Go and Tell

Hello friends,
July is about to give way to August. School will be starting soon, and I wonder where the summer has gone? My theory is that summer got a late start due to an over-long winter and spring. Could it be that autumn will be longer than normal, and winter will be shortened? One can only dream!

I have traveled a number of miles this summer preaching at churches in small towns and rural areas. What I have seen is a need for pastoral leadership in these out-of-the-way places. I doubt there are many seminary graduates seeking ministry opportunities in rural America. So, what might be the solution?

This is a question that has been on my mind, and in the thoughts of several of my friends in ministry. We believe the answer is for men in these churches to have the opportunity to learn ministry skills that would allow for them to be pastors or leaders in their local churches. Then those congregations would not be dependent on “professional” clergy.

There is a one day Rural Christian Workers Conference coming up in early September that will provide this kind of training, and the best part is that it is free. Even the lunch is provided free of charge. The conference is designed to “encourage and train Pastors and Church leaders that serve in rural and small town churches.” If this is something you, or someone you know might be interested in, email me at lakecitynews@gmail.com for specific information.

The Bible says people come to faith in Christ through hearing the Word of God. Many will not hear this good news, because of the shortage of ministers of the gospel in our rural and small-town churches. The apostle Paul, in Romans had this to say. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13-15).

Might you be one of those bringing the Good News?

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Not an Accident

This weather continues to defy any definition of normal. We went from extreme heat and humidity, to almost cool enough to wear a sweater in the space of about 48 hours. This morning (Sunday), I awoke to thunder and lightning, followed by some serious rain. My gauge showed .60 after it was over. I left early for a preaching engagement, and drove in rain for a good part of the way. Further south, I read reports of up to four inches of rain. I am glad for the cool-down, but I am certain that our hot weather will return.

There is a volunteer sunflower growing out of a flower pot in our back yard. I believe a seed fell from a bird feeder last winter and sprouted this spring. The plant has a nice blossom at the top, and I assume there will be more bird seed when it ripens. It reminds me of the old saying, “bloom where you are planted.”

I believe God “plants” people in specific places, at specific times, in order to fulfill His purpose for those individuals. At the same time, he uses them to make a difference in the lives of others. If we think about it in this context, no one is where they are by accident.

Looking back, I see points in my life’s journey when the only explanation that makes any sense is that God was using people and events to guide me to the place where I could see that I needed a Savior. Each time there was a change of location, a different job, or some other event, I am pretty sure I thought those were my plans. I have learned over time, that God’s plan for my life may or may not include my plans.

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).

The sunflower in the pot may seem to have been planted by accident, but God had a plan for it. Be like that sunflower. You are not where you are in life by chance or by accident. It is part of God’s plan for you. Bloom where you are planted, and if He uproots you and transplants you somewhere else, grow, bear fruit!

Be blessed,
Pastor Jerry

Living in a Broken World

Hello friends,
We have reached those hot July days we have been anticipating. Maybe some of that excess water standing around will dry up, and those who need to get their hay harvested will be able to get out into the field. Here is a tip from the Bible; I learned this a few years ago, when I was trying to out-guess the weather. “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4). My take-away? Go ahead and mow that hay. If you spend all your time trying to pick the perfect time, you will never get the hay baled.

We have seen more tragedies this week. Every day, it seems, there is another senseless act of violence or a tragic accident that affects someone we might know. It becomes almost too much to bear at times. One of the questions we ask is, why? “Why God, did you allow this thing to happen?” The truth is, we may never know the answer.

In reading God’s word, we find that our world is broken, because all the way back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Due to their disobedience, sin had entered the world, and the creation was left in disarray. Consequently, we live in a broken world of broken people. “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11).

Why do bad things happen? Because God’s perfect creation is broken. God is sovereign, he is in control of all things. Nothing happens that he is not aware of. Could he have prevented some of these things? Absolutely! I believe whatever trial we may be experiencing, God will use it for His good, and for His glory. We trust Him in these situation, not because of what he can do, but because of who He is.

Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, and if we place our faith in Him, our fellowship with God is restored, and nothing can ever break that relationship again.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35-37).

Trusting in Him,
Pastor Jerry

Blessed and Thankful

You may have noticed my weekly news and commentary missing last week. There is a reason for that, and I will explain. I had started that week off feeling a bit under the weather and twice visited the emergency room at a local hospital. At the second visit, it was determined I had contracted pneumonia. There were early deadlines for the newspaper edition of this column, and I just didn’t feel up to sitting at the computer and writing, so I just took a week off. I am feeling much better now, thanks to good care, IV antibiotics and some supplemental oxygen, along with plenty of prayers from my friends.

Let me say here, I am thankful for those who have dedicated themselves to serve in the medical profession. You have my utmost respect and appreciation!

As we celebrated our country’s founding and declaration of independence this week, I found myself reflecting on the many blessings we have as Americans. In a time when it seems many of our freedoms are under attack, let us commit to protecting what we have. Remember, also, that although these freedoms are guaranteed by our Constitution, they are given to us by God, not by the government. In response to this, let us give thanks to the Lord every day for those things he has provided.

God has provided freedom from the bondage of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul reminds us of this: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).

Outside of the spiritual context, God has provided us with governments and governing bodies to protect our freedoms. Some will obviously misuse their power and position, but as a general rule, we are to respect their leadership, remembering that all of this is under His control. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

Praising His name,
Pastor Jerry

The Gospel

Summer is here, according to the calendar. The temperatures of the last few days would indicate otherwise. We actually started our furnace a couple of times, just to take the chill off the house. Also, we have not been lacking in the rain department, yet we haven’t experienced the excesses of some areas. In other news, concerning my recent surgery, I had a follow-up visit to my dermatologist, and all is well. Good news

For my devotional thought this week, I want to share a piece from Pastor Greg Laurie, entitled “I Have Some Good News and Some Bad News.” This message cannot be repeated enough. Now to Pastor Laurie’s article.

“The literal definition of gospel is good news. And before we can fully appreciate the good news of the gospel, we have to know the bad news. That means telling people they are sinners. Of course, people don’t like to hear that. I’m a what? I’m not a sinner! I’m a good person!

We have to define what it means to be a sinner, because the Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet there are preachers today who don’t want to tell people they’re sinners. They claim that most people know they’re doing wrong. But do they? I think a lot of people believe everything is fine as long as they try to live a good life.

We have to break the bad news: “I’m sorry to tell you this, friend, but you’re a sinner. You’ve broken God’s commands. You’ve fallen short of His standards, and there is nothing you can do to make this right. But God loved you so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for you, and if you will turn from that sin and put your faith in Christ, you can be forgiven.”

The bad news helps us fully appreciate the good news. Anything less than this is a false gospel that will give false assurance. That is why Paul wrote, “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God. . .. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all” (Galatians 1:6–7).
We must be careful to preach the real gospel.”

Wise words. May we take them to heart,
Pastor Jerry

Confession, Not Celebration

It was a good week here at the lake. The lake is nearly full, after some hardy souls got the logs and trees out of the gates at the dam. We can now maintain a proper water flow through the spillway, and keep the lake level steady. It is good to see people enjoying what Lake Ericson has to offer.

Now for some devotional thoughts. This is not an easy topic, but I believe it is the responsibility of Christians to point people to God and His Word. Whether the message is well received or not, it must be told. I have had to ask, how is it that we got to the point of celebrating flagrant sin against a holy God? Sin is to be confessed, not celebrated.

Our culture is celebrating behaviors that God has described in His Word as abominable (or detestable). According to dictionary.com, the definition of abomination is, “anything greatly disliked or abhorred; intense aversion or loathing; a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc. Things like homosexuality, murder (abortion), adultery, and same sex marriage would be included. Sin, in other words.

These are the words of the Lord in His Word, the Bible: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (Colossians 3:5-6).

The first chapter of Romans speaks plainly to this issue. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness… For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened… Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-32).

Rather than celebrate the sin, let us instead pray that those caught up in these sinful behaviors would come to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, who can free them from their bonds of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

Thoughts on Aging

It seems another Monday has rolled around, and time for me to share some thoughts from the past week. Weather-wise, we have experienced some more summer like temperatures, with a nice rain on Saturday night. Lawns are requiring frequent mowing, and the flowers and veggie plants are doing well. This is what we have been waiting for!

Recently, I have been thinking about the passing of the years, and things I have learned. I know, this is pretty deep stuff, but if there is no wisdom accumulated as we age, we haven’t been paying attention.

First, as I have previously noted, this past Friday marked the 55th anniversary of marriage for Milrae and myself… to each other. Lesson learned include: You will never see eye to eye on every subject. Neither of you is right every time. Patience goes a long way to making a long marriage. There are no perfect couples, ever. Learning to say “I’m sorry”, and “I was wrong”, are important phrases to remember.

Getting older is not as easy as one might think. I’m finding out I have much less energy than just a few years ago, and the things I can do take a lot longer than before. In the past, I could work from sun-up to sun-down, get eight hours of sleep and do it all over again the next day. Now, if I work a couple of hours, I need numerous naps over three days to recover. Ah, the pleasures of old age.

I did have a bit of encouragement this afternoon; our son called and asked a gardening question. I suggested he look in up on Google, and his response was, “You are my Google!”

I’m reminded of some scriptures relating to the topic of aging. Here are a few of my favorites.
“Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away… Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (Psalm 90:10, 12 CSB).
“The glory of young men lies in their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old” (Proverbs 20:29).

One more thought: This journey is meaningless, if we fail to include the Lord in our life. This I know. Do you know Him?

Blessings to all,
Pastor Jerry