God Cares For Us

I was rototilling our garden last week when I noticed only one of the two wheels was driving the tiller. I had tried to turn one direction and the tiller just wanted to spin in a circle—kind of like having only one oar in the water when rowing a boat!  I saw that an axle pin had fallen out. There wasn’t much hope of finding it in the loose dirt, so I went to look for another, but didn’t have any, so I improvised with a 16d form nail, bending it so it wouldn’t fall out. But after a few more minutes it did!  I tried another nail, bending it a bit more tightly, but alas it fell out again. As I shut off the tiller, I noticed my neighbor, Jay, standing at the garden gate. He had worked on the transmission for me a couple years ago and wanted to know how it was doing. I said, “It’s working great, but I’m down to one-wheel drive! My axle pin fell out and my improvisations haven’t worked.” He smiled and reached in his pocket and pulled out an axle pin! In fact he not only pulled out one, but three from his pocket!  Now who goes around carrying axle pins in their pocket?  He and his wife had purchased a sink at a yard sale and for whatever reason, the pins were under the sink, and Jay had put them in his pocket, having no idea that I would need one—but God knew!
     I wrote a “Wisdom of the Week” on another occasion about when we were traveling with our son in Oregon on a dark, wintry December evening when his transmission light had come on. We had stopped at Multnomah Falls parking lot and checked the fluid level which was quite low. We were the only vehicle in the dark parking lot when we got there, but then a van pulled up and parked beside us. They, like we, had been detoured because of the snow storm. I tapped on their window and asked the driver if he might possibly have any transmission fluid with him. The back of their van was packed tightly with belongings. He said he thought he did. As he opened the gate on the rear of the van, a quart of transmission fluid rolled out onto the parking lot!
     Now, I know that every time we need something, God doesn’t necessarily send someone to supply it, but He obviously knows the need, and on occasion, like any loving Father, does so in a rather obvious way, showing us how much He cares about even the small details of our lives, and demonstrating His omniscience (knowing everything) and omnipotence (power to do anything).  I’m reminded of the time Peter approached Jesus regarding paying the annual tax to support the temple. The tax collectors asked Peter whether or not their teacher (Jesus) was going to pay the tax. Members of the royal family were exempt from paying the tax. Thus Jesus, the Son of God, and of the line of David, was not personally obligated to pay for the support of God’s house, but since they didn’t understand that and to avoid being a stumbling block, He would pay. The tax was two drachmas (or a half-stater). Jesus said to Peter: “…lest we give them offense, go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and me” (Mt. 17:27). Hey, that’s a great way to pay your taxes!
     Remember the story of Elijah and the drought?  God told him to go to the brook Cherith where He sent ravens morning and evening to provide Elijah with bread and meat (I Kgs. 17:2-6). Then when the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to Zarephath to stay with a widow and her son. They had only enough flour and oil for one more meal, but neither one ran out while Elijah stayed there.
     All this to say, God knows our needs and does really care for us and occasionally provides in some unusual ways so we know He did it. He provides for us on a daily basis and we must not take for granted each breath we take and our “daily bread.” But also watch for those special times when He does the unusual to let us know He is still there watching over us and caring for us. And be sure to give Him the praise—whether it is for a quart of transmission fluid delivered to a dark parking lot at Multnomah Falls, or an axle pin for a rototiller that the neighbor “just happens” to have in his pocket!
    “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psa. 55:22).  “Casting all your anxiety (cares) upon Him, Because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7). “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?” (Mt. 6:26). God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs in your head (Means more to some than others!). Jesus said, “Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt. 10:1). 
     God knows all about our needs and really cares for us—for every detail of our lives. He promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Destination Known

This past Wednesday we had the “opportunity” to help transport children for the annual AWANA “Destination Unknown.”  Each vehicle load of children and two adults was given a list of Bible verses which provided clues to find a business or location in the community where someone gave you another set of verses that gave clues for the next location. If you were successful in finding each of the unknown destinations, you had a surprise waiting for you at the final one—in this case root beer floats. Some of the vehicles had to go back to the church for help on some of their clues, as they were unfamiliar with the business to which the Bible verse clues pointed.
    Before leaving the church to begin searching for the unknown destinations, the AWANA Commander gave a devotional about the two eternal destinations that we all face—heaven or hell. It is crucial for each one of us that we have assurance about where we are going—and hopefully for each of you, that is heaven, not hell. If you are not sure which, I pray that as you read this, God the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart and help you choose Christ and eternal life in heaven.
     I remember the time when as you went into a restaurant, they asked if you wanted the “smoking,” or “non-smoking” section. (And it really didn’t make a whole lot of difference which you chose, because the smoke permeated the whole facility!). Well, I guess those are the choices we all face in life spiritually—“smoking” (in hell) or “non-smoking” in heaven.  The Bible speaks more about hell than it does about heaven, yet there are those who deny its existence. Jesus mentioned it a number of times. When He spoke about His return in glory at the end of the Tribulation (The “Time of Jacob’s distress”…Jer 30:7), and His judgment of the Gentiles based on how they treated His chosen people, the Jews, He said: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (demons)…. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’” (Mt. 25:41,46). The same Greek word, by the way, is used for both “eternal punishment” and “eternal life.”  The Bible does not teach the annihilation of the wicked (unsaved).
     The Book of Revelation speaks of the time when Satan is cast into hell, saying, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). (NOTE: The beast or antichrist and false prophet were “thrown into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” 1,000 years before, prior to Christ’s Millennial reign on earth…Rev. 19:20).Then John goes on to describe the judgment of unbelievers at the “great white throne” saying, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judge, everyone of them according to their deeds. And death (bodies) and Hades (souls and spirits) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20: 11-15).  It is important to observe that the term “death,” as used in Scripture, does not mean the end of existence, but “separation.”  In the case of physical death, it is separation of soul and spirit from the body, and in the case of spiritual death, it is separation from God—eternally. Hell is a real place, a place of eternal torment. Though hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (demons), those who reject God’s offer of salvation through Christ will also end up there as their final destination.
     We have recorded in John’s gospel, these words of Jesus: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:28,29). Again, we see that there are two eternal destinations for all of mankind—one of eternal life with God and one of judgment, separated from Him.  This verse, by the way, does not mean we are saved by deeds, for only a saved person has “good deeds.”  Paul makes it clear that “There is none righteous…there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Ro. 3:10,11). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works (deeds), that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). “…a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
     When you put your trust in Jesus Christ alone (not your deeds or church membership or performance of some ritual) for your salvation, the Holy Spirit regenerates you, Christ comes to live in you, and “He who has the Son has life” (I Jn. 5:12).  At that moment you have eternal life and will not come into judgment, but have passed out of death into life (Jn. 5:24).   
     So, are you sure of heaven as your destination?  You can be. John continues in his first epistle: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (I Jn. 5:13). Eternal life is a present possession for each one who has asked Christ to be their Savior. You don’t have to wait until you die to find out where you are going. If you aren’t sure, why not make sure today. Jesus promised: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:40).  Amen! PTL!
            Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave
    
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A Unique Opportunity

We had a very unique and blessed opportunity yesterday as we participated in a special church service for the installation of our new pastor, Ed (and Mary) Quillin.  Having retired from Pastoring at Three Lakes Community Bible Church near Troy, Montana, Kathy and I have been attending Faith Bible Church in Libby. Kathy’s dad, Clarence Kutz,  was the first pastor of the church way back in 1955!  Since he retired, there have been quite a number of pastors and a number of them left because of problems and left a hurting church. More than a decade ago Pastor Laurie Stuck came to FBC and really helped the church heal and become healthy again. But, Laurie and his wife Barb, felt that they needed to move to Yakima to help care for elderly, failing parents, so Pastor Stuck retired a few months ago and they now live in Yakima. Dave (and Kathy!) Butler came to serve as the interim pastor and did a fantastic job of teaching God’s Word and caring for the flock.
     Meanwhile, the Search Committee selected a new pastor candidate, Ed Quillin, who was unanimously elected by the membership. Yesterday the worship service was an official installation of Pastor Ed. The District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church, Lee Kisman, came and gave a charge to Pastor Ed and Mary.  Dave Butler returned to give a charge to the congregation. The associate (youth) pastor, Garret Dietrich, also gave a brief charge to the new senior pastor. In the congregation were also two of us as retired pastors, so we had seven pastors present. Along with our wives, we made up more than 10% of the congregation. That, in itself, is quite unusual, but it was also quite amazing to see the smooth transition of leadership take place without any tension or division. The congregation was saddened to see the Stucks leave, and had already grown to love and appreciate Dave Butler, but at the same time is excited to see what God is going to do under the new shepherd as he guides and guards and grazes the flock.
     When you think of the turmoil and chaos and anger and divisive hatred that often accompany the change of leadership in a church or in government of a nation, what we witnessed yesterday was a pretty amazing display of what the grace of God can do when allowed. And the charges given were spot on biblically.
   First the associate pastor, Garret, read Paul’s charge to his understudy Timothy, whom he had left in charge of the church at Ephesus,  to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (II Tim. 4:2).  
     Next, Rev. Lee Kisman, gave a charge to the new pastor based on I Tim. 4:16 where Paul charges Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…”  It is crucial that a person in leadership stay healthy spiritually (and physically) in order to set a good example for the flock (cf I Tim. 1:16; 4:12) and not negate the message by failing to “walk worthy of their calling” (Eph. 4:1), for, as the southern gospel song goes, “Your walk talks louder than you talk talks!” When a pastor doesn’t walk the walk, his integrity is doubted, his ministry is discredited, the saints are discouraged and devastated, the congregation is decimated and the adversaries of God celebrate.  And, of course the shepherd of the flock must “pay close attention to their teaching.”  He must “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” ( Tim. 2:15). A pastor must “Retain the standard of sound words (doctrine)…” and “Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to us” (II Tim. 1:13.14).
     Then Pastor Butler gave a charge to the congregation, based on Heb. 13:17,18 to “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Prayer for us…to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.” While we must not blindly follow our spiritual leader, but be like the Bereans who, regarding the teaching of the Apostle Paul,  “examined the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), we are to submit to the authority of those God has placed over us for our spiritual welfare, and not be a troublemaker (sowing discord) that causes them grief. They have a sobering responsibility. James writes in his epistle: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).   So, above all we need to pray for our spiritual leaders. There will be no power from the pulpit unless there is prayer from the pews!  Pray for their spiritual protection and victory against the enemy who would try to discourage and destroy their ministry. Pray that they are diligent and focused to rightly divide the Scriptures. Pray for their marriage to stay healthy and strong. Pray for their encouragement and joy to remain. Pray that they not become weary in well doing but remain steadfast. Do all you can to bring them joy and not grief in their shepherding of the flock.
     Finally the former pastor, Laurie Stuck, closed the service, as he “handed off the baton,” and prayed for Pastor Ed and for the church body.
     It was a beautiful service and exciting to be part of what I’m sure brought glory to God and was just a little taste of what heaven will be like and what the church can and should be.
 
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Ears That Hear

What has ears but cannot hear?  One answer, of course, is corn!  There are also a couple others given in Scripture.  Note the Psalmist’s description of idols: “They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands but they cannot feel; They have feet but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat” (Psa. 115:5-7 cf 135:17).  But it isn’t only idols made of wood or silver or gold that “have ears but cannot hear.” God gave this message to the prophet Isaiah to tell to the rebellious people of Judah under the reign of King Uzziah: “Go and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim. lest they see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hears, And return and be healed” (Isa. 6:9,10). 
    Isaiah’s message was to be God’s instrument for hiding the truth from an unreceptive, hard-hearted people. Centuries later, Jesus’ parables were to do the same. After Jesus told the parable of the “sower and the seed” (Lk. 8:4-8), Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (cf Mt. 11:15; 13:9,43; Mk. 4:9,23; 7:16; Lk. 8:8; 14:35). When Jesus’ disciples questioned Him as to the meaning of the parable, before He told them the meaning, Jesus explained why He used parables in His teaching. He said: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, in order that ‘SEEING THEY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND” (Lk. 8:10 cf Isa. 6:9).  People who were  spiritually discerning, that is, who were following Jesus and were acknowledging His message as true (such as those listed in Lk. 7:36-8:3) would have the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God. But others, who were not responding to Jesus message of the kingdom, would not understand the parable. In support of this, Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9 indicating that people would physically hear what He said, but would not understand it. Jesus’ speaking in parables was actually an act of grace to those listening to Him. If they refused to acknowledge Him as Messiah, their judgment would be less severe than if they understood more. (See Lk. 8:10-16 for an example).
     For those who “have ears to hear,” that is, who are willing to listen to and believe God’s Word, God reveals the truths of His Word (Dt. 29:29), but to those who are unwilling, He withholds them. Note what was written by Moses about the Israelites who witnessed God’s miracles in the desert as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land: “And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, ‘You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all of his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders, Yet to this day, the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, not ears to hear’” (Dt. 29:2-4).
     For those of us who have trusted Christ as Savior, and become “new creatures” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), we have “ears that can hear.” Note what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM (Isa.64:4; 65:17).’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in Him? Even so the thoughts of God one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God…But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things…For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE SHOULD INSTRUCT HIM (Isa. 40:13)? But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:6-15).  
     Paul also, in writing to the church in Rome, speaks of those who “suppress the truth,” who “did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but became futile in their speculations.” Paul says, “their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God gave them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity…For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…” (Ro. 1:18-28). They no longer had eyes that could see or eyes that could hear. What a tragic passage.
     How crucial that unbelievers respond positively to the message of truth from God’s Word when the Holy Spirit reveals it to them, that they listen while they have “ears that can hear,” and not suppress the truth to where God will “give them  over” to live by their old sinful flesh, for God said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Gen. 6:3).          
     But, to Jesus’ followers, He said, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Mt. 13:16). Do you have “blessed eyes,” and  “blessed ears”? Do you have “ears to hear”? I trust so. If not, ask God to remove the blindness and deafness so you can see and hear His truths (cf II Cor. 4:3-6).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Resurrection Power

   Rebecca Manley Pippert, noted Christian author and speaker was auditing a course at Harvard entitled “Systems of Counseling.” They were looking at a case study in which the therapist, using psychodynamic psychotherapy, helped the patient uncover a hidden hostility toward his mother. Naming the problem and understanding what was bothering him helped the patient feel much better.
     Before the professor proceeded to the next case, Rebecca raised her hand and said, “Let’s say the patient returned a few weeks later and said, ‘I’d like to be able to get beyond my anger. I’d like to be able to love my mother and forgive her.’ How does psychodynamic psychotherapy help a person with a request like this?”
     There was silence. Then the professor answered, “I think the therapist would say, ‘Lots of luck!’  To ask that this hostility magically disappear isn’t realistic. He’ll have to learn to live with it and hopefully not be driven by it.” That touched off a heated exchange in the class. “Is the most we can hope (for) merely the ability to name and understand our problem?” one student asked. “How do we help our clients find the power to change?” asked another. “If you guys are looking for a changed heart,” the teacher responded, “you’re looking in the wrong department!”
     He was right about that—if you are looking for a changed heart and changed lives and the ability to forgive and love, you’ll not find it in psychology, no matter what fancy name, like “psychodynamic psychotherapy,” you give it!  The only One who can change our heart and enable us to forgive and to love is the One who said, as He was being crucified, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34); the One who “Manifested His love towards us while we were yet sinners—dying for us to prove it” (Ro. 5: 8).  It is clear that Christ changed this planet by His visit. Like a meteorite from outer space, Christ struck planet Earth with such an impact that the world has never been the same since. Every time we write the date, we recognize His coming to earth.
     But, that was only the beginning. From the worst our world could muster—a mock trial, torture and crucifixion and burial—Jesus rose victoriously in a glorified body, left the grave clothes behind, walked through the sealed tomb, brushed death aside, forever changing the course of the entire universe. Those who met the risen Savior had their lives forever changed, from Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see Him, to Peter, to James, to all the Apostles on several occasions, to the two Emmaus’ disciples (Lk. 24:13-25), to some 500 believers at one time, and to Paul (after Christ had ascended back to heaven) (I Cor. 15:4-8)
     During the time Christ was in the tomb, His followers were confused, grieving and fearful. The Apostles were hiding out, thinking they too might be arrested and lose their lives.  But then they met their risen Rabbi, Jesus Christ, who could appear and disappear; who could walk through walls, yet who had a body they could touch, even with the scars of His crucifixion—a body that could still eat food—a body that was recognizable as the Jesus they knew, yet so different. During the next 40 days—before Jesus ascended back to heaven—the disciples were still a bit confused, not knowing if Jesus was still going to set up His kingdom at this time or what was happening (Acts 1:3,6).  Then Jesus “gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,” He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud receive Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:4,5,8,9). 
     Ten days later, on Pentecost, God sent the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2),  empowering them to be His witnesses to the far corners of the earth. The disciples, who had been discouraged, confused and frightened were now boldly preaching the Good News of the death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were willing to lay down their lives—and most did—for the message they proclaimed. Why? What made the difference?  It was the power of the resurrection, and the Christ who now lived in them through the Holy Spirit. They understood how much they had been forgiven by Christ through His sacrifice for them, and were enable to extend that forgiveness to others. One of the early martyrs for His faith was Stephen, who—before his death by stoning—preached a powerful sermon (the longest recorded in Acts). “And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ (Sound familiar?) And having said this, he fell asleep (died)” (Acts 7: 60).  How could Stephen do that? Because he experienced the “power of the resurrection.” 
     God would use his testimony to bring a Jewish leader to Christ, one Saul of Tarsus, who stood by and watched (with approval) the stoning of Stephen and heard his sermon and final words of forgiveness. Soon that scene and those words brought conviction to his heart, and the resurrected Christ, now in heaven, appeared to him and he was marvelously changed and became “Paul the Apostle,” missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). He experienced the “power of the resurrection” and he too eventually gave his life for preaching the gospel of Christ.
     Why would these, and millions since, lay down their lives for preaching about the resurrection if it were a lie or a hoax? And where did they get their ability to forgive those who persecuted them?  It was—and still is—from the power of the resurrection—from the resurrected Christ who now lives in each believer through the Holy Spirit, enabling them to forgive as God has forgiven them. The resurrection sets Christianity apart from all non-Christian religions. Many of the world’s religions look back to the martyrdom of their leader/founder. None but Christianity looks back to an empty tomb which once contained His body. Only in Christianity has the slain martyr risen from the grave and is living today. Furthermore, in Christianity, Jesus Christ had specifically come to die, to pay the penalty of death which He did not owe. He had predicted His death, submitted to its brutality, and even dismissed His Spirit when all had been done. But He had also predicted His resurrection, and after three days, replaced His Spirit back into His broken body, and now He ever lives and offers eternal life to those for whom He died.
     Have your received Him (Jn. 1:12)?  Have you trusted in His atoning work at Calvary for your sins?  “And the witness is this that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life”’ (I Jn. 5:11,12).  If you have the Son, you have everything you need to live a new life. You can love unconditionally and forgive those who have injured you. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). You have “resurrection power.” Praise God for the empty tomb, which speaks of a full salvation available through the risen Savior! 
                            Forever His,
                                Pastor Dave
                               
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The Doctrine of Adoption

     If you were to ask the average person on the street for a definition of the word “adoption,” he or she would probably reply, “It’s a married couple’s legally taking a child of other parents and making him or her their own child.” They would be right, but there’s another kind of adoption—the one mentioned in the New Testament in Ro. 8:15,23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5 and Eph. 1:5 where it refers to the act of God which places the believer in His family as an adult son with all the privileges that go with that position.  By the redemption accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, all—without distinction—who put their faith in Christ and His atoning work, not only become “children of God”/ “sons of God(Jn. 1:12; I Jn. 3:1,2; Ro. 8:14), but are also introduced into the full blessing of sonship. In Romans 8:15 Paul writes: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba Father’.”
     When we are “born again,” (Jn. 3:3), i.e., regenerated by the Holy Spirit when we trust Christ as Savior, we are born into the family of God as a child who needs to grow and develop. Peter said, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that you may grow in respect to salvation” (I Pet. 2:2). At the same time, the “newborn’s” position is one of full privilege as an adult son. As believers, our position will never change. From the moment of salvation, we are “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).  But practically, we are a babe in Christ and have lots of “room for growth.”  In fact, we should continue to grow during our whole lifetime here on earth as we get to know God better and better and learn to obey and serve Him. Peter’s challenge is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). As we grow, we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Ro. 8:29). In that sense, we continue to be “work in process” until God calls us home. We never “arrive” this side of heaven.  Even the Apostle Paul had as his goal “That I might know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). But He admitted, “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 12-14).
     The Greek word for adoption, huiothesia, literally means “the placing of a son.” Notice it is not the making of the son. Spiritual adoption takes a child who is God’s own through faith in Christ, and places him as an adult son with all its privileges and responsibilities. A Roman custom illustrates this principle so well. When a son born into a Roman family reached the age of 14, his father would take him to a public platform, place him on it and say, “My son has reached the age of 14, and he is now my adult son with all the privileges and responsibilities.”  He was always a son from the time of his birth (actually conception!), but it wasn’t until he became 14 that all the privileges and responsibilities were turned over to him.
     But, we don’t have to be a Christian for 14 years to become an “adopted son.” We are one at the moment of new birth. It is our unchanging  position in Christ, as an “heir of God and fellow heir with Christ” (Ro. 8:17). The one thing we have to wait for as “adopted children” is the redemption of our bodies, which are still under the curse of sin and death. Paul addresses that in Ro. 8:23: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  So, the culmination of our position as adopted sons is the resurrection state, “For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20).   No wonder the Apostle John wrote: “Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” ( I Jn. 3:2,3).
     Although we have an amazing position as adopted sons of God, we have so much to look forward to in the future. But meanwhile, we, as children, have lots of growing to do!
     Forever His adopted son,
            Pastor Dave
  
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Rightful Ownership

   I remember reading about a rancher who was offended by his pastor’s statement in a sermon that none of us really owns anything, that we are just stewards.  So, he invited the pastor and his wife to come to dinner at the ranch after church. At the end of the meal, he took the pastor around his ranch, describing how he had worked really hard to obtain each portion of the ranch and how it now all belonged to him. Then he said to the pastor, “You mean to tell me that I don’t own this ranch?”  The pastor paused and then replied. “I’ll tell you what. Ask me again in 100 years!”
     During the reign of King Solomon, the queen of Sheba, from southern Arabia, came to observe the King and his household and possessions and his wisdom, to see if the things she had heard about him were true. Solomon was given special wisdom from God and was also the wealthiest person of his time with property, livestock, gardens, orchards, and gold—not to mention his many wives and concubines!  After observing Solomon and all his possessions, the queen said, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land…but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard” (I Kgs. 10:6,7). But now listen to what Solomon wrote about all these possessions he had accrued: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all of the fruit of my labor…” (Eccl. 3:17-19).  Solomon realized, like Job before him, that “As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand” (Eccl. 5:15 cf Job 1:21).
     The subject of rightful ownership is a foundational issue in the practice of business and law and in many other areas. The creator of a product or idea is generally the recognized owner.  It is thus significant that God’s revealed Word opens with a declaration of ownership: “In the beginning God created…” (Gen. 1:1).  This remarkably simple yet profound statement is the ultimate ownership clause.  And, lest anyone missed that or didn’t understand, God later wrote it in stone with His own finger! “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them…” (Ex. 20:11).  God’s ownership via creation is reiterated throughout the entire expanse of Scripture: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made…For He spoke and it was done (Psa. 33:6,9). “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains…The sea is His, for it was He who made it; and His hands formed the dry land” (Psa. 24:1; 95:5). The Psalmist, Asaph, records God speaking, saying, “Hear,, O my people…I am God, your God…For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills…and everything that moves in the field is Mine” (Psa. 50:7,10,11).  The Psalmist, David, wrote: “O LORD, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; the earth is full of Thy possessions” (Psa. 104:24).  Everything that exists and everything we have comes from God, “…since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 7:25). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (Jas. 1:17).
     Mankind cannot claim true ownership of anything. But we are stewards!  Humans, created in the image of God and given capacity for far greater purposes than any other creature, were established by God as stewards of His creation (Gen. 1:26-29). Mankind was commissioned with the dual responsibility of caring for the earth and learning from it and its creatures and applying that knowledge for the optimum benefit of mankind for God’s glory. God has temporarily entrusted us with resources which are to be used to accomplish His work here on earth. As believers, not only will we be held accountable for the use of our material resources, but also for the spiritual gifts God gives us “for the common good” to help build up His church (I Cor. 12:7). And, “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Lk. 12:48). Trustworthy stewardship should be a supreme motivation to all humanity, but especially to Christians who understand its deeper implications in a spiritual sense. When using the “talents” provided by the Lord—whether in skill or wisdom, influence or resources—believers should seek to sow bountifully with an eternal perspective, knowing that faithfulness will reap spiritual gains for His Kingdom (Mt. 25:14-30).
     That is why Jesus gave the admonition recorded by the Apostle Matthew: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Mt. 6:19,20).  Our physical possessions are only temporary, but what we do to help build up Christ’s Kingdom will last eternally.  So, “we can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead!” 
     And, oh, by the way, there is something we do “own” that no one can take from us and that is eternal life which comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on our behalf. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out..of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (Jn. 6:37,39). “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (10:27,28).  As those who are “born again” into the family of God (Jn. 3:3), we become adopted “sons of God” (Jn. 1:12; I Jn. 3:2), and “if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Ro. 8:17). We have “…an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God…” (I Pet. 1:4,5).
   Wow, that deserves a hearty “Amen. Thank you, Lord!”  By God’s mercy and grace, we have become “heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ.” We have God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!   The Creator and Owner of all things, through His plan of redemption, will share His riches with those who receive the gift of salvation through “The Lamb of God” who was sacrificed to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). PTL!
                Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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