Archive for the ‘Temptation’ Category

Priorities

Hello friends,
September is here, and the weather word is cooler. Cool nights and days are signs of things to come, I suppose. Before we know it, the seasons will change again. The big national weather news is the hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Prayers are in order for the folks in the path of this storm.

Now for the devotional thought of the week. Maybe it should be called ‘Why are traditions so hard to give up?”
Why are traditions so hard to give up? It seems like a fair question, and one I had to deal with recently. I have consistently held the view that change is not a bad thing, yet when it becomes personal, I have second thoughts. We hold on to traditions and possessions, as if they hold some special value. If someone comes in and wants to make changes to our comfortable surroundings, we resist their efforts even if they are well-intentioned and make perfect sense. We easily forget that in light of eternity, nothing of this earth matters.

Our old friend King Solomon had something to say about this. Speaking of all the things he had acquired, he wrote, “I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19)?

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

To the religious leaders of his time, Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (Mark 78-9)!

When earthly possessions and those traditions we hold dear begin to become our focus, rather than our mission as followers of Jesus Christ, we are in danger of idolatry. To paraphrase a message I heard many years ago, when we begin to focus on the things of earth, we have taken our eyes off the cross, and the One who died for us.

Remember, as Christians, we have a greater inheritance waiting in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

God is Lord of All

Here are some early October observations: Nebraska scenery is unbeatable. We left Valentine last Sunday afternoon, drove to Keller Park WMA, and spent 2 nights. What a great place to get away. Here at Lake Ericson, it is definitely autumn. The leaves are falling, the nights are cooler, and the view is spectacular. I can’t think of any place I would rather be. On those days the world seems to be spinning out of control, there is everything to be said for living in America’s heartland.

In a totally different thought line, as I scroll through the posts on Face Book, I am seeing a number of articles promoting the consulting of mediums, and various other superstitions. I thought it might be beneficial to see what the Bible says about such things. Exactly what does the Bible say about these?

Let’s start with this: “I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). Our God wants first place in our lives. He is in control of the events of our lives. No angel, or any other created thing, including mediums, fortune tellers, etc., can take his place.

To Israel, he said, “Let no one be found among you… who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or cast spells, or who is a medium or spiritists or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

We are cautioned against putting angels in the place of God. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ… Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things… Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize” (Colossians 2:1-2; 18).

The apostle Paul stressed the fact that God has made himself known to man (Romans 1:20). Then this indictment; speaking of those who deny Him. “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and reptiles” (verses 22-23). Included in the list of the acts of the sinful nature are these: Idolatry and witchcraft (Galatians 5:19).

I know, many of the things mentioned seem harmless, but let us be sure we are not putting the ungodly in place of God.

Food for thought,
Pastor Jerry

The Remedy

It seems every conversation begins with a discussion of the weather. Hot and windy are two words that come to mind in describing last week. We did receive some showers of rain here Sunday evening and early Monday morning.

Virginia Creeper, aka woodbine, is a plant that grows in many places. Just across the street from our house is a large lilac bush. A woodbine plant at some point had taken root under the lilac and grew to cover the top of the lilac. The woodbine plant does not attach itself to the host plant, but uses its host as a trellis to climb. Instead of taking nutrients from the host plant, it just cuts off the sunlight, effectively killing its host.

We can see a parallel in the Bible’s definition of sin in the life of a person. Much like that vine, sin in our lives blocks out the light of God’s word, and the commands of Jesus to walk in the light of His truth. It keeps us from growing and if left unattended, it can lead to spiritual death.

Let us see what the Bible says regarding the effects of sin, and its remedy. Referring to someone giving in to the temptation to sin, James wrote this: “After desire has been conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15).

In another place we read, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:2). Again, Jesus speaking, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).

By the way, the remedy for ridding the lilac of the invader, was to cut the woodbine plant off near the ground, and apply weed killer to the stump. The remedy for sin is the application of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, where his shed blood won the victory over sin and the devil.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Let us then walk in the light of His salvation, separating ourselves from the darkness of sin.

In His Light,
Pastor Jerry

On Staying Together

Dear readers,
It looked like the same song, second verse this weekend, as we continued to receive rain. Many of the yards in the community look like ponds.

The resident geese have been bringing their goslings to the grassy areas along the Boulevard here at the lake. I have noticed some of the goslings have disappeared. I suspect they may have been eaten by the Northern Pike that inhabit the lake. It seems sad, but it is the way of nature. As we watch these geese and their goslings swimming across the lake, the little ones will sometimes lag behind, or even go off in a different direction from the rest. It is easy to see how one might become a pike’s lunch.

As I have observed these goose families, I am reminded that the Scriptures tell Christians to stay in close fellowship with other believers, in order to keep from wandering off the path. Peter tells us our enemy the devil is like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

In the book of Hebrews, we are told “Let us not give up meeting together, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25). I believe this would indicate we are to help the stragglers and those wandering from the path.

Paul’s instructions to the Galatian church include these words: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1).

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). “We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). I believe these passages point out the dangers of either straying from God’s path, or getting separated from the fellowship of believers. Those who lag behind or insist on setting out on their own risk being devoured by the enemy. In the case of goslings, it might be a predatory fish or even a coyote or raccoon. The believer separated from Christian fellowship may fall into the devil’s trap.

Christians are to participate in the fellowship of believers, but we also have a responsibility restore those who have drifted away.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Thoughts on the Lottery

Some of the big news this past week-end concerned the Power Ball jackpot. Those who know me are aware of my opposition to the lottery. Today, I want to share some reasons for Christians to avoid the lottery, from Pastor John Piper. He makes some very good points from scripture, along with other facts that you might not have considered.
First, playing the lottery can jeopardize your spiritual well-being. “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Next, it is a kind of embezzlement. He writes, “Managers do not gamble with their Master’s money. All you have belongs to God. All of it.” The parable of the talents says Jesus will take account of how we handled His money. (Matthew 25:14-30).
The system is built on the necessity of most people losing. “Much like the casinos the ‘house’ controls the action; the players will all eventually lose.”
It preys on the poor. People with annual take-home incomes of $13,000 or less spend 9 percent or their income on lottery tickets each year according to a report from one consumer organization
There is a better way to invest your money. “If the $500 a year that that on average all American households throw away on the lottery were invested in an index fund or 20 years, each family would have $24,000. Not maybe. Really.”
A government that promotes and sponsors the lottery is preying on the citizens it is supposed to protect.
One more point from Pastor John: He says if you should happen to get rich from playing the lottery, don’t bring your winnings to his ministry, because; “Christ does not build His church on the backs of the poor. Pray that Christ’s people will be so satisfied in Him that they will be freed from the greed that makes us crave to get rich.” Something to think about.
Seeking His will,
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

On Staying Close

It is 38 degrees here this morning, with a forecast low tonight of 31. I fear the global warming theory will be a hard sell in this area. Last week, I reported that we had sown the grass seed. After the rain this week, I see mowing in my future.

The local Canada goose population is on the increase. Goslings of varying sizes are making their appearance on the lake. I noticed one family with 4 little ones, three of them stayed pretty close to the parents, but one always seemed to be lagging behind. Lately, that goose family has only three young ones. I suspect the little straggler became lunch for some predator.

There is a lesson here for God’s people.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 3:8). 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 the you see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

Remember Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders, as he prepared to leave them: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that when I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! (Acts 20:28-31).

Finally, from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one…be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

In an age when Christianity is being challenged and attacked, I believe it is more important than ever that we remain in close fellowship, encouraging each other in our faith. As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers. The enemy’s strategy is to divide and conquer. We must stay in close fellowship with our God and with each other.

In Him,
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