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Verse of the Month - Feb 2018

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For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 ESV)

As I walked through Walmart the other day, I noticed that on the shelves sat Valentine’s Day candy.  As I continued picking up a few things, I pondered the topic of love.  For us living in 2018, it is important to understand that we have been conditioned and discipled by our culture’s understanding of love.  Our culture has swallowed this Greek influenced notion hook, line, and sinker.  It permeates with the idea that love is centered on self.  Not only is it centered on self, but it also carries with it the notion that it must bring us instant gratification.  Sadly, love has become much like a junk drawer.  This skewed idea of love is the air we breathe in Western society.  I propose that this idea of love has done devastating damage to marriages, the family, and relationships.  At it’s root, it has infused a false narrative about love into our lives.  Because our culture defines love as being about self, it has also skewed our ability to be loved by others.  The poison in the potion has caused us to think that our ability to be loved is based upon how lovable we are.  Because of this, we must perform and meet the standards of everyone else in order to be loved.

The Scriptures stand in stark contrast to this understanding and false narrative.  In 1 John 4:8, we see where love gets its meaning as it tells us that God is love.  So the very character of God defines for you and me the truth of what love is.  God is the only one who can set the true definition.  So how does God demonstrate this love then?  Quite simply, he pursues.  Love is defined not by what we get out of it, but rather by what is given.  God being love acts in love.  

John 3:16 starts off and says, “For God so loved the world.”  Think deeply about this, God loves us not because we are deserving of his love and intrinsically lovable—we weren’t.  Sin had marred and deformed us.  It had beat us up as we shook our fist at the heavens.  We were not deserving of love, but the One who is love, set his love on us before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:3-10).  God loved a rebellious world of idolaters, rebels, and glory thieves.  God loved you and me so much that He gave His only Son. Since this was the plan before time (see Acts 2:23), it is not conditioned upon our performance, but solely upon God’s character.  John goes on to say that “whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal live.”  Eternal life is knowing God (see John 17:3).  Knowing the God, who is love, frees us up to be loved and to extend love.  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).  This is God’s definition of love and our well to draw from as we pursue loving others.

Written by Pastor Rick Bartek

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Rest In (not from) Parenting

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There are very few things that can bring a man or woman to exhaustion like parenting.  As a father with three young children, I often wonder when the sea waves of tantrums, mealtime battles, endless requests for snacks, sleepless nights, sibling squabbles, and rooms that could be featured on the next Transformers movie will subside.  To be sure, parenting is immensely rewarding, but it also absolutely comes with difficulty.  How are we to properly see these waves that batter us like an abandoned ship on a shore?  Is there any rest to be found?  I propose yes, but only through seeing that the difficulty is the reward.

In Luke 10, the question of rest comes up.  An expert in the law stands up and questions Jesus asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  The question of eternal life is at it’s roots a question about finding rest.  It is a question that harkens back to the beginning of time as Adam and Eve are experiencing the fullness of it.  It is important to understand that prior to brokenness ripping into the cosmos through sin, Adam and Eve are not toiling or experiencing weariness in any form.  The reason that they walk in rest and peace is because they are finding in the only source that ultimately provides it, the triune God, Himself.  

Out of this question of rest from the lawyer, the parable of the Good Samaritan is birthed.  It is a brilliant story from Jesus that is meant to show the lawyer not how to keep the law, but his inability to do so.  Ultimately, Jesus’ desire is for the lawyer to see his need for the grace that only Jesus provides.  The truth of the Good Samaritan is not that we are suppose to be the Good Samaritan, but rather to see that Jesus is the Good Samaritan who shows compassion to you and me as we sit on the shore beaten on by the waves.  

Resources on parenting are endless.  All of them seek to provide help for those in need.  How-to and useful parenting methods are a great thing but let us not be tricked into thinking that they will bring us rest, for there is only One who is able.  In our weakness, may we cling to Him who is strong.  May we see that the difficulty in parenting is actually a reward meant to point us to Jesus.  What if by seeing that we are not enough, we can actually find rest in the One who is?  God doesn’t just use parenting to raise up disciples, but also to conform them.

 

This blog post from Pastor Rick was originally published on speedoffamily.com.  

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