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Archive for April, 2010

As we walked towards the man who had just come into view from behind one of the buildings there was a firm set to his jaw that was accompanied by a determined scowl. His unkempt appearance and the look of a shirt and jeans that had many days of wear on them, added to the wild look about him. We were intruders in this man’s world and he did not appear pleased about it at the moment.

We greeted the man who muttered something unintelligible in return. It was obvious he was not too pleased with the idea of a bunch of strangers coming into his little corner of the world. He wanted to know what we were about—where we had come from and what we were doing on his place.

One of our group pointed back up the mountain towards the ridge top we had just descended from and told him we had been working on that fire for the last several days and we had received permission to come down to the river to stay the night. We asked if he had any objections to our spreading our sleeping bags out in the tall grass near the river.

As the man realized we were the fellows he had watched several days earlier leap out of the airplane high over the mountain side, to drift to the ground and begin working on the forest fire he had seen smoke from, the lines in his face began to soften and we soon realized that we were going to be welcome in his world, after all. That hot, mid-summer evening, down deep in the shadowy canyon alongside the swiftly moving river, the man began to talk to us. He moved out closer to us and before long he was doing a good share of the talking. In fact, he seemed starved for companionship.

We learned the man went by the name of Slim, and he showed us a pleasant spot beneath some tall yellow pine trees where the grass was thick and we could roll out our sleeping bags for the night. And Slim continued to talk—and talk.

Several of us took a few minutes to jump into the icy waters of the river to wash away the accumulation of dirt, smoke and sweat of the past several days. After getting dressed we found Slim had brought out several fishing poles, encouraging us to try our luck. Say, he was really warming up!

As the inevitable darkness brought out the billions and billions of bright stars in the heavens, we sat to rest and visit with this man.

This small ranch Slim lived on was not his own. He was simply a caretaker for the owner. But he loved this wild and rugged country and he did not mind the solitude it afforded him. He was content to live out his days, right where he was at. It was alright with Slim if society simply forgot about him and left him alone.

I think that Slim was a little bit—just a little bit—like the man John the Baptist that we read about in the New Testament. John had spurned the ways of the majority of the populace and had retreated to the wilderness where he felt he could live unthreatened and close to nature.

In Matthew 3:1-4, we find this said about John: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’" John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

I will be quick to admit that Slim was not a preacher. I doubt that we discussed things of a religious nature that night as we visited with him deep in the Salmon River Canyon. But he certainly had some qualities about him that John the Baptist would no doubt have appreciated.

I wonder if John the Baptist might not have been content to live out his days deep in the wilderness, away from the crowds and the trappings of society, just like Slim. Yet, John was one of those individuals who was completely and totally sold out to God. For him, life itself was wrapped up in his complete devotion to his Heavenly Father.

Nothing else mattered. He set aside his own wishes and desires, putting the will of God foremost in all he did. As the hand of God worked in and through John he became the last of the prophets, filled with a great and intense burden to spread the word to the people that Jesus, the Messiah, was coming!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as I journey through this life here on earth, please help me to always put You first. I want to be like John the Baptist in that way. I want to travel through life knowing that I am doing what You want me to. 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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You never need approach God with fear of rejection—never!

Pastor Bill

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Our curiosity increased as we talked about the person we had seen at the tiny ranch, far down the mountain side from us. As we kept at our work of digging a fire break around the small forest fire, we would pause for a moment to look that direction in hopes that we would see him again. We spotted him on several occasions and continued to wonder who he was and what he was doing in such a lonesome and seemingly desolate place so far from other people. It sure would be interesting to talk to this individual!

Early in the evening, I believe it must have been the second or third day we had been on this fire; several of us approached our foreman and asked him if he would object to several of us hiking down to the ranch for the night. Most of the crew did not care to go. They knew the downhill walk would not be too difficult, but returning up the steep mountain slope the following morning would be something else! I think those fellows who stayed behind may have been the smart ones!

Our crew was large enough, and with the fire almost completely out, the boss agreed to allow several of us to do as we had requested. We quickly put together our sleeping bags, some grub, and a few other items for the night, and left the high ridge top, descending rapidly into the canyon towards the river.

By the time we arrived at the river the sun, though it was still shining on the high mountaintops, had disappeared from the depths of the canyon much earlier and no longer cast its warmth on the few buildings scattered on the small, level area next to the river. There was no one around that we could see. It was all quiet. Several horses eyed us as we approached but we saw nothing else moving. We lay our packs down beneath a tree near the river and began to walk toward the buildings.

As we approached what appeared to be the living quarters a man suddenly stepped out from behind a corner of the building. He appeared to be in his late 60’s or early 70’s. He was wearing worn, faded jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, neither of which had been to the cleaners for a while, it appeared!

He had a scowl on his face as we turned and began walking his direction. He was kind of a wild looking character as I remember him. It was evident that we were intruders in this man’s world and he did not appear pleased about it at the moment.

Several of us greeted the fellow who muttered something in return. It was obvious he was not too happy with the idea of a bunch of strangers coming into his little corner of this earth. He wanted to know what we were about—where we had come from and what we were doing on his place.

You know, we are not always pleased to have to deal with strangers, especially unexpectedly, are we? If you are like me we usually like to be with folks we are acquainted with and like things done on our terms. But some of you are already guessing where I am going with this thought. Hebrews 13:2 tells us: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

And someone is thinking, “That’s just not my thing! For someone else—maybe—but not me!”

I agree that some folks seem to have a knack when it comes to visiting with people they have never met—even complete strangers. Some of us just don’t find that type of thing to come easily to us. But what if, just what if, you and I were aware that the next stranger to intrude into our lives really was an angel? Would we react any differently?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to reach out to the stranger whose path crosses my own in this journey through life. Remind me they may be one of your chosen—one of your angels—and give me the courage to allow them into even a tiny part of 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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Christianity is the only religion which teaches that God reaches out to man! We can be thankful for that.

Pastor Bill

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There were eight or ten of us, as I remember. Our group of smokejumpers had been on a narrow and rugged ridge top deep in an Idaho wilderness area for the past two days after parachuting from an airplane. We were high above the Salmon River that twisted crookedly back and forth through the deep canyon faraway below us.

The view from our location was nothing short of fantastic! Whenever we rested, our eyes seemed to naturally begin looking out over the rugged mountain ranges surrounding us. Other than hearing or seeing an occasional airplane flying high in the sky overhead, we saw no other sign of a human being—except for a single man.

The lightning-caused forest fire we had been working to extinguish was many miles from any community, or even any kind of a road. The only means of transportation in this rugged terrain was by foot, horseback, occasionally by rubber raft or jet boat, or by air.

But the location of this fire was at such a spot that we found we could see what appeared to be a tiny cluster of buildings—a ranch, far below us, nestled in a small flat area along the banks of the river.

Time and again, as we paused to rest for a moment, we would find our gaze turning to look far down the mountainside to those few buildings we could see hidden among the tall yellow pine trees. Finally, late one afternoon, one of the fellows spoke up, "Hey, look! There’s someone down there!"

And, sure enough, as the rest of us scurried to a place where we could peer down the mountain towards the ranch, we could make out the tiny figure of a man walking between two of the buildings.

After that, we began to keep an eye on the ranch a little more closely. We had many questions in our minds. Who would be living down there? What kind of a person was he? Why would he choose to live in such a remote place like that? Was he just a visitor? Was he the only one there? Did he ever get lonely?

Thinking about this man who no doubt lived a pretty lonely life reminds me of a verse in the New Testament. Luke 5:16 is a short portion of Scripture but it speaks volumes: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Think about that, a moment. Even Jesus, who knew He had only a limited amount of time on this earth, felt He needed to escape the rat race and get away by himself and to be with His Heavenly Father.

I was acquainted with a man who was used to being around people all the time. He was an educator and was in the process of taking additional schooling that required he write a lengthy thesis. He ultimately accepted a position with the Forest Service on a fire lookout, far back in a wilderness area of Central Idaho. The only way to get to the lookout was walk, ride a horse, or travel by helicopter. The seclusion which that setting provided allowed him to complete the work necessary by the time he returned to civilization in the fall.

I am not suggesting that we all apply for a position as a fire lookout, and head for the hills for two to three months. But we all need times where we can withdraw to lonely places—places without a television or a cell phone—and pray. We need to choose to spend periods of uninterrupted time with God. By doing so we will draw closer to Him and He will be able to communicate to us in ways we would never have imagined. Such times can change our lives!

When was the last time you withdrew to a “lonely” place for the specific purpose of spending time with God? Why not make plans to do it—soon!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the example you have provided us in your Son who demonstrated the need for getting away from it all, to be with You. Lord, help me to carefully set aside time in the coming days to spend 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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My wife and I were on our way to visit one of our daughters who lived with her family in another state. As we drove through the lengthening days of spring we enjoyed the beauty of a bright blue sky dotted with a small scattering of white, fluffy clouds. The dark green shafts of growing wheat covering the fields alongside the highway were swaying back and forth in the breeze. It would seem this new crop, which would be harvested in a few brief months, was moving in time to a heavenly song only they could hear.

As the sun began its dip towards the western horizon we left the freeway and stopped at a motel where we had reservations we had made earlier in the week. After a relaxing evening meal we returned to our room where we soon retired for the night. Sleep came quickly and it was good to awaken refreshed the following morning, looking forward to the day and having the opportunity to greet family and loved ones we had not seen for a time.

We were preparing to leave the motel room to get breakfast when the phone rang. My wife answered it and, as I listened to her half of the conversation and watched a worried look come over her face, I sensed something was wrong. Moments later she hung up the phone and then me what was happening.

Another daughter, who lived several hours away from where the destination we were traveling to, had been the caller. Only a few weeks earlier we had nearly lost her when something went terribly wrong during the delivery of her first child. She nearly died and we had been so thankful that God had spared her, and the tiny girl which had been born. Now, this same daughter had apparently begun to have some severe complications and she was being rushed to the hospital. Some of her last words to my wife were, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it!”

I can’t begin to describe the feelings of anguish and helplessness that engulfed us as my wife and I stood looking at each other in that motel room that morning. What could we do? There was part of me that wanted to rush to the car and begin driving towards the hospital our daughter was being taken to. But she lived hours away. It would be foolish for us to begin traveling in that direction, especially if everything turned out all right.

Yet, we were at a location where it would not make any sense to continue with our planned trip, which would take us further away from this daughter, if it turned out we ultimately needed to be there. What could we do? What should we do?

Far from home, many miles from family or friends, alone in that motel room but for our Heavenly Father, we turned to Him. We found ourselves helpless, but for prayer. We found ourselves faced with the inability to do anything to alter the outcome of what was taking place with our daughter—except fall on our knees before God.

In Psalm 9:10, we find the powerful message, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Later, in 65:3 are the comforting words, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

As my wife and I prayed, lifting our loved one before the Throne of Heaven, we were reminded that a child of God can trust in the Lord, and that He has never forsake those He loves. What great comfort are contained in those words, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Oh, yes, Child of God, you can trust in Him!

After what seemed far too long we received a second call. What a relief to hear our daughter’s voice, as she called from the hospital, and to learn she would be alright. God had heard the cry of His children. He had answered our prayers. We had been reminded, once more, that we could trust Him!

Prayer: Loving Heavenly Father, help me in times of doubt, fear and helplessness to remember that You will never leave me nor forsake me. May I be reminded, again and again, that I can trust in You! Thank You, Father. 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’ve heard it said that a sales person will not be effective unless he or she is convinced in the effectiveness and usefulness of their product. Could the same be said of the Christian?

Pastor Bill

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