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

Saturday, June 30, 2018


“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’  These things I remember, as I pour out my soul; how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.  Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
(Psalm 42:1-5a ESV)
               
            One thing that is true about how God created us is that He created us for relationship.  Have you ever been in a relationship with a really close friend, perhaps a spouse, and for whatever reason had to be separated for a period of time, and just really longed to be together once again?  Once back together, you’re able to pick back up as if you were never apart, but perhaps you do appreciate just a little more those opportunities when you are able to be close.
            Well, the way God created us, in being created for relationship, was that in particular we would have a relationship with Him.  Sin has damaged that relationship, and separated us from God, but in God’s incredible love for us, He has even made provision for that damage to be healed through the cross. 
            The Psalmist here writes of a time when he was unable to go up to the central place of worship in Jerusalem with the “throng” of people there.  The author is not indicated, but if it is David, and that’s likely from the style this is written in, this could have been written either when on the run from Saul, or his own son Absalom in 2 Sam. 15.  In either case, David would have been separated from the place he loved, and from worshipping the God he loved at the appointed place there in Jerusalem.  When we face opposition of various kinds, it can sometimes feel like our God is far off.  Like David, we should be reminded that our hope is in God, the God who made us in relationship with Him; who will never leave us nor forsake us.
But whether or not we’re facing opposition, how much does our heart really thirst for God?  All too often many of us in the church today are satisfied with a much more casual, complacent relationship with God where we call on Him when we need Him, but otherwise, we’ll get along just fine, thank you.  While on a recent vacation, I once again picked up A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God.  In the opening chapter he reminds the reader that God offers so much more than that to us.  “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned by the too-easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.  He laments that the church at the time of this writing, (1948), have reduced a relationship with God to mere factual knowledge, cold doctrine and emotionless worship.  His prayer at the end of the chapter left me wanting more, I hope it will do the same for you.
“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”[1]

                       

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen


[1] Tozer, A.W., The Pursuit of God  1948, Christian Publications, Inc., Harrisburg PA

Friday, June 1, 2018


From the Pastor's Desktop
“...know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”
(Deuteronomy 4:39 ESV)
               
           
            In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is giving final instructions to the Israelites in regard to their entering the Promised Land west of the Jordan.  God has told Moses that he will not be permitted to enter the land with them, but after seeing the land from Mt. Pisgah, he will die and be gathered to his people there.  Therefore, Moses takes this opportunity to remind this nation of people where they have come from; to remind them of the rebellion and disobedience of their parents, the generation that was delivered from Egypt.  He then reminds them of the Lord’s commandments, rules and statutes, and the importance of worshipping God alone.
            All the nations around them worshipped gods of wood, stone and metal images, gods who could not hear, or see, or speak, or act in any way, but they were to worship the LORD and Him alone.  It was the LORD who brought them up out of Egypt, who led them through the Red Sea on dry land, who fed them manna from heaven, and gave them water from a rock.  He was the one who led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  It was Him who set them apart as His people, and who would give them this land that they were about to take possession of.
            Because He alone is God, He gave them commandments, rules and statutes that they were to live by, and practice, and teach to their children after them.  At various times along the way, when those commandments or rules were challenged, it was God who acted and judged the disobedient.  He is also the God whose steadfast love and mercy forgave their rebellious hearts and who has provided for their every need while traveling through the wilderness.
            It seems to us today that these people had a short memory when it came to remembering the great acts that the Lord performed for them all along the way, but are we really that different from them?  We too need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, His greatness, and His provision for us from day to day.  We tend to get a bit “big for our britches” and think that we’ve accomplished significant things on our own, when the reality is that God has been there every step of the way, despite our grumbling and complaining, and our disobedience, and continues to grant us mercy and grace for each step of our journey.
            We have a tendency to bump God off of the throne in our minds, and try to assume that place ourselves,  or at the very least, reduce God to being someone who is there if and when we need Him, (like there could ever be a time when we don’t need Him).  The psalmist in Psalm 84 gets it right when he expresses his worship of God.  “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Psalm 84:1 ESV), and later in verses 11-12, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” 
            Do we really live, do we even worship as though we believe in God like this psalmist?  Is God truly exalted in our minds that we would say, “What He says we will do, where He sends we will go, never fear, only trust and obey.”  I encourage you today to grant Him the place of priority in your life; give Him the seat on the throne of your life, and then honor and revere Him as the “God in heaven above and on the earth beneath.”

                       

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

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