Gone Not Just Covered!

   For about three months of the year the landscape around here is especially beautiful with the blanket of snow that comes sometime in November and with remnants that may linger until as late as March or early April.  All the “collectibles” (also known as “junk”) are covered and out of sight. But as mid-February comes around and the temperatures warm (usually!), the snow begins to melt and the ugly starts to show up again. The snow banks along the roadside are especially grungy with the grime and grit from the highway thrown to the sides by the snowplows.  But then comes a new blanket of snow, as we got last night, and all is beautiful again—for a brief time!  Eventually the snow will be gone in the valleys and until the new growth shows up, the landscape will not be so pretty.

     I can’t help but think of how much that is like our trying to cover up our sin and ugliness.  We may work really hard through all sorts of self-help remedies and seminars to improve our areas of weakness. We may try our best to keep a list of do’s and don’ts, but we ultimately fail.  We may think that joining a church and reading our Bible and giving of our resources will compensate for our mistakes.  But, it is all like whitewashing an old rotten fence. It is only temporary and doesn’t deal with the real problem. 
     During the Old Testament times, under the Mosaic Covenant, the priests made sacrifices for their sins and the sins of the people, but they had to do so continually, because the sins were only covered, not put away.  Conspicuous by its absence in the Tabernacle and Temple was a chair. The priest’s work was never done, so he didn’t sit down.
      But, then came the ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus Christ, introduced by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of  God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The author of the Book of Hebrews, speaking of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, wrote: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness, for as the Law made nothing perfect, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God…And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He (Christ), on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:17-19,23-25).  “But when Christ appeared as a high priest…He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:11-13).  “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:24-26).  “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near…For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:1,2,4).  “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD… For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (10:10-14).
     When I put my trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for MY sins, and believe that He was raised from the dead, indicating the penalty was paid in full,  I am no longer under condemnation (Ro. 8:1). “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). He will “remember them no more” (Isa. 43:25). He has “cast them into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19) and put up “No Fishing” signs!
     I don’t have to worry about the “snow melting” one day and revealing my ugly sin causing me to miss out on eternal life. My High Priest, Jesus Christ continues to apply His blood to my account and intercedes on my behalf (Heb. 7:25).  I will be in heaven one day, not because I worked really hard at doing the right things, but because of Jesus Christ my Savior and High Priest. “For God (the Father) made Him (God the Son) to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
     As believers in Jesus Christ, we can exclaim along with Jude, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen!” (Jude 1: 24,25).
     “Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone. Now my soul is free and in my heart’s a song. Buried in the deepest sin, yes that’s good enough for me. I shall live eternally—Praise God, my sins are G-O-N-E, Gone!”
                    Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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More Precious Than Gold

It has been quite a struggle for many of our athletes in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It has to be disappointing, having put in years of diligent, self-sacrificing training, and then to fail to make the podium and receive a medal.  Just the privilege of qualifying to compete in the Olympics, of course, is a great honor, but then to do poorly against the world-class competition must be quite a let-down. Our cross-country ski team, for example, put in months of rigorous training, and yet failed (again) to medal. It is amazing the sacrifices young people make to spend years of disciplined training just to have a chance to compete.  For those who do medal, especially to achieve gold, it must be such an exhilarating feeling to stand atop the podium, have the medal placed around their neck and hear the Star Spangled Banner played as Old Glory is raised.
     But, there is something far more valuable, far more precious than receiving a gold medal at the Olympic Games. The Apostle Paul, using the Isthmian games as an illustration when writing to the believers at Corinth (Greece), said in reference to the athletic competitors: “And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (I Cor. 9:25).  Whatever our earthly rewards, they are only temporal. The winners of the Isthmian games received a perishable pine wreath. Today, the top three finishers receive medals of gold, silver and bronze. A gold medal weighs about 180 grams, of which only 6 grams is actually 24-karat gold, the rest is silver and copper. At today’s prices, a gold medal is worth about $400. (If it were pure gold, it would weigh about 3.35 pounds and be worth about $76,000!). But, no matter its value, it is temporal and, along with all other trophies, awards, and possessions, must one day be left behind, when our brief stay on earth is over. Job, who suffered the loss of his family and possessions, said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there” (Job 1:21).  King Solomon, who was the wealthiest person of his time, wrote: “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). You will never see a U-haul behind a hearse! 
     Far more precious than gold or any other earthly treasure or achievement, is to have eternal and abundant life which is available through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to serve Him faithfully and one day hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21). The judge of the original Olympic Games in Greece sat on a seat called the bema (bay’-ma) and rewarded the winners of the competitions.  Paul tells that “We (all who have received Christ as Savior) must all appear before the judgment seat (bema) of Christ, that each may be recompensed (rewarded) for his deeds…” (II Cor. 5:10).  The Apostle Paul was looking forward to that time. As he spent his last days in a Roman prison before being executed, he wrote a final letter to his beloved friend and coworker, Timothy, saying; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:7,8).
     The United States was allowed only a single pairs figure skating team—the fewest since the first winter games in 1924 in Chamonix, France.  Earning that spot was a married couple, Alexa Scimeca Knerim and Chris Knerim, who won the nationals title in 2015 and 2018. But, the years in between were tough for them. Alexa suffered from a debilitating stomach illness. They battled to work their way back to qualify for this winter’s Olympics in Pyeongchang. Since they were our only pairs entry, they also competed in the team event in which the U.S. received a bronze medal. But, they struggled in the pairs event and failed to come close to medaling. Chris, especially had a difficult time.  But, the Knierms are followers of Jesus Christ and were skating, not just to receive a medal, but for the glory of God. They are secure in their identity in Christ, which was not dependent on the outcome of their competition.  Their love for the Lord and for each other was obvious as the camera zeroed in on their expressions and as they were being interviewed. Even though Alex struggled much more than his wife in the competition, she never blamed him or showed any anger toward him, an obvious demonstration of the unconditional love which they share because of their personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
     I’m reminded too of another Olympic athlete, Eric Liddell who was born in China to Scottish missionaries.  Because of his convictions as a Christian, Eric refused to compete in the heats for the 100 meters—his specialty— at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris because they were held on Sunday. Instead, he spoke at a local church from Isaiah 40, emphasizing the need for us to stop striving for the world’s empty promises and to rest in the LORD. Later in the week, Eric ran in the 400 meters—not his specialty—and won a gold medal!  His life is chronicled in the 1981 “Best Picture” movie, Chariots of Fire. After the Olympics, Eric returned to serve with his family in China and ended up in an internment camp when the Japanese invaded in 1943. He had an opportunity to leave in a prisoner exchange made by Winston Churchill, but let a pregnant woman go in his place. He died a year later of a brain tumor.  I’m sure he, like the Apostle Paul, heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and will receive many imperishable rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
     What’s more precious than gold and silver and bronze?  Peter tells us: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18). Have you trusted in the precious blood of Christ shed to pay for your sins.  “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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The Gospel Comes to Samoa

Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18).  The church began at Pentecost, just 10 days after Christ ascended back to heaven. The Holy Spirit came to indwell believers and Peter preached a powerful sermon about the death and resurrection of Jesus and some 3,000 Jews became believers that day (Acts 2).  Many others also believed and were added to the church in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.  Soon, a very religious Jew, Saul of Tarsus, came to faith in Christ and was chosen by God to be the missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Saul (also called Paul) along with Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and Luke, took the Gospel throughout Asia minor and then over to Europe. Others spread the Good News about Christ’s suffering on our behalf to Africa.
     It is fascinating to follow the building of Christ’s church as it has spread (as Jesus predicted) to the “remotest parts of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).  As new converts grew in the faith and were trained in Scripture, they usually sent out missionaries to yet unreached areas. In 1884, for example, Christian missionaries from Europe went to Pyongyang, North Korea which became the center of Christianity in Northeast Asia until about 1942 when communists took over.  In fact, Pyongyang became known as “The Jerusalem of the East!”
     On August 24, 1830, Rev. John Williams and other missionaries from the London Missionary Society, aboard the schooner Messenger of Peace, anchored at Savaii, Samoa in the South Pacific.  With their arrival, Christianity came to the island and spread quickly. The receptivity of the people to the gospel was rooted deeply in their respect for the political structure of their culture in which the religious leader was the top authority in all matters concerning the moral life of the village. God had been at work—as He always is—preparing the people for the arrival of the “Good News.” Only 14 years later Malua Bible College was established to train young men as village pastors and missionaries to other Pacific Islands including Fiji and Tonga. Before long, the native Samoan religion had been replaced by Christianity. 
     Although European whalers and traders started to arrive at the Samoa Islands in the late 1700’s, by far the most important agents of change in Samoa were the Western missionaries, bringing the Gospel of Christ, which converted the majority of the population from belief in gods of the sun, earth, heavens and sea to the one true God. More than 90% of all Samoans in both Samoa and American Samoa are professing Christians and more than 90% of them attend church at least weekly.
     Now, fast forward to the National NCAA football championship game in January.  Alabama had a stunning come-back victory over Georgia that was fueled by freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who came into the game in the second half, replacing the starting quarterback, and led his team to an exciting victory. In a remarkably humble interview after the game, especially given what he’d just accomplished on national television, Tua said: “I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With Him all things are possible.”
     Tua was considered the best high school football player in Hawaii, playing quarterback at Honolulu’s Saint Louis High School. Many compared him to another alum from Saint Louis High School who was also as quarterback, and the one Tua patterned his game after–Marcus Mariota, who took his Oregon Ducks to the national championship game against Ohio State. Mariota also won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 and now plays for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. Marcus is also follower of Jesus Christ and is quick to give God the glory for his accomplishments.
     So what do these two Christian football players from Saint Louis High School in Honolulu have to do with the evangelization of Samoa?  (Glad you asked!)  Tua and Marcus share a Samoan heritage, a heritage that includes the passing on of strong faith in Christ.  Sports Illustrated did a story about Tua Tagovailoa and his family back in 2015. The article is filled with Bible verses and tells readers that the entire Tagovailoa clan gathers “every evening for prayer and teaching,” and to sing a Samoan hymn that “asks God to be present in everything they do.”
     Samoa and American Samoa, despite their small population, produce a disproportionately large number of world-class athletes. By one estimate, “a Samoan male is 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than an American non-Samoan” (Breakpoint Jan. 12, 2018). And the majority of those who do are Christians. You may recognize some other names like: Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu, Marques Tuiasosopo and Mosi Tatupu. 
     In addition to football players, Samoa has produced numerous well-known rugby players, wrestlers (Dwayne Johnson, for example!), and many in the mixed martial arts. 
     Little did those missionaries in the 19th century know what an impact they would have world-wide one day by bringing the gospel to those beautiful islands in the South Pacific.  Christianity’s influence on Samoan life and culture is hard to dispute. This legacy and heritage are on display in stories like that of Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota. The missionaries who brought Christianity to the Polynesian world wound up transforming an entire society (or, more accurately, the  message they brought did.) Paul the Apostle got to witness  that same exciting  transformation of lives and cultures. No wonder he wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Ro. 1:16), and: “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). You won’t change a culture through political or military domination. Culture can only be changed through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t be ashamed to share it with your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.  Only God knows how far it may spread from there.
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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It is Not a Choice; It is a Life!

  Bob and Pat were serving as missionaries in the Philippines when she became pregnant. They had been praying for a son whom they could name Timothy after the young man that the Apostle Paul introduced to Christ, who ended up joining Paul in ministry from his second missionary journey on, and who was left in charge of the work at Ephesus and Asia Minor.  Pam was taking a series of aggressive antibiotics to combat amebic dysentery when she discovered the pregnancy.  She immediately stopped the medicine but the doctors advised an abortion because of the irreversible damage the drugs had presumably caused. Pam recalls how they told her it was “just a mass of fetal tissue.” But, as a Bible-believing (and behaving) Christian, Pam knew that what was in her womb was not just “fetal tissue,” but the life of a pre-born human being so couldn’t go through with an abortion, knowing she would be ending that life within her.
     Six months into the pregnancy, she was hospitalized for excruciating pain when doctors said the placenta had detached from the uterine wall. Again she was counseled to have an abortion as doctors warned of the dangers to her own health and predicted the pregnancy would end in stillbirth. Pam still resisted, just not believing that it was right to take a life—even to save hers!  Two months later, on August 14, 1987,  future Heisman Trophy winner, Timothy Tebow was born!  In December of 2007, Tim became the 73rd Heisman winner and the first sophomore to ever receive this prestigious award. When the 6 feet 3 inch, 235 pound quarterback of the Florida Gators, nicknamed “Superman” by Gator fans, embraced the 25-pound bronzed statue with his massive hands, He said, “I’d just like to first start off by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave me the ability to play football, and He gave me a great family…”
     Tragically 45 years ago today, on Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to make it legal for women to abort their unborn child at any time throughout their entire nine months of pregnancy for any reason.  Since that fateful decision by five out of nine individuals some 62 million “Tim Tebows” have never seen the light of day. Approximately one out of three babies never reaches their earthly destination. Today we are missing from our nation millions of doctors, teachers, scientists, entertainers, athletes, politicians, lawyers, laborers, nurses, artists, inventors, musicians, pastors, evangelists…all missing from our country.  We are a great nation, one that has been greatly blessed by God, but how can we expect to continue to be blessed when we kill every third child He sends to us?  I believe you can tell much about a nation by the value they place on human life—at every stage, from conception through old age.   “America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness, and for the unalienable right of life. The most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent. Every person, however frail or vulnerable, has a place and a purpose in this world. Every person has a special dignity. The right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government. It comes from the Creator of life” (past President, George W. Bush).  The Supreme Court by its fateful decision on Jan. 22, 1973, violated the intent of the Constitution which is supposed to protect the right to life.  “It is not a choice, it is a life!” 
     We are living in a crazy time when almost daily, somewhere in our country (today included—at a school Texas) shootings occur and there is the constant threat of terror attacks—but the most dangerous place by far is in the womb of a pregnant woman!  The chance of being killed by an abortionist is about 33%!  There has  been a total of about 1.2 million American war casualties from the Revolutionary War through Afghanistan, and we grieve over each one, for it meant the loss of a son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister.  But just think that we—calling it “pro-choice” have lost about 62 million young lives that never had a chance to grow up and become part of our earthly family and contribute to our society.
     The Psalmist wrote: “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…” (Psa. 127:3-5a). Children are the one blessing from God that we chose to limit and often eliminate!
     Pray for our governing leaders, especially our Supreme Court, that they will once again understand the value of every life, and make the biblical and constitutional decision to uphold life from conception on. If we are not “pro-life,” we are “pro-death.”  God is for life—He created it. Concerning life, David wrote: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion!  You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” (Psa. 139:13-16 from The Living Bible).
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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If We Remain Silent

Ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3), and then the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel and the scattering of these language groups throughout the earth (Gen. 11), people groups have been at war with and discriminating against other people groups, trying to set themselves up as the “superior” group.  The history of the world is one of war and conflict and ethnic cleansing. We have examples of this in Scripture as well as in our history books and daily news broadcasts. When Esther (a Jewess) was queen to King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes) of Persia (modern-day Iran), she discovered a plot to annihilate her people. The book of Esther records  the exciting story of how her cousin Mordecai (who had raised Esther) challenged her to take a stand for their people, saying, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14).
     Others, like Adolph Hitler, have also tried to annihilate the Jews. And sadly, many who saw what was happening remained silent. God, of course, did not let His “Chosen People” be destroyed, but some six million Jews lost their lives during the horrendous “Jewish Holocaust.” Today we have many Arab nations who have made it clear they desire to push Israel into the sea and eliminate the Jewish race.
     Throughout history we have had courageous individuals who have been willing to stand up for their convictions and against those who are persecuting certain people groups.  Daniel, taken captive as a youth to Babylon during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, remained faithful to Jehovah God and was rewarded by being thrown to the lions, but “God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths” and Daniel suffered no harm, for which the king was actually very relieved and pleased because he really liked Daniel and knew he was truly a man of God.
     Many others have “dared to be Daniels.” Continuing to live faithfully for God in the midst of persecution, they have boldly taken a stand for their biblical convictions even at great cost to themselves. One such “Daniel,” and the one whose birthday we celebrate today, was Martin Luther King, Jr., born Jan. 15, 1929. He became a Baptist minister and activist and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights movement. In 1963, in the March on Washington, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He expounded American values to include the vision of a “color blind” society. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.   “Martin Luther King. Jr. Day” was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. 
     In one of King’s speeches he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  He obviously didn’t remain silent about the things that really mattered to him!  Neither did Queen Esther. Neither did Daniel nor untold others who have stood up for the needs of others and for the truths of God’s Word, especially the Gospel, the “good news” of Christ’s death on our behalf to pay the penalty of our sins.  The Apostle Paul, who at one point had been persecuting Christians (followers of Jesus called at that time “The Way”) but then met the risen Christ while on his way to Damascus to arrest believers, was converted and became a missionary to the Gentiles that he had once despised, said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentile)” (Ro. 1:16).  Paul knew first-hand the power of that Gospel to change lives and he began boldly proclaiming it to the Gentile world as well as to his fellow Jews (cf I Cor. 15:1-4). He ended up in prison for it on several occasions and ultimately lost his life at the hands of wicked Nero of Rome.
     Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, also began boldly sharing the message of the death and resurrection of Christ for sin and were called before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin) who forbade further preaching. We read the account in Acts 5:18-20: “And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.’”  They couldn’t remain silent knowing people’s eternal lives depended on the message they had to share.
     The same is still true. God has placed us here on purpose for a purpose and that is to boldly proclaim, by how we live and what we say, that same message of the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. We are here “For such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).   Don’t forget M.L.K.’s statement: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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How to “Destroy” Your Enemies

So, do you have any difficult people in your life—those who bring out the worst in you, who know how to “push your buttons,” who “get under your skin,” who seem to be a constant irritant to you, who just plain annoy you?  I’ll bet you do, for it seems God puts them in our lives to help us deal with things in our lives that either need to be removed or added in order that we may be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Ro. 8:29). Sometimes it appears that we even have enemies who are out to destroy us.  They criticize us, spread rumors about us, and try to undermine what we are doing or are trying to accomplish. Have any of those in your life?  What do we do about these difficult people in our lives? 
     Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, had some good advice. He said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”  Martin Luther King, Jr. made a very similar statement:  “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Jesus, in His “Sermon on the Mount,”  said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Ro. 12:17-21).
     When I was working at Hyster Technical Center in Troutdale, Oregon, I had a secretary who was an agnostic. When she found out I was a Christian, she did all she could to razz me and make life as miserable as she possibly could.  I knew she needed the Lord in her life, but I just plain didn’t like her and my attitude toward her was pretty bad. I had a burden for her soul but had trouble even wanting to share with her. It would have been like “shoving the Gospel down her throat while I was trying to choke her!”  Well, one day God convicted me of my attitude toward this difficult person (He had placed in my life). I confessed my sin and told the Lord that He would have to be the one to love her through me because I didn’t even like her. It was amazing what happened. My attitude so changed that she noticed it and said one day, “Dave, why don’t the things I do seem to bug you any more?”  I was able to tell her what had happened in me and that for the first time she was probably seeing “Christ in me.”  She quit doing things to irritate me. To this day I don’t know if Maureen ever trusted Christ as her Savior (I left not long after our conversation), but I do know she got to experience firsthand the unconditional love that God had for her.
     God places difficult people in our lives to help us to grow and to become more Christ-like. Don’t miss the opportunities He is giving you!  Rather than allowing these people to make you an angry, bitter person, let God use them to mold and shape you. And who knows, you may be able to “destroy” some of your enemies by making them a friend, because. M. L. King, Jr., was right: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” And by letting God love them through us, we are being obedient to Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
    One thing that has helped me a lot is to pray for these folks whenever they come to mind. Rather than thinking about what they have done to me or how they have annoyed me, if I pray for them instead, my attitude changes.  I still have a ways to go, but I am making progress.  Keep in mind what Paul wrote to the Romans: “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Ro. 12:17).  Some may not reciprocate your love and kindness, but at least it gives them an opportunity and then you, having done your part, are free from bondage to them caused by unforgiveness or bitterness or holding a grudge.
     Anybody in particular come to mind as you read this?  Pray for them right now and ask God to show you tangible ways to demonstrate His love to them. You may just destroy an enemy!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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Only One Life to Live

We took the train to Oregon for Christmas, which proved to be a good choice since more than a foot of snow came down here just before we returned. The roads would have been quite treacherous the day we returned.  So, praise the Lord for the long train ride (turned out to be 14 hours).  We have done lots of snow removal since we got back but it is a beautiful winter wonderland!
     While in Oregon, we and our family got to attend a very entertaining movie called Jumanji, in which four high school students get detention. Their task is cleaning up a basement room in the school, but while there they discover an old video game which they try out and get “sucked” into the game, ending up in a jungle where they have to work as a team in order to escape and get back home.  One of the students ends up—before he realizes it—quoting the principal who while lecturing them said (in paraphrase), “You have only one life to live. How are you going to live it? Who are you going to be? The choice is yours.” 
     His statement is a good one for us to consider as we enter this new year, for he was right on.  We do have but one life to live. We won’t get a do-over or another chance. We have right now to determine not only where we will spend eternity, but also how we will live our life here.  First of all, we have a choice regarding the Person of Jesus Christ and what we will do about Him and His invitation to believe on Him and His work at Calvary to gain eternal life. We can either, by faith receive Him as our personal Savior, or we can attempt to live a good enough life to make it to heaven.  Unfortunately for those who are trying that, they will one day hear, “I never knew you, depart from me” (Mt. 7:23).  Eternal life is a gift (Jn. 3:16; Ro. 6:23), not something deserved or to be earned. We simply receive gifts; we don’t work for them (Eph. 2:8,9; Gal. 2:16).
     Second, if we have already made the choice for Christ, we still must choose, daily, moment-by-moment, what we are going to do with the rest of our life here on earth.  We can choose who and what we are going to be.  We can ignore the Word of God and the convicting of the indwelling Holy Spirit and just live for self and what we can “get out of life,” or, we can submit to God, resist the devil and offer our life a living sacrifice to the One who made us and paid the penalty for our sins.  Note the Apostle Paul’s challenge to the believers at Rome:  “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Ro. 12:1,2).  Paul gave a similar challenge to the Corinthian believers, writing: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (II Cor. 5:14,15).
    When we consider what Christ has done for us and means to us, our response should be to live our life fully committed to Him, to love Him, obey His Word, and build up His Kingdom through sharing His love with others and showing them how they too can receive eternal and abundant life in Him. As an old chorus goes: “After all He’s done for me, after all He’s done for me, how can I do less than give Him my best and live for Him completely.” Amen to that! Or, as a poet once put it: “Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
     So, as we start a fresh new year, learning from, but “forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, (let’s) press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14).
     We have but one life to offer. Let’s start this year by renewing our commitment to living it wholly for our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “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…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17, 23,24).
      Have a joyous New Year. Maybe this will be the year of His return. “Even so come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
                Forever His,
                        Pastor Dave
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