Friday, May 3, 2019

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”                                                                                                 Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
            This passage captures so much about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  First, there’s the obvious, that He serves us as our great high priest, interceding for us before the Father.  That is significant in and of itself.  We do not presently depend on a human priest, who is fraught with all of our weaknesses, and having to deal with their own sins.  We have a great high priest who when here in human form was tempted “in every respect…as we are, yet without sin”.  He does not need to atone for His own sin.
            Another thing I see in this is that we see both the fully human and fully divine aspects of Jesus Christ.  In His human form, the incarnation of God, He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and knows what it means to be tempted.  We also then see His divine form  It’s because of this co-existent divine form that He resisted sin completely, and thus is uniquely able to atone for our sin with His blood.
            All of this allows us to have the confidence mentioned in verse 16.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Have you even stopped to think about being able to approach the throne of grace with confidence, instead of abject fear?  Certainly we should not approach casually, or with disregard for who it is we are addressing, but we need not fear being struck down by the one who sits on the throne because of our sin.  Jesus has made peace with God for us when He atoned for our sins once for all with His own blood sacrifice.
            That act of atonement makes prayer not only possible, but enjoyable, as we approach a God who is at peace with us, and loves us.  We can approach Him to receive mercy (not getting what we deserve), and find grace (enjoying a benefit we did not earn) in time of need.  I hope you regularly take advantage of this wonderful opportunity we have for communication with the one who is our heavenly Father. 
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, April 5, 2019

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”                                                                                                      John 20:30-31 ESV
            This disciple was intentional about writing out his experience with Jesus, highlighting in particular the things that would authenticate who He was, and what He did, with the end goal of salvation in mind.  John was very careful to capture Jesus’ words and actions in a way that helps us to see this incarnation of God.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3, 14)
            The other New Testament writers had a similar goal in mind—that of recording the truth about Jesus, all the while inspired by the Holy Spirit as they wrote.  This is the reason why God has provided for and protected Scripture and put it on the hearts of those who love Him to preserve it, translate it, and make it readily available. 
            Paul writes of the gospel in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”  The gospel, when accompanied by the working of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart and mind, has the power to save. 
            The letter written by Jude underscores the importance of having this written record and maintaining its authenticity throughout the ages, as there are those who would love to corrupt the message and deny its power.  “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)
            My prayer is that if you haven’t already, you will make yourself  a student of the Bible, and never grow tired of being immersed in the Scriptures, and that the Holy Spirit will “guide you into all the truth.”
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Friday, February 1, 2019

“In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be’.  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.  That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’.  But the words ‘counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.  It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. ”                                                                                                        Romans 4:18-25  ESV
            Part of what I see taking place in the Old Testament is God setting up circumstances in a way so that His people can’t take any credit whatsoever.  We see this with Abraham and Sarah.  Their age, and their inability to have children made them totally dependent upon God to fulfill His promise to nation build through them.  All along that journey, into Egypt, and then some 400 years later, out of Egypt, and across the wilderness to the Promised Land, and then taking possession of the Promised Land was an exercise in God providing, guiding, and clearing the way for them.
            Abraham set the example of trusting and believing in God’s promises that were made to Him, despite what the current observations might indicate.  Wow, what a lesson for us today!  Too often, we look only at the circumstances around us and say, “Oh, we’re too small, we’re too weak, and we don’t have enough money…”, but God has put a work before us and called us to it.  He is no less able to fulfill His promises than He was in Abraham’s day. 
            Not only does this hold true for His provision for us in the work of the church, but in our own individual lives in a spiritual sense as well.  If God has promised us His forgiveness, and we have concrete examples of the great measure of that forgiveness, how is it that we can think that God may not be able to forgive us?  If you think your sin was too great, His grace is greater.  If you think you’ve failed too many times, His mercies are new every morning!
            Too often we put limits on God that are of our own making.  Let’s expand our understanding of who God is, and that there are no limits on His power, on His grace, on His resources and His ability and desire to keep all His promises.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Thursday, January 3, 2019

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another.  The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.  ‘They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.  Then once more you shall see the distinction between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.’                                                                                                                                    Malachi 3:16-18   ESV
            It’s not uncommon for those who try to live a Christian life, to live in a way that’s distinctly different from the world, and feel as though there is no use in continuing that effort.  They see those who have no regard for God and His Word going through life with seemingly no great difficulty, and paying no immediate penalty for their sinful ways.  Habakkuk asked a similar question in his prayer to God in the first chapter of the bible book attributed to him.  “Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.  So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”  He too was feeling the frustration of not seeing God make the wicked pay for their sin, and seeing no reward for the righteous.
            The promise here in Malachi is that in the LORD’s time; at the time when He determines, there will be a settling of accounts, and those who “feared the LORD and esteemed His name” will “make up my [God’s] treasured possession”.  The end of my bible reading plan had me reading the last chapters of 4 different bible books at the same time; 2 Chronicles, Malachi, John and Revelation.  I have to say, all of them ended with a hopeful look ahead to a day when God will set things right.
            God is a perfectly just God and will not allow sin to go unpunished.  That is a dreadful message to us except for the fact that God sent His Son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  Our sins are punished in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, if we have trusted and believed in Him.  And because our sins have been dealt with through the blood of Christ there is great hope for us, and great reason to live in a way that honors the God in whose promises we trust.
            One day we will see the day when the distinction between those who serve God and those who serve themselves will be obvious to all.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  And the apostle John in the book of Revelation, he concludes his thought on the great judgment with these words: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
            I don’t write that to scare anyone, but to help you know that there is hope for the believer.  There is a reason and purpose to living a godly life.  There is a consequence for rejecting the offer of a holy God who loves you enough to send His Son to die in your place.  The reward is very real for those who believe in Him, and the consequence is also very real for those who refuse Him.  I hope this brief note finds you encouraged and not nervous.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen