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Ephesians: Journey to Light - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jul 29, 2015

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.”
I never know what to get my wife for her birthday or a holiday. It’s not an easy decision. When my kids have a birthday, I can easily walk through the toy section at Target and pick out anything that falls into their age-range and they’d love it. My wife isn’t the same. Do I buy her clothes? And what if I buy them too small? What does that communicate? But what if they’re too big? Is that worse? She likes running. So do I buy her running stuff? But she’s the running expert. How would I even know what running stuff to buy? I’m smart enough to not buy her a kitchen appliance or something. So maybe a gift card? Is that too impersonal? That’s the kind of thing you get from your great aunt for graduation. A gift card doesn’t sound right from the husband. Man, I can never figure it out! And it’s not that she’s picky, either! I just want to get her the perfect gift. I don’t want to blow it.
So what do I do? Well, I spend time with her. And while I’m spending that time with her I listen to her. I listen well. I consider what she says and does. I think carefully about her likes and dislikes. I put her ideas and thoughts in my memory and ponder them when she’s not there. I reflect on what gives her joy and what makes her smile. I think about the things that make her frown or frustrate her. That gives me a fighting chance to know what will please her when I want to give her something.
Jesus doesn’t expect much from us. But He loves when we consider Him. He loves when we carefully determine what pleases Him. If we aren’t walking in a way that honors God, maybe it’s because we’re not thinking about Him enough.
  • Spend some extra time today just thinking about God. Ask Him what He likes. Ask Him what He doesn’t like. In prayer, ask Him what you could do to please Him. Sit in silence and ask what makes Him smile.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Galatians: Journey to Light - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
Hitchhiking isn’t something I’d encourage anyone to do. It’s not safe. It’s not wise. And, I’m pretty sure, it’s illegal. But I did do it once. I had gone hiking in a vast wilderness and, at some point, got off the trail I thought I was on. I had a map with me, but no compass. But with my handy map, I simply navigated where I was by finding east. I kept telling myself that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. If I knew where the sun was setting and knew that was east, I just needed to head that way. 
Here’s the problem… that’s not true. The sun doesn’t set in the east. It sets in the west. The opposite of my guiding rule was true. So when I thought I was heading east, I was heading west and I had no idea. I spent several hours walking in the wrong direction. Eventually, I fell out into a main road and realized I was miles and miles away from my truck. So I had to hitchhike to get back. 
Lots of us need a ride back to truth. We’ve been following the wrong standard or the wrong rules for a while and it’s led us off the right path. Jesus is the rule. We should follow His example.
  • Have you been off course recently? Have you been following those bad directions? It’s not too late to hitch a ride back. Watching these videos will be a great first step.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Galatians: Journey to Light - Monday

Posted on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children” 
If you wanted to imitate me, you’d probably aim your sights at things that make me happy. You might make a list that looked something like this:
  • strong, black coffee
  • Bear Grylls and Jerry Seinfeld on the TV
  • t-shirts
  • working on bikes
  • camping
But if you tried to imitate me but were drinking peach tea, watching Dancing With the Stars, wearing a button-up shirt, playing on a computer and staying at some fancy hotel, I’d tell you you were doing a pretty lousy job. That’s just not who I am. 
So how do we imitate God? Well, stick pretty close to who you see Him to be. Here’s a quick list from Scripture to get you thinking.
  • Do good things. 
  • Make wise choices. 
  • Be holy. 
  • Love people. 
  • Stay away from sin. 
It’s actually pretty simple. Imitation is a simple guideline, really. We have the model of Jesus, we should use it.
  • Read through that list of characteristics of Jesus. Pick one that you want to pray about and improve in your own life. Try to take action to move closer to the Jesus end of the spectrum today.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Ephesians: Journey To Grace - Friday

Posted on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

Have you ever bought something that was supposed to be guaranteed to deliver results, but didn’t quite live up to the hype?  Maybe it was a new diet program.  Or maybe a used car that turned out to be a lemon.  It could have been an investment that ended up losing money or a self-help book that just didn’t work.  
Our world is full of cheap promises and phony guarantees.  Frequently people promise us one thing, but then don’t deliver.  It doesn’t take long before even the most optimistic among us can become jaded and cynical.
God, however, always keeps His promises. In fact, He has given us a guarantee that He has good things in store for our future.  
The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.
The Holy Spirit, and the power and peace He brings to our hearts, is a just a taste of what we can expect from eternity with God.  He is the down-payment, guaranteeing that Jesus will someday return with our full spiritual inheritance.  He is the evidence that we belong to God forever.
Do you trust God for your future?  Is your heart beaming with hope or clouded with anxiety?  The guarantee of God’s Spirit frees us from worry and gives us the courage to take holy risks.  
Because your future is secure, what risks can you take for God today?  
Maybe it’s starting a conversation with a co-worker or taking a step to love someone who is different from you.  It could be signing up for a mission trip or giving an anonymous gift.  Whatever it is, just go for it with God, knowing your future is totally guaranteed.

Jason Byerly
Children's Pastor

Ephesians: Journey To Grace - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 
How far would you go to purchase someone’s freedom?  
In 1938, a young clerk for the London Stock Exchange, Nicholas Winton, went farther than most of us ever would.  Over a nine month period preceding World War II, Winton worked tirelessly to rescue almost 700 Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis as Hitler extended his reach into Czechoslovakia.  
According to his obituary in the Los Angeles times, not only did Winton arrange for the children’s transportation to England, but he also secured homes for them, where they would be cared for once they arrived.  
On July 1st of this year, Winton passed away at the ripe old age of 106, leaving behind the now elderly children he rescued, and their descendants, who are forever grateful for his courage.  
After Winton’s death, the grandchildren of one survivor paid tribute to Winton online by holding up handmade signs in a photograph that read simply, “Thank you for our lives.
Stories of sacrifice, like Nicholas Winton’s, reflect the heart of God.  When we faced certain spiritual death, God did what no one else could do.  He initiated a rescue operation like the world had never seen and went farther than anyone ever would go, all the way to the cross.  
Jesus purchased our freedom, and each day we have the opportunity to show our gratitude, to say “thank you for our lives,” by sharing that gift with others.  
Who in your life needs to experience God’s love today?  Who needs rescue and hope?  Who will you courageously invest in to share the gift that you’ve been given?

Jason Byerly
Children's Pastor

Ephesians: Journey To Grace - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
What do Superman, Harry Potter, and Cinderella all have in common?  How about Tarzan, Snow White and Annie?  They are all orphans, characters without parents who are searching for a place to belong.  It’s interesting, isn’t it, how many stories in popular culture are ultimately about the search for family and home? 
There is something deep inside our spirit that identifies with the orphan’s story.  Though we do not all experience the tragedy of being separated from our parents on earth, we have all been separated from our Father in heaven.  
Yet, through Jesus, we have been offered the chance to come home.  We do not have to live in isolation.  We have been invited to join God’s family and be given all the rights and privileges of His Son.
When it comes to adoption, there are few people who can speak with more authority than Katie Davis, the missionary who adopted 13 Ugandan orphans as a single mom in her early twenties.  In her book Kisses for Katie, she writes, “Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption.  It is the Gospel in my living room.”  
Today, thank your heavenly Father for adopting you into His family.  Then, take a moment to reflect on your relationships.  Are you loving others in the same way you’ve been loved by God?  Are you reaching out to invite more spiritual orphans into the family? 
If you are not sure if you’re a part of God’s family, or have questions about what it means to begin a relationship with Jesus, drop me an e-mail.  I’d love to talk more with you about joining God’s family today.  

Jason Byerly
Children's Pastor

Ephesians: Journey To Grace - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

It feels good to be chosen, doesn’t it?  Nobody wants to be the last one picked for the kickball team or left at home while their friends are at the prom.  It feels good to be invited to a party, offered a job or asked out on a date. 
All of these experiences, though, pale in comparison to being chosen by God.  The One who knows everything about us--all our dirty secrets, selfishness and shortcomings--and chooses us anyway.  Why?  Simply because He loves us, and He knows that because of His love, we can become so much more than we could ever imagine.
Because of God’s love, we actually can become like Jesus. 
Paul wrote that, Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 
On the surface this sounds ridiculous.   How can we really become like Jesus?  This sounds as crazy as someone telling you can become a player for the NBA.  I’m guessing for most of us, there’s a fairly large gap between an NBA player’s skills and athleticism and our own.
Yet, the truly crazy thing is that the gap between us and Jesus is a million times bigger.  God’s grace, however, bridges that gap, giving us the power to become more like Jesus one step at a time.  
Think about how your life has changed since you first began to follow God.  Where are you more like Jesus now than you used to be?  Celebrate that.  Thank God for doing what you could never do on your own.  

Jason Byerly
Children's Pastor

Ephesians: Journey To Grace - Monday

Posted on Mon, Jul 20, 2015

Have you ever received a gift wrapped up inside another gift?  It’s a great feeling.  You think you’re just getting one thing, but you’re actually receiving so much more.  
When I was a kid, my mom was the master at this.  I would open one box and find five more gifts wrapped up inside.  She would even take things that normally came as a set, like a pair of socks, and wrap them individually just so I’d have more to unwrap. At my house on Christmas I would find gifts within gifts within gifts.  
The same thing is true for the gift of grace.  
When we receive this gift, we find so much more inside.  In Ephesians 1 Paul unwraps this wonderful gift to reveal the many gifts contained within it. 
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
According to Paul, we haven’t just received one or two spiritual blessings, but every spiritual blessing.  
Here are just a few:
  • God chose us.
  • God planned for us to become like Jesus.
  • God paid the price to set us free.
  • God revealed His plan to us.
  • God made us His inheritance, His treasured possession.
  • God guaranteed our future by giving us His Spirit.
Paul doesn’t say these gifts are in heaven, but in the heavenly realms.  The heavenly realms are the spiritual reality that is operating behind-the-scenes of everyday life.  That means we get to enjoy the gifts here and now.   
So read through Ephesians 1:3-14 today, choose one of the blessings that comes with God’s grace and tell Him thanks for the gift within the gift.

Jason Byerly
Children's Pastor

Galatians: Journey to Freedom - Friday

Posted on Fri, Jul 17, 2015

In 2011, Russian photographer Murad Osmann was visiting Barcelona with his girlfriend, Natalia Zakharova when they serendipitously started a cultural phenomenon. As the story goes, Natalia grew tired of constantly waiting on her boyfriend to take pictures as they toured the city, so she pulled his hand impatiently and began walking, urging him to move forward.
Always the photographer, Osmann snapped a picture from his viewpoint, captured the moment and posted it to Instagram with the caption, “Follow me #barcelona.” This ultimately led to the ongoing photo series documenting their travels around the world. 
One fascinating result of the photo series is found in that, despite the fact that Osmann was taking pictures of some of the most incredible scenery on the planet, the focus is always on the person in front of him, the one leading him. Exotic destinations became backdrops rather than focal points. The real story told in the pictures is the unity and intimacy of one man following one woman steadily, consistently, adoringly, to the ends of the earth. Even the few pictures where his hand is not clasped in hers communicate a longing to be led and connected to her, two of which exemplify this by capturing the marriage proposal and the the wedding aisle.
Would to God that our lives would reflect that kind of intimacy with the Holy Spirit! Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls to people, “Follow me!” Later, Jesus promises his followers that He will be with them always, leading & guiding through the Holy Spirit whom He will send. We have the very presence of God going before us, speaking to us, leading us from glory to glory, if only we would follow!
Since we are living by the Spirit, Paul writes, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. The scenery in a life that follows the Spirit is seen in the beautiful fruit produced by the journey: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. The real focus of the story, however, lies in the intimate relationship that develops between you and the Spirit, as follower and Guide. 
  • In what area(s) of your life are you not following the Spirit? Ask God to speak and lead specifically in those ways, even today.

Dan Jackson
Campus Leader - Georgetown

Galatians: Journey to Freedom - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jul 16, 2015

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other...(Galatians 5:17).
At summer camp once, the camp director gave a devotional illustration one day on Galatians. “Chief,” as we called him, asked two of the camp counselors to stand on either side of him, each grabbing ahold of one of his outstretched arms. One of the young men who joined him was a 5’9” barrel-chested mass of muscle who looked like a combination of John Cena and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (His last name, fittingly, was Schwartz). The other guy, Dotty, was a 6’4” specimen who would later go on to join the Marines and Special Forces, and was every bit as impressive looking as The Rock.
As Schwartzey and Dotty held on to his forearms, Chief gave the order for the men to pull. The two began a game of human tug-of-war, with Chief’s body in the balance. Despite the fact that it looked like a couple of Wookies trying to rip the arms off a droid, Chief hardly moved. He stood his ground.
Chief yelled to the onlooking campers, “Who do you think will win? Schwartz?” A section of the room erupted in loud screams and hollers, and Chief shifted the balance of his body, leaning slightly to his right. This slight transfer of weight was enough turn the tide, and Schwartz was able to slide the prize a few feet in his direction.
“How about Dotty?” Chief yelled again after regaining a more centered posture. Another side of the room yelled and chanted for their champion. Chief leaned to his left, and Dotty immediately dragged him across the floor in his direction. 
Chief yelled “uncle,” and the match ended. “It’s that easy, guys. There is a war, and you will constantly be pulled in two directions. Your sinful nature wants you to do evil, The Spirit wants to lead you to life. It’s up to you which you are going to follow. One thought, one word, one step in either direction will change your entire direction. Lean into the Spirit! 
  • What are the temptations that pull on your mind the most? Pray that the Spirit would take those thoughts captive and, instead, give you His desires. Find a way today to lean into Him. 

Dan Jackson
Campus Leader - Georgetown

Galatians: Journey to Freedom - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jul 15, 2015

Use your freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13b)
The WWII epic Saving Private Ryan follows Captain John H. Miller and his small band of soldiers on a unique mission to find Private James Ryan and bring him safely home from the front. Their mission of mercy, designed to assuage the grief of a mother who already lost 3 other sons to the war, ultimately succeeded, but only at the cost of their own lives. 
At the end of the climactic battle, a dying Captain Miller delivers one final, haunting command to a dazed Private Ryan, who watched in horror as man after man died to protect him. “Earn this,” Miller whispers. Even in that moment, Ryan seems to know that he will never be able to make his one life worth the death of so many others. 
The film closes by showing an elderly James Ryan standing at Miller’s gravesite. Distraught from a lifetime of carrying the weight of those lives lost and that one impossible command, he tearfully whispers, “I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough.”
The film frames the question of war, “can the lives of the living ever justify the sacrifice of the dead?” The answer, felt in the tears of a weary James Ryan, is a gut-wrenching “no.” We can never earn what they gave. Any attempts at doing so will simply kill us slowly. 
Similarly, Paul reminds us in Galatians that it is impossible to earn the grace of God. We can never live such upright lives as to justify the Son of God dying on the cross in our place. Attempting to earn our way to God is, in actuality, the way of death. The joy of the Christian, though, is that the suffering Christ doesn’t command us to “earn this”; instead he whispers “give this.” 
Christ’s death calls us to freedom FROM our futile attempts to earn his favor, and TO following his example of sacrificial love. In that way, we don’t just honor the victory Christ won on the cross; we become the victory itself! For we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
We don’t love others so that we can find freedom; we are freed so that we can love others. As James Ryan discovered the hard way, we can never do enough to compensate for the price paid for our freedom; our freedom, however, finds power and meaning when we give our lives away in service to others, just as Christ did for us.

Dan Jackson
Campus Leader - Georgetown

Galatians: Journey to Freedom - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Jul 14, 2015

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6b)
I am not good at math. When figuring out what amount to leave as a tip at a restaurant, I will ask Siri 45% of the time, my CPA wife 65% of the time, and my own brain 0% of the time.
I remember two things from my four years of high school math: the Pythagorean Theorem, and the Law of Modus Tollens. The former I can recall because it’s literally just the alphabet (A2 + B2 = C2); the latter I remember because it sounds funny.
The Pythagorean Theorem is about triangles (i.e. useless to me). Modus Tollens, however, is about logic...and it is surprisingly applicable to understanding spiritual growth. 
Imagine a simple statement of logic: If A is true, then B is true.
Modus Tollens, referred to as “the way that denies by denying,” tells us that if B is NOT true, then A is also NOT true. (It denies A by denying B).
As an example: If it is a car, then it has wheels. According to Modus Tollens, if it does NOT have wheels, then we know it is NOT a car. Make sense? 
The human inclination is to measure our personal righteousness by church attendance or longevity, or by the avoidance of certain “really bad” sins. Paul’s exhortation in Galatians 5, though, reminds us that those things are not a measure of our faith. Love is.
If you have faith, you will express it in love. Thus, if you DON’T love others, you DON’T really have faith.
Do you want to know how your faith is? Just look at how far you go to sacrificially love others.  
Here’s some more really cool faith/love logic:
...If you have faith, you will express it in love. THEREFORE...
...If you love people, you will see God move mountains in their lives!
  • Re-read 1 Corinthians 13 this week and ask God to bring to your mind some people to whom you need to extend sacrificial love.

Dan Jackson
Campus Leader - Georgetown

Galatians: Journey to Freedom - Monday

Posted on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

If you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the Law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. 
“Gentlemen,” the headmaster asks, “What are the Four Pillars?”
Rising from their wooden pews, the boys at Welton Academy recite in military fashion: “Tradition, Honor, Discipline, Excellence.”
Following this rigid opening scene, the movie Dead Poets Society centers on the influence that John Keating, an unorthodox English teacher, has on his students. Mr. Keating strives to help the boys understand that, while the Four Pillars are solid supports for a successful life, they are not in themselves life-giving. He challenges his class to pursue and enjoy the freedoms of inspiration, passion, and creativity. 
In the end, a handful of students were able to glimpse the kind of freedom and joy that Mr. Keating desired for them. One student, however, was never able to break free from his dependence on the strict hand of tradition at Welton Academy. Richard Cameron, a boy who always wanted to know exactly what he needed to do to make the grade, was unable to throw off the constraints of institutionalized education. Cameron’s dependence on rule-following as the pathway to success entrenched him firmly into a lifeless pursuit of clinging to tradition and capitulating to the expectations of others. 
The apostle Paul met a lot of “Camerons” in his day. He constantly encountered Jewish Christians who, though they wanted the kind of freedom Paul preached, were unable to shake off the shackles of the Law, and thus denied the need for a savior. In no uncertain terms, Paul says bluntly that if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the Law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. 
The good news is that we do have a Savior, and we have freedom that comes by faith through grace. Rest in these two thoughts today:
  • There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.
  • There is nothing you can do to make God love you more.

Dan Jackson
Campus Leader - Georgetown

2 Corinthians: The New Message - Friday

Posted on Fri, Jul 10, 2015

A few weeks ago my wife and I were hiking in the mountains of Colorado. After hiking several miles, crossing multiple waterfalls and ascending a few thousand feet, we were exhausted. We kept looking up, hoping that our final destination—Ice Lake—was near.
As we strenuously put one foot in front of the other we looked up and saw a couple about our age coming down the trail. We asked them how much further we had to go. They responded with great news...it was only a few hundred yards more to the top! We continued the conversation for several minutes, asked a few more questions about their hike and finally offered to take a picture for them. Though they spoke perfect English, it was clear from their accent that they were not Americans. We asked where they were from and were not surprised when they responded, “Germany.” 
After parting ways my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Aren’t Germans great!” Every German we’ve met is kind and hospitable and welcoming. After interacting with Germans we always find ourselves wanting to visit Germany again.
What that couple had done, in such a simple and unintentional way, was serve as an ambassador for Germany. It wasn’t through waving a flag or giving a compelling political speech, but through their openness, kindness and optimism they made us think more highly of Germany and want to spend more time there.
That’s exactly the idea that Paul is drawing upon in 2 Corinthians 5:20 when he says, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!
Everywhere we go, in everything we do, we are representing Christ. We are His ambassadors! When people interact with us we ought to leave them thinking, “Aren’t Christians great?! I don’t know how to explain it, but there is something different, something special about Christians.
Follow up:
  • Who is the best ambassador for Christ you have personally met?
  • How could you better represent Christ to those in your life?

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

2 Corinthians: The New Message - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jul 09, 2015

Everyone loves stories of reconciliation!
A few years ago I was asked by a family at Southland to officiate their father’s funeral. Their dad’s name was Tim and he passed away in his early seventies. Three years before his death, after  suffering a second stroke, Tim was in the hospital and it looked as though he might not make it. Tim had burnt a lot of bridges in his life--he was verbally and physically abusive to his children and he was so hard on his wife that after decades together she eventually filed for divorce and left town. Tim was truly all alone.
One day, as his daughter visited the hospital to help take care of him, Tim said to her, “If I die, don’t let your brother come to my funeral.” In sadness she told her father that her brother wouldn’t want to come to the funeral. In fact, she continued, “I don’t think any of your family will be there.” Hard words for a daughter to say. Hard words for a father to hear. But somehow those words struck a chord in Tim’s heart. That very night Tim cried out to God and begged for a second chance. And God heard Tim’s cry. Not only did Tim live for three more years, but in those three years he was able to reconcile with his children and reestablish a strong relationship with each of them. Tim even reconciled with his wife and actually remarried her!
Stories of reconciliation always inspire.
In 2 Corinthians 5:18 Paul tells the ultimate story of reconciliation and says, “All of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”
In our sin we were entirely estranged from God, but in Christ God came after us to restore the relationship to perfect unity. And we now get to help reconcile others!
Next step:
  • Is there any area in your life where you feel distant from God? Remember today that, in Christ, God has completely and forever reconciled you to Himself!

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

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