Faith Over Fear

As you drive around our community, you see many yard signs saying: “FAITH OVER FEAR.”    We are definitely living in a time when there is a widespread “fear factor,” as people worry about their health and the economic, moral, academic and spiritual future for our nation. There is plenty of room for worry and fear if that is your chosen response to what is happening around us.  Added to that is the loneliness and depression caused by all the “social distancing” and reduction or elimination of opportunities for group interaction.  It is definitely a trying time for all of us.      

I guess it has been a problem throughout history, including Bible times, for 331 times we read in Scripture the phrase: “Fear not!”  Jesus Himself, during His sojourn on earth often uttered those words to His followers.  Myra Kahn Adams, a media producer and op ed writer for Townhall Daily, suggests that we check out Michael W. Smith’s “Our God Is An Awesome God,” and sing along with him. The words are very appropriate for “such a time as this.”  “Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God.” When we focus our heart and mind on the awesome attributes of God and recognize that He reigns with “wisdom, power, and love.” our heart can be calmed and and guarded by a “peace that surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7).     

It is God that we need to fear, but not in the sense of being frightened or scared of what He might do to us, but rather having an awe and reverence and respect for who He is. It was said of an early Christian leader that “He feared man so little because he feared God so much.”  It is putting our faith in our sovereign Lord, knowing that nothing happens without His allowing it and that all things, good and bad, “work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (of conforming us to the image of His Son)” (Ro. 8:28,29). Our God is to be feared because He reigns over us with “wisdom, power and love.” And that is also why we need “fear not” when it comes to circumstances or people who may be against us. The Fear of the Lord is “the beginning of wisdom”(Pr. 1:7), a ‘’fountain of life”(Pr. 14:27), and leads to life, rest, and contentment (Pr. 19:23).     

Faith can be defined as “Forsaking All In Trusting Him.” Fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Trust (faith) in the Lord is the cure for a fearful spirit. In the Psalms, David (who had many reasons to fear) wrote:  “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psa. 56:3,4).  “I sought the LORD, and He answered me; and delivered me from all my fears” (Psa. 34:4). Relying on God means developing the kind of faith that believes in the wisdom, power and love of our awesome God. Fear does not factor into the resources we have in God. As the Apostle Paul wrote: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). Nothing can separate us from the love, wisdom and power of God, “which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).

Fear imprisons, faith frees. Fear troubles, faith triumphs. Fear cowers, faith empowers. Fear disheartens, faith encourages. Fear darkens, faith brightens. Fear cripples, faith heals. Fear puts hopelessness at the center of life; faith puts fear at the feet of God. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1).   God does not want us to be fearful. He wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to practice “FAITH OVER FEAR.” He loves us perfectly and “perfect love casts out fear” (I Jn. 4:18,19).

Go online and check out Michael W.Smith’s Our God Is An Awesome Godvideo and sing along with him. It will help you “fear God and fear not man.”         

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave

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Precious Memories

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Randy Travis’ song, “Precious Memories.”              “Precious memories, unseen angels              Sent from somewhere to my soul.                 How they linger ever near me                 And the sacred scenes unfold.                   CHORUS: Precious memories, how they linger,                 How they ever flood my soul.                  In the stillness of the midnight                  Precious sacred scenes unfold.                  As I travel on life’s pathway,                Know not what the years may hold.                 And as I ponder, hope grows fonder             Precious memories flood my soul.”       

Memory is a wonderful gift from God. Our brain can store an unbelievable amount of information including memories of events, places, smells, colors, people, relationships, activities, books we have read, movies we have seen, Bible stories, and verses we have memorized …The list is endless. Our cell phone occasionally puts together a grouping of pictures with a particular theme, such as a hike we took, a vacation with the family, or maybe pictures of pets, and just runs them impromptu accompanied by music. They bring back memories associated with each.  I recently had a dream like that. My mind started randomly replaying memories of the past: friends at church, our church softball team, working to start a Bible camp, family hikes…memories of the past, randomly replaying in my mind. It is amazing how many memories can flash by in just a brief moment of time.        

Memories can be  a bane or blessing, depending on whether they elicit negative or positive feelings when they flash through our minds.   Obviously some things from our past we would rather erase from our memory bank.  The Apostle Paul, who—as Saul of Tarsus—used to be a persecutor of followers of “The Way” (believers in Jesus), and even gave consent to the stoning death of Stephen, the first martyr of the early church, wrote these words to the church at Philippi: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14).  To the church at Rome he wrote: “Wretched man that I am!” (Ro. 7:24). To his understudy, Timothy, Paul wrote: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (I Tim. 1:15). The Apostle had many memories from the past that still bothered him, but he chose to leave them in the past and press on. He had been transformed, reborn, and was developing a new set of memories now as a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus” (Ro. 1:1) who was “pressing on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14)  His past was forgiven, all his sins paid for by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7).

The Apostle Paul undoubtedly had time to reflect on his lifetime of memories as he sat in the dark, damp, dirty dungeon in Rome while writing his second letter to Timothy, which would end up being his final recorded words. He knew his execution was near, but his faith was not shaken and he continued to praise God.  He wrote: “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I’m sure that it is in you as well” (II Tim. 1:3-5).  Paul was extremely fond of Timothy. He remembered Timothy’s tears, possibly when they parted at Ephesus where Timothy was left to minister; or, when Paul summoned Timothy to come from Ephesus to Macedonia to see him shortly before Paul was arrested and taken prisoner to Rome. Whatever the reason, their untimely parting had greatly disturbed Timothy who looked upon Paul as his spiritual father. Paul—who was confident in the genuineness of Timothy’s faith, which began in the home of a godly mother and grandmother—longed to see Timothy again.     

Paul goes on to mention another “precious memory”:  “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains” (II Tim. 1:16).  Onesiphorus, (a person, not a disease!), who ministered to Paul in Ephesus, sought him out in the dungeon where Paul was confined in Rome and ministered to him (vv. 17, 18). Often as Paul concluded his letters, he sends greetings to a whole list of believers who labored with him or encouraged him in some way—precious memories that Paul took with him wherever he went and were a comfort to him when he spent time in prison for his faith.      

Often at a funeral or memorial service, there is a time of sharing memories of the friend and loved one who died.  These are very precious memories that will stay with us forever, even though our friend or loved one is no longer here.      

No matter what memories we have of the past—good or bad—we can work at filling our mind (there’s still plenty room!) with God’s precious Word. One of the blessings of Scripture memorization is that the Holy Spirit can use those verses to convict us if we are tempted to head the wrong direction (Psa. 119:11), to counsel us when we are need wisdom to make a choice (Jas. 1:5; Pr. 3:5,6), to comfort us when we are grieving (I Thes. 4:13), to help answer the questions of a soul that is searching for truth (I Pet. 3:15) and to point them to Christ (I Cor. 15:1-4).  Many of us have an amazing amount of “trivia” packed away in our memory bank and can impress others with our recall of “useless information.” How much better to begin, or continue, hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Psa. 119:11), meditating on it (Josh. 1: 8; Psa. 119:15), and allowing it to direct our lives and influence others for the Kingdom.  Solomon in his “Book of Wisdom” (Proverbs), emphasizes the importance of God’s Word in our life. He writes: “Bind them (Scriptures) continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you” (Pr. 6:21,22).  What better memories could we have replaying in our mind than God’s Word, “precious memories” that will speak to us at just the right moment and guide us on the path that God would have us walk.              

Forever His,             

   Pastor Dave     

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God is Good!

As we were walking across the parking lot at the grocery store last week, a Christian brother passed by and, with a big grin on his face shouted out, “God is good. He can’t help Himself!”  That’s true. God is good—all the time—because that is His character and He can’t deny Himself. He will be who He is—all the time.  Of course, He is also holy, just, and righteous, as indicated by His name, Yahweh (Jehovah). He is the righteous God who hates sin but loves the sinner and thus provided for redemption.      

Jeremiah, often referred to as the “weeping prophet” (see Jer. 9:1; 13:17), for more than 40 years faithfully proclaimed God’s judgment on apostate Judah, all the while enduring opposition, beatings and even imprisonment. He even composed several melancholy poems of lament (mourning) over the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.  Yet in the midst of it all, Jeremiah proclaimed His hope in the unchanging goodness of God, writing these words: “The LORD’s lovingkindnesses (mercies) indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’  says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him” (Lam. 3:22-25).  Jerusalem and the Temple had been reduced to a pile of rubble by invading Babylonian hordes, and Jeremiah, heart-broken, wrote a lament, but then in the midst of this terrible holocaust, he cried out “Great is Thyfaithfulness!”  In the face of death and destruction with life seemingly coming apart at the seams, Jeremiah turned a tragedy into a triumph of faith recognizing that God had never failed him in the past and had promised to remain faithful in the future. In the light of the unchangeableness of the God he knew and loved, Jeremiah found hope and comfort. If ever there was a man who had to “wait on God” (v. 25), it was Jeremiah. He watched while his whole world fell apart and yet he could say, “The LORD is good!” {NOTE: The concept of “wait” is an expectant, joyful, waiting for the just resolution of all things by the One who created, redeemed, and sustains all things, and never sleeps or becomes weary (Isa. 40:28) and who promises: “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isa. 40:31).}     

Jonah, the “reluctant prophet” who went—after the ordeal of being cast into the sea and swallowed by the “great fish” that “God appointed (prepared or made ready)” (Jonah 1:17)—to preach to the many thousands of heathen, idolatrous residents of  Nineveh (located near the modern city of Mosul, Iraq), complained when they repented and God forgave them and withheld judgment upon them. Jonah was angry because he knew that God would spare the Ninevites if they repented and he didn’t want these enemies of Israel to be spared.  That’s why he had fled the opposite direction when God told him to go to Nineveh (Jon. 1:1,2). Jonah’s response to God?  “I knew this is what would happen!” ‘For I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness (mercy), and the One who relents from sending calamity’” (Jon. 4:2).  God is gracious, compassionate and merciful—God is good, He can’t help Himself—that’s who He is!     

“Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Jer. 33:11b). Praise the Lord that in such a confusing, chaotic time as we are going through right now, God is still the same faithful, loving, merciful, compassionate, good God that He has always been and will always be. We can pray with David: “Behold the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Thy lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee” (Psa. 33:18-22).  AMEN!           Forever His,            

Pastor Dave

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When Will Things Return to Normal?

     That is one of the most often-asked questions during this chaotic, confusing, difficult time in our history with controversy over how to deal with the COVID-19 virus, political polarization in our nation, and wondering who our next president will be even though we have just finished the election. We miss having social contact which is such a crucial part of life whether at church services, restaurants, schools, or sporting events, and wonder if we will ever be able to stop wearing masks which make it hard to breathe, hard to see (if you have glasses), and make it hard to hear others or even to recognize them.   What a strange world we currently live in!  When will life ever return to normal?  Will there be a new normal and what will it look like?  Will our schools be able to return to regular in-person classes? Will our sports teams be able to compete as before with crowds cheering on their favorite team?      

One thing we know for sure is that there is no perpetual state of normal. Life is ever changing. As I think way back to my childhood, normal was found in the home I lived in with my dad, mom, one sister and two brothers (all of whom were quite a bit older than I).  Soon I was the only child at home and life took on a new normal. I rode bikes with my friends, played marbles, kick-the-can and Annie-I-Over. We played “500” with a bat and ball in the cow pasture. Then there was college, marriage and then normal was my wife Kathy and I living in Portland, Oregon and having to make all new friends and living a long drive from any family members. We had to get established in a new church and learn our way around in a big city—quite a challenge after moving from a community of only about 5,000 people!      

As I grew up, we had dial phones attached to the wall and were on a party line. I went over to the neighbors’ (an old German couple)  to watch black-and-white television to see my favorite programs: The Lone Ranger and Rin-Tin-Tin. Now we have phones which we take with us wherever we go and we can DVR our favorite television programs and watch them—skipping commercials—whenever we choose.      

Over time, we navigate through lots of normals. Sometimes the changes are welcomed enthusiastically. Sometimes we don’t even notice the changes have taken place until we stop to reflect on the “good old days,” Then sometimes our normal is abruptly shaken by the death of a family member, the loss of a job, a serious, debilitating illness or the pain of being hurt by a trusted friend, or the loss of a home by fire or flood, hurricane or tornado. This past summer many in the West had to evacuate their homes and some tragically lost their homes to wildfires.  Suddenly life had a whole new normal. Then add to that the craziness brought on by the response to a world-wide pandemic and life is definitely “different” for all of us.  Everyone is experiencing a new normal.     

If you are waiting for normal to return, you may be setting yourself up for a major letdown.  Nothing remains normal for long. There are some things, however, that remain constant. The sun comes up each day in the East and sets in the West. We still have the seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.  The earth continues to spin at the same rate on its axis and at the same inclination to the Sun.  We still have the moon and stars to give us light by night. AND, God remains unchanged, still carrying out His purpose for this earth and for us. Nothing, not a pandemic, a flood, a wildfire, or contested election takes Him by surprise or thwarts His plan for us.  “God is still on the throne, Almighty God is He!”  God is not up in heaven wringing His hands wondering what He should do now!      

“The prophet Jeremiah witnessed the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. He saw his beloved Holy City  burned to the ground and the precious Temple left in a pile of rubble. He witnessed his fellow Jews being physically uprooted from their land and their normal way of life and marched to a different land with a different culture and different language. Their normal had changed drastically.” (from”What Is Normal” by Chris Katulka in the July-August issue of Israel My Glory). Knowing life would never be the same, Jeremiah, in spite of what had happened to the Jews for their apostasy, and despite the mistreatment he experienced by his own people, still expressed his hope in an unchanging God: “The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22,23). Despite all the grief, pain and uncertainty, Jeremiah was convinced of one thing: “The LORD is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lam. 3:24).  Jeremiah knew God’s faithfulness was the only constant in the tragic events raging around him.     

We are uncertain of the future because of COVID-19, what the political scene will be like come 2021, how our lives will be changed, and what the new normal will look like. And that’s okay, because God will not change, nor will His plans for us change. His mercies and compassions will not fail. He will remain faithful (II Tim. 2:13). We can put our full trust and hope in Him. “The hope of righteousness is gladness…the way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright…The righteous will never be shaken…” (Prov. 10:28-30).  “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (Heb. 6:19).

“The times, they are a changing,” but God is our constant, our “Normal” that will not change. PTL!  No matter how things around us change, “For this we have Jesus, our Rock!”           

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave

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SEEK JESUS

Last week when I went to have a stitch removed in follow-up to my eye surgery, someone whom I encountered had a tattoo on her arm that said “Seek Jesus.” I asked her to tell me about her tattoo and she shared with me her “Jesus story.”  She had grown up in a Christian home and had received Christ as her Savior and even attended a Christian college in Minnesota where she had a scholarship to play softball. But, she had strayed from following Jesus.  A friend back home who had cancer was in the hospital and not doing well, so she took the train back to Montana to see her friend. He died while she was there to visit and his last words to her were “Seek Jesus.” In his memory, she had those words tattooed on her arm.  I asked her how she was doing in that regard—seeking Jesus—and she said she was back in fellowship with the Lord and involved in a good Bible-teaching church—PTL!     

The Bible has much to say about the importance of seeking the Lord. The word used means “to follow or pursue diligently.”  In the Old Testament, when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he challenged the people to celebrate, saying: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad. Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done…” (I Chr. 16:8-12).  Shortly before David died, he exhorted his son, Solomon: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your Father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let your find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (I Chr. 28:9).

God is always looking for those who will seek Him with their whole heart. “God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God” (Psa. 53:2). David, who was called “a man after God’s own heart” (I Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22),  was one who did that. He wrote: “O GOD, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly” (Psa. 63:1).  The prophet Isaiah gave this admonition to Israel: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).   When the LORD gave a message through the prophet Jeremiah to the Jews in captivity in Babylon,He said: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).      

In His “sermon on the Mount,” Jesus spoke these words in relation to anxiety:  “Do not be anxious then saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:31-33).     

Some seek success in business or sports or entertainment. Some seek fulfillment in riches, some in power and prestige, some in the pleasures this world has to offer.  God says we are to seek Him and His Kingdom and His righteousness. That’s the purpose for which we were made. We were created with a God-shaped vacuum in our heart which only Jesus can fill. Only as we seek Him first and foremost does our life take on its intended meaning, purpose and significance.  The amazing thing is that when we really do “seek Jesus” above all else, we find the fulfillment that others look for in everything but God.  Some Christians look for a “second blessing,” or some special spiritual experience of manifestation of a  spiritual gift, not realizing that we are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10), and need not go outside of Him to find “something more.”   He is all we need. Even the Holy Spirit, when He comes to indwell believers, comes not to glorify Himself, but to glorify Christ (Jn. 16:14).  Seek Jesus. Seek Him first and foremost. Seek nothing else and settle for nothing (no one) else.      

Maybe we all need a tattoo to remind us to “SEEK JESUS.”   Well, we really already have an inner reminder. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and one of His ministries is to motivate us to do that very thing: “Seek Jesus.”              

Forever His,                

Pastor Dave

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SEEING CLEARLY

Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens which bends (refracts) light rays that come into the eye to help us see.  The lens should be clear but as we age, normal proteins in the lens start to break down and the lens starts to get cloudy and light scatters throughout the eye instead of focusing properly on the retina. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract and it is like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things look blurry, hazy and less colorful. It may also cause double vision and being light sensitive.    

  I have developed cataracts on both eyes and have trouble with double vision. After an exam at the Glacier Eye Clinic in Kalispell, the ophthalmologist recommended starting with my right eye, for not only was there a cataract, but a film that had formed on my retina which was also causing blurry vision and contributing to the double vision by distorting the retina.  On October 15, I had surgery on the right eye. The doctor first removed the cloudy natural lens and replaced it with an artificial lens, called an “intraocular lens.” Then he made little incisions and went in and peeled off the filmy layer on my retina. I had to wear an eye patch for a day and then retuned to have it removed at a post-op exam. Already the retina had begun to flatten back out, which was a good sign. I still have quite a bit of blurriness and see quite a few “bugs” flying around (floaters), but hopefully that will improve over the next weeks.  I go back this Wednesday to have a stitch removed (sounds like fun!). It was amazing when the patch was removed to see how bright and white things appeared. My left eye saw the things as rather yellowish and green that my right eye now saw—though a bit blurry— as bright white and blue!     

Matthew records a lesson Jesus gave in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 5-7) about laying up treasure in heaven rather than on earth, “for where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:19-21).  Then, in that context, Jesus said: “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But, if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is your darkness!” (vv. 22,23).     

