Archive for December, 2014

Christmas Reflections

We are in that spot between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Sometimes it seems like the “lost week.” We are still tired from all the activities of the Christmas season, and not quite ready to face the challenges of turning another page on the calendar. I think I’ll take the time to share some personal observations of the last few days.

There is much excess in our celebration of Christmas. Very few would argue the point. This is seen in commercial advertising of all kinds. Businesses and companies are in competition for everyone’s Christmas dollars. People with limited incomes are coerced into spending money they don’t have, because they don’t want to be seen as uncaring or unloving at Christmas.

The Christmas story in the Bible centers on a family who has very little, but to this family was born the Son of God. It must grieve God to see what Christmas has become.

One thing I see and hear over and over at Christmas time is this: “It’s all about family.” Let me tell you, it isn’t all about family. It is about the birth of the Savior of the world. It is about God taking on human flesh, living among us and dying for our sins. God gave us marriage and families as part of his divine plan, and we are grateful that He did, but that is not what Christmas celebrates.

There are a lot of people attacking the sanctity and meaning of marriage these days, and I will defend the biblical definition of marriage and family to the end, but let us not put it in the place of the celebration of Christ’s birth and God’s plan to save people from their sin.

It takes a man and a woman to make a marriage and to have a family, but Christmas can be celebrated by people of all kinds, whether or not they have family, or even have the opportunity to be with their family. Christ came for all people.

In the words of the announcing angel, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people, today in the city of David, a Savior is born, Christ the Lord!”

Upon further reflection, I guess Christmas is about family…it is about the family of God. They are the ones who can truly celebrate the Savior’s birth.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

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The Gifts of the Magi

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I trust you will have, or have had a Merry Christmas. The weather certainly is fitting for Christmas in our part of the world. We’ll be celebrating at home this year, and will probably send some time just enjoying the view from out house at the lake.

There is a lesson for us in the part of the Christmas story where the Magi from the East bring gifts to the baby Jesus. It is a lesson that had not occurred to me before now. I had always just used this as an example to give gifts to others at Christmas. When younger, my focus may have been more on the receiving part; but in Jesus’ name, of course.

Scripture records the Magi, or wise men, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Matthew 2:11 we read, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and myrrh.”

They had come seeking a king. Their gifts are not given with the idea of giving assistance or of meeting a need. It would dishonor a king if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages. Deuteronomy 10:17 says God takes no bribe, so what do the gifts mean? How do they signify worship?

These gifts are strong indicators of strong desire for Christ himself. It was a way of saying, “The joy we experience is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. We have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. This desire we show by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not these things.

For us today, the lesson is to say to Jesus, you are my treasure, not these things I bring to you. May God take the truth of this passage of scripture and awaken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from our hearts, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel, Lord of my life. You alone can satisfy my heart, not my earthly possessions.”

God wants us to offer ourselves to his service. This is what pleases Him. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Praising Jesus,
Pastor Jerry

Bethlehem Star

Dear friends,
As I finish writing this Monday morning, it is windy and snowing. This follows a steady rain overnight.

Now for some Christmas meditation: The star of Bethlehem brought together three kind of people. These three types exist today. We’ll consider this in today’s visit.

The star appeared in the sky according to Scripture, and it caused some Persian scholars to begin a search for the promised King of Israel. We are told in Matthew’s gospel that these men came to Jerusalem seeking information concerning this king. They came to the palace of the reigning ruler, a man named Herod (Matthew 2:1-6).

News of a rival king disturbed Herod and all Jerusalem. We can assume that if King Herod was disturbed, the rest of the population would be as well. He had the reputation of being a ruthless ruler, and his being disturbed would certainly make the general population nervous. The only ones who seemed not to see this a big deal were the religious leaders. When asked where the promised King of Israel was to be born, the priests and religious leaders knew He was to be born in Bethlehem, but we do not see them excited to go and see for themselves.

I said there were three kinds of people represented here. The same types are present in our day.

First, we have the wise men. They were true seekers of the Messiah. Although they were Gentiles and pagans, they came to see and to worship the newborn King. The Jewish religious leaders were indifferent to the news of a newborn King, even though they knew the scriptures down to the exact place He would be born. Herod represents those who are adamantly opposed to the idea of God’s sending His own Son to defeat sin and death. They see Christianity as a threat to their self-worship.

The question for our time is which of these are you? Have you, like the Magi of old, found and followed the Savior? Are you indifferent to his message and his call on your life? Is it possible that you are opposed to the idea of sin and your need for a Savior? Jesus is calling at this Christmas season. What better time to begin your life with Him? He is the true Star of Bethlehem. He is ready to reveal Himself to those who seek Him.

Following Him,
Pastor Jerry

Christmas Preparations

Dear Friends,
What great weather we have been having! I’ve been enjoying these mild temperatures. It seems the older I get, the less cold tolerant I become. But, I also say the same thing about the heat in summer. Maybe I’m just becoming harder to please.

Work is progressing on the house at the lake. The kitchen sink needs to be installed, and then I will try to take a more relaxed approach to the rest of the work.

I return to the topic of Christmas this week. It just seems right for this time of year. Today, I want to share some thoughts about how we might prepare for Christmas, and the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Here are four things to consider.

First, meditate on the need for a Savior. Do this from a personal standpoint. Without the recognition of sin in our life, the season is meaningless. We cannot earn favor with God, we need a Savior and His name is Jesus. Christmas will not have its full effect until we realize our helplessness.

Second, spend time in sober self-examination. King David in Psalm 139:23 said, “Search me O God and know my heart.” In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul writes, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” Peter’s admonition is this: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15). Those without a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus have no basis for celebrating His birth.

Third, get excited about Christmas. Expect and anticipate the things of the season. Eagerly look forward to the holiday and all things Christian that it represents. Take a lesson from the shepherds. After the angel’s announcement, they hurried to find the Christ-child and left the stable in a state of wonder and rejoicing, telling everyone they met.

Fourth, be much in the Word. Meditate and memorize. Read and re-read the passages of prophecy and their fulfillment in Jesus’ incarnation. Read the Christmas story with your family as if you were hearing it for the first time. Here are a few suggestions: Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew chapter 1: through 2:12.

Christmas gives us cause for celebration, but it is also a time for reflection. In the words of the familiar Christmas carol: “Let every heart prepare Him room!”

Contemplating Christmas,
Pastor Jerry

Yearning for His Returning

This is the time of the year when the Church observes Advent. It is a time to count down the days to Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In His coming, He identified himself with those he came to save. He also has promised in His word to return someday for those who are His.

As we count down to Christmas, the young and the young-at-heart will be anxiously looking forward to the season and the gift giving (and receiving). In the Bible we see that God’s people, Israel, also looked for and anticipated the promised Messiah, who was to be born in Bethlehem. In the New Testament book of Luke, we read of a man name Simeon, who was looking for the Promised One.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation (Savior) of Israel…Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” When Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he took him in his arms and praised God. (Luke 2:25-28).

In the New Testament, the writers spoke of eagerly anticipating the second coming of the Lord Jesus. We, also, are told to expect His return at some future time. The apostle Paul speaks of those who “long for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). In another letter, Paul reminds us to live holy lives, “while we wait for “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

My question this week is this: Are you eagerly anticipating the return of the Lord? Are you ready for Him to come? How are you preparing?

Those who have placed their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be living a godly life as they look forward to His eventual return. In the midst of trial or blessing, they can say with the apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Are you yearning for His returning?

In Him,
Pastor Jerry