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Verse of the Month - April 2018

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

Open a newspaper, flip on the TV, or visit the website of a news network, and the headlines are clear—something has gone terribly wrong.  Each medium testifies to the reality that our world is marked by immense tragedy.  The truth is that the headlines of our lives are not much different from that of the news.  We all live lives amongst the chaos that permeates through the torn fabric of the cosmos.  If we are honest and pay attention, we can feel our hearts groan along with the creation that has been subject to futility (see Romans 8:18-30).  This futility has left humanity searching for a hope to answer the deep questions of the soul.  The search of hope takes many people to many different places, but as Christians we testify that there is only one hope that is living.  

What does this mean for you personally?  What season of life do you find yourself in today?  Are you on a mountaintop or in the deep recess of a canyon?  Life takes us to both sights, but one thing that remains true through it all is that Jesus is Lord.  The Apostle Peter witnessed with his own eyes and conversed with the living and resurrected Christ.  This reality undergirds Peter as he writes his first letter.  In writing, Peter holds the goal to bring comfort to a church that had found themselves in the throws of the canyon, yet he calls them to “bless” God.  This word bless is the same word that we derive our word eulogy from.  Peter is calling these first century believers and us today to speak well of and to magnify God.  But how exactly are we do do this as we stand in the canyon or on the mountain?  

First, we speak well to God “according to His great mercy.”  Think for a moment about this. Our God looked at you and me, His enemies, not with contempt, but with love.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, chased our after our dead wandering hearts that had been strangled by sin through our imprudently broken lives.   Through no merit of our own, He extend to us forgiveness and life.  Secondly, we look to our new life in Jesus.  Peter writes that He “caused us to be born again.”  Ezekiel 36 tells us that God has given us a new heart and spirit.  We are now no longer subject to our broken ways.  Sin and death no longer have the final enslaving word.  We are completely and utterly free.  And finally, we bless God by looking to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  In the resurrection of Jesus, we see our hope become alive.  The good news of the Gospel transforms our view and gives new context to the season that we find ourselves in and because of God’s mercy and our new life through the resurrection of Jesus, we can join in singing the hymn which declares, “Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away, rising He justified freely, forever, one day He’s coming —O glorious day!”

Written by Pastor Rick Bartek

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Verse of the Month - March 2018

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Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 24 ESV).

One of my favorite moments as a father is when my children are learning how to walk.  Their steps, although shaky at first, start to stabilize over time.  This gives them greater confidence to take another step.  This confidence ultimately carries them to running, and their stumbling bursts forth into vitality.  I find this picture of a child learning how to walk a great illustration for the Christian life.  For the believer, the road is more often than not filled with difficulty, but the more we walk in the Spirit with our eyes focused on Jesus, the more confidence we find.  To be clear, this confidence is not founded in our ability not stumble and fall, but ultimately in God’s ability to keep us upright to the end.  

The Letter of Jude is the appeal to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3).  I find this exhortation full of encouragement as we see the deterioration of society.  Jude’s audience at the time was experiencing various threats to their faith due to the infiltration of false teaching into their congregation.  They were being fed the falsehood from ungodly individuals that as recipients of the grace of God they could live in their own ungodly passions.  Jude instructs that this idea actually perverts the grace of God (verse 4).  Although not in the same form, this lie still permeates the air of today’s culture.  Much of the advertising from culture has the aim to get us to chase after our own fleshly desires.  The target of Jude for both his original hearers and us today is to encourage and instruct us on the importance of living a life that is reflective of our beliefs.  But where is our source of power to do so?

Jude closes his letter with a doxology that is packed full of truth for us as we walk our journey.  He directs our eyes to the very heart of the Christian life.  The journey of life and the battle of sin can be difficult, but it is important to remember that victory has been won.  Our ability to stand blameless before the throne of God is not rooted in us, but in Him who is able.  Jesus, the blameless one, did not succumb to falsehood, He never stumbled or fell, nor was he defeated by death.  King Jesus bore our sin, paid our penalty, and purchased us for His purposes.  He sent His Spirit into our hearts so that we might be able to walk by the Spirit and on the last day, stand in the presence of God with great joy.  So now we declare praise “to the only God, our God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (verse 25).

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