Let Your Light Shine

Being on the western edge of the mountain time zone, we have long days of sunlight in the summer. So, on the 4th of July, you have to wait until at least 10:30 p.m. for fireworks to show up against a dark back drop. Many in our neighborhood started with their fireworks earlier than that but they weren’t very visible until about 10:45 p.m.  And then they kept going until about 12:30 a.m. today!  The darker it got, the more the beautiful light displays showed up in the darkness of the night.  The darkness does not overcome the light. Rather it causes the light to show up all the more.     

The apostle John refers to Jesus as “The Word” who was with God in the beginning (before time began) and “was God” (Jn. 1:1). He goes on to say that “All things came into being by Him” and that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (overpower) it” (vv. 3-5).  Darkness cannot be driven out of the world, but light can swallow it up. The reverse is never true. There is no such thing as darkness swallowing up light. All of the world’s darkness cannot extinguish it, but must retreat before even the glow of a tiny candle.  

During His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12 cf 9:5). Just as the sun is the physical light of the world, Jesus (God the Son) is the spiritual light of the world. When an individual asks Jesus to be his/her personal Savior, Jesus–through the Holy Spirit–comes to indwell that person (Gal. 2:20).  As believers we have “The Light of the World” living in us. As we submit to His control and allow Him to live His life through us, we too shine as “lights in the world.”  Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the light ofthe world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mt. 5:14). You will be watched! He goes on with this challenge: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16).  We glorify Christ by radiating His light in our spiritually dark world.  The darkness cannot overcome the light. In fact the darker it gets (and it is!), the more the light shows up!     

The Apostle Paul, picking up that theme, writes this to the believers at Philippi in Macedonia (Greece): “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (spiritually dark), among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Phil. 2:14-16).   The light that we shine is the “Word of Life”–and that is, according to the Scriptures, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Charged with the responsibility of “holding forth the word of life,” we are to show forth Jesus to those who are walking in darkness, sharing with them the good news of the Gospel of Christ,  that “they might see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (II Cor. 4:4) and come to faith in Him.     

Ultimately, of course, our “light” comes from “the true light” (Jn. 1:9).  Since “He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” (Col. 1:13,14), we who “were formerly darkness, but now are the light of the lord” are to  “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).      

As it gets darker and darker (as we approach His return for the Church), our light should shine brighter and brighter. Let YOUR light shine!  
     

Forever His,       

Pastor Dave     

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A Model Missionary

This past June 1st, Anna Louise Oursland I’m sure had a huge welcome into the presence of her Lord and Savior as her allotted days on earth were completed and at age 93 was called to her dwelling place in Heaven, and I’m sure was greeted by the many whom she had influenced to put their trust in Christ, along with her many family and friends who, as believers, had preceded her in death.      

Anna Lou was born at home in Somers, Montana on March 14, 1928 to Gideon and Edna Oursland.  She graduated from Flathead High School in nearby Kalispell with the class of 1946 and then attended Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta. After graduation from Prairie, she also attended Western Montana College in Dillon, Montana to get her teaching degree.  She then taught in a local rural school (Kuhns) and also in Libby, Montana before she felt called by God to the foreign mission field.         

In 1955, she began twenty-five years of missionary service in Nigeria  with Sudan Interior Mission.  That was the same year that her brother, Al Oursland (my Junior High Principal), helped a growing home Bible study group meeting in the home of Lou and Nora May Auge to call a pastor and begin Faith Bible Church in Libby.  That pastor happened to be Clarence Kutz who in June of 1967, became my father-in-law!   Anna Lou Oursland would be one of the first missionary connected to and supported by FBC.       

When she prepared to head to Nigeria in 1955, SIM told her to pack her belongings in a pine coffin in which she could be buried if she died while on the field!  Wowl, that is total commitment!  She left, not knowing if she would return to the USA or ever see her family again.  She traveled by train to New York and then by a freighter to Nigeria. When she struggled with seasickness on that very long voyage, the Norwegian captain said to her, “No Norwegian is going to be sick on my boat!”      

She began her mission career by teaching men at the Teacher Training College in Kagoro, Nigeria and then served as Principal and teacher in a school for girls in Kwoi, Nigeria. and finally became the first-grade teacher of missionary children at Kent Academy in Miango, Nigeria. While there she was also involved in an outreach to the Fulani people in that region.  Her love for the African people was contagious and was passed on to her nieces and nephews who grew up hearing of her adventures.      

After 25 years in Nigeria, Anna Lou was needed back home to care for her parents so returned to the Flathead Valley where she got involved in numerous ministries at Central Bible Church in Kalispell, continuing her emphasis on missions.  As the Lord called her home, she left behind a great legacy of her loving devotion and commitment to her loving Savior. What a “Model Missionary.”       

Her story reminds me of God’s call to Abram to leave his homeland and his relatives and to go to a land that God would show him and where He would make of him a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3).  Abram’s trust in God and his resulting obedience, got him a place in “God’s Hall of Faith”–Hebrews 11– where we read: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).       

We also read how, when Jesus called Simon (Peter) and his brother, Andrew, from their fishing business to follow Him, “They immediately left the nets, and followed Him” (Mt. 19,20).  Later, when Jesus was ministering along with His disciples and got word that His friend, Lazarus was sick, “He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ the disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You and are you going there again?'” (Jn. 11:6-8).  The disciples were obviously aware of the danger of going to Judea where the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Jesus. Yet, listen to what Thomas (who gets a “bad rap” later as a doubter) “said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go that we may die with Him'” (Jn. 11:16).   He was obviously expecting they may all be killed if they returned to Judea. He was ready to die for his Lord.  When he joined up with the team, he “packed his belongings in a pine coffin!”       

When God calls us to “follow Him,” we don’t know where that will lead or if we will ever return.  We need to count the cost and follow Him. We need to “pack our belongings in a pine coffin” and be ready to die for Him wherever He leads.  Anna Louise Oursland did that. Thanks so much for your great example to us. I’m sure there was a “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord” greeting when she arrived. 
     

Forever His,         

Pastor Dave

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Mental Toughness


     In the last “WOW” we looked at some spiritual lessons from tennis.  One that I failed to mention. and actually one of the most important, is the importance of “mental toughness.”  Tennis, much like golf, is a very challenging game and to stay competitive, you must be mentally tough.  In a tennis match, it is hard to forget a bad shot and focus on the next point. If one is struggling with his/her serve, it often affects the rest of the game as well.  A player who is competing against someone of a similar skill level must really work at staying strong mentally in order to be successful.       

We have had several very talented players on our high school tennis team who really struggled in the area of mental toughness and often lost to someone less skilled but stronger mentally.  I recall a challenge match between two of our male singles players to see who would play in the #1 spot for the team.  The more skilled player would often get down on himself.  After an unforced error that cost him a point that he should have won, his whole demeanor changed as he hung his head in disgust.  At that point his team mate told me afterwards, “I knew right then that I was going to beat him,” and he did!  In contrast, when our son was a sophomore and playing a match at the divisional tournament to qualify to go to the state tournament, he was down to a senior one set and 2-5 in the second set (playing the best two out of three). He went to the back fence and had a pep talk with himself and went on to win the match and qualified for state!     

Mental toughness is also crucial in our spiritual lives.  Our minds are really the battlefield  where spiritual warfare takes place and the opponent, Satan, attempts to discourage us into giving up and to believe his lies and succumb to his temptations.  Prov. 23:7 tells us,As a man thinks within himself, so he is.” Every man has a train of thoughts on which he rides when he is alone. The dignity and nobility of his life, as well as his happiness, depend upon the direction in which that train is going, the baggage it carries, and the scenery through which it travels. The mind is a workshop where the important decisions of life and eternity are made.  The mind is an armory where we forge the weapons for our victory or our destruction. So, be careful of your thoughts–they may  become words or actions at any time.  Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart (mind)” (Mt. 12:34).      

We just watched a young lady who is battling cancer compete on “America’s Got Talent,” singing a song she had written entitled, “It’s Okay.”  She told the judges that you don’t have to wait until your difficulties are over to be happy. She said that the doctors give her a 2% chance of surviving her cancer., “but,” she added, “that’s better than a 0% chance!”  I don’t know if she is a Christian, but she definitely was “thinking like one should.”  Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”       

Now I know that the “power of positive thinking” can only take you so far, but as a Christian, “we have the mind of Christ” who indwells us (I Cor. 2:16).  We have something that goes far beyond “happiness” which depends on happenings (circumstances).  We have available the “joy of the Lord” as our strength (Neh. 8:10).  Jesus promised “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn. 15:11). So often we let our circumstances or how we are treated by others (or perceive to be treated) determine our state of mind rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control of our mind and experience the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, JOY, peace….” (Gal. 5:22,23).    We get discouraged and even depressed and think this Christian life doesn’t really work.  That’s why we have so many exhortations in Scripture like Gal. 6:9: “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary,” and I Cor. 15:57,58: “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. ”       

The Apostle Paul, who penned these words, is a great example, for he faced tremendously difficult circumstances and people, yet also wrote this: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?…But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him  who loved us…(for nothing” shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:31-39).  Paul wrote from a Roman jail, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11,13). 

Note the key in all these verses is the person of Jesus Christ, “in whom we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). So, as believers, indwelled by Christ and the Holy Spirit, we can stay “mentally tough” by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).  “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).   Do that and you will succeed against your “opponents” (the world, the flesh, and the devil).
     Forever His,         

Pastor Dave

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A Tennis Lesson

Quite often in Jesus’ teaching He would use an example of something the audience was familiar with and proceed from that “known” to teach a spiritual truth. For example, He used the illustration of a vine and branches to teach how we need to abide in Him and that apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn.15:1-8). They were all familiar with grape vines and olive and fig trees so I’m sure understood what He was saying. He also spoke of His followers as sheep and of Himself as the “Good Shepherd” who is the door to the sheep fold and how He would lay down His life for the sheep (Jn. 10: 7-18). He used the same teaching method in His parables, such as those recorded in Matthew 13.     

So, the last opportunity I had to fill in the pulpit at our church, I used that method and did a lesson from the game of tennis. I have helped out with our high school tennis team for thirty plus years and also give private lessons in the summer and have realized there are many spiritual lessons we can learn from tennis.  Here are a some of them:     

1.  The Equipment:            

Pick out a racket with a grip size that fits your hand and a frame and stringing that suits your style of game.  Your racket will be both your offensive and defensive “weapon” to receive and return all that the opponent hits at you.  In our Christian lives, we have an opponent, Satan, who tries to defeat us by his schemes and the flaming missiles (fiery darts)  that he hurls at us. Paul tells us in Eph. 6:10-18 that we need to be fully equipped with our spiritual armor to ward off his attempts and to defeat him.            

You need to dress according to the weather conditions, but remember that you will burn a lot of calories, so don’t overdress. Paul tells us to “Lay aside every encumbrance (weight) so we can run well with endurance” (Heb. 12:1).  You also need to wear light-weight, non-marking shoes with which you can make quick movements without tripping, so not slick-soled, but not with deep tread either or you will trip. In Paul’s list of our spiritual armor he mentions we need to have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15).       

You need to have balls that still have plenty of fuzz (or they will sail) and good pressure so that they bounce properly. I once opened a new can of balls which looked great but had lost their pressure so wouldn’t bounce properly. They weren’t resilient (wouldn’t bounce back).  If we are going to “bounce back” when we get clobbered, we need to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Interestingly, the word Paul uses for the Holy Spirit is “pneuma” from which we get “pneumatic” meaning air or movement of air. If we are going to deal with all the world, the flesh and the devil throw at us, we need to be controlled by, and walking in the Spirit (cf Gal. 5:28).     

2.  Ready Position:

One of the first things I teach a beginner is how to position your body to be ready to move quickly in any direction to return a ball hit by your opponent.  The Bible tells us that we are to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” (I Pet. 3:15). The Apostle Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season…” (II Tim. 4:2). We also need to “be ready” for the return of Jesus Christ to take all believers to heaven, for it could happen at any moment. John tells us to “abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28). Are you ready?  Stay ready so you don’t have to “get ready’ !     

3.  Court Layout: 

All tennis courts are 78 feet long and 27 feet wide for singles and 36 feet wide for doubles with “service” boxes into which you must serve to begin a point. The net is 36 inches high in the middle and 42 inches high at the net posts.  Sometimes you wish the court were bigger or the net lower, but if you took down the net and removed the lines there would no longer be the game of tennis.  Life has rules and boundaries too. In fact in the Bible there are close to 700 commands, not just 10, and lots of principles to live by. God gave us boundaries for good reason—He knows us!  We demonstrate our love for Him by obedience and staying within His boundaries. Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves me, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to Him” (Jn 14:21).      

4.  Strategy:

If you wish to beat an opponent you need to develop a strategy, so as you warm up with them, watch for their strengths and weaknesses and use that to advantage. In our Christian life, we need to know our opponent, Satan’s “game plan”—how he attacks—and be ready to return anything he can throw at us. First, be sure you have your armor on (Eph. 6) and then learn passages of Scripture that deal with areas where you are weak and might get attacked and use God’s Word (your sword) against him—that’s what Jesus did when He was tempted (Mt. 4). The best strategy is to be consistently in God’s Word and in constant communication with God.  James says to “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).  Be on the offensive!     

5.  Work out on the Backboard:

You can improve your tennis skills a lot just by working out on the backboard. As a Christian, you can grow by interaction with others and being in fellowship  at a good Bible-teaching church, but we can also grow much through our personal Bible study (II Tim. 2:15).     

6.  Watching Professionals Play:

You can learn a lot about the game of tennis and how to play by watching professionals play and trying to duplicate—as best you can—what they do.  We can learn a lot about the Christian life and get motivated by reading about the spiritual giants in Scripture (cf Heb. 11) and also by reading biographies of Christians throughout history like Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, Fanny Crosby, William Carey, Billy Graham, Tony Dungy, Dave Dravecky, R.A. Dickey, etc. The Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1); “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Phil. 3:17).     

7.  Practice You Serve:

Until you can serve, you don’t really have a chance to compete in tennis.  If you are going to beat an opponent, you need to “hold serve” consistently,  and serving is probably the hardest element of the game, so it requires the most practice.  Jesus set an example for us for “He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for us all” (Mk. 10:45; Mt. 20:25-28).  If we are going to be an effective leader, we must have a servant’s heart. Jesus demonstrated His servant’s heart when He washed the disciples feet. He did that as an example for them—and us—to follow (Jn. 13:15).

8.  Different Strokes for Different Folks:

Some players hit hard and flat; others hit with lots of topspin, making the ball kick; while others use a lot of slice (under spin), making the ball stay low. Good players mix up their strokes to keep the opponent off balance. God has equipped each believer uniquely with natural talents and then, at the time of salvation, with spiritual gifts which provide special abilities to serve the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:4-7,11,18; Ro. 12:3-6).  The gifts are not for our benefit so much as for serving the body and building up His Kingdom. Again, SERVING is the key!  Someone said, “If you are not satisfied with your lot in life, build a service station on it!”       

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave      

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The Blame Game

Ever since the scene in the Garden of Eden when the “blame game” started, rather than accepting responsibility for their actions, people have tried to put the blame on others either from their past or from the present. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were confronted by Him. Adam’s response was “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12).  Eve tried to pass blame as well, saying, “The serpent deceived me and I ate” (v. 13).  Thus began the “blame game” that continues to this day.      

Secular psychologists, in counseling a troubled patient, often delve into their past, trying to find a reason for his or her poor behavior or emotional struggles, looking for someone to blame, such as a parent who was physically or verbally abusive.  Not only does this not solve the patent’s problem, but it gives them someone to have bitterness toward, just adding to their struggle.      

The same thing is happening with the current “Cancel Culture,” “Reparations Issue” and “Critical Race Theory.” Some politicians are attempting to convince us that our problems are a result of our mistreatment of black Americans (or Native Americans, or Asians, or….) and that we need to erase our nation’s history rather that learn from it.  We tear down statues, remove books from libraries, change the names of sports teams, and food products, etc.  All of this is a distraction from dealing with the real issue—individual responsibility in the present.  If you want to avoid accountability for your wrong behavior, just redirect people’s attention to someone else by accusing  them of the very thing you are doing.  Just think about what takes place when a child gets in trouble for bad behavior. Their first response is to put the blame on someone else who caused them to do what they did.  Guess where they learned that! That is the very sin nature passed down to us as a result of sin in the Garden.     

What we need to do is to acknowledge that we are individually accountable for our behavior and cannot blame anyone else. God gave us free choice and, no matter our past or the history of our nation or our current culture, we are individually responsible for the choices we make.  We have the power and responsibility to choose how to live. When we stand before God to give an account of our lives, whether at the Judgment Seat of Christ as a believer (II Cor. 5:10; I Cor. 3:11-15), or at the Great White Throne Judgment as a non-believer (Rev. 20:11-15), we will not be able to pass blame to anyone. We will be without excuse.  In reference to the judgment of believers, Paul writes: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then EACH ONE OF US SHALL GIVE ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF TO GOD” (Ro. 14:10-12).

No matter what our past was like, no matter how difficult a time we had growing up, no matter how many people or people groups we might like to blame for how we are and what we do, we cannot blame anyone else for the choices we make, and praise God, we can always choose a new start with Him and begin a new “legacy” of godliness.  When we come to Christ and acknowledge our own sin (not the sins of others!), and ask Him to save us through His death and resurrection on our behalf, we have eternal life and “pass out of death into life” (Jn. 5:24).  We become new creatures in Christ; “the old things have passed away and new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). We can now “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:4).  We now have the power to overcome sin in our lives through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and Christ.      

That is the solution to our cultural and racial problems, not “reparations” or “cancel culture” or teaching “critical race theory” to students in school, or some kind of “re-programming” (brain-washing) of our youth causing them to hate our country and its past. What people need is the Lord, not someone or something to blame for their problems.  That wasn’t the solution in the Garden of Eden after sin and it still isn’t. God provided covering for Adam and Eve from the shedding of blood of innocent animal substitutes.  Then He sent His Son to become the final sacrifice for sin so we could be forgiven, have assurance of heaven and have a whole new life in Christ.  I trust you are experiencing that new life. If not, it could begin for you today. Just trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life. “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 the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life”  (I Jn. 5:11,12).           

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave 

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Character Counts

On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the #1 pick of the NFL Draft, selected Trevor Lawrence, quarterback for the Clemson Tigers who led his team to the National Championship as a freshman in 2018 and in his three seasons at Clemson lost only two games.  He was a team leader and could read a defense and wow, could he throw the ball!  In fact, the only doubts any had about his potential in the NFL had nothing to do with talent or poise, but about his character.  Some think he “has too much character”!  Trevor, you see, is a committed Christian who is very public about his faith and the way it shapes his life and he “might be too soft” to succeed in the NFL. 

    In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Lawrence said, “I don’t have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone’s out to get me and I’m trying to prove everybody wrong. There’s more in life than playing football.”  He was speaking, of course, of his being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and how that takes precedence over football. He is also very strong on family. In fact, he skipped an NFL pre-draft event to marry his high-school sweetheart.  This “crazy behavior” and his avowed life priorities fed a narrative that Lawrence, like other Christian athletes, is probably too “soft” and “lacks the kind of monomaniacal focus required to succeed in the NFL”  (from a recent article by John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera in Breakpoint).

    Hmm!  Given that there have been a plethora of Christian players who exhibited deep faith and were not ashamed to be known as followers of Jesus, and achieved great on-field success, this narrative is totally baseless.  Take for example, Russel Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, or Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints or quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and Derek Carr; or going back a few years, Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys and Frank Reich of the New York Giants.  Or consider the amazing “beady-eyed” linebacker for the Chicago Bears, Mike Singletary or Troy Polamalu for the Pittsburgh Steelers. No one who was on the receiving end of a tackle by them thought their faith made them “soft!”  Do you happen to remember a member of the great Green Back Packer defense (and later the Philadelphia Eagles) named “Reggie White”? He was known as “The Minister of Defense” and many consider him one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.  And similar lists can be made for other sports on both a collegiate and professional level of devoted Christians who excel at their sport, yet men (and women) of great character and testimonies for Jesus Christ.

    Still, the presumption persists that the perspective, balance, and priorities shaped by a sincere Christian faith are somehow liabilities and obstacles to athletic success. So, when Lawrence tweeted, “I am secure in who I am, and what I believe. I don’t need football to make me feel worthy as a person,” the critics pounced, but their critiques only expose how absurd discussions of character have become in our culture. Hardly a week goes by without a story featuring an active or former NFL player in trouble with the law for domestic abuse, drug abuse, weapons charges, etc.–even murder. The NFL has learned about character the hard way. Whenever a player is selected in the draft later than their abilities suggest or a free agent has trouble landing a position with another team, the reason is nearly always a concern about Character. Teams spend a lot of time and money assessing a prospect’s character because they’ve learned how costly it can be. In 2013, after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, the New England Patriots became the first NFL team to hire a “character coach.”

    All of which makes concerns that a player like Trevor Lawrence has “too much character” completely foolish and unfounded.  If anything, those who exhibit the qualities of a growing, committed Christian, make them a safe and wise choice. Listed among the “fruit of the Spirit” in Gal. 5:22,23 is “peace, patience and self control,” things which surely you would want in a member of your team. And, a dedicated Christian athlete is also likely following Paul’s admonition in Col. 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Christian athletes should, no matter how talented they might be,  be among the hardest working members of a team…and they usually are!  Character Counts!  In a world of “expressive individualism” and “inclusiveness” and “diversity” things like Christian character and virtue and integrity seem old fashioned, but it’s these old-fashioned qualities our young men and our society need the most!  Do I hear an amen?

     Forever His,

            Pastor Dave

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The Amazing Hummingbirds

They are back!  Usually sometime during the first week of May they show up at our window begging.  God gives them a very accurate memory of where those feeders were last year. I’m speaking, of course of the return of the beautiful, amazing little hummingbirds, a marvel of God’s creative design.     

We have a deck out back where we like to sit out and eat in the spring and summer and are often entertained by these intriguing, diminutive creatures that can rush toward the ground in a blurring nose-dive, screech to a complete stop inches from crashing, hover, and dash off at top speed. At high speeds they can change directions on a dime, which is rather fortunate since they often come zooming by our heads as we sit at the table near the feeders!  To escape an enemy, they can fly backwards, flip over into a somersault, fly upside down, roll upright and charge away, all in but two-tenths of a second! That’s faster than you can say their name!     

With their tiny, weak, perching feet, the only way to get around is to fly and can they ever fly! To take to the air, they just flap their wings at high speeds and fly, no jumping or running required. They can fly backwards, forwards, sideways, hover, spin, roll, and even fly upside down!  They are able to do all these stunts because of their special design. Their wings are attached to a special swiveling shoulder joint so that they can move forward and backwards as well as tilt and rotate 180 degrees. To hover, the “hummer” flaps its wings 50-80 times a second in a figure-eight motion, turning their wings completely over on the front and back sweeps. Their tiny little hearts can beat more than 1,000 times a minute!     

Obviously, the hummingbird requires a lot of calories a day to supply energy for those frenzied activities. They sometimes consume five times their body weight in one day!  To equal a hummingbird’s calorie intake, a child weighing 70 pounds would have to eat about 62,000 calories a day!  (That would take 388 bowls of Frosted Flakes or 177 Snicker Bars!) To get the needed supply of calories, a hummingbird will visit about 1,000 flowers a day—or hang out at the hummingbird feeders. They also need protein so use their aerial prowess to snatch insects out of the air. On cool nights, which we have a lot of here in Northwest Montana in the spring and summer, the hummers conserve some of the energy they have worked so hard to get by becoming dormant. Their body temperature will drop from 104 degrees to 75 degrees and their pulse from 1200 beats a minute to 36!     

So, why does the hummingbird hum?  Is it because they don’t know the words?!  Actually they can whistle and chirp, but the hum comes from their feathers. Special tapered feathers at the tip of the wings make slots that the wind whistles through when they fly. A male may whir his wings 100-200 times a second when courting the females! He really hums!     

I’m sure you have noticed how the hummingbirds appear to change color. The color doesn’t come from pigment, but actually from layers of air-filled plates.  The plates reflect light like tiny prisms making a beautiful bedazzling blaze of color.     

Of all the birds of God’s creation, the hummingbird might be the most remarkable. Everything about these tiny creatures shouts design. How sad that those who have an evolutionist world view won’t acknowledge that these amazing little birds were designed by our all-wise, all-powerful Creator God, the Lord Jesus Christ, for “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn. 1:3). Needless to say, no person could have planned a creature like the hummingbird. We can design helicopters and other flying machines, but they are still just poor copies of the birds they try to imitate.  No one would argue that helicopters were not designed by intelligence, yet evolution would teach that hummingbirds happened by time, chance and accident! Wrong!!! The hummingbird was just one of the myriads of amazing, beautiful designs of our Lord Jesus Christ, who “out of the ground formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the sky” (Gen. 2:19).

If our Creator God could design and build the amazing little hummer, just think of what He has done for us and will do in and through us if we allow Him to!  We serve an awesome God, and “It isHe who has made us and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3). If you think the hummingbird has some special features—and it does—just do a little research into the marvels of the human body, and you will shout with the Psalmist, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works; and my soul knows it very well” (Psa. 139:14).               

Forever His,                

Pastor Dave     

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The God of All Comforts

We were very saddened this weekend to hear that a high school freshman had taken his life Friday evening.  His family had been our neighbors for several years, living in my wife’s folks’ old place.  We had many opportunities to interact with and to share our faith with them.  Their two boys were always greatly respectful and courteous and we often heard “Yes, ma’am,” “Yes sir.”  They attended church a few times with us when I was filling in the pulpit.  The older son, the freshman, had recently landed a job at a hardware store and even worked Friday, joking with fellow employees who commented that he really seemed to enjoy working.  His dad had taught him to hunt and he was involved in sports and he had good athletic skills.  There were no “red flags” indicating that he was depressed or struggling emotionally. But following work on Friday, after a long visit with a girlfriend, he went and found his dad’s pistol and ended his life.      

Needless to say his family, friends, and school mates are in shock and grief, asking why? How could such a tragic thing happen to such a young man with much to live for and a great future ahead of him.  Apparently he made a rash decision in the heat of the moment, thinking life at that point, was not worth living. We have an enemy, Satan, whom Jesus referred to as “The Father of Lies” (Jn 8:44) who hates us and tells us we are not of value, that God doesn’t really love us, and that there is no purpose in continuing on. We may as well “opt out” and end it all.  But, the only power he has over us is when we believe his lies.      

Truth be told, God loves us very much—enough to send His Son to die for our sins (Jn. 3:16; I Jn. 4:9,10)—and provides us with purpose, worth and significance which are not dependent upon our circumstances, but transcends them.  The Apostle Peter encourages as well as warns us with these words: “Casting all you anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, because your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5:7,8). 

Many people get hung up on the question of why something happens. There is no 100 percent solution this side of heaven. And even if we could know why, it wouldn’t matter because the tragedy would not be any less painful. If we dwell on it, we’ll get stuck in an endless cycle of trying to figure out something that is in this life unknowable.  Also, tragic loss does not negate God’s overall plan from before time to redeem mankind through Christ’s substitutionary death on our behalf.  Often, in fact, God uses suffering, grief and loss, to bring many to a place where they acknowledge their frailty and need of Him.  It is very likely God will do that in this tragic event as well. He has lots of folks’ attention—especially the young people in our community who were greatly impacted by this young man, as evidenced Sunday night with a big parade through town and a gathering afterward to grieve and share memories, celebrating his life.        God the Son came to earth, taking on human form so that He could become the sacrifice for sin and defeat Satan (Heb. 2:9,14,15) and offer each of us eternal life through acknowledging our sin and trusting in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection on our behalf (Jn. 5:24; Ro. 10:9,10,13).  

God the Son also took on human form so that he could empathize with the tough things we face, for “He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16). Because He fully understands what we go through, He is “the God of all comfort; who comforts us in any affliction…” (II Cor. 1:3,4).  He is not only the “God of all comfort,” but also the “God of peace.”  “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord” (Heb. 13:20).   In addition, He is the “God of Hope.”  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Ro. 15:13). 

At such a time as this we desperately need comfort, peace, and hope.  God alone can offer them to us and He does so through the person of Jesus Christ. When we invite Him into our life as our Savior and Lord, He becomes all this to us. He is our peace, our joy, our hope, and through the Holy Spirit who also comes to dwell in the believer, we have comfort and counsel in our time of need.      

God is there for you, and “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will he not freely give us all things?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, no angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Ro. 8:31,32.37-39).     

