Our Best Days

  During one of my recent physical therapy sessions for my shoulder, a couple of the therapists were discussing what period of their lives they expected to be the best, whether those days were behind them or in the present or yet ahead of them.  It seems each stage of our life— from grade school to high school, to college, to our first job, to marriage and starting a family, to having those first grandchildren, to retirement years— has both plusses and minuses. As we get into the latter stages of our lives, we often speak of the “good old days.”  And for a number of reasons, they were, but they also held some challenges for us which most don’t face now. 
     I think of the Israelites. They faced some very harsh times as for 400-plus years they were slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt who made them work extremely hard physically. God sent Moses to help lead them out and into the land He promised to them. After numerous miracles, escaping Egypt’s army by having the waters of the Red Sea part for them to cross, getting water by striking a rock, being provided with nutritious daily food called “manna” (which means, “What is it?”), they still complained to Moses saying: “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna” (Nu. 11:5,6).  In other words, In spite of the amazing provision of protection, food and water,  they were looking upon their time of slavery in Egypt as “the good old days.”  “Those were our best days!”  Wow, how distorted our perspective can become when we become whiners and complainers instead of grateful people. 
     In contrast to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, consider the Apostle Paul, who had spent his early days as “Saul of Tarsus,” persecuting the followers of Jesus. He was of the prestigious tribe of Benjamin, had been trained under the top Rabbis of Judaism and was advancing in his religion and was respected by his peers.  Then, as he was on the way to Damascus to arrest believers,  he had an encounter with the risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. and he was forever changed.  He became the missionary to the Gentiles but also shared the Gospel with his fellow Jews. Now he became the one persecuted for his faith in Jesus, including spending a number of years in prison where he wrote many of the letters we have in our New Testament.  As he looked back at his life, here is what he said, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:7-14). 
     Whereas the Israelites in the wilderness complained about their circumstances (just like they had done while slaves in Egypt…Ex. 3:7), Paul, writing his letter to the Philippian believers from prison in Rome, said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…I want you to know brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil. 1:3,12-14).  What an amazing attitude! And Paul continues, “According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (vv. 24).  Paul was in a “Win-Win” situation. He was excited to live and continue his ministry to others, but he also knew if he were to be killed—which ended up happening later, beheaded at the hands of the Romans under Nero—that would even be better, for he would immediately be in God’s presence forever (II Cor. 5: 8).
     As the therapists were discussing when are the best of our days, I shared with them that, as a Christian, the best is always yet to come, although we can enjoy the present as well if we are serving Christ—no matter the stage or circumstances of our life.  For “to live is Christ, but to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Just before Paul was martyred, he wrote a final letter to Timothy in which we read: “…the time of my departure (death) has come. 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. 4:6-8). 
     If you know Christ as your Savior, you can enjoy the presence of Christ in your life right now and can bear fruit for Him, but the best is yet to come!  That is the hope and assurance that we have in Christ, for we have “Christ in us the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  If you don’t know Christ, all you can do is make the most of your present days and you have no hope for the future. The worst is yet to come!  I urge you to put your trust in Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. He loves you and made a way for you to have a very bright future. Commit your life to Him today, while there is time.
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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In Remembrance

  In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced as the Allied powers signed a cease-fire agreement with Germany to bring World War I—“the war to end all wars”—to a close. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th  as the first commemoration of “Armistice Day.”  The original celebration involved parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.  The word “armistice” is from the Latin and means “arms standing still.” In 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance of that day.  An act approved on May 13, 1938, made November 11th a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to honor the veterans of WW I, but in 1954, after WW II and the Korean War, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” and November 11th became “Veterans’ Day,” a celebration to honor veterans of all wars for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Other countries such as Canada, Australia, and Great Britain also celebrate their veterans on or near November 11, naming their holiday “Remembrance Day.” 
     The early Christians also remembered those who had gone before them and lived out their lives of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, often laying down their lives for their faith, in order to spread the Gospel—the “Good News” of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ so that we could have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. In Hebrews 11, the author speaks of first-century Christians who kept and carried forward the faith, many of them suffering great atrocities and martyrdom (Heb. 11:32-40).   Hebrews 11 has been called God’s “Hall of Fame of Faith” and is a chapter that continues to be written as Christians continue to suffer persecution and death for their faith in Christ. 
     Just as we must not forget what our country’s veterans have done in the name of freedom from tyranny, we must also never forget what our Christian brothers and sisters have done in the name of freedom from sin and death. Their example should encourage us to stand firm for the faith today in spite of the adversity we face.  The author of Hebrews references this “great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews 11 and then encourages the readers to “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1).
     But, the writer of Hebrews doesn’t end there; he goes on to urge the readers (including us): “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand  of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).  He sat down because He finished the work He came to accomplish (Jn. 19:30)—the final sacrifice for sin. “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” (Heb. 10: 10-14).
     Although Jesus returned to heaven forty days after His resurrection, He left us with a couple special ways to remember what He did for us. We call them “ordinances.”  One is water baptism of believers. It is an outward way to demonstrate to the world that we now belong to Jesus. It shows our identification with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection and is symbolized by our going into, under and out of the water. It speaks of our union with Christ and thus only needs to be done once.  It is our testimony of our death to sin and being alive in Christ and desiring to “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6: 4).
     The other ordinance of remembrance is the one that Jesus instituted when He celebrated that final Passover meal with His disciples in the Upper Room. (Mt. 26:17-30; Lk. 22:7-23). We call it “The Lord’s Supper” or “Communion.”   Jesus broke bread and passed it and also passed the cup (fruit of the vine)  indicating that He would bear our sins in His body (the bread…cf I Pet. 2:24) and shed His blood for our forgiveness (the cup…cf Heb. 9:22). He told His disciples to eat and drink “In remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Cor. 11:24-26). The bread remains bread but represents Christ’s body and the juice remains juice but represents His blood. It is an illustration like “I am the door” (Jn. 10:7).  While baptism speak of our union with Christ which takes place the moment we believe and will never change, and  thus only needs to be done once, the Lord’s Supper speaks of our continuous communion with Christ through the shedding of His blood for forgiveness of sin.  We are still united with Christ but our fellowship is hindered when we sin, so we have  need to confess our sins to maintain that fellowship (I Jn. 1:90).  We celebrate “The Lord’s Supper” on an ongoing basis. Some churches do it each time they meet, others once a month, but however frequently we do it, we do it “In Remembrance of Him” remembering His sacrifice for us and looking forward to the return He promised, to take believers to be with Himself
(Jn. 14:1-3).
     So, on this “Veterans’ Day” or “Remembrance Day,” be sure to thank God for those who have served this country to protect our freedoms. If you see a vet today, thank him/her for their service.  But also, thank God for the believers who have set an example for us of enduring faith, encouraging us to “run with endurance the race set before us.” Most of all, remember the Lord Jesus Christ, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” for you so that you could be free from the penalty and power of sin, and one day from the very presence of sin (Jude 24).
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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A Lasting Impact

Can you name some well-known Bible characters from the Tribe of Judah?  You may think of David and Solomon and possibly their ancestors Boaz, Obed and Jesse. Hopefully you will think of the most significant offspring— “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5)—namely, Jesus Christ!  In order to qualify as “King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2), Jesus had to, of course, be a descendent of David, which He was through both Joseph (Mt. 1:1-16) and Mary (Lk. 3:23-31).  But, there is another offspring of Judah who had a key role in the history of the Jewish people that is not as well known. He would be a good Bible character for a child to go as, to a church “Harvest Party” where you dress up and share your story and others have to guess your name. He was gifted  by God to help build the Tabernacle.  We read about him in Ex. 31:1-5: “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”  
     Bezalel may not be a name you can quickly recall from your memory bank, but he, with the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the gifts God granted him, definitely had a visible lasting impact on the place built representing God’s presence among His people, the tabernacle.  Bezalel taught and supervised the other craftsmen, but when it came to the Ark of the Covenant, he himself did the work. Exodus 38 ends with an impressive list of the materials used, including more than a ton of gold, 3.75 tons of silver, and 2.5 tons of bronze. Every detail in that sacred building was for the praise of God’s glory. The altar and the mercy seat testified to His grace. The table of the showbread proclaimed His providence. The lampstand spread His light. But even the things that were not symbolic were for God. This is why the tabernacle was made so carefully, with such fine materials and elaborate decorations: it was all for the glory of God. And Bezalel was the artist whom God specially chose and equipped to make sure the tabernacle was an excellent, beautiful structure that would bring glory to God.
     God also gifted a young man, Todd Berget, who grew up in our community of Libby, Montana. He went to college to become a teacher and coach and for many years taught and coached (football and wrestling) here in Libby. He ended up teaching the “Alternative School,” a group of high school students who who were very privileged to have Todd mentor them with his many artistic abilities. In addition to the core basics, the students got to learn welding and art and were responsible for many additions to beautify our community. Todd and his students painted large murals on store buildings all over town and also made and painted beautiful fish to hang on the fence near the school. They are visible as you drive through town on Highway 2.  Todd loved the Lord and from that came a compassion for others, especially those who struggled in life.  He has had an impact on hundreds of young people who have grown up in our community.  As Tana Wilson wrote in a local paper (The Western News, Nov.1, 2019),  Todd saw the beauty in people and things that others often missed.”
    Sadly, for his family, friends and our whole community, Todd left us last Monday, Oct. 28th for his home in heaven.  Todd had battled health issues for a number of years and finally succumbed to them at age 54.
    He will be greatly missed, but he left us many reminders of what he contributed to our community with the gifts God granted to him. In addition to the many murals, and fish on a fence, Todd, with his unique talent for metal working, crafted some 40 Bald Eagles with wingspans ranging from 8 to 40 feet!  Many are on display around town as well as throughout the state of Montana.  When you drive through Libby, you will see two very large eagles right along the highway.  Because of Todd’s amazing craftsmanship—and generosity—our town became “The City of Eagles.” 
     Todd was also instrumental in starting a Sasquatch Festival in a beautiful nearby area, the Yaak  (where his family had a cabin),  next to Idaho and Canada. Large Sasquatches began showing up throughout Libby and surrounding area—thanks to Todd’s creative handiwork.  One of them in the Yaak even had to be removed because it was scaring the wildlife! 
     As you drive through Libby on Highway 2, you may also notice a very large fishing pole erected over Flower Creek where it flows by Rosauer’s grocery store—again one of Todd Berget’s creations.  His last year teaching the “Alternative School,” Todd also had his class design for our tennis courts a 14-foot tall racquet as a memorial to Richard Thompson who had built our courts and just resurfaced them before he passed away. We thoroughly enjoyed working with Todd to build, erect and paint the racket, which is located at the Libby Community Tennis Courts just a couple blocks off the highway.  Once again, Todd did an amazing job. Todd loved to do anything that would improve the appearance of our community and make it a special place for people to live and visit. In addition to the Sasquatch silhouettes, Todd also had the idea of making large wind chimes to hang under the old “haul bridge” over the Kootenai River. The bridge is now a walking and bike path and a beautiful place to view wildlife and the Kootenai and get some exercise, and if the wind is blowing, to hear the bridge “making music.” 
     Todd also loved to take old handsaws and cut them to make forest and wildlife scenes. If you took him two old saws, he would cut one for you for free.  His most recent—yet unfinished—project was a giant metal sculpture of a grizzly bear. Hopefully his friend from Alaska who had been helping on the project will be able to finish it for him.
     Needless to say, Todd Berget left his “big footprints” all over our community and state.  Yes, Todd was a physically big man, too—quite an imposing figure, especially when he appeared as Sasquatch for the festival in the Yaak. Todd had a great love for others and for the place he lived. He used his giftedness and passion to minister to others and to beautify the place he lived.  Todd, we will miss you. Maybe when we get to heaven we will see some Bald Eagle sculptures and Sasquatches decorating the streets of gold and the pearly gates of the city!
