A Unique Opportunity

We had a very unique and blessed opportunity yesterday as we participated in a special church service for the installation of our new pastor, Ed (and Mary) Quillin.  Having retired from Pastoring at Three Lakes Community Bible Church near Troy, Montana, Kathy and I have been attending Faith Bible Church in Libby. Kathy’s dad, Clarence Kutz,  was the first pastor of the church way back in 1955!  Since he retired, there have been quite a number of pastors and a number of them left because of problems and left a hurting church. More than a decade ago Pastor Laurie Stuck came to FBC and really helped the church heal and become healthy again. But, Laurie and his wife Barb, felt that they needed to move to Yakima to help care for elderly, failing parents, so Pastor Stuck retired a few months ago and they now live in Yakima. Dave (and Kathy!) Butler came to serve as the interim pastor and did a fantastic job of teaching God’s Word and caring for the flock.
     Meanwhile, the Search Committee selected a new pastor candidate, Ed Quillin, who was unanimously elected by the membership. Yesterday the worship service was an official installation of Pastor Ed. The District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church, Lee Kisman, came and gave a charge to Pastor Ed and Mary.  Dave Butler returned to give a charge to the congregation. The associate (youth) pastor, Garret Dietrich, also gave a brief charge to the new senior pastor. In the congregation were also two of us as retired pastors, so we had seven pastors present. Along with our wives, we made up more than 10% of the congregation. That, in itself, is quite unusual, but it was also quite amazing to see the smooth transition of leadership take place without any tension or division. The congregation was saddened to see the Stucks leave, and had already grown to love and appreciate Dave Butler, but at the same time is excited to see what God is going to do under the new shepherd as he guides and guards and grazes the flock.
     When you think of the turmoil and chaos and anger and divisive hatred that often accompany the change of leadership in a church or in government of a nation, what we witnessed yesterday was a pretty amazing display of what the grace of God can do when allowed. And the charges given were spot on biblically.
   First the associate pastor, Garret, read Paul’s charge to his understudy Timothy, whom he had left in charge of the church at Ephesus,  to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (II Tim. 4:2).  
     Next, Rev. Lee Kisman, gave a charge to the new pastor based on I Tim. 4:16 where Paul charges Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…”  It is crucial that a person in leadership stay healthy spiritually (and physically) in order to set a good example for the flock (cf I Tim. 1:16; 4:12) and not negate the message by failing to “walk worthy of their calling” (Eph. 4:1), for, as the southern gospel song goes, “Your walk talks louder than you talk talks!” When a pastor doesn’t walk the walk, his integrity is doubted, his ministry is discredited, the saints are discouraged and devastated, the congregation is decimated and the adversaries of God celebrate.  And, of course the shepherd of the flock must “pay close attention to their teaching.”  He must “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” ( Tim. 2:15). A pastor must “Retain the standard of sound words (doctrine)…” and “Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to us” (II Tim. 1:13.14).
     Then Pastor Butler gave a charge to the congregation, based on Heb. 13:17,18 to “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Prayer for us…to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.” While we must not blindly follow our spiritual leader, but be like the Bereans who, regarding the teaching of the Apostle Paul,  “examined the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), we are to submit to the authority of those God has placed over us for our spiritual welfare, and not be a troublemaker (sowing discord) that causes them grief. They have a sobering responsibility. James writes in his epistle: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).   So, above all we need to pray for our spiritual leaders. There will be no power from the pulpit unless there is prayer from the pews!  Pray for their spiritual protection and victory against the enemy who would try to discourage and destroy their ministry. Pray that they are diligent and focused to rightly divide the Scriptures. Pray for their marriage to stay healthy and strong. Pray for their encouragement and joy to remain. Pray that they not become weary in well doing but remain steadfast. Do all you can to bring them joy and not grief in their shepherding of the flock.
     Finally the former pastor, Laurie Stuck, closed the service, as he “handed off the baton,” and prayed for Pastor Ed and for the church body.
     It was a beautiful service and exciting to be part of what I’m sure brought glory to God and was just a little taste of what heaven will be like and what the church can and should be.
 
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Ears That Hear

What has ears but cannot hear?  One answer, of course, is corn!  There are also a couple others given in Scripture.  Note the Psalmist’s description of idols: “They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands but they cannot feel; They have feet but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat” (Psa. 115:5-7 cf 135:17).  But it isn’t only idols made of wood or silver or gold that “have ears but cannot hear.” God gave this message to the prophet Isaiah to tell to the rebellious people of Judah under the reign of King Uzziah: “Go and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim. lest they see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hears, And return and be healed” (Isa. 6:9,10). 
    Isaiah’s message was to be God’s instrument for hiding the truth from an unreceptive, hard-hearted people. Centuries later, Jesus’ parables were to do the same. After Jesus told the parable of the “sower and the seed” (Lk. 8:4-8), Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (cf Mt. 11:15; 13:9,43; Mk. 4:9,23; 7:16; Lk. 8:8; 14:35). When Jesus’ disciples questioned Him as to the meaning of the parable, before He told them the meaning, Jesus explained why He used parables in His teaching. He said: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, in order that ‘SEEING THEY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND” (Lk. 8:10 cf Isa. 6:9).  People who were  spiritually discerning, that is, who were following Jesus and were acknowledging His message as true (such as those listed in Lk. 7:36-8:3) would have the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God. But others, who were not responding to Jesus message of the kingdom, would not understand the parable. In support of this, Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9 indicating that people would physically hear what He said, but would not understand it. Jesus’ speaking in parables was actually an act of grace to those listening to Him. If they refused to acknowledge Him as Messiah, their judgment would be less severe than if they understood more. (See Lk. 8:10-16 for an example).
     For those who “have ears to hear,” that is, who are willing to listen to and believe God’s Word, God reveals the truths of His Word (Dt. 29:29), but to those who are unwilling, He withholds them. Note what was written by Moses about the Israelites who witnessed God’s miracles in the desert as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land: “And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, ‘You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all of his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders, Yet to this day, the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, not ears to hear’” (Dt. 29:2-4).
     For those of us who have trusted Christ as Savior, and become “new creatures” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), we have “ears that can hear.” Note what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM (Isa.64:4; 65:17).’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in Him? Even so the thoughts of God one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God…But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things…For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE SHOULD INSTRUCT HIM (Isa. 40:13)? But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:6-15).  
     Paul also, in writing to the church in Rome, speaks of those who “suppress the truth,” who “did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but became futile in their speculations.” Paul says, “their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God gave them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity…For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…” (Ro. 1:18-28). They no longer had eyes that could see or eyes that could hear. What a tragic passage.
     How crucial that unbelievers respond positively to the message of truth from God’s Word when the Holy Spirit reveals it to them, that they listen while they have “ears that can hear,” and not suppress the truth to where God will “give them  over” to live by their old sinful flesh, for God said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Gen. 6:3).          
     But, to Jesus’ followers, He said, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Mt. 13:16). Do you have “blessed eyes,” and  “blessed ears”? Do you have “ears to hear”? I trust so. If not, ask God to remove the blindness and deafness so you can see and hear His truths (cf II Cor. 4:3-6).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Resurrection Power

   Rebecca Manley Pippert, noted Christian author and speaker was auditing a course at Harvard entitled “Systems of Counseling.” They were looking at a case study in which the therapist, using psychodynamic psychotherapy, helped the patient uncover a hidden hostility toward his mother. Naming the problem and understanding what was bothering him helped the patient feel much better.
     Before the professor proceeded to the next case, Rebecca raised her hand and said, “Let’s say the patient returned a few weeks later and said, ‘I’d like to be able to get beyond my anger. I’d like to be able to love my mother and forgive her.’ How does psychodynamic psychotherapy help a person with a request like this?”
     There was silence. Then the professor answered, “I think the therapist would say, ‘Lots of luck!’  To ask that this hostility magically disappear isn’t realistic. He’ll have to learn to live with it and hopefully not be driven by it.” That touched off a heated exchange in the class. “Is the most we can hope (for) merely the ability to name and understand our problem?” one student asked. “How do we help our clients find the power to change?” asked another. “If you guys are looking for a changed heart,” the teacher responded, “you’re looking in the wrong department!”
     He was right about that—if you are looking for a changed heart and changed lives and the ability to forgive and love, you’ll not find it in psychology, no matter what fancy name, like “psychodynamic psychotherapy,” you give it!  The only One who can change our heart and enable us to forgive and to love is the One who said, as He was being crucified, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34); the One who “Manifested His love towards us while we were yet sinners—dying for us to prove it” (Ro. 5: 8).  It is clear that Christ changed this planet by His visit. Like a meteorite from outer space, Christ struck planet Earth with such an impact that the world has never been the same since. Every time we write the date, we recognize His coming to earth.
     But, that was only the beginning. From the worst our world could muster—a mock trial, torture and crucifixion and burial—Jesus rose victoriously in a glorified body, left the grave clothes behind, walked through the sealed tomb, brushed death aside, forever changing the course of the entire universe. Those who met the risen Savior had their lives forever changed, from Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see Him, to Peter, to James, to all the Apostles on several occasions, to the two Emmaus’ disciples (Lk. 24:13-25), to some 500 believers at one time, and to Paul (after Christ had ascended back to heaven) (I Cor. 15:4-8)
     During the time Christ was in the tomb, His followers were confused, grieving and fearful. The Apostles were hiding out, thinking they too might be arrested and lose their lives.  But then they met their risen Rabbi, Jesus Christ, who could appear and disappear; who could walk through walls, yet who had a body they could touch, even with the scars of His crucifixion—a body that could still eat food—a body that was recognizable as the Jesus they knew, yet so different. During the next 40 days—before Jesus ascended back to heaven—the disciples were still a bit confused, not knowing if Jesus was still going to set up His kingdom at this time or what was happening (Acts 1:3,6).  Then Jesus “gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,” He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud receive Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:4,5,8,9). 
     Ten days later, on Pentecost, God sent the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2),  empowering them to be His witnesses to the far corners of the earth. The disciples, who had been discouraged, confused and frightened were now boldly preaching the Good News of the death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were willing to lay down their lives—and most did—for the message they proclaimed. Why? What made the difference?  It was the power of the resurrection, and the Christ who now lived in them through the Holy Spirit. They understood how much they had been forgiven by Christ through His sacrifice for them, and were enable to extend that forgiveness to others. One of the early martyrs for His faith was Stephen, who—before his death by stoning—preached a powerful sermon (the longest recorded in Acts). “And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ (Sound familiar?) And having said this, he fell asleep (died)” (Acts 7: 60).  How could Stephen do that? Because he experienced the “power of the resurrection.” 
     God would use his testimony to bring a Jewish leader to Christ, one Saul of Tarsus, who stood by and watched (with approval) the stoning of Stephen and heard his sermon and final words of forgiveness. Soon that scene and those words brought conviction to his heart, and the resurrected Christ, now in heaven, appeared to him and he was marvelously changed and became “Paul the Apostle,” missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). He experienced the “power of the resurrection” and he too eventually gave his life for preaching the gospel of Christ.
     Why would these, and millions since, lay down their lives for preaching about the resurrection if it were a lie or a hoax? And where did they get their ability to forgive those who persecuted them?  It was—and still is—from the power of the resurrection—from the resurrected Christ who now lives in each believer through the Holy Spirit, enabling them to forgive as God has forgiven them. The resurrection sets Christianity apart from all non-Christian religions. Many of the world’s religions look back to the martyrdom of their leader/founder. None but Christianity looks back to an empty tomb which once contained His body. Only in Christianity has the slain martyr risen from the grave and is living today. Furthermore, in Christianity, Jesus Christ had specifically come to die, to pay the penalty of death which He did not owe. He had predicted His death, submitted to its brutality, and even dismissed His Spirit when all had been done. But He had also predicted His resurrection, and after three days, replaced His Spirit back into His broken body, and now He ever lives and offers eternal life to those for whom He died.
     Have your received Him (Jn. 1:12)?  Have you trusted in His atoning work at Calvary for your sins?  “And the witness is this that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life”’ (I Jn. 5:11,12).  If you have the Son, you have everything you need to live a new life. You can love unconditionally and forgive those who have injured you. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). You have “resurrection power.” Praise God for the empty tomb, which speaks of a full salvation available through the risen Savior! 
                            Forever His,
                                Pastor Dave
                               
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The Doctrine of Adoption

     If you were to ask the average person on the street for a definition of the word “adoption,” he or she would probably reply, “It’s a married couple’s legally taking a child of other parents and making him or her their own child.” They would be right, but there’s another kind of adoption—the one mentioned in the New Testament in Ro. 8:15,23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5 and Eph. 1:5 where it refers to the act of God which places the believer in His family as an adult son with all the privileges that go with that position.  By the redemption accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, all—without distinction—who put their faith in Christ and His atoning work, not only become “children of God”/ “sons of God(Jn. 1:12; I Jn. 3:1,2; Ro. 8:14), but are also introduced into the full blessing of sonship. In Romans 8:15 Paul writes: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba Father’.”
     When we are “born again,” (Jn. 3:3), i.e., regenerated by the Holy Spirit when we trust Christ as Savior, we are born into the family of God as a child who needs to grow and develop. Peter said, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that you may grow in respect to salvation” (I Pet. 2:2). At the same time, the “newborn’s” position is one of full privilege as an adult son. As believers, our position will never change. From the moment of salvation, we are “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).  But practically, we are a babe in Christ and have lots of “room for growth.”  In fact, we should continue to grow during our whole lifetime here on earth as we get to know God better and better and learn to obey and serve Him. Peter’s challenge is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). As we grow, we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Ro. 8:29). In that sense, we continue to be “work in process” until God calls us home. We never “arrive” this side of heaven.  Even the Apostle Paul had as his goal “That I might know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). But He admitted, “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 12-14).
     The Greek word for adoption, huiothesia, literally means “the placing of a son.” Notice it is not the making of the son. Spiritual adoption takes a child who is God’s own through faith in Christ, and places him as an adult son with all its privileges and responsibilities. A Roman custom illustrates this principle so well. When a son born into a Roman family reached the age of 14, his father would take him to a public platform, place him on it and say, “My son has reached the age of 14, and he is now my adult son with all the privileges and responsibilities.”  He was always a son from the time of his birth (actually conception!), but it wasn’t until he became 14 that all the privileges and responsibilities were turned over to him.
     But, we don’t have to be a Christian for 14 years to become an “adopted son.” We are one at the moment of new birth. It is our unchanging  position in Christ, as an “heir of God and fellow heir with Christ” (Ro. 8:17). The one thing we have to wait for as “adopted children” is the redemption of our bodies, which are still under the curse of sin and death. Paul addresses that in Ro. 8:23: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  So, the culmination of our position as adopted sons is the resurrection state, “For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20).   No wonder the Apostle John wrote: “Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” ( I Jn. 3:2,3).
     Although we have an amazing position as adopted sons of God, we have so much to look forward to in the future. But meanwhile, we, as children, have lots of growing to do!
     Forever His adopted son,
            Pastor Dave
  
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Rightful Ownership

   I remember reading about a rancher who was offended by his pastor’s statement in a sermon that none of us really owns anything, that we are just stewards.  So, he invited the pastor and his wife to come to dinner at the ranch after church. At the end of the meal, he took the pastor around his ranch, describing how he had worked really hard to obtain each portion of the ranch and how it now all belonged to him. Then he said to the pastor, “You mean to tell me that I don’t own this ranch?”  The pastor paused and then replied. “I’ll tell you what. Ask me again in 100 years!”
     During the reign of King Solomon, the queen of Sheba, from southern Arabia, came to observe the King and his household and possessions and his wisdom, to see if the things she had heard about him were true. Solomon was given special wisdom from God and was also the wealthiest person of his time with property, livestock, gardens, orchards, and gold—not to mention his many wives and concubines!  After observing Solomon and all his possessions, the queen said, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land…but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard” (I Kgs. 10:6,7). But now listen to what Solomon wrote about all these possessions he had accrued: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all of the fruit of my labor…” (Eccl. 3:17-19).  Solomon realized, like Job before him, that “As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand” (Eccl. 5:15 cf Job 1:21).
     The subject of rightful ownership is a foundational issue in the practice of business and law and in many other areas. The creator of a product or idea is generally the recognized owner.  It is thus significant that God’s revealed Word opens with a declaration of ownership: “In the beginning God created…” (Gen. 1:1).  This remarkably simple yet profound statement is the ultimate ownership clause.  And, lest anyone missed that or didn’t understand, God later wrote it in stone with His own finger! “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them…” (Ex. 20:11).  God’s ownership via creation is reiterated throughout the entire expanse of Scripture: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made…For He spoke and it was done (Psa. 33:6,9). “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains…The sea is His, for it was He who made it; and His hands formed the dry land” (Psa. 24:1; 95:5). The Psalmist, Asaph, records God speaking, saying, “Hear,, O my people…I am God, your God…For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills…and everything that moves in the field is Mine” (Psa. 50:7,10,11).  The Psalmist, David, wrote: “O LORD, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; the earth is full of Thy possessions” (Psa. 104:24).  Everything that exists and everything we have comes from God, “…since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 7:25). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (Jas. 1:17).
     Mankind cannot claim true ownership of anything. But we are stewards!  Humans, created in the image of God and given capacity for far greater purposes than any other creature, were established by God as stewards of His creation (Gen. 1:26-29). Mankind was commissioned with the dual responsibility of caring for the earth and learning from it and its creatures and applying that knowledge for the optimum benefit of mankind for God’s glory. God has temporarily entrusted us with resources which are to be used to accomplish His work here on earth. As believers, not only will we be held accountable for the use of our material resources, but also for the spiritual gifts God gives us “for the common good” to help build up His church (I Cor. 12:7). And, “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Lk. 12:48). Trustworthy stewardship should be a supreme motivation to all humanity, but especially to Christians who understand its deeper implications in a spiritual sense. When using the “talents” provided by the Lord—whether in skill or wisdom, influence or resources—believers should seek to sow bountifully with an eternal perspective, knowing that faithfulness will reap spiritual gains for His Kingdom (Mt. 25:14-30).
     That is why Jesus gave the admonition recorded by the Apostle Matthew: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Mt. 6:19,20).  Our physical possessions are only temporary, but what we do to help build up Christ’s Kingdom will last eternally.  So, “we can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead!” 
     And, oh, by the way, there is something we do “own” that no one can take from us and that is eternal life which comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on our behalf. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out..of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (Jn. 6:37,39). “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (10:27,28).  As those who are “born again” into the family of God (Jn. 3:3), we become adopted “sons of God” (Jn. 1:12; I Jn. 3:2), and “if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Ro. 8:17). We have “…an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God…” (I Pet. 1:4,5).
   Wow, that deserves a hearty “Amen. Thank you, Lord!”  By God’s mercy and grace, we have become “heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ.” We have God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!   The Creator and Owner of all things, through His plan of redemption, will share His riches with those who receive the gift of salvation through “The Lamb of God” who was sacrificed to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). PTL!
                Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Created for Good Works

On a recent trip to Oregon to visit family, we went to the the gigantic Ikea store located next to the Portland International Airport. It is quite an amazing experience just wandering through their many displays organized as miniature rooms or even whole houses. You write down the number of the item you want to purchase and then when you arrive at the warehouse, you get a cart and go to the appropriate location and get your own item to take to the check out. Having a degree in Industrial and Management Engineering, I was especially impressed with the layout and efficiency of the whole facility for traffic and materials flow. What a great idea! As a full-blooded Norwegian, I have to believe the Swedes must have borrowed their idea for the giant retail store from the Norwegians!
Not only does Ikea have a great idea for their store layout, but they also draw upon the value people place on participating in the construction of a product. The majority of the furniture-type items you purchase at Ikea must be assembled when you get them home. Not only does that keep the prices down, but gives the purchaser a feeling of “ownership” of the product, increasing “product satisfaction.”
God created us to be workers. Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to care for the garden which God created for them (Gen. 2:15). Although work became much more tedious and challenging as a result of sin and the curse placed upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-19), there remained a sense of satisfaction in performing labor and achieving results for your efforts. “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24).
God, however, makes it clear in His Word that we cannot “work” our way into heaven. Since we were created to be workers, our old sinful nature tries to convince us that we ought to be able to do works that would put us in good favor with God and allow us to enter heaven. But, when it comes to our lost condition because of sin, the Bible says, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). There is absolutely nothing we can do on our own to be saved. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:4,5,8,9).
Although we are saved solely by the Grace of God and through the faith He gives us to believe in Him, we are saved to work. Paul goes on to write: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Before we ever came to know Christ as our Savior, God had a plan for our life, to labor together with Him to build up His kingdom. That is pretty mind boggling when we think that God allows us to work with Him to see His purposes fulfilled here on earth. Paul wrote: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature…Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself…and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:17-20). Wow, what a privilege, but what a responsibility we have!
To the believers at Philippi, Paul wrote: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12,13). We don’t and can’t work FOR our salvation, but are to work it OUT, i.e., to demonstrate its reality in our lives. Works can no more keep our salvation than they can earn it. It is not faith plus works, but grace through faith. Nevertheless, we are to show our faith by our works (Jas. 2:18). Good works—consisting of a righteous and gracious lifestyle, consideration of others and obedience to Christ’s commands—are the visible evidences of salvation. It is “God who is at work in us”, enabling us to “work out our salvation” in visible practice, through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
The Apostle Paul serves as a great example of one who was “working out” what God was “working in.” He said, “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). The Christian life isn’t just sitting back and watching God at work, it is working with and for Him, helping others to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s challenge to the Philippians was: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). The Greek word Paul used translated “striving together” is sunathleo, meaning “to wrestle or labor in company with.” You’ll notice we get our word “athlete” from that word. We need to strive together as a team, working for the kingdom of God, not just to build up our own little kingdom.
Think about all the unsaved folks around you and all the believers facing difficult challenges. Hey, we have work to do! That’s the purpose for which we were created and “recreated” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17).

Forever His,
Pastor Dave

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Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

 Anyone who thinks little things shouldn’t bother you has never been in a tent with one “little” mosquito, or has never had a “little” piece of gravel in their shoe, or a “tiny little” wood sliver in their thumb, or a “speck” of sawdust in their eye or a “little” paper cut on their finger! Remember the story of “The Princess and the Pea,” a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen in which a young lady, drenched from the rain, showed up at the palace and claimed to be a princess. To test her claim to royalty, she was invited to stay overnight. Unknown to the supposed princess, a pea was placed under 20 mattresses and feather beds to see if she had the physical sensitivity of royalty. The next morning she complained of being unable to sleep because of something hard in her bed!

     Or, consider the tragic story of Korean Airlines flight 007 that was shot down over Soviet territory on Sept.1,1983, leading to increased tensions between America and the USSR.   Flight 007 was on the last leg of a flight from New York City to Seoul, South Korea, with a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. When the commercial jet left Anchorage, the flight computer compass was off 1.5 degrees. The “slight” discrepancy didn’t make much difference for the first few miles, but the further the flight got from Anchorage, the greater the error became and by the time it was nearing its intended destination, KAL 007 was more than two hundred miles off course and ended up in Russian air space.  Soviet jet fighters were scrambled to intercept the Korean Airliner. They tried unsuccessfully to make contact with the passenger jet. Failing to receive a response, one of the fighters fired a heat-seeing missile. KAL 007 was hit and plummeted into the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 passengers and crew—all because of a mere compass error of “just” 1.5 degrees.
     Little things can make a big difference, but not just in a negative way, also in a very positive way.  Remember the boy’s “little” lunch that ended up feeding thousands of people (once place in the hands of Jesus) with 12 baskets of leftovers (Jn. 6:1-13)?  Remember “little” David, the shepherd boy, who took on Goliath, the Philistine giant. David was probably barely more than 5 feet tall and Goliath was around 9’ 9” tall (probably weighing 500 lbs.) and armed to the hilt (I Sam. 17:4-7).  His armor and weapons weighed more than “little” David, who only had a sling and five “little” stones.  The Philistine giant said to David, “ ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.’  Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you…’” (I Sam. 17:44-46).  
     And don’t forget the amazing story of Gideon who started out with 32,000  soldiers to go against 135,000 Midianites. The odds were  more than 4-1!  But God reduced Gideon’s band of men down to 10,000. Now the odds were 13 1/2  to 1 against the Israelites, but God said, “That’s still too many,” and reduced Gideon’s army down to 300—that’s 450-1 odds!  God said, “Just right!”  Maybe it was because the Israelites had some secret weapons. Well, do trumpets and pitchers and torches count?  But it worked (Judges 7:1-8:10),  for “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31).
     King Hezekiah and Israel faced the hordes of wicked, ruthless Assyrian soldiers under King Sennacherib who were coming against Jerusalem. After doing what he could to prepare for the attack, King Hezekiah spoke to the people, saying, “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria, nor because of all the multitude which is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles…” (II Chr. 32:7,8).
     When Ezra and Zerubbabel returned from captivity and organized the rebuilding of the temple which had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 596 B.C., there were some who complained that it was not nearly as big and beautiful as Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12,13; Hag. 2:3). The LORD, speaking through Joshua, the high priest, said: “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10).
     Small things can make a big difference.  I recently planted some tomatoes seeds to get a head start for our garden, seeing as how we still have a foot of snow or more (got 4 more inches today) covering our garden spot!  The tomato seed is really small, but when it germinates and the plant matures it will produce many pounds of yummy tomatoes.  Jesus, remember, spoke of having the faith of a tiny mustard seed and you can move mountains (Mt. 17:20). 
     This past Friday was the funeral service to honor the life of Billy Graham, whom God used in a mighty way to reach millions of people with the Gospel of Christ.  Sometimes as we consider the “giants” of the faith who had such big impacts for the Kingdom of God, we think, “What can I do? I’m no Apostle Paul or Billy Graham.” But, remember God can use “little” things to make a big difference.  That might mean a kind word spoken to someone who is having a bad day. It might mean sending a card or note to someone who is hurting or to someone who has blessed your life. It might mean taking a plate of cookies to someone who has moved into the neighborhood. It might mean befriending someone new in church or new in the community. It might mean visiting someone in the care center who is lonely, who maybe doesn’t have family around. Remember, Jesus said, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mk. 9:41). Remember, “Little is much when God is in it!”
One of the men who attends the men’s Bible study that I teach, shared this poem (called “My Daily Prayer”…source unknown)  with our group, one he has made the goal for each day. It is a good one for all of us, knowing that little things can make a big difference:

                If I can do some good today,
                If I can serve along life’s way,
                If I can something helpful say,
                Lord, show me how.
                If I can right a human wrong,
                If I can help to make one strong,
If I can cheer with a smile or song,
                Lord, show me how.
                If I can aid one in distress,
                If I can make a burden less,
                If I can spread more happiness,
                Lord, show me how.  
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave                
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