Friday, November 1, 2013

Pastor's Desktop Article for November 2013

O That Will Be Glory
“When all my labors and trials are o’re, and I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore will through the ages be glory for me.

When by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face, will through the ages be glory for me.

Friends will be there I have loved long ago; joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet, just a smile from my Savior I know will through the ages be glory for me.

O that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me;
When by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me.
Charles H. Gabriel
            What is it we are really longing for?  For many of us, thinking about the life after this life is scary and uncomfortable, but should it be that way for us?  If our faith in Christ means anything, it means that we are looking forward to a place much more grand than any of our days in this world could ever be.  If we have trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, to quote another hymn, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand”.  We need not fear what lies beyond the sunset of our days, but instead we can sing with confidence the hymn referenced above.
            Perhaps the reason that our praise and worship has lost some of its luster is because we’ve become so focused on this world and its woes, and there is no shortage of this world’s woes.  Yes, we do have responsibilities and obligations to see to in this world, but we shouldn’t let the cares and concerns of this life get us down when we have such a glorious future awaiting us.
            When was the last time you came to church thinking about what you would give in terms of praise and worship to God, instead of what you would get?  We may get recharged to some extent by being together with the body of believers and hearing the Word, but if our goal is to get recharged, we may leave without all we hoped for more often than not.  If we come into His house, excited to be together with the body of believers, offering the very best of our praise and worship to Him, because we love Him, and because He is worthy of it, we will never leave disappointed.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pastor's Desktop Article for October 2013

                “My food, “said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  Do you not say, ‘For months more and then the harvest’?  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.”   (John 4:34-35 NIV)
             This passage from John 4 was the theme for our Fall Revival this past week with Pastor Bill Schaefer, a series of messages centered on gardening/farming.  We were reminded of how various aspects of the process of growing apply very closely to our spiritual lives; from planting, to pulling the weeds, to harvesting.  Even if you’ve never planted a garden, it’s easy to see how these concepts apply to our lives.
            In the passage above, in saying that the fields were ripe for the harvest, Jesus may well have been referring to what follows in verses 39-41.  “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.”
            Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Galilee, and took this detour through Samaria, a land and a people that they typically avoided if at all possible.  Much is made of Jesus talking to this Samaritan woman, and asking her for water, but imagine how taboo it was for Him to stay in their town for two days.  It was not culturally acceptable to do so, and it was not part of their original plans, at least as far as the disciples knew.  But Jesus saw a harvest ripe for the picking, and so He allowed Himself to be detoured to see them become believers in Him.
            How often do we allow ourselves to be delayed or detoured so that we can plant seeds, or help in the harvest?  We are all too often in too much of a hurry, or too focused on what we had planned to allow God to change our plans along the way.  I know I have to force myself to slow down at times and look for the opportunities that God is putting before me to be a blessing, to plant a seed, or to see a seed begin to blossom and bear fruit.  I walk past or maybe sometimes run past way too many of those opportunities.
            If we really stop and think about it, is what we’re hurrying off to nearly as important as being a catalyst or some factor in the change in someone’s life for eternity?  The things that fill our lives, at least a good bit of the time, are valuable things to be sure, but are they as important as someone’s eternal soul?  I encourage you to work at being aware of the opportunities that come your way and see if God just might use you to be a part of the work He is doing around you, maybe even right next to you.  Take the time.  It will be worth it.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pastor's Desktop Article for August 2013

                “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  (John 15:4  NIV)
             If you think about the truth of this statement by Jesus in John 15:4, in a purely physical sense—that of a literal vine growing in a vineyard or even a tomato vine, it seems too simple to even give much consideration.  Duh!  Of course the branch needs to stay attached to the vine to grow and bear fruit.  Everybody knows that!  Cut a branch from a vine and it will shrivel up and die.  Why is it then that we seem to have such a hard time applying this Scriptural truth to our lives?
            Perhaps some people think that if they are in close proximity to the church that this will be enough for them.  Try that in your garden.  Cut a branch off, but leave it near the plant and see what happens.  Obviously, we don’t even need to try this.  We know what will happen—it will quickly lose all signs of life and die.  We have to be more than near the church, and still more than being in the church.  We have to be “in Christ”, which is to make Him both Savior and Lord.  He is our source of life and strength.  He is the Vine!
            The King James Version uses the word “abide”, which might be more helpful than “remain”.  To abide somewhere is to take up residence, to not depart, to continue to be present.  A verse later in John 15:5, Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”  Not only can we not do anything apart from Him, but reading down a bit further in this passage, we find that branches that do not remain in Him are picked up and cast into the fire.  This does not just mean that we remain useless, as bad as that would be; this means that a judgment is coming and once we are picked up and thrown into the fire, there is no coming back from that.  Once we leave this life, our connection to the Vine or lack thereof determines our eternal fate.  The difference with a branch that is picked up and thrown into the fire and a person who is judged to be apart from Christ is that the branch will eventually be burned up and no longer exist.  The fate of those who remain apart from Christ will suffer eternally.
            So what does it look like to “remain” or “abide” in Christ?  Verse 7 answers that question.  “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”  Sometimes we’re apt to hear the latter part of that verse and ignore the first part.  Don’t make that mistake.  We need to remain completely trusting in Him and have His words remaining in us in order to come to Him and make our requests.  The difference is that our “asking” will be dramatically different by our remaining in Him.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, May 31, 2013

