Saturday, February 3, 2018

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”
(Psalm 119:130 ESV)
            Last month, we looked the multiple benefits of studying the Word of God from Psalm 119.  This month, I’d like to focus on this one verse that stood out to me this week in my reading.  As I read through this Psalm, each day, I pick out one verse of the stanza to focus on, and consider; a verse in particular that I can identify with personally.
            Let’s look at the first phrase of this verse to begin with.  “The unfolding of your words gives light.”  The Hebrew term that is translated “unfolding” here can be understood a few different ways.  First, it could mean literally, unfolding, as one would unroll a scroll, or open a book—so to opening up His words will give us light.  This is incredibly true!  The more I read through not just the Psalms, but all of Scripture, the light is shed on who God is, what He is like, how much He loves me/us.  I learn every time I open the pages.
            It can also be understood metaphorically.  For the words to be declared or proclaimed is a light giving exercise.  When the Preacher/teacher gets up to declare the Word of God, to open or explain it, light or understanding is hopefully gained by those listening.  When Josiah had the book of the Law of Moses read to him, as recorded in 2 Chron. 34, light was shown on the sins of Judah, and Josiah tore his clothes in anguish over it.  Josiah was then motivated to make huge reforms in Jerusalem and Judah, to humble themselves before the LORD God, and worship Him as prescribed in the book.
            When we read, or unfold the Words of God, aided by the understanding given to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, light shines, and the truth is revealed.  Sometimes the truth is painful, as in Josiah’s day, in learning of how far we’ve strayed from the truth.  Sometimes the truth increases our faith, as we learn more about the nature and character of God, and how faithful He is.  Sometimes the light that is shown brings comfort and healing, because we learn about his patience and forgiveness, and how receptive He is to a repentant heart.
            The second part of that phrase is rich as well.  “It imparts understanding to the simple.”  One of the uses of the word translated “simple” here is someone who is easily persuaded or enticed.  I don’t like to think of myself as “simple” in that regard, but perhaps it’s more often true than I would like to admit.  But even the “simple” will gain understanding when His Word is opened or unfolded for them. 
            Another way to think of this is that we are to become teachable, or “simple,” so that we can be taught, even when we think we don’t need to.  “Lord, help me become teachable,” should be our prayer when we come to His Word and unfold it.  A man who was perhaps 30 or so years older than me taught me that it is good to never stop learning.  I’ve remembered that, and have tried to put it into practice, especially when it comes to the Word of God.
            I hope you will consider your attitude when it comes to listening to, reading, and studying the Word of God.  I pray that you will approach it humbly, knowing that each time you have great opportunity to learn and grow.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, January 5, 2018

“How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments.  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!  With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statues; I will not forget your word.”
(Psalm 119:9-16 ESV)
            What a love the psalmist had for the Word of God.  This whole psalm, the longest chapter in the whole Bible, is graced with this incredible love for God and His Word, His statutes, His rules, His commands.  What a noble thought!  While I don’t think I can honestly claim to have the same passion for the Word of God as this writer did, I do find that I am drawn to it more and more, the deeper I dig into it, and familiarize myself with it.
            At a time of year when many people are making New Year’s resolutions, if you’re the type that makes those things, I encourage you to commit to reading through the Bible this year.  There are many reading plans out there.  I found quite a few without even really looking, and I know there are many more out there.  I’m doing the M’Cheyene plan again for another  year, partly because I like the format of reading from different places in the same sitting, but partly just because I’m familiar with it, and I know that the consistency of the plan will keep me on task, and help me accomplish my goal of reading systematically through Scripture. 
            Look at the benefits of immersing yourself in the word.  “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.”  D. L. Moody once said, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”  Being more aware of the rules, commands and statutes that God has given us in His Word, we become more aware of our sin, and of how offensive it is to God.  If you doubt that, verse 11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” 
            Studying the Word of God is a wonderfully valuable pursuit.  Reading through the whole Bible helps to give you greater perspective of how it all fits together.  When we read both the Old and New Testaments, we see more clearly how there is truly one unfolding story from beginning to end, and that God is the author of that story.  We also see how Jesus often quoted Old Testament Scripture.  It was said that he taught with great authority; well when you are one with the author, you can teach it with greater appreciation and authority.
            We have so many competing voices trying to get into our heads every day, and many that we invite willingly, despite what poor counsel they give us.  I encourage you to make it a point; make it a goal; make it a resolution to read through the whole Bible this year, even if you did it last year, or some other time in the past.  You’ll benefit from filling your mind with truth, and you’ll be blessed as you continue to learn about God and His ways.
            You don’t need a theological degree to study the Bible.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you to grasp and understand.  Pray for God to make Himself known to you as you read, but read.  Please read.  Read like your life depends on it—like your eternity depends on it, because it does.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, November 3, 2017

“Let me cry come before you, O LORD, give me understanding according to your word!  Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.  My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.  My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.  Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.  I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight, Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.”
(Psalm 119:169-176  ESV)
            These are the closing verses of Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible, and in fact, the longest single chapter in the Bible.  One important aspect of this psalm stands out as we read it, and that is the love for the word/commandments/statutes/rules of the word of God.  The writer doesn’t see these commandments as burdensome, or impossible, but as wise guidance and life giving rules given to us by a wise and loving heavenly Father.  There are verses in this psalm, that he compares the statutes and precepts of the Word of God to fine gold, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces, vs. 72) or rich honey,(“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” vs 104).  In still other verses that refer to the enduring, even eternal nature of His law, (“Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” vs 89).
            When we fail to familiarize ourselves with His Word, it’s no wonder that we begin to have a different view of it, even failing to see how it is given to us to help us avoid untold consequences and problems that will arise when we disregard His Word.  If you look to see why Israel was treated so harshly by the Lord during the time of their captivity and exile, you only have to look to see how greatly they disregarded God’s commands and statutes, and began to do the very things He instructed them not to do.  The discipline that He brought their way was designed to draw them back to Himself, and to help them to learn to trust Him once again.
            Dr. Albert Molher referred to research related to this subject in an article written Jan. 20, 2016.   “Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” [see Barna Group’s web site]
            There is no substitute for the regular reading of God’s Word, the Bible.  The axiom for working with computers is, “garbage in-garbage out”, and the same is the case for our minds.  When we fill our minds with worldly thoughts, we should not be surprised when we begin to see our definitions of sin and evil shift to a more worldly viewpoint.  We have to be careful where we decide to go for such critical information.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, August 4, 2017

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
(Acts 20:28-32 ESV)
            It is encouraging to me to read about the provision that God instituted to provide for the protection of the church.  Churches may or may not utilize that provision, but nonetheless, that provision has been around for a very long time.  In fact, if we were to look all the way back to Exodus 18, when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law came to where they were, and met with Moses there, and observed Moses sitting before the people from morning till evening judging the people’s concerns.  When Jethro saw that Moses was doing this alone, he said, “What you are doing is not good.  You and the people will certainly wear yourselves out, for this thing is too heavy for you.  You are not able to do it alone.”
            Jethro then suggested that Moses appoint “able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy, and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds of fifties and of tens…”  Thus the institution of elders began, and continued through the history of the people of God up to, and through the New Testament, where we find them in numerous passages throughout the New Testament.
            Their role was to help lead the people, to protect them from error, to help govern those entrusted to them.  Even in Jesus’ day, the elders were tasked with the same concerns.  In Matt. 26, we find them with the chief priests gathering in the High Priest’s palace to plot together to arrest Jesus, as they saw him as a threat to their way of life, of what they understood to be the right worship of God.
            In 1 Peter, we find the apostle writing to the elders there, among the dispersed believers at that time, in chapter 5 to, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock…” (1 Peter 5:2-3)
            It’s a wise worker who uses the right tool for the job at hand, because using a different tool may work in some cases, but is not the most effective or efficient way to accomplish the task.  Sometimes, we may need to add a tool to our toolbox that was missing.  Our constitution committee is considering this, and is looking into what that might mean for Mt. Pleasant.  Please pray that God will give them the wisdom, discernment and courage to follow Him in wherever He would lead.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen