One Small Step for Man

Fifty years ago this week, astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered what remains one of the most iconic statements in history—apart from Scripture—“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the moon and the next day spent 2 1/2 hours outside the spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module. The three were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon, and later also received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
     Neil Armstrong’s first moon walk and inspirational statement were the product of a huge team effort. It resulted in the accomplishment of an amazing feat that went beyond what seems humanly possible.  Space travel was not unique when the three astronauts blasted off from Cape Canaveral in July 1969, but at that point, nobody had landed or walked on the moon. Any number of things could have gone wrong. Since many scientists are evolutionists and believe in a universe that about five billion years old, there was a great concern about landing in 40-50 feet of meteoric dust on the moon’s surface. What a pleasant surprise—and evidence for a recent creation no more than 10,000 years ago—when they landed on a mere 1/8 inch of dust!
     Armstrong, a committed Christian, put his faith and fate in God’s hands and in the God-given abilities of the vast team that made his personal achievement possible as the first human to set foot on the moon. But more than two decades later Armstrong walked somewhere else that he considered more significant than his moon walk. Perhaps the most under-reported story about Armstrong concerned his visit to Israel in 1994. He was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meier Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had walked here. “These are the steps that lead to the Temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.” Neil asked if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.  Armstrong responded: “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon!” 
     The secular world remembers Armstrong as an aerospace engineer, a Navy Fighter pilot, a university professor and, of course, the first man in history to walk on the moon. But those who were closest to the famous astronaut—his widow, Carol, his two sons, Eric and Mark, his brother and sister, and his Christian family—remember Neil Armstrong as a man of faith.
     Neil Armstrong died Aug. 26, 2012—a great American and devoted Christ follower. Of course, you wouldn’t know about his Christian faith from the obituaries in the liberal media, nor would you know he loved the Lord from the perfunctory tribute offered by President Obama. But, Armstrong’s life cannot be told without mentioning his walk with Christ.  More important to him than even his walk on the moon or walking where Jesus walked, was his walk with Christ in his daily life, and to hear from His Master upon arrival in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord” (Mt. 25:21).      
     No matter how great your accomplishment in this life, no matter what accolades the secular world gives you, what really matters is your walk with Christ and the spiritual legacy that you leave behind. What will those closest to you—your family, co-workers—remember about you?  “There’s only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”  What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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Weeding Glasses

   Because of the amount of time I spend pulling weeds not only here in our flower and vegetable gardens, but also when In Oregon at both our son’s and daughter’s places and at the Christian school where our son and daughter-in law teach, our son jokingly said that I may soon need a new pair of “weeding glasses!”  As I thought about that, I guess there may have been some truth his quip. If you are going to pull weeds, you need to know what are weeds versus plants that should remain. So, that brings up the question of what makes something a weed or a noxious weed versus a valued plant or wildflower?  One person’s wildflower may be another person’s weed!
     For many years, I have been interested in identifying wildflowers that grow in our area of northwestern Montana, so have taken many, many flower pictures when hiking or hunting and try to identify them.  We also make inspirational note cards which we sell at our local “Copy This Send That” store.  This past Saturday we took a walk in an area where we had recently cut some wood and noticed a flower we had never seen. We went back to get some pictures and to try to identify it—so far no luck.  But we are guessing, though it is quite pretty, that it is actually a noxious weed since it has grown up on and near a newly built road and has spread quickly.  It probably came in on the equipment that built the road in an area where I have spent a lot of time over the years and have never seen it there before.
     Several years ago, in the same area, during hunting season, I spotted a unique dried flower which, again, I had never seen in the area or anywhere else in the many places we have hiked.  I went back in the spring to see it in bloom. Since it had already multiplied, I dug up a sample and sent to the University of Montana Biological station where it was identified as Viper Bugloss, a noxious weed originating in France!
    A native plant is one that is part of the balance of nature that has developed in a particular region or ecosystem over hundreds of years. An invasive plant (species) is one that is non-native, and has spread rapidly, disrupting native plant communities of ecosystems. Not all non-native plants introduced to a new area are invasive. Some do not threaten the existing ecosystem.  A weed is a plant that is not valued in the place where it is growing and poses a threat to agriculture and/or the natural ecosystem. A noxious weed is a plant that is particularly troublesome, causing damage to crops, gardens, livestock, or the public health and environment.
     Here are a few that qualify in our area as noxious weeds: spotted knapweed, orange hock weed, leafy spurge, hound’s tongue, Canada thistle, cut-leaf daisies, curly-leaf pondweed, Dalmatian toadflax, and common tansy.
     The challenge Is to be able to detect what are valuable plants and what are destructive weeds. Many of the plants categorized as noxious weeds are actually very attractive flowers!  The problem is they crowd out the plants that are valued and agriculturally beneficial.  It is amazing here in our area how over the years we have lived here, spotted knapweed got started and spread so rapidly to the forests on logging roads as seeds were carried by trucks and equipment.  Sadly it has squeezed out grasses upon which the elk and deer graze. One plus is that the knapweed blossoms are frequented by honey bees and make great-tasting honey!
     From lots of experience weeding our gardens, I have developed some pretty effective “weeding glasses,” to detect what are weeds and what are the plants I have started to produce corn, beans, lettuce, carrots, etc.  I wouldn’t dare send a non-gardener out to weed the vegetable garden without a pair of “weeding glasses” or I would probably lose some of what I am trying to grow.
   Interestingly, in the Bible, we see examples of how the enemy, Satan, comes and sows noxious weeds among the grain. In Matthew 13:24-30 we have Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares.  Tares were weeds, probably darnel, whose blades closely resembled wheat, but could be distinguished from wheat when fully ripe.  Satan has sown his counterfeits in the church and they often are hard to distinguish from the real thing.  We definitely need “weeding glasses.” That is, we need to be so familiar with God’s Word and in tune with the Holy Spirit, that we can spot Satan’s counterfeits, even though, like many noxious weeds, they are attractive, and look a lot like that which they are counterfeiting.  Jesus often warned about false prophets who would infiltrate the church. He said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Mt. 7:15).  He went on to say, “you will know them by their fruits” (v. 20).
     If we are going to be “fruit-bearers” for Christ, we need to be able to detect the true from the false, by becoming very familiar with the real thing, through letting “the Word of God richly dwell within us” (Col. 3:16) and by being “diligent to present ourselves approved to God as a workman who does not to need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Then we will have “weeding glasses” to be able to spot that which is phony and there to squeeze out the productivity in our lives for Christ.
     Forever His,
        Pastor Dave
P.S. Thanks for praying for the shoulder surgery (last Wednesday, July 3rd).  Although it involves much pain, hopefully it will remedy the torn rotator cuff. Pray for patience for the patient! 
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What It Means to be Free

Since this week we in the United States of America celebrate our freedom as a nation, I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be free.  For the thirteen colonies in America it meant to be free from the limitations placed upon them by the Crown (England). They soon adopted that now-famous document known as The Declaration of Independence which includes this statement: “…these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”  But, just what does it mean to us, individually, to be free?  I recall a story about a boy named Bobby who wanted to go swimming in a nearby water-filled gravel pit, but his mother said he couldn’t because it was too dangerous. Bobby raised a ruckus in protest, so his mother punished him by making him sit on a chair in the kitchen. After a long period of silence, he asked, “Mommy, can God do anything He wants to do?” Bobby’s mother replied, “Yes, Bobby, He can.”  Again he was quiet. Then he said, “God doesn’t have parents, does He?”
     Bobby thought he would be perfectly free if it were not for his mother. He didn’t realize that what he wanted to do was foolish. Nor did he understand that when he became an adult he still wouldn’t be able to do everything he desired. There would always be someone in authority over him putting restrictions upon him.  He would always need people and laws to keep him from doing something wrong or dangerous.
     Many people think that freedom is being able to do whatever they please whenever they please how ever they please—having no restrictions placed upon them.  Unfortunately that sort of describes our society today that has decided to remove all restraints to really experience true freedom. I’m reminded that God placed Adam and Eve in a perfect environment where they experienced the beauty of God’s freshly created earth. They had access to all the fruit in the garden—except for the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16,17). God warned them that if they ate of that tree they would “surely die.”  God tested their obedience to Him by placing that one restriction upon them. Along comes Satan (the fallen angel Lucifer) to suggest to them that God couldn’t have really meant what He said. Satan, speaking through the serpent, said, “You surely shall not die” (Gen. 3:4).  If He’s a good God, surely He wouldn’t withhold anything from you. 
    If Bobby’s mother were a good mother, surely she wouldn’t put restrictions upon him!  Satan continues to whisper his lies to people who think that to really be free means to have no restrictions regarding marriage, sex, abortion, gender, etc. In other words, there are no absolutes and “everyone can do that which is right in their own eyes.” Well, guess what, that is nothing new. There’s a whole book in the Bible that describes a 350-year period of time in the history of Israel when they did that very thing, ignoring the commands from God and ended up being subjugated by an enemy nation and then crying out to God for help. God would send a judge to help them return to following God’s laws and things would be okay for a short time and then the pattern would repeat. They went through that cycle of Disobedience, Discipline, Desperation, and Deliverance some seven times! (After all, seven is the perfect number!)
     Bobby’s mom knew, better that he did, what was best for him and her restrictions were for his good. God, the perfect parent, knows what is best for His children. After all, He made us (Psa. 100: 3). True freedom doesn’t mean living without restraints or rules or limitations. True freedom comes from living obediently within them. Freedom has fences. They are there for our protection. We have unchanging truths and principles given to us in the Word of God, the Bible. We have guidelines for marriage, for example, which is to be between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:18-24 cf Mt. 19:5). Any who go outside of that absolute are “abandoning the natural function” and will “receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Ro. 1:26,27). And God will “Give them over to a depraved mind to do those things which are not proper” (v. 28).
     To justify the things which go contrary to the Word of God, many say those things are “outdated” and no longer apply to a “progressive” society, that is one that is “freeing” itself from old, archaic traditions and customs. This is the “enlightened age” when we don’t go by these old, rigid guidelines. Hey, that sounds just like what happen to Israel. Obviously we don’t learn from history!  Today we have political leaders who are crying out for free borders, free education for all, free health care for all, free sex with anyone you wish, woman’s freedom to chose whether or not to give birth to her child. 
     I guess what we are experiencing, just like every other nation in history, is that freedom is hard to handle, because our old, sinful natures demand to be free to do as we please and then we forget that God’s guidelines are for our good. Our founding fathers understood that and tried to incorporate protections in the Constitution and the first ten amendments to the constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the checks and balances of our governing structure. But we have many now declaring these documents, just like the Bible, are obsolete and need to be revised. How scary is that!  No wonder our nation is in political chaos. Our nation claims to be a “free nation,” yet we find ourselves in tremendous bondage, bondage to the sinful nature of man which is in rebellion against God.
     Real freedom comes from being obedient to the truths of God’s Word, from making them the standard for our beliefs and behavior. Jesus said, “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32...and not just from knowing it, from doing it!). Jesus Himself, being God incarnate, is “The Truth.” He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn. 14:6).  He also said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
     Real freedom is not the right to do as you please, but the liberty to do as you ought. That comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and through obedience to the truths of His Word. So, while we celebrate this Fourth of July and the independence our country, let us especially thank God for the freedom from sin and Satan and self (our old nature) that we have in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  Freedom is following Jesus.
    Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
P.S. I would appreciate your prayers as I have shoulder (rotator cuff) surgery early Wednesday morning and for the weeks that follow to allow it to heal.
(I am a “doer” so it will be a lesson in patience).
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Operation Auca (Part II–Footprints)

    In the previous “Wisdom of the Week,” I shared the story of the five young missionary men who felt called by God to take the gospel to the Waorani tribe in the rain forest of Ecuador.  (Note: Waorani, Waodani and Huaoroni are alternate spellings and mean “all the people.”) They called their mission “Operation Auca.” Auca, meaning “savages,”  was the name given to the Waorani by the neighboring Quechua tribe because of their violence and practice of revenge killing.  The missionaries established a nearby base, along with their wives and children, and began making flights over the Waroani villages to drop gifts. On January 3, 1956, they felt it was time to make contact with the Auca so held a prayer time with their families, said “good bye” to their wives, boarded their little airplane and then flew and landed on a sand bar (which they called “Palm Beach”) by the Curary River. First they were visited by two women and one Waorani man, who, of course, had no way to communicate with the missionaries that they were looking for Dayuma, a Waorani woman who had fled some time ago when her people were being attacked.
    When the two Waorani women, Dayuma’s aunt and half-sister, and Waorani man (Nanke) returned to the village, Nanke, who wasn’t supposed to be with the women (he was married!), decided he’d better make up a story to save his hide so told the village tribesman that the foreigners with the airplane on the sandbar had killed Dayuma and ate her!
     On Sunday, January 8, Nate Saint flew their plane over the area and spotted a group of ten Waorani headed toward the beach. He radioed his wife, Marj, asking the women to pray for them and he would contact her again at 4:30 p.m, but that call never came, for they were speared to death by those tribesmen. It should be noted that the missionaries did have a rifle with them, but only for protection against wild animals. They had agreed that should their lives be endangered, they would not kill any Waorani, reasoning that if they (the missionaries) were killed, they would go to heaven, but if the tribesmen were killed, they would not.  They were willing to lay down their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ who lay down His life for us to provide forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
     The death of the five missionaries galvanized the missionary effort in the United States, sparking an outpouring of funding for evangelization efforts around the world and the commitment of many young men and women as well as some older saints to missionary service. Several years after the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Nate Saint on “Palm Beach” in Ecuador at the hands of the Auca Indians, the widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, and the sister of Nate Saint, Rachel, returned to Ecuador as missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International) to live among the Waorani. Their first peaceful contact was with Dayuma, whose disappearance had resulted in the misinformation fed to the Waorani who went out to spear the missionaries!  She became the first Waorani convert to Christianity, and was instrumental in helping Elisabeth and Rachel in reaching out to many of the Waorani with the gospel. Many responded and trusted Christ for eternal life. Included among the converts were some of those, such as Mincaye, who was involved in killing the missionaries. Through their new lives in Christ, the culture changed from one of violence and revenge killing to one of love and forgiveness.
     Pat Kelley, who spoke at our church on June 9, was assigned by SIL International to work among the Waorani people to teach and supervise literacy classes, to prepare literacy materials and to train literacy instructors and community health and first aid promoters. She worked with the sons and daughters of those who had killed the missionaries, but whose families (including Mincaye’s) were now strong Christians.  One of the murderers, Ayebae, became the first composer of a Christian song in Waorani!  Another, Yowe, helped clear the landing strip for the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilots that come and go from the village. He also prays for and with all the pilots when they land! Chiquita, who led the men who murdered the missionaries, also received Christ and when asked by an Anthropologist who interviewed him whether he would like to go back to his old culture as some say they should, said “Let them try it!” 
     Dawa, a Waorani woman who accompanied the men to the sandbar when the missionaries were killed, also became a believer and said there was no way she wanted to go back to “the way of the spear.” She said, “No more spearing people!” 
     There are those who say missionaries are wrong to make converts to Christianity of tribes people, knowing it will change their culture. Well, just ask the Waorini about that! Some cultures need to change, for they are under the grip of our adversary, the devil, and only God can change that. It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to change lives and the Waorani are surely great examples of that power. Steve Saint, son of martyred Nate Saint, was baptized in the Curary River next to the sandy beach where his father had been killed. Steve was baptized by Kimo and Kyuwi, two of his father’s killers who had become believers.  Now that’s the grace of God in action!
     The Waorani went barefoot and were able to tell who had come to visit them just by looking at the tracks in the mud or sand. Well, there were tracks left in the sand on that fateful beach where five missionaries were killed, but today those same footprints can be seen taking the Good News of the Gospel to other tribes.  Pat Kelley said, “those are my “heroes,” the Duyamas, and Mincayes and Yowes and Ayebaes, and Kimos and Kyuwis.”  They are passing on their faith to the next generations and to neighboring tribes.  Am I?  Are you? What kind of “footprints” are we leaving?
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
P.S.  For more details about the amazing story of the Waorani/Auca Indians, see the movie, End of the Spear or read the book, God in the Rainforest
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Operation Auca

Yesterday, we were privileged to have with us at Faith Bible Church, Pat Kelley (age 80) who left her teaching job in Bellevue, Washington many years ago to teach Wycliffe Bible Translator missionaries’ children for a couple years and then, in 1969, was assigned by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) to work among the Waorani people to teach and supervise literacy classes and train instructors from among their own people.  Pat continues to work as an SIL International (its new title) literacy consultant in Dallas and still makes trips to Ecuador and the Waorani people.
    Many of you will recall that on January 8, 1956, five young missionary men were speared to death on a sandy beach by the Curary River in Ecuador by Auca tribesmen. “Auca,” meaning “savages” is the name that the nearby Quechua tribe had given to the Waorani because of their violence and revenge killing, not only among themselves but against anyone who ventured into their territory. This is the tribe to which Pat was assigned!  She went to Ecuador thinking she might be working among a peaceful group on the beautiful shores of Ecuador, but instead was sent to the rain forest to help the Waorani, to learn and record their language and to help them also learn English—a frightening, daunting task. But, God was doing a mighty work among this once violent savage tribe and lives were being transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ro. 1:16,17).  Savages who practiced “revenge killing” were now offering forgiveness instead and were eager to learn more about this Jesus Christ who had died for them.
     Having been familiar with the story of the martyrdom of these five missionaries it was very fascinating to hear of some of the details of why they were actually murdered and what transpired right after that. I will share more of what we learned in a subsequent “Wisdom of the Week,” but I would first like to give you the background that led up to these five young men attempting to evangelize this isolated, savage tribe. Let me share about this team and how God put them together for what they called “Operation Auca.”
     Jim Elliot was from Portland, OR. He was president of the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship at Wheaton College. While there, he wrote: “Oh God, save me from a life of barrenness. Give instead that vital contact of soul with Thy divine life that fruit may be produced…” Later in his journal, he wrote: “He is no fool who gives away that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim married Elisabeth Howard from a prominent Christian publishing family in Philadelphia.
     Peter Fleming was from Seattle, WA and married his childhood sweetheart, Olive. He received a M.A. in literature.  He wrote in a letter to his friend, Jim Elliot, “Seemingly God delights in many instances to place men in situations which magnify their weaknesses for the simple delight of showing Himself strong to all observers.”
    Ed McCully from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was president of his senior class at Wheaton. He went on to Marquette University Law School. At the end of Law School, he wrote in a letter to Jim Elliot, “I have one desire now—to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.”  Ed was married, had two sons and his wife was expecting a third at the time of his death.  
    Roger Youderian grew up on a ranch in Sumatra in eastern Montana. He contracted polio as a child  but overcame its effects and was able to play basketball at Fergus High School in Lewiston, Montana. After graduation in 1941, he attended Montana State College (Now MSU) in Bozeman. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 and became an Airborne Ranger who was at the “Battle of the Bulge.” He later went to Northwestern School in Minneapolis. There he met and married Barbara (who was here to speak at both Three Lakes Bible Church and Faith Bible Church) several years ago. They joined Gospel Missionary Union and were evangelizing the head-hunting Jivaros of eastern Ecuador.
