The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

When I was in the United States Air Force, my future wife, Evelyn, and I wrote letters to each other every day of the week. They were handwritten and stamped “snail mail” letters. Evelyn even used a wax seal on her letters and were anointed with her perfume. When I opened my mailbox I could smell her virtual presence. I couldn’t wait to go to the mailroom and dial in my four digit lock code to open that little door to collect those precious love letters.
Sometimes, due to holidays and weekend schedules, there would be no letter in the box and I would be crushed. But, I would go back to my barracks and reread the previous letters.

We were just teenagers, but our love was intense and we were exclusively devoted to one another. Those letters were read over and over again to the point that I knew which ones had the content that I needed to reread in order to pick me up when I was lonely for her presence. My memory of the times I was with her were precious, but to read her words made me experience her presence in a more substantial way. It was her words, written in her style, in her handwriting, and with her scent. We would write about what we had done that day, the thoughts we were having, the hopes and dreams and plans we had for our relationship, the frustrations and hurts we were experiencing in our separate lives, what we had to eat, what we were wearing. We shared everything with each other. Total transparency and honesty. We no longer write letters to each other, because we don’t have to say, “Goodbye!”, and part from each other as we did decades ago. We thank God daily that we now live in physical presence with each other.

When I got saved as a young teenager, several years before my relationship with Evelyn, I had that same experience with the love letters I read from God in my Bible. They did not come in my mailbox, so I did not have to wait for the mailman to deliver them. Those letters were right there with me in my Bible. I could read them any time I wanted to, just like the letters I saved from Evelyn. As I read His letters to me, I experienced His presence in a real way. They were not just words on a paper, they were words of an intimate relationship between me and my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Comforter. 

He told me about His love for me, what He had done for me, about His plans for me, His emotions towards me, His total knowledge of me and His total acceptance of me in spite of knowing my sins and shortcomings and immaturity. There was total transparency and honesty. I did not write letters to Him but I did speak to Him through prayer, memorization, and meditation. I rehearsed our initial encounter when He opened my eyes to my sin and then offered me forgiveness. Our relationship has grown through the years as I have read and reread His love letters to me. I continue to reread His love letters with the anticipation of the Day when I will see Him face to face and live in His physical presence for eternity.

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like no other god created by man. Our God, YHWH, is a personal God, who loves us and has revealed Himself to us in love letters, the Bible so that we can have an intimate relationship with Him. It breaks my heart when I hear from men and women who tell me that they don’t read God’s Word on a regular basis. They tell me that they are too busy to sit down and read. They tell me that they don’t like to read. They tell me, that if they do read, they don’t understand what they are reading. They tell me that they hear what the Bible says when they go to church or listen to a sermon, or
watch an online service. I wonder if they would leave love letters (or emails) from their boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancè, or fiancèe sitting in the mailbox, with little or no time or interest to read them. What kind of love does that demonstrate towards the one sending the letter (or email)? What kind of relationship is that? How would the writer feel knowing that their communication is not worth their time reading?

We, the Church of Jesus Christ, are compared to a wife in Ephesians 5. As individual members of the Church, how is it that many believers don’t devote themselves to reading the love letters from their husband, Jesus Christ? They have lost their first love, as did the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1,4 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden
lampstands, says this:…’I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.’” Our Lord Jesus Christ responded in this way to the church at Ephesus in verse 5, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place– unless you repent.” That is the consequence of insulting our Lord by not reading His love letters. If you are one of those who does not love to read the love letters from your Savior, please take this admonishment and confess it to your Lover, and then repent and dive into what He has written to you. Then respond in love by doing the works He has prepared for you (Eph. 2:9).

Bill Olsen, Elder

 

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

2020 Advent Devotional

2020 Advent Devotional

Belmont’s Advent Devotional Is Here!

Advent is a special time to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as Lord and Savior. It is a time to prepare our hearts and remember the true meaning of Christmas. This booklet is written to encourage and help us as we celebrate this special time. Written by members of Belmont Baptist, each day’s devotional writing will help you to focus on the meaning of Christ’s birth and to better know the person of Jesus Christ on a daily basis. May you be blessed each day.

Download Your 2020 Advent Devotional Here

Christmas on the Farm

Make sure to join us for Christmas on the Farm! In December, we will be hosting our service at Glenburn Farms where there is a beautiful facility that will allow us to practice social distancing. In addition, there will be outdoor seating and we’ll be transmitting the audio over FM so you can even stay in your car during service. For more details check out our Christmas on the Farm page.

My Heart At The Holidays

My Heart At The Holidays

There’ll be parties for hosting.  Marshmallows for toasting.  And caroling out in the snow.
There’ll be scary ghost stories.  And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.
 

And you probably know the next few lines by heart…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  There’ll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing.  When loved ones are near.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

It’s a fun song for sure!  But it won’t ring true with every person this year, will it?  Not every heart will be glowing this holiday season.  Some hearts will be sad, heavy, lonely, fearful, angry.  For some, it won’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year. They might feel their pain even more acutely against the backdrop of the holidays. 

In Psalm 56, David writes about a time where his back against the wall.  He feels betrayed, trampled, attacked, afraid.  He has been done wrong.  It feels unfair.  He feels alone and brokenhearted.  And then as he writes he reminds himself that God knows the ups and downs of his heart.

Psalm 56:8 says, ‘You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book?’

It is so important for us to remember at this time of year that God knows our hearts.  He knows how we toss and turn at night.  He knows what keeps us from sleeping.  When you shed a tear, He is right there with you to hold your hand.  He not only sees your tears but he knows the pain behind each one.  He loves you so much that he is even keeping a record of the emotions of your life.  He is keeping a journal on how each of his children are doing. 

How does this help when we are hurting?  It helps to know that we are not alone.  Our emotions will tell us that nobody else cares or understands.  As followers of Jesus, we know that is simply not true.  We remind ourselves that we have a high priest named Jesus who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses for he himself has gone through the troubles of the world.  We can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence knowing that we will receive mercy and grace in our time of need.  As believers, we know that God’s grace is not only for the life to come after this one, but it is also for walking through the fallen world that we currently live in.  We have hope, not only of eternal life, but that God will walk with us through the hurt and pain in the valley of the shadow of death. 

How is your heart this holiday season?  Is it glowing?  If not, be of good cheer.  You have a God who knows you and is for you.  He loves you so much that he has already gotten you the best present ever.  His presence!  Made available freely through this Son, Jesus! 

You are important to me, but more importantly to Him,  Draw close this week.  

Pastor Jon

The Shepherd’s Staff: Devoted

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The Shepherd’s Staff: My Rock

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The Shepherd’s Staff: Each Day is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

With a new year rapidly approaching us, I wanted to bring you some encouragement as you anticipate the unknown 365 days ahead

The Shepherd’s Staff: Light In The Darkness

A little child was born to insignificant parents, in an insignificant village in Israel and in an insignificant moment in the history of the Roman empire. BUT, that baby was the fulfilment of the prophecy made by Isaiah about 700 years prior to His birth

The Shepherd’s Staff: He Emptied Himself For You and For Me

In the midst of singing carols, decorating trees, exchanging gifts, feasting on pastries and roasted meats, and gathering together with other believers-in person or online-to worship the One Who was born 2 centuries ago, there is a deeper, and more profound aspect of...

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

2020 Advent Devotional

Advent is a special time to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as Lord and Savior. This booklet is written by members of Belmont to encourage and help us as we celebrate this special time.

My Heart At The Holidays

There’ll be parties for hosting.  Marshmallows for toasting.  And caroling out in the snow.There’ll be scary ghost stories.  And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.  And you probably know the next few lines by heart… It’s the most wonderful time of the...

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...
The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one who is very pleased with the relationship she has with her husband. She not only sees actions of love from her husband, but she is confident in the devotion he has for her, which is based upon the commitment that was made by him to love and cherish her until death separates them. The relationship is a dynamic one where he lovingly sacrifices himself for her and she lovingly respects and submits to his leadership. A marriage based on devotion to the basic foundations of the ‘one flesh’ relationship will produce joy, blessing and growth.

Now let me digress here a little. We all know what a wife is, but I want to tell you what a W.I.F.E. is. Paul uses the physical analogy of marriage to describe the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ. He says in Ephesians 5 that Jesus is the Bridegroom (husband) and the Church is the Bride (wife). We all know what a physical wife is, but what is a spiritual church?

