Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

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

It’s Christmas Time

Hello friends,
I’m writing early this week, because of early copy deadlines. I’m trusting the system to get season’s greeting to you in a timely manner, so here goes!

Merry Christmas! It is that time again, the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior. The day may, or may not, reflect the actual time of year for the event, but at any rate, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as it was written in scripture, ‘just at the right time’.

The apostle John wrote in his gospel, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. The Word was Jesus, Son of God, the promised Messiah.

Isaiah prophesied His coming this way;
For to us a child is born, to us a child 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. (Isaiah 9:6-7)>

The apostle Paul reminds us of this in Galatians chapter four; But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full right of sons. Galatians 4:4-5).

Finally, from Colossians 1:15-18… “He 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. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Our world today seems to be out of control, and we often wonder where it will all end. Take heart, God is in control. His plan will be brought to its completion. As we come to the end of the year, let’s remember, God’s got this.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Prepare Him Room

Hello friends,
We awoke this Sunday morning to several inches of new snow on the ground. We drove to Niobrara Saturday, to meet and have lunch with Alex, and except for being a bit chilly, it was a nice day. Last week, we made a trip to Grand Island to get a redo on a tire repair. We had it fixed a couple of weeks ago, but it was still losing air pressure. When the tire was fixed, the shop manager handed me the tire tester that I had left on the hood. The Lord looks out for the forgetful, too!

Speaking of the Lord’s provision for mankind, we are rapidly approaching Christmas Day, when we celebrate the arrival of the Lord Jesus to a little town called Bethlehem. You recall the story… Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, only to find there was no place to stay, but in a stable (Luke 2:1-7). The inn-keeper has gotten a lot of negative publicity over the years for turning them away, but God was working out his plan for the Messiah to be born in humble surroundings.

We have no record of the conversation between the inn-keeper and Joseph. What if he had known who he was turning away, would he somehow make room for them? Sadly, today there are millions who are turning the Savior away, because they can find no room in their hearts for Jesus. Many Christians, I fear, sometimes get so caught up in the commercial aspect of the holiday, they forget the Reason for the season.

Years ago, there was a book written called, “My Heart, Christ’s Home.” In it the writer likened his heart to a home where Jesus wanted to live. The man went room-to-room through his “home”, and asked himself whether each one was fit for Jesus to visit. He found many things he needed to clean out before it was a proper dwelling for the Lord.

It is a sad fact that many today have no room for a Savior in their hearts, but I suspect most Christian hearts need a proper housecleaning from time to time. Do you remember the lyrics to the old Christmas carol? “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him Room.”

It is not too late to make room for Him.

Celebrating His coming,
Pastor Jerry

The Coming King

Dear friends,
More cool weather is in store for the next few days. We have had a few days of spring-like temperatures to give us encouragement, but it seems we are to wait a little longer for the real thing. I am convinced there are warm days and nights ahead, but we must believe our patience is being perfected through this.

Sunday afternoon and evening, I, and several others attended the semi-annual meeting of our church association. We are an association of small evangelical churches from this part of Nebraska, committed to getting the gospel message into the Sandhills. It encourages me to hear what the Lord is doing through the various ministries in our several towns. Through those same churches, God is using his people to minister in places like an RV park in Arizona, and several small towns in the flooded area of northeast Nebraska.

As the 2020 political season seems to be heating up, I am reminded that many people in our country are trying to find just the right person who they think will deliver our country from whatever they see as the greatest need. My thoughts go immediately to the word of God and what he has to say about putting our faith in politicians. From the Christian perspective, the only way to have true deliverance is to put our faith in God, and in his Son.

In the end, we must understand that it is not the President, not the Governor, not the Queen of England, nor any other politician or ruler, but the King of Kings who will save us from the evil that surrounds us.

Or, as the psalmist reminds us; “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7)

At this time in our history, Psalm 2 reminds us of the one who will eventually make everything right:
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.
“Let us break their chains, they say, “and throw off their fetters.”
The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. (Psalm 2:1-4).

The King is coming! Are you ready to meet him? I pray you know Him as your Savior and Lord.

For Him,
Pastor Jerry

A Reminder

Another week has gone by, and the year is drawing to a close. The shortest day of the year is rapidly approaching. and by the time March comes around, the lengthening of daylight hours will be noticeable. It is also the time when, due to the holidays, we who contribute articles to our local newspapers will find new deadlines to meet.

If my next few columns seem a bit disoriented, I can blame it on being forced out of the comfortable little rut I have gotten into. Those who do not read this in the newspaper, will just have to play along, because everyone gets the same material, just by different means.

This week, I will share a thought or two about Christmas, and what I believe we need to remember about the holiday. I see others writing what I would call ‘feel good’ statements, about the meaning of Christmas, and I think where did they get that idea?

One particular statement caught my eye this week. It was written by the pastor of a mainline church. The article ended with the thought that Jesus came to give the gift of love, and to be a great teacher and an example to all mankind. This is true in a sense, I suppose, but the words of Jesus bring a different message; one that is often overlooked in our day.

Of course we all know John 3:16, in which Jesus says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” But the verse goes on to say that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. In the very next verse, he says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Here are more words of Jesus: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 5:17). “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17b).

“There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15).

In His enduring love,
Pastor Jerry

The Season Begins

Hello friends,
Already it is December. Soon we’ll be trying to learn a new number to write on our checks, that is if anyone writes checks anymore. Here at our place we have experienced our second winter storm of the season, and winter hasn’t officially arrived. We are well protected from the wind here, so I doubt we had as much drifting as in other places. Also, I think the total snowfall here was less than forecast, and I’m okay with that.

It is the season of Advent for the Christian church. We celebrate the first coming of our Lord, and look forward to his promised return. As I observe people, it seems most don’t understand the significance of Christmas, let alone any thought of Christ returning again. There are colored lights and evergreen trees with all kinds of decorations, including a herald angel at the top. Presents under the tree, and displays of shepherds and wise men meeting at the nativity with gifts for baby Jesus.

But, may I suggest that if you asked most people to explain the meaning of Christmas, they would probably be hard pressed to give a clear presentation of the reason for the season. Jesus came to pay the penalty for sin, he lives in the hearts of those who believe, and he is coming again at some future time.

Here is the problem, as I see it. Most have a pretty good grasp on the idea of Jesus’ first coming, and will understand that he was raised from the dead, and is in heaven with the Father. The downside is they live as though he is ‘out there’ somewhere, while failing to understand his presence in the world. Their lives are lived no different from those who claim no knowledge of Jesus or God.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, his disciples were told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I found this appropriate quote from William Barclay, a Scottish theologian: “The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ.”

Waiting for His appearing,
Pastor Jerry

It’s Christmas

Dear friends,
I suppose it has something to do with being retired and finding ways to entertain ourselves, but we have begun to follow recipe pages on Facebook. One recent post caught my eye. It went something like this: “Ten Recipes That Taste Like Christmas!”

My first thought was, what does Christmas taste like? Followed close behind by, what color is Christmas? If I had an opinion on these two questions, I suppose I would say the tastes of Christmas might be those of candy canes, eggnog, cinnamon, gingerbread, and a host of other foods and sweets. Then I would say the colors of Christmas would definitely be red, green, and gold, or others, depending on the individual.

Immediately following these came the question, what in the world do these things have to do with the incarnation of the Lord Jesus? Answer: Nothing.

Later, I saw a quote saying, “Christmas is mostly about giving glory to the only God who would step down from on high to lift those he loves.” This was from a preacher who probably should have rethought that statement, because to me, Christmas is not mostly, but all about giving glory to God for his indescribable gift.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16). Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Luke 2:10).

This is Christmas. At the stable in Bethlehem, the gift of a Savior was given. That gift was to include the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, followed by His resurrection. The gift of salvation. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas,
Pastor Jerry

Return to Advent

The Advent season is here. Actually, it is well under way. It is the time leading up to Christmas, and in today’s emphasis on decorating, shopping, and finding the perfect gifts, Advent gets pushed aside.

Advent proclaims an advent—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas at the end of it. In fact, Christmas lacks meaning without the season of advent going before it.

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipating. This is why Advent celebrations, both at home and in churches, focus on scriptures that anticipate the coming of Christ. In Micah, we read, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, …out of you WILL come for me one who will be ruler over Israel…” And in Matthew, Joseph is told that Mary “WILL give birth to a son, and you ARE TO give him the name Jesus…” Also, Luke tells us “while they were there, the TIME CAME for the baby to be born.”

Things like Advent calendars and crèches that remain empty until Christmas Eve give a shape to the anticipation of the season. And a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives. In this day of ‘instant’ gratification, it is hard for most of us to wait for anything. We want it here and now!

It’s not too late to turn our attention away from the gifts to the advent of the Greatest Gift, and the anticipation of His return. As Paul tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

We can still take time to spend time with our families, reading the scriptures that relate to Advent, pray, and sing some Christmas hymns that anticipate the coming of Christ.

Then, when Christmas Day arrives, we can greet it, not with a sense of relief that the Christmas season is almost over, but with joy for the great gift. Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Getting or Giving?

Hello friends,
We have endured another week of very mild temperatures. Somehow, I feel we will pay for these at some point. It has been good for putting up those remaining outdoor Christmas decorations, though.

I’m doing something different this week. Since Black Friday and all the other special shopping days are past, I thought it might be helpful to think about the following article from the “Babylon Bee”, a satirical news site that pokes fun at current culture.

Headline: Nation Repents of Thanksgiving with Day of Violent Pillaging
U.S.—Unable to fake contentment and thankfulness for one more second, citizens across the nation awoke Friday and immediately set out on a frenzied mission to violently pillage and strip bare all nearby retail locations, determined to acquire any discounted goods they desired, by any means necessary, numerous reports confirmed.

Pillagers beat each other with various weapons and instruments, wrestled on the floor like animals, and even exchanged gunfire in some locations, all in the name of taking hold of material goods they desired.
Sources confirmed that the unfettered violence occurred less than 24 hours after these same people sat around tables with family and friends, over large meals, and gave thanks for the many blessings in their lives.

“12 hours of gratefulness annually is way too much for the majority of humankind to stomach,” experts revealed amidst the day’s chaos. “What we see on Black Friday is just human nature’s standard, guttural reaction to the annual tradition of acting like the world does not revolve around them for one whole day.”

Here is what Jesus said about this kind of behavior: Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4).
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and you Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:29-31).

Perhaps this might give us pause, as we consider the real meaning of Christmas in the days ahead.

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

The Gift

Hello friends,
It is the last week of November. The Thanksgiving leftovers are almost gone, and after being thankful for God’s blessings of the past year, we can now concentrate on celebrating the greatest gift ever given, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Christmas lights are up at the Lake, and if you are in the area, it is worth driving out to see them. As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The past few days have been unseasonably warm, so it may be harder to think Christmas. However, there are only four weeks until Christmas, and then a brand new year. As I look back, I see many changes in the past year, and I don’t believe they were all positive. That is not to say there was nothing positive, just that those things were less noticeable.

We are reminded at this time of year, that God came to earth in human form, to set in motion His plan to redeem a sinful, fallen world. There was a quote in our church bulletin this morning that said, “It is really sad how much of our time, effort and energies are captured by the cultural busyness of Christmastime, rather than the core of the Advent story. We allow Christmas to be more about created stuff than it is about the incarnation of the Creator. We’ve turned the story on its head.”

Here is a refresher, just in case anyone might need it:
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).

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

The apostle Paul, in reminding the church at Corinth of the gospel, wrote this, “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, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Yours,
Pastor Jerry