     Our Lord Jesus Christ has given each of us special talents and abilities to use for His glory, as well as spiritual gifts (if we are believers) for service in and through the church. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit..to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Cor. 12: 4,7). How are you using your talents and gifts?  What kind of impact are you having on your community, your church, and on individuals?  What kind of legacy will you leave behind when God calls you home?
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Physical and Spiritual Therapy

  Last May, a week before Memorial Day, Kathy and I went to play tennis with the Sunday afternoon doubles group. It was the first time since Kathy’s back surgery that she felt she would be able to play. We walked on the court and before we got our racquets out of our bags, I picked up a ball to toss to someone on the far court. As I did, I felt my shoulder pop and I couldn’t raise my arm over my head!  So, Kathy and I just hit, with my playing only with my left arm.  Bummer! On Memorial Day, we went back to just rally with each other, again with my playing left handed since my right shoulder had not improved. I ended up tripping and awkwardly falling on the court, smashing my glasses, cutting my knee and—ending up on my right shoulder! If it didn’t hurt before, it did then!
     I made an appointment to see the doctor who surmised that I had a torn rotator cuff.  I had the mandatory X-Ray (for insurance purposes) and then had an MRI and a visit with the surgeon who said that the MRI showed a significant tear in my rotator cuff.  It would require surgery to repair it and several months to heal.  I had surgery on July 3rd, and then had to be in a sling (with a pillow) for eight weeks!  (I did sneak it off a few times!)  Then my physical therapy started twice a week.  Now, when you’ve been in a sling for eight weeks, there are lots of parts—muscles, tendons, nerves—that have not been operating and are weak and need to figure out what to do again, and the process by which that happens is quite painful at times!  With their training and experience, the physical therapists know just which motions and exercises to work on to get back your range of  motion and then to strengthen the muscles that have become weak. “No pain, no gain” definitely comes into play!  Although I don’t look forward to the therapy sessions because of knowing each will be rather painful, at the same time I very much appreciate the therapists’ expertise and compassion. They are not there to see you suffer, but to help you recover and regain health and strength.  They have a genuine concern for their patients and get excited to see the improvements we make. 
     I can’t help but think of the comparison between physical therapy and our need for spiritual therapy.  When we have been physically broken—like a torn rotator cuff—we need to have surgery to fix what is torn or broken, but then we need to have therapy to regain motion and strength of that body member.  Similarly, we are all spiritually “broken,” and need surgery first to fix what is broken. That is, we are all born sinners and separated from fellowship with our Creator God. David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin, my mother conceived me” (Psa. 51:5). David was acknowledging that life begins at conception and that we have a sinful nature from that moment. The Apostle Paul wrote the familiar passage in His letter to the church in Rome: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23).  The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isa. 53:6a).  In other words, we are all broken and need surgery to be repaired. In His amazing plan, God provided a Divine Surgeon, His Son, Jesus Christ. God the Son came to this earth and took on human form, being born of a virgin, and thus without the sinful nature, lived a perfect life without sin, so that He could pay the penalty of sin, dying in our place, and rising from the dead to prove that God the Father was satisfied with His sacrifice on our behalf. “…But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:6b). “He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God  in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).  “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you are healed (spiritually)” (I Pet. 2:24). 
   When you are broken you need first to have surgery to be repaired and then you need therapy to be restored to health and usefulness.  Many people, not acknowledging their broken (sinful) condition, think they can be restored just through their own efforts and works, through church attendance, baptism, communion, tithing, etc., but the Bible makes it very clear that “we have been saved through faith; and not that of ourselves, it is the gift of God (God’s grace); not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). As Jesus told the religious leader of the Jews, Nicodemus, we must be “born again” (Jn. 3:3), that is, we must acknowledge our sinfulness (that we are broken) to God, and that only Jesus’ death in our place and His resurrection can heal us, can restore our fallen condition and make us right with God again so we can fellowship with Him and have eternal life (Jn. 5:24).
     Once we have done that, and are spiritually healed from our broken condition, we need spiritual therapy to become restored to health and usefulness as an “Ambassador for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20).   We need to become involved in a good Bible-teaching fellowship where we can be challenged by the Word of God to work on our areas of weakness. It will be painful at times, for the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin. Besides church attendance, we need to have our own personal time in the Word, allowing God to continue working on us, molding us into the image of Christ (Ro. 8: 29).  (In between my physical therapy sessions, I am given homework to make even further progress. I regain my range of motion and strength much faster if I do my homework!  The same is true for my spiritual therapy. I can’t depend solely on my time in church if I really want to be useful to God.)
     So, first of all, have you come to our Divine Surgeon to fix your sinful, broken condition?  If not, I urge you to consider doing so.  If you have, are you involved in spiritual therapy both at church and at home?   It will involve some pain, but it is so worth it.  The author of Hebrews wrote: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful (painful!), yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).   The Marines have a saying: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body!”  To grow strong physically or spiritually involves some pain—but the results are well worth it! 
        Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Autumn Amazement

We made a quick trip to Oregon on the train last week to help our daughter on some work projects since her husband has to be gone with his job for awhile. The main job involved sheetrocking, taping and mudding the bathroom and I wasn’t sure how my right arm would do since I am still having physical therapy after my shoulder surgery.  Well, PTL, I survived and we were able to accomplish the task and had some quality time with our daughter and family and got to meet up with our son and family for lunch after church on Sunday and attend our grandson’s soccer game on Monday afternoon.  We happened to catch the fall colors at their peak in the Portland area. The trees were so amazing with their many shades of yellow, orange and red. The trip on the train along the Columbia River through the gorge area was also spectacular with color. 
     Here in Libby, Montana our colors too are awesome, plus we have had a couple early snowfalls, so our colors are displayed against a background of white on the nearby mountains.  We also have lots of  Western Larch in the mountains. Larch are conifer trees like pines because they have needles rather than leaves and the seeds grow in cones. But unlike other pines, they are not evergreen but deciduous.  Usually about the time that leafy deciduous trees are dropping their fall foliage, the larch needles begin to turn shades of yellow, orange, and gold, and after two to three weeks drop their needles to the forest floor. They stand out in stark contrast to the evergreens in the forest—the pines, fir, hemlock, cedar and spruce.  Knowing that God is the maker of trees, as discussed in a recent “Wisdom of the Week,” causes me to feel a sense of awe and amazement at what a wonderful, designer our Creator God is. 
     We have three maple trees on our property and each displays different shades of yellow, orange and red, and even have some leaves that turn nearly purple—so beautiful!  We love to bring in a few leaves to press and  to display around the house as a reminder of the wonder of God’s creation.  Leaves are nature’s food factories. Plants (including trees) take water from the ground through their roots. The stomata on the leaves then absorb carbon dioxide from the air and, with the use of sunlight, turn the water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates (glucose/sugar) in a process  called photosynthesis (which means “putting together with light). “The balance of the oxygen content of the air so essential to all life on earth is controlled to a large extent by the growth process of plants and trees. (Wonder who thought of that!)  It is also this discharge of oxygen into the atmosphere which gives the special quality of purity and freshness to forest and mountain air.  There is an exciting invigoration and keen stimulation to the atmosphere of forested country. Most of us are acquainted with the perfume-like pungency of a forest that is breathing deeply of summer air.”  (As a Tree Grows by Phillip Keller, pp. 41,42).
    A chemical called chlorophyll helps make the photosynthesis process take place in the leaves.  It is also Chlorophyll that gives leaves (and larch needles) their green color. As summer ends and autumn arrives, the days get shorter and the nights cooler  and the trees know to get ready for winter—because that is how God designed them!  During winter there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves, and as the green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange leaves. Some amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along but were covered up by the green chlorophyll.  The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool autumn nights cause the leaves to turn this glucose into red and purple. The fall browns of some trees, like oak, are made from wastes left in the leaves. The combination of all these things make the beautiful fall foliage colors we enjoy each year to remind us of what a mighty God we serve. If He has such an ingenious plan for plants and trees, enabling them to grow and bear fruit and also display such beauty as well as providing the oxygen we need to survive, just think of what an amazing plan He has for us, enabling us to live and to bear fruit for Him.  As Phillip Keller points out in his book As a Tree Grows, just as God provides the water and carbon dioxide and sunlight and chlorophyll for plants and trees to live and grow and produce fruit, so He has provided for us living water (The Holy Spirit… Jn. 4:10-14; 7:37-39) and the water of His Word (Eph. 5:25,26). He has also provided us with “Son Light,” (love from the “Light of the World,” Jesus Christ…Jn. 8:12). As we stay connected (abide) in Him, we grow and bear fruit—and show the beauty of Christ in us.  
     I trust that you too are experiencing “Autumn Amazement.”
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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Only God Can Make a Tree

    The middle of October is one of my very favorite times of year. The heat of summer has subsided as the days grow shorter and the angle of the sun changes to bring about the fall season with its cool, crisp mornings and the trees reach their peak of color, with the many shades of red, orange and yellow displayed against a deep blue sky—awesome! 
     We have friends, Ivan and Linda Varner,  visiting here, having driven all the way from Pennsylvania to spend the month of October in the Libby area where they used to reside many years ago. We once had Bible study in their home and I hunted deer and elk with Ivan—lots of special memories. Knowing how much they enjoy the trees, we took them yesterday after church to a local cross country ski area that is right on the edge of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon and we just wandered on the ski trails enjoying the smell of the cedar, white fir, spruce, and  Douglas fir trees and the colors of the deciduous trees and bushes and the Western Larch whose needles are just starting to turn from their summer green to yellow-orange before falling to provide a soft blanket on the forest floor.  There are few things more beautiful and soothing than walking through a forest or grove of trees. 
     Scripture has much to say about these majestic woody perennials, from the “fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind” (Gen. 1:11) to “the tree of life” that will be freely accessible to all believers in the renewed earth one day (Rev. 22:2).  A number of tree varieties are mentioned in the Bible. Can you name them?  The list includes: gopher (Gen. 6:14…the Hebrew word is a root of the word gophrith, which is translated elsewhere in the OT as “brimstone” and would refer to a form of plant material with sulfur-bearing lignin which is true of hardwoods),  oak (Gen. 12:6; 35: 8; Josh. 24:26), acacia (Ex. 25:10…for the Ark of the Covenant and table for bread in the Tabernacle),  palm (Judges 4:5), tamarisk (I Sam. 22:6), cedar (I Kgs. 5:6…from Lebanon for construction of the Temple),  olive (Ro. 11:17..a symbol of the national life of Israel and the Abrahamic covenant), fig (Mt. 21:19). 
     Trees were part of God’s creation, made on the third day of “creation week” (Gen. 1:12,13).  They undoubtedly had the appearance of age, probably with growth rings and all. Whatever God spoke into existence or made from the elements He created, started out as mature plants and animals with the ability to reproduce “after their kind” (Gen. 1:12) so naturally had built into each the appearance of age, though just made.  Trees have always been trees in all of their majestic beauty and design.  Evolutionists, who reject the biblical authority of origins, have no explanation for the origin of the at least 60,000 identified tree species in the world. Evolutionist Elizabeth Stacy of the University of Hawaii Hilo says, “We know next to nothing about how they (trees) got here” (Trees: An Engineering Wonder…Acts and Facts, September 2015).
     The design of trees and their ability to reproduce “after their kind” is clear indication of their having been created, and did not evolve (Ro. 1:20).  The whirling winged seeds of conifers or maples, and the flying cotton from the Cotton Wood and the berries from the Mountain Ash which birds spread everywhere are an engineering wonder which required a brilliant engineer!
     ”Not only are the varieties of seed dispersal evidence of design, but the construction of basic tree structure that enables them to reach hundreds of feet into the air reflects God’s creative hand. Trees are without an internal or external skeleton to provide their rigidity and support but each plant cell has a robust cell wall composed of cellulose (the most abundant biomolecule on Earth) that we appreciate every time we bite into a celery stalk. Together, these trillions of cell walls make up the wood of the tree. Where did wood come from? Evolutionists don’t know!” (Acts and Facts, September 2015).  The Bible says, “And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…” (Gen. 2:9). 
     Poet Joyce Kilmer understood that only God could make a tree as he reflected in “Trees” published in 1914:
                “I think that I shall never see
                A poem as lovely as a tree.
                A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
                Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.
                A tree that looks at God all day,
                And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
                A tree that may in summer wear
                A nest of robins in her hair,
                Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
                Who intimately lives with rain
             Poems are made by fools like me,
                But only God can make a tree.”
     Amen!!  As you view God’s spectacular fall display of colors, pause and thank God who “richly supplies us with all things (including trees) to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Footless Fliers

While on our recent trip to Oregon to spend time with family, we had the rare privilege of witnessing the spectacular phenomenon of thousands of Chimney Swifts preparing for their long migration flight back to South America for the winter.  Our son coaches the varsity volleyball team at North Clackamas Christian School in Oregon City and we had gone with him to watch them play against Portland Waldorf, a private charter school in their conference. At the end of the match, we walked outside of their gym and soon all had their eyes fixed on the sky immediately above a large old chimney at the school where there were thousands of Chimney Swifts swirling in tornado-like fashion, feasting on the evening hatch of insects. What a sight!
     Chimney Swifts are swallow-like in appearance and behavior, but with slimmer, scythe-like wings and short tails. The sooty-gray Chimney Swift is best identified by its sleek silhouette, often compared to a “flying cigar.” They are structurally distinct with flat skulls and all four toes pointing forward. Their flight is very rapid,”twinkling,” sailing between spurts with wings stiffly bowed. They are among the most aerial of all birds and—like the hummingbirds—Swifts have long wingtip bones that give them added maneuverability in flight. The family name, Apodidae, means “footless” in Greek. The Swifts do in fact have feet which are useful only for clinging to vertical surfaces.  These fantastic fliers can eat, drink, break off twigs for their nest, mate, and even sleep while in flight! God, in His great wisdom, designed the Chimney Swift with special feet that enable them to cling to vertical surfaces and also with sticky saliva that they use to hold their twig nest together on the inside of a chimney.
     Chimney Swifts are migratory birds which winter in South America, returning to North America in early April. Like bats, these birds once nested primarily in old hollow trees, but as the trees disappeared from the landscape, they now nest almost exclusively in chimneys,  And, like bats, they eat lots of flying insects.  They make their nests on the inside walls of chimneys, coming out at dusk to forage for insects.  Chimneys made of stone, fire brick or masonry flue tiles with mortared joints provide the ideal surface for nesting swifts.
     Sometime in mid to late September, prior to migrating south for the winter, they form large flocks as they prepare for their long trip back to South America.  They search out a large chimney as a temporary staging area for their upcoming trip.  If you are fortunate, as we were last week in Portland, at dusk, you may get to witness the amazing spectacle of up to 10,000 Chimney Swifts swirling in and out of a large chimney, gorging on insects and then returning to the chimney to rest up for their long flight. 
     As we consider the wonderful design of God’s amazing creatures like the Chimney Swift we can’t help but feel a sense of awe at how God has equipped each species of birds and animals for survival on the earth He prepared for them, and then to think that He put us, as the “crown” of all of His Creation, in charge of it all and asked us to care for it. No wonder the Psalmist, David, shouted out, “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens?…When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; what is man, that You are mindful of him, the son of man, that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor!  You made him ruler over the works of Thy hands; You put everything under his feet, all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swims the paths of the sea. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8). 
     As we consider how God cares for His creatures like the little Chimney Swift, we are reminded of Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Mt. 6:26).   The God who cares for the birds and animals which He created surely cares much more about us and our needs.  That’s why David could write in the beloved Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psa. 73:25,26). 
    Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
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