Archive for the ‘Repentance’ Category

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

Hear and Obey

The lake community was a busy place this past weekend. From turtle racing, football watching, and the annual Labor Day auction, there were plenty of things to do.

From my vantage point, I have the opportunity to observe many things. Some are amusing, some not so much, and some give me ideas for these articles. Just watching how people operate their vehicles sometimes will illustrate some spiritual truth.

Here is the thought for the week: You can turn the steering wheel in any direction you want, but if you’re not moving, you do not change directions. Intentions have to be followed by action. You may say, I want to go over there, and point your wheels in that direction, but until you engage the transmission and press the accelerator pedal, you aren’t going anywhere.

In the days before power steering, one could only turn the wheel with some effort. It was easier to steer the vehicle (or tractor) when moving forward. These days, you can turn the steering wheel effortlessly while sitting still, but there is still no change of direction unless you are moving.

It’s the same way with prayer, changing habits or lifestyle, or with following Jesus. Good intentions lead nowhere without a commitment to action. The commands of the Lord require action on the part of the one who is commanded. Here are a few of those commands:

Leave, and/or go. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). What happened next? “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (verse 4).

Follow: Mark 1:17… “Come, follow me, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” The command to follow usually preceded by the command to come. That is, to come to Jesus, and then to follow him. One cannot follow him without first coming to him in faith.

Give: Believers are to give to the poor. This command follows the command to sell our possessions in order to have resources to give.

Commands are meant to be obeyed. Intentions mean nothing if not followed by actions. It’s been said before, but God cannot direct your steps unless you are moving. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Religion or Relationship?

The sun is shining and the temperature is cool; a beautiful morning. I love these late summer days!

I hear a lot of people mention the fact that they are religious. There seems to be confusion on the part of many regarding the difference between what it means to be Christian, and what the term religion, or religious, means. Let’s look at these two terms today, and see if there is in fact, a difference.

A Christian is an adherent of Christ; one committed to Christ; a follower of Christ. A religious person is one who seeks to gain favor with God by their own effort. The term “religion” emphasizes conduct. Religious people base their salvation on good conduct, or good deeds. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is God’s view of religion.

The Bible speaks of God-pleasing religion as helping others in need (James 1:27). A believer with this kind of religion is faultless (pure or undefiled), and keeps himself pure (clean). This is not a definition of religion but rather a contrast to mere acts of worship and ritualistic observances that are commonly called religion.

Make no mistake, religion will not get you to heaven. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will do that. The invitation is extended to all. In no way will he deny anyone who believes on him for their salvation (John 6:37). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21). What then, is God’s will? “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life” (John 6:40).

Writing to Christians, Paul said this: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:3-5).

Salvation is by faith, not by works. Good works for the Christian are the result of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, allowing Him to work through you for his glory.

Religion or relationship, which will it be?

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Testify!

I hope you are enjoying these late summer days. We have had some nice rains here, and the crops and pastures are in great condition. God is good, but not just in the good times, He is still good in whatever bad times we might go through. We were blessed this past Sunday, to attend a baptismal service at one of our area rivers. I had the privilege several years ago, of hearing a young lady ask Jesus Christ into her life. On that day, she and two others followed the Lord’s example, being baptized by immersion in the river. What a blessing it was to be there and see their obedience to God’s word.

On a somewhat related topic, do you remember the guy in the commercial who, when asked if he had ever done heart surgery, answered, “No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night!” How many people know the terminology of a process or procedure, but have no personal experience in that thing?

I fear there are some who claim to be Christians, and know all the right words, but have no personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus or of his teaching. They have some idea that they need to do good deeds, or get their lives in order, before they are acceptable to God. They learn from their Christian friends some of the terminology, and how a Christian is to live, but they are depending on these things for their salvation.

The simple truth is, God will only accept us on His terms, that we take by faith the gift of salvation provided by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ the Son of God. (John 14:6).

The apostle Peter preached a sermon at Pentecost that had people asking “brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s answer was, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38).

The proper sequence it this: Admit you are a sinner. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Repent; that is turn from your sin. Then be baptized as a public witness to a changed life. Died to sin, raised to new life in Christ. It’s that simple. Is this your testimony, as well?

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

On Respect for Others

A lot has been said and written in recent days about what is wrong with our world. After all the violence and killing of the past week, we all need to stop and think.

I believe we need desperately to return to a biblical view of the world and identify the real problem. Sin is the problem. Its remedy is Jesus Christ, and obedience to God’s word. Much of what is missing in our society today would return, if people would only use the Bible for guidance. We could begin by restoring respect for authority, for one another, for country and for God… beginning with respecting God, followed by all the others.

Sadly, I feel there are too few of us willing to say. “Wait! What are we doing to our country and to each other with this disrespectful and selfish attitude? Whatever happened to “love your neighbor as yourself?” We are at the point of “love yourself, and no one else.” Do unto others as you would have them do to you, has become “the only one who matters is me.” People have become worshipers of self, and the law is disregarded in every level of society, from the government to the man on the street.

The Bible says much about this word respect. Respect is something the Bible teaches at all levels of society, from families to the highest levels of government.

From the Old Testament: Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:3). “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (19:32).

And, in the New Testament: Romans 13:7— “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Finally, these instructions from Peter to the readers of his second letter, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king (substitute mayor, governor or president).”

I wonder, might we begin to do these things again?

