Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Good New Year

Dear friends,
Ready or not, 2019 is knocking at the door. As we contemplate the new year, one thing I have noticed, is there are always a few people who say that the previous year was bad, and they are hoping the upcoming year will be better. I have always considered myself somewhat of an optimist. Some would call me a dreamer, and they would be entitled to their opinion. But to me, being positive is more productive than looking at the negative.

In thinking about the good year/bad year question, I wonder how we should describe a bad year, as opposed to a good year? Do we dwell on the bad things that happened, or do we look for some good in that experience? If 2018 has been a “bad” year for you, what would make 2019 a “good” year. We plan for what we would like to happen, but ultimately God is in charge of the future.

When we lost everything in the agricultural depression of the eighties, it was a bad experience at the time, but we learned valuable lessons that helped us immensely in the years that followed. In the bigger picture, it brought about positive results.

Of course, bad things happen in our lives, but to label a whole year as bad is probably an overstatement. If we would step back and look at the previous 365 days, I suspect the good days will outnumber the bad. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, insisted that for believers, those who love God, and are called according to his purpose, all things work for good in some way. (Romans 8:28).

We may certainly use those trials in our lives to give testimony to God’s faithfulness in each and every situation. We can focus on the negative, or we can turn a bad experience into a good one. For the Christian, every situation, whether seen as good or not, can be used to give glory and praise to God.

Here is a verse from the Bible that may be helpful. In the Old Testament, Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, had this to say to them; “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” (Genesis 50:20). Who can say God isn’t doing the same today?

Moving on,
Pastor Jerry

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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

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

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

Serious Worship

The weather is cooler as I write this on Friday, and the wind has switched to a northerly direction. We were visited by three humming birds this week. It is fascinating to watch them as they jockey for positions at the feeder. I am amazed that such a little bird can find our meager offering of sugar water in this big world. What a testimony to God’s design for His creation!

If you spent much time in church in an earlier age, you were most certainly admonished by your parents to be quiet. This is not the trend we see today. As church buildings became more multi-purpose in design, there was a movement away from the idea of preparing for worship as you entered the building. Maybe it was due to the lack of those traditional fixtures, such as pictures of biblical events and other items that set a place of worship apart.

I would not say today’s more informal worship gatherings are wrong, nor are they even unbiblical. If one spends any time researching worship in the Old Testament, you would find references to shouting, singing, dancing, and musical instruments, along with reading and proclaiming the Word of the Lord. In the New Testament, we also see explicit and implicit references to celebration in worship.

True worship, I believe, demands that we are to have a sense of awe as we stand in the presence of Holy God, but there is room for joy and laughter, along with the fellowship of like-minded brothers and sisters in the Lord.

As a pastor said last week as he prepared to deliver his message, “We have had a little fun and some light-hearted conversation, but it is time to be serious and listen to what God has to say through the preaching of His Word.”

I am a ‘fan’ of traditional worship, with its hymns and other traditions, but I am not going to say it is the only way. I have seen the younger generations worship, and I am convinced they are as committed to giving glory to God as any of us ‘older’ people. You see, it is all about the heart and our relationship with God and his Son Jesus Christ. If your heart is right, and the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ is preached, worship is what God intended.

To His glory,
Pastor Jerry

On Freedom

The 2018 fireworks display at Lake Ericson was held Saturday evening, and ended in a rain storm. The early date was necessary due to availability of qualified persons. There were a lot of families who enjoyed the weekend at the lake, even though it wasn’t a holiday. Independence Day falls on Wednesday this year, but we should be able to celebrate this country’s independence every day. There are those who criticize her, and want to make harmful changes to our constitution, but America is still the greatest nation on earth, bar none.

Perhaps our greatest responsibility as citizens of this country, is to first of all, thank God for his blessings through the years, followed by prayers for the future of the United States of America. After all, if not for His guidance and protection in the past, this nation might never have been created.

There is another freedom for which we owe God our allegiance. He sent His Son to die for our sins, and in response to his offer of salvation, we are set free from the bondage of sin. True freedom in the spiritual sense means not only are we free from the penalty of sin, we are set free from the guilt that results from disobeying Him.

In him (Jesus) and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 1:12). Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Finally, in these verses, we find instructions on how to live as citizens in a country, under God’s direction: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king (president), as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right… Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:13-16).

Happy Independence Day,
Pastor Jerry

Contentment

It seems we are trapped in an endless winter. There have been a few days when the temperatures resembled spring, and then we have a week of unseasonable coolness. Actually, as I remember, there have been spring seasons like this in the past. In the “old days”, we drove cattle across country for 20 or so miles to summer pasture. I recollect some of those trips, when we were sure we would either freeze, or come down with pneumonia because of the cold rain. There are few things that make you appreciate a warm, dry place like riding horseback all day in those conditions. On second thought, I have it pretty easy these days, so I’ll quit complaining about the weather.

We have been enjoying life at the lake. The flowering trees and shrubs are in full bloom. The grass is green, and our back yard is populated with all kinds of birds. Some are just passing through, and others will be summer residents. We have several varieties of orioles and finches, and have enjoyed the presence of a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds. All this brings a renewed appreciation, and sense of thankfulness for God’s creation. On that note, I’ll just share some thoughts from God’s word.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26).

The apostle Paul had this to say about contentment in life: “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength… And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 11-13, 19).

In other words, God is able to provide for our needs, just as he cares for the birds, if we will only trust him. His storehouse of riches is inexhaustible, but he is not bound to give us everything we want. There is a great difference between want and need, and his promise is to meet our needs.

In His caring hands,
Pastor Jerry