Reflections Week of 11/27/16

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 Hebrews 10:19-39 (Tuesday 11/29)

In this passage the writer of Hebrews has just finished describing Jesus as the perfect sacrifice of the new covenant. Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus has made a “new and living way,” making it possible for each of us to draw near to God, and find fellowship with each other as His body. But this new-found relationship does not come without responsibility. Following this beautiful description of new life through Christ’ sacrifice comes a firm reminder—don’t choose sin.

Verses 26-31 raise the sobering point that those of us who have come to the knowledge of God’s truth are held to account. If we have experienced the blessings of the sacrifice of Christ, then we are held to great account when we choose sin over the new life offered us through Jesus Christ. Now I don’t know what kind of sin the writer of Hebrews had in mind in warning his audience, but as he continues, we see these Christians were familiar with suffering. In fact, the writer goes on to recount how these Christians experienced many hardships for the sake of their faith. So, considering Christ’s sacrifice, their past faithfulness to God, and possessing a unique understanding of their current temptations, the writer of Hebrews exhorts in verse thirty-five: “So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been tempted to throw away my confidence a time or two. It seems that just when I’m reveling in God’s faithfulness in my life, I’m sidelined by sin. My tendency, after coming to God in repentance and seeking forgiveness, is assuming the whipped puppy postured. With my spiritual tail between my legs, I sulk, unsure if God still wants me, let alone can use me in His kingdom. These words from Hebrews come as a timely reminder. What I need is endurance. Endurance to resist with God’s Spirit the temptation to choose sin. Endurance to face the struggles of life, even potential suffering for the sake of my faith. Endurance to draw near to God in faith, not draw back in defeat.

For Reflection: Have you recently been sidelined by sin, suffering, or struggles? What in your life helps you endure and keep your confidence in Christ? Have you considered asking a friend to walk alongside you in your journey to endure?

Read Numbers 1:47-54 (Thursday 12/1)

As we dive into the book of Numbers, God asks Moses to take a census of the entire Israelite community, down to the clans. This is a lot of people to count. In fact, the descendants of Judah number over 74,000! But as each tribe and clan is accounted for and recorded, one tribe has a unique set of responsibilities, different from all the rest—the Levites. As we have already learned from the book of Exodus, the Levites were chosen by God to represent Israel before God as priests. In these verses, we see that the Levites were responsible for the entirety of the tabernacle. This was a serious responsibility, so serious that any “unauthorized” person to come near to the tabernacle would be put to death.

In reading this passage, a verse from 1 Peter came to mind. In this letter the Apostle Peter writes: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (HCSB 2:9). As believers, we are now a royal priesthood. But the question that now comes to my mind, is what is my tabernacle? What do I have the responsibility of keeping before God?

This question led me to another familiar passage in 1 Corinthians. In the past, God’s people worshipped Him in the tabernacle or temple. God’s presence dwelled in those physical structures, and it was the Levites responsibility to maintain and care for the place in which God’s presence dwelt. 1 Corinthians 6:19, adamantly points out the place God’s Spirit now dwells: “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” This verse goes on to encourage believers to glorify God in their bodies.

Just as God gave the Levites the serious task of maintaining the physical structure in which His presence dwelt among the people of Israel, God charges us with the task of maintaining our bodies as sanctuaries of His presence. This thought challenges me, taking a seemingly tedious passage such as Numbers to a convicting level.  Am I caring for the sanctuary God Spirit has chosen to dwell in, my body? Through my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual choices, am I making a holy home for my Lord? Even Numbers holds challenging truth for our lives as twenty-first century believers.

For Reflection: Prayerfully consider 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 in light of the Numbers reading. How are you maintaining your sanctuary? What may need to change in your lifestyle to honor the Lord’s presence?

Reflections written by Emily Alexander

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Reflections Week of 11/20/16

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 Leviticus 25:1-7 (Tuesday 11/22)

This chapter is fascinating because Moses commands the Israelites to celebrate the Sabbath… for the land. No crops for a year. Give the land a break. The Sabbath in general is interesting, but it’s something I can wrap my mind around. When Christians talk about rest, I have this image in my mind of like… a cup of tea. A stroll through the leaves. A weekend away. But in this chapter, we see rest referred to as nation-wide and year-long. As something that even the ground can enjoy. And deeply embedded in this command is the idea of extra. You have so much time, this law says, that you can take a whole year off. And the land is so good, that it will actually provide for you. I love this! I don’t know if I always believe it. My heart is always looking for the next thing, the next day, the next task on my cosmic to-do list. But the rest that is commanded here is more than a vacation or a coffee break. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a break from work, it’s how we work. It’s an acknowledgment that everything in the world is God’s, even my to-do list, and that most of it has been done already. And it’s a statement: I have been given so much extra, I can give the ground a break this year.

For Reflection: What would your life be like if you knew you had extra of everything you needed?

Read Hebrews 4:1-13 (Friday 11/25)

Here’s a more complex picture of what rest is meant to be in our lives. It’s meant to show us what salvation is. Right in between passages about what God did to write the story of salvation and what Jesus did to live it, we get a passage about rest. If you’re wondering what salvation is, this passage says, it’s a lot like all those Sabbath-commands you were taught in Sunday school. Yes, you have to do it. But, weirdly, you sort of have to not do it to do it. And if that sentence didn’t spin your mind backwards, it abruptly changes the subject to what scripture is. Scripture is living and active, it says, and very invasive. What does this mean for rest? For salvation? In Leviticus we saw that most of what needs to be done has been done by God. Here we see it spiraling out into the future: most of what needs to be done is still in the process of being done by God. So rest, and salvation, is faith that God is till working. That what is broken will someday be fixed. And it is an acknowledgement: it may not seem like I have extra of anything right now. But I can go ahead and act like I do, because God is going to fix that.

For Reflection: What would your life be like if you had plenty already and you knew more was still coming?

Reflections written by Amy Giacalone 

Reflections Week of 11/13/16

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 Leviticus 11 (Monday 11/14)

Cleanliness. Five chapters of laws addressing cleanliness. We are not talking about sin but simply cleanliness. Reading these chapters, I was stunned by the reality of God’s holiness and our dirtiness. In all things God, from the very first sin to now, has been making all things new, beautiful…clean. Not just the heart but the body, not just the body but the soul.  It is amazing to see how God was watching over His people when the modern day understandings of hygiene were not present. In God’s nature we see a holistic desire for us to be clean and holy. All of these laws might have seemed trivial at the time and yet in hindsight we see the importance. How often do we think that God’s ways aren’t necessarily the best ways? There are many “laws” from God that we currently do not understand the significance of and find it difficult to follow. I wonder if in the moments when we do not seem to agree or understand if rather than questioning the law we might affirm the law giver. Israel likely did not understand many of the “laws” that God made and yet they new He was their provider and protector, their God and king and that he was their deliverer from Egypt. There will always be things about God and His ways that are lost on our ears and that are difficult to grapple with. My hope is that by God’s grace we might peer into His love and kindness and trust that He truly is working all things for our good as we love him and obey His commands.

 

Read Leviticus 16 (Wednesday 11/16)

The Day of Atonement. In many ways this concept has been largely lost to me. Today’s day and age hardly recognizes our need for atonement. I once had a professor who broke up this word as such at-one-ment. What he meant by this is that atonement simply means bringing us together as one with God. What I/we have often forgotten is that we are filthy sinners unworthy of a Holy God, unworthy of His presence. This book has been a book of laws given to prepare Israel, God’s people, to be brought back together, made one with, their God again. There was incredible detail and preparation before coming into the presence of the Lord, not simply in their hearts but with their physical bodies. Now the Day of Atonement was annual sacrifice to cleanse Israel of her sin. This was a foreshadowing of the Great Sacrifice. The once for all sacrifice that would come in Christ on the Cross, crucified so that our sins might be atoned for. We celebrate the atoning work of Christ or the bringing together, once and for all, of God and us. If the Levitical law and the Day of atonement had such preparation to them and if coming into the presence of God garnered such a high level of respect and awe, what might that mean for our entrance today into God’s presence. We come into the church every Sunday to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has made it possible to enter His presence through His blood. As you think about these chapters this week and you prepare to come and worship next Sunday think about what you are doing. Consider the greatness of God, the Holiness of the God whose presence you are entering in worship. How might that change the way you prepare Sunday morning? How might this change your heart in worship?

Reflections by Taylor Floyd

Reasons To Enjoy Leviticus

We began our #2YearJourney almost three months ago. We have had the chance to read about God creating all things, how He called a man named Abram and from him a nation was born. We read about how that nation ended up in Egypt and were slaves until God rescued them from that status and delivered them to a promised land. We also had the chance to read Mark’s account of the ministry of Jesus and then how that led to the beginning of the church that we are now part of. Needless to say,  we have started with a BANG as far as great and interesting Bible reading… that is until this past Tuesday…

On November 8th we entered into the book of Leviticus. This book is primarily a list of regulations, many of them for the priests but also for the laity as well. It talks about the different types of sacrifice as well as the ways to offer those sacrifices. The book describes what priests should be wearing on certain holidays, and how to handle issues of dealing with what is “clean” and “unclean.” It’s a book that lacks some of the excitement that we’ve already seen in previous books we have read so far. Even with all of that in mind, as we begin reading this book that often keeps people (myself included) from pursuing reading plans like this, I want to offer some encouragement to help you during these next few weeks.

1. Leviticus gives us an insight into a conversation between Moses and God. The very first words of this book are “The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said…” What we read in Leviticus is Moses writing down what God told directly told him to. This gives us direct insight into God’s care and concern for the way that his people worship. Yes, Leviticus can sometimes be a bit dry, and it can be a challenge to see how this applies to us at times. (All the more reason to check out the REFLECTIONS that are written each week, and to thank those who are writing them, they work hard to help us connect with what we are reading.) But remember what this is, it’s God telling his people “This is how I want you to interact with me, this is how to go about your worship.” The same God who sent his son to die for us, dictated these words to Moses. His heart was the same, His love for us was the same. Even though the rules and regulations set before us in Leviticus no longer apply to us, the heart behind them, and the God behind them, are the same

2. It points us to Christ. Much like the entire rest of the book, Leviticus is about Christ. The rules and regulations about sacrifices, these are but a shadow of the great and perfect sacrifice that Jesus would be for us on our behalves. The many elements and details that are laid out concerning the Day of Atonement do much to foreshadow a day when Jesus would become both the sacrificial lamb as well as the scapegoat for us and our sin. This book gave the people a tangible reminder that God was for them, that He is for us. He built in to their lives these things that we can look back on and see that He always had a plan in mind for the salvation of His people.

3.  It gives us a context for the New Testament. When we read about the Pharasees’ dedication to the law and how it consumed them. When we read Paul’s letters pushing back against the idea of having to force circumcision on Gentile believers or whether or not to eat certain foods, it is the book of Leviticus that these rules and laws come from. When we read this book we are helping ourselves to better understand the New Testament writings. Which means when we finish this book and head into the book of Hebrews we will have a better understanding of why the writer goes to such great lengths to explain the superiority of Jesus to the law.

Yes the book of Leviticus can be hard to read through, but I want to encourage you to press on. Remember that this book was not written by accident. It did not get placed in the Bible by accident. God speaks through the entirety of the Bible, Leviticus included. So over the next few weeks as you read, here’s my one big encouragement: PRAY! Pray before you read. Pray while you read. Pray after you read. Ask God to help you focus. Ask God to help you understand the difficult parts to understand. Ask God to bring to mind other scripture that the passage you are reading connects to. Pray for encouragement and dedication to stay with the reading plan.

I’m excited to read through this book with you all. I need your encouragement and accountability when it comes to staying diligent with our #2YearJourney. It’s not easier for me to stay committed just because I’m a pastor, I fall behind just like you do. But what keeps me coming back, what I hope keeps you coming back is the fact that God is doing something in us and through us when it comes to this reading plan. I’ve heard from many people about some of the insights and challenges they are getting from doing this reading plan together. I want this to be a great resource and encouragement for all of us so if there is any way I can help please let me know. If you haven’t joined in yet, jump in now! God has things he wants to share with you through reading His word with His people. It truly is a #2YearJourney and I am very thankful that we are doing this journey together.

Blessings on your Readings,

-Tim

Reflections Week of 11/6/16

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 27-28
The last two chapters of Acts read as though they’re an adventure story.  Prisoners of the Roman military are being transported; one in particular named Paul. The prisoner Paul warns them about their future and a great storm they will face if they leave. From the sailor’s perspective, listening to the advice of a prisoner was absurd. Who was he to predict the weather? But just as the prisoner said, a storm hit that was so strong, ropes were holding the ship together! But what did it matter at that point? They believed they were going to die and were in despair. Then, Paul speaks to them about the future again promising their lives would not be lost and went on to serve them food and rest … in the middle of a storm.
Does your life seem to be under a massive wave of grief, anger, pain or temptation? I find myself under subtle, constant waves that fight against my strength to listen to Jesus’ voice of encouragement and rest in his strength alone. At the end of this epic adventure Paul gets to “live in his own house” and proclaim the gospel “without hindrance!” God brought Paul through a very literal time in his life of crashing trials yet he stayed faithful in trusting that Jesus would save not only him but those with him.
For Reflection: Is your life like a calm sea, or, like Paul, a downpour of waves coming over you, draining all your strength? Ask God for faith and sustenance for this time and take hope in receiving the restful morning promised in the future.
Read Leviticus 3-4
Reading through Leviticus has made me realize how precise and intricate our God is. Can you imagine Moses taking notes as the Lord explains exactly what to do for different offerings? Leviticus is a book most easily described as boring, difficult to read or not relevant to our day. I can understand these feelings but this book as a whole teaches us great truths about God. The fact that God was so specific in the instructions for how to offer sacrifices reveals that God is purposeful. He has an order and plan for every little thing in our lives. In reading Leviticus I’ve learned to be intentional when approaching the Lord through worship. God goes to great lengths to give Moses instructions of how to present a sin offering. Offerings were an act of worship the Israelites were given to participate in BY God and FOR God. God gives detailed steps to accomplish forgiveness and reconciliation with God for their sins.
We all can probably think of a time as a child where we did something wrong and were told, “Say you’re sorry.” And we would automatically repeat the words (do the actions) needed to fix the problem. This is not what God wants; a repeating, unintentional, offering in worship. He wants thoughtful and intentional actions that flow from our heartfelt repentance and sorrow for sins. The actions God gave the Israelites were to teach them to consider and physically see the cost of their sin, the death of a perfect animal. As you are in a day-to-day routine, it’s easy to just fall into the motion of worship, prayer, scripture reading or repentance but God doesn’t want our outward actions to be empty and meaningless. The outward action is to develop an inward response and intentional focus on God and the forgiveness he provides for our sins through Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.
For Reflection: When you pray or read scripture, are you “going through the motions” without a second thought to who God is? What have you learned about who God is through the detailed and precise instructions given in Leviticus.
Reflections written by Lauren Floyd