Not Forgotten (Part III)

  It’s easy for us to feel like God has forgotten us or doesn’t hear our prayers or maybe is unaware of our difficult situation. Maybe you believe God called you to a particular place or ministry/vocation yet you don’t see any spiritual fruit though you have remained faithful to Him.  Jim and Louise Morris, missionaries in Thailand, felt that way.  Jim grew up in Kansas where his dad worked for an oil company in Kansas City and set an example for Jim to work long and hard for what you want. Jim followed that example and while working on a farm one summer during his high school days, was invited by the farmer’s son to go to a Youth for Christ meeting in Indiana where Jim gave his life to Christ. At age 15 he chose Phil. 1:20,21 as the foundation of his life: “According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 
     Jim took a very open stand for Christ when he returned to high school that fall and joined a Bible club and a quiz team that memorized the books of the Bible on which they were being quizzed.  God’s Word really began transforming and equipping Jim’s heart and mind. He preached his first sermon when he was 16 and by the end of high school knew that God wanted him to be a missionary. He heard that Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, was the place to prepare for missions. At PBI, principal L.E. Maxwell, challenged Jim and the other students to go where Christ has never been named and “carve out a kingdom for God.” My brother-in-law, Ray Kutz, was attending PBI at the same time and joined Jim and Ray Brooks in a trumpet trio.  At PBI, Jim also met Louise Imbach, who also had felt called by God to be a tribal missionary in Southeast Asia. They grew to love one another and looked forward to overseas missionary service as a couple. They visited with the director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) who recommended that they not get married until they were on the field for two years. Their hearts sank, but they decided to wait to get married and get more training before heading overseas with OMF. 
    After graduation from PBI, Jim worked for the Canadian Sunday School Mission In British Columbia, and though tempted to accept their offer to stay and lead the work, still burned with a vision to serve as an overseas missionary.  Louise took a course in missionary medicine at Biola. Letters flew back and forth as they agonized over following the mission director’s advice or to get married. They made the difficult decision to wait for marriage and to both attend candidate school in Philadelphia that next October. In March 1957 Jim Morris and Louise Imbach boarded a Dutch liner for England to join other prospective missionaries bound eventually for Singapore and then for fields of service all over Asia.
     After having separate assignments in Thailand, exactly two years after arriving on the field, Jim and Louise were married in Chiangmai. The wedding was a harbinger of the struggles they would face in their ministry in Thailand.  They did all the work themselves to prepare for the wedding: decorating, making bouquets, and preparing food.  The night before, a storm blew out the electricity, so the homemade ice cream in the freezer melted. Moments before the ceremony a transformer blew out. A friend who agreed to tape the wedding service found someone to hold two wires together to give him enough power to make a tape, but they had no power to play the music tape for the reception. The fruitcake they made and frosted and set on  pillars collapsed—but they were excited to finally be married. After a brief honeymoon they climbed on a ten-wheel rice truck for the seven-hour ride from Chiangmai to their first home in Wangloong where there began their work among the Pwo Karen (po-ka-‘ren) of northern Thailand, a tribe dominated by demonic forces.  For centuries, Satan had ruled viciously over the Pwo Karen, who “lived in fear—fear of spirits, fear of sickness, fear of crop failure, fear of death, fear of outsiders, fear of curses, and fear of fear” (Stronger than the Strong by Louise Morris). 
     Jim and Louise had to learn how to communicate with these people who had a fear of outsiders—not an easy task. When their evil spirits were unable to help them with their illness and injuries, the Pwo Karen came to the Morrises for medical help, but resisted in accepting this “Jesus” of whom they spoke, for fear it would offend the demons and make life even worse for them.  It became very discouraging for Jim and Louise.  They had been faithful to God’s call to serve as tribal missionaries in Southeast Asia and really trusted in God for a breakthrough, but after many years it seemed that it may never come. Had God forgotten them?  They had made some great sacrifices to live among this tribe in northern Thailand and thought, “If God sent us here, He must have plans for these people, but why don’t we see any results?”  They were very tempted to give up and try another area to minister, but no one else knew the Pwo Karen like they did, and it would take many more years for another couple to get to where they were accepted by the Pwo Karen. So, they remained and after 15 years, the breakthrough finally came. God had not forgotten the Morrises or the little tribal group in northern Thailand. The response to trust in Christ for eternal life came slowly at first because of the Satanic oppression, but soon many were coming to Christ and the power of the gospel set a tribal people of Thailand free from Satan’s tyrannical rule. Churches and Bible training centers were built and many experienced the truth of John 8:32.36:  “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
     Read Louise Morris’ book to discover more of the exciting story of how Jesus overcame Satan and the demonic forces that dominated the daily lives of the Pwo Karen. Jesus “shared in our humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:14,15). It was definitely worth all the years of waiting and sacrifice to see God set free the captives of the tyrant. “Jesus is truly stronger than the strong” (cf I Jn. 4:4).  He did not forget the Pwo Karen. He did not forget Jim and Louise Morris. He will not forget you!
        Forever His,
                Dave Nelson
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A Christian Work Ethic

  I had shoulder surgery July 3rd so have been a “bit” hampered this summer, not only in playing tennis and giving tennis lessons as I normally do, but also in all our other many work projects between our garden, yard and supplying kindling and campfire wood for a local grocery store.  Needless to say, I have had to learn to ask for and accept help on a regular basis.  Praise the Lord for a couple neighbors who have been very willing to lend a hand (or literally, an arm—it is my right arm which has been rather useless!). I have learned to do some wood splitting with my left hand and a hatchet, but we’ve needed help getting wood and even tying up the bundles.  Thank the Lord for John and Jay!
     Also, our son Grant and grandson, Luke, stayed here for a week to help out. In addition to helping with our many projects, Grant wanted to teach his son how to work hard.  Growing up in Oregon City, there isn’t much opportunity to learn manual labor. Luke got lots of opportunity here that week. We had about a dozen fence posts and as many rails that needed to be replaced. They also helped with lawn mowing, some rain gutter repair, bush pruning, fixing an FM antennae, etc.  The days were hot too, so it was hot sweaty work!  I’m so grateful for their help. It was hard to not be able to do much myself to help out—but good for me too!
     Then our daughter Heidi also came for a week to help. She loves to pick huckleberries, so we hiked and picked berries. Our transparent apples needed picking too, so she helped Kathy make many, many batches of yummy apple sauce. Heidi also likes to get firewood, so we made a couple trips into the woods to get firewood. I have a small light chainsaw which she learned to use and even felled several trees and cut them up!  After all, we are the “Libby Loggers” here!  And the list of assists could go on!
     I’m so grateful our children grew up learning to work. What a blessing that was to us this summer, but it is also a blessing in their chosen vocations, since they have a great “Christian work ethic.” Our son is a teacher and coach and athletic director at a Christian school, and our daughter runs a beauty salon.  The rabbis had a teaching: “He who does not teach a son to work, teaches him to steal.”  Unfortunately so many young people are growing up today without really knowing how to work. Oh, they are geniuses when it comes to solving a computer problem or giving advice on how to use your smart phone, but really have no experience in any kind of manual labor—and probably have no desire to get any!  Few have any work ethic at all, let alone a “Christian work ethic.”   So, what in the world is that. I thought work is just what you have to do to make a living and have a roof over your head, food on the table and a vehicle to drive.
     Someone said, “In college, my friends kept talking about building their careers, but now they all just have jobs!”  Sound familiar? No matter how glowing a job prospect may seem before you land it, the doldrums and drudgery can set in. Or you get locked into a certain salary level or position and find that you’re working for an impossible boss. Or the organization you work for begins to disappoint you. There’s no end to the list of reasons for viewing our work through less-than-rose-colored glasses.
     And then, there is a false separation in the minds of many—including Christians—of the secular and sacred that has arisen throughout Church history. During the middle ages monasteries and nunneries were built to house those who wished to separate themselves from secular society. They believed their sacred callings to be exalted. Even today, many see those in “full-time ministry” to be answering God’s call to a more “sacred” occupation. But, the Bible makes no such distinction. All Christians—be they plumbers or physicians, computer software writers or secretaries, school teachers or salon owners—are in sacred occupations, for, as Paul writes in his letters, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17,23,24); “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31); “Let him who steals, steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need” (Eph. 4:28); “We urge you, brethren, to…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (I Thes. 4:10b-12). The tense of the verbs used in these verses implies a habit, or lifestyle. We are commanded to have a mindset of work, not laziness or expecting others to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves.
     Yesterday, our pastor preached a message on “Experiencing Him (God) in Your Work.”  He emphasized first that Work is Decreed by God (God gave Adam the job of caring for and cultivating the garden—before Adam sinned…Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15-20). His second point was that Work is a Blessing from God (We should have a joy and gladness in our work, knowing God provided the job and we are doing it as unto Him…Eccl. 2:24; 3:12,13; 5:18-20). The third point was that Work Honors God (again, there is no separation of sacred from secular—all work done for, with, and unto God, honors Him…Psa. 100:2). Finally, pastor shared that Work Bears Witness for God (Work is not just a platform for witness—work itself is a witness as we do it “heartily as for the Lord”…I Cor. 10:31).
     In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer writes concerning our daily labors: “It may be difficult for the average Christian to get hold of the idea that their daily labors can be performed as acts of worship, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.  We must offer all our acts to God and believe that he accepts them. Then hold firmly to that position and keep insisting that every act of every hour of the day and night be included in the transaction. Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly manifestation. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.  Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry (It is a ministry)!  It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular; it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act!”
    Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
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Not Forgotten (Part II)

In the early 20th century, Christian missionaries saw much spiritual fruit in the city of Pyongyang, now capital of North Korea. It was the biggest stronghold of Christianity in Korea, and the city became the hub of the mission activity throughout Asia, including China. Pyongyang was even called “the Jerusalem of the East”!  But then in came the communists and the Christians had to flee, leaving a void of Christianity in the north.
     Among the many who fled the communists were the parents of Kenneth Bae who was born “Pae Jun Ho” August 1, 1968 in Seoul, Korea.  At the age of 18 (in 1985), Kenneth moved with his family to the United States where he finished his high school education in California and then attended the University of Oregon and Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.  His burden for the  oppressed, isolated, North Koreans prompted him to return to China and to establish a tourism company called “Nations Tour.”  From China he headed up tour groups of Christians to go into North Korea to befriend and show love to the people of the Democratic Republic of  North Korea, the whole time praying quietly for them.  Kenneth Bae wanted the North Koreans to know that they had not been forgotten by the outside world.  He had made 18 peaceful, successful trips with tour groups, when he got careless and crossed the border into North Korea unwittingly carrying his external computer hard drive which he normally left in China.  After the North Koreans translated the files Kenneth was arrested in April 2013 and charged with an attempt to overthrow the DPRK government.
     After weeks of interrogation at Ransom, he was taken to Pyongyang. He had often wished he could go to Pyongyang and stay a couple years to establish relationships with the people there—so oppressed and controlled—and to extend the love of God. But he never intended for it to be on this basis. It was much like the Apostle Paul who wished to go to Rome to minister to the people there. He got his chance—taken there as a prisoner. Now Kenneth was about to be sentenced and they were threatening to make an example of him so that no other missionaries would dare set foot in North Korea. But, Kenneth Bae kept trusting the Lord through his trial.  He writes in Not Forgotten (published by Thomas Nelson in 2016):
     “During the pretrial period I decided to put some order into my day (providing the prosecutor was not in my room interrogating me).  I wanted to have a schedule: three hours of worship, three hours of prayer, three hours of Bible reading and three hours of exercise.” He started off doing 100 laps a day in his room which was five meters wide. He increased this to two hundred laps, then three hundred and five hundred, until he eventually got up to one thousand laps (ten kilometers or about 6 miles)!
     His meals were very minimal, bland and boring. He writes, “One morning during my worship time, I started to crave a certain noodle soup for which one of Pyongyang restaurants is famous. I didn’t dare ask the guards or the prosecutor…I didn’t even pray for it. I just said to myself, ‘I really wish I had some of that noodle soup.’  The next day, when lunch arrived, I discovered a bowl of the exact noodle soup I had craved. The guard told me that they had someone bring it from the very restaurant I had in mind. Over the course of my five months in the Pyongyang detention center, I counted at least 40 times when God gave me the exact food I was craving. He let me know that He had not forgotten me. God was with me. He was not going to let anything happen to me that didn’t go through Him first…I didn’t know if I would ever see my family again or even if I was going to get out of North Korea alive, but one thing I did know: I was not alone. My Savior was with me. He was all I had, and right now, He was enough!” 
     Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, which not only included  the many weeks of interrogation in Pyongyang, but also months of hard labor in a prison camp during both extreme heat and cold.  In spite of his failing health and  the harsh conditions, Kenneth never gave up his trust in the Lord’s concern and care for him, and he continued to demonstrate God’s love to his captors. His goal was for even his guards to sense God’s love flowing through Him.  He was released Nov. 8, 2014, You can read his book to find out how that all came about.
      Only God knows the results of the two years that Kenneth Bae spent as a prisoner in North Korea, but the guards had started opening up to him and sharing about their families and their problems. Privately they began calling him “pastor”!  When he was released, they wept to see him go.  God had not forgotten Kenneth Bae while he was in prison in North Korea, nor has He forgotten the spiritual needs of the people of the DPRK.
     The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for more than 400 years when God appeared in a burning bush, saying to Moses,  “The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…’” (Ex. 3:7,8). God went on to ask Moses to go to Egypt and to Pharaoh and to lead the people out of bondage to the Promised Land. Moses made excuses, suggesting God pick someone else, but God responded, “Certainly I will be with you…I will be with your mouth, and teach you what your are to say” (Ex. 3:12; 4:12).  Moses faced some very difficult times with his task, but, as promised, God was with him. God never forgot him.
    Just as God was with Moses, and God was with Kenneth Bae, God is with us. He has promised that He will never desert us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5 cf DT.  31:6; Josh. 1:5,9).   No matter the adversity of your circumstances, God has not forgotten you. Kenneth Bae gave testimony to how much he grew in his intimate knowledge God during those two years of imprisonment in North Korea. He recognizes that the depth of his relationship God resulted from the greatest trial he had ever faced.  You too may be facing a difficult trial. Just remember, God is there and is using it to mold you and to conform you more fully into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Ro. 8:28,29).
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
P.S.  In 2016, Kenneth Bae founded the “Nehemiah Global Initiative” which has the goal of remembering, rescuing and recovering North Korean refugees and rebuilding their lives.
     
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A Foretaste of Heaven

Yesterday afternoon we attended a “Celebration of Life” for Jerry Davis, a long-time member of Three Lakes Community Bible Church where I pastored from 1974-2011.  Jerry and his wife, Sherry, were a tremendous blessing to our assembly and a great encouragement to my wife and me.  Every church seems to have those who feel they have “the gift of criticism,” but Jerry and Sherry were encouragers like Barnabas (means “Son of Encouragement”) in the New Testament who became a mentor to Saul of Tarsus just after his conversion, when others were reluctant to get close to Saul since he had a reputation for persecuting and killing followers of “The Way” (later called Christians…Acts 9:26,27; 11:26). 
     Jerry and Sherry had a puppet ministry and often put on skits to teach spiritual truths. They also developed a balloon ministry. They became very involved in our Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs and also ministered at the Bible camp which our church started, Elohim Bible Camp and Retreat Center.  They even went each summer up to Canada to minister at a camp and would often take young people with them to mentor and minister with them. Sherry had a great sense of humor and would often show up at a meeting with a big red nose and big ears or a funny hat. She always had a joke for me. With all the stress of the pastorate and the struggles that every pastor faces in dealing with people, it was so refreshing to have Jerry and Sherry Davis as those who came alongside, not to complain, but to encourage and assist. Jerry and Sherry had a tremendous love for the Lord, their physical family and also their church family. They had a great passion for souls, and shared the gospel with pretty much anyone with whom they came in contact.  They were always concerned about whether or not their children, and grandchildren were walking with the Lord.
     Sherry passed away two years ago and a couple weeks ago Jerry “graduated” from this earth to his heavenly home, Their passion to see others come to Christ and to grow in their faith continued right up to their dying breaths.  What a tremendous testimony they were and what an impact they had on their family and on all who knew them.
     Jerry seemed to have endless energy and was always eager and ready to go on a project. He was on our elder board and normally chaired the meetings. Every board has a “brakeman” who is very deliberate about proceeding on anything new, and an “engine” which “ drives the train—Jerry was definitely the “engine”! He also served for a time as the administrator of the Three Lakes Christian School started at our church. He also served on the board at Elohim Bible Camp. This was in addition to his work as a materials procurer and supplier to mines in the area. Oh, did I mention he also spent 20 years in the Air Force!
     Needless to say at the “Celebration” yesterday, we heard from many of the spiritual impact Jerry had on their lives.  Our celebration was held outdoors at a public park and the weather was ideal, with sunshine but not too hot, and with a gentle breeze.  We heard testimonies from those who had worked for Jerry, those who had taught at the Christian school, those who had been encouraged to become involved as  our youth leaders, those who had ministered with him in leadership at the church, and, of course, from his children and grandchildren. It was a great time of rejoicing.
      At the conclusion of the celebration service, there was a potluck and time to visit with those who had traveled to Troy, Montana to celebrate Jerry’s life.  What a time of fellowship we had. Many  (I counted at least 40) who came were  members of Three Lakes from way back who had moved away and some we hadn’t seen or visited with for years.   We had such a wonderful time catching up and sharing what the Lord has been doing in our lives and our families.  I couldn’t help but think of how heaven will be like that as we are reunited with family and friends who know Jesus and we can spend time catching up. Only there won’t be any “time” so we will have forever to do so!  Wow!  We spent about three hours Sunday afternoon rejoicing and fellowshipping and one day we will have eternity to do so—and Jesus will be there in person! 
     When Paul wrote his first letter to the believers at Thessalonica, he addressed a concern that they had about loved ones who had died. Paul obviously had spoken to them of the “rapture” when Christ takes the church (all believers) to heaven, but they had experienced the death of friends and family and wondered if they would get to see them again. So Paul wrote these words of comfort: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep (have died), that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a  shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thes. 4:13-18).  We get our word “rapture” from the Latin for “caught up.”  Those who have preceded us to heaven will return with Christ, their bodies raised and glorified, and those of us who are still alive will be caught up with them (also receiving glorified bodies…Phil. 3:20) and then all will be taken to our heavenly home.
     “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!  When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory”  (Eliza E. Hewitt).  Yesterday, the “Celebration of Life” for Jerry Davis was a little foretaste of what it will be like “when we all get to heaven.”  But, our time at Roosevelt Park in Troy, Montana came to an end, and we each returned to our earthly homes. Some of the people we visited with yesterday we may never see again here, but we know that we will for sure see them “on the way up” and then have forever to celebrate and praise and fellowship and rejoice. Hallelujah!  “Even so come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
     Until Then,
            Pastor Dave
P.S.  Next week, Part II of “Not Forgotten”
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Not Forgotten (Part I)

I’m sure each of us has at sometime been forgotten by a friend or loved one or fellow worker or…(and the list goes on).  Maybe someone made a promise they never kept and left you discouraged and possibly angry. Have you ever felt forgotten by God?  Do you ever wonder where He is when you really need Him?  It seems that every time a tragic event takes place—like the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York on 9-11-01— there are those who ask, “Where was God?”  Implied in the question is that either God is incapable of coming to our aid, or He is unaware of what is happening, or He doesn’t care. Obviously, we know from Scripture that none of these is true, for God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and cares deeply about us and what is happening to us at any given time. But in God’s infinite wisdom, He has a plan and purpose which He is carrying out which cannot be thwarted.  God never has to have a “plan B”!  But, He will always act on His timetable, not ours.
     There is an interesting statement in Genesis. God had Noah prepare an ark which would provide safety for him and his family during the judgment of the flood which covered the earth. After “He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the earth…and the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days” (Gen. 7:23,24), it says, “But God remembered Noah…and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided” (Gen. 8:1).  When it says, “God remembered Noah” it doesn’t imply He had forgotten all about him bobbing around in the giant barge filled with animals. Rather, it refers to God’s faithfulness in paying attention to the needs of His children. God is never aloof or otherwise occupied and not able or interested in coming to our aid. He is always there and will perform His purposes in His time.   
    God, speaking to and through the prophet Isaiah, said, “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purposes will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it’” (Isa. 46:9b-11).  God is never taken by surprise, is never overwhelmed by any situation, and never forgets us. To Israel, who throughout her history probably often felt forgotten by Him, God said: “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me” (Isa. 44:21). 
    When Nebuchadnezzar and his army conquered the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin in 596 B.C., 3,023 Jews were taken to Babylon (Jer.29:1 cf 52:28). They had now been there for 70 years and were undoubtedly discouraged and wondering “Where is God when we need Him?”  Jeremiah sent them a letter encouraging them, including these words from God: “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you (Jer. 24:6,7; Zeph. 2:7), to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope…And I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile’” (Jer. 29:10-14).
     Many of the Jewish people may again be wondering if God has forgotten them as they see the growing anti-Semitism worldwide and the plans that some of her neighboring nations have to push Israel into the sea and wipe her off the map. But, just think of the history of that little country since she once again became a nation in May of 1948. Think of all the attempts of enemy nations to destroy Israel. How did they do?  Has God forgotten Israel? Has He forgotten His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David?  Not at all. In fact the very existence of that little nation the size of Rhode Island and the influence she has had and still has on the world is strong evidence for the existence of Jehovah God who has protected His chosen people and will continue to do so. He most assuredly has not forgotten them.  Just as promised in Isaiah, God will accomplish His purposes and carry out His plans and will not forget His people. In fact, as we see in the letter to the Romans, one day “all Israel will be saved” (Ro. 11:1-27),  and God will fulfill all His promises to the Jews of a King and a Kingdom here on earth where Christ will reign on the throne of David for 1,000 years of peace and prosperity.
     Just as God will not forget the Jewish people, neither will He forget His children today. He knows all about your situation right now and is using it to accomplish His purpose in and through you—in His way and in His time. Just remember, “When you can’t see His hands, trust His heart.”  He will never leave you or forsake you (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5).  “Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that is happening along the way” (Pr. 20:24 LB). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Pr. 3:5,6 NASB), i.e., He will make the course of your life spiritually successful.
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
    
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You and the Local Church

Our son Grant and family were here for a week and then our daughter-in-law, Arika, and granddaughter, Lacey, returned to Oregon on the train so Lacey could attend Bible camp last week. Grant and our grandson, Luke, stayed until this past Saturday to help us with work projects, which we very much appreciated since I am still recovering from shoulder surgery.  They headed back on Saturday so they wouldn’t miss church on Sunday! 
     That was a real encouragement to us to see how important attending church is to them. They are part of a church with a fantastic Bible teacher who preaches for a full hour as he preaches through the Bible on Wednesday night, Saturday night and Sunday morning (three services).  Obviously, God’s Word, when taught clearly and authoritatively, still meets needs as it always has and always will.
     Unfortunately, for many Christians today, attending church consistently is not a priority—is not an important part of their week. Church, to them, has become more of a “convenience store” if they attend at all.  Some professing Christians attend only twice a year—Christmas and Easter. Then there are those who only go twice in their lifetime—to get married and to get buried, when it takes six strong men to take them to church!
     There are many who have had a bad church experience so have dropped out completely.  But I doubt if they quit eating because their mother or wife burned the biscuits!  Others think they really don’t need church to grow as a Christian so have become “Lone Rangers,” trying to go it alone, with no support group or accountability or opportunity to use the gifts God has given them.  Perhaps those who don’t think they need church don’t think much of the One who founded it (cf Mt. 16:18)! 
     While there are no perfect churches because they are made up of imperfect people, it happens to be the institution through which Christ has chosen to carry out His continued ministry on earth until He comes in the air to take the Church to heaven. (In fact, if you find a “perfect” church, please don’t join it—you’ll ruin it!)  While every true, born-again believer is a member of the universal church, the local church (or assembly) is the visible church made up of professing believers who have banded together for worship, instructions and service (cf Acts 2:38-47).  The assembly might meet in a public building or in a home (Acts 11:22; 14:23; Ro. 16:1,5; I Cor. 1:2; Col. 4:5; Rev. 1-3).  Most of Paul’s letters were addressed to local assemblies of believers who gathered for the following purposes: Instruction (Eph. 4:11-16), Fellowship (koinonia = sharing with; having in common; partnership…Acts 4:31-35), Prayer (Acts 4:31-33), Praise (Acts 2:46,47; Psa. 147:1; 149:1; 150), Mutual Edification (Eph. 4:11-16; Ro. 12:10-13; I Cor. 12:4-7). Encouragement and Stimulation to action (Heb. 10:24,25), Evangelizaton (equipped for rescue work outside the church walls…Acts 1:8; Mt. 28:19; II Cor. 5:17-20) and Missions (sending and supporting missionaries…Phil. 4:10-18). 
     Ron Hutchcraft in a recent “A Word With You” devotional, spoke of how we are “Built to Be Attached.”  He used the analogy of how branches must stay attached to the tree if they are going to be full of life, grow and bear fruit. Similarly, “believers in Jesus Christ are built to be attached to His Body which He called the church. And when they’re not, they start dying…God intended following Jesus to be a team sport.”  Some have distanced themselves from the team and are trying to make it a solo sport, but it doesn’t work that way. “Jesus set up His church as the place where you can worship Him with your spiritual family, where you can serve Him, where you participate in the spiritual obediences like communion and baptism, where you get to know people that you need and who need you.”  Maybe you’ve been hurt by fellow believers or church leaders and have become disillusioned, maybe even embittered. “But you can’t just stay there. You may find a different body of believers to be a part of, but not being a part of one is just not an option for a believer who claims to be following Christ. If your eyes have been on people, or on your wounds, on the things that are wrong with a church, well then, you will tend to directly disobey our Lord and ‘give up the habit of meeting together’ (Heb. 10:24,25).” The church isn’t perfect but it is the institution Jesus has chosen to work through on earth. It  is our spiritual “home” on earth. If you’ve been away, it’s time to come home.
     “The church has many critics, but no rivals” (George Sweeting”).  A good indication of our spiritual temperature is our eagerness to go to church. The Psalmist, David, wrote: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psa. 122:1).  Psalm 84, which expresses the pilgrim’s passion for God’s house, includes these statements: “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD…How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house!  They are ever praising Thee…For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” 
     “If the church is central to God’s purpose, as seen in both history and the gospel, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center?” (John Stott). Remember: CH__ __CH means little unless UR in it!
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
    
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The Amazing Tartigrades

  I had the privilege yesterday to speak at our home church, Faith Bible. It was church campout weekend on the nearby Koocanusa Reservoir, and the pastor went with the campers to speak on Sunday. I spoke to the small group of folks who stayed behind (They needed to be fed too!).  My message was on “Experiencing God in Creation.”  In my research, I read an article in the Institute for Creation Research’s magazine, Acts and Facts, about a cute little creature that God made called the Tartigrades (also called moss piglets or water bears).
     Tartigrades are “cute” microscopic eight-legged, segmented, aquatic animals that may live in moss around your home, eat algae, are compact enough to stand on a pencil tip, and are the toughest creatures yet discovered. One sample group spent 10 days in space with no oxygen. They were exposed to UV radiation 1,000 times greater than at the Earth’s surface, but after they were retrieved, they proceeded to reproduce normally. They can also withstand pressures six times greater than the deepest spot in the ocean (about 7 miles).  They’ve been known to exist in a dehydrated state for more than a century and return to normal activity when exposed to water!  The secret of their survival is the ability to shut down their metabolism completely while maintaining their cellular structure. They have the ability to switch off all living processes and then start them up again. What an amazing example of God’s engineering and design skills as the Omnipotent, Omniscient Creator!
     The seemingly infinite universe with its billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars is jaw dropping and beyond our finite ability to comprehend, but as you focus in on the features of our planet Earth where God designed for us to live and to manage all the flora and fauna He created, you realize that each plant and each creature He made has very special, unique, amazing features. Everyone is a reflection of the greatness of our God. Take any one of His plants or animals and do a detailed study and you will just stand in awe.  Here are just a few examples in addition to the Tartigrades:
     1.   Plants with tender roots, sometimes more slender than a thread, that penetrate hard, rocky soil.
     2.  The photosynthesis process that locks the energy of sunshine into food for a leaf—still not fully
           understood by scientists.
     3.  The coloring on the wing of a swallowtail butterfly due to 750,000 tiny colored scales.
     4.  The Archer Fish which calculates the height and speed of an insect flying up to 20 ft. overhead, and in                the instant of hurling a jet of water from under the surface, calculates also the angle of refraction and the           quantity of water needed to bring down its prey.
     5.  The Bombardier Beatle which combines gases to produce an explosion to frighten away its enemy                    without blowing itself up!
     6.  The Arctic Tern, which carries within its small brain the inbred instinct to navigate from the Arctic Circle              to  the Antarctic and back—25,000 miles.
     7.  The supersonic squeal of bats which gave the world radar during WW II; Bats using their sonar, can fly              through the moving blades of a fan without hitting the blades!
     8.  The silent flight of owls due to the unique design of their serrated feathers—a concept being applied to              the blades on turbines to make jet engines quieter.
     9.  The four legs of the giant elephant all bend forward in the same direction. No other quadruped is so                    made. God planned that this animal would have a huge body, too large to live on two legs. For this                      reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it can rise from the ground easily.  The horse rises
          from the ground on its two front legs first. The cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.
     No wonder, Job in his response to his supposed comforter, Zophar, told him to check out God’s creatures and learn from them: “But ask the beasts and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind?” (Job. 12:7-10).
     The same God who made each of His creatures uniquely and purposefully, made you and me. The lives of each of us may be ordered by the Lord in a beautiful way for His glory, if we will only entrust Him with our lives. If we try to regulate our own lives, they will be a mess and failure. Only the One who made us can successfully guide us to a profitable, purposeful, meaningful end.  The Psalmist, David, wrote: “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psa. 100:3).  David, himself a shepherd, understood sheep and the need for a good shepherd who cares for the sheep, and found God to be that “Good Shepherd.” He also wrote the beloved 23rd Psalm, which begins with “the LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…” In other words, He is all I need, and He meets my every need.
      If God put so much care into the design of His creatures, just imagine how much engineering and loving design went into making us,  the “crown of His creation” (Psa. 8:5). David speaks of that in Psa. 139:13-18: “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee” (Amen—PTL!).
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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