Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Ready for Christmas?

I’ll begin this week with a bit of reminiscing, prompted by something that happened to me a few weeks back.

It was an email I received, reminding me that I don’t use rancher type illustrations or analogies in these articles anymore; I must say the person was right. There is at least one reason for this. When this project began in late 1999, we were living on the ranch with no real thought of ever being anywhere else. Our perspective was from the ranch life, period.

Beginning in the fall of 2000, we started our ministry in Ericson. Over the years, our focus changed from full-time ranching to full-time ministry, ending with retirement from ranching around 2012, and from full-time ministry last May. We no longer view life from our earlier situations, so the things we see going on around us have taken on a different slant.

In all this, however, the message has not changed—the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and obedience to His Word. After all, it is possible to see illustrations of God’s truth in every situation and circumstance. As a side note, assuming I wrote an article a week for 16 years, that is a total of 832 devotionals. Amazing!

Now for this week’s devotional: As we traveled through some of our neighboring towns last week, we saw several people decorating houses and lawns for Christmas. The thought occurred to me, “I wonder how many of these folks are actually prepared to meet Christ, either at the end of their lives, or if he should return before they die?

A lot of time and effort is spent preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth, much less is spent on preparing for eternity. This year, as you hang those lights, decorate the Christmas tree, and set up your nativity scene, why not reflect on whether or not you have Jesus in your heart?

There was no room for Him in the Bethlehem Inn; is there room for him in your heart? The answer to this question is much more important than all the Christmas decorations you can put up. After all, to quote a time-worn saying: He’s the Reason for the season.

Isaiah 6:9… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

Prepare Him room,
Pastor Jerry

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Don’t Wait!

We are finishing up our last camping trip before cold weather sets in. No one knows exactly when that will be, we just know it is coming soon. The leaves are falling; many trees are already bare. The ones left with leaves are many-colored. Each on a different shade of red, orange, or yellow. Soon the tree line will be only cedars and pines with any color. Where there were signs of warm summer, the landscape will transition to winter, with its shades of gray and brown turning white with the winter snows.

The lake is being lowered for winter season, and people are getting their properties winterized. Those of us who are permanent residents are also making preparations for colder weather. We try to remember where we put that snow shovel, and which closet holds our winter coat and gloves.

As a nation, we are preparing for a general election and the choosing of a new president, along with other elected officials.

I wonder how many are making preparations for their eternity? The Bible speaks of making preparations for the day our earthly journey ends, yet in spite of all the signs and warnings, there are still a lot of folks who haven’t made those preparations.

These are the words of Jesus: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come… So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:42-44). To the Pharisees and Sadducees, He said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:2)

Peter wrote, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3-9).

Frozen water pipes can be repaired. To delay responding to God’s invitation of salvation has eternal significance. Today is the day of salvation. Please, do not wait.

In His love,
Pastor Jerry

April Showers

Hello everyone,
Monsoon! It has been raining since Saturday noon, it is now Monday morning and still it rains. One report here at the lake is of 5.5 inches thus far.

How about a few rain scriptures to start the week? “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God” (Hebrews 6:7). Speaking of the Creator, Paul said, “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17). Speaking of the Father, Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

Here are a few from the Old Testament. In a promise to Israel, God said this: “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit” (Leviticus 26:4). One more regarding Israel’s obedience in serving God faithfully: “Then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied” (Deuteronomy 11:14-15).

We need to note here that in spite of Israel’s disobedience, and by extension our own failure to follow God’s commands, God in his grace has continued to provide the sun and rain, so that we are blessed by them. He is still giving us opportunities to get right with him.

One more point to be made in this discussion is this: No one can get right with God by following the law, that is, the Ten Commandments, etc. We are made right with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ the Son (John 14:6).

The forecast is for the sun to return later this week. Scripture tells us the Son will return at some future point, also. This is good news for all who believe.

Keep looking up!
Pastor Jerry

God With Us

We have definitely had some weather to put us in mind of the Christmas season. After a few days of this chill, I was wondering if a vacation in the south might be a good idea. That said, I would probably take my chances on a warming trend, rather than go to the effort of loading up and moving for a few months.
Christmas is this week, and in another week, it will be a new year. As I reflect on the past year, I am thankful for many things. Among those are the progress on our lake house, and the improvements there, including getting a lawn established and other goals met.
I am thankful for the EMT’s of our community, and their service to its people. I probably have a greater understanding of their importance after having to call on them last summer. I don’t know yet if I properly thanked those who came to my aid, but I assure you, they were much appreciated! Also, I thank the Lord for giving me another year.
As we contemplate the reason we celebrate Christmas, I pray we never forget that it is about God coming to earth to live among us, and set for us an example of how we should live. Not only was Jesus our example, he came to save us from our sins. The scripture tells us, in fact, that he was “God with us”, and that his purpose in coming was to seek and to save the lost.
Let’s remember the angel’s words to Joseph concerning Mary: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” In the same passage, Matthew reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel—which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:20-23).
God with us, come to save his people from their sins. That is the gospel in a nutshell. I remember the words of Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas; That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone. Next week, we’ll spend some time looking toward the New Year.
Blessings to all,
Pastor Jerry

Preparing for Christmas

Today, I would like to share some thoughts on preparing for Christmas, as outlined in a recent article I read. We are about half-way through the season of Advent. Its purpose is to allow us to make preparations in anticipation of celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The writer of the article takes us to the time of John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. John was preparing the people for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

The story begins in Matthew 3:1—In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

So, first of all we see that preparing for His coming involves change, that’s what repentance is about. Could we perhaps change our thinking on how we spend our Christmas funds? Maybe we could contribute an amount equal to what we spend on ourselves to a homeless shelter or food bank.

John lived a simple life. He dressed in animal skins and ate what the and provided. Most of us wouldn’t do well in that kind of environment, but I’m sure we could simplify our lives to a greater degree than we do. As we try to make it to all the holiday activities, might we slow down a bit, and take the time to read and meditate on the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2? The second way we might prepare for the coming of the Lord, is to simplify.

Finally, we read in verses 5-6 of Matthew 3— “People went out to him (John)…Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

Without too much of a stretch, we can see the act of being baptized as worship. The symbolism for us might be that we leave our homes and go to a church or some other meeting place to worship Christ. We should set aside time to worship, both privately and with other believers.

Let’s prepare for Christmas with repentance, simplicity and worship.

Anticipating His coming
Pastor Jerry

Christmas is Coming

Thanksgiving is past, and now we look forward to the Christmas season. As we anticipate the first coming of the Lord Jesus as an infant in a stable, we can also rest assured that He will return again. However, when He returns to earth the next time, it will not be as a helpless baby, but as scripture tells us, He will come as a conquering King.

In the Bible, He is also described as a sacrificial Lamb. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain” (Revelation 5:12). In addition, He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5), and King of kings (Rev 17:14).

As we celebrate the Christmas season, let us not just focus on the Baby in the manger, but as world events seem to spin out of control, let’s remember His promise to come again and set things right. He will come again, and He will bring judgment on the world. Those who have placed their faith in His finished work on the cross will go to spend eternity with Him in heaven, while all others are condemned to eternity in hell.

It is okay to celebrate Christmas. I enjoy the season as much as the next person, but His first appearance was just the beginning of the story. He grew to manhood, was hung on a cross as payment for our sins, was buried, rose from the dead, and today is seated at the right hand of God the Father. In God’s perfect timing, He will return to earth as victorious King, and we will see what John saw in Revelation 5:13…Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

The Christmas season calls us to make a decision. To accept the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord, or reject this Gift that God given to us. What will your answer be?

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

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