What Happened to Gratefulness?

Quite unbelievably, LaVar Ball, father of one of the three UCLA basketball players recently arrested in China for shoplifting, played down his son’s theft of sunglasses and showed no gratitude to President Trump’s helping the young men avoid a 5-10 year prison sentence.  It might have not turned out so well for them had President Trump not been in China at the same time and interceded for them.
     Unfortunately, ungratefulness, although nothing new, seems to be very characteristic of the culture of our day.  I’m sure many or most of you have had the experience—probably many times—of doing special things for others, often at great cost or sacrifice of your time and/or resources, and never receiving a “thank you” for your act of kindness.  The percentage of those who bother to show appreciation is pretty low.  Tragically, it is a reflection on the hearts of people who have become very self-absorbed and expect others to do things for them.  Proud people, those who are wrapped up in themselves, don’t say thanks.
     On one occasion when Jesus was passing from Galilee to Jerusalem, He entered a village where he met ten lepers who asked Him to have mercy on them (Lk. 17:11-13).  Jesus sent them to show themselves to the priest and as they were going, they were cleansed of their leprosy, but only one of them—a Samaritan—returned, glorifying and praising God, to thank Him (vv, 14-16).  Jesus said, “What happened to the other nine? Where are they?”
     When we have experienced the grace of God and His forgiveness of sin through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, how can we help but be grateful people, knowing that “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights…” (Jas. 1:17).  Every breath I take is a gift from God who owes me nothing.  When the Apostle Paul addressed the men of Athens, he said to them: “The God who made the world and all things in it…He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24,25).  An attitude of gratitude honors God, acknowledging who He is, who we are, and what He does for us—often through those He brings into our lives to minister to us.  So, by saying “thank you” to others when they come to our aid, we are glorifying and praising God.  But when we don’t, we are dishonoring Him.  “Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of the human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart” (John Piper…Decision magazine, Nov. 2017, page 16).
     In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Ro. 1:18-21). 
     Paul, in his letters, exhorted his readers to have a gratitude attitude. He wrote: “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanksalways giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:4,20); “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” (Col. 3:17); “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:18).   Giving thanks “for all things” (good and bad) acknowledges that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Ro. 8:28).    Paul practiced what he preached too, for throughout his letters he thanks others for what they meant to him (Ro. 1:8; I Cor. 1:4; Eph. 1:15,16; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3;  I Thes. 1:2; 2:13; II Thes. 1:3; II Tim. 1:3; Philemon 4).
     So, for the Christian, Thanksgiving should be not just a day but also a way of life. Thanksgiving (and thanks-living) is the only sensible response to the character of God.  “Happy Thanksgiving!”
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Beauty out of Judgment

We had the blessing a week ago of going with our entire family (12 of us) to both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and of doing some hiking in the area. None of us had ever been there before so we thought it would be the perfect place to celebrate our 50th anniversary with our family.  We all flew to Las Vegas, rented a couple vans and drove to the Parks, staying at a ranch house between the two. The beauty we saw was beyond our imagination. We were constantly having “wow moments,” and it was made even more special to be able to share the experience with our loved ones.  If you have never been to Zion and Bryce we highly recommend you put that trip on your “bucket list.” You won’t be disappointed.  (Note: November is a good time to visit. The crowds are much smaller than in the summer and the temperatures are ideal for hiking.)
     As I viewed the amazing features of the red, yellow, and sometimes white sandstone and limestone mountains and pillars (often resembling  a palace—especially in Bryce Canyon), I got to thinking about how it was all formed, which I am confident did not take millions of years as evolutionists theorize in trying to explain the areas in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. Most likely, as the waters of Noah’s flood receded and as God raised up the mountains and lowered the ocean valleys to accommodate all the water (see Psa. 104:6-9), it left some very large inland lakes, a portion of which remain to this day. The area of the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and other similar areas probably contained a couple huge lakes with drainage from rain and the supersaturated ground surrounding them continuing to fill the lakes, which finally breached and rushed out to the ocean, the sediment mostly ending up in southern California.  The tremendous pressure of the newly formed Rocky Mountains would have liquified the rock underneath, creating up-thrusts throughout the surrounding areas and causing the amazing configurations of towers with their swirling rock structures that we viewed. Since the Flood of Noah was less than 5,000 years ago, what we viewed was not millions, but a few thousand years old. 
