Save the Date

Weddings today are often a grand event, many costing many thousands of dollars.  Fewer couples are getting married in a church. Many rent a special event center; some even go out of country for their ceremony.  As a result, many young couples start out their married life with the burden of financial debt.  One of our friends suggests that couples should elope, save all the money they would have spent on a big, fancy wedding, and use the money as a down payment on a house; then after they have been married five years have a big celebration with family and friends. Sounds like a great idea!     

Prospective wives spend months, even years, planning and preparing for the big day: reserving a site for the wedding and for the reception, finding the perfect dress, ordering dresses for all the attendants, ordering flowers and food, even creating a website to track their preparations—and for places to order their wedding gifts!  Often the couple will send out a “Save-the-Date” card, inviting their family and friends to reserve that day so they can attend the wedding.     

Although the phrase “bride of Christ” is not in the New Testament, the idea appears throughout (II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-27; Rev. 19:7; 21:9), providing great insight concerning our union with Christ, the “Bridegroom.” It pictures the intimacy we enjoy with Him, like that of a husband and wife—the most private, personal bond possible in life. Christ’s love for believers, called “the church,” is the model for a husband’s love for his wife (Eph. 5:25).  John the Baptist first used this analogy . He taught that Christ is the Bridegroom, and believers are His bride. John referred to himself as “the friend of the bridegroom” (the “best man”) (Jn. 3:28-30).     

In the marriage custom of the first century, parents of a young man selected a bride for their son. The parents then called in a man who acted as a negotiator called “the friend of the bridegroom” (Jn. 3:29). He made all the wedding arrangements and ceremonially presents the bride to the groom. Until then, the groom didn’t speak.  Marriage ceremonies involved two stages: the betrothal and the wedding.  At the betrothal (similar to our “engagement”), the families of the bride and groom met and the young man would give the young woman either a gold ring or some article of value or simply a document in which he promised to marry her. The bridegroom’s family paid the dowry, and the couple exchanged vows, becoming legally bound to one another as husband and wife. The young man would say to his bride: “See by this ring/or token that you are set apart for me according to the Law of Moses and Israel (Jacob).”  A betrothal, unlike our “engagements,” could only be broken by divorce.     

The actual wedding didn’t take place until months (often a year) later at a time generally determined by the bridegroom’s father (cf Mt. 24:36).  During the betrothal period, the couple remained separated while the bridegroom prepared a home for his bride in the midst of his family or clan, a place where the new couple could live in the shadow of his father. One of the expressions for marriage in that culture was “adding a room to your father’s tent” (cf Jn. 14:1-3). Meanwhile the bride was to keep herself pure and prepare herself for married life, and wait in excited anticipation for the bridegroom to come and get her.  When he finally came, he would take her to his father’s house for the wedding ceremony and festivities. Along the way, the “wedding parade” would be joined by many friends and neighbors in a very joyous procession. At the father’s house there would be a wedding feast—usually lasting a week— to celebrate the happy occasion. The bride was then led to her place under a canopy beside her husband, where the “friend of the bridegroom” would pronounce his benediction upon the newlyweds.     

The wedding customs are quite a picture of how we, “chosen and drawn by the Father”  to be the bride for His Son (Eph. 1:4; Jn.6:44; Heb. 13:20), have been betrothed to Christ, the Bridegroom, and sealed by the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee/pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13,14). We are preparing ourselves for the Bridegroom to reappear and take us to His Father’s House for the wedding ceremony (Jn. 14:1-3). Then will come the wedding feast, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9).     

When will this big day come; when our Bridegroom comes to take us to His Father’s house?  Just as in the marriage customs of the first century, only the Father knows.  Jesus had been telling His disciples about the final events that will take place on earth before His Kingdom is set up and His disciples responded, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3).  Jesus shared with them some of the signs of His coming, but then added,“But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt. 24:36).  In other words, there is no “Save-the-Date” card for our Lord’s return. We are to be ready at all times. Jesus said, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Mt. 25:13).      

Jesus did, however give a couple “signs” to watch for regarding the time of His return: “just as it was in the days of Noah…and the days of Lot…It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Lk. 17:26-30 cf Mt. 24:37).  As you read about the condition of mankind before the Flood when “the wickedness of man was great on the earth and every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), and the conditions in Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot lived before God destroyed them for their wickedness and sexual perversion (Gen. 18,19), you realize that is very descriptive of our world as well. (Ro. 1:18-32; I Tim. 4:1-3;; II Tim. 3:1-7) also describe the conditions of the “later times” before Christ returns, and, again, describe the world in which we live. When you add to these “signs” all the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel, the “time clock of the Bible,” you know that His return must be soon.  We may not know what “day or hour,” but we are not to be oblivious to “the signs of the times” (Mt. 16:2,3). We need to recognize that Jesus could return at any moment to take His bride to the Father’s house. We need to be prepared and watchful. First, we need to “be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” (II Pet. 3:10), i.e., make sure you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for your eternal life, and then “…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).  We need to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:12,13).   We should keep ourselves in a state of spiritual readiness, “because you do not know the day or the hour.” Live each day as if it He might return today—He could!  We should live such that we will “love His appearing” (II Tim. 4: 8).  “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).  

Forever His,        

Pastor Dave

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All Lives Matter

A new report shows that the leading cause of death in 2020 was not COVID-19 or cancer or heart problems or homicide, or traffic deaths; it was ABORTION! In 2020, of all deaths worldwide, 42 million were from the premeditated taking of the lives of the pre-born. Not only was it the leading cause of death (nearly 42%), but it was close to all other causes combined—including from the Corona Virus Pandemic. The whole world has suffered from lockdowns of businesses, schools, churches, and social gatherings to stop the spread of a virus, resulting in loss of jobs, closure of businesses, challenges to provide a quality education, hindrance of church services, hampering of missionary outreaches…and the list goes on and on.  And how effective the safety measures have been is greatly questionable. Yet what a price we have paid!   While our lives have been turned upside down in response to a pandemic, abortion took the lives of 42 million innocent babies!     

Meanwhile we continue to fund the greatest cause of death on the face of the earth—the taking of lives of innocent children in what should be the safest place on earth—their mother’s womb. Wow! May God have mercy on us!   Since that fateful Roe v. Wade court case in January 1973 legalizing abortion,   nearly 62 million babies have lost their lives—an average of 98 per hour— in the United States alone.  President Trump, who was one of the most “pro life” presidents in U.S. history,  before leaving office last week,  proclaimed Friday, Jan. 22, as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.” In his proclamation, he stated: “Every human life is a gift to the world. Whether born or unborn, young or old, healthy or sick, every person is made in the holy image of God. The Almighty Creator gives unique talents, beautiful dreams, and a great purpose to every person. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day we celebrate the wonder of human existence and renew our resolve to build a culture of life where every person of every age is protected, valued, and cherished.”   AMEN! (Unfortunately, our new administration does not hold President Trump’s values of the sanctity of life of the preborn and will do all it can to fund abortion).     

Our nation suffers from the violence and destructive activities of groups like “Black Lives Matter” and “Antifa.”  They claim to be protesting racial inequality in our country.  The paradoxical thing is that they are indiscriminately damaging and destroying not only the property and businesses of whites but blacks as well, the very ones for whom they claim to be advocating.  (By the way, check out the purpose of the BLM movement. It is very anti-Christian. It seeks to dismantle the biblical definition of family, champions the celebration of homosexuality, and touts gender confusion as normal and advocates for a gender revolution).      

Yes, black lives do matter, as to all other lives, no matter the skin color or national heritage.  The concept of race and racial discrimination does not come from Scripture. The Bible says there is only one “race,” the human race, which is made up of many “tribes and nations and languages” (Rev. 7:9).  The only division the Bible speaks of in humanity is between Jew (offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and Gentile, and even those two groups become one through faith in Christ as we are placed in one body, called the “church,” Paul wrote, “For in Christ there is neither circumcision (Jews), nor un-circumcision (Gentiles)…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 5:6; 3:26).    God did not create different “races.”  Acts 17:26 tells us that “He made from one (blood), every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.  At the Tower of Babel, God confused languages and scattered people throughout the earth (Gen. 11:7,8).  He may have changed skin color at the same time or as they were scattered  around the world the skin colors may have developed over time. In any case, God made that a possibility from the beginning with the DNA he placed in mankind. But the Bible says nothing about a “black race” or a “white race” or a “red race” or a “yellow race.”  The concept of “race” came about with the teaching of evolution by Charles Darwin and was consequently picked up by textbooks and it subsequently became the basis of despots like Adolf Hitler who tried to develop a “superior race” by eliminating the “inferior” (in his thinking).  This became—and continues to be—the justification for genocide throughout the world and for the “racial unrest” even in our own country.      

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who had a hatred toward minorities, especially toward “Blacks,” saw abortion as a means of controlling the black birth rate. It is not by accident that about 80% of Planned Parenthood abortion facilities are located in neighborhoods with a proportionately higher population of Blacks and/or Hispanics.  Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has taken the lives of 20 million Black babies, more than the entire population of Blacks in 1960!  Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, creates the false impression that its programs somehow benefit “black health, education, rights and community development.” The tragic reality is that one out of three Black babies in this country—800 per day—are aborted! Of the 61.3 million babies that have died by abortion in the U.S. since 1973, 19.4 million were conceived in the womb of Black women.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that in 2020, 36 % of abortions were of Black babies although Blacks make up only 13.4% of the population. So, tell me, how does that “benefit” the black community?  If BLM and Antifa really were for “racial equality,” they should be protesting in front of abortion clinics!     

I’m reminded of an old Sunday School song: “Jesus loves the little children (including the unborn), all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  And so should we—All Lives Matter—“whether born or unborn, young or old, healthy or sick, every life is made in the holy image of God” (Gen. 1:26,27).            

   Forever His,              

   Pastor Dave

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The Reminder of the Stars

Our week proved to be rather challenging, First the torsion bar on our garage door opener failed. Fortunately we had one of our two vehicles outside so had a way to get around.  They had to order a new torsion bar which they planned to install today (but one of their helpers called in sick so maybe they will come tomorrow!).  Then on Wednesday we had a powerful storm that passed through with wind gusts up to 100 mph.  The wind lasted all day, with occasional rain and hail. Needless to say there were trees down everywhere—on houses, vehicles and power lines. We lost power about 1 p.m. and would be without power for 48 hours.  Fortunately we have a hand pump on our well so had water and have a wood stove to keep the house warm and to heat water.  One of our neighbors, an elderly single lady, only has electric heat so had to go stay at a local motel (as did others).  Her house had gone down to 48 degrees inside!     

All of this added to the restrictions from the response to the pandemic and the bizarre results of the presidential election and what that may mean for the future of our country, there was lots for the mind to think about. Oh, yes, and a couple of the members of my morning men’s Bible study at a local Laundromat got COVID-19 and one, who is in his 80’s, is hospitalized.  And, oh, yes, the pastor of our church suddenly resigned so things have been a bit irregular to the congregation.     

But, Wednesday night, the winds subsided and the skies cleared and as I went out to get wood for the stove before heading for a rather cold bedroom, I looked up at the amazing display of the stars and could make out several of the familiar constellations: Big and Little Dippers, Orion’s Belt, etc.  They appeared to be brighter than ever (partly because our neighborhood was in the dark!), and were just where God had placed them at the beginning of Creation more than 6,000 years ago! On day four of creation, “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heaven to give light on the earth;’ and it was so” (Gen. 1:14,15).  Those same stars in God’s heavens have been there ever since, and, along with the moon, providing light at night and giving direction to us since they can be counted on to stay where He put them as evidence that He is not only Creator, but Sustainer as well. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth…all things have created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15,16). (Even though we are traveling through space at 67,000 mph!).      

When God made His covenant with Abraham, “He told took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Gen. 15:5 cf 22:17; 26:4; 32:13; Dt. 1:10; 10:22; Heb. 11:12).  Astronomy in its research estimates that the “known” universe contains at least 200 billion galaxies, each made up of about 100 billion stars, The 2010 estimate was 300 sextillion stars (300 x 10 to the 21st power)!  God, who made each of these, not only knows the exact number, but has a name for each of them. “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number. He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing” (Isa. 40:26). “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is the Lord…” (Psa. 147:4,5a).

So, Wednesday night as I looked up at the star-studded heavens at the same stars shown to Abraham and the same stars David observed as he spent time in the fields tending sheep and later wrote: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens”…which “are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psa. 8:1; 19:1), I was reminded that God is still in control. He is still holding everything together. If He’s got the universe under control, I could surely trust Him for the current issues we are facing!  And, I was also reminded that the horrific period of judgment of the earth called the “Great Tribulation” (Mt. 24:21) or the “Time of Jacob’s Distress” (Jer. 30:7) hadn’t begun, for at that time “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Mt. 24:29 cf Joel 2:10; 3:15; Rev. 6:13).  (Also, we were still here on earth, and I believe the Bible teaches that before that period of God’s wrath on the earth prior to His coming to reign, He will remove the Church…See Ro. 5:9; II Thes. 2:1-9; I Thes.. 1:10; 4: 13-18; Jn. 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51,52; Rev. 4:1). As I gazed up at the orderliness and beauty of God’s creation, I was reminded also of God’s faithfulness and that His “loving kindness is everlasting.” He is still in charge! “To Him who made the great lights, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. The sun to rule by day, for His lovingkindness is everlasting, The moon and stars to rule by night, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psa. 136:7-9).          

FOREVER His,            

Pastor Dave

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Caring For Others

We enjoy watching college basketball and for many years have followed the Gonzaga Bulldogs from Spokane, Washington.  The “Zag’s” coach, Mark Few, (son of a Presbyterian minister) from Creswell, Oregon, joined the coaching staff at Gonzaga University in 1989 and became the head coach in 1999. We happened to be in Spokane for a “Christian Workers’ Conference”  in March, 1999 when The Zags advanced to the “Elite Eight,” with wins over Minnesota, Stanford and Florida.  Spokane sort of went “crazy” in celebration! The Zags lost out in the regional finals to eventual champion, U Conn, by only five points. In his 21-year tenure as head coach, Coach Few has led the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament each year, and has played in the “Final Four” as well as the championship game. They have also made it to the championship game of the West Coast Conference in each of those years.  In 2016-17 the Zags began with a 29-game winning streak with a school record 37 wins for the season. Mark Few was named “National Coach of the Year” by the Associated Press. In Coach Few’s 21 years as head coach, the Zags set a record of 40 consecutive WCC wins and 31 consecutive road wins. Mark Few has the best winning percentage of any coach at 83.1% (610-124) overall and 90.4% (293-31) in conference.  Many of the Zag’s players have gone on to play professional basketball.     

Last season, the NCAA tournament ended up being cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but it looked like the Zags had the potential for possibly winning it all.  They started this season with a number of exciting new players and are ranked #1 with a current record of 11-0, with wins over some very quality, power-conference teams.  They are a very entertaining team to watch and are averaging a nation’s best–95 points per game.      

So, what is the key to the success of the Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s basketball teams under Mark Few as head coach?  Well, they do a great job of recruiting not only talented players from all over the world, but they also recruit  “team players” who are willing to play unselfishly and help each other succeed.   As we were watching one of their games this past week on ESPN, a commentator made this observation: “When you care about making other people better, it’s amazing what you can accomplish!” 

I believe that is the key to the success of any team or organization, a willingness to make each other look good and succeed—not focusing primarily on yourself but on others and helping them improve and be successful.  When a whole team is doing that, they will go far.  Think about that in regard to the body of Christ, the Church and to local assemblies of believers.  What would happen if we genuinely had that same philosophy, which—by the way—happens to be a very biblical one! Jesus, observing that the disciples were concerned about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom and who would have the most prestigious positions said to them: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:42-45).   Jesus demonstrated that when, before the Feast of the Passover in the Upper Room, he “rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about (like a servant)…and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (Jn. 13:4,5).  Jesus went on to say to the Apostles: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (vv. 14,15). When the Apostle Paul wrote about the special abilities called “spiritual gifts” that God has given each believer, he emphasized that they are “for the common good” (I Cor. 11:7), i.e., they are not for self-edification but for the “growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).  To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfishness, or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4).  He goes on to speak of the epitome of humility, Jesus Christ who, as eternal God the Son, left the glory of heaven to become a man and “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (vv. 6-8). Paul challenges us that we should have that same attitude (v. 5).     

When we really care about others and about helping them succeed, it’s amazing what can be accomplished. Because Jesus Christ cared enough about us to leave heaven and become one of us and die in our place, we have available eternal life (Jn. 3:16) as well as abundant life (Jn. 10:10). “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).          

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave  

P.S.  “Go Zags!

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Stay Focused

A challenge often given by a coach to his player(s) is “Stay focused,” encouraging them to keep their mind fixed on their goal.  When I was the head tennis coach for our high school team, I would share a proverb with the team each week. One of those proverbs I used as the basis of a New Year’s challenge to the congregation at our home church yesterday as I filled in for the pastor.  The proverb and challenge: “As you travel down life’s road, may this ever be your goal: keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”  In other words, focus on what is of value, what will last, what will be productive.      

The Apostle Paul, who definitely “stayed focused” on the ministry God gave him as the missionary to the Gentiles (as well as to his fellow Jews, see Acts 9:15), wrote this to the Philippian church which he established in Macedonia (Greece) on his second missionary journey: “…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). Paul, remember was initially known as “Saul of Tarsus,” was “of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Phil. 3:5,6).   But then, as he was headed to Damascus to persecute Christians, he had a dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ. His life was transformed and he soon became “Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ” (Col. 1:1), missionary and church planter. The same zeal and focus that he exhibited as a persecutor of the church, he now exhibited as a missionary evangelist and church planter. But, it took determination and discipline for him to stay focused on his new ministry and not dwell on the past with guilt and regret.  He knew that he had been forgiven so had to forget the past and press on towards his new goal—“to know Christ and to make Him known.”  He had to “stay focused,” to “keep his eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”     

The donut represents that which is of eternal value. Paul began living each day “with eternity’s values in view,” knowing that only what was done for Christ will last.  He reflected this throughout his letters to believers in the first-century churches. To the church at Colossae, he wrote: “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1,2).  He encouraged the believers in Corinth with these words: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;  for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:16-18). 

This doesn’t mean that all we do each day is read our Bibles, pray and witness to people. Our lives involve work to make a living, interaction with family and friends and neighbors, enjoying hobbies, recreation, involvement in community activities, doing housework and yard-work, etc.; but in all aspects of our life, our focus needs to be on honoring and glorifying our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Remember Paul’s words in Col. 3:17, 23, 24: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

So, if we are to “keep our eye upon the donut and not upon the hole,” what does the hole represent?  Glad you asked!  The hole represents the following:  being tied to the past—things that you cannot go back and change, being immobilized by fear and worry over the future, over which you have no control; focusing on temporal things which don’t really matter and won’t last.  Make it your goal this year to keep the main thing the main thing: knowing Christ and making Him known, glorifying Him in all that you do, and growing in Christlikeness.  “Stay focused!”  Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.       

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave

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It has been interesting reading our Christmas cards and letters.  There has obviously been a major theme and that is the crazy year that 2020 has been; but, what has varied is the way in which the writers have viewed the events of this past year. Some of the comments have been all negative as if the year were only full of bad, harmful things and an overall loss. Others have commented about how they appreciated the extra time spent at home and with family, doing things together and accomplishing some home projects that they may not have had the time or opportunity to do in a more “normal” year.  In other words there was a wide spectrum of perspectives.  It has been said that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 % how you respond; i.e., what is your perspective or attitude?  What we find depends mainly on what we searching for and much of what we see depends on what we are looking for.     

The Apostle Paul had a list, that none of us can match, of negative things that happened to him. In his second letter to the Corinthian church he reiterated a few of his most challenging experiences:  “… in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep…in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labors and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (II Cor. 11:23-28).  Yet in all of this, Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).  

I believe the secret to Paul’s facing such adversity and being content is in another statement he made in his letter to the Corinthians: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:16-18).  Paul was looking at things from God’s perspective—an eternal one. Thus he could look upon his adversity as “light” and “momentary” and insignificant compared with the glory that lay ahead in eternity.  He shared that same perspective with the believers at Rome, writing: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Ro. 8:18).   In other words, Paul viewed each day with eternity’s values in view.      

That would be a great goal for each of us this coming year.  Dallas Holm, Christian recording artist, wrote: “when you get the perspective that God is preparing us for eternity, these (daily challenges) are just little blips on the radar screen of life.” Focusing on Christ puts everything else in proper perspective.  “In Western Christianity especially, we have become committed to relieving the pain behind our problems rather than using our pain to wrestle more passionately with the character and purposes of God” (Larry Crabb). Even if everything looks bad, God is good—all the time! Trust Him.  We don’t know what challenges we will face in 2021, but rest assured, God has already been there. He  goes before us and will be there for us. He’s got our back.  Nothing ever takes Him by surprise and since He is with us wherever we go, we are equipped to face whatever should come our way in 2021.  So, keep a “God perspective” and you are ready to face 2021 head on.  May you experience His peace and joy this coming year.       

Forever His,          

   Pastor Dave     

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The Gift that (Really) Keeps on Giving

Do you remember the advertising slogan “The Gift That Keeps On Giving”?  The implication is in reference to a gift that gives enjoyment over and over versus a gift that provides only one-time or short-lived enjoyment, like, say, a bouquet of flowers.  The slogan was first used in the 1920’s by Victor Radio; then in 1948 Dumont Sherwood Model Televisions used the slogan to advertise their models that featured AM/FM and short wave radios.  In 1963 RCA Victor used the slogan to advertise its color television.  Later, in 1977, Kodak used the slogan in its advertisement for the Kodak Instamatic 18 camera.  More recently, in 2016, Godiva Chocolates advertised their box of chocolates as “The Gift That Keeps On Giving.”  Their gift box contained four boxes of chocolate gifts nestled in one another. Other companies have used the slogan to advertise things such as jewelry, gift cards and magazine subscriptions.      

While the slogan may be a catchy advertising phrase, there is no earthly gift that can fulfill that promise. Everything eventually breaks, wears out or becomes obsolete as newer, better models are introduced.  Nothing is permanent except God, His Word and the souls of mankind.  There is only One who could give a “Gift That Keeps On Giving,” and that is the eternal Creator of the universe, the Almighty Jehovah God, who was and is and always will be. The One who “is the same yesterday, and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13: 8).  The One of whom the Psalmist wrote: “In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded.  But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.” (Psa. 102:25-27).     

And He did give “The Gift That REALLY Keeps on Giving,” that will never break, rust, deteriorate, wear out, run out, become obsolete or get stolen. He gave the gift that will continue to provide enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment forever and ever. That gift, of course, is Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, the second member of the triune Godhead.  Arguably the most familiar verse in God’s Word, the Bible, says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).   John, the Apostle, also wrote: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for us” (I Jn. 4:9,10). 

The Gift that God gave us, His Son Jesus Christ, provides us with everything we need and want. He provides us with eternal life (Jn. 3:16; 5:24; I Jn. 5:11-13), forgiveness of sin (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), removal of guilt before God (Ro. 5:1; 8:1), an advocate for when I do sin (Heb. 7:23-26; I Jn. 2:1), knowledge that I am loved and accepted by God (Ro. 5:5,8; Eph. 1:6; I Jn. 4:9,10), joy (Jn. 15:11; 17:13), peace (Isa. 26:3; Jn. 14:27; Phil. 4:6,7), hope (Ro. 5:1-5; 15:4,13; Col. 1:27; Heb. 6:11-19), purpose and satisfaction (Psa. 16:11; 37:4,5; Pr. 3:5,6), strength for my daily challenges (Dt. 33:25; Phil. 4:13), and assurance that He will always be there for me—that He “has my back” (Josh. 1:9; Heb. 13:5; Phil. 1:6; I Pet. 1:3-5; Jude 24,25).

Jesus Christ is God’s “Perfect Gift” that meets all our wants and needs and will last forever. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Ro. 8:31,32). “For in Him (Jesus Christ) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete” (Col. 2:9,10). Wow, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15).

But, before a gift becomes yours to use and enjoy, it must be received. In order to enjoy the “Gift That Keeps On Giving,” and all the joy, hope, peace, purpose and assurance that goes with Him, we must receive Him into our lives as an act of our will, saying “God, I know that I do not deserve nor can I earn your favor and gain eternal life; I know that I am a sinner and I acknowledge that Jesus Christ died to pay for my sin and offer me salvation as a free gift that is only available in Him. Please come into my life and be MY Savior and Lord. Thank you for dying for me. God, I accept your love gift to me. Amen.”     

And then we have this beautiful promise: “For as many as receive Him (Jesus Christ), to them He gives the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12).  May you experience the joy of the presence of God’s present to you this Christmas.          

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave  

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The Purpose of Pain

    About a year ago, I was experiencing some pain in my upper chest.  I managed to go to sleep that night but woke up with the pain increasing and going across my chest and starting down my left arm.  I knew that was not a good sign so awakened my wife and said I think maybe I need to go to the hospital ER and get checked out. So, at 5:30 a.m. I arrived at ER and, since I had typical symptoms of a heart attack, got lots of attention. I recall their commenting on my blood pressure being high for me and asking if I was feeling any stress.  Well, let’s see, I didn’t sleep much. It is 5:30 in the morning, I think I’m probably having a heart attack, so, “Yes, I might be just a bit stressed!”  Their EKG indicated nothing out of the ordinary was happening with my heart—PTL! . What they discovered that was causing my pain was “esophagitis,” an inflammation of the esophagus, that muscular tube that carries food from the mouth through the chest cavity to the stomach.  The nerves from the upper esophagus lead across the upper chest to the shoulder and when there is pain from an inflamed esophagus can cause the same symptoms of a heart attack.  They gave me a milky cocktail to drink and a prescription to take for a week, and the symptoms cleared up.     

