Reflections Week of 12/3/17

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 Psalm 127:1-2 (Monday 12/4)

This Psalm presents the challenge of worthless efforts. In this Psalm I imagine the person who works and works and works and has busied themself, with the hopes of feeling valued and important. I must admit, I am sometimes tempted to be this person. There have been days at work where I create a to-do list purely for the ability to prove worth to my role in what I am doing. But who am I proving this to? Is Christ not at the foundation of my labor? Should everything I do not be for the labor of his Kingdom here on Earth? This Psalm challenges me but also allows me to extend grace to myself and the efforts I make on a daily basis. I may go through the motions of “building”, but if I am not building on a solid foundation of Christ than all of my work is meaningless. It can be difficult when working in a secular work place, when our value is judged on a very different value scale. But what if we challenged ourselves to ask:

What does it mean to practice diligence in our faith? What does that look like for you in your work place? How can we labor not in vain, but with Christ at the center?

And don’t forget, the Lord gives us rest. Use the Sabbath day to recharge from your labor. For he is extending that gift to you.

Read Psalm 136 (Saturday 12/9)

I can’t help but sing through this Psalm of thanksgiving and praise to our good and faithful God, whose steadfast love endures forever! Amen. Amen. This Psalm begins by giving thanks to our one true God, who is the God of gods and Lord of lords (136:1-3). It then leads us to being reminded of God’s great wonders in creation (136:4-9). A simple reminder that allows us to see not only how BIG our God is, but calls attention to the creation that is before us and our lives as a part of this living creation that God has made a continuing commitment to.  What are some of the living creations that you are reminded of every day, or have had the opportunity to see around the world? The vastness of the Grand Canyon and the brilliant stars I’ve seen in Montana are what come to my mind.

Then we see the recounting of God’s deliverance (136:10-16), bringing his people out of Egypt, “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm”. This part recounts Gods willingness to reach for us and guide us with his outstretched arms. There have been several times in my life where God has extended his arms towards me, and pulled me back towards him. When was a time that God has led you through the wilderness?

The Psalm concludes by giving thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever (136:26).

Take a moment to recount the wonders of Gods creation you have experienced and after each reflection mirror the Psalm and write, “whose steadfast love endures forever”. Keep this somewhere you will see throughout the week to recount your blessings and God’s faithful daily.

Reflections written by Leslie Rico

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Reflections Week of 11/26/17

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 Psalm 118 (Monday 11/27)
A recurring theme in this psalm is “His love endures forever”. We must give thanks and praise to God because He is always there, he remains when everything else turns to dust. We need to open the door to let Him in, and He saves us and takes care of us. Our trust should be put in Him, for our fellow humans are sinners like ourselves and deceive. Whatever trials our fellow humans put us through does not matter because God is taking care of us all the time. We do well to praise God and declare what he has done for us boldly and openly. When we do so, God opens the gates and lets us in, He grants us success. Anyone that does not follow God will be unsuccessful. God is my God, and I thank Him; I give everything to Him.
Application:
1 Do I thank God for my life every day? Do I show this in my actions?
2. Do I go to God in every matter no matter how big or small?
Read Psalm 124 (Saturday 12/2)
What would happen if we did not have God? What would the world be like? There would be no hope, and death and destruction would surround all the earth. Our enemies would consume us. God has saved us from all of this. He is our superhero who has come in the nick of time to free us from our enemies. We owe Him our lives, our thanks and praise forever and to give Him all the glory and honor because it belongs to Him.
Application:
!. When we are experiencing a trial, do we go to God, or curse our circumstances?
2. Do we give thanks and praise that God is with us all the time whether we are experiencing a trial or not?
Reflections written by Anne Wilson

Reflections Week of 11/5/17

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 Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks and to praise the name of the Most High. So starts the psalmist in Psalm 92 and he does just that throughout this Psalm – He praises God for a few things: His steadfast love, His faithfulness, and for His works. The majority of the psalm is made up of the psalmist praising God for His works – specifically His justice over His enemies.

What stands out to me about this psalm is that the psalmist is overflowing with thanksgiving and praise. He writes this psalm with exuberance and deep joy in the Lord. How often do you and I express this same joy and exuberance to the Lord? Do we delight to give thanks for His good gifts to us? Oftentimes we enjoy the good gifts that God gives us and forget to take them back to Him by saying thank you.

This week, take some time to give thanks to God in whatever way you express yourself best. Write a song to Him, make Him a craft, or pour out your heart to Him in a letter. And pause in the moments you already give thanks – at meals or before bed, and let your heart feel thankfulness and joy for the good gifts God gives.

Read 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

The Thessalonians were going through some trials when Paul wrote this letter to them. They were struggling with persecution and laziness and other trials. Paul writes 2 Thessalonians to encourage, correct, and comfort them, and this particular passage is filled with a particular kind of encouragement and comfort called exhortation. Exhortation goes beyond positive encouragement and warm comfort to urge somebody to take action. It can be commanding, even begging, and it might include teaching, comforting, and instruction. To exhort someone is to seek to build them up with strength.

Paul delivers a powerful exhortation to the Thessalonians right here – “Stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us” (v 15). He knows they are going through hard times and he tells them to plant themselves firmly in the traditions they were taught – the gospel – and to not budge. You are probably not going through the same kind of persecution the Thessalonians were, but the principle remains – stand firm! Don’t budge in the face of adversity, but hold firmly onto the gospel and seek out the Scriptures like your life depends on it.

Last week was the 500th anniversary of the European Protestant Reformation, a time when the church went through drastic changes and reforms. One of the main cries of the Reformation was “Sola Scriptura” – Scripture alone! The reformers saw that the church had become corrupted by not following and submitting to the Scriptures and their deep desire was to see the church hold firm to the Word and not budge even for a moment on the truth.

Can you think of a specific area in your life where you need to make your grasp on Scripture stronger? Maybe it’s a particular sin or situation you need wisdom for. Think back to the sermon on Sunday – was there a point of application from the Bible you need to work on?

Reflections written by Monica Friesen

Reflections Week of 10/29/17

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 Psalm 74 (Mon 10/30)

“O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of you pasture?” As I read this first line of Psalm 74, I couldn’t help but think of Naomi and her initial reaction to the hardships that God brought her through with the death of her husband and her sons. I think it is human to react in a questioning way when we go through immense trial, but I also think that there is a right and wrong way to do so. As we have heard Pastor Tim mention in the first two sermons of the “Ruth” series, Naomi’s response to God was a bitter one. She had undergone immense loss, but the lack of hope in God that she displayed could have been damaging to her own faith and to her witness to her daughter-in-laws.

In Psalm 74, the writer is lamenting in response to the plight of this Israelites as a people, and in his lament he questions God’s presence with his people. However, rather than going down a road of bitterness and lack of hope, he instead turns his eyes to the character of God that he knows is true. Rather than losing all hope, he calls for God to arise, because he knows God is there and cares.

For Reflection: What do we need to lament in our lives or the world around us, and how can we do so healthily?

Read Psalm 82 (Friday 11/3)

The mantra in secular society toward Christianity often sounds something along the lines of “How could God exist with all the evil around us?” or, “How can God be good or loving if he allows such bad things to happen?” or, “If there is a God, then how come bad people get away with so much?” We know these are all uber-cliche statements in the typical “Christians vs. secular culture” face-off, but they ring true in a time where seemingly senseless evil is prevalent in the mainstream and affects everyone around us in some way.

Psalm 82 gives us a hope in, and a glimpse of God’s sovereignty and justice. In a time when we don’t feel like we can trust many of our leaders or people in powerful positions, we need a reminder that God is indeed there, and he does care about the messes in the world around us. God himself is the one who brings justice for the weak and innocent, the needy and the oppressed. Not only should we find solace in this truth, but we should be in ernest prayer for God to bring Justice.

For Reflection: Are we trusting and hoping in God’s justice, and how can we bring hope to the people around us who are suffering?

Reflections written by Daniel Rico

Reflections Week of 10/22/17

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 Psalm 69 (Tuesday 10/24)

I don’t know about you, but I spent most of my life thinking that being a good Christian meant that I would take whatever came my way with a smile and a chorus of my favorite worship song. What that run-on sentence means to say is, I felt like I had to just grin and bear everything and anything, no matter how much it sucked. I reasoned that the happier I was the better Christian I was. But David, the author of this Psalm, has gone down in history as a man of God (1 Sam 13:14), i.e. a “good” Christian, and he is crying out to God to take away his burdens. He is miserable, under attack, and desperate for God to lighten his load. So he turns to God and starts complaining. Is that unholy? Does that make him a bad Christian? Clearly not. And I’ll do you one better, he asks God to take down his enemies.

David was a man after God’s own heart. And he was human.

For Reflection: What if today you choose to be honest with God about the way you’re feeling. Tell Him that you’re sick and tired of what you’re dealing with. Tell him about the things you want out of your life. Ask Him to be glorified even in your discontentment. Why not?

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (Thursday 10/26)

Raise your hand if you read a comment on facebook in the last couple of days that was unkind. Now raise your other hand if you’ve written an unkind comment. Now raise your left foot if any of those unkind comments were to Christians by Christians. With how easy it is to step into a heated argument on the internet, we can quickly become unkind with our words and hurt others. Alright. Now let’s contrast that with what Paul says in this passage. He mentions that, in communion with other believers, he sought to live in a way that was worthy of the God that has called us. How? By encouraging people, pointing them toward God and holiness, loving them and being grateful for their very existence.

A lot is going on in the world right now. There is so much that makes us passionate and exhausted. But no matter what the disagreement is, may it never lead you to tear down your brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, why not seek to love them? Other people, even other Christians, don’t have to agree with you to receive your love. Live in a manner that is worthy of your calling this week. Love other Christians so that your God is glorified and those who don’t know Him (and those who do) can see His love through you.

Reflections written by Liz Doogan

Reflections Week of 10.15.17

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 Psalm 63 (Friday 10/20)

Finish this sentence: “My life would be good if only I could just _________.” That blank might be “get a better job…lose more weight…buy a decent car…find a boyfriend/girlfriend…fix my marriage…raise good kids…stay healthy…obtain financial security…afford a nice apartment…get accepted to that school…get paid to do what I love…take a vacation” or “re-do my 20s.”

For me, almost every night my thought was, “I will be fine tomorrow if I just get X hours of sleep…” I learned quite a while ago to not rest the quality of the coming day on the amount of sleep I hoped to get that night. It never worked. I ended up disappointed, tired, and probably a bit grumpy.

Instead, I started distracting myself from fatigue and the boredom of routine life by focusing on “the next thing.” That didn’t work either. I just ended up getting overwhelmed by the busyness, forgetting to enjoy the hours, days, weeks, months. I thought that vegging out would be restorative, but reaching for Netflix at the end of the day didn’t ease my exhaustion. I didn’t find rest, so I sank into just getting through the day, and let mental and emotional fatigue distract me from giving God my time and undivided attention every day.

Then I came across Psalm 63 in our #2YearJourney and I realized that I’ve actually been searching for satisfaction, and in all the wrong places. David in this Psalm says that his soul thirsts for God like one would thirst for water in the desert, and that when he meditates on and responds in praise to God, his soul is satisfied. That’s some intense longing, and equally intense gratification. No prize, amount of planning, nor any goal to work toward can satisfy my very soul, let alone my tired, restless mind, except for seeing God and praising Him for who He is. We should all crave God and be truly satisfied like He is better than anything or anyone else. He is better than life itself.

For Reflection:What do you want most? Where do you seek satisfaction? Take time to meditate on and praise God for His goodness. Let Him satisfy you beyond anything else in your life.

Read Psalm 66 (Saturday 10/21)

The psalmist keeps his focus on God’s goodness as God provides for and protects him. He focuses on God’s goodness as he recalls how God brought him through hard trials. He focuses on God’s goodness in answering his righteous prayers. He worships.

The psalmist straight up praises God, because God deserves it: praise in his blessing, praise in his testing, and praise in his prayer.

Then at the end of each section, he adds the word Selah. This means to pause and reflect on the words he just said. It tells the readers to slow down and feel their significance. It gives us a chance to agree.

The psalmist doesn’t put a time limit or a pacer on his worship; he pauses to ponder all that God is and has done for him. He considers, speaks carefully, and means what he says.

I don’t know about you, but I find it all too easy to say a quick, half-baked prayer or scan a quick scripture, check it off my mental to-do list, and move on to other thoughts. I’m not sure why I try to believe that it’s enough, like God doesn’t actually want my attention.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to set aside specific time to focus on praising and worshiping God, but maybe it’s because I don’t let myself be overwhelmed by His goodness. If I just meditated on all that God is and has done, I would be overwhelmed by His goodness. I would want to straight up praise and worship Him, and I would want to take my sweet time doing it.

For Reflection: How often do you tell God how great He is? How often do you actually think about how great He is? Do you ever just stop and ponder all the ways God has blessed you, preserved your life, and shown you the power of His love? Set aside specific time to think on these things, then praise and worship Him because He deserves it.

Reflections written by Sarah Rico

Reflections Week of 10.8.17

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 Psalm 48 (Wednesday 10/11)

In the Easy to Read version (ERV), which I use for my kids at work, verses 4-5 say that enemies marched on the city but stopped because they were amazed by it. It’s no secret that I love the city- our city, Chicago, and the very idea of a city in itself. There are many passages that describe hopes and aspirations for the city, but this is one of my favorites. The first few verses of the Psalm describe how the city is a place of joy, and God is the center of that joy. And for enemies to see the goodness of a city and turn tail? That would be amazing! I am reminded of how God flooded the world in the story of Noah’s Ark, because He saw how wicked it was. This Psalm excites me because it is it shows another side of the narrative. How wonderful would it be for Chicago to become this place? A place where God’s goodness is so evident that no one would dare to come against it? That the devil might say, “Forget about Chicago, it’s impenetrable.” This is one of the Psalms that I read with hope for the future.

Read Psalm 51 (10.13 Friday)

This Psalm reminds me of the thought that I need God to help me love God correctly. I can do nothing that is God-honoring without God himself helping me do it! This is both a great thought and a scary one. On one hand, it sometimes leads me to question how “good” I am. Even when I try so hard to love and honor God, I can’t even get close to what he deserves! How that must disappoint him, I sometimes think. But this Psalm also gives me comfort because He knows this. He knows that we can’t do it. He knows we’re struggling. And He’s okay with it. I imagine Him as a patient dad that has to help his kid make his own father’s day gift. The children can’t do it by themselves, and though it’s supposed to be a gift for the father, he doesn’t mind lovingly helping them create it. In the end it isn’t about the gift at all. God is satisfied with the time we spend with Him along the way, the talks and the journeys He leads us on. Not any works that we can make with our hands or any declaration we can make with our mouths. He knows he’s going to have to help us operate the hot glue gun or spell something for us on his own card. He’ll still do it lovingly.

Reflections written by Lauren DeVries