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Mark: From Outside to Inside - Friday

Posted on Fri, Jan 30, 2015

“Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.
There is a saying in the news business: “Don’t bury the LEAD!”  To review this powerful miracle without highlighting the fact that Jesus healed a desperate mommy’s sick daughter is a mistake.  So let’s focus in on the details.  A child is possessed by a demon.  Her mom has been unable to find help or a fix.  She is willing to break through barriers that told her to fear a Jewish man like Jesus.  She throws herself at his feet and begs for help.  What faith!
Jesus hears this woman’s plea.  The best word to describe their interaction is banter.  Without getting too mired in First Century Jewish sociology and psychology, it is safe to say that Jesus busted barriers held by the most godly leaders of his day.  He performs the miracle of exorcism without even being in the presence of the demon.  What power!
As Jesus followers, we get a front row seat to the unlimited power of our Lord.  His power is truly limitless and He grants us access to Him at all times.  There is nothing beyond His ability, and there is no corner of this globe or our lives that He can’t reach.
So in what miraculous way do you need Jesus to act today?  For fear of how this question has been abused at times, let me say that the Holy Spirit can do what He wants, when He wants, in whatever way He wants.  If your heartfelt pleas for help aren’t responded to in the time or way you want, it doesn’t invalidate your faith or the need.  Whatever the circumstance, don’t lose hope in Jesus.  Trust Him to do what seems impossible.
  • Pray a simple prayer, in faith, asking God to do a miracle in your most challenging circumstance.
  • Make a short list of ways that God has delivered in your life.  Share this list with some other believers and ask them to share some of theirs. 

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Mark: From Outside to Inside - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jan 29, 2015

But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
During my teen years the Church was sorting out how to respond to the lightning rod issues of AIDS and abortion.  Sadly, the Church was reacting instead of responding.  These issues are complicated and nuanced.  As a youthful observer, I never reached peace with how to respond or act when my worldview collided with these raw realities.  As I write, I’m sometimes still not sure how to respond to these subjects or others like them.  
One thing I do know is that they can become issues that divide and separate people from the love of God.  Like the issues of gender equality and racial bigotry before them, those who follow Christ will always find themselves torn between the fair and peaceful world we long for, and the fractured world in which we live.  So how should we respond and act when we come across challenging issues with no simple solutions?
If we stick to our text from Mark 7:24-30, it would seem like the answer is to engage “outsiders” in a way that includes them in the goodness of God for their lives.  Issues will remain complicated and challenging to grasp, but there is nothing complicated about loving others.  Love is a verb that requires action.  One of the actions we should consider is actively removing barriers that keep people “out.”  Years ago I taught some students using this refrain, “How you see others tells you more about yourself than it does about them.”  What does your view of others tell you about yourself today?
  • Make a plan to be around people that you have been conditioned to avoid and/or judge.  Share this experience with someone you trust. (To really dig deep, process any fears, emotions and thoughts that came as a result.)
  • In your Life Group, discuss this passage and share the types of people you have avoided in the past. 
  • Celebrate a way your heart has been changed to become more inclusive. 

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Mark: From Outside to Inside - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
My pizza order is simple.  Pepperoni for me, please.  What I’ve noticed is that when a group is ordering pizza, people choose extravagant and frivolous options.  When your ham, pineapple, avocado and anchovy pizza arrives, it is all yours.  My only request is that you leave mine alone, and I’ll leave yours alone.  It never fails.  There is sausage, veggie lovers and the “Hawaiian special” leftover, but the pepperoni is gone.  Why?  Because everyone wants a piece of that delicious mainstay.  
One day the Lord will move me past bitterness over this phenomena, but until then it serves as a harmless example of my selfish tendencies.  I want what I want.  I am too often someone who guards my stuff.  Pizza isn’t a big deal; the real problem is I do the same with God’s grace.  I have received grace by the dumptruck-full, but I have this awful tendency to keep it to myself. What about you?
  • We see Jesus push the boundaries of grace in His day.  Today, challenge yourself to give more grace to one person than they truly deserve.
  • Take an inventory of your heart.  Ask God to reveal any people with whom you’ve been stingy with grace.  Take one step toward forgiveness, love, kindness or generosity by Friday this week.
  • If you see God move in this, let me know how this step of faith worked out.  Or maybe your next step is uniting your life with Christ in baptism. Give me a shout. I’d love to hear from you. 
  • Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:20

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Mark: From Outside to Inside - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
In June 2009, my wife and I traveled to Ethiopia to meet our new son, Jordan.  There aren’t enough words to describe the experience.  I was becoming a dad for the first time, and there is no feeling like it.  In July 2011, my wife gave birth to our son, Lincoln.  I was a dad for the second time, and there is no feeling like it.
So one of my sons is adopted and one is from birth.  Both of my boys are my sons.  One day they will both inherit whatever God has blessed us to leave them.  They will get an equal share.  The split will be 50/50.  Jordan won’t get more because he was my son first, and Lincoln won’t get more because he is biological.  They are both my sons, and nothing divides my love for them.
What’s true for them is true for you.  When you trust your life to Jesus you become God’s child.  Your reward is secure, and there is no difference if you came to him early in life, late in life, messed up a bunch or have stayed kinda clean.  What Jesus does in his interaction with the Gentile woman from Mark 7:24-30 reveals that God’s love isn’t conditional; His love is not based on where you’re from, who your friends are, who you are or who you aren’t.
  • Is there anything in your heart or mind today that is holding you back from fully receiving God’s love?  
  • Is there a sin you need to confess one more time? A lie from Satan you need to confront one more time?
  • Pray this prayer with me today: Father, I believe You love me unconditionally. I receive that love today, and stand firm in it. Soften my heart so that I feel Your love. Transform my mind to believe You love me. Amen.

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Mark: From Outside to Inside - Monday

Posted on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.” “Good answer!” he said.
Growing up, our dining room table was a revolving door of sorts.  My parents were always willing to include more people, and my dad invited anyone and everyone over for a meal.  I had college students from Africa and Europe and South America, an astronaut, homeless people, missionaries, rich people, poor people, friends, neighbors and many more end up eating dinner at our house.  My dad was very inclusive.  He never met a stranger, and it had a profound impact on my life.
Ideas like racism and socio-economic barriers were foreign to my mind because they were foreign to my life.  I am blessed because my parents believed that the love God had for us was for all.  It didn’t matter what color their skin was, if they spoke like us, acted like us or thought like us. People matter to God, and so they mattered to us.
In Mark 7:24-30 we see Jesus move from “unclean” things to “unclean” people. If you read Mark 7:1-23 you’ll notice the shift. Jesus came to establish a new Kingdom, and this Kingdom was for everyone. Today, are there any individuals or groups of people about whom you feel closed off?
  • Pray and ask God to remove barriers between you and others.
  • Ask God to show you one person—today—that you can love in a way you wouldn’t have yesterday. At the end of the day, tell your spouse or friend how it happened.

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Mark: From Death to Life - Friday

Posted on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A few months ago, my daughter and I watched the filming of the “SEC Nation” broadcast, featuring Tim Tebow, on UK’s campus. Afterward, she said, “I want to get my picture made with Tim Tebow.” I thought, “You and most everyone else here!” On our way out, I noticed a sidewalk swarming with people. The crowd was moving almost like a school of fish, and they were tracking something. Then it hit me. They were tracking Tim Tebow! I told my daughter to politely make her way to the barricade by his bus and wait. In three seconds the whole encounter was over, I’d snapped a picture, and she was shaking with excitement. 
Crowds tracked Jesus, too.  In our passage this week, Jesus was greeted by a swarm of people crowding around Him. He ignored the crowd to look for the one who touched Him. He dismissed the crowd -- twice. Jesus knew how to navigate the crowd. He knew what mattered most -- when they needed to witness His power, and when He needed to act privately. Jesus’ crowd handling techniques teach us a lot about how to live out our faith. Sometimes, we live it out publicly and visibly. Other times we live it out in the privacy of our homes. One thing we see clearly is that Jesus never lost the ability to see the one in the middle of the mob. His focus and mission were never swayed by the crowd, but rather by His keen sense of what God wanted Him to do.
Most of us will never have a crowd swarm us, but someone can always be watching. A co-worker or the cashier at the grocery. We must remember to live consistently no matter the size of the crowd watching.
  • How are you navigating the crowd? Are you living in a way that people would know you follow Jesus? 
  • There might be a reason someone is placed in your path. Try to notice who God has placed around you. Then just live out your faith in front of them.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

Mark: From Death to Life - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

Like a tennis match, this story now abruptly turns from the brave woman back to Jairus and his daughter. Earlier in the passage, Jairus has come to plead for the life of his twelve- year-old daughter in front of the crowd. As the synagogue leader, this has been anything but easy. Jairus has seen Jesus’ interaction with the woman who touched Him. We know Jairus is standing right there because we see in today’s passage that messengers come from his home to tell him his daughter has died. Jesus overhears the news. “There’s no use troubling the Teacher now,” the messengers say. 
How many times have you thought the same thing? “There’s no use troubling Jesus now.” “This situation is hopeless,” or, “Nothing can be done.” We have a very real enemy who likes nothing more than for us to stop troubling the Teacher, Jesus. Why? Because the enemy is fully aware that God gets the greatest glory from coming through in impossible situations. Just touching Jesus could heal the bleeding woman, but raising the dead?! That’s a whole new level, and one the enemy did not want the crowd of Jairus to witness.
Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” We see Jairus posed with the choice to believe the messengers -- or to believe Jesus. Jairus now knows what faith looks like because he just witnessed the healing of the bleeding woman. Jairus had to choose which message to believe. Sometimes what seems like a set back is actually a set up to believe Jesus and follow Him. Initially, this woman may have seemed like a distraction to Jairus. But in the end, she helped prove that Jesus was able to heal, and that faith paved the way to that healing.
  • Have you experienced a time when Jesus seemed slow to respond to your request for help? Could it be that He is surrounding you with opportunities to see what He’s capable of?
  • Take some time to write out what feels impossible in your life right now. Pray for God to show you how He’s working and what He’s capable of doing.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

Mark: From Death to Life - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A  woman has touched Jesus’ robe. Now what? “Immediately” she is healed. After twelve years, Scripture says, “she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.” Can you imagine? We know that she had spent everything she had trying to get well, but got worse. One touch—one free touch—and immediately she knows she is healed. Her faith preceded what she felt. Despite the fact that she appears to be the main character of the story, as in all the Gospel accounts, it’s Jesus’ reaction that warrants our attention. 
Jesus began to look for her. The disciples, bless their slow-to-believe, quick-to-speak hearts, keep telling Jesus to look at the crowd. They think the Lord’s question, “Who touched my robe?” is ridiculous. While the disciples tried to encourage Jesus to look at the crowd and accept that someone probably just bumped into Him, Jesus “kept on looking around to see who had done it.” Jesus is looking for her in the crowd, not looking at the crowd. Jesus looked for the one person who’d had faith enough to draw that healing power from Him. The woman now comes forward, trembling in fear, and kneels before Jesus. She tells Him what she has done. Do you think it’s funny that He already knew? He’s so great to let us tell Him things He already knows. 
“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” He confirms what she’s already experienced. We see this pattern in Scripture often. Faith precedes feeling and is then confirmed by God’s Word. This is the journey with Jesus. To approach Him, to touch Him, to believe in Him, to experience His healing and then to know it is true by His Word.
  • Where are you in the journey today? Are you approaching Him, reaching to Him, believing Him, experiencing Him, and knowing Him through His Word? Where would you fall on this spectrum?
  • Pray and ask God to show you what the next step in your faith journey involves. 

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

Mark: From Death to Life - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

Yesterday, we saw a man named Jairus pleading with Jesus for the life of his daughter. While he approached Jesus in front of the crowd, our main character today takes a different approach. She is a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. According to the temple rules of the day, this would mean she was unclean—unable to worship and excluded from her community. Unlike Jairus, her appearance in the crowd is not shocking because of her position in the community, but because of her lack of position in the community. No wonder she approaches Jesus from behind. Like Jairus’ daughter, this woman needs her life back and Jesus is her last hope. With nothing to lose, she creeps up behind and touches Jesus’ robe, believing that one touch will be enough.
I’m overwhelmed by the courage of this woman and the reality of her desperation. She comes even though she moves toward Jesus from behind, because she feels too unclean to come any other way. Have you ever felt that way? Do you believe that because of who you are or what you’ve done, you’re too un-something to approach Jesus straight on? Do you feel excluded and isolated from community? Abandoned or rejected or, worse, forgotten? We’ll see the rest of this story play out tomorrow, but for today, please hear this truth: Jesus believes you’re worth healing. There’s no such thing as un-anything anymore, because Jesus paid the penalty for all of our “un’s.” Unworthy? Not in Christ. Unlovable? Not in Christ. Make your way to Him; no need to creep around. He knows you’re there and He wants to heal you and restore what has been taken. Will you have enough faith to make your way to Him today?
  • Take a few minutes to picture this story playing out. Imagine the scene, the sights, and the touch. 
  • Do you have the courage to make your way to Jesus today despite all you have been or are today? Will you choose today to believe He can free you?

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

Mark: From Death to Life - Monday

Posted on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

Jesus walked around like a movie star arriving for the red carpet.  Where He moved, a crowd often gathered and pushed, trying to get to Him. I picture the scene portrayed in today’s passage as dusty, congested, noisy, and a bit chaotic as Jesus stands smack dab in the middle of a large crowd of people who all want Him.
In the middle of the chaos, a man named Jairus breaks through the crowd and separates himself by falling to his knees. Jairus holds no ordinary position -- he leads the local synagogue. As we see from the Gospels, most of Jairus’ colleagues thought very little of Jesus. The posture Jairus assumes indicates his desperation. Jairus is not only a synagogue leader, he is a dad. And at the moment we see him, he is a dad whose daughter is dying. The only title or position that mattered to Jairus when he pleaded at Jesus’ feet was that of “Daddy.” Saving his daughter required Jairus to be humble and to seek the only Person he believed was able to heal her. 
Ironic, don’t you think? God, our Heavenly Father, desperately wanted to save us from death. God wanted to save us so much that He sent Jesus to forgo His position in heaven and humble Himself by becoming human (see Philippians 3). That day in the crowd, Jesus stood staring into the eyes of a father who, just like the Father who sent Him, only wanted his child to live. No one could understand the magnitude of that moment. Your life has been begged for and saved by Jesus on the Cross, because He was humble and willing to come on your behalf and mine.
  • We see the Cross, we remember the Cross, but do we “get” the Cross? Today, let’s take some time to remember that our Heavenly Father—the same one we rejected—humbled Himself and gave up His only Son, Jesus, to save our lives. 
  • Write or say a prayer of gratitude to God for saving your life through Christ.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

Mark: Unclean to Clean - Friday

Posted on Fri, Jan 16, 2015

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
I’d love to have a clean house 100% of my life. But, alas, my house is usually a mess. Just the other night around 10pm I heard the sound of our three-year-old playing in her room. I went in and found this sweet little girl had used a permanent marker to color all over herself, her dresser, her carpet, her bunk bed and, yes, even her sleeping sister. Permanent marker is, well… permanent. So the girls’ room is not, and never will be, as clean as it once was.
And with four young kids in the house, our house is a constant battleground for order and cleanliness. But it’s a losing battle. “Cleaning our house is like shoveling the driveway when it’s snowing,” my wife often says. You can never get ahead of the mess. But we wouldn’t trade it for anything. The mess is worth it because of our awesome kids. And we’re okay with that. 
We’re after a clean heart, yes. But we will never live a clean life altogether. So what’s the point in Proverbs 14? I say, if you’re gonna have a mess, make sure it’s messy from a worthy source.
Don’t let sin dirty up your life. Don’t let poor decisions with your money or your purity derail you. Addiction and greed shouldn’t send you into a heaping pile of refuse. Instead, embrace things that matter. The messiness that comes from loving others will actually clean up your heart. There’s a lot of clutter that comes with ministry and living on mission. But those messes make you turn away from your sin. Those messes make it easier to turn away from your sinful stuff. 
  • Ask God if there’s an area in your life where you should be living on mission more than you are. Ask Him to reveal ways that you could serve and focus on what He’s doing instead of falling to what the enemy wants you to do. 

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Mark: Unclean to Clean - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Jan 15, 2015

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Late one night when my wife was asleep and I was incredibly bored, I watched a documentary about wild mustangs (I’m a nature nerd… I know). Man, these were some really cool animals. Unbelievably majestic strength and beauty in these creatures captivated me for the entire 90 minutes. The narrator spoke of the difficulty in breaking these beasts so that they could be ridden or strapped to a plow. Apparently, they are some wild, untamed animals that can be pretty stubborn before being made useful. The point of the documentary was, that if you could break a wild mustang, it can be one of the most useful horses you could ever have. Once you break a mustang, it’ll be the best horse you could ever ride. But nobody wants to fool with a wild mustang. They’re just nice to look at. 
You and I are wild mustangs. God created us in His image and we hold a lot of potential because of that. We can be unbelievably strong and beautiful. We buck and jump and resist any and all efforts to be broken. But God wants to see you both beautiful and useful. Until we become broken, we cannot be useful for God’s Kingdom. Want to move from unclean to clean? You have to give in to the breaking. Once broken, you still have power and beauty. But God will use you in amazing ways.
  • We all have areas of our lives that we are either resistant to cleaning or we can’t clean on our own. Today, spend some time praying for brokenness. Ask God what you’ve been bucking or pulling away from.
  • Does this breaking metaphor resonate with you? Take it a step further and read this book. It’s one of my personal favorites. 

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Mark: Unclean to Clean - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Jan 14, 2015

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. 'If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,' he said.
We ask people for favors all the time. 
“If you don’t mind, can you hand me a pencil?” 
“Can you do me a favor, and send me that email?”
“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, can you give me a ride home?”
The words, “Can you…” seem to be pretty common in our vocabulary. We’ll often ask for others to step in and help us out. But this fella that came to Jesus didn’t come with that phrasing. It wasn’t a “Can you ... ” that he brought before Jesus. Actually, it wasn’t even a question at all. 
“You can…”
“If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.
There’s a lot of faith in this guy’s statement. He knows Jesus can do this. He knows Jesus has the power. He believes Jesus is the only person who can change his life from unclean to clean. No doubt. No uncertainty. No reluctance. 
Do you have that kind of faith? If you’re struggling with sin or becoming clean from the inside out, you must believe He is who He says He is, and He can do what He says He can do.
  • If Jesus were sitting in front of you right now, how would you phrase your request? Would it sound like this leper’s request or would you falter and waiver in your belief?
  • Are you struggling with belief in general? I’m more than willing to sit down with you and chat about that. Shoot me an email and we can talk. 

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Mark: Unclean to Clean - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Jan 13, 2015

“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. 'If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,' he said.”
Many of the miracles that Jesus performed began with a willing person falling to their knees in front of Jesus. In other scriptures, Abraham fell upon his face before God. Moses prayed with his hands outstretched. Even Jesus prayed looking up into heaven. Communication with God does not require a certain physical position, but postures do give expression to the attitudes of our hearts. But it’s so easy for me to acknowledge the power of posture without actually practicing it. It’s easy, and totally acceptable, to talk to God while I’m brushing my teeth or standing at the kid’s bus stop or driving in the car. But some of those practices drown out the ability to focus our attention, and thus, our heart on the very One we are talking to.
We are a hybrid of flesh and spirit. So our bodies are connected and have impact on our hearts. And the enemy knows to keep us out of a physical posture of prayer. So we’re tempted to see posture as something trivial and insignificant. But, before we know it, one prayer at a time, we’ve all of a sudden brought our conversations with God off of our knees and into the hussle and bussle that consumes the rest of our lives. 
Have you been asking God for a clean heart? Perhaps you’ll need to get your knees a little dirty by kneeling in conversation with your Father. It’s not always comfortable. And it’s rarely a public thing. But as you’ve been processing that one area of your life that you need cleansing from, I challenge you to have that conversation with Jesus in a posture of worship.
  • Find time today, if at all possible, right now, to kneel in prayer. Repeat your prayer from Monday: “God, I’ve been trying to do __________ on my own. I want to give up and give it to you.” Spend some extended time praying on your knees today.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Mark: Unclean to Clean - Monday

Posted on Mon, Jan 12, 2015

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
For years, my wife wasn’t a fan of how I cleaned the house. In fact, she says I don’t really “clean” as much as I “pick up.” I’ve gotten better. But in the beginning of our marriage I would just pick up the mess and move it out of sight. I’m not really a mess eliminator as much as a mess realtor. 
“Location. Location. Location,” I say. If the mess is in a location where I can’t see it, then it’s not there. I’ve been guilty of dropping toys behind the couch instead of taking them all the way back to the kids’ rooms. I’ve taken all the dirty clothes and towels in the bathroom, tossed them in the tub and pulled the shower curtain shut. I’ve been tempted to get the snow shovel out of the garage and just shovel all the Legos, Hotwheels and superheroes off of the boys’ floor and into their closet. Seems like a brilliant idea, right? I needed help. The build-up of mess in the house became so great that I had to give in to my stubborn ways and make some changes.  
And the messes in my heart and mind are the same. For years, I tried to deal with it on my own. I’d push around things like fear, guilt, anger and sin. I’d try, on my own, to rearrange everything to make life work. I thought that my own system of coping and healing would sustain me. But it doesn’t. The mess becomes too great. 
That’s when you gotta give in and just hand everything over to God. “I can’t do this on my own. Can you show me, God?” Maybe you’ve said that statement before but it might just be time to say it again.
  • Name the specific thing in your life that you’re trying to manage yourself. Pray this prayer out loud. “God, I’ve been trying to do __________ on my own. I want to give up and give it to you.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

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