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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).

Posted by Rick Bartek with

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

Posted by Rick Bartek with