Pastor's Desktop Article for June 2013

“And they sang a new song:  ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth’.”       (Rev. 5:9-10NIV)

            Chapters 4 and 5 of John’s Revelation give us an amazing look into the heavenly realms, and in particular, the Throne Room of God.  The difficulty is that we have but our simply human minds to try to grasp these heavenly images.  The apostle John uses earthly images to try to paint the picture for us, and we must try to look through his eyes to make sense of it all.  One thing to keep in mind is that just like using an earthly situation to describe a theological theme; all such word pictures fall short at some point.  That’s why phrases like “had the appearance of”, or “resembling” or “looked like” are used extensively in these chapters.
            The primary thing to keep in mind in all this imagery is the way God is glorified, or made much of, in all these references. All the creatures mentioned in chapters 4 and 5 are focused upon the one seated upon the throne, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and all glory in heaven is given to Him. 
            Let’s take 5:6-8 as an example.  “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”  This almost sounds like something out of a science fiction movie until you begin to understand what the descriptions represent.  The Lamb looking as if it had been slain is an easy one.  That’s Jesus.  No question there.  Now let’s look at the next part of His description, “He had seven horns”.  Remember that in Scripture, seven is a reference to perfection, and a horn is a symbol of power.  Perfect power or sovereign power belongs to God the Father.  Now finally, “He had…seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”  Again, the number seven is a reference to perfection, and thus the seven spirits are a reference to the perfect spirit, or the Holy Spirit, which we know was sent out into all the earth filling the believers in Christ wherever they went since the day of Pentecost.  This image standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the 4 living creatures and the twenty-four elders is the image of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the completeness or perfection of God.
            Does this make a little more sense now?  I hope so.  As you continue to read through revelation, think of the images, and what they are portraying in terms of word pictures of what is going on.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, May 3, 2013

May 2013 Pastor's Desktop Article

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”       (1 Peter 3:15NIV)

            We’re in the “home stretch” of our Bible Reading Plan, and I hope you are still keeping up with the reading, and are enjoying your time in the Word regularly.  The reading for this coming week takes us to 1 Peter, and the location of a verse I’ve come to call my “life verse”, 1 Peter 3:15.  Even before really finding this verse, it was through the living out of this verse that God called me to pastoral ministry, and this verse has guided my ministry through the last 18 years. 
            The first part of the verse calls us to “in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord”.  That is the first part of being a believer in Christ.  Christ has to have lordship of our lives, of our hearts, of our whole being.  When that decision is settled, a lot of other questions we may face in our lives are already answered.  If Christ is Lord of our hearts, then every decision we make after that will bear the impact of Christ as Lord of our heart.
            The second part of this verse has been the framework from which I attempt to do ministry.  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  While I would never consider myself a scholar, God has given me a desire to help others to better understand the Word of God.  This happens through preaching, teaching, as well as informal conversations in a wide variety of settings, and even sometimes in unexpected ways.
            I really love to see or hear about someone understanding something about God, or His Word that they’ve not understood before, as it is one way I can see the Holy Spirit at work.  Even for some of us who have been believers for many years, when a facet of God’s nature and character is better understood, or we see how a passage of Scripture applies to our life in a way we had not thought of before, the light comes on, and God is glorified.
            Finally, the last part of that verse says, “But do this with gentleness and respect.”  This is sometimes a hard thing for me to keep in focus.  Sometimes in our zeal to boldly proclaim the Word of God, the gentleness and respect gets pushed to the side.  There is still room to be firm in this verse, but it is important to maintain the gentleness and respect called for here by letting God do His work through us, and not feeling like it is our responsibility to make the other person understand.  As I stated above, that is truly the work of the Holy Spirit to help us grasp, understand and apply the Word of Truth to our lives.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen