Friday, November 4, 2016

Pastor's Desktop Article for November 2016

“Then Job answered the Lord and said:  I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
(Job 42:1-6 ESV)
            Who is this God we claim to know?  Do we really know Him?  Have we not created in our own minds a god who is less disgusted with our sin; a god who second guesses, and changes His mind like we do?  We have created in our minds a god who is weak like us; who is faulty like us?  And because we have created this weak faulty god in our minds, we are not able to trust Him, because this god we created is prone to the same failures as we are.  But this is not the God of the Bible, the God who has created us; given us life and breath; given us redemption through the blood of His own Son, Jesus Christ. 
            When we fail to recognize the sovereign nature of our God, it’s no wonder that we worry that this one or that one will be elected to the presidency, or that this party or that one will be in power in our government.  When we have forgotten that God inspired Paul to write in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the government authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”, it’s no wonder that we act and think as though the world as we know it is coming to an end.  If the world comes to an end, it is the end that the Lord, the sovereign God of all has set for it.  If our once great nation ceases to exist, it will be because the Lord has deemed it so. 
            If that were to happen, if our worst fears were to come to pass, what might be God’s purpose in allowing it to happen?  Just as the nation of Israel got fat and happy when they had finally arrived at the Promised Land, and subdued so many of the nations around them, they began to think it was because of their own strength, their own goodness and righteousness that won them that position, and they soon forgot the provision of the Lord that made their current status possible.  They forgot how they were slaves in Egypt until the Lord delivered them out by His own might and supernatural power.  They forgot how the Lord fed them in the wilderness where there was neither food nor water for them, but He provided it to them.
            Have we not traveled down much the same road?  Before this nation took shape, before patriots dreamed of such a nation, this land was sought out as a place of refuge where people could freely worship God; a place where force of government did not determine the mode or model of their relationship with their God.  Now we have largely forgotten who this God is, and we have made a god that is much easier to please, a god who has lowered his standards to smile at our scandalous behavior.
            One thing will be true on November 9, 2016, whether we choose to recognize it or not.  God, the Lord Almighty will still be on His throne in heaven with Jesus Christ, His Son at His right hand.  He will still be a God who is perfectly righteous and holy, but for those who would be truly repentant before Him, He will quickly pardon through the shed blood of His Son.  Let us leave room for Him on the throne of our own hearts and lives, and allow no other, not some political leader, nor our own ego to reside there.  Let God be God, and let us faithfully serve Him, and not pretend it to be the other way around.           

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pastor's Desktop Article for OCtober 2016

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  For I did not receive if from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received if through a revelation of Jesus Christ. “
(Galatians 1:8, 11-12 ESV)
            It is nothing new that we are bombarded by various “alternative” gospels, or supposed answers to the great question of life, “Why am I here?”  Even in church circles, there are many different “versions” of the gospel, and I’m not talking about Bible Versions, but depending on one’s view of Scripture, their take on the gospel may become skewed.  What sounds good and appealing to TV viewers, or others who more fair weather folks might not be so rooted and grounded in Scripture.  Paul saw the same thing going on in Galatia.
            He had planted the gospel there while apparently dealing with an illness of his eyes, (ch. 4:13-14) and had given them the gospel of Jesus Christ based solely upon salvation through faith in Christ, not upon works of the law.  After he had continued on his missionary journey, someone else, namely the Judiazers, came along and required them to be circumcised in order to be saved.  So now the Galatians were putting their trust in the works of the law, namely the rite of circumcision, instead of in the grace of God offered through faith in Christ alone.
            This concept of a “works” salvation works itself into our minds so subtly that even those who have been in the church for most of our lives can be drawn into it without realizing it.  When we start mentally weighing our good deeds against our bad, and justifying our actions as a result, we have allowed this “works” salvation to creep in.
            The bottom line is that our works, our good deeds, our best efforts at being righteous will never be enough to make us righteous before our holy God.  Only the grace of God, and our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ can make us right and holy before Him.
            It’s not that we shouldn’t do good works.  Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  But the verses prior to that indicate, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
            There will be no boasting in heaven about how good we were, or what great deeds we may have accomplished.  These will all be dwarfed by the realization of how rich and merciful was the grace of God that saved us, and how underserving we all were.  That’s why it will be such a rich time of the worship of God because of the realization of His greatness, His love, and His benevolence toward those who are there in His presence. 
            Let’s begin that recognition of His goodness to us even now, as we offer back ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), and by making this true gospel known.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pastor's Desktop Article for September 2016

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. “
(Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)
            What is Grace?  We talk about it in the church, we sing about it, we are grateful for it, but how much do we really understand it?  I get the sense that all too often, we think of the position we have been given through faith in Christ as something we’ve achieved on our own somehow, because we were smart enough to figure it out, or we chose wisely in regard to our salvation.  This couldn’t be further from the reality of what grace truly is.  Grace is getting a benefit, some degree of favor that we in no way deserve.  We didn’t have it coming because of our association with a church, or being raised in a Christian home, or because of any “good behavior” we might think we’ve achieved.  Not only did we not deserve it, but we deserved the opposite of grace, we deserved judgment, leading to eternal punishment.  All of us deserved that fate.  That’s what Paul wrote in the verses preceding the passage above.
            We were dead, headed down a dead-end road, on the path to our own destruction, without a real awareness of our dreadful fate when God shows up and grants us this incredible gift—the gift of our heart and mind being opened to His great love for us, and His desire to set us free from the path we were on.  He made us alive in Him.  Alive like we have never been before, awakened to our dreadful selves, and the beauty of His holiness, and putting on us a stamp of “forgiven” without one single effort on our part to grant us that status.  In fact there is nothing we could do to cause us to be forgiven.  It’s a gift from God. 
            He has taken away any ability on our part to be able to boast about our salvation.  Just like the children of Israel, having crossed the Red Sea, and seeing Pharaoh’s army drowned in the sea behind them could not boast and say, “Look what we did!”  Nor can we look back at the forgiveness of God, and the promise of a home in heaven, and lay any claim to that accomplishment.  “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
            That is Grace.  God gives us something we in no way deserve in order to express His love for us, and to establish us as His beloved children with full rights of inheritance, being made part of His household forever.  Why us?  It was only because He loved us.  John the apostle writes it this way in John 1:12-13:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
            Grace is much more than just the kindness of God, but it is the kindness and love of God at a time when we were still his enemies, rebelling against Him, still serving ourselves, and headed for eternal destruction.  It is love when we were unlovely; it is love when we deserved judgment, and death.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.”  John Newton understood grace.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pastor's Desktop Article for August 2016

“By Faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. “
(Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV)
            What does it mean to have faith?  The writer of Hebrews, in 11:1 describes it this way.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  For Abraham, it meant that He believed God could, if necessary, raise Isaac back from the dead.  That may seem like pretty amazing faith, but it had been developed over more than 25 years of walking with God.  God had come to him in the land of Haran, and told him to go to a land “I will show you”.  God then made some specific promises to Abraham:  “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  (Gen. 12:2-3)
            Over the course of that period of time, Abraham had heard from God on a number of occasions, and most importantly, Abraham knew that God planned to fulfill the promised made to him through Isaac in particular and thus far, God had kept all the promises He had made with Him.  So in spite of the fact that God’s most recent instruction to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice would mean Isaac’s death, and the end of any possibility of those promises being fulfilled through him, Abraham believed that somehow God could still keep His promises, even if that meant raising Isaac from the dead.  That was the faith that had developed to this point.
            Though he could not see how God would keep His promise, and he did not know how it would come to pass, he believed that it would, based upon his relationship with God up to that time.  To use the language of the writer of Hebrews, he was assured of something he had placed his hope in—the surety of the promise of God, and he was convinced that though he could not presently see it, that it would in fact fulfill His promises through Isaac.
            The faith that we have in God works in the same manner.  Our faith in God began when we began to establish a knowledge base about Him based upon a wide variety of things including, but not limited to, things we learned from our parents, through our own study of the Bible, and through our experiences in the church setting.  If we’ve had conversations with those much older than us about their faith experiences, and how God had been faithful to them; those conversations help build our knowledge base, and increase our own faith in God.
            There are times when our faith has been dramatically tested, perhaps not to the point of being willing to offer a child to God as a sacrifice, but through times of loss, of uncertainty about health, a job, getting married, having children, moving out of state, or other significantly challenging times.  These times are able to cause our faith in God to increase as we personally learn that we are able to trust Him more and more.
            “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  (1Peter 1:3-9)

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen