Reaching Out

Dear friends,
I trust everyone is looking forward to the time we can begin some semblance of the life we once knew. I know I am. I’m sure there is light at the end of this tunnel, but at this point it is rather dim. Sunday church services held on Facebook, or by way of Zoom and other electronic media is okay, but there is nothing like worshiping together in person. Period.

“Reaching Out” is one of the culture’s new catch-phrases. Originally, it seems to have been used as the description for extending a helping hand to someone in need. Today, it is used more often to describe trying to get something from someone, as in, “Our reporter tried to reach out to the attorney, but her calls were not returned.”

In this season of trial that is known as the Covid19 pandemic, I would like us to consider this idea of reaching out, from a biblical perspective. In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel was given this message from God; “I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays” (Ezekiel 34:15-16a).

In the New Testament, we have the words of Jesus; “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10). This is God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, reaching out to all who are lost in sin with a message of salvation. The Lord is reaching out to lost people today. This is his invitation from Matthew 11:28… “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

If, in this stressful time, you are feeling helpless, burdened down with your troubles, and in bondage to sin, you can reach for his outstretched hand and he will lift you up into his loving arms. I’m drawn to a verse from the pen of David, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:10). Here is another, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

I leave you with this thought; For peace of mind in these troubled times, reach out to Jesus, He is reaching out to you.

In His amazing grace,
Pastor Jerry

Jesus is Lord

Hello friends,
The weather is in the news again. We reached 70+ degrees one day last week, then were greeted with snow and wind on Easter Sunday. Spring is out there somewhere, I am sure. The other big news item remains the Covid-19 virus. Lord willing, we will get past this pandemic and begin a return to life as we would want it to be.

On one of those nice days last week, I decided it was a good day to wash the windows on our sun porch. While gathering a bucket and some tools from the garage, I tripped and experienced one of those slow motion falls. You know what I mean; you know you are going down, but have a little time to plan your landing. After it was over, I had only a scuff mark and bruise above my left knee, and a little laceration on one finger. I was truly thanking the Lord it wasn’t worse. After the windows were clean, it all seemed worthwhile.

On Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. For most of us, it was an Easter unlike any we had ever seen. In our church, we met through Zoom. It was a small group of people, but we were able to read and study the pertinent Bible passages, and listen to the preaching of our pastor. We saw each other’s faces, but missing was the personal interaction, the handshakes, and hugs.

In and through all this, here is the important thing to remember; in the midst of all the insecurity and all the unknowns of the day, Jesus Christ is Lord! He has a handle on all the things that are going on in the world. He has defeated death, sin, and the devil and he proved it on the day He rose from the tomb.

Read the following passages with me: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15). For more, read the whole chapter.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Just the Facts

Dear friends,
And the Covid19 saga continues. As I begin this writing project, it is Thursday afternoon. What else is one to do when all other entertainment options are exhausted, and outside is freezing mist? This morning, the feral cat fell down when it came to the steps on our deck. Can you say icy? Note: 60 degrees on Sunday.

After much discussion with myself and with others, I have decided to pause my cardiac rehab program for the immediate future. I have made much progress, but wisdom says don’t take chances with this virus. So, for the time being, we will be limiting our travel to getting the mail each day.

A recent devotional from Pastor Rick Warren reminded me of the importance of watching our words and speaking the truth. Pastor Rick says not everything we hear is true. He quotes Proverbs 14:15… “The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word” (The Message). I would like to expand on his thoughts.

Much of what is presented as truth on the various media platforms is very far from the truth. Scripture reminds us over and over of the importance of speaking and writing the truth. I see well-meaning people, many of them Christians, who share things they see on the internet without taking the time to find out whether or not they are true.

Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). James said this to his fellow believers, “Above all my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment” (James 5:12). I quote a character in a radio drama from many years ago, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

All that is asked of us is that we stick to the facts, and be discerning in what we read, hear, and share. As Rick Warren says, “As disciples of Jesus, we should be people of facts.” He goes on; “God has given you everything you need to be wise and prudent in a crisis. You have his Word, and the Holy Spirit to give you discernment.” Watch what you post and share. Seek truth; speak truth.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Jerry

It Is Well

Hello friends,
I trust this finds everyone well. We are well, although occasionally we get on each other’s nerves a bit. We are all going down a path we’ve never been on, but we have hope this isn’t going to be forever. Still, I have to remind myself to be patient in this. At least we don’t have to entertain small children, as some of you are doing. If that is your situation, hang in there!

