Serving Well

  As a tennis instructor and player, I realize how important it is to serve well if you are going to be successful. When you are serving well you play more confidently, but when you struggle serving, the rest of your game usually suffers as well. I can think of a number of professional players like Pete Sampras and Serena Williams who have been able to win consistently even when they are not playing their best tennis because they have such amazing serves.
     The serve is probably the most difficult stroke in tennis to learn. It has so many aspects that need to come together—the ball toss, the racket preparation and motion and the timing. When I am teaching a beginner the basics of tennis, the serve is normally the skill that comes the hardest.  Once you learn the basic elements of the serve it takes continual repetition until it becomes consistent. In a recent “Wisdom of the Week,” I referred to one of our high school players who, although working two jobs this summer, tried to serve at least 200 balls each day, with a goal of competing for the state championship next spring.
     Not only is serving well a key to success in tennis, it is a key to success in life as well—especially for the Christian. Because of how God made us, we find our ultimate fulfillment and purpose in serving Him and others. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest of the commandments, He replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39). In essence Jesus summarized all ten commandments and they are fulfilled in loving God and loving others, and that is expressed by serving.  Jesus set the example for us. He said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever wishes to be the first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:25-28). 
     The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the churches and church leaders, often referred to himself as  “a bond-servant of Christ” (Ro. 1:1 cf Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1). He understood that he had been set free from bondage to sin and willingly submitted himself as a bond-slave to his new master, Jesus Christ (See Ex. 21:5,6 for the background of “bond-slave”). He totally committed himself to serving God as the missionary to the Gentiles, the special task to which God called him at his conversion (Acts 9:15). He gave his life in service to God by serving those to whom God called him. He was definitely loving God with all his heart, soul and mind, and loving his neighbors as himself.  Paul followed the example set for Him by his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who “…did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
     Jesus demonstrated His condescension to the role of a bond-servant at many times and in many ways, but one that stands out in particular is when He was meeting with His disciples for the final Passover meal before His arrest, trial and crucifixion. We read in John 13:3-5,  “Jesus…rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel…” Jesus then said to His disciples, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (vv. 14,15). He wasn’t necessarily instituting an ordinance of foot washing, but was giving an example of servanthood which He expected of the disciples—and us.
     Just as serving well is a key to successful tennis, so serving well is a key to successful Christian living. We need to heed Paul’s admonition to the believers at Philippi: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4).
     Are you dissatisfied with your “lot in life.”  Here’s a good suggestion: Build a “service station” on it!
                    Forever His,
                            Pastor Dave
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“I Will Be With You”

  I noticed as I walked down the hallway that the carpet was damp. I asked Kathy, who was in taking a bath, if she had walked down the hall with wet feet. When she replied, “No, why?” I knew we had a leaky hot water tank that is enclosed in a cabinet next to the hall. I flipped the breaker to the tank, and removed the cabinet to examine the tank. Sure enough, it was leaking, so I tried to shut off the valve on the cold water input, but it wouldn’t shut off. I had to turn off the water pump and go down in the crawl space and close the valve coming in from the well. We hooked up a garden hose to drain the tank outside.  The carpet was pretty wet and would need to be dried out with heat and fans, but I thought of what could have happened if we hadn’t been home. We had recently returned from 10 days in Oregon!
     The next morning I called my neighbor to help me get and install a new tank. We also had to replace the shut-off valve on the cold water input line.  After a couple trips to the plumbing store for parts, we had everything hooked up again and waited to turn the water on until after we ate lunch, giving the glued pipes a chance to dry. After lunch we turned on the water and had one drip so had to shut off the water again and cut the pipe apart to put in a new fitting and glue it again.  All seemed okay and the neighbor left. We turned the pump on and went outside for a bit, and then Kathy was vacuuming the hallway by the tank and  I was walking by when the joint in the cold water input line came apart and water shot across the hall, hitting me squarely. Kathy reached up and quickly shut off our newly installed valve. But quite a bit of water also hit the carpet which was already quite damp. But, Praise the Lord, we had come back inside and were right there when the pipe came loose. There was some tension on the water line and I had to go down in the crawl space and install a pipe strap to ease the tension before I glued it again. This time it held!
     We live in a world that is under the curse of sin, as evidenced by the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the “law of increasing entropy”) which says everything is wearing out, winding down, becoming more randomized and less complex.  Our clothes wear out, our bodies age and ultimately die, metal rusts, wood rots, hot water tanks leak! And none of us—Christians included—-is exempt from this law which resulted from original sin in the Garden. But, while we will continue to face the results of the curse God placed upon the earth (Gen. 3), God promises that He will always be with us no matter what and often we can see how He is at work in the details of our lives in times of adversity and trial. Until God removes the curse from the earth, there will continue to be leaky hot water tanks and a whole list of other things that fail, including our health, but one thing is sure—God will be there helping us through these times. Isaiah records God’s words saying: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched. Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God…you are precious in My sight…and I love you.” While God’s promise is to Israel in Isa. 43:2, throughout Scripture He promises to be with us and though we may go through deep-water experiences and fiery trials of adversity, He will be there and will provide the support we need to make it through. When He called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, He said to the hesitant Moses, “Certainly I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12). The Israelites faced much adversity as they made their 40-year journey to the land God promised, but God was always there providing for them. As they neared the land, Moses gave the people this challenge: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them (the people in Canaan) for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you…the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed” (Dt. 31:6,8).  When He selected Joshua to lead the people into the land of Canaan, He repeated the promise to them, saying: “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
     You will recall that when the prophet Elijah prayed that God would withhold the rain, there was a drought for 3 years, and Elijah was not exempt from the effects, but God sent him to the brook Cherith, where He had water and God sent ravens morning and evening with bread and meat to feed him (I Kgs. 17:1-7).  When the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to Zarephath where God miraculously multiplied the widow’s handful of flour and little jar of oil to feed them during the remainder of the drought (vv. 8-16). 
     God chose Habakkuk to warn Judah of the coming invasion by the Babylonians whom God would use to cleanse His people of their wicked ways.  Habakkuk asked God, “How in the name of holiness can you use a nation even more corrupt than Judah to judge them?” (Hab. 1:12-17).  When God patiently answered the prophet’s question (Hab. 2),  Habakkuk responded in prayer and praise for the person, power and purpose of God (Hab. 3).   Note his closing words:“Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The LORD GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19).
     Whatever else may fail, God “will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Since we still have the LORD, we can always “rejoice in the God my salvation” (Hab. 3:18).  Since God is with us always, we can often see His hand working out the details for us as He helps us through our trials, whether it is simply a leaky hot water tank, or something far more serious such as failing health, or loss of employment, or the death of a friend or loved one. That’s why we are able to obey the command of I Thes. 5:18: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It is because God is there with us and will provide the support we need and grow us through it.
    When we went to the plumbing store to pay our bill—someone had already paid $200 of the bill—Praise the Lord! 
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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Autumn Colors

Ooh!  Aah!  and Wow!  Have been expressions we have uttered a lot in the past couple weeks as we observe the magnificent colors of fall which this year have been especially magnificent here in the northwest. They had begun showing up in Oregon while we were there and have really been on display here in our area of Montana.  We are so fortunate to live in one of those parts of the world where nature has one last fling before settling down into winter’s sleep. In God’s design of this planet Earth as the special place for habitation by mankind, He established seasons by how  He oriented the Earth in our solar system, and in many areas such as ours we have very distinct changes of seasons, each of which has its own beauty. The prophet Isaiah recorded this statement from God: “For thus says the LORD who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), ‘I am the LORD, and there is none else’” (Isa. 45:18). 
     Just as we learn a lot about a builder by examining what he has built, we observe much about our awe-inspiring God by observing His amazing creation. He didn’t merely create the earth in such a way that life could exist, but He also incorporated spectacular beauty and breath-taking details that are mind-boggling when examined closely. He did all this not only to display His glory but also for man, the crown of His creation (Psa. 8, 104), to enjoy. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to challenge him to instruct people to “fix their hope on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17).
     That includes the beauty of the autumn colors which He made possible by how He made plants and trees and increases the length of night time in the fall. As days shorten and temperatures become crisp, the greens of summer foliage are transformed into the kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and browns over which we have been oohing and aahing.  In His all-wise design, God incorporated three factors which influence autumn leaf color: leaf pigments, length of night, and weather. The timing of color change and falling leaves is primarily regulated by the calendar, i.e., the increasing length of darkness. As days grow shorter, and nights longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with various shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. Three types of pigments are involved in foliage which provide the autumn palette of color:
        1)  Chlorophyll, which gives leaves their basic green color and is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for their food—sugars that are     stored for their winter dormant period.
        2)  Carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange and brown colors in such things as corn, carrots, daffodils and bananas.
        3)  Anthocyanins, which give color to such things as cranberries, red apples, concord grapes, blueberries and strawberries.
     Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the spring and summer growing seasons. Most anthocyanins are produced in the autumn, in response to bright light and excess plant sugars within the leaf cells. During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As night length increases in the autumn, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops allowing the carotenoids and anthocyanins present in the leaf to be unmasked and “show their true colors.” The timing of the color change varies by species and is genetically inherited.   Some of the species in our area which have brilliant colors in the autumn are the maples, chestnuts, mountain ash and oaks, plus all the varying species of brush such as service berry, huckleberry, chokecherry, etc.
     The amount of brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season is related to the weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and  moisture are the main influences. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing nights seem to bring about the most spectacular color displays. The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. As the supply of food is cut off to the leaves, they soon fall to the ground where they provide food for a number of God’s creatures and then decompose to provide nutrients to the soil and form a spongy humus that helps absorb and hold rainfall. What an amazing design by our amazing Designer-Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. As you enjoy the beauty of autumn, praise the Creator who “gave us all things to enjoy” because of His great love for us. God could have just made everything one color, but He created in such a way as to give us blue sky, white clouds, green grass, and a kaleidoscope of colors in the fall. Thank you God!!
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Going Out on a Limb

As I indicated last spring when I did a devotional about the fragrance of  blossoms, we have a fruit orchard with a variety of cherry, apple and plum trees. This spring the trees were loaded with blossoms and thanks to the diligent work of our honey bees we were blessed with an abundance of fruit. Some of it was ripe enough to pick before we left for Oregon a couple weeks ago, but some we waited to pick when we got home. Well, while we were gone, a bear decided to come and help us pick!  Knowing he would be back, we picked all but one tree of golden delicious apples which really needed to go a couple more weeks. We placed all kinds of obstacles in and around the tree to discourage the bear, but to no avail. He was not deterred and still managed to crawl up the inside of the tree and out onto the branches, reaching many of the apples and doing much damage to the tree. Judging from how far he could reach as well as the size of  the “deposits” he left in exchange, he is a rather large bear. So, we had to hurry and pick the rest of the apples on the tree. We also have a crab apple tree which we thought we had thoroughly picked but the bear found one cluster of apples on the end of a high up branch and also crawled up in that tree and out on that branch which he bent to the ground.  Obviously the bear was willing to “go out on a limb,” knowing that’s where the fruit is. 
    The New Testament has a lot to say about bearing fruit.  Jesus said, as recorded by the Apostle John, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (Jn. 15:16). He also said, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (15: 8).
     But just how can we as believers “bear fruit” for Christ?  Well, to begin with, we must do what Jesus commanded earlier in His sermon. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:4,5).  Fruit is not what we produce for Him. It is what He produces in us when we abide in Him and He abides in us. We abide in Him by depending upon Him and by spending time in His Word and obeying His commands, trusting fully in Him and not in our own abilities, by letting Him control and use us for His glory.
     We must also, like our bear visitor, be willing to “go out on a limb” where the fruit is. That is, we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones, take risks, and step out in faith. Someone said, there are two kinds of people in churches—risk takers and caretakers. If the risk takers are ruled by the caretakers, they will go to the undertakers with little to show for their lives.  Without risks, there can be no growth, no positive achievements. Consider the turtle: he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. You can’t get to second if you keep your foot on first base!  A ship may be safe moored in the harbor, but that is not what ships are built for. 
     It is very tempting for us to get comfortable with the status quo and not be willing to take risks for the kingdom. We are doing just fine with things as they are. Life is good. The water is calm here in the harbor. We’re sure not going to go out a limb. What if…..???   So we just “sit and soak and sour” and we bear no fruit. The church I pastored for some 37 years stepped out in faith, took some risks, and started a Christian school which had a great impact on lots of young people. We also started a Bible camp which is still being effectively run by Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, reaching hundreds of children, youth as well as adults throughout the year. We also began an AWANA program for children which is ongoing.  These all required risk, and moving out of our comfort zones. We could have just been satisfied with a “We four and no more” attitude, but would never have had the joy of seeing the fruit that God produced—and is producing—by being willing to, in faith,  “go out on a limb” for Him. Just remember, He literally “went out on a limb” for us at Calvary!
     So, stop sitting on the premises and start standing on the promises. “Why not go out on a limb for God? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” (Frank Scully). “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God” (William Carey, missionary to India). 
     Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
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A Biblical Worldview of Work

   One of the things my parents taught me which I appreciate greatly was how to work and how to have a biblical view of work.  Since I grew up for the first few years of my life on a little farm, my folks had plenty of opportunity to give me jobs to help out, from weeding the garden or feeding the chickens to household chores or helping pick the fruit trees.  There seemed to be no end of “opportunities” for work!  But I’m so glad I had those opportunities. They have served me well all my life. 
     It is very disturbing today to see how few young people are growing up learning how to work, and to witness many adults as well who seemingly never learned a proper work ethic and are susceptible to this “entitlement” society in which we live today. Since through coaching tennis for the past 30 years, I have had a close-up view of what our homes are producing and it saddens me to see how few teenagers know how to work. We often had work days to clean up the courts and grounds and I would guess that only about one out of ten students really knew how to work without being shown how to do everything and constantly encouraged to stick to it until the job was done. 
     Some people may have the feeling that having to work for a living is an imposition of a corrupt society, and part of the curse on the earth because of sin. Since they were brought into this world through no choice of their own, therefore they think that the world owes them a living.  The many jokes told about work reflect the distorted view that many have: “I love work. I could sit and watch it for hours!”  or “Hard work never hurt anyone, but why take a chance?” It seems that some people are like blisters. They don’t show up until the work is done!
     Is work a punishment because of sin?  Well, God did “curse” the ground because of sin, making work more difficult (Gen. 3:19), but work itself was not punishment for sin, for even before Adam sinned, God had given him the responsibility in his Edenic garden “to cultivate and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Furthermore, we shall have work to do in the new earth in the ages to come when the curse is removed, for we are told that “His bond-servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3). Even in this life, work is a blessing when we see it as “the gift of God.”  Solomon, the wisest man of his time (and probably in all history—apart from Christ) wrote: “I know that there is nothing better for them to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD” (Eccl. 3:12,13).
     God created us in His image, and He is a “worker” and made us to work. It was not part of the Fall. That just made work much more difficult. But if we see work as a drudgery, if we despise work as something horrid from the Fall of man and someday we won’t ever have to work again, then we definitely do not have a biblical worldview of work. We have allowed “the world to squeeze us into its mold” (Ro. 12:2 LB). Work gives us something to get up for in the morning. Work enables us to be productive and feel good about what we have accomplished, just as “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good…” (Gen. 1:31). Work gives you the opportunity to serve someone else. One of the great traps of our culture is the false idea that life is about serving me. When we have that view, then, yes, our work is often repulsive and only a means to the end of getting a paycheck, and our life is hollow, lonely and full of a lot of misery. One of the great qualities of work, as God intended it, is that whether you are putting a bolt into a car chassis on the assembly line, making toasters, or fixing someone’s plumbing problem, you are doing something good that is going to benefit somebody else. Work should give us a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose.  It is so much more than a paycheck!  If we are going to think biblically about work, we need to know that God designed work to be a a part of all that we are and all that we do. There is no separation in Scripture between work that is secular and work that is spiritual. What it does say is “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17,23,24).
     Some jobs are much more difficult than others and some bosses are much harder to work for than others, but as believers, we need to remember that we are really working for our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to do our work as unto Him, no matter how challenging our job or our earthly boss. When we do that, we not only find our work more bearable and rewarding, but we are bringing glory to God as well. On this Labor Day, when many are taking opportunity for a break from their regular work, we should pause to thank God for making us workers which enables us not only to provide for our families, but to have a sense of satisfaction as we serve others and bring glory to God.
     Oh, and since many of you are today taking advantage of leisure and recreation, it is important to remember that God designed us such that we need to take those breaks from our routine work in order to be refreshed and renewed, which in turn makes us better workers!  It is still true that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In fact, it probably means Jack is a work-aholic—addicted to his job to find satisfaction—and also probably means an early death for Jack!  Balance is the key word.  On this Labor Day, I stick up for the value and importance of work, but it must be balanced with times of rest and refreshing. Even Jesus, while on earth, took times to get away from the crowds and His constant ministry of teaching and healing.
     We live in a fallen world; we work among fallen fellow employees; we work for fallen bosses. But as believers, we can have a great impact for God if we continue to do our work as unto the Lord. We can truly make a difference in the place we work. So, Go MAD! (Go Make A Difference). Work becomes worship when done for the Lord.
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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You Can Know For Sure

One day when I was 12 or 13 years old, I came home from school, expecting my folks to be there, but they weren’t and didn’t arrive for some time.  I recalled the preacher teaching about a thing called the “rapture” when believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air and are taken to heaven (taken from I Thes. 4:17 and the phrase “caught up”).  I was quite sure that event must have happened and I was left behind. What a terrible, frightening feeling. Well, obviously, my folks did return and the rapture had not happened yet, but I struggled for a number of years wondering when it did, would I go to heaven.
     When I was 11 years of age, I attended a Bible camp where I prayed with my counselor to ask Jesus to be my Savior, but for some time thought that when I sinned that Jesus left and I would need to invite Him in again. At the church we were attending at the time, the Sunday evening service was usually an evangelistic one where an invitation was given to receive Christ. I must have raised my hand at least a dozen times but continued to wonder from day to day whether I was really saved. 
     It was then that my folks, who had moved from Polson, Montana to Libby, heard about a really good Bible teacher at Faith Bible Church, so we went to visit and got hooked. Not only did we get some sound Bible teaching, but it was there I met my wife-to-be, the pastor’s daughter!  I discovered that God’s Word teaches clearly that you can “know for sure” that you are saved and going to heaven, and that you don’t have to keep inviting Him into your life. To do that is like continuing to go to the door to invite someone in who is already sitting in your home!  When we sin as a believer, we need to confess our sin to restore our fellowship with God, as we read in I Jn. 1:9, but Jesus doesn’t leave us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). 
     Being a hard-headed, stubborn Norwegian, it still took me several years for the truth of God’s Word to really resonate in my life. I remember distinctly when I finally gained the assurance of my salvation. It was November of 1970. I had attended a series of meetings called “Basic Youth Conflict.” (It wasn’t just for young people, but for youth and adults alike).  The speaker, Bill Gothard, spoke one evening on the assurance of salvation, and emphasized for us a  passage in the epistle of First John:  “The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” ( I Jn. 5:10-13).  John tells us that we can “know” we have eternal life, not just hope so (in the sense of wishful thinking).  Ours is a “know-so faith” and that is what John’s first epistle is all about. And then the passage goes on to tell us how and why we can “know.”  John writes: “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (vs. 14,15).  We know that it is God’s will for us to repent and to trust Him for eternal life, for we read in II Pet. 3:9, “The Lord …is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  So, we know that if we ask Jesus to come into our life as our Savior and Lord, He comes in—and we don’t have to keep inviting Him.  Well, to remove all doubt and confusion, that night in November of 1970, in Portland, Oregon, I prayed for a final time:
             “Father, thank you for the free gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of your Son. I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I am sorry for my past sins, and I ask You to forgive me.
            Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins and arose from the dead. If I never fully understood that before, I do now, and if I never genuinely invited You to be my Savior, I do that right now.
            I open the door of my heart and invite You to come into my life. I acknowledge that there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation, and I place my complete trust in You alone for eternal life.
            I choose to follow You as my Lord. Please make me the person You want me to be.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
    Was I saved at the Bible camp when I was 11? I don’t know—probably, but it doesn’t really matter because I KNOW that in November of 1970, at age 24, I gained assurance of my salvation, and from that time on have known that I have “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for me, and that I am “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Pet. 1:4,5). “In this ( I ) greatly rejoice” (v. 6).  With the new assurance I had gained, I really began to grow spiritually and had the great privilege of introducing my boss and his brother and our secretary at Hyster in Portland to my Savior. I ended up starting a Bible study at work which eventually led to our coming back to Montana in 1974 to work with Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, which in turn led to becoming the pastor of Three Lakes Community Bible Church for 37 years!  And God continues to grow me and provide opportunities of ministry. But it first took knowing for sure I was saved. You can’t grow until you know that you have been truly “born again” (Jn. 3:3).
