Friday, May 12, 2017

“1 Peter 1:3-9  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
(1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)
            The living hope that Peter refers to in 1 Peter 1:3-9 is not like the hope we have for good weather for an outdoor event, or that we will find a career that suits us; it’s much bigger than that.  The hope that Peter writes of here is what we cling to that takes us beyond this life, beyond our present struggles, hardships or concerns, to eternity in heaven with God.  We are, by the grace of God, born again into a living hope with an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”(ESV)  We rejoice in this hope even though we may be experiencing the difficulties that come with this life, because our hope in Christ takes us beyond this life.  In verses 8-9, Peter reminds us that though we don’t see Him yet, we love Him and believe in Him, and trust that He will complete what He has promised, “the salvation of your souls.”(ESV)
            When Jesus went to the cross, He had more than this earthly life in mind.  He was looking ahead to what His life, death and resurrection would accomplish for those who believe in Him.  He was looking ahead to our being spared the proper penalty for our sins, of our being made one in Him, and our enjoying the place of matchless purity and beauty that He has prepared for us. 
            Just as when a butterfly breaks forth from the cocoon and experiences the beauty and freedom of flight, so we look forward to breaking the bonds of this earth with its hardships and disappointments, and break free into eternal life in glory.
            Peter writes of this hope as being “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire”.  Do we place the importance of our relationship with God as being more precious than gold?  If so, does our life, our checkbook, our calendar reflect that?  How much time do we invest in our hope, in the knowledge of God, in studying His Word, not just on our own, but with others in the family of faith? 
            Let’s take a look at verses 6-7 again.  “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  How has the genuineness of our faith stood up to the tests we’ve experienced?  Have they made us stronger, as was God’s plan, or have they cast doubts on what we thought we believed?
            My prayer is that the testing of your faith will produce strength and depth in your relationship with Him, and that you will find a great sense of joy in serving Him in the time we have left on earth.

(The portion in italics was preprinted from an article I was asked to write for the Living Word Bulletin Series for Sunday, April 23, 2017; the image on the bulletin was of a butterfly on a flower.)

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, March 31, 2017

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.  They will put you out of the synagogues.  Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.  But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”
(John 16:1-4a ESV)
            This Sunday we will be looking at the Omniscience of God; the fact that He is all knowing.  This is another attribute that we don’t often understand or appreciate well, because we do not have this kind of knowledge.  We know what we know, but there is much we do not know.  God knows all things and there is nothing that He does not know.  It’s staggering when you think about it, but it should also bring us great comfort to understand that God knows all things.
            In the passage above, Jesus was telling His disciples things that were in the near future that would come to pass, and they were rather dramatically serious kinds of things.  He states then, “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”  I’m convinced that this at least part of the purpose behind prophecy, is so that when we see things falling in line when what was predicted by God, that we can understand and appreciate that God possesses this kind of knowledge—that He knows what will happen in the future.
            For someone to be able to predict with exact certainty what will happen in the future and then bring it to pass means that not only do they possess such knowledge, but the power to change forces of nature if necessary to bring it to pass.
            His vast knowledge, (no not just vast knowledge, but omniscient wisdom) should also help us to have confidence in other things He has said.  When His Word states something that might seem difficult for us, or that doesn’t seem to line up with what our culture would suggest, do we assume that man has become so wise now, with degrees, and technology, and experience that God’s Word is put in doubt, or do we still hold to what God has said?
            It really comes down to our faith.  Do we have the faith to believe that though there are things in the Bible that seem physically impossible, (galaxies being breathed into existence, Red Sea parting, Jericho walls falling, fire consuming the sacrifice on Mt. Horeb, etc.,) that God is capable of making the impossible possible? 
            My prayer for you is that if you are not already there, that you will come to be able to trust and believe in the God of Scripture, that if God said it, if the Bible says that God did it, that you will be able to trust and believe that it is true.  Whether that statement is about something relating to us as humans, or to God, I pray that He will grant you the faith to believe it.
            When we come to the place where we can trust Him to that degree, it will bring with it a greater sense of peace in life in general as we can trust Him to know what lies before us, that He will care for us as only He can.  We will be able to trust Him even in the difficult times when things may seem out of control, out of our control, to trust that He is in control, and that He has our best interest in mind in the end. 
            “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”  (Eph. 3:20-21)

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, March 3, 2017

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right had shall hold me.”
(Psalm 139:7-10 ESV)
            We are taking some time to work our way through the Attributes of God in a multi-part sermon series, and this week, taking a look at the attribute of God being Spiritual.  The simple understanding of this is that God is not limited by physical matter He is thus able to be anywhere and everywhere at once.  This should be a source of great comfort for us, for us to know that He is able to be with us right where we are, and at the very same time, be with our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, or just on the other side of town.  He can be, and is with us wherever we go.
            David helps us understand this with this great psalm about the omnipresent, penetrating nature of God.  Of course, we would expect Him to be there in heaven.  But then David writes, “If I make my bed in “Sheol”, a term used to represent the very center of the earth, or even hell; he was confident God would be even there with him.  Because God is Spirit, He is able to be anywhere and everywhere at once.
            It’s not that David was looking for a way to get away from the presence of God, but stating how completely and comprehensively God looked after him.  Not only was God present with Him everywhere, but David writes in the verses before about how completely God knows him.  “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” (Ps. 139:1-3). 
            While such thoughts can be a great source of comfort to us, that God is so familiar with us to even know our thoughts, that same concept might be very troubling if our thoughts haven’t been so pure.  While we might try to be careful about our actions, and words, the things other people around us may see, we’re not always as careful about our thoughts.  If we were really honest, we’re probably glad that others can’t read our minds, and know what we are thinking all the time.  Our God, who is Spirit has no such deficiencies, and does know our “thoughts from afar”.
            While we may hide such things from friends, co-workers, even family, we cannot hide these things from God.  So it behooves us to guard our minds against the things we know are harmful, impure or unkind that it doesn’t cause us to squirm when we think of how completely God knows us.  David closes this Psalm with a very vulnerable line:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
            May that be our prayer; that God would bring those destructive, impure and unkind thoughts to our attention that we could repent of them, and seek to have God lead us in “the way everlasting!”  Also, don’t forget to rejoice in the knowledge of the attribute of God’s spiritual nature that allows Him to be always present with us, and with all those who are His all at the same time.  What a Great and Awesome God we serve!

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Pastor's Desktop Article for February 2017

“Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight…And the LORD said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.’”
(Ex. 33:13, 17 ESV)
            Moses had a relationship with God unlike many others, to the extent where it says in verse 11 of this same chapter, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…”  It was a time when God was beginning to truly make Himself known to a group of people.  There are a number of very interesting and intriguing conversations they had while up on the mountain in which we learn something about the nature and character of God.
            We now have the balance of Scripture that continues to speak to us about the nature and character of God, and if we will avail ourselves of the opportunity, we will learn about Him—who He is, and how He relates to us, and we to Him.
            We are beginning this first Sunday in February a sermon series on the Attributes of God, with a goal for all of us, myself included, to gain a more biblically based, more accurate view of God.  This more accurate view of God will likely come into conflict with some views we may have long held, but find no biblical basis to support us any longer.  Perhaps we have allowed the culture around us to shape our views of Him instead of relying on the gift He has given us in Scripture to help us know Him.
            As we gain a right understanding of who He is we will be more likely to be changed by Him, following Him more faithfully, living with greater holiness, and be better suited to live in a world that in reality is so counter to Him.  My hope is that His Holy Spirit will help us to have greater clarity in regard to Him and His Word as He turns the spotlight of truth on our way so that we can see things as they really are instead of how we would prefer them to be.
            A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think of God is the most important thing about us.”  Dr. Steven J. Lawson said, “High views of God leads to high holy living”, and ”How we view the attributes of God colors everything else that we see around us.”
            My hope is that as God is exalted in our minds, that we will find ourselves humbled before Him, and ready to step out in faith in anything that we sense that He is calling us to do, both as individuals and as a church.  Perhaps the greatest single thing that I can do as a pastor is to help us all have a more right and accurate view of God, as everything else we believe, and do and become flows from that.
            I would ask that you, too, would pray for clarity to come to all of us through this series, that God would be glorified, and that the church would be strengthened and built up in the process.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen