Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

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

Giving or Getting?

Warmer weather is again on the horizon. I see 60 degrees forecast for Wednesday, but we will wait to see if that happens. Christmas decorating continues at our lake house. My spouse has been a bit under the weather with a cold this past week, so progress has been slow.

In other news, Alex celebrated his 16th birthday last week. It was also the day he got the braces off his teeth. We observed the occasion with a trip to Red Lobster. Along with all that, he now has his driver’s license. Time marches on, doesn’t it?

Around Thanksgiving time, one of the cell phone companies ran an ad that emphasized the term “Thanksgetting.” I have to admit I had not thought of that concept. In fact, it seems to be a more fitting slogan for our modern Christmas celebration. Most of the advertising at this time of year seems to be geared more toward what will I get for Christmas, instead of what can I give?

If God is our example, we should be much more concerned with giving that with receiving. Remember, not only did He give us life and breath, He loved the whole world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). James tells us that God is the source of all good things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). The Bible lists many gifts that God has given. Here are just a few: In addition to life itself, there is the sun, plants and animals for food, water, clothing, marriage between a man and a woman, children. Also, the ability to work, artistic abilities, and many more.

In gratitude for those gifts, we should to use them for the building of His kingdom, and for a life of good works. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders, quoted the Lord Jesus, saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In gratitude to God, may we concentrate this Christmas season on giving, instead of getting.

Blessings to all,
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

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

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