Friday, December 12, 2014

Desktop article for Mt. Pleasant Church of the Brethren

“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.  This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:  ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’  Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.  Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him.  But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise from men more than praise from God.”
John 12:37-43 NIV

            It’s hard for us to understand how the Pharisees and Jewish leaders were not able to understand who Jesus was given all the signs and wonders he performed in their presence.  It’s even harder for us to understand the concept of God “blinding their eyes” to this truth, but that’s what Scripture says.  We often treat faith in God as something everyone should understand because the evidence of the existence of God is right there for all to see in the natural world around us, and after all, we have the Bible.  Why is it that they do not understand?  We fail to realize the treasured gift that faith in God is to us.
            I don’t pretend to understand why God turns the light of the understanding of the gospel on for some and not for others, but in His grace and mercy He does extend that understanding to some.  It’s certainly not because we deserve it.  In our Wednesday night study in Daniel, we studied how the prophet understood something about the mercy of God in his incredibly humble prayer in Dan. 9. 
            Daniel had been a part of the group taken captive to Babylon when Jerusalem was overthrown, and had not lived in Babylon for nearly 70 years.  He had been studying the prophet Jeremiah’s writings, and read where it was written that after 70 years, Israel would be restored.  In his prayer Daniel pleaded with God for the forgiveness for his own sin, and that of the nation of Israel.  In verses 17-18 he pleads, “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant.  For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.  Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name.  We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
            Now, on this side of the cross, still few understand very much about God.  Many don’t believe in Him at all.  Some claim to believe, but in reality know very little about what they claim to believe.  As we approach this Christmas season, let’s pray that the light of God’s Holy Spirit will shine in the hearts and minds of those who do not yet have an authentic faith relationship with God, believing Him to be exactly who the Bible says He is, and not something that we make Him to be.  Pray that they will come to Him and seek Him, not based in a righteousness they feel they already possess, but because of His great mercy.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pastor's Desktop Article for November 2014

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.   
John 17:3 NIV

            Why are we here?  What is the meaning of life?  These are questions that have been asked by mankind for generations, with limited satisfaction in finding answers.  Philosophers have pondered the universe in pursuit of answers, and many have ended their own lives because they lost sight of any significant reason to go on.  So, the world doesn’t have a really good, universally applicable reason or meaning for life.  What about the church?  What about God, what does He have to say about it?  The verse above very simply but succinctly answers the question.  “…that [we] man know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
            When we attempt to answer the meaning of life question without consulting the one who created the world, we cannot hope to satisfactorily answer the question.  It would be like the pot trying to determine its use without consulting the potter as to the reason it was made.  The resounding theme throughout all of Scripture is this theme.  From the beginning of time God has been making Himself known to mankind through a variety of means and ways.
            I think this helps us as a church, as well, to know why we are here.  What is it that Mt. Pleasant is supposed to do, here on the corner of Pittsburg and Mt. Pleasant?  As the Westminster Shorter Catechism responds to the question, “What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  As a church, how can we help accomplish that chief end?  If we will be faithful in making Him known, through our actions, our prayers, our programs, our activities, our worship and our lives, we will be doing our part in that quest to make Him known.
            There is a limit to what mankind can do to make God known to other men and women.  Some would say that we just need to make the message easier to understand; we need to say it this way or that way.  I contend that a great deal of that work of man knowing God, not just knowing about God, but in actually knowing God, belongs to Him through the work of His Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  And again later in the same chapter, verse 65, “He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him’.”
            Our part as a believer in Christ and as a church body is to be faithful to do our part to make Him known through all those means mentioned above.  Then God will use this message as He stirs the heart of those who will one day truly come to know Him.     
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mt. Pleasant News Pastor's Desktop article

…I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.  
2 Samuel 24:24b  NIV

            King David sinned before the Lord in having a census taken of the fighting men of Israel and Judah.  His sin was that God did not want David to become prideful or arrogant about the number of people he ruled over as king, nor to put his faith in the strength of his army.  God had forbidden such a census.  David overruled even the advice of his closest and most trusted friend, Joab, and ordered the count.  As soon as the number of fighting men was reported to David, he was grief stricken, knowing he had sinned a great sin before God.  “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.  Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant.  I have done a very foolish thing.”  (2 Sam. 25:10b)
            Through the prophet Gad, God gave David a choice of three terrible options.  You see, although David’s sin would be forgiven, there were still to be consequences for his sin.  David’s choice was to put himself in the hands of a God he knew to be merciful.  At this the plague began on Israel and Judah with thousands being destroyed in the plague.  As David watched the destruction, he was deeply grieved, and begged God to punish his own family instead of the rest of the house of Israel.  God gave instructions for David to go and offer a sacrifice to Him on the threshing floor of a man named Araunah, the Jebusite.
            David went as directed, and explained the reason for his royal visit to Araunah and asked to buy the threshing floor in order to offer the sacrifice there.  Araunah, being the loyal subject that he was, offered to give the floor, the wood and the animals needed for the sacrifice to David.  The king insisted in paying for all this, and the poignant part of his response is printed above. 
            “Wow, what a great story, Pastor, so what does that mean for me?” you might ask.  I’m glad you asked.  We are working through a brief series on the subject of worship.  Have you even considered what your worship costs you?  How much real sacrifice is involved in your worship?  What am I talking about?  Well, believe it or not, my first thoughts were NOT the offering plate, though there should be some measure of sacrifice made there too.  My first thoughts were of our involvement with the worship service, really being there, not just our body, but our mind and spirit as well.  When we are invited to stand and sing, are we doing more than just mouthing the words?  Are we taking in the words as well?  
            Can we forget about the clock, and just allow the service to be finished when it is done, instead of feeling like anything past 11:30 is late?  Are we there with a sense of what we can bring and give to God, (not just from our wallets) but of our worship, our encouragement to others, our fellowship with others, or are we there just to take--to see if we will be blessed?  Are we satisfied with offering to God that which costs us little or nothing?  It’s something to think about, and then act on.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pastor's Desktop Article for August 2014 Mt. Pleasant News

A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:34-35  NIV

            It sounds like such a simple command, “Love one another.”  And if that was all that Jesus said there, it might have been an easier command to live into, but He didn’t stop there.  He said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  He set the bar extremely high.  He has shown His love for us in so many ways, culminating in the cross—giving his very life for our salvation; all because He loves us.
            His love didn’t run out of patience when His disciples didn’t get what He was teaching them.  He knew the Holy Spirit would help them grasp it better later.  He didn’t bow out when the going got tough, but He entered into settings where He knew things would be difficult.  Whether it was going to His home town where folks couldn’t wrap their minds around Him being anything more than Mary and Joseph’s son, and His claims enraged them to the point of nearly hurling Him off of a cliff, or when it came to heading to Jerusalem that last time, knowing what was ahead, He stayed the course because of His great love for all those who would come to faith in Him.
            So, loving one another as Christ has loved us is an extremely high standard.  We have to keep in mind the compassion He felt for those who were keenly aware of their own short comings.  Whether it was the woman caught in adultery, the man born blind, or the woman who had the bleeding issue that touched the hem of His garment, His compassion was on display. 
            We have to keep in mind His humility, that even though He was the Son of God, He was willing to take the basin and the towel, get down on His knees and wash His disciple’s feet, showing them the model of the kind of leaders He was calling them to be.  His love for them, and for us for that matter, kept Him teaching those who would listen about His heavenly Father, so that they might understand and come to love Him more. 
            He finished His statement above with, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  If we are using His example of what it means to love one another, how are we doing?  How is the church doing?  Would the world even know that we are His disciples if all they had to go by was the measure of our love for each other?  Does the world know something about the love of Christ because they have seen it being worked out in our lives, and even directed toward those in the world?
            There is no doubt in my mind that I have a lot of room to grow in this area.  How about you?  I pray that we can help each other develop more of the love of Christ in us. 
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pastor's Desktop Article for Mt. Pleasant News, June 2014

From the Pastor's Desktop

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.  The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.  You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.  But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.   Isaiah 62:1-4 NIV

            The words of the song, Sweet Beulah Land, the men’s quartet is to sing for special music were rolling around in my head the last few weeks, and I decided to find out where the term “Beulah Land” came from.  The only place in all of Scripture that I can find a reference to it is in Isaiah 62:4.  If you were to look up the passage, you may have notes in your copy of the Scriptures that help you, but the definition is right there with the Scripture if we know how to find it.  The whole passage uses a pattern of two phrases that are similar and comparable.  We see it in verse 1.  The key words in that verse are “silent, and quiet” and also “dawn and blazing torch”.  The words help confirm the word picture contained in the sentence.
            The words Deserted and Desolate describe Israel after the time of exile and captivity.  The land lay basically deserted and desolate.  His plan was that upon their return to the land, that He would bless them, and no longer would their neighbors think of their land as deserted and desolate, but as a delight, and that they, in a sense, would be married to the land.  Verse 5 helps make that point.  “As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
            So when we sing, “Beulah Land, I’m longing for you, and some day, on thee I’ll stand, there my home shall be eternal, sweet Beulah Land,” we are singing of the land that God has promised us as an inheritance, our home in heaven, that we are longing for it, and that we will be married to it eternally as when a man takes a wife and that union is to be a lifelong union.
            Deserted and desolate describe for us our time before Christ, and maybe even some of our time while in Christ, but still on this earth.  We are, or at least should be, in some sense longing for that place God has prepared for us that we will rejoice in as when a couple who has been waiting and waiting finally get married, and are delighted in their new life together.     Thank you Squire Parsons for the rich words of this song.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen