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Freeway: His Birthday… Your Gift - Monday

Posted on Mon, Dec 22, 2014

Matthew 6:12
Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.
 
I once heard someone say, “The sins of those around us, are within us.” I believe that. At least I know it’s true of me. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” In other words, we’re all in the same jailhouse of guilt,  and we all need forgiveness to be freed.  
 
I remind myself regularly, that on the best day of my life, I deserve to go to hell.  That’s not just a dramatic statement, it’s rock solid truth. One of the reasons I tell myself that...is to keep from becoming judgmental. Another reason is to remain grateful for grace. Without grace, I’d be dead in the water, and so would you.  
 
One of the features I love about my computer is that when I accidently make a mistake, I can just click “undo” and the original is restored; the mistake is erased. Friend, that’s what grace is. God undoes our sins through the Cross. That’s what enables us to crawl out from under the rock of shame and move on. 
 
Louise Fletcher Tarkington wrote,
 
“I wish there were some wonderful place
called the Land of Beginning Again,
where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
and all our poor, selfish grief
could be dropped like a shabby 
old coat at the door
and never put on again.”  
 
There is such a place, friend. It’s called Calvary. Jesus hung on a Cross there for one reason: we all need forgiveness. The ground’s level there. No one’s superior there. No one’s inferior there. Calvary’s a miraculous place...a “Land of Beginning Again.”  When we kneel there, God pushes a divine “undo” button and we’re forgiven and made whole.  And then we’re instructed to go out and do the same thing. I hope God challenges you to do just that as you read these devos over the next four days. That would make me smile.  
  • For what in your life do you need to visit the “Land of Beginning Again?” You’ll find Jesus waiting there for you. 

Gary Black
Regional Campus Director

Freeway: Layaway Faith - Friday

Posted on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

“But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.”
 
In high school, a bunch of my buddies and I decided to skip school and go to a Creed concert. At this point in life, admitting to the fact that I went to see Creed is not an easy thing. I pride myself on listening to good music. But, alas, this week is about ownership and I must confess my iniquities… including cheesy 90’s rock.
 
Upon our return to school the next day, I stood in line as everyone handed in their excuses to Mr. Kurts, the assistant principal. One by one, the guys wearing concert t-shirts from yesterday’s show handed the school administration a note that said, “So-and-so was sick. Please excuse his absence.” It was all a lie. So I, thinking I would be rewarded for doing the right thing, walked up to Mr. Kurts and, instead of handing him a note, pulled out my ticket stub and told him, in complete honesty, where I had been. I thought they would slow-clap me out of the office. I thought he’d stand up and give me a hug and thank me for my honesty. I thought he would hand me a medal of valor. 
 
He handed me a slip for Saturday school. 
 
Our world teaches us to lie, to shift blame and to leverage every opportunity to get away with as much as possible. And when we do the right thing, our world doesn’t necessarily care. Mr. Kurts wasn’t wrong to punish me. I got what I deserved. But God isn’t interested in excuses. He’s interested in the true you. Even if that you likes Creed. Even if that you wrestles with lust. Even if that you is hiding a lie. Even if that you spent way too much on the credit card for Christmas. Even if that you is a cheater. 
 
He’s interested in the real you and He’s interested in giving you forgiveness. 
  • What have you been hiding from God? Spend some time today in confession. Read 1 John 1:9 out loud, but replace “our sins” with your specific sin. “But if I own up to _________, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.
  • Memorize John 8:36 this week. “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Freeway: Layaway Faith - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Jesus replied,  “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
 
The other day in the van, my five-year-old asked me how babies get into mommies’ bellies. 
 
Him: Does it happen when you get married?
Me: No. Not always.
Him: Does it happen when you kiss?
Me: Something like that.
Him: Something like what?
Me: Hey, who likes ice cream?! Y’all wanna get ice cream later?!!!
 
Bullet dodged. 
 
But the conversation keeps coming up. He’s so perplexed by how babies just come out of their mommies and then, all of a sudden, there’s a new person there. (I think it all stems from the reality that he wants us to undo having his little sister.) 
 
But in John 3, Jesus is having a similar conversation with a guy named Nicodemus. Nicodemus can’t seem to get his head around the idea that we are “born again.” Jesus is trying to describe to him that life with Him is a new life. The old is completely gone and this new birth is from the Holy Spirit. But the concept of being totally made new is tough for Nicodemus, and it’s tough for many of us. It’s not affected by outside factors. What others do has no relevance to this birth. When we accept the freedom that Jesus offers there is, all of a sudden, a new person standing there. It is between you and Jesus.
  • Do you let the decisions of other people affect your relationship with Jesus? Have you handed the keys to your new self over to someone other than Jesus to give them authority in your new life? Spend some time reflecting on this question. If you need to be refreshed, read the whole conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. 
  • Memorize John 8:36. “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Freeway: Layaway Faith - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
 
As I sit here at 5:22am on this cold, wintry day and write this devotional, I’m sipping on a nice, warm, fresh cup of hot coffee. But the time and weather is irrelevant. It’s a pretty good bet that at any point of any day I’m sipping on a very similar cup of joe. Coffee is both my muse and my vice. I’ve almost always got a cup of it in my hand.
 
And because I’ve always got a cup of coffee in my hand, my boys are always asking for it, too (for some reason my girls show no interest… they must be smarter than the fellas).  Obviously, I don’t give a five- and seven-year-old coffee. I tell them the legal drinking age is 21, so they’ll have to wait until then to drink coffee. So they watch me every day and wait. 
 
They look on and think it contains some mystical nectar that allows your brain to wake up and your body to gain strength. I don’t have the heart to tell them that it smells like skunk and tastes like dirt mixed with hot water. But you know what the funny part is? They’ll be addicted to coffee just like me. And you know why? Because of me. They’ll begin their own regimen of coffee drinking in college, probably. And it’ll stick with them their whole lives.
 
Think about it. We all have stuff like that. What do you do in your life that you do only because you were brought up seeing it modeled? I’m sure there’s a lot for all of us. But one thing I’m sure Jesus wants to step in and intercede for you on is your freedom. Are you blaming others to try and get to God? Are you blaming them for keeping you from God?
  • Spend some time reflecting on who you were before you were free in Christ. Is there any person or event from your past that continues to form who you are more than Jesus does? Ask God to set you free from all influences that aren’t from Him. 
  • Memorize John 8:36 this week. “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Freeway: Layaway Faith - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
 
There’s a scene in John 8 that reads like a comedy. These guys are trying to persuade Jesus that they’re “good” with God because they’re descendants of Abraham. Now, that’s pretty cool. Abraham was a great guy and certainly a man of God. I’d be proud to have him in my family line, too. But these guys were making too much of it. They were of the mindset that, “Abraham was “in” with God, so I’m in with God.” 
 
Jesus was challenging their way of thinking. He said that the only way to be truly free was to be free in Him. But the whole group just couldn’t let go of this mindset saying, “Listen, Jesus, this is the way it’s always been and it’s not going to change. We’re not going to change. Everything was set up for us through Abraham.” So, finally, Jesus ends the discussion with some stellar words; “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!”
 
Jesus makes it really clear here. It doesn’t matter what happened before you. He doesn’t care who your parents are or what they did. He doesn’t care about your lineage or lack thereof. In fact, history doesn’t play a role in whether or not you see freedom. Not even your history! The only thing that matters is Jesus. If the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 
  • Read John 8:21-59 at some point today. What lies in your path that you think makes it easier, or more difficult, to to receive Jesus’ freedom? 
  • Memorize John 8:36 this week. “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Freeway: Layaway Faith - Monday

Posted on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

“For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”
 
With four kids under the age of nine, there’s a lot of “blaming others” occurring in my home.
 
“I didn’t brush my teeth because he stole my toothbrush.”
“My room isn’t clean because she left a puzzle on the floor.”
“I haven’t finished my homework because they were playing a video game.”
 
As a dad, I’m often standing there with a perplexed look on my face, saying things like, “What does the one thing have to do with another? Do you think walking around with stinky breath all day will spite your brother for moving your toothbrush? The world will be a better place if you just get over it, find your toothbrush and do a little breath maintenance.”
 
But blaming seems easier. My kids just think they can blame their way into a clean room or a finished school project. And we’re no different. Many of us spend much of our lives trying to blame our way into freedom. 
 
“His words were so hurtful to me, I don’t know how to recover.”
“She has been tearing me down my whole life, and I guess I do the same.”
“They were never good examples of marriage or true love, and I’m not sure that I can be, either.”
 
The reality is that, yes, there have been people in our lives that have truly dragged us down. And I’m really sorry for that. But it’s not their influence that matters in the end. There is nothing they can do to change the fact that Jesus wants to free you. Frankly, there’s nothing you can do either. It’s not by our own effort or the efforts of others. It’s merely a choice that we make. So don’t blame your way into freedom. Simply accept it. 
  • Have you been placing blame on others as you walk toward freedom in Jesus? Don’t breeze past that question. Spend some time today reflecting on whether or not you’ve been blaming others in your daily walk. Ask God to help you identify who that might be.
  • Memorize John 8:36 this week. “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

Derrick Purvis
Formation Pastor

Freeway: Chaos-mas - Friday

Posted on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

 
He came to bring peace to our chaos.
 
The Savior’s entry into the world was certainly dramatic. Angels appearing, shepherds fainting … wait, maybe I’m projecting what I might have done had I been in that field the night of the Savior’s birth. Here I am, quietly tending my sheep when ... boom! A ferocious-looking warrior-being appears in front of me! I don’t know about you, but it’s likely I’d be face down in the dirt! 
 
No sooner had He gotten here than His parents had to wrap Him up, and head off to Jerusalem to present Him at the Temple. As the firstborn male in His family, it was customary in the Jewish faith to be consecrated, set apart for the Lord. 
 
But this part of the story has always warmed my heart and spread hope in my soul. People were waiting for Jesus. Not just patiently waiting, but actively waiting for the Savior to show up -- some for many years. Certain in their hearts that it was to be in their lifetime that Yeshua Ha Maschiach, Messiah, would appear. Our passage today describes two such individuals -- Simeon and Anna. 
 
Simeon, we’re told, was devout. To the extent that the Bible describes him as one of the few on whom the Holy Spirit rested prior to the Pentecost event in Acts. He had been told that he would not see death before the advent of Messiah. What a promise! What hope he must have felt. So take a minute and feel this with me. Simeon is Spirit-drawn to the Temple, when he locks eyes with the One. The Messiah. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Emmanuel. Holy Child. Held tightly in His mother’s arms. Can you imagine the joy that raced through him? I bet he did a bit of a happy dance! Oh, wait, I’m projecting my own likely reaction again… 
 
He came to bring peace to our chaos. He stayed to bring hope to our hearts. 
 
While we may know a little less of the prophet Anna, we know she was so drawn to the Lord that she never left the Temple! She was there from the rising of the sun to its setting. Actively waiting. When she saw the baby, she immediately began to praise God. It’s possible that these two were among the first to recognize the magnitude of the arrival of the Savior. Things were about to be different, somehow. 
 
What about us? Are we filled up with hope in the midst of chaos? Are we certain that, no matter what, Messiah is coming? Are we actively waiting? Does having the favor of God fill you with a sense of purpose, mission and peace? I have one prayer for you this Christmas season, friend: May you become strong, be filled with wisdom, and may the grace of God be on you, just like Jesus. (Luke 2:40)
 
The story of Christmas is simple: 
He came to bring peace to our chaos. 
He stayed to bring hope to our hearts. 
He’s coming back to bring His Kingdom reign to fruition. 
Amen. 

Rebecca Hatton
Formation Director - Danville

Freeway: Chaos-mas - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Dec 11, 2014


Oh, how I love this story! 
 
When Jesus arrived on the scene of human history, things could not have been more chaotic. The very region where He was born was considered a hotbed of political strife and violent uprisings. The economic picture was bleak, with the bulk of industry and agriculture being heavily taxed by the Romans. Even the religious landscape was fraught with contention as a tug-of-war for Jewish control was waged between Pharisees and Sadducees. So it’s likely that the very first Christmas was, in fact, a Chaos-mas.
 
While I tend to focus on Jesus in the Christmas story, this year I see in Mary something I hope to emulate. In the midst of her chaos, she processes the enormity of her circumstances with quiet strength and introspection.
 
Mary and Joseph contended with great issues in the early days of their marriage -- a cloud of doubt and confusion hung over them. The beginning of their marriage was certainly met with dubious stares and outright disbelief. She’s what? Pregnant? Not by Joseph, but by the Holy Spirit? Suuure, she is. Now -- at 8.999 months pregnant -- she must travel to her new husband’s hometown of Bethlehem, more than 80 miles from Nazareth, for a political head count! 
 
The trip would take at least four days if nothing went wrong. And all those images of Mary riding on a donkey? Maybe. But Scripture doesn’t mention it, and the common use of pack animals of the day was for carrying supplies, food and water, not people. Where will we stay when we get there, she must have wondered? What if I have to deliver my baby along the way? I’m just a young girl. What do I know about “birthing babies”? Chaos-mas. 
 
She was likely terrified. She was surely uncertain. She was most definitely sling-shot out of her comfort zone. They couldn’t find a guest room to stay in. Mary’s baby was born in a barn amidst the animals, wrapped in dead men’s clothing (“cloths” literally means strips of linen used to wrap bodies for burial), and strangers came to stare at her newborn. Chaos-mas.
 
But here’s what we’re told about Mary in the midst of her Chaos-mas. And here’s why I’m focusing on her today: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). Chaos-mas? Nope. Peace-mas. 
  • What about you? What is chaotic in your life right now? What do you need to treasure up and ponder, and leave to God’s control? 
  • Memorize Isaiah 53:1-6 this week.

Rebecca Hatton
Formation Director - Danville

Freeway: Chaos-mas - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Dec 10, 2014

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…
 
Times of refreshing. Unexpected moments of joy. Every one of us needs them. Like when you’re walking down the street and find a $20 bill. Or a quarter. Or when your children do their chores—without being asked. (Oh, who am I kidding? Like that ever happens!) Like when your grandchild says something totally hilarious. The other day, I was having a moment of just love-bugginess toward my four-year-old granddaughter. I said, “Charlie, do you know how cute you are?” She promptly responded with a bit of an eye roll. “Mimi, I look in the mirror sometimes…” Moment of joy. And raucous laughter from Mimi and The Papa. 
 
One of the funniest and most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen was “The Princess Bride.” My favorite scene? Princess Buttercup is sadly about to marry Prince Humperdink against her will. They are in a cathedral, with a very intimidating and serious-looking priest. You just know something serious is about to happen. When suddenly, the priest opens the ceremony with a very loud, very speech-impeded version of the word, “marriage,” pronouncing the “r’s” as “w’s.” The first time I saw that scene in the theater, I thought I would fall off my seat in laughter. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. But it made all of us in the group begin to guffaw! (Yes, that is a word. It means to laugh really hard!) To this day, every time I see my friend’s husband, we purposely mis-pronounce each other’s names, replacing the “r’s” with “w’s.” 
 
Today carries a challenge. Look for unexpected moments of joy. No matter how you thought this day was going to turn out, look for the moments that make you smile, or laugh, or guffaw! Then praise the Lord for times of “wefweshing” for your soul! 
  • At the end of the day, write down all the things you got to smile about today.
  • Memorize Isaiah 53:1-6 this week. 

Rebecca Hatton
Formation Director - Danville

Freeway: Chaos-mas - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Dec 09, 2014

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
 
He sees you, you know. No, I’m not talking about Santa. He sees you. He sees where you go, what you do. He sees inside you as well -- your fear, your famine. And famine comes in lots of forms, doesn’t it? Famine of hope, famine of security, famine of affection and love. He sees you in all of it. He is not far off, He is not uninterested. He sees the fears and the tears you experience. He saves every one of those tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). 
 