The eyes were looked upon by the ancients as the windows through which light entered the body. If the eyes were in good condition, the whole body was lit up and receptive to the benefits that light can bestow; but if the eyes were bad, the whole body was plunged into darkness that breeds disease.  Jesus, using this language metaphorically, affirms that if a man’s spiritual sense is healthy and his affections directed toward heavenly treasure, his whole character will be healthy, but if that spiritual sense (world view) is clouded by a false sense of values (putting temporal things ahead of eternal things), it will bring darkness to his whole character.  When our view of spiritual things and spiritual values is distorted we cannot see anything else with a proper perspective.  That is the case of everyone who has yet to put his/her trust in Christ as personal Savior and receive new life in Him. We need to have the “Divine Ophthalmologist” remove our clouded “natural lens” and replace them with a new “intraocular lens” so that we can see clearly with eternity’s values in view.  Only with Christ in us can we see things from God’s viewpoint and that comes especially from spending time in His Word, now with the indwelling Holly Spirit to illuminate that Word to us. As we read Scripture we need to pray with the Psalmist:  “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law” (Psa. 119:18).  The Psalmist continued: “Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers. For Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Thy precepts…Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path…The unfolding of Thy word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psa. 119:97-100,105,130).    

  The only way to remove a cataract is with surgery to have your natural lens replaced with a new, clear lens.  No amount of eye exercises or eye drops can correct your vision. Similarly, the only way we can remove the distorted vision caused by our old, sinful flesh, is to come to Christ, admit our inability to change our sinful lives and to ask Him for the new birth through Christ and his death, burial and resurrection. Then we are made new creatures in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), receive the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4) and can finally see clearly spiritually.  Things also become much “brighter and more colorful.”  We suddenly can see the real beauty of the handiwork of our amazing Creator.      

But we still have the capacity to sin, for our old nature is not totally removed until we receive our glorified body, so we tend to allow the temptations of the world and the flesh and the devil to begin to once again cloud our vision. Sometimes after having cataract surgery, a person’s vision may, over time, again become hazy. This is due to the capsule part of your eye that holds  the artificial intraocular lens becoming cloudy. This does not require cataract surgery again, but can be treated with a laser to open the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision.  Similarly, as Christians, when we sin and cloud up our vision, we don’t need to get saved again, but rather to confess (agree with God concerning) our sin and thank God for His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (I Jn. 1:8-2:2).      

So, how is your spiritual vision?  Is it blurred, distorted, seeing double (trying to both serve God and material things)?  Or do you see clearly?        

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave     

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The Christian and Politics

As we approach a very crucial election year, some Christians are still asking:   Should we be involved in politics?  Should Christians vote?  Do our votes even make any difference?  As I think back to the early 1970’s, there were millions of unregistered voters, many of them Christians who felt that, as Christians, there was no need to be involved in politics or even vote. Then came the fateful Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  The horrendous slaughter of millions of unborn babies that ensued produced a tidal wave of moral indignation that swept through American evangelicalism and resulted in the Moral Majority movement and others, registering more than 10 million previously unregistered voters. And they made a difference. Ronald Reagan, a pro-life candidate, was elected president in 1980. Did that solve everything? No, but just think of how much worse things would have been had he not been elected. The country as a whole made a major turn in the right direction.      

In addition, many Christians realized the importance of living out their Christian beliefs in the public square and began running for political offices on the local, state and national level. Has that solved our moral problems? No, but it has been a restraining force.  If you compare things the way they are to how they would be if Christians withdrew from the political realm, you realize that they have made a substantial difference.  Things would be far worse than they are if Christians had not involved themselves.  

    Christians have a sacred duty to be “salt and light” (Mt. 5:13-16) and that includes taking advantage of the privilege of being an influence by running for political offices and at the least, voting for candidates who most closely uphold the biblical worldview and values on issues of marriage, sanctity of life and the role of government. The Apostle Paul  instructs us in Romans 13:1-7 that God ordained government to punish those who do evil and to reward those who do that which is right. Indeed, government is one of only three divinely ordained institutions in the Scripture, along with family and the church. Paul writes that “for conscience’ sake” we are to be good law-abiding citizens and live in “subjection to the governing authorities” (vv. 1, 6,7).      

Jesus’ command to “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.5:16) is an all-encompassing one including evangelism, missions, discipleship and helping to influence the divinely ordained authorities in a moral and just direction. As “salt and light” the option is not left for the Christian to refuse to be involved with “worldly concerns” and to go into a spiritual holding pattern, waiting for the rapture or death to “escape” to heaven. As Christians, we have dual citizenship, both in heaven and on earth (Phil. 3:20).  We are to be an influence spiritually, moving others to a decision for Christ and eternal life, and we are to be an influence on the world around us while we await our eternal inheritance.  Jesus, in one of His parables, emphasized to His disciples that they were to “occupy (do business as usual) until I come back” (Lk. 19:13). We are not to hide away in our churches waiting for the Lord to return, but to engage our culture, be a restrainer of evil, and an advocate for morality and justice. Christians can and have made a substantial difference on our culture.  Virtually all of the injustices in American history—slavery, child labor, women’s rights and racial discrimination—have been eliminated or greatly reduced as a result of Christians getting involved and saying: “This is wrong, and it must stop.”    

  As Christians, we have the duty to be informed voters and to vote our convictions, not our wallets.  Which candidates most closely support your biblical worldview?  If they have already been in office, check out their voting record. The Faith & Freedom Coalition  publishes a Congressional Scorecard listing the voting records of each Representative and Senator on each issue which affects our families and our nation’s future.  We need to be informed voters and vote. It is our great privilege and responsibility as citizens of the United States of America and our sacred duty as citizens of heaven who exist on earth as “salt and light.” But keep it all in perspective, for the greatness of America lies not in the federal government, but in the character of our people—the simple virtues of faith, hard work, marriage, family, personal responsibility and accountability, and helping “the least of these” (Mt. 25:45). If we lose sight of these values, America will cease to be great.      Never before has it been more critical for us to speak out for these values. Together we can influence who is elected to office and the legislation that strengthens families and promotes biblical values that protect the dignity of life and marriage. Should we, as Christians, vote?  YES!  Does our vote really make a difference? YES, it does. First, it makes us obedient to Jesus’ commandment to be salt and light, and He always blesses obedience.  Second, we live in a nation that is deeply divided about really important issues, like the nature of marriage, the sanctity of life, and the freedom of speech and conscience—and every vote counts. Third, we have the right and privilege to vote because hundreds of thousands of our citizens have sacrificed all of their tomorrows on the field of conflict to protect our right to vote and determine how we are to be governed.  We dishonor their sacrifice when we neglect our duty to vote, and we might lose those rights so dearly won.      A recent letter to the editor in a local paper, The Western News, was entitled, “Rumor has it a lot is riding on this year’s election.”  Kathleen Hassan wrote: “Rumor has it the very fabric of our republic and Constitution is at stake…Choose carefully this election. Choose as if your very life depends on it. Rumor has it that it does!”  Well put. Please check out where candidates stand on the issues important to you as a Christian, and VOTE!  And remember, when it comes to voting for the presidential candidates, we are electing a “president,” not a pastor. Neither candidate may meet all the qualifications for a pastor/elder, but where do they stand on biblical issues?        

Forever His,        

Pastor Dave     

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The Need for Sentinels

  In this world under the curse of sin with predators of all sorts on the prowl for prey to devour, animals must be on the alert for danger at all times in order to survive. Even bird populations must watch out for lurking hazards and airborne attacks. One means of protection employed by many birds that stay in groups, such as geese and crows, is the practice of appointing a sentinel—a dedicated “watchman on the wall,” so to speak of which we read in the Old Testament. A “watchman” would be placed on the city wall or tower to watch for and warn of impending danger from an enemy (II Sam. 18:24-27).      

In the animal kingdom, one bird is assigned the role of sentinel to warn or alarm the rest of the flock that is foraging or otherwise occupied. In some groups, sentinel duty is rotated, while in other groups, the responsibility is a division-of-labor assignment. In any case, it is the job of the sentinel to watch for danger and to give alarm signals of approaching predators. While their job is protecting the group, they are putting themselves at greater risk, which is something evolutionists, with their “survival of the fittest” can’t quite comprehend. Such behavior doesn’t fit their thinking.      I’m sure you have observed that when a flock of geese is grazing on the green grass on a golf course or next to the freeway, at least one of the geese—a sentinel— has its head up watching for danger as the others feed. Crows also appoint one or two sentinels to remain alert,  watching out for the rest who are feeding nearby. At the first notice of an intruder, they are to immediately sound the alarm to warn the flock to flee.  They are to take their job very seriously, for the wellbeing of the flock depends upon them.  In fact, if they should become careless and not sound the alarm, the rest of the flock may viciously attack the unreliable sentries and tear them to shreds in a brief, but brutal battle.  Justice is delivered swiftly for their failure to watch and warn. The flock could not afford to tolerate such irresponsibility, and to ensure that the sentries would never again be in a position to jeopardize the flock’s safety, the unreliable sentinels will be swiftly eliminated.      The job of sentinels or “watchmen on the wall” is a very crucial one for the wellbeing of the others, as demonstrated by the crows.  The sentinels are also more vulnerable themselves from predator attack as they are further from cover than the foraging flock and more exposed to the enemy.  They must stay on the alert at all times, and be quick to give the alarm to avoid any approaching disaster.      Sometimes the messenger of bad news pays a price for delivering an unwelcome message, but it’s better to sound the alarm—hopefully early enough to prevent harm—than to delay a warning that leads to damage-control problems that grow costlier with time. Jeremiah was appointed by God to warn Judah of coming judgment if they didn’t repent. The people didn’t want to hear it and took out their anger on the “watchman.” Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed coming judgment for 40 years, all the while enduring opposition, beatings and imprisonment (Jer. 11:18-23; 12:6; 18:18; 20:1-3; 26:1-24; 37:11-38:28).       Ezekiel was also appointed by God as a “watchman for the house of Israel” (Ezek. 3:17; 33:7).  God told him that if he did his job and warned the people and they didn’t listen, then their blood would be on their own heads (vv. 4,5).  But God also added, “If you do not speak to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand” (v. 8).  Jesus, during His earthly ministry, often warned of coming judgment if people did not repent. (e.g., Lk. 13:3). He warned of wolves (false teachers) who would come in sheep’s clothing (Mt. 7:15).  The Apostle Paul frequently sounded the alarm concerning false teachings and teachers who were introducing heresy into the church. He warned of Judaizers who were trying to place people back under a legalistic system of works. He said to the churches of Galatia, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the 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…let them be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9).  To the church at Philippi, he wrote concerning the Judaizers, “Beware of the dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the false circumcision” (Phil. 2:2 cf Col. 2:11). Paul wasn’t bashful either about naming names of those for whom they needed to watch out. To Timothy he mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander who had “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (I Tim. 1:20).  To the church at Philippi he asked them help Euodia and Syntyche to learn to get along, lest they cause division in the assembly (Phil. 4:1-3). Paul warned that “in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these” (II Tim. 3:1-5).  The Apostle also warned that “…in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods. which God has created to be gratefully shared by those who believe and know the truth” (I Tim. 4:1-3).    As followers of Jesus Christ it is our assigned responsibility to be “sentinels,” “watchmen on the wall,” to sound out warnings to those without Christ to turn to Him for salvation before judgment comes, and to challenge other believers to beware of false teachers who come disguised as sheep, to beware of those who distort the gospel of Christ.  As sentinels, we are, as the Apostle Peter exhorts, to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert,  Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in the faith…” (I Pet. 5,8,9).       It costs to be watchmen. Not everyone wants to be warned!  But it costs much more if we are unfaithful to our calling as “watchmen on the wall,” for then we are accountable for not sounding the alarm to those around.  God, help us to be faithful “sentinels” for You, encouraging others to put their trust in Christ before judgment comes upon them.        

Forever His,          

   Pastor Dave    

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Divine Appointments

     A little more than four years ago my wife had to have breast surgery for a cancerous tumor.  Each year since she has had a mammogram to assure that the cancer has not reoccurred. A couple weeks ago she had her mammogram and got a call asking her to come back as they “found something strange” at the surgery site.  Well, we prayed that it would be nothing, but couldn’t help being a bit apprehensive of having to have more surgery.  Her re-exam was scheduled for this past Tuesday.  That morning, as we are accustomed to doing, we read the Our Daily Bread devotional after breakfast. It was entitled “A Risky Detour,” and related the story of how Harley had to meet again with her insurance agent and was not looking forward to another boring sales pitch, but decided to make the most of it by looking for an opportunity to talk about her faith. When she noticed that the agents eyebrows were tattooed, she hesitantly asked her why. The agent said she thought it would bring her good luck, which opened up  a conversation about luck versus faith, giving Harley an opportunity to talk about how she relied on Jesus, not luck.
     Our Daily Bread spoke of how Jesus took a “risky detour” by taking His disciples through Samaria rather than by the usual route for the Jews of going across the Jordan River and around to bypass the hated Samaritans. The Apostle John relates the story of how there at the well near Sychar, Jesus met a woman who had come out at noon to draw water.  Most women came out early in the day while it was cool, but this woman was an outcast because of her lifestyle. Jesus asked her for a drink, which opened up a conversation that led to her trusting Him as Messiah/Savior (Jn. 4:1-26, 39-42). 
     Then the devotional article went on to ask: “Are you meeting someone today you really don’t want to see?…Consider taking a ‘risky detour.’ Who knows, God may be giving you a divine opportunity to talk to someone about Him today!…How can you go out of your way to share the good news in a bold but loving, sensitive way?”  Obviously, as we read that we both thought immediately about Kathy’s appointment in Imaging at the hospital. 
     When she returned from the re-exam, I asked how it went and what they found out. She said that it was only some different tissue, probably from radiation she had had near there as a child to remove a birth mark. It was nothing that needed attention—Praise the Lord.  But then Kathy went on to say that in her conversation with the technician who did the mammogram, Kathy got to share that she was currently teaching a women’s Bible study on Ephesians. The tech told of how she was a Christian but had made some bad decisions and been out of fellowship with the Lord but was now back in a good Bible-teaching church and hungry to grow in her faith and to get to know Jesus better. Kathy had prayer with her before she left. The tech is pregnant with their first child (a boy) and having a C-section today!  Pray for her if you would.
     In the Apostle Paul’s final letter, written to his understudy, Timothy, he challenged: “Preach the word (share the Good News); be ready in season and out season…Do the work of an evangelist” (II Tim. 4:2,5).  Even though we may not have the “gift of evangelism,” we are all—as believers—responsible for doing the work of an evangelist; i.e., taking advantage of opportunities God provides to tell people of God’s love and forgiveness. The Apostle Peter writes: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Pet. 3:15).   Pray that God would open doors of opportunity for you—even in your “less-than-desirable encounters.”  Pray for open hearts and pray that God will give you courage to open your mouth and give you the right things to share.  We are to be ready “in season and out of season,” i.e., when we feel like it and when we don’t; when it is convenient and when it isn’t—always be ready to give a reason for your hope.  You may have such a “divine appointment” today and it may come in an unexpected way. It seems that God loves to work that way and sets up those “risky detours” for us.  Don’t miss them!
    Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
     
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The Freedom of Forgiveness

      Competing in the finals this week on America’s Got Talent will be the first “spoken-word artist” (also known as a poet!) to ever compete on AGT.   Brandon Leake, a follower of Jesus Christ who is bold to share his relationship with his Savior and how it has changed his life, so moved Howie Mandel with his initial performance that Howie pushed his golden buzzer automatically advancing Brandon to the live rounds.  In the semi-final last week, Brandon shared an emotional poem addressed to his father, Tyrone, who had deserted the family when Brandon was quite young. Brandon’s performance is a full range of emotion from disappointment to anger to rage, pain and devastation and then to love and ultimately to forgiveness as he lays down his anger at the altar of Christ, at the foot of the cross where Jesus paid for ALL our sins (Tyrone’s, Brandon’s and yours and mine).  Brandon says, “Tyrone, I forgive you so I can be free. This is bigger than you and me.”  (It is a powerful performance. Google “Brandon Leake’s poem to Tyrone” and watch it.)
     Brandon expresses what we all experience when we fail to forgive someone. We are in bondage to the person we will not forgive for what they have done to us. We can’t get them out of our mind. We become angry and ultimately full of bitterness. Our vision is also clouded in our relationship with others and our walk with God is hindered.  “Unforgiveness, like strong acid, hurts the person on whom it’s poured;  but it always does more damage to the vessel in which it’s stored” (Mary Horner). Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and then expecting someone else to die!  When injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.
     When it comes to forgiveness, there is no greater example than God’s forgiving us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross to pay for our sins.  We can forgive because He has forgiven us, Even as Jesus hung from that cruel cross to provide atonement for our sins, He spoke these words concerning those who had tortured him and put Him on the cross: “Father forgive, them; for they don’t know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).  When we get a clear picture of how much we have been forgiven, it makes it easier to forgive others.  The more I know of myself, the more I forgive others.  If we refuse to forgive, we grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in us as believers, and our spiritual growth is hindered. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Mt. 6:14,15).  That’s pretty powerful when you ponder it!
     The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, wrote: “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).  “Never are you more like God  than when you forgive . Never are you less like God than when you are unwilling to forgive” (John MacArthur).   Forgiveness breaks the tyranny and bondage of the past and sets us free as well to continue our walk with God. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred and bitterness, and the waste of energy.  “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world” (Marriane Williamson).  There is more power in one act of forgiveness than in a thousand acts of hateful revenge.  And for the Christian, we’ve seen from Scripture that forgiveness is never optional. We don’t get to pick and choose what and whom we want to forgive and what and whom we don’t.  And, if we wait until we feel like it, we probably never will.  Keep in mind, again of how we have been forgiven by God: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us,  in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (which He lives in and through us)” (Ro. 5:8,10).
     As you have been reading this, has the Holy Spirit been speaking to you about someone who hurt you that you have yet to forgive?  If so, now is the time to do so. It begins with a promise to God and then you must keep that promise and not dwell on it anymore or bring it up or use it against them. The Holy Spirit will assist you with this, as it is not in our old nature to do so. C. S. Lewis said, “We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it!”  But, when we practice it we discover personally what a beautiful, freeing thing it really is. It is the only basis on which we can be reconciled in a broken relationship, just as we have been reconciled to God through the forgiveness offered by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.      
     Or, maybe you have hurt someone else and never asked them to forgive you. Well, then it is your God-given responsibility to do that. It is always your move, whether to forgive someone, or to ask for forgiveness. That is one of the things that makes Christianity so unique. And it is all made possible because “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
     Forever His,
          Pastor Dave
    
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