Focus!

January 26th, 2010

Tuesday January 26, 2010

Hi friends! I was reading through a devotional this afternoon by Beth Moore. This particular devotion was based on Luke 4:31-37 and Jesus’ interaction with a man possessed by a demon. The devotion spoke of the enemy of our souls – satan. It ended with these words “Noise and distraction. These remain some of the enemy’s stock-in-trade.”
WOW. How on the mark is that? Jesus said in John 15:5 that life happens when we “remain in Him.” Apart from Jesus, says Jesus himself, we can do nothing. We are to stay connected to him – in prayer, in fellowship with one another, and in worship. If that connection is broken – not much will happen.
Enter noise and distraction. Well Lord, I didn’t have time to pray today because I had to do this, this, and this (all of which are GOOD things). Well Lord, I was not connected to reading your word today because x, y, and z (all of which are VERY GOOD things). If the enemy of our sould can distract us and keep us busy doing GOOD things – we will not have time for the BEST THINGS.
Today, brothers and sisters, may we not get caught up in the noise and distraction of busyness. May we stay connected to Christ – praying for one another, reading His word, spending time encouraging one another! That will break the enemy’s back and give us vibrant life!

I want to live deeply life in Christ not some distracted noisy life of “goodness”!

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson

December 30, 2009

Well friends, it is almost the end of 2009. How time flies. It seems like just yesterday that Lisa, the kids, and I were unloading the U-Haul at the manse and beginning the adventure as pastor of Hanover Presbyterian. In no time flat, 4 1/2 months have gone by. We’ve celebrated Christmas together and now the New Year is upon us.

With the New Year will come all kinds of “resoultions.” In 2010 I want to. . .

As I read through Psalm 30 this morning I was reminded of a song we sang many years ago in the Westminster College gospel choir. “My soul loves Jesus. My soul loves Jesus. Weeping may endure for night. . .but joy comes in the morning!”

Psalm 30:11-12 state: “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD God, I will give thanksw to you forever!”

As 2010 comes, will you give thanks to the one who has turned mourning in to dancing? Will you live each day giving thanks to the Father, through the blood of the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit?

I hope you will. May you end 2009 in thanksgiving and live 2010 “in Christ” always giving thanks to God!

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson

Jesus Brings Reconciliation

December 8th, 2009

Hi everyone! Happy December 8. I hope that you are doing well today.

I have another message from around the world. This devotion is one of 24 written in “HOPE For a Despairing World,” an advent devotional written by Christian leaders from around the world. Today it is from Salim Munayer who lives in Jerusalem. Salim (as of 2003) is the Dean of the Bethlehem Bible College and Executive Director of Musalaha (a ministry of reconciliation). He is FLUENT in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Salim starts with Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”

He writes: “Isaiah 42 is a prophetic chapter that describes the character and work of our Messiah. The rich imagery speaks to both the spiritual and personal dimensions of all of our lives, but it has special bearing upon those of us involved in reconciliation work among Israelis and Palestinians. In fact, among those for whom the violence and hopelessness of the Middle East is local news, understanding that ‘a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out’ is particularly poignant. It not only reminds us that our Savior provides hope and promises justice, but also that His ways are gentle. And without this reminder we might choose a different path.”

“Following Christ in the land of his birth is very hard. For the believer striving to fulfill the commands and example of our Messiah – to love even our enemies – these internal and external pressures can bring brokenness. Yet in brokenness, the Spirit ministers, and brings and sustains life.”

May we seek Jesus Christ, the living and reigning Lord, today and allow Him to use us to minister life to the brokenness all around us!

“LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, WE ARE BROKEN VESSELS LIVING IN A FALLEN WORLD. ANGER AND HATE SURROUND US AND OFTEN TAKE ROOT IN OUR OWN HEART. AGAINST ALL OF THIS YOU CAME AS THE PRINCE OF PEACE. YOUR WAYS LOOK BEYOND OUR SMALLNESS TO BE ROOTED IN LOVE. MAY WE TAKE OUR CUES FROM YOUR WORD AND FROM YOUR SPIRIT. MAY WE BE VOICES OF HOPE IN A HURTING AND DISTRUSTFUL WORLD. IN CHRIST’S NAME WE PRAY, AMEN.”

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson

Prayer for you!

November 5th, 2009

Thursday November 5, 2009

Hi friends. It is overwhelming the amount of pain in our world. I have talked with several folks in the past few days who are living in immense physical pain. The front page of yesterday’s paper told of a number of bodies found in an Ohio man’s house. The pain the families must be going through. This Sunday is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Our brothers and sisters throughout the world often live in pain – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, from being persecuted for their faith.

If faith in Christ can’t answer this pain it is quite frankly useless. Faith in Christ doesn’t embrace pain in some stoic fashion. It also does not brush it aside with a smile. Faith in Christ hits pain and suffering square in the jaw and is summed up nicely in the following prayer from Habakkuk. His prayer is my prayer for you today.

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”
Amen! (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

DESIST!

November 4th, 2009

Wed. Nov. 4, 2009

In an earlier devotion I referenced Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (ESV) I mentioned that the English is probably too nice. In the Hebrew the word translated “Be still” is an IMPERATIVE – meaning “DO THIS!” The New American Standard Bible translates it “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Both the imperative to “Be Still/Cease Striving” and the imperative to “KNOW” are plurals – for all of us! In Pittsburghese these verses would be “Yinz guys stop n’at! Yinz guys understand He is God (n’at)!”

This verse came to mind this morning as I was praying for folks. I think of members of our congregation in serious physical pain. I think of loved one of our congregation who are in the hospital with serious illnesses. I think of how “busy” everyone is. I think about life in Western PA where the weather is lousy, the work is hard, and joy seems often limited. I think of these things and this verse comes to mind. Be still. . . Be still. . . Be still. . . .

Friends – whatever your circumstances at this moment – Be still and know that He is God. Be still and know that He entered time and space in Jesus Christ. Be still and experience the love that God has for YOU. Know that as you do this, you will be centered and sent out to tell others. When that happens the rest of the verse will come to fruition – God will be exalted among the nations. He will be exalted in the earth!

Cease striving brothers and sisters and know that God is God. AND, He is faithful!

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson

GOOD vs. BEST

October 30th, 2009

Friday October 30, 2009

Hi friends! I am so sorry that it has been 3 full weeks since my last daily devotion. Where has it been?

Well, it is amazing how things can get lost in the shuffle when you are out of a routine. The Ellis family has been out of a routine for about 3 weeks now -attending a conference, hosting friends from out of town, and generally still trying to figure out our new environment. So, for the lapse I apologize. For what I have relearned in the past 3 weeks I do not apologize. Here is what I have relearned:

The most important thing in life IS our relationship to the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the BEST. If Jesus is not centering us, something else will take center in our lives and we will be in a constant state of confusion using our own strength. We may do many GOOD things, but we burn out quickly and there is no depth to our lives.

When Jesus centers us we take time for the really important in life – people. Our congregation was reminded of this last Sunday during prayer requests. There was a reminder to take time for people because you do not know when their time on Earth is up. I am reminded of this today as it was one year ago that I saw my grandfather for the last time. I visited him on October 30, 2008 and he died on November 11, 2008. I did not see him more because I was doing GOOD things in ministry.

Friends, don’t get caught up in ACTIVITY. This is especially urgent as we enter the “Holiday Season.” ACTIVITIES can be GOOD, but they can also take us away from the BEST.

Over the past 3 weeks I have let the GOOD take presedence over the BEST. The BEST is time with a loving savior that molds and shapes us into HIS image. The BEST is living out of a deep sense of who we are as sons or daughters of the living King of Kings! The BEST will flow out of us and do many GOOD things.

In Jesus Christ we have all we need. Let us glorify Him and enjoy Him forever as we love Him and love others. It is good to be back!

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson

Glad God is NOT like us!

October 9th, 2009

Friday October 9, 2009

This afternoon I yelled at my son. I mean yelled. If you hear the neighbors around town saying, “Boy that new pastor of yours sure can yell,” I am sad to say they would be right. I am ordained, set apart, but I am certainly not perfect, as this moment clearly pointed out.

My son would not obey. I asked him to go in the garage. No movement. I asked him again. No movement. My voice raised as I asked him again. No movement. By this time I was furious and I screamed “NOW!” It still didn’t work and I screamed louder.

Then I remembered last week’s Sunday School lesson. I had just been reading about it again this morning. The person with the ENORMOUS debt that was cancelled who then choked the person who owed him a TINY amount.

What God must think? He says to me “obey” and no movement. “Obey” and no movement. Yet he does not scream at me. Instead he continues to give me mercy and grace. Oh how we must make our heavenly Father furious! Yet instead of fury, we get a son – given in our place.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me to be a better parent and that the same Spirit will give a sense of obedience to my oldest child. But I also PRAISE GOD that He is not like us.

He is love and forgiveness and holiness all wrapped up in a baby boy that would grow up to go alone to the cross. Because of HIM, I am forgiven. May I live in thankful response.

Rejoicing in Christ,

Pastor Jefferson

Sing and Declare

October 7th, 2009

Wednesday October 7, 2009

Hi friends. This morning I was reading a commentary on Colossians in preparation for the upcoming sermon series “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Beginning this Sunday and going until Advent we are going to let the book of Colossians remind us that God came in the flesh – in Jesus Christ. And just to get you thinking, I direct you to two verses from today’s lectionary Psalm, Psalm 89:1-2:

I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

The author of this Psalm is singing and declaring the LORD’s “steadfast love.” I cannot figure out how to get Hebrew font on here so I cannot show you, but in “Englisbrew” it is “chesed Yahweh.” In other words, the covenant faithfulness of the triune relational God! God would die rather than fail His covenant. That type of covenant faithfulness and love was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection.

The only proper response to this type of faithfulness is singing and declaring. Singing and declaring the steadfast love of the LORD is singing and declaring Jesus Christ is Lord. That is what the book of Colossians is all about. As you go about your day today whether it is as a college student, medical worker, teacher, stay at home mom, or something completely different, may you be encouraged because Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the incarnation of God’s steadfast love – His covenant faithfulness. And, as I wrote yesterday, when you place your faith in Jesus Christ, you belong to him, body and soul, in life and in death. I cannot think of anything more secure and hope filled. Live today in the hope and firmness of Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate covenant faithfulness.

Rejoicing in Christ,

Pastor Jefferson

Praise God in this?

October 6th, 2009

Tuesday October 6, 2009

Hi friends. Happy Tuesday to you! I last posted a daily devotion on Friday when we were anticipating an ultrasound to see if there was anything “wrong” with our newest family member. There is nothing “wrong!” Medically the baby is fine. However, the whole ordeal, and several other recent events , reminded me of the amazing joy of life – and how we are literally creatures in the hand of the Creator.

I mentioned last Friday that I love the 1st question to the Heidelberg Catechism. It is SO reassuring. “I belong – body and soul, in life and in death – not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ . . . .” How timely that statement is.

This morning church member Paul Wilcoxen passed away. While the pain of this loss is evident in his wife of over 50 years, it is an encouragement to know that Paul belongs to Jesus – in life and in death.

That is the thought I want to leave you with today. We belong -body and soul, in LIFE AND IN DEATH – to Jesus Christ.
I got good news on Friday – everything is okay. I was prepared, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to praise God if I had NOT gotten good news. That would only be possible if I KNOW that God is in control – and I belong to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ – You belong, body and soul, in life and in death to Jesus Christ. May this bring you encouragement, confidence, and joy no matter what you are currently going through. Please join me today in lifting up the Wilcoxen family in prayer.

“God of compassion, in sorrow, we receive from you the comfort you alone can give. Enable us to see that you are always working for our good. You are our dwelling place, O God, and underneath us are your everlasting arms. Assure us of your love that we may be able to accept what we cannont understand. Help us to be aware not only of the shadows of death, but also of the splendor of life eternal. Enable us even now to face life with courage; give us the grace and the strength to go on, knowing that the great cloud of witnesses surrounds us. Comfort and uphold us, until we share together the light of your glory and the peace of your eternal presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Friday October 2, 2009

Good morning friends. As I write this there is anxiety in the Ellis house. In a couple hours we will have an ultrasound to see if our unborn child is completely healthy or if there is cause for concern. We found out Wed. that their may be cause for concern. We’ll let you know what we find out.

Now I know that the scripture in Matthew 6 tells us not to be anxious. I KNOW that Jesus is in control. I also KNOW that I am oh so human. My humanity is why I NEED Jesus. It is why I cling to the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. Before I share it with you, let me give you a little background about confessions (and myself).

I am not “Presbyterian” because I was raised that way – I was not. I am not even one who cares too much about denominations. I have excellent friends all over the denominational map. My favorite experiences in faith have been at non-denominational events and conferences. All that to say I’m not married to a denomination but to Jesus Christ.
HOWEVER, having said that, I do believe Presbyterians have the best systems. ALSO, we have the best stated beliefs and interpretations of scripture. I tell you all of this about me personally so you will understand why I so often refer to “the confessions.”

Along with scripture, our church, PC(USA), is governed by a Constitution and that Constitution is made up of 2 parts. Part 1 is the Book of Confessions. Part 2 is the Book of Order.

You might be wondering “What is the book of confessions?” From the book itself we read:
“To confess means openly to affirm, declare, acknowledge or take a stand for what one believes to be true. The truth that is confessed may include the admission of sin and guilt but is more
than that. When Christians make a confession, they say, “This is what we most assuredly believe, regardless of what others may believe and regardless of the opposition, rejection, or persecution that may come to us for taking this stand.”

“On the one hand, all Christians are by definition people who confess their faith— people who make their own the earliest Christian confession: “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The Christian church, called and held together by Jesus Christ himself, lives
only through the continual renewal of this fundamental confession of faith that all Christians and Christian bodies make together. On the other hand, a confession of faith is an officially adopted statement that spells out a church’s understanding of the meaning and implications of the one basic confession of the lordship of Christ.”

Included in our Book of Confessions is the Heidelberg Catechism. Completed in 1562 the Heidelberg Catechism was written primarily to be a document upon which both the “Reformed” and the “Lutheran” believers in Christ could agree. You can read the catechism in its entirety at http://www.pcusa.org/oga/publications/boc.pdf .

The reason I bring all of this to your attention is because in the anxiety of our life today we take immense joy and peace in the following question and answer:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

I encourage you today to take comfort in the fact that as a believer in Jesus Christ you belong to HIM – NO MATTER WHAT! In all the many anxieties of life today may you and I boldly confess that Jesus is Lord and we belong to Him!

Rejoicing in Christ,
Pastor Jefferson