The Word is Jesus

Hello friends,
As I began to awake from my sleep this morning (Monday), the sound of the wind in the trees reminded me the seasons are about to change again. Only the good Lord knows what weather awaits us, but I am hearing predictions of a ‘hard’ winter. We can only hope those predictions are wrong. Can I get an amen?

Milrae and I spent the latter part of last week visiting a couple of local recreation areas and spending our nights in the camper. I have had people ask, why own a camper when you live beside a lake? My stock answer – sometimes you just need a different view. We should perhaps apply this in other ways, as well. What if we would occasionally step back and take a look at life from another person’s point of view? Might we get to the point of understanding each other in a new way?

As we came to the end of our week-end get-away, we attended church services at Grace Bible Church in Loup City, where I gave the morning message. We then traveled up the road to Burwell for the annual meeting of our local church association. After the meeting, we joined some members of Burwell Baptist for their 5th Sunday hymn sing. This was the perfect ending to our little vacation.

On a devotional note, let me share a thought or two from my Sunday sermon. The text is John 1:1-5; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.

The Word that John speaks of is Jesus, so we see that Jesus was not only with God in the beginning, he is God, the creator and sustainer of all things, Savior of the world.

The following statement was posted on social media last week. It sums up those verses from John’s gospel: “Jesus is not a god. Jesus does not become God. Jesus does not aspire to be God. Jesus is God. Period.” He is the Savior of all who believe in him.

Blessings to all,
Pastor Jerry

Held In God’s Hand

Hello friends,
Another week of retirement has passed. We made two trips to Albion for appointments, had one wedding rehearsal, a lake association board meeting, a wedding, and I traveled to Valentine on Sunday to preach for a pastor who needed a day off. I am finding this retirement thing does not allow for a lot of down time if you are willing to be involved in your community.

As I am involved with people, and as I visit with different individuals, I find that most are dealing with, or have at some point dealt with issues of one kind or another. No one is immune to trouble. I also find that Christians in general, have a much more positive outlook in times of trouble than those who don’t know Christ on a personal level. This doesn’t mean that the Christian has no doubts, or that his or her faith doesn’t waver at times. However, as the Bible states in several places, the righteous will live by faith. Keep in mind that the righteous person as described in Scripture, is one who has received God’s gift of salvation, paid for by Christ on the cross.

In the Bible, we find examples of people who lived by faith in God, and in His promises. Noah built an ark, although he had never seen rain. Abraham packed up and moved to a place he had never heard of because he had faith. Joseph endured all kinds of hardship, always trusting God in the worst of times. The apostle Paul endured much hardship, faithfully preaching the gospel in many difficult situations.

If you are in one of those situations, here are some of God’s promises. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you in my righteous right hand… For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you’” (Isaiah 41: 10, 13).

Finally, Jesus said this, concerning his followers; “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).

In His grip,
Pastor Jerry

High Water

Dear friends,
It is obvious the rains have not stopped for some of our friends in other places. As I read of roads made impassable by heavy rains, and people marooned on their property, surrounded by water, I pray this will pass soon. The 2019 spring and summer seasons have tried the patience and perseverance of many. Having experienced some abnormally wet seasons on the ranch, I understand. It is not a fun situation by any measure. It reminds us of the fact that as much as mankind has learned, we still do not know how to control the weather.

In times of excessive rain there are always those who suggest the need to build an ark, as in the Old Testament story of Noah and the command of God to build one. The flood that God was going to bring upon the earth was judgment for the rampant sin and ungodliness of the time. Only Noah and his family would be spared. Just as God said, when the ark was completed, and the animals and Noah’s family were safely on board, the earth was flooded, and all remaining life destroyed. After the waters had receded, God made a covenant with Noah.

“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:12-15).

We are living in a time when sin and ungodliness seem to increase daily. Peter reminds us that God will again judge the earth, but not with a flood. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything will be laid bare.” Then the question; Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” And, the answer; “You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:10-11).

Standing on His promises,
Pastor Jerry

The Gospel

Hello friends,

I trust you are enjoying the cooler weather. We are glad the rains have stopped here. I don’t remember ever having a summer when we did not need to water the lawn.

In a time of reminiscing, I realized that November of this year will mark the 20th year I have been writing these weekly thoughts. What began as a means to share with a few people what God was doing in my life, has become something I could not have imagined back then. I am grateful to God for all who have encouraged me in this endeavor over the years.

I was recently asked this question; “What is the gospel? You speak and write of sharing the gospel, but how many people understand what that is?” I had never really thought about the need to define what the word means, so I will try to explain it in this week’s devotional thought.

I know that sometimes we Christians use words that only have meaning to us. It is called speaking in ‘Christianese’. We forget there are those who haven’t had the opportunity to read the Bible, or hear someone preach from it.

The word gospel, in fact, means good news. What is that good news? Simply put, the Christian gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ came to save us from our sin. Here is what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul again; “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16-17).

It is the responsibility of every believer in Christ to tell this gospel, or good news to all who will listen, so that those who hear have an opportunity to believe. Have you heard?

For Him,
Pastor Jerry

Priorities

Hello friends,
September is here, and the weather word is cooler. Cool nights and days are signs of things to come, I suppose. Before we know it, the seasons will change again. The big national weather news is the hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Prayers are in order for the folks in the path of this storm.

Now for the devotional thought of the week. Maybe it should be called ‘Why are traditions so hard to give up?”
Why are traditions so hard to give up? It seems like a fair question, and one I had to deal with recently. I have consistently held the view that change is not a bad thing, yet when it becomes personal, I have second thoughts. We hold on to traditions and possessions, as if they hold some special value. If someone comes in and wants to make changes to our comfortable surroundings, we resist their efforts even if they are well-intentioned and make perfect sense. We easily forget that in light of eternity, nothing of this earth matters.

Our old friend King Solomon had something to say about this. Speaking of all the things he had acquired, he wrote, “I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19)?

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

To the religious leaders of his time, Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (Mark 78-9)!

When earthly possessions and those traditions we hold dear begin to become our focus, rather than our mission as followers of Jesus Christ, we are in danger of idolatry. To paraphrase a message I heard many years ago, when we begin to focus on the things of earth, we have taken our eyes off the cross, and the One who died for us.

Remember, as Christians, we have a greater inheritance waiting in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

Our Broken World

Dear readers,
One word about the weather. Rain! In other news, it appears we have completed another landscaping project. There has been a ditch along the north side of our property, and it was a bit difficult to mow due to the steep banks. Recently, son Ryan installed a long culvert in that spot, covered it with dirt and leveled it off. We have planted grass seed, and if the rain doesn’t wash it all away mowing will be much easier next summer.

Sometimes, when I see the heartache and hurting in our world, it is almost too much. I know I am not alone in feeling this way. We who live in rural America have by and large been insulated from the problems of the big cities and population centers. This is not the case anymore.

There is enough blame to go around, and I could name a lot of reasons for the mess we are in, but from a Christian point of view, the one-word explanation would be sin. Our world has been broken since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. When people reject God, and go their own way, evil takes over. There is no moral compass, and there are no guidelines for proper living. When people reject God, they turn to other things seeking fulfilment. Drugs, alcohol, sex, power, money, fancy cars, big houses; none of these bring lasting satisfaction.

There is, however, a solution to this dilemma; “This is what the Lord Almighty says: Return to me, declares the Lord Almighty, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 1:3). Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

It has been said there is within each of us a God shaped void. It can only be filled satisfactorily by the Holy Spirit of God. Nothing else will do. Jesus alone can overcome our sin nature. Paul wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

His truth will set you free.
Pastor Jerry

The Unchanging Word

This week, I read an article by a Christian writer who was commenting on the topic of filtering our words. The point being, we need to really pay attention to the things we say and the words we post on social media. He made reference to the number of words he had written over the years.

This started me thinking about my own articles, and I wondered what my word count would be. Here is what I found; I aim for 400 words per article. They are written once a week and I have been doing this for about 20 years. I came up with a total of something like 416,000 words. I had no idea!

On an entirely different subject, since I’m ‘retired’, I have begun spending time in the kitchen doing some of the cooking. When we were on the ranch, Milrae was faithful to have meals ready when I came in from work, and I now have time to return the favor. Generally, I follow a tried and true recipe, but now and then, I like to experiment. These experiments do not always end well. For the best results, I have found it is better to ‘go by the book,’ so to speak.

There are a significant number of people these days who try to make up their own recipe for living life. They may claim some knowledge of God’s plan for life, as is found in the Bible, but they want to experiment by choosing the parts they like, along with adding bits and pieces of other religions or philosophies. These efforts are doomed to failure. Call it ‘cafeteria Christianity’ or whatever you may, God’s word is complete in itself. It needs no editing or added ingredients.

Here are some verses for our consideration and mediation. “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless (2 Samuel 22:31, also Psalm 18:30).
“For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does” (Psalm 33:4). Over and over in scripture, we read “hear the word of the Lord!”

Peter quoted Isaiah in his first letter; “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

In truth,
Pastor Jerry