Pastor’s Message

 

PREVIOUS MESSAGES

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May 2015

Once a month at Zion United Church of Christ, a well-known Bible story is incorporated into the worship service as an informational item.  This is done to remind people of events in the Bible that sometimes might not be completely understood.  This past Sunday, the story was about Joshua and the battle of Jericho.  The book of Joshua follows the first five books of the Old Testament, called the Pentateuch,which are often attributed to Moses.  In the book of Joshua, a new leader takes the place of the deceased Moses.  This leader is called out by God – Joshua is his name.  He is the son of Nun who was Moses’ minister, or attendant, since his youth.

After crossing the river Jordan with all of Israel, Joshua’s first test was the city of Jericho. Two spies were sent into the city where its residents had already heard how the people of Israel had crossed the river Jordan on dry land.  The spies became hunted men in the city.  Rahab the harlot, hid the spies and helped them escape.  The spies returned to the Israelite people and plans were made to invade Jericho.

God spoke to Joshua about the invasion.  A procession of seven priests with trumpets made of ram’s horns, followed by the Ark of the Covenant, more priests, and all the men of war were to march around the city once each day for six days.  The priest were to blow their trumpets.  On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times while the priests blew their horns. Then, when the priests made a final long blast, all of the people were to make a great shout.

This was done according to God’s instructions. The walls fell down flat when the shout went up and the people of Israel went into the city and destroyed it all, except, as agreed, Rahab and her family who were spared because she had helped the spies.  All spoils of gold, silver, and iron were to go to the treasury of Israel, nothing was to be kept personally.  But someone must have kept something for himself, for things did not go so well after that.

Joshua’s next venture went wrong.  He had sent three thousand men to take the city of Ai.  Defended only by 36 men, the city of Ai was able to beat back the Israelites.

It is just like this today.  With God all things are possible, but turn your back on Him, and failure is the result.  Today it often seems like our nation is turning its back on God.  As God-fearing people we cannot turn away.  We must get down on our knees and pray for the people of this country and the world.

Dennis Hanner, Pastor Zion UCC


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Feb/March 2015

I guess you have spent the last few days trying to stay warm and comfortable. Everyone seems either sick or cold. I, for one, am ready for spring, but I realize that the future weather is unknown until it gets here. Speaking of the cold and unknown, I have heard it said, “It will be a cold day in hell when the Cubs win the World Series.” The weather extremes affect each person differently. A case in point, the other cold day I saw a young man outside with a heavy coat on but wearing shorts and flip flops. Each to his own.

When I think of the cold, I always remember the story of the missionary that went to the coldest place on earth to win souls to God. When he told them that “Hell” was going to be hot with fire and brimstone, they were ready to “go to hell.” That says something about their point of view. Each soul looks at their station in life differently. To each a reward is something to be enjoyed through their own perspective. As a Christian, the reward that I look forward to is Eternal Life with my (the) God in Heaven.

Heaven, is a place that produces many questions as to what it is like. I have been asked, “Will I be able to see and talk to my loved ones?” Those might be parents, or mates who have passed before, or children who went to the Lord before their time. I‘ve been asked, “Will we have bodies? What will we do? Will we see Jesus?” I have never been able to answer all the questions. What I expect is peace, and if a certain circumstance gives you that peace, that is what you can look forward to. My mother looked forward to seeing my infant brother again as would I. So what is heaven? My answer is that it will give you peace beyond all comprehension.

In the New International Version Jesus says in John 14:2, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” The New Living Translation says, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? The King James Translation uses the words “many Mansions” instead of “rooms” as a description.

A Place for me and Peace – I like the sound of that. That is what we are promised. Look forward to your place in peace.

Dennis R Hanner Pastor of Zion UCC

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December 2014/January 2015

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Did it fit? Was it the right color and style? I did! We have three children and seven grandchildren that we get presents for at Christmas and birthdays. My wife and I have sweated and worried over presents we have given only to see them ignored. The recipient might offer a halfhearted thanks or, when they go home, accidentally forget to take the present with them. This means our time and money has been wasted, and feelings are hurt, both ours and the person we gave the gift to.

As parents and grandparents, we have now developed a new understanding of gift-giving. The color is always right, and even if the size may be smaller than wanted, it is generally accepted with a smile and a thank you. We even give the same for birthdays, although the size varies according to age.

What is this perfect gift you ask? Smart grandparents everywhere give it with confidence that it will be appreciated. It is MONEY. With our family, for birthday gifts, one year equals one dollar. The older our grandchildren get, the more money they receive. For Christmas, however, we play no favorites by age. All our grandchildren receive the same amount, and our adult children receive the same amount, just larger in size than the grandchildren.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of life was that simple?

Actually, I did get something for Christmas that I wanted. I bought it myself.

But wait, what is the real gift of Christmas? Is it just the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem? That is part of it.

I look at the life Jesus led as a continuous gift. I think about it every day. The love he continually showed to all people is a gift that teaches me how to respect and, yes, love others and myself. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God, and the second is to love our neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30, 31).

Did you catch that second part? We are to love ourselves. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I know people who do not love themselves. I have witnessed people destroying their own body and soul. We need to be proud that we are a creation of God and show that to others. In order to show people the way to find the grace of God, we need to make it clear that we have found it ourselves. We must love ourselves through Jesus Christ.

The love of Christ is the best Christmas gift. I can use it every day and it always fits. And, I can use it, give it away, and still never run out of it. Please, don’t leave home without it. It is always the right gift to give and receive all year long and all lifelong.

Dennis R. Hanner Pastor Zion U.C.C.

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ADVENT SEASON

Advent season is upon us, but many think of this time of the year as the Holiday season. People are rushing around buying gifts, planning the big meals, and saying things like “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas”.

If this is such a joyful season, why are so many people despondent and full of stress? Crime and suicides rise this time of the year. Why? Is it maybe because so much emphasis is put on the commercial value of the season?

What is the biggest event recorded? After creation, it is the birth of Jesus Christ, His first Advent. Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” so the focus of the entire season is the celebration of his birth. However, that fact gets lost in “Black Friday Deals” and “Santa Claus.” This first Advent fulfilled centuries of old prophesies about Jesus Christ who is the completion of the work God started at creation or as some will say the “Big Bang.” It is through this first Advent that the promise of reconciliation with God can be found.

Celebration of Advent displays an anticipation of the Second Advent, the coming return of the Christ, during which there will be a judgment before Eternal Life is obtained. The faithful look forward to the Second Advent, while others view it with trembling or indifference.

Advent is a looking back and a looking forward to the future. It is a celebration that starts with 2000 years of history and continues with an eternity of anticipation. We are between times of the greatest events that will ever be. Now we are able to celebrate both history and the future. The best way to honor the Advents is as Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I am prepared to celebrate the second coming of Christ with great enthusiasm by celebrating his first coming now with honor and love for our Lord. And, I love you, too.

Come, celebrate the Advent season at Zion United Church of Christ on Sunday, December 7th, at 3:00 PM.

Pastor Dennis R Hanner
Zion United Church of Christ
Arthur, IL
Dennis Hanner
Pastor Zion UCC

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September 9, 2014

What can I say but that I am blessed.

OK. Why do I say that? The other day I asked someone how they were and his answer was, “I am blessed.” I hesitated a moment and said, “What?” His reply was that he felt just living the life he has is a blessing – to live in a free country that gives him the right to worship as he chooses – to love, to buy what he wants, work where he wants, go where he wants, and to say what he wants. The simple joy of being alive on the planet that God created made him feel blessed.

We have been cautioned there are greater things to be concerned about than material things. Matthew 6:25-27 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

So why do we get so bent out of shape and worried about material things? You cannot take them with you. The only thing that goes on is your soul. That is what I am most concerned about

So, when you are asked how you are, don’t say, “Fine,” because it can mean Frustrated, Irate, Nervous and Exhausted.

If that is how you are, I encourage you to turn to our Lord and Creator God.

You will realize that you are also blessed

Dennis Hanner

Pastor Zion UCC

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September 1, 2014

Sunday, September 7, is Rally Day and we are rallying with God to show that Zion is a force telling the world that “God is alive!” Rally Day is the first day of our new adventure. We will be singing songs that are special to Sunday school days. It is a time to start new things and open new avenues of learning more of the Lords Word. It is a time to welcome new members and guests. I know Rally Day will ring with high expectations that “God is still speaking.”

We start with a bang. September 7 is the first day of our new schedule for Zion United Church of Christ, and it promises to be exciting, entertaining and educational. During the month there will be special events like Christian Conversations, a Friends & Family brunch, outside special music, and special guest speakers. The purpose of all this is to present the Church to more people in such a way that is exciting, so they will say, “Things are going on at Zion,” and, of course, they are.

Each day, when we open the doors of our church, it is an invitation to learn about our Lord God and Jesus Christ. So we are extending that invitation to all, to show that God is open to all.

I personally ask each member to ask a friend to attend Rally Day Sunday as we embark on our new beginning.

Dennis Hanner, Pastor
Zion United Church of Christ