Friday, June 29, 2012

July 2012 Pastor's Desktop Article

"I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, Isa. 49:10, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying, “The hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend; For I perceive the way to life lies here: Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear. Better, though difficult, the right way to go, Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.” The other two also came to the foot of the hill. But when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go; and supposing also that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill; therefore they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more." (Bunyan, J. (1995). The pilgrim's progress : From this world to that which is to come. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) This passage is from the great Christian Classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress, first published in February, 1678, and written by John Bunyan while imprisoned for 12 years (1660-1672) for preaching and holding services without the permission and consent of the Church of England. His only reference while writing this was the Bible. I recently finished reading the first section of this book, edited into more modern form of English and am now re-reading the original language version. This book has been translated into at least 200 languages, and since it was originally published in 1678, has never been out of print. I would encourage you to include this in your summer reading list, if you do that kind of thing, and even if you don’t, it’s worth your time and effort to read. Even if you’ve read it before, a good classic is always worth going back to refresh your memory. This passage included above is indicative of the allegory used in the book, using names to indicate something about the person or place being referenced and inserting Scripture references to support the allegories along the way. The hill before Christian, the main character who is on a journey to the “celestial city”, is named “Difficulty”. If only we could have in mind the lines that he said as he approached and climbed that hill, we would be less inclined to avoid such difficulty, knowing that the way God has laid before us is best and that He will provide all that we need along the way of that difficulty. This life that we live does not allow us to avoid difficulty, trial and hardship. It’s part and parcel of life in this fallen world. In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This wonderful little book captures the struggle of life, of the Christian journey, but also the inestimable value of persevering to the end, and relying heavily on the help that God gives us along the way. Those who have already climbed the hill called “Difficulty”, as Bunyan found himself doing while writing this account, are perhaps best equipped to counsel those in the midst of that journey. Remember that wherever we are on that journey that the one who promised that He will never leave us or forsake us goes with us. By His Grace Alone, Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pastor's Desktop Article for June 2012

“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. ‘Lord’, Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask’. “ (John 11:20-21NIV) While we may never ask the question aloud, or even dare to ponder it long, we may at some point have asked ourselves, “Why bother praying?” Allow me to pose the question, and then attempt to answer it in hopes of giving us a greater sense of confidence and faith when we do seek the Father in prayer. Why bother praying? Because of what Martha tells Jesus in the last line of the passage above, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” While we are confronted daily, or on some days even more often than daily, with situations that are beyond our control, or leave us dismayed with what our response to them should be, we have a heavenly Father who is never perplexed, confused or surprised with the situations that we encounter. We pray to our heavenly Father because we know that His resources are limitless—His wisdom and His power to change our circumstances or to give us the strength to endure them is boundless. We pray because we know that God has the power to give us whatever we ask for. In His wisdom, He doesn’t always answer just like we think He should, but in time we will see that His way was best, even if it wasn’t the easiest for us. We pray because we know from Scripture and perhaps from some of our own experiences that God has the power to change things. One of the reasons I feel that it’s a good thing that we share our praises, testimonies and prayer concerns in the morning worship service is that it may help someone who is in need to have others praying for that need, but also because hearing the answers to prayers may help others have greater faith that God will also answer their prayer. We pray because prayer changes things. We pray because the practice brings us closer to the God who wants us to be in close fellowship with Him. We pray because Jesus prayed; and if Jesus had a need to pray, given His relationship with His Father, certainly we need to pray as well. If you ever wanted to be involved in the church, but you weren’t sure how, or didn’t want to be up front and have to talk in front of a group of people, then pray. If you think you are too young or too old to be on a board or committee, but you still want to help, then pray for those on those boards and committees. If you are concerned about someone’s salvation, but you don’t know if you could actually lead them to Christ, then pray that God will send someone to them to lead them to Christ. Be careful though, because He may just send you! By His Grace Alone, Pastor Bruce Jacobsen