High Water

Dear friends,
It is obvious the rains have not stopped for some of our friends in other places. As I read of roads made impassable by heavy rains, and people marooned on their property, surrounded by water, I pray this will pass soon. The 2019 spring and summer seasons have tried the patience and perseverance of many. Having experienced some abnormally wet seasons on the ranch, I understand. It is not a fun situation by any measure. It reminds us of the fact that as much as mankind has learned, we still do not know how to control the weather.

In times of excessive rain there are always those who suggest the need to build an ark, as in the Old Testament story of Noah and the command of God to build one. The flood that God was going to bring upon the earth was judgment for the rampant sin and ungodliness of the time. Only Noah and his family would be spared. Just as God said, when the ark was completed, and the animals and Noah’s family were safely on board, the earth was flooded, and all remaining life destroyed. After the waters had receded, God made a covenant with Noah.

“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:12-15).

We are living in a time when sin and ungodliness seem to increase daily. Peter reminds us that God will again judge the earth, but not with a flood. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything will be laid bare.” Then the question; Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” And, the answer; “You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:10-11).

Standing on His promises,
Pastor Jerry

The Gospel

Hello friends,

I trust you are enjoying the cooler weather. We are glad the rains have stopped here. I don’t remember ever having a summer when we did not need to water the lawn.

In a time of reminiscing, I realized that November of this year will mark the 20th year I have been writing these weekly thoughts. What began as a means to share with a few people what God was doing in my life, has become something I could not have imagined back then. I am grateful to God for all who have encouraged me in this endeavor over the years.

I was recently asked this question; “What is the gospel? You speak and write of sharing the gospel, but how many people understand what that is?” I had never really thought about the need to define what the word means, so I will try to explain it in this week’s devotional thought.

I know that sometimes we Christians use words that only have meaning to us. It is called speaking in ‘Christianese’. We forget there are those who haven’t had the opportunity to read the Bible, or hear someone preach from it.

The word gospel, in fact, means good news. What is that good news? Simply put, the Christian gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ came to save us from our sin. Here is what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul again; “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16-17).

It is the responsibility of every believer in Christ to tell this gospel, or good news to all who will listen, so that those who hear have an opportunity to believe. Have you heard?

For Him,
Pastor Jerry

Priorities

Hello friends,
September is here, and the weather word is cooler. Cool nights and days are signs of things to come, I suppose. Before we know it, the seasons will change again. The big national weather news is the hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Prayers are in order for the folks in the path of this storm.

Now for the devotional thought of the week. Maybe it should be called ‘Why are traditions so hard to give up?”
Why are traditions so hard to give up? It seems like a fair question, and one I had to deal with recently. I have consistently held the view that change is not a bad thing, yet when it becomes personal, I have second thoughts. We hold on to traditions and possessions, as if they hold some special value. If someone comes in and wants to make changes to our comfortable surroundings, we resist their efforts even if they are well-intentioned and make perfect sense. We easily forget that in light of eternity, nothing of this earth matters.

Our old friend King Solomon had something to say about this. Speaking of all the things he had acquired, he wrote, “I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19)?

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

To the religious leaders of his time, Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (Mark 78-9)!

When earthly possessions and those traditions we hold dear begin to become our focus, rather than our mission as followers of Jesus Christ, we are in danger of idolatry. To paraphrase a message I heard many years ago, when we begin to focus on the things of earth, we have taken our eyes off the cross, and the One who died for us.

Remember, as Christians, we have a greater inheritance waiting in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

Our Broken World

Dear readers,
One word about the weather. Rain! In other news, it appears we have completed another landscaping project. There has been a ditch along the north side of our property, and it was a bit difficult to mow due to the steep banks. Recently, son Ryan installed a long culvert in that spot, covered it with dirt and leveled it off. We have planted grass seed, and if the rain doesn’t wash it all away mowing will be much easier next summer.

Sometimes, when I see the heartache and hurting in our world, it is almost too much. I know I am not alone in feeling this way. We who live in rural America have by and large been insulated from the problems of the big cities and population centers. This is not the case anymore.

There is enough blame to go around, and I could name a lot of reasons for the mess we are in, but from a Christian point of view, the one-word explanation would be sin. Our world has been broken since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. When people reject God, and go their own way, evil takes over. There is no moral compass, and there are no guidelines for proper living. When people reject God, they turn to other things seeking fulfilment. Drugs, alcohol, sex, power, money, fancy cars, big houses; none of these bring lasting satisfaction.

There is, however, a solution to this dilemma; “This is what the Lord Almighty says: Return to me, declares the Lord Almighty, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 1:3). Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

It has been said there is within each of us a God shaped void. It can only be filled satisfactorily by the Holy Spirit of God. Nothing else will do. Jesus alone can overcome our sin nature. Paul wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

His truth will set you free.
Pastor Jerry

The Unchanging Word

This week, I read an article by a Christian writer who was commenting on the topic of filtering our words. The point being, we need to really pay attention to the things we say and the words we post on social media. He made reference to the number of words he had written over the years.

This started me thinking about my own articles, and I wondered what my word count would be. Here is what I found; I aim for 400 words per article. They are written once a week and I have been doing this for about 20 years. I came up with a total of something like 416,000 words. I had no idea!

On an entirely different subject, since I’m ‘retired’, I have begun spending time in the kitchen doing some of the cooking. When we were on the ranch, Milrae was faithful to have meals ready when I came in from work, and I now have time to return the favor. Generally, I follow a tried and true recipe, but now and then, I like to experiment. These experiments do not always end well. For the best results, I have found it is better to ‘go by the book,’ so to speak.

There are a significant number of people these days who try to make up their own recipe for living life. They may claim some knowledge of God’s plan for life, as is found in the Bible, but they want to experiment by choosing the parts they like, along with adding bits and pieces of other religions or philosophies. These efforts are doomed to failure. Call it ‘cafeteria Christianity’ or whatever you may, God’s word is complete in itself. It needs no editing or added ingredients.

Here are some verses for our consideration and mediation. “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless (2 Samuel 22:31, also Psalm 18:30).
“For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does” (Psalm 33:4). Over and over in scripture, we read “hear the word of the Lord!”

Peter quoted Isaiah in his first letter; “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

In truth,
Pastor Jerry

Cell Phones and Bibles

Rain seems to be a common occurrence here at the lake and surrounding areas. There are a few who could use a nice rain for their crops, but for others it is a battle getting hay baled. As I remember, in a normal year, at this time we are begging for cooler temperatures and a little rain. I am also reminded that in an average year, there may be times that conditions are above or below normal. Such is life.

I have a new cell phone. Since my old one was not meeting my perceived needs, I decided to upgrade a little. I didn’t want the newest model, because I could not justify the cost, so I settled on a model that has only been obsolete for maybe a year. To eBay I went to search for a bargain. I made my choice and ordered a phone. I was sure this would be a simple process, but as always there were complications.

The new phone came, and it was new enough the SIM card from the old one would not fit. Who knew SIM cards are now smaller than the previous ones? So, I ordered a new card and waited two days. When I got it installed, I was sure I was home free. Wrong. As I was getting new apps installed and testing all the functions, it occurred to me I was hearing no sound from the new phone. I began to experiment, and sure enough, that thing would not ring to let me know someone was calling. What good is a phone without a ringtone? Maybe it would be the perfect phone to take to church; it wouldn’t disturb the worship!

I have heard of people who think God has nothing to say to them. They insist the they never hear from God. He has, in fact called, and his words are easily available to each one of us. They are recorded in the Bible. All one has to do is open it and begin to read.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Also, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Listen to him.

Consider this; an unopened and unread Bible is about as useless as a phone without a ringtone.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

The Tune-up

The pleasant weather continues. We did receive some rain on Friday, but not as much as some folks to the south and west. The garden continues to do well, as do the flowers. We have had our first (small) tomato, and a few cucumbers, in addition to the green beans that we have been enjoying.

Now for the weekly devotional thought. Sunday, as I was driving to a sister church for a speaking engagement, I remembered that a couple of months ago, our pickup was running poorly, and the fuel mileage wasn’t what I expected it to be. Now, in the past, I would have run it into the shop and changed the sparkplugs, points, and condenser, probably fixing the problem. In today’s world, some of those parts don’t exist, so there was no use for me to even start.

After a visit to the dealer’s shop, and a computer diagnosis, it was determined that it did in fact need new spark plugs and something called a “fuel system flush.” Who knew fuel system flush was even a thing? It now performs as good as new.

As I thought about this, I was reminded that the Christian sometimes needs a tune-up. The remedy for this is to get back in touch with our maker through his word, and let him put us back in working order. When we neglect meeting with Him in prayer, through the study of His word, and fellowship with other believers, we get distracted by life leading to poor performance in our Christian walk.

A time of prayer and fellowship with God is important for a healthy Christian life. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).

Spending time reading and studying the Scripture is also important. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).

Finally, spend time with other Christians regularly. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

If you feel your relationship with the Lord isn’t hitting on all cylinders, these verses are a good place to start that tune-up.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry