Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

Leave It There

It’s Monday again, and time for another news update and devotional thought. I would never have believed, when I started composing these articles, that I would still be doing it. Thanks to all who have encouraged me along the way.

We are still in the moving process. I believe one never has a true understanding of how many things we accumulate until we try to move it from one place to another. I was told yesterday of a man who said everyone should put their place up for sale every ten years. The point is you may or may not sell it, but you will get it cleaned up. Wise words, I believe.

I am reminded once more of those Bible passages that speak of being unhindered in our Christian journey. The writer of Hebrews gives the illustration of an athlete running a race, leaving behind the things that slow him down and hinder his best effort. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). You get the picture.

The things that weigh us down and hinder our journey are many. Perhaps it is a load of guilt, or some sin that goes unconfessed that keeps us from being all that a Christian can be. Other burdens we may bear are jealousy, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, worry, and any number of others. Jesus encourages us to bring them to him, to come and leave them at the foot of the cross, as it were. Our problem most of the time, is that we lay our burdens down, then pick them up again when we leave. As we allow Him to remove those heavy loads we are carrying, we are able to live as free men and women. These are Jesus’ words; “You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

Allow me to quote the words of an old hymn:
“Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
Leave it there, leave it there,
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there;
If you trust and never doubt,
He will surely bring you out—
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

Resting in Him,
Pastor Jerry

God’s Judgment

We arrived home from our Colorado trip just ahead of the nasty weather. It was good to be home when the wind and rain/snow arrived. It was good to see friends and family again, but home is always a welcome sight.

Last evening (Sunday), our church held its annual pancake and sausage supper. It is our gift to the community in which we reside. It was well attended and everyone enjoyed the food and fellowship.

One topic which seems to surface from time to time, is, why did God allow all those people in the Old Testament to be killed? I will attempt to give an answer from God’s own word.

All through the Old Testament, we see God commanding his people Israel to destroy the pagan nations. At times, though, he brings pagan nations against Israel as the means of executing judgment on them. We might ask what is up with this. If we study these situations, God gives the answer.

In Ezekiel, as God pronounced judgment on Israel, the prophet asked the question, “Oh, Lord God! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel when you pour out your wrath on Jerusalem?” God’s answer… “The iniquity (or sin) of the house of Israel and Judah is extremely great… I will not show pity or spare them.”

God also used Babylon to punish Israel for her sin, but Babylon went beyond what God had planned, and as a result, God brought judgment and punishment against that nation. Every time God punished nations, including his chosen people, it was for their disobedience and rejection of Him.

In the New Testament, we are warned of the consequences of turning our backs on God, and failing to acknowledge Him as Holy God, creator of everything. When we reject God, it is called sin. Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and come fall short of the glory of God.” Further, Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…”

In the book of Revelation, we see a time of final judgment, when God once and for all brings judgment on the world for all its sin. He then brings those who have been obedient to his call to salvation into the new heaven and earth, where they will spend eternity with God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In His love,
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

On Horoscopes, etc.

This morning, we are camped somewhere in north central Nebraska, in a quiet, out of the way place. It is a beautiful spot, and we may very well return to it. We plan to explore other scenic places in our state this summer, Lord willing.

I am puzzled by the fact that many Christians follow horoscopes and other types of ‘fortune telling’. I believe God never intended for His people to place their faith in the moon and stars, tea leaves, fortune cookies and the like.

I bring this up, not to criticize or judge, but to give a reminder that God desires our complete allegiance. To put any part of our trust in anyone or anything other than God, is an affront to God and His sovereignty. Actually, the Lord has said much about this subject in the Old Testament and it is mentioned in the New Testament as something not approved by God.

“Do not practice divination or sorcery” (Leviticus 19:26). “Let no one be found among you…who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft” (Deuteronomy 18:19). Of Manasseh, king of Judah, the Bible records this: “He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking Him to anger” (2 Kings 21:6).

In the New Testament, Simon, a sorcerer was rebuked by Peter for attempting to buy the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-24). Paul and Silas encountered a slave girl at Philippi who had a demonic power of foretelling the future (Acts 16:16-26). Paul commanded the demon to leave her, which led to their imprisonment. Witchcraft is among the things condemned as acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:20).

These things are not harmless pastimes, they are anything but harmless, and they are not neutral. Anything that does not come from God, has its root in His enemy Satan. The Bible consistently condemns the practice of divination. It rarely views these practices as fakes. They are condemned, not because they are not supernatural, but because the source is often demonic and those who practice them are trying to circumvent God to find guidance for the future. Christians should heed the biblical injunction against astrology, fortune telling and mediums.

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

Of Grass and Geese

I’m writing this Memorial Day. When I was growing up, it was never this early in the month. In those days, the holiday came on the 30th of May, no matter what day of the week it was. I guess we didn’t need three or four day weekends back then.

As you know, the new lawn is up and growing. Now, the geese have discovered it, and are making it a part of their diet. The new crop of goslings are fuzzy and cute, but as those goslings grow, they have very good appetites, and one of the things they really like to eat is tender, new grass seedlings. Now, they don’t seem nearly as adorable as before.

I’m reminded of the progression of sin in our lives. At first, it seem harmless enough. It may even appear to be harmless and entertaining. But as it grows, and gains traction in our lives, we realize it is not harmless or cute. Scripture warns us to stay away from the temptation to let sin gain a foothold in our lives, even if it seems to be a good thing.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 16:25). Flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace… (2 Timothy 2:22).

The apostle Paul, in his first letter to Timothy had this to say regarding sinful behaviors: But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

The Bible doesn’t tell me what to do about the geese on our lawn, but it does tell us how to keep sin from taking over in our lives. And, if we do sin, remember God’s promise in 1 John 1:9. Don’t blame it on God, either. James had this to say concerning temptation: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:13-14).

In the case of the geese eating the lawn, it will not be to repent. Replant might be a better word.

Remembering,
Pastor Jerry

A Cat Story

It was a busy weekend. Much time was spent driving and sitting in meetings, and I am glad to be home. More on that later. Today I want to give you a cat story.

We have a sliding patio door leading onto our back deck. The corner of the screen has been damaged and there is a square of cloth covering the hole. Over time, our cat and dog have used it for a pet door. Last week, a stray cat came through it into the house.

We tried several times to get him out. The first time he came to the door, he could not see how he came in. I opened the screen and we brought him around again. Still, he must have thought the screen was closed. He ran to the bathroom. We chased him back to the door. He hid under a bed. Finally, he took a chance and jumped out through the wide open door. He didn’t even come back and thank us.

Temptation many times seem harmless, so we take a small step into it, and find ourselves trapped. We cannot find the way out, even when loving, caring Christians try to help us see it. They show us from the Bible that Jesus is the way to freedom, but we refuse to believe them or to see their sincerity. Finally, out of desperation we take a chance, step through that door, and are set free.

Jesus says not only am I the door, I am the only door (or gate). I am the way, the truth and the life (John 10:9; John 14:6).

I visited with a young man this week, and found that he is a pastor to prisoners and people in recovery. He shared he had come to faith in Jesus out of that kind of background. Here are his words: There were people who tried to show me the way out of that lifestyle, but I would not listen. I wish I could find some of them, tell them what happened, and thank them.

If you have experienced that freedom, thank those who showed you the way. If you are one trapped in sin, Jesus is the way out. Place your faith in Him, your sins will be forgiven, and you will be set free. The Bible tells me so. (See John 6:37).

Free in Christ,
Pastor Jerry

Marriage God’s Way

Finally, it rained! Now, it seems the wind takes center stage. At any rate, I guess it all goes with the territory. As someone said, it is part of living here.

I have not specifically addressed the issue of same-sex marriage and related topics in this column, but perhaps it is time I did so. Let me say first of all, I believe the concept is not even mentioned in the Bible. God established the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:18, 24; Genesis 5:2). I find no other description of marriage anywhere in His word.

This idea of people of the same gender having the right to enter into a marriage, is the furthest from what God intended. Those who believe the Bible is wrong in this area, or that it no longer is relevant, have believed a lie straight from the devil.

Now, I know there are those who will challenge me in this area, perhaps even quoting that scripture that says “judge not”. I cannot judge a person’s heart, that is God’s responsibility. However, I believe the Christian has the responsibility to call attention those things God has said are sinful. Remember, though, we are cautioned to deal with our own sin before attempting to help someone else.

I believe the Ten Commandments are commands, not suggestions, and they are not outdated. God’s word is true and He does not change. The things He calls sin are still sin. Just because the world is chasing after sensual pleasure and self-gratification of all kinds, doesn’t make it right or acceptable to God.

