Archive for the ‘Rest’ Category

God, Our Refuge

As I begin writing this, we’re in the middle of an old-fashioned blizzard! Snow is coming down, and the wind is picking up quickly. Update: Actually, the storm didn’t last long, but it was a reminder of what can happen this time of the year.

Every time one of these storms blows through, I am glad I don’t have to deal with them up close and personal anymore. At the same time, I can relate to what livestock men and women are experiencing. I have many memories of taking care of cows and calves in bad weather.

I have learned over the years, to appreciate the instincts that the Creator provided to the livestock. Given the opportunity, the cows seem to always find protection from the storm. One of the things I learned, was not to go out in the middle of a storm and try to “help” the cows. Experience taught me to wait until the storm passed, because moving them just caused more problems in the end.

We can apply this thought to our own lives, as we encounter the storms of life. When we are in a difficult place, instead of asking God to take us out of the storm, we could ask him to get us through the storm. It could be that he has allowed the storm to strengthen our faith. If we did not experience the storm, we would not learn to trust Him.

Isaiah, praising God said, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…” (Isaiah 25:4).

Forty-three verses, just in the Psalms, speak of God as a refuge. Here are a few:
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9). Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge (16:1). Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (34:8).

I’m reminded of the chorus of an old hymn entitled, Til the Storm Passes By;
“Til the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Til the clouds roll forever from the sky.
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand.
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.”

In His hands,
Pastor Jerry

Friends

Last week we took a little trip. This was the first we’ve had the camper out this year, and it was the first we have tried out the remodeling that was done earlier in the year. The twin bed set-up is way better than the old queen size, and we now have a shower curtain in place of the glass wall and door, allowing a little more room in the shower. The only real trial came when we found out the shower head wasn’t properly drained last fall and its handle had split from freezing. A little black electricians tape made it work until we got a replacement.

Our trip took us first to Mitchell, SD, where Alex is working, and will be attending school this fall. He is living in an apartment in the country south of Alexandria, SD. We spent two nights in Mitchell at the local KOA.

After leaving there, we took the “scenic route” to Wagner, SD. This was caused by poking the screen on my phone without looking, and changing our route on Google Maps. We found some roads that were somewhat less than the road less traveled. After a late lunch in Wagner, our next stop was in Atkinson, NE. Atkinson was our town for several years right after we were married, so it is familiar territory. We overnighted there in a really nice little out of the way park.

The next leg of the journey took us to the ranch home of our very long time friends. I hesitate to use the phrase “old friends.” We spent the evening, and into the early morning hours reminiscing about old times, and catching up with them and another couple with whom we’ve spent countless hours. After leaving there, we headed home, reaching Lake Ericson and home in the early evening on Thursday.

If I came away with a thought for the week, it would be this: We should relish those friendships that God has allowed us to develop over the years. There is something special about friends that know us as well as we know ourselves.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).

And, one more thing, your wife’s advice is more to be heeded, than any direction finding app on your smart phone!

Have a blessed week,
Pastor Jerry

God’s Comforting Presence

We all know summer will end at some point. Wednesday morning, the temperature here was in the low 40’s. This is more than a subtle reminder; it might be seen more as a wake-up call.

The news lately has been much about fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. What is a person to think?

First of all, God allows these things to happen. Not for judgment, as some would have us to believe, but because of Adam and Eve sinning, i.e., disobeying God, creation is broken. Therefore, these calamities happen to all people at one time or another. As we see these things happening, we should be in prayer for those affected. Next time, we might be the one ‘standing in the need of prayer’, as the old song says.

As many of you know, our little dog has been deaf since we got her, and lately she has become blind. In spite of these things, we still communicate with her, mostly by touch. Except, at mealtime, when her sense of smell plays a large part. Along with what I might call side-effects of these things, she seems to be more anxious when she doesn’t know where we are. However, when she lies beside us in a chair or on the sofa, she is relaxed and usually sleeps

The other day, I was thinking about her situation, and it occurred to me this is a bit like us and God. We don’t see him or hear him, but we sense his presence many times just by his touch. It might be the hand of a friend, or some quiet, small voice that we don’t really hear, or maybe a passage of scripture, but we know it is him. And even though we don’t physically see or hear him, we know he is there. It is called faith and trust.

In our dog, I see a picture of Christians who, when they don’t see or hear God’s presence, become agitated and uneasy. Perhaps if we could picture ourselves sheltered in his arms, or sitting beside him on the sofa, we would be more at ease in our circumstance.

Here are some comforting scriptures:
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27a).
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4).

Trusting Him,
Pastor Jerry

Following

Things are beginning to return to normal around here. Last weekend was busy, with a Saturday wedding in Grand Island, and preaching in Burwell on Sunday. Most of this week has involved getting rested and recharged. The lake campgrounds are staying busy, with tankers and others who appreciate the good life here.

If you are involved at all with social media, you know about following. We follow everything; blogs, tweets, snaps, pages, and yes, people. In fact, followers are at an all-time high. People will do anything for a follow, if you have watched any YouTube videos, you know what I mean.

In the Bible, Jesus invites us to follow Him, but following Jesus is more than liking a page or a group, it is responding to a call. To His disciples and to us, he says, “come follow me” (Matthew 4:19). He said these words to some fishermen, and their response is recorded in the next verse; “At once they left their nets and followed Him.” This should be our response to his call.

The Bible tells us that we all follow someone, and the identity of the one calling us determines how we follow. Jesus said of his followers, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). In another place, He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We are told that following Jesus will bring us salvation from sin, give us eternal life, and enable us to live holy lives.

On the contrary, those who follow false teachers and the ways of the world will reap judgment, and spend eternity in hell, separated from God. The apostle Paul, had much to say about those who refuse to follow Him. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:8).

Following someone on social media doesn’t require anything more than a mouse click or touching a screen. No commitment is needed. Following Jesus is a life-long journey that leads to peace, righteousness, and true lasting joy. Who are you following today?

Following Jesus,
Pastor Jerry

Don’t Be Afraid

Happy New Year!
A new year is upon us, and it seems for many people that 2016 was stressful and worrisome in many ways. There are worries about terrorism, drive-by shootings and random violence. Many are concerned about finances and other issues. Here are some thoughts and some biblical assurances for those who could use some encouragement.

The Bible is packed with uplifting and encouraging passages, both in the Old and New Testaments. During a recent cold spell, I notice the little birds at our feeder, and remembered that God takes care of them by providing their food. He doesn’t put it in their mouths, but he does provide. Their responsibility, it would seem, is only to partake of his goodness. If we have a bird feeder, we become part of his plan to provide for those little birds. I doubt they worry, because I believe God created them be worry free.

These are His words for us:
“Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Matthew 6:25-27… “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Jesus spoke to his followers, telling them of persecution to come, and said this: “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. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7).

When we put our faith and trust in the Lord, we need not fear the future.

Have a worry-free 2017,
Pastor Jerry

Peace on Earth

We finished with painting some rooms in our house this week. I suppose this could be a Christmas gift of sorts. This is something my lovely wife has been wanting for some time, and I’m glad we were able to find someone to get the job done. I will have more on this in an upcoming article.

Where is the promised peace?
After the angel announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds, we read this: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:8-14).

The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was of peace on earth, and as we read the words, we see that this peace would come to those on whom God’s favor rests, meaning those who put their faith in this newborn babe.

Jesus himself did not promise that true peace would exist before his second coming. He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34).

Another prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ is found in Isaiah 42:1-4. “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
til he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Two of the elements of the Advent season are hope and peace. For the Christian, this means hope as a settled assurance of things to come, and the peace that comes only from the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts.

Again, as he prepared to leave his disciples, Jesus promised to leave his peace with them. What did he mean, if he didn’t come to bring peace?

The peace he left us with is not peace as the world sees it (John 14:27), but instead, he leaves us with peace in our hearts because of our relationship with the Father through the Son. In this, we have hope.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Jerry

On the Changing Seasons

I have worked outdoors most all my life, and looking from my current vantage point, I see that my view of the changing of the seasons was more oriented to my work than to the actual God-ordained seasonal changes.

Maybe it is because of another birthday, but I’ve become more aware of the gradual transition between those seasons. Lately, I’ve noticed a subtle change taking place as summer makes way for fall. Leaves turn from green to gold, temperatures cool, and the winds are becoming more northerly. Nature seems to be taking a short rest in anticipation of the changes ahead. There is a quietness to the mornings and evenings that wasn’t there in the hot summer months.

We have the idea that the seasons change quickly, but that is a misconception. There are slow, but inevitable signs of coming change. It is much the same in our own lives. We don’t suddenly wake up some morning and discover we are teen-agers. Likewise, we don’t arrive at old-age overnight. There is constant change, leading up to each stage of life.

It is the same with our spiritual life. It seems as we get older, there is a new awareness of the changing seasons of our lives. God has a plan for each person, and there are seasons of change as he brings us to maturity. When we become Christians, we do not stay the same. There are stages of growth, each one leading to another, until he takes us home to heaven.

It was King Solomon who wrote “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

In his book “The Seasons of God”, Richard Blackaby reminds us there are seasons in our lives. They aren’t all about just being born, living to a ripe old age and departing from this life. Instead, he focuses on the fact that just as in nature, the seasons keep repeating throughout our individual lives. At each stage in life, we each move from a beginning to an ending, only to move on to another beginning, and so on.

Here is the problem; as we go through life, we get caught up in our labors and our own self-effort, and fail to see those seasons. In particular, we overlook what God is doing in us, for us, and through us.

Reflecting,
Pastor Jerry