Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

Memorial Stones

Dear Readers,
The cool weather continues for us. Along with it came some beneficial rains, for which we are very thankful. My bout with shingles is winding down. For this I am thankful also. Next time someone mentions getting a preventive inoculation, I will be first in line! I will be posting this early Monday morning, so any comments I might have concerning the solar eclipse will wait until next week.
I’ve been thinking about those who seem bent on removing anything that would remind Americans of their national identity and inheritance. There are several lines of conversation, or commentary that come from this behavior.
One truth from the lessons of history is that if a people wanted to conquer a civilization, they would remove all the landmarks and other reminders of their history and culture. In our day, we have seen ISIS destroying Christian landmarks, and in our country currently, there is a movement to remove reminders of our past.
When the children of Israel were entering the Promised Land, when the priests, who were carrying the ark of the covenant, stepped into the Jordan river, the water stopped flowing, so that they could cross on dry ground. After reaching the other side, they were instructed to set up stones as a memorial. Joshua told the people that they were setting up the stones as a permanent memorial, so that when their children asked the question, “What are these stones”, they could answer with a lesson from Israel’s history.
These are the words of the Lord, given through Joshua to the people: “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cutoff before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).
Sadly, after Joshua passed from the scene, Israel forgot her past, and began to be influenced by her pagan neighbors. The result of this was that God judged Israel and sent her into exile for seventy years. I fear America may be on a similar path. We who care about the rich history of our country need to pray fervently that God would intervene and put her back on the straight way.
Praying for America,
Pastor Jerry
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Rough Water

I had a new experience this week. I made a short journey down the Cedar River by kayak. I’m pretty sure I won’t be repeating that journey for a while. I now know that mode of river travel is for the young, as it obviously takes a bit more conditioning than I have. I don’t plan to abandon the kayak altogether, but I will definitely stay on the calm, still water for now.

Thinking about this experience reminds me of life. It is much easier going when things are calm and still, than dealing with strong currents and storms. There is another lesson here, and it is this; It is the storms that help us find our weaknesses and give us insight into changes we need to make.

God uses those storms for his good purpose in our lives. Paul, as he wrote to the believers in Rome, said this: “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 brings perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:2-4).

James wrote, “the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).

Here is a reminder; if anyone should tell you that placing your faith in Jesus Christ will end all your problems, don’t believe it! It is a lie from the devil. The believer will encounter trials. It is part of being a follower of Jesus. He said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As we persevere through those storms, and finally finish the race He has marked out for us, we will hear these comforting words; “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Keep paddling, wear your life jacket, and don’t be afraid of a little rough water!
Pastor Jerry

Persecution: A Blessing?

Sunday, I had the pleasure of preaching at two small rural churches. I was helping out a fellow pastor, who recently had surgery. The churches are about a 40-minute drive from each other. It is good to see small congregations in out-of-the-way places contending for the faith (Jude 3).

This week, as we contemplate the events leading up to the death, burial, resurrection of our Lord, here are some thoughts related to our time.

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great numbers of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).

In our day, it seems anytime Christians speak or act in a way that reflects Jesus Christ, they are criticized by many. Such as, when the Vice President of the U.S. makes a commitment to never be alone with any woman other than his wife, and is verbally attacked by the liberal media. Anyone who points out that God calls sexual immorality sin, is labeled intolerant, or judgmental. If anyone holds to biblical values and morality, they are shouted down or persecuted in some way. If we say Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God, we are called narrow minded and intolerant.

These are the words of Jesus. “All men will hate you because of me” (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13). “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets” (Luke 6:23).

There is good news! Godless men may accuse and abuse us, but victory is ours through the power of God, who raised Jesus from the dead! Recall the words of Peter and John, when commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus: “Judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Truth,
Pastor Jerry

Standing Firm

I am the eternal optimist, and I don’t want to be seen as a doomsday prophet, but the world is becoming more and more hostile to Christian beliefs and thinking. We are not to be surprised, because the Bible tells us this will happen. The world hates Christians, just as it hated Christ. It is happening today.

Every day, I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John, chapter 15, where Jesus speaks to his disciples, warning them of trials to come: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world…that is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

The culture would suppress Christian thought and belief, and demand we not voice our views in public. Here is a recent quote from Dr. Albert Mohler: “These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image. Religious liberty is being redefined as mere freedom of worship, but it will not long survive if it is reduced to a private sphere with no public voice. The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one.”

