Saturday, March 21, 2015

Growing in Grace

2_peter_3_18--white-800x800It is rapidly approaching the fourth anniversary of the official launch of Acres of Hope Christian Fellowship!  Looking back, I can honestly say that it has been an exciting journey, not without its challenges, but the blessings have far outweighed the burdens.

I can still remember the raw emotions that drove me in those early days – sorrow and anger over the destruction the devil had inflicted upon the church I had served for eighteen years in such a short time, and unbridled joy and exhilaration over the “new thing” that the Lord was doing in our midst even as we sat among the ashes.  For those first few months, NOTHING could go wrong.

However, as is the norm in any other aspect of life, once the initial honeymoon phase wore off, we soon discovered that there was so much more to leading and serving a new church body.  People, after all, are imperfect and broken at best, and even the best of intentions can sometimes cause misunderstandings and offense.  Some came and left, wanting something different than the “same old, same old.”  Some were upset because we weren’t enough like our former church; others accused us of trying too hard to recreate our former church. 

In came those who had been previously damaged by churches; in also came those who had never been to church before.  In came families in crisis, crumbling marriages, people dealing with serious and chronic health conditions, people dealing with significant loss and loneliness, and so much more.

It wasn’t always pretty, and it certainly wasn’t always easy.  But it was exactly what the Lord had called us to.  Time and again, we had opportunities to live out our stated purpose – “loving God, loving others.”  It wouldn’t matter how dynamic the worship was, how powerful or relevant the sermon was, how delicious the fellowship meal was, if authentic love for our fellow man was not at the core of everything we set ourselves to do, it would be all for naught.

2 Peter 3:18 exhorts us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is never a one-time destination to be reached, but an ongoing spiritual evolution.  We are bound to make mistakes from time to time, but we are not *bound* to them. 

You may have fallen.  You may have drifted.  You may have forsaken your first love for Jesus Christ.

Grace says, “Get back up.  Keep moving forward.  Follow Me.”

This Easter season, I would like to invite you to remember the first love you had for Jesus, and to realize that love that He has for you is just as strong as it ever was.   No matter where you and I are in your spiritual journey, He is always there calling us inward and onward, higher and deeper, ever intimately closer.

If you don’t already have a church family, please consider visiting us at Acres of Hope Christian Fellowship on Easter Sunday, April 5th, 2015, at 11 AM as we celebrate this most blessed of days!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Light - Making Something Out of Nothing

This is actually an old article, but once again, it provides compelling support to the Bible.

It begins:
"A team of 20 physicists from four institutions has literally made something from nothing, creating particles of matter from ordinary light for the first time. The experiment was carried out at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) by scientists and students from the University of Rochester, Princeton University, the University of Tennessee, and Stanford. The team reported the work in the Sept. 1 issue of Physical Review Letters."
Additionally, it states:
"In this experiment scientists observed for the first time the creation of particles from real photons, packets of light that scientists can observe directly in the laboratory."
Upon reading this, four specific Bible passages came to mind:

  1. "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)
  2. "By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen." (Hebrews 11:3)
  3. "In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." (John 1:1-5)
  4. "Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.  He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together." (Colossians 1:15-17)

Some claim that science and faith are mutually exclusive.  The truth is that science is simply the process of seeking to understand and explain the mechanics of faith.

As Christians, we are not to operate with a blind faith, but to make use of the wonderful minds that God has gifted us with.  The more you seek, the more you will find, and the more you find, the more awed you will be at the beauty and majesty of creation and the Creator.

Let His light shine!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Christ & Coffee

In case anyone is interested, I've started a new blog called Christ & Coffee to accompany the ongoing public Bible study that some of us have been having in Woodsville, NH and Bradford, VT.

I invite you to check it out, to join us if possible, or to even start your own public Bible study.

There is nothing quite like starting the day in the study of the Word of God with other believers, openly discussing our faith and praying together in a public forum.

In a day and age when Christians around the world are increasingly being persecuted for their faith, it is all the more important to make use of the incredible freedom that we have in this nation to gather together anywhere at any time to live out our faith.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"A Different Gospel" by Chuck Swindoll

A DIFFERENT GOSPEL - Galatians 1:6
by Charles Swindoll
(from "The Grace Awakening: Believing in Grace is One Thing.  Living it is Another.")

It is a "different gospel" that says, "salvation is not by faith alone it requires works. Human achievement must accompany sincere faith before you can be certain of your salvation". We continue to hear that "different gospel" to this day and it is a lie. A theology that rests its salvation on one ounce of human performance is not good news; it is bad information. It is heresy.

A salvation that begins with God's love reaching down to lost humanity and is carried out by Christ's death and resurrection results in all the praise going to God. But a salvation that includes human achievement, hard work, personal effort, even religious deeds distorts the good news because man gets the glory, not God. The problem is, it appeals to the flesh. Paul's twice-repeated reaction to the one who introduced that doctrinal heresy is "Let him be accursed!" The original word is anathema! It is the strongest single Greek term for condemnation.

Nevertheless, the heresy goes on. Most every cult you could name is a cult of salvation by works. It appeals to the flesh. It tells you, if you will stand so long on a street corner, if you will distribute so much literature, if you will sacrifice so much of life, if you will be baptized, if you will contribute your money, if you will pray or attend numerous meetings, then your good works and hard effort will cause God to smile on you. Ultimately when the good is weighed against the bad on the Day of Judgement, you will finally earn His favor. The result in that, I say again, is man's glory, because you added to your salvation.

Grace says you have nothing to give, nothing to earn, nothing to pay. You couldn't if you tried! Salvation is a free gift. You simply lay hold of what Christ has provided. Period. And yet the heretical doctrine of works goes on all around the world and always will. It is effective because the pride of men and women is so strong. We simply have to do something in order to feel right about it. It just doesn't make good humanistic sense to get something valuable for nothing.

Please allow me to be absolutely straight with you: Stop tolerating the heretical gospel of works! It is legalism. Wake up to the fact that it will put you into a bondage syndrome that won't end. The true gospel of grace, however, will set you free. Free forever.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pray Together

praying2520together “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other's hearts in prayer.” ― Charles Grandison Finney

When was the last time you prayed with believers? 
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.  For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” ~Jesus (Matthew 18:19-20)
Pray for one another.  Pray with one another.  It is more than merely a religious practice.  It is intimate conversation with the Creator of the universe, and in corporate prayer, the Bride of Christ is communing with the Bridegroom.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

“Fulfill” – An Exchange and An Example

HopeFulfilled Below is a brief comment on a comment that I made earlier this evening on Facebook.  I’d momentarily thought about writing a lengthier blog post around the word “fulfilled,” but I realize that this is already well covered elsewhere.

I think that the interaction speaks for itself.  It is in response to one of the most common arguments made by people who believe that the Christians are still under the Law of Moses.

More importantly, this arguing over the meaning of words is typical of fringe and cult belief systems.  As Joyfully Growing in Grace articulates so well in the article, “Hebrew Roots Movement – Messin’ With the Word”:

“One of the things that is really important to be aware of regarding this and other heretical movements is that they engage in the re-definition of terms.  Once that is accomplished, those re-defined terms become fields in which seeds of questionable doctrine can be cultivated.  And it’s the perfect set up for the same thing cults do: Convince you that what you know isn’t true, or is “incomplete”, then come in with fresh revelation based on previously “hidden” information.”


Do you believe fulfill means "destroy"? If so, here is the scripture you're talking about: Jesus did NOT say, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to destroy." ~Matt 5:17 AT (Apostate Translation)


Nobody said "destroy".

Fulfill = as in "I owe a debt, and on the day said debt is paid in full (either by me or someone else), the obligation of the debt is FULFILLED. Meaning I no longer owe it, and I am no longer under the terms of the debt. Nothing about the former debt can ever be used against me."

It doesn't mean the historical fact that I previously owed a debt goes away, but the debt loses any power or authority over me the moment it is FULFILLED.

Another example - I place an order with a vendor on Amazon, and I've paid for it, but I haven't received it yet. When the vendor ships it to me, he has FULFILLED the order.

So it is with Christ -- when He declared "It is finished!," the power and legal authority of the Law was FULFILLED.

I share this partly because it is an example of why we need to preach, defend, and confirm the Good News about Jesus Christ.

“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” (Jude 1:3)

For more Scriptural precedent for addressing false teaching, check out:

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Monday, July 21, 2014

Churches and Garages


A quote I’ve seen shared more than once on Facebook reads, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”

I’m sure I’ve clicked “like” to that sentiment at some point.  Heck, I’m positive I’ve even shared it at least once.

In recent years, though, that saying has bothered me more and more, though I couldn’t quite explain why.  It sounded reasonable enough, but still, it ate at me every time I saw someone else share it or ‘like’ it.

It recently dawned on me that the saying uses a very poor analogy.  A person, no matter how many times they may walk into a garage, will *never* become a car.  A person who goes to church, on the other hand, may well become a Christian.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not nitpicking.  I understand that the general idea is that there may be those out there who assume (out of misinformed ignorance) that any involvement with a church, even just annual attendance on Christmas or Easter, will somehow get them into heaven.  The truth is, though, that I’ve never met even one such person.  Not one.

Instead, I think that this quote belies an underlying judgmentalism about those who actually DO attend church.  It has become all too easy for us as a society to loosely toss around the term ‘hypocrite,’ especially in regard to regular church-goers.  This quote seems to imply that some of these very people who show up to church are really just self-deceived at best, if not out and out false Christians.  Perhaps that’s not at all the context in which the original quote comes from, but that’s how it seems to be used these days.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered in the last 25 years of ministry who stay away from church “because of the hypocrites.”

What a shame.

Let me draw you back to the analogy of the car for a moment.  While standing in a garage will decidedly not make you a car, I want you to think about what you DO with a car to keep it running smoothly.  Yes, you may be able to drive a car for many miles without ever taking it to a garage, and you may be able to get some extra miles out of it by doing some of the work yourself, but you’ll never have the same mileage you’ll have if you take it to the garage. 

Just like we take our cars into the garage for maintenance and repair, so we need to take our selves to church.  No, the pastors and elders are not the mechanics.  But neither are you.  God is the master mechanic, and He uses His body, the church, to minister to His people.  The church, as a collective body of people with unique giftings and skills, is able to fulfill the “one another” commands of the Bible in a way that we simply cannot as individuals.

Finally, a word about that poor, ignorant, misguided, self-deluded person standing in the church….

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)

Where better for them to be, but to be where they can clearly hear the Good News that “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. … ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’’ (Romans 10:9-10,13)?

No, standing in a garage will NOT make you a car, but getting yourself to where Jesus Christ is preached very well may be part of the process of how God transforms you into a Christian.

And, as for you, Christian, you are part of that heavenly pit crew. 

“Freely you have received, freely give.”

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe