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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Centerlines

This  time of year the centerlines on the highway disappear under the snowpack. Even after the roads are plowed there is usually a skim of snow or ice covering the centerlines, making driving interesting because it is very hard to know if you are in your lane. Each summer the lines have to be repainted too, as they are faded and scuffed from traffic and difficult to see. Even though you think you know where the line used to be, there is no clear distinction between lanes, making driving hazardous.
     We are living in a time when the lines between truth and fiction and between right and wrong have become so blurred that it is like driving on a highway with no clear centerlines. The absolute truths of God’s Word have been eroded and even erased in the minds of many and it has become like a free-for-all on the highways of life.  Those who insist that we need the lines to follow are mocked and sometimes even punished for “staying in their lane.”  To even suggest that there is absolute truth in the areas of marriage, and sanctity of life of the preborn, for example, is to be “intolerant” and “politically incorrect.”  and even in need of counseling!  What a crazy, mixed up world, where evil is now called  good and good is called evil, where darkness is substituted for light and light for darkness (cf Isa. 5:20). When “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 cf Isa. 5:21).    In the past several decades in the United States, we have seen the “centerlines” of truth and morality either moved or eliminated and those of us who still want to “stay in our lanes” often find ourselves going against the flow of the traffic and subject to being fined if we don’t “move over.”
     As we approach a New year, we need to renew our resolve to adhere to the truths of God’s Word, no matter what the “traffic” we are going up against.  We need to dare to be like Daniel, who “made up his mind that he would not defile himself” (Dan. 1: 8) With a clear understanding of the “centerlines” he kept his resolve even though it meant facing the lions den (Dan. 6). Similarly, the three Hebrews—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—also faced possible death in the fiery furnace if they didn’t bow down and worship the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. But they too stood on their convictions and said, “…O king, we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan. 3:18).
     Even Jesus was tempted by the devil to “move the centerlines” of His mission here on earth, but Jesus resisted by quoting the directives from God’s Word. He, in doing so, set the example for us to follow when we are tempted to follow the direction culture is going. Don’t compromise the truths of God’s Word to fit in and “go with the flow.” The Apostle Paul admonishes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Ro. 12:2). 
     Maybe, as you begin this new year ahead, you need to “repaint the center lines” in your life. Maybe you have allowed the world to “squeeze you into its mold” (Ro. 12:2 in The Living Bible).  Be willing to follow Christ and His Word this year, no matter what others are doing or saying. Stay true to the Lord. May our hearts say along with the old chorus: “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning back.”
     A joyous New Year to you all,
            Pastor Dave
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Rescue Work (Part II)

My first 11 years were spent living near Flathead Lake in Montana, the largest fresh-water lake west of the Mississippi. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the water and also took swimming lessons from early on. During the summers of high school, after moving to Libby, Montana, I took water safety and life saving courses. Our classes were at the city pool (no longer in existence) which was drained and re- filled each week. My classes were on Monday evenings—just after the pool had been refilled and wow, was it cold.  I got to utilize my training later as we joined Rocky Mountain Bible Mission and helped with and later directed a summer Bible camp. I was the life guard at the swimming hole. Fortunately, I never had to rescue anyone from a life-threatening situation. 
     One of the rules of life saving is that you do everything possible to rescue someone without going into the water with them. Many would-be rescuers have lost their lives in an attempt to save someone from drowning. A person who is in danger of drowning is usually not thinking logically, is in panic-mode and has extra strength due to all the adrenalin and will grab onto you and take you down with them. If you do have to go in the water after them, you dive before you get to them and while underwater and out of sight, turn them around and get them in a bear hug with one arm around their chest and then do the side stroke while swimming them to safety. 
     Dawson Trotman (March 25, 1906-June 18, 1956) was the founder of The Navigators in 1934. The Christian ministry, working especially on college campuses and in the military,  emphasizes evangelism, one-on-one discipleship, and Scripture memorization. Dawson (known as “Daws”) lost his life on June 18, 1956  while rescuing a girl, Ailene Beck, from drowning while water skiing on Schroon Lake in Adirondack Park in New York. According to one story, he had already rescued two other girls who had fallen into the lake, lifting them back up into the boat, and had gone after the third and didn’t return. He died “lifting others up!”
     Daws himself had to be rescued earlier in life, but not from drowning. In high school he was class valedictorian, student body president, chairman of the student council, and captain of the basketball team, but in the next several years his life drifted dangerously. He gambled, drank, and became a “pool shark.” A late night encounter with a local policeman was a catalyst for an encounter with Jesus Christ. Drunk and unable to find his car, Trotman was arrested at an amusement park. Fortunately the officer saw a deeper problem than alcohol and asked, “Son, do you like this kind of life?” Daws replied, “I hate it!” The policeman returned his keys and encouraged him to change his lifestyle. 
     Two days later, Trotman attended a youth gathering at a local church where contests were conducted for Scripture memorization. Given 10 verses on salvation, Trotman was the only person in the group who memorized them all for the next week’s meeting. Given 10 more verses to memorize on spiritual growth for the next week, Trotman quickly learned them as well. Several weeks later, the Holy Spirit used one of the verses on salvation to speak to Daws’ heart and he prayed, “Oh, God, whatever it means to receive Jesus, I want to do that right now.” He spent the next several years in intensive personal evangelism while committing himself to a discipline of prayer, Bible study and memorization. His sharing with a sailor, Les Spencer, in 1934 marked the beginning of the Navigator organization which has grown to about 3600 staff representing 60 nationalities and working in 101 countries.  When Billly Graham spoke at Daws’ funeral, he said that he didn’t know anyone else who had touched as many lives for Christ as Dawson Trotman—a true rescuer of souls.
     The greatest “Rescuer” of all time, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ who came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  Dawson Trotman “lifted up” the girls who would have drowned in Schroon Lake. Jesus was Himself “lifted up” on the Cross and all who look to Him will be rescued from the judgment of sin, which is death (Ro. 6:23), separation from God eternally.  Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (Jn. 12:31,32).  “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 (satisfaction) for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10). 
     We can all shout with the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15). Amen!!
                    A blessed Christmas to you all,
                        Pastor Dave
    
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Rescue Work

  Since we live in an area where there is a lot of outdoor recreation including, hunting, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, fishing, water sports, rock climbing and ice climbing—to name a few—there is often a need for rescue work. Added to that, of course, are the house fires and vehicle accidents that require rescue teams.  We have an excellent volunteer fire department, ambulance crew and a David Thompson Search and Rescue that are often called upon.
     As Doug Hutchraft wrote in Ron Hutchcraft Ministries magazine called RESCUE,  “ we hear the word ‘rescue’ all the time in our world—rescue from a flood…rescue from a fire…rescue from a natural disaster. ‘Rescue’ means somebody is in trouble, and they need help. Lives are at stake!” 
     In President Ronald Reagan’s final days on the earth he was struggling with the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. As people came to visit Mr. Reagan, conversations about the past became more and more frustrating. First, memories of his movie star days left him, then his days as governor of California and finally he could no longer remember even his days serving as President. Amazingly, though, one memory remained, one that was triggered by a picture on his wall of a river where Ronald Reagan made his most enduring memories. When visitors asked about the picture, he would brighten and say, “Oh, that’s the Rock River in Illinois where I was a lifeguard. That’s where I saved 77 lives!”   Long after memories of his amazing achievements from Hollywood to the White House were gone, one memory remained—the lives he rescued.
     That’s how it will be for all of us who are Jesus’ followers. When every other achievement of life has faded away, one will remain—the lives we rescued.  Solomon wrote in his “Book of Wisdom” known as Proverbs:  “Deliver (rescue) those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh, hold them back”  (Pr. 24:11. As Jude 23 says, we are to “save others, snatching (rescuing) them out of the fire.”  Paul, in writing to his understudy Timothy, said, “And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness, correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (II Tim. 2:24-26). 
     Many lives have been spared (physically) by trained rescue workers who respond to an emergency, be it someone who has capsized in a river, fallen down a cliff, become lost in the mountains, been caught in an avalanche, trapped in a burning house, or any number of other life-threatening situations. As believers, we are to equip ourselves with God’s Word to enable us to rescue those who are in danger of entering an eternity separated from God. That’s the most important work we have to do as “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20). How can we possibly sit idly by when many around us are in grave danger. It is a “life-and-death” matter.  It’s amazing that so often when someone is in a life-threatening situation, many people will not stop to help. They don’t want to get involved, feel inadequate, or just plain don’t care!  There’s a story that Jesus told that illustrates this said commentary. We know of it as the parable of “The Good Samaritan” recorded for us in Luke 10:29-37. A man traveling between Jerusalem and Jericho was robbed, beaten and left along the trail. Later both a priest and a Levite happened by but just “passed by on the other side” not bothering to stop and help the injured man. Then a Samaritan happened by, had compassion on him, bandaged up his wounds, brought him to an inn and paid the innkeeper to care for him. What would you have done?  All around us are people in trouble (not just physically, but spiritually) who need to be rescued.  They need our help. Lives are at stake. 
     The Bible is really the greatest “rescue story” ever written. From Genesis to Revelation, we read of God’s “rescue” plan to deliver us from the ravages of sin and the condemnation of the Law. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard for us. Because of sin we are separated from God and headed for eternal judgment, but God, in His compassion, mercy and grace put into action a rescue plan involving God the Son, who came to earth as a man to provide a means of escape through dying in our place and paying the penalty for our sins so that we could, by believing on Him, be spared eternal judgment and have eternal life. Jesus said, “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn. 3:16; 5:24).
    Each of us is either in need of being rescued, or we are rescuers. Which are you?  If you still need rescuing, just admit you are in need of rescuing and put your trust in The Rescuer, Jesus Christ and what He did for you at the Cross. If you have been rescued, pray that God will open your eyes to the needs of those around you, then open your mouth to share with them the “Good News” that Jesus came to rescue them.
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
 
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Blind Guides

So, one of neighbors called a couple days ago and said there was a Great Dane dog wandering around in his yard. Figuring it belonged to another of our neighbors, he led the dog down our driveway and I met him to help him take the dog home. But I noticed as they approached that this Great Dane was all white except for a couple black spots on the hind end.  One of our neighbor’s Great Danes is black and the other is black and white.  This was definitely not one of them. It had albino features with pink eyes and pink nose and very white coat. Oh, and also, the dog was both blind and deaf. She had been bumping into the sides buildings when our neighbor found her. Since the rescuing neighbor has four dogs of his own, he couldn’t really keep it while we looked for the owner, so I offered to put it in our back yard. I stayed with her while Kathy began making some phone calls and the neighbor also made some calls and started canvassing the neighborhood looking for the owner.
     Meanwhile, we had quite an interesting time. I felt really badly for the dog, that appeared to have been well-cared for, and since she was not in familiar surroundings she really wanted me to stay by her side. She was a very sweet dog and very playful. It was pretty chilly outside, and it looked as if the Great Dane was an inside dog so I tried taking her inside—what a mistake that was! She began checking out the house, but, not being able to see, was running into lamps, end tables, etc. So, I took her back outside while Kathy continued making calls. We were beginning to wonder what in the world we would do if we had to keep the dog overnight.
     Well, praise the Lord, after a few more minutes of “dog-sitting”’ in the back yard, I heard Kathy say that the owner was on the way. We were all very grateful and relieved, the dog included who obviously could smell the presence of her owner when she arrived. The gate in their back yard (just a few blocks away) had been left open by mistake. It is very fortunate that the dog wandered into our neighbor’s yard rather than out onto the highway where she—being blind and deaf—would have been very vulnerable.
     As I observed the plight of the blind, deaf Great Dane, I couldn’t help but think of a statement Jesus made about the hypocritical Pharisees. He said: “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Mt. 15:14). Again in Mt. 23:24-26, Jesus said: “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee,  first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”
     The Pharisees themselves were spiritually blind. They didn’t realize that their adherence to the Law plus all the traditions they had added, had not gained them a right standing with God. They were attempting to establish their own righteousness through the Law, but as the Apostle Paul later wrote, “…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Ro. 3:20). The Law just exposed sin, it made no provision to atone for it. That’s why Jesus came. Paul, writing to the churches in Galatia, said, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified……for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:26,21b).  Elsewhere, Paul wrote that “…the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (II Cor. 4:4). 
     The Pharisees were spiritually blind, “stumbling around” and constantly bumping into things (worried about all sorts of nit-picking details which were of no real consequence because of their false conception of how to become righteous), yet they were trying to be the spiritual guides of others. Jesus could see through their phoniness and firmly pointed it out to them.  There is probably no more dangerous place to be spiritually than to think you are okay when you are in reality lost and will suffer eternal judgment if you stay in that state. And then the tragedy is compounded when these spiritually blind folks attempt to guide others. Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven (believing in Jesus….Jn. 6:40). Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’ ” (Mt. 7:21-23).
     Just as it was sad to see this blind, deaf Great Dane wandering aimlessly, so it is very sad to observe folks who are spiritually blind, wandering aimlessly, bumping into things. And then it is even more difficult to watch as some of them are actually in positions of leadership guiding others down their same path. I pray that God will open the eyes of their hearts to see the truth of who Jesus is and to give them a desire to know Him and experience the new birth and gain their spiritual sight. Paul, whose background was Saul of Tarsus, the proud Pharisee, when he encountered the risen Christ and had his spiritual eyes opened had a burden for his fellow Jews who were still living in blindness and wrote: “Brethren, my heart’s desire for them is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Ro. 10:1-4).
     Upon what are you basing your hope of eternal life? 
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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