The time has come to take a stand for Christ. Silence is not an option for the true believer.

Standing on the Word,
Pastor Jerry

No Middle Ground

Those little showers keep coming, the grass keeps growing, and we mow. This time of the year, I begin to eagerly anticipate putting the lawn mower in storage for winter.

Now for some commentary on the time in which we live. Much of what I read and hear these days from Christian leaders is this; Our nation and the culture in general is becoming more and more secular. As Christian values and beliefs are being pushed into the background, believers must prepare to take a stand for Christ and the Bible. There can be no compromise, there will be no middle ground.

The Bible speaks plainly about the times in which we live: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such things come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron… Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourselves to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:1-7).

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

What are we to do? “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

This is something I read this week. “What we need above all in the church today is for each Christian to have a profound personal knowledge and experience of God himself and a deep knowledge of the Scriptures as his authoritative Word.” (Impossible People by Os Guinness).

Stand firm,
Pastor Jerry

Stand or Fall

Dear friends,
I drove to Topeka, Kansas last week for a meeting of Southern Baptist leaders from Kansas and Nebraska. As I traveled from the Sandhills of Nebraska to the Flint Hills of Kansas, I saw green. Usually, by mid-September, the pastures and crops are beginning to show traces of brown. Not so this year. Obviously, the Lord has blessed this whole section of the country with timely rains, although some of those rains have been excessive in certain areas.

Part of the discussion at our meeting centered on the Great Commission, that is Jesus’ command to go into all the nations and make disciples. More specifically, there was information on what the Kansas-Nebraska Convention is doing to take the gospel to rural America. If you know me, you know my heart is for reaching those in our part of the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. The need for people to hear and respond to God’s message of salvation is not limited to metropolitan areas and foreign countries.

On another somewhat related topic, Christians are facing challenges we have not seen in this generation. The world is abandoning any thought of God, and those who claim allegiance to the God of the Bible are being marginalized and shouted down at every turn. It isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The question is, will we stay true to the gospel and the truths of the Bible? Will we take the Great Commission seriously, and continue to share Christ with those we meet, or will we sit quietly and let the secular world-view prevail.

Know this, if we take a stand for God and his Word, we will face adversity, trials, and even persecution. We are told in the Scriptures to expect these things. Those same scriptures also remind us of the danger of failing to confess Christ as our Lord.

These are the words of Jesus: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him… I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God…” (Luke 12:4-9).

In Truth,
PJ

A Turning Point

Dear friends,
Are you excited about the New Year? To me, it is good to think of a new year as an opportunity to make some course corrections, and to reevaluate where I am headed. However, I think at this point I am more motivated by the thought that spring is coming. I’m just not dealing with the cold this winter, and yes, I know this hasn’t been a particularly hard winter.
In our Sunday school lesson this week, it was suggested that an encounter with Jesus Christ is a turning point; a new beginning. When a person becomes a Christian, he or she has a change in priorities. In fact, a true conversion experience creates change.
In the passage of scripture known as the Beatitudes, Jesus clearly identified the characteristics He expects His followers to exhibit. They are not options; they are Jesus’ expectations for all His followers.
There are eight of these characteristics, and they are found in Matthew 5:1-16.
The poor in spirit: True happiness comes when we realize we are spiritually bankrupt and must rely on God’s strength. Those who mourn: refers to those who have true sorrow for our sins, which leads to repentance. The gentle: This implies humility and trust in God rather than a self-centered attitude. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: Those who yearn for true justice, personal righteousness, and salvation.
The merciful: The word merciful implies generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. It is second nature for those who have experienced God’s mercy to show the same mercy to others. The pure in heart: Purity of heart is single-minded devotion to God. The pure will see God and experience intimate fellowship with Him. The peacemakers: Peace describes a state of wholeness and completeness in our relationship with God and all others. Those who seek to make peace do the work of God and will be called sons of God.
Finally, the persecuted: It is an inevitable fact of life that true followers of Christ will be persecuted. Those who are persecuted because they serve Christ can rejoice, because their reward is great in heaven.
Those who possess a genuine Christian character are going to make a difference in the world. As salt, which both flavors and preserves, and as lights shining from a hilltop, they will have an impact on the culture in which they live.
Blessings,
Pastor Jerry