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How Grace Changes Us - Friday

Posted on Fri, May 22, 2015

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let’s say you grew up in squalor.  You never had anything, really.  You had no family to provide for you.  You begged for change from strangers.  Most of your meals were from a garbage can or dumpster.  You knew hunger and daily faced the uncertainty of your basic needs being met.  One day, when you were rummaging around the trash in an alley, a really fancy car pulls up.  A man gets out and offers to take you for a meal.  After the meal, the man offers you a place to stay.  The next morning the man offers to adopt you into his family. Turns out this man is the wealthiest man on Wall Street.  After the judge grants custody, you are part of the richest family in America.  Would you then return to the garbage cans for food?
We’ve been adopted by a Father that has everything we’ll ever need.  Today, let’s leave the past effectively in the past and celebrate our life in Christ.  We have all received the “free gift of God” and no longer fear anything, especially death!

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

How Grace Changes Us - Thursday

Posted on Thu, May 21, 2015

Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
Growing up, my favorite athlete was Michael Jordan.  Number 23 captured my imagination at a young age.  I watched more Chicago Bulls basketball games during the 90s than I can count.  His talents were legendary, and he put together a stretch of six championships that hasn’t been duplicated since.  One of the teams he dominated in the final two championships was the Utah Jazz.  As a fan I couldn’t believe how dependable it became that Jordan’s team would win.  Jordan was one of the fiercest competitors to ever play the game.  
Imagine that during one of those finals games, Michael Jordan’s owners traded him to the Utah Jazz.  Imagine he walked into the locker room at halftime a Bull, and out a Jazz player.  Imagine all his competitive fire switching from the red and black to the purple and white.  Imagine him working to beat those he’d just played alongside.
Paul has been explaining since our first day this week that our identity has changed.  We are no longer on Team Sin; we’re now on Team Righteousness.  Read Romans 6:15-19.  All of our effort and passion now goes toward God.  Whatever skills, resources, time and energy we have been given all now go to serve God and His Kingdom. I get excited thinking about how everyone reading this devo today is on the same team. We’re all using everything we have to serve God. It’s crazy that over 3,000 of us devo-readers are on Team God.  Let’s go out today and give ourselves fully to God and see what kind of difference we can make!

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

How Grace Changes Us - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, May 20, 2015

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
In the classic movie, Shawshank Redemption, one of the lead characters, Red, is finally paroled.  After 40 years in prison he struggles to adjust.  In fact, during one scene of the movie he asks his boss at the grocery store if he can go to the restroom.  He’s scolded for thinking he must ask, but the truth is he physically can’t do it without getting permission.  Prison had changed him; it had conditioned him to behave certain ways.  Sin has done the same to us.
Paul spends so much time on the theme of how different we are now because we’ve been conditioned by everything around us toward sin in the past.  Sin is a hollow master, but one many of us return to out of conditioning.  Read how Paul addresses it in Romans 6:12-14.  He gives really clear instructions.  The pull of sin in our lives, even after receiving freedom, is such that we have to pay careful attention to how each and every part of our body is used.   It seems odd Paul would point this out, but he knows just how conditioned toward sin we are.  His reminder in verse 14 is one that returns our senses to freedom and truth.  Red is no longer in prison, and you are no longer in sin!  Today, let’s walk in the freedom of God’s grace.
  • Celebrate that you are no longer a slave to sin.  What is one way this is evident in your life?
  • Identify a part of your body that you will use today to “do what is right for the glory of God.”

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

How Grace Changes Us - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, May 19, 2015

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  
When I was a kid, I remember an experiment that blew my mind.  I’d stand in a doorway, press my arms as hard as I could away from my body, pushing against the doorframe.  After a minute, I’d step out of the doorway and let my arms rest at my side.  My arms would then “magically” float out away from my body.  Mind blown!
Paul continues his thoughts in Romans 6 and specifically in verses 6-11.  He essentially describes a magical process whereby the power of sin is no longer in control of us.  If you’re like me the tension is, SO WHY DO I STILL SIN!?!  There aren’t enough words in this devo or a few month’s worth of devos to explain it all, so let’s focus on verse 11.  
So you should also consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
It’s a simple statement, but one I can easily forget.  Today, let’s declare again that we are dead to the power of sin.  It won’t remove us from hard circumstances or magically take away all temptation, but it will set our minds on Truth.  Meditate on this idea and maybe, like my standing in the doorway, a few minutes of pressing hard will result in us being lifted and conformed to be like Jesus.
10-Minute Challenge:
  • Set a 3-minute timer on your phone.  Read Romans 6:6-11 over and over again.
  • Set a 6-minute time on your phone.  Think on what you’ve read and ask God to reveal Truth about your life and His Word.
  • Set a 1-minute timer.  Write down one thing you know to be true about who you are in Christ.
5-Minute Challenge:
  • Set a 2-minute timer on your phone.  Read Romans 6:6-11 over and over again.
  • Set a 2-minute timer on your phone.  Think on what you’ve read and ask God to reveal truth about your life and His Word.
  • Set a 1-minute timer.  Write down one thing you know to be True about who you are in Christ.

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

How Grace Changes Us - Monday

Posted on Mon, May 18, 2015

Some people like to “work the system.”  They’ll take whatever the system is and maximize it to their end.  An example of this is right here in the Bluegrass.  A few years ago John Calipari declared that the University of Kentucky was a “players-first university.”  The translation of that breaks down this way.  The current system forces talented high school basketball students to wait a full year after they graduate high school before they enter the NBA draft.  During that year of waiting, most of the uber-talented choose to play college basketball.  Coach Calipari didn’t create the system forcing a year of waiting, but given the rules, he chooses to focus all of his energy into making his program the most accessible and productive for the talented one-year hopefuls.
In Romans 6, Paul exposes an issue.  Some people have heard about God’s grace and are trying to work the system. Grace is the idea and reality that God no longer holds people’s sin against them. Wow! That’s not based on anything other than God’s loving mercy.  Some people decided to then use that grace as a license to sin.  But that’s not  a way to “work the system.” It’s actually a total misunderstanding of it.  Paul  gets to the point in Romans 6:3-4:  
Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in His death?  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Paul makes it clear that the act of baptism, through which we receive God’s grace, illustrates what is true.  We now have new lives that are set apart from sin.  
  • Are we using grace as a way to justify sin issues in our lives?
  • Is there sin we really, really don’t want to give up, and we just assume God’s okay with it?
  • If the response is “yes” to either of these questions, talk to God and a trusted friend about what that sin is.  If you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ in baptism, it’s time to consider that.  Check out this web page for help with next steps

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

How God Saved Us - Friday

Posted on Fri, May 15, 2015

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
I have really good friends. My relationships have sharpened me, stretched me and helped me so much throughout my life. I’ve been so blessed by long bike rides with Jason. My life has changed because of lunches with Chris and Jeff. I’m a completely different man from just sitting on the couch and talking to my best friend, Angie. I am who I am because of my friends. 
The truth is, though, I have to discipline myself to be as good of a friend for them as they are for me. Friendship is naturally messy. When you spend more time with someone, you’re bound to disagree with or annoy one another somewhere along the way. But I also know that when you push through those struggles together, you come out even closer in the end. 
I love Ephesians 4:30 in the Message translation.  “Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.” 
Your relationship with God is the most intimate friendship you’ll ever have. So you’re bound to go through some tough stuff together. But Jesus went through the toughest of stuff to make that friendship even possible. 
  • Get your mind going by thanking God for the friendships you have in your life. Thank Him for specific people and the stories that make them your friends. Then switch gears and acknowledge Jesus as your friend. Invite Him into your life, your decisions and your day today.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

