Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

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

Go and Tell

Hello friends,
July is about to give way to August. School will be starting soon, and I wonder where the summer has gone? My theory is that summer got a late start due to an over-long winter and spring. Could it be that autumn will be longer than normal, and winter will be shortened? One can only dream!

I have traveled a number of miles this summer preaching at churches in small towns and rural areas. What I have seen is a need for pastoral leadership in these out-of-the-way places. I doubt there are many seminary graduates seeking ministry opportunities in rural America. So, what might be the solution?

This is a question that has been on my mind, and in the thoughts of several of my friends in ministry. We believe the answer is for men in these churches to have the opportunity to learn ministry skills that would allow for them to be pastors or leaders in their local churches. Then those congregations would not be dependent on “professional” clergy.

There is a one day Rural Christian Workers Conference coming up in early September that will provide this kind of training, and the best part is that it is free. Even the lunch is provided free of charge. The conference is designed to “encourage and train Pastors and Church leaders that serve in rural and small town churches.” If this is something you, or someone you know might be interested in, email me at lakecitynews@gmail.com for specific information.

The Bible says people come to faith in Christ through hearing the Word of God. Many will not hear this good news, because of the shortage of ministers of the gospel in our rural and small-town churches. The apostle Paul, in Romans had this to say. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13-15).

Might you be one of those bringing the Good News?

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Hot or Cold?

The seasons continue to be in transition. Warmer days have returned for a while, but leaves are turning and beginning to fall. Some of the birds are starting to gather in larger flocks, in preparation for the fall migration.

Maybe it was a senior moment, or just absent-mindedness, but after I turned on the tap and stood waiting for hot water, I soon realized the water was taking a lot longer to arrive at the faucet than normal. It was then I saw that I had turned on the cold tap, instead of the hot. The lesson here is, no matter how long you wait, hot water will not flow through a cold water faucet.

If you are expecting hot water, cold will just not do. If you pick up a salt shaker and get sugar, the results are not the same. Here are some Bible references that illustrate the same basic truth, but in a spiritual context.

James, speaking of the need to control our tongues, had this to say: With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12).

In a different illustration, Jesus referred to false teachers in this way: By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-20).

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

The lesson for us as Christians is this; If we claim the name of Christ, Christlikeness should flow from us naturally. It follows that our words and actions will be in direct contrast with those who are not genuine Christians.

As Christians, are we hot or cold? That is the question.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Who Will Go?

The last week was a little less adventurous than the previous one. There was a funeral to attend Monday for Milrae’s cousin, and a mini-reunion of some of her extended family. The rest of our week was filled with more mundane activity. Things like doing some cleanup around the lake, shopping for groceries, and yard work. Thursday, it was Bible study for a few ladies, with men’s Bible study in the evening. We made a trip to Neligh for supper with Ryan and Alex on Friday.

Saturday evening, we were at a supper recognizing two groups of people. One group consisted of those who support our local Baptist church association by participating in a program called L4M (Livestock 4 Missions). This is a method to raise funds to support our association’s ministry, in which cattlemen donate the care of a cow or cows, with proceeds from calf sales directed to the ministry.

The second group were those who had attended the Christian Leadership course of study held over the last year. The purpose of this course is to prepare Christian men and women for ministry in their local churches.

Here are just a few things I learned from that event: The population of the 19 counties that make up the Sandhills area according to the last census is 73,845. In this part of Nebraska, there are only two cities with a population over three thousand. Fifty-three percent of Nebraska towns under 1000 population have no evangelical church. Simply put, many people in this sparsely populated area have no opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What to do? First, this challenge from the Lord himself; When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:36-38). Pray for those who will take the gospel to these rural areas.

Second, consider whether you might be one of those workers. Isaiah the prophet, in a vision heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
Isaiah answered, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

What is your response? You may email me: lakecitynews@gmail.com.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

God’s Will for You

There was a good hatch of geese here at the lake, and I enjoy watching them out my window. They are quite belligerent when another goose enters their private space, chasing the encroaching one, but then they will run away from a little blackbird defending its nest.

Are you still seeking God’s will for your life? It’s not in the stars or a horoscope. It is not in the cards, and there is no Lady Luck. God’s will for you is found only in the Bible. The following is excerpted from “Found: God’s Will”, by Dr. John MacArthur.

First, it is God’s will that men be saved. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” (John 6:40). God has no reason to reveal to you anything particular about your life, if you have not met qualification number one.

Second, you must be Spirit-filled. That is the teaching of the Word of God. When a person is saved, the moment they receive Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within you. There is no Christian who does not possess the Holy Spirit. Christians have everything they need in the Holy Spirit. “For you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Jesus, in Acts 1:8).

Third, God requires every believer to be sanctified. Another word would be ‘pure’. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 reads, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

The fourth qualification, is to be submissive. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). This is the kind of submission that makes you the best possible citizen in the society in which you live.

Number 5, we are called to suffer. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:15). “However, if (or when) you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16). Are you willing to suffer for Him who suffered for you? Are you willing to confront the world? That is the will of God.

The final principle: If you are doing all five of the basic things, God is running your life, and anything you want to do will be His will.

In His hands,
Pastor Jerry

God at Work

I don’t have any real ‘news’ this week. It is about the same from day to day. Sometimes it rains, sometimes not. It’s windy some days, and calm at other times. Hot, but never cold; after all it is summer.

As I travel around to other churches, I have opportunity to see and hear what the Lord is doing in other places. This week, I heard about a 6-year-old little boy, who through his attending Sunday School and church, learned enough about Jesus to convince his dad to come to church. The dad, I understand, has placed his faith in Christ, and a broken marriage may be healed, all because of that little boy’s testimony. This little boy is unashamed and unafraid to tell everyone he meets about Jesus. Oh, that more Christian adults had this kind of testimony!

God is still in the business of saving souls, and he uses many ways, and works through all kinds of people. I believe one of the greatest miracles is when God, by His Holy Spirit, moves a person to trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.

I have shared the following passages of scripture many times, but they are worth repeating. They are from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. After highlighting God’s righteousness and His just judgment of sin, Paul points to the fact that all people are sinners in need of a Savior.

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:10-12, 20-24).

Also, this: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

To His Glory,
Pastor Jerry