Reflections Week of 6/26/16

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the message preached the previous Sunday. 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 Matthew 22:31-40
  Two commandments. That’s what Jesus takes all of the law, all of the teachings of Moses, all of the things that have marked the Jewish people as separate and different, Jesus boils it down into two commandments. I sometimes try to make the Christian life, theology, church, into a complex system. And in some respects, it is, people are complex, community is complex, but Jesus strips away the complexity and replaces it with just a few words. “Love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself.” While it might only be two commandments, they are not simple. How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? Who is our neighbor? What does it mean to love them? I had a friend who served with a ministry organization that took those two commandments and said it simply as: Love God, Love People. If we can do those things, in that order, how much different would our lives look? How different would our jobs and schools look? Maybe sometimes we make things more complex than they need to be to avoid the simple and sometimes scary command of love people.
Questions for Reflection: What does it practically look like to love God with your mind? What people (neighbors) in your life can you do a better job of loving? Think about them right now. Now write down ways to better love them. Now put it into practice.
 Read Philippians 2:3-16
  How does a large group of people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and families find a way to interact with each other and have relationships? Much of the New Testament writings have to do with this very question. Paul’s encouragement to the church in Philippians focuses on how to treat other people. “Do nothing from selfish ambition” “Look to the interests of others” “Do all things without grumbling” —over and over Paul is teaching the people, here is how you should treat each other. These seem like hard things when people invade our personal space, ask intimate questions, or steal your favorite coffee cup on a Sunday morning. To help us remember how to encourage each other and put others first Paul reminds us of the greatest example in verses 6-8, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins and experience the wrath of God in our place. So as we as a community try to model this sacrificial selfless system to each other, we look to the perfect example and what he experienced, and maybe that can help us show some grace to the person who sits in your seat on a Sunday.
Questions for Reflection: What does humility practically look in the way you are part of this community? What can you do to help model this style to others? Who’s interests this week can you try to put ahead of your own?
Reflections written by Pastor Tim Gioia
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Reflections Week of 6/19/16

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the message preached the previous Sunday. 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 Romans 5:1-5

How do we respond to the gospel in our lives? Romans 5:1-5 comes on the heels of Paul’s explanation of the gospel to the believers in Rome. This is possibly his clearest delineation of the gospel, breaking it down into four basic truths. (1) We as created beings are accountable to God, our Creator (Rom 1:20, Gen 1:26-27). (2) We have all rebelled against God and deserve judgment (Rom 2:9, 3:23). (3) To solve this problem of humanity’s sin God sent his son to be sacrificed taking the sin of the world on his shoulders (Rom 3:24). (4) To have access to this salvation you must repent and believe in Christ as Lord and savior of your life (Rom 3:22, Mark 1:15).

Now we come to chapter 5 and Paul states that because of the gospel (1) we have peace with God! No more looking over our shoulders wondering if God might send a lightening bolt! Because of the gospel (2) we have access to grace for our sins and hope for the future! There is forgiveness for the moment and hope that one day all will be made right and we will live as we were design; in harmony with God and man.

This is where Paul tells us how we can live not that we have the gospel; “we rejoice in our sufferings! (v.3)” Paul is telling us that we can/ought to live differently than the rest of the world. We do not suffer in vain but we suffer knowing that God is creating in us endurance that leads to character and finally hope. Finally, Paul tells us how this is true, “Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

After reading this I am convinced that I need to repent of my attitude towards hardship and to pursue joy within suffering. I am reminded here that there is an eternal perspective that gives hope to keep going. Next time something difficult comes into your life be it something drastic like health issues or the loss of a job or possibly something smaller like being cut off in traffic or not getting along at work, recall this passage and ask God for the grace to rejoice in the suffering!

Questions for Reflection: Ask questions like: What kind of suffering is in my life right now? How do I normally respond to suffering? What might I change today both practically and in my thought life to move towards joy in my suffering? Have I repented and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

Today we are looking at God’s grace. As you read verses 1-3 you might notice that Paul doesn’t paint a particularly pretty picture of humanity; of us. Paul is saying that you and I were once just as bad as the rest of the world. We lived serving the passions of our bodies and our minds regardless of God’s design for life. He goes as far as to say that you and I were, by nature, children of wrath! This echoes Romans 3:23 and the reality that all of humanity all sinners to the core. This leaves out any room for us to achieve salvation, we are all in trouble at this point.

But the passage doesn’t end there! “But God.” I want to stop there and point out that It doesn’t say “But if you only do this” (i.e. read your bible enough, be nice to people, etc). No! It says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us.” This is incredible news. God is merciful and he loves you! God desires for you and I to be saved from the punishment for our sins. He wanted this so much that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die for us that we may be made alive! You and I were dead in sin (2:1)! But (there’s that marvelous word again) God did not leave us there but rather WHILE we were dead in our trespasses he made us alive in Christ.

Notice again that this is all God. Why save us? Because God desires to show you and I how incredibly gracious and kind he is to us in Christ! It is by grace alone that we are save for this very reason, that none may have a chance to boast but rather all glory might go to God our Father who loves us greatly!

All this time Paul has been leading up to this final truth. Paul has shown us that we needed Jesus Christ above all else and in our moment of greatest need God provided for us in His mercy. And he says all this to declare that we, You and I, are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works! Now don’t read this and forget the entire chapter before. It is by grace we have been saved but we were saved so that we might be God’s workmanship walking in the good works he has given us!

You and I were saved so that we might be apart of His work! God is bringing people to himself and wants us to be apart of this, sharing the gospel and living in the new life Christ has given us. Go out this week and consider what good works you might do because God has saved you!

Questions for Reflection: Am I trying to earn God’s grace? Ask questions like, what things am I doing in life right now that are still like I once was when I was dead in my sin? What sins/ sinful habits am I still entrenched in? Do I need to repent of acting as though I can save myself? What goods works does God have prepared for me in my life? Am I doing them?

Reflections written by Taylor Floyd

Reflections Week of 6/12/16

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the message preached the previous Sunday. 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 Timothy 3:10-1.

We have all pondered the age old question: why do bad things happen to good people? When bad things happen, we get frustrated, we say “I didn’t do anything to deserve this!” and we lose sight of these words from Paul to Timothy. There are a lot of seemingly “backwards” things about Christianity that are hard to grasp. I remember as a child first hearing the command to turn the other cheek and thinking, “That’s ridiculous! Why would I do that?” Here, Paul reminds Timothy that yes, bad things happen to good people, and maybe especially to Christians. There was a lot of pushback to the Christian movement when Paul was writing this letter, and there remains a lot of pushback today too. Sometimes it’s tough to be a Christian. It’s tough to follow the word of the Lord and live in His ways rather than the ways of the world. That’s why being in community with other believers, praying consistently, and staying rooted in scripture is so important. Focusing on the final two verses of this passage, I am reminded that while life isn’t easy, God has not sent us out ill-equipped. We have the Bible, and it has everything we need to live the lives that Christ has set before us.

For reflection: Consider the ACTS prayer model we have been using at our prayer nights. When you give thanks to God, think about how His word has guided, shaped, and prepared you and thank Him for that in your prayer.

Read Psalm 119:97-105

When I was in high school, I had a friend that I was sharing the gospel with. One day she excitedly declared to me that she had gotten her hands on a Bible, and was starting to read it. The next time we spoke, I asked her about how that was going. She responded, less enthusiastically, by telling me she’d decided to start, of all places, in Leviticus. I immediately thought that that was the absolute worst place she could have picked up God’s word. This is the story that came to mind as I read this passage to prepare this devotional, and I started to rethink my earlier sentiment. The psalmist’s words in the first verse of this passage really struck a chord with me: Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. As children, we all had rules that seemed unfair to us. Why can’t I let the dog sleep on my bed? Why do I have to eat my broccoli before I can have dessert? Why can’t I climb on the roof? Now that we’re older, we can understand that those rules were fair, and usually for our protection. God’s laws are the same, even if they appear harsh or unnecessary. Like good parents, God doesn’t impose rules just because he doesn’t want us to have fun.

For reflection: What rules or laws are you struggling to obey this week? Consider why you may be struggling, and how this rule has been put in place for your ultimate benefit.

Reflections written by Lauren DeVries

Reflections Week of 6/5/16

Different members of our church family write these reflections each week to go along with the message preached the previous Sunday. 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 Matthew 6:5-24
  I think it’s important that Jesus says “when you pray” not “if you happen to pray.” Jesus, in his instruction on prayer assumes that the people he is talking to (followers of Christ) will be in prayer regularly. When the Bible teaches us about prayer, the understanding is that we are a people who regularly pray. If you have a church background you are probably very familiar with this passage and this prayer. I’ve had to memorize this prayer for class, for youth group, in English and in Spanish, it’s something I can recite without really thinking. Some see it as the specific words we are supposed to pray, and while it is a good prayer I don’t think Jesus intended for it to be the an actual memorized prayer. I think this is more of a template, a model for prayer. There is a specific progression of thought in this prayer, specifically notice that a request for “daily bread” i.e. our basic needs doesn’t come till later in the prayer. Jesus puts more of an emphasis on praising and adoring God than he does on the requests.
For Reflection:  Instead of a question for this passage to reflect on, take the words to the Lord’s Prayer and use them as a template to write out your own prayer. Consider what each line means and use your own language. When you are done, pray that prayer!
Read Romans 12:1-13
  From Solomon’s life we talked about the importance of living out our callings well and staying focused on our faith. Paul speaks of the same thing here. In Paul’s day idolatry was a natural part of the culture, it was embedded into the lives of most people. It was easy to be distracted from being a Christian then, and they didn’t even have Facebook! We are constantly bombarded with ads, articles, blogs, and podcasts telling us about why the ways of the world are better and more fulfilling. It’s often easier for me to get distracted with a show on Netflix then it is to sit and journal or read my Bible. Paul warns us to not be conformed but transformed by the renewal of our minds. In order for us (or at least for me) to do this we have to stay focused on the things we know are good for us, the things that bring life to us: reading the Bible, prayer, being in community with other believers, discipling others. When we focus on those things, when we allow those things to transform and renew our minds, staying focused won’t be so hard.
Questions for Reflection: What are areas of your life that distract you from doing the things you have been called to do? What things are more of a burden then a help? What changes can you make right now to help you better focus on your relationship with God? Tell someone and start doing working on it!
Written by Pastor Tim Gioia

Reflections Week of5/29/16

This week we had a guest preacher to fill the pulpit, Kent Hansen. Kent preached on John 9. He also wrote our reflections this week to go along with the sermon. We hope these help you open up the Bible this week and read the truth God has for you there.

Read  Exodus 34:5-6 

The core idea of todays’ sermon is that Jesus is light of the world… The Apostle John demonstrates this through a profound miracle of healing. Do you realize that the ideas of God’s light and God’s glory are synonymous in scripture? If we are to reflect God’s light we must also shine in God’s glory… Moses says to God in Exodus 33:18 “Please show me your Glory.” God answers this request in the next chapter. God’s answer is surprising. He does not demonstrate His glory in an explosion of power, instead God’s Light, His Glory are displayed quietly in the revelation of His character through the divine attributes of mercy, grace, patience, forgiveness, unfailing love, and faithfulness.

Questions for Reflection: How does this compare to the way Jesus revealed God’s glory? How do the miracles and teaching of Jesus demonstrate the core attributes of God’s divine character?

Read Colossians 3:12-14

The formulation of God’s divine character is often repeated through the Old Testament. He is God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness. Jesus clearly demonstrated these attributes in His life on earth and we see them illustrated throughout the gospels. As God’s story continues we discover that the responsibility of being a light has fallen on us as Christ’s followers: Acts 13:47 tells us “I have made you a light to the gentiles.”  and Ephesians 3:8 says “But now you are light in the Lord.” Finally, in Colossians 3 Paul commands us in no uncertain terms that we are to put on the attributes of God’s character. Paul is telling us how to reflect God’s light in a darkened world of sin and suffering.

Questions for Reflection:What does this mean for us? If we are to reflect God’s light, how do we demonstrate God’s attributes of mercy, grace, patience, forgiveness, unfailing love and forgiveness? Think about specific situations at work, with your family, and around your neighbors, where you might have an opportunity to demonstrate these attributes, and let your light shine!

Reflections written by Kent Hansen