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True Word

And…. the deep freeze continues. When I awoke before dawn Sunday morning, the house was making some strange noises. I believe they were cold induced.

I am privileged to have been asked to officiate at a wedding later this year. Some of my most cherished ministry memories involve weddings. I am thankful there are still those who understand the meaning of marriage. How refreshing!

In light of the current redefinition of marriage, I wonder how can you read the Bible, and not see that marriage is designed for a man and a woman? Yet there are those who insist otherwise. Here is the problem as I see it. The debate over most of the issues of our day centers around one thing: It is first and foremost about whether you believe the Bible and the One who inspired it. When we stand for the truth of God’s Word, we are accused of being unloving, along with other charges.

Love is being misunderstood, also. We need to love people enough to lead them to Jesus and let Him show them the error of their ways. It is not loving to let people keep living in sin without change. The loving response to sin is to make the sinner aware of their sin, and lead them to the One who died to pay the penalty for that sin.

Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” I take this to mean we are to obey all his commands. The apostle John wrote, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”

In his letter, Jude urged his reader to ‘contend for the faith’ (verse 3), followed by these words… “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (Jude 18-22).

For Truth,
Pastor Jerry

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

One Way

Well, here we go again with another round of snow and cold. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the four seasons, but I’m ready for a change!

Nebraska, it’s not for everyone; so the new state slogan says. Some are born here and had no choice in the beginning, but sooner or later you make a choice to live in this place, or choose some other place to live.

In comparison, Christianity is available to all people, and at some point each one has to make a choice. One major difference is that no one is born a Christian. A choice has to be made. Christianity is for everyone. Jesus died for all humanity, but we all have to accept his sacrifice on a personal basis.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Did you get that? It is for whoever believes in him. Those who do not believe do not have eternal life.

For those who might say there are many paths to salvation, this is what Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

This does not seem to indicate more than one way. At the beginning of his gospel, John, speaking of Jesus Christ wrote this: “He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made by him, the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, but his own did not recognize him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:10-12).

Every person is born with a sin nature, causing him or her to be separated from God. God has provided a way for that relationship to be restored. That way is Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross. There is no middle ground, we must all choose to either accept him or reject him. God said it, that settles it for me. How about you?

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Encouraging Words

Who is ready for sunny, warm days, with grass and flowers? I know, we live in Nebraska where we have four seasons, and soon enough we will see spring. Never mind that, I still complain about the cold weather. When summer comes, it is sure I will complain about the heat. Human nature being what it is, I will not be surprised!

As controversy swirls around concerning the newsworthy things of the day, it is easy to get discouraged, and even depressed with the whole mess. At times like this, I am led to the scriptures for encouragement. There, I find God is in control no matter what the headlines say, and it is to Him I can turn for encouragement and comfort.

There are two of the psalms that come to mind. Psalm 62 was my go to scripture during a difficult time.
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and salvation: He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies
With their mouth they bless, but in their hearts they curse.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:1-8)

Another is Psalm 34. Space doesn’t permit quoting the complete text here, so I will share the first verses, and you can read the complete Psalm in your Bibles.
“I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord and He answered me; he delivered me from all my fears…
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:1-6).

Praise God. He is still on the throne!
In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Know Peace

This winter has certainly shown us some variation. The temperature graph is looking like a roller coaster track. In addition, we have had rain, snow, and at times abundant sunshine. Partly due to rampant illness in the area, we have not been going out in public, except for going to church on Sunday. I did make a trip early last week, to do some business and get a few groceries.

Listening to, or reading the news can be discouraging, disheartening, maddening, or frustrating, or some combination of these. What are we to do in response? For the person who doesn’t know Jesus as Savior, it must look hopeless, and certainly not conducive to personal peace. For the Christian, however, even in the present circumstances, there can be both hope and peace.

Jesus, in describing the days leading up to the end, pretty accurately describes the world today. Yet, he gives encouragement, by promising peace in the midst of it. Speaking to his disciples, in the first part of John, chapter 16, he describes the world as his second coming draws near. It is not a pretty picture, nor is it encouraging, but he could have been talking about America in 2019. Read Matthew 24:1-14.

Then we read his words in John 14:27… “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
“Because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5)?

Peace, for the Christian, is being settled in the knowledge that his sins are forgiven and he has been made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will have peace in his heart no matter what his circumstances are. Praise God!

As the saying goes: “No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace!”

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Accept No Substitutes

Because the colder weather has kept us indoors, I started a project that I’ve been trying to avoid. There will soon be new flooring in the master bathroom, something my spouse has been wanting done for a long time.

We were entertained this week by a few thousand geese that spent a couple of days and nights enjoying the open water on the Lake Ericson. I never tire of seeing them come in to land, with their wings cupped like flaps-down on an aircraft, and their feet as landing gear. The ones that come in a little too high, will tip sideways to quickly lose altitude, while others need to make another circle while waiting their turn to land.

Attacks on the people of God seem to be a recurring theme in our day. Everywhere we turn there are attacks on Christians and their faith. It is amazing the number of people who claim knowledge of the Bible and the teaching of Jesus, and have little or no such knowledge. It is a challenge for the genuine Christian to have a voice that will be heard in the public square. As I see it, there are many, many people who would rather believe some Hollywood theologian, than a true Bible scholar.

As the apostle Paul, and his fellow missionary Silas visited Berea, and Paul preached, scripture records this: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:10-11). We need to be like those Bereans and examine the scriptures to see if what is being taught is true.

There is an old advertising slogan that says, “Accept No Substitutes”, an appropriate phrase to keep in mind when listening to those who falsely quote the Bible. I have a printer in my office. It is an HP brand. Recently, I bought a remanufactured color cartridge, but it does not recognize it as authentic HP, and will not work with that cartridge installed.

Be like my printer. It knows when a substitute cartridge is installed, and it refuses to accept it. Christians need to know the scriptures and refuse to accept any substitute. Don’t take anyone’s word for it, open the book and see for yourself what it says.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Tune-up or Overhaul?

Dear readers,
I always struggle with what kind of salutation is best to open these weekly conversations. Sadly, there are not many original greetings available to me. Perhaps I should just use ‘to whom it may concern.’ I guess this is just another challenge to a weekly writer.

In a previous time, I did a bit of mechanic work for myself and a few neighbors. Some of the vehicles that came into the shop needed a minor tune-up to be restored to working order. There were others, however, that needed a complete overhaul in order to perform correctly.

These days, as the effects of age begin to be more noticeable, we wonder at times if we, too, are in need of a tune-up, or a complete overhaul? In this new year, there may be a few people still committed to exercise and diet, as means to tune-up their bodies.

What about your spiritual well-being? Are you looking for a new year makeover? Will you be needing an overhaul or tune-up? Maybe a new you?

Here are a few suggestions from the Bible, beginning with our basic spiritual condition as defined by God. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Other scriptures point out the fact that because of Adam, we all are born in sin, needing an overhaul, if you will.

Jesus said the remedy for this condition is a new birth. In His words; “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5). This would be a complete overhaul, a new beginning. In fact, a new creation, according to scripture.

When Jesus was washing his disciples’ feet in the upper room, Peter objected, insisting he needed a bath. Jesus answered him, “One who has bathed doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean” (John 13:9). One who is saved, need only be cleansed from recent sins. John refers to this in his first letter, written to believers; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This, too, could be likened to a tune-up.

Renewed in Him,
Pastor Jerry

Basics

There’s not a lot of news from our house this week, we are mostly staying indoors and enjoying our retirement. One benefit of being home alone with each other is so far, we have escaped the illnesses making their rounds in the area. Some of our time is spent trying out new recipes that appear on our Facebook page. I wonder if the folks who share all those wonderful pictures of food, have tried them all?

My wife has done the cooking in our house since the beginning. Our menu was somewhat limited in the early years, but improvement came quickly. As I join her in the kitchen, one thing I have learned, is the best results come from following the recipe.

Living the Christian life is much the same. For the best results we need to stay within the bounds of the Basic Recipe, God’s Word. In a day when some are calling the Bible outdated and unnecessary, and as one preacher has promoted the idea of ‘unhitching’ from the Old Testament, we need to stop and take a look at what we might call the basic recipe for living as God intended.

The Ten Commandments and the commands of Jesus. They are not unrelated, in fact, they are forever connected through Jesus Christ. He said, “I have not come to abolish the Law, I have come to fulfill the Law.”

The first four of the Ten Commandments pertain to the relationship of the Israelites with God, and the other six deal with social relationships within the community of God’s people. In the New testament Jesus taught, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This was followed by, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:29-31).

In another place, Jesus gives his disciples a new command, that they were to love one another, just as he had loved them. (John 13:34). The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are not divorced from the New Testament teaching, in fact, they are connected through the work of Christ on the cross, as he fulfilled the Law and continued its basic thought of first giving God his due worship, and having a right relationship with his children.

Borrowed quote: “God’s Word: Still the final authority, opinions don’t matter”; whether in the New or Old Testaments.

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

Our Hope

After a very cold and windy entrance to the new year, we have enjoyed some spring-like weather. This is good and helps us envision the end of winter. The lights and other Christmas decorations are all back in their totes, the tree has been taken down, and the nativity carefully stored away to wait for another Christmas season. We hope the gifts and toys have endured the first few weeks of use.

A new congress has been sworn in, and the political circus begins a new year. The liberal, secular culture is increasingly anti-Christian, the public discourse is more and more confrontational. And yet, the words of the Lord are true and lasting. How does a Christian maintain a positive outlook in times like these?

Read with me, this passage from the Psalms:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together
against the Lord and his Anointed One:
“Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.”

The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them.
Then He speaks in His anger and terrifies them in his wrath:
“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain….”

So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling.
Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion,
for his anger may ignite at any moment.
All who take refuge in him are happy. (Psalm 2:2-6, 10-12

The following is the prophecy in Isaiah that we read at every Christmas season: For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now and forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7).

I have read the book, and I know how the story ends. Jesus Christ and his true followers win. Evil will be defeated and we will reign with Christ forever and ever. As my friend says, can I get an amen?

Pastor Jerry

A New Year

Hello friends,
Christmas Day is behind us, and I pray we as a people, will not forget the reason for the holiday we just enjoyed. Our own celebration was pretty quiet. We attended our church Christmas Eve service, then came home to our favorite chairs and listened to some Christmas music. Tuesday was warm enough by noon to fire up the pellet grill, so we were able to enjoy steak and hash browns for lunch. We had plenty of time later to reflect on the Savior whose birth we were celebrating.

As we enter the new year, may I suggest, if you haven’t, that you take the time to consider what your own eternal destination might be. There are many ideas and theories concerning eternal issues. The one that has withstood the test of time comes from the Bible. If you believe this book to be God’s Word, written by men, inspired by His Holy Spirit, then you need look no further to find the truth.

According to the Bible, Jesus Christ, was and is, God in human form. He came to earth with the express purpose of dying on a cross, as payment for the sins of humanity. By faith in that one selfless act, we, in turn can be assured of spending eternity in the presence of God and Jesus.

Christianity is not an exclusive religion. The invitation to receive God’s gift is open to all. However, not everyone will choose to accept the gift. God does not force anyone to believe. He has given evidence of the truth of His salvation, it is up to each individual to accept or reject.

The following Bible verses are not new, nor have they been hidden from view. I have quoted them many time in these articles, but some have not seen or responded to them. I pray they will do so today.

Romans 10:9-10… “the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Ephesians 2:8… “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

We can do nothing to earn our salvation. The gift is free. Our only responsibility is to accept it. Think about it.

Happy New Year!
Pastor Jerry