Tuesday, November 6, 2018


           
“Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!”                                     
Psalm 79:8-9  ESV
               
            Reflecting back on a passage I read recently, I was struck by the tone of this passage, and how God’s redeeming work is done “for your [God’s] name’s sake!”  When God comes to us and saves us, providing grace to us through the blood of His Son, it’s not so that we can pat ourselves on the back and say, “look how good I am”.  It’s for His glory.  Sure it’s a benefit to us—a benefit beyond measure, but it is to His glory because there’s no part of it that we have accomplished.
            In this passage, Asaph, the writer expresses that they have no merit for which to be restored and forgiven, but it is for the glory of God’s name.  From the beginning of the psalm he recounts many of their sins and their rebellion against God.  And while he knows that God’s anger poured out against them is completely justified, he also had heard of God’s steadfast love, and his tenderness toward those who are truly repentant. 
            This is the basic message of the Bible.  We are a needy, unruly, sinful, rebellious people with short memories about how we are to serve Him.  He stands in contrast to us as a holy God, needing nothing from us; a God of steadfast love and righteousness, who in His love for us as His creation reaches out to us with mercy and grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to Himself.
            It says something significant about God that He would, not out of necessity, but out of love, save us from our desperate condition.  It is to His glory that He would do that for us.  If there is any boast from us, it is that we serve a God who loves us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.  He deserves the praise and glory because of who He is, and because of what He’s done for us.
            His church, then, is not a gathering of great people who have come together to accomplish great things on their own.  His church is a gathering of people who have recognized their own desperate condition, and have fallen heavily on the mercy and grace of God, who have now decided to bring glory to His Name through worship and service because of what He has done for them.  As we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the feeble, but most importantly share the gospel, it should be for the glory of His Name, not for the notoriety of any church or group of people.
            As our minds turn to thoughts of Thanksgiving, let us indeed be thankful and grateful for the gift of salvation given to unworthy people by a holy and benevolent God.  Let us be thankful to Him for all that we have, for the glory of His Name.


By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, October 5, 2018


“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”                                              
Ephesians 3:14-19  ESV
               
           
            This month marks the beginning of my 14th year, serving as pastor at the Mt. Pleasant Church of the Brethren.  As I recently read through the passage above, I thought about how this passage still articulates my desire for those whom I have the privilege of serving.  I desire most of all for them that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith, and that being rooted and grounded in love, that they would be able to grasp more and more of the knowledge of the love of Christ, a love that beyond us understanding completely, but is no less true, and that each one would be filled with all the fullness of God.
            What greater thing could a pastor want for the congregation he serves?  Not only is this passage indicative of what I hope for the congregation, but what I attempt to develop in the congregation.  All the messages, all the one on one conversations, all the Bible Studies, fellowship events and work projects, are geared at helping the congregation come to the place of being rooted and grounded in the Word of God that teaches us about the love of God, the love that he wants us to have for one another. 
            It’s been my joy to see this happen in individuals along the way; to see them grow in their faith, to see their faith mature, and hold them up through the difficulties that life brings our way.  It’s been my joy to see their faith lived out in their lives, to hear their faith expressed in the various settings we experience in the life of a church.
            It’s my hope, for as long as the Lord allows me to continue to serve this congregation that we can continue down this road of comprehending “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of God and that they will become more and more “filled with all the fullness of God”.  The journey isn’t always easy and smooth, but it’s in those times of uphill climbs that we learn a great deal more about our Lord, and about ourselves and our dependence upon Him.  May God bless the years that remain.
           

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, August 31, 2018


“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:  If prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”                                          
Romans 12:3-8 ESV
               
           
            As we begin a new church year, having held the dedication service for nearly 100 different positions last Sunday, I just read this week this reminder from Paul in his letter to the church in Rome.  He writes that we should, “not think of himself (themselves) more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned…”  We have been called to serve, and in many if not most cases, to continue to serve the body of Christ here at Mt. Pleasant.  It is a sobering task, and one that if we are honest, is well over our head apart from the help that we receive from God’s gracious hand.
            Paul writes how that though we are many, we are all a part of one body in Christ.  That is what brings such a diverse group; diverse in age, in background, in experience, in education, in spiritual maturity, in personality; together for a common cause.  It is good that we have this diversity because of the value that it brings to our discussions, our ideas, our faithfulness to following Christ as we serve the church together. 
            The other thing that is diverse is our gifts.  Paul lists a number of them here that we are to use according to the grace given to us.  In 1 Cor. 12, in writing on the same subject to a different group, he writes, “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose.  (1Cor. 12:18)  We aren’t the ones who get to choose what gifts we are given.  That’s God’s prerogative.  We can choose whether or not to use our gifts, but God is the one who gives them to us.  Finding how best to bring those gifts together in one place is God’s doing as well, and I’m convinced that He has given each church those people with the necessary gifts that each church will need to do the work He has called them to do.
            Sometimes it doesn’t seem like you have all the necessary pieces in place, but I believe they are there, though perhaps hidden by any number of factors.  Like Moses, when God called him to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, perhaps feelings of inadequacy prevent someone from offering their gifts.  He felt he didn’t have the gift to be able to speak, but God reminded him who it was that made his tongue.  Everyone has something that they can offer to a local church, even if all they can do is to pray for the church.  Paul writes,  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…”  I pray that we will do just that, for God’s glory, and for the building up of His church.
           

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


           
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”
(Proverbs 11:24 ESV)
            “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you.”
(Mark 11:25 ESV)
               
           
            At first glance, you might see these two Scriptures together and wonder what the connection is, but I’d suggest that you read the two passages through again, and let them speak to you.  When we read the verse from Proverbs 11, we immediately think of money or resources of a financial nature, and when we read the verse from Mark, we have an entirely different thought in mind.  I was reading through my Scripture reading journal looking for themes for this article and these two passages struck me as being very much related to one another.
            When we are generous with our forgiveness and not withholding that from others when it is in our power to forgive, is it not then also the case that we sense swift forgiveness from God in regard to our own failures and sins?  And conversely, when we are reluctant to forgive, and hold that back when we know that we should forgive, do we not also then sense distance and coolness in our relationship with God in regard to our sin?
            Our text for Sunday, August 12 will be Matt. 9-14, taking a look at the second half of that passage which includes, “…and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,…for if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  If we are to think very long and hard about that thought, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself on both sides of that thought.  There have been times when I’ve been slow to extend forgiveness due to a hurt or wrong done to me, and there have been other times, when I am more cognizant of the forgiveness I’ve known, and have been more willing to forgive others.
            As counterintuitive as it seems, as hard as it is to practice sometimes, “one gives [forgiveness] freely and grows all the richer [in being forgiven]; another withholds [forgiveness] what he should give, and only suffers want [in being forgiven].  It’s good for us to remember that generosity doesn’t just have to do with things financial, but with our relationships with one another as well.  My prayer is that along with me, you might work at being more generous with our willingness to forgive one another.  It will only benefit us in the end.        
           

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen