Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

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

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

Meeting Together

Dear friends,
We continue to swing back and forth between fall and winter. In the last week, we have seen sunshine and rain, warm and cold, windy and calm. There are few leaves remaining on the trees; yet in these extremes, there is still the beauty of God’s creation all around us.

Now and then, I will come across someone else’s observation about trends in the church today. Speaking to the issue of a lack of commitment in attending weekly church services, Thom Rainer asks the question, how did we get to the point that attending church on a once-a-month basis is normal behavior?

He gives five developments:
One, we fail to see that the local church is God’s plan A to do His mission on earth, and there is no plan B. It is clear in the New Testament from Acts 2 through Revelation 3 is all about the local church as the means of fulfilling His plan.

Two, we embrace the false notion that commitment to a local church is legalistic. If we used that argument with the family unit, we would say “Oh, your commitment to your family is too legalistic.”

Three, we have let culture dictate our schedules. If we would resist the temptation to put other activities ahead of church attendance, we would communicate to the culture what is and is not important.

Four, we have accepted strawman arguments about gathering at our local church. Have you heard either one of these arguments? “The church is not about the building, it’s the people.” Or, “The church is about sending, not attending.” The writer of Hebrews said, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another… (Hebrews 10:25).

Five, we see church as a place to be served rather than to serve. Have you ever heard church members argue about their preferences? Sure you have. Preferences about the style of music in worship. About the order of worship. About the time of services. The list goes on.

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions: Am I really connected to a local church? Am I attending without excuses? Am I looking to serve? Am I willing to give up the influence of the culture to be a growing disciple in my church? How committed am I to the local body? Let’s be part of the solution.

Food for thought,
Pastor Jerry

Knowing the Truth

Hello friends,

There is not much to report as far as weather; just mostly cool temperatures, with some sun and some clouds. The fall colors have been extra special this year, but with the one really windy day last week many leaves have fallen.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Grace Bible Church this week. I thought it might be beneficial to share some thoughts from my sermon with all of you. Based on Paul’s first letter to Timothy, it tells us to be on guard against false teachers, of whom there are plenty these days.

All believers have a responsibility to be on the alert for false teachers. What are we to look for? Here are four things to keep in mind.

First, look at their understanding of Scripture, and ask if their teaching is biblically sound. Do they place extra-biblical teachings on a par with Scripture? That is, do they add or subtract from the value of God’s Word? Do they accurately handle the Word of truth? Scripture says, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Second, examine their goals. Do they seek to love, honor and glorify God? Or do they pursue self-love, material wealth, or personal happiness?

Third, examine their motives. Are they humble and selfless? Or do they seek to make a name for themselves?

Finally, examine the effect of their teaching. Do their followers understand clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they define the Gospel properly? Do they use the law properly, as part of the gospel message, or do they promote works righteousness? The law was given to show sinners their need for a Savior. The Law saves no one. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, to recognize and expose false teaching, we must spend time in the Bible. Not just to check off a passage of scripture as our daily reading, but to really spend time getting to understand what God has already said. Meditate on it.

We need not ask the Lord to speak to us. He has spoken. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed head of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2).

In Christ alone,

Pastor Jerry

Turn to Jesus

Dear readers,
Gardening season has ended for 2021. Those freezing temps for two or three nights in a row were effective. It is a welcome break from the heat we have been experiencing. Afternoons have been pleasant, but I suspect colder highs are nearer than we would like.

If you are like me, some days just seem too much to bear. Are you worn down by worry or concern over your situation today? What is a person to do? The answer is found in God’s word. The scripture verse for today is Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” Another Psalm tells us our help comes from Him. “I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

It is an old, old story, but Jesus came to this earth to bring salvation to all people, and to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice that would pay our sin debt and give us eternal life. These are His words, “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my words and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Also, “For this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

God says in Isaiah 45:22, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God and there is no other.” Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Here are comforting words from a favorite hymn:
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

For Him,
Pastor Jerry

What Is Jesus Doing?

 Dear friends,

Another week has slipped away from us. Fall is definitely in the air. The colors of the season are as spectacular as any I have seen. What a great blessing to live where God has placed us. I can think of no other place I would rather be. Short fishing report; I caught a nice-sized bass one morning last week, and had it for supper Friday evening. It was even better than I had anticipated, it makes me want to catch another one or two!

On Saturday, I attended a conference for rural Christian workers. I was reminded of some things for Christians to focus on in our current reality, and thought they were worth sharing. A popular question from a few years back asked, “What would Jesus do?” Our speaker asked, “What would Jesus do today?” The following is a brief outline of his answer.

First, Jesus is still building his church. He said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). We (believers) are the church, and He is still adding to it. As His people, are we helping build the church or are we tearing it down?

Second, He is still making disciples through his church. He commands us to make disciples. “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” (Matthew 28:19-20).  As more people come to faith in Christ, we are to be discipling those new believers, teaching them how to follow Him.

Third, He is still seeking and saving the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). As followers of Jesus, one of our responsibilities is to point others to Him. We are to introduce the lost to the Savior. According to Acts 5:42, speaking of the early church, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

In summary; we are to love people the way Jesus loves them. Share the good news of Jesus’ salvation. Invite them to respond to His offer of salvation and be saved. We are not to be mere spectators.

For Him,

Pastor Jerry

Temptation

Dear readers,

It was a nice week of fall-like weather. We were glad for the cooler temps, but it sounds like a few warm days again, then another cool-down to follow. I dusted off (literally) some fishing equipment this weekend. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any fishing. I caught a nice bass Friday afternoon, but released it, thinking I might catch a larger one. Big mistake! Nothing I caught since then has been big enough to eat. There are lots of little fish out there, hopefully they will get a chance to grow up.

On the topic of fishing, I am reminded that our enemy the devil is busy seeking people to lead astray. One of his tactics is to place tempting bait in front of us, hoping we can be tricked into biting. He knows our weaknesses and tempts us in those areas. It is true that everyone is born with a sin nature, and that by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus, our sins are forgiven. However, it is still possible to be lured into sin. The Christian needs to be aware of those places where he or she is vulnerable, and steer clear of them.

When fishing, the fisherman places a tempting lure in the water, seeking to entice an unsuspecting fish into a free meal. if there is no response from the fish, the fisherman doesn’t just pack it up and move on. He will keep casting the lure, and if not successful he will switch to another bait.  

Remember, God does not tempt His people to sin, but His enemy does. The Bible says this, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Also, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

The way out of temptation, provided by God, is Jesus Christ. Faith in Him will give us the ability to resist the bait of Satan. Be alert, and keep your eyes on the Lord!

Trusting Him,

Pastor Jerry

Look to Jesus

Dear friends,

My trusty laptop has decided to take a vacation this week. I will be taking it to the repair shop Monday, but for now I’m using an older one that doesn’t have all the perks I’m used to. This will be a re-learning experience, I am sure. We managed to get a little rain last week. As usual, we didn’t get the amount we thought we needed, but we are thankful for every drop.

This month, I will have the blessing of sharing God’s word with three different churches. In light of the ongoing news from Afghanistan, I believe it is proper to share a thought or two from the message I am preaching.

It is no secret that the Taliban there in Afghanistan, and other places around the world, are bent on destroying Christianity. It is in their teaching that followers of Jesus Christ are to be killed, as well as anyone who doesn’t submit to their religion. The persecution of Christians in that part of the world is real, and it is going on now. However, the Bible tells us God is just and righteous, and He will have the final say.

The apostle Paul wrote this to the persecuted church in Thessalonica, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering, God is just. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling… We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12).

Look to Jesus,

Pastor Jerry