Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

Confession, Not Celebration

It was a good week here at the lake. The lake is nearly full, after some hardy souls got the logs and trees out of the gates at the dam. We can now maintain a proper water flow through the spillway, and keep the lake level steady. It is good to see people enjoying what Lake Ericson has to offer.

Now for some devotional thoughts. This is not an easy topic, but I believe it is the responsibility of Christians to point people to God and His Word. Whether the message is well received or not, it must be told. I have had to ask, how is it that we got to the point of celebrating flagrant sin against a holy God? Sin is to be confessed, not celebrated.

Our culture is celebrating behaviors that God has described in His Word as abominable (or detestable). According to dictionary.com, the definition of abomination is, “anything greatly disliked or abhorred; intense aversion or loathing; a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc. Things like homosexuality, murder (abortion), adultery, and same sex marriage would be included. Sin, in other words.

These are the words of the Lord in His Word, the Bible: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (Colossians 3:5-6).

The first chapter of Romans speaks plainly to this issue. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness… For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened… Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-32).

Rather than celebrate the sin, let us instead pray that those caught up in these sinful behaviors would come to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, who can free them from their bonds of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

God, Our Hope

Hello friends,
We spent some time last week shopping for home improvement projects. We have installed new flooring in the kitchen and dining areas of the house, with new carpet to be laid in the master bedroom this week. I am reminded once again, that as we get older we are less flexible and it takes longer to recover from the effects doing physical labor. Nonetheless, it is satisfying to see the end result.

I have observed that it is no wonder young people of the day have little knowledge of what it means to live a moral life. First, there is no real understanding of the moral teachings of the Bible. This is partly due to the fact that few have had any exposure to the Word of God. Second, there is very little in the way of personal examples of moral living in the general population.

I suppose I started down this line of thinking as I was skimming the “for sale” posts on Facebook. There was a post in which a man was selling a washing machine. It read, “Selling for my mother, because she is moving in with her fiancé, and doesn’t need it.” Really.

This is not an isolated incident. Everywhere we look, there are these kinds of relationships, many of them among even those who are senior citizens, and who grew up with a shared understanding of moral values. Some say they cohabit because of finances, or for any number of other seemingly rational reasons. But to the person with a Christian worldview, these are just not right.

There are other examples of the lack of morals in our society. We see them in politics, sports, business, even in ‘churches’. There must be a return to common sense, Bible based values, or I fear our society will self-destruct. There is an answer, it is found in God’s instructions to Israel: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Also, in the New Testament; “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Answered Prayers

Dear friends,
My good wife and I have been dealing with colds this week and to be honest, I just haven’t felt like writing. I have this article I recently came across, and would like to share it with you.

God hears and answers every prayer, but there are a precious few to which he always says, “Yes.” The prayers always answered positively are the prayers which explicitly ask God to deliver on his promises to us. God will always say Yes when we ask him to do his work through his word.
I have found at least six basic prayers God will always answer.
1. Glorify yourself through me.
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

2. Forgive me.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
3. Reveal more of yourself to me.

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31:33–34).

4. Give me wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

5. Strengthen me to obey you.
As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure(Philippians 2:12–13).

6. Spread your gospel to the lost.
This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
How do we know God will answer these six prayers? Because he says he will in the first place, and then, even more, because these prayers sum up what God has promised to do through the gospel. This is what God has said he would most surely do.

Be blessed,
Pastor Jerry

Anger Management

We’ve had some really wide swings in weather conditions this past week. We’ve had balmy days with no wind, and some really windy (think gale force) days. There have been temperatures in the 70’s for daytime, and below freezing nights. In all this, there has been no moisture of any kind. We had planned another short camping trip, but Saturday morning I found ice in the water lines, so camping will resume in the spring.

I wrote the following paragraph recently during a recent devotional time. A few days later I received a very timely email on the subject.

I’m angry today. I can’t exactly put my finger on the reason. I’m angry at people who have no respect for human life, whether it be abortion, the killing of infants and toddlers, or people of any age. I’m angry because of liberal politicians and others who promote intolerance in the name of tolerance. But, today, I’m just plain angry. The Bible tells us God is angered by sin, and His anger is righteous. But it also indicates that there is a place for righteous anger on our part. Jesus said misplaced anger is sin, and I believe it. So, I want to be able to sort out sinful anger from justifiable anger. God will be the judge in the end.

In a recent episode of the Break Point radio program, there was a commentary by Eric Metaxas, titled “Anger Mismanagement”, which spoke directly to me. I’ll quote parts of it here: He starts out by saying that Americans are an increasingly angry lot. And the sad fact is, too often we Christians are rolling around in the muck with the rest of the nation. The following points are made: 1) We sin with anger because we lack faith in God’s ability to provide for or protect us. 2) We sin with anger because we lack hope. Is it possible we are expecting too much from this world and too little from the next? 3) We sin in the realm of anger because we lack love. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast…” “Speaking as a sinner to other sinners, we all can do our part to address America’s anger mismanagement crisis. And for us Christians, it starts with a little more faith, hope, and love.”

Convicted,
Pastor Jerry

On Pure Speech

The cooler temperatures of this past week have been welcomed and appreciated by most folks I know. From crops to livestock, pets to humans, there has been relief from the heat. There are many tasks we all have to do outdoors, and most are more enjoyable with moderate weather conditions.

Milrae’s little garden is doing well. We had our first tomatoes this week, and cucumbers and green beans came along earlier.

Now for a few thoughts on what I see as the proliferation of profanity in the everyday conversations of very many people. I know I have written on this topic before, but I’m going to do it again. I’m reminded of the story the new pastor who preached the same sermon several weeks in a row. When asked why, he said, “I’m going to keep preaching it until the people get it.”

When I hear “grown up” people, even those who claim to be Christian, speaking words in public that were taboo for years, I think, “They still don’t get it.”

The Bible tells us in many places to clean up our speech. I’ll give you some examples, so then we may, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5)? “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).

Jesus had this to say about our speech, relative to our heart attitude: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart… For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8). “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).

My point in all this is to encourage one and all, to consider the words we speak, and those we post to social media, and ask, are these words beneficial to our hearers and readers?

Let’s work to keep our speech pure.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

The Answer

Dear friends,,
The busy 4th of July weekend is coming up. Perhaps we will have the pleasure of seeing some of you at the Lake.

Lately, I have been thinking about all the things going on in our world. It seems all the news is bad news, and people are asking what has gone wrong?

Maybe you have seen or heard this next statement: If Jesus is the answer, what it the question. The question is this: What is the problem with the world? According to God, sin is the reason for all the dysfunction in the world. It started in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and His creation was broken.

Paul reminds his readers, “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.” He goes on, “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18). This sounds like our present day and age.

Yesterday, as I sat in church before worship began, I noticed the scripture on the banner above the organ: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! Good News! The perfect, sinless Lamb of God came to be the once for all solution to a sin-sick world.

Did you get that? He is the One who came to take away all the sin of the world. He paid the penalty for every sinner. Don’t forget, however, that only those who receive the gift God offers, are saved. Sin demands payment. No one can save himself. Only Jesus Christ is qualified to be the Savior.

Again from Romans chapter 6, verse 23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As it is written in the Book of Acts: “Salvation is found in no one else… there is no other name by which we must be saved.

Praising Him,
Pastor Jerry

Win or Lose

It is one of those days when I wonder how I will write a column that makes sense, when I don’t have a clue how to start. I have heard that the hardest part is writing the first word, so here goes.

In recent weeks, we have seen a number of contests, ranging from the World Series, to high school football and volleyball, to the election of a president. We have seen unlikely winners and surprising losers. Some contests were decided early, and others went down to the wire. But no matter which team or candidate you supported, there were winners and losers.

In sports or politics, there are rules of the game. When played by the rules, there is an honest outcome to the contest. One team wins, the other loses. Oh, there will be someone who will claim the rules weren’t followed, or that somewhere in the background there were ‘dirty politics’, or the umpires or referees will be somehow blamed, but in the end, the better team wins.

We’ve all heard the old saying, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Might I suggest this; although it is not whether you win or lose, it does matter how you respond to losing or winning.

The important thing is how we react to either winning or losing in a given contest. We have seen winning celebrations turn into near riots, and we have seen reaction to losing a contest turn into protests and riots. Neither of these reflect well on those involved.

Here are a few verses that apply to how we win or lose. This is Paul’s advice to the Christians in Rome: “For the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment of yourself” (Romans 12:3). “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes: if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” Romans 13:7.

Again from Paul: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone: (Colossians 4:6).

Win or lose, we are all made in the image of God. So, whether winning or losing, do it with grace, class, and respect for others.

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

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

Reflections

As I write this morning, it is Memorial Day. Yesterday (Sunday), here at the lake, there was a program honoring our veterans and those who gave all for our country. It was interesting to hear some of the veterans tell their stories of service, and I was reminded again of the sacrifices made to keep our country free. At the same time, I was reading on social media of the vandalism of patriot displays and cemeteries around the country. It makes one ask, “what is wrong with people today who have no respect for these things? Actually, the answer is found in the Bible. It starts in the hearts of people. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:10)?

As I look out my window, I see the lake. Its surface is completely still this morning, and reflects the trees along the edge, and the sky above. It is much like a mirror. Many years ago, somewhere I remember reading that the color of the water on a given day, is a reflection of the sky. Sunny days, it appears to be blue. On gray cloudy days, the water is seen as dark and gray. I think this relates to my opening comment concerning the behavior of people. What we see in their words and actions are a reflection of their heart.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Christians are to reflect the character and actions of the Lord Jesus. We are to be a mirror image of the One whose name we bear. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (Romans 8:29).

“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49). “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness…” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

It is not possible for any person to consistently exhibit right behavior without Christ in his or her heart. It is hard enough sometimes for the Christian to do so.

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

Leave It There

It’s Monday again, and time for another news update and devotional thought. I would never have believed, when I started composing these articles, that I would still be doing it. Thanks to all who have encouraged me along the way.

We are still in the moving process. I believe one never has a true understanding of how many things we accumulate until we try to move it from one place to another. I was told yesterday of a man who said everyone should put their place up for sale every ten years. The point is you may or may not sell it, but you will get it cleaned up. Wise words, I believe.

I am reminded once more of those Bible passages that speak of being unhindered in our Christian journey. The writer of Hebrews gives the illustration of an athlete running a race, leaving behind the things that slow him down and hinder his best effort. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). You get the picture.

The things that weigh us down and hinder our journey are many. Perhaps it is a load of guilt, or some sin that goes unconfessed that keeps us from being all that a Christian can be. Other burdens we may bear are jealousy, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, worry, and any number of others. Jesus encourages us to bring them to him, to come and leave them at the foot of the cross, as it were. Our problem most of the time, is that we lay our burdens down, then pick them up again when we leave. As we allow Him to remove those heavy loads we are carrying, we are able to live as free men and women. These are Jesus’ words; “You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

Allow me to quote the words of an old hymn:
“Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
Leave it there, leave it there,
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there;
If you trust and never doubt,
He will surely bring you out—
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

Resting in Him,
Pastor Jerry