Reflections Week of 10/31/16

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 Acts 15:7-11 (Monday 10/31)

Through the years, some Jewish leaders adopted a legalistic “holier than thou” attitude toward the Gentiles. Even after Paul’s and Barnabas’s account of the Gentiles’ conversion, they still insisted that one needed to become Jewish to be saved. They missed the point: the Jewish Law was a requirement from God before Christ to set His people apart, but no one was saved by it. Salvation could only come through perfect fulfillment of the law, which was humanly impossible; it only highlighted their need for a Savior. The Law in itself couldn’t save. Salvation came only through faith in Jesus’s perfect fulfillment of the Law by the grace of God. In this, God proved that we can’t earn salvation by our works, and we don’t get to add our own conditions to His gospel. 

Today, it’s still so easy to judge others by our imperfect standards, and make up rules for others to follow. But we aren’t the ones who save nor condemn. As Christians, we aren’t called to decide who can or can’t be saved; we’re called to speak the truth and point people to Christ. Only God saves, and He’s free to extend His grace to anyone.

For Reflection: Do you ever compare your “holiness level” to others’? How does the fact that we are all sinners, saved by God’s grace alone, change your view of yourself and others?

Read Acts 19:1-7 (Wednesday 11/2)

Like Abraham and the people of the Old Testament, John’s disciples were saved by faith in a future Savior. John’s message and baptism of repentance weren’t wrong, just incomplete, like the old prophecies of a coming salvation. After hearing Paul’s news about Jesus, John’s disciples no longer needed to wait for a future Savior to fulfill the gospel. Now they had all the pieces of the gospel John had preached: they knew who was their savior, and knew that He had done His work. Now, they could commit their lives to God more deeply than before. They were not committing only to repentance, they were committing to be specifically like Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I asked to be baptized when I was about six years old, with the thought that the point of baptism is “to show everyone that I’m a Christian.” While that’s basically true, I think I missed the deeper meaning of the act. What did my Dad dunking me in water really have to do with Jesus or the rest of my life? Since I’ve grown in the knowledge of Christ, I understand that Christian baptism is an outward act to display God’s inward work of salvation in my heart. It is a symbol of dying to sin and rising as a new creation, to live like Christ. 

For Reflection: For whom do you live? Were you ever baptized into the name of Jesus? Why or why not?

Reflections written by Sarah Rico

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Reflections Week of 10/23/16

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 Acts 10 (Thursday 10/27)

At this point, Peter sits down with Cornelius and says something that always stuck out to me. Verse 34 shows, in some of the plainest text in the Bible, that God does not show favoritism. Plain and simple, Peter states this with an objective tone. It is a gigantic concept, and for a long time, I had no idea how to take it. “If God shows favorites, then why? Why evil? Why do I get all these nice things? Why can I go into a Starbucks and get whatever I want? These people suffer, I certainly feel like a favorite.”

If I had a solution for the problem of evil and disenfranchisement, I do not think I would be sitting here trying to work it out. However, I do know one thing: Paul, Peter, spent none of their time helping only themselves. Rather, they went out to serve others exclusively. They realized that the world is in no way fair to so many people, and took the time to show God’s love to those who had literally nothing else. The concept was so important to Jesus that he spent all three years of his ministry demonstrating this over and over and over. Peter continues by reiterating the great commission, which is what this boils all down to. It’s the one thing that humans have in common. The ability to come together and worship the God who made us. So let’s go. Together. As a community, or should I say, a fellowship in Christ.

For Reflection: Are there things in your life that restrict you from worshipping? What stops you from believing that God shows no favorites? Pray that God would help you remove these distractions.

Read Acts 12 (Friday 10/28)

Once again, believers fail to grasp the concept of universal acceptance and grace. Jesus lived his entire life as a testimony to this exact fact, that there would be no one who would fall so far as to not be welcomed into the kingdom of God after accepting Christ as their ultimate scapegoat. However, as easy as it is to accept this as truth, reading about it now with the context of several thousand years, I still find myself failing to grasp this concept.

The Windy City is a haven for everyone: pure, strong, stable, unclean, weak, volatile. While the dietary restrictions imposed upon God’s people is no longer a hot button issue, there are myriads of other issues that I can rest my preconceived notions upon. In my community I have seen those in the fanciest suits pass next to those bumming their last cigarette. I would be blatantly dishonest if I claimed to have not twisted my earbuds a bit tighter as I briskly walked toward the Jarvis Red Line.

Peter fought against this. He imitated what Christ did with the woman at the well. Exactly what he was supposed to do. Verse 12 makes it clear. He had no hesitation. He reached out, which is exactly what I should be doing. The best part? I do not have to have any fear when doing so.

For Reflection: God extended grace to you, how can you tangibly show grace to someone else this week?

Reflections written by Jax Gorman

Reflections Week of 10/16/16

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 Exodus 32:1-14 (Monday 10/17)

Every time I read the story of the golden calf, I think to myself, “Come on, Aaron, you had one job.” Melting down all the golden jewelry and building an idol to worship to is not something you can do by accident- Aaron knew what they were doing. The first part of this story says that Aaron led the people to do this when they realized that Moses had delayed coming back down the mountain to them.

Have you ever had a plan get delayed or changed, and it throws everything else out of whack? That’s how I imagine the Israelites feeling at this moment. It’s easy for anxiety and doubt to creep in when you’re unsure of what’s going on.

When I reread this passage to write the devotional, the part that really struck me was the God was ready to unleash his wrath upon the people who had disobeyed Him in such a big way. It only takes 3 verses for God to decide to have mercy. It reminds me of the new testament verse where someone asks Jesus how many times we should forgive, and Jesus says not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Sometimes we still complain about that commandment, which seems crazy to me, seeing as God has forgiven us more times than we will ever be able to count. He’s been forgiving us and showing us mercy since He created us.

For reflection: When things don’t go the way you planned this week, take a few moments to acknowledge God in the midst of whatever confusion comes.

Read Acts 2:37-41 (Saturday 10/22)

The part of this section that really stood out to me was verse 40, when Peter says, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” It may be an obvious statement to make, but we’re definitely living in a crooked generation. There’s far too much tension, death, unhappiness, anger, and mistrust going on in the world today, and it’s almost a little comforting to me to know that our generation is not the only one that’s crooked. While that isn’t an excuse, we know that we will continue to wrestle with the sinfulness of our generations for the remaining time until Christ returns.

So, how do we save ourselves? I’ll acknowledge the obvious answer (Jesus) but I am also reminded of the current sermon series and Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. Yes, we are covered by the blood of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work to do. The state of our world and our generation is bad, and should give us more of a sense of urgency to make ourselves right in the eyes of God, and to spread the gospel and bring others to the same urgency of salvation.

For reflection: Where is there crookedness in your life that needs to be righted? What can you do to make it right today?

Reflections written by Lauren Floyd

Reflections Week of 10/9/16

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 Exodus 20:1-6 (Monday 10/10)

The Old Testament is filled with Orthodox Jewish law, but these verses contain the most famous, and the most all-encompassing, The Ten Commandments. I picked the first few verses to dwell on, because here’s how it all starts: God describes himself. Before he tells them just what to do or just how tall to build the tables or even how to not steal from each other or not kill each other, he says This is who I am and This is what I’ve done. He points out his singularity–no one is like him, he’s the one-and-only, worshipping another is stupid and offensive. Just like the law points to God caring about what is physical, it also points to the fact that God cares most about what is internal. He cares about being first in my heart and mind. He wants me to first know him, then do everything else. He cares what I think about and believe and want and know. Mostly he cares what I believe about Him. So all throughout scripture, he says it over and over again: This is who I am and This is what I’ve done.

For Reflection: When you’re stuck on a Bible passage, ask yourself: Who is God in this section? What is he doing?

 

Read Exodus 25:23-30 (Thursday 10/13)

This week we’re in a real gem of a section of the bible: Tabernacle laws. Read the above scripture, and you can find out the exact dimensions and materials of the table for bread! And there’s more where that came from. Check out what priests wore, what the building was decorated with, what kind of oil to light their lamps with… it feels like useless reading, because we don’t live by these laws anymore, and we don’t follow these traditions. But one thing I love about reading the law is that it points to how much God cares about what is physical. Sometimes I believe that God doesn’t care about what I eat or wear, what I decorate my home with; even what we decorate our church with. I believe God is too spiritual for that. But we have a God who became human, who gives us laws like these. I find it freeing that God cares about these things. Because I’m free to come to him with all the mundane details of my life. When I’m sick, when I don’t have money or clothes or a place to live, God cares about stuff like that.

For Reflection: What do you think is too small to pray about? Pray about it.

Reflections written by Amy Giacalone

 

Reflections Weeks of 10/2/16

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 Exodus 7-8 (Monday 10/3)

“The Egyptian shall know that I am the Lord.” What follows are the ten plagues that we are all familiar with. More descriptively the ten judgments of God. Egypt was the super power of the time and believed numerous gods kept them in power. Exodus is a book primarily about theology Proper or God the Father and his relationship to his people. As I was thinking about these stories I began to look at our world. You see each of the ten judgments of God indirectly refute various gods of Egypt. There is the god of the Nile and the god of the earth, the god that was said to take the form of a frog. You see God’s intent with Egypt was to show that he is the only true God. God was dismantling the Egyptian world view. The Egyptians believed in gods that could not truly save them or provide for them. God was asserting at that moment that he was the only true provider, He was the only true protector and ultimately His people would be free. Our church’s vision is to follow Jesus into worship. Reading this passage forces me to ask, “what am I worshiping?” Or put in another way, “what am I trusting in to bring me security, satisfaction and even love?” One of the ways that we express our worship to God is placing our faith, our trust, our hope in Him. We worship God when we believe that he truly will provide for us just as he provided for Israel in the desert, that He will set us free from sin and death just as He set Israel free from Egypt. Lately, Lauren and I have been looking for jobs and at times it has been tempting to worry and lose faith that God truly will provide for our needs. But time and time again God brings back the truth that He is God and He provided for Israel and He can and will provide for us.

For Reflection: Ask yourself, “like Egypt what am I trusting in rather than the one and only true God?” Ask yourself how you might worship God today trusting in Him for tomorrow.

Read Exodus 14 (10/6 Thursday)

“Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” The Israelites had been in slavery for generations, groaning of the harshness of their condition. They then witnessed ten judgments of God on Egypt paving the way for freedom and then what do they do at the first sign of trouble? Blame Moses and blame God. I wish I could say that I have never done this, but if we are honest have we not often asked God to help us, to free us from bad situations and then when we see the solution looking different than expected we cry out to God asking why he has failed us? Ironically I have heard many people today who are struggling in their faith say that if they could only see a sign from God that would solve their doubts and help them believe. Israel here proves that our minds are fickle and our hearts can waver at even the slightest hints of trouble. God rescuing the Israelites out of the hands of the Egyptians is a profound declaration of God’s faithfulness to His people. First, Moses tried to run from the job, then The Israelites balked at their leadership and finally they doubted God could truly save them. God has every reason to give up on Israel and yet he doesn’t. How great is it that through Jesus Christ we have been brought under that same blanket of provision and protection? This is not to say that life will be easy or trouble free but rather that in the grand eternal perspective God has proven He will be faithful to us. We come together on Sunday mornings to worship our God and Savior because of the same faithfulness we see in this passage. God has, does and will always provide for those he loves and has called according to His purpose.

For Reflection: This week take a few minutes throughout your day to reflect on ways in which you have seen God provide, even when you saw now way. Israel had the waters to their front and a raging enemy on their heels and they saw no hope, but we know that with God their I always hope for a future.

Reflections by Taylor Floyd