Archive for the ‘Trials’ Category

Eternity Is Near to All

Dear friends,
November is under way. Don’t look now, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, to be followed by another new year.

Once again, the news headlines remind us of the fragility of human life. Once again, we are reminded that we need always to be prepared to meet death. Once more, we are reminded as the Bible tells us, life is a vapor. Once more we see the urgency of making a decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.

A group of people told Jesus about a group of Galileans, brutally murdered by Pilate. His response may have taken them aback. His answer was, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no? But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you thing they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

There was widespread opinion in Jesus’ day, that such things happen only as punishment for specific sins. Jesus refuted this notion but nevertheless emphasized that every person must repent or else perish spiritually for eternity. To repent, means to agree with God that you are a sinful being, accept Christ as your Savior, and allow His Holy Spirit to bring about change in your life.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary states; “Jesus’ point was that being killed or not being killed is no measure of a person’s unrighteousness or righteousness. Anyone can be killed. Only God’s grace causes anyone to live. Death is the common denominator for everyone. Only repentance can bring life as people prepare to enter the kingdom.”

Again, His message was repent of your sins and receive His salvation through faith in Him, or you, too, will perish, meaning to spend eternity in hell.

So, in light of this, each person should examine themselves to determine if they have genuinely trusted Jesus for his or her salvation. We do not know when our time on earth is done, but we can have the assurance that when this life is over, our destination is heaven and an eternal home in the presence of God our Savior, through faith in His Son.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

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Seasons

I’m beginning to see faint signs of the change of seasons. Labor Day weekend signals a change, because it takes us from the busyness of summer to the more structured time of school-days and the shorter days that signal the transition from summer to fall.

Some bemoan the fact that summer is ending, not wanting the season to end, but this would eventually become tiresome, and lead to a yearning for change. I believe that those seasonal changes are designed by the Creator to provide times of birth, growth, harvest and rest.

There are seasons in our lives, just as there are seasons evident in creation. Who wants to be forever a baby, or a toddler, or even a teen-ager? Those are all seasons of life. Time marches on, and the seasons change. The important thing, is this; are you embracing the seasons of your life? We learn different things in each season of our lives. We get to the end of one chapter, and we take what we have learned into the next. Have I mentioned seasons?

Oh, I know, sometimes we would like to return to a previous time, but this is a physical impossibility. For our own well-being, we really cannot live in the past. To be healthy, we must move on, knowing God has a plan for us. Regarding living the Christian life, Paul says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal… (Philippians 3:13-14).

One difference in the seasons of life, compared to the seasons of nature, is that in our lives, there will most likely be more than four seasons. Birth, growth, harvest and rest, will all come over and over until we reach that final rest.

Solomon, that wisest of men, summed it up with these words: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. He went on to list those activities. They include birth and death, planting and harvest, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, war and peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

What season of life are you in? Enjoy where you are, and anticipate the future with the confidence that God is in charge.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Memorial Stones

Dear Readers,
The cool weather continues for us. Along with it came some beneficial rains, for which we are very thankful. My bout with shingles is winding down. For this I am thankful also. Next time someone mentions getting a preventive inoculation, I will be first in line! I will be posting this early Monday morning, so any comments I might have concerning the solar eclipse will wait until next week.
I’ve been thinking about those who seem bent on removing anything that would remind Americans of their national identity and inheritance. There are several lines of conversation, or commentary that come from this behavior.
One truth from the lessons of history is that if a people wanted to conquer a civilization, they would remove all the landmarks and other reminders of their history and culture. In our day, we have seen ISIS destroying Christian landmarks, and in our country currently, there is a movement to remove reminders of our past.
When the children of Israel were entering the Promised Land, when the priests, who were carrying the ark of the covenant, stepped into the Jordan river, the water stopped flowing, so that they could cross on dry ground. After reaching the other side, they were instructed to set up stones as a memorial. Joshua told the people that they were setting up the stones as a permanent memorial, so that when their children asked the question, “What are these stones”, they could answer with a lesson from Israel’s history.
These are the words of the Lord, given through Joshua to the people: “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cutoff before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).
Sadly, after Joshua passed from the scene, Israel forgot her past, and began to be influenced by her pagan neighbors. The result of this was that God judged Israel and sent her into exile for seventy years. I fear America may be on a similar path. We who care about the rich history of our country need to pray fervently that God would intervene and put her back on the straight way.
Praying for America,
Pastor Jerry

In All Things, Give Thanks

Our temperatures have cooled over the last week. This is good news to many people. It seemed as if our air conditioner ran continuously for weeks. There was beneficial rain here at the lake this week, but just a few miles from here, the hail destroyed corn and soybeans over a large area. I can remember a time at the ranch, when it hailed in late July, and our corn stalks were about 4 feet tall after the storm passed.

Life is filled with new experiences, no matter what age we are. I don’t know if it was something I needed, but I have experienced a case of the shingles virus. Everything you have heard is true. These things are miserable. The good news is that there are medicines to lessen the symptoms. I am gradually getting better, but much slower than I would like. The point I would make is this; even in these kinds of setbacks, God is involved. I have to admit, I have a tendency to ask why me; when the proper question would be, why not me? After all, what would I have that should allow me to escape the things that befall others?

It has been said (somewhere), that God is with us, both in the storm, and in fair weather. Whether the crops fail, or our health turns from bad to good, He is always there. We may wonder, and we may doubt, but in His word, He says, “Never will I ever leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

I posted a passage from the Old Testament this week, that has always reminded me to give thanks in all circumstances. I’ll share it again for those who might have missed it.

First a little background: The prophet Habakkuk was complaining to the Lord because of the violence, injustice and oppression Israel was experiencing. What God revealed to Habakkuk caused the prophet to stand in awe of God, and ask for mercy. As he understands what God is about to bring upon the land, the prophet says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoicing,
Pastor Jerry

Rough Water

I had a new experience this week. I made a short journey down the Cedar River by kayak. I’m pretty sure I won’t be repeating that journey for a while. I now know that mode of river travel is for the young, as it obviously takes a bit more conditioning than I have. I don’t plan to abandon the kayak altogether, but I will definitely stay on the calm, still water for now.

Thinking about this experience reminds me of life. It is much easier going when things are calm and still, than dealing with strong currents and storms. There is another lesson here, and it is this; It is the storms that help us find our weaknesses and give us insight into changes we need to make.

God uses those storms for his good purpose in our lives. Paul, as he wrote to the believers in Rome, said this: “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering brings perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:2-4).

James wrote, “the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).

Here is a reminder; if anyone should tell you that placing your faith in Jesus Christ will end all your problems, don’t believe it! It is a lie from the devil. The believer will encounter trials. It is part of being a follower of Jesus. He said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As we persevere through those storms, and finally finish the race He has marked out for us, we will hear these comforting words; “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Keep paddling, wear your life jacket, and don’t be afraid of a little rough water!
Pastor Jerry

On Springtime

My mom used to recite this little ditty. “Spring has sprung; the grass has riz; I wonder where the flowers is?” The answer to the question this weekend was pretty obvious; they were buried under the snow. On a positive note, if April showers bring May flowers, we should be in for a treat in the coming days.

Here in our area, we have had to deal with some inclement weather over the last few day, but it is in no way as serious or destructive as what the south and southeast has experienced. Those torrential rains and tornadic activity are much more destructive than our rain and snow. Please pray for those who suffered the loss of family members and property.

In times like this, people will question whether God knows or cares what happened. The answer is, yes He knows and cares. The harder question to answer is, why does He allow these things to occur? To answer that question, one has to go all the way back to Genesis Three.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God’s perfect world was broken. Romans 8:22 tells us, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” This is because of the Fall.

The Lord Jesus to expect these things: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 12:33).

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…, all things were created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15).

Let’s remember, even in times of trial and suffering, that He has made all good things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

Storms come, but He also makes the sunshine and flowers. A good thing to remember this week. Give thanks for His goodness.

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Persecution: A Blessing?

Sunday, I had the pleasure of preaching at two small rural churches. I was helping out a fellow pastor, who recently had surgery. The churches are about a 40-minute drive from each other. It is good to see small congregations in out-of-the-way places contending for the faith (Jude 3).

This week, as we contemplate the events leading up to the death, burial, resurrection of our Lord, here are some thoughts related to our time.

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). “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 numbers of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).

In our day, it seems anytime Christians speak or act in a way that reflects Jesus Christ, they are criticized by many. Such as, when the Vice President of the U.S. makes a commitment to never be alone with any woman other than his wife, and is verbally attacked by the liberal media. Anyone who points out that God calls sexual immorality sin, is labeled intolerant, or judgmental. If anyone holds to biblical values and morality, they are shouted down or persecuted in some way. If we say Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God, we are called narrow minded and intolerant.

These are the words of Jesus. “All men will hate you because of me” (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13). “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets” (Luke 6:23).

There is good news! Godless men may accuse and abuse us, but victory is ours through the power of God, who raised Jesus from the dead! Recall the words of Peter and John, when commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus: “Judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Truth,
Pastor Jerry