It’s Raining!

  I know that wouldn’t be very good news to folks in the southeastern states of the U.S., but here in the northwest, we are pretty exciting—It’s raining—something we haven’t seen in a measurable amount for 2 1/2 months!  We may only get a half inch or so (which is nothing compared to the 50-plus inches in Houston), but it is very welcome.  As a result of the hot dry summer and a few dry lightning storms, we have fires and smoke all around us. One of the fires is quite close to Libby, Montana, where we live and many have had to evacuate their homes and many more have been on a pre-evacuation notice.  A bit further north, another fire has burned a number of residences.  The fires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres of timber and created some very unhealthy air conditions for several weeks all across the northwest,  so the rain today is very, very much appreciated—thank you, Lord! 
     I remember a few years back when our children were still living at home and we went hiking to a lake in the Cabinet Wilderness to camp during the third week of August. Again, it had been very hot and dry, so we weren’t allowed to have a campfire so had to take a little back-pack stove with us to cook on.  The trail to the lake was powdery dry and the vegetation was very, very wilted. Well, before we hiked out, it poured rain and when we hiked back out water was running down the trail like a creek and the plants were seemingly shouting for joy as they absorbed the life-giving, sustaining moisture. What a contrast it made!  What a difference water can make (for good or bad, depending on how much!).
     I’m reminded of the story of Elijah in the Old Testament when he predicted a drought which ended up lasting three years without rain or even dew (I Kgs. 17:1; 18:1 cf Jas. 5:17,18)).  People were not able to raise their crops and their livestock also began to die and even some of the people were starving to death. During that time, we have the story of how God sent Elijah to the brook Cherith and commanded the ravens to bring him bread and meat (I Kgs. 17:2-6). But then the brook dried up (v. 7) so God sent Elijah to Zarephath where there was a widow who provided for him (vv. 8,9).  The widow was preparing to fix one last meal for herself and her son and then, for lack of water and food, expected to die. All she had left was a handful of flour and a little oil in a jar (vv. 10-12).  But God promised that her bowl of flour and jar of oil wouldn’t run out before the rains came again (v. 14).  Finally, after three years of drought, the rains returned (18:1, 43-45).  Waiting three months for rain has seemed like a long time. I can’t imagine waiting three years! 
     God is the one who provides rain to water the earth. Job wrote: “He gives rain on the earth, and sends water on the fields” (Job 5:10). The Psalmist wrote: Sing praises to our God…who covers the heavens with clouds, who provides rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains and gives to the beast its food…” (Psa. 147:7,8). The prophet Isaiah records these words from the Lord: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout…” (Isa. 55:10). As God was preparing the Israelites to enter the land He promised them, He spoke to them through Moses, saying: “But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven…and it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments…that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. And He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied” (Dt. 11: 13-15).   But then God went on to warn them: “Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit” (v. 16,17).  We read King Solomon’s prayer on behalf of the Israelites, saying: “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they have sinned against Thee, and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name and turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict them, then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy servants and of Thy people Israel, indeed teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Thy land, which Thou has given Thy people for an inheritance” (I Kg. 8:35,36).
     God has often withheld rain as a discipline for His people’s disobedience. Upon repentance and return to worshiping Him, the refreshing rains return. He also used rain as a judgment upon the earth during the time of Noah, when God flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind but Noah and his family.  He did, however, promise He would not destroy the earth again with water and gave us the beautiful rainbow as a sign of the promise (Gen. 9:11,12). So, whether we are experiencing a period of drought, or flooding, or refreshing rain in the right amounts, we should realize that our sovereign God is in control. During the final stages of earth’s history before eternity begins, God will send some terrible judgments upon the earth for man’s rebellion and especially for the nations’ mistreatment of His chosen people, the Jews. During that time, called the”great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21), or the “time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7), God will send two witnesses to prophesy and preach His Word for 3 1/2 years (probably Elijah and Enoch or Moses). “These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying…” (Rev. 11:6).
     But, we praise God today that He is still extending His mercy and bringing the refreshing, life-giving, life-sustaining rains. We will rejoice and be glad. Thank You, LORD!
                    Forever His,
                            Pastor Dave
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Remembering 9-11-01

   Wow, it’s hard to believe that it has been 16 years since that shocking, tragic attack on our country by Islamic terrorists, an attack in which nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives either at the Twin Towers in New York City, at the Pentagon, or in a field in Pennsylvania. The scenes of the airplanes crashing into the towers and the smoke and debris will forever be etched into our minds.  The response of the firemen and police of New York City and Washington D.C. was amazing, but tragically many of them lost their lives in their rescue attempts. 
   Our nation’s response was one of renewed patriotism and prayer, and church attendance soared—for awhile.  Unfortunately when life returns to somewhat normal, we so easily forget and now our country is full of divisiveness, hatred, turmoil and bias against the expression of Christian faith. We seem to be so much like the nation of Israel in the Bible. How quickly they forgot what God had done for them, their hearts turned from Him and they returned to worshiping other gods and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 1:25)
     Now we are experiencing unprecedented natural disasters, with hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires.  I believe that just as with the events of 9-11-01, God is giving us a warning of judgment to come and of our nation’s need to repent and return to acknowledging and worshiping Him. Sadly, instead of seeing the hand and the power of the Creator at work and the results of the curse He placed on the earth because of sin, many put the blame for all this on the refusal to believe we are causing climate change by our pollution of the planet, and are doing nothing about it. Unbelievable, but that is where we are as a nation. May God have mercy on us, and may we see yet another revival in this country as we have experienced in the past, when Christians got serious about their relationship with God and saw Him move in mighty ways. That’s what we desperately need. We need to be good stewards of this planet, and—in fact—were given that responsibility at the time God created mankind and placed them in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 1:26-28).  But, “going green” isn’t going to solve our problems!  Going to God is!
     After 9-11-01, my wife put together a notebook of pictures and articles to help us recall that tragic event in our nation. As we reviewed it this morning, we re-read this commentary which I thought you might enjoy. It is entitled: “How the Binch Stole America”
                    “Every U down in Uville liked U.S. a lot,
                    But the Binch, far East of Uville, did not.
                    Now don’t ask me why, for nobody can say,
                    It could be his turban was screwed on too tight.
                    Or the sun from the desert had beaten too bright
                    But I think that the most likely reason of all
                    May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
                    But, whatever the reason, his heart or his turban,
                    He stood facing Uville, the part that was urban.
                    ‘They’re doing their business,’ he snarled from his perch.
                    ‘They’re raising their families!  They’re going to church!
                    ‘They’re leading the world, and their empire is thriving,
                    ‘I MUST keep the S’s and the U’s from surviving!’
                    Tomorrow, he knew, all the U’s and the S’s,
                    Would put on their pants and their shirts and their dresses,
                    They’d go to their offices, playgrounds and schools,
                    And abide by their U and S values and rules,
                   
                    And then they’d do something he liked least of all,
                    Every U down in Uville, the tall and the small,
                    Would stand all united, each U and each S,
                    And they’d sing Uville’s anthem, ‘God bless us! God bless!’
                    And all around their Twin Towers of Uville, they’d stand,
                    And their voices would drown every sound in the land.
                    ‘I must stop that singing,’ Binch said with a smirk,
                    and he had an idea—an idea that might work!
                    The Binch stole some U airplanes in U morning hours,
                    And crashed them right into the Uville Twin Towers.
                    ‘They’ll wake to disaster !’ he snickered, so sour,
                    ‘And how can they sing when they can’t find a tower?’
                    The Binch cocked his ear as they woke from their sleeping,
                    All set to enjoy their U-wailing and weeping,
                    Instead he heard something that started quite low,
                    And it built up quite slow, but it started to grow-
                    And the Binch heard the most unpredictable thing…
                    And he couldn’t believe it—they started to sing!
                    He stared down at Uville, not trusting his eyes,
                    What he saw was a shocking, disgusting surprise!
                    Every U down in Uville, the tall and the small,
                    Was singing!  Without any towers at all!
                    He HADN’T stopped Uville from singing!  It sung!
                    For down deep in the hearts of the old and the young,
                    Those Twin Towers were standing, called Hope and called Pride,
                     And you can’t smash the towers we hold deep inside.
                    So we circle the sites where our heroes did fall,
                    With a hand in each hand of the tall and the small,
                    And we mourn for our losses while knowing we’ll cope,
                    For we still have inside that U-Pride and U-Hope.
                    For America means a bit more than tall towers,
                    It means more than wealth or political powers,
                    It’s more than our enemies ever could guess,
                    So may God bless America!  Bless us!  God bless!”                 Author U-NK !
Pause today and remember 9-11-01, the lessons learned, the families still suffering, and the need to once again be a nation that God CAN bless (see Psa 33:12 and Prov. 14:34).
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
                   
                   
                   
                   
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Created to Work

Most of us who have retired from our vocational work have discovered the need to continue working to fill in the time. It has been just a little more than six years since I retired from the pastorate and my wife and I have continued to teach Bible studies, help neighbors on building projects, keep up our place, make kindling and campfire wood for a local grocery store, take care of our four acres, including a 40’ X 100’ foot vegetable garden, etc. I also teach tennis lessons, help with the high school tennis team and Kathy and I are both members of U Serve Libby, Inc., that does fund-raisers to help pay off and maintain our tennis courts. Kathy serves on the hospital board and I fill in the pulpit occasionally. I continue to work on some books to publish and do the weekly devotional, “Wisdom of the Week.”  In spite of all that, there are still times that we get a bit “bored” and miss the contact with people we had while pastoring a church. 
     I say all that to emphasize the fact that God created us to be workers.  Some folks seem to think that work was part of the curse on the earth because of sin, but before sin took place in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were placed there with the task of cultivating and keeping the Garden (Gen. 2:15). God also told them to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Labor was complicated and became wearisome because of the Fall (Gen. 3:17,19), but it didn’t change the fact that God created us to be workers and His commission to cultivate, and care for the earth and to subdue and rule over the earth is still in effect. As a result of sin, work is often laborious, stressful, and unappreciated, yet His Word says (the Apostle Paul speaking): “And make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need… If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (I Thes. 4:11,12; II Thes. 3:10).
     As believers we are not to work just for a paycheck, to earn a living, to provide for our family. Paul writes: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17, 23,24). It may be difficult for the Christian to get hold of the idea that their daily labors can be performed as acts of worship, acceptable to God, but when one does gain that perspective, what a difference it makes in one’s attitude towards his/her work–to realize that it is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything. “Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act” (A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God).  Whatever our job is –assuming it is honorable—it can be regarded as serving Christ and helping to fulfill His primeval dominion commandment and even helping others to come to know Him. Therefore, whether the work is easy or hard, we should be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
     How, specifically, can we glorify God in our work?  First, we should prayerfully commit ourselves to do the best job we can. As professing Christians, our testimony is on the line. We can be enthusiastic and diligent about our responsibilities, or we can just plod through a job. How we do our job can be a testimony to the people who pay our salaries and to our co-workers. Our work is as big a witness as our words.  It’s called life-style evangelism (Mt. 5:14-16). A person’s work can provide the means for showing the world the difference Christ makes in a person’s attitude toward work. It also can enable the Christian to find satisfaction in a job well done.   What we do must support what we say. Unenthusiastic, sloppy work will greatly hinder a believer’s witness on the job. Second, we need to have an attitude of humility. Christ demonstrated a humble attitude during His earthly ministry. On one occasion, for example, He washed the feet of those who should have been serving Him (Jn. 13:2-15).  Every level of job responsibility can be done to the glory of God. The key is, no matter the position, we need to have a servant’s heart, knowing that we are ultimately doing our work unto the Lord. 
     Praise God, Jesus completed the work He was sent to perform (Jn. 17:4), to offer His life a sacrifice for our sin (II Cor. 5:21).  His work was to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus was able to say from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).  Because Jesus finished His work, we have experienced forgiveness and received eternal life. We know that one day we will pass into a new sphere of service in heaven. May our work here prepare us for faithful service for Him in eternity.
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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Placed With A Purpose

A couple weeks ago I mentioned the rocks taken from the Jordan River and placed on the West Bank at Gilgal as a reminder to future Israelites of how God had parted the river for them to cross into the Promise Land on dry ground (Josh. 4:5,20-24).  The stones served as a memorial to God’s miraculous provision for His people and how He would continue to be with them and provide for them.
      My good friend, Gary Sedivy, with whom I worked in engineering at Hyster Company in Portland more than 40 years ago, reminded me of a quote from Sam Sherrill: “A stone is a rock that has been placed with a purpose.”  Well, those rocks from the Jordan became “stones,” for they were “placed with a purpose.” We also read in I Sam. 7 of how Samuel pleaded before God on behalf of the Israelites who were under attack by the Philistines and how God  routed the Philistines (vv. 3-11). “Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (v.12). That rock was “a stone placed with a purpose!”  The name Ebenezer  means “stone of help.”
      I also mentioned last week that God is often referred to in the Old Testament as “The Rock” (Dt. 32:3,4; I Sam. 2:1,2; II Sam. 22:2,3,32,33; Psa. 18:31; 95:1).  The Hebrew words used refer to a large boulder, a craggy rock, a refuge or fortress.  In the New  Testament, we find a reference to how God provided from the rock for the Israelites in their wilderness wandering, saying: “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:4).
     With that in mind, we have a very interesting passage by the Apostle Peter who writes to Christians scattered because of the persecution: “And coming to Him (Christ) as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house…For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.’  This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’ (to those who rejected Him)” (I Pet. 2:4-8). Christ, “The Rock,” was placed as the corner stone of the Church.
      Paul, in writing to the Ephesian believers, spoke of how God had torn down the barriers between Jew and Gentile and, through the atoning work of Christ on the cross, making them into one body, the church: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing well…and might reconcile them both in one body to God, through the cross…So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens, with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:14-20).  “A stone is a rock placed with a purpose!”
    You will recall that when Jesus asked His disciples “Who do people say that the Son of Man is? (Mt. 16:12), They said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ And then Jesus turned to them and asked, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.’”  Jesus responded by saying that the Father revealed that to Peter and Jesus said: “You are Peter (petros = a small rock), and upon this rock (petra = a mass of rock) I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (vv, 13-18).  Christ, not Peter, was “The Rock” upon which the church was built, for He became the “corner stone.” Peter, along with the other Apostles and prophets would be the rest of the foundation, upon which we (the members of the church) would be added as “living stones” (I Pet. 2:5). (The KJV has “lively stones”—some obviously more “lively” than others!). 
     Each of us, as believers in Jesus Christ, have been “placed with a purpose” in Christ’s body, the church. Our purpose is to be salt and light, as ambassadors for Christ (Mt. 5:14-16; II Cor. 5:20) to help others be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. We’re not here just biding our time until God takes us home. We have work to do as representatives of the courts of heaven to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and eternal life in Him. So, “How are we doing?” Remember you, as a “living stone,” have been “placed—by God—with a purpose!”
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
    
    
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Our Ordered Universe

  Well, the much-anticipated solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 is over and the millions of people who drove to areas of the United States to view it in the “total-eclipse-path” will be headed home.  Our daughter and family live in one of those paths, near Albany and Corvallis Oregon, where nearly half a million visitors came to see the phenomenon. Gas stations were running out of gas and grocery stores shelves were looking pretty bare!  Crazy!  We heard about one group from Japan who had rented an entire campground way in advance to come over and experience the total eclipse.
     (We worked outside here in Northwest Montana most of the morning and stopped occasionally to use our piece of cardboard with a pinhole to project the 88-90% eclipse onto a piece of white paper!!  Think of the time and money we saved!)
     Actually, the reason that astronomers could so accurately predict the path and timing of this—or any other—eclipse is because we live in an orderly universe created by our amazing, powerful God. The words God spoke to Moses which were recorded on the stone tablets, are these: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them…” (Ex. 20:11).  In the longest prayer recorded in the Bible (Neh. 9:5-38), Ezra began by acknowledging God’s majesty, saying: “Thou alone art the LORD. Thou hast made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. Thou dost give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before Thee” (v. 6).  On the fourth day of the creation week, God made the two lights for day and night (Gen. 1:16), and then—almost like an afterthought—“He made the stars also.”  Nothing, of course, is an afterthought with God, but this emphasizes the relative importance of these parts of His creation.
     Whether or not the earth is the geographical center of the universe, Earth is the center of God’s interest in the universe. This is where He created man and woman in His own image and where He will reign over His creation in the ages to come. The prophet Isaiah recorded God speaking to him, saying: “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it as a place to be inhabited)…” (Isa. 45:18).  The primary purpose of the stars, as well as the sun (also a star) and moon, was “to separate the day from the night; and… be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen. 1:14,15).  They could not fulfill these functions, of course, if their light could not be seen on the earth, so we can be sure that these heavenly bodies and their light rays were created—like Adam and Eve—full grown, in a state of functioning maturity.
     Even before “God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1),  God knew that millions today would be viewing a solar eclipse across the United States of America! And that is a demonstration, not only of the omniscience of God, but of the orderliness of His creation and the fact that He has been sustaining what He created and made. In his letter to the believers at Colossae, Paul writes in reference to Christ: “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created by Him and for Him: And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15,16). 
     The word we often use to refer to God’s creation is  cosmos,  referring to the entire universe as an ordered system, as opposed to “chaos,” a disordered system. Surprisingly, our modern word for “cosmetics” also comes from the same source, which technically speaking constitutes any kind of adornment that transforms something ugly and disordered into something beautiful and well-ordered! Part of this “orderly universe” is demonstrated by how God carefully oriented the sun and moon with respect to the location of the earth.  Today, after the eclipse, as we viewed the sun projected on our piece of paper through the pinhole in a piece of cardboard, it appeared as just a tiny circle. It may also appear relatively small in our sky because it is 93 million miles away, but the sun is actually 109 times the diameter of Earth and over a million times the volume of Earth. It is the largest single object in our solar system and comprises 99.86 percent of all its mass. If a ten-pound bowling ball represented the mass of the sun, then all the planets, moons, and comets in our solar system could be represented by the combined mass of one nickel and one penny, with Jupiter being the nickel! 
     The sun is really a stable hydrogen “bomb” that gives off more energy every second than a billion major cities would use in an entire year!  The sun is a ball of ionized hydrogen and helium with core temperatures exceeding 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. The nuclear fusion taking place in the core propagates outward, replenishing the energy that the solar surface (more than 10,000 degrees F) is constantly radiating into space. If the sun were further than 93 million miles from the earth we would freeze to death. If it were closer, we would fry. God placed it at exactly the right distance for life to exist on Earth.  There is no way this is all by chance, but rather by the design of our Wonderful, Masterful, Engineer God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  So, as we view such amazing phenomena as the solar eclipse today, we need to praise and glorify our great God who made such things for our pleasure.
      But by far the greatest event in history to demonstrate what God thinks about us took place when God sent His “SON” into the world to be “the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12), and to give His life as a payment for our sins (II Cor. 5:14; I Pet. 2:24) so we could have eternal life with Him (Jn. 3:16).  Have you believed in Him and received Him into your life (Jn. 1:12)?  The sun is not the primary source of life—God is, the One who made the sun. Jesus Christ, God the “Son” is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him (Jn. 14:6).
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave  
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Memorial Stones

While our son and his family were here during the first week in August, in spite of the extremely hot weather, we packed each day with many activities including hiking in the wilderness to a mountain lake, biking, tennis, bocce ball, ping pong, disc golf, and lots of swimming at the creek and building a dam to improve the swimming hole. We were quite exhausted at the end of the week—harder to keep up in our “old age.”  But it was great fun and brought back lots of memories of our summers in years gone by when our days were filled with similar family activities, especially our times swimming at the nearby creek and building dams. 
     This time, each day we were at the creek, we built a little rock monument, ending up with six of them. They were sort of memorial stones to our special times together as a family.  I was reminded of when the Israelites miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry ground when they entered into the Promised Land, a picture of our Lord going through the deep waters of death to make a way for His people to advance victoriously and possess their heavenly possessions in Him. Having accomplished redemption, He takes all His people through death into resurrection life and glory “by a new and living way” (Heb. 10:20).  When the nation of Israel had finished crossing the Jordan, God spoke to Joshua and had him select a man from each of the nation’s twelve tribes to go back to the middle of the Jordan and to each pick up a large stone and carry it to their camp where they set up a memorial at what would be called “Gilgal” (Josh. 4:1-10,20). These stones were to be a memorial so that when the generations to come ask, “What do these stones mean?” then they were to relate the story to them of how God stopped the flow of the Jordan when the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, stepped into the waters (vv. 6,7).  God also had Joshua set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan (v. 9). 
     The 12 stones taken “out of” the Jordan and set up at Gilgal speak of redemption for Israel and of victory and conquest.  The 12 stones set up in the middle of the Jordan to be overwhelmed by its waters, are mementos of Christ’s death under judgment in our place (cf Psa. 22:1-18; 42:7; 88:7).  The 12 stones in the Jordan represent the condemnation from which we have been saved by God’s grace.  The 12 stones on the West Bank remind us of our new position as members of God’s family and heirs of heaven.
     It can be a profitable thing in our lives to establish some tangible reminders of milestones in our spiritual journey, times when God did some special things in our lives (or family).  If others in the future ask, what’s with the ______________ (pile of rocks, etc), then you can share with them how they represent how God was working in your life. 
     I’m also reminded of whom our Rock is, Jesus Christ. In Moses’ song  before the assembly of Israel, He said, “For I proclaim the name of the LORD (Jehovah); ascribe greatness to our God (Elohim)! The Rock! His work is perfect for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He” (Dt. 32:3,4).  In speaking of Israel’s enemies, He sang, “Indeed their rock is not like our Rock” (v. 31).   In Hannah’s song of praise for answered prayer for a child, she sang: “My heart exalts in the LORD…There is no one holy like the LORD, indeed, there is no one besides Thee, nor is there any Rock like our God” (I Sam. 2:1,2).  In David’s song of praise in response to God’s goodness in delivering him from his enemies and from the vicious King Saul, he sang: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge…For who is God, besides the LORD? And who is a Rock, besides our God? God is my strong fortress…” (II Sam. 22:2,3,32,33 cf Psa. 18:31).
     Quite obviously our Rock is a reason for singing. David also wrote in Psa. 95:1: “O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”
     We have thousands of rocks in the landscaping all around our property, many of them reminders of special times hiking in the mountains or swimming at the creek or floating down the South Fork of the Flathead River. We have some that our son and I packed off a ridge high in the wilderness, thinking they were meteorites (still think they are!) and we had some rather exciting moments getting the 150 pounds of “rocks” home. Each time we look at them, we are reminded very vividly of that adventure! 
      Have you “erected” some “memorial stones” that speak of special moments in your life—especially those when God was doing a special work in and through you?  It is important to pass those stories along to the coming generations so they too will realize how God can lead in their lives.  But most of all, we need to share with others about “The Rock,” Jesus Christ, our refuge, our shelter, our stronghold. 
     The Israelites, you will recall, on a couple occasions while wandering in the wilderness, were in desperate need of water and God, through His servant Moses, miraculously provided water out of the rock (Ex. 17:1-9; Nu. 20:8-11; Dt. 8:15).  Note what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning that: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food (manna); and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:1-4).  (That’s a passage for another devotional!)  Suffice it to say, that Jesus is “our Rock,” He is our salvation, He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).
     Are you “anchored” in the Rock?  If so, be sure and tell others about Him, and maybe erect some “memorial stones” as a testimony to what He has done in your life.
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
     
     
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Lessons from a Honeybee (Part XI: “No More Stinger”)

There are probably few—if any—of you who have not experienced the burning pain of a bee sting.  Some of you may even be allergic to bee stings and have to be prepared with an antidote should it happen.  We initially inherited some bee hives because the previous keeper had become allergic to the stings.  Normally honeybees are pretty docile, but if they feel threatened (like you step on one in the grass) or you are taking their hard-earned honey from the hive, they get pretty excited and will protect themselves and their honey.
     One of the unique things about being stung by a honeybee versus a hornet or yellow jacket or wasp is that only the honeybee leaves behind its stinger. Sinking her poisoned stiletto into human flesh costs the honeybee her life. She is making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the colony of bees. Gripping with tiny claws, she lowers her abdomen, thrusts in her slender tail lance, and then pulls away. The stinger, studded with microscopic barbs, stays fast in the victim and the tug disembowels the bee. But, the sting to the victim exacts fiery vengeance for her sacrifice. A living hypodermic needle, the barbed stinger carries its own powerful injection mechanism. Twenty minutes after penetration, muscles torn from the bee’s body still pulse. They drive the stinger deeper and deeper and inject poison as potent, drop for drop, as rattlesnake venom. (NOTE: That’s why it is important when you have been stung by a honeybee to immediately scrape out the stinger using your fingernail or a credit card). 
     A honeybee can only sting you once. They may continue to buzz around you (before they die) but are no longer a threat to you.  That should bring to mind a passage in Scripture by the Apostle Paul where he is sharing about the Christian’s victory through Christ’s death and resurrection and writes (quoting from Hosea 13:14): “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-57). The sting of death is sin because it is by sin that death gains authority over man, and the power of sin is the law, because the law stirs up sin (Ro. 5:12; 7:8-11).  But, our Savior, Jesus Christ, took upon Himself the sting of death by bearing our sins.  Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians writes: “He (God) made Him who knew no sin (Christ) to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). Peter writes in his first epistle: “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (I Pet. 2:24).
     When we believe in Christ as the incarnate God and trust in His work on the cross on our behalf, admitting that we are sinners and under the condemnation of the law and sin, an amazing thing transpires—the judgment of our sin is exchanged for Christ’s righteousness. Satan may “buzz around” threatening us and telling us we can’t possibly have eternal life but the “stinger’ was taken by Christ at Calvary and all Satan can do is “buzz.”  We need to refute Satan’s lies. He is called in Scripture “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) and “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10).  As believers, we still have an old sinful nature, and will on occasion give in to its desires and sin. Satan will accuse us before God, but Christ, our advocate, our intercessor, is there to remind the Father that He (Christ) died for those sins. The penalty was fully paid, and “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). 
     But, lest you think it is okay to sin all you want because God’s grace is greater than all your sin (Ro. 5:20) and you won’t ever again come under condemnation, remember that sin still grieves God’s heart, ruins our fellowship with Him and robs us of our joy. So, as Peter wrote: “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (I Pet. 2:16). And Paul writes: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).  When we think about what Christ went through to take the sting of death in our place, our attitude should be one of eternal gratefulness and a desire to please Him in all we do. If someone “takes a bullet for you,” how do you feel about what they did?  Well, our Savior suffered hell on our behalf as He took the stinger meant for us.  “After all He’s done for me…how can I do less than give Him my best and live for Him completely.”
        Forever Grateful,
                Pastor Dave
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