Thursday, January 3, 2019


“Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another.  The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.  ‘They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.  Then once more you shall see the distinction between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.’                                                                                                                                    Malachi 3:16-18   ESV
               
            It’s not uncommon for those who try to live a Christian life, to live in a way that’s distinctly different from the world, and feel as though there is no use in continuing that effort.  They see those who have no regard for God and His Word going through life with seemingly no great difficulty, and paying no immediate penalty for their sinful ways.  Habakkuk asked a similar question in his prayer to God in the first chapter of the bible book attributed to him.  “Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.  So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”  He too was feeling the frustration of not seeing God make the wicked pay for their sin, and seeing no reward for the righteous.
            The promise here in Malachi is that in the LORD’s time; at the time when He determines, there will be a settling of accounts, and those who “feared the LORD and esteemed His name” will “make up my [God’s] treasured possession”.  The end of my bible reading plan had me reading the last chapters of 4 different bible books at the same time; 2 Chronicles, Malachi, John and Revelation.  I have to say, all of them ended with a hopeful look ahead to a day when God will set things right.
            God is a perfectly just God and will not allow sin to go unpunished.  That is a dreadful message to us except for the fact that God sent His Son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  Our sins are punished in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, if we have trusted and believed in Him.  And because our sins have been dealt with through the blood of Christ there is great hope for us, and great reason to live in a way that honors the God in whose promises we trust.
            One day we will see the day when the distinction between those who serve God and those who serve themselves will be obvious to all.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  And the apostle John in the book of Revelation, he concludes his thought on the great judgment with these words: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
            I don’t write that to scare anyone, but to help you know that there is hope for the believer.  There is a reason and purpose to living a godly life.  There is a consequence for rejecting the offer of a holy God who loves you enough to send His Son to die in your place.  The reward is very real for those who believe in Him, and the consequence is also very real for those who refuse Him.  I hope this brief note finds you encouraged and not nervous.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, November 30, 2018


“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”                                           
2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV
               
            In the day and age we live in we can no longer take for granted that people know what we’re talking about at Christmas time when we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Savior of the world.  With the other myths or fables that are prevalent during the Christmas season, the Christian belief of the virgin born birth of a Savior is not among those myths.  Peter, the writer of the letter quoted above was there with Jesus—maybe not at his birth, but certainly during much of his earthly ministry, and certainly on the Mount of Transfiguration referred to here and written about in the gospels such as Matt. 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36.  Peter, James and John were all there on the mountain and heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
            The birth of Jesus is not a fairy tale, or myth made up by a group of people a couple thousand years ago, but a historical fact borne out by the lives of those who were his disciples, and who all were either exiled or martyred for their faith in this Jesus.  Someone might be willing to die for something they believed to be true, but no one would be willing to die for something they knew to be false.
            The incarnation of Christ was something that God had been alluding to since the dawn of creation.  For centuries before, prophets had been predicting his coming, and all of Israel had been awaiting this coming Messiah.  The apostle John writes of it this way:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  Paul writes about it to the church in Philippi this way: “…who though he [Christ Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)
            So, boldly believe and celebrate the birth of our Savior, not as some weakly held myth that only young children might really believe, but as foretold by prophets, proclaimed by angels, and written of by some of the very men who walked and talked with him some 30 years after that monumental birth.  He was God incarnate, or God in the flesh for those 30+ years, but has always been and will always be the Son of God, co-equal with God in heaven.  He is the only Savior, and He’s coming back for us one day.  What a day that will be!


By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

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