In His Hands

Dear friends,

We are almost a month into the new year. There are already new challenges and trials that we have experienced. In praiseworthy news; I had a checkup with the doctor who repaired my aneurism, and he said to come back in a year. I am thankful for medical progress.

Each day, it seems the world throws another worrisome thing at us. I am slowly learning that worrying is a useless activity. Someone once said worry is a lot like an exercise bike; it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.

Depend on God to get you through this day, today is all we know. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is in his hands. I don’t like to sound like a broken record (there’s a phrase from the past), but maybe someone besides me needs to hear the words of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel again.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Remember the words of the old song; He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands!

Blessings,

Pastor Jerry

Therefore Go

Dear friends,

We have been enjoying every nice day that has come along. In days past, we have looked for a January thaw, but haven’t needed one yet. The nice days have outnumbered the cold ones, I am sure.

As I look at the way the world is going, I am reminded anew of the urgency of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. In a time when the culture is rebelling against God and the Truth of his Word, it is imperative that His people, the church, take seriously the Great Commission, as it is called.

Jesus’ final words to His disciples were, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

We, his followers have been given the order to take the gospel to the whole world. The message we have been given is specified in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome. “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, “that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame… For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:8-15).

We have the Good News. We are called to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Let us go and make disciples of all nations.

In His love,

Pastor Jerry

Back to Basics

Dear friends,
There is enough ice on the lake for fishing. With the changing temperatures, it has been a guessing game as to how thick the ice might be on a given day. I grew up spending a lot of time on the ice, and found out early you can’t tell just by looking if it is safe. There have been several fishermen this weekend, and no one fell through. I see some warm up for the next week, so caution is still in order.

Sometimes it is good to go back to the basics. It is no different as we experience the Christian life. I was looking through some early issues of this devotional project, and came across the following. It reminded me of the need for some plain old-fashioned gospel teaching.

This is what I wrote: For the past few weeks, I have been studying some important topics pertaining to the Christian life. Things like sin, repentance, confession, self-denial, discipline and the like. This is the kind of stuff that makes the preacher examine his life as he prepares to teach others about the truth of the Christian walk. It is not a pleasant experience at times, but what joy to find that Jesus is the one who enables us to overcome the things that hinder our walk. I will briefly tie these things together, in order that we may see how they are all connected.

Sin is disobedience to God; repentance is turning from sin and back toward God. Confession is agreeing with God that we have sinned. Self-denial means forgetting self and giving oneself over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Discipline means self-control which is empowered by the Holy Spirit and which enables us to resist the temptation of sin, and to live a life pleasing to God.

My prayer is that we can put these truths to work in our individual lives, and begin anew to live as Jesus would have us to live. Then, those who do not have a relationship with our Lord Jesus would see him in us and have a desire to know him as well. He is still the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by him. (John 14:6).

May God bless each one in the coming days, and may you feel his presence in a special way.

For Him,
Pastor Jerry

Looking Ahead

Dear readers,

Well, here we are at the beginning of a new year. 2022 came in a bit cold and snowy at our place, but we didn’t have plans to go out, so we stayed warm. I went to bed at my usual time, but my lady made it past midnight. I woke up enough to wish her a Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year causes me to reflect on the events of the past 365 days. Each time, there are good things that come to mind, and a fair share of negative memories. The Bible tells us to forget the past and look to the future, and this is good advice. However, I do believe it is constructive to review those not-so-good experiences with the goal of learning from them. The apostle’s point is to not dwell on the past. In his words, “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” (Philippians 3:13-14).

As we look back, it is beneficial to see how the Lord has used both our positive and negative experiences to strengthen our faith and our dependence on His guidance. We are in a time when it seems there is more than our share of difficulties. I think of the pandemic, and the suffering that has brought. We see broken relationships that are affecting many individuals and families. Some have financial setbacks, and others experience suffering in the area of personal health. Also, we are seeing increased persecution of Christians around the world and here in America.

In light of all of this, the apostle Paul wrote, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Peter reminds us that trials have come “so that your faith… may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed… for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

In Him

Pastor Jerry

Missing Jesus?

Dear friends,
I trust your Christmas celebration was a time of reflection on the Savior, along with fellowship of family and friends. Yet for some, it was also a time of sorrow because of loved ones lost in the past year. Thank God for Jesus, through whom we have been promised eternal life. Because of that we who believe will have a great glad reunion in heaven someday. This is our great hope.

Sometimes we feel that we are distanced from Jesus. He is not lost, but we have allowed ourselves to be distracted. This results in the feeling that he is missing in our life.

In Luke’s gospel we read this episode from the life of Jesus; Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival. After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days, they found him in the temple… (Luke 2:41-46a).

Lessons for us in this story; His parents were distracted by preparations to return home. He slipped away to be about his Father’s business. We, also, need to be careful not to lose sight of Jesus.

People make mistakes when they discover Jesus is missing. They press on down the path they are on, assuming he will meet them somewhere along the way. Usually, we have gotten ahead of him and his plan. I have heard it said, “if it seems Jesus is further from you than he was, guess who moved?”

When we discover Christ is missing in our lives, we must turn back to the place we last knew of his presence. It may have been a few days, or even years, but we must go back.

To keep from losing Jesus, we must spend much time in His word. We must keep our eyes on him, communicate with him in prayer, and allow his Spirit to speak to us. As the song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. These are some things to keep in mind for 2022.

Have a blessed New Year,
Pastor Jerry

God With Us

Dear readers,
There was some interesting weather last week, with much property damage, yet as far as I know there were no lives lost. For this we thank God. Not related to the storms, but needing prayer are those families who have lost loved ones in the last few days. Our prayers are for God’s comfort and healing in each of those situations.

Another Christmas celebration is upon us. This week I will share the following from a booklet titled, “God’s Gift of Christmas” by Dr. John MacArthur.

“God chose the name Jesus for His Son because its basic meaning defined the fundamental purpose for the Son’s coming to earth. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, or Jeshua, each of which means “Jehovah will save.” The baby Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to in the plan of God would grow up to testify to the Father’s salvation and would Himself be that salvation. By His own sacrificial death on the cross and triumphant resurrection from the grave He would save His own—all those who are drawn from sin to repentance and who receive faith to embrace His atoning work.

He would also be called Immanuel, which means, literally, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). It is a promise of incarnate deity, a promise that God himself would appear as a human infant. Immanuel, God with us.” This baby who was to be born would be God Himself in human form.

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into just three words, these words would be “God with us.” At Christmas we tend to focus on the infancy of Christ, but the greater truth of the holiday is his deity. He is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!

Immanuel, infinitely rich became poor. He assumed our nature, entered our sin polluted world, took our guilt on Himself although He was sinless, bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). All of that is wrapped up in “God with us.”

The immeasurable gift of Christmas is this. Christ, God’s own Son gave up all His wealth and privilege to live as God with us, that He might save His people from their sins, and that through His poverty they might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Merrie Christmas!
Pastor Jerry

Who is Jesus?

Dear readers,

A little snow fell this weekend. Here at the lake, it was three or four inches. With the warmer temps this week, I don’t expect it to hang around very long. The snow always adds to the beauty of the Christmas lights around the neighborhood. The first annual Trail of Lights was held last week, and by all reports was a huge success. Plans are being made for an even better display next season.

On the topic of Christmas, I wonder at times if there are people who don’t really know who, or why we celebrate at Christmas? Most folks would say it is about the birth of Jesus Christ, but do they really know who he is?

Who is this Jesus, whose birth we celebrate? Jesus asked his disciples at one point, “who do people say

that I am?” They answered him, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”

Today, there are many who will say Jesus was a moral person, or that he was a great teacher. Some see him as a historical figure, and some believe he is just make-believe. There is only one right answer to the question, and Peter supplied the correct answer.

If one believes the Bible is God’s unchanging word, then Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. There are other descriptions of Jesus in the Bible; Light of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Son of God, the Word. In Isaiah 9:6, the promised Messiah is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus, speaking of himself said, “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Above all, He came to save the world from the penalty of sin. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Many years ago, in sharing my testimony, I appealed to my listeners with the following verses of scripture from the writer of Hebrews; “So as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Is He speaking to you today?

In Him,

Pastor Jerry

Why Christmas?

Dear friends,

As we contemplate the coming of Jesus to the manger in Bethlehem, I want to share a devotional from Pastor Greg Laurie.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”
—Galatians 4:4–5

We are on the verge of celebrating Christmas, and we’ll talk a lot about the Baby born in the manger and the beauty of the Incarnation. But the purpose of the Incarnation was so there would be the death of Jesus and, ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus came to Earth to die for the sins of the world. Yet His disciples didn’t get that because it was lost in translation. Their hope and belief was that He would establish an earthly kingdom then and there. Their hope and belief was that He would drive out the Romans who were occupying the land.

After Jesus fed the five thousand, His most popular miracle at the time, the people wanted to make Jesus king by force so that He would bring Rome’s occupation to an end. They didn’t understand that it wasn’t the reason He had come to this earth.

It was always God’s plan for Christ to die. Revelation 13:8 calls Him “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (NKJV). What does that mean? It means that before there was a planet called Earth and a garden called Eden, before there was a couple known as Adam and Eve who ate of the forbidden fruit, God knew that humanity would blow it.

Adam and Eve’s sin didn’t come as a surprise or shock to God. He knew it would happen. So He already had a plan. His Son would come to this earth and be born in a manger, live a perfect life, and die on the cross for the sins of the world.

Of course, one day Jesus Christ will come back and establish His kingdom. One day He will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. But before Christ would wear a crown, He would first have to die on a cross and then rise from the dead.”

As Christmas approaches, let us not forget the Reason we celebrate.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Celebrate Christmas

Dear friends,
Christmas lights and other reminders of the season have appeared almost overnight. Christmas themed music has begun to be played on the radio, and much advertising is directed toward Christmas shopping. In all this, I pray we don’t lose sight of the real Reason for the season. In the world we live in, we need Jesus as much as we have ever needed Him, if not more.

If we believe the Bible, and understand that we live in a sin-stained world, our priority should be to put Jesus first. The prophet wrote, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14).

This one to be called Immanuel would be born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Malachi. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Micah 5:2.

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary and Joseph that the son to be born would be the Messiah, the promised Savior. To Joseph he said, “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”) Matthew 1:21. To Mary, his message was,
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32).

Paul wrote, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Jesus came to be the sacrifice that would pay the sin debt of the whole world, that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life. In Romans 6:23 it is written, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

At this time of the year, and in this Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of the Savior. It is an old, old story, but one of which we should never tire, or take for granted.

Thank God for Christmas!
Pastor Jerry

Thank God

Dear readers,

We are having one of those early copy deadlines again because of the Thursday holiday. I trust you all have/had a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. What blessings have you received in the past year? Were you quick to thank the Lord for each one? Remember, we are told many times in scripture to give thanks always, and in everything. The word thanksgiving occurs 27 times in the Christian Standard Bible, and 22 times in the New International Version

Thanksgiving can be described as gratitude directed toward God, generally in response to God’s acts in history. Thanksgiving is a natural element of Christian worship and is to characterize all of Christian life. Concerning thanksgiving in worship, the psalmist wrote, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His name” (Psalm 100:4).

In life, we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Paul, writing to Timothy said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Why should we pray for those in government? He tells us in verses 3 and 4. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” We pray for the salvation of our leaders, so that they will see the truth, and begin to govern God’s way.

Did you notice in the last paragraph, that thanksgiving and prayer are connected? It is by prayer that we return thanks for God’s blessings. Also, as we give thanks and present our prayers and petitions to Him, He will in turn bless us with more to be thankful for. As a side note, how many times have you thanked God for the gift of prayer?

Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done (Psalm 105:1). Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

In closing, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 16-18).

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Jerry