     I say all that to come to the observation that I made: All the amazing beauty we saw was actually the result of God’s judgment on the earth because of sin.  Way back in Genesis 6:5 we read: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” As a result, God sent the judgment of the flood upon the earth “so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered” (Gen. 7:19) and only Noah and his family and the animals on the ark were spared (Gen. 7:1-5; 8:1).
One of the byproducts of the judgment of the flood is the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the other similar terrain in the area.  Wow, if this kind of beauty comes as a result of God’s judgment, imagine what the initial creation must have been like and what heaven will be like!  Also, think of what beauty can come out of our lives when we allow God to take over and remove the impurities caused by sin and the desires of the old nature.  Job, who definitely went through the fiery furnace of trials, said: “But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Gold, as normally found in nature, is mixed with ores and impurities that if allowed to remain, greatly cheapen its worth. Subjected to temperatures of several thousand degrees, however, the impurities and undesirable contaminants are burned up, leaving behind the pure tested product. Without the heat we could never have pure gold.  Peter, in his first epistle, talks a lot about the purpose of suffering and trials in the life of the believer. He writes: “..though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”’ (I Pet. 1:6,7). The Psalmist wrote:  “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word…It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statures” (Psa. 119:67,71).  The writer of Hebrews said: “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness…All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:10b,11). 
     If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you will not be judged for your sins (because Christ was judged on your behalf… II Cor. 5:21; Ro. 8:1), but God will discipline (train) you, removing those things from your life that keep Christ from being seen in you.  The process will not be enjoyable, but the product will be one of beauty which reflects the glory of God. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us and eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (II Cor. 4:17).  God is at work making something beautiful out of our lives. What is He working on in you?  Are you cooperating?
                Forever His,  A work in Progress,
                Pastor Dave
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The True Gospel

  The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Rome, said: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Ro. 1:16,17).   But, just what is this gospel that has the power to save us?  Paul defines it for us in a letter to the Corinthian church: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( I Cor. 15:1-3). The gospel is the “good news” of the death of Jesus Christ for sins, His burial, and His bodily resurrection, proving that God the Father was satisfied that Jesus had fully accomplished a plan of redemption for all who believe (Jn. 3:16; II Cor. 5:14). “He was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Ro. 4:24,25).  Jesus final words from the cross were “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).  The plan of redemption was complete. The “Lamb of God” had come and put away sin (Jn. 1:29). The work of the Old Testament priests was ongoing. Hebrews 10:11,12 tells us: “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He (Jesus Christ), having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
      Jesus paid for all my sins, past, present and future. When I believe that He was God in the flesh, dying for my sins, and ask Him to come into my life as my Savior and Lord, I receive eternal life, based solely on what Christ accomplished through His death and resurrection, acknowledging that my only contribution to the “plan of salvation” is my sin, that there is nothing I need to add by my performance to what Jesus already accomplished. If I think that there is anything I can do to help “earn” my way to heaven, then I have denied what Christ accomplished and have distorted the true gospel.  Unfortunately down through the ages there have been many who have done just that and have led many down a wrong path that leads to destruction (Pr. 14:12). Nearly everywhere that Paul preached the gospel, there were those who came and tried to convince the new converts that there were things they had to do to add to their simple faith in Christ in order to really be saved.  They were putting people back under the yoke of a law of works. For example, when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia (in Asia Minor), he said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another, only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed…Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified…You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 1:6-8; 2:16; 3:1-3).
     The Apostle Paul is not the only one who has confronted the distortion of the true gospel. During the 14th-16th centuries a number of influential  individuals in Europe began seeing some of the fallacies of the teaching and practice of the Roman  Catholic Church, such as the sale of indulgences for the absolution of sin and the placing of the papacy as the highest authority. They began protesting what they saw and attempting to reform the church. One such individual was Jon Hus (1369-1415), a Czech priest and dean and rector at Charles University in Prague. Because of his stand against the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, he was burned at the stake, but said as he was was being burned, “You can cook this goose, but a swan will arise.” (“Hus” means “goose”!).
     Another protestor/reformer of the 14th century who opposed the corruption of the Roman  Catholic Church was John Wycliffe, an English scholar, and theologian. He was a seminary professor at Oxford, and the first to translate Scripture (the Latin Vulgate) into English in 1382. Wycliffe was posthumously condemned as a heretic and his body exhumed and burned in 1428 by the Roman Catholic Church. 
     Most remembered, however of the reformers is Martin Luther (Nov. 10, 1483—Feb. 18,  1546), a German professor of theology, composer, priest and monk. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and on Oct. 31, 1517 (500 years ago tomorrow), he tacked his “95 Theses” document (which attacked the Church’s corruption and propounded a number of central Christian beliefs) to the church door in Wittenberg.  This really spawned the “Protestant Reformation” that transformed much of Europe and thus spread to North America, and really changed the course of church history. (And by the way, Luther was referred to by some as “the swan,” fulfilling the prediction of Jon Hus!).
     The Reformation was continued by John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and others, resulting in the arising of the Anabaptists, Moravians and others. The Reformation transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today. Actually “renewed” might be a better word than “transformed,” for they were returning to the teachings of the Bible and the “true Gospel.” They were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity, especially in regard to what it was teaching about salvation and the authority of Scripture. Five tenants of faith emerged during the Reformation that summarized the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity. They are given by the following Latin phrases:
     1.  Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority for faith and practice.
     2.  Sola Fide (“faith alone”):  We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
     3.  Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God totally apart from our works.
     4.  Solus (Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
     5.  Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”):  We live for the glory of God alone.
      Praise God for those whom He has raised up to protect His Word and to enable us to hear the “true Gospel” which is the “power of God unto salvation to all who believe!”
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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Preparing the Soil

Our gardening season here in northwest Montana is rather short so timing is pretty crucial. We can actually have frost any month of the year, but normally we are safe from early June until the first part of September. We try to get the early things (peas, radishes, onions, potatoes) into the ground when we have our first real warm spell in late April to early May and then the rest we plant late May to early June.  Sometimes it is necessary to cover the plants that are especially susceptible to frost. We set the vines and tomatoes out in tires to protect them and make it easier to cover at night.
     But, in order to have a successful vegetable garden, the work actually starts now, after this summer’s crop has been harvested.  If the plants are going to germinate and grow well and produce fruit, it is important to have good soil with the right nutrients.  So, we have been busy digging out any remaining weeds, hauling and spreading manure and rototilling. Now we are covering with leaves (with some pine needles as well for the strawberries that like acidic soil) so that during the winter the leaves break down and pour their nutrients into the soil.  Then, when the frost leaves in the spring and the ground is dry enough, I rototill again, mixing the decayed leaves into the soil and preparing it for planting.  In other words, there is much more to successful gardening than just throwing some seeds in the ground in the spring. Soil preparation is very important.
     Jesus often used simple earthly illustrations to teach spiritual truths. This helped to make the truths much easier to understand and apply. When He made up a story to teach the truth, it was called a parable which is really an object lesson. One such parable is recorded in Luke 8:4-15 where Jesus spoke of asower who went out to sow his seed.”  Some of the seed fell beside the road and was trampled underfoot and the birds ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil and as soon as it sprouted, it withered for lack of water and nourishment. Other seed fell among the thorns and when the plants came up the thorns choked them out.  Some seed fell on good soil (soft, deep and clean) and produced a big crop.  Jesus went on to explain that “the seed is the word of God” and the soil represents the heart condition of those who hear the word. Only on the good, prepared, soil did the seed both germinate and bring forth fruit. Jesus said, “the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
     As Christians, “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20), it is our responsibility (and privilege!) to sow the seed, i.e., share the word of God, the Gospel (Good News of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection…I Cor. 15:1-4), in the hearts of those that God brings into our lives who don’t know Christ. In order for the seed to have its best chance of germination and producing fruit, we need to do our part to prepare the soil of people’s hearts. How do we do that?  We do it by loving people, serving them in whatever way God has equipped us, thus building a relationship of trust with them and, of course, praying much for them, that God will open their hearts and minds to see who He is and to have a desire for Him (cf II Cor. 4:3-6).  We, of course cannot change a person’s heart, only God can do that. But we are the instrument He uses, the conduit through which He pours out His love. 
     When seeds germinate and the plants poke through the surface of the soil, our job, as a gardener, isn’t done. We will need to water, to cultivate and to pull weeds, and cover the young plants if there is a chance of frost.  We may also have to protect the plants from insects, and other pests (like our resident deer herd!).  We must also recognize that it is only God who causes the growth and fruit production.  The Apostle Paul, as gifted as he was, wrote: “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth (increase). Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers…” (I Cor. 3:7-9).
