Celebrate Christmas

Dear friends,
Christmas lights and other reminders of the season have appeared almost overnight. Christmas themed music has begun to be played on the radio, and much advertising is directed toward Christmas shopping. In all this, I pray we don’t lose sight of the real Reason for the season. In the world we live in, we need Jesus as much as we have ever needed Him, if not more.

If we believe the Bible, and understand that we live in a sin-stained world, our priority should be to put Jesus first. The prophet wrote, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14).

This one to be called Immanuel would be born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Malachi. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Micah 5:2.

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary and Joseph that the son to be born would be the Messiah, the promised Savior. To Joseph he said, “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”) Matthew 1:21. To Mary, his message was,
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32).

Paul wrote, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Jesus came to be the sacrifice that would pay the sin debt of the whole world, that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life. In Romans 6:23 it is written, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

At this time of the year, and in this Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of the Savior. It is an old, old story, but one of which we should never tire, or take for granted.

Thank God for Christmas!
Pastor Jerry

Thank God

Dear readers,

We are having one of those early copy deadlines again because of the Thursday holiday. I trust you all have/had a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. What blessings have you received in the past year? Were you quick to thank the Lord for each one? Remember, we are told many times in scripture to give thanks always, and in everything. The word thanksgiving occurs 27 times in the Christian Standard Bible, and 22 times in the New International Version

Thanksgiving can be described as gratitude directed toward God, generally in response to God’s acts in history. Thanksgiving is a natural element of Christian worship and is to characterize all of Christian life. Concerning thanksgiving in worship, the psalmist wrote, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His name” (Psalm 100:4).

In life, we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Paul, writing to Timothy said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Why should we pray for those in government? He tells us in verses 3 and 4. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” We pray for the salvation of our leaders, so that they will see the truth, and begin to govern God’s way.

Did you notice in the last paragraph, that thanksgiving and prayer are connected? It is by prayer that we return thanks for God’s blessings. Also, as we give thanks and present our prayers and petitions to Him, He will in turn bless us with more to be thankful for. As a side note, how many times have you thanked God for the gift of prayer?

Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done (Psalm 105:1). Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

In closing, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 16-18).

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Jerry

Meeting Together

Dear friends,
We continue to swing back and forth between fall and winter. In the last week, we have seen sunshine and rain, warm and cold, windy and calm. There are few leaves remaining on the trees; yet in these extremes, there is still the beauty of God’s creation all around us.

Now and then, I will come across someone else’s observation about trends in the church today. Speaking to the issue of a lack of commitment in attending weekly church services, Thom Rainer asks the question, how did we get to the point that attending church on a once-a-month basis is normal behavior?

He gives five developments:
One, we fail to see that the local church is God’s plan A to do His mission on earth, and there is no plan B. It is clear in the New Testament from Acts 2 through Revelation 3 is all about the local church as the means of fulfilling His plan.

Two, we embrace the false notion that commitment to a local church is legalistic. If we used that argument with the family unit, we would say “Oh, your commitment to your family is too legalistic.”

Three, we have let culture dictate our schedules. If we would resist the temptation to put other activities ahead of church attendance, we would communicate to the culture what is and is not important.

Four, we have accepted strawman arguments about gathering at our local church. Have you heard either one of these arguments? “The church is not about the building, it’s the people.” Or, “The church is about sending, not attending.” The writer of Hebrews said, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another… (Hebrews 10:25).

Five, we see church as a place to be served rather than to serve. Have you ever heard church members argue about their preferences? Sure you have. Preferences about the style of music in worship. About the order of worship. About the time of services. The list goes on.

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions: Am I really connected to a local church? Am I attending without excuses? Am I looking to serve? Am I willing to give up the influence of the culture to be a growing disciple in my church? How committed am I to the local body? Let’s be part of the solution.

Food for thought,
Pastor Jerry

Give Thanks

Dear readers,

We seem to have arrived at “Second Autumn.” After a short cold spell, and a few flakes of snow last week, we are experiencing some fall temperatures again. These will be counted as past blessings in the future. We didn’t let those warm days slip away without getting some outside work done. A few Christmas lights were put up, just so we weren’t doing it in the snow later. The lawn was mowed for the last time I hope, and some flower bulbs were transplanted.

As the calendar moves closer to the end of November and into December, our thoughts are drawn to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both of these holidays serve to remind us of God’s love for people, and for all of His creation. However, we must be careful to remember that neither we or the creation are to be worshiped. Worship is reserved for God alone. “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord” (Psalm 24:1).

Familiar verses of scripture remind us of these truths. John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world in this way. He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16”. It is this gift we celebrate at Christmas; the gift Paul calls indescribable. 2 Corinthians 9:15.

“We give thanks to you, God; we give thanks to you… people tell about your wondrous works.” Psalm 75:1.

“I will give thanks to you because you have answered me and have become my salvation.” Psalm 118:21.

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves it is God’s gift.” Ephesians 2:8.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of lights…” James 1:17.

“The heavens are the LORD’s, but the earth he has given to the human race” (Psalm 115:16).

“The heavens proclaim his righteousness; all the peoples see his glory” (Psalm 97:6).

“Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; proclaim his deeds among the peoples” (Psalm 105:1).

If there is no God, as some would have us believe, to whom would we give thanks? Who is it that is worthy to receive our praise and worship and yes, all our thanks? It is God, the creator and sustainer of all life and matter. Blessed be His Name!

Simply His,

Pastor Jerry

Seasons

Dear friends,

Just one comment on the weather of recent days; Colder and windy! I have winterized the camper in anticipation of those freezing cold nights. Any thoughts of camping will have to wait for spring.

As we prepare for the changing of the seasons once more, I am prompted to reflect on the words of Solomon in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.

“There is a time for everything, and a season or every activity under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Eccl. 3:1-8).

There are seasons of life for each of us, also. We see Spring in our early lives, as we are born and move through childhood. Summer is seen in our productive years, as we work and raise our families. Autumn comes as we mature and reach the age of retirement. Winter is the time when we approach the end of life.

All this reminds me of the need to be prepared for my Winter. When life on earth has ended, what then? The Bible tells us that we have a Savior, and that by placing our faith in Him, we are assured of eternal life, spent in heaven where we will be in His presence forever. Have you made the decision to follow Him with all your heart and soul?

“As God’s fellow workers, we urge you to not receive God’s grace in vain, for He says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

In Him,

Pastor Jerry

Knowing the Truth

Hello friends,

There is not much to report as far as weather; just mostly cool temperatures, with some sun and some clouds. The fall colors have been extra special this year, but with the one really windy day last week many leaves have fallen.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Grace Bible Church this week. I thought it might be beneficial to share some thoughts from my sermon with all of you. Based on Paul’s first letter to Timothy, it tells us to be on guard against false teachers, of whom there are plenty these days.

All believers have a responsibility to be on the alert for false teachers. What are we to look for? Here are four things to keep in mind.

First, look at their understanding of Scripture, and ask if their teaching is biblically sound. Do they place extra-biblical teachings on a par with Scripture? That is, do they add or subtract from the value of God’s Word? Do they accurately handle the Word of truth? Scripture says, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Second, examine their goals. Do they seek to love, honor and glorify God? Or do they pursue self-love, material wealth, or personal happiness?

Third, examine their motives. Are they humble and selfless? Or do they seek to make a name for themselves?

Finally, examine the effect of their teaching. Do their followers understand clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they define the Gospel properly? Do they use the law properly, as part of the gospel message, or do they promote works righteousness? The law was given to show sinners their need for a Savior. The Law saves no one. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, to recognize and expose false teaching, we must spend time in the Bible. Not just to check off a passage of scripture as our daily reading, but to really spend time getting to understand what God has already said. Meditate on it.

We need not ask the Lord to speak to us. He has spoken. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed head of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2).

In Christ alone,

Pastor Jerry

Turn to Jesus

Dear readers,
Gardening season has ended for 2021. Those freezing temps for two or three nights in a row were effective. It is a welcome break from the heat we have been experiencing. Afternoons have been pleasant, but I suspect colder highs are nearer than we would like.

If you are like me, some days just seem too much to bear. Are you worn down by worry or concern over your situation today? What is a person to do? The answer is found in God’s word. The scripture verse for today is Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” Another Psalm tells us our help comes from Him. “I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

It is an old, old story, but Jesus came to this earth to bring salvation to all people, and to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice that would pay our sin debt and give us eternal life. These are His words, “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my words and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Also, “For this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

God says in Isaiah 45:22, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God and there is no other.” Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Here are comforting words from a favorite hymn:
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

For Him,
Pastor Jerry

Safe With God

Dear friends,

After a very pleasant weather week, it appears we are about to experience a reminder of the approaching season of cooler temperatures. One positive takeaway of this, is that the lawn mowing season is nearing its end. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go.

I read the following in a devotional article from Dr. David Jeremiah. It gives encouragement to all of us as we face uncertain times.

During the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, Dr. Benjamin Rush refused to leave the city, feeling God had placed him there for such a time. He told his medical students, “As for myself, I may fall a victim to the epidemic, and so may you, gentlemen. But I prefer since I am placed here by Divine Providence, to fall in performing my duty… than to secure my life by fleeing from the post of duty allotted in the Providence of God.”

Dr. Jeremiah continues; “Dr. Rush survived the plague and left us a lasting lesson. The safest place is always in the center of God’s will. Plagues and pandemics come and go. Violence rises and falls. Evil goes from bad to worse. But when we are in the daily course of divine duty, we are shielded by our God—safe and secure from all alarm. The worst thing that can happen to us is the best thing—the Lord will take us to heaven. So don’t live in fear today. Follow the footsteps of the Savior.”

Good words for us all. If you belong to the Lord Jesus, you are promised eternity with Him when your life here has ended. He has placed each one of us in the place where we are, to carry out His plan for our lives. He does it for His glory, and we are promised a share in His glory when we reach heaven. 

In the Old Testament we read the story of a young queen named Esther, who took a stand for the Lord, even though it might mean her life. Her relative told her, “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. We are not where we are by accident, but by His sovereign purpose. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Trusting in His Word,

Pastor Jerry

What Is Jesus Doing?

 Dear friends,

Another week has slipped away from us. Fall is definitely in the air. The colors of the season are as spectacular as any I have seen. What a great blessing to live where God has placed us. I can think of no other place I would rather be. Short fishing report; I caught a nice-sized bass one morning last week, and had it for supper Friday evening. It was even better than I had anticipated, it makes me want to catch another one or two!

On Saturday, I attended a conference for rural Christian workers. I was reminded of some things for Christians to focus on in our current reality, and thought they were worth sharing. A popular question from a few years back asked, “What would Jesus do?” Our speaker asked, “What would Jesus do today?” The following is a brief outline of his answer.

First, Jesus is still building his church. He said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). We (believers) are the church, and He is still adding to it. As His people, are we helping build the church or are we tearing it down?

Second, He is still making disciples through his church. He commands us to make disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).  As more people come to faith in Christ, we are to be discipling those new believers, teaching them how to follow Him.

Third, He is still seeking and saving the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). As followers of Jesus, one of our responsibilities is to point others to Him. We are to introduce the lost to the Savior. According to Acts 5:42, speaking of the early church, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

In summary; we are to love people the way Jesus loves them. Share the good news of Jesus’ salvation. Invite them to respond to His offer of salvation and be saved. We are not to be mere spectators.

For Him,

Pastor Jerry

Temptation

Dear readers,

It was a nice week of fall-like weather. We were glad for the cooler temps, but it sounds like a few warm days again, then another cool-down to follow. I dusted off (literally) some fishing equipment this weekend. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any fishing. I caught a nice bass Friday afternoon, but released it, thinking I might catch a larger one. Big mistake! Nothing I caught since then has been big enough to eat. There are lots of little fish out there, hopefully they will get a chance to grow up.

On the topic of fishing, I am reminded that our enemy the devil is busy seeking people to lead astray. One of his tactics is to place tempting bait in front of us, hoping we can be tricked into biting. He knows our weaknesses and tempts us in those areas. It is true that everyone is born with a sin nature, and that by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus, our sins are forgiven. However, it is still possible to be lured into sin. The Christian needs to be aware of those places where he or she is vulnerable, and steer clear of them.

When fishing, the fisherman places a tempting lure in the water, seeking to entice an unsuspecting fish into a free meal. if there is no response from the fish, the fisherman doesn’t just pack it up and move on. He will keep casting the lure, and if not successful he will switch to another bait.  

Remember, God does not tempt His people to sin, but His enemy does. The Bible says this, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Also, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

The way out of temptation, provided by God, is Jesus Christ. Faith in Him will give us the ability to resist the bait of Satan. Be alert, and keep your eyes on the Lord!

Trusting Him,

Pastor Jerry