Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

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

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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

Peace on Earth

We finished with painting some rooms in our house this week. I suppose this could be a Christmas gift of sorts. This is something my lovely wife has been wanting for some time, and I’m glad we were able to find someone to get the job done. I will have more on this in an upcoming article.

Where is the promised peace?
After the angel announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds, we read this: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:8-14).

The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was of peace on earth, and as we read the words, we see that this peace would come to those on whom God’s favor rests, meaning those who put their faith in this newborn babe.

Jesus himself did not promise that true peace would exist before his second coming. He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34).

Another prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ is found in Isaiah 42:1-4. “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
til he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Two of the elements of the Advent season are hope and peace. For the Christian, this means hope as a settled assurance of things to come, and the peace that comes only from the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts.

Again, as he prepared to leave his disciples, Jesus promised to leave his peace with them. What did he mean, if he didn’t come to bring peace?

The peace he left us with is not peace as the world sees it (John 14:27), but instead, he leaves us with peace in our hearts because of our relationship with the Father through the Son. In this, we have hope.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Jerry

Waiting for Christmas

The weather word for the week is COLD! I knew we would pay for those warm November days sooner or later. Oh, well, this is Nebraska, after all.

In these weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday, my comments will focus on the reason it is so important, not just to Christians, but to the whole world.

One message of the Christmas season is that Jesus is going to return again. As we celebrate His birth, we also rejoice that He will return at some point to rule the world. Read Matthew’s account of John the Baptist’s message. (Matthew 3:1-11).

At His return, Jesus will judge the world. The Lord used the word judgment 20 times in the 4 gospels.

John’s message was the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the coming of the Savior of the world. We have the responsibility to carry his message forward in relation to the second coming of the Lord.

Jesus said, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John, yet the one who is least in the kingdom is greater than he” (Luke 7:28) How can this be?

“Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have a message infinitely greater even than the message of John and the honor of an even greater calling. We have the privilege of proclaiming the good news of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. We tell of his birth in Bethlehem. We proclaim that the Word has become flesh and dwelled among us. We preach Christ crucified as our substitute for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification. We openly promise that salvation comes to any sinner who believes and repents. John came before the Christ to prepare the way. We (Christians) come after Christ to preach his gospel. With John we declare that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, for it surely is” (Dr. Albert Mohler).

Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 9:6). Verse seven tells of his second coming: “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…”

The season is a celebration, but is it also a sober reminder of His promised return. Are you ready?

In Him,
Pastor Jerry

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

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