How God Saved Us - Thursday

Posted on Thu, May 14, 2015

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Have you ever spent a lot of money on a meal at a fancy restaurant and afterward think, “I think I would’ve been happier with the #2 at Taco Bell”? Ever spring for the high dollar shoes and somehow the soles are falling off just a few weeks after you buy them? Whenever I pay a higher price for something, I absolutely hold it to a higher standard. I have a tendency to be dissatisfied and judgmental when I’ve got more invested in it. If it costs so much it better be good. Real good. I want to get my money’s worth.
The Gospel is very different, though. Jesus doesn’t look at your stats. He doesn’t spin you around in the display case, crossing His arms and pondering your value. There’s no haggling the price. There’s no, “Well, this gal is especially good. She may be worth a little more. But this guy over here? Whew! He should probably be on the clearance rack!” 
He died for all of us to pay the price for our salvation. He has no buyer’s remorse. He paid a high price and He doesn’t live with regret. He’s madly in love with you and is proud that you’re a part of His family. The price was steep. It (literally) killed Him to do it. But He couldn’t be more pleased that you’re His now. 
  • Take time today to reflect on the assurance of Jesus’ decision. Pray a prayer using definitive words. 
  • Start with statements like these:

    • “I know You did ___________ for me.”  
    • “I’m sure I was ___________ before You saved me.”
    • “I was 100% __________ before I knew You.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

How God Saved Us - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, May 13, 2015

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 
I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to watching nature shows. I love the wackiness of the animal kingdom. One of the most amazing things I see is when an animal, like a shark for instance, has a baby then just leaves it. The baby shark leaves the birth canal and, at that point, is 100% ready to take care of itself. 
Can you imagine?! Humans certainly aren’t that way. What if you rode in the elevator with your newborn baby at the hospital, got to the parking lot, shook hands and said, “Well, son. I certainly wish you the best. Perhaps we’ll run into one another someday at the mall or Chipotle or someplace. Godspeed, my boy.” 
Humans are the exact opposite! We’re helpless as babies. And I’ve met more than a few grown men who are about as helpless as my toddler. We, as a species, need a lot of help. Whether it’s changing our diapers as infants, or loaning us money as adults, we often need assistance beyond our own power. 
Our sin problem is the same. We’re helpless on our own. Jesus had to come to Earth to take care of it. We’re not born with the capacity to take care of it ourselves. In fact, we never grow into a solution. We must hand our sin problem over to Jesus.
  • We’ve spent a lot of time this week reflecting on how Jesus saves us from our sin. Today, spend some time to think specifically about what that means for you. Get in a room by yourself or in your car and talk to Jesus about your sin -- out loud. Be specific. Confess to Him. Acknowledge your helplessness and ask for healing from the Healer. 

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

How God Saved Us - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, May 12, 2015

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 
My wife has an uncanny ability to start watching a movie, and somehow beyond my comprehension, not finish it. It’s mind-blowing to me. James Bond could be in the grip of the enemy’s capture and she’ll fall asleep. Apollo 13 can still be orbiting the earth with no hope in sight, and she’ll turn it off to make tomorrow’s lunches for the kids. I have no idea how she does it. I have to know the whole story. I have to see how it ends. I need resolve or I’m just left unsatisfied.
So, so many of us came into the faith and heard Romans 3:23. Many of us memorized it early in our walk. “Everyone messes up. Everyone misses the mark. Everyone deserves hell.” And it’s true. It’s oh, so very true. The pursuit of “God’s glorious standard” often feels comparable to what my chasing a guy like Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash would be. Just impossible. 
But verse 23 isn’t the whole story. There’s verse 24. And 24 is my favorite part. “God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous.” Holy cow. It’s a good thing James Bond is wearing his laser watch, and those Apollo 13 boys made a new carbon dioxide removal system out of spare parts. And it’s a better thing that we have verse 24. What an ending! And I’m glad we didn’t miss out on it. 
  • Spend some time reading and rereading verse 24. Set a timer on your phone for ten minutes to express gratitude that our story ends with God declaring us righteous. Jesus doesn’t want us to dwell on the first half of the story. He likes it when we concentrate and celebrate how we achieve our righteousness through Him.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

How God Saved Us - Monday

Posted on Mon, May 11, 2015

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 
In one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, as Clark Griswold drives his family across the country he stops in inner city St. Louis to ask a man for directions. After a debate over getting charged for directions and an exchange of some cash, the man says, “You're gonna go all the way down about half a block and you'll see a Torino with no wheels on it. Now, inside that Torino is my cousin, Jackie. Now, you tell him you [sic] my boy and that you [sic] lost, and he'll make sure you get to where you [sic] going, 'cause you don't wanna know from me, man. This ain't even my neighborhood. I'm from the west side of Chicago, here on vacation.”
You want to know why that’s funny? Chicago is exactly where the Griswolds are from! They’d asked directions from someone who was just as lost as they were. They were swindled by a guy who gave the illusion of knowing the way when, in reality, he couldn’t help them at all.
At this point in Romans, Paul is saying, “You guys have gotten a lot of advice from a lot of people and you’re just confused. Nothing has worked until now. Now God is showing you the way that actually works.” There are millions of ways to screw up your life. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of them. But there’s only one way to shore up your eternity. His name is Jesus.
  • Are you trying to find alternate routes to God’s love? Maybe it’s through your works or by putting others down. Maybe you believe the false notion that looking good on the outside will make up for what’s dirty on the inside. Spend some time in prayer asking God if you’ve gotten some bad directions in life. Ask Him to narrow your wandering so you’re on the true way.

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

How Sin Ruined Us - Friday

Posted on Fri, May 08, 2015

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
I was walking in the woods with my son and my bride recently. We enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. My boy rode on my shoulders. We took a few selfies. It was awesome ... until I heard some leaves rustle to our right. I looked over assuming I’d see a fuzzy squirrel and, instead, saw a 6 foot long snake gliding alongside the path. In that moment our lovely stroll in the woods became something quite different as we high-tailed it to the end of the trail!
Sin is kind of like that. A great day, a great week, a great month suddenly evaporates. A year of sobriety is thrown out the window. A marriage or family is shattered. We turn around and, in a moment of attempting to meet a God-given need apart from God’s way or God’s timing, we find ourselves sinning. Over time I’ve learned the hard way that anyone is capable of anything, given the convergence of need and opportunity. You and I are both susceptible. 
The enemy will assure you, “Oh, you’ll never get caught!” But the truth is, nothing is hidden. Even if you’d never get caught by another living soul on earth, God is present in the midst of every moment, every decision, every day of your life.
My friends at Celebrate Recovery are some of the people on this planet who can get the most honest, real, and authentic about this stuff. We will tell you that we’re all flawed, we all need God’s mercy and grace, and we all need His help. And that there’s hope because we have not been left in our sin. Jesus has truly saved us.
  • So what can we do? Focus on doing the next right thing with God’s help. What is that for you today? Who will you share this decision with to help hold you accountable?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

How Sin Ruined Us - Thursday

Posted on Thu, May 07, 2015

They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.
Check out these three scenarios and decide what they all have in common: 
  1. You’re washing your hands in the restroom and a fellow employee comes in, does their business, and walks out without washing his or her hands. That’s right. Manos sucios, my friend. What do you do the next time they offer to shake hands?
  2. You walk into a meeting and there are two seats left, one next to the office complainer and another next to a good friend who is visibly sick, runny nose, box of tissue at hand. Where do you sit when your friend pats the chair next to him inviting you to join him?
  3. You run into an old friend who gives you a huge hug and then proceeds to tell you, in the course of the ensuing conversation, that both their kids have pink-eye. You are forced to avert the impulse to instinctively gouge your eyeballs out to ensure you never personally contract conjunctivitis. When your friend moves in for a farewell hug, how do you respond?
What do they share in common? That’s right: The best thing to do is … back up, baby!
Here’s the deal: Sin is a real sickness. Just as we would not want to hang around someone who is contagious, our attitude toward sin should be the same. Why would we ever move toward something that would infect us? Now, we know sin is tempting because it offers a tantalizing return. But we also know it doesn’t feel good at all in the end. The cycle has become familiar to us: Temptation. Fall. Accusation. Shame. It can stop. Not by trying harder, but by running to the foot of the cross.
  • Do you think of your sin as a sickness? Pray and ask God to help you have a view of sin that helps you run away from it instead of toward it.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

How Sin Ruined Us - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, May 06, 2015

Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
Want to have a really depressing experience? Take a look online at some of the toys you owned when you were a kid! The very first Star Wars action figure I was given in 1979 now sells for close to $1,000. I now feel like a supreme idiot for selling over 100 Star Wars toys for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale in 1985 to convert them to cash that I blew within a week.
How could I have been so foolish? But, you know, it’s really not. From an eternal perspective, it might be more foolish to value these “things” so highly. As a kid, I loved my toys. As I grew older, other things grabbed my eye. Scripture tells us our heart and thoughts will be where our treasure is. Want to know what you value? Well, what do you think about? The scary thing is -- that’s potentially what you worship. Idols vie for our affection. But God doesn’t share His glory because there is no other thing or person in the universe we can adore without wasting our worship. And worship is too precious to waste.
As a child, was I sinning by clinging to idols? Perhaps. As an adult, have I sinned by allowing my affection to be won by material possessions? Absolutely. Sin always tarnishes the beauty of God’s image in us. Just like the material things we worship will always eventually fade - whether it was your toys as a kid, or your grownup toys like cars, boats, electronics -- sin makes God’s image a bit more difficult to see in us. 
  • Don’t waste your worship. God said He will keep in perfect peace all who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him. Let Him draw your attention, your affection, your worship. It will not be wasted. It will bring peace now and joy unspeakable later.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

How Sin Ruined Us - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, May 05, 2015

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 
My mom signed me up for baseball in the third grade. I was shy, so when she dropped me off for the first practice and left, I was afraid to join the crowd of kids gathered around the coach. Instead, I sat down in the grass and watched everyone else play. For three entire practices, I sat there. Then one day my mom returned early to pick me up, found me sitting by the fence in the outfield, and dragged me over to the coach. All along, I was officially on the team. I’d paid my money. I was on the roster. But I was separated from the rest of the players by my lack of confidence.
On either side of taking the plunge in baptism to follow Jesus, sin causes separation. Even after meeting Jesus -- even when we’re officially on the team -- we can effectively remain separated from God by our choices. But Jesus has torn down that wall. We are not just on the team. We’re part of His family. But when we sin, the confidence in this acceptance and security is eroded. We doubt we’re really welcome. We think that if He really knew us (forgetting that He really does know us), He wouldn’t want us on the team. Sin messes with our minds. It causes us to live as though we’re separated from God when we’re not! We must absolutely refuse to let sin rewrite the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s grace in our lives.
So what do we do about it?
  • Confess our sin to God. Check out 1 John 1:9. God forgives us!
  • Confess our sin to others. Check out James 5:16. God heals us!
  • Stand up and keep walking with Him. Check out Romans 8:1-2. You’re no longer condemned!

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

How Sin Ruined Us - Monday

Posted on Mon, May 04, 2015

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes … This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight...
Ever gotten some really good news? “We’re pregnant!” “We’ve got a contract on our house!” “It’s benign!” “You made the team!” “You’re hired!” “You won the lottery!” “No charge for your car repair!” “Don’t worry about it, I’m buying!”  “I’ll let you off with just a warning!” “We’re going to Disney World!” “Not guilty!” If you’re like me, more than one of those phrases bring back memories of moments of pure joy. Especially the last one. 
“Not guilty” is not just “good news,” it’s the Good News! In the Heavenly halls of justice, the words are declared over your life: “Not guilty!” Why is this news sooooo good? Because our death sentence has not just been commuted to a lesser sentence. The gavel has resounded under God’s hand. Through Christ we’ve been declared not guilty of all our sin. We are free!
So God’s Good News is the best news we’ll ever hear! And yet … we sin. There’s no way to pretend we don’t. We just do. And my heart is heavy as I write that. We reach out for the world’s, our flesh’s, or the devil’s fish hook again. And we fall. But God doesn’t just ignore our sin. He has dealt with it, removing it from us as far as the East is from the West. Jesus’ death on the cross made payment for our sins.
Stunned gratefulness. That’s where we ought to land. It’s where we want to remain this week as we look deeply into our own sinful brokenness. Let’s keep the Good News in front of us and remain thankful as we look at sin and its source in our lives.
  • It’s the best Good News: Freedom from eternally-deadly repercussions for your sin. But is it still good news to you? Has it become great news? Or maybe it’s ho-hum, I’ve heard-it-all-before news? How can you respond to God’s Good News today?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

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