Archive for August, 2016

Family Reunion

Dear friends,
We spent the weekend reconnecting with family, some of whom we haven’t seen for most of twenty years. It was a good time, a perfect day, and an ideal location. It always interests me to see how well we have all aged (or not). I enjoyed the little kids and their exuberance for life. Then there are the older kids; they appear to be mostly bored and wishing they were home with their friends. And the old people? They just tell stories of how it used to be.

Family is one of those things the Lord has blessed us with, that too often we forget. It shouldn’t take a family reunion, wedding, or the funeral of a member of the family to get us together. In the “old days”, our families were not separated by distance as much as today, and yet with all the means we have available to stay in touch, it seems harder to stay connected. I don’t necessarily have any answers; I’m just thinking out loud here.

Time is fleeting. Life is short. We need to stay in touch, at least occasionally, because we have no guarantee that any of us will be here next week, or next year. This might be the time to remind ourselves if there is a broken or damaged relationship somewhere in our family, it is time to start the mending process. It would be better to have restored a relationship than a lifetime of regret for not doing so.

Today (Monday), I will check in at the hospital for a CT scan. It is just over a year since I had the medical emergency and night-time ride in the medical helicopter. The scan will tell the doctor if all is well, and if the medication is doing its job. This could be the reason for the thoughts on family and relationships this week.

I’ll leave you with two biblical references regarding our plans and the brevity of life: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes… “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live…” (James 4:14-15). “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” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

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Religion or Relationship?

The sun is shining and the temperature is cool; a beautiful morning. I love these late summer days!

I hear a lot of people mention the fact that they are religious. There seems to be confusion on the part of many regarding the difference between what it means to be Christian, and what the term religion, or religious, means. Let’s look at these two terms today, and see if there is in fact, a difference.

A Christian is an adherent of Christ; one committed to Christ; a follower of Christ. A religious person is one who seeks to gain favor with God by their own effort. The term “religion” emphasizes conduct. Religious people base their salvation on good conduct, or good deeds. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is God’s view of religion.

The Bible speaks of God-pleasing religion as helping others in need (James 1:27). A believer with this kind of religion is faultless (pure or undefiled), and keeps himself pure (clean). This is not a definition of religion but rather a contrast to mere acts of worship and ritualistic observances that are commonly called religion.

Make no mistake, religion will not get you to heaven. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will do that. The invitation is extended to all. In no way will he deny anyone who believes on him for their salvation (John 6:37). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21). What then, is God’s will? “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life” (John 6:40).

Writing to Christians, Paul said this: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:3-5).

Salvation is by faith, not by works. Good works for the Christian are the result of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, allowing Him to work through you for his glory.

Religion or relationship, which will it be?

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Testify!

I hope you are enjoying these late summer days. We have had some nice rains here, and the crops and pastures are in great condition. God is good, but not just in the good times, He is still good in whatever bad times we might go through. We were blessed this past Sunday, to attend a baptismal service at one of our area rivers. I had the privilege several years ago, of hearing a young lady ask Jesus Christ into her life. On that day, she and two others followed the Lord’s example, being baptized by immersion in the river. What a blessing it was to be there and see their obedience to God’s word.

On a somewhat related topic, do you remember the guy in the commercial who, when asked if he had ever done heart surgery, answered, “No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night!” How many people know the terminology of a process or procedure, but have no personal experience in that thing?

I fear there are some who claim to be Christians, and know all the right words, but have no personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus or of his teaching. They have some idea that they need to do good deeds, or get their lives in order, before they are acceptable to God. They learn from their Christian friends some of the terminology, and how a Christian is to live, but they are depending on these things for their salvation.

The simple truth is, God will only accept us on His terms, that we take by faith the gift of salvation provided by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ the Son of God. (John 14:6).

The apostle Peter preached a sermon at Pentecost that had people asking “brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s answer was, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38).

The proper sequence it this: Admit you are a sinner. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Repent; that is turn from your sin. Then be baptized as a public witness to a changed life. Died to sin, raised to new life in Christ. It’s that simple. Is this your testimony, as well?

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

On Possessions

We have appreciated the cooler weather of the last few days. I have no personal fishing report yet, although I did see some really nice largemouth bass that two ladies had caught Friday afternoon.

I find we are still having to deal with years of collecting things we thought we had to have. In fact, due to the amount of stuff we still possess, we have purchased another piece of property here at the lake. We will now have a place to keep our “overflow”, that is the tractor and its attachments, the little pontoon boat, golf cart, etc. This does not mean we have found the answer to the problem of having these things, downsizing must continue.

I am continually reminded of scripture that warns of letting material goods take first place in our lives. Note: It’s not my wife that keeps reminding me, she has stuff, too. Could it be the Spirit of God tapping me on the shoulder, saying “enough already”?

As I talk with other people, I find we are not the only ones dealing with the abundance of things not needed. Many of us are having this struggle. What is the answer to this? God’s word has some suggestions.

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Jesus, speaking to the rich young man in Matthew 19:21). “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In the follow-up to his story of the rich man who built more bins to hold his grain, Jesus had this advice for his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:22-23).

Here is a final thought on this subject. I read this statement a few years ago, and it comes to mind now. “Someday, all your valued possessions will fit in a small drawer in some nursing home.”

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Potted or Planted?

Once again, I can report some nice rains. The total here in our gauge was nearing 2 inches. A little rain certainly helps with watering the lawns and gardens.

Speaking of gardens and such, we completed construction of a new flower bed this past week. The flowers have been sitting in pots beside the house waiting to be planted in the ground. Here are a few observations connecting potted plants and Christian living. Stay with me on this one.

Plants meant to be planted in the ground do not do well in pots. Some of the plants we brought from the store were needing help. Coming from the nursery in what is called “potting soil”, they dry out too soon, and left in that environment, they get root bound, leading to stunted growth. They need to be taken out of those pots and planted in the ground where they belong, so they can flourish. I wonder sometimes if Christians might be subject to a similar condition?

The new Christian is a bit like a new seedling plant. He needs a certain amount of protection and care, before he is planted in the world. But keeping him in the greenhouse environment, so to speak, is not going to be beneficial to him in the long run. As we disciple a new believer, there is a point where we get them out of the pot, and plant them where they can begin go grow and live out God’s plan for them.

The psalmist said this about the man who reads and meditates on God’s word: He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3).

Just as the potted plant from the nursery cannot feed or water itself, so also does the new Christian need to be fed and watered by the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us to move on from spiritual infancy, that is needing milk, to the taking in of solid spiritual food that leads to spiritual maturity. (Hebrews 5:11-14). Then we read: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” (Hebrews 6:1).

My advice to stunted Christians? Get out of that greenhouse pot, get growing, and bloom where God has planted you!

Feeding on His word,
Pastor Jerry