Archive for the ‘Body of Believers’ Category

Church in Our Time

Dear friends,
Another week has gone by. We are still staying home most of the time. There was a trip to the grocery store and the pharmacy last Wednesday, but otherwise we were home doing yard work, etc. There is an advantage to living where we do; it is not hard to practice social distancing.

Our church family will decide this week how we might transition back to corporate worship at the church property. We may begin by meeting outdoors for a few Sundays, weather permitting. Time will tell. The Zoom app has been good, but there is no substitute for being there in person.

The Bible tell us the first century Christians met together in each other’s homes, and I suppose in other small group settings. They had no “church” building, nor did they hold title to any property on which to erect a building. From Acts, chapter two, we read; They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people (verses 42-47).

We may be unable to meet in person due to the pandemic of Covid19, but thanks to the current technology, we can have virtual fellowship in a way that the first Christians could not have imagined. Instead of feeling deprived, perhaps we should count our many blessings.

Even with the inconveniences we are experiencing in our current situation, we should take a lesson from the apostle Paul, who wrote “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7).

Then, this from Paul, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, … I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (verses 11-13).

We may have some inconvenience, but it’s nothing God can’t get us through.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,
Pastor Jerry

Jesus is Lord

Hello friends,
The weather is in the news again. We reached 70+ degrees one day last week, then were greeted with snow and wind on Easter Sunday. Spring is out there somewhere, I am sure. The other big news item remains the Covid-19 virus. Lord willing, we will get past this pandemic and begin a return to life as we would want it to be.

On one of those nice days last week, I decided it was a good day to wash the windows on our sun porch. While gathering a bucket and some tools from the garage, I tripped and experienced one of those slow motion falls. You know what I mean; you know you are going down, but have a little time to plan your landing. After it was over, I had only a scuff mark and bruise above my left knee, and a little laceration on one finger. I was truly thanking the Lord it wasn’t worse. After the windows were clean, it all seemed worthwhile.

On Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. For most of us, it was an Easter unlike any we had ever seen. In our church, we met through Zoom. It was a small group of people, but we were able to read and study the pertinent Bible passages, and listen to the preaching of our pastor. We saw each other’s faces, but missing was the personal interaction, the handshakes, and hugs.

In and through all this, here is the important thing to remember; in the midst of all the insecurity and all the unknowns of the day, Jesus Christ is Lord! He has a handle on all the things that are going on in the world. He has defeated death, sin, and the devil and he proved it on the day He rose from the tomb.

Read the following passages with me: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15). For more, read the whole chapter.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Worship Together

Hello friends,
Here we are at the beginning of another week! Just a short update on my recovery: It is going well. Last night, I slept in my own little bed all night, instead of in the recliner. There will be a visit with my cardiologist on Wednesday, at which time I expect to receive rehab orders. A week after that, I will be cleared to drive, and then in another week, I will see the heart surgeon for a checkup. I don’t want to make this a huge deal, but people also want to know. I can see the hand of God in every aspect of this portion of the journey. He is with me in this, as He has been in all my life.

It was good to be back in church Sunday morning. There is no better place than in fellowship with other Christians, as we worship and study the Word. These days, we can access any number of church services by way of podcasts, live streaming, television broadcasts, and other media tools. There are those who say they can worship God at the lake, sitting on their deck, out in nature (there’s one I used before I knew Jesus). However, the Bible is rather specific about meeting together in a worship setting. One only has to read a few verses into the book of Acts, before it is clear that there were no Lone Ranger Christians in the early days.

After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given, Peter preached and many came to faith in Christ. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and prayer.” Further, we read, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and age together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:42-43; 46.)

The writer of Hebrews spells it out in everyday cowboy language. “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—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Meeting together, not texting altogether.

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

The Creative Creator

Hello friends,
Last week, I told you of my planned heart bypass surgery. I can now report the surgery went well, and I am at home recovering. I have no rehab schedule presently, but somewhere, someone is preparing a plan. I now know much more about the process than I might have wanted to know. Word like saws, titanium plate, tiny screwdriver, screws… you get the idea. There were tubes and all kinds of wires and assorted monitors.

As I heal, I have been thinking about the wonder of the bodies God has given us. I met a man while in the hospital who claimed to be an agnostic. As I understand it, an agnostic will claim it is impossible to know God, and an atheist denies the existence of God, or even of a supreme intelligent being. My question at this point is, how then do you explain the complexity of the human body? How can you not see the hand of God in creating his own?

Oh, some will say it is the result of some random accident through which life began, or that some primitive life form ‘evolved’ to a human being. I for one, am glad for a Creator God, who not only designed mankind in His image, but that he equipped some to perform amazing procedures and others to help us on our way to recovery. In the last week, I have experienced some wonderful medical progress, and met some amazing individuals. From the doctors, ICU staff, nurses, CNAs, to housekeeping and nutritional staff. You are all special people!

Jesus is called the Great Physician and Healer, but he has some very talented individuals involved in the process. Thank you, also, for prayers for me this past week, I know they had much to with my speedy recovery from the immediate effects of the surgery and my eventual dismissal from the hospital in record time. God is King, and He is still on His throne. Praise Him daily!

It is not always God’s will for healing, but we should not fail to always pray. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16)

Praising His goodness,
Pastor Jerry

Age Discrimination?

Hello friends,
Another week has rolled around; time for another bit of news and views from our corner of the world. The weather continues to be an ever-changing topic of discussion, with each day bringing something different. Last week we had rain, snow, ice and wind in varying degrees, but little to no actual sunshine. On a personal note, the ultrasound of my leg showed nothing that would interfere with surgery on my foot. The stress test apparently showed areas of concern, but I didn’t get to see the cardio doctor yet. My Wednesday appointment last week was canceled by guess what; icy road conditions! It has been rescheduled for this Wednesday. More on that next week.

Here is a headline that caught my attention this last week; “Church asks older members to go away.” What? It seems a church in Minnesota has decided to close and restructure, in an attempt to counter a decline in membership. It will open again with an emphasis on drawing in a younger congregation. Current members are being asked to “wait 15 to 18 months before returning to worship there.”

Who, then, will teach the new group of attenders the truths of scripture, and how to apply the gospel to life? In his letter to Titus, a young pastor, the apostle Paul stresses the importance of older Christians in the church body.

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. in everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…” (Titus 2:1-8).

The church needs people of all ages, working together as a witness to a lost world, as they “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

For Truth,
Pastor Jerry

The Word is Jesus

Hello friends,
As I began to awake from my sleep this morning (Monday), the sound of the wind in the trees reminded me the seasons are about to change again. Only the good Lord knows what weather awaits us, but I am hearing predictions of a ‘hard’ winter. We can only hope those predictions are wrong. Can I get an amen?

Milrae and I spent the latter part of last week visiting a couple of local recreation areas and spending our nights in the camper. I have had people ask, why own a camper when you live beside a lake? My stock answer – sometimes you just need a different view. We should perhaps apply this in other ways, as well. What if we would occasionally step back and take a look at life from another person’s point of view? Might we get to the point of understanding each other in a new way?

As we came to the end of our week-end get-away, we attended church services at Grace Bible Church in Loup City, where I gave the morning message. We then traveled up the road to Burwell for the annual meeting of our local church association. After the meeting, we joined some members of Burwell Baptist for their 5th Sunday hymn sing. This was the perfect ending to our little vacation.

On a devotional note, let me share a thought or two from my Sunday sermon. The text is John 1:1-5; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.

The Word that John speaks of is Jesus, so we see that Jesus was not only with God in the beginning, he is God, the creator and sustainer of all things, Savior of the world.

The following statement was posted on social media last week. It sums up those verses from John’s gospel: “Jesus is not a god. Jesus does not become God. Jesus does not aspire to be God. Jesus is God. Period.” He is the Savior of all who believe in him.

Blessings to all,
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

The Coming King

Dear friends,
More cool weather is in store for the next few days. We have had a few days of spring-like temperatures to give us encouragement, but it seems we are to wait a little longer for the real thing. I am convinced there are warm days and nights ahead, but we must believe our patience is being perfected through this.

Sunday afternoon and evening, I, and several others attended the semi-annual meeting of our church association. We are an association of small evangelical churches from this part of Nebraska, committed to getting the gospel message into the Sandhills. It encourages me to hear what the Lord is doing through the various ministries in our several towns. Through those same churches, God is using his people to minister in places like an RV park in Arizona, and several small towns in the flooded area of northeast Nebraska.

As the 2020 political season seems to be heating up, I am reminded that many people in our country are trying to find just the right person who they think will deliver our country from whatever they see as the greatest need. My thoughts go immediately to the word of God and what he has to say about putting our faith in politicians. From the Christian perspective, the only way to have true deliverance is to put our faith in God, and in his Son.

In the end, we must understand that it is not the President, not the Governor, not the Queen of England, nor any other politician or ruler, but the King of Kings who will save us from the evil that surrounds us.

Or, as the psalmist reminds us; “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7)

At this time in our history, Psalm 2 reminds us of the one who will eventually make everything right:
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.
“Let us break their chains, they say, “and throw off their fetters.”
The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. (Psalm 2:1-4).

The King is coming! Are you ready to meet him? I pray you know Him as your Savior and Lord.

For Him,
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

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