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