Be Encouraged

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is encouragement.  Probably all of us at times become discouraged, especially given the crazy world we live in today that has lost its moorings and has become exceedingly corrupt, evil and anti-Christian. The Psalmist, David, had much reason often to be discouraged. King Saul made attempts on his life and he had to run and hide to avoid Saul’s murderous anger. Later, partly due to a lapse in his own godly standards, David’s family became very dysfunctional and his own son, Absalom, turned against him and then was killed.  David writes: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? (Psa. 42:5 cf 42:11; 43:5). 
     Maybe you can relate with David right now in the circumstances of your life. Maybe you have been “lonely, hibernating in the den of discouragement, licking your wounds under dark clouds that won’t blow away. You wish the world would stop so you could get off. You’re probably praying hard for the rapture. You’re probably beginning to wonder when and if relief is coming. You’re probably questioning the truth of I Cor. 10:13” (from Encourage Me by Charles Swindoll).
     If negativism and cynicism have crept in—if the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be the headlamp of an oncoming train!—if life has become terribly unfunny—take heart, the Lord can and will lift you up! No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still. No valley so dark that the light of His truth cannot penetrate.  Going back to David’s honest expression of his deep discouragement in Psalm 42 and 43, note Psalm 42:5b: “Hope in God for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”
     One of the reasons many are discouraged is that they don’t know they have a refuge to which to go.  Shelters are hard to come by these days—people who care enough to listen, who can keep a confidence. We need harbors to pull into when we feel weather-worn and blasted by the storm.  That’s why the local bars are crowded. The bar is probably the best counterfeit there is for the fellowship of believers in a local assembly. It’s an imitation dispensing alcohol in place of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting fellowship where you can bare your soul. The problem is, that’s where it ends. There is no real help offered to resolve your depression.
     Where do you turn when the bottom drops out of your life?  Maybe you discover that your son is on drugs or your high school daughter is pregnant, or your parents are going to get a divorce, or you lose your job, or a close loved one dies, or…. When the circumstances of life come down on you like a ton of bricks, you need a shelter, a listener, someone who understands, someone to encourage you. David, when suffering adversity and struggling with depression, wrote in his “journal”: “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since You are my rock and my fortress…”(Psa. 31:1,2).  David found in God a protective place, a place of safety, security and secrecy. Hurting people don’t need critics. They don’t need guilt piled on distress. They need encouragement, they need a refuge—a place to hide and heal. They need a willing, available, confidant. David calls God his “strength, mighty rock, fortress, stronghold, shelter, refuge, high tower.” And, David’s refuge never failed.
     Note David’s testimony in Psa. 61:1-3: “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I call to You, when my heart is faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” I think it is important to note that David was willing to cry out to God for help.  A poster reads: “A prayer to be said when the world has gotten you down, and you feel rotten, and you’re too doggone tired to pray, and you’re in a big hurry, and besides, you’re mad at everybody… ‘My Son, slow down, ease back, admit your need. Cry out ‘HELP!’ ’ Our entire life, most of us have been told to ‘buck it up!’ to ‘grin and bear it!’ It has been bred into us by parents, competition in school, in business, in sports, etc. That inner voice says ‘prove it to ‘em! Show them you can do it without anyone’s help!’ We have been molded by our society to have a sense of self-sufficiency and it is hard for us to admit we are discouraged and need help. Hey, none of us is the Messiah!  We are human—made of dust, remember. So, stop trying to run all the bases and sell hot dogs in the stands at the same time!” (Encourage Me).
     In 1968 an airliner bound for New York couldn’t get the landing gear to come down. The pilot announced over the intercom: “We are beginning our final descent. In accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God, you should commence in prayer!” There’s nothing like a crisis to reveal the otherwise hidden truth of the soul. We may mask it, ignore it, cover it with activity, but take away the cushion of comfort, interject the threat of death and most cry out to God.  if you are in need of encouragement today, head for cover!  “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I” (Psa. 61:2b). 
        Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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All That Glitters is Not Gold

   This is March 11th and we still have 16 inches of snow on the ground (and today is the first day of the high school spring sports season for tennis (with which I help), and track and softball!).  Our winter came a bit late this year and over the past couple weeks we have received 24-36” of snow in the area with temperatures down to –15 to –20 degrees several nights.  Pretty unusual for March!  But, since we are dependent on having a good “storehouse of snow” in the mountains to provide spring and summer runoff for our streams, lakes and underground water table, we are very grateful. Thank you, Lord.
        It is all part of God’s plan for sustaining the earth He created. God, speaking through Isaiah the prophet, said: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10,11).  Just as moisture sent to earth from the heavens accomplishes God’s intended purpose in helping meet human needs, so the Word of God likewise produces its intended results in accomplishing God’s spiritual purposes.
     While the snow creates a lot of work for us in removal (we have a long driveway!), it also meets a very real need. We would be in big trouble if we did not get an appreciable amount of snow each winter. On average, each 10” of snow provides 1” of water.  It also provides lots of opportunity for recreation for those who enjoy winter sports of skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, etc.  We enjoy cross-country skiing and will still have plenty of snow for several more weeks of skiing. (Unfortunately, Kathy had back surgery this winter so is unable to get out and ski). We especially enjoy skiing at our local golf course, which is one of the locations they groom for cross country skiers. It is right at the base of the beautiful Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, so the view is spectacular on a clear day and it is so quiet and peaceful. And at times—when it is fairly cold out—the snow is like acres of diamonds reflecting the rays of the sun—so beautiful!  We do try to walk each day from our place and several times—on cold, crisp days— the snow in the fields by our driveway has been like glittering diamonds.
     We also enjoy watching it snow, knowing how God, in His wisdom, created the heavens and the earth such that under the right conditions, snowflakes form in the atmosphere where cold water droplets freeze onto dust particles. And depending on the temperature and humidity of the air where the snowflakes form, the ice crystals can grow into a myriad of different shapes. Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) from Jericho, Vermont, was the first person to capture photographs of snowflakes through the use of a microscope attached to a camera. His collection of 5,000 snowflake images introduced us to the astounding diversity of snowflakes. The colder the air temperature, the simpler the shape, and the warmer the temperature, the more complex, with extensive branching patterns. The most intricate snowflake patterns are formed during warm and wet conditions.
     Kenneth G. Libbrecht, chairman of the Physics Department at the California Institute of Technology, says snowflakes form by two different crystallization processes—faceting and branching. Faceting produces six-sided prisms giving snowflakes their famed six-sided symmetry. Branching produces random, complex features that extend away from the growing hexagonal prisms. As it tumbles through the clouds and changing temperatures and humidities, the final size and shape of each flake is determined. You may find two that appear identical under a microscope, but if you look at the molecular level, they are far from identical. “At the molecular level, the probability that two flakes formed identically is mathematically impossible given the effectively infinite number of ways to create a snowflake. The number of possible ways to array the branches and side branches is far, far, far greater than even the total number of snowflakes that have ever fallen on earth!” 
     The diamond-like appearance of the snow when it is cold is called “snow sparkle,” and is due to the sun reflecting off the individual ice crystals in the snow. When sunlight hits the crystals, they have a mirror effect. Rays of light hit the individual ice crystals lying on the uppermost layer of snow and reflect light back up. The best type of winter precipitation for “snowflake sparkle” is cold, dry snow because the individual ice crystals within the dry snow usually remain separated, whereas with wet snow, the crystals are larger and attach themselves to other snowflakes (making it easier to make snowballs or a snowman!).
     Another glittering weather phenomenon similar to “snowflake sparkle” is what meteorologists call “diamond dust,” which is tiny ice crystals that seem to float in the air, often under bright blue sky. (We were privileged to see that several times recently as well.) Again, the glittering appearance is caused by sunlight hitting the ice crystals. And all of this beauty was created by our amazing Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17),  even snowflakes!  Snow is something much needed for our earth to produce but God doesn’t stop with just providing the necessary, He loves to show His glory through it. “All that glitters is not gold;” it may be ice crystals falling from heaven!
           Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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A God of Order

I still have a number of my college textbooks from the 1960’s.  I knew that some like my physics, chemistry, thermodynamics and math books and math tables would continue to be good reference books because the laws of math and science are unchanging. You see they are observations of a universe created by our “God of order.”  When God created, He set into motion laws which would be fixed and predictable so that we could have math and science courses which count on things remaining the same. The speed of light is still 186,000 miles/sec and the speed of sound (in dry air)  is still 1090 ft/sec. Acceleration of gravity is still 32.2 ft/sec. The mean earth-to-sun distance is still 92.9 million miles and the mean earth-to-moon distance is still 239,000 miles.  The mass-energy relation is still E=m (mass) x c (speed of light) squared.  My Standard Math Tables book by Chemical Rubber Company is still current, although printed in 1959.  In includes conversion tables for U.S. to Metric, areas, logarithms, etc., all of which are still accurate. They are unchanging. God established them. He created the laws that govern His universe.  And He sustains them. “For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created by Him and for Him and He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15,16).
     The National Bureau of Standards was founded in 1901. Its function was to establish and maintain standards for units of weights and measurements. It was originally known as The Office of Weights and Measures.  Again, if we didn’t have a universe of order there could be no standards of weights and measures. It all reflects back to our All-wise, All-powerful Creator God.  In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth where there was some confusion and division over the use of spiritual gifts, he wrote: “For God is not a God of confusion (disorder) but of peace…” ( Cor. 14:33).
     Can you imagine the chaos and confusion that our world would be in if we didn’t have laws of math and science and astronomy and biology that we could count on? What if there were no “constants” and “absolutes”?  What if we could decide that there should be 7 inches per foot instead of 12 and that we are tired of 2 + 2 equaling 4, so let’s make it 5!  Pretty ridiculous to even think about. Some things were never meant to change.
     God didn’t just create matter and then let it evolve over billions of years. In six literal days God created everything in the universe and on and in the earth. He created plants and animals that would reproduce after their kind. They would be adaptable to change with their environment, but would remain distinct species and not evolve into new ones. Our fossil records bear witness to that fact. There has been no evidence either from observation or from fossils that mega-evolution has occurred. Again, God is a “God of order.”  And, all true science supports a recent creation with no real evidence for the theory of evolution.
     The Bible also says that God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26,27) with the ability to communicate with and worship Him and to receive His love. The creation account, verified by Jesus when He was on earth, says, “…male and female He created them” (cf Mt. 19:4). God made them distinctly male and female so that they could complement one another in a marriage relationship and “they shall become one flesh” and through their union “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 2:24; 1:28). Marriage being one man and one woman was God’s idea. It was the standard established by the “God of order.”  His plan was for a society to be made up of families with a mom and dad where children could grow up learning about God the Creator and Redeemer. There was to be structure and order within the home and as a result in the communities and societies on earth. Life was to be valued from conception through old age. 
     Now look at us!  Man, having suppressed the truth about God and His plan has decided that there are no standards or absolutes and has changed the definition of marriage to fit the morally declining culture. Our court system decided it was okay to kill children before they were born if they were unwanted.  Now we have a state that says that can happen right up to the time of birth and if the attempt to kill the child fails and he or she is born the parents can still decide if they want the child or not!  Wow, how far we have plunged. 
     Just as we would be in chaos if we decided there were no mathematical and scientific standards and laws of the universe and we could just make them whatever we felt like, so we are now in a confused, chaotic state because man thought he could ignore God’s order for sex, marriage and the sanctify of life. And we are reaping the consequences in the craziness taking place in our world today—including in this great nation of the United States of America.  It is made out to be a political issue and has caused devastating polarization of our country. But, it is not a political issue; it is a moral issue. It is a SIN ISSUE!  Until we recognize it as that and repent, we will continue to fight and spiral downward. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that once men suppressed the truth They became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God gave them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored  among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts…And God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Ro. 1:18-28). Notice that three times it says, “And God gave them over…”  That’s a frightening statement, but we are witnessing this very thing currently in our nation.
     As Christians and churches that preach and teach God’s Word, it is definitely time to stand up for God’s Standards. They haven’t changed!  Just as I have a number of textbooks which give facts and formulas based on God’s laws of the universe, we have a Book that gives God’s formulas and laws for our lives on His earth. It is the Bible—Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. God hasn’t changed and His standards haven’t changed. We are in trouble when we mess with them. And we have, and we are!  May we come to our senses and repent and return.
     I am so glad we have a God who “Is the same yesterday, today and forever” and Whom we can always trust and count on, and we will be blessed if we follow His plan and not our own.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Focusing on What We Can Control

My wife and I are currently reading Not Forgotten by Kenneth Bae. It is the true story of his imprisonment in North Korea from Nov.3, 2012 –Nov. 18, 2014. Kenneth, born in South Korea, felt led by God to be a bridge for God to North Korea and established a tourism company to take Christians into North Korea just to love and pray for the people there. “On his eighteenth trip into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea he inadvertently broke his own cardinal rule: never bring an external computer hard drive into the country.”  He was arrested and after the contents of his computer was deciphered, was sentenced to fifteen years at a remote North Korean prison camp where he would withstand psychological torture, forced labor, and failing health.  Through it all, Bae continued to trust God and to treat his captors kindly and obediently to demonstrate God’s love and forgiveness to them.  He said, “I decided I needed to focus on what I could control. Given my circumstances, that was very little. About the only thing I had control over was how I reacted to my captors and what I told them—or wrote for them—in their interrogations. I had to release everything else to God’s hands.”
     Viktor Frankl, who died in 1997 at age 92, was an Austrian psychiatrist who was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War II.  He was stripped of his identity as a medical doctor and forced to work as a common laborer. His father, mother, brother, and his wife died in the concentration camps. All his notes, which represented his life’s work, were destroyed. Yet Frankl emerged from Auschwitz believing that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances” (from The Daily Bread). 
     We may not be able to choose or control our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude toward them. The Apostle Paul gave us an example of how this works. He wrote to the church at Philippi: “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11,13). 
    Whatever our circumstances may be—even imprisonment in North Korea or Auschwitz, or Rome (from which Paul wrote Philippians!)—we can draw on the power of the indwelling Christ for the strength to face them. We need to focus on what we can control—our attitude. We always have a choice—and that choice will make a difference.
     There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. “Well,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did and she had a wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmmm,” she said, “I think I’ll part  my hair down the middle today.” So she did and she had a grand day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said, “today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.” So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.  The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “YAY!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”    Attitude is everything!
     Charles Swindoll, pastor and author, said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you—we are in charge of our attitudes.”
    Long-time UCLA basketball  coach John Wooden (a committed Christian) said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out!” Some ships sail east and some sail west by the same wind that blows. It’s the set of the sail, not the gale, that determines the way she goes. You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails. Focus on what you can (with God’s help) control—your attitude.
     A day usually goes the way the corners of your mouth are turned—so, have a wonderful day, unless, of course, you have other plans!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
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The Privilege of Adoption

We had a surprise last night when we were invited out to our Bible study hosts’ home for an evening dessert. They had just adopted a seven-week old Pomeranian puppy named “Shatzi” (German for “sweetie,” or “sweetheart”) and wanted us to meet her. They had previously owned a very cute male Pomeranian named “Woodrow,” that recently passed away. Kathy and I are both dog lovers but for some reason “Woodrow” thought my wife was the most special of all the folks who attend the Bible study and would excitedly wait for us to show up on Bible study night and want to sit on Kathy’s lap for a few minutes as we began. He didn’t do that with anyone else in our group. If I came to Bible study without my wife, Woodrow would come and stand in front of my as if asking, “Where is she? She is supposed to be with you!” Woodrow, though very “privileged,” was very well behaved and just a cute little “Teddy Bear.” On several occasions we got to dog sit when his owners had to be gone.  We really missed seeing him the last couple weeks after his death. He would always be at the door to greet each of us as we’d arrive for Bible study.
    Our Bible study hosts both grew up on ranches and around animals and are very good at training animals to be obedient. Although Pomeranians are typically “barkers,” they had trained Woodrow to keep quiet except for his little welcoming barks when Bible study night came each week. When our hosts arrived at the home where they adopted “Shatzi” several hours from Libby, they knew they would have their work cut out for them, as it didn’t appear that any discipline or training had gone on!  “Shatzi” is a bundle of fur and energy, has very sharp baby teeth and looks upon any object, be it a chair leg, shoe or finger as fair game.  Just in the day our hosts had her before we met her, she heard “no” many, many times and got a little swat on the nose. But she is already starting to get the picture and I know before long—though very active—will be a well-mannered “sweetheart.” “Shatzi” is very privileged to have been adopted into our hosts’ home, and our Bible study members will be pleasantly surprised when they arrive for Bible study this Wednesday night.
     I can’t help but think of how privileged we are for being “adopted” into the family of God. Several times in the Apostle Paul’s letters he mentions “adoption,” referring to the act of God which places the believer in His family as an adult son with all the privileges that go with the position. In Rom. 8:15, Paul writes: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba Father’.” And, to the churches in Galatia (Asia Minor), Paul wrote: “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:4-6).  To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5). 
     When we are “born again,” (Jn. 3:3), i.e., regenerated by the Holy Spirit by trusting Christ as Savior, we are born into the family of God as a child (cf Jn. 1:12) who needs to grow and develop and be trained. Peter said, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that you may grow in respect to salvation” (I Pet. 2:2).  And because God loves us as a father loves his children, He “disciplines (trains) us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:10,11). But, the whole time we are growing and being trained, our position is one of full privilege as an adult son. As believers our position will never change. From the moment of salvation, we are “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). But practically, we are a babe in Christ and have lots of “room for growth.” In fact, we should continue to grow during our whole lifetime here on earth as we get to know God better and better and learn to obey and serve Him (II Pet. 3:18).
     The Greek word for “adoption” literally means “the placing of a son,” and not “the making of a son.” Spiritual adoption takes a child who is God’s own through faith in Christ, and places him as an adult son with all the privileges and responsibilities. In Roman culture a son was not declared an adult son with all its privileges and responsibilities until he was age 14.  We don’t have to be a Christian for 14 years to become an “adopted son.” We are one at the moment of rebirth. It is our unchanging position in Christ, as an “heir of God and fellow heir with Christ” (Ro. 8:17). What an amazing privilege!
            Forever His adopted Son,
                Pastor Dave
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Serve God NOW

  It is easy to reason that we will really be available to serve our Lord after certain things happen in our life—-in other words, in the future, but we really aren’t ready right now. It may be that we think that we are too young or that we will really be available after we get married or after we raise our family and the children grow up and leave home, or after we retire from our job,  And then we may think, now I’m too old to really be effective. We seem to always have an excuse for why the present isn’t a good time to fully commit to serving God.
     LIfe is divided into three basic generations:
            –Generation One: Having finished our career and now winding down, relaxing, and leaving the work to                      others; taking time to do the things we had always wanted to do but didn’t have time or money.
            –Generation Two: Busy working and raising a family. Very actively involved in the children’s activities 
                    and hesitant to take on any extra duties or commitments.
            –Generation Three: Trying to find out who we are and what we want to do in the future. Trying to gain
                    an identity and positive self image. Very involved with peers and school activities.   
    Each generation can find “excuses” why they aren’t available to serve. It is just not ”convenient” at this time.  We read stories in Scripture too of some of the excuses people used to avoid serving God.
     For example, look at the conversation between God and Moses when “the angel of the LORD” (the pre-incarnate Christ) appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2) to request that he leave shepherding for his father-in-law, Jethro, in Midian and go back to Egypt to deliver his people, the sons of Israel, out of bondage (vv. 7-10). “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt’” (v. 11). Even though God promised He would be with Moses (v. 12), Moses continued to make excuses, saying, “Please Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue…Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever Thou wilt” (4:10,13).  In essence, Moses said, “Here am I, send someone else. I don’t qualify; and besides, I have a full-time job here for my father-in-law!” Well Moses eventually went and was successful in leading his people out of Egypt and to the Promised Land of Canaan (Moses did not get to go in).
      We also have the account of God calling Jeremiah to proclaim judgment on apostate Judah. “Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God! Behold I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD’” (Jer. 1:4-8). 
     Jesus encountered excuse-makers during His ministry on earth as well. Once He invited someone to follow Him, “But he (the man) said, ‘Permit me first to go and bury my father’” (Lk. 9:59).  The father had not yet died; the man meant that he was obligated to care for him until he died, so was not available at this time.  Then Jesus told the story about “a certain man (who) was giving a big dinner, and he invited many… But they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused’” (Lk. 14:16,18). “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused’” (v. 19). (Can you imagine buying property without first looking it over, or a yoke of oxen without first trying them out?)  “And another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come’” (v. 20).
     We may laugh at the excuses others have made for not following and serving the Lord, but how about our excuses—are they any better?  Remember that just as with Moses and Jeremiah and everyone else that God calls to serve Him, He promises, “And I will be with you!” “He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU’” (Heb. 13:5 cf Ps. 118:6).
     It doesn’t matter your age or stage of life, God desires to and can use you right where you are—right now!  I think about how God used young Timothy to whom Paul wrote: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (I Tim. 4:12).   I think about young David when he was the only one willing to take on Goliath, the giant Philistine, saying to him, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted” (I Sam. 17:11).  And then there was Joash who became king of Judah at age seven “reigned for forty years in Jerusalem…And Josiah did right in the sight of the LORD all his days…” (II Kgs. 11:21-12:2).  A few years later, Josiah became king over Judah at the “ripe old age” of eight!  “And he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem…And he did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left” (II Kgs. 22:1-2). And don’t forget young Samuel who heard God speaking to Him and said, “Speak, for Thy servant is listening” (I Sam. 3:10).  And also who can forget about a young teenager named Mary living in the little village of Nazareth. She was engaged to be married when the angel Gabriel appeared to her to saying, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and shall name Him Jesus…And Mary said, ‘Behold the bondslave of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word’” (Lk. 1:26-38).
      Obviously God desires to use those in their youth and young adult years to serve Him. But He also calls those who are in their middle age, working and raising families. I think about many examples in Scripture of the disciples Jesus called like Peter and Andrew and James and John who were in a fishing business, and of Matthew, a tax collector and of Luke, a physician, and Saul of Tarsus, a tentmaker.
     God can also use those of us who are in our “golden years,”  Why they call it that, I’m not sure, unless it refers to all the crowns on our teeth!  When God called Moses to go back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites he was eighty years old and spent the next forty years leading them to Canaan.  When the Israelites conquered Canaan and they were dividing up the land, Caleb said, “I have followed the LORD my God fully…I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country (where the giant Anakim lived in their fortified cities!) (Josh. 14:8-14).  I am reminded too of aged Simeon and Anna who were serving in the Temple and were privileged to see the Christ child when His parents brought Him to present Him to the Lord. 
     There is no age or stage of life when we shouldn’t be available to serve God right where we are “For such a time as this.”  Rather than make excuses, say, “God, I am available to You today. Use me to share your love and mercy and forgiveness with the people you put in my path today, that You might be glorified.”
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Beware of Rust!

While I was working for Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon, we purchased a cute light blue 1964 Volkswagen “Bug” convertible from a co-worker who had recently transferred from a plant in Illinois.  We really enjoyed the little “Bug,” but noticed the front end seemed a bit loose. I thought it might be the front wheel spindles, so took it in to a nearby foreign car repair shop. They called later to tell me the bad news: the pan which runs under the whole bottom of the car was rusted out and there was not anything left to which to even weld.  The vehicle was not safe to drive.  In Illinois, as in most snowy states, a lot of salt was used on the roads to melt ice, which is great, but it wreaks havoc on vehicles if you don’t keep them washed off—the same is true here where we live. “We’ve all seen vehicles in various stages of decay due to rust. If you own a car and ignore rust, it spreads like a cancer and eventually consumes the car.” 
     This ‘rust’ principle also applies to Christian institutions such as churches, Bible colleges, Christian schools and mission organizations as well as to individual Christian lives. The ‘rust’ is compromise regarding God’s Word, the  Bible, as the final authority for all faith and practice.  This has a corrosive effect that ends up destroying the institutions or life. 
     The founders of a church or other Christian institution most often had a solid, strong commitment to the Gospel and to the authority of the Bible in its entirety.  The problem is that successive generations of leaders can lose that commitment and the ‘rust’ starts to corrode the institutions. You don’t have to do anything for rust to develop—it ‘just happens’ because, since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, sin has been our ‘default’ condition, and “if those running the institution are not vigilant, and just let things drift along, things will deteriorate.”  Think of how many institutions, churches, denomination and ministries have started as solid, Bible-believing, institutions—like the Ivy League schools, for example— with thoroughly Christian objectives, but are now centers of hedonistic secular humanism totally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
     How does this drifting away from truth happen?  It is usually because leaders and teachers are appointed who are not wholeheartedly committed to the founding principles of the institution, but they seem so qualified and charismatic that they will surely keep students and attendees coming and keep the institution going financially. But they dilute the culture of biblical authority the institution was founded upon—the rust has started!  I recently saw in the news that Ben Shapiro, a strong conservative voice in America today was not allowed to speak at two well-known ‘Christian’ colleges in the west for fear that his talk may be too controversial! 
     There is much pressure in our culture today to be politically correct, inclusive and tolerant. By not taking a stand on controversial issues, a college or church might think it can be “All things to all men” (Cor. 9:22) and increase enrollment or donations. What they are actually doing is compromising their beliefs to accommodate those of the world under Satan and ‘rust’ has taken hold.
     Paul had to deal with this in the churches he established throughout Asia Minor and Western Europe.  The church at Corinth, for example, was experiencing all sorts of jealousy, strife, division and immorality—including incest—among its members (I Cor. 3:1-3; 5:1) and they were doing nothing about it (5:2).   Paul wrote I Corinthians to deal with the issues, and challenged them, saying: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven that you may be a new lump…” (5:5,6).   Leaven is symbolic of sin, and sin, when we tolerate it, spreads and increases (like rust), both in our own lives and in the organizations in which we are involve.
     Solomon, in the Old Testament, speaks of the “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15).  ‘Young foxes were known to have a liking for grapes and would ruin the whole crop if not dealt with.’ We need to deal with the “little foxes” of sin/compromise early on or we too will become unfruitful. “It will be too late to do something once the little foxes have eaten all the grapes’’ or the car is all rusted out. Taking the rust out of a vehicle is not easy work—it does not happen without purposeful determination and effort and can be unpleasant with all the dirt and dust and toxic chemicals involved. “And the longer you leave it before treatment, the harder it gets to remedy.”
      But, if you love your car, you will deal with the rust!  And, if you want your life, your church, your Christian institution to return to its sound, biblical foundation and testimony, you will make the effort, with God’s help, of course, to get the rust out!
     Even better—stop the rust before it starts. Paul told Timothy to “Retain the standard of sound words…Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you…Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of…” (II Tim. 2:13,14; 3:14). “And do not be conformed to this world (don’t compromise) but be transformed by the renewing of the mind (through the Word of God)…”(Ro. 12:1).    (Thoughts taken from “Rusty Cars and Christian Institutions” by Dr. Don Batten.  CMI)
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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