None of us enjoys pain whether it is from a sliver or a broken bone, esophagitis or a heart problem, but God made our bodies to feel pain for a very important reason. It tells us something is wrong that needs attention. It’s much like the warning lights on the dash of our vehicle. We can ignore them or try to cover them up so we don’t see them, but soon we pay for doing so.  Pain is a God-given warning system to keep us from destroying our bodies. That’s why leprosy—or Hansen’s disease, as it is known today—is so devastating. Leprosy destroys one’s nerve endings and sense of touch. It robs its victims of the ability to feel pressure or pain and those afflicted with the disease literally wear off their own extremities, scratching deep gouges into their skin and destroying parts of their body because they cannot feel pain. They feel no pain even if they are burned or injured.  Pain, while not enjoyable, is God’s way of protecting us physically.     

God has also given us a warning system to protect us spiritually and morally. It is called our “conscience,” that “inner voice” that senses when we are headed the wrong way or have made a bad choice morally or spiritually (from God’s perspective—which is all that ultimately matters!). The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the believers in Rome, wrote: “For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Ro. 2:14,15). The conscience gives a sense of well-being, peace, and satisfaction when we follow God’s plan, but a sense of shame, guilt, fear and anxiety when we don’t.      

But, the conscience is not a foolproof warning system. It cannot be equated with the voice of God or His written Word, for it requires the right information to “program” it.  If that information comes from the Word of God, we are safe, but if it comes from the world system which is opposed to God, our conscience becomes a faulty warning mechanism.  The conscience can also be hardened by our continuing to ignore its warnings. We become calloused and can go against God’s directives (which are there for our good) without it bothering us.  In fact we—individually, or as a culture—can get to the point where we “call evil good, and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness”  (Isa. 5:20).  Hmmm?  Does that sound a little familiar in our current culture? In Romans Paul describes the progression that leads to that point. He speaks of “men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but 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 lusts of their hearts to be dishonored among men. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions…to do those things which are not proper” (Ro. 1:18-26).  “God gave them over…”      

What a tragic statement.  But we can surely see that happening today in our society. And it begins by ignoring our conscience and by suppressing the truth.  Pretty soon we not only are doing those things which are displeasing to God but we “also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Ro. 1:32). If our conscience is going to function the way God designed it, we need to conform it to the truth of God’s Word, not to the lies of Satan which are promulgated in our society. When David said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11), he was expressing his desire for a conscience based on the right information. When the conscience is properly programmed to biblical truth, it sends accurate, trustworthy warnings. We need to echo the words of Paul and do our part “to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16).  We do that by confessing sin to cleanse our conscience and by filling it with the truths of God’s Word, being “transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Ro. 12:2).             

  Forever His,               

  Pastor Dave

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Surprise Attack

At 7:48 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, with some 353 aircraft, launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. The attack led to the US. officially entering into WW II  the next day.  Japan also led coordinated surprise attacks against U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malay, Singapore and Hong Kong.   

The U.S. Navy suffered major damage at Pearl Harbor. All eight of the battleships there were damaged and four were sunk. Other Naval vessels were sunk or damaged, including three cruisers, three destroyers.  A total of 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Dec. 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy.”  The attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning.      

We too, as believers, have an enemy who carries out “surprise attacks,” hoping to catch us “asleep at the switch.”  Thus Scripture is full of warnings to “be alert,” For example, Peter wrote: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet. 5: 8).  The warning was not only to young Christians, but also to the elders (I Pet. 5:1). Satan works hard to cause Christian leaders to fall, destroying not only that leader’s influence for Christ, but also giving occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme (II Sam. 12:14).  The devil will gulp down his victims like a lion, but doesn’t always come as a roaring lion, but rather as a deceiver,  Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15).  The Apostle John, in The Revelation given to him while in exile on the Isle of Patmos, wrote of a time in the future when “the great dragon (will be) thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…(Rev. 12:9).   The Apostle Paul warns us that our adversary, Satan, “disguises himself as an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14),  appealing to our pride or our appetite or our desire for material things—whatever he discerns might usurp the preeminent place of Christ and His Word in our lives and then tempts us with a convincing rationale that will cause us to let it do just that—and we don’t see it coming. It is a very subtle, surprise attack—“I didn’t see that coming!”      

Satan is deceptive and powerful. Paul encourages us to “…be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph. 6:10-17).        

