It’s Christmas

Dear friends,
I suppose it has something to do with being retired and finding ways to entertain ourselves, but we have begun to follow recipe pages on Facebook. One recent post caught my eye. It went something like this: “Ten Recipes That Taste Like Christmas!”

My first thought was, what does Christmas taste like? Followed close behind by, what color is Christmas? If I had an opinion on these two questions, I suppose I would say the tastes of Christmas might be those of candy canes, eggnog, cinnamon, gingerbread, and a host of other foods and sweets. Then I would say the colors of Christmas would definitely be red, green, and gold, or others, depending on the individual.

Immediately following these came the question, what in the world do these things have to do with the incarnation of the Lord Jesus? Answer: Nothing.

Later, I saw a quote saying, “Christmas is mostly about giving glory to the only God who would step down from on high to lift those he loves.” This was from a preacher who probably should have rethought that statement, because to me, Christmas is not mostly, but all about giving glory to God for his indescribable gift.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16). Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Luke 2:10).

This is Christmas. At the stable in Bethlehem, the gift of a Savior was given. That gift was to include the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, followed by His resurrection. The gift of salvation. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas,
Pastor Jerry

Advertisements

Return to Advent

The Advent season is here. Actually, it is well under way. It is the time leading up to Christmas, and in today’s emphasis on decorating, shopping, and finding the perfect gifts, Advent gets pushed aside.

Advent proclaims an advent—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas at the end of it. In fact, Christmas lacks meaning without the season of advent going before it.

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipating. This is why Advent celebrations, both at home and in churches, focus on scriptures that anticipate the coming of Christ. In Micah, we read, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, …out of you WILL come for me one who will be ruler over Israel…” And in Matthew, Joseph is told that Mary “WILL give birth to a son, and you ARE TO give him the name Jesus…” Also, Luke tells us “while they were there, the TIME CAME for the baby to be born.”

Things like Advent calendars and crèches that remain empty until Christmas Eve give a shape to the anticipation of the season. And a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives. In this day of ‘instant’ gratification, it is hard for most of us to wait for anything. We want it here and now!

It’s not too late to turn our attention away from the gifts to the advent of the Greatest Gift, and the anticipation of His return. As Paul tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

We can still take time to spend time with our families, reading the scriptures that relate to Advent, pray, and sing some Christmas hymns that anticipate the coming of Christ.

Then, when Christmas Day arrives, we can greet it, not with a sense of relief that the Christmas season is almost over, but with joy for the great gift. Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Answered Prayers

Dear friends,
My good wife and I have been dealing with colds this week and to be honest, I just haven’t felt like writing. I have this article I recently came across, and would like to share it with you.

God hears and answers every prayer, but there are a precious few to which he always says, “Yes.” The prayers always answered positively are the prayers which explicitly ask God to deliver on his promises to us. God will always say Yes when we ask him to do his work through his word.
I have found at least six basic prayers God will always answer.
1. Glorify yourself through me.
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

2. Forgive me.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
3. Reveal more of yourself to me.

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31:33–34).

4. Give me wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

5. Strengthen me to obey you.
As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure(Philippians 2:12–13).

6. Spread your gospel to the lost.
This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
How do we know God will answer these six prayers? Because he says he will in the first place, and then, even more, because these prayers sum up what God has promised to do through the gospel. This is what God has said he would most surely do.

Be blessed,
Pastor Jerry

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

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

Give Thanks

Dear friends,
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
What is the Thanksgiving holiday? It has always been about giving thanks to God, our Creator and Provider, for all things good. These would include crops harvested, good health, a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in, food on the table, family, country, and especially thanks for our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Most people understand saying please and thank you, as a matter of being polite to one another. And, most people thank other people for kindnesses shown, for gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and at other times, as well. But when it comes to a thanksgiving holiday, who do those who do not believe in the God of the Bible thank for all their blessings? Think about that.

Who indeed, can we thank for the very breath we breath, if not a Creator? What sense could it make to thank some pool of primordial soup, as some see the beginning of life? The Bible says “In the beginning, God”, that is good enough for me, and I will praise Him to the end of time and beyond.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5).

Jesus said it: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

The chorus to an old hymn comes to mind at this time of year:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

May you have many blessings to count this Thanksgiving Day,

Praising Him,
Pastor Jerry

Stand for the Truth

Last week it seemed somehow we skipped fall, and went right into winter. Those balmy Indian Summer days evaporated into cold and snow. I know, we haven’t had any great amount of snow, but really, I had hoped for a longer time of nice weather. One thing is for sure, I am not in control of the weather!

We got to go back to our old neighborhood church this past Sunday. I was invited to preach in the absence of their regular pulpit supply person. If you are so inclined, you might pray that little congregation could soon get a new pastor. There is much talk about reaching rural America with the gospel, and that church goes beyond most folks’ concept of what is rural. Sybrant Community Church is soon to celebrate its 100th year as a church. That this church is still in existence,qq is a testament to the faithfulness of God to His people. It is a gospel witness in that community.

Teachers of another gospel, one that is completely different from that of Jesus and His apostles, have been around since the beginning of Christianity. Now, it seems to me that we are witnessing these false teachers in increasing numbers. As many contemporary churches are trying to accommodate all the unbiblical ideas and even heretical teaching, in an attempt to “reach more people”, the gospel is being watered down and even ignored. Many people are being led away from the truth by these people.

The apostle Paul had harsh words for the church in Galatia. He wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6-7).

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine…. They will turn their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 2:2-4).

Folks, that time is here. Pray for, and join with those who proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Spiritual warfare is real.

In Him,
Pastor Jerry