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January 2004












Issues of the heart is an Email newsletter that comes out 2-3 times a week from Pastor Todd and what the Lord has laid on his heart.

Brothers and sisters, 1/9

About this time last year, I had a double hernia operation. Yuck. But this year, things are much different. After the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church, my son and I celebrated! At 10:00 p.m., we started building snowmen. Three of them sit triumphantly in our front yard. In fact, one of them stands ten feet tall. No joke! Using the tape measure in the garage, we measured him from head to foot. 
Nicknamed "Goliath", this big fella' in the middle defies any one that ventures their way down to the end of our street. He proudly wears a sleek, black bike helmet. His nose is a steel-corkscrew, 16" in length. And his mouth is a gaping, blue dustpan. (The only things I could find at the time in the garage.) So the guy looks like he is bellowing fury all the way down Brenthaven street. (No wonder my next-door neighbors built a snow fort. They thought they needed protection.)
Yes, he is strong! My son fortified every crack in his body. I can't imagine how much he weighs - hundreds of pounds, I'm sure. But despite all his apparent strength and his ominous size, Goliath's days are numbered. He is no match for the sun. And presently, he leans dangerously to one side. So I anticipate a big crash in the near future. And at the moment of impact, I imagine the enormous snowballs creating craters in the almost two feet of powder at the base.
Brothers and sisters, does your heart face a smirking, defiant "Goliath"? Encourage yourself. No matter what kind of "Goliath" you face, it's no match for the Son. Psalms 2 is instructive. Those that "Kiss the Son" need not fear giants.

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/14
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly . . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son."
This past Sunday afternoon, a young woman in her twenties told me it was the first time she had heard this kind of message from the Word. As a result, she put her faith in the Savior. I believe she understood. Tears glistened in her eyes as I left her.
Presently, I have been camping out in the early verses of Romans 5. And I am lost in wonder. I can understand how God would love someone that is good, pure, righteous, and godly; but I am at a total lost in understanding how a perfectly holy God would love those that are hateful and hostile against Him in their hearts. 
At one time our hearts were ugly, stained pitch black by ungodliness. And we were so weak. We lived life, blinded and powerless. No matter how hard we tried, we could not even produce one example of pure righteousness within. Brothers and sisters, it is all so pitiful. Certainly, man does not seek God. In fact, man hates God. Man continually seeks to tear God right from His throne. It is all completely absurd when you think about the heart of man.
But God sent His son to die for His enemy. Me. You. Reconciliation and atonement, they are one and the same, changing everything! Knowing all this, how do I write to you what I am feeling at this moment? 1. My heart is humbled. Vain thoughts are stripped. I don't deserve anything, not one thing. 2. My heart is assured. If I thought I was deserving of God's love, I would never be secure. Yes, God's love for us does not "depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts." Thank God for that! And greatest of all, brothers and sisters, these truths 3. make my heart so joyful in God. This life is continually wracked with the problems and misery of sin. But you and I will not go through life, moaning and groaning and dragging along. We cannot because of who we are in Christ. I will preach this to you. And you must preach this to me. We joy in God!

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/15

A "ward" is a subdivision of geographical entity. And Mormons are masters of this particular organization. Each ward will meet in a chapel on Sundays. Two wards might use the same building each week. Chapel buildings can be built side by side each other, utilizing ball parks and parking lots. Ward organization is strong in Idaho Falls. In trying to remember, I think we have over ninety wards in the Idaho Falls area.
The amount of people filling each ward varies . . . usually between 200 to 400. If the group meeting together is small (10 to 150 people), they call it a "branch". When the ward reaches 500, they divide. There is no such thing as "mega-churches" among the LDS. It is a continual process of divide and multiply, divide and multiply, divide and multiply. But individual wards do have accountability and larger group interaction. Around five to ten wards formulate a "stake", engulfing 2,000 to 4,000 members. 
And this "ward" concept is not just national; it goes international, into over 160 countries. This month's Ensign on page 76 proudly reports, "The first Church unit based on Iraqi soil was organized 27 April 2003 at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq." Again, the vision is clear - worldwide missions. W. F. Walker Johanson (LDS author in Virginia and president of the National Institute for Organizational Research) wrote a book in 2002 called "What is Mormonism All About?" He writes a boastful statement. "Every place on earth is (at least theoretically) included in some existing ward boundary." So there you go, brothers and sisters, whether you know it or not, you live in some LDS ward boundary. Actually from a biblical standpoint, it is all quite reverse. There is impostering chaff among the King's wheat in His beautiful fields.
To my frustration, I don't like it when Christian groups here in Idaho Falls "fellowship" or utilize willingly LDS ward help or LDS facilities, etc. True Christians must never put themselves in a position where they are linked to the LDS, "true-church" claiming umbrella. Never! In our culture, people want to make fuzzy lines in soft sand. But Peter didn't in II Peter 2. On the one side is biblical orthodoxy. On the other side is "damnable heresies." Strong words, I know. But they didn't originate with me. They come from a holy God who sees it all.

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/19

"If you fall, always fall forward, don't fall backward" This is the rule they give you when using those metal, mechanical stilts to texture walls or a ceiling. If you fall backward, there is the possible chance that you may break bones in multiple, excruciating splinters. But if you fall forward, you might come out alright, and even gain some good wisdom in the stumble. 
I find that some apply this "taping & texturing philosophy" to doctrine about sin. Concerning Adam's sin in the garden, it was not a falling backward, but really a "falling forward." But let me ask you, does Romans 5:12 describe sin as a falling forward? "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Don't let anyone kid you that sin is actually a good thing. It will painfully shatter in every direction what is most precious to you. Sin is always a horrible, violent "falling backward".

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/21

It is always at the beginning of a year when you see a whole potpourri of rules regarding what a person should eat. They are innumerable: the South Beach Diet, the Atkins diet, the Glucose Revolution, the Fat Flush plan, or even the Glycemic Index diet. It's multiple choice. Eenie, Meenie, Mynie, Mo. Surely, one of them ought to deliver the goods. But I find really curious how one of the programs targets Christians. How about this for a title, "What Would Jesus Eat?"
Unfortunately, in our present pop-culture, I think low-carb diets are ruling the day. But what does that do for the Idahoan who loves potatoes? Idaho produces 1/3 of the nation's potatoes each year! The average American eats 126.7 pounds of potatoes in a year! (49.5 pounds of fresh potatoes, 46.5 pounds of frozen potatoes, 17.7 pounds of potato chips, 11.1 pounds of dehydrated potatoes, and 1.9 pounds of canned potatoes). So, brothers and sisters, I am a Idahoan in revolt against all the manmade rules. In fact last night, I just had a big, stuffed potato, loaded to the max with butter, sour cream, bacon bits, cheese, and chives. Wow! Delicious! 
In my study, I find the only human experts I like are the ones I read in the McDonalds nutritional brochures. :) But I especially like the words of God. "And thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after." Author Mary McHugh comments, "Diet programs make over 40 billion dollars a year. . . 'The Zone', the latest diet fad in Hollywood, will cost you 5,000 a year." But I find interesting what the Lord says, "And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after . . . thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice." Now maybe some can't rejoice in God by slurping down a chocolate milk shake, but I with a sincere conscious can. I just need the Lord's help in not slurping down too much of that delicious stuff in one sitting. I think it is all in how much we eat. Eh?

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/22

I am so happy. Would you like to know the reason why? It's Jesus. My heart tastes one part of the goodness of the Lord. And then I think to myself how can it get any better? But then He opens up another vast room to explore of His matchless glory, and I am lost all over again in wonder.
Once again, the Scripture cuts across the popular opinion in Idaho Falls. People want to tell me that the greatest benefit of Jesus' atonement is only providing a bodily resurrection from the grave. Period. But if Jesus' work on the cross only raised people from the dead, that would only be a reversal of the effects of Adam's sin. I find, brothers and sisters, that the kingly power of the living Savior goes way, far beyond the destruction of being in Adam. In Romans 5, we find that He gives us "much more" than we ever lost in Adam. Much more! Much more! Much more! Much more! Much More! The chapter trumpets the phrase five times.
Happy? How can we not be happy in Jesus?

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/25

What can a man who is legally blind and attending a small, storefront baptist church here in Idaho Falls do for the Lord? Ask Kevin Pirni, who attends Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. With his computer and 40 watts of power, he is literally running a Christian radio station (91.5 FM) from his house! Imagine that.
Now, most Christians know about "the big three" stations here in the area, K-Love, KCIR, and CSN. But then this guy comes along with lots of surprises. I would say that I am not crazy about all the songs. But some of those Southern Gospel songs transplant me right back to my house as a kid, having to listen to all my mom's old, Gaither gospel records. Certainly, this man is breaking a lot of rules for ministry in our culture today. You would find it in the South, but it is unbelievable hearing it in Idaho Falls. He is actually putting on the airwaves, old hymns and fiery, baptist, KJV preaching. Has this guy gone nuts?
Well, I commend him for wanting to be a lighthouse here in town. Which makes me ask this question afresh. How can you and I be light and salt for Christ in our city? "A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel." You might not be called to be a preacher, but you certainly could start a radio station, build a websight, stock people and businesses with gospel literature, write short notes, invite friends to church, etc., etc., etc. God gave you a brand new heart! His Spirit will energize your reasoning and creative abilities far beyond your own capability. Brothers and sisters, "Let your light so shine!"

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/27

"We shall be saved by his life."
I remember many years ago a professor in a seminary class suddenly break out in a loud lamentation. Dr. Barrett cried, "Many of the kids walking down the sidewalks and hallways of this college don't have the foggiest idea of what "Union with Christ" means. What is it that is being taught in this country?!! My heart is grieved." He is not alone. Arthur W. Pink wrote, "The subject of spiritual union is the most important, the most profound, and yet the most blessed of any that is set forth in the sacred Scriptures; and yet, sad to say, there is hardly any which is now more generally neglected. The very expression 'spiritual union' is unknown in most professing Christian circles . . ." And I agree 100% with John Murray who says, "Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation."
When I translate the Greek preposition (en) as "in" instead of "by", the Scriptural phrase above just come to life. Brothers and sisters, do we realize that salvation is so much more than just saying a prayer? It is much more than just a past event where one walked down an aisle. Salvation in full rainbow is our spiritual, organic union with the living Savior! My salvation, my sanctification, and my glorification (EVERYTHING THAT I POSSESS AND AM AND WILL BE) all funnel from this glorious truth of being in Him. The truth of this . . . the very truth of this is my power, my joy, and my steadfast security.

Thinking of heart issues,

BTW, our church family witnessed the most beautiful, external picture of 'spiritual union' Sunday morning as four stepped down into the baptismal waters. When I looked out among the brothers and sisters, you could see the tears. Rightly so. You and I alive in Him!! There is no greater mysterious and marvelous gift in all of life.
Brothers and sisters, 1/29

I am 34. Stephen Koch is 34 years old, living in Jackson Hole, WY. I have a wife and four kids. He is excited about living with his girlfriend from New York. I like to telemark ski. Stephen likes to snowboard. One summer, I climbed the Grand Teton. Stephen works as an Exum Mountain Guide and is the first person to snowboard off the summit of the Grand Teton and down the Black Ice Couloir. I think it would be nice one of these summers to climb Mt. Ranier and maybe sometime the big one up in Denali, Alaska. Stephen has snowboarded down the highest mountain on each continent except Mt. Everest, (he is the first man to snowboard Kilimanjaro in east Africa, Puncak Jaya in New Guinea and Vinson Massif in Antarctica), Just this past year, he returned from a trip to Everest where he and Chin tried to summit the difficult north face and snowboard it, but they didn't quite make it. So at 34 years old, Koch has accomplished more than 40 first descents, many of which have never been repeated. Yet at 34 years of age, I am in Christ, which shatters the scales of any height or depth.
Stephen shared with me his contact information so I wrote him. I can only imagine the experiences of this world-class mountaineer and snowboarder. But I don't want him in his zeal for life to shortchange himself. There is One that I know who makes the adrenalin rush of Everest look like the humdrum, common patches of snow that I scrape off the church sidewalk. I encouraged Stephen to see even beyond the thrill of serious vertical, deep powder, or a pretty girl to the One who redeems the soul and satisfies the heart. Brothers and sisters, God abundantly and overwhelmingly supercedes anything that we can even think is great.
"For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

Thinking of heart issues,
Brothers and sisters, 1/31

"We have access by faith." 
Prayer has got to be one of the greatest privileges in being God's child. I love to pray whenever I exercise. With all the snow, I have enjoyed cutting paths with my telemark skis in the big fields alongside our church. And open parking lot provides a great place to do some ski "skating". But during a particular lunch break, I can spend the whole time in prayer while I'm out in the farmer's fields. Mentally, I will make my way through our whole church family. Each person in our church will be brought right before the throne room of God. Really, I consider it one of the most vital and necessary aspects of ministry. Intercessory prayer. I hunger to do more and more. May God help me. Prayer is a mighty weapon!
The Bible assures us that we can have access with God anytime of the day and as much as we want during the day. Amazing. This morning, let us be thankful for our access through the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a statement I received from a Christian sister in a Christmas letter. "Prayer is like quietly opening a door and slipping into the very presence of God; perhaps to petition or perhaps only to listen -- it matters not."

Thinking of heart issues,

BTW, when our family woke up yesterday morning, we noticed something about our snowman "Goliath". With the daily ministering of God's forces in creation, the cold head has now been taken clean off. Brothers and sisters, you and I both know that God is always working, sometimes swift, and sometimes what we think is slow. But He is always working. And He delights in our prayer to Him.



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