Farewell: It’s Been a Wonderful 10 Years

If you haven’t heard, it was hard day for me on Sunday (1/2/2022) as I told Ebenezer that the Lord has led my family in a new direction. The Lord has opened a door for us to do ministry in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma at Journey Bible Church. I have been praying for a while that the Lord would make His will abundantly clear, and confirm our heart’s desire to move back home. For some time, we have desired to move near our aging parents to help them and fellowship with them in the last season of their life. This new location will enable us to be within about 5 hours of both sets of parents and our daughter Hannah who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. It will also allow us to be about 1.5 hours from my twin brother and our daughter Callie who both live in Oklahoma City. Please know that our desire to move back is solely to be near family. Julie and I have said many times how we wish that Ebenezer was closer to our family in the south so we could retire at Ebenezer.

The Lord opened a door for us when my very good friend Andrew Moss decided to leave Journey Bible Church and become the lead pastor at a church in Colorado. As a young man Andrew lived with me in Shreveport and did ministry at the church where I was on staff. The Lord used Andrew in a great way to plant Journey Bible Church about 4 years ago. It began with about 35 people and has now grown to approximately 180 people. The church has 3 elders, 5 deacons and a youth pastor. One of the elders, Rick Shackelford, is a good friend of mine who also lived in Shreveport during my early years. So, when the church needed a new lead pastor, Rick naturally thought of me. Having many close connections, it seemed that the Lord was opening a door for us.

While I was attending my daughter Callie’s graduation back in August, I also filled in at Journey Bible Church and preached there one Sunday. At that point, I began meeting with Journey’s elders and discussing the possibility of making a move. As I investigated the church, I was excited that JBC was just like Ebenezer in their theology and their ministry practices. If you go on their website you can see their vision. They are committed to “Championing the Glory of God, Communicating the Son of God, and Cheering on the People of God.” While they are a small church, they are strong and ready to be used for the glory of God in their community and in the world beyond. They are very committed to missions. All of this excited me. Their elders and I had wonderful discussions over the next few months. They felt that the Lord was leading them and, in November, they called me to be the next lead pastor. I went and preached at Journey Bible Church again on December 12 and met with the congregation. The following week they unanimously voted to call me to be their next pastor.

I share all of these details with you because you are my family and I love you all so much. I want you to see how the Lord has directed my steps and guided our hearts. This has been a difficult decision. For the last 9.5 years you all have been our family. I can’t express how thankful Julie and I and our children are for the wonderful experience that we had here in Pennsylvania. Our hearts are full with so many wonderful memories, memories of God doing such a great work here at Ebenezer. Our experience here at Ebenezer and in Pennsylvania has truly been incredible. Thank you for welcoming us into your lives and homes as friends and family. The friendships and memories we made encouraged us and brought such joy to our lives. I hope and pray that I have been a good pastor to you all. No one is perfect and you all have been so gracious to overlook my flaws and lack of ability. But I hope you all truly know how much I love each and every one of you. I am truly going to miss you all. I am going to miss our incredible staff. I can’t express to you enough how wonderful our entire staff is. They are a united team who will continue to lead well. I am going to miss our pastors, Mike, Jeremy and Josh. They have proven to be faithful godly men who I know will lead well. I am going to greatly miss our elder and deacon boards. These men have been like brothers to me. They have led well over the last 9.5 years. I’m thankful for their godly example and their wisdom.

As I leave my only hope is that Ebenezer is the Lord’s church. And because I know this profound truth, I know that He is going to take care of you all. I know that the Lord is going to provide wonderful preaching through pastors Mike and Josh, the elders, and others as the search committee seeks out a new lead pastor. I know that the Lord will provide for you a wonderful shepherd who will be faithful to preach the Word week after week, and love you all with gentleness and kindness. I also truly believe that our elder board and deacon board are the best leaders anywhere. I want to encourage you to trust in their leadership. These men have proven to be faithful and wise. Pray for them as they seek the Lord’s will for the next chapter of Ebenezer’s ministry. I truly believe that Ebenezer is going to continue strong and have great success in the future. I hope and pray that you will continue to support this great ministry with your faithful attendance, prayer and service.

I will be preaching through the month of January. I will finish the book of Acts this coming Sunday. I will then preach 2-3 messages that will hopefully encourage you to continue faithfully in your walk with the Lord. I will cherish the next few weeks with you all. I do hope to be able to speak to most of you one-on-one and express my love for you.

Please pray for us. We have many things to get accomplished and covet your prayers. Please pray for the sale of our home. Please pray for all the logistics of packing and securing a moving company. Please pray for our relocation. Currently we have rented a house in Bixby, Oklahoma (near Broken Arrow) where we will live temporarily as we look for a new home. Please also pray for Hudson as he transitions. This has been difficult for him. Our goal is to leave Pennsylvania on February 1. I am going to start ministry at Journey Bible Church around the third week of February.

Please know that I will never forget your faith and your labors of love for the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer for you is that you will continue walking with the Lord. I pray that your faith will remain strong and your work for Christ will increase as we see the return of our Savior drawing near. May the Lord bless you all. The last ten years at Ebenezer have truly been some of the best days of my life. I will always cherish them. And I will always love you all. Pastor Tim & Julie Gibson


Ebenezer Pastors: Josh Von Holt (Youth Pastor), Jeremy Harkins (Worship Pastor), Mike Notary (Pastor of Discipleship), Tim Gibson (Senior Pastor)

Congratulations are in order for two of our pastors, Mike Notary and Jeremy Harkins. They both have been preparing for months to take their oral exam before the Ministerial Candidating Committee for the purpose of ordination in the Bible Fellowship Church conference. This oral exam required memorizing the Articles of Faith and being able to defend and interact with the deep doctrinal truths found in them. We are excited to announce that, yesterday, both Mike and Jeremy passed this exam with unanimous approval from the committee. This now means that these men will undergo a one-year probation period during which the Ebenezer elders will observe and evaluate them. Once this is complete, our elders will then recommend Mike and Jeremy to the BFC for ordination. This is a big accomplishment in the life of a minister. I am certain that both Mike and Jeremy would agree with me in saying, “All Glory to God!” I’m thankful for these men and how the Lord has grown them over the last several years. May the Lord continue to sharpen them to be used for the glory of the Lord.

5 Ways to Miss Christmas!

When we look at the biblical story of Christmas, there are several groups of people that missed that first Christmas.  They were too busy, hardhearted, arrogant, uninterested or too familiar with the story.  As a result, they missed the greatest event in all of history, the coming of the Messiah into the world to save sinners.  If we are to ensure that we won’t miss the real meaning of Christmas, then we must learn from these mistakes.

Too Busy:  One of the ways people will miss Christmas is to be distracted with busyness.  We don’t want to be too hard on the Inn Keeper.  But Luke records for us that a certain Inn had no room for Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:7).  The city was busting at the seams with people because of the census that Caesar Augustus had decreed.  While the Inn Keeper may not have intentionally ignored the Savior, it seems that he may have been too distracted to make allowances for Mary and Joseph.  To his defense, the Inn Keeper may not have known anything about Mary and Joseph.  But the point is still valid.  Busy activity can certainly distract anyone from giving themselves to the most important things.  Being preoccupied with the busyness of “the season” is a real danger.  So many will make decorating, buying presents, and planning parties the central meaning of Christmas rather than giving their hearts in worship to Jesus, the King of kings and Savior of sinners.

Hard-hearted:  A second, and more profound way to miss Christmas, is being unwilling to submit to the Child of Christmas.  Sadly, not everyone will be willing to bow their hearts to Jesus in worship.   When the Magi came searching for Jesus, as they had seen His star in the east, they announced to King Herod that they had come to “worship him” (Matthew 2:1-16).  This announcement troubled Herod and “all of Jerusalem with him.”  The people of Jerusalem knew well that Herod would go to great lengths to protect his own throne.  The people of Jerusalem were right to be troubled, because Herod indeed tried to kill Jesus.  He had all the baby boys two years old and younger who lived near Bethlehem killed.  Herod had a hostile heart toward Jesus.  He had no desire to allow Jesus to be King over him.  Many will miss Christmas this year because they have hostility toward Jesus Christ.  They will refuse to bow their hearts to Jesus like the Magi.

Arrogant:  A third way to miss Christmas is to be like the religious leaders.  When the Magi came to Jerusalem, Herod summoned the experts of God’s Word to ask them exactly where the Messiah was to be born.  Knowing God’s Word, the Chief Priests and Scribes accurately quoted Micah 5:2, which says that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4-6).  In response, the Magi quickly went in search for the Messiah, but nothing is said about the religious leaders going with them.  This is a glaring mishap!  It appears that their apathy was due to their arrogance.  Maybe they did not believe they needed a savior.  As a result, they did not find a savior.  The statement is still true today: “Wise men still seek Him.”   Many will miss the true meaning of Christmas this year because of their apathy and arrogance.

Uninterested:  In Luke 2:1-2, we are told of the activity of the leaders of the known world at that time, the Romans.  Caesar Augustus had decreed that the world should be registered.  While these activities are not bad in themselves, they simply show that the world is typically not interested in the things of God.  On that first Christmas, the world continued as it always had.  In general, the world is earthly minded.  Today, is no different.  The world has been and will always be more interested in earthly things rather than the spiritual things of God.  As a result, they will miss the true meaning of Christmas.   

Overly Familiar:  The last way to miss Christmas is to simply be so familiar with the holiday that you overlook the significance of it.  In Luke 2:39-40, Jesus was carried back to Nazareth after His parents performed every requirement of God’s Law concerning a newborn child.  It was there that Jesus grew and became strong and was filled with wisdom having the favor of the Lord upon Him.  As wonderful as this was, the people of Nazareth grew so accustomed to Jesus that they missed who He really was.  They personally saw Him grow up in their city.  Sadly, when Jesus began His ministry, it was the very people of Nazareth who wanted to kill Him (Luke 4:16-30).  They were so familiar with the boy who grew up in their town that they missed the glorious truth that Jesus was the Messiah.  Christmas will be missed by so many because they are so familiar with the holiday.

While Christmas comes every year, there is a real danger of missing its true meaning.  We decorate for Christmas, buy gifts and fellowship with friends and family, yet we must remember that Christmas is really about the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  He was born in a manger, but eventually went to the cross so that sinners could be forgiven.  Please don’t miss Christmas this year!  Pay attention to those who missed the first Christmas.  They were too busy, hard-hearted, arrogant, uninterested and too familiar with the story.  Rather be like the wise men who sought out Jesus, and the shepherds who left their flocks by night to worship the Christmas child.

If you need help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].  I would love to share with you the details of God’s Christmas gift for you.  I know it will change your life forever. 

Saying Thanks

Why is it so hard to say “Thank you!”?  Saying “thank you” was one of the first lessons my godly mother taught me.  We had to write thank you cards to anyone who gave us anything.  I remember sitting for hours and writing thank you cards to friends and family who gave me high school graduation gifts.  Being grateful may be one of the most important lessons in our lives.  Saying thanks should be a natural part of our everyday life.

Thanksgiving is the overflow of our hearts.  When someone does something nice for us, gratitude should flow from our hearts, out of our mouths like a bubbling well.  When a volcano has lava built up inside, it inevitably spews out.  The same is true of thanksgiving.  If gratitude is truly in our hearts, it will inevitably bubble out of our mouths.  The outward expression from our lips gives an indication that our hearts are humble and right.  When words are absent, it may indicate that our hearts are hard and full of pride.

Scripture is clear that giving thanks to God is one of the evidences of being a true Christian and that our hearts are right with God.  The Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:21, that the unbelieving world does not “honor God as God or give thanks to him.”  The world receives blessings from God every moment of every day.  God continually pours out His common grace on all of mankind by granting breath and life.  He provides rain.  He sustains the universe with the power of His hand.  And yet the unbelieving world refuses to say thanks to God.  This is illustrated clearly in a miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus healed ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19).  These ten lepers knew that their only hope was to beg Jesus to have mercy on them.  Out of love and mercy for them, Jesus healed every one of them.  Sadly, only one of them returned to Jesus to say thanks.  The gratitude in his heart bubbled over and caused him to fall on his face before Jesus and praise God and give thanks to Jesus.  Of course, Jesus recognized that there were nine missing who did not return to say thanks.  We aren’t told why they didn’t return to give thanks but we can draw conclusions.  For sure they felt deserving of the mercy and healing of Jesus.  These nine may not have recognized it in their own heart, but it was out of pride that they failed to say thanks.  Their hearts were not right with God.  However, Jesus said of the one who thanked him, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.”  Jesus affirmed that this man’s heart was right.  The simple fact that this man said thanks to Jesus indicated a deep faith and trust in Jesus. 

Thanksgiving should be extravagant.  It should be easy to thank God for all the good things that He gives us.  God has given us so many good things, the greatest of which is salvation.  If you have received the great gift of salvation that has come to you by grace through faith in Christ, gratitude should not just be bubbling out of your heart, but also exploding out of your mouth.  As the Apostle Paul considered the great gift of God’s salvation he couldn’t help but say, “thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor 9:15).  When Paul says that the gift of salvation from God is indescribable he is saying that it is overwhelmingly and incomparably good.  In other words, there is no greater gift.  It seems logical that the greater the gift, the greater the gratitude.  It is one thing to say a simple thank you for the small things people do for us.  But when someone is overwhelmingly sacrificial and moves the world to do something for us, it would not be out of place to jump up and down and shout and rejoice!  No one in their right mind would be silent.  God so loved the world that He gave His Son Jesus to die in the place of sinners, that whoever believes in Jesus could have eternal life!  That truth should cause our hearts to be full and should bring about the greatest celebration of thanksgiving.  Because we have received the greatest gift possible from God in Christ our thanksgiving should be extravagant.  How have you extravagantly thanked God?

Make thanksgiving a habit.  We are about to celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.  It is one of my favorite holidays.  But we shouldn’t relegate thanksgiving to a single day.  Thanksgiving should be the habit of our life.  We should get into the habit of saying thanks to others around us, and especially God on a regular basis.  This shouldn’t be drudgery to us.  It should be the natural overflow of our hearts.  Take stock of your life.  Are you continually thanking others around you for how they have blessed your life?  Are you thankful to God for His great salvation in your life? 

Maybe you don’t know about the great gift of salvation that God provides.  If you need help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].  I would love to share with you the details of God’s indescribable gift.  I know it will change your life forever. 

BFC Annual Conference Update

Ebenezer Pastors: Mike Notary, Tim Gibson, Jeremy Harkins, Josh Von Holt

Every year the Bible Fellowship Church (BFC) denomination convenes to take care of business within the denomination. Once again, we had a wonderful time of fellowship with our fellow pastors from throughout the BFC, October 4-6, 2021. We heard wonderful messages from God’s Word. We were very encouraged as we sang and prayed together. As always, a couple of the highlights of the week were the acceptance of two new churches and the ordination of 9 men into ministry.

Following is a brief update on a few of the most important items that were discussed during our annual conference.

Pastor Scott Wright

1) The conference received 2 church plants as graduating into particular self-sustaining churches: Orchard Hills BFC, with Pastor Benjamin Triestman in Upper Macungie, PA and Redeemer BFC, with Pastor Scott Wright in Lower Providence, PA.

2) The conference ordained nine new men into the ministry.

3) The conference approved a new study committee to study the issue of women teaching men in the local church and the ramifications of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The purpose of the study committee is to bring new legislation to the conference as a result of their findings.

Jim Arcieri

4) The conference thanked Dwayne Moyer for a job well done as the director of the Board of Missions and welcomed a new director for the Board of Missions, Jim Arcieri.

5) The conference approved, at first reading, the introduction of a new article on the ministry of the Word, namely preaching. 70% of the conference approved the new proposed Article 18-5. The article is now being sent back to the elder boards of the congregations for 2/3 approval. If approved it will be sent back to conference for a second reading and approval at the next conference. Following is the proposed new article. If you would like to read the entire proposal, rational and scriptural references, it can be found on pages 54-55 in the BFC 2021 report book.

18-5 The ministry of the Word of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit is used by God for the salvation, sanctification, and equipping of His people. The public ministry of the Word within congregational worship must include faithful, Spirit-empowered preaching in which the biblical text(s) is read, explained, and applied so that the meaning of the text(s) is the message of the sermon.

Ordination of 9 new pastors.

6) The conference approved new legislation at first reading (2 readings are required to be adopted) prohibiting a man who has been convicted of any sexual abuse to be eligible for ordination in the BFC. Furthermore, it was approved that elders, deacons, and all other volunteers who are likely to interact with children be required to undergo background checks and child abuse clearances. You can read about that on page 56-58 in the BFC 2021 report book.

Ebenezer’s Delegates: Byron Roth, Phil Norris

7) The conference welcomed a new director for Victory Valley Camp, Curt Cutler.

8) The conference approved the formation of two study committees to investigate 1) how baptism should be administered to individuals who may be handicapped or incapacitated and unable to be immersed, and 2) whether it is scripturally permissible to allow into the membership of a BFC church an individual who has been previously baptized by a mode of baptism other than immersion.

The Bible Fellowship Church (BFC) is a denomination which I am proud to be a part. The pastors of this denomination are sincerely concerned about the glory of God and upholding the authority of Scripture in all faith and practice. Overall, I believe that the conference was pleasing to the Lord. Please pray for our churches and our denomination. Pray for our directors, David Allen (Executive Director), David Gundrum (Director of Church Extension), Jim Arcieri (Board of Missions), and Curt Cutler (Victory Valley Director). While we may not be the biggest denomination in the world, our goal is to be faithful to the Lord so that He will use us for His glory as He sees fit. It is a joy and honor to be a church in the Bible Fellowship Church!

BFC Annual Conference, October 4-6, 2021. Held at Pinebrook Bible Conference.

Encouragement for God’s People

Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that life never discourages us!  The Apostle Paul was God’s chosen man who had an unshakeable faith, and yet he experienced discouragement.  On his second missionary journey Paul found himself lonely, lacking funds, sensing failure, experiencing physical hardship, and being rejected by many (Acts 18:1-17).  With that kind of load, many of us would have abandoned ship and thrown in the towel.  As strong as Paul was however, the Lord Jesus knew that he needed encouragement.  So, in a glorious way, God provided for Paul as He always does for His children.  One night as Paul was in Corinth, the Lord came to him in a vision and spoke directly to him.  The Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10).  There are five principles in the words of Jesus that were not only for Paul but are for all of God’s people even today.  These principles are designed by God to provide encouragement for us. 

Fear Not:  First, Jesus encourages us not to fear.  After all that Paul had experienced one would think that he was a fearless man, and yet Jesus knew Paul’s heart.  Maybe Paul was afraid of being stoned, or put into prison like before.  Just like Paul, we struggle with the unknown.  When Jesus tells us not to fear, He is reassuring us that He is in control.  Since He is in control of all things, it is irrational for the Christian to fear.  No wonder this command is given to us in Scripture over 350 times.  For whatever you are facing in life as a believer, the Lord Jesus says, “Trust me, rest in me, hope in me.”

Persevere:  Second, Jesus encourages Paul to “go on…”  When fear attacks us, the tendency is to retreat or to quit all together.  But God’s children are not to be quitters.  God called Paul to preach the Gospel and because he was not experiencing the results that he thought he should, it is possible that Paul was considering another tactic.  But Jesus says to him, “but go on speaking and do not be silent.”  Essentially Jesus is encouraging Paul to continue in his calling to preach the Gospel.  When we get weary in our calling we must remember that Jesus is encouraging us to “go on.”  Whether you are a parent raising kids or an employee in a hostile work environment, Jesus is encouraging you to press on.

Presence:  Third, Jesus promises that He is “with you.”  Loneliness is one of the most debilitating conditions in life.  It’s hard to live life alone.  But while believers may be without human companions, we are never left alone.  Jesus promises to always be with us (Matt 28:20) and the Holy Spirit is always indwelling in us (Jn 14:15-17).  This promise should strengthen us to persevere and give us joy in this life.  We must learn to have fellowship in our hearts with our Savior and seek His encouragement on a daily basis. 

Protection:  Fourth, the Lord promises to protect.  Jesus told Paul, “and no one will attack you to harm you.”  This is an interesting promise, because Paul had already experienced prison and a stoning that left him for dead (Acts 14:19, 16:24).  But in his current situation in Corinth Jesus was promising Paul that He would sovereignly protect him while Paul finished his ministry in that city.  This is a great principle that should encourage us.  We don’t have to worry about our lives.  God promises to protect us “according to His will.”  While Jesus lived on the earth, God protected Him.  But when “the hour had come” for Jesus to go to the cross, God removed His protection.  We should be encouraged in the same way.  God will never allow anything to happen to us that is not according to His sovereign plan.  Nothing can harm us until the Lord allows it.

Working:  Last, Jesus promised Paul that He had “many in this city who are my people.”  At the moment of this promise there were not many Christians yet in Corinth.  Essentially Jesus was telling Paul that his future ministry was not going to be futile, because Jesus was still working in the hearts of people, and that there were going to be many in the city of Corinth who were going to believe.  This should have been so encouraging to Paul.  And it should encourage us.  When we get frustrated and don’t see the results that we desire, we must remind ourselves that God is still working.

In one of Paul’s darkest hours, the Lord Jesus came to encourage him.  And these words should be an encouragement to all believers today as well.  For those who tremble, God says, “Do not fear.”  For those who are weary, God says, “but go on….”  For those who are lonely, God says, “I am with you.”  For those who are worried, God’s says “no one will attack you to harm you.”  For those who are frustrated, God says, “I am still working.”  For those who do not have Jesus as their friend and savior, these promises are not for you.  But they can be if you will repent of your sin and trust in Jesus today (Rom 10:9-10).  If you need spiritual counsel in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].  I would love to pray with you and encourage you with God’s Word.  

Faithful Servants

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”  The world might view being a servant as a burden, but for us who have experienced God’s grace, being a servant of Christ is a joy and privilege.  The greatest longing in our heart is to please and be faithful to the Lord (2 Cor 5:9). 

But in order to be faithful, what is required of us?  Paul and Barnabas were the first missionaries sent out from the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3).  Their first missionary journey is recorded in Acts 14 and provides for us an excellent case study on qualities of faithful servants.  If we desire to be found faithful, then the qualities that these two men exhibit must also be characteristic of our lives.  Paul told us clearly to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor 11:1).  We would do well to emulate the seven qualities that these two men illustrate for us. 

First, the two men were bold in preaching the Gospel in the midst of looming persecution.  When Paul and Barnabas entered Iconium and began preaching the Gospel, they were met with opposition, but this did not deter them, rather they spoke “boldly for the Lord” (v. 3, 7, 1 Thess 2:2).  There is a great temptation for us all to cower and to shrink back when the world comes against us and the Gospel we speak.  We must remind ourselves that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).  It is inevitable that the world is going to hate us and the Gospel we preach (Jn 15:18-21), but if we are to be found faithful we must have a boldness to be light in the darkness. 

Second, Paul and Barnabas were humble servants.  The second city the men went to was Lystra.  After Paul had healed a lame man, the entire city began worshiping them as though they were Zeus and Hermes who had once again returned to their city, as the Roman poet Ovid had written about years earlier (Acts 14:8-18).  Pride certainly could have arisen in their hearts not only due to their ability to heal, but now this undue worship that was attributed to them.  But rightly, the two men were not willing to take the glory, but rather pointed the entire city to the living God and not to themselves (Acts 14:15).  Humility is required of every servant in this life.  All along the way, people will attempt to praise us.  We will be faithful if we will deflect that praise and point them to the Living God who alone is worthy of praise. 

Third, they were persistent, living their lives with an eternal perspective making the most of their time.  In a crazy turn of events, a group of Jews who opposed the Gospel of Jesus found Paul and stoned him leaving him for dead (Acts 14:19).  You would have thought that the two missionaries would have taken a break, but instead they journeyed to Derbe the very next day in order to continue their mission!  We must live our lives in this manner.  Instead of wallowing in our misery, we must trust the Lord and keep on living with purpose.  As long as the Lord gives us breath, we must persist. 

Fourth, they had a caring heart toward the spiritual well-being of others.  As their missionary journey was coming to an end, Paul and Barnabas risked their lives going back to the cities of Lystra and Iconium for the purpose of “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts14:22).  The missionaries had a genuine love in their hearts for the spiritual welfare of these new disciples, teaching them how they must persevere through the tribulations that the Lord would sovereignly allow them to go through.  To be found faithful, we must care about the spiritual well-being of others.  We cannot live a secluded life, but must be willing to pour ourselves into the lives of others!

Fifth, they were committed to the Word of God (Acts 14:24-25).  On their way back home to Antioch, the two missionaries could have rested, but they were committed to leave nothing undone.  Because they had not preached initially in the city of Perga (13:14), they “spoke the word in Perga” (Acts 14:25).  A mark of faithfulness is commitment to God’s calling in our lives.  We must never stop until the work is done.

Sixth, the missionaries gave credit to God alone for what He had done through them.  As Paul and Barnabas made it back to their sending church in Antioch, it is certain that there was a great reunion.  Stories were told and no doubt there was much rejoicing.  But in the midst of all of this, the missionaries “declared all that God had done with them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27).  To say it clearly, they did not take the credit!  They recognized that the work they completed was by the grace of God.  There is a great temptation to take credit for our accomplishments.  But the faithful servant understands that it is actually God who works through us and God who opens doors for us.  When we have the opportunity, we always give credit back to Him in praise.

Seventh, they had a deep love for fellowshipping with other Christians.  As the missionaries returned, it says that they “remained no little time with the disciples” (v. 28).  They knew they needed to be recharged spiritually and they found their greatest joy with like hearted fellow believers.  While the world may come against us, the Lord has provided the Church to be a place where believers can find strength and joy with the fellowship of the Saints.

Every true believer should desire to be a faithful servant to the Lord Jesus.  It is certain that Paul and Barnabas indeed were faithful servants.  If we imitate the example of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, we will also be faithful servants to the Lord.  We should strive to be bold, humble, persistent, caring, committed, giving credit to the Lord, and loving one another.  If these characteristics describe us, then we can be certain that the Lord will be pleased with us and one day we will hear “well done, faithful servant” (Matt 25:23). 

Wedding Celebration

1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” There was a whole lot of love on Saturday as Will Hoover and our daughter, Callie Gibson, said their vows before the Lord and were married. We had such a wonderful time celebrating what God had orchestrated. Will and Callie met four years ago at their first week of orientation at Baylor University. All the kids were playing some sort of hide and seek game and Will and Callie ended up next to each other under a piano in one of the buildings. Will didn’t have a piece of paper so he wrote her phone number on his arm. And the rest is history. We are so thankful for the Godly family that Will has come from. We are also excited as Will and Callie will be moving to Lubbock, Texas for Will to attend medical school in the fall at Texas Tech University once Callie graduates in August. Thank you all for rejoicing with us and praying for us as we have traveled long distances over the last week. Here are a few pictures for you to see and rejoice with us. If you are on Instagram I have many pictures at Timgib70 or Julie’s Facebook account. #happilyeverhoover515

Happiness vs. Joy?

What’s the Difference?
Happiness and joy seem at first glance to be very similar emotions, but upon further examination are actually very different.  Happiness is often related to the superficial and is an outward expression of the circumstances around us.  Happiness is temporal and only exists when everything seems to be going right in our lives.  We are happy when we receive a gift, go on a trip, eat a nice meal and find ourselves healthy.  But joy on the other hand is an internal emotion, that is not based on any superficial experience.  Joy is a continual deep peace in a person’s inner being that all is well regardless of difficult circumstances.  Joy can be experienced by those who never receive gifts, never get to go on trips, don’t have enough food to eat, or even find themselves sick and in much pain.  The Apostle Paul illustrates this point clearly when he was imprisoned and chained between two soldiers awaiting execution.  He was able to say, “Rejoice, again I say rejoice” (Phil 4:4). 

Joy is a Gift from God
The most significant difference however between happiness and joy is how they are acquired.  Joy is not discovered in a textbook, found on a beach, or saved in a bank account.  At the very root, joy is a supernatural gift from God granting a person peace that his or her life is right with God.  While every person will experience happiness in the world at some time and at some level, only those who are right with God can truly experience real joy.  Sadly, many in the world will never experience what the Bible calls true joy.  Many will plod through a difficult life and be forever miserable.  But there is an invitation to everyone to come to the true source of joy, Jesus Christ.  The Bible teaches that when a person forsakes their sin, and puts their trust in Jesus Christ they are “born again” (Jn 3:1-16).  This new birth is a radical transformation of a person when the life of God enters into the soul of man.  To say it explicitly, the third member of the God-head, the Holy Spirit, enters into a believer.  With that radical divine takeover of a person’s life, comes inevitable blessings.  Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit gives “gifts” to the one who is born again.  And those gifts are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22, Rom 15:13).  Notice that “joy” is one of the gifts among many others.  While happiness may be learned or even purchased, notice that joy must be received.  The Scripture teaches that joy is a gift from God and is a strength to those who have it (Neh 8:10). 

How Can I Have More Joy?
Once God has given you this supernatural joy, can this joy increase?  The answer is absolutely!  Jesus said that He came so that His joy could be “in us” and that our “joy would be made full” (Jn 15:11). 

The Bible gives many ways, but here are three fundamental ways the Bible teaches believers to increase joy in their heart.  And we shouldn’t be surprised that they all revolve around how we relate to God and His Word.  First, stay away from evil.  The very first and foundational Psalm tells us, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1).  The word “blessed” is actually a plural in the Hebrew and stresses the fact that those who do what is stated will experience the “blessednesses” or blessings of God.  The Psalmist calls God’s people to follow Him wholeheartedly and avoid relationships that leave God out of their lives. Three plans of action are presented:  1) guard your mind by not listening to worldly wisdom rather than God’s wisdom, 2) don’t participate in sinful behavior, and 3) don’t make deep friendships with those who disbelieve and scoff at God’s Word.  Joy can be increased by avoiding evil through a growing knowledge of God, and application of His Word to our lives. 

Second, simply obeying the commands of God bring more joy.  The Psalmist says, “the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” (Ps 19:8).  God tells us “blessed are those who keep my ways” (Prov 8:32).  Disobedience to God will certainly rob a believer of the joy of the Lord, but on the other hand obedience to God can bring about rejoicing!  We should never view God’s commands as a burden, but rather we should realize that His Word is given to us for “our good” (Deut 10:12-13).  God wants us to be full of joy and His Word is a road map to the fullness of joy.  While our salvation is secure, our disobedience grieves the Holy Spirit within us (Eph 4:30).  King David understood this clearly after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  Once he repented of his sin, he diligently prayed to the Lord, “restore to me the joy of my salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps 51:12).  When we are tempted to disobey God, we must remember that Satan’s promises are lies!  It is God’s commands that are designed to give us greatest rejoicing. 

Third, more joy comes by trusting in the Lord.  Jeremiah 17:7 says, “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Prov 16:20).  From experience we know that anxiety strips us of joy and unbelief can paralyze us.  The measure of our joy can be determined by where we place our trust.  Paul tells us clearly to rejoice, but then tells us that we can rejoice because we put our trust in God.  He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:4-7).  Instead of worrying, we must go to the sovereign King of the universe and make our requests known.  Knowing that He is in control, He promises to give us peace which will guard our hearts and minds.  This is the only way we can “consider it all joy” when we experience all kinds of trials (James 1:2).  We can willfully choose joy in any circumstance because we know that God is in control and working out the details of our lives.   

God Our Savior

Every year, our Easter celebrations rightfully focus on Jesus, God the Son who died on the cross on Good Friday and rose again on Easter Sunday.  We will inevitably sing great songs of praise like “Halleluiah what a Savior.”  But I don’t want us to forget that Good Friday and Easter were a Trinitarian effort.  We must remember that both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus were events planned by God the Father in eternity past, so that we can also say that God the Father is our Savior.  We rightfully think of Jesus as being our Savior, but six times in the New Testament, God the Father is also called “our Savior” (1 Tim 1:1, 2:3, 4:10, Titus 1:3, 2:10, 3:4).  This shouldn’t surprise us since God is known as Israel’s Savior over thirty times in the Old Testament (Ps 106:21).  This is the nature of God.  He is a saving God!  And the Easter story reveals the Father’s saving work in orchestrating all the details so that both Good Friday and Easter happened. 

Good Friday: God Put Forward
In Romans 3:24-25 the Apostle Paul says that sinners are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood.”  Don’t miss the fact that it was God who made the cross happen.  Yes, it is true that Jesus was crucified by evil men.  But it was God the Father who “put forward” His Son.  This is also confirmed by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:23, when he says that Jesus was  “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”  Understand that Good Friday was God’s plan for making sure there was a sacrifice worthy to satisfy His own wrath against sin.  This is seen in the word “propitiation.”  This word means to satisfy, like one whose debt has been fully paid.  Why did God put forth His Son to be killed and have His blood spilled?  God knew that it was only the blood of His spotless Son who could “propitiate” or satisfy His own wrath toward sinners.  God the Father, sent His own Son into the world (Jn 3:16), to pay the debt that sin had created and to satisfy His own holy wrath against sin.  Oh, what a Savior!

Easter:  God Raised Up
But not only was the cross on Good Friday orchestrated by God the Father, the resurrection on Easter Sunday was as well.  Who raised up Jesus who had been in the grave for “three days and three nights” (Matt 12:40)?  The Apostle Peter answers this question clearly in Acts 2:24 when he says, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (See also Acts 3:15, 1 Cor 6:14, Eph 1:20, Romans 8:11, 2 Cor 4:14).  The resurrection of Jesus was God’s doing.  It was God’s way of putting His stamp of approval on the sacrifice that Jesus had made.  It was God’s way of telling the world that truly He was a Savior, a Savior from sin, death, and Satan.  The resurrection of Jesus proves that death had been destroyed, Satan had been conquered, and sin’s penalty had been fully paid (Heb 2:14, 1 Cor 15:55, Col 2:15).   

So this year when we reflect on Good Friday and celebrate on Easter, let’s not forget this fundamental truth that while Jesus is our Savior, so is God the Father.  It was God the Father who planned our salvation and acted to ensure that Jesus was put forward and raised from the dead. 

As we close, we would be amiss if we forgot the Holy Spirit who is also active in our salvation.  While it was the Father who planned it all, and the Son who accomplished it on the cross, it is God the Holy Spirit who applies salvation to our hearts.  The Apostle Paul gloriously reveals this Trinitarian effort in our salvation clearly in Ephesians 1:3-14.  Our salvation was a Trinitarian effort, so that we can say emphatically that the entire God-head is our Savior! Oh, what a Savior!