Our enemy knows our weaknesses and when we are most vulnerable.  He will often carry out his “surprise attacks” accordingly.  One of those times seems to be when we have just had a “spiritual high” in our lives, like just after we committed our lives to Him for salvation or for service, or we have seen God work in a special way and have had a “mountain-top experience.”  Jesus, remember, was fully God AND fully man. A high point for Him in His earthly mission and ministry had to be His baptism by His second cousin, John the Baptist, for when He came up out of the water, “…behold, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Mt. 3:16,17).  The very next verse tells us, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt. 4:1). First, however, Jesus “fasted for forty days and forty nights” (v. 2) during which time He undoubtedly spent much time communicating with His Father, preparing for His upcoming public ministry. At that time Jesus hunger pains would have returned and He would need to eat to keep His body alive. “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If (since) you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (v. 3). Satan planned His attack at the moment when Jesus, reveling in the high of His baptism and the voice from Heaven and time spent with His Father, was now desperately in need of food. Satan’s first temptation?  “Since You are God, just turn these stones into bread”—and Jesus could have. But He resisted Satan’s temptation by quoting from Scripture (Deut. 8): “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (v. 4).   Jesus was prepared for Satan’s “surprise attack” by knowing “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17).  Jesus had such a high regard for the integrity, authority and power of Scripture that He quoted from it 39 times in Matthew’s gospel alone.

We too need to be prepared—always—for Satan’s attacks (often after a spiritual high or spiritual commitment), “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (II Cor. 2:11).  The best way to be prepared is by staying in the Word, studying, memorizing and meditating on Scripture. “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…” (Col. 3:16).“… Be on the alert…” (I Pet. 5: 8), “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). Take away the enemy’s element of surprise!          

Forever His,     

Pastor Dave

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Faith Over Fear

As you drive around our community, you see many yard signs saying: “FAITH OVER FEAR.”    We are definitely living in a time when there is a widespread “fear factor,” as people worry about their health and the economic, moral, academic and spiritual future for our nation. There is plenty of room for worry and fear if that is your chosen response to what is happening around us.  Added to that is the loneliness and depression caused by all the “social distancing” and reduction or elimination of opportunities for group interaction.  It is definitely a trying time for all of us.      

I guess it has been a problem throughout history, including Bible times, for 331 times we read in Scripture the phrase: “Fear not!”  Jesus Himself, during His sojourn on earth often uttered those words to His followers.  Myra Kahn Adams, a media producer and op ed writer for Townhall Daily, suggests that we check out Michael W. Smith’s “Our God Is An Awesome God,” and sing along with him. The words are very appropriate for “such a time as this.”  “Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God.” When we focus our heart and mind on the awesome attributes of God and recognize that He reigns with “wisdom, power, and love.” our heart can be calmed and and guarded by a “peace that surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7).     

It is God that we need to fear, but not in the sense of being frightened or scared of what He might do to us, but rather having an awe and reverence and respect for who He is. It was said of an early Christian leader that “He feared man so little because he feared God so much.”  It is putting our faith in our sovereign Lord, knowing that nothing happens without His allowing it and that all things, good and bad, “work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (of conforming us to the image of His Son)” (Ro. 8:28,29). Our God is to be feared because He reigns over us with “wisdom, power and love.” And that is also why we need “fear not” when it comes to circumstances or people who may be against us. The Fear of the Lord is “the beginning of wisdom”(Pr. 1:7), a ‘’fountain of life”(Pr. 14:27), and leads to life, rest, and contentment (Pr. 19:23).     

Faith can be defined as “Forsaking All In Trusting Him.” Fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Trust (faith) in the Lord is the cure for a fearful spirit. In the Psalms, David (who had many reasons to fear) wrote:  “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psa. 56:3,4).  “I sought the LORD, and He answered me; and delivered me from all my fears” (Psa. 34:4). Relying on God means developing the kind of faith that believes in the wisdom, power and love of our awesome God. Fear does not factor into the resources we have in God. As the Apostle Paul wrote: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). Nothing can separate us from the love, wisdom and power of God, “which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).

Fear imprisons, faith frees. Fear troubles, faith triumphs. Fear cowers, faith empowers. Fear disheartens, faith encourages. Fear darkens, faith brightens. Fear cripples, faith heals. Fear puts hopelessness at the center of life; faith puts fear at the feet of God. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1).   God does not want us to be fearful. He wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to practice “FAITH OVER FEAR.” He loves us perfectly and “perfect love casts out fear” (I Jn. 4:18,19).

Go online and check out Michael W.Smith’s Our God Is An Awesome Godvideo and sing along with him. It will help you “fear God and fear not man.”         

Forever His,            

Pastor Dave

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