First of all, the worldwide Church is comprised of all those who have individually placed their trust in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life. It is worldwide in scope and includes all who have believed since the day of Pentecost and who will believe in the future. Second of all, the worldwide Church meets in physical locations known as local churches, as it was with the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Colossae and the church at Rome. The Greek term for ‘church’ is ‘εκλησσια’ or ‘ecclesia’ and means ‘assembly’. The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts the dispersed believers with these words, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, NASB)  The local church is a physical gathering of believers in a certain locale. In the book of Acts, the local church met in the synagogues and in houses. They also had godly men (elders) who were appointed by the Apostles or by their disciples, like Paul, Timothy and Titus.  These local churches “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, NASB) These practices, which characterized the early church, are basic practices which are to define local churches today. Hence, an online meeting without physical assembling is not a church. It may have believers watching and interacting through chats, but it is not a church.

From that description in Acts, the acronym W.I.F.E. is derived “Worship”, “Instruction”, “Fellowship, and “Evangelism”. The early church was devoted to worshipping in prayer, they listened to the teaching of God’s Word, they enjoyed meals together with the Lord’s Supper, sharing with one another their material possessions so that no one had needs and they witnessed to others concerning the love of God in Christ Jesus and His death and resurrection. Consequently the local churches multiplied and there was great joy in the midst of Roman suppression and Jewish persecution. They were devoted because they had experienced the new birth and the new relationship they had with the living God through His Son. They were devoted because they now had the peace of God and hope for the future and the assurance of their salvation. Everything else became secondary to a personal, daily, and vibrant relationship with God. Having like minded believers gave them the opportunity to practice the ‘one another’ exhortations which were later recorded in the epistles. These new believers supernaturally exercised them because they were so grateful to Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to freely and cheerfully live that lifestyle.

 So, in the 21st century, the Church worldwide is still the Body of Christ and family of God. In addition, local churches existing all around the globe are still defined as they were in the Word of God. However, due to numerous factors, the local church in America is sadly deficient in being a “happy” church, thereby not experiencing a happy life. Too many true believers are not enjoying the abundant life which Jesus promised in John 10:10. Too many of these believers are satisfied that they are going to heaven when they die, but their priority in life is not seeking the kingdom of God first. They are not willing to die to self and live for Christ. Their salvation is simply, and tragically, “life insurance”. They are not concerned about worshipping the Savior Who bought them, reading and obeying the Word of God, enjoying meaningful fellowship with fellow believers, other than a casual one hour encounter online on Sunday morning, or sharing their salvation experience. How sad! What is our Heavenly Father feeling? That is not a happy or abundant life! Let’s pray for revival!

Bill Olsen, Elder

The Shepherd’s Staff: Devoted

Is the future of the church defined by a building or its people? What can we glean from the New Testament about this?

The Shepherd’s Staff: My Rock

With all that is going on in the early days of 2021, we need to have our perspective directed in the right place.

The Shepherd’s Staff: Each Day is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

With a new year rapidly approaching us, I wanted to bring you some encouragement as you anticipate the unknown 365 days ahead

The Shepherd’s Staff: Light In The Darkness

A little child was born to insignificant parents, in an insignificant village in Israel and in an insignificant moment in the history of the Roman empire. BUT, that baby was the fulfilment of the prophecy made by Isaiah about 700 years prior to His birth

The Shepherd’s Staff: He Emptied Himself For You and For Me

In the midst of singing carols, decorating trees, exchanging gifts, feasting on pastries and roasted meats, and gathering together with other believers-in person or online-to worship the One Who was born 2 centuries ago, there is a deeper, and more profound aspect of...

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

2020 Advent Devotional

Advent is a special time to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as Lord and Savior. This booklet is written by members of Belmont to encourage and help us as we celebrate this special time.

My Heart At The Holidays

There’ll be parties for hosting.  Marshmallows for toasting.  And caroling out in the snow.There’ll be scary ghost stories.  And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.  And you probably know the next few lines by heart… It’s the most wonderful time of the...

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...
The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, called by His name. YHWH made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, which were eternal, unconditional, and unilateral. Which meant that they could never be broken. He had promised them a nation, a land, and a blessing.

That same God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks, and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional, and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

During the Old Testament period, the nation Israel repeatedly disobeyed YHWH and committed spiritual adultery with other gods. There was a period of time in their history, which we call the period of the Judges when the nation of Israel “did what was right in their own eyes.” God disciplined them, they confessed and asked for forgiveness, God forgave, then they repeated the same pattern several times. Finally, God sent the northern kingdom (Israel) into exile in Assyria and subsequently the southern kingdom (Judah) into captivity in Babylon, even after Judah had witnessed God’s judgment to Israel.

The prophet Jeremiah ministered during the last five decades of Judah’s history. During that time, Jeremiah warned Judah of their sin and God’s judgment if they would not repent. His prophecies fell on deaf ears. While his prophecies predicted terrible times for Judah, there was a light in the darkness in chapter 29, where these words are recorded. “For thus says the LORD, ’When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ’plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ’You will seek Me and find [Me] when you search for Me with all your heart. ’I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ’and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ’and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’” That will not be fully realized until Jesus Christ returns in glory and establishes His 1,000 year reign as King, literally sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

 During the Old Testament period, the nation Israel repeatedly disobeyed YHWH and committed spiritual adultery with other gods. There was a period of time in their history, which we call the period of the Judges when the nation of Israel “did what was right in their own eyes.” God disciplined them, they confessed and asked for forgiveness, God forgave, then they repeated the same pattern several times. Finally, God sent the northern kingdom (Israel) into exile in Assyria and subsequently the southern kingdom (Judah) into captivity in Babylon, even after Judah had witnessed God’s judgment to Israel.        

Right now, this nation is doing what is right in its own eyes and it will get worse. We can still be salt and light in a land that has kicked God out of the picture.  The answer is a revival in the Church of Jesus Christ. So, live a day at a time in trustful obedience to the Word of God and hold onto this sure promise, “I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ’plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” My heart is heavy for the Church, but I am encouraged by the Blessed Hope of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Maranatha! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Bill Olsen, Elder

 

The Shepherd’s Staff: The Blessed Hope

If you have ever received correspondence from me, I typically sign it with the term, “Maranatha!”. The term is found in 1 Corinthians 16:22

The Shepherd’s Staff: Love Letters

Why am I writing this to you? Because I want you to experience the presence of the living God, Who is like
no other god created by man.

The Shepherd’s Staff: W.I.F.E

“A happy wife is a happy life!” Many of you have heard that little catchphrase and most husbands would say, “AMEN!” to that. Well, I believe this following statement also warrants an “AMEN!” “A happy church is a happy life!” Let me explain myself. A happy wife is one...

The Shepherd’s Staff: Hope

God, YHWH, made a covenant with the church through the blood of Jesus Christ, which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper and ratified at the Cross. This new relationship was not revealed in the Old Testament, and it included gentiles, Greeks and Jews. All who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are also called by His name. That covenant was also eternal, unconditional and unilateral. The loving and faithful God will never cancel either covenant.

Put It In God’s Hands

Put It In God’s Hands

Belmont Family-

The eyes of the nation are on the election today.  It will be talked about, argued about, wondered about, and worried about.  Many are looking past the election and speculating on how the next few weeks will go as the votes are counted and debated over.  How should we as citizens of God’s Kingdom carry ourselves during this time? Here’s a biggie:  Let’s Don’t Sacrifice Our Principles

When the king of Babylon invaded Judah he took captives and brought them back to his palace.  He wanted them to be integrated into his kingdom so he changed their diet and their education.  Daniel was one of these Jewish captives.  It would have been easy for him to abandon the food laws observed by God’s people but what did he do?  Daniel 1:8 says that, “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.”  Instead, he asked for only vegetables to eat and water to drink.  At the time of inspection, Daniel’s appearance and mental sharpness were above all the others.  He trusted God and stuck to his principles.  He was obedient to God.  Even though he was physically living in the kingdom of Babylon he still prioritized the principles of God’s Kingdom. 

As you participate in this political cycle it could feel easy or even right to take on the same attitude and actions of the worldly kingdom.  That would be the wrong thing to do.  Here are a few examples:

Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  It could be easy for some who claim the name of Christ to lose their temper and let their conversation become bitter and hateful during this time.  Instead of doing that, resolve to let your conversation be full of grace so that you can answer folks in a way that honors Jesus.

Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” You may face some kind of verbal attack during this time; either in person or on-line.  A natural reaction might be to retaliate and punch back harder.  But we are not out to get revenge.  We are not called to punish those who wrong us.  God will see to it that justice is served. 

Watch The Sermon Series "United We Stand"

According to polls, the country is divided down the middle when it comes to politics and many other important issues. How do we, as Christians, respond?

When we live the way that we are called to and we don’t allow ourselves to get sucked into the craziness of the culture it does not mean that we don’t care about the big things at stake.  What it shows is that we trust God with the outcome.  We put it in His hands.  We know that His Kingdom is unshakeable.  Will you resolve to be a person who has gracious speech and turns the other cheek this week?  I hope you will,

Pastor Jon