Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

God’s Plan

Hello all,
I trust everyone had a blessed Easter Sunday. I took a trip into the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills, to fill in for a pastor who was taking a well-deserved and much needed break. Highway 20 across the northern part of our state holds many (mostly good) memories for me, and it is nice to go back now and then.

A long drive through what is called God’s Country, gives one time to reflect on God’s creative genius, but also to realize what a privilege it is to live here. I’m sure there are some who would see this as anything but an ideal situation, and I definitely would not want to live in their little corner of the world either. It is obvious that God has made something for everyone in that respect.

The observance of what we call Easter, rightly described as Resurrection Day, gives us pause to reflect on God’s eternal plan to provide payment for our sin debt. As the Bible explains, creation was in God’s own words ‘good’ and ‘very good’. Along comes Satan disguised as a serpent, to tempt Adam and Eve to disobey God’s specific instructions. As a result, all mankind was, and is born with a sin nature, and God’s perfect creation is damaged. Because God knows all things, he also knew this would happen. In his eternal wisdom, He also provided the means to pay the penalty for sin. No person could ever pay their own sin debt, much less the sins of anyone else.

In the book of Romans, it is written “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It also states, the “wages of sin is death.” In light of this, God planned to provide a sacrifice that would satisfy His demand of payment for sin. This sacrifice would be in the person of his only Son, Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world (you and me), that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves God’s power over death, and fulfills his promise of eternal life to all who will believe.

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:12).

In His grace,
Pastor Jerry

New View

Well… it looks as if March may be going out on a mild note, although the current forecast calls for a little snow toward the end of the week. One thing is certain, if it snows, the stuff will not stay long. I think most of us would be okay with some sunshine and some drying out of the soil. Our roads and streets are, to put it mildly, A MESS! I’m all for the four seasons, but it is time for a quick transition to the next one. After traveling to a sister church to preach Sunday morning, I would even welcome some road construction if it would mean smoother travel.

Flood cleanup continues across our state and in some neighboring states. Let’s continue to pray for the victims, also for those workers who are helping with the recovery. It is not too late to volunteer, and more volunteers would be welcome, I’m sure. Also, if you are in a position to do so, monetary donations would be greatly appreciated.

After being bombarded with the destruction and death of the flooding and storms of recent days, perhaps it is time for a refocus. As I anticipate the return of warmer weather and spring, my thoughts always seem to turn to renewal and rebirth. Spring brings baby calves, foals, lambs, green grass, flowers, and warm sunshine. As the celebration of Easter, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus draws near, those thoughts turn to spiritual rebirth and renewal. What follows are some of my favorite spring-time verses.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:1-30).
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).
The prophet Malachi spoke of the coming day of the Lord in this way: “But for you who revere my name… you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall (Malachi 4:2). Now there’s a picture of a spring day!

As we contemplate this theme of new birth and renewal, hear words of the Lord. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Praise be to God,
Pastor Jerry

God, Our Refuge

As I begin writing this, we’re in the middle of an old-fashioned blizzard! Snow is coming down, and the wind is picking up quickly. Update: Actually, the storm didn’t last long, but it was a reminder of what can happen this time of the year.

Every time one of these storms blows through, I am glad I don’t have to deal with them up close and personal anymore. At the same time, I can relate to what livestock men and women are experiencing. I have many memories of taking care of cows and calves in bad weather.

I have learned over the years, to appreciate the instincts that the Creator provided to the livestock. Given the opportunity, the cows seem to always find protection from the storm. One of the things I learned, was not to go out in the middle of a storm and try to “help” the cows. Experience taught me to wait until the storm passed, because moving them just caused more problems in the end.

We can apply this thought to our own lives, as we encounter the storms of life. When we are in a difficult place, instead of asking God to take us out of the storm, we could ask him to get us through the storm. It could be that he has allowed the storm to strengthen our faith. If we did not experience the storm, we would not learn to trust Him.

Isaiah, praising God said, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…” (Isaiah 25:4).

Forty-three verses, just in the Psalms, speak of God as a refuge. Here are a few:
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9). Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge (16:1). Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (34:8).

I’m reminded of the chorus of an old hymn entitled, Til the Storm Passes By;
“Til the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Til the clouds roll forever from the sky.
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand.
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.”

In His hands,
Pastor Jerry

Know Peace

This winter has certainly shown us some variation. The temperature graph is looking like a roller coaster track. In addition, we have had rain, snow, and at times abundant sunshine. Partly due to rampant illness in the area, we have not been going out in public, except for going to church on Sunday. I did make a trip early last week, to do some business and get a few groceries.

Listening to, or reading the news can be discouraging, disheartening, maddening, or frustrating, or some combination of these. What are we to do in response? For the person who doesn’t know Jesus as Savior, it must look hopeless, and certainly not conducive to personal peace. For the Christian, however, even in the present circumstances, there can be both hope and peace.

Jesus, in describing the days leading up to the end, pretty accurately describes the world today. Yet, he gives encouragement, by promising peace in the midst of it. Speaking to his disciples, in the first part of John, chapter 16, he describes the world as his second coming draws near. It is not a pretty picture, nor is it encouraging, but he could have been talking about America in 2019. Read Matthew 24:1-14.

Then we read his words in John 14:27… “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
“Because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5)?

Peace, for the Christian, is being settled in the knowledge that his sins are forgiven and he has been made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will have peace in his heart no matter what his circumstances are. Praise God!

As the saying goes: “No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace!”

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

A Christmas Story

Dear friends,
As I begin writing, the sun is shining. This is a welcome sight, since for most of the last week, it has been cloudy and cold. The snow of last weekend is still hanging around, and with the snowy background, the Christmas lights at the lake have taken on a new look.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, so also, we see the beginning of what might be called ‘insanity season.’ Christmas is being banned in the public square, Christmas music is suddenly not politically correct, and right here in mid-America, a misinformed school official has banned candy canes. However, instead of commenting on these, I want to share a real Christmas story this week.

Back in the days of old (1980’s), a young ranch couple were struggling through some financial hard-times. It seemed there might not be funds to purchase Christmas gifts for the couple’s two children. In a conversation with his pastor, the young dad mentioned their dilemma, because he needed to share his thoughts with someone.

About a week before Christmas, there came a phone call from the pastor, inviting the couple to stop in later that evening. They went to the parsonage, and after some small talk, the pastor said, “my wife and I have a little money saved up, and we want to give your something to buy gifts for your boys.” He handed the dad a check for one hundred dollars. Suddenly, the Christmas season seemed much brighter for the little family. Needless to say, there were tears of joy and gratitude in that house.

Years have passed, and the now much older young rancher has never forgotten that Christmas gift. May you have opportunities to brighten the holidays for some less fortunate family this Christmas season.

The Lord Jesus came to earth as God’s gift to mankind. The apostle Paul describes God’s grace and His salvation as His indescribable gift. It is this gift we celebrate, as we give to others in this giving time of the year.

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). As the psalmist said, “Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 72:19).

Christmas blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Landmarks

Hello friends,
I trust your Thanksgiving celebration was enjoyable, and you were able to count great numbers of blessings from the past year. We made a couple of road trips, traveling to South Dakota on Wednesday, to help Alex as he moves into a different house closer to school and work. Thursday, we joined with some other folks for a Thanksgiving meal and great fellowship, then on Friday to Neligh to celebrate with Ryan and the three grandsons.

We all have them; those places that we use to mark roads, or to remind us of some event in the past. As we traveled highway 281 north of O’Neill last Wednesday, we passed what is known locally as the “stone windmill.” I remarked that it was falling down with the passage of time. I thought of other landmarks I have known. Most have disappeared, but they seem to be always replaced with another name, or another object. Those places and events of life, seem to require some sort of marker for those who pass their way.

Growing up, where our county road connected to the major highway, there was a stone house. Everyone told people unfamiliar with the area to turn at the ‘stone house.’ Eventually, the old house was torn down, and being eight miles from town, the intersection became the eight-mile road.

In another place, three large cottonwood trees marked a t-intersection. Travelers were instructed to turn at the three-tree corner. After the road department cut those trees down, three more volunteer cottonwoods were allowed to grow up in their place. It is still the three-tree corner.

Other, more familiar landmarks have stood for many years, but show the wear and tear of erosion and other changes. I’m reminded of Chimney Rock in western Nebraska, among others. Landmarks may disappear, but we find replacements. In this age of GPS, people still need those landmarks to keep them on the right road.

The Bible can be compared to a landmark. Its purpose being to show the lost the way to salvation, and for helping to keep God’s people on the right path.

If I may paraphrase Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, landmarks disappear, but the word of God stands forever.” As the old song says, “The Bible stands, like a rock, undaunted.” When all other landmarks are gone, the Bible stands.

Standing on the promises,
Pastor Jerry

Give Thanks Daily

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s the time of year to give thanks for all our blessings. It is no coincidence, I believe, that the holiday coincides with the end of harvest. If we can’t count our blessing during this time of the year, when can we? In spite of the fact the Bible encourages thankfulness from God’s people, over the years I have noted that it seems easier to go to the Lord with a list of wants, instead of thanking him for blessings received.

Things we are thankful for in our house this week: Friends and family. A great place to live and enjoy our retirement. Our church family. God’s creation. Each new day. Good health, and the list goes on…

Speaking of the need to give thanks, here are some Old Testament commands of God to his people:
1 Chronicles 16:8… Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Also, verse 34… Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

In 1 Chronicles 23:30; in a description of the duties of the Levites serving in the temple, we read: They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening.

Then there is the witness of his people: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17). “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Let’s not just be thankful at Thanksgiving; may we start and end every day with an attitude of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Praising Him,
Pastor Jerry