Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pastor's Desktop Article for March 2015

“I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Phil. 1:3-6  NIV

            I’ve had some opportunity this past week to be very blessed as I’ve reflected on relationships that God has allowed me to have in my life.  It’s almost overwhelming when I stop and consider all the folks that God has brought into my life at various points—people I’ve ministered to and with, family and friends who have supported various aspects of ministry that I’ve been involved with, and those who have added so much to my own life.
            I can relate to Paul as he writes to the church in Philippi about how he thanks God every time he remembers them.  There are so many people in my life who bring that kind of thought to my mind as well as a smile to my face.  As I think of them, and how our paths crossed, I am happy to bring them once again to the Father’s throne, asking Him to bless them and watch over them and for Him to continue to make Himself known to them.
            I thought of those who helped support my recent trip to South Sudan, who offered to pray or helped me to raise the funds needed to go.  I thank God for every one of them.  They were a part of an amazing trip where I saw God at work as we ministered to more than 900 people, making gospel presentations to all of them, and knowing that each was seen by a medical professional to help improve their health in some way.  45 of those who heard the gospel made a profession of faith in Christ.  Many others were renewed in their faith as they recommitted their lives to Christ and returned to church.
            While in South Sudan, I was given an opportunity to speak at a retreat for young men that was going on at the same time while we were there, and in the process of that opportunity to preach, I was able to greet and encourage a man who had been my translator on two previous trips, and another who had been placed as a pastor in a church I had helped to plant.  It was exciting to renew those friendships, and catch up with where they were now in ministry.
            On the long journey home, we landed in Atlanta, (the next to the last stop on the way home) only to learn that our flight had been cancelled and due to the number of weather related flights cancelled, that there were no rooms to be had in the Atlanta area that evening.  I posted an update on Facebook relating our dilemma, and got a response from someone that folks here might remember, Alyson Bomberger, now Alyson Nagle.  She and her husband and family lived in the Atlanta area, and were willing to drive to the airport, pick up myself and the two ladies traveling with me at that point who were also stranded at the airport, host us for the night, and take us back to the airport in the morning.  Who, but God could take a long difficult day of travel and turn it into such a grand blessing?
            Now that I was getting home a day late, and at a time that Nancy would not be available to pick me up, I had no anxiety at all about getting home from the airport, as I knew I would only have to make a call or two to find someone from the church here who could help me get home from the airport.  Sure enough, I was able to reach Glenn, and he gladly met me and brought me home.
            Then as I made my breakfast Friday morning before heading into the office, I listened to Mark Kell preach the message from last Sunday’s service as he filled the pulpit for me.  As I think back on these and many other ways that I have been blessed by connections God has allowed me to make through the years, I can only echo the words of the apostle Paul once again.  “I thank my God every time I remember you…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

By His Grace Alone, and with a heart full of gratitude,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pastor's Desktop Article for February 2015

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 12:1-3 NIV

            Too often in our era, we spend most of our time reading, studying, and even preaching from the New Testament only.  We may have a sense that the Old Testament isn’t really relevant and God is different now, and so we should be relying on the New Testament for our understanding of God.  I too thought that way for much of my life until I came to realize that God hasn’t changed, and the God of the New Testament is the same God we find in the Old Testament.  It is one continuous story of God’s love for mankind, and His relationship with those created in His image.
            When God initiated His covenant with Abraham, then referred to as Abram, He was beginning to make Himself known personally to a specific group of people that He would call His own.  Over the span of many generations, He would make Himself known to them in a variety of different settings, through a variety of different means that all were a part of this process of self-revelation.  God continues to this day to call people into relationship with Himself and continues to use a variety of different settings and means.  As curious as it is, and as weak as we are, God choses to use us to take the message of His mercy and grace to the world; and it all began with this promise to Abram, “…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
            From the time of Abram, or Abraham, the name God gave him later on, until now, God has been fulfilling this promise and we see this in the evangelistic efforts of so many who answer the call to spread the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Whether that means sharing the gospel with folks in our neighborhood, teaching the message of the gospel with our children in our home, or a Sunday School class at church, or traveling to take the gospel to foreign lands, people are being blessed as they hear and respond to the message of finding peace with God, and the hope of an eternal home in heaven.
            And before we even think about patting ourselves on the back for our initiative in this work, remember it was God who was the initiator.  He called Abraham, He built the nation of Israel, He sent His only Son into the World as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of those who would receive Him.  And even in our faithfulness to share the gospel, wherever that may be, it still requires Him working through His Holy Spirit to awaken the heart and mind of an individual to the truth of the gospel before that ancient blessing is realized.
            `In a few days, I’ll be boarding a plane, or series of planes bound for the region of Kajo Keji, South Sudan.  My purpose is to share the gospel with those who the Lord will direct our team to through the course of our time there.  While I would appreciate your prayers for our safety as we travel, even more important would be to pray for God to move and make Himself known to the people of South Sudan, not just the ones we will talk to, but to the region as a whole.  The work of evangelism there goes on whether Americans are there or not due to the diligence and hard work of the nationals there who are constantly training and preparing more and more men as pastors and missionaries because the need is so great.
            Perhaps it is because hope has been such a scarce commodity in the region for so long given the political unrest the people of this area have known in the last 20-30 years, but whatever the reason, God has seen fit to stir the hearts of the people of South Sudan to draw them to Himself.  Please pray that this work will continue, and that in some small way, we may be able to see and be a part of the work that He is doing there.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen