This Christmas season, as I have always done—for, oh, how many years now?—I will be singing one of my favorite Christmas songs: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

I know. I know, it's a thoroughly secular song! Don't get on my case about it, and don't wreck it for me either. I'm still gonna sing it. 

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Make Him Your King

   Life becomes good when you make Christ your King.  And I can't think of a better time to do that then the Christmas season, can you?

   Norm Dwight tells the story of a young youth pastor who took over the ministry of a very affluent, snooty church up in the Bay area. The poor guy was totally unprepared for what he encountered; the entire youth group was just a bunch of rich, self-inflated, spoiled brats! Designer clothes that cost a fortune, Benzes and Beemers and Jags that 'daddy had bought them'; College tuition already tucked away for the finest Ivy League schools. The kids all looked down on anyone who didn't meet their lifestyle standards. They were ruthless towards newcomers.

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He Takes the Anger Away

(May you be encouraged by this article from December 14, 2003 written by Pastor Rod.)

Gordon MacDonald, the well-known Christian author, and editor of Leadership Quarterly, once wrote about an encounter he had several years ago--an encounter very much invested with the meaning of Christmas. 

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(May you be encouraged by this article from December 3, 2003, written by Pastor Rod.)

Pray, dear Christian! And don't let anything deter you from it! Pray for the hurting ones! Pray for the lost! Why is it important? What's the big deal? Think about it, dear Christian! The reasons go far beyond filling this page, that's for sure! 

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The Treasure is There!


    You know? The older I get, the more convinced I become that my early education was a rather myopic one. Am I the only one that feels that way?
    Not that I'm complaining. It was all just fine; perfectly understandable really. We didn't have time to study Samuel Hearne. After all, he explored the Canadian wilderness, and we barely had time to get through the American one!
    I suppose, if I'd grown up in Canada, I would know all about Samuel Hearne by now, and almost nothing about Lewis and Clark.
    Which would also be 'too bad'!
    I love Lewis and Clark and the whole fabulous tale of their journey to the west. But, over the years, Samuel Hearne has become one of my favorites too, and I'm glad I broke free from the confines of my schooling.
    Don't know much about Samuel Hearne? Well, I can share a few things, and I think you just might like him too.
    Samuel Hearne was a wonderful man— a true survivor, with a powerful will to endure and an unstoppable adventurous spirit. He had been hearing, for years, this old Chippewa legend about a valley, way up in the northern wilderness of Canada, where all the earth was strikingly "red".
    Hearne was no dummy. He knew what that might mean—copper! And the thought of it captured his heart.
    Of course, he was laughed at. "Old Indian legends? C'mon! Who believes those?" But when he heard it repeated a number of times, and not just from Chippewas but Inuits and Crees as well, he just couldn't stand it any longer. He set out to search for that treasure!
    That was in 1769. Hearne headed north, with a party of explorers, on a journey through Canada that, eventually, would take him all the way to the Arctic Sea! Hearne was the first to put that particular coastline on the map.
    It actually took three attempts to make the journey, and the account of his first two efforts is just harrowing! But, sure enough, the Indians were right! (Don't ever question a Chippewa's geography!) In 1772, Hearne and his men discovered a river that flowed through a valley where the land was just as red as can be— and just permeated with copper ore! For centuries the Indians had all known it was there—they called it "Yellowknife country". Hearne gave it the name Coppermine Valley and the river he called the Coppermine River. It was a fabulous, thrilling and joyful discovery.
    There is one entry in Samuel Hearne's journal that is just priceless. It tells us an awful lot about this man:
    Just a few days after they had started their expedition, a party of Indians raided their camp in the middle of the night and made off with almost all their food. Their sides of bacon were gone! Their bags of flour: stolen! Almost nothing was left. It was enough to make anyone just quit and go home! What else could they do?
    But not Samuel Hearne. The very next morning, do you know what he wrote in his journal?
      "The weight of our baggage being thus so much lightened, our next day's journey was more swift and more pleasant than ever."
    Don't you love it? How easy it would have been to give up that quest! Who wouldn't?
    Well, Samuel Hearne, wouldn't, that's who! "We can hunt, can't we? The Inuits do it, why shouldn't we? We will hunt and still keep goin'. Because that 'red valley' is there! And I'm going to find it."
    You know? Samuel Hearne was the kind of man that gets the treasure in the end! And not everyone does, you know; oh, that's not a given.
    All kinds of people lose sight of the goal and give up the quest and lose the treasure. You're not one of them, I hope? Because I can tell you this: knowing Jesus Christ and the promise of an eternity in heaven with Him is a far greater treasure than a bunch of copper in the dirt!
    Jesus just came out and announced to us all that the Kingdom of God is a treasure, remember? In Matthew 13 we read it:
      "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and then hid. And, for joy over it, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Mt 13: 44
    Oh, yes! A great treasure, worth all that we have! Jesus also warned us not to let "lesser" treasures, deprive us of the real one:
      "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Mt 6:19-20
    Listen dear faithful one. Be a good Samuel Hearne! Because the treasure is there and the quest has begun and there's no turning back! Do not let anyone or anything—no circumstances, no setbacks, no losses or hurts!—cause you to lose what lies up ahead!

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Resisting the Rescue

   I absolutely love the final chapters of Hampton Sides' great book Ghost Soldiers: the incredible story of the Cabanatuan Rescue, where US Army Rangers liberated a Japanese concentration camp toward the end of World War II. If you like that sort of thing—and if you have the stomach, I must add—I strongly recommend it.
   During the final months of the imprisonment, the poor British and American POW's were desperately fighting to stay healthy and sane and, sometimes, they resorted to the most desperate measures. The men would often concoct elaborate visions of home and family. Visions of food on tables. They would spend hours together in the night, on their cots preparing collectively, in their minds, an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner. Step-by-step, they'd go through every recipe, never missing an ingredient, each guy contributing a different dish from where he lay on his bunk in the barracks.
   Tommie Thomas finally decided it was time to build his dream house. He'd been putting this project off long enough! Not that he had any real experience doing such a thing: he wasn't a contractor or builder or anything like that. But he started building it anyway, in his mind: the house he was going to live in when he got back to Grand Rapids. Nothing fancy, just a bedroom, kitchen, living and dining room, a couple of rooms upstairs and a porch.
  Day after day, he worked on that house in his mind: sawing and hammering, never missing a detail. He measured out the floor plan; poured the foundation; laid every brick; plumb-lined the walls. He was never in a rush: a good job takes time; and a house like this was certainly not something you want to rush through, you know? In fact, the longer it took the better. In the long, meaningless monotony of the prison camp, this at least was something that made sense, that had a purpose; had a plan. It made life in Cabanatuan more bearable.
   When Tommie got done with building the house, a deep, empty sense of panic set in. Now, what would he do?
   That's when he heard about something that was happening over at one of the medical tents. Section 8 of the medical ward was the tent where all the poor mentally wounded prisoners were kept. And there were quite a few.
   One of the sad men in Section 8 was a guy who kept 'broadcasting' baseball games in his mind. He was an old Chicago Cubs fan, and he wasn't doing it to stave off insanity: The insanity was doing it all by itself. The derangement had already come! 
   Whenever this dear man went over the edge, a game would start! He would start reeling off, out loud, a play-by-play of an entire baseball game that was so convincing and so realistic that people walking by would swear there was a radio blaring inside the barrack.
   It was the same game every time—Cubs versus Giants—and this poor baseball-obsessed gentleman would be rattling away, calling out the plays, calling out the count and the innings and the score—even coloring it all with stats and commentary!—and all completely oblivious to the fact that a little audience of POWs had begun to gather beneath the window, hungrily devouring every word, every play. So desperate they were...
   ...for home! For America!
   The very first time Tommie Thomas joined the men and crouched down with them under the window, a late arrival came up quietly and asked in a whisper: "What inning is it?"
   God bless 'em!
   Want to know the amazing thing about that rescue when it came? The Rangers had been warned to be ready for prisoners who would resist! Can you believe it? There will always be some who resist a rescue!
   One of the great challenges these rescuers faced was the unbelief of the POWs themselves, who had already begun to accept their prison as their only home; who had long since given up hope for the real America and had turned their prison into an 'America' of their own making.
   Some would have to be convinced that a rescue was even underway; that they were actually being freed; that their real home was not this prison!
   And so every Army Ranger who came into the camp, came equipped with 'proof' to give the prisoners. They carried Hershey bars, and baseball cards and other little American trinkets, as proof that would convince them all that they had truly come from 'home' and had come to bring them back!
   Isn't it amazing?
   But—you know?—no less amazing, dear family, is the resistance this sad captive world puts up against the rescue sent for us; our sad, delusional attachment to this present "camp"!
   This world is not our home, dear ones! And we don't need Hershey Bars or baseball cards to convince us of that fact! No! We have the precious word of God proclaiming it: "Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ who comes..." Phil 3: 21 We join with those who have always embraced the truth that "they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth..." and who thus were "seeking a better country; a heavenly one." Heb 11:13-24; 16
   Oh, how our world needs to join them as well!
   Pray for that, dear ones! It's the very reason this church exists!

I love it every time we meet!

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You Have An Advocate!

Read this carefully, dear Christians, because I think we all need it; especially these past few weeks when so many of our dear congregation have been beset with trials and afflictions. Recently, it seems as if every free moment has been spent at the hospital, at bedsides, at gravesides, comforting and encouraging dear ones who are up against some overwhelming hurts and losses and afflictions. 

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About 22 Inches

One of the missionaries I worked with over in Taiwan was a retired engineer named Joe Farlow. Every once in a while I would be in the same vehicle with Joe, traveling the busy streets of downtown Taipei, and I would hear him comment on some of the construction that was going on around town. 

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His Work, Not Mine

I'm sure I learned a great many things during that very challenging Gospel work among my Hakka friends and neighbors in San Yi, but there are two things in particular that I've not forgotten and that I still draw on today in my pastoring here in the States:

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The 'Necessities' We Think We Need

Article written by Pastor Rod for the October 5, 2003, Messenger

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Never in Vain! part 2

We pushed our way through the beaded curtain and into the room. There was Grampa Huang, lying on the bed. The grieving family thanked me for coming and then left us alone with him.
Alan spoke first, explaining who I was and why I had come: "Grampa. My teacher has come. He wants to tell you about Jesus."
I was relieved, at least, that Alan spoke that in Mandarin. Of course, I should have known: Grampa was a "scholar": he would know Mandarin. So, I wouldn't have to fumble around with my Hakka at least.
But is there anyone more resistant to the Gospel than an old, tradition-bound Confucian scholar? I glanced around at all the books on the shelves. They filled every wall! For eighty-plus years, Grampa Huang had surrounded himself with Chinese tradition. Tradition that he cherished. Tradition that called the Gospel "yang-jyau" ("the foreign teaching") and the person who brings it "yang-gwei" (foreign devil).
But it was also tradition that could not save him! Had never claimed it could! And right now, this poor man had turned his head toward me and was looking right at me!
"Oh, Lord God help me!" I cried out inside. I didn't have a clue how to do this, or even how to begin. But suddenly the sheer urgency of the situation came flooding over me and so I just sat down next to him, took his hand in mine and started speaking to him in the bluntest of terms.
"Mr. Huang. You don't know me. I know I'm a stranger. But you don't have much time, and there's Someone who can rescue you..."
The dear man just stared back."I know you can't talk, so just listen for a while and let me tell you what I know. And if you agree with what I am saying—if you want me to continue—just nod your head; and if you've heard enough and want me to stop you can squeeze my hand."
I started sharing with him everything I knew. I spoke to him about sin and death and—praise God!—a Savior who has come to rescue us, and the blessed Cross where it happened.
It was deep stuff! I didn't hold back. It was 'foreign' stuff. But to my amazement, he never squeezed my hand. He just kept listening and looking at me.
About halfway through, I detected a faint nod! And as I kept talking, the nod became more evident. And when finally I asked him: "Mr. Huang, would you like to pray with me to give your life to Jesus Christ?"—oh!—the old Confucian nodded then! He seemed to know exactly what he was doing and, together, we prayed the dearest prayer: I verbally and out loud; he nodding just as energetically as he could.
I have never in my life seen anything like this! I'd never seen anyone so open. And that 'openness' I could not explain. It all seemed too easy! Too good to be true. In fact, he seemed to understand too much! After the prayer, I just sat there looking at him, telling myself: "This may not be real. He may just be accommodating me. Nodding to make me feel better. I mean, how could he possibly have understood all of this—a man who has never heard the Gospel in his life?"
I finally decided to just let it go, and leave Mr. Huang in the Lord's hands. Which is where he had been all along!
When I finally got up to leave, I paused in front of those bookshelves and admired his collection. Sure enough: he had them all! All the old Chinese classics were there, many of them rare, string-bound editions with beautiful calligraphy. I love all those old Chinese classics myself; have quite a few on my bookshelves at home.
But, as I was looking through them all, one book in particular just jumped out at me! It was a Bible! Cheap little, old, red-plastic covered thing, with none of the outward beauty of the others; but there it was!
"Alan! Look at this," I said. "Did you know your Grampa had a Bible?" "What? No way! That's impossible!"
"There it is! Looks a little worn too. Look: Gospel of John! Notes in the margin." Alan looked down in amazement at the pages. "I never knew he had that! I wonder who gave it to him?"
Oh! Don't we all!
Praise God! Dear old Mr. Huang had heard my message before! I wasn't bringing anything new! "I sent you to reap where you've not sown before," Jesus said, remember? (Jn 4:35)
Some wonderful, unnamed, faithful believer—just like someone from CCOT!—had, years ago, tried to reach this dear man—did the best he could!—placed a cheap copy of the Bible into his hands, hoping that, somehow, it might do some good!
And, of course, it did! It always will. Because everything you do, dear believer, to reach the lost—even the simplest, most ordinary thing!—will never be in vain!
So, let me say it once again: keep on, dear soldier! Don't grow weary! Do what you can to reach the lost!

See you Sunday. RAS

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Never in Vain!

This much I've learned: that God will gladly use anyone, of any stature and station, to reach the lost. Doesn't that dear woman-at-the-well bear this out best of all? She brought her entire town to the Gospel, as I mentioned last week. 

I've learned this also: that nothing we do to help reach the lost is ever done in vain. No matter how small or ordinary or even insignificant it might seem—a simple statement made, a prayer offered, a verse of Scripture shared—it may seem inconsequential at the moment, but—oh, count on it dear ones!—it will be used by a mighty God. So...keep on, dear soldier! Keep sharing your faith, any way you can. And don't even try to determine if it is 'significant' or not! 

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A Lot Like Uranium

This may sound a little un-Biblical, but the way our world will be reached for Christ is an awful lot like Uranium. Or to be more precise: what happens to Uranium, when a neutron pierces its core. 

I'm talking about the process of fission and, if ever there was something wondrous to behold, it's the process of nuclear fission. Consider this: 

The apparatus is so arranged that one neutron is fired into a very small amount of Uranium 235. When that single neutron collides with the nucleus of one of the Uranium atoms, it dislodges more neutrons: two or maybe three, depending on how the Uranium nucleus splits. It takes a millisecond for this to happen. That is: 1/1000th of a second, and—no—I have no idea how they know that; or how they measure such a span of time. 

 From that point on, everything starts to multiply. Those two or three dislodged neutrons come shooting out and they collide with even more Uranium atoms and, when they do, each one of them dislodges two or three neutrons and that takes another 1/1000th of a second and each one of those, in turn, causes yet another collision, and pretty soon you have a chain reaction with an incredible quantity of collisions going on, so that, after only 1/100th of a second, 19,000 neutrons have been dislodged and each one of them will make a collision of its own and dislodge two or three more and, in less than a 50th of a second, you have over 18 billion neutrons doing their stuff...

...and (get this!) the process has just begun!    We haven't yet finished a second!

So much power is generated by this process that just one gram of Uranium—a piece weighing—say—as much as a tiny birthday candle—can generate 27 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and light up the entire city of New York for a day. Think of it, A birthday candle can't even light up a closet! Couldn't heat up a cup of coffee if you tried! But one little 'candle' of this stuff can light up New York! 

What on earth is the difference, I wonder? 

Oh, the difference is sublime! The difference is one atom's influence upon another! The difference is the fact that, unlike the candle which just stands alone and burns itself out, each one of Uranium's atoms reaches another and sets it in motion! 

You don't see the parallel here? That is precisely how this world will be reached! That was always God's intention! 

Need a good example of this? How about the city of Sychar, mentioned in John chapter 4?  It was a thoroughly lost and sinful place—that's for sure—until Jesus showed up and sat down at the well. 

The first tiny 'neutron' to pierce the town was an unnamed, insignificant nobody of a woman: an outcast actually. She left her water jar at the well and ran into the town: "Come! Everyone! Come see the man who has told me everything I've ever done! Isn't this the Christ?"  Jn 4: 29  

Pretty soon the entire town is pouring out into the wheat fields, running to see for themselves what this woman has encountered.  

Isn't it beautiful how God does this? He is still doing it today, dear Christian. How about you? Have you started yet? Too many Christians are like birthday candles, burning themselves out all alone in the dark. But God wants nuclear fission, dear ones! He wants you to 'go' dislodge a few neutrons!  "Go! Tell!" was His command to us all, remember? 


"Go into all the world and preach the Good News to every creature, and he who believes and is baptized will be saved."  Mk 16:15 


From the moment Jesus issued this wonderful command, His true followers started doing it!  You do it too. This poor world of ours so desperately needs it. 

 Excuses are legion of course, but our dear woman at the well  makes short work of them, don't you think? 

Who me? I couldn't do that. I'm nobody. (So was the woman at the well.) 

But, I'm not a gifted speaker. (Neither was the woman at the well.)

I've had a notoriously sinful past, ya know.  (What do you call five broken marriages?)

But, I wouldn't know what to say. (Why not take a cue from the woman at the well: Come! See! See what I've found!) 

Here's something to think about: after all these centuries we've had the telegraph and teletype and the telephone and the telecast for television, telemarketing and even televangelism and everything else that might come under the heading of "telecommunications" these days. But, when all is said and done, nothing really compares to the one method that really works: "tell-a-person". 

God bless you dear family. 

I love worshipping with you every week. 

Let's do it again!  Bring a friend!               RAS

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The Passionate Ones

When it comes to making a lasting difference in this world, the only people who will get the job done are the passionate ones, with burdens on their hearts and prayers on their lips. It seems as if all my reading these days has been about passionate people.

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His Intense Desire to Rescue!


Most people speak very highly of Queen Victoria, of course. She is, after all, one of the great figures in the history of western civilization. But, frankly, I'm more impressed with Alice.

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Our 'Jerusalem'...Our 'End of the Earth'

I've been thinking quite a lot, recently, about our Savior's final instructions to us all. Remember what He said, right before His great departure: His ascension?
     " shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8

We worship a Savior who "loves the world", so much in fact that He died to rescue it.

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The Choices that Make You

Several years ago, State Farm Insurance sponsored a nationwide study of traffic accidents at different locations, and they came up with a list of 'the most dangerous intersections in America'; I think they've been doing it ever since. 

Interestingly enough, that very first year, number one on the list was the intersection at Beltline and Midway in the little town of Addison, TX. Addison has a population of 13,000, more or less. Just to give you some perspective, Orange has 139,000. 

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America: Started by a Church?

A lot of people may not know this—though they certainly should!—that America was started by a church. Did you know? Almost all of the passengers on board the Mayflower were members of one church—a little house church in the tiny town of Scrooby, England. The believers were all Separatists, refusing to affiliate with the corrupt, persecuting state church of England. 

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Crowfoot's Mistake

Apart from one funny little misjudgment in life, I'll have to say that I admire Chief Crowfoot more than just about any other Native American leader. And that's saying a lot, actually: quite a few of those tribal chiefs were pretty easy to admire. You can probably detect, in Crowfoot's photo, a certain 'nobleness' about him that was recognized and respected by Blackfoot and white-man alike. 

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How Barriers Work

Pastor Rod is just coming back from vacation this week, We hope you enjoy this article he wrote in 2004.

I sure am glad that history doesn't always listen to Congress when it speaks. If it did...well, America wouldn't be what it is today, that's for sure. In fact, you and I wouldn't even be Americans! I'm not exactly sure what we would be—Russians, Mexicans, subjects of the British monarchy?—none of the possibilities do much for me; but if Congress had had its way, back in 1821, one such scenario would be our lot today. 

1821 was the year Thomas Hart Benton stood up in the Senate and argued for the federal recognition of a few lonely American trappers and settlers who had made the outrageous journey westward, over the Rockies and out into the regions of Oregon, Washington, and California. Up until that time, everybody but the Americans were trying to take over those lands: Russians were coming down from their settlements in Alaska; the British had chased all the French back up into Canada and were starting to take over the fur trade; even Spain was feebly hoping to expand its crumbling empire up from California. But Americans were few and far between, and when they showed up, they were anything but welcome! 

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