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Proof of Change

The month of June is almost over, and I haven’t spent any serious time fishing. Along with that, we have only had the camper out once this year, and that was mostly to see if everything worked. Maybe living beside the lake is a hindrance to both fishing and camping. Could that be it? Note: If you have ever wanted to know more about this place called Lake Ericson, check out the current edition of Nebraska Life Magazine.

It is being reported on some media sources that a certain presidential candidate has recently become a Christian. It is not my place to judge a person’s heart, but I can go to God’s word and read verses that help us to know if a person is truly a follower of Jesus Christ. We can pray these reports are true, and the Bible tells us we can know if a person is a Christian. I will share some of the evidences of true belief this week.

A new Christian is not perfect. Neither are older Christians. We all have the tendency to sin, even after being spiritually reborn. But here are things we should see in one who calls himself a follower of Jesus Christ.

The first step, confession, is found in Romans 10:9; 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 it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Confession is to first confess to God that I am a sinner, followed by confessing that Jesus is Lord of all.

Confession is followed by repentance. This is a change of direction. To repent is to stop going away from God, and to turn toward him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17)! The evidence of this change shows up in what is called the fruit of the Spirit. It consists of these: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). There are others, but space here is limited.

Finally, we know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands (1 John 2:3).

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Leaves or Fruit?

After a cool end to the week, I’m looking forward to some more spring-like temperatures. Grass has been greening up, and the daffodils are blooming. It seems that spring is in the air. Now, as I write this, they are calling for snow on Wednesday. We’ll see.

Good Friday is this week, and Easter will be observed the first day of next week. Today, I would like to share some thoughts from this past Sunday’s message. It concerns the cleansing of the temple by the Lord Jesus the day after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and how it applies to each of us.

Our scripture passage is Mark 11:12-18: Having seen a fig tree with leaves and no fruit, Jesus condemns it for hypocrisy. Then upon reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

Matthew tells us that when the religious leaders were challenged about their disrespect for God’s house, they challenged Jesus’ authority to kick out the money changers, heal the sick and forgive the sinners (Matthew 21:23). When he pointed out their hypocrisy, they may have been afraid he would throw them out next. Instead of making peace with him, they planned to kill him.

What is our response when Jesus, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, exposes hypocrisy in our lives? Do we desire to make peace with him, or do we want to deny the hypocrisy and kill him to preserve our double life?

Are we bearing fruit, or are we just showing an abundance of leaves?

Are we that much different than the crowds on the day he entered Jerusalem as the triumphant king? How many times have we proclaimed him King and Lord, and then turned our backs on him to remain loyal to the world?

Wondering,
Pastor Jerry

Preparing for Christmas

Today, I would like to share some thoughts on preparing for Christmas, as outlined in a recent article I read. We are about half-way through the season of Advent. Its purpose is to allow us to make preparations in anticipation of celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The writer of the article takes us to the time of John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. John was preparing the people for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

The story begins in Matthew 3:1—In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

So, first of all we see that preparing for His coming involves change, that’s what repentance is about. Could we perhaps change our thinking on how we spend our Christmas funds? Maybe we could contribute an amount equal to what we spend on ourselves to a homeless shelter or food bank.

John lived a simple life. He dressed in animal skins and ate what the and provided. Most of us wouldn’t do well in that kind of environment, but I’m sure we could simplify our lives to a greater degree than we do. As we try to make it to all the holiday activities, might we slow down a bit, and take the time to read and meditate on the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2? The second way we might prepare for the coming of the Lord, is to simplify.

Finally, we read in verses 5-6 of Matthew 3— “People went out to him (John)…Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

Without too much of a stretch, we can see the act of being baptized as worship. The symbolism for us might be that we leave our homes and go to a church or some other meeting place to worship Christ. We should set aside time to worship, both privately and with other believers.

Let’s prepare for Christmas with repentance, simplicity and worship.

Anticipating His coming
Pastor Jerry

Repentance: The Missing Ingredient

As I read and observe comments made on social media and other sources, it occurs to me that in the conversation there are a couple of words that are missing. As people debate the issues of the day, the underlying theme seems to be that everyone wants things their own way. We excuse sinful behavior by calling it many other things, but the word sin never makes it to the top.
Another missing ingredient, if you will, is the idea of the need for repentance. My Bible Dictionary defines repentance as: “Change of mind; also can refer to regret or remorse accompanying a realization that wrong has been done…”
In the biblical sense, repentance refers to a deep seated and thorough turning from self to God. Much of what is presented from pulpits today is far removed from any idea of a change of life, or repentance from sin. It comes down to “believe and be saved, continue in your sinful lifestyle because Jesus loves you and wants you to be happy.” This is far from the truth.
John the Baptist began his ministry with these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus said, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news”, and, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). He said to some who were questioning Him, “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (Luke 13:3).
There are enough New Testament references to repentance that it should be clear it is of great importance. In response to God’s call on one’s life, there must be repentance, that is, to turn from a life of sin and self-rule to a life ruled by God and lived in His righteousness. In other words, the call to repent means we must abandon sinful lifestyles and express sorrow for our sins.
Christians and churches are not exempt. We must be constantly involved in self-examination, allowing the Holy Spirit to point out areas where change is needed. To continue living in sin, with no thought of changing (repenting) can only lead to judgment.
In Him,
Pastor Jerry