The Privilege of Adoption

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

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

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

  This past weekend, approximately 500,000 women gathered in Washington D.C. for the 46th annual “Right-to-Life March” to protest the fateful decision made on Jan. 22, 1973 by the Supreme Court in the “Roe v. Wade” case that made abortion legal up through the 9th month of pregnancy. Since that horrifying court decision, more than 61 million babies have not been given a chance to live out their lives on this earth.  To put that number in perspective, consider that one out of three babies are not allowed to live. In fact in the time it takes you to read this “Wisdom of the Week,” six or seven innocent babies will have been put to death in our country, and before the day is done, nearly 4,000 unborn children will be killed—one third of them by Planned Parenthood! 
     One of the most difficult decisions any president has to make is to declare war, knowing that it will cost our country lives. Since the Revolutionary War, we have experienced about 1.2 million casualties. Each one is a tragic loss, robbing a family of a son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a dad or mother. It is a sacrifice we know we have had to make to assure that our freedoms continue and to protect our nation from being taking over by an aggressive enemy. We maintain a strong military in order to protect our borders and to aid other nations who are fighting for freedom and we are so grateful for each soldier who puts his or her life on the line to do so.   But then consider the decision made by the SCOTUS which has cost us the lives of about 61 million, just since Jan. 22, 1973!  In only a very, very small percentage of cases was an abortion performed to save the life of the mother. The majority are merely for the convenience of the mother, with no consideration for the life of the child within her who is not given the chance to keep on living.
     In Proverbs chapter 6, Solomon lists seven things which are an abomination to God, one of which is “hands that shed innocent blood” (v. 17). We, as a nation, have great accountability to God for what we have been doing to our babies. I pray that we will wake up and recognize that babies are real people from the time of conception, as the Bible clearly states (See Psa. 51:5; 139: 13-16; Jer. 1:4,5; Lk. 1:14-16), and to take their lives is murder. It is quite obvious from the turmoil in our nation today, with the inability of our government to operate due to the seeming unresolvable polarity that exists, the huge drug problems, the disintegration of the family unit, and on and on, that we are no longer the nation that God has so greatly blessed, and  the major cause is that many have turned their backs on the God who formed us in our mother’s womb and to whom we are accountable.  We have forgotten that “It is He who has made us and not we ourselves” (Psa. 100:3).   We no longer make God’s Word the standard for both belief and behavior and are living like those in the time of the Judges when “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  Many in leadership positions have been attempting to eliminate Christianity from the public square and to confine it to behind the walls of the home or church. And even there one must be careful what is taught or you might be charged with hate speech.  Wow, how far we have fallen.
     A day after the “RIght-to-Life March” in Washington D.C., thousands of other women march, advocating the rights of women to have abortions. This same scene was repeated it cities all across our nation.  Both groups will say they are standing up for women’s rights, but only one truly values the entire being of a woman, while the other asks her to reject a significant part of herself to ultimately become “empowered” and “free.”  The first march—the “March for Life”—values the entirety of a woman, including her entire biological makeup as created by God and her ability—and privilege—to be a mother and doesn’t put her at odds with the children she holds in her womb. The second group, on the other hand, specifically advocates the idea that legalized unrestricted abortion is necessary to achieve real liberation for women. This is quite an odd stance when you consider that for over a century, until the 1960’s, feminists leaders saw abortion as a form of male oppression that was at odds with the woman’s feminism and that rejected a significant part of their womanhood!  Pro-abortion advocates are telling women that they have a right to choose their comfort and convenience over the life of the child within their womb. What an unfair, deceitful, devastating thing to do to them, not to mention to the unborn!
     I hope and pray that we, as a nation, will wake up before it is too late. Praise God for those who are advocating for life. May their tribe increase!  It is time for our Congress and Senate and Supreme Court to acknowledge the biological and biblical fact that life begins at conception and overturn Roe v. Wade. May we again value life as God does, the One who “formed my inward parts, Who wove me in my mother’s womb,” the One to whom “My frame was not hidden when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth”;  the One “whose eyes have seen my unformed substance”;  and in Whose “book they were all written, the days that we ordained fore me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psa. 139:13-16).
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
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Bioinspiration

Job, in his response to one of his supposed “comforters” said: “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10).  Man has learned so much from studying God’s creation. As we study the motions of birds and animals we learn many things that we have applied to the design of our own devices. Such application to human engineering inspired by design in the natural world God created is called “bioinspiration,” a field that has grown in both size and importance in the past century. And yet we were encouraged to learn from the animals and birds in probably the oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job, written somewhere around 2,000 B.C.! 
     Humans have been trying to soar like the birds for millennia but after multiple failures, it seemed that maybe manned, mechanized flight was impossible. However, along came Wilbur and Orville Wright, whose mother, a strong creationist had a love for birds and could identify a bird by its song. She taught this love to her sons and after observing birds effortlessly gliding for long distance, they concluded that if a bird’s wings could sustain it in the air without the use of any muscles, there’s no reason they couldn’t copy their design and enable man to fly. The brothers, who had been experimenting with mechanical things throughout their lives, began work on trying to duplicate the structure of the birds’ wings. They recognized that a critical factor was the shape of the wing which they endeavored to copy. Observing birds (like Job recommended!) was one way their approach to flight differed significantly from their contemporary experimenters whose focus was on developing more powerful engines. The brothers focused on wing design, realizing the wing needed to be curved to force air on top to travel faster than air underneath, since faster-moving air has less pressure, creating lift from the air below the wing.
     Wilbur and Orville spent many hours studying birds in flight. They noticed that birds changed the shape of their wings to turn and maneuver and saw how “a buzzard maintained its balance in the air chiefly by twisting its dropped wing. This twist increased the air pressure on the dropped wing and restored the bird to level flight” (Acts and Facts, September 2018, page 16). The brothers copied this design to enable their flying machine to bank or lean into a turn just like a bird.They spent the next three years incorporating what they had learned and built a glider. They selected Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as their test site and in 1900 successfully tested their 50-pound biplane glider with a 17-foot wingspan in both unmanned and piloted flights.  Experiencing problems with the glider spinning out of control, Wilbur and Orville built a small wind tunnel for further testing, resulting in a redesign of their glider—this time with a 32-foot wing span and a movable tail (again from observing how birds used their tails to maneuver in flight. They used a small homebuilt wind tunnel to collect the data that enabled them to construct more efficient wings.
     Next they designed a propeller and motor and built a powered aircraft weighing 700 pounds. It became known as The Flyer. On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville Wright took The Flyer on a 12-second flight, the first successful powered, piloted flight in history. Few men have changed the world in greater ways than the Wright brothers, and they started by following Job’s advice to observe “the birds of the heavens and let them tell you” Job. 12:7. 
    While the Wright brother’s contribution to mankind through the use of bioinspiration may be unsurpassed in its importance to mankind, the list of human engineering devices from observing God’s creation is a long one and one that continues to grow. Aeronautical engineers were able to dampen the noise of turbine engines by designing the fins after the feathers on an owl’s wings. Owls are able to fly nearly completely silently.  Others, in attempts to improve helicopter design, have studied the structure of dragon flies’ wings and how they are able to hover and take off vertically.  Sports science, in order to design safer football helmets, studied the construction of a woodpeckers brain and skull. Woodpeckers, of course can spend hours beating their beaks against a hard tree without damage to their brains.  Mankind has profited greatly by observing birds and animals which were designed by an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator God. 
     In addition to the physical features of God’s creatures that we can try to copy to improve our mechanical devices, there are many life lessons to learn from them. For example, In Solomon’s book of wisdom, he writes: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise” (Pr. 4:4). Or, consider the amazing honey bees. I did a whole series of “Wisdom of the Week” articles on honey bees and what they teach us about the need to be reliable messengers in sharing the truth about God who alone can provide eternal life to those who are lost.
     As you observe birds and animals in the future, ask God to teach you.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
    
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God SO Loved…

One of our family’s favorite summer activities as the children were growing up was to backpack into the nearby Cabinet Mountain Wilderness to a mountain lake and camp overnight. It was a lot of work, but oh, so rewarding to spend time in some of the most beautiful of all of God’s creation and then to lie and look up at the stars at night (we didn’t take a tent!) and marvel at the immensity of space and see an occasional meteor or passing satellite. King David, who spent much time under the stars as a shepherd in the hills of Bethlehem, wrote in the Psalms: “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord…” (Psa. 147:4, 5a).  And the prophet Isaiah, also contemplating the greatness of God, wrote: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in a pair of scales?…Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by names; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing” (Isa. 40:12, 26).  The 2010 estimate of the number of stars was 300 sextillion. That’s 300 followed by 21 zeros!  God not only numbers every star (and I’m sure our estimate is way low) but has named each one!
     As the Psalmist declared, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psa. 19:1). But the heavens don’t just declare the glory and greatness of our Creator, but also declare His love for us. The Psalmist also wrote: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him” (Psa. 103:11). Many have expounded on this verse, emphasizing  that God’s love is unfailing and steadfast toward all who follow Him faithfully and worship Him in reverential fear. The basic thought is that God’s great love is even greater than the distance between heaven and earth. To appreciate that distance, especially in relation to God’s love, we might ask ourselves, “Just how much is ‘so’?”  Let’s take a look.
     The sun (which is 800,000 miles in diameter compared to 8,000 miles for the earth) is the closest star to Earth at 93 million miles. To cover that distance, light, which travels at 186,282 miles per second, takes 8.3 minutes to reach Earth. The nearest star to the sun, called “Proxima Centauri,” is about 4.22 light-years away or approximately 25 trillion miles. (A light-year is the distance light travels in a year). It would take the fastest spacecraft more than 50,000 years to get there!  Wrap your brain around this mind-boggling thought, if you can: To reach the edge of the known universe would take about 15 billion light-years! The point being, God’s love is so great that it is immeasurable—it is truly awe-inspiring.
     The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem and His subsequent death on the cross for our sin is a manifestation of that love, as Scripture says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). During these tension-filled days of troubles in the world and in our own nation, it would be good to focus on the simple word “so” in regard to God’s great love for you: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him” (Psa. 103:11).
                    The love of God is greater far
                    than tongue or pen can ever tell;
                    It goes beyond the highest star,
                    and reaches to the lowest hell;
                    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
                   God gave His Son to win;
                    His erring child He reconciled,
                    and pardoned from his sin.
                    O love of God, how rich and pure!
                    How measureless and strong!
                    It shall forever more endure
                    The saints’ and angels’ song.      (The Love of God by Pastor Frederick Lehman [1868-1953])
           
        Forever His,
            Pastor Dave
    
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Take Off the Old and Put on the New

Our son and his family were with us to celebrate Christmas this year. One of the gifts our grandson (freshman in high school) received was a red Nike hooded sweatshirt. As soon as we finished opening gifts, he took off the “old” sweatshirt he was wearing and put on the new red hoody which he wore  pretty much the rest of the time they were here!  He very literally did what Paul challenges believers to do in Eph. 4:22-24. He “Laid aside the old…and put on the new.”  So often when we get something new it stays in the closet or drawer while we continue to wear the old with which we are more comfortable.
     When we trust Christ for eternal life, we are “born again” (spiritually…Jn. 3:3) and Paul writes, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). The problem is, we often have trouble letting go of the “old things”—old habits and old ways of thinking and acting and speaking when our lives were controlled by the desires of our old sinful flesh. We are more comfortable in our “old clothes.” That’s why we have numerous challenges in Scripture to “walk in newness of life…consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God…Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God…and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… ” (Ro. 6:4,11-13; 12:1,2).
     In Christ—because of His death, burial, resurrection and ascension—we have available to us a whole new way of living victoriously and abundantly (Ro. 8:37; Jn. 10:10).  But, although we have a new nature through the Holy Spirit and Christ living in us, we also still have our old sinful Adamic nature  until God takes us to heaven. So, we have a struggle within us between the Spirit and the flesh, described by Paul in Rom. 7:15-24 and Gal. 5:17.  The secret of living the new life in Christ, Paul gives us in Gal. 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”  As we, moment by moment, allow the Spirit control of our lives (Eph. 5:18), we are enabled to “put off the grave clothes and put on the grace clothes!”  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can follow Paul’s admonition in Eph. 4:22-24: “…In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Paul goes on to list some examples: Stop lying and speak the truth; don’t let the sun go down on your anger; stop stealing and work hard to provide for your needs and share with others; stop speaking unwholesome words and speak words that edify; put away bitterness, wrath and anger and slander and be kind and forgiving (vv. 25-32).
     As we come to the conclusion of 2018 and enter 2019, this would be an appropriate time to take inventory of your life to see if you need to put off some of the old deeds of the flesh and put on the new self created in Christ in you.  As a believer, you have received through the indwelling Holy Spirit and Christ in you everything you need to live victoriously for God this coming year. But, the choice is yours. He does not force you to “wear your new clothes.” Let Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers be your challenge: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (II Cor. 5:14,15). 
     Wishing for you a fruitful year of service for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And, remember, we are now another year closer to His return—even so come, Lord Jesus!
      Forever His,
                Pastor Dave
    
    
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