Reflections Week of 9/25/16

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 Mark 14:43-51; 66-72

God calls us, as Christians to live with other people. We’re supposed to love them. But it isn’t always nice or easy. In these two stories, Jesus is betrayed and denied by some of his closest friends during the hardest period of his life on earth. But I find it interesting that being hurt by his friends doesn’t change who Jesus is. It’s easy to think that when people hurt me, it’s because I deserve to be hurt. Nope. Jesus is Jesus, no matter how people treat him… and they treat him really terribly throughout these chapters. That’s just a side effect of living with fallen people. But none of that can stop God’s plan or who he created us to be. Jesus goes on to save the world, even though he was betrayed by Judas. Peter goes on to spread the gospel, even though he once denied Christ. And me? Even when I’m hurt by someone or by myself, I’m exactly the same as I ever was: redeemed and on God’s path for me.

For Reflection: Have you ever had a friend let you down? Have you prayed that God will work through that situation?

Read Exodus 2:1-10

In re-reading this story, I think that Moses’ sister might be one of my new favorite Bible characters. After Moses’ mother puts him in a basket and hides him, because she doesn’t want him killed, the sister goes to watch what will happen. The way she intervenes is really beautiful to me: “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” After reflecting on the pain of life with other fallen people, it’s good to remember that people can also help. I want to be a friend like this sister. Someone on the lookout, with everyone’s best interest in mind. Someone willing to speak up. Someone who can facilitate. And I need to have friends like that in my life. Of course it won’t always be easy, but it’s the other way God works. Sometimes he sends a person to make it happen for you.

For Reflection: What kind of friend are you? Are you on the lookout for how can help in people’s lives?

Reflections written by Amy Giacalone 

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Reflections Week of 9/18/16

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 Genesis 49-50 (Monday 9/19)

As Jacob was on his deathbed he spoke specifically to each son, telling them their weaknesses and strengths, triumphs and failures. What stood out to me is that some of the things said were frightening. Look at Simeon and Levi. Jacob cursed their anger and said he would scatter and disperse them for it. Can you imagine those words being one of the last things your father says to you? The way Jacob took intentional time to tell these things to each son is how our Father takes time to speak to us. But our Father in Heaven, who knows us so deeply since he created us, will always have a plan with what he tells us. His conviction in your life of a weakness, sin or failure is not said with a dying breath. It’s said as He comes alongside you and teaches you. The brothers reacted to their fathers death with fear. Joseph had every right to have them killed for their actions against his life. Instead of killing his brothers, Joseph reminded them that God takes sinful actions and uses them for his good plan.

For Reflection: In prayer, ask God to reveal your weaknesses and strengths and sin in your life. Reflect on your recent actions and thoughts. Take time to listen to his response. How is your Father describing your life to you right now?

Read Mark 2:23-3:6 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
This passage, like some would believe, is NOT about how to keep the Sabbath. The Pharisees however, would have wished it were so. This passage is a conversation between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus and his disciples were in a field together and the Pharisees were watching them. After seeing actions they believed broke the law, they confronted Jesus pointing out the “unlawful” actions they saw (or rather, were waiting to see). Jesus’ response uses scripture to prove his actions were innocent and just and in fact, did not break the law. This is the first thing that stood out to me. When I’m confronted about something I’ve done, like Jesus, I need to respond with a biblical knowledge of why I’m doing it. Jesus was focused on doing the good work of his Father.
The Pharisees were focused on watching to see if other people were doing good works, or more so, if others were following the “commands of good works” or breaking them. They were like teachers hovering over a 3rd graders desk, just waiting for them to pull out the candy bar that wasn’t suppose to be eaten until lunch. What convicted me most about this story was realizing I can slide into a automatic mindset of, “If I follow the rules of Christianity (attend church, get involved, read the Bible regularly, be vulnerable once in a while), then I’ll be doing good. But this is the lie Satan wants me to believe; following the rules is more important than glorifying God and caring for others. This mindset keeps my heart hardened. I do not want to simply strive to follow the commands of God. I want to have the laws overflow because I’m focused on the lives of other people being saved. I’ve asked myself, “If I were a Pharisee, watching Jesus’ miraculous healing, would I first think he was breaking the law or rather, that he loved the least of these?”
For Reflection: Reflect on your life at work, with friends, at home and in the church community. Are you focused on what others are doing or not doing more than looking inwardly at your own life?
Written by Lauren Floyd

Reflections Week of 9/11/16

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. #2YearJourney

Read Genesis 39-48 

I work at a Christian Institution, but I have worked at secular business’s as well ranging from carpentry to food service. If we look to Joseph’s interaction, as a worker in particular, and with the ‘non-believing’ people around in general. We see his skill and righteousness come to the forefront in; His integrity before his father (37:2), his success and purity in the household of Potiphar (39:2-13), his prosperity in prison (39:22-23), his God-honoring interactions with the Pharaohs jailed officials (40:8-23), and lastly his wise stewarding as the second hand man in Egypt. While he was by no means perfect, he had the blessing of the Lord. Indeed, his successes were directly due to God (39:2-3). We have a similar connection from Paul’s admonition in the New Testament, Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” If we recognize that which Paul warns against in 3:5 (“sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”), Joseph’s life shows the contrast of these desires in full. How much more should we as believers put on the new self and represent God during our day?

For our reflection: What kind of testimony do I present to the unbelievers I engage with daily? Do I act and look just like unbelievers or do I contrast worldly values with Godly conduct?

Read Genesis 47:8-9 (Friday 9/17)

“And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”

Few and evil, short and unpleasant; Let us reflect on Jacob’s response to Pharaoh. Be wary to draw a harsh conclusion on whether Jacob is a sour old man or if he truly hated every moment of his life. Instead ponder the span of his life as we have read through it within the pages of Genesis. The key moments of his life appear to be some type of striving or struggle. He deceived his brother for an inheritance. He wrestled all night, receiving a crippling wound and a new name. His sons sold his most beloved child, Joseph, and then covered it up as a death. A famine threatened his household. Shortly before answering Pharaoh’s question, he had lost both his father to old age and his wife to a complicated birth. Few and evil seems to be an appropriate conclusion for a limping and hungry shepherd towards the most powerful and wealthiest man in the nation. But as we will continue reading the conclusion to Jacob’s story, it is not all dreary and curmudgeonly as a lament could be. Jacob blesses his children and continually references the faithfulness of God and the blessings Jacob has personally received. Yet his situation and response begs the reader to intimately join Jacob in this transitional chapter and come alongside him analyzing both his life, and in turn, ours as well.

For our reflection: How do I view the suffering and pain that I have had in my life in light of the blessings of God? Does a false expectation for a life on ‘greener pastures’ hinder my ability to live well? What are some ways I can support and lovingly bear the burden of another while they are having difficult days? Who specifically should I be praying for?

This week’s reflections written by Jake Carlson

Reflections Week of 9/4/16

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 Genesis 26:7-11

Every time I read this story about Isaac calling Rebekah his sister, it always seems like a very poor attempt at a backup plan. Isaac says that they should pretend that Rebekah is his sister because if she was his wife, they might kill him so that they could have her. His plan is driven by self-preservation. It’s easy to read this story and roll your eyes and think that Isaac is kind of dumb, but when I think about it a little more, I make backup plans for myself all the time. You, know, just in case God doesn’t actually come through for me. It feels cliche to talk about how we don’t trust God enough, but it’s so true. It seems like I will always have a “just in case” plan in my back pocket. Just in case God decides to stop taking care of me. But, as Isaac’s story reflects, our backup plans often only make more trouble for us. They lead to misunderstandings, grievances, frustrations, anger, and sadness. It isn’t always easy to trust God, but why not let him handle the plan? It’s always harder when we try to do it.

For reflection: Are you clinging tightly to any earthly backup plans? Pray this week to surrender those plans up to God.

Read Genesis 33:1-11

Have you ever done something so upsetting you thought you could never be forgiven for it? On the other hand, have you ever had someone do something to you that you didn’t think you could forgive? In the reunion between Jacob and Esau, I think it is important to learn from both men’s actions. Remember, Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright through some clever scheming and taking advantage of his brother’s weakness. When Jacob meets his brother for the first time in years, he is so concerned with how his brother would react, and rightly so! But Esau’s gentleness is so surprising. He greets his brother with kisses and tears of joy. It is important to remember that we are not always one brother or the other. As sinful human beings, we hurt other people and are hurt by other people. Whichever side of a conflict we happen to be on, we can be as contrite as Jacob, and as open and forgiving as Esau.

For reflection: Are there people in your life that need your forgiveness? And not just forgiveness, but a warm reception as well? Are there people you need to ask the same forgiveness of?

Reflections written by Lauren DeVries