Reflections Week of 7/23/17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

Read Nehemiah 4:14 (Monday 7/24)

“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes”.

Our God will fight for us. He will see us through the storms. He will offer his encouragement and his helping hand because he is great and awesome! Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome. The definition of awesome is: extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. We use this word loosely in modern language but the definition of this word and its connection to Christ seems to be most fitting and appropriate.

Extremely impressive,

He shouts, “do not be afraid”,

Daunting in grand love,

Inspiring great admiration,

Our God will fight for us,

He will see us through the valley,

He will help us build the wall,

He will rise amongst the weary,

With him we will not fall.

When my enemies taunt and ridicule,

I will not be led astray,

I will protect the walls that have built this home,

Listen and obey,

I will defend and protect,

I will seek to know,

The wonder of our God,

Great and awesome,

Splendor and beauty,

Even the mightiest view,

Cannot be greater than our God.

*Spend a few moments to reflect on the awesome qualities of our God! In what way do you see his extremely impressive and yet daunting qualities? Write a simple poem about the awesome qualities of our God that you see in your daily life, through other Christians, or through scripture. (If you need help getting started, spell out the word AWESOME vertically, and write a word or phase that describes the awesome qualities of our God using the letters from the word awesome to begin your word/phrase.)

Read Nehemiah 9 (Thursday 7/27)

This passage allows for me to reflect on my own history and the ways in which God has revealed himself strongly in my life through different seasons. The Levites prayer expresses Gods abundant grace and mercy through memories of their lived history and God’s continued commitment to his people. Upon reflection of these accounts, confessions are interwoven, revealing insight to the times they, “stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments” (9:16). Throughout the prayer they continue to recall our God who is, “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…and did not forsake them.” (9:17)

I love the idea of praying prayers of memories of God’s abundant grace in our lives on super specific accounts. I can so easily get wrapped up in my day-to-day routine, which often distracts me from the grace and mercy that Christ continually has and does extend to me. I received a letter from my mom in the mail today which reminded me very much of this prayer. She started the letter by telling me really sweet mom things, but concluded the letter with a list of things To praise God for… On this list she wrote nine very specific accounts from this past month in which God was gracious, merciful, and abounding in steadfast love. It was a sweet and simple reminder of the many ways God has been present in my life the past month, many of which I would have glossed over had it not been for my mom’s written account of these blessings.

*Take the time to prayerfully consider the ways in which God has been so good to you. Make a list of 5-10 specific accounts in the past month in which his faithfulness, mercy and grace have been extended to you.

Reflections written by Leslie Garb

Reflections Week of 7/9/17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

2 Chronicles 30:6-9

It’s very easy to get caught up in the mindset of “This is how it always has been, and that’s how I will continue”. We see it all the time- in US and world history, in the Bible, and in our own families and personal lives. It’s easier to keep going the direction you’ve always gone than to break from it. Here, Hezekiah is urging the people of Israel to return to the Lord, and to not be like their fathers before them. Perhaps they turned away from the Lord, or did not do what was right, but with each person or generation, there is always grace in the choice to come back to God. This offer from Hezekiah also has some cultural connotations relating to captors and freedom. He promises that those who fled will find “compassion with their captors” because of the Lord’s mercy. One of my favorite worship songs is “Draw Near” by Bethel, and the lyrics that catch my ear are “Draw near to me/For I have drawn near to you. Pull on the strings of my hear/For I long to respond to you.” This is the message conveyed in the last half of verse 9. The Lord is offering an alternative to His righteous anger, if only His people will return to seeking him. The two points I want to make here are that sometimes we lose sight of what it means to be seeking the Lord, and that it is never too late to return to the way we were meant to be with the Lord, whether your parents or grandparents or whoever spiritually mentored you exemplified the right way to do so. You can break free from your wrong ways at any time, and go running back to the Lord. The best part is that He will always take you back.

Questions for reflection: Where in your life have you strayed from the right way? What will it take for you to return to the Lord? Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength to do so.

1 John 1:1-5

Sometimes, I think that the part of being a Christian that I am the most uncomfortable with is confession. It’s hard to own up to things that we’ve done that we knew were wrong, or things that we didn’t know were wrong until after we did them. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge sin. However, I think that reading this passage is a good reminder of why we need to live in that discomfort- not constantly, but when necessary. We can’t be truthful followers of Christ if we don’t acknowledge our sin, and now just the blanket fact that we are sinners, but our specific sins. The gift of forgiveness is well within our reach, if we are willing to grab for it, and we can only do that when we bring our sins to light. God is faithful! We have nothing to lose from admitting our sins, and everything to gain, if we can get over that discomfort. It’s just like dunking into the cold water of Lake Michigan for the first time. You must do it, and you know you’ll feel more comfortable once you get it over with. It’s hard to take that plunge, anticipating how cold it will be, but you know that after that moment, you’ll be glad you did it.

Questions for reflection: What are you uncomfortable admitting, to yourself, to others, or to God? Spend some quiet time meditating in the fact that the discomfort will not last long, and afterward you will be able to bask in forgiveness.

Reflections written by: Lauren DeVries 

 

Reflections Week of 7/2/17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

Read 2 Chronicles 20:15-30
Our God is faithful and honorable. He is the ultimate authority in all things. King Jehosephat sought to honor God. It was a newish thing he was trying out – but he was doing it.

When told that his land was about to be under siege, Jehosephat became scared. Which I find to be totally rational.

How do you react when you’re afraid? Do you become angry or aggressive? Do you hide or cower? Or do you, like King Jehosephat, give it to God? Because this thing that you fear? It is not yours. The battle belongs to God.

Jehosephat dressed his singers in their best clothing and sent them before his army with their holiest songs. His people did not flee, they did not lash out in anger, they did not seek to control. By the grace of God, they saw that the battle was not theirs. The battle belongs to God.

They won. But you already know that. They marched on singing a line that I know well, and you might too:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever!”

God lets us lose battles all the time. We get cut off. We are disrespected by peers and co-workers. We fight with our friends and with our family. Battle is inevitable, but we are called to step out in faith.

Remember: The battle belongs to God.

Read 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

Control is an illusion.

We love control. We like to know what is safe, dangerous, black, white, easy, hard, friend, foe, up, down. Control makes us feel powerful. Control gives us a firm grasp on safety. Control is something we take pride in.

Control isn’t real.

When we believe that we have control over enough things for a long enough time, we begin to develop (say it with me) pride. And with enough pride (aka assumed control), we think we can do anything.

Take King Uzziah for instance.

He became powerful, grew prideful, felt total control over his kingdom, people, and even his God.

Stepping into the sanctuary of the temple of God and burning incense when you weren’t a Priest or a High Priest was no-go. God ordered this and Uzziah knew this. But Uzziah felt that he was powerful enough to control the situation, so he stepped into a forbidden, secret, holy place.

So God struck him with leprosy.

Seriously. Uzziah’s crazy control/pride issue lead him to become a permanent outcast for the rest of his life, living in physical and emotional misery until the day he died.

The lesson here is simple and profound: Stop trying to control your life. Trust your God. Follow His example and His guidelines. You don’t have control. He does.

Reflections written by Liz Doogan

Reflections Week of 6.25.17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

Read 2 Chr 6 (Monday 6.26)

In this chapter, Solomon does what a good king should: he sets an example for Israel by humbling himself before God. In this, he does three things: he exalts the LORD most high, he holds God to His promise of blessing, and he asks for forgiveness.

Remember, Solomon was the wisest person ever. If anyone could claim to know their stuff, it was this guy. Yet he didn’t even try to claim to be smarter than or as smart as God (at least up to this point). He knew that God couldn’t be contained or understood in the least, much less tamed or manipulated. He knew that God was awesome, holy, and just.

Solomon knew that the whole “if we just follow your law with our whole hearts and minds” deal was humanly impossible. He knew that no one could measure up to God’s standard; no one could obey perfectly.

But he leaned on God’s promises anyway, because he also knew that God was good. Although it was God’s holiness that made forgiveness necessary, it was His goodness that made it possible. Since no man could keep their end of the Covenant, Solomon had to trust God to take the loss and show grace to His people as He had before.

In this situation, we actually catch a glimpse of the New Covenant that hadn’t yet come: King Jesus humbled Himself to exalt God the Father; Jesus made God’s promises of blessing possible and true; Jesus measured up to God’s standard by obeying perfectly; God Himself upholds both sides of the New Covenant, and takes the loss for our forgiveness.

For Reflection: Do you think that you need God’s forgiveness? Can you follow God’s rules perfectly, with your whole heart and mind? Thank God for blessing you in Jesus, and showing you grace.

Read 2 Chr 16:1-10 (7.1 Saturday)

Here we have a classic case of “What was he thinking?” King Asa was doing so well for the 35 years he was seeking the Lord, and then he had to go and ruin it by taking things into his own hands. It’s easy for me to look at Asa and think, “Nooooo, whyyyyyy?” But that’s because I know the outcome of his story.

In all honesty, the action Asa took against king Baasha is pretty logical, at least from a human perspective. Pay someone to kick out the other king who’s usurping your land. The bad guys leave, and everything’s all right again. Hey, you even get some free building materials out of it! Good deal.

Not.

Asa didn’t ask the LORD for His guidance in the matter, he just went ahead and did what he thought would work. He completely forgot about all the times God defeated his enemies (including the army of 1,000,300 in chapter 14), he relied on human victory, and ignored God’s plan in the process.

You might wonder, if Asa was a good king up till that point, why did his decision so displease God? Why didn’t God just let it slide? The fact is, every decision made apart from God is offensive to Him. That goes for us today, too. Whenever we rely on our own judgement like Asa did, instead of listening for God’s command through scripture and prayer, we claim to know better than He. No one knows better than God.

So what happened to Asa after God reprimanded him? He basically became a bitter brat: he didn’t repent nor return to the LORD, even though it was an option, thus turning down the blessing in v9: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

For Reflection: Do you seek God’s will when you make plans? Do you get angry at God when your plans don’t work out the way you intend, or do you thank Him for knowing better than you? Thank God for knowing your heart and supporting you as you seek His will above your own.

Reflections written by: Sarah Rico

Reflections Week of 6.18.17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

Read 1 Chronicles 28 (Wednesday 6.21)

Divisions, divisions, divisions. Chapters 23-27 are quite literally a list of names. Upon first glance, it brings back memories of the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 or the long list of Noah’s sons in Genesis. I would be lying to say if my eyes didn’t lazely jump from one name to another, mind wandering as I try to make sense of why this would be so important as to be included in the Bible.

If nothing else, it shows the significance of Israel during their reign. This was a massive force, one of the most powerful in the region. And at the center of all this? Solomon. Not because he was the oldest. Not because he proved himself in some magnificent away. Even in verse five, David explicitly stated that the LORD had chosen him for the job.

Now, if only it were that easy; to have a clear cut direction of what your life is. That once you work your way to the top, everything is set. But if anything, this proves that God works through anyone, no matter where you come from.

2 Chronicles 1 (Thursday 6.22)

Solomon was not known for Samson-like strength or Elijah’s bravery. Instead, he was known for asking God of one thing and one thing only. Wisdom. That was it. No ivory towers, no golden chariots, no sweeping landscapes. Just knowledge and wisdom. It takes a certain kind of person to show that kind of self-restraint. To ask only for he felt was absolutely needed.

The reason that I have the word “listen” tattooed on my arm, other than the fact it was only two dollars, was because of the story of Solomon. I have always found that I have learnt the most when I have taken a moment to really pick up what others have said. To hear and embrace different points of view has given me a huge appreciation from people of all walks of life. And as such, I have found that I have learned far more from others than anything that I can do on my own.

This can be the same way in our approach to God. We simply do not have all of the answers that we seek. No matter how much we pack in from books, or degrees we earn, or how many hours we spend practicing to master one of Beethoven’s symphonies, we always come up short. No matter how hard we fight to control our destinies, we ultimately run into a brick wall when it comes to trying to put our will before God’s. In the end, it isn’t about using the wisdom we ask for to outsmart God. Rather, the hope is to use it to embrace God.

Reflections written by Jax Gorman

Reflections Week of 6.11.17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

Read 1 Chronicles 13:5-14  (6.13 Tuesday)

Verse 9: “…And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen had stumbled.”  After Uzzah reached out to take hold of the ark, the story continues that God became angry due to this action and struck Uzzah down.

In this passage is the reminder that we constantly need as humans: that we are not God, and that God is holy and we, without Him, are not.  God is not on the same level as sinful and fragile humanity.  He is above, He is supreme in His glory, purity, majesty.  The ark was considered holy, because it was where the holy God came to speak to His people.  Exodus 25:22 says, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”  The ark was held throughout the wandering of Israel in the ‘Holy of Holies’ in the tabernacle, and it sat elevated, off of the ground.

It is good for us to remember to revere God and to have awe for Him, to remember His holiness.  As we do this we can also cling to Him and trust Him, as we remember that He is also supreme in His love for us.  He is on high, but He loves His people and desired them to be with Him, so much that He sent His Son who is, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3) to make a way.

Read 1 Chronicles 21:18-30 (6.17 Saturday)

Verse 24 says, “But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price.  I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

“I will not take for the Lord what is yours…” is encouraging for me because it shows David desiring to have something of his own to give to the Lord.  David had a real, personal relationship with God, like we all can have.  David did things that pleased God from time to time and God did (countless) things that blessed and pleased David.  David didn’t let someone else put forth the effort for him in his relationship with God.  It was his own.

“…nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  David also loved God, and he knew at this moment that he had sinned, and that he needed his relationship with God to be restored.  Real offerings costs us something.  We are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).  Living with God as our King, Savior, Teacher, Comforter and friend means that we give of ourselves.  We do this in joy though.  Just as David offered of himself over and over to God throughout his life and later could be seen rejoicing in God or praising Him.

Reflections written by Wade Henderson

Reflections Week of 6.4.17

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the two year reading plan the church is participating in. It is our hope that these reflections help you to get in to your Bible throughout the week and be challenged by the word of God.

Read 2 Corinthians 12 (Monday 6.5)
“My grace is sufficient for you.” Amen and amen! What an encouraging statement. When I look around and wonder how am I suppose to be different from the rest of the world, this is it! Who else in the world can gladly rejoice in their weaknesses? As I go about my day and I am confronted by my sin and my lack of ability i am blessed to not be defined by them. This is an identity passage. God allows thorns to stay in our side to remind us that our personhood and our worth is not found in how well we live life but is found in Christ’s righteousness in us. I am valuable because he has chosen me and saved me for himself. Paul is showing us that there is purpose even in failure so that when failures comes we might praise God for his grace in our lives.
For Reflection: Is there a thorn in your life right now? Do you believe God’s grace is sufficient? Think about where you find your identity? Is it in Christ or is it in how well you live? What might it look like to change?
2 Corinthians 13 (Monday 6.5)
Paul has just reminded us in the previous chapter that in our weakness God is made strong, that in the depths of our sin we know the heights of God’s grace. But now he is concerned that we not abuse our freedom in Christ. He calls the Corinthians to test themselves and see if they are of the faith. He knows that they are and is not suggesting otherwise but what he is showing is that a life in Christ is a life marked by righteousness. Paul is marrying the reality of Gods sovereignty over all events and the necessity of man’s responsibility. God’s grace is sufficient for our weakness and at the same time since we are in Christ we have the power to live in righteousness. Our identity is found and is stable in Christ as the anchor of our soul and it is from this security that we have the grace and the freedom to live righteously before God and man.
For Reflection: Is your identity found in Christ and what he has done for you? Does the way you live show that reality? What might you change this week to show who you in Christ?
Reflections written by Taylor Floyd