Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

A Christmas Story

Dear friends,
As I begin writing, the sun is shining. This is a welcome sight, since for most of the last week, it has been cloudy and cold. The snow of last weekend is still hanging around, and with the snowy background, the Christmas lights at the lake have taken on a new look.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, so also, we see the beginning of what might be called ‘insanity season.’ Christmas is being banned in the public square, Christmas music is suddenly not politically correct, and right here in mid-America, a misinformed school official has banned candy canes. However, instead of commenting on these, I want to share a real Christmas story this week.

Back in the days of old (1980’s), a young ranch couple were struggling through some financial hard-times. It seemed there might not be funds to purchase Christmas gifts for the couple’s two children. In a conversation with his pastor, the young dad mentioned their dilemma, because he needed to share his thoughts with someone.

About a week before Christmas, there came a phone call from the pastor, inviting the couple to stop in later that evening. They went to the parsonage, and after some small talk, the pastor said, “my wife and I have a little money saved up, and we want to give your something to buy gifts for your boys.” He handed the dad a check for one hundred dollars. Suddenly, the Christmas season seemed much brighter for the little family. Needless to say, there were tears of joy and gratitude in that house.

Years have passed, and the now much older young rancher has never forgotten that Christmas gift. May you have opportunities to brighten the holidays for some less fortunate family this Christmas season.

The Lord Jesus came to earth as God’s gift to mankind. The apostle Paul describes God’s grace and His salvation as His indescribable gift. It is this gift we celebrate, as we give to others in this giving time of the year.

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). As the psalmist said, “Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 72:19).

Christmas blessings,
Pastor Jerry

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Landmarks

Hello friends,
I trust your Thanksgiving celebration was enjoyable, and you were able to count great numbers of blessings from the past year. We made a couple of road trips, traveling to South Dakota on Wednesday, to help Alex as he moves into a different house closer to school and work. Thursday, we joined with some other folks for a Thanksgiving meal and great fellowship, then on Friday to Neligh to celebrate with Ryan and the three grandsons.

We all have them; those places that we use to mark roads, or to remind us of some event in the past. As we traveled highway 281 north of O’Neill last Wednesday, we passed what is known locally as the “stone windmill.” I remarked that it was falling down with the passage of time. I thought of other landmarks I have known. Most have disappeared, but they seem to be always replaced with another name, or another object. Those places and events of life, seem to require some sort of marker for those who pass their way.

Growing up, where our county road connected to the major highway, there was a stone house. Everyone told people unfamiliar with the area to turn at the ‘stone house.’ Eventually, the old house was torn down, and being eight miles from town, the intersection became the eight-mile road.

In another place, three large cottonwood trees marked a t-intersection. Travelers were instructed to turn at the three-tree corner. After the road department cut those trees down, three more volunteer cottonwoods were allowed to grow up in their place. It is still the three-tree corner.

Other, more familiar landmarks have stood for many years, but show the wear and tear of erosion and other changes. I’m reminded of Chimney Rock in western Nebraska, among others. Landmarks may disappear, but we find replacements. In this age of GPS, people still need those landmarks to keep them on the right road.

The Bible can be compared to a landmark. Its purpose being to show the lost the way to salvation, and for helping to keep God’s people on the right path.

If I may paraphrase Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, landmarks disappear, but the word of God stands forever.” As the old song says, “The Bible stands, like a rock, undaunted.” When all other landmarks are gone, the Bible stands.

Standing on the promises,
Pastor Jerry

Give Thanks Daily

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s the time of year to give thanks for all our blessings. It is no coincidence, I believe, that the holiday coincides with the end of harvest. If we can’t count our blessing during this time of the year, when can we? In spite of the fact the Bible encourages thankfulness from God’s people, over the years I have noted that it seems easier to go to the Lord with a list of wants, instead of thanking him for blessings received.

Things we are thankful for in our house this week: Friends and family. A great place to live and enjoy our retirement. Our church family. God’s creation. Each new day. Good health, and the list goes on…

Speaking of the need to give thanks, here are some Old Testament commands of God to his people:
1 Chronicles 16:8… Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Also, verse 34… Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

In 1 Chronicles 23:30; in a description of the duties of the Levites serving in the temple, we read: They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening.

Then there is the witness of his people: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17). “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Let’s not just be thankful at Thanksgiving; may we start and end every day with an attitude of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Praising Him,
Pastor Jerry

Planning for Eternity

Our week started out rather nice, but by Thursday there was a radical change in the weather. We experienced snow for the second time in recent weeks. Friday morning, the temperature here was 13 degrees, with a stiff northwest breeze. I am definitely not ready for this.

The election is over now, and whether or not you are satisfied with the result, this is still the best place in the world to live, in my humble opinion. We are still a free society, and have freedoms that are not available in many parts of the world. Let us not take those freedoms for granted.

I have a habit of reading the obituary page of the newspaper. One phrase I see now and then, is that a person died unexpectedly. I suppose it is that the person died without warning. No one really expects to die, even though we know it is a part of life.

Knowing that we will pass from this life at some point in time, the question should be, am I ready to die? What preparations have I made for this event? Many people do estate planning, purchase cemetery plots, and make funeral arrangements in advance. But how many stop to consider where they will spend eternity?

There seems to be a general lack of concern for what lies beyond this life. Most people, I believe, just live in the here and now, with little thought of anything beyond. The truth is that there is life after death, and everyone will spend eternity somewhere. The Bible gives two destinations. One is heaven, the other is hell. There are some who believe in heaven, but think they will be allowed in because of their good deeds, and that they are in better standing with God than others they know. Some claim hell will be their destination, after all their friends will be there. Still others believe there will be opportunity to choose, after they die.

The Bible says this: Man is destined to die once, and after that, to face judgment. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, there is no other name by which we must be saved. Now is the day of salvation.

No one is promised tomorrow. Where will you spend eternity if you should ‘die unexpectedly’? Make those preparations now. Place your faith and trust in the Savior.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

Words

Does it seem that we have gone directly from summer to winter? I hope this is just a preview, and that we can go back to fall for a while. After all, winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21.

As I read the news and follow conversations on social media, I am appalled at the lack of civil conversation. It seems everyone has a chip on their shoulder and is just going through life waiting to be offended by some other person. The use of profanity and threatening speech is at a level unseen in my life. The Bible has much to say about our speech, and the use of words. It may be that too few people have any knowledge of biblical teaching. If so, here are a few passages to start with.

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37).

Psalm 19:14… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 36:1-4; Concerning the speech of the wicked. “The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.”
Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Relating to holy living, as is commanded in scripture: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips… Therefore, as God’s chosen people…, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:8-12).

As James said, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry

The Lord is God

On a personal note, I celebrated another birthday last week. I find those milestones pass much quieter than when we were younger. I am grateful to God for His goodness and grace in allowing me another year.

We have had more crazy Nebraska weather. I know it is purely a reminder that we are in that changing of the seasons, but we have had several extremes this past week. It was pretty cool for a couple of days, then we had a day that the temperature made it almost to ninety, followed by a rainy day that only made it to the mid-forties! Oh, and don’t forget the wind. And now some food for thought.

I have noticed the tendency to fail to capitalize the word God, when folks post prayer requests or praise items on social media. I wonder, is this a sign of our secular or post-Christian era, that people don’t have a concept of the only true God, or have we just become lazy in our use of spelling and grammar? Another possibility is that we are just not reading the Bible, and have no instruction in who He is. There is actually a serious lack of Bible literacy today. Here is an observation from a man who is heavily invested in ministering to high-school students: “Never before have we encountered so many high schoolers who have never read the Bible, and much worse, who simply do not even own a Bible.”

New age philosophy and secular thinking promotes the idea of many ‘gods’, or that we are all equal to God in some way. In those media posts, one wonders what god the writer is calling on, or giving thanks to? The first of the Ten Commandments reads this way: You shall have no other gods before (besides) .Me. (Exodus 20:3). God is deserving of our worship. There is no other. I believe He will get His deserved respect from everyone in du time.

From Romans 14:10-12… “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As sure as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; and every tongue will confess to God.’
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Simply put, “Fear God and keep His commandments…” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Trusting Him,
Pastor Jerry

Truth

With the passage of the recent cold front, the humming birds have flown south and I suspect some humans might also be considering migrating south. Personally, I enjoy the different seasons, so I will be here when the snow flies and later, when the grass grows in the spring.

There is one thing seems to be at the top of the news these days. That one thing is “Truth!” Who is telling the truth? Where do you find what is true? Can the truth even be known?

What is truth? It is the question asked by Pilate, as he was interrogating Jesus. One commentary says this: “Ironically, the man charged with determining the truth in the matter glibly dismissed the relevance of truth in the presence of the One who is truth incarnate.” Another says, it is significant that Pilate suddenly turned away from the One who is the Truth, without waiting for answer.

This is exactly the way it is today. Those who claim to know what is true will not consider the source of Truth. They turn away when faced with the truths revealed in the Bible. So close, and yet they deny there is truth that can be trusted.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” (John 14:6).
Jesus, praying for His disciples, asked the Father to “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17).

Jesus uttered the phrase: “I tell you the truth”, 30 times in Matthew’s gospel, 13 in Mark, 9 in Luke, and 25 times in John.

Paul speaks of “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me…” (Titus 1:1-3).

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows (James 1:17). These gifts include the truth, which does not change.

Truth can be known. Truth exists in the written word of God. The Bible is the standard by which all truth claims are to be measured. Truth is not different for one individual over another.

In Truth,
Pastor Jerry