Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

Giving Thanks

Dear readers,
As I write this week’s article, it is sunny outside, but it certainly isn’t warm. We appear to be in for a cold spell, with little to no chance of moisture. The lake community continues to prepare for the second annual Trail of Lights. Reports are that the display will be bigger and better than last year. More info is available on the Lake Ericson Facebook page.

The Thanksgiving holiday is this Thursday. Some days it is hard to find things to be thankful for, but we can always be thankful for a good night’s sleep, and for a new day’s dawning. I sometimes wonder who do you thank if you don’t acknowledge God? If you don’t believe there is a God who is our provider, do you thank the government, or some good luck charm? Maybe you thank your lucky stars? How do you know which stars are lucky? Do four leafed clovers bring happiness or contentment to life?

From a biblical perspective, all we have comes from God Almighty. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. Nothing exists that wasn’t put here by God, according to His perfect plan. It is He to whom we give thanks for every good and perfect gift. “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows” (James 1:16-17).

The prophet Isaiah reminds us to “Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world (Isaiah 12:4-5).

Speaking of Jesus Christ, Paul writes, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16). Yes, even the government was created and put in place by the Creator God.

As the old familiar doxology says;
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above the heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor Jerry

On Aging

Dear friends,
The garden is done; the frost has had the last word. I wouldn’t consider it a fruitful season, except for the cucumbers and peppers. Tomatoes and green beans just couldn’t win. I’m sure there were several factors involved, including heat and drought. I suppose that much like zucchini, the neighbors were probably tired of seeing us coming to their doors with free cucumbers. They were gracious though, and accepted our offerings.

I am beginning to feel the changing of the season in the air. There is a chill in the air in the morning, the leaves are changing colors, with some starting to fall to the ground. The winds are becoming more northerly, and the birds are flocking together in preparation for migrating to a warmer climate.

Maybe it is because I just passed another milestone on my personal calendar that I am reminded of the seasons of life. Spring, when we are young, summer as we enjoy the middle years, autumn as we reach those golden years, and winter as we approach the end of our lives. It is a part of God’s plan for mankind.

The Bible speaks of aging in a generally positive light. It speaks of the wisdom of the aging: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of past generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will teach you” (Deuteronomy 31:7). “Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life” (Job 12:12).

It speaks of the honor due the aging: “Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:21).

The Bible also notes the continuing service of the aging believer; speaking of those who love God, it reads; “They will still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green,” (Psalm 92:14). Here is a promise from the Lord as we age; “I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Young and old each have their unique worth; they are not in competition. “The glory of young men is in their strength, and the splendor of old men is gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29).

In His strength,
Pastor Jerry

Look to Jesus

Hello friends,
It was another warm week. Our last good rain was a week ago, and we are ready for more. The heat is stressful for the cucumbers, but they are producing well with frequent watering. Small tomatoes are forming and we have been stocking up with bacon in anticipation of some BLT sandwiches! Disclaimer: Most of the work in this garden is done by my sweet wife.

Do you ever feel you are losing the battle against temptation? Here are some encouraging thoughts:
“As believers, we’ll struggle with indwelling sin for the rest of our lives. The greatest saints have experienced such bitter, unsuccessful struggles with sin, it almost drove them to despair. As the old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Proverbs 24:16 reads, “… for the righteous falls seven times and rises again …” (ESV). The righteous fall often, but they get back up, looking heavenward. Put another way, we struggle a lot, but the trajectory of our lives should point heavenward; our lives are a cry for God to change our hearts.

But there are some who seem to just be going through the motions, participating in church like it’s a club or social organization. They don’t have evidence of a desire for God or a supernatural change. They’re not concerned about living in community or using their gifts to serve the body of Christ. And they’re content in not growing. It makes you wonder if they’ve ever really experienced the gospel.

When you struggle, do you get back up again, repenting and believing in faith that God is who he says he is, faithful to save you? Or do you go through the motions, unconcerned with how you’re living your life? The faith that saves is the faith that endures.” [Pastor J.D. Grear]

Remember these words from the apostle Paul: “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).

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

Looking up,
Pastor Jerry

Freedom

Dear readers,
Camping at our grandson’s last week was uneventful, and we enjoyed our time with him. The excitement happened on the way home. First of all, the temperature was nearing 100 degrees when we left Mitchell Wednesday morning. We had a head-wind that was probably 25-30 mph, with higher gusts. Needless to say, we could almost see the fuel gauge in free-fall. After a late lunch in O’Neill, we fueled up and continued our trip home. At one point, I looked in the mirror and realized that a window had blown out of the camper. We were going down the road with a mini-blind sticking out of the opening. That window had issues when we bought the camper, and in hindsight I should have repaired it long ago.

Some folks will read this on July 4th, but others not until later in the week. I want to just reflect on the significance of the holiday, and what we celebrate. Our country is a republic; this means we have a representative government, as opposed to a monarchy, or a dictatorship. In this, we have freedoms that people in many other countries do not have.

One thing often forgotten is that with freedom comes responsibilities. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever one desires. As residents of a free country, we are to obey the laws, respect other people and their property, and be productive members of society.

As we speak of freedom in the context of a nation, we also look to the Bible for the freedom we have in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Faith in Jesus brings freedom from the penalty of sin and freedom from guilt. Paul writes of this in Romans 8:1-2, when he says, “Therefore no condemnation exists for those in Christ, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Beyond freedom from the penalty of sin, Paul also speaks of freedom from the power of sin. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to resist habitual disobedience. “For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.

Jesus said, “He (God the Father) has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18b).

Free in 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

The Price of Freedom

Dear friends,
It was a busy week for us. We finished up our short camping trip on Wednesday, arriving home mid-afternoon. Thursday was spent catching up on mowing and other yard work. Friday there was decorating for the Fourth of July observance and baking for the Lake Ericson bake sale. Friday evening, I attended the rehearsal for a wedding I was to perform on Saturday. Ericson Lake Corporation’s annual meeting was Saturday morning, with the wedding taking place at 4 PM an hour away. It was a fun wedding (aren’t they all?), and I made it back home in plenty of time for the annual fireworks display at the lake. Sunday morning, our church provided a free pancake, sausage and egg breakfast to all who could come. Retirement is busy, not boring!

As I thought of the Independence Day celebration, I was reminded again that the freedoms we have in our country are often taken for granted by a large part of the population. We forget the sacrifices that many have made, so that we can be a free people.

There is another freedom that is available to us, and that is freedom from the penalty of sin. Born sinners, we owe a debt we cannot pay. Jesus, going to the cross of Calvary paid our sin debt once for all. It was for all who would believe in Him, those who do not believe will not escape the penalty they deserve. God, in His grace and mercy provided the Lord Jesus as the perfect payment, but only by believing in his death and resurrection can we be saved.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (John 1:12).
Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God. (1 John 1:9)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1).

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Amazing Grace

Dear friends,
It is a sunny Sunday afternoon as I write this. The past week was rather cool with some rain. Our forecast is for cool temperatures early in the week, followed by a warming trend. I expect we’ll see more evidence of spring in the days to come. We have both been staying home nursing colds, but we are steadily improving and should return to normal soon. Once again I find, we too often take good health for granted.

This week brings two very important days in the Christian church calendar; Good Friday and Resurrection Day (Easter). Good Friday commemorates the death and burial of the Lord Jesus Christ; the Resurrection celebrates his rising from the tomb. These two events are the basis of our hope in eternal salvation. The Bible clearly states there is no other way to be saved from our sins but by placing our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

I write on this topic often, because to me this is the most important decision a person can make in life. In my own experience, the day I chose to follow Jesus my life was changed in ways I could not have imagined before. So, to this day, like the old song says, “I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love.”

I was cruising along through life, thinking I was doing pretty good, taking my wife and two boys to church on Sunday. Then one day as the pastor was preaching from Romans chapter ten, I heard these words: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This was an eye opener for me! Up to this point, I thought I just had to be a little better person than someone else. Now I was learning that my own self-righteousness was worthless in God’s eyes.

Later, I heard these words; For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

A dear friend passed away this week, and we rejoice that he is now in heaven, because he believed what these verses taught. Amazing grace, how sweet it sounds!

Anchored in Him,
Pastor Jerry

Angry Words

Merry Christmas!
I know, for those who get this on Monday it’s a bit premature, but we’ve been saying it since Thanksgiving, and will for a few more days.

As I sift through the many Facebook posts I see every day, I try not to read the comments. One reason is this; if I start reading all of them, my blood pressure begins to rise. Pretty soon, I am as angry as those who are posting. It doesn’t take too long to see that this is not good. It is best for me to resist the urge to get involved in the conversation.

I copied the following paragraph from a devotional I receive each week. I thought it would be a good introduction for this week’s commentary, since we are celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Quote: “I was on Facebook, arguing. Bad move. What made me think I was obligated to “correct” a stranger on a hot topic—especially a divisive one? The results were heated words, hurt feelings (on my part anyway), and a broken opportunity to witness well for Jesus. That’s the sum outcome of “internet anger.” It’s the term for the harsh words flung daily across the blogosphere. As one ethics expert explained, people wrongly conclude that rage “is how public ideas are talked about.” End of quote.

Paul’s wise advice to Timothy gave the same caution. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:23-24).

Romans 12: 17-18; Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If It is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Here are two verses we memorized as a church many years ago: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10).

I pray we can all have a joyous and peaceful celebration of the Savior’s birth. As my mama would have written it…

Merrie Christmas to all,
Pastor Jerry

Good Words

Dear friends,
It was a pleasant weather week here. Not too hot, nor too cold but the forecast is for cooler temperatures ahead, with perhaps a little moisture. Corn harvest has begun, but I don’t believe anyone would argue for continued dry conditions.

As the election draws near, let not forget to pray for our country. Pray for godly leaders to be chosen and for decisions to be made that would honor God. Pray also for a spirit of cooperation to return to our cultural conversation.

On the topic of conversation, I have spent some time studying in Ephesians where the apostle cautions us to watch our speech so as to exhibit Christ-like character to those around us. To be frank, I am appalled at many words that are used in both verbal and written communication these days. It is not just in the outhouse; it goes all the way to the White House. When did it become acceptable to use words in public that most people would not use in any context in days gone by?

From God’s Word in the Old Testament: “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings” (Proverbs 25:11).

And from the New Testament: “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear… Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking is not suitable” (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4).

“Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?” (James 3:10-11).

“But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19).

Instead of throwing insults and indulging in name-calling, why not use words that build up others and shine the light of Christ into a world that desperately needs it.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

The Test

Hello friends,
It seems we’ve been put back in the deep-freeze for a few days. These are the times I’m glad to have served my time caring for livestock. The cold weather is much less appealing to me these days, not that I was ever a big fan! I personally don’t think the planet is in much danger of over-heating in the near future.

As I was looking out my window this morning, I was taken by the peace and quiet of a clear and cold winter morning. I had just read the Sunday editions of two different newspapers, and thought what a contrast between the news from the outside world, and what is outside my window. Thank You, Lord for letting us live in this place.

A part of getting older is finding out all the things we did in our youth that were detrimental to our physical well-being. For example, I have one foot that has taken a beating over the years. I have been to several foot doctors in the past, and am considering some surgery on it. One thing leads to another, I have learned. My personal physician thought a stress test might be a good idea, considering a family history of heart issues. The podiatrist ordered an ultrasound of my leg in advance of any surgery on the foot. Those tests have been done, and we wait for the results. After that, it will be decision time.

Speaking of tests, do you know there is a test for entrance into heaven? It consists of one question with one correct answer. When we stand before God, and he asks, “Why should I let you into my presence?”, the one correct answer is, “I have believed in and trusted your Son Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.”

I have reference the following verses many times, and I will continue to do so. “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:9, 13).
“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 old song says, “What will your answer be?”

In Him,
Pastor Jerry