So, don’t listen to Satan’s lies, listen to the promises of God who loves you very, very much. Find comfort, peace, hope and joy in Him through His Son Jesus Christ who will give you purpose, worth and significance. Cast all your cares upon Him. He really does care for you (I Pet. 5:7).          

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave  

P.S.  We would appreciate your prayer for the memorial service for this young man which will be Thursday at 1 p.m.   I have been asked to officiate.

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WORLDVIEWS

He is “the most quoted person in the Christian Church today.”  Know who?  His name is George Barna. In 1984 he founded “Barna Research Group” which is now “The Barna Group.” He helped it become a leading research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture. He sold it in 2009 and currently serves as the Executive Director of The American Culture and Faith Institute. He has written more than 50 books and is a church planter and pastor.     

I heard an interview with him this past week on Moody Radio. They were speaking of worldviews and he mentioned a recent survey by The Barna Group that revealed that some 94% of Americans are driven by a non-biblical worldview. Wow, only 6% of Americans have a biblical perspective. No wonder our country is in such a mess. It is definitely not because we are facing a pandemic or because of our corrupt political system or because of the bias of main-stream media or the lack of patriotism or the liberalizing of our educational systems.  Those things are revealing our real problem—the majority has lost its foundation in the only source of genuine, absolute truth for faith and practice—God’s Word.  The Bible, in essence, is the “Manufacturer’s Manual” for how the product—we—should operate. When we ignore the “Manual,” we don’t find fulfillment, purpose or significance, and we look for it in all the wrong places and boy do we make a mess of things!     

Today, countless Christians, from youth through adult, have fallen victim to the popular ideas of our modern world. Many have adopted these ideas into their own worldview.  And many of those without Christ in their lives have renounced the Christian faith—and the Bible—altogether.      

A worldview is our view of God, humanity and the world. A biblical worldview is one that is based on God’s infallible Word. It shows us what God is really like and where to turn for true answers to our big life questions. Fake worldviews, on the other hand, trick us into looking for answers in all the wrong places. And they are everywhere—on television, in books and magazines, at the movies and in conversations with friends and family and on the internet. We absorb them like we catch colds. We don’t even know we’re sick until it’s too late.     

Just as there is an abundance today of “fake news,” there are a number of main fake worldviews to which people succumb. One is being religious, but without having a relationship with Christ.  Many who still profess to be “Christians,” have never personally trusted Christ as Savior and don’t read, let alone study and follow the Bible as their guide for what they believe and how they behave.  Included among them are those who don’t believe absolute truth can be known and that we can’t really take the Bible literally. So they live doing what they feel is right in the moment or what accomplishes their goals—doing what is right in their own eyes. (Hmmm…check out Judges 21:25!).      

A significant percentage are sympathetic to the teachings of Islam and the Koran, looking upon Christians as infidels, as the enemy. And, currently in the U.S.A, a growing percentage—especially those on the left politically—are accepting and pushing ideas associated with Marxism, the belief that the current system must be overthrown (“Cancel Culture”) because it exploits the poor to benefit the rich.  Another large percentage believe ideas based on Secular Humanism (evolutionist, agnostics and atheists), the belief that the material world is all there is, that man can resolve his own problems without God—if He even exists at all.  Many have sort of “cut and pasted” from the varying worldviews and have an amalgamation of beliefs—called “syncretism.” Tragically, fake worldviews ruin people’s lives, leading them to wrong values and harmful practices which affect entire cultures and nations.      

The bad ideas generated by fake worldviews are simply lies—lies about the nature of reality, lies about morality, lies about values and lies about how we should relate to one another.  At the root of all these false worldviews and their lies is none other than Satan, whom Jesus called “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). 

How do we know the Christian’s biblical worldview is true?  Christianity’s grasp of reality has enabled it to profoundly influence the world. That influence has led to human rights, freedom, education, healthcare and much more. But that alone does not establish that it is true. When we say that the Christian worldview is true, we are affirming that it best describes the world as it actually exists, how it got here and where it is headed.  That the universe is a product of God’s design (Gen. 1:1-2:23)  is evident for all to see (Ro. 1:19,20). People may try to deny it, but they do so only by ignoring the overwhelming evidence that this complex and finely tuned universe could never have come about by blind chance.     

Christianity also presents us with moral absolutes. In the Bible, God tells us what is right and what is wrong. Though many try to pretend otherwise, God’s moral absolutes have consistently proven to be standards that make human life and society possible. So, why do people base their lives on fake worldviews?  It is not that truth is unknowable but that we have rebelled at the truth. We have chosen to ignore it and to not honor God and as a result man has “…become futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Ro. 1:18-21). Only the biblical worldview describes the physical world as it actually exists and describes the condition of mankind in his sinfulness.     

But, there is hope. The truth still sets people free (Jn. 9:32,36).  There is still power in the gospel (the good news of Jesus’ death for sin, His burial and resurrection) to save all who believe (Ro. 1:16,17). As Christians, we are “salt and light” (Mt. 5:14-16), and the catalyst for cultural change if we stand strong in our faith and defend truth.  We are to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have (I Pet. 3:15).       So, Go Make a Difference for Christ!          

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave

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What Do You Know For Sure?

I have always enjoyed mathematics and took lots of math courses in high school and in college at Montana State University (go Cats!)  where I graduated with a degree in Industrial and Management Engineering.  In contrast to  the social sciences and liberal arts where topics can be quite subjective and you are at the mercy of the philosophies of the professors, math is objective and there are “right” and “wrong” answers.  There are things called “constants” that you can be sure will always be the same—things you can know for sure that are part of our orderly universe which God created.     

But now I just read in the March 21st issue of Whistleblower that math education Professor Laurie Rubel in New York City claims “the whole notion that ‘2+2 =4’ is one that reeks of white supremacist patriarchy. The idea that math (or data) is culturally neutral or in any way objective is a MYTH.”  The article goes on to say that “in Oregon, the state’s education department is promoting ‘A Pathway to Math Equity.’ intended to train teachers in how to ‘dismantle racism in mathematics instruction.’ ‘The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,’ declares the course’s toolkit”  and that upholding the idea that there are always “right and wrong answers” creates fear and conflict.     

And, “Rutgers University recently determined that speaking and writing English correctly is also racist. The school’s English department is altering its grammar standards to ‘stand with and respond’ to the Black Lives Matter movement and emphasize ‘social justice’ and ‘critical grammar’ over irrelevancies like correct spelling and grammar.”  The new approach “challenges the standard form of the English language in favor of a more ‘inclusive’ writing experience, noting ‘the curriculum puts an emphasis on the variability of the English language instead of accuracy.’”      

Wow!!  It all seems a bit like a bad dream and we’ll wake up and things will be back to normal.  I’m reminded of the period of dark ages that the Israelites went through called the “Judges” when “Everyone did that which was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  When we eliminate absolute truth and objectivity, who is to say what is right and what is wrong. It becomes purely subjective and your opinion is just as “right” as someone else’s opinion.  Good can be looked upon by some as evil and evil can be looked upon as good and, goodness, what a mess!  I am understanding more and more the prophecy in II Tim. 3:1: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come…”  I remember reading George Orwell’s 1984 way back when I was in high school and being intrigued by his imagination, but as I look at our world today, we are there, even including the discussion of “does 2+2 really equal 4?”      

Sadly this current philosophy is not just in academia and politics (where some are saying our Constitution is not absolute),  but it has also entered into the realm of religion and the church where some no longer believe that the Bible has absolute truths that we must follow, but we can interpret it however we wish.  A few years ago a movement called The Emergent Church entered evangelicalism with  the teaching that you can’t really understand the Bible so we can’t dogmatically teach it, we can only facilitate discussions about the Bible and everyone’s opinion is of value and there are no absolute rights and wrongs.  Wow, is that a dangerous view of Scripture!  Over and over in the Bible we are told that we can “know” and that we are to “retain the standard of sound words (doctrine)” (II Tim. 1:13) and that we are to teach others what God’s Word says (II Tim. 2:1,2; Psa. 78: 5-8).  God, in His sovereignty and omnipotence, surely was able to communicate with mankind such that we could understand what He said.  He, being infinite God, obviously has not revealed everything to us since we in our finiteness could not yet comprehend it, but He has given us everything we need to know to realize we are sinners and that He, in the person of the God-Man, Jesus Christ came and died for our sin, that we can have both eternal life and abundant life and that we can  know Him and know what His Word says. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Dt. 29:29).  God also sent the Holy Spirit to “guide us into all truth” (Jn. 16:13).  Christianity is a “know-so faith.”  Just check out I John and see how many times it says, “and we know.”      

God’s physical world is also “knowable” and consistent and predictable.  If it were not, we couldn’t have sent a man to the moon or a probe to Mars, nor could we predict a lunar or solar eclipse at a certain time. God created an orderly universe with predictability of things such as the force of gravity, the speed of light or of sound.  And “2 + 2” still equals “4”! “God is the God of order, not confusion” (I Cor. 14:33).  Our adversary, the devil, is the author of confusion and chaos and I’m sure he senses that his time is very limited and he is frantically attempting to disrupt God’s plans for this earth and for mankind. But, Praise the LORD, God will have the final say. Of this I am sure!  “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 to be inhabited)…For I am God, and there is no other…Declaring the end from the beginning…saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 45:18; 46:9-11).   God hasn’t changed. His laws haven’t changed. His purposes haven’t changed. His plans for us haven’t changed. You can count on it, no matter what the “ruler of this world” (Satan) is espousing in our culture today.  There is right and wrong. There is absolute truth. Because there is an almighty, immutable, God. Amen!          

Forever His,                

Pastor Dave    

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