ReflectionsWeek of 7/31/16

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 Micah 7:18-20

This passage is a great reminder of the unique love we experience as Christians. There are so many religious beliefs in the world, but none of them have a god who is so forgiving, compassionate, and steadfast in his love. Other people have to weigh the good against the bad they have done. They have to be fearful of guilt and punishment, but our God delights in His love for us. he pardons our transgressions and gave us His only son so that we don’t have to be slaves to our sin anymore.

The ocean is over 36,000 feet deep, and this passage says our sin is thrown into the depths of the sea. I am so comforted by the thought of my sin that far away from me.

For Reflection: Is there anyone in your life who has angered you? How can you show them the love of God this week?

 

Read Lamentations 3:22-26

What an amazing example of having faith in the midst of suffering! Go back and read through the first part of Chapter 3. Pretty tough stuff huh? But the writer says despite the sorrow and suffering experienced, he has hope!

God’s compassion is new each morning because He is so consistently faithful and loving. And this is even when His people are entirely unfaithful. I am in awe of the love God shows even when we turn away.

There have been plenty of times when someone was unkind or disloyal to me and I have struggled to forgive and love them, but God does this each and every day for us!

For Reflection: Make a list of the blessing in your life. Every time you feel like you are alone or suffering, go back to that list so that you can remember the hope you have in Christ.

Reflections written by Bailey Carlson 

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Reflections Week of 7/24/16

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 Mark 4:35-38
It’s interesting to me that the storm in this passage is so bad that even the professional fishermen who were disciples were freaking out. If anyone had experience sailing these waters and dealing with the storms it was them. They even decide to wake Jesus up, but not to ask for help, instead to criticize him. This image of the disciples running around the boat trying to keep everything together, trying to keep the boat from capsizing contrasted with Jesus taking a nap speaks volumes about my life. I see the storm coming I freak out I run and run trying to do everything myself, trying to rely on my own skills and talents and either forgetting or ignoring that I have Christ with me. He’s not freaking out. He’s not worried. He knows he is in control. He knows this storm isn’t more powerful than he is. What would it look like if instead of running around the boat and getting so caught up in the stress and the chaos and believing that every storm in my life was going to sink me, I just turned to Jesus and asked him to calm the wind and the waves? How would it change not only my situation but the next time I see a storm coming and remember that nothing is outside of his power?
For Reflection: What’s your go to instinct when the storms of life appear? How quick are you to turn to Jesus and ask for help?
Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Taking a Sabbath day of rest is not only a good idea, it’s one of the “big ten” commandments. Usually when we think about that list of laws we don’t consider the seriousness of this command. We don’t equate “make sure you rest” with “do not kill”. And yet it’s part of the same list of commands. In our busy lives we run and run, we work longer hours and take fewer days off to try and get ahead, to try and work our way up. But here God is telling us to take a break. Rest. To take a day off, to have a day that isn’t about trying to get ahead, trying to do more, what we are doing is saying “God I trust that you are in control.” Did God need to take a day off during creation? No! But he did, to model for us, this is the way life is supposed to be. Work hard and then rest and focus on God, enjoy the time off and let him fulfill you. Your Sabbath might not be on Sunday, but we all need a day that isn’t about planning and strategizing but about enjoying God and the creation he has given us. This isn’t just a good idea or a clever “life hack” from God, this is a command from your creator, take a break!
For Reflection: What’s your plan to take a Sabbath? Are you able to have regular rest built into your life? If not, what is stopping you? What needs to change?
Reflections written by Pastor Tim Gioia

Reflections Week of 7/17/16

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 Isaiah 1:18-20

I work in a hospital where one of the major initiatives is “clean hands in, clean hands out.” The concept is simple, whenever staff enters or leaves a patient room they are instructed to clean their hands to inhibit the spread of disease. Because we use our hands to touch everything we do, hands are the most likely culprit of contamination. Dirty hands leave behind a trail of filth that infects everything else you touch throughout your day. Dirty hands = dirty lives, clean hands = clean lives.

The concept applies to our spiritual lives as well. Throughout the bible God talks about this idea of clean versus dirty. Isaiah lays out a clear choice that we must make daily, obedience or rebellion. If we live in rebellion we are stuck in our impurities, guilty in our sin, blood on our hands. But, if we live as God has instructed we can be cleansed, white as snow, pure as wool. While God’s grace is all-sufficient and ever-present there is an element of responsibility in our own lives to make good decisions. The choice is before us every second of every day; will I live in rebellion or obedience?

Isn’t it kind of God to constantly remind us that no matter how crimson our lives look we are never too far gone? Repentance is always available. God’s arms are always open. May your hands be clean today.

For Reflection: Looking back on your last week, how clean have your hands been? What steps can you take to make your hands cleaner?

 

Read Luke 5:12-15

If I’m honest, if I were to look at my life on a spectrum of white to crimson, most days would be varying shades of pink. No matter how diligent I am about trying to lead a life of obedience I always seem to mess up. I always say things I don’t mean to say or don’t do what I know is right. (If you also feel this way most days check out Romans 7. You’re in good company; the apostle Paul felt this way a lot, too.) On my own I am hopeless to live a pure and blameless life.

Thankfully God made us, loves us, and understands fully how desperately hopeless we are on our own. He sends Jesus to redeem all aspects of our lives and to purify us. We see Jesus’ heart when he encounters the man with leprosy. In the ancient world, leprosy was extremely contagious and so if you were diagnosed you were sentenced to quarantine in a leprosy colony. If you were to walk down the street, you had to avoid contact with others and scream out “Unclean, Unclean” to warn others of your condition. Your entire identity became intertwined with the concept that you were dirty.

Did Jesus have to touch this man to heal him? No. Did he even have to talk to him? No. But Jesus demonstrates his purifying power in that, with one touch, we are able to go from 100% dirty to 100% clean. His grace was sufficient for the man with leprosy and it is sufficient for us today.

For Reflection: Have you accepted Jesus’ purifying touch to cover your sins?

Reflections written by Sarah Gioia

Reflections Week of 6/3/16

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 1:18-23

This verse reminds me of an old quote from Augustine that I loved in college: “Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead, He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?” As an avid book-lover and big believer in scripture, I remember that this passage seemed revolutionary. Scripture is hugely important as a vehicle for God’s word, and always will be. But God’s revelation of Himself isn’t only in “a book with ink.” God revealed himself in the creation of the world, and in the way he sustains that creation. Part of his gift to us is that we get to consider it.

For Reflection: When do you have the chance to interact with creation in your day-to-day life? It can be tough in the city. Take time this week to look at the sky, at the resilience of trees surrounded by concrete, and at the few animals we have running around. Ask God to reveal his power and goodness to you. Even the great big city of Chicago can’t fully obscure his glory in creation.

Read Luke 12:22-27

I guess I’m in a nostalgic mood, because again I’m reminded of something: the poem Wayne and I chose for our wedding. It’s by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and we chose it for the way it explains everyday redemption through the lens of God’s creation:

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
  Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
  Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
For Reflection: Consider this poem alongside the “do not worry” passage listed above. Praise God that he is constantly renewing the earth and constantly providing for us. Use this to spur you on in your daily prayers to God this week.
Reflections written by Amy Giacalone