One more point that needs to be made here is this; being tempted to sinful behavior is not sinning. Giving in to temptation is sin. The good news is this: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. (1 John 1:9). The follow-up is that we turn from that sin (John 8:1-8).

The Bible is not hard to understand when it comes to what it calls sin. Most of the things we don’t understand are probably not that important in our daily lives. Here is a quote from Mark Twain; “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

On the Relevancy of Scripture

Here is one more article concerning false teachers present today, then we’ll move on. I think it is important to point out some of the ideas about the Bible that are floating around out there.

A preacher of some renown, named Rob Bell, several years ago wrote a book promoting the idea that there is no literal hell, and that Jesus would eventually save everyone. Let me tell you right now, the Bible nowhere teaches such heresy. Now, this same person, appearing on a popular television program, announced that the church was on the verge of total commitment to same-sex marriage.

He went on to say that if the church wants to be relevant in our day, she needs to stop depending on what he called “2,000 year-old letters”.

Personally, I will continue to depend on those old letters we call God’s Word, the Bible, for judging what is true, and what is false. Contrary to what this man promotes, I believe the Bible is totally relevant to this discussion.

In 2 Peter, chapter 2, we get a vivid picture of the destination of those who distort God’s Word, and deceive their followers. That place is called hell, and it is definitely not a place of enjoyment.

As a pastor, I understand that I have a great responsibility to correctly handle God’s Word, and to speak it clearly. The Bible is no less relevant that it has ever been. May it always be so!

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

Finally, this: “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 number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3).

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

Post Only These Things

Dear friends,
The month of January has had its ups and downs. I think this would describe the temperature fluctuations we have experienced. I, personally, am glad for the warm-up of recent days. In news from the remodeling at the lake house, the kitchen project is winding down, and work is progressing on the sunroom that started out as a deck. I hope to get the walls up and the roof on it before it rains or snows again. Prayers appreciated.

For our devotional thought this week, I would like to address an issue that concerns me. It is the quality of some of the things Christian people post on social media. I am not opposed to social media. In fact, most of you get these articles by way of email, Facebook, or a link to one of my blogs. Even the newspaper version is sent weekly by email. If God’s people are to be light and salt to the world, and if we are to live in a way that reflects the holiness of God, why would we post these most profane and innuendo laden memes, comments, and photos for the whole world to see?

Not everyone does these things, but I see enough of it to be concerned. Is it any wonder so many people don’t see a reason to invite Jesus into their life? If Christian behavior isn’t any different from the rest of the world, why join them?

Here are some scriptures that just might cause us to think twice about those things we put out there on social media.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips (and Facebook pages) (Colossians 3:8).

“But among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity…because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place…” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—post these things” (Philippians 4:8 Pastor Jerry’s version).

It would benefit all of us to consider these things before posting anything.

In Christ’s love,
Pastor Jerry

Identifying False Teachers

The January thaw is under way in our part of the world. The snow is melting away and everyone just has a better outlook. We were able to get some outside work done on the lake house, including the construction of steps, so we don’t have to climb on concrete blocks to get to the front door. This will greatly reduce the risk of injury, especially for someone getting along in years…

My current sermon series is from the Apostle Peter’s second letter. In it, he addresses the issue of false teachers in the church. You see, the presence of false teachers in the church is nothing new. They were present in the Old Testament in the form of false prophets; men who claimed to speak for God, but did not. Later in New Testament times, men came into the church with teaching that downplayed the importance of faith in Jesus, and obedience to his commands. Much of their false teaching was centered on immoral behavior and the idea that because of grace, they could engage in all kinds of immorality without fear of judgment.

Those false teachings are present in churches today. Some are preaching and teaching a “new morality”, much of which is disguised as “civil rights” along with other misleading definitions of sin. Let’s be clear about this. There is no new morality, it is only the old immorality repackaged. God’s judgment awaits those who teach this false gospel, and those who follow them.

Peter writes concerning false teachers: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:2-3).

There are four things to learn from our study: First, the church is not immune to false teachers. They are among us today. Second, promoting sexual immorality is heresy. It goes totally against God’s word. Third, Gods judgment is coming upon those who deny or reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Last, and most important, all sinners will be saved from judgment if they repent (that is turn from their sin), and trust the Lord Jesus, who bought them by His blood.

To Him be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever. Amen.

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry