Get Your Gratitude Going!

It is SOOOO easy to get caught up in the ruts of our routine lives and SOOO easy to focus on our challenges rather than our blessings.  Please take a minute and see how the Psalmist told us to look at it as we consider this week’s prayer list.

PSALM 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

-Pastor Dave Jones

Giving Thanks with Hearts of Gratitude

In this Season of JOY in which we celebrate the birth of Hope, Redemption, Salvation, and Reconciliation with God, please remember to turn to God in prayers of rejoicing, putting ALL your cares at His feet. In the dark days of winter, praise the eternal light found under the star of Bethlehem – Immanuel: God WITH us!

-Pastor Dave Jones

“Fake News”

We hear an  awful  lot about “fake news” these days.  While I am by no means a journalist, I thought the duty of a news reporter was to chronicle and publish stories which were based on facts and truth about events.  It is true that one can view events from one’s own perspective and thus “see what you want to see,” but it is also true that professional reporters have a duty to present factual accounts which fairly represent the events covered.  In today’s highly politicized media world, it has become extremely difficult to find fair and balanced reporting.  It seems that both “liberals” and “conservatives” want to spin events to shine the best possible light on their particular causes.  It is a sad commentary on the culture of America today. Politicians spending all their time investigating and accusing one another instead of focusing on legislation and governance of the people.  Mud-slinging for political gain is certainly not new, but it has been given unprecedented “importance” thanks to the politicization of major news outlets.

I urge you to consider carefully what you believe to be truth.  Most news outlets have proven to be less than reliable sources of information.  As we know from history, it is best to go back to the original source documents (or happening) to find the facts.  If you want to know if a Court’s decision to declare something unconstitutional is valid, go back and look at the Constitution and see for yourself.  Many of The Supreme Court’s “opinions” rendered in the past century, when examined under the scrutiny of the Country’s original documents, do not appear to be valid.  Why? The justices who sit on the courts have biases (e.g. liberal or conservative) and tend to interpret the law in the way which best mirrors their own agenda.

With all this politicization going on in government and the media, how are we (Christians) supposed to fulfill our civic duties as citizens? It is simple: go back to THE Original Truth – Scripture, and measure everything against that. The Word of God has the absolute truth which we need to determine if an action is good or evil. Scripture has clear guidance on many hot-button social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, infidelity, marriage, bearing false witness, greed and a myriad of others.  The question we must ask ourselves is twofold: how well do I know Scripture and how well do I base my values judgments on its tenets?  Where do you stand on The Truth and what are you going to do about it?

Food for thought,

Pastor Dave Jones

Please excuse me, I seem to have lost my way…

These words could be spoken by any of dozens of politicians, entertainers, business executives, and public figures who have recently been caught up in the rash of allegations regarding sexual misconduct. Some of these figures have resigned, retired, or been fired from their posts after admitting that they engaged in some form of sexual misconduct.  Others have apologized, but said  they intend to keep their positions which implies that they think their misconduct wasn’t all that serious. Then there are those brave few, perhaps only one, who staunchly deny all the allegations and have gone on the offensive to “clear their good name.”  While sexual misconduct by ANYONE is sinful, it is particularly disturbing and reprehensible when committed by a person who holds authority over others.  All these “celebrities” who  have abused their power and defamed their office by their misconduct shine an illuminating light on the bigger problem – our Country’s misguided standards for virtue and morality.

Our country was founded by men and women who wanted to be “one nation under God.”  This is clearly evidenced by our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, original laws, and the writings and practices of our founding fathers. All of these documents irrefutably show that we were designed to be a “God-fearing” people who followed God’s truth and His principles. Our earliest laws were based primarily on Scriptural laws and our first law school book stated that ALL civil law should align with Scripture.  Why did the founding fathers insist on such strict adherence to biblical teachings? Because, as many of them publicly stated, without the guiding principles of Scripture, we cannot have virtue and morality.  Without virtue and morality, we cannot exist as a civilized people. Our founding fathers had great foresight and we are now seeing the consequences of disregarding their directions. Our country has adopted a “relative morality” focusing on “individual rights” rather than a definitive code of conduct, which is leading us down the path to destruction. We have lost our way. The country’s original virtues of truth, respect, honor, and selfless service have been sacrificed on the altar of the all-powerful “pursuit of happiness” [at all costs]. Scripture warns us that “our sins will find us out.”  Our choices have consequences and sin demands payment.

It is so easy to get lost on our journey – after all Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:13-14: 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The way to life is narrow and sometimes hard to stay on – it is easy to take one of the million off-ramps which lead down that broad, easy-to-follow highway to destruction. Commentator Cal Thomas made some excellent points about the rewards of virtue (please follow this link to view article: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/11/30/cal-thomas-return-virtue.html) which reminds us of the consequences of ignoring Jesus’ entreaty.  My prayer for us all is that we will embrace the one true virtue and morality presented to us in The Person and works of Jesus Christ.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Time to Give Thanks and Present Petitions

The National Day of Thanks first proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789 is suffering from an identity crisis. The newly founded Americans of that era would hardly recognize the frenzied festivities of today.  Polls tell us that less than half of Americans will even offer a prayer of thanks today; and even those who do will be non-committal as to whom they are thanking. Our true American history and heritage are quickly becoming unknown to us as we increasingly follow the deceptions of this world. Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2-4) warns us that we will fall prey to the deceptions of this world if we do not preach the word and follow Its truths. We will come to a time, if we have not already arrived, when we will seek out preachers who will tell us what we “want to hear” to justify our sinful actions. Much of our Nation is already there – I urge you not to be deceived by this world, but to maintain your faith in ABSOLUTE truth provided by our Creator. Many will say I am exaggerating the importance of our national Christian heritage. Most of you have been educated to believe that our country firmly stands for “separation of church and state.”  That “religion” is “off limits” to our civic governance and that the constitution and the founding fathers who authored it intended it that way. If you have been led to believe that is true, I CHALLENGE you to actually read the constitution and see for yourself. I believe that, regardless of what we have been taught in the past century, our country was indeed founded as “one nation UNDER GOD.” As a small example of my belief, I offer you President George Washington’s first National Proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving.  Note to Whom the President gives thanks:

 

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

 

May we all pray as our founding fathers did.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Thankful Hearts

A week from today is Thanksgiving!  It is a wonderful holiday – celebrated with feasting and family.  A number of our VVBC family will be gathering at the fellowship hall for our annual Thanksgiving Potluck.  We would love to have you join us – it is always a great time of fellowship!  While there are many reasons to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is important that we never forget to Whom we are giving thanks.  Sadly, most Americans consider Thanksgiving a “day off” to enjoy football, food, and family (and, of course, rest up for Black Friday shopping).  I hope you can all join us this Sunday as we dig into history and uncover the true meaning of the Thanksgiving Holiday and reflect upon how we can revive that spirit and TRULY celebrate the privilege of giving thanks.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Bad Things Happen to Good People

Last Sunday’s tragic mass murder at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX, has stirred a wide array of emotions across the country. I would like to  mention just three of the main stances taken by Americans on this event:

1.     Many people are truly sympathetic and simply praying for healing and comfort for the victims and their families.

2.     Others are distraught and reflect on the age-old question of “why God allows bad things to happen to good people.”

3.     Still others, sadly, have used the tragedy to push their own personal agendas for gun-control or the broken legal system which allowed a convicted man to legally obtain guns.

Stance number 1, I believe, is in the majority and I hope and pray that this tragic event will raise feelings of empathy and love for our fellow men. This is the stance that Christ would want us to take.

Stance number 2 is not necessarily a bad option either.  While Christians KNOW God is in ultimate control of this world, it is difficult for us to fend off the feelings of inequity when we see “bad” things happen to “good” people. We are brought up to believe that righteous behavior will lead to God’s favor and, while Scripture certainly teaches us that we should seek wisdom and strive to live righteous lives, it also teaches us that “bad consequences” on this earth can be the result of righteous living. NO ONE has ever been as Righteous as Jesus Christ, yet He died a completely underserved death at the hands of the wicked. Most historians and theologians believe that all but one of the original twelve disciples was painfully executed for their righteous behaviors. Being a “good” person is no guarantee of a healthy and pleasant life on this earth. Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples that they would face persecution for His sake. Like the disciples, we must recognize and accept that our faith is no guarantee against physical maladies, accidents, or evil events occurring in this life. As sad and confused as this may make us, it is sometimes good to ponder the question of evil seemingly triumphing over good – if we ponder it in prayer, it can serve to enhance our faith and assurance that God has a plan, His plan is perfect, and we need to trust Him.

Stance number 3 is simply disgraceful. Advocates of gun control were trumpeting this event within hours after it occurred. Within two days reporters had dug up the history of the shooter and publicly blamed the Air Force for failing to properly notify civilian authorities of the shooter’s court martial proceedings which, they claim, allowed the shooter to legally purchase guns. Many more politicians jumped on the “blame bandwagon” and tried to turn the event into a hallmark of the current administration’s failed policies and lack of concern for human life. None of these responses are really new; you can find them all rooted in Genesis 3 where we find the advent of “pride” (the original sin), and Adam’s invention of “the blame game” (the woman YOU gave me…).

So, you see, the concept of blaming someone else for “bad” things is as old as humanity itself…Eve blamed the Serpent, Adam blamed God. The question which faces us today is whether we will remain prideful and insist on blaming someone (even God) or something (our environment, circumstances, etc.) OR choose the path God calls us to take and trust that God has a purpose, a plan, and an unfailing, eternal love for His people. Our country is rapidly losing sight of what made us, at one time, the greatest country on earth – our Christian heritage and the foresight of the founding fathers to base our country’s governance on God’s teachings. I urge you to all join me in praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 as God told Israel how to solve their wrecked nation: If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

-Pastor Dave Jones

What a Difference a Day Makes

As we learned last week from Genesis, God created the world in six “creation days.” That fact is indisputable because that is clearly what God’s Word says. We also learned that The Holy Bible is NOT a science book; nor is it a history book – It is God’s revelation of Himself to man. Ergo, God tells HIS story in a manner which was relevant to the original audience (Israelites in mid-second Millennium B.C.) and today, over three thousand years later, is STILL perfectly relevant and truthful. The point which is important to understand is that, as modern interpreters of an ancient document (The Bible) we must strive to understand precisely what it does say AND what it doesn’t say.  Then, we must stand unwaveringly on its message and not get mired down in debates over what God chose not to include in HIS story.

With respect to the Creation account in Genesis 1, God told us that He created the world and the  universe “in the beginning.” In other words, God is pre-existent (He was before the universe) and He created everything in the universe (including time).  God is eternal and exists outside of our concept of “time.” Precisely dating the inception of our universe is something that He chose not to include in  His story (remember: The Bible is not intended to be a science or history textbook). Therefore when Christians proclaim, for instance, that Scripture says the earth is only 5,000 years old, they are asserting an opinion based on their interpretation of various sections of Scripture and, perhaps, their interpretations of various scientific findings. It is perfectly ok for believers to hold opinions about the age of the earth, how long the six “creation days” really were, or the events leading up to the second coming of Jesus. We are instructed by Scripture to study it and become as knowledgeable as possible in its teachings. The danger lies in when we assert that our opinions are irrefutably grounded in actual Scripture passages. In other words, when we try to make Scripture say something it doesn’t actually say.

This past Sunday I remarked that a “day” in Genesis could have been a twenty-four hour period or a much longer span of time since the Hebrew word used there may be translated as either.  I was very blessed by a question posed to me later this week because Scripture says “…and there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Gen. 1:5 NIV). The inclusion of “evening and morning” in describing the first day made the questioner wonder how “day” could be interpreted as anything but a twenty-four hour period in this context. A FABULOUS question (I am ALWAYS happy when people are being “Bereans” and verifying EVERYTHING against Scripture).  The answer is quite simple since, like “day,” “evening” and “morning,” have a number of meanings in Hebrew. Essentially, they serve like “day,” and “night” as limiters of periods of daylight so they don’t necessarily equate to our modern English interpretation of “evening and morning.”  Furthermore, our interpretation of “evening and morning” being sections of a twenty-four hour day, could not have applied in Genesis 1:5 BECAUSE our twenty-four hour day is based upon the earth’s solar cycle. Since Scripture TELLS US that God didn’t create the “lights in the vault of the sky to separate day from the night” (“lights” being what we presume to be the sun and the moon)(Gen. 1:14) until the FOURTH creation day, it would be faulty logic to apply a solar cycle methodology before there was a solar cycle.

As we continue to study God’s book of Beginnings (Genesis), we will uncover many questions which challenge our modern understanding. I ENCOURAGE you to dig into your Bibles, praying for The Holy Spirit to give you discernment and remembering to focus first on what Scripture SAYS as we discover together the AWESOME love of God as He revealed Himself to His Creation.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Get the Beginning Right

In the Beginning, GOD!  Everything else is details. When asked once why I selected “Gen 1:1” as my license plate instead of some other significant Scripture verse, I readily replied, “In the Beginning, God. If you believe that, I can help you the rest of the way to eternal life.”  The converse is also true; if you DON’T believe that God has always been, is, and always will be (i.e., He’s eternal), then nothing else in The Bible is going to make sense to you. The Bible is ONE book with sixty-six chapters written as a love letter from God to YOU.  In it, He is revealing Himself to you so that you can be in an eternal love relationship with Him. There is NO WAY that you can believe that you can ever have eternal life if you don’t believe that the God in whom you are putting your faith has eternal life! God is transcendent (outside of material parameters, human understanding, time and space) – why? Because He created all those things!

I know this concept is mind-boggling, but it is also reassuring to know that Christians are putting their faith and trust in Someone far greater than ourselves or anything we can imagine. That’s why we can have the peace that passes all understanding. So when your trials and tribulations come this week (yes, they will come) remember that God is above all and He invites us to “Be still, and know that He is God.” Come see us Sunday as we learn more about getting the beginning right – it will change your life.

-Pastor Dave Jones