Only God Can Make a Tree

    The middle of October is one of my very favorite times of year. The heat of summer has subsided as the days grow shorter and the angle of the sun changes to bring about the fall season with its cool, crisp mornings and the trees reach their peak of color, with the many shades of red, orange and yellow displayed against a deep blue sky—awesome! 
     We have friends, Ivan and Linda Varner,  visiting here, having driven all the way from Pennsylvania to spend the month of October in the Libby area where they used to reside many years ago. We once had Bible study in their home and I hunted deer and elk with Ivan—lots of special memories. Knowing how much they enjoy the trees, we took them yesterday after church to a local cross country ski area that is right on the edge of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon and we just wandered on the ski trails enjoying the smell of the cedar, white fir, spruce, and  Douglas fir trees and the colors of the deciduous trees and bushes and the Western Larch whose needles are just starting to turn from their summer green to yellow-orange before falling to provide a soft blanket on the forest floor.  There are few things more beautiful and soothing than walking through a forest or grove of trees. 
     Scripture has much to say about these majestic woody perennials, from the “fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind” (Gen. 1:11) to “the tree of life” that will be freely accessible to all believers in the renewed earth one day (Rev. 22:2).  A number of tree varieties are mentioned in the Bible. Can you name them?  The list includes: gopher (Gen. 6:14…the Hebrew word is a root of the word gophrith, which is translated elsewhere in the OT as “brimstone” and would refer to a form of plant material with sulfur-bearing lignin which is true of hardwoods),  oak (Gen. 12:6; 35: 8; Josh. 24:26), acacia (Ex. 25:10…for the Ark of the Covenant and table for bread in the Tabernacle),  palm (Judges 4:5), tamarisk (I Sam. 22:6), cedar (I Kgs. 5:6…from Lebanon for construction of the Temple),  olive (Ro. 11:17..a symbol of the national life of Israel and the Abrahamic covenant), fig (Mt. 21:19). 
     Trees were part of God’s creation, made on the third day of “creation week” (Gen. 1:12,13).  They undoubtedly had the appearance of age, probably with growth rings and all. Whatever God spoke into existence or made from the elements He created, started out as mature plants and animals with the ability to reproduce “after their kind” (Gen. 1:12) so naturally had built into each the appearance of age, though just made.  Trees have always been trees in all of their majestic beauty and design.  Evolutionists, who reject the biblical authority of origins, have no explanation for the origin of the at least 60,000 identified tree species in the world. Evolutionist Elizabeth Stacy of the University of Hawaii Hilo says, “We know next to nothing about how they (trees) got here” (Trees: An Engineering Wonder…Acts and Facts, September 2015).
     The design of trees and their ability to reproduce “after their kind” is clear indication of their having been created, and did not evolve (Ro. 1:20).  The whirling winged seeds of conifers or maples, and the flying cotton from the Cotton Wood and the berries from the Mountain Ash which birds spread everywhere are an engineering wonder which required a brilliant engineer!
     ”Not only are the varieties of seed dispersal evidence of design, but the construction of basic tree structure that enables them to reach hundreds of feet into the air reflects God’s creative hand. Trees are without an internal or external skeleton to provide their rigidity and support but each plant cell has a robust cell wall composed of cellulose (the most abundant biomolecule on Earth) that we appreciate every time we bite into a celery stalk. Together, these trillions of cell walls make up the wood of the tree. Where did wood come from? Evolutionists don’t know!” (Acts and Facts, September 2015).  The Bible says, “And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…” (Gen. 2:9). 
     Poet Joyce Kilmer understood that only God could make a tree as he reflected in “Trees” published in 1914:
               
                “I think that I shall never see
                A poem as lovely as a tree.
 
                A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
                Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.
 
                A tree that looks at God all day,
                And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
 
                A tree that may in summer wear
                A nest of robins in her hair,
 
                Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
                Who intimately lives with rain
 
             Poems are made by fools like me,
                But only God can make a tree.”
 
     Amen!!  As you view God’s spectacular fall display of colors, pause and thank God who “richly supplies us with all things (including trees) to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17).
 
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Footless Fliers

While on our recent trip to Oregon to spend time with family, we had the rare privilege of witnessing the spectacular phenomenon of thousands of Chimney Swifts preparing for their long migration flight back to South America for the winter.  Our son coaches the varsity volleyball team at North Clackamas Christian School in Oregon City and we had gone with him to watch them play against Portland Waldorf, a private charter school in their conference. At the end of the match, we walked outside of their gym and soon all had their eyes fixed on the sky immediately above a large old chimney at the school where there were thousands of Chimney Swifts swirling in tornado-like fashion, feasting on the evening hatch of insects. What a sight!
     Chimney Swifts are swallow-like in appearance and behavior, but with slimmer, scythe-like wings and short tails. The sooty-gray Chimney Swift is best identified by its sleek silhouette, often compared to a “flying cigar.” They are structurally distinct with flat skulls and all four toes pointing forward. Their flight is very rapid,”twinkling,” sailing between spurts with wings stiffly bowed. They are among the most aerial of all birds and—like the hummingbirds—Swifts have long wingtip bones that give them added maneuverability in flight. The family name, Apodidae, means “footless” in Greek. The Swifts do in fact have feet which are useful only for clinging to vertical surfaces.  These fantastic fliers can eat, drink, break off twigs for their nest, mate, and even sleep while in flight! God, in His great wisdom, designed the Chimney Swift with special feet that enable them to cling to vertical surfaces and also with sticky saliva that they use to hold their twig nest together on the inside of a chimney.
     Chimney Swifts are migratory birds which winter in South America, returning to North America in early April. Like bats, these birds once nested primarily in old hollow trees, but as the trees disappeared from the landscape, they now nest almost exclusively in chimneys,  And, like bats, they eat lots of flying insects.  They make their nests on the inside walls of chimneys, coming out at dusk to forage for insects.  Chimneys made of stone, fire brick or masonry flue tiles with mortared joints provide the ideal surface for nesting swifts.
     Sometime in mid to late September, prior to migrating south for the winter, they form large flocks as they prepare for their long trip back to South America.  They search out a large chimney as a temporary staging area for their upcoming trip.  If you are fortunate, as we were last week in Portland, at dusk, you may get to witness the amazing spectacle of up to 10,000 Chimney Swifts swirling in and out of a large chimney, gorging on insects and then returning to the chimney to rest up for their long flight. 
     As we consider the wonderful design of God’s amazing creatures like the Chimney Swift we can’t help but feel a sense of awe at how God has equipped each species of birds and animals for survival on the earth He prepared for them, and then to think that He put us, as the “crown” of all of His Creation, in charge of it all and asked us to care for it. No wonder the Psalmist, David, shouted out, “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens?…When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; what is man, that You are mindful of him, the son of man, that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor!  You made him ruler over the works of Thy hands; You put everything under his feet, all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swims the paths of the sea. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8). 
     As we consider how God cares for His creatures like the little Chimney Swift, we are reminded of Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Mt. 6:26).   The God who cares for the birds and animals which He created surely cares much more about us and our needs.  That’s why David could write in the beloved Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psa. 73:25,26). 
    Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
    
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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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