     Each of us, as believers, is to  play a role in reaching souls for Christ, but God does the vital part. We can’t save anyone, only God can. But, we get to be “God’s fellow workers. Wow!  Just think about what a privilege that is!  Planting and cultivating and watering is just using what God has given us. He gave us the soil, the seed, the sun and the rain—man made none of these, we merely apply them. The increase is the vital part—the inexplicable, the miraculous, seeing a plant burst forth from a little seed placed in the ground and then producing an abundant harvest. All the creative genius and science of the world cannot create a grain of wheat or a tiny growing flower or cause the sap to flow through a tree. It is not within the power of science to change the direction of the wind, to move clouds across the sky, to create enough sun to ripen a field of wheat, or to bring forth fruit. There is also a Divine Sovereignty and mystery about every conversion.  And also amazing is the fact that God uses us as His “fellow workers” in bringing in the harvest of souls.  But, in order to reap a successful harvest, the work of soil preparation, sowing, cultivating and watering must be done on our part. They must be done at the right time and in the right place.  There are many links in the chain that lead a soul to find eternal life in Christ. Just make sure you aren’t a “missing link.” Whether or not we get to be the person who is there when someone trusts Christ as Savior, we can all have a part that leads up to that decision.  We can for sure be those that help “prepare the soil” by loving and serving others and letting them see Christ in us.
          Forever His,
            Pastor Dave    
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My Favorite Season

Our grandson who is in 8th grade plays a sport every season and sometimes the sports overlap to where he is playing two at a time. But if you ask him what his favorite sport is, he will usually tell you the one in which he is currently participating. I can understand that because as we are now experiencing my “favorite time of year” with the crisp, cool, often clear days of autumn and its magnificent colors of the deciduous maples, mountain ash, oak, elm and chestnut trees and then all the grasses and shrubs that are also turning shades of yellow, orange, brown and red. Then to top it off we had our first snowfall this past Thursday which has since melted in the valley but left our beautiful mountains with a blanket of white.  Yesterday began with clear skies and frost on the ground. We went for a walk during the break between Sunday school and church and reveled in all the colors of the trees  with a backdrop of mountains dusted in white set against the deep blue Montana sky. Wow, Lord, you are such an amazing artist!  We are also blessed to have, in our area, Western Larch trees whose needles turn yellow-orange in the fall and fall off. They too have begun turning and can be seen on the mountainsides contrasted against the fresh blanket of snow.
     Then as winter comes and all the landscape is blanketed in white against a wintery-blue sky, that becomes my “favorite time of year!”  We live where there is not much wind in the winter, so the snow piles up on trees, posts, fences, and creates some amazing scenes.  We enjoy cross-country skiing and love getting out on a sunny winter day with the snow glistening like diamonds as it reflects the sun’s rays. 
     Springtime, of course, has its own special beauty as everything comes alive after a period of dormancy and the birds that nest in our area return and the spring flowers burst forth. What an invigorating time. We always enjoy watching the new fawns born to our “local” deer herd. Watching them romp and play is a delight.  At that time, spring it is “my favorite time of the year!” 
     Then comes the summer and family, and hiking and swimming and picnicking and fishing and watching our garden grow and the beautiful roses bud forth and…that becomes “my favorite time of year.”  (Note: This past summer was not one of our favorites, however, as it was extremely hot and dry and smoky for much of the time, with wildfires in much of our area).
     I’m so glad that God is a God of variety and created the universe, placing the earth in such a strategic way in its relationship to the sun and moon that we have distinct seasons (especially in parts of the world such as where we live). Psalm 104 speaks of God’s creation and says: “He made the moon for the seasons…O  LORD, how many are Your works!  In wisdom You made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions” (vv. 19,24).  Again, in Psalm 136 we read: “Give thanks to the LORD..to Him who alone does great wonders…who made the heavens with skill..who made the great lights…the sun to rule by day…the moon and stars to rule by night, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (vv. 1-9).  
     When you observe the awe-inspiring creation all about us—and even the powers of nature seen in the hurricanes, floods and fires of this past summer and early fall—one can say with David, “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? And the son of man, that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than heavenly being, and crowned him with glory and honor! You made him ruler over the works of your hands; You put everything under his feet…O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is your name in all the earth!”  (Psa. 8:3-9). To think that the universe and our planet earth were created especially for us and we, as the crown of His creation, were given responsibility to care for the earth tells us how much God loves us—enough to come to earth Himself to provide a means of forgiveness for our sin and an opportunity to share eternity with Him.  Man’s sin and the curse God placed upon the earth as a result (Gen. 3), has surely marred the beauty of God’s original creation; yet the beauty still breaks through and gives us an inkling of what the renewed earth that we will get to enjoy for eternity will be like, providing we have trusted Christ and His work on our behalf as He suffered for our sins, died, was buried, rose from the grave and is coming again.
     Today, as you observe some of God’s amazing creation, whether it is the splash of autumn colors around you or the variety of birds and animals that live in your area, stop and give thanks for His intelligent design and for giving us all these things to enjoy (I Tim. 6:17). In a world that is in chaos, full of hatred and division because of sin, it is so encouraging to focus on our God and what He has made and how much He loves us and what He has planned for us.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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God So Loved the World

We were blessed yesterday to have Jill (not her real name) with us to speak to us during Sunday School, the worship service and a special evening service. We have been praying for and supporting Jill for 36 years. She was the first missionary that our church at Three Lakes took on to support and Three Lakes was her first supporter. Jill trusted Christ as her Savior at age eight and then at age twelve at a Bible camp, felt God calling her to be a foreign missionary. She was willing to go anywhere God might send her—except to a Muslim country!  Well, when she attended a missions conference at Urbana, Illinois, God seemed to be directing her to Pakistan—a Muslim nation!  While attending Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon, God confirmed that call in some very specific ways.  There was a need for a lab tech at a hospital in Pakistan. That happened to be Jill’s undergraduate training in college.  She ended up working in that hospital and training native lab techs who continue the work. She also taught at a Christian school in Pakistan.  Since she had to be very careful what she communicated back to the states, she couldn’t share much of what God was doing among the Pakistanis. 
     After many years in Pakistan, she went to Afghanistan—another Muslim nation—where she taught English as a second language, again with a very effective ministry, but was unable to say much until now.  Christians are severely persecuted in both these countries and Jill had to be extremely discrete in any of her communications back to the States.  In 2014, Jill got notice from her superiors that there had been a threat from the Taliban and she would need to leave the country.  They called Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and within two hours she was on a plane out of Afghanistan. 
     For the past three years Jill has been teaching English to refugees from countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt who have fled to the United States. She not only helps them learn the language, but also shares the love of God with them. She may not be able to minister to folks overseas at this time, but God is sending them to her!  Because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).  It is so exciting and encouraging to hear Jill’s stories of how God is reaching Muslims, often through dreams and visions, with Jesus appearing to them.  She is now able to share things she couldn’t communicate with us until now.  Those who come to Christ in the Muslim nations are persecuted and many are martyred for their faith.  They ask us to pray, not for escaping the persecution, but to stay strong in their faith in the face of the persecution. (Note: some of Jill’s co-workers did give their lives for bringing the Good News of Christ to these nations).
     We have other friends who are sharing about God’s love and forgiveness to folks in other nations where Christians are severely persecuted and where you cannot go as a “missionary.”  Again, God is “calling out (from among all the nations of the world) a people for His name” (Acts 15:14).  That group of “called-out ones” (ekklesia in the Greek) comprise what the New Testament calls the “church”  (Eph. 1:22,23; 5:22-29) where “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). It is easy in our western culture to get so focused on the condition of the “church” in America that we forget we are just a part of Christ’s Body, the church, and that He is at work building His church as He promised He would do (Mt. 16:18) from every tribe and nation. When the Apostle John, while in exile on the Isle of Patmos, was caught up to heaven to be shown what must take place (Rev. 4:1,2) he witnessed a throng around the throne praising God and said, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and  before the Lamb (Jesus), clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands…” (Rev. 7:9,10).  Even though these are ones who will come to Christ during the Great Tribulation in the near future, God is even now at work among all the nations on earth, drawing people to Himself through the work of Christ on the cross. 
     One day we will stand shoulder to shoulder with this amazing Body of Christ from every tribe and language group and praise our Savior together. How exciting that will be!  Sometimes we become discouraged with the condition of the church in our country and the apathy of so many professing Christians. It is so encouraging to know that God is still at work worldwide in hearts of those who have even been persecutors of believers, bringing them into His fold where “there is neither Jew nor Gentile,” just fellow members of His Body, the church.   God really does love the “world” of humanity. We don’t have a corner on the market here in our country! 
     Be sure to pray for and support those who risk their lives to take the Good News of the Gospel to every tribe and nation. And pray for those who turn to Christ and face the persecution and possible death that results.  These are our “brothers and sisters” in Christ. We will share eternity together.
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
P.S. An excellent book I highly recommend which shares how God is working among the Muslims is Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi who, although just in his 30’s,  recently went to be with Jesus.
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The Power of the Tongue

We just returned from a trip to see our family in Oregon and saw first-hand the sad scene in the Columbia Gorge in the Cascade Locks/Multnomah Falls area (from Hood River to Troutdale).  This summer was extremely hot and dry with a record number of 90-degree or above days and had the most recorded consecutive days without measurable precipitation.  The fire danger was extremely high by mid-August and a stage-two fire restriction was ordered, meaning, among other things, no outdoor fires of any kind.  On Sept. 2 teenagers were playing with fireworks at Eagle Creek by Multnomah Falls, and in spite of a warning, tossed them down into the gully where they burst into flames.  As of Sept. 28, the fire had consumed 48,573 acres, caused the evacuation of more than 400 residences and the closing of I-84 for several weeks, forcing travelers and truckers to cross the Columbia River and use the highway on the Washington side.
     When the fire started 153 hikers were trapped between the Eagle Creek fire and the Indian Creek fire and had to be rescued.  The fish hatchery at Cascade Locks had to release 600,000 fish 6 months ahead of schedule. Hundreds of firefighters have been risking their lives to contain the fire in the rugged terrain of the Gorge.  Sawyers have been busy felling hundreds of trees near the freeway so the dead trees will not endanger the travelers. They also estimate that it will take the next two years to get the miles of trails in the area safe for hiking again.  All of this is at the cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers. On Sept. 6, the Eagle Creek fire combined with the Indian Creek fire, making it even more difficult to contain.  The smoke created caused breathing problems in the area for the next several weeks–until the rains finally came a little more than a week ago (they got 6” of rain in the Gorge in a matter of three days. Praise the Lord!). 
     When one considers the damage to landscape, disruption of lives, endangering of buildings, risk to firefighters, sawyers, etc,  and millions of dollars of cost and then think that it all begin with some fireworks in the hands of a careless teenage, wow, it is mind boggling.  But, it is a vivid illustration of what James spoke of regarding the “power of the tongue.” He wrote: “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:5-10).
     Earlier in his epistle, James indicated that our tongue (i.e., our speech) is really a test of our faith and its genuineness. He wrote: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (1:26).  And James is not the only Bible writer who spoke of the power of the tongue. Our speech is the subject of numerous passages in Scripture. Even Jesus spoke of the religious Pharisees who “honor me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me” (Mt. 15: 8). The Apostle Paul wrote: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:16). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment; that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). What good advice!  Think of how often our words have hurt someone or cause tension in a relationship. And once you utter them, they are gone, and no matter what you say in follow up, you can’t “unsay” what has been said. “Thou art master of the unspoken word, but the spoken word is master of you” (author unknown).  In other words, once you have said it, it is beyond your control.
     David and Solomon spoke much about the tongue in the Psalms and Proverbs. They spoke of those who use their tongue to praise God and those who use it to slander and curse mankind.  The old proverb, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is definitely not true. We can heal from physical injury but often words cut so deeply that the effects last a lifetime. Solomon, in his great wisdom, wrote: “He who restrains his words has knowledge…Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent…Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Pr. 17:27,28; 18:21).  How true!
     Keep in mind that your tongue is in a very slippery place!  Someone very aptly wrote:  “If your lips would keep from slips, five things to observe with care: to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and how and when and where.”  Good, biblical advice, I’d say. Probably the most dangerous thing in the world is the tongue. J. Vernon McGee wrote: “The church is more harmed by termites within than by the woodpeckers on the outside!” We need to be careful that our words help to build up and not tear down. Weigh your words carefully; they are heavier than you think!  Holy Spirit, we need Your help. Guard our hearts and minds today. Help us control our thoughts and words so that we might lift others up and show them who You are and what You’ve done in us. Amen!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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