Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

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

A Gentle Word

Dear friends,
We have certainly had a variety of weather conditions, lately. Our Thanksgiving plans were canceled in favor of staying home to wait for a better day. As of now, it seems it might wait until Christmas. Milrae and I spent a quiet day at home, but still enjoyed a meal of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberries, etc. I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Don’t blame the holidays, you were fat in August”, so there goes that excuse.

The Christmas lights are up at the lake, and are turned on each evening until just after Christmas. A stop at Lake Ericson should be on everyone’s agenda. There is always something new to see.

Something I would pray for this Christmas season, is some genuine civility in our cultural conversation. The angry woman exchanging insults with a white cat is somewhat amusing, but in reality, this is a picture of what is wrong with our discussion with those of differing opinions. No one appears willing to engage in uplifting conversation. God’s word contains many references to the importance of civil discourse.

Here are a few of note:
“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10).
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:23)
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Perhaps this should be our prayer at the beginning of any conversation: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

Reflecting on the Journey

Hello friends,
I have come to the realization that as I compose and send these articles out each week, I am using both old and new methods of communication. On the one hand there is the magic of the internet, but on the other is the time tested print media. When this thing called Lake City News began, it was a simple way to connect with a few family and friends. Email was the chosen method in the beginning, but eventually, it became a weekly column in three local newspapers under the title of “Pastor’s Corner”.

Today, in addition to those emails and newspapers, there is a blog called ‘sandhillspastor.com’, with links to Facebook and Twitter. To this day, I am amazed at the platform God has given me to share His good news with all who read these articles, wherever they appear. Also, thanks to all who have encouraged me to continue. As mentioned in another article, this month marks the twentieth anniversary of this ministry.

Most of us entered adulthood with some idea of how our lives would play out. I am reminded of these words; “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” {Proverbs 16:9). As I look back, I see that God had a plan for me unlike anything I envisioned. I grew up on a ranch, and when I finished high school, I informed my dad there had to be a better way to make a living. Guess what? God took me in a big circle that involved working on ranches around the Sandhills, ending up in 1972 back at the home place. We were there 40 years, until we retired from ranching.

In 1982, after a few years of attending a little church down the road from our place, God impressed upon me the need for Jesus in my life. On a Sunday morning in March of that year, I asked Jesus into my heart. If you knew all the details, you would probably ask how this cowboy/rancher ended up to be the pastor of a little church in the Sandhills?

The simple answer is this; it can only be the Holy Spirit of God working in the heart of a man. As someone has said, no one knows what God can do with a man who will commit to follow His leading.

For His glory,
Pastor Jerry

High Water

Dear friends,
It is obvious the rains have not stopped for some of our friends in other places. As I read of roads made impassable by heavy rains, and people marooned on their property, surrounded by water, I pray this will pass soon. The 2019 spring and summer seasons have tried the patience and perseverance of many. Having experienced some abnormally wet seasons on the ranch, I understand. It is not a fun situation by any measure. It reminds us of the fact that as much as mankind has learned, we still do not know how to control the weather.

In times of excessive rain there are always those who suggest the need to build an ark, as in the Old Testament story of Noah and the command of God to build one. The flood that God was going to bring upon the earth was judgment for the rampant sin and ungodliness of the time. Only Noah and his family would be spared. Just as God said, when the ark was completed, and the animals and Noah’s family were safely on board, the earth was flooded, and all remaining life destroyed. After the waters had receded, God made a covenant with Noah.

“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:12-15).

We are living in a time when sin and ungodliness seem to increase daily. Peter reminds us that God will again judge the earth, but not with a flood. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything will be laid bare.” Then the question; Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” And, the answer; “You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:10-11).

Standing on His promises,
Pastor Jerry

It’s Not Too Late

Dear friends,
Once again we have celebrated the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Once again we have been reminded that 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, and whoever believes in him is not condemned (John 3:16,18).

This week, I have an appointment with my tax preparer. The deadline is near for filing taxes, in fact, it is just two weeks away. When we were on the ranch, we had to file before March 15, now it is April 15. I have always been a procrastinator when it comes to getting this done. However, procrastination must come to an end. The IRS will not overlook a late response.

One deadline looms for all people. That is the day of our physical death. It is a day when there will be no more opportunity to receive God’s gift of salvation. There will be no opportunity to make the right choice after that time. There are no second chances. If you miss the deadline for file your taxes, it is possible to get an extension. Not so when dealing with your eternal destination. We are reminded in scripture that man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27).

Like the IRS, God will not overlook a late response. We must make a choice while we are still living, there will be no second chance, nor will there be an extension. And since no one knows his time, it is better to choose Christ now, as we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Jesus told of a group of ten young women waiting for a wedding celebration to begin. Five of them had prepared for the party, but the other five left to get oil for their lamps. While they were gone, the bridegroom returned, the party started, and those who were off buying lamp oil missed the celebration (Matthew 25:1-12).

Tomorrow may never come. God, in his grace gives us time and opportunity to believe in the Savior, but there will come a time it is too late. Don’t play with procrastination. Today is the day of salvation. Trust in Him today.

Pray this: Lord Jesus, I confess my sins and ask you to forgive me. Come into my heart and save me today. Amen

In truth and love,
Pastor Jerry

Don’t Wait

Hello friends,
Finally, we have seen some warmer weather. It was followed by a really big storm. Chalk up one for the weather man.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw my dermatologist for a 6-month checkup. She thought a spot on my arm needed attention, and a biopsy showed some cancer cells. This week, I returned for surgery to remove more tissue. Now I’m wearing stitches in my arm. Hopefully this is the end of it.

Much of what we see in the news provides material for commentary. In fact, I could probably write more than one article a week, if I so desired. This week has been no different.

A week ago now, there was a false alarm in Hawaii about a missile attack. We can glean at least two important lessons from this incident.

First, we are reminded that our lives could end without warning, or at least on short notice. I’m sure we have been reminded of this many times, but how often do we actually think about the possibility? What preparations have we made for our families to continue on after we’re gone?

The second point, is that millions of people have disregarded the most important warning of all. That warning has eternal significance for all people. Jesus is going to return and judge the world. Those who know him as Savior and Lord will go with him to glory, and those who have rejected him go to eternal damnation. I know there were times in my own life, when God gave me another opportunity to trust in Jesus Christ for my salvation. In His grace, I eventually made the right choice.

I know of at least two instances recently, where individuals have been close to death, and recovered. To my knowledge, neither one has any personal relationship with the Lord, nor have they shown any inclination to place their faith in the Lord Jesus. This is sad.

Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Scripture also reminds us that it is appointed to man, once to die, and after that the judgment. We are also told, “today is the day of salvation.” This is not a false alarm. It is truth. Tomorrow may not come. Today is the day of salvation. Do not wait.

In His love,
Pastor Jerry