As we wait for a return to normal times, I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. He was writing from prison, and wanted the church to be united in its purpose and to let the focus be on the Lord Jesus. The following verses are not necessarily applicable to our current situation, but there are lessons here for us.

To the church, Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!… Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…”

Concerning his own situation, he rejoices in the support of the believers, then says this: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

Finally, he writes these words to the faithful believers, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:4-19).

As we are encouraged by Paul’s word, consider the words of the old hymn;
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And as the prophet said, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:18).

In His loving care,
Pastor Jerry

Be Encouraged

Hello friends,
Another week has passed. We are experiencing typical March weather. It is a time of transition, and nature seems unable to decide. I am sure from past springs, that this will eventually bring about green grass and flowers if we are patient.

The Covid19 saga continues this week. Most of my pastor friends addressed the Christian response to this in their Sunday sermons. Thank God that we have the means to connect through technology, so that churches can meet in spirit, if not in person.

If you spend much time with social media, you will certainly be discouraged. My answer to this confusion is to go to the Word of God for truth and encouragement.

First of all, let us not forget that God is on His throne, He is still in control. “In the beginning God”, is how the Bible story begins. Read Genesis 1:1. In Colossians we are told that Jesus “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, 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 1:15-17).

You may be asking; did God create this virus? Scripture tells us because of Adam’s sin in the garden, the creation has been corrupted. “To Adam, God said, “cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18). This virus, along with all other plagues and pestilence, and natural disasters is evidence of this curse. Someday God will make it all right.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Jesus Christ, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:4-5).

The Bible describes a time when God will bring a new heaven and earth; “No longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22:3ff).

Be encouraged, God’s people have hope.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Fear Not

Hello friends,
It has been an interesting week, to say the least. On a personal note, I saw the cardiac surgeon for a checkup. He says everything looks good, and to continue rehab. The weather continues to follow the pattern we have come to expect for the month of March.

Our topic for the week will be the Covid19 virus. A lot of people have written on this topic, but all have different platforms and different readers. So, here are my thoughts on the virus pandemic, and what our response should be from a biblical perspective.

As Christians, our view of this should be one of dependence on God’s word and His promises. Along with that, we must point people to Jesus. In the face of uncertainty, our message is that He is the One in whom we trust, not just for here and now, but for eternity.

Jesus had these words for those concerned with the future as recorded in Luke’s gospel. “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). He has more to say beginning in verse 22; “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear… Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (verses 22-26).

The promise of God is that those who trust Jesus for their eternal salvation will never be taken from Him. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, (including viruses), will be able separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Salvation is found in no one else, not governments, scientists, or political leaders.

Trusting Him completely,
Pastor Jerry

Rescuing the Helpless

Dear friends,
It has been 4 weeks since my surgery. Rehab is going well, and I will see the heart surgeon this week. Some signs of spring are appearing, people are beginning to get their cabins ready for the new season, and the activity level is picking up. Most people are ready for some warmer weather. The forecast seems to be saying there will be some winter weather yet to come, but at this time of the year, it should be short lived.

It seems every day, there is a new crisis somewhere in the world. Much of what people are stressing over has been built up in the media far beyond what is factual. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the viral threat, but much of what is being presented is exaggeration. People get focused on what might happen, and forget the things we can actually do something about.

For example, there is a lot of press given to protecting the environment, saving trees, snails, and all other kinds of flora and fauna, yet the number of human lives lost from abortion is swept under the rug as if they don’t matter. The Bible tells us to be stewards of the creation, and this is a good thing. However, I believe we as a nation will be judged by God, not for what we’ve done for the planet, but for having allowed this great sin of abortion to be the law of the land.

In Jeremiah 32:35, we read, “They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”

Of course, we don’t have pagan idols like Molech; today we are sacrificing our infant sons and daughters to the idols of convenience and personal choice. Christians must become more and more involved in pointing out this modern idolatry, and give voice to the voiceless.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person (or nation) according to what they have done?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Prepare Now

Dear friends,
I hope you have been enjoying the warmer temperatures. I know I have. Wednesday, when I saw my cardiologist, he said to see him in six months. My cardiac rehab begins this week, so it is onward and upward from here, I guess. Again, thanks for all the prayers, cards, calls and visits. You are all a blessing to me.

Spring is coming, I know because the geese are pairing off, and will soon be nesting. I hope it is not like some years, when I have seen those geese sitting on their nests in a raging blizzard. By all reports, if the weather holds for a few days, Lake Ericson will begin filling up for the new season. The water level has been down in anticipation of final repairs at the spillway.

The news, if you watch it at all, is not very positive most days. From the political craziness to the virus that by some accounts is threatening civilization, one wonders where we are headed. In the Christian worldview, none of this is random or meaningless. God has told us there is nothing that is out of His control, and nothing that catches Him by surprise. Our responsibility, is to trust Him in all things, beginning with trusting His Son for our salvation. Once we know Jesus as Savior, He promises to hold us in his hands, never letting go no matter the circumstances.

You see, the whole world is to be judged for rejecting God. Only those who are His, will be saved from that final judgment. Much of what we are seeing is part of what the Lord spoke of as the last days. As his return draws closer, we will see more of the same.

Jesus’ disciples had many of the same questions that we have. They wanted to know when Jesus would return. He said they would hear of wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:4-8). He went on to say, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (verse36). “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (verse 42).

I’m not saying he will return tomorrow, but I am saying we all need to be ready when he does come again.

Trusting Him,
Pastor Jerry

Worship Together

Hello friends,
Here we are at the beginning of another week! Just a short update on my recovery: It is going well. Last night, I slept in my own little bed all night, instead of in the recliner. There will be a visit with my cardiologist on Wednesday, at which time I expect to receive rehab orders. A week after that, I will be cleared to drive, and then in another week, I will see the heart surgeon for a checkup. I don’t want to make this a huge deal, but people also want to know. I can see the hand of God in every aspect of this portion of the journey. He is with me in this, as He has been in all my life.

It was good to be back in church Sunday morning. There is no better place than in fellowship with other Christians, as we worship and study the Word. These days, we can access any number of church services by way of podcasts, live streaming, television broadcasts, and other media tools. There are those who say they can worship God at the lake, sitting on their deck, out in nature (there’s one I used before I knew Jesus). However, the Bible is rather specific about meeting together in a worship setting. One only has to read a few verses into the book of Acts, before it is clear that there were no Lone Ranger Christians in the early days.

After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given, Peter preached and many came to faith in Christ. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and prayer.” Further, we read, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and age together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:42-43; 46.)

The writer of Hebrews spells it out in everyday cowboy language. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Meeting together, not texting altogether.

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

The Creative Creator

Hello friends,
Last week, I told you of my planned heart bypass surgery. I can now report the surgery went well, and I am at home recovering. I have no rehab schedule presently, but somewhere, someone is preparing a plan. I now know much more about the process than I might have wanted to know. Word like saws, titanium plate, tiny screwdriver, screws… you get the idea. There were tubes and all kinds of wires and assorted monitors.

As I heal, I have been thinking about the wonder of the bodies God has given us. I met a man while in the hospital who claimed to be an agnostic. As I understand it, an agnostic will claim it is impossible to know God, and an atheist denies the existence of God, or even of a supreme intelligent being. My question at this point is, how then do you explain the complexity of the human body? How can you not see the hand of God in creating his own?

Oh, some will say it is the result of some random accident through which life began, or that some primitive life form ‘evolved’ to a human being. I for one, am glad for a Creator God, who not only designed mankind in His image, but that he equipped some to perform amazing procedures and others to help us on our way to recovery. In the last week, I have experienced some wonderful medical progress, and met some amazing individuals. From the doctors, ICU staff, nurses, CNAs, to housekeeping and nutritional staff. You are all special people!

Jesus is called the Great Physician and Healer, but he has some very talented individuals involved in the process. Thank you, also, for prayers for me this past week, I know they had much to with my speedy recovery from the immediate effects of the surgery and my eventual dismissal from the hospital in record time. God is King, and He is still on His throne. Praise Him daily!

It is not always God’s will for healing, but we should not fail to always pray. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16)

Praising His goodness,
Pastor Jerry