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Hot Potato: Aren’t All Religions The Same? - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, May 04, 2016

...Be a good worker, one that does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.
Paul was a terrorist. He persecuted Christians and was involved in their jailing and even execution. He graduated from the top Jewish school in his time and knew exactly how to destroy the fledgling new Jewish cult later identified as Christianity. Not a person on this planet could have predicted what happened next.
One day God drops him to his knees, blinds his eyes and tells him his entire life is misguided. His conversion to Christ was as controversial in it’s time as it will be when an ISIS leader converts today. Paul was one of the sharpest minds involved in religious leadership in his day, and in an instant his life took a dramatic turn.
Fast forward a few years and he is now in the center of a religious hotbed in Athens, Greece. In an open and ongoing public discussion of religion, he stands up and delivers one compelling lecture after another. His understanding of world religions set him up to bring people to Christ in droves. How’d he get all of this insight? God’s grace and a lot of learning. Paul learned what it meant to follow Jesus, but he didn’t stop there. He also learned the prominent religions of his day in order to point people to Christ from theirs. 
In order to be a better representative of Jesus we need to do the same. Here are some resources I recommend:
  • Dr. Johnny Pressley from Cincinnati Christian University will be teaching a seminar on world religions in Theater 81 at the Harrodsburg Road campus on Saturday, May 7, from 9-11am.
  • Tim Keller explains the idea that all religions are the same, watch it here
  • Dr. Andy Bannister (Ravi Zacharias Ministries) compares Islam and Christianity in two minutes, watch it here
  • Read about the differences between the five major world religions here.

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Hot Potato: Aren’t All Religions The Same? - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, May 03, 2016

...You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.  
Raise your hand if you’ve heard the saying, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason!” Listening is just plain hard. Like me, most men are plagued by the malady of selective hearing. We intend to hear our spouse, co-worker and kids -- every word, but through no fault of our own some words just don’t make it into our brains. Doctors have yet to identify the link, but I’m guessing we’re a short time away from finding the gene that causes this. (Hey, if you think men are bad, hang out with teenagers!)
On a serious note when it comes to religions, the world has gone mad. Religious discourse turns into a shouting match on public airwaves if it can even be brought up at all. We live in a sound-bite-and-react culture. Say something remotely offensive or critical of someone’s religion and watch the fireworks go off. Listening to others is simply out of the question.
What if instead of listening just long enough to pull a line we can refute and/or argue against, we chose to listen and then listen and then listen some more? At the heart of Christianity is a loving and patient Father. If the God of the Universe is willing to listen to us at any point and time, we can share the same love with others.
  • Take some time to evaluate yourself. Is your posture open or closed? Do the comments you make on Facebook, in the office with people that believe the wrong things, or at your child’s playgroup make you approachable or not?
  • If you aren’t a safe place for people to share their perspective then ask God to change your heart and then your actions.
  • Homework -- Listen, without interrupting, to two people today. Really listen to them in a way that values them above yourself and your time.

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Hot Potato: Aren’t All Religions The Same? - Monday

Posted on Mon, May 02, 2016

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Let’s say we plan to build a 2,073 foot high skyscraper. A good place to start might be the foundation of said skyscraper. Since we need a strong foundation for a building that will reach 128 stories in height, we’ll use foundation anchors called piles. We’ll drive these piles down into the ground to support this structure. When it was done in Shanghai, Japan, engineers used 980 foundation piles to get the Shanghai Tower started! We’d better get to work.
When it comes to building a life, Jesus called us to use Him as our foundation. This past Sunday we explored the differences between religions. If you are a devoted Christ follower then you realize that Jesus’ offer to be the foundation of our lives is an exclusive one. He stated that there was no other way, except through Him, to be saved. He’s either full of Himself or right-on in His claim.
This week we’ll focus on how to engage with people who believe in other religions, but to get started let’s revisit the foundation of ours. 
  • Take time today to identify 3 or 4 “piles” that have provided a strong foundation for your faith.
  • List these out and spend time thanking God for their role in building your faith.
  • Some examples might be faith initially passed on from parents or grandparents or the validity of the Bible.  It might also be the way God’s Spirit has spoken so clearly that you can’t deny it’s God or what you’ve learned as you’ve tested your faith through studying other religions over the years, etc.

Nathan Head
Executive Pastor of Ministries

Hot Potato: Does The Bible Contradict Science? - Friday

Posted on Fri, Apr 29, 2016

Psalm 103:13-14 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. 
If you were looking for our devo time this week to provide you with all the definitive answers on science and the Bible, then I am so sorry. You definitely did not get that. That doesn’t mean  there aren’t some answers out there. They do exist and they are awesome. They will take more time and more brainpower than we have in this online space each day. What I hope that you and I have had the chance to do this week is to be okay with our questions. Some things in life require faith. Belief in God requires faith. Belief in science requires faith, too. We weren’t there when the world initially came into existence. We weren’t there when Jesus came back to life. We can’t definitively say how humankind has gotten to the place we are in today, scientifically or spiritually. But I really, really don’t want us to ever be afraid to ask the questions. Sometimes we’re going to find answers. Sometimes, all that’s going to happen is that we pose a good question. God made us with brains, you guys. Real, working brains. He wants us to think, to push, to come to the end of ourselves and our abilities. I love that today’s verse says God has compassion on us because He knows we’re dust. He knows our humanity and it’s limits. And He has grace for the fact that we are not so smart when compared to Him. 
  • Take some time today to thank God for being patient with you while you’re learning and gaining faith. It’s no small thing that our God is willing to entertain our questions. 
  • If you still have a question about science and the Bible, feel free to drop me an email! I’d be happy to find someone who might know the answer! 

Stephanie Boxx
Student Ministry Volunteer Coordinator / Administrative Assistant - Richmond Road

Hot Potato: Does The Bible Contradict Science? - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Apr 28, 2016

Psalm 8:3-4 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers - the moon and the stars that you set in place - what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? 
I’m not going to say much today. I’m going to let a real scientist, Dr. Francis Collins, speak to you about his experience of believing in God and daily working in the field Human Genome Research at the National Institute of Health. 
...there's a common assumption that you cannot both be a rigorous, show-me-the-data scientist and a person who believes in a personal God. I would like to say that from my perspective that assumption is incorrect; that, in fact, these two areas are entirely compatible and not only can exist within the same person, but can exist in a very synthetic way, and not in a compartmentalized way. I have no reason to see a discordance between what I know as a scientist who spends all day studying the genome of humans and what I believe as somebody who pays a lot of attention to what the Bible has taught me about God and about Jesus Christ. Both worlds, for me, are quite real and quite important. They are investigated in different ways. They coexist. They illuminate each other. And it is a great joy to be in a position of being able to bring both of those points of view to bear in any given day of the week. 
I don’t know about you, but those words are a huge relief to me. Fortunately for people like us, people who struggle with big questions, there’s a lot of studying that we can do to help ourselves get a greater grasp on science and faith. Check out the resources below! 

Stephanie Boxx
Student Ministry Volunteer Coordinator / Administrative Assistant - Richmond Road

Hot Potato: Does The Bible Contradict Science? - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

Mark 2:21 ...who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 
If you’re confused about why we began today’s discussion on science and the Bible with a scripture on old clothes, it’s okay. It’s a little weird. In this story, Jesus’ disciples were supposed to be fasting according to a tradition of the Jewish faith. Some religious leaders from the Jewish community were asking Jesus why they weren’t participating in this tradition. Here’s what I love about this story: Jesus doesn’t miss a beat when He tells them to slow their roll because God was doing a new thing in that moment. He didn’t say fasting was bad or unimportant. He just said that, right now, God is doing a whole new thing and the old ways just didn’t apply in this specific situation. That’s where His example of new patches and old clothes comes into play. New patches can only be sewn onto new clothes or else they cause more harm than good. Sometimes God does different stuff in order to accomplish unheard of things. He can go outside of His own rules in order to do what He wants to do. Understanding this really helps me out when it comes to some other stories from the Bible. The parting of the Red Sea? HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? Jesus coming back from the dead? Scientifically impossible. Umm, Jesus getting born through a virgin in the first place? Who knows how that happened? Anyone? I sure don’t. And I’m learning to be okay with that. God can create a scientific order to the world and then break outside of that order when He needs to do something extra-special. 
  • If God can bend the rules of science to accomplish a virgin birth and a resurrection, He can bend the human heart to accomplish new things in you too. Take a few minutes today to reflect on and thank God for all the unexpected ways He’s intervened in your life. 

Stephanie Boxx
Student Ministry Volunteer Coordinator / Administrative Assistant - Richmond Road

Hot Potato: Does The Bible Contradict Science? - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

Proverbs 9:9 Instruct the wise and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous and they will learn even more.
I loved my college biology class. Part of it was my dreamy lab partner (Hi, Josh!) but most of it was because my professor, Dr. Henson, rocked my world. I grew up with a very specific belief system about the creation of the world. And I still believe the basics of that belief system - God created the planet and God created us. One class period, Dr. Henson dropped the words “natural selection” and I immediately recoiled. I knew those words were associated with Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. I wanted to not only dismiss the idea of natural selection, I wanted to dismiss the validity of anything that Dr. Henson had to say about science. That’s pretty extreme. And kind of dumb. But Dr. Henson was more patient with me than I was with her and, as she explained the logic behind how some characteristics of a species became more dominant than others, I could sort of see where she was coming from. Now, I know that most of you don’t know me, but ask any of my friends - I’m stubborn. And prideful. And I kind of don’t hate being right. Admitting that I may not have the scientific discovery of the creation of the world on lock down was pretty hard for me. But man, if I’m not glad that I let myself be humbled by Dr. Henson. I didn’t change my whole belief system. I didn’t go out and buy a “Darwin is my homeboy” t-shirt. But I did allow myself to be opened up to a whole different world (literally) and there is some really incredible stuff out there that I got to discover! 
  • I think humility is the primary tool that we need to use when discovering new things in the realm of science and faith. Ask God to give you a humble heart and an open brain so you can discover all the cool things that God has done. 

Stephanie Boxx
Student Ministry Volunteer Coordinator / Administrative Assistant - Richmond Road

Hot Potato: Does The Bible Contradict Science? - Monday

Posted on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

Proverbs 18:15 Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.  
This week, I really want to find some common ground with you. I’m going to tell you right now that that common ground won’t be my expertise in science. I took a grand total of two required science classes in college. Most of what I know about nature and the solar system and how the human body works I learned from Netflix documentaries. Our common ground won’t be in the answers we find, but in the questions we ask about science and how it connects to the God we both love. But I need to be honest with you about where I am with all of this: when it comes to understanding how certain stories in the Bible could be possible, let alone probable, I have my doubts. Yeah, you heard me right. I struggle with understanding how God does stuff. And I’m guessing that there may be one or two of you out there who struggle with that very same thing. Maybe you and I have googled the same questions, read the same articles, prayed the same prayers. This week, instead of working really hard to educate you or convince you of anything related to the connection, or lack thereof, between the Bible and science, I just want to share with you where my mind has been. Is that okay? Can we just hang together this week and talk about what we believe and what we don’t believe and what we’re just not sure about? I’d really like that. 
  • My hope for you this week is that you’ll feel comfortable asking questions. Our little devo community is a safe space. A good place for us to start is by making a list of the questions we have and the stories from the Bible that we struggle to believe. Be brave - share that list with a friend! If you don’t have anyone that you feel comfortable sharing your questions with, email your list to me! I’d love to read it. 

Stephanie Boxx
Student Ministry Volunteer Coordinator / Administrative Assistant - Richmond Road

Plus Seven: Seven Years - Friday

Posted on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…If you do I will open the windows of heaven for you…Put me to the test! 
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that what you don’t see right now will be there when you need it. I used to think this way at mealtime. I’d chow down as though I wouldn’t receive another bite for days and needed to store up the food somehow. Eventually this began to take a physical toll. Last year I lost 45 pounds that no one would have said I “needed” to lose. Sure, exercise played a part in the process, but that only accounted for about 10 of those pounds. The rest of it was connected to making choices about food that demonstrated trust in the Lord - both in His design of my physical body and in His ability to provide for my needs. 
At the height of my problem, I ate as though I didn’t think God would ever provide me with food again.  At times I inhaled food until I was nauseated but no matter how much I crammed down my throat, I still had to eat the next day. I only half-heartedly prayed for daily bread since there was usually a week’s supply or more at hand.
Some things keep us dependent daily on God. You can’t eat enough to keep you from needing more. You also can’t store up sleep to get ahead on it. The same goes for money. You can never have enough to keep you from being in need. Because money can buy some things, but not everything that matters. Happiness, joy, peace, and true security all elude even the rich and famous without Jesus. Only God can hold you close enough, show He’s strong enough, and even entrust you with more than enough - IF you will risk trusting in Him moment by moment, with all you have and with all you are. 
  • Will you do that today? If you need to talk with someone about diving into this trust-relationship with God through Jesus, give me a shout. I’d love to talk and pray with you.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Plus Seven: Seven Years - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Apr 21, 2016

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.
How are your barns and vats doing these days? It takes a lot of time and effort to fill these massive repositories, let alone bring them to overflow. But God’s word tells us that if we honor Him with our wealth, He’ll give us way more than we need. And yet... it takes time. 
Financial health is not a sprint, it’s an ultramarathon. Anything over 31 miles qualifies as an ultramarathon. Some are over 100 miles. You go out and just keep running. You eat and drink while you run. It’s a long way to go but the sense of accomplishment at the end is pretty amazing. A few weeks ago, I served as a crewmember for a friend who ran the 72-mile Georgia Death Race. Mike had attempted the race one year earlier and dropped out at mile 42. This time, after running, walking, climbing, eating, drinking, stumbling, falling, and getting back up for hours on end, he finished the race. 243 signed up. Only 162 finished.
Afterward, he wrote, “I'm alive. It was everything I hoped and feared that it would be. It forced me to take myself to the absolute limits of my mental, emotional, and physical capabilities. I felt every emotion possible it would seem: happiness, excitement, fear, sadness, loneliness, frustration, pain, discouragement, confidence, satisfaction, annoyance, inadequacy, invincibility, and on.”  
Sounds a lot like the experience of working hard to get out of debt. Not everyone makes it. Some people drop due to injury. Others lose heart and quit. Some come back and conquer it in their second try.
  • Have you tried to get out of debt before? Did you have to quit because of a job loss, a death in the family, or other unforeseen circumstances? Or maybe you lost heart and quit? Do you dare to try again? If so, let’s start today. Then keep going. Don’t give up. With God’s help, you can do this.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Plus Seven: Seven Years - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2016

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
I played the comparison game for decades. I thought my parents were rich - and, compared to me, they certainly were. They had an income from working 30 years and I had none. Later in life, when I moved out on my own I failed to realize I wouldn’t live with the same comforts I’d known. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go to them to ask for help getting by. 
After growing to be more financially independent, I began looking at peers to measure how we were doing financially. I assumed that if they could spend, I could spend. I had no idea how much money they were making or how deeply they were plunging into debt. I just tried to keep up and, as I shared yesterday, my family came up short in that silly game. 
It’s like I was on autopilot.  Autopilot wreaks havoc with relationships, finances, and more. I had the intelligence level to do what I needed to do, but my priorities were out of whack. And I just didn’t pay attention to the details. When we’re on autopilot we don’t always make wise decisions. We just keep existing and don’t ask for help with the burdens on our shoulders. When we’re on autopilot, we plop down on the couch and proceed to stare into the TV screen instead of engaging our spouse or family in a meaningful way. When we’re on autopilot, we ignore the obvious, important details. 
We need to disengage the autopilot and take the wheel - with our relationships, our responsibilities, our finances. When we reorder our priorities, our entire approach to life changes. In the kingdom, marriage, family, relationships and finances are not ultimate - God is ultimate. And all other things are subservient to Christ. He can and will give wisdom for all of these if you’ll ask Him. 
  • Pray and ask God to work in you to give you His perspective on your family, friendships, and finances.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Plus Seven: Seven Years - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Apr 19, 2016

You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
I love to sleep. I rarely get to anymore, since we had the kids. If I could go back in time, I’d get on my knees and thank God every morning for uninterrupted slumber. In today’s scripture, David tells us deep joy and peaceful sleep is way better than wealth. And where do we get these better-than-gold rewards? God. 
Today’s text was a huge comfort to me as, one day, out of the blue, I sensed the Lord speak to my heart saying, “It’s time for a fast from spending.” I had no idea what He meant, but within a few short weeks, Sara and I finally stopped, paid attention, and realized the depth of our debt. We needed to push pause and give time for our financial priorities to fall into line, for our spending to become less than our income, and put intentional effort into tackling our debt. The ability to lie down and sleep peacefully in spite of external evidence to the contrary, was a real measure of whether or not we’d released our worries and cares to God. We found ways to enjoy life without needing to spend a dime. Since that time, we consolidated our debt, paid off our credit cards and were able to give like never before. 
David put his sense of security in the Lord over and above his financial capital. People with plenty of riches may have thought they had peace and security, but David had deep assurance. He was protected and provided for by the Lord.
  • Most of the world lives on less than $2 a day.  Add up your monthly shelter, transportation, food, and bills. Divide it by 30 to see what you’re spending daily. 
  • The minimum daily full-time wage is over $58. That’s almost 30 times what most people on Earth spend daily. How little do you think you could live on so you can begin saving and giving more?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Plus Seven: Seven Years - Monday

Posted on Mon, Apr 18, 2016

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
Well, April 15th came and went again this past Friday. If that means nothing to you, be grateful. For the rest of us, our income was scrutinized and we settled the tax balance with the government. Work and taxes. Shew!
In the course of your working life, if you started working full time at 20 years old and retired at 65, how much do you think you need to bring home weekly, before taxes, to earn exactly 1 million dollars? 
$427.35 a week. Only $10.68 an hour, working full-time, to earn a cool million. That’s less than half the average income of households in the United States. Even if you were to start working at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 today and work for that same amount of time without ever getting a pay increase, you’d make over $675,000 during your working life. That’s still a lot of money! 
And yet...76% of us are in debt. So this means the average person stands to make, and spend, way more than those figures above. Accumulating debt seems to be the norm in our culture today. The weight of it can rob us of sleep, joy, and generosity. And God doesn’t want His kids to suffer the loss that comes from accumulating more stuff and sacrificing things that really matter. 
If you’re one of the 24% who aren’t in debt and are unfettered in your ability to be generous, thank God for that today. The rest of us, let’s pray for God to help us want what He wants for our lives and be grateful for what He does entrust to us financially. 
  • Even the household living on one income at minimum wage brings home $58 a day working full time. That’s 24 times as much as most of the world survives on daily. If you were living on $2 a day, how would you spend it? 

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Plus 7: Seven Weeks - Friday

Posted on Fri, Apr 15, 2016

How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and He is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”? Isaiah 29:16, NLT
Today may surprise you a bit as we will walk through one final piece of forgiveness together. Maybe this week you’ve been prompted to forgive someone else, to ask for forgiveness, or to forgive yourself. On this last day together, we will walk through forgiving God. “What?!” Hang on. 
Don’t panic. We all know God does not need forgiveness. He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16, NLT) and He is perfect (Matthew 5:48, NLT). Sometimes, however, we live with unforgiveness toward God, don’t we? We feel that the way our life has unfolded is unfair, and the idea that a loving God is controlling our lives seems laughable. 
No one can deny that sometimes life circumstances seem to point at the idea of an unloving, unfair God more than a loving and just God. I’d like to ask you to consider that God promised not that we would have an easy life, but instead He guaranteed, Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).  One of the attributes of God I value most, is how true He is. He does not ask us to look through rose colored glasses. The road Jesus walked in our shoes was paved with rejection, loneliness, betrayal, false accusations, abandonment and death. He’s not unfamiliar with our pain, and He is also not responsible for all of our pain. Jesus came to be one of us and He now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Romans 8:34, NIV). When we live like we hold God responsible for the things in our lives we don’t like, we live with resentment and bitterness, a.k.a. unforgiveness towards God. What do you need to let God off the hook for today? 
  • Forgiveness is hard. Years ago I participated in a Freedom Session where someone prayerfully guides you to walk through strongholds in your life so that you can live more freely in Christ. Forgiveness is a component of these sessions. If you’d like more information, please contact Will Briggs

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

Plus 7: Seven Weeks - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Apr 14, 2016

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8, NLT
So far this week, we have talked about offering forgiveness to others. One component of forgiveness we often miss is forgiving ourselves. Sounds funny, right? To forgive ourselves seems a bit self-centered or weird, but forgiving ourselves sometimes is the step we skip and the reason we are unable to live out forgiveness in our lives. Sometimes, we live locked up in chains of our unwillingness to forgive ourselves for things we’ve done, and so we can’t make a move to forgive others.
Life is full of sorrows. Some sorrows are self-inflicted by our poor choices and some are given to us by others. How encouraging is it to you that God has kept track of all your sorrows - no matter who caused them? He has collected every tear. Your pain, no matter why it entered your life, is completely understood and recorded by God. He has not missed a thing. This is our God. His nature does not cover, conceal or dismiss your pain, instead He decided to understand, record and share our pain. He did this particularly through sending Jesus to be a human just like us. Then, through Jesus’ death, God offered us forgiveness - full freedom from the death sentence our sin deserves. 
We often withhold forgiving ourselves for things God has already taken care of on the cross. Today, let me encourage you to forgive yourself. Own the mistakes truthfully, but then release them into the blood of Jesus. Please let yourself off the hook you keep hanging yourself on. Let’s live free and shake off the dust collecting on the chains we self-impose with our unwillingness to forgive ourselves. 
  • What do you need to forgive yourself for?
  • Pray a simple prayer like this: God, I know that Jesus said “It is finished” and He meant every word. You’ve freed me from the death penalty of all my mistakes. Help me live free and to forgive myself from the ways I’ve messed up time and time again. Thanks for knowing me so well - even recording my pain. Amen.
  • Check out the website bottleoftears.com for a tangible way to send hope to someone.

Amanda Carter
Worship Leader

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