Using the Platform of Ministry That God Provides

I’m always encouraged when I hear of or see a Christian who uses success as an opportunity to give God the glory when given the chance. During the 2019 “March Madness” NCAA basketball tournament, there were numerous players who, because of their excellent play in helping their teams to victory, were interviewed after the game and made sure to praise their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the ability He gave them to perform. Both teams in the championship game between Virginia and Texas Tech had a number of Christians who were very vocal about their faith, as was the winning coach from Virginia, Tony Bennet.  “May their tribe increase!” 
     They remind me of Hadassah, a young Jewish virgin who, because of her great beauty, was chosen to become queen to Persian King Ahasuerus. Then Mordecai, who had been raising his cousin Hadassah (or Esther, her Persian name), discovered a plot  to have all Jews killed. Mordecai challenged Esther to use her position as a platform of appeal to save the Jews from annihilation, saying: “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  Esther responded by risking her life by approaching the king uninvited, was successful in her mission and the king made a new edict allowing the Jews to protect themselves, which they did very successfully and established the Feast of Purim to celebrate the event.
     Our son, Grant, has been teaching and coaching at North Clackamas Christian School in Oregon City, OR for the past 18 years and has had some really amazing athletes come through, but maybe none more talented than Ethan Kassebaum (known as “E.K.”). E.K., who graduated a year ago was a three-sport athlete as well as co-valedictorian of his class with a 4.0 GPA.  Since NCCS doesn’t offer football, E.K. played for Oregon City High School where he was running back and punter. In his final season, he ran for 1,023 yards (93 yards/game) and made 13 touch downs. I should mention that NCCS is a 1A school (smallest category in Oregon) and OCHS is a 6A school (largest schools in Oregon).
     E.K. played on Grant’s basketball team during the winter season, and though not super tall (5’11-6’0), he could out jump any opponent and was an awesome rebounder. He would also often bring the ball up the floor—like a running back!  Pretty fun to watch!
     In the spring, E.K. put his God-given talents to work on the track team, where he was amazing to watch. We had the privilege of watching him take four firsts at the divisional meet. Sure wish we could have stayed in Oregon to watch him perform at state.  Our son kept us updated. Here is a text Grant sent us from the state meet:
     “Got to see some pretty amazing performances yesterday at the state track meet. As you might imagine, it was highlighted by E.K.’s performances. In the triple jump he jumped 43’9” on his second jump and since no one else in the state had come close to that this year he passed on his next jumps until the very end of the finals when the next to last jumper flew out to a crazy personal best for him of 44’5”.  E.K. was still sitting at the event but he had his sprinting shoes on ready to walk over to the start of the 100 meters. The group of guys who were running in the 100 were being walked over to the starting line but E.K. quickly changed his shoes, got back on the runway, got himself refocused and proceeded to jump 46’2” (nearly two feet better than his PR) in the final jump of his high school career!   He then quickly put his running shoes back on and headed over to the start of the 100 meters and got himself stretched and ready to go. He got a great start when the gun went off but one of the runners had false started!  EK got back in the blocks and did it all again. He went into the race as the number three seed and had not run a personal record all year. He led from wire to wire and finished with a personal and school record of 22.27 seconds—absolutely amazing!  He got a state meet record. Oh, yes, and he won the long jump with a personal record and also the 200 meters, piling up 40 points for NCCS!” 
     In spite of his amazing successes in sports and academics,  E.K., remains an extremely modest and humble young man with a maturity beyond his years. Grant said of E.K., “Whether he has success or failure in a (basketball) game, he keeps everything in perspective and never intentionally brings attention to himself—a quality hard to find in players with his talent.”  Another of E.K.’s high school teachers said of E.K., “He is driven academically and athletically, but he is also very loyal to friends, himself, and above all, his faith. He holds true to his spiritual compass, even though he could easily be a big man on campus at any public school.
     E.K.’s testimony was really put to the test as he played football for Oregon City High School. When he was a freshman, an older teammate offered him $100 to say the “F” word out loud. E.K. walked away. Others invited him to party with them and he credits his solid Christian foundation both from his home and NCCS for his ability to resist the temptations that were set before him. As a result, he had teammates who asked him about his Christian faith. He used his platform of success and the respect he gained, to talk about his faith in Christ.  (NOTE: E.K. is attending George Fox University and is in both football and track).
     What “platform” has God provided you in your walk in life?  Are you using it to glorify Him and to give testimony of your faith in Jesus Christ? I hope so!
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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The Power of the Resurrection

As we hike in the mountains, one sight that always amazes me—besides the splendor of God’s creation—is a plant, bush or tree growing out of solid rock.  Knowing that it takes lots of TLC for us to get plants and shrubs and trees to take root and grow, I always marvel at how God doesn’t seem to have a problem growing them—even out of the rocks! Oh, yes, and then there are always the dandelions or other weeds that spring up out of a tiny crack in the sidewalk or pavement.  To me, it is a picture of the “power of the resurrection.” Jesus, after all, burst forth “out of the rock.”  Yesterday after we had celebrated Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we took a walk in an area that displays a variety of beautiful spring wildflowers and noticed another reminder of life coming out of death—a ponderosa pine tree (our state tree) about eight feet tall, growing out of the center of an old tree stump.
     Jesus Christ came into a world of humanity living in darkness under the curse of sin and death. First to hear about the birth of the Messiah-Redeemer were shepherds out in the hills of Bethlehem, “keeping watch over their flocks by night” when “an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:8-11).  It was as bright as mid-day at midnight as the “Light of the World” came to earth (Jn. 8:12)
     Then, having been rejected by His own (the Jews), Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, arrested, tried, beaten, scourged and crucified.  As he was hanging on the cross, bearing the wrath of God in punishment for our sins, there was darkness on the earth. It was as black as midnight at mid-day (Lk. 23:44). After suffering for the sins of the world of humanity, Jesus “said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (Jn. 19:30).   Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (secret followers of Jesus) asked to take Jesus’ body, prepared it for burial and then placed His body in a new garden tomb (Jn. 19:38-41 cf Isa. 53:9). 
     What a solemn Saturday (Sabbath) must have followed, as Jesus’ family, friends and followers were in shock over what had just happened. The disciples, who were hiding out in fear in the upper room, must have been thinking “if only we had done more to stop Him from coming to Jerusalem or to resist when they came to arrest Him or gone to speak up for Him at His trial.”  I’m sure there was much confusion, discouragement and guilt. Think about poor Peter who had vowed to die for Him if need be, but then denied even knowing Him!  Think of Jesus’ mother who had to have been horrified to see the things done to her beloved, sinless son, helpless to do anything.  That Saturday had to seem like an eternity—but Sunday was a coming!  In just a few hours, early Sunday morning, when the women went to the tomb, they, of course discovered the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. Then two angels “suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel…and said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has arisen’” (Lk. 24:4-6).
     Jesus, in His resurrected, glorified body made several appearances to His disciples and other believers and then forty days later gathered His disciples together and “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4). Jesus, of course was referring to the sending of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers at Pentecost (cf Jn. 14:26; 15:26: 16:7). He added, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses unto me…to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).
     During those forty days Jesus spent on earth after His resurrection, the disciples, excited that Jesus was alive, were still powerless to be His ambassadors until ten days after His ascension, when, on the Day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell them. Then we see a total transformation in the disciples as they—who had been fearful and confused—began boldly preaching the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Suddenly they really were both willing and able to lay down their lives for Christ, and most did, as they were martyred for their faith. What made the difference?  It was the power of the resurrected Christ who now lived in them through the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Paul’s effective ministry as the missionary to the Gentiles, was possible because of the power of the resurrected Christ living in and through Him.
     What was true for the disciples as the Holy Spirit came to indwell them, and through the Spirit, Christ in them, has been true for everyone since who has trusted in Christ as Savior. We have the power of the resurrection through Christ living in us. This past Saturday, we witnessed what that power can do. We held a “celebration of life” service for Debbie Dare, who had served as janitor at Three Lakes Community Bible Church for many, many years and had done so many other things for the church body. She was a “Dorcas” disciple!  Her son, Chaz, married with three children, gave a beautiful eulogy. Chaz’s dad died the day before His mom passed away!  His mom and dad were divorced not too long after Chaz was born. Chaz not only eulogized his mom, but really preached a powerful message of the transforming power of the resurrected Christ in both his life and in his mom’s.  It was great testimony to the power we have within us. There is no other explanation for Chaz’s ability to do what He did.
     Praise God for the “power of the resurrection” which is available to all of us as believers.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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The Most Unique, Most Powerful Book Ever Written

Without a doubt the most unique book ever written is actually a compilation of 66 books written by some 40 authors over a period of about 1600 years and yet has one major theme and all ties together beautifully to develop that theme. I’m referring, of course, to God’s Word, the Bible.  None of the writers changed the message to put themselves or their friends in a better light. The sins of small and great alike are openly admitted and life is presented as it actually is. The writings of this amazing book, in contrast to any other book ever written, were inspired by God. God worked in the hearts and minds of each of the writers to govern that every word was exactly what He wanted recorded. The Apostle Peter wrote: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (II Pet. 1:20,21). The Apostle Paul, also commenting on how we got our Bible, wrote this to Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16,17). The word translated “inspired” literally means “God-breathed.”  God superintended the human writers so that, using their individual personalities and interests, they composed and recorded—without error—God’s Word to man.
     Obviously the Bible was unique in its origin, but it was also unique in the fact that though written over hundreds of years by many authors from a variety of walks of life, it has one basic message throughout—Jesus Christ!  When Jesus, after His resurrection, stopped to visit in the home of the two disciples from Emmaus, Luke records for us: “And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Lk. 24:27).  Whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament, the preacher and teacher of God’s Word should always exalt Christ and the message of salvation through faith in His work at the cross. When Philip helped the Ethiopian eunuch to understand the writings of the prophet Isaiah, it says, “and beginning from this Scripture, he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).
     Jack Graham said, “There is a scarlet thread of redemption running throughout the pages of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.” Charles Spurgeon once said, “Cut the Bible anywhere and it will bleed!” The story of Jesus and His sacrifice for sin can be traced through the Bible. The Apostle Paul, who was a very intelligent, educated, eloquent person, wrote this about his visit to Corinth: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (I Cor. 2:2-5).
     The Bible stands apart from all other books ever written, not only in its unique origin and message, but in the ability of that message to transform lives. In Paul’s letter to his understudy, Timothy, he wrote: “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim . 3:16). The entire Bible is about the gospel—the “Good News” that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of our sin so that we could enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Ro. 1:16).
     Since it is God’s enemy Satan’s purpose that people worship him and not God, he does all he can to stop them from hearing the “Good News” and coming to have eternal life through Christ, so he has done all in his power to destroy the Bible which tells people how to be reconciled to God and to have new life in Christ. Satan has been—and is—behind all the efforts to destroy and discredit the Bible, to remove it from our public schools and keep it out of countries that have not been exposed to its wonderful message of redemption. But God has promised that though “The grass withers, and the flower fades, the Word of God stands forever” (Isa. 40: 8). Satan’s efforts have been—and will continue to be—futile. God will have the “last word,” and it will be His Word, the Bible!  The Bible has been the anvil upon which the critics have worn out their hammers!  God has preserved, and will continue to preserve His Word, His “Love Letter” to mankind.  The Bible changes hearts and changed hearts change history. “There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them through the sacrifice of His Son in place of those sinners…It is the story of Jesus” (Josh Harris in Dug Down Deep).
     What does God’s Word, the Bible, mean to you?  This amazing collection of books is our only infallible guide for faith and life. “You need to love the Bible, but that’s not enough; you need to learn the Bible, but that’s not enough; you need to live the Bible” (Warren Wiersbe).
     Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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Just Ordinary Folks

Ever notice how God—for the most part—uses ordinary folks and then does extraordinary things through them. The Apostle Paul wrote the following in his letter to the Corinthian church: “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us the wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (I Cor. 1:26-31 cf Jer. 9:23).  Even Paul, himself,  who on his second missionary journey established the church at Corinth, said, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (I Cor. 2:3-5). God primarily chooses ordinary folks and then does extraordinary things through them so that all the glory goes to Him.
     I was reminded of that this past Saturday as I officiated at a celebration of life service for Nora May Auge, who, at age 95, went home to be with her Savior.  She and her husband, Lou, had moved to the Libby area in 1942. Lou first worked as a ranch hand and then was employed by J. Neils Lumber Company as a sawyer for the rest of his career. Nora May, once their youngest of five children was in high school, worked in the laundry at St. John’s Lutheran Hospital and then the Libby Care Center.  Neither of them had any education past high school, and Lou hadn’t even finished high school.
     Lou and Nora May believed in God but didn’t have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. But then in 1954 Youth For Christ held a two-week rally in Libby. Gene and Ronnie, the two oldest Auge children, wanted to go, so Nora May took them. That night both Gene and Ronnie trusted Christ as Savior after they heard that all have sinned and that the wages of that sin is death—separation from God—but that God had demonstrated His love for us while we were yet sinners by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and to be raised again (Ro. 3:23; 6:23; 5:8).  The next night Nora May also trusted Jesus for eternal life, and the next week, Lou, who had stayed home with the younger three girls, attended and also gave his life to Christ. A number of other parents who had accompanied their young people to the rally had also received Christ. Apparently a couple local pastors who had religion without a relationship also got saved!
     In their desire to grow spiritually, Lou and Nora May started a Saturday-evening Bible study in their home in Libby. They  soon added a prayer meeting and Sunday school for the children and then felt that God was leading them to organize as a church. They formed a board made up of Al Oursland (who taught the Bible study), Lou Auge and Ernie Hamilton (also saved at the YFC rally).  They began a search for a pastor and, through Montana Bible Fellowship, located Clarence Kutz who was pastoring in Wilsall, Montana near Livingston, Montana.  Pastor Kutz, had moved his family from Vineland, New Jersey to Wilsall in April, 1946, to pastor the Wilsall Community Church. His youngest, of five children, Kathy, was just a year old when they moved.
     Pastor Kutz accepted the invitation to come to Libby and became the first pastor for “Faith Bible Church” in June of 1955. In the spring of 1956, the group had outgrown the Auge home and rented the Grange Hall. Then in March of 1957 they purchased property and began construction on a basement where they held their first service on Easter Sunday, 1960.  It was quite a sight watching 75-80  people file through the oversized outhouse-looking entry on top of the basement and disappear!  The first service in the sanctuary was held on Sunday, June 18, 1967. 
     My family moved to Libby from Polson, Montana in 1958. My mother got a fourth-grade teaching job at Old Central School. One of her students was Sherry Auge who’d had a bad experience in third grade so wasn’t looking forward to school. But she got excited to have a nice teacher for fourth grade, and one who was a Christian. She told her folks that they needed to go visit the Nelsons. Lou and Nora May did and became my folks first friends in Libby. They also invited us to visit Faith Bible Church (we were attending the Assembly of God Church) to hear their excellent Bible teacher, Pastor Kutz. We did and got hooked—and I met the pastor’s daughter, Kathy!  We had the first wedding in Faith Bible Church superstructure on Friday, June 16, 1967!
     Lou and Nora May, just ordinary folks who made themselves available to God, were not only instrumental in starting Faith Bible Church, but they also drove up to the Pipe Creek area on Sunday afternoons and held Sunday school in the home of Dave and Beverly James and their 12 children, one of whom, Brenda, became a missionary with Rocky Mountain Bible Mission. She has been serving the Lord for some 40 years! Lou also helped start and build the Pipe Creek Bible Church, helped out at RMBM Camp Utmost near Sealey Lake and helped us at Three Lakes Community Bible Church to build Elohim Bible Camp on the Bull Lake Road.
     Then I think about the many hundreds of people who have passed through Faith Bible Church in its 65 years of ministry and of all the missionaries that have been supported in countries all over the world, and the children reached through Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and  the AWANA program and the teens who are being impacted in the Youth House Ministry.  And it all began with some ordinary folks getting saved at a YFC rally and dedicating their lives to be used by God. The “ripple effect” has been amazing to observe.
     So, do you consider yourself just an ordinary person? Well, then you qualify to allow God to do some extraordinary things through you. Just be faithful and available. You may just be amazed at what God will do. And people’s “faith will not rest in the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (I Cor. 2:5).
    Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
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It’s Spring!

We still have some pretty big snow banks that are melting slowly, but we also have a variety of signs of spring and new life. The robins have been back for a couple weeks and are actually able to find earthworms as the frost has come out of the ground to let the worms show up. We have brightly colored crocuses blooming and our tulips and daffodils (we have hundreds) are up and there are buds on the lilac trees and “our” pair of Canada geese that has been coming to visit us each spring for several years was back this week.  The wild tom turkeys have started strutting their stuff and the noisy crows are back in great numbers, as are the starlings. The cedar waxwings came through to strip our Mountain Ash tree of its berries.
     After a prolonged winter with some heavy late snow in February and sub-zero temperatures in March, spring is finally here. Spring may come early or it may come late, but it always comes!  That’s how God set it all up back in Genesis by the way He created the earth and tilted it on its axis, oriented the orbiting moon at just the right distance and placed us in an orbit around the sun at just the right distance. The Genesis account of the fourth day of creation reads: “Then 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 heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:14-18).
     Because we live in Northwest Montana, we experience four very distinct seasons. For several months from late fall to this time of spring, much around us is in a state of dormancy and appears dead, but once again we see God’s earth coming back to life. New life is part of the “magic” of spring season, and it is visible all around us. The life and brightness of spring which replaces the bleak “death” of winter is a reminder to us of another reality of life coming out of death, one with eternal implications. Because of sin taking place in the Garden of Eden, death entered God’s creation (Ro. 5:12), and each of us was born with a sinful nature and lived in death (separation from God) and darkness, having declared our independence from God. We now have many centuries of human history to show that this broken world is too big for us to fix. With all our inventions, education, technical advancements and human effort to improve life on earth, how are we doing?  What a mess of death and darkness we see all around us.
   But, “God so loved the world (of humanity), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).  “The Word (God the Son) became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (Jn. 1:14). And He, Jesus, said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).  The Creator Himself (Jn. 1:3) took on human flesh (Jn. 1:14) in  order to die for us and pay the penalty of sin so that we could escape spiritual death and darkness and have new life that lasts forever. The life He offers is not only one that lasts forever, it’s a hope-filled promise for today. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly (full and overflowing)” (Jn. 10:10).
     We are soon to celebrate the very basis of our new life in Christ, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as proof that our sins were paid for and God was propitiated (satisfied…Ro. 3:25) with Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Ro. 4:25).  Paul goes on in his letter to the Romans to discuss how we have been crucified with Christ and buried with Him and raised with Him “so we too might walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:4).  That’s what springtime and the Easter season is truly about—being restored from death to new life. As we trust in what Jesus has done for us, we find that death is overcome and life reigns again. We become “new creatures” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17). We have “passed out of death into life” (Jn. 5:24).  God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13).
     This season is about new life—new life that goes beyond the annual refreshing of the earth with its beauty. It’s about the new, eternal, abundant life that’s available to us because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Have you experienced that new life?  It is available to all. “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ro. 10:13). If you have never done that, I encourage you to do so—today—for “whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed” (Ro. 10:11 cf Isa. 28:16).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Be A Barnabas

  There is something we need to do for each other that becomes more and more important the closer we come to the Lord’s return. What is it?  In fact, many of you reading this are badly in need of it. Some of you have looked for it desperately and found it in short supply. Yet it is something we all can and should do for each other—offer encouragement. “We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord is getting closer” (Heb. 10:24,25 CEV).
    We need to encourage one another because life in this sin-cursed, sin-tainted world tends toward discouragement. Negative people can pollute our outlooks. Negative circumstances can squelch our enthusiasm and hope. These can easily strangle our spiritual lives. We live in a world of hurt, of stress, of disappointment, of tragedies and turmoil and adversity. When the circumstances of life come down on you like a flyswatter on a housefly, you need someone to come alongside, someone to encourage you. You need a “Barnabas.”  Luke tells us that “Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth was also called (nicknamed) Barnabas by the Apostles, (which translated means ‘Son of Encouragement’)” (Acts 4:36). 
     When Saul of Tarsus was converted on his way to Damascus to persecute believers, he went to Jerusalem and “was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). It was Barnabas that came alongside of Saul and convinced the disciples that he was genuinely changed (v.27).   When many became believers in the large city of Antioch, capital of the Roman province of Syria, word reached Jerusalem (300 miles to the south), and guess who they sent up to help out? Barnabas! (Acts 11:22). It was a highly explosive situation. The church was barely off the ground and it could be split down the middle between Jews and Gentiles. Barnabas, the “encourager,” had an uncanny ability for “untying knots.” Barnabas went to Tarsus to get his disciple Saul to come and help him (Acts 11:23-25).  The church at Antioch eventually sent Barnabas and Saul back to Jerusalem with a collection to help out the needy living in Judea (vv. 29,30).
     After returning to Antioch, Barnabas and Saul were commissioned by the church there (directed by the Holy Spirit) to go out as missionaries (Acts 13:1-3).  Accompanying them was Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark (Acts 12:25 cf Col. 4:10), who ended up bailing out on them and heading back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Later, when Paul suggested to Barnabas that they go back and revisit the churches established on their first missionary journey, Barnabas desired to take John Mark with them again and Paul said, “No way!”  They couldn’t settle their disagreement so Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark and they headed out as two teams! (Acts 15:36-41).  Barnabas’ influence on his cousin through his ability to encourage helped build into John Mark’s life such that later when Paul was in prison in Rome, facing possible death, Paul wrote to Timothy and specifically asked for John Mark, saying, “Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful for service” (II Tim. 4:11).
     What a blessing Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement,” was to the early church and to its missionary outreach. What an encouragement he must have been to his cousin, John Mark, who ended up writing the Gospel of Mark.   What an important role for each of us to be a “Barnabas” to someone, to come alongside of them and help them to have courage to “keep on keeping on” in this crazy world of discouraging things and circumstances. We can give encouragement through our words.  Solomon wrote: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Pr. 16:24).  When I was pastoring, I received a number of very timely written notes of encouragement. They meant a lot to me and often played a key role in my remaining steadfast and not giving up. We can also be of encouragement to those who are distressed just by offering our presence and our listening ear—someone to come alongside and just be there and listen. We can offer encouragement too just by physical touch to let someone know we care about them—the “hands on approach!” There are many ways we can offer encouragement. The important thing is that we do it. People need it, and as the time of Christ’s coming draws closer, it is more needed than ever.
     In His autobiography, L.O. Dawson told about a minister who died. At his memorial service, the church was filled to overflowing. Various speakers praised the virtues of their deceased pastor and friend. When it was Mr. Dawson’s turn to address the congregation, he affirmed the truthfulness of the gracious words that had already been spoken. But then he told the audience that if as many of them had been in attendance at the regular services of the church as were there at the memorial service, their pastor would still be alive. Dawson then made this shocking observation to the grieving parishioners: “Empty pews broke your pastor’s heart. He did not know of your love. He died for lack of the things you have today so beautifully said and done.”  The story in Dawson’s book concluded with this convicting remark: “More preachers die from broken hearts than from swelled heads!” 
     May it be said of us as it was of Job: “Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees” (Job 4:4). Don’t wait until somebody dies to express your love and respect. Offer words of encouragement now. Be a Barnabas to someone today, and thank God for the Barnabases He has brought into your life.
     Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Be Encouraged

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