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Archive for January, 2010

HE KNOWS BEST

We continued to drive along the crystal clear stream, my Dad at the wheel of the car and my younger brother and I gazing expectantly out the windows all the while. In some places the calmness of the water was abruptly changed as it foamed and boiled over large rocks and swirled beneath trees which had fallen across its path through this deep and forested canyon.

“Hey! Look at the beaver pond!” my brother shouted as we rounded a bend in the road. The water, a deep green color, was backed up some distance behind the dam of sticks and mud which hard-working beavers had constructed. On the far side of the pond was a small hump of sticks, mud, and weeds which we knew was the home of these busy “engineers.”

As we passed by the pond my brother and I watched eagerly to see if we might have the good fortune to spot one of these small animals with the large and sharp front teeth who had built the dam. That was not to be the case on this afternoon, though, and in moments we had passed beyond the pond and the free-flowing stream was beside us once more.

We were still travelling along areas of the stream where, many years earlier, the gold-mining dredge had worked. In fact, the road would occasionally leave the tree-shaded area against the mountain side and move out onto the large rock piles themselves. We did not enjoy driving on this part of the road since it was very rocky and bumpy and we were always happy when the road moved back into the trees.

After travelling for several miles we came to a fork in the road and also a place where the stream separated into two branches which were of similar size. Dad chose to take the road to the left and we boys soon realized the river was now much smaller. In fact, we could easily have waded across it in several spots.

We also observed that the road began to move away from what we now referred to as a “creek,” and we drove beneath the large over-hanging branches of huge cedar and fir trees once again. The surface of the roadway was somewhat damp, even though it had not rained for several days, as a result of the continuous shade provided by the large canopy of branches.

My Dad began to slow the car until he stopped where a narrow set of tire tracks led off into the trees. He pointed towards the darkened area against the mountain side and said, “See that?”

In a moment we saw what he was pointing at—a large building of some sort, located beneath and closely surrounded by the tall trees, many whose branches were actually touching its cedar shake roof. The building appeared huge to two young boys.

As Dad slowly inched the car off the roadway and followed the tire tracks beneath the trees and towards the building our minds were filled with all kinds of questions. We quickly realized that this was not just any kind of a building but was a house—a large house—a really large house! What was it doing way up here in the woods? Who lived here, anyway? Where did they buy their groceries? What happened when it snowed in the winter—could they get out?

As we got out of our car we soon realized that there were no cars parked near the house nor was there any evidence that anyone was presently living in the large home. Dad led us up to one of the doors and turned the knob. It was unlocked! We quickly realized our Dad must have been here before.

We slowly and quietly stepped into what appeared to have been a large living room. It was walled with beautiful knotty pine lumber and had a natural stone fireplace on one side. In the course of the next several minutes our Dad took us through the house, showing us the dining room, the kitchen which still had a refrigerator in one corner, the upstairs which held several bedrooms and even a bathroom. Imagine that—a bathroom way up here in the woods! This was a modern house, let me tell you, and it had obviously cost a lot of money to build. And yet, here it set, empty!

As we toured this large home my Dad described how it happened to be built in this location. A supervisor for the company that operated the dredge we had looked through, a short while earlier back down the river, had apparently determined this was the place to build a home and raise a family. He had all of the materials transported by truck into this mountainous area and had hired builders to erect the large house. He had installed a wiring system which received its electricity from a gas generator and it was complete with plumbing.

But, as so often happens, great dreams and the plans of men do not always end in the way originally hoped for. Not long after the builder had moved his wife into the home it became unprofitable to operate the large and costly dredge in its search for gold. The operation was shut down and, as so often happens, those who had been a part of the venture simply took what personal belongings they wanted and moved on—leaving the large home behind as they continued their search for wealth.

We are a people and a nation where many are caught up in a frantic search for riches and wealth, convinced that this is the sure way to find happiness.

In Psalms 39:6 we read that “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro. He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.”

Then, we are reminded in Matthew 6:20 that we should “ . . . store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Our Heavenly Father truly knows best. When we have given our lives to Him, though we might be seen as poor according to the standards of this world, we can live with the comforting knowledge that we are the recipients of the abundant riches of God, which no man can take away from us!

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that I can live with the reality of the truth that my happiness does not depend upon wealth or riches, but in my relationship with You. Thank you. 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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My Dad had taken my younger brother and me for a drive into the woods on a Saturday afternoon. We were bumping along in our old 49′ Chevrolet, leaving a huge cloud of dust behind us as we travelled along the graveled “highway.”

After a period of time we turned off this roadway and progress slowed even more as we began to move along a rough and dusty dirt road which soon began to follow alongside a winding river. The pleasant, deep green shades of the clear water, rolling slowly along beside us, gave no hint of how cold it actually was, even though it was late summer.

As we continued to travel deeper into the mountainous country the trees became taller, their long, thick branches providing a cool shaded area beneath them for us to drive upon. The steep and rugged sides of the canyon the river flowed through began to close in upon us and it was not long before the river and the narrow, rocky roadway were against each other with the rocky bluffs rising rapidly away on each side.

Finally, after a good many miles and as we continued to travel slowly on this winding, narrow road, the mountains seemed to begin backing away from us a bit. Moments later the road came out from beneath the trees and we found ourselves moving along the edge of a large meadow. The river was now some distance from us, across the wide expanse of tall, bright green grass bending slowly back and forth in the slight breeze.

Suddenly, my Father stopped the car, raising a hand to point at something across the meadow. Three white-tailed deer were browsing in the lush grass next to the river. As we watched, first one, then the other two, lifted their heads and gazed at us inquisitively. Their ears were standing straight up and their twitching noses lifted into the air as they attempted to catch a scent of the intruders who had suddenly wandered into their domain.

As we continued to watch we could see they were becoming nervous. Suddenly, as if all three had been given a signal, they turned and began to leap away from us along the edge of the meadow, following the river, their white tails standing straight up as they ran. After a few moments they turned, splashed across the river, and disappeared into the tall fir trees on the other side.

Dad started the car moving slowly forward, once again. As my brother and I stared expectantly through the windshield we saw a flash of sunlight bounce off of an object ahead of us. As we watched eagerly to see what it may have been we drove through a small stand of trees, past some tall brush, and came into another small meadow. There, floating in a small pond in the center of the meadow, with high piles of rock stretching away from the back of it as far as we could see, was a large gold dredge.

How did such a huge piece of equipment get in a place like this? How was it able to get into the small pond it was floating in? My brother and I were full of questions as we gazed at this machine, which had been designed and built for the single purpose of removing gold from the earth.

We were so excited by now that we were impatient for my Dad to pull the car to the side of the roadway so that we might go inspect this huge piece of equipment. We stopped, and Dad led us out into the meadow towards the front of the machine. A walkway, or gangplank, ran from the bank above the pond, over the water, and onto the deck of the dredge.

This huge machine had not been used in many years and my Dad made it clear that we were to stay with him and walk carefully as we made our way onto the machine. For the next 30 minutes or so, Dad took us on a tour through the dredge, explaining to us how it worked and how such an enormous machine could extract even tiny flakes of gold dust from the dirt and rock it dug up as it moved along, always at work building its own pond in which to float.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this dredge, to two young boys, was that it floated in that small pond which was surrounded by meadows ahead and to each side with the huge piles of rock and gravel stretching out for miles behind it. There seemed to be only a small trickle of water entering the pond and, on one side, a small outlet which allowed water to flow back into the nearby river.

Dad explained that the dredge, while moving back and forth, from one side to the other, was always moving forward, the large steel buckets scooping up the earth and then the rock and gravel far below the surface. Sometimes its progress might have seemed slow as it inched along, while at other times it went much faster. It depended upon the type of soil and rock it was working in. The operator of the dredge focused his attention on what lay ahead, of him, not what was behind. Failure to do so would result in missing much of the gold that rested deep in the ground below.

In the New Testament, in Hebrews 12:2, we are told, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

You know something? The riches we can find in Jesus are before us, not in the piles of rock and rubble of life behind us! We need to keep that in mind as we travel through this life with our Friend.

Prayer: Oh, my, Lord. How often I find myself looking behind me, at the rock and rubble which covers the path I have traveled. Please helpt me to begin to focus on what’s ahead and the reality that You have mapped out the pathway for my life. I simply need to keep moving, hand in hand, with You. 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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NIGHT VISITORS

“All right! We were really gonna’ get to do it! Just wait till the kids at school heard about this, come September! They would just be green with envy. We were going on vacation—a real vacation!”

My Dad had sprung the surprise on us a few days earlier. He was going to take us, meaning my “little” brother and my “big” sister, to Yellowstone Park! My folks had apparently decided that it was time for us to begin to see some of the world outside the small community in which we lived. For two young boys, Yellowstone Park seemed to be on the other side of the world, though it was actually only a couple of days drive away.

The big moment finally arrived and my Dad heaved the last of our gear onto the neat, hand-made luggage rack he had built and attached to the roof of our old green 37’ Chevrolet 4 door. He tied it all down under a piece of canvas and we were ready to go.

Dad hollered at my younger brother and me and told us to get into the car. He did not have to coax us—we were ready, let me tell you! Our excitement at the prospect of actually getting to see all the magnificent sights of Yellowstone we had viewed in pictures in National Geographic magazines was tempered only slightly by the fact that our Mother was not going. She had to stay home and work while we were gone. We did have to take our big sister, though. Oh, well, we “men” would make out, somehow!

Moments after my brother and I had jumped onto the running board and piled into the back seat of the Chevy, we were on our way, rolling along the gravel “highway” leading out of town at an impressive 35 miles per hour! We would make it there in no time. This was an adventure of a lifetime we were embarking upon!

Several evenings later we were in the huge, majestic park and had made camp for the night. We did not have a tent. Only “sissies” or “city slickers” used such things anyway, my brother and I had decided! My Dad would simply lay a piece of canvas on a level piece of ground near our campfire, put our sleeping bags down, and we would crawl in. It took only a few minutes of lying on our backs, looking up at the millions of stars, and we were fast asleep.

Well into our first night in the park I was awakened by “someone” who seemed to be stumbling over my legs. I quickly assumed a person from another camping spot must be looking for the restrooms in the dark and had become lost. Then I felt someone else on me. Rising up I looked towards my feet and saw one of three small, black forms crawling over my legs. Bears!—Bears?

That’s right. Three small bear cubs were taking a shortcut right through our camping spot and over the top of us. We were all wide awake by now, and my Dad was telling us, in a hushed voice, to just lay still and don’t move. Don’t move? I wanted to move right into Dad’s sleeping bag with him! This was getting a little too close to nature! In fact, this was scary!

As our wide eyes remained focused on the three cubs scampering away from us through the darkness, we realized that they were following their mother, who had walked around us. We were sure happy about that! She looked big—big enough to make me wonder if maybe we should not go sleep in the old Chevy for the rest of the night!

It was only a short while later that I was just about to fall asleep when there was a loud crash of metal nearby. Again, I was wide awake! What now? There was another loud clatter and my Dad whispered to us, “A bear is getting in a garbage can. Just lie still and keep quiet. They won’t bother us.”

Once more we heard a loud crash and clatter, this time coming from the opposite direction. What was the thing with these bears? Did they sleep all day, like owls, and come out at night to make noise and disturb people, keeping them awake? Now I was even more inclined to try and convince my Dad that we would surely be safer sleeping in the car—much safer!

Finally, with more comforting words from our Dad, we boys finally drifted off to sleep, reassured by the close presence of our father and the knowledge he was watching out for us and would protect us.

Not everyone is fortunate to have had a father such as the kids in our family were blessed with. Yet, every man, woman, and child, regardless of who they are or where they may have come from, no matter what their status in life by man’s standards—all may claim a loving and protecting Father as their own—the Heavenly Father! His invitation is always there. He wants you to accept his request to become a part of His family!

Psalm 68:5 reminds us that God is “A father to the fatherless . . .” and in Psalms 37:28 we are told that “the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever.”

Aren’t you thankful that each one of us can claim these promises? I pray that you know your Heavenly Father well.

Prayer: Ah, Lord, thank you for inviting each of us to become a part of your family. Thank you for your willingness to accept us as your children. Thank you for caring for, and protecting us. 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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I was seated at a desk, nearly 19 years ago this month, when a woman who worked in another area of the building walked rapidly into the room and up to me. Her face carried a look of concern as she stated simply, "The war’s started!"

The impact of her words had not yet struck home when someone next to me asked her, "What do you mean?"

"My daughter just called me," she said. "It’s on all the television stations." Our planes have been bombing Iraq all night long."

It was January 17, 1991, and I remember a sickening feeling that came over me as I began to comprehend what had just been said. The woman who had given me the news had a young son who was in the Air Force. He had been in the Middle East since the previous fall, assigned to a military unit which had been sent to Saudi Arabia following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. She had good reason for the look of concern on her face.

My wife and I had a son-in-law who was also in the war area. He had been in one of the very first Air Force units dispatched overseas as part of what was named Operation Desert Shield. We had no idea where he was stationed nor was he permitted to tell anyone, including his wife. All we knew was that he was now part of the operation that had changed from Desert Shield to Desert Storm. He was at war. I silently prayed as I reached for the phone to call my wife, seriously wondering as I did so if we would ever see him again.

I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on my work that morning and I finally joined a group of other employees, crowded around the front of a television set in a lunch room, our attention glued to the screen as the various newscasters gave continuing reports on the course of the battle being waged.

That evening my wife and I sat in front of the television set late into the evening, going from one channel to another, attempting to get the latest reports on the progress of the fighting in progress. At one point the newscasters began to inform watchers that the President of the United States was going to be addressing the nation in a short time. It was not long before he was on the screen before us, a somber expression on his face, informing the American people that he had given the orders to begin bombing Iraq after that country’s failure to leave Kuwait. During his address to the country the president asked the American people to join together in praying for our country, its leaders, and our fighting forces and all our military people who were in harm’s way.

I have been reminded of that Middle East war numerous times in recent years as we again sent our military forces into Iraq once more, following the attack against American on 9-11, and later into the country of Afghanistan. It is this latter nation that now seems to hold the attention of our nation as young men and women, in increasing numbers, are being sent into harm’s way in an effort to protect our freedoms.

As with earlier wars, such as Desert Storm of nearly 20 years ago, I am sure there has been an increase in the prayers being prayed for friends and family members, sons and daughters, husbands and fathers, who are now in harm’s way in that far off part of the world.

A question which keeps returning to my mind is why—why does it seem to take a war to bring a nation back to a place where they call upon God for His protection, strength and guidance?

I imagine that every major conflict our nation has been involved in has no doubt resulted in an increase in church attendance, an increase in the number of people who pray, and an increase in the length of time people spend in prayer.

Yet, isn’t it often true that it seems to take a confrontation with tragedy to bring many people, or nations, to the place where they return to God? Time and again we read in the Old Testament accounts of both individuals and nations where a turning away from God is not reversed until those involved find themselves faced with tragedy. It is then they find there is nowhere else to turn, but to God.

And then it seems, in much too brief a time, we get beyond the hardship which accompanies every tragedy, and the sorrow, the pain, the bitter memories—all begin to wane and with it our renewed commitment to God. Some of us begin to wonder, again—“What’ll it take, another war?”

The one single ingredient necessary and found in every successful and consistently growing and effective church is a regular and consistent commitment to prayer by her people. That same ingredient is absolutely necessary, and will always be found, in the life of an individual who experiences consistent and steady spiritual growth. Prayer! It’s must be there!

If you do not have a regular and consistent prayer life your spiritual journey is going to remain like a long ride on a roller coaster—with two exceptions: The top of the hills will not be as high and the valleys will be much deeper!

I wonder what would occur in each of our lives, as well as in the life of our churches—and ultimately our nation—if each of us would make an honest commitment to Jesus Christ to pray—regularly and consistently—with the single objective of drawing closer to him? I wonder. . . . ?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, would you help me to be careful to set aside time each day to pray—to speak with you and tell you how much I love You and how much I need You. Don’t allow me to wait to pray till tragedy or crisis come into my life. 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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JUST ENOUGH

Several minutes earlier, at more than two miles above the ground, the small, single-engine airplane had been emptied of its cargo of two parachutists. The two men who had stepped out of the perfectly good airplane had plummeted through the sky to 3000 feet above the surface of the earth. There they had each pulled the ripcord to open their parachute and, beneath the brilliantly colored, billowing nylon canopy of material, had safely reached the ground.

I looked from where the two men were each unhooking from the harness which had held them to their parachutes and turned my gaze towards the cloud-filled sky overhead. The plane the parachutists had left several minutes earlier was in a steep spiral towards the ground, a trip which would be much faster than the long, laboring climb of nearly a half hour that had been necessary to reach the altitude from which the parachutists had jumped out.

I could only hear the engine of the plane intermittently as I continued to watch it, since the pilot had pulled the throttle back so the engine simply idled as he glided steeply downward. The plane soon reached what is referred to as "pattern altitude," or that elevation above the ground at which airplanes approach most small airports in preparation for landing. I began to watch more intently, waiting to see what kind of a landing the pilot would make. This pilot was either extremely skillful or everything, including the wind, was in his favor. The plane was "greased," smoothly onto the runway with no hint of a bounce. I barely heard the squeak from the complaining rubber of the tires as they made contact with the black asphalt runway. Then something unusual happened. As the plane slowed in preparation for turning off the runway, the propeller, which had been spinning as the plane dropped out of the sky, suddenly slowed and came to a stop. There the plane was, gliding along the runway, with the propeller stationary and the engine silent.

"My, this pilot must really want to save on gas!" I thought. My attention was now firmly fixed on the plane as the pilot reached a place where he could turn off the runway and, the propeller still stopped, turned onto the taxi strip, continuing to slow all the while. The plane had almost rolled to a stop when I saw the propeller begin to turn again and heard the pilot engage the starter. In a moment the engine roared to life again and now, under power, began to roll steadily along the taxiway. But, instead of turning into the area where the parachutists normally boarded the aircraft, the pilot travelled past and disappeared out of sight towards another part of the airport.

Sometime later I heard the plane again and it soon came into view. The pilot turned towards where I was standing, visiting with the fellows who had parachuted from the plane earlier, and in a short time he swung the aircraft around, braked to a stop, and shut the engine off.

The pilot, an acquaintance of mine, climbed out of the airplane and stretched. As I walked up to him he stated, “That’s cutting it a little close!”

When I asked what he was referring to he asked if I had noted the engine quitting just as he touched the ground. When I answered in the affirmative he said, “I ran out of gas! I had just enough to start it again and get to the fuel pumps after I landed!”

“I usually carry just enough to get up and back," he said, “That way I don’t have to carry all the extra weight while I am climbing with the jumpers. But I think I cut it just a little close that time. I think I will begin carrying a little more than just enough to get by!”

Do you know people who try to get by in life with just the bare minimum of those things related to Christianity? You know what I mean; just enough attendance at church so that they feel they can get “in” if anything unexpected or untimely happened to them. And they will pray just often enough so that they kind of keep their hand in things and can pray if they get caught up in a crisis that was not part of their plans. These are folks who are always operating or living on "fumes!" Their "tank," is nearly always empty. In fact, they may never have known what it is to experience the fullness of a life lived committed completely to Jesus Christ.

Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words as he wrote to the Colossians in chapter 1, beginning with verse 9:

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Col 1:9-12)

We are truly missing out when we live without the fullness Christ wants to impart into each of our lives. We open the door to that fullness when we consecrate/commit our lives completely to Him!

Prayer: Father, help me to be careful, in the months ahead, to walk through life with my “tanks” full. Give me an insatiable thirst for your Word and cause me to carefully set aside time each day to talk to you in prayer and to think about the things of God. Thank you for your willingness to walk through this life with me. 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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THE MOUNTAINTOP

We rounded the corner, huffing and puffing, with a few grunts and groans thrown in for good measure. The young fellow at the front of the small group moving slowly up the steep mountain trail paused, looked back over his shoulder, and yelled, “C’mon you guys. We’re almost there. We’ll be able to see it in a minute!”

Our small group had been hiking up the steep mountain trail for what seemed like ages, even though it had only been a few hours. The cool summer morning had begun to warm up and by the time we neared the top of the mountain everyone was sweating, thirsty and tired. Muscles unused to this type of strenuous activity were beginning to complain.

The hike had begun several hours earlier when we had left the aged Chevrolet where the old, unused logging road had finally become impassable for a vehicle. Our route had followed the road for several miles until it ended in a clear-cut which had been logged many years earlier. It had taken some searching around the area before we were finally able to find the trail that would lead us on towards the top of the mountain, our goal for this day. After finally locating the trail we began to follow its course as it passed through large areas of thick brush which had grown over the path. Fallen trees were numerous and seemed to make every effort to block our route of travel. We found ourselves making detours to one side of the trail or the other but we always came back to the path we were following. As we got closer to the top of the mountain, the path became easier to follow and there were less obstacles and debris to slow our travel. Though the going was still somewhat steep, we were free of the brush and the many fallen trees we had been fighting earlier.

“C’mon! We’re almost there!” our leader yelled at us again.

With renewed energy we moved rapidly along beneath the shade of the tall pine trees. Now that we had reached a shoulder of the high mountain we encountered a light breeze blowing against us which helped cool us. In a few moments we emerged from beneath the canopy of evergreen branches and walked out into bright sunlight bathing the small, open area at the top of the mountain.

“We made it! We’re at the top!” someone yelled.

Yes, we had made it to the top. We had reached our goal. And our excitement mounted as we took the burdensome packs off our backs and lay them in the shade of a tree next to an old log cabin. Several of the fellows sat down on the edge of the rustic porch and began to gaze at the sights around them. Others went into the old cabin and began to poke around through the dust and cobwebs, searching for some previously undiscovered treasure which might be found. A couple of the fellows walked towards the tall, metal tower, stretching high into the sky, preparing to climb the tiny, wobbly ladder up to the observation platform at the top. This was an old fire lookout tower.

Hey! We had made it! The long climb to the top, which had been difficult at times, was all worthwhile. We didn’t feel the least bit tired any longer! In fact, we found we were filled with new energy.

My recollections of this hike up the mountain were triggered by an old photograph my Dad had given me. The tall, metal tower in the picture was the one located on the mountain top. It brought back a flood of memories of the occasions when, as a boy, I hiked the long trail up the mountain to that old fire lookout tower.

Thinking of this event I experienced as a boy reminded me of the trek we as Christians are involved in. We are hiking up the mountain, as it were, in our efforts to meet Jesus in Heaven when our time on earth has come to and end. Sometimes the way seems difficult—it is tough to see through the “brush” that gets in our way. Sometimes we are in the “shadows” of tall trees which seem to keep the sunshine hidden. We get tired and wonder how much further we have to go. Yet, someone encourages us and cheers us on, letting us know we really don’t have that much further to go and we are going to make it. Yes, we will make it!

One day we will reach the top. We will experience the delight of that moment when we see Jesus face to face. What a joy that will be! Can’t you just imagine what it will be like on that first day when we have “reached the top”?

I can’t help but think that, if they could do it, we would hear the cheers of the millions of saints, those who have gone before us, encouraging us to press on. Let us not forget what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s keep climbing. It will be worth it all!

Prayer: Lord, don’t allow me to ever consider giving up on this trek I am on “up the mountain.” Remind me that I am not traveling alone—multitudes of others are traveling with me and multitudes have gone before us. And Lord, help me to encourage others to keep on keeping on! 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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HE QUIETS THE STORMS

Crrraaaack! I jerked to a sitting position on my bunk as I was jolted awake by an extremely bright flash of light and the accompanying crash of thunder. My heart was pounding as another jagged spear of light crossed the sky nearby, lighting up the inside of the tower brighter than a noontime sun. This time I flopped back down on the bunk and buried my head inside the sleeping bag. The clap of thunder did not seem quite so loud this time.

I lay in the sleeping bag, my heart still thumping away, breathing rapidly as I waited apprehensively for what would surely be coming at any moment. What if the lightning hit this fire lookout tower I was in? Maybe I should get dressed and get out of here and under some rocks or trees. . . . No, not trees! You were supposed to stay away from anything high during an electrical storm! I needed to settle down and get my wits about me. I needed to remember that this tower, grounded with its “lightning rods”, was the safest place for me to be during this storm.

It was quiet for several moments and I finally decided it was time to look around. I poked my head out of the sleeping bag and sat up so that I could look out all the windows that surrounded me. I could see the moon shining faintly behind a thin layer of clouds to the southeast. In fact, I could even see a few stars occasionally. The moon and the stars seemed to offer an assurance that things were not as black as they seemed at first glance. Yet, to the southwest it was black. That was the direction these summer thunderstorms regularly came from. As I continued to look in that direction I saw frequent flashes of lightning, followed some time later by the soft roll of thunder as the noise reached my ears. It looked as if this was going to be another long night!

I turned and looked to the east just as another bright flash illuminated the inside of the tower. The deafening crash of noise accompanying the lightning came almost simultaneous with the flash. Say, now! That one had been close—very close!

I sat on the bunk, feeling as if I should be doing something—maybe something like running for cover! This was not an enjoyable place to be right now, let me tell you! Again, I tried to reassure myself that I was safe because the tower was well grounded and had no doubt stood the test of many violent storms over the years. All I needed to remember was the advice my boss had given me when he had dropped me off at the lookout several days earlier. I was to be careful to stay away from certain items within the tower while, at the same time, attempting to get an idea where the lightning bolts might be striking any trees in the mountainous country around me so that, when daylight came, I could keep a close eye on those areas to check for the telltale sign of smoke which would indicate a tree was burning. Fire crews could then be quickly dispatched to put the fires out.

I was also to stay away from the battery operated telephone and the few pieces of metal in the tower such as the cast iron stove, the “fire-finder” standing in the center of the room, and the metal bunk I was sitting on during any electrical storm. Metal bunk!

I made a rapid exit of my sleeping bag and moved towards the small wood table and its two chairs, grabbing my clothing up as I did so. Moments later I was dressed and lacing my boots when another lightning strike struck nearby. Say, this was not my idea of fun! Each time one of the strikes was close I found my eyes would have to readjust to the darkness which followed. And it always seemed much darker after a flash of lightning. I began to wonder just how long all this was going to continue.

I “bravely” stood looking in the direction the storm seemed to be following to see if I could detect any orange glow in the trees which might signal that a tree was burning. I could see nothing. Another flash of lightning and roar of thunder was followed by a new sound—wind!

In what seemed like just a few minutes the low hum of wind had increased until it was literally howling through the heavy steel cables which helped hold the tower upright.

Wow, this was getting strong! The room I was standing in began to vibrate and move about. Boards and timbers squeaked and groaned under the unusual movements being forced upon them. Then the rain began to come down! And did it ever rain!

The rain was lashing the west side of the small, windowed enclosure to the point where water began to be forced through cracks between the windows. I grabbed some rags and tried to plug some of the spots where the water was coming in. Say, now, things were not improving at all! Why, oh why, had I taken a job like this! How long was this storm going to last? Would morning ever come?

Each one of us occasionally experiences the “storms of life”, some which are far more violent than others. Yet, we are reminded in Psalm 107:28-29, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper . . . . .”

And Psalm 5:3 reminds us that “Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

Aren’t you glad that, for those who know Jesus, morning always comes? It is always ahead! And our Lord is faithful—He stills the storms that we experience in life.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being the One who is able, and faithful, to still the storms that I am confronted with in life. 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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