Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

Lesson From a Turtle

The fishing report has improved again. Last week I mentioned catching some fish. I went once this week, but came home with 2 northern pike in the 3 to 4-pound range. They were very tasty, and I see more fishing in the future.

Here is something fun. Search Google Maps for “Grace Bible Church, Loup City, Nebraska. There is a view of the congregation standing in a circle praying for their new church building, just as the satellite passed overhead. God is good!

Now This: One morning recently, I watched a small turtle come from my neighbor’s lawn, cross the street and make its way down the boat ramp to the lake, never turning to the left or to the right. This reminds me of those faithful believers, who plod along their way, focused on the goal, the salvation of their souls.

Hebrews 11:1-2… Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

“Though you have not seen him, you love him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9). Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).

We may say with the apostle Paul, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the goodness of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Pressing on,
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

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

Potted or Planted?

Once again, I can report some nice rains. The total here in our gauge was nearing 2 inches. A little rain certainly helps with watering the lawns and gardens.

Speaking of gardens and such, we completed construction of a new flower bed this past week. The flowers have been sitting in pots beside the house waiting to be planted in the ground. Here are a few observations connecting potted plants and Christian living. Stay with me on this one.

Plants meant to be planted in the ground do not do well in pots. Some of the plants we brought from the store were needing help. Coming from the nursery in what is called “potting soil”, they dry out too soon, and left in that environment, they get root bound, leading to stunted growth. They need to be taken out of those pots and planted in the ground where they belong, so they can flourish. I wonder sometimes if Christians might be subject to a similar condition?

The new Christian is a bit like a new seedling plant. He needs a certain amount of protection and care, before he is planted in the world. But keeping him in the greenhouse environment, so to speak, is not going to be beneficial to him in the long run. As we disciple a new believer, there is a point where we get them out of the pot, and plant them where they can begin go grow and live out God’s plan for them.

The psalmist said this about the man who reads and meditates on God’s word: He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3).

Just as the potted plant from the nursery cannot feed or water itself, so also does the new Christian need to be fed and watered by the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us to move on from spiritual infancy, that is needing milk, to the taking in of solid spiritual food that leads to spiritual maturity. (Hebrews 5:11-14). Then we read: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” (Hebrews 6:1).

My advice to stunted Christians? Get out of that greenhouse pot, get growing, and bloom where God has planted you!

Feeding on His word,
Pastor Jerry

Reflections

As I write this morning, it is Memorial Day. Yesterday (Sunday), here at the lake, there was a program honoring our veterans and those who gave all for our country. It was interesting to hear some of the veterans tell their stories of service, and I was reminded again of the sacrifices made to keep our country free. At the same time, I was reading on social media of the vandalism of patriot displays and cemeteries around the country. It makes one ask, “what is wrong with people today who have no respect for these things? Actually, the answer is found in the Bible. It starts in the hearts of people. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:10)?

As I look out my window, I see the lake. Its surface is completely still this morning, and reflects the trees along the edge, and the sky above. It is much like a mirror. Many years ago, somewhere I remember reading that the color of the water on a given day, is a reflection of the sky. Sunny days, it appears to be blue. On gray cloudy days, the water is seen as dark and gray. I think this relates to my opening comment concerning the behavior of people. What we see in their words and actions are a reflection of their heart.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Christians are to reflect the character and actions of the Lord Jesus. We are to be a mirror image of the One whose name we bear. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (Romans 8:29).

“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49). “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness…” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

It is not possible for any person to consistently exhibit right behavior without Christ in his or her heart. It is hard enough sometimes for the Christian to do so.

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

Who Will Go?

Saturday evening, several church family members, old friends and some new friends gathered at the church to help me celebrate my retirement as the pastor of Sandhills Baptist Fellowship. It was a great time of fellowship and celebration. I have many fond memories of our time in that ministry. Now, we can wait to see what God has in store for us in our “retirement.” I hope to have time to write down some of those memories, and maybe someday have something in print to share with you all (or, y’all). There were good times and bad, but the good greatly out-weighed the bad.

Also, on Friday, we had visitors from our far distant past. Some friends we hadn’t seen in almost forever, were passing through and stopped for a brief visit. How good it was to see them and find out what has been happening in their lives.

As our ministry at the church here ends, I try to remain attentive to what God might have for us to do in the future. I again go back to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had a vision of God in His temple, and heard the voice of the Lord ask the question, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah replied without hesitation, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

I believe God has a call on everyone’s life. It starts with the call to receive His gift of salvation, and to follow Him. This is followed by a call to serve Him in some way. Many people think once a person accepts the gift of salvation, that is all that is necessary, but listen to Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 4:10).

God’s call on our lives led us to Ericson. Pastor Kurt Kinney has now taken the leadership role at the church, and our ministry will change directions. As we wait for the Lord’s leading for the next chapter in our lives, I will continue writing these articles and listening for His voice. As the old song says, “When the Savior calls, I will answer. I’ll be somewhere listening for my name.”

The correct answer to the question, “Who will go?”, is this: “Send me!”

In His grip,
Pastor Jerry

More Change

I am able to tell you today that this past Sunday was my official last day to preach at Sandhills Baptist Fellowship. The pastor search committee of the church has found the person they believe to be God’s man for the job. I had requested some time ago that they begin the process, as I felt the Lord leading me to pursue other interests.

I will continue to write these articles, and seek other ways to be involved in ministry. But, for the immediate future, we will finish moving into our house at the lake, and finding homes for all the items we don’t have room for. Then comes some time camping and just relaxing.

I am sure that God has more for us to do. I find no solid reference in the Bible to what we in America call “retirement.” In fact, the only reference I find is to the Old Testament priests retiring at age 50, then assisting the younger priests in their work (Numbers 8:25-26).

There are other passages that indicate God intends for us to commit to the long-haul as we serve and obey Him. Neither does He at some point stop His work in the believer’s life. Here are some scriptures for us to meditate on this morning.

Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul tells us God has work for us to do. After he tells us our salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, he says this: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Again in Philippians, Paul tells the believers there, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).

I have many great memories of these years at SBF, and we have been blessed to serve here, but we will move on, seeking and following the Lord’s leading, as we go forward. I would not change these last 15+ years for anything, but we must go forward, running with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1).

Simply His,
Pastor Jerry

Working Out Your Salvation

It is one of those times when spring seems to be held captive by the remains of winter. One day we think spring is here, the next feels very much like winter. The good news is the Creator designed our part of the world to have four seasons, and spring always follows winter, and so on. We need only to wait on His timing.

Several months ago, actually almost a year and a half by now, I began to feel it was time for me to retire from full-time ministry. It appears that time is very close. More details will come in a later column, but for now, this is all I want to say. This may be a good lead-in to this week’s article.

In Paul’s letter the church at Philippi, he says this, speaking to his readers: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Later in the letter, we read this: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose” (2:12-13).

Here are some thoughts on these verses that apply to all believers. First, when God calls us and we respond by placing our faith in His Son, he begins a work in us that ends when he calls us home. His command is that we “work out” our salvation. This means we commit to living our life for Him. It is not that we work ‘for’ our salvation, that is impossible. It does mean His plan for us will be carried out. We do not do this on our own. Verse 13 of chapter 2 reminds us that it is He who works in us to enable us to complete the task he has set before us.

Remember Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

As we allow Him to bring about His good purpose, he may change our direction from time to time. And if he does, there is one thing of which we can be sure, He is working to bring to completion the work He began in us. True retirement comes when He takes us home to glory.

Serving Him,
Pastor Jerry

Giving or Getting?

Warmer weather is again on the horizon. I see 60 degrees forecast for Wednesday, but we will wait to see if that happens. Christmas decorating continues at our lake house. My spouse has been a bit under the weather with a cold this past week, so progress has been slow.

In other news, Alex celebrated his 16th birthday last week. It was also the day he got the braces off his teeth. We observed the occasion with a trip to Red Lobster. Along with all that, he now has his driver’s license. Time marches on, doesn’t it?

Around Thanksgiving time, one of the cell phone companies ran an ad that emphasized the term “Thanksgetting.” I have to admit I had not thought of that concept. In fact, it seems to be a more fitting slogan for our modern Christmas celebration. Most of the advertising at this time of year seems to be geared more toward what will I get for Christmas, instead of what can I give?

If God is our example, we should be much more concerned with giving that with receiving. Remember, not only did He give us life and breath, He loved the whole world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). James tells us that God is the source of all good things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). The Bible lists many gifts that God has given. Here are just a few: In addition to life itself, there is the sun, plants and animals for food, water, clothing, marriage between a man and a woman, children. Also, the ability to work, artistic abilities, and many more.

In gratitude for those gifts, we should to use them for the building of His kingdom, and for a life of good works. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders, quoted the Lord Jesus, saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In gratitude to God, may we concentrate this Christmas season on giving, instead of getting.

Blessings to all,
Pastor Jerry