Saturday, April 30, 2016

Here is my Pastor's Desktop Article for May 2016.

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves; but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. “
(2 Corinthians 4:1-7 NIV)
            For the past few weeks, on Sunday mornings, we have been looking at the subject of “The Power of The Gospel”.  We have used a variety of passages to look at how the gospel is about a righteousness from God, not of our own doing, that it is foolish in the eyes of the world, but it is a gospel of the truth about God and His effective plan for our salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is a gospel that we proclaim as effectively as we can, whenever we can, but the power in its being understood comes from God, the Holy Spirit. 
            To further make the point that the power in the effectiveness of the gospel is from God, and not from us, we can remember this passage from 2 Corinthians 4.  As a pastor, and minister of the gospel, I am often reminded that no matter how badly I might want to have someone grasp and receive the message that I share on any given Sunday, (or at any other time for that matter), the power to cause them to grasp and understand the message does not lie with me. 
            Paul, in rather humbling terms, describes how the power of the gospel lies with God, and not from us.  We are but weak, fragile vessels in the process.  While a clay jar was an important part of their everyday lives, they did not stand up well when dropped or knocked over.  While they might have a beautiful design on the exterior, or be kept for special purposes, they were still to be handled carefully.  Given our weakness, and our likeliness of failure, it’s amazing to me that God is even able to use us. 
            We are instructed elsewhere to remember who has made the clay jar, and that it is He who gets to determine its purpose and use.  It is He who makes our work effective, and fruitful.  The “god of this age” (the devil) has blinded many eyes from seeing the light of the gospel, but when the light of God’s Holy Spirit shines through, and spiritual awakening happens, it is a glorious thing—a true work of God.
            It is to the glory of God that He awakens us; that He allows His light to shine in our darkness.  It is good for us to remember that the power of the gospel resides in the One who originated the whole plan of man’s redemption.  The power does not rest in the messenger, but in the one who sent him; not in the vessel, but in the one who made the vessel and filled it with living water.
            So we are to carry the message of the gospel, to proclaim it regularly, and then pray!  Pray that God will make that message powerful and effective so that lives can be transformed, and changed forever.  We should pray that He would be glorified by using these weak, fragile vessels to carry this life changing message.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mt. Pleasant Newsletter Pastor's Desktop article for April 2016

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. “
(Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)
            Life is hard.  That’s why it is so important to be a part of a local church body.  Anyone who has ever gone through a hard time, and has through that time felt the compassion and support of their local church can testify to the tremendous help and encouragement they’ve felt through that time.  In any given week, someone may be dealing with health issues of their own or of a close family member, there may be a job change/loss, there can be tensions in family relationships, death, divorce, misunderstandings, gossip, jealousy, and I’m sure anyone reading this could list twenty more things.  The church is not immune to problems like these because they are part of our human existence.  I say that not to minimize anything anyone is going through, just to say that, in general, life a various points along the way is hard.
            So what is the answer?  There is no simple or easy answer to the long list of things we will have to go through in our lifetime.  But when we know that there is someone who will let us spill our guts to them, and not be judged by them, or to commit to help pray for us through a difficult spot, or to just be there with us, is a great help.  Sometimes, it’s not something special that someone said along the way, it’s that they were there along the way, helping to bear our burden just by being there with us through it.
            That’s at least part of what Paul is writing about to the Philippian church in this passage.  If we are Christians, (united with Christ), if we are comforted by the love He has shown us, if we have the Holy Spirit living within us, if we have learned tenderness and compassion through our relationship with Christ, then live into that by being united in mind, in love, in spirit and in purpose.  Don’t just look out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.
            Sometimes the best therapy for being lonely or down is to set our sights on helping someone else.  When we are extending genuine compassion to others because of what they are going through, sometimes our problems seem to fade into the background, and we are blessed by being a blessing to others.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve made a visit or had a conversation with someone that I hope to cheer up or encourage, and found myself leaving that occasion being encouraged and blessed myself.
            Life is hard.  If you’ve not found that true just yet, count yourself fortunate for now, and don’t be overwhelmed when it comes, because it is common to our existence here on earth.  The uncommon thing is how the church can be a source of support, encouragement, love and compassion when the church is truly extending the love they’ve received from their relationship with Christ, and passing it along to others who need that shoulder, that gentle hug, that kind word. 
            Paul is really just calling us to be an extension of Christ’s love in this world.  Not because someone deserves it, but because they need it.  One day you’ll need it, and you’ll be glad to know its there for you too.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen