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Plan B: Choosing to Help Instead of Hurt - Monday

Posted on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

Mark 14:9
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

This week we’re going to look hurt in the eye and identify some big, fat lies that could hold us back. Strap in, hang on and get ready to fly. I don’t know about you, but some pretty big stuff held me captive for many years. Until I learned I was made to be an overcomer. Not by human endeavor, but rather by Spirit-power. And the only thing that dispels the darkness of lies is disinfecting Son-light. In order to know the truth, I had to recognize the lies. And for every lie, there is an overcoming truth. So here goes:

Big, fat lie #1: I will never get over this.

Wherever, whenever, however your dreams took a tumble, it is likely they still sting a little -- or a lot. Were you abused, neglected, unloved, treated like an object? Have you had a physical impairment, illness or handicap with which to deal? Did some power or person strip you of something precious? Did a loved one die and the reality has been so very difficult to deal with?

The imagery is clear. You are climbing a mountain. Thousands of feet uphill to go. Rest and relaxation await you at the summit. But you’re carrying a 100-pound suitcase with you. Solution. Drop the suitcase. Right now. And run to freedom. To rest.

To drag the past around every day will steal your future. Every single one of us will leave a legacy. The question is: Will yours be one of overcoming and forging a new path? Will the generations be changed, beginning with you? Will someone down the line point to something you changed that turned the tide of brokenness? Truth is truth. What truth will others tell of you long after you’re gone? That you fainted back into the couch, all Scarlett O’Hara-like? Or that you stood up, turned toward Jesus, and took off running at full tilt? What story will they tell of you throughout history?

Truth #1: The full story of your life isn’t completely written. Yet.

  • What is the most serious wound you’ve experienced in your life? How long have you been affected by it?
  • Spend some time today in the presence of the Father who can heal completely. He’s the only one I ever knew of who could turn back time. (Joshua 10:12-13)

Rebecca Hatton
Formation Director - Danville

Plan B: Choosing to Transform Instead of Transfer - Friday

Posted on Fri, Sep 19, 2014

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  
 
…I will make up to you the years that the locust has eaten…” 
 
Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 
 
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  
 
On a cold February night in 1970, I was on a date with my girlfriend. I'd had my license for two weeks. I never saw the stop sign. 
 
Driving through the intersection at 60 miles an hour, I broadsided another car without ever tapping the brakes. Glass shattering, tires screeching, cars spinning... it all seemed like slow motion. My car ended up on the other side of the road, rolling backward down a hill. No seat belts on. Four people went to the hospital, including my girlfriend. There were no fatalities, but the driver of the other vehicle was hospitalized for 29 days. I had a small scratch on my left ankle, a miracle, though I didn't understand it at the time. My girlfriend’s parents said, "You can never date our daughter again," and they meant it. It was the worst night of my life.
 
A lawsuit followed. My dad, who was separated from my mom at the time, had allowed the insurance to lapse on our car. There was a huge judgment against us. My dad filed bankruptcy, divorced my mom and left our family. My mother, co-signer on his debt, lost everything. We sold our house and moved into an apartment. My mother and sister each had a small bedroom. I bought an orange, free-standing hammock from K-Mart and erected it in the living room, where I slept for the next year-and-a-half.
 
My mom got a job in a bindery earning eighty dollars a week, gross. We were below the federal poverty level. I worked two jobs while finishing high school to help her financially. I missed 35 days of school my senior year. Had I not had a 4.0 GPA, they wouldn't have allowed me to graduate. 
 
To say this was a stressful season in my life would be a monumental understatement. I'd checked out of church several years earlier. I was as lost as lost could be. Shortly after the accident, a friend invited me to her church. I reluctantly accepted. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. The youth minister became a good friend and huge influencer in my life. He encouraged me to go to Bible College. On the day I left for college, carrying only $50 and a suitcase, he called. “God will make a way,” he said. He was right. God did.
 
Why do I tell you this, as I sit at my favorite Starbucks on a sunny morning, writing this final Devo for Jon’s message, Transform Instead of Transfer. Simply this: I want to give you hope, friend. I want you to know that God can raise up life out of death, beauty out of ashes, health out of brokenness, and a path forward when everything surely seems to only be a dead end. He can also teach you to forgive, let go, and move on. He did it for me. He redeemed it all. I'm praying today... He will do it for you. I mean that. Nothing would bring me more joy. 
 
It was the worst night of my life. Today, I count it as the best. God does stuff like that, you know. You can't put it on paper; but alas... I've tried.  

Gary Black
Regional Campus Director

Plan B: Choosing to Transform Instead of Transfer - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Sep 18, 2014

A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.   
 
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.   
 
Sometimes the best way to find healing from the hurts that other’s can cause in your life is to just try and understand them better.  Someone has said, “We’re all fighting a hard battle, so always be a little kinder than is necessary. Let me share a story that illustrates that.
 
My dog, Snoopy, was the best brown and black mixed-breed beagle any nine-year-old boy ever owned. He was also my best friend. Wherever I rode my chrome-plated Sears Stingray bike, Snoopy would follow. If I went to play baseball, he’d tag along, find a cool spot in the shade, and wait patiently until the game was over. Afterward, I'd mount my bike and old Snoop would run alongside, keeping pace as we made the one-mile trek home.
 
There were no leash laws back in those days, so Snoopy gained quite a reputation in our neighborhood for chasing cars, trucks and mailmen! His technique for “terrorizing” vehicles was always the same--bark and bite at the front tire, then the rear, then circle around the back of the car before making his “victory lap“ back to the front porch of our small brick home.
 
I'll never forget that warm August evening when a farm truck, pulling a flatbed trailer, came roaring down the street. Snoopy sprang to the task, bounded from the porch and darted to the street, aggressively attacking the front tire, then the rear tire.   
 
But as he circled behind the vehicle he misjudged the wheels of the trailer, which pounded his hind legs into the pavement. Yelping and panicked, he ran into the shrubs of a neighbor's yard. I rushed to his rescue and found him shivering, bleeding and frightened. As I reached to pick him up I was absolutely devastated by his response...he bit me! My best friend, my good buddy, the best old dog in the world snarled, growled and sank his teeth in my hand.
 
By this time, my mother had arrived on the scene. Noting my tears and confusion, she said something I‘ve never forgotten, “Son, he still loves you, but he’s really hurting. Don’t take it personally. He just needs some space."
 
I learned a valuable lesson that day; not only about dogs, but people. Sometimes they react very abruptly and angrily. Our tendency is to lash back, turn away, or just write them off. Instead, we should pray  and ask God for eyes of compassion and a heart of discernment. He will show us how to creatively look beneath the surface.  Don't allow someone’s negative reaction to diminish the power of your love. To this day, I still think of Snoopy when I read the words of the Apostle Peter, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (I Peter 4:8)
 
A vet took care of ole’ Snoop that day. Twenty-nine stitches and a few weeks later he was back on the front porch plotting his next car chase. And by the way, he never so much as growled at me again!

Gary Black
Regional Campus Director

Plan B: Choosing to Transform Instead of Transfer - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Sep 17, 2014

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   
 
She came into my office holding a crumpled letter. She stared at the floor for awhile, and then said, “I can’t get beyond this. I can’t forget what she said to me.”
 
I asked for clarification. “This letter,” she said. “The things she wrote in it. They’ve destroyed my life.” 
“How long have you had the letter,” I asked. 
“Three years,” she said.  
“How many times have you read it,” I inquired. 
“Oh, dozens of times,” she said, “maybe hundreds.”
“Give the letter to me,” I said. 
“What? Give it to you?” 
“Yes,” I said, “Give it to me.”
“What will you do with it?” she asked.
“What I do with it isn’t nearly as important as what you do with it. Give it to me.” 
 
Slowly, reluctantly, with a trembling hand, she reached out across my desk and handed over the letter; then she began to weep. After awhile I said, “Susan (fictitious name), now that you’ve given up the letter, would you be willing to give up the grudge?”
 
“But you don’t know how she hurt me.”
“You’re right,” I answered, “but you’ll never be released from her until you forgive.”
“But that wouldn’t change what happened.” she protested.
“You’re right, Susan," I said, "But it might change you.” 
 
She looked at me for a long time, and then said, “I’m willing to forgive her, but how?” So I led her through a prayer of forgiveness. After a few minutes she looked up, made eye contact with me and smiled. “I feel lighter,” she said. “I feel at peace.” 
 
“You should,” I explained, “Because forgiveness, when it is least deserved, has true, healing power.” 
 
She nodded her head. “I’ll remember that,” she said. Then she thanked me and left. She never mentioned the letter again.  
 
The Great Physician
Lord,
It occurred to me recently
that the moment I start
to hate or despise someone
I become their slave.
They affect my 
sleep, my appetite,
my relationships with others,
even my health.
 
Perhaps You were
trying to help me
save on medical bills
when You said,
"Forgive your enemies
just as your Father in
Heaven has forgiven you."
 
Lord, I'm understanding
more and more 
these days
why You're called
the Great Physician.

Gary Black
Regional Campus Director

Plan B: Choosing to Transform Instead of Transfer - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Sep 16, 2014

They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening.  
 
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  
 
...become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.  
 
Over the years I've been in some pretty dark places...a forest at midnight under a moonless sky; inside a cave without a flashlight; next to the fresh grave of a loved one... but the darkest place I've ever been is a land called...ingratitude. Fact is, I lived there for many years.
 
The land of ingratitude is usually littered with debris from past hurt and pain. It's characterized by the fallout of anger and resentment. There’s not much happiness. Its inhabitants don't enjoy life, they endure it. I found a way out. Here are some steps I took: 
  1. I listened to my own words.  Seriously. If you could hear what others hear when you speak, you might be surprised...or ashamed...or both. I was. Do you speak "life" or "death" words? Do your words encourage or discourage? Ask a friend to help you monitor your verbal traffic for awhile. You'll gain much from their insight and assistance.
  2. Confess ingratitude as a sin. It kept a whole generation of Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. At least seven times in Exodus it says, "They grumbled." Each time God said, "Okay, one more lap around the desert for you guys." It's hard for God to use someone in a mighty way who has an ungrateful heart. It’s also hard to deal a death blow to bitterness.
  3. Explore new avenues and opportunities for praise. Think about this: you have the power to give God something that no one else in the world can give Him -- the daily love and adoration of your own heart. My friend, don't waste that.
  4. Relax in His sovereignty. God is a master at bringing growth out of our pain, and turning waiting into blessing. We think of waiting as a parenthesis. It isn't. God works while we wait...setting everything back down in order, in His time and in His way. Believing that God is always at work on our behalf, even in the darkness...helps chase away the darkness. We call that faith. 
If you're living these days in that dark, desolate, energy-robbing land called ingratitude, why not venture out and stand in the sunshine of thankfulness? Enjoy the warmth of gratitude. Let it free your soul. Spin and twirl and giggle a little bit if you’d like, but be thankful... deliriously so. 
 
People will notice. More importantly, you will change... for the better! Guaranteed. It's simple, really. And it sure beats the dark prison of bitterness. I promise. I’ve been there.

Gary Black
Regional Campus Director

Plan B: Choosing to Transform Instead of Transfer - Monday

Posted on Mon, Sep 15, 2014

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  
 
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  
 
One of my all-time favorite books is, Let Go by Fenelon. I highly recommend it to you. It taught me a very important truth many years ago: “The greater part of wisdom in life is knowing when to hang on and when to let go.”
 
Is there something in your life you need to release? Anger toward someone who hurt you? The pain of being misunderstood? A relationship that went sour? Your kids?
 
People often ask me how to let go. Here are some things we need to understand. Letting go means that we...   
  • Stop trying to control other people. More of us suffer from that than any other sickness.
  • Admit our powerlessness to change anyone but ourselves.
  • Care enough to let God get involved. We don’t give up on someone; we merely give them up to God. Big difference.
  • Accept others without judging.  
  • Resist the urge to be overly-protective.
  • Grant others permission to think, feel and act differently than us.  
  • Decide to resign as General Manager of the universe.  
  • Realize that we don’t have a corner on truth. In fact, we may very well be wrong about a lot of things.    
  • Refuse to value possessions over people.
  • Learn what’s "cancer" and what's "measles." Can I let you in on a little secret? Most of the stuff we worry about and overreact to...is "measles." 
  • Choose to fear God, not man.  
  • Learn to say, "I love you" without feeling embarrassed.
  • Make a permanent decision to see everything, overlook a lot and correct a little.  
If you ever expect transformation in your life, you’ll have to learn (and choose) to let go. There’s no Plan B.  
  • I ask you again... what, or who do you need to release? What do you need to surrender one, last time. You can do it! Bow your head, say a prayer and ask God to help you... then let go. Release your grip, my friend.  
Hear that sound? That's God (and me)... clapping and cheering for you!  

Gary Black
Regional Campus Director

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Saint - Friday

Posted on Fri, Sep 12, 2014

do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. 
 
We could seriously end our week together just praying the verses above. But, I like to tie bows on things, so let’s wrap up our discussion about being saints. 
Christ has an inheritance in the saints. Verse 18 confirms that there is glory in this inheritance—rich glory. All of us who choose to follow Jesus—to accept His gift of salvation—become part of “the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Individually, we matter a great deal to God. We mattered enough for Jesus to die for each of us. Collectively, we form a tremendous inheritance for Jesus by increasing His glory. This is what we’ve been talking about all along. It’s not just that as saints we are His beloved, His chosen, His set-apart people, it’s that by being saints, we bring God glory, and all the more by being grouped together. 
 
The irony? We are set apart by being set within the family of God. The community of the saints is a key component of sainthood. When I typed in the word saint on biblegateway.com to see what verses came up, I got nothing. They all say saints plural. Being a saint means being a part of a community. Being set apart for God and being united with others who have chosen to live the same way. We must work in tandem, not in tension with one another. This same plurality happens to Christ’s glory. The glory multiplies because of the lives of multiple saints.
 
Do you see? The greatest part of being a saint is the immediate community it affords us in the body of Christ. We were created to commune with God so that we could co-exist in deep relationship with each other too. Even better? The community of the saints proves the validity of our claim that Jesus is our Savior. John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Being saints gives us a place in God’s home and in each other’s lives. Let’s love each other well so others can join in the inheritance.
  • Are you in a Life Group? A great way to join with other saints is to find a group of people with whom you can do life. Here’s a way you can do that.
  • Take some time to thank God that His plans are not only to restore our relationship to Him through Christ, but also to each other. 

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Saint - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Sep 11, 2014

Ephesians 4:11-13
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ
 
We talked yesterday about being vessels set apart to do the good work God prepared for us. Today’s Scripture passage reveals in detail how God’s saints may be used and why. The saints make up the body of Christ, and each saint is a unique vessel with unique design to be used not for his/her own glory, but so that we can be a whole picture of Christ for those not yet part of the family. Saints know the benefit of gaining a knowledge of the Son of God, Jesus. Such knowledge saves us. In order to help build the body of Christ and bring others along with us, we need to look like Jesus.
 
This passage seems extra special because it says “Christ himself gave” the differing roles in the body. How beautiful that they are different and yet they work together to bring “unity in the faith” and “in the knowledge of the Son of God.” Each gift acts as a color of paint that when used together, becomes a full, mature and accurate picture of Jesus. 
To be called saints means we agree to participate in using our gifts to build up the body -- the Church. How are you contributing to the church where God has placed you at this time? Do you view church as a place where you receive or a place where you partner in the work of painting the full picture of Jesus? These are not easy questions, but their answers give all of us the opportunity to evaluate whether we are partakers with Christ or simply takers of Christ. Let’s do the work knowing that “apart from [Jesus], we can do nothing” (see John 15:5).
  • Take a few moments to answer the questions above. Has there been a way God has been prompting you to serve that you need to follow through with?
  • Take some time to encourage someone around you in their gifts. 
  • Take some time to think through your gifts and thank God for them.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Saint - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Sep 10, 2014

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
 
I have Christmas dishes. I also have formal china. Then there’s the everyday china and the plastic plates we use for kids and grilling out. I may have a dish problem. The truth is, I would probably have even more dishes if it were not seemingly frivolous and if I had the cabinet space! Most of our homes are filled with items we use daily and those we use only on special occasions. Like formal china, there are pieces we pull out on holidays, birthdays or other special occasions and those that are for all the “normal” occasions in between.
 
Our passage today explains how there are common vessels—daily, wooden, earthenware vessels—and more rare vessels of silver and gold. After listing ways to stay out of the foolish arguments regarding God’s word and truth, Paul describes God’s house (see Ephesians 2:19) as having vessels of honor and those more common in use. He paints this picture that we can be the honorable vessels -- set apart, useful and prepared for the work God calls us to by avoiding sin. To be called a saint means to be set apart just as the word sanctified here suggests. Perhaps the most important words in the verses are “cleanses himself.” Like my Christmas dishes, no one is going to want to eat off a dirty plate. And in the same way, it is undesirable to use a dirty vessel. You can’t fill or pour out of a dirty vessel. Everything that goes in and out will be affected by the dirt. God wants us ready as His saints to be prepared for the good work He planned for us. If we are diligent to do the work of staying clean before God by being honest about our sin, we can be ever more useful in God’s hands to do the work we were created for.
  • Take some time to be honest before God. Maybe it’s not sin that hinders your use, maybe you just need to minimize distractions taking up valuable space in your life. 
  • Make a list of some of the good work you want to be a part of God doing in the world.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Saint - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Sep 09, 2014

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion. kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
 
Have you ever watched a show like “What Not to Wear” or “Biggest Loser”? I’m always amazed at how much a person can be transformed, but I’m also amazed at how people live up to the transformation. How can some new clothes and less pounds seemingly help someone find himself or herself again? I think we see this principle continually in Scripture.
 
Yesterday, we ended by thinking through Colossians 3:12. I believe God calls out in each of us, His saints, the very nature He sees in us through Jesus. He asks us to wear His nature on ours. This is to bring Him glory. Colossians 3 tells us that our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God.” It’s as though by clothing ourselves with all that we have been declared in Jesus and called to as saints, we grow into exactly the image the people of God should bear. Unlike reality television, our transformation is not simply for our own benefit. God calls us saints and sets us apart as His so that we can present His character clearly to the world He created and the people who are far off that He wants to bring near. God’s entire goal is that none should perish. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish.” Living into our calling as saints—as set apart, dearly loved people of God—requires full dependence on the Spirit to guide us and sets us up to live up to the transformation Jesus died to give us. 
  • What do you need to “put on” or “clothe” ourselves in today? More compassion? Kindness? Humility? Pray that God will help you clothe yourselves with these characteristics. Confess to Him any that you are struggling to wear right now.
  • If you’re feeling brave, ask a trusted friend which of these characteristics they see in you and in what areas you could grow. 
  • For further challenge, read all of Colossians 3 once a day for the next week. Write down what you learn and notice about God’s character and yours.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Saint - Monday

Posted on Mon, Sep 08, 2014

Colossians 1:25-27
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
 
Let’s play a word association game. When you read the word “saint,” what comes to mind? Personally, I picture stained glass windows and Mother Teresa. The Bible defines saints as those whom God has called His own. Saint becomes our new name. There’s this amazing process that happens when we give our lives to God. He not only offers us eternal life, God offers us a new way of being, living, and identifying ourselves. He declares us holy based on the merit of His Son—namely, Jesus’ death on the cross. We have been made holy through Christ. Hebrews 10:10 says, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
 
Romans 1:7 gives us a great definition of saint saying, “To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints…” So we’re not only saints because of the holiness Christ offers us, we are the beloved of God. Let’s break that down a bit. Google the word “beloved” and you’ll find definitions such as “greatly loved” or “dear to the heart.” Being a saint has so much less to do with what we do and so much more to do with who God declares us to be. God declares us His, because of His love. We are called saints and we are enveloped in the love of God permanently. We needed a Heavenly Father and God has given us a forever home through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Being a saint is like being a card-carrying member of the “God Loves Me Club.” While that may sound too warm and fuzzy, the reality that we are completely loved and dear to the heart of God should alter us and set us apart. That’s what being a saint is truly all about.
  • Take some moments to pray that God will help you understand how loved you are by Him.
  • Think through Colossians 3:12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion. kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Priest - Friday

Posted on Fri, Sep 05, 2014

“And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer spiritual sacrifices that please Him because of Jesus Christ.”
 
I once lived less than 10 miles from a very real enemy. It was during the Cold War. My father was part of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment’s first line of defense stationed in the Fulda Gap in Bad Hersfeld, Germany. It was a strategic pass which was to be defended at all costs from any invading Warsaw Pact forces. My father’s mission was to keep vigilant watch over the border between East and West Germany. Of course, as a family member, I wouldn’t have been fully apprised of the mission. But the details continue to emerge as the years go by and the internet is filled with more and more information. For example: A few years ago, I discovered that the road system in the Fulda Gap was strategically designed to be filled with explosives which would completely destroy the road and bridge infrastructure of the area within a minutes of an invasion. In fact, I learned only recently that the battalion of 800 soldiers, while small, was equipped with nuclear capacity in the event of an invasion. I lived under a threat I truly didn’t understand and was largely unaware of. But although I grew up such a short distance from the enemy, I felt secure. Why? Sure, I was naive, unaware, oblivious to the immensity of the threat and the mission. But even more so, my dad was in the army and he was bigger and stronger than me. 
 
Today, Germany has long been reunified as one country. The place I lived lies comfortably and securely in the center of the country. Perhaps for you the spiritual parallel is pretty simple. We used to be separated from God. We lived under an imminent threat from an enemy we didn’t understand or were completely unaware of. And Someone bigger than us went to battle and fought on our behalf to win the war and bring us peace and security. Jesus “...gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.” (Titus 2:14). As we’ve considered all week, because of what our High Priest, Jesus, did … we have been given the role of serving as people who can stand in the gap for people, covering them from the enemy through our prayers and presence in their lives, and leading them to a place of peace and security where they can rest, be refreshed, and then return to the battlefront to rescue others. 
  • Were you aware before this weekend that you are empowered by God to be His representative in a priestly role? What has changed in your thinking since this past weekend? Share your thoughts with a friend, family member, or your Life Group.
  • Do you need more preparation and training for this role as you live to rescue others from the grip of the enemy of our souls? Check out these resources to get started! 

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Priest - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Sep 04, 2014

“All praise to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us. He has made us His Kingdom and His priests who serve before God His Father. Give to Him everlasting glory! He rules forever and ever! Amen! Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see Him - even those who pierced Him. And all the nations will weep because of Him. Yes! Amen!”
 
Jesus shed his blood for us. Shedding blood on behalf of another is pretty foreign to us. Unless you’re a parent. In my house there’s been the bloodshed of peeling an apple for the kids with a super-sharp serrated knife. There’s been my bloodied mouth and nose when a little one sitting on my lap and suddenly, unexpectedly flung her head back. There’s been the bloody, blistering hands from doing yard work, keeping the house nice for the family. Yeah, shedding blood on behalf of another becomes a more tangible reality when you’re a parent.
 
Sacrifice of our lives for the good of another. Whether you’ve spent your own life’s blood on another, perhaps you can connect with the metaphor of crucifixion. We are regularly challenged to give up our lives for another in marriage. In friendship. At work. In school. Because it feels something like crucifixion when you give up your right to have the last word. It feels something like crucifixion when you lay down your sharp weapons of replies and responses to insults. It feels something like crucifixion when you overlook the offense of the person who has wronged you.
 
Jesus shed His blood in the most extreme fashion. And, as priests, our lives become a sacrifice to God on behalf of others. Part of our heart longs for our life as Christ’s representative in this world to help people see their lives can be different, their challenges less of an obstacle, their struggles find help. But it can be so difficult when we’re called to be priests for people we don’t know or don’t necessarily love deeply. Serving sinful people - how do you do this? Not by arguing with them. But by ministering to them. How can you look past the messiness of someone’s life and be a godly presence in their pathway? How can you extend acceptance and security in relationship with a lost person when all they’ve ever experienced was rejection and fear in relationship? 
  • Will you give up your life and serve as the bridge to help someone meet the God who made them, the Savior who died for them? Who are the people in your path who need you to lay down your life, give up your rights, or demonstrate God’s grace so they can get to know Jesus? 

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Priest - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Sep 03, 2014

“When Aaron enters the sanctuary area, he must follow these instructions fully.”
 
Can I brag on myself for a moment? I want to tell you about something I’m really, really good at. Now, I’m not a natural, mind you. So I’ve spent a ton of time practicing this skill. I’ve had so much practice that I’ve gotten so good at it over time. And I’m just bursting to share it with you today. I have gotten really, really good at ... apologizing. The sad thing is, I’ve gotten good at it because I’ve spent so many moments missing the mark, screwing up, and failing in the pursuit of everything I want to be. And who God wants me to be. I’ve found that apologies clear the air and restore or mend the brokenness of a relationship. 
 
We’ve been focusing this week on the role of the priest. The priest is a person who knows God and has the privilege and responsibility of helping others come into His presence. Today’s text and its surrounding context describes in detail the requirements and restrictions the first priest, Aaron, was to follow for entering into God’s presence. He had to jump through these hoops because Aaron was fallible, just like us. He needed to be cleansed and, in a sense, apologize for his sin. The role of the priest is that of a representative for us. An advocate in our relationship with God. In some ways even apologizing for what we’ve done wrong so we could be in good standing in our relationship with God. The priest would humbly walk into the place of worship, totally cleansed, so he could intercede for the people. In fact, the priest would have in the back of his mind the understanding that he may not have followed the instructions perfectly and may even be struck down by God as a result. Hey - it happened.
 
The awesome thing is that Jesus has gone before us as our High Priest into the presence of God to make the way for us to be made clean, holy, restored to right-standing with Him, and welcomed into His family forever. As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have been given the authorization to walk into God’s presence - we have been made priests. We can link arms with others and lead them toward Jesus, too. As priests in our home, workplace, school, and more we are entrusted with helping people encounter God’s presence, even leading them to enter into relationship with Him, joining the priesthood of all believers. Because of our relationship with Him, we are entrusted with extending the loving grace of God to others and helping people see God is inviting them to come to Him so He can transform their lives from the inside out, not looking for them to clean themselves up first.
  • In the Old Testament, if the priest was not cleansed, he could not enter God’s presence. Today, when we live in ways that do not reflect the inside-out cleaning job of God’s Spirit in us, we can prevent others from entering God’s presence. Talk with God about the ways you might have been a hindrance for others in the face of their need for Jesus.
  • If you’re like me, there have been moments when your actions simply did not reflect the truth of your relationship with God, and made Jesus look bad to people who know you are a Christian. It’s the reason I have to apologize so often. To whom do you need to apologize for this today?
  • Pray this prayer… “God, I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt your heart by the way I act, think, and react sometimes. I’m sorry for times I’ve prevented others from moving closer to you by being a poor reflection of Jesus. Help me bring a smile to your face and the faces of others by the way I love and serve them today.”

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

I Know You Are But What Am I?: Priest - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Sep 02, 2014

 “...Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world.”
 
Sometimes you have to step aside and take care of business. Yes, I’m speaking euphemistically. Let me be a bit more clear and say, “When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.” When you feel the urge, you are compelled to push the pause button on what’s happening and take care of it. I was on a mission trip recently and, thankfully, it was in a part of the world with running water and actual toilets, furnished with toilet paper. This place had electricity as well. And one of those energy-saving, motion-detecting light switches. Now, I’m definitely not complaining about the private amenities. But… that automatic light switch had a bit of a defect. It would only stay on for about 20 seconds unless motion was detected. So, if one were to, say, walk into a stall and shut the door for a moment of peace, the lights would go off. By the end of the trip, most of us were praying we would not need to go to the restroom after sundown. Awkward. 
 
Speaking of stepping aside for a moment of rest… Can you imagine stepping outside of this rush-and-tumble existence? What would it be like to depart this place which, when compared to heaven, is like looking through a darkened lens? Today’s text reveals that Jesus has done this for us … and made the way for us to walk out of the darkness and into God’s wonderful light! 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us we can be mirrors to reflect God’s glory as the Spirit of the Lord works within us. But we can’t reflect the light if we’re standing in the dark. 
 
On my recent trip, if you had to go into the restroom at night, you needed someone to hang around and wave their arms outside the stall if your time was going to be illuminated. Today’s scripture shares about the One who stepped into this dark world with us, but who has also stepped outside it and into the perfect place of worship in heaven. The place where we can approach God face to face. Unlike our need on the mission field to have someone waving their arms to dispel the darkness, Jesus completely dispels the dark and brings us into relationship with the One our souls long for. The One we want to know - and need to know - forever.  By going into God’s presence on our behalf, by shedding His blood to make it possible for us to walk out of the darkness and into the light, we have experienced restoration of relationship with God. And, because of what Jesus has done, we can do the same for others - showing them the way toward knowing God through Jesus.
  • Check out these two texts in Zechariah and talk about them with a friend, a co-worker, your spouse, or your Life Group. Zechariah 3:1-7 and Zechariah 8:23. How do these texts speak to making the way for others to come into God’s presence, into His wonderful light?
  • If you’re looking for a great way to be with others in God’s presence, think about joining a Life Group. You can start here

Will Briggs
Care Pastor


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