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Verse of the Month - June 2018

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There are very few sights that can strike my heart more that witnessing the beauty that the sun casts across the sky when it rises or sets. The multiple colors that fill the sky glazing over the various clouds can take my breath away. Often times as I peer out the back window of our house at a sunset, it seems to stop time. In those moments, I am often reminded that the beauty of the sunrise or sunset cannot compare to the beauty of our God. He is the one who, like an artist, effortlessly wiped his brush across the sky allowing sinful men and women to witness His unique masterpiece. Although these sights are filled with beauty, the rising of the sun and its setting only serves as a shadow to the greatness of our God.

In Psalm 113, the psalmist exhorts the people of God to praise the LORD five times in nine verses. The word praise connotes extending honor, commendation, and worship. The call upon the life of a believer to praise the LORD is not a call that is filtered down to one hour a week or even one day a week that is set apart. No, the psalmist exclaims in verse 3, “from the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!” For the believer, this is a call to praise the LORD every waking moment because He and He alone is worthy of our adoration and affection. The psalmist continues in verse 4 to expound upon and ponder the truth that “the LORD is high above the nations, and His glory above the heavens.” This leads him to question in verse 5, “Who is like the the LORD our God?” Then, the psalmist explains the work of this awesome God as he writes, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and with the princes of His people” (v. 7-8). These verses are the epitome and description of grace! The undeserved inheriting what they do not deserve. The needy, broken, and dirty are provided for, fixed, and cleaned. Though the LORD God is seated on high, He looks down upon the lowly.

In Christ Jesus, we see not only that God looked upon the lowly, but that this majestic God became one of the lowly (see Philippians 2:1-11). Jesus, the God-Man in taking on human flesh, He headed to a cross to atone for the sins of the poor in spirit. And in so doing he ensured that every tongue would confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This sight strikes our hearts as we see the beauty of our salvation. Our response? Praise the name of Lord! When? From the rising of the sun to its setting!

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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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