Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

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

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

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

Plans: Fail

Dear friends,
It is a bit cloudy this morning. There is a threat of winter precipitation in the forecast, but looking ahead we see signs of a warming trend. I am so ready for spring, and all that it brings. As I talk to people, I know I’m not alone in this.

We all have days when our plans for the future take unexpected turns. Saturday, we decided to go to Grand Island to get some more material for our lake house project. It seemed pretty simple; go get the things on our list, come home early and get some work done. As we pulled out on the highway, I noticed black smoke coming from the pickup exhaust. For a diesel, this is not a total surprise, but it continued all the way to the city, then as I stopped for a light, the smoke turned from black to white. This is not a good thing.

I knew son Ryan and Alex were somewhere south of York on another mission, so I called and they came to our rescue. I got someone to tow the pickup to the shop, Ryan and Alex met us at Menard’s, and with our purchases, took us back home. Now we will wait for the ‘good news’ concerning the pickup engine. As the poet said, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

This all reminds me of what the Bible says about our making plans, and what God makes of our plans. Here are a few: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

This one from James about says it all: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

Someone once said, “If you want to make the Lord laugh, just tell him your plans.” To this I can only say, “Amen!”

In His grip,
Pastor Jerry

Finishing Well

Winter has returned. Snow, wind, and sub-zero temperatures Sunday morning, caused many churches to cancel services.

Like millions of others, I watched the Super Bowl Sunday night. I had no strong preference of which team I wanted to win, but was somewhat surprised by the ending. In all, I thought it was a good game.

One of the big draws for the Super Bowl is all the new advertising that is debuted during the game. In kind of an ironic twist, at least one of those ads indicated that cheating was okay as a means to win the race.

As I remember the story, when the turtle and the hare had their race in the old fairy tale, the turtle won by taking a slow and steady pace, defeating the speedier rabbit.

We are told in the Bible the one who runs the best race is the one who keeps his eye on the finish line, not being distracted by things going on around him. The writer of Hebrews said, “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).

The Apostle Paul said, “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—“(Acts 20:24). Then, near the end of his life, Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

To the church at Corinth, Paul exhorted his readers to run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24).

In each of these examples, the emphasis is on finishing well, not so much being first across the finish line. How does a Christian finish well? Only one thing mattered to Paul: to finish the work God had given him to do. We do not have the same calling as Paul, but the following applies to all Christians.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Lake Meditations

The past week was busy, as usual. We started getting the house ready for its move, and I met with the house mover. He assured me the move would happen sometime this month. The weekend activities were many and varied, and we’re glad to start a new month and a new week.

I spent some quiet time out at the lake one morning last week, and here are some thoughts from my time there.

The view of creation reminded me that there is a Creator. The variety of colors and sizes of the trees around the lake reminded me that when we are rooted in the Lord, we are like trees planted by the water. (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

As I looked across at the carousel, I thought about how the old things remind us of our past,Then my gaze shifted to the new house foundation and was reminded of the future. There is nothing wrong with being aware of our past, and we make plans for the future here on earth, but it is more important to plan for where we will spend eternity.

The smooth water of the lake reflected the glory of God and his creation. “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens” (Psalm 113:4).

The signs placed around the area warn of hazards and set boundaries for our protection, much as God’s word and his Law give warnings and limits for us.

The abundance of birds remind me of scripture that says He cares for the birds of the air, and He will most certainly care for me. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than birds” (Matthew 6:26)?

The cool breeze over the lake reminds me of the presence of the Holy Spirit. As the wind moves the water, so the Spirit moves the hearts of men.

The benches under the trees remind me of Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and find rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

On this day when we honor those who labor, I invite you to take some time to reflect on God and His Word. In Him we find true rest.

Resting in Him,
Pastor Jerry

A Time to Rest

We are home again. Last week’s trip to Colorado was an adventure of sorts. The problem is we aren’t into adventure as much as we once were. And, once more I was reminded of the difference between husbands and wives. I preach communication between partners in a marriage, but I often fail miserably at putting that message into practice. There will be a time of planning and scheduling taken before our next journey, I am sure.

In spite of some differences of opinion, we did enjoy the new camper. It is smaller and lighter than our old one, and with some adjusting of our expectations, it will serve us well.
It was great to reconnect with our friends, and to spend several days catching up. We took some less traveled roads coming home, saw some things we hadn”t seen before, and passed by some places to which we will return.
Vacations always seem to be a good idea, until we return home and realized how tired the trip has made us. Another realization was that when we go toward the mountains, the air becomes thinner. I don’t remember being bothered by this when I was younger. In fact, in high school, I wanted to live in the mountains and be a forest ranger. This time, while I was there, all I wanted to do was sleep. Could this be a sign of aging? I suspect it might be. Still, I believe the Lord wants His people to take time away from work, for the refreshing of mind and spirit.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we are told there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Although not specifically mentioned, one of those might be a time to work and a time for recreation. It is interesting to me that if we hyphenate the word recreation, we get re-creation. Time away allows us to be re-created, revived, rested. They all give the same idea.
After an intense period of ministry, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for awhile” (Mark 6:31). And, God has commanded us to observe a weekly day of rest (Exodus 20:8-11).
Are you feeling tire and beaten down? Find time to go to a remote place and rest for awhile.
Resting in Him,
Pastor Jerry