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Wow, what a different world today versus just a month ago! Seemingly overnight millions of parents began homeschooling, folks began attending church online, restaurants became “drive-through only,” high school and college seniors close to graduation were suddenly in a quandary as to whether or not they would or could graduate. The sports world screeched to a halt, just in the midst of entering playoffs for some and the beginning of the season for others. The Summer Olympics had to be postponed for a year. Millions of people do not have a job to which to go. We went from probably the lowest unemployment rate in history to one of the highest. Store shelves became bare as people started panicking and hoarding items like flour, sugar, canned goods, hand sanitizers, bleach, and paper products. Stores had to reduce their hours just to have more time to restock. Many grocery stores have special times for seniors and at-risk folks to shop. Much of the world is on “lock down,” travel is restricted, and we are to practice “social distancing.” And there is only speculation as to how long this CoVid-19 pandemic will last before life returns to what used to be “normal.”
While it is tragic that many will contract the virus and a percentage of them will die, especially if they are elderly or physically vulnerable, at the same time it is providing a unique opportunity to experience a slowed-down lifestyle, quality family time, a time to rest our bodies and minds from the hectic pace they have been trying to endure, and a time to refocus on what really matters and spend extra time in prayer and in God’s Word. I was teaching a class at a local mission training center and had to stop a day early so the students could get back to their homes while they could. The Bible studies we teach had to be cancelled until further notice; our church, along with nearly all in the country, had to close their doors and make the sermons available online through a video or live streaming. Pastors are having to preach in empty buildings. What a strange time. But, what a great time to draw closer in our walk with God. In addition to our local church sermon on their website, there are lots of opportunities—and time—for us to live stream messages or watch a service on television. For example, we got to join some 20,000 others to listen to Brett Meador, pastor of Athey Creek Christian Fellowship in West Linn, Oregon this past weekend. His is the church our son and family attend, so we have visited there on a number of occasions. Brett holds a Saturday night service and three on Sunday and has continued to do so live even though no one attends! He teaches through the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse and teaches for close to an hour, Bible in hand. (We recommend you check it out) We also have added David Jeremiah’s service (via television) to our Sunday worship. So, we are actually getting in on more services than before the “shut down!” And I would guess that is true of many. Now that people can’t go to church, more are going to church!
This has to be one of the most unique times in history and probably one in which hearts are more prepared for “Good News” than ever. Those who don’t have God as their refuge are prone to fear and panic and are much more willing to listen to the message of hope in Jesus Christ. Let’s not miss this opportunity to share Him and His love and forgiveness and hope in whatever ways we can—thank God for modern technology right now which enables us to still communicate when we are restricted in socializing. And, as believers, lets take advantage of this time to really refocus our lives and draw close to our Lord through spending extra time in His Word and in prayer. If you are like me, your probably have a stack of good Christian books you haven’t had time to read. Well, take time to get started. My fellow worker at Hyster and a good friend and brother in Christ, Gary Sedivy, always closes his emails with “So many books, so little time!” Well, God is giving many of us some extra time—take advantage.
I’m reminded of James’ words of encouragement and challenge to the Jews who were dispersed because of persecution. Their worlds had definitely changed suddenly too and they needed help to maintain a right perspective. James writes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:1-5). The purpose of trials in our lives is to grow us in our faith. We get so caught up in the rapid pace of life in this day and age, that we occasionally—as now—need to have our world crash down around us to get us to slow down and “re-prioritize.” We may have good intentions in “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33), but it is so easy, due to the many distractions, to allow the “world to (gradually) squeeze us into its mold” (Ro. 12:2). Persevering under trials and uncertain times not only helps us grow spiritually now but also affects the inheritance we are storing up in heaven. James went on to say, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12).
The lyrics of Andre Crouch’s “”Through It All” have always been a comfort to me when I face adversity and uncertain times. May they encourage you as well and remind you to take advantage of this unique opportunity being given us:
“I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow. There’ve been times I didn’t
know right from wrong; but in every situation God
gave blessed consolation that my trials come to only make me strong.
I’ve been to lots of places, and I’ve seen a lot of faces, there’ve been times I felt so all alone; but in
my lonely hours, yes, those precious lonely
hours, Jesus let me know that I was His own.
I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys. I thank Him for the storms He bro’t
me through; for if I’d never had a problem I
wouldn’t know that He could solve them, I’d never know what faith in God could do.
Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”
Our family, being sports fans, has really missed “March Madness” and following our picks to see how they fare. Since we live closer to Spokane, Washington than to any other major college town, we have been (Gonzaga) “Zag” fans for many years and have really enjoyed watching the Zag games on television. We also root for Duke and Virginia in the ACC, largely because of coach “K” and coach Tony Bennett, and of course, we root for the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers, because our son and daughter and families live in Oregon. But this year, just as the conference tournaments were finishing up—a few to empty arenas—all sports were shut down due to the threat of the corona virus pandemic. Needless to say we, along with millions of others, have been very disappointed.
One of the highlights of the NCAA tournament comes at the conclusion as they put together video clips of game highlights showing buzzer beaters, great defensive plays, impressive slam dunks and, of course, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It is called “One Shining Moment.” As I thought about that, I realized we have a similar scene given to us in chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews where we have “God’s Hall of Faith,” listing how individuals like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel and the prophets demonstrated their faith during some trying times. Moses, for example, chose to “endure ill-treatment with the people of God, (rather) than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:25,26). Hebrews 11 gives us brief glimpses into the lives of these men and women of faith scattered across the centuries.
As we read of the faith of these great men and women of God, we see that their faith resulted in action. Prior to listing what each did, it says, “by faith.” “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain…By faith Enoch was taken up…By faith Noah…prepared an ark…By faith Abraham obeyed…and went out, not knowing where he was going…By faith Sarah received ability to conceive (at age 90!)…By faith (of his parents) Moses was hidden for three months…” The author of Hebrews defines faith for us as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). And then he adds, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (v. 6).
As we face the uncertainty of the outcome of this pandemic the world is facing due to the corona virus, we definitely need to be responding in faith rather than in fear. That has become the theme of many Christian broadcasts and Bible lessons, and rightly so. As people face the possibility of health problems or even death, loss of employment, a big hit on retirement funds, disrupted schooling, attending church on line, and of course, the lack of certain products at the stores, like milk, flour, sugar and toilet paper, it is definitely a time to heed the exhortation to “walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). Although we couldn’t see Him, we trusted what the Bible said, and received Him into our life as Savior. We are to continue walking that way—by faith in a God who is trustworthy and in His written revelation to us with all its promises which God will keep.
I remember when my wife and I were considering resigning my job at Hyster Company to join Rocky Mountain Bible Mission in Montana, I heard a Christian speaker, I believe it was Joyce Landorf, say that someone asked her, “What are people like you who live by faith going to do when times get tough?” I love her response! She said, “The question is, what are people like you who don’t live by faith going to do?” Well, I guess you are seeing a lot of that going around today—people who don’t have faith in a God who is sovereign and in control and who promised to minister to their needs and to never leave or forsake them. Such people are panicking and making some very poor choices which then affects everyone else. Now is the time for those of us who are living by faith to demonstrate our trust in a God who is both good and sovereign.
I guess everyone has faith in something, so the object of our faith is what is crucial. Our faith as believers is in the faithfulness, omniscience, and omnipotence of our gracious, compassionate heavenly Father. We can join Jeremiah, saying: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee” (Jer. 32:17). The angel who announced to the virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, Jesus, the Son of the Most High, said “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Our faith is in a God who is able and who cares. That is the faith we see demonstrated by the saints listed in God’s “One Shining Moment” in Hebrews 11. I guess, in a sense, that list continues to grow—will you and I be included as men and women of faith? Now is a good time to demonstrate that kind of faith.
What a crazy world out there as we see the response to the Covid-19 corona virus which appears to have started in Wuhan, China. As the virus has spread to pretty much every country on the globe, we have witnessed how people panic in times of crises, with some countries, like Italy and France on total lockdown, stock markets plunging, travel restricted, schools and other business establishments closing temporarily, sports shutting down—even the NCAA basketball’s “March Madness” being cancelled. Broadway and Disneyland have closed. Yesterday, many church-goers had to stay home and stream the message on line. And people are panicking and cleaning off the shelves in stores of canned goods, bread, and especially toilet paper! Last week our son, who lives near Portland, sent us a couple pictures of totally empty shelves in a Target store. The WinCo store, normally open 24 hours a day had to close to clean up the mess shoppers had made and to try to restock. We were thinking that wouldn’t happen here, but as we visited our local grocery store on Saturday, sure enough, the toilet paper shelf was empty and several others were nearly so! People are people, subject to fear and panic, no matter where they live. There have been accounts of fights as shoppers try to get the last package of toilet paper in the store—crazy! I did a little Bible search and found that fear is mentioned some 400 times and 331 times we are told to “fear not” (38 times in Isaiah alone, and 19 times in Luke). Thirty-three time we are told: “do not be afraid.” The Greek word for “fear” in the New Testament is phobeo (fob-eh’o), from which we get our word “phobia.” Although the word “panic” doesn’t appear in Scripture, it is often the result of fear. It refers to “a sudden, unreasoning, hysterical fear, often spreading quickly, such as might happen in a crowded auditorium if someone shouts ‘fire’.” When people panic—as has been happening in the world over the spread of the corona virus—they lose their reasoning powers and common sense, and act irrationally, which just exacerbates the whole situation. Obviously the media hasn’t helped either!
There was no fear until sin took place in the Garden of Eden. There was nothing to fear and man’s nature wasn’t prone to do so. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they suddenly experienced guilt, shame and fear and tried to hide from God, and to cover up their mistake by making themselves garments from fig leaves. I guess, in a sense, they panicked and did something irrational. Everyone born since, except Jesus, received that Adamic nature and has a tendency to disobey, to experience guilt, shame and fear and to act irrationally as a result (Ro. 5:12,19).
But what’s with hoarding toilet paper? One psychologist suggests that since during a time of crisis many feel they have lost control over the situation, their response is to do something that gives them a little sense of security and control and so, when shopping, will especially look for big bulky items that they can stock up on, giving them some feeling of regaining control. Of course, face masks and hand sanitizer were high on the list as well. If people acted rationally and just purchased what they normally needed, we wouldn’t be seeing all the empty shelves.
As Christians, we have an opportunity to demonstrate to the world of unbelievers the difference that Christ makes in our life. We don’t need to be afraid and panic and respond in an irrational manner. We can show others that we have confidence in a sovereign God who is in control, who lives in us to give us calm and peace, and who will never leave us. With the Psalmist, we can say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though the waters foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride…When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psa. 46:1-3; 56:3,4). Isaiah, in a hymn of praise, wrote: “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song…” (Isa. 12:2). As Israel faced opposition from her enemies, God, through Isaiah, said this to them: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you (don’t panic!), for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
When God commissioned Joshua with the formidable task of leading the Children of Israel into their Promised Land which would involve many battles—even against giants—God, through Moses, encouraged him, saying, “It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall possess them…Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Dt. 31: 3,6,8). No matter where God leads us or what is happening to us and to the world around us, as Christians, we have Jesus living in us who promised: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you!” (Heb. 13:5b).
It is not wrong to take precautions, to plan and to prepare, but there is no need for fear and panic. “For this we have Jesus!” God is sovereign and God is good—all the time! Trust in our unchanging God during changing times. Share your hope with those who have none.
We just had a very exciting week. For some time we have been talking about taking down two very large cottonwood trees in our back yard. They are messy with their sticky hulls and cotton in the spring and drop many branches to be picked up year round. They send up shoots throughout our yard that need to be dug up and of course give us a ton of leaves to rake in the fall. Then, of course there is the fact that they suck up hundreds of gallons of water making it hard to keep the lawn green. Most of all, they have posed a threat to our house and outbuildings. One of them leaned toward our house and the other over our wood and tool shed.
Last fall we happened to see Tim Schertel, a licensed arborist (and a mature Christian), at the grocery store and told him we were interested in having him come check out our trees to see if he thought he could bring them down without endangering our buildings. He came out and, after looking them over, was confident he could do it and put us on his list—a very long list! He was able to work us in last week and started on Monday morning. These trees were both about 75 feet tall and 40-45 inches in diameter at the base. Tim, who will turn 61 this spring, climbs the tree, anchors a pulley up high and then proceeds to cut off branches and lower them to the ground.
We have a neighbor, John Burn (a believer) who often helps out on our projects (and we help him out on his). It “just happened” that his grandson, Dylan (age 27), from South Carolina, is here staying with them, looking for work. We needed a ground crew to help tie off the rope, lower the branches and then take care of them as they hit the ground. Dylan was our “rope guy,’’ did a great job, and really enjoyed it. A couple of days the wind started blowing too hard to continue so it took us through Saturday to finish.
Each time before Tim headed up the tree we would have a prayer time for safety and to commit the work that day to the Lord. Tim shared that his dad had given each of the children in his family (three boys and two girl) a “life verse” of Scripture to memorize, meditate on and apply throughout their life. Tim’s verse, which he quoted for us, was Col. 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Tim definitely models that verse in his life. He knows that God has given him a very unique ability to do what he does and he does it for the glory of God and is very careful to give God the credit He deserves. He finds joy in being 70 feet up in a tree with the wind blowing, cutting off branches, which bang back against the trunk before they are lowered to the ground. We stood in amazement as we nervously watched from below.
On Friday, about 1:30 p.m., as he had removed all but the very top branches of the second tree, he rappelled down, and said we would finish on Saturday. We jokingly said we thought he might finish the whole tree that day. He said, “No, I’m a bit of a wimp!” and then proceeded to tell us about what happened to him when he was 23 years old. It was in the fall and he had been out working on his property, clearing trees and piling brush. The sun had set so it was dusk and he was bending over a brush pile when suddenly he heard a shot and felt something hit the back of his upper leg, knocking him to the ground. A hunter had mistaken him for a bear. The bullet entered the back of his upper femur and came out in the front, completely severing the bone. He tried to roll over and crawl toward his house but he realized that his leg hadn’t rolled with him! He was quite certain that He was going to meet Jesus and an amazing peace came over him. He said he had never been so happy! He was unable to make it to the house, but the two hunters found him and by then his wife, having heard the noise, was driving out with their pickup. By this time Tim was feeling excruciating pain and the only thing, besides praying that Tim knew to do was to sing, so, as the hunter who shot him got him in the pickup and began driving to the hospital, Tim was singing “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” He knew Christ as His Savior and was ready to go “home.” He told the man who shot him that he forgave him and would not sue him.
After cleaning out his wound (without any pain killer!) the doctor sent Tim in an ambulance to Spokane where a surgeon tried to put the pieces of bone back together as best he could, with lots of clamps, plates and screws. But, part of the bone began to die so Tim was sent back to the surgeon to do a bone graft from his other hip. Before Tim left for surgery, his church prayed for his healing. When he got to the doctor, they discovered the bone was healing and no further surgery was required! After 8 months recovery, Tim was back in the woods working, but fell and pulled the plate loose so they had to go in and remove it and patch things up, leaving only the screws this time. So, Tim said, “That’s why I’m a bit of a wimp!”
What a testimony—and we all got to hear it all and watch Tim at work. I praise the Lord for the safety he provided this past week and for His perfect timing in having Tim come while Dylan was here to help out. Our God is so amazing! Pray that Dylan can find employment here so we can continue to interact with him.
When Tim got down to the final 35 feet of the second tree, he tied a rope off to the top and then to his pickup which he had parked in our front yard at just the right location to fell the tree between the end of our house and the side fence (a strip about 12 feet wide!). We rolled the bolts which were on the ground out of the way so it had a clear place to land. I left one bolt close to the fence which was odd-shaped, wedged into the ground and wouldn’t roll, but which should be out of the way. After spending much time making sure his notch was perfectly located (even using a square to align it with the overhead rope), Tim made the back cut and inserted wedges and then went out and slowly backed up the pickup until the tree slowly fell to the ground, exactly where he had planned. Because it had a little bend at the top, it bounced and rolled toward the fence, but suddenly stopped, wedged up against the bolt I was unable to roll out of the way! Again, our God is so good! It is such a joy to see His hand in the details of our lives, showing His care, not only for the eternal well-being of an individual soul, but even from keeping a 15,000-pound log from “schmuking” our roses and fence! Praise the Lord! What an exciting week!
We have a number of solar lights in our yard. It was quite fascinating over the winter to see some of them shine up out of the snow that surrounded them. Now that most of the snow has melted and the amount of daylight is increasing, they stay on longer after dark before they run out of the energy they received from the sun. Solar lights, of course are dependent on exposure to the sun as they have no light source of their own. On cloudy days they don’t receive much energy and may not come on at all or only for a brief time.
I can’t help but see the parallel in our spiritual lives. Our amount of “exposure” to the Son, who is “the Light of the World” (Jn. 8:12) determines how brightly we shine in the spiritual darkness of this world. The apostle John in his gospel, in referring to Jesus, God the “Son,” wrote: “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 (overpower) it” (Jn. 1:4,5). Darkness cannot be driven out of the world (not yet anyway), but light can swallow it up. The reverse is never true. There is no such thing as darkness swallowing up light. Light is light and all the world’s darkness cannot extinguish it but must instead retreat before even the glow of a tiny candle.
John goes on to speak of the ministry of John the Baptist who introduced Jesus Christ (his second cousin) to the world. “There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through Him. He (John) 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. 1:6-9).
You may recall the account in the Old Testament, when the Israelites had escaped from Egypt and were wandering in the wilderness, that “The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up” (Ex. 19:20). There Moses spent 40 days with the LORD receiving the Law and commandments (twice!) for God’s people, Israel. When Moses came down from the mountain the second time, he “did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him (the LORD). So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone and they were afraid to come near him” (Ex. 34:29, 30). So Moses, when speaking to the people, had to put a veil over his face. He was radiating “Son Light” from his time with God on the mountain top.
In the New Testament, we read an interesting observation made about the apostles Peter and John: “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
When we put our trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life, He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). We have the “True Light” living within. As we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, people see His light shining through our life. The more time we spend with Him and in His Word, the brighter our light—”Son Light”—shines into the spiritual darkness around us. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden (You will be watched!). Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peckmeasure, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:14-16).
How bright is your light shining? The more time you are exposed to the Son, the more “Son Light” you will radiate to those around you.
Some of you probably watched yesterday as ESPN aired the Disney movie Miracle in celebration of the 40th anniversary of arguably the greatest upset in sports history: a 4-3 victory in the semi-final medal round in the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, New York by a very young, inexperienced U.S. hockey team over a dominant, heavily favored Soviet Union team that had won gold in the previous four Winter Olympic Games and five of the last six.
Herb Brooks, chosen as head coach for the Olympic team, had just seven months to select a group of twenty players to compete in the Winter Olympics.The average age of his national team was 21, mostly college players, with only four having minimal minor league experience. They would be competing with seasoned professionals with much international experience. Herb spent many hours pouring over game films before selecting his team and then put his players through many, many hours of rigorous training to be assured his team, though not the most talented in the competition, would be the best conditioned. He also focused on their becoming a “family,” genuinely playing together as a team and not as individual stars. His tactics in accomplishing that were often questioned by the players as well as the assistant coaches, but he obviously succeeded. Herb’s approach definitely demonstrated the truth that “Together Each Achieves More.”
Prior to the beginning of the Olympics, the U.S. team had an exhibition match in Norway and tied their team. Coach Brooks, however, wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort, so after the match, kept them on the ice doing drills until they dropped from exhaustion. Next they had a warm-up match against the Russian team at Madison Square Garden in New York and were dominated by a score of 10-3.
In the opening round of the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, the U.S. team played a tough Swedish team to a 2-2 tie and then pulled off a 7-2 upset of second-place favorite, Czechoslovakia. Along with the Soviet team, the U.S. entered the medal round undefeated. Their first game in the medal round was against the Russian team that just three weeks before had beaten them 10-3. But, despite being huge underdogs and with a couple of the young men playing injured, and goalie Jim Craig being knocked unconscious for a brief time, the U.S. pulled off an amazing upset, winning 4-3 on Feb. 22, 1980. The U.S. went on to win the gold in their matchup with Finland.
The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the games and in U.S. sports history. Al Michaels, covering the match for ABC television, with seconds to go in the final period, as the U.S. was fighting valiantly to hold on to their slim 4-3 lead, declared, “Do you believe in Miracles? YES!” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle On Ice” the top sports moment in the 20th century. In 2004, Disney released the film Miracle starring Kurt Russel as Herb Brooks. It was dedicated to Brooks, who died shortly after the photography for the movie was completed.
“Miracle on Ice” is the amazing story of a victory “against all odds.” The Bible is full of similar stories where God intervened for His people and provided victory against great odds. One of the most familiar of those stories is that of Gideon and the Midianites (Judges 6-8). The Midianites and Amalekites were enemies of Israel, and would come in and destroy the Israelite’s crops and livestock. It tells us too that they were “like locusts for number…innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it” (Judges 6:5). The people cried out to God (v. 6) who said, “I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land…I am the LORD your God…” (vv. 8-10). God selected Gideon to go and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian, saying, “I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man” (v. 16). We know from Judges 8:10 that the Midianite army numbered 135,000 men and Gideon started out with only 32,000 so the Israelites were outnumbered more than 4-1. Not very good odds. But then “The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful saying, ‘My own power has delivered me’” (Judges. 7:2). So God had Gideon pare his army down until only 300 remained (7:6). Now the odds were 450-1! Gideon “divided the 300 men into three companies.” (7:16) After dark they blew their trumpets and smashed the pitchers allowing the light from their torches to be seen suddenly, and cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon” (7:20). The Midianite army, in confusion, began killing one another and fleeing. Gideon’s little band of 300 men routed a Midianite army of 135,000! In God’s strength, they enjoyed victory “against all odds.”
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?…It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes” (Psa. 118:6-9…Verse 8 is the central verse of the Bible!). It is not the size of the army in the fight; it is the size of the God in the army!
Who or what are the “Midianites” gathered against you in your life—those seemingly unconquerable, always intimidating problems you face? God is greater! “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed…for the One with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles” (II Chr. 32: 8). He can/will give you the victory “against all odds.”
We had just arrived in Oregon to spend time with family and take in some basketball games (our son coaches and our grandson is his point guard) and work on the grounds at the Christian school where our son and daughter-in-law teach when we got a call from a neighbor (who graciously watches our place while we are gone) informing us that the day after we left (Feb. 1st) a windstorm came through our area and brought down many trees, including two tall Lodge Pole pine trees that hit our power line. As a result, our place was without power for two days. We are still cleaning up the mess that the 45-55 mph winds made.
Lodge Pole pine trees are very prolific in our area. The seeds are wind dispersed and can fall up to 200 feet from the tree and have a high germination rate—up to 75%. They are also usually the first trees to germinate after a wildfire sweeps through the forest. They will come up very thick and thus grow up tall and slender, making great material for posts and rails. Lodge Pole have several distinguishing characteristics. The relatively short, sharp needles (1.2-2,4” long) occur in pairs. The cones are relatively short (1.6-2.4” long) and often occur in clusters. Each cone has 5-37 seeds. The bark is thin and scaly, usually gray in color. Lodge Pole grow well in areas with cold, wet winters and warm, dry summers.
Another characteristic of the Lodge Pole is that it has a shallow root system, making it very susceptible to high winds. We have experienced a mild, wet winter, and our ground has thawed out and is very full of moisture, so when the wind arrived on Feb. 1st, the trees which did not have deep roots were very susceptible and many uprooted.
In Scripture, believers are often likened to trees (Psa. 1:3; 52:8; Hos. 14:6; Jer. 17: 8). We are encouraged to be firmly planted in order to withstand the winds of adversity and temptation and false teaching that come against us. In speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God said: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. (In contrast) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit” (Jer. 17:5-8).
The Psalmist wrote: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD (i.e., in God’s Word), and in His law he mediates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Psa. 1:1-3).
The apostle Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus that they would be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). In his letter to the church at Colossae he challenged the members, writing: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceptions, according to the traditions of men, according to the empty principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2:6-8).
As believers (trees) we need to develop a strong, deep root system which comes from spending time in His Word, reading, studying, meditating, memorizing and applying the truths God has so graciously shared with us. We need to extend our roots to the “Living Water.” In Moses’ commission to Joshua, who would lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, he challenged him saying, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Josh. 1: 8).
Something else to keep in mind: pine trees grow best in a forest setting, not as stand-alone trees, for then their roots are intertwined and provide much more protection against the wind. As believers, we are much more susceptible to being devastated by the winds of adversity, temptation and false teaching if we try to go it alone. When it comes to withstanding the winds, we not only need to be “firmly rooted,” but also need to be in fellowship with other believers. There is definitely more strength in numbers. That’s the challenge given by the writer of Hebrews: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25). So keep sinking your roots deep into Christ and His Word and spend time in study and fellowship with your fellow believers, especially as the day of Christ’s return appears to be drawing very near.
Well, time to go pick up more branches!