     So, I challenge all who may read this with this question: If the rapture were to take place today, or you should die today, do you know without a doubt that you will go to heaven?  If you have any doubt, I encourage you to do what I did, and pray for a final time to admit your need of a Savior and to trust Jesus for eternal life.  Let me know if you do that. I’d love to hear from you.
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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Putting in the Time

   Even though I handed over the coaching responsibilities of the high school tennis team several years ago, I have continued to help out as a volunteer and enjoy working with the teens and pray that I can have a positive impact on their lives. For the past couple years we have had some players who were pretty serious about improving their game and put in quite a bit of extra court time to see that happen. As a result, this past spring, our boys’ team took first at state and our girls finished in a tie for second, so their hard work was rewarded.  I recently stopped off at the courts to hit some serves while Kathy had an appointment in town.  It was on one of our hot (95 degree) afternoons so I didn’t plan to stay long. I was just leaving when one of our high school boys stopped by, just getting off from his summer job, and asked if I could hit with him. I found out he has been working out on the courts twice a day and tries to serve at least 200 balls each day. He finished sixth at state in boys’ singles and has set as his goal winning state this coming year. I thought, wow, good for you! May your tribe increase!  Most players never pick up their rackets during the off-season and then expect to be successful come next March when practice starts up. It’s just too much work and they want the summer to just relax and have fun.  But here’s a boy who is working full time during the summer yet puts in a couple hours a day practicing.  That’s dedication, and that’s what it takes to be one of the top players. 
     I also think of all the time and effort that our Olympic athletes have put in for years to make it to these prestigious contests. But, each had set goals and then developed a strategy of discipline and practice to achieve their goal. (Of course they need some natural ability to build on in their area of expertise!). It is always interesting when they give the backgrounds of some of the competitors and what they went through to get to become one of the world’s best in their field.  It has often involved some real struggles and sacrifice.
     Then I am reminded of Paul’s oft comparison of the Christian life to athletics, especially to running a race or boxing.   For example, he wrote in I Cor. 9:24-27: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” Paul draws on his readers’ knowledge of the Isthmian games, which were held every two years near Corinth (Greece).  Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers—and to us—was to consider how, if these competitors worked that hard for a temporary reward ( a wreath of greenery), how much more should we, as “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20) have self-discipline and “put in the time” as we carry out our service for Christ, knowing that ours will be an eternal reward.  Paul left us a great example of one who was willing to “put in the time and effort” to fulfill his ministry. He made his body his slave lest he should be “disqualified” (Greek = adikomos) which refers to a cracked pot, not one thrown away, but put on the shelf. Paul did not want God to put him on the shelf. He wanted to “run with endurance the race that was set before him” (Heb. 12:1).  And that took great discipline and dependence upon the Lord, as Paul faced great adversity, including several imprisonments, beatings, whippings, shipwrecks, and even stoning. He faced dangers on every hand and had many a sleepless night and felt the burden of caring for the churches he helped found.  But as he shared in his testimony to the elders of the Ephesus church, he said: ”But none of these things move me, neither do I count my life as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). 
     When it came to the end of his life, as Paul faced execution at the hands of Nero, Emperor of Rome, he wrote in his final letter to his understudy and friend, Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8).
     Unfortunately, I believe the same is true among Christians as is true in the sports world (and life in general)—many are content to just give token commitment and few are willing to “put in the time” and be totally committed and set goals. We only get involved in our local assembly of believers when it is convenient and works into our schedule. We neglect the reading and study of Scripture because of our hectic lifestyle. We don’t share Christ with others because we just don’t feel qualified, or we are afraid of what they may think or say or do, or we don’t want them to judge Christianity by the way we have been living. We will put in the time and effort to achieve some temporal rewards, while we neglect what will last for eternity.
      So, what was the Apostle Paul’s secret? What motivated him to give his all?  He tells us in II Cor. 5:14,15, where he writes: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”  Jesus died not only to save us from our sins, but also that we might live for him. After all He’s done for me, how can I do less than give Him my best (put in the time)  and live for Him completely.
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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