     Nate Saint had flown missionaries in and out of the Ecuadorian jungle since 1948 for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).   Nate, born near Hershey, PA, was a builder, inventor and skilled pilot who had devised an ingeniously simple back-up fuel system for single-engine airplanes.  Nate was married to a nurse, Marj, and they had three children. The family moved to Shell Mera, Ecuador, where Nate built a family home which also served as a guesthouse and a radio center with the other missionaries. In a message broadcast over HCJB (“Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings”) in Quito, Nate said, “During the last war we were taught that, in order to obtain our objective, we had to be willing to be expendable…Yet, when the Lord Jesus asks us to pay the price for world evangelization, we often answer, ‘It costs too much’…But, God didn’t hold back His son!”
     The five couples did not go to Ecuador planning on reaching the Waorani tribe, but they all heard about these Indians that were referred to as Aucas (“Savages”) who had never been subjugated by soldiers or evangelized by missionaries. They believed God was calling them to be the ones to reach them so they began praying and strategizing about how to reach this violent people with the Gospel which could transform their lives. They collectively volunteered, knowing the risk they were taking. Jim Elliot wrote in his journal: “If that’s the way God wants it to be, I’m ready to die for the salvation of the Aucas!
     They established a base at nearby Arajuno and in September, 1955 began making flights over the Waorani villages, dropping gifts. Soon, the gifts were reciprocated with gifts left on a sandy beach of the Curary River by the Aucas.  The five missionaries felt it was time to establish a base on the sandbar, which they named “Palm Beach.” On January 3, 1956, the five couples held a final prayer time at Arajuno and sang Edith Gilling Cherry’s hymn (to the tune of Finlandia),  
     “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender,
        Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
        When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
        Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.”
     They said “good bye” to their wives, boarded the plane and flew to “Palm Beach”  where they had a visit from three Waorani (two women and a man…more about their purpose in the next “Wisdom of the Week”). On Sunday, Nate flew their plane over the area and spotted a group of ten Waorani headed toward the beach. He radioed Marj to tell her to pray and that he would call again at 4:30 p.m.  That call never came, for they were speared to death by those tribesmen.
     But, PTL, the story doesn’t end there. In many ways that was just the beginning of an amazing work among the Waorani—stay tuned!
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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The Beauty of Marriage

     We recently had the privilege to attend (and have a part in) the wedding for our grandson Alec and his beautiful bride Amanda at the gorgeous setting of Sisters in central Oregon.  In our culture, with the institution of marriage under major attack by liberal progressives—both inside and outside the church—who have forgotten that marriage between one man and one woman was God’s plan from the beginning and continues to be. It was very refreshing to  be part of a wedding where two believers—a young man and a young woman!—made a commitment, not only to each other, but to God to serve Him through their marriage for the rest of their days on earth.  The pastor who married them gave a very powerful challenge of how their primary relationship—after their relationship with God—is to be their marriage, not their jobs or parents or children when they come along. They are to give themselves unselfishly to each other and together, along with the Lord, work through any challenges that come their way.  “Strong marriages are those where both partners assume the responsibility of caretaker for each other and the marriage” (Dr. Jim Conway).
     Charles Swindoll, pastor and Bible teacher, said “Marriages are held together not by love by commitment.” After the wedding comes a marriage which takes a lot of following through on the commitments that were made—a continual “renewal of vows” if you will.  A good marriage requires the determination to be married for good. The trouble with many people these days is that they marry for better or worse but not for good!   Author and Christian leader Steve Farrar wrote: “Marriage is two people tied together as they climb the mountain of life. In order to reach the summit they must be interdependent. It takes teamwork and marital accountability.” 
     A husband and wife who continue to develop their relationship with Christ will tend to continue to grow in their relationship with each other as well. “Good marriages don’t have to go bad if couples have the humility to grow and learn more about the love of Christ. Only then will we be committed ‘till death do we part’” (Erwin Lutzer).  Put Christ first if you want your marriage to last.
     One of the reasons that marriage of one man and one woman is such a beautiful thing is not only that it is God’s design but also that it is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church (all who have trusted Him for eternal life).  Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, writes: “Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies…For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:22-32). 
     And speaking of being part of the “Bride of Christ, the Church,” at the conclusion of the wedding, Amanda’s grandmother approached me and had some questions about what she had heard during the message, prayers, vows and hymn (“Amazing Grace”).  God had very obviously spoken to her about her own relationship with Jesus Christ. She did not have assurance of salvation but really wanted to. I had the opportunity to share with her the plan of salvation and how you could really know for sure that she had eternal life. At that point, I had to join the family for pictures but had a chance to share with Amanda about our conversation and encouraged her to talk with her grandma and help her “across the bridge” to join the family of God. I felt it would be so special for Amanda to have the joy of doing that. I did notice that Amanda got to spend some one-on-one time with her before we left, so pray that her grandma now knows Christ and knows that she knows! 
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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In Memory

  In our family’s travels, some of the most impressive, moving scenes we have witnessed were U.S. military cemeteries, such as in Luxembourg and Belgium and Arlington, Virginia.  There we observed row upon row of gleaming whitewashed crosses against a background of many acres of green, manicured lawn.  “From Arlington Cemetery near the nation’s capital to every military cemetery in the country (and around the world), white crosses are used to commemorate (memorialize) those who have died in the service of this country. The cross is a historic symbol of the price of freedom” (Dr. Tim Lahaye).  In Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Great Britain, the Philippines and Tunisia are more than 93,000 crosses over approximately 1,000 acres of U.S. military cemeteries marking the burial sites of U.S. military young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting evil aggressors who attempted to take away not only our freedom but that of other nations. In 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery (which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army) lie the remains of more than 600,000 U.S. soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect not only us in the United States, but to protect the freedoms of our neighbors as well. An average of 28 funerals are conducted at Arlington every day!
     A really awesome sight at Arlington can be observed twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year (since 1937, no matter how inclement the weather), and that is at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where guards are changed every thirty minutes. The guard takes precisely 21 steps in front of the tomb before reversing direction, alluding to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given a soldier or dignitary. The guard hesitates after his about face for twenty-one seconds before marching twenty-one steps back!  (Twenty-one, is not a number chosen at random but is the sum of “1+7+7+6” and thus representative of our freedom.)  Guards must be between 5’10” and 6’2” tall and have a waist size that doesn’t exceed 30”.  They must commit to two years of their life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way. The first six months of guard duty, a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV.  All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.  Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.
     Placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a solemn ceremony conducted on Memorial Day. Military exercises are also held at Gettysburg National Military Park.
     Memorial Day, and the rows upon row of shining white crosses should remind us that freedom comes with a price.  Many years ago in U.S. history, John Quincy Adams said, “You’ll never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it.”  I’m afraid we don’t always follow his admonition, but we need to recognize what a price has been paid—and continues to be paid—that we may have the freedoms we have today in this country and in many other nations of the world as well that we, the United States, have helped in their time of need.
    And, of course, the cross ultimately represents the very means by which each of us can experience freedom from the penalty of sin through the greatest sacrifice every made on our behalf, as Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was crucified on a a crude wooden cross, bearing our sins and dying on our behalf.  Peter wrote, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (spiritually)” (I Pet. 2:24).  And the Apostle Paul wrote: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). The cross is a symbol of death and sacrifice, but it is also empty for Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried but in three days rose again, the empty cross and empty grave signify a full salvation. The author of the book of Hebrews writes: “…We have been sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…He having offered one sacrifice for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14). 
     Love is expressed in a willingness to sacrifice for others. Thousands upon thousands have been willing to sacrifice on behalf of this nation, demonstrating their love for this country and for its people—us, and also their love for their neighbors who have been in danger from evil oppression.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).  This Memorial Day, take time to reflect on the cost of freedom and our responsibility to defend and promote it—to “make good use of it” as John Quincy Adams challenged.  And especially, thank God for the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf because of His great love for us— “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5: 8).
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
P.S.  Check out online a great Memorial Day song, “In God We Trust” by Christian singer/songwriter Eric Horner
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