Words

Does it seem that we have gone directly from summer to winter? I hope this is just a preview, and that we can go back to fall for a while. After all, winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21.

As I read the news and follow conversations on social media, I am appalled at the lack of civil conversation. It seems everyone has a chip on their shoulder and is just going through life waiting to be offended by some other person. The use of profanity and threatening speech is at a level unseen in my life. The Bible has much to say about our speech, and the use of words. It may be that too few people have any knowledge of biblical teaching. If so, here are a few passages to start with.

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37).

Psalm 19:14… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 36:1-4; Concerning the speech of the wicked. “The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.”
Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Relating to holy living, as is commanded in scripture: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips… Therefore, as God’s chosen people…, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:8-12).

As James said, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

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The Lord is God

On a personal note, I celebrated another birthday last week. I find those milestones pass much quieter than when we were younger. I am grateful to God for His goodness and grace in allowing me another year.

We have had more crazy Nebraska weather. I know it is purely a reminder that we are in that changing of the seasons, but we have had several extremes this past week. It was pretty cool for a couple of days, then we had a day that the temperature made it almost to ninety, followed by a rainy day that only made it to the mid-forties! Oh, and don’t forget the wind. And now some food for thought.

I have noticed the tendency to fail to capitalize the word God, when folks post prayer requests or praise items on social media. I wonder, is this a sign of our secular or post-Christian era, that people don’t have a concept of the only true God, or have we just become lazy in our use of spelling and grammar? Another possibility is that we are just not reading the Bible, and have no instruction in who He is. There is actually a serious lack of Bible literacy today. Here is an observation from a man who is heavily invested in ministering to high-school students: “Never before have we encountered so many high schoolers who have never read the Bible, and much worse, who simply do not even own a Bible.”

New age philosophy and secular thinking promotes the idea of many ‘gods’, or that we are all equal to God in some way. In those media posts, one wonders what god the writer is calling on, or giving thanks to? The first of the Ten Commandments reads this way: You shall have no other gods before (besides) .Me. (Exodus 20:3). God is deserving of our worship. There is no other. I believe He will get His deserved respect from everyone in du time.

From Romans 14:10-12… “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As sure as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; and every tongue will confess to God.’
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Simply put, “Fear God and keep His commandments…” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Trusting Him,
Pastor Jerry

Truth

With the passage of the recent cold front, the humming birds have flown south and I suspect some humans might also be considering migrating south. Personally, I enjoy the different seasons, so I will be here when the snow flies and later, when the grass grows in the spring.

There is one thing seems to be at the top of the news these days. That one thing is “Truth!” Who is telling the truth? Where do you find what is true? Can the truth even be known?

What is truth? It is the question asked by Pilate, as he was interrogating Jesus. One commentary says this: “Ironically, the man charged with determining the truth in the matter glibly dismissed the relevance of truth in the presence of the One who is truth incarnate.” Another says, it is significant that Pilate suddenly turned away from the One who is the Truth, without waiting for answer.

This is exactly the way it is today. Those who claim to know what is true will not consider the source of Truth. They turn away when faced with the truths revealed in the Bible. So close, and yet they deny there is truth that can be trusted.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” (John 14:6).
Jesus, praying for His disciples, asked the Father to “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17).

Jesus uttered the phrase: “I tell you the truth”, 30 times in Matthew’s gospel, 13 in Mark, 9 in Luke, and 25 times in John.

Paul speaks of “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me…” (Titus 1:1-3).

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows (James 1:17). These gifts include the truth, which does not change.

Truth can be known. Truth exists in the written word of God. The Bible is the standard by which all truth claims are to be measured. Truth is not different for one individual over another.

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

Serious Worship

The weather is cooler as I write this on Friday, and the wind has switched to a northerly direction. We were visited by three humming birds this week. It is fascinating to watch them as they jockey for positions at the feeder. I am amazed that such a little bird can find our meager offering of sugar water in this big world. What a testimony to God’s design for His creation!

If you spent much time in church in an earlier age, you were most certainly admonished by your parents to be quiet. This is not the trend we see today. As church buildings became more multi-purpose in design, there was a movement away from the idea of preparing for worship as you entered the building. Maybe it was due to the lack of those traditional fixtures, such as pictures of biblical events and other items that set a place of worship apart.

I would not say today’s more informal worship gatherings are wrong, nor are they even unbiblical. If one spends any time researching worship in the Old Testament, you would find references to shouting, singing, dancing, and musical instruments, along with reading and proclaiming the Word of the Lord. In the New Testament, we also see explicit and implicit references to celebration in worship.

True worship, I believe, demands that we are to have a sense of awe as we stand in the presence of Holy God, but there is room for joy and laughter, along with the fellowship of like-minded brothers and sisters in the Lord.

As a pastor said last week as he prepared to deliver his message, “We have had a little fun and some light-hearted conversation, but it is time to be serious and listen to what God has to say through the preaching of His Word.”

I am a ‘fan’ of traditional worship, with its hymns and other traditions, but I am not going to say it is the only way. I have seen the younger generations worship, and I am convinced they are as committed to giving glory to God as any of us ‘older’ people. You see, it is all about the heart and our relationship with God and his Son Jesus Christ. If your heart is right, and the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ is preached, worship is what God intended.

To His glory,
Pastor Jerry

Hot or Cold?

The seasons continue to be in transition. Warmer days have returned for a while, but leaves are turning and beginning to fall. Some of the birds are starting to gather in larger flocks, in preparation for the fall migration.

Maybe it was a senior moment, or just absent-mindedness, but after I turned on the tap and stood waiting for hot water, I soon realized the water was taking a lot longer to arrive at the faucet than normal. It was then I saw that I had turned on the cold tap, instead of the hot. The lesson here is, no matter how long you wait, hot water will not flow through a cold water faucet.

If you are expecting hot water, cold will just not do. If you pick up a salt shaker and get sugar, the results are not the same. Here are some Bible references that illustrate the same basic truth, but in a spiritual context.

James, speaking of the need to control our tongues, had this to say: With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12).

In a different illustration, Jesus referred to false teachers in this way: By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-20).

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

The lesson for us as Christians is this; If we claim the name of Christ, Christlikeness should flow from us naturally. It follows that our words and actions will be in direct contrast with those who are not genuine Christians.

As Christians, are we hot or cold? That is the question.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Staying on the Path

Our weather has turned noticeably cooler this week. I suppose it is a sign of a change in the seasons, but it doesn’t seem that long since the last one. While on the topic of weather, we have only watered our lawn once this summer, and it rained the next day.

So I’ve been told, some of the newer vehicles contain a guidance system to warn if you drift to one side or the other of the travel lane. My brother tells me his RV will even correct course on its own to a point. Even as I write this on my computer, auto-correct keeps me reminded of misspelled words and improper grammar. Technology continues to amaze me.

God gives His people a guidance system; it’s called His Word; most know it as the Bible. That Word, in conjunction with His Holy Spirit, will keep you on the path he has set out for you. In a world that seems to have lost its moral compass, there is a way to find true north, so to speak. I’ll share just a few passages to illustrate.

God’s word lights the way for us, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). It gives us wisdom for living; “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32). “Listen my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path” (Proverbs 23:19).

God’s word also tells us those things He calls sin, and helps us overcome sin in our lives: “Direct my footsteps according to Your word; let no sin rule over me” (Psalm 119:133).

Finally, let’s not forget God’s instructions to Joshua, as His people prepared to enter the promised land.
“Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1:7-8).

GPS is great for keeping your vehicle on the road you want to travel, but GPL (God’s Plan for Life) will keep you on the path he has set before you.

Happy trails,
Pastor Jerry

Little Towns on Back Roads

Happy Labor Day. It was just four years ago that we moved our house to Lake Ericson. How time flies, it seems like yesterday.

Last Monday, we drove home from our weekend in Hershey, Nebraska. We traveled down Highway 30, instead of the Interstate. It was kind of a relaxing drive compared to good old I-80. As I mentioned last week, we had a great time meeting new friends and sharing the music and message. On our return trip, we drove through some towns that don’t get much traffic anymore, but people are living there who need to hear about Jesus.

According to the signs, and the billboards, every one of those little towns has one or more churches. I know that some of those churches are proclaiming God’s word as it is written, but I am also convinced that some are preaching a gospel that is not related to the saving gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the gospel being preached in many places, both large and small, has very little to do with salvation from sin and its penalty. It seems I keep returning to this topic much more than I would prefer, but I know I will be held responsible to God for failing to proclaim His truth. James had this to say to those who would teach. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

I return to the letter written by Jude, to believers in one or more churches. He writes this: Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 3-4).

Look around. Read that last sentence from Jude again. How many ‘churches’ do you know, whose leaders are leading in that direction? There are still godly men and women who are standing firm on the Word of God. Follow them, not the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Contending for the faith,
Pastor Jerry