Serious Worship

The weather is cooler as I write this on Friday, and the wind has switched to a northerly direction. We were visited by three humming birds this week. It is fascinating to watch them as they jockey for positions at the feeder. I am amazed that such a little bird can find our meager offering of sugar water in this big world. What a testimony to God’s design for His creation!

If you spent much time in church in an earlier age, you were most certainly admonished by your parents to be quiet. This is not the trend we see today. As church buildings became more multi-purpose in design, there was a movement away from the idea of preparing for worship as you entered the building. Maybe it was due to the lack of those traditional fixtures, such as pictures of biblical events and other items that set a place of worship apart.

I would not say today’s more informal worship gatherings are wrong, nor are they even unbiblical. If one spends any time researching worship in the Old Testament, you would find references to shouting, singing, dancing, and musical instruments, along with reading and proclaiming the Word of the Lord. In the New Testament, we also see explicit and implicit references to celebration in worship.

True worship, I believe, demands that we are to have a sense of awe as we stand in the presence of Holy God, but there is room for joy and laughter, along with the fellowship of like-minded brothers and sisters in the Lord.

As a pastor said last week as he prepared to deliver his message, “We have had a little fun and some light-hearted conversation, but it is time to be serious and listen to what God has to say through the preaching of His Word.”

I am a ‘fan’ of traditional worship, with its hymns and other traditions, but I am not going to say it is the only way. I have seen the younger generations worship, and I am convinced they are as committed to giving glory to God as any of us ‘older’ people. You see, it is all about the heart and our relationship with God and his Son Jesus Christ. If your heart is right, and the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ is preached, worship is what God intended.

To His glory,
Pastor Jerry

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Hot or Cold?

The seasons continue to be in transition. Warmer days have returned for a while, but leaves are turning and beginning to fall. Some of the birds are starting to gather in larger flocks, in preparation for the fall migration.

Maybe it was a senior moment, or just absent-mindedness, but after I turned on the tap and stood waiting for hot water, I soon realized the water was taking a lot longer to arrive at the faucet than normal. It was then I saw that I had turned on the cold tap, instead of the hot. The lesson here is, no matter how long you wait, hot water will not flow through a cold water faucet.

If you are expecting hot water, cold will just not do. If you pick up a salt shaker and get sugar, the results are not the same. Here are some Bible references that illustrate the same basic truth, but in a spiritual context.

James, speaking of the need to control our tongues, had this to say: With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12).

In a different illustration, Jesus referred to false teachers in this way: By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-20).

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

The lesson for us as Christians is this; If we claim the name of Christ, Christlikeness should flow from us naturally. It follows that our words and actions will be in direct contrast with those who are not genuine Christians.

As Christians, are we hot or cold? That is the question.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Staying on the Path

Our weather has turned noticeably cooler this week. I suppose it is a sign of a change in the seasons, but it doesn’t seem that long since the last one. While on the topic of weather, we have only watered our lawn once this summer, and it rained the next day.

So I’ve been told, some of the newer vehicles contain a guidance system to warn if you drift to one side or the other of the travel lane. My brother tells me his RV will even correct course on its own to a point. Even as I write this on my computer, auto-correct keeps me reminded of misspelled words and improper grammar. Technology continues to amaze me.

God gives His people a guidance system; it’s called His Word; most know it as the Bible. That Word, in conjunction with His Holy Spirit, will keep you on the path he has set out for you. In a world that seems to have lost its moral compass, there is a way to find true north, so to speak. I’ll share just a few passages to illustrate.

God’s word lights the way for us, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). It gives us wisdom for living; “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32). “Listen my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path” (Proverbs 23:19).

God’s word also tells us those things He calls sin, and helps us overcome sin in our lives: “Direct my footsteps according to Your word; let no sin rule over me” (Psalm 119:133).

Finally, let’s not forget God’s instructions to Joshua, as His people prepared to enter the promised land.
“Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1:7-8).

GPS is great for keeping your vehicle on the road you want to travel, but GPL (God’s Plan for Life) will keep you on the path he has set before you.

Happy trails,
Pastor Jerry

Little Towns on Back Roads

Happy Labor Day. It was just four years ago that we moved our house to Lake Ericson. How time flies, it seems like yesterday.

Last Monday, we drove home from our weekend in Hershey, Nebraska. We traveled down Highway 30, instead of the Interstate. It was kind of a relaxing drive compared to good old I-80. As I mentioned last week, we had a great time meeting new friends and sharing the music and message. On our return trip, we drove through some towns that don’t get much traffic anymore, but people are living there who need to hear about Jesus.

According to the signs, and the billboards, every one of those little towns has one or more churches. I know that some of those churches are proclaiming God’s word as it is written, but I am also convinced that some are preaching a gospel that is not related to the saving gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the gospel being preached in many places, both large and small, has very little to do with salvation from sin and its penalty. It seems I keep returning to this topic much more than I would prefer, but I know I will be held responsible to God for failing to proclaim His truth. James had this to say to those who would teach. “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).

I return to the letter written by Jude, to believers in one or more churches. He writes this: Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 3-4).

Look around. Read that last sentence from Jude again. How many ‘churches’ do you know, whose leaders are leading in that direction? There are still godly men and women who are standing firm on the Word of God. Follow them, not the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Contending for the faith,
Pastor Jerry

Culture War?

We were in Hershey, Nebraska this weekend for a Cowboy Church service. I had the pleasure of being asked to share some musical numbers and to preach. It was something I hadn’t planned, but it was definitely in God’s plan. It was a great time, and we met some really neat Christians that we can now call our friends. Our God is so good! And, a BIG thank you to Pastor Kevin and the people of Hershey Baptist Church!

The secular culture is on the attack, as they try to eliminate any reference or reminder that there is a God. It is interesting to note they are bent on attacking something, or someone they don’t believe exists!

Spiritual warfare is a fact. The divisiveness and battles we see in our culture are nothing more than war between the forces of good and evil. One only has to spend a short time watching television, listening to the news, or checking social media, (Facebook, Twitter, and others) to see this happening.

Some will say this is nothing new, and they would be right. The truth is, the intensity of the battle appears to be on the increase.

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ … But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness” (2 Peter 3:3-9).

What are we to do as Christians? “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Trusting in Him,
Pastor Jerry

The True Word

It rained again, just when we were thinking it was time to water the lawn. If you have been battling wet weather while trying to harvest your hay, I understand the frustration. Been there, done that! Nevertheless, rain is always better than drought.

On a personal note, I went for a CT scan this week, to check on the aneurism that is on my aorta. Those results came back as ‘condition stable’, and I am to have another checkup in a year. This is good news, and one more thing I am thankful for. Also, we had a brief visit from my brother and sister-in-law from Colorado on Friday. It’s always good to see them, if even just for lunch.

If there is one thing that disturbs me as a preacher, it is when someone passes along so-called spiritual advice that is not in the Bible. You may call it false teaching, misinformation, or borderline heresy. This is especially troubling when the “information” is disheartening to the individual to whom it is directed.

There are those who would have us to believe that Christians who die do not go to be in the presence of the Lord at their death, and must wait in the grave for the Lord’s return at some future time. Folks, this is a lie, and there is judgment ahead for those who teach these things. The Bible does have something to say about this.

On the cross, the dying thief asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). This does not indicate waiting in the grave for an unspecified time.

“The apostle Paul wrote, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). In Philippians 1:23 he expressed his “desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Those statements teach that believers go directly into the Lord’s presence at death.” [MacArthur New Testament Commentary].

I am again reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy… “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine… They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Friends, that time is here. Be encouraged. God’s Word is true.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Who Will Go?

The last week was a little less adventurous than the previous one. There was a funeral to attend Monday for Milrae’s cousin, and a mini-reunion of some of her extended family. The rest of our week was filled with more mundane activity. Things like doing some cleanup around the lake, shopping for groceries, and yard work. Thursday, it was Bible study for a few ladies, with men’s Bible study in the evening. We made a trip to Neligh for supper with Ryan and Alex on Friday.

Saturday evening, we were at a supper recognizing two groups of people. One group consisted of those who support our local Baptist church association by participating in a program called L4M (Livestock 4 Missions). This is a method to raise funds to support our association’s ministry, in which cattlemen donate the care of a cow or cows, with proceeds from calf sales directed to the ministry.

The second group were those who had attended the Christian Leadership course of study held over the last year. The purpose of this course is to prepare Christian men and women for ministry in their local churches.

Here are just a few things I learned from that event: The population of the 19 counties that make up the Sandhills area according to the last census is 73,845. In this part of Nebraska, there are only two cities with a population over three thousand. Fifty-three percent of Nebraska towns under 1000 population have no evangelical church. Simply put, many people in this sparsely populated area have no opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What to do? First, this challenge from the Lord himself; When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:36-38). Pray for those who will take the gospel to these rural areas.

Second, consider whether you might be one of those workers. Isaiah the prophet, in a vision heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
Isaiah answered, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

What is your response? You may email me: lakecitynews@gmail.com.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry