Christmas is Coming

Hello friends,
After a week of very nice November weather, it seems we are going to cool off for a time. The seasons are still in transition, I guess. I trust you had a pleasant Thanksgiving observance in spite of the Covid19 virus. Some of the Christmas lights here at the lake have been put up, and more will appear. You are invited to drive through the lake community and enjoy the efforts of the residents. So far, there has only been light conversation regarding our own display, but I suspect action will be taken in the near future.

On the subject of Christmas, we are in the Advent season as noted in the church calendar. In fact, we are only three Sundays away from Christmas. It is not too early to begin thinking about the holiday, what it means, and how we are to respond to it. We all know the Christmas story from the gospels, but I like to go to the Old Testament and read the prophecies concerning the birth of the Savior. A favorite passage is from Isaiah.

“For to us a child is born, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

In the New Testament, we read Jesus’ words, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:38-40).

Perhaps you have heard the Christmas story many times, but have never made the decision to place your trust in Jesus for your salvation. I pray you do so before any more time passes. It is not too late.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Thanksgiving 2020

Dear friends,
There is an early copy deadline for this week, so this will be written ahead of my usual schedule. Since the Thanksgiving holiday is this week, I can use that as my topic. First, the carport is now a garage, with two doors and a cute little window between them. As we were finishing up the structural part, there was a narrow opening between the doors; Milrae asked, “Is this where the window goes?” Me: If you want a window, that is where it will be. Thanks to Google, I was able to find a window fourteen inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high. It’s perfect for that spot!

As we think of things to be thankful for, our current weather pattern would be near the top of the list. I believe most of us could use some extra time outdoors to get the fall work done, and this makes it pleasant, to say the least.

I wonder how many people in our current culture could give the dictionary definition of thanksgiving? I’m not speaking of the holiday itself, but the general meaning of the word. Here are four definitions from various dictionaries.

The act of giving thanks and grateful acknowledgement of benefits or favors, especially to God.
An expression of thanks, especially to God.
A public celebration in acknowledgement of divine favor or kindness.
A day set apart for giving thanks to God.

The holiday named Thanksgiving, came from the early settlers, who took time to thank God for His provision in the New World. Later, it became a national holiday in 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for a day to give thanks to God.

The psalmist said it best. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Instead of coming with a list of things we want, wouldn’t this be a good year to just thank Him for what we have? Who else would be worthy of our thanks and praise?

Blessed,
Pastor Jerry

Last Days?

Hello friends,
It’s time for another of our weekly conversations; what’s new at our house, and other commentary. First, I need to let you know the garage project is nearing completion. By this time next week, it will be time for a new topic. We ventured out three times last week, first to get material for the garage, another day to get haircuts and groceries, and a third to the chiropractor. As our pastor said Sunday, we’re staying “cautious, but not captive.”

These days, we should be turning our thoughts to the possibility of the promised return of our Lord Jesus Christ. After all, the way things are going, we may be seeing more of the signs of His coming. How many of the following are showing up in our news sources?

When asked for the signs of his second coming, Jesus answered with these words: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8).

Paul writing to Timothy said, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power… For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear’” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3-4).

From Peter to believers everywhere: “Above all, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days scoffing and following their own evil desires, saying, “Where is his ‘coming’ that he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Christians rejoice in the truth of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Our responsibility, in our time, is to share our faith with those who do not know Him, in order that they, too, are prepared for His second coming.

Proclaiming His Good News,
Pastor Jerry

Our Calling

Dear friends,
The garage project has progressed to the point we can close the doors and keep the snow out. It isn’t done, but we like it so far. At this point, we are waiting for material to finish the project. After the winds of the last few days, I believe it has passed the test.

How is this for a song title? Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean! I didn’t make this up; there is a song with that title being played on the bluegrass channel from satellite radio. After the election, there are those who can relate. In any situation there are those who are happy and others who are disappointed. It is true; life isn’t fair, and the world is mean. Trouble comes, and life isn’t fair. Elections are about competing world-views, someone wins, and someone loses. What is fair to one doesn’t seem fair to another.

The world is mean, especially to Christians. Nowhere does the Bible indicate the Christian is going to be loved and accepted by the world. Jesus, speaking to his disciples said this; “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why it hates you.” (John 15:19b). Also, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Here is something I read this week. These are wise words for us; “With election day behind us, we Christians need to remember our primary calling has not changed. Let your faith be encouraged in the fact that God reigns. Continue going out into the world proclaiming the Good News. Stand firm, keep fighting for justice. And love your neighbor.”

Peter reminds us to “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (2 Peter 2:16).

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). As Christians, we remember that God has placed here to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus.

Because of Him,
Pastor Jerry

Our Hope

Dear friends,
The weather continues to be more fall-like again. We have taken advantage of the warmer temps to work on the carport/garage project. If all goes well, we will have it enclosed before the cool-down next week.

The big event of this week will be the election on Tuesday. Some of you will receive this column after the fact, but whatever the outcome, we can be assured of the fact that no matter who is in the White House in January, God will still be on His throne, and Jesus Christ will still be Lord of all. We who know Jesus will take comfort in that knowledge.

In times like these, I am drawn to the Psalms; especially those Psalms that proclaim God’s rule over every aspect of life, including governments of nations and states. There are those who believe human governments have the solutions to our problems; that all our problems can be solved if we just elect the right people. I submit that our problems are first of all spiritual, and I truly believe that unless we turn back to God as a nation’ and as a people, our problems are just beginning.

Read the words of Psalm 2:
Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One: “Lets tear off their chains and throw their ropes off us”

The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain”
I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.”

So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling.
Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion,
for his anger may ignite at any moment.
All who take refuge in him are happy.

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Making Plans

Hello friends,
Well, we certainly had an extreme weather change. As I write this Sunday afternoon, we have had a good dose of snow and cold. I’m looking forward to the middle of the week, when we are supposed to warm up considerably. I came up with a project to enclose our open-ended carport/garage, and install doors, but now I have to wait for better weather before I can start. One thing about the delay is that I have time to engineer the details. I have done doors before, but in a more conventional setting. I think the delay will be a good thing. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Speaking of making plans, the Lord has quite a bit to say about the plans of men and their success or failure. Something to think about as we set goals and go about making plans for our lives. We have all made plans for how we think our lives will play out, but how many plans actually come out the way we imagined?

With the general election next week, people are making plans for the future. Some of those may be good and others may turn out to be not so good. God’s word doesn’t discourage planning, but he does expect to be a part of the process. Let’s look at some scriptures that speak to this subject.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3). In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Prov. 16:9). Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Prov. 19:21).
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Psalm 20:4).

Here is a longer passage from the epistle of James in the New Testament: 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).

Do you have plans for your future? Have you included the Lord in those plans?

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

In His Image

Dear friends,
The camper has been winterized, and there will be no camping adventures to report until spring. The nice weather of the past few days is being replaced with much cooler temps. Up to an inch of snow was forecast for Saturday night, but we arose to a good four inches Sunday morning. If the snow forecast misses like this all winter, it might get deep!

The first snow has a way of accenting the beauty of God’s creation. Those who claim to dislike snow seem to appreciate its artistry. It is just one more way that the creation proclaims the glory of God. I really believe we could make this a better world if we would see more of the beauty, not only in nature, but in other people. After all, the Bible tells us that man was created in the image of God.

Ugliness is certainly part of a fallen world, but if all of us would make an effort, perhaps we could reclaim some of what has been corrupted by sin. Obviously, this world cannot be restored to its original state by human effort; however, if each individual would show a bit of compassion and empathy toward all of God’s creation, it could be improved.

We can begin by getting to know God better. A large part of the problem is that people do not know God. How can we appreciate creation, if we don’t first get to know the Creator? Romans 1:20 tells us there is ample evidence of God’s existence: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For those who fail to see Him in creation, he has also provided his written word, the Bible. We only get to know someone if we spend time with them. Open his word, and learn who He is.

God loves his creation, and proved it by sending his Son to die for the sins of all people. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

In His service,
Pastor Jerry

Good Words

Dear friends,
It was a pleasant weather week here. Not too hot, nor too cold but the forecast is for cooler temperatures ahead, with perhaps a little moisture. Corn harvest has begun, but I don’t believe anyone would argue for continued dry conditions.

As the election draws near, let not forget to pray for our country. Pray for godly leaders to be chosen and for decisions to be made that would honor God. Pray also for a spirit of cooperation to return to our cultural conversation.

On the topic of conversation, I have spent some time studying in Ephesians where the apostle cautions us to watch our speech so as to exhibit Christ-like character to those around us. To be frank, I am appalled at many words that are used in both verbal and written communication these days. It is not just in the outhouse; it goes all the way to the White House. When did it become acceptable to use words in public that most people would not use in any context in days gone by?

From God’s Word in the Old Testament: “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings” (Proverbs 25:11).

And from the New Testament: “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear… Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking is not suitable” (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4).

“Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?” (James 3:10-11).

“But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19).

Instead of throwing insults and indulging in name-calling, why not use words that build up others and shine the light of Christ into a world that desperately needs it.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

On Meeting Together

Dear friends,
We continue to observe the changing of the seasons. Every day, the leaves are changing colors and losing their grip on the branches of the trees. Harvest is well under way, and today I saw a flock of crows flying south. Some folks are talking of migrating south, also.

Sunday afternoon was the annual meeting of our Sandhills Church Network, an association of like-minded area churches. Some of the discussion centered on how our churches have been affected by the Covid-19 virus. Almost everyone is concerned with the number of church members who have elected to attend church by means of social media; Facebook Live, Zoom Meeting, and other live-streaming apps. The concern is that those who are getting in the habit of virtual church are missing out on the benefits of in-person corporate worship. As the old saying goes; “No man is an island.”

Christians need each other. We need the support and encouragement that only comes from in-person fellowship, where we can ask face-to-face, “How are you today? How can I pray for you? Will you pray for me?”

“And 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).

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing… And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:11-18).

I believe we can best flesh out these commands by meeting together in person.

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

Signs of Change

Hello friends,
Our latest camping trip is over. We had an enjoyable time with Alex and Amy, then drove to Pickstown, SD, where we spent three nights at North Point Recreation Area. Our campsite was almost at the edge of the lake. This was our first visit to the area, and we were impressed with the view. We may return in a couple of weeks, weather permitting.

As we traveled, we could see the signs of the changing seasons. Crops are drying down, in preparation for harvest, the leaves are changing to fall colors, and some trees are losing leaves. I have mentioned in previous writings that fall is right at the top of my favorite seasons. Sure, winter comes after autumn, but following that is spring, with all the signs of new life.

Turning this discussion to spiritual matters, the Bible tells us people who have accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior, will show signs of new life.

A Pharisee named Nicodemus, asked Jesus a question regarding God’s kingdom. Jesus answered in this way: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus was shocked at this statement and asked, “how can a man be born when he is old?” Jesus’ answer was basically this; The new birth speaks of being spiritually reborn. This rebirth is possible only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. (John 3:3-8). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

A favorite verse of mine is 2 Corinthians 5:17; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We are told to “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-23).

Have you experienced the new birth? Are there signs of new life in your thoughts and actions?

In His love,
Pastor Jerry