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Archive for October, 2009

Judges 20:11

I was acquainted with a nice couple who lived in an older home which had a modern gas furnace used to heat the house during the cold months of the year. In those months of summer when the heat in the deep valley in which they lived became almost unbearable, they would retreat to their large living room which was cooled by a very large window air conditioner. The couple had found this adequate for keeping them comfortable on the hottest of days, even though there were some rooms in the house which never seemed to cool down as a person might desire, simply because they were too far from that single, window air conditioning unit.

 

The couple awakened on one late summer morning and found the house uncomfortably cool. This was that time of year when the days are becoming shorter, the nights longer, and the hottest part of the day is usually in the late afternoon. It is not unusual to find the air just a bit nippy in the mornings. Anyway, as the husband left the bedroom to go into the kitchen and turn the coffee pot on he paused next to the thermostat, moved the “heat” switch to the “on” position, knowing how much his wife was going to appreciate having a little bit of warmth to begin the morning with. After he adjusted the dial to the desired temperature setting, he went into the kitchen to get the coffee started. Within a few short minutes warm air was coming out of the heat registers and chasing the chill out of the air.

 

Later that day the couple left the house to take care of several errands. By that time the warmth of the sun was beginning to make itself felt and so, before leaving home, the man walked over to the window air conditioner and turned it on. This way they could insure they would return to a cool home and be able to escape the coming afternoon heat. They also closed doors to a portion of the house off the living room area, which included the kitchen and a dining area, so that the air conditioner would only have to work to cool the smaller living room area.

 

Later, their errands completed, the couple returned to their home, looking forward to escaping the rising temperatures that accompanied the late afternoon hour. They were more than ready to enter the pleasant coolness of their living room.

 

“Aha! That feels nice,” they thought as the two of them walked through the front door and escaped the oppressive heat of the late afternoon though, oddly, it did not actually seem as cool as they might have expected. And it almost seemed as if the air conditioner was “laboring” to keep it cool in that living room. They had been in the room only a brief time when they became aware of a sound other than the air conditioner coming from somewhere. What was it?

 

The man walked towards the kitchen and opened the door. He was met with a blast of heat that would have made the sands of the Mohave Desert envious! After several startled glances at each other the couple suddenly realized that their efficient gas furnace downstairs was running! That was the strange noise they had heard. A quick look at the thermostat, inside the room with the air conditioner, confirmed their suspicions. Upon leaving several hours earlier they had forgotten to turn the “heat” switch on the thermostat off! As a result the window air conditioner and the furnace were both working hard—against each other!

 

Have you ever witnessed that happening between two individuals or two groups of people? They may both have the same general goals for which they are striving but each is going about it in a different way, separate from the other, splitting valuable resources which, if put together, could be more efficient, effective, and have a far greater and more positive impact as far as the end result.

 

In the Old Testament book of Judges, we find these words, “So all the men of Israel got together and united as one man against the city” (Judges 20:11). As a result of uniting together the ultimate victory over the enemy became theirs. Separately they surely would have failed.

 

Hmm. Together or apart . . . success versus failure. Which will we choose?

 

Prayer: O Lord, help me to be very careful to work together with those around me who may be working towards the same goal that I am. May your Kingdom be enlarged and lifted up through our unity. In Jesus Name  I pray. Amen.

 

Pastor Bill

 


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Proverbs 3:5-6

“Where are you headed?” the husky, bearded man asked as we stood gazing out over the magnificent vista all about us. We were on a small promontory which allowed us to view the rugged mountainous country surrounding us. This time of year, late summer, there were only a few spots where snow still remained, but as we looked we could see that for some of these high peaks to be completely rid of snow was probably rare.

After my son-in-law and I told the man about the small mountain lake we were planning on hiking to he asked, “How are you going to get to it?”


“On the trail, I imagine,” I replied.

At this the man asked if we had ever been to this particular high-mountain lake. When I replied that it had probably been 25 years or more since I had visited this jewel nestled in the rugged mountains we were in, he began to shake his head. “I don’t think you want to take the trail that is shown on the maps,” he said. “If you do, I expect you will regret it! Let me offer you a suggestion.”


For the next several minutes the man told us how the trail into the lake, which was difficult even when it had been maintained properly, was not almost impassable. There were no longer any signs leading to where it began. If you found it you could expect a miserable time as you slipped and skidded, many times on parts of your anatomy other than just your feet, as brush slapped you in the face and water from a small creek, which ran down the trail for most of the distance to the lake, insured that you were completely drenched by the time you arrived at your goal. Following the trail back out was next to impossible.

Our new-found friend then assured us that there was, in fact, another way. It was a far better way. It might not seem so at first, but it was the only route a sensible person would follow once they became aware of it.

Several hours later my son-in-law and I stood at the edge of this beautiful lake, truly a work of art by the hand of God . . . . . . but we did not appear to be! A work of art by the hand of God, I mean.

We were wet and sweaty, mud covered a good portion of our clothing, and red welts from the slap of branches against our arms and faces showed clearly. And we had come to a conclusion. That man was right! That so-called “trail” was not the way to travel! It was not the best route to follow!

Some hours later, with the afternoon sun beginning to drop towards the horizon to the west, we determined we had rested enough that we would attempt to find our way out of this secluded and beautiful spot. The man had told us that if we would simply to into the tall timber on the east side of the lake and begin watching carefully, we should be able to spot a tiny piece of yellow tape tied to a tree branch. When we found that first one we could look ahead of us and we could see another one. By following eh pieces of tape, we would be led out of this rugged country and back to the road where our vehicle was parked.

And he was correct! The hike out, though it was a little further in distance, took far less time and we were in much better physical shape that we had been after that downhill “slide” into the lake which had appeared so easy!

In the Bible, in Proverbs 3:5-6, we find the words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”


The “trail” has been marked out well for us! Which path will you choose?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me remember that you have marked out a “trail” for me to follow which is the only safe way for me to travel. Remind me it has been marked out well—the signposts are in your Word. Thank you for this map for my life’s journey. In your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Have a blessed day in Christ.

Pastor Bill


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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KEEP THE GLORY DOWN

1 Chronicles 29:11

I was still struggling up that steep, narrow and rocky trail. I finally realized that I was nearing the top of this high, rocky ridge. The realization seemed to infuse me with a new burst of energy and my pace quickened ever so slightly. I wanted to see what was over the top. I had almost arrived!

Suddenly, I found myself walking onto a portion of trail that was nearly level. All that remained between me and the top of the ridge was a jumble of huge boulders and rocks, some of them the size of small houses. The trail wound between several of them and I suddenly stepped out onto a small, rocky shelf. Before me, across a landscape of mountain meadows, cliffs, streams, small lakes and scattered snowfields stood the mountain! It thrust its jagged ramparts into the heights as if it were making a statement to all that dared come close that they must heed its warning . . . . . approach with care!

 

I can’t begin to describe the emotion that flooded through me as I settled back on a shelf of rock next to the trail and attempted to take in the awesome beauty and quiet power that lay before me. It was a sight that I could not gather in the small lens of my camera. The panorama was so huge even the brush of the artist would not be able to capture its tremendous dimensions while standing this close.

 

A strong breeze, coming from the direction of the mountain, began to cool me and my breathing began to slow to something near normal as my gaze took in the extravagant beauty that filled my sight. Wildflowers painted the multi-shades of green meadows and steep mountainsides with their splendid beauty. Sunlight flickered from waterfalls here and there across the canyons. It was as if God’s glory had reached down and touched the earth at this point, filling it with a beauty, power and awesomeness that could not be matched by any work of man. It seemed as if the glory of God had reached down to earth, right at this very point, and I found myself the recipient of His great majesty.

 

In 1 Chronicles 29:11 we find the words, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.”

 

On that summer afternoon, as I sat gazing at the splendor of creation surrounding me, I felt as if I was seated in a great church—a great sanctuary which God, Himself, had designed. Oh, I must tell you that it was an awesome experience.

 

But, had I given into the temptation to quit, to give up, and turned around and gone back down the mountain trail . . . . I would have missed. I would have missed it all. In fact, I would never have known just how much I had missed!

 

And, too, I am reminded of the occasions when I have been seated, or standing, within the wood and stone sanctuaries built by the hand of men, sanctuaries dedicated to God, and I have experienced His glory. Psalm 26:8 tells us, “I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells.”


Ah, yes, Lord, “I love the house where you live, . . .” You and I do not need to struggle to the rocky heights to experience God’s glory. We can find it right where we live—in the very midst of our daily lives, if we will simply step out of the “hurry” of things, quiet our souls, and invite Him—no, plead with Him, to bring the glory down! Won’t you do that? Right now!

 

Prayer: God of all creation, I invite you to touch my heart with your Glory. Cause me to become quiet, still, patient and expectant as I wait here before you. I invite your Glory to reach into the depths of my soul. Here I am, Lord, waiting now. In your Son’s Name I make my request. Amen.

 

May the peace and joy of Christ be your companion today.

 

Pastor Bill


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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TESTING

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

As I continued my climb up the steep side of the mountain I found it necessary to stop more often to rest in the shade of the occasional trees alongside the trail. I attempted to assure myself that the cause for my frequent rest stops must certainly be the increased elevation as I continued upwards on the winding trail. Surely I was not that badly out of shape! But I must tell you that I was really getting a workout!


As I paused in the shade of a scraggly fir tree to rest once more, I treasured the slight breeze that brushed across my face and began to cool the sweat which drenched me. I gazed across the canyon and noted the snow banks still scattered across a steep slope that rarely saw direct sunlight, even during the long days of summer. In fact, I wondered if those snow banks would not still be there when the first snows of a new winter arrived in the late Fall.


As my stops to catch my breath and rest became more frequent I began to wonder if I really wanted to continue this trek . . . . . Would it be worth it? . . . . . Hey! I have to tell you that, as my kids would have said at one time, I was becoming one tired dude! Sure, there were some beautiful sights around me but I had been sweating so much that my shirt was drenched. What few trees were now scattered along the trail were in such sorry shape that I could find little shade from the blistering heat of the sun. It was obvious that these trees had a hard life with short summers, long winters, high winds, cold temperatures and soil that was mostly rock and sand.


A trek I had begun with a high level of confidence and optimism was quickly becoming a test of endurance I was not certain I was up to. . . . . Maybe . . . . just maybe, I should bag it and plan on doing this another day when conditions might be better.  I must be honest with you. . . . . I was tempted to quit, that afternoon. To quit and turn around and go back down the mountain. I was tempted to give up.


There are numerous biblical examples of God testing people to demonstrate their integrity, such as Abram being asked by God to offer his only son to Him. Only at the last moment does God intervene.


And when we think of God testing people we cannot forget Job. Caught in a storm of testing Job remarks to his wife, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?”


In such cases the testing is not meant to destroy, but for the discipline, growth and perfection of integrity in people. The good news is that God will limit the testing. In fact, you remember that Paul said, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (I Cor. 10:12-13).


Do you find yourself struggling through a period of testing in your life right now? Don’t give up! Don’t give up! Your Heavenly Father knows what you are experiencing. He has not left you nor will He ever forsake you. You are His child and He loves you so very much. Hang in there and you, like Job, will find that you will “receive the good at the hand of God . . .” Yes, you will!


Prayer: Heavenly Father, would you help me to always remember that you walk through this journey of life hand in hand with me and that you will always remain faithful to me. Cause me, today, to remember that I can trust You fully and completely. Thank you, Father. Amen.


May the peace and joy of Christ be your companion today.


Pastor Bill


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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GIVE HIM PRAISE

Psalm 87

The midsummer sun beat down upon my back as I left the roadway and began to follow the trail that twisted upwards through the canyon ahead of me. This was new country I had not explored before. I had driven to the end of this particular road on one occasion previously, but had never ventured up this winding trail at the roads end.

I had left my map at home, having had other plans as my day began. All I knew was that the direction of the path, constantly climbing into the heights above me, was taking me ever closer to a goal I had had for several years. That goal was to get just as close to this particular mountain peak as I possibly could.

Over a period of years I had viewed this high, spectacular mountain peak from afar. I had seen it on days when the winds of winter whipped wildly about its high summit. I viewed it through binoculars in the latter days of summer when most of the snow had melted from its heights. But I had always had a deep desire to approach the mountain and view it up close. Yet, though I had poured over maps of the area, I had been unable to locate any highway or roadway that would take a person close to this mighty giant of rock, ice and snow which thrust itself up from the rugged Cascade Mountains of Western Washington. As a result, time and again, I had found myself gazing at the mountain from a distance, wondering how it might appear to someone who was fortunate enough to approach its high and majestic slopes.

And so it was that on this warm summer day I had left my car where the road ended in a deep canyon, no longer able to see the mountain. I was now on a trail, realizing I was finally headed towards the goal I had relished for those last few years.

As the minutes passed and the miles of dusty trail began to fall behind me I stopped to rest beneath the shade of a fir tree, thankful for the cool breeze that brushed across my sweaty face. I looked back down the high mountain ridge I was ascending, noting the distance I had already covered, yet wondering just how far it might be before I could see the mountain. How I longed for that map I had left behind.

Though I could not see any part of the mountain I was confident that this trail would lead me to it. The rough, narrow path was going in the right direction and it was always climbing upward. Though rocks and even large boulders littered the trail in spots, I never lost sight of the direction I was traveling.  I knew that to reach my goal I would have to keep climbing upwards and in this one particular direction.

My journey that day was not unlike the Christian life. We find ourselves often traveling paths that are rugged and steep and many times filled with seeming obstacles. On occasion we find it necessary to take time to rest in the “shadow of His wings.” We contemplate our progress and wonder what lies ahead. We may be unable to see our goal, Heaven, but as we trust in the Lord we find ourselves filled with a confidence that it is there—we will reach it!

In Psalm 87 we find these words, “He has set his foundation on the holy mountain . . .” What a reminder for us! The truth of God rests on a sure foundation. His glory is here. We may not yet be able to view the end of the trail—our climb may not be over—but, even so, He is worthy of our praise! Let’s give Him praise!

As you climb upward on your journey today, why not give Him Praise, with the realization he will accompany you all the way to the top of the mountain? God bless you as you climb.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, would you remind me of all the wonderful and glorious things you have done for me? Would you put a song of praise on my lips because of who You are? In your Son’s Name I ask this. Amen.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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PRAISE HIS NAME!

There is a young couple my wife and I have been close friends with for many years. We love them and appreciate them very much. They are fine Christians and a joy to be around. Their trust and faith in God through the years has been unwavering and solid. Even through what may have seemed like the darkest trials of life for them, they have never wavered in their devotion to their Heavenly Father.

Yet, they had never experienced a time quite like they found themselves experiencing a number of years ago. I suppose we could say they were traveling through one of life’s deepest valleys. One morning, during this difficult time they were going through, I was speaking with the husband over the phone. His discouragement seemed to ooze out of that telephone. At one point he said something like: “I know that God is still there, but I don’t feel Him any longer.”

Hmmm. Some of you know just exactly what that man was speaking of……”I know that God is still there, but I don’t feel Him any longer.”

You may be struggling through a dark time of grief and sorrow following the loss of a spouse, a child or someone you loved very much. It may be the breakup of a relationship which you felt was solid, firm and would last forever, but has been shattered. Maybe you have lost your job and have found yourself confronted with one closed door after another in your continuing search for employment—and you are becoming frightened. It could also be that you have been experiencing what some would call a “dry,” time in your relationship with God. Ah, yes! You know what my friend was speaking about. You know that God is still there, but you don’t feel Him any longer.

Yet, shortly after making the comment about not feeling God any longer, my friend added this comment, “I’ve just got to trust Him, though.”

We continued to talk and no matter what I seemed to say in my efforts to encourage him it was as if all my words were useless. I could not tell him I knew exactly what he was going through, because I had never been in quite the same place in life where he and his wife now found themselves.

As we neared the end of our conversation I thought to myself, “I really should offer to pray with him.”

Yet, before I made any comment in that regards he said to me, “I think we should pray.”

I agreed, thinking he was asking me to pray for him. But, before I could say anything, he began to pray! He began to thank God for what He was doing and, in only moments, I listened as he began to pray for me and then for my wife!

I thought to myself, “I am the one who should be praying for him and his wife. This is backwards!” But what a prayer my friend prayed as he lifted his heart, and mine, heavenward. I am convinced that God smiled as He listened on that precious day.

In the first three verses of Psalm 25 we find the following words, “O LORD, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! . . . . . . . No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, . . . .”

Aren’t you thankful for such comforting words of promise as these? Friend, God tells us in His Word that He restores us and leads us in His way. Our Heavenly Father supplies us with the unlimited resources of Heaven, if we are His child! I must remind you that we are told in Deuteronomy 31:6, “He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Praise His Name!

Prayer: Oh, Precious Father, would you help me, whether in the best or the worst of times, to regularly lift up my soul to you? Cause my trust in You to grow. Remind me, as often as may be necessary, that I can trust in You! In Your precious Name I pray. Amen.

May the peace and joy of Christ be your companion today.

Pastor Bill

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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This morning I slept in. Hey! I will agree that this is not something that happens often but, you have got to remember, I am retired now–whatever that means. Anyway, rather than awakening at the usual time of 5 AM, I did not stumble out of bed till a bit after 6 AM. I was still trying to rub the sleep out of my eyes when I began feeling for the switch on the coffee maker to fire that wonderful piece of machinery up.

Several minutes later I had splashed water on my face and grimaced back at the old guy looking at me in the mirror and I headed for the living room chair. This is always a special time of day for me. I enjoy the quietness as I sit and gaze into the darkness of the early morning, knowing it will still be some time before daylight even begins to hint that it might be on the way into this new day. As I sat in the silence with only the sound of the coffee maker interrupting the morning with its noise, I suddenly realized that the first cup must be ready. Moments later I seated myself once more in the comfort of the large recliner, this time with a hot cup of “Joe” in my hand. Ah, me! I have to tell you that, if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you just don’t know what you are missing. That first cup in the early morning hours is something to truly look forward to.

As I viewed the sparkling lights of the cities spread out through the panorama of darkness before me I began to think back over the past hours. It had been a rotten night for my wife and me. She deals with chronic pain in her legs and it seems that far too often, in recent days, the medication her doctor has prescribed simply does not do what one would expect, and hope, it would do–erase the pain. On nights such as the one we had just struggled through my wife deals with efforts at trying to become comfortable since it is so difficult for her to find any position where the pain and burning sensation she goes through can be alleviated to any degree that allows her to go to sleep.

We began the night with my wife in a living room recliner, covered with blankets, and my old retired body stretched out on the couch. After about an hour she had to get up and move around and we decided it was time to try the bed. We were up several times throughout the night–my wife more often than me, certainly. But her pain robbed both of us of a really good night’s rest. So what’s a person to do at time like this–especially when you are retired?

As the coffee began to awaken the sleepy cells in my body I began to spend some time with the Lord. As part of that I am reading through the New Century Version of the Bible and I am presently in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles. Here are words that caught my attention on this “tired” morning:

Be glad that your are his; let those who seek the Lord be happy. Depend on the Lord and his strength; always go to him for help. Remember the miracles he has done, his wonders and his decisions.”

Say, now, I have to tell you that this is really “good stuff!” As a child of God–as a Christian, we must remember to be glad that we are His. We belong to Him–the Heavenly Father, the Master of the universe. And He didn’t say we are to be “happy” just during the very best of time. No. We are to be happy–period. But then He reminds us that we are to depend on him and to always go to Him for our help. I wonder, do we do that often enough? It would probably help us all to take occasions to look back into our past and remember the miracles and wonders He has done in our lives and the lives of those we love and care about.

Sure, let’s be careful that we depend on Him today, and He will provide us with the rest–real rest–that we need.

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