The Splendor of the Heavens

by Keith Bortner
 

“O Lord , our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord , our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8: 1-9)

Ever since I was a little kid, the night sky has fascinated me and the more I learn about the things in that sky, and about how far away they are and how big they are, the more I’m in awe of what God has created.

It took about 10 years of taking pictures from a satellite in space to get all of the exposures required to create the Hubble Extreme Deep Field image, which is part of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The Hubble space telescope was pointed to an area of the sky that, to our eyes, appears to be completely black, like there is absolutely nothing there. In the resulting image of that apparently empty region of space, there are approximately 5,500 galaxies, each made up of thousands or millions of stars. The Hubble Extreme Deep Field is 1/32,000,000th of the sky.

Our God has made, and continues to make, an amazing universe. The vast majority of what He has made we will never see. The universe is full of things we can’t possibly fathom and we are minute little specks in it. Really, the entire galaxy in which we live is a minute little speck in this universe! And yet, what does Psalm 8 say about man? That God has made mankind a little lower than Himself, that he has crowned mankind with His glory and majesty! That He has put all things under our feet. God, the creator of all that there is, wants to take our hand and wants us to rule with Him, wants us to shape our world into something beautiful by being His image bearers, wants us to bring His love to those who don’t know him.

That love is what all of this is for. He created this nearly infinitely vast universe and placed us into it simply because He wants to love us and wants us to love Him and to love each other. Hopefully, when we see how small we are, but that God made everything there is because of His love for us, and also that He came to us in order to fix the relationship that we broke, we can see not how insignificant we are in the universe, but rather how much God loves us and how much we mean to Him, and then go share that love with those around us.


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It Is My Sin

by Chris Thomas
 

For the past few months, I have been participating in a Women’s Bible study on two of Max Lucado’s books, Because of Bethlehem and He Chose the Nails. I have learned so much from the ladies in that group and I’m so glad to be with them and to hear their thoughts.

In one chapter of the book He Chose the Nails, Max Lucado writes about the way the guards abused Jesus. He said, “Herod wanted a show. Pilot wanted out. But the guards, they wanted blood.” So, they blindfolded him, beat him, shoved the crown of thorns on his head, tore his beard, and scourged him. I think that if that had happened to a mere mortal, he would not have survived even a tiny inkling of the physical abuse Jesus endured. Have you ever seen the whip they used? I literally get upset every time I think about it. He could have summoned the angels to whisk him away at any time. Why didn’t He? He could have killed all of the soldiers who abused him. Why didn’t He? He could have miraculously healed himself. Why didn’t He? Because He had to endure so He could wipe away my sin. It was what He was born to do. It was why He gave up everything to become a man. It was His purpose. He is my Savior.

Mr. Lucado goes on to question the fact that Jesus never once reached up to wipe away the spittle that the guards spat on Him. He wore that spittle on His face, all the way to the cross. That spittle? That is my sin.

One of the ladies in our group, Deb Trojak, shared that she finds it amazing that it was not all of the physical punishment bestowed on Him that killed Him. It was the weight of the emotion of all of the sins of the world that finally killed Him. All of the sin of all of the world for all time. That’s what finally killed him. Me, you, every soul that came before us, and every soul that will come after us. Can you imagine how heavy that was? I cannot.

2 Corinthians 5:21 reads, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Are we worthy? I think not.

But by the pure and holy grace of God, He thinks we are.


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God Is Always With Us

by Greg Gross
 

Hi, Church Family. My name is Greg.

Every year I get a calendar for the year. Last year I went to “Hearts and Minds” to get a calendar. I found one with the poem, “Footprints”; this poem tells me God is always with me, no matter what happens in my life.

When I was 14, I decided I didn’t need God. A lot of bad things started to happen to me. That’s when He put His arms around me and carried me. That was some time ago.

As I live and love my Jesus, I find out that things still happen. Life is not fair. Two years ago I lost my wife to cancer. As I was leaving the hospital that morning, a song popped into my head from Sidewalk Prophets—“Soldier On”.

I believe He was telling me don’t worry, He’s got me.

Last year was a little different and this year we will see. Don’t forget the poem “Footprints”. He does truly love us.
When I got baptized, Pastor Todd gave me Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your path straight.”

As I read the Bible, other verses pop out at me…like Joshua 1-9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Lord, thank you for being with us, in every part of our lives. Thank you for loving us. Help us to not be discouraged and to always look towards You. Amen.


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Reading Through The Bible in One Year

by Barb Schumacher
 

Though she may not know it, Bethanie Freeman is the inspiration for the title of this devotion and moreover, my
commitment to read the Bible through in a year. Bethanie announced to me, during one of our conversations in the narthex, that she wanted to try to read the Bible through in a year and that she was going to do it! That conversation was December 2019/January 2020 (can’t remember for sure) and to say that I was touched, moved and compelled by that statement is an understatement! Talk about a New Year’s resolution with some punch….I was down for that exercise.

But to Bethanie and to all of you, I must confess: I am on the two year plan!

However, at this writing, I am a little over halfway through the Old Testament and little over halfway through the New Testament. I am following the “Our Daily Bread” plan that is listed at the bottom of each “Our Daily Bread” devotional. My 93-year-old mother has decided to use this plan too. I told her I was on the two year plan…..she giggled.

There are lots of plans to read through the Bible and many are online, so that you can use them on your smartphone, iPad, or laptop and those are great also.

My purpose in sharing this with you, my church family, is to encourage you to give this a go, whether you have already read through the entire Bible already or not. For me, the important thing was to start – regardless of how long it takes. Once I started, I found myself longing for more time in the Word, more time with the Lord, and the enjoyment in reading, learning and loving God’s precepts and His promises. That is what has taken me so long – I find myself reading the notes at the bottom of my Bible to understand more and I am underlining/double underlining all over the place!

Psalm 19 and 119 remind us of the blessings and truth that come from the Word of God:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are
trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19: 7-8)

“Teach me, O Lord, to follow Your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight.” Psalm 119: 33-35)

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from Your precepts
therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.” (Psalm 119: 103-105)

During this Lenten season, I want to encourage you to begin your “walk through the Bible” and if you do decide to do this, let me know so that I can pray with you and for you, as we journey through the Word together! (Thank you Bethanie!)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your Word that is flawless and true. I pray that as I read and study the Scriptures, Your Spirit would speak to my heart and help me resist every wrong path. Please teach me, Lord, that I might gain
understanding, keep Your law, and obey it with all my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Scripture Focus: The Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be
baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

(Matthew 3:13-17)


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A Great Question

by Savenit Polo
 

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7)

According to the scriptures, the last teachings of Jesus were made in parables. This could have happened as a result of the unbelief of the people and the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees.

In order to understand the parables, we must have an attitude of humility, a heart willing to be changed and to learn.
In Luke 18:1-8, we have the opportunity to read a parable full of teachings, a judge dealing with a persistent widow who apparently suffered a damage from someone else and needed justice.

According to the law of that time, women could not demand justice in a court but Jesus introduces this figure as a way to teach us that we must persist in prayer, no matter how difficult the situation may seem to be.

God’s grace and His justice are available to anyone who comes to Him, male or female. Finally, Jesus confronts us with a great question:

Will not God do justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? We can trust in the justice of God.

Lord, help me be persistent in prayer and to continue believing, despite my moments of difficulties. Amen.


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