and had just gotten married, had to quit and they needed someone to fill in until they found a replacement.  Much of our work was cleaning up the grounds, raking, pruning, weeding, etc. and it was cold and windy and then cold and rainy, but we brave Montanans persevered!  We really enjoyed the interaction we had with the students and staff as we worked.
     We were issued three keys which would unlock anything on the campus, which is a secured, gated campus. It gave a feeling of “authority” to be able to unlock any door or gate on campus. We had access to anywhere we needed to go. But with the keys came responsibility as well—especially knowing that if we happened to lose them, they would have to re-key every lock at a cost of about $1500!!  (So, we handled the keys with great care and respect!)
     We have an account in the Bible where Jesus, after Peter’s confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” said to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt.16:16,19).  Keys represent authority—authority to open or close. The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” probably refers to the authority Peter  (and all who make the confession of faith that Peter did) had to introduce people to the kingdom of heaven by sharing with them the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s dying for their sin, His death, burial and resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-4). 
     In Scripture, keys often were used by the stewards who supervised one’s household to dispense provisions for those who needed them  (cf Isa. 22:15,22). In Luke 11:52, we see where the “key of knowledge” related to entering the kingdom.  The “keys” in Mt. 16:19 relate specifically to binding and loosing. As Peter and the Apostles preached in various places, they wielded the keys of the kingdom and Jesus built His church.  People would be loosed from their sins (forgiven) as they responded positively to the gospel message or bound in their sins (remain unforgiven)  if they did not. 
     Specifically, Peter had the authority to open the doors of Christendom:
            1)  First to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-42) when about 3,000  responded to Peter’s                   message.
            2)  Next to the Samaritans (Acts 8). Philip had gone there to preach but “when the apostles in        
                Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and
                John,  who came down and prayed with them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts                   8:14,15).
            3)  Then to the Gentiles as God sent Peter to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10).     
     The “keys” of Mt. 16:19 pictured the throwing open of the gates of a walled city to welcome people in. Peter played a role in the step-by-step opening of the doors of the kingdom of heaven—to the Jews, to the Samaritans (who were half Jew, half Gentile) and to the Gentiles.  In each case, the converts were baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, the Church, probably evidenced by the speaking of tongues, so that when the Jewish Council met in Jerusalem to decide how Gentiles were saved (did they need to be circumcised?) Peter could bear witness to how the Samaritans and the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit just as the Jews had at Pentecost.  Tongues had been a sign to indicated the universality of the Gospel.
     While Peter may have been used by God in a unique sense to introduce the different groups (Jew, Samaritan, Gentile) to the body of Christ, the Church, we too have been “given the keys” of authority to proclaim the Gospel to anyone and everyone today.  Before Jesus left the earth to return to heaven, He gave both a command and a prophecy to the disciples who were with Him when He ascended. He said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon  you; and you shall be witnesses both in Jerusalem and all Judea and  Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). When we believe the message of the gospel and ask Christ to be our Savior, we are baptized (immersed) into the body of Christ, the Church, become “new creatures” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17) and are now “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20), representing Him wherever we go, having been “given the keys” of authority to share the truths of God’s Word, that “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ro. 10:13). 
     It is a great privilege to be “given the keys,” but it is also a great and awesome responsibility—a responsibility to give out the gospel because it is the only thing that can open the gates of heaven.  Do you know Christ as your Savior?  Are you using the keys of authority given to you?
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Presidents of the United States of America

The United States has a very unique history and has been greatly blessed by God and has also been used to bring the gospel to the far corners of the globe and to minister to many, many nations in their times of need. Key to the blessings our nation has experienced has been our foundation on biblical principles and the leadership of many who, although not all Christians, have had a respect for and support of biblical values.  The Psalmist wrote: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD (Jehovah)”’ (Psa. 33:12).   Unfortunately in recent years, it seems our nation has lost its respect and reverence for the LORD and for biblical values and we have been paying the price for turning our back on the God who has made this nation great. It is our prayer as believers for repentance and revival and a turn around in our blessed nation.
     For a nation to be great we must also have great leaders. While not all of our presidents have necessarily been great leaders, we have the unique opportunity to elect new leaders on a regular basis. You might be interested, on this special day set aside to honor our presidents, to review some interesting facts about the 45 presidents who have lead this great nation.
    
     1.   George Washington, our first president (1789-1797), was the only American president to be unanimously elected and the only president who did not represent a political party.
     2.  John Adams (1797-1801) was the first president to reside in the White house. He moved in November 1800 while the paint was still wet!
     3.  Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), the main author of the Declaration of Independence, was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
     4.  James Madison (1809-1817), standing 5 feet, 4 inches, and weighing 100 pounds, was the shortest and lightest president. He was also the first president to wear trousers rather than knee breeches.
     5.  James Monroe (1817-1825) was the first president to ride a steamboat, and his daughter, Maria Hester, was the first to be a bride in the White house. He was the last Revolutionary War veteran to serve as president.
     6.  John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) was the son of a former president and the first president to be photographed. He started The American Bible Society.
     7.  Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) was the first president born in a log cabin and the first to ride in a train. He also was the first to experience and survive an assassination attempt.
     8,.  Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) was the first president born in the United States. He was raised in Kinderhook, N.Y. and after going into politics, became known as “Old Kinderhook.” Soon people began using the term OK to refer to Van Buren and the word okay was derived! 
     9.  William Henry Harrison (1841), the only president who studied to be a doctor, served the shortest presidency. He died of pneumonia one month after delivering his 105-minute outdoor inaugural speech without wearing an overcoat or hat.
    10.  John Tyler (1841-1845) was the first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of a president. He was also the president with the most children—15!
    11.  James K. Polk (1845-1849) was the first president to have his inauguration reported by telegraph and the first to fulfill all of his campaign promises!
    12.  Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)  did not vote until age of 62 because he had moved many times as a soldier and had not established an official place of residency.
    13.  Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) refused an honorary degree from Oxford University because he felt he had “neither literary nor scientific attainment.”
    14.  Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.
   15.  James Buchanan (1857-1861) was the only president that never married.
    16.  Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) was the first president to wear a beard, was the tallest at 6 feet 4 inches, and the first to be assassinated.
    17.  Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) was impeached for removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton during the turbulent Reconstruction period, but was acquitted by one vote in the Senate.
    18.  Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) was a Union commander during the Civil War and established Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. 
    19.  Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) banished liquor and wine from the White House and held the first Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.
    20.  James Garfield (1881) was the last of seven presidents born in a log cabin and the second president to die by assassination, two months after being sworn into office.
    21.  Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) was nicknamed “Elegant Arthur” for his fashion sense.
    22.  Grover Cleveland (1885-1889)  personally answered the White House phone and was the only president married in a ceremony at the White House.
    23.  Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) was the only president to be a grandson of a president and the first president to use electricity in the White House.
    24.  Grover Cleveland (1893-1897) was the only president to be elected to nonconsecutive terms and the first to have a child born in the White House.
    25.  William McKinley (1897-1901) was the first president to ride in an automobile, the first to campaign by telephone and the third to die from assassination.
    26.  Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt (1901-1909) was the first president to call his residence in Washington, D.C. the “White House.”   He was a physical fitness buff and loved to box. He was a conservationist and added millions of acres of forest and mineral lands to national preserves. He was the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1906). His favorite expression was: “speak softly, but carry a big stick.”
    27.  William H. Taft (1909-1913)  was the first president to own a car and the only president to serve as chief justice of the United States, from 1921-1930.
    28.  Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) is the only president buried in Washington, D.C. at Washington National Cathedral.
    29.  Warren G. Harding ((1921-1923) was the first president to speak over the radio and the first newspaper publisher to be elected to the presidency. He also had the largest feet of any president—size 14. 
    30.  Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) lighted the first national Christmas tree in 1923 on the White House lawn and refused to use the telephone while he was in office.
    31.  Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) approved “The Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem and was the first president born west of the Mississippi River, in West Branch, Iowa.
    32.  Franklin D. Roosevelt  (1933-1945) is the only American president to serve four terms.
    33.  Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) was the first president to give a speech on television and the first president to travel underwater in a submarine.
    34.  Dwight D. (“Ike”) Eisenhower (1953-1961), who commanded Allied troops during the D-Day invasion of France in 1944, was the only president to serve in both World War I and World War II.
    35.  John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was the first Roman Catholic president, the first president born in the 20th century and the first president to hold a press conference on television. At age 43, he was also the youngest American elected president, and, at age 46, the youngest to die in office (the fourth to be assassinated).  Probably his most famous statement was: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
    36.   Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1974), before becoming a politician, was a high school teacher in Texas.
    37.  Richard Nixon (1969-1974) was the first president to visit all 50 states, the first to visit China and the only president to resign (as a result of the “Watergate” scandal.)
    38.  Gerald Ford (1974-1977), who worked as a fashion model, became vice president and president without being elected to either office.
    39.  Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) was the first president born in a hospital.
    40.  At age 69, Ronald W. Reagan (1981-9189) became the oldest person—and first actor—ever elected U.S. president.
    41.  George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) was the first vice president elected president since Martin Van Buren (1837), and also the first vice president to lose re-election since Van Buren.
    42.  William J. Clinton (1993-2001) was the first Rhodes Scholar to become president.
    43.  George W. Bush (2001-2008) was the first son of a president to become president since John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams.
    44.  Barack H. Obama (2008-2017) was the first African American to be elected as president of the United States, and the first president to be born outside the contiguous United States (born in Hawaii). 
    45.  Donald Trump (2017-       ) is the first president elected who had no background in either the military or in politics. He is also the oldest and wealthiest to be elected.
     As believers, we have a solemn responsibility to “be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Ro. 13:1). We are to pray for our president “and for all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 1:2-4). 
     Forever his,
                Pastor Dave
    
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How Do You Define Love?

We celebrate “Valentine’s Day” on Feb. 14 each year because it was on that date that a Christian by the name of Valentinus was put to death by the Roman Emperor Claudius II in 270 A.D.  Valentinus was dedicated to his Christian beliefs and not even the threat of death caused him to recant his faith in Christ.  His blind daughter, Julia, was allowed to visit him in jail, where he tutored her .  He described the world of nature to her, taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world  through his eyes, trusted in his wisdom and found comfort in his quiet strength. One day as they prayed together in his cell, Julia miraculously regained her sight. On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God and he signed it “From your Valentine.”
     It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love, and friendship.  On each February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world. One town in the U.S., Loveland, Colorado, is called “the love-letter capital of the world where some 300,000 valentine cards and letters are received annually to be postmarked and love stamped by a group of volunteer senior citizens.
     Throughout history, man has expressed his thoughts on this thing called “love,” sometimes perceiving it as something wonderful, beautiful, and intense and other times, expressing the sorrow and anger caused by love scorned. Whatever the case, no one can deny that love is a powerful energy and emotion. But just what is love? How do you define it. Someone said, “Defining love is like painting a picture—not of Jell-O, but with it!”  Is love some strong inner emotion or feeling? Just what is love?
     Well, the best One to define love, of course, is the One who is the source of love, and in fact who  “Is love.”  We read in I John 4:7,8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
     Since love is from God and God is love, the Scriptures obviously have a lot to say about love and when we put together some key passages about love, we get a good definition of the love which has its source in God. 
     1.  First of all, love acts voluntarily. Love is a decision to act, not based on feeling, but on commitment, by an act of the will. It is not something that is coerced or earned or paid for. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative…” (Jn. 10:11,17,18).  The Apostle Paul wrote: “But while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly….But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:6,8). 
     2. Second, love gives sacrificially. Amy Carmichael said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (Jn. 3:16).  “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).  God’s love for us was shown by His giving Himself as a sacrifice for us.  Love is never afraid of giving too much.
   3.  Third, love meets the needs of others.  We were dead in our sins and under the condemnation of God, but God, because of His great love for us, provided a means of forgiveness through the death of His Son in our place. By our natural birth we are under the penalty of sin which is death (Ro. 3:23; 6:23). Our need was great, so the sacrifice God made was great—God the Son took on human form so He could bear the penalty of sin (Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 2:9,14,15).  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained” (C.S. Lewis).  
     So, we see that the love which has its source in God (agape , unconditional love) is that which acts voluntarily and gives sacrificially to meet needs. The greater the need, the greater the sacrifice.  This type of love should characterize believers, for God’s love dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples. If you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:11).  Love is the circulatory system of the Body of Christ. Our love for Christ is only as real as our love for our neighbor (Mt. 22:36-40).
     Have you experienced the Love of God manifest in His Son, Jesus Christ?  Are you sharing that love with others—not just on Valentines Day but as your daily way of life?
                In the Grip of His Love,
                    Pastor Dave
    
    
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Promises, Promises

    “Nothing binds us one to the other like a promise kept, and nothing divides us like a promise broken” (Leighton Ford).
     How true that is!  Promises reveal our character  Do we make them quickly and then fail to follow through?  Or do we refuse to make any promises because we don’t want to be bound by any commitments?  Or, are we careful in making promises, making sure we fulfill them?  Think of how many times a young child has heard a parent promise to do something special for or with them, but fails to keep the promise, maybe apologizing and renewing the promise, only to break it again.
     When we first moved from Montana to Portland, Oregon  where I worked as an engineer, we lived in some apartments (100 units) which we ended up managing for a couple of years. The apartment owner found out I liked to hunt and asked if I would line up a hunting trip back in Montana. He would have his pilot friend fly us back there. So I did make those arrangements and we invited him to have breakfast with us the morning we were to leave. We waited and waited but he didn’t show up. Later in the day, he said his pilot friend was unable to fly us, but he would still like to go and would do the driving, so we set another day to leave. This time we didn’t invite him to join us for breakfast!  And again he didn’t show. Later in the day his son showed up at the apartments, looking for his dad, who was to have met him there at a certain time. The owner didn’t make an appearance.  Obviously from that time forward, we had difficulty in believing anything that the apartment owner promised or even said. 
     I’m sure that each of us has been disappointed by someone’s broken promises. I’m also sure that each of us has also broken promises that we have made.  Some of the promises may have just been forgotten, some may have been impossible to keep and shouldn’t have been made, while others were never intended to be kept. Because of the frailty of our being and our old sinful natures, it is impossible for any of us to perfectly keep every promise.
     But, praise the Lord, there is Someone who keeps and will keep all His promises and that is, of course, God our Creator and Redeemer. First of all, God will never make a promise that He doesn’t intend to keep. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” (Nu. 23:19).  God will never deceive us or lead us along and then disappoint us. He doesn’t use the “bait and switch” tactic on us.  He can be totally trusted. “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18).
     Not only will God never make promises He doesn’t plan to fulfill, but in His omnipotence and omniscience,  He is also able to keep all His promises. God promised a son to Abraham that would be the beginning of a great nation, yet Abraham was old and his wife was past child-bearing age. It would be another 25 years before the child miraculously came, “Yet with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He (God) had promised, He was able also to perform” (Ro. 4:20,21).  On one occasion when King Solomon had been pouring his heart out to God,  “he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel according to all that He promised; not one of word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant’” (I Kgs. 8:55,56).
     Peter writes concerning God’s promises: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these (His glory and excellence), He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature…” (II Pet. 1:3,4).  The believer shares in the life of God by means of Christ and the Spirit living in him (Ro. 8:9; Gal. 2:20). And, “For no matter how many  promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ…” (II Cor. 1:20).  God has made many incredibly wonderful promises—and He fulfills them all in Christ. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (I Thes. 5:24).
     Have you been disappointed by someone in your life? Do broken promises litter your past, causing you sorrow and doubt?  No one can perfectly keep every promise and meet every need—but God.  Take your pain and heartache to Him. You can trust Him—fully! He can and will keep all His promises to you.
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Pieces of the Puzzle

  We have done several jigsaw puzzles this winter and currently have another one going. Most of the puzzles that we do we pick up at second-hand stores like Good Will or Salvation Army or our local “Achievements” store. Consequently, we are not guaranteed that all the pieces are there, which makes it very interesting and challenging, for you can look for one piece for some time, only to discover later that the piece is missing. One of the puzzles we purchased recently said on the box—“No pieces missing.” What it didn’t say was that there were three extra pieces—that made it interesting!  Once we got a new puzzle in sealed box only to find that the pieces were a mixture from several different puzzles!  I bet we weren’t the only ones who had that experience from that manufacturer. Someone had some fun packaging them!
     When we begin working on a jigsaw puzzle, we dump all the pieces (usually 1,000-1,500 of them) out on a table and it is pretty confusing and foreboding. Where do you begin? Well, first we have to turn them all right side up and begin looking for the edge pieces and then, from them, find the four corner pieces. We use the picture on the box cover to guide us as to how the border pieces need to be located to form the framework for the puzzle.  Once we have the frame built, we begin working on the interior, again using the picture on the front as a guide. Without the picture to let us know what the finished picture should look like, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible assembling the pieces.
    There are some interesting spiritual parallels that come to mind—my mind at least!  Everyone is working at putting together the pieces to make sense out of their lives. They have in mind what the picture should look like for themselves and are trying to find a place for each event or circumstance of their life to fit into that picture.  Some don’t even have a picture in mind and  are just living in “random mode,” doing whatever they want whenever they want—whatever feels good at the time, with no real goal or purpose.  They just “go with the flow” and “fly by the seat of their pants,” so to speak.  As we attempt to find a place for all the “pieces of the puzzle, “we are often hampered because not all of the pieces in front of us belong to the completed picture (Like when we had three extra pieces from other puzzles or a mixture of pieces from several puzzles!),  We need to sort out what belongs and what doesn’t belong.
     We, of course, need to start with the corner pieces and then the entire framework giving us something to build upon. Spiritually, we need to begin building our life on a solid foundation, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).   Christ must be the “cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20) upon which our life is built.  We were created to have a relationship with God as the basis of our life. To substitute anything else is to be like the foolish man Jesus described: “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall” (Mt. 7:26,27).
     When we trust Christ as our Savior, we now have a solid foundation (cornerstone) on which to build. Then we need to establish the framework which is made up of the basic truths (doctrine) of God’s Word, the Bible.  We need to know and believe who God is, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, that we are sinners and in need of a Savior and that God the Son, Jesus Christ came and died to pay the penalty of our sin, was buried, rose again the third day and has ascended back to heaven where He intercedes for us. We need to believe that God the Holy Spirit comes to live in us at the moment of salvation, and that through Him, the Father and Son live in us.  We are “new creations in Christ” (II Cor. 5:17).  We need to know and believe that Christ is building His Church but will one day take the Church home to heaven and then will return with His Church to reign on earth. We need to believe that He authored the Holy Scriptures as our final authority for faith and practice. We need to believe that everyone will one day give an account before God, and that without Christ as our foundation, we would experience eternal separation from God.
     Just as we have the picture on the puzzle box top to guide us in assembling the pieces of the puzzle, we have the Bible as our guide to assembling the pieces of the puzzle in our lives. We need to learn to recognize pieces that don’t fit in the overall picture—that is, events, activities, habits, or ways of thinking that do not coincide with the truths and principles of God’s Word. Those we should eliminate rather than do what we are so prone to do—try to jam them in. When we do that, we mess up the picture that is God’s purpose for our life—being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Ro. 8:29). 
     When we do a jigsaw puzzle, after finishing the border, we normally work on obvious areas that are the most distinguishable and then end up with the most difficult sections at the end, and often have to sort the pieces by shape.  In our spiritual lives, we are able to see how some of the pieces fit in the overall picture but will undoubtedly have to wait for heaven to discover how some of the events of our lives fit into the picture of conformity to the image of Christ. That’s where faith and trust come in to play, allowing God to be sovereign in our lives and not demanding an explanation for everything that is happening to us. As the hymn says, “We’ll understand it better by and by.”
    
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
    
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The Painter of Light

Chances are you probably have a Thomas Kinkaid picture of some sort In your home. One of every 20 American homes owns a copy of one of his paintings. We just finished doing a rather tough jigsaw puzzle of one of his paintings. It was a gift for Christmas from someone that knows we like to do puzzles and also enjoy Thomas Kinkaid’s paintings. 
     Born January 19, 1958 in Sacramento, Kinkaid grew up in the town of Placerville. If you watched any of the 2016 Hallmark Christmas movies, you may have seen “A Thomas Kinkaid Christmas,” which was based on trip to Placerville during Christmas break from college. He attended the University of California, Berkeley and later the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. One of the greatest influences in Thomas’s life was a neighbor in Placerville, Glen Wessels, who encouraged him to attend Berkeley and also really instilled in him the passion to paint and to include what became Kinkaid’s “trademark”—light—in his paintings. His paintings are characterized by glowing lights and saturated pastel colors, often portraying idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, lighthouses and street scenes. His hometown of Placerville was the inspiration for many of his street and snow scenes. He became known as “Thomas Kinkaid, Painter of Light.” He also depicted Christian themes including the cross and churches.
      His goal in painting was to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages through his paintings.  Many of His pictures also contain Bible references. though he struggled with some personality “quirks,” he described himself as a “devoted Christian,” and included with his signature, the sign of the “fish” which was has been a symbol of Christianity since the early church. One thing that probably accounted for some of Kinkaid’s erratic behavior at times was the struggle he had with alcohol, which was also a major factor in his rather premature death April 6, 2012 at age 54.
     Obviously one of the factors that make Kinkaid’s paintings so popular is the way in which he brought life and warmth to a scene through the ruse of light, as his mentor Glen Wessels had recommended to him. As I contemplated that, I couldn’t help but relate it to all the Scriptural references to “light.” Since “God is the source of light, He actually had to create “darkness” (Isa. 45:7). Although the darkness was used physically  to separate day and night (Gen. 1:4,5), it also became a symbol of sin and evil—“spiritual darkness.”  When Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah, he wrote: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light;; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them…For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:2,6).
     The Apostle John, in his gospel, wrote concerning this coming Messiah, whom he calls “the Word” (Jn. 1:1): “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (or overpower) it” (Jn. 1:4,5).  John the Baptist, who became the forerunner or herald of the coming of the Messiah “Came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the light, but came that he might  bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (Jn. 1: 7-9). When Jesus began His ministry He made the claim: “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). In John’s first epistle he writes: “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I Jn. 1:5,6).  Not only is God the source of physical light, but here “light” refers to His holiness and purity. Light is the most fundamental and important form of energy, and energy includes every phenomenon in the physical universe. It is appropriate for John to affirm that “God is light,” because everything created must reflect the character of its Creator.  And with that in mind, note what Jesus said of His followers: “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works (i.e., God working in and through you), and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:14,16). Christ the “light of the world  lives in us as believers, and we need to let Him shine through us to others.
     Peter, in speaking of those who have trusted Christ for eternal life and become part of the Body of Christ, the Church, says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called your out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9).  The Apostle Paul, addressing believers, writes: “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light” (Eph. 5: 8).  As John the Baptist said, we are not “The Light” but we are hear to introduce others to “The True Light,” Jesus Christ, “The Light of the World.” Since He lives in us, we have the light source within and can reflect it to those around when we abide in fellowship with Him and allow Him to be in control of our lives, walking as “children of light.” 
     Thomas Kindaid may be known as “The Painter of Light” for incorporating the glow of light in his paintings, but the true “Painter of Light,” who Himself is light, is Jesus Christ, “The Light of the World.” Have allowed His light to shine in your heart? If so, are you reflecting that light to the world around you? Are you too a “Painter of Light”?
            Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
    
    
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Hope for the New Year

As a result of the outcome of the recent presidential election in the United States, the current first Lady, was quoted as saying, “We are feeling what not having hope feels like,” implying that with the upcoming  new administration, there would be no hope for our country. So, does our hope depend upon who our president is, or on what political party is currently in control of the House or Senate?  While our lives may be effected either positively or negatively, depending upon our world view, our hope is not dependent upon politics. While we, as Christians may experience a temporary reprieve from the anti-Christian bias that has been increasing at a rapid pace over the past several years, that is not the basis of our hope. 
     It is indeed frightening to contemplate a life without hope. Fortunately, those of us who have put our trust in Jesus Christ have reason to hope, and this is not mere wishful thinking as the world would define hope: “I hope I get the job;” “I hope my team wins;” etc. In the Bible, hope is not a wish, it is a reality, a deep-seated assurance, a fact not yet realized. Genuine hope has its source in God and His promises which we have the confidence that He can and will fulfill. For example, God promised that Abraham and Sarah would have a son in their old age. In Romans, Paul writes: In hope against hope, he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He Had promised, He was able also to perform” (Ro. 4: 18-21). 
     Hope is the spiritual attitude that causes us to look confidently into the future and motivates us to pursue Christlikeness no matter the political culture, no matter the adversity we may face in our circumstances. Hope is central to the believer’s life of faith. It is really the anchor of our life. The author of Hebrews says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (6:19a). Our hope is not shakable because it is embodied in Christ Himself, who has entered into God’s presence in the heavenly Holy of Holies on our behalf where He serves as our great High Priest, forever interceding before God for us (Heb. 6:19b, 20). As a result, ours is a living hope, as Peter describes in his first epistle: “Blessed be 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, who are protected by the power of God…” (1:3-5a).
     Hope is an essential part of the Gospel (“Good News”). The joy of our salvation is that one day we will enter into eternal life in heaven with Christ. Paul wrote to Titus: “in the hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested…” (v. 2). That hope enables us to persevere. Romans 8 is a great chapter  of promise for the believer. Here Paul states that God will fulfill the believer’s hope and bring us to glory: “We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (verses. 23b-25).
     Our hope is objective, not subjective. It is not a secular pipe dream telling you that you can be anything you want to be. You can’t create or control the future—you don’t have the power or the knowledge to do so. You don’t have to concoct some scheme for the future—God has already given you one. The Psalmist wrote: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him…” (Psa. 43:5).  Since God is our hope, it is sure and steadfast, unshakable. When we trust Christ as our Savior, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit, Christ lives in us. and will never leave us (Heb. 13:5). We have Christ in us as our “hope of glory: (Col. 1:27). Paul’s prayer for the believers in Rome was: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13). That is my prayer for you as well for this coming year. With God there is hope even in the most seemingly hopeless situation. Hope that has its foundation in God will not crumble under the pressures of life (nor be dependent on what leader is in power!).   HOPE is “Heavenly Optimism Prior to Evacuation.”
                     May you have a joyous new year filled with hope,
                           Pastor Dave
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