Sometimes fear takes us over like a storm. Sometimes it’s incremental. Either way, the end result is a robbery of peace. It’s funny, some fears we’re okay with people knowing about us. I have a fear of heights. Looking out over the edge of a cliff? Not so much fun for me. I’m perfectly fine with you knowing that about me. But some fears we don’t want anyone to know about. Other people might not like us or respect us the way we’d like them to if they knew those fears, those secret spaces in our souls. Yet it is precisely those fears that will keep us from experiencing the full life Jesus came to bring us. 
 
I lived a long season of my life bound up by secret fears. When, by the grace of God and some amazing help, I was able to vocalize those fears, it happened. Peace. Security. The sky didn’t fall, the earth didn’t open up to swallow me whole, and no one turned away in revulsion. And life—real life—began. 
 
In order for you and I to experience the “rich and satisfying life” that Jesus describes, it is absolutely pivotal for us to expose those fears that lurk in the dark recesses of our hearts. “You’re as healthy as your secrets,” said no one, ever. You’re as sick as your secrets. When our secrets are brought into the light, Son-light disinfects them. Their power over us is diminished and can actually disappear. So, what will you choose? Stolen life or stellar life? 
  • What is a fear you couldn’t care less if the whole world was aware of?
  • What is one you are terrified someone else will know about you?
  • I want to challenge you to share one of your “secret” fears with a trusted friend or mentor today. Together, ask God to remove fear and doubt as you place your trust in Him. 
  • Memorize Isaiah 53:1-6 this week. 

Rebecca Hatton
Formation Director - Danville

Freeway: Chaos-mas - Monday

Posted on Mon, Dec 08, 2014

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
 
To know me at all is to know that I love this whole holiday season. I decorate for fall and Thanksgiving (okay, I decorate for every season, but heavily for fall) on Labor Day weekend, then I take it all down on Black Friday and begin the ritual known as Christmas decorating. It takes a full week at my house. I love everything about it. The 45 tubs in my attic are dragged down (as the husband grumbles), six trees are decorated, windows and doorways are adorned and festooned. My husband says our house can be seen from space at Christmas, and that the electric company sends us a thank-you note every January. I am one of those crazy people who puts all the inside and outside lights on timers so that the house will be alight when I arrive home from work each day. It’s a sickness, I know. But one I gladly anticipate each year. 
 
So while most people are experiencing the chaotic rhythm of this season, I tend to float merrily along. I am happily ensconced in all things holiday-ish. However, this year, just before Thanksgiving, some extraordinary things happened, and thus began a ride on what we call at our house, “the crazy train.” Exactly one week before Turkey Day, I pulled the achilles tendon on my left foot, and could put no weight on it whatsoever. At the same time, my father-in-law needed close medical attention for a serious health threat, and in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I attended five funerals and/or visitations. Not one Christmas tub out of the attic, not one turkey prepped or pie made, not one guest room ready for company. Now, normally this would throw me into a considerable tailspin. I woke up one morning at the start of my crazy train journey and felt the chaos threatening to take hold. I asked the Lord for courage and heard a still, small voice say, “Remember, your peace comes from Me. Look for Me.” 
 
The moment we take our eyes off of ourselves, and look squarely into the face of the Peace Maker, things change. They may not lessen or change in intensity, but somehow there is peace. So, as for me and my house, we will work to maintain peace, not chaos. We will face what comes not with fear, but with grateful expectation. They may not see my house from space this year, but it will be a peaceful landing place for those who enter our gates! 
  • What about you? What is threatening your peace right now? Why not give those fears to the only One who can actually do anything about them?
  • Pray: Lord, give me Your courage. Remove the chaos that hovers. I promise to diligently maintain the peace You bring.  
  • Memorize Isaiah 53:1-6 this week. That’s what the season is all about anyway.

Rebecca Hatton
Formation Director - Danville

Freeway: The Christmas Cover-Up - Friday

Posted on Fri, Dec 05, 2014

Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.
 
Do you ever think about how unreasonable it is to worry about things? You want to say, “Yes,” don’t you? Because you’re reading a devotional and if there’s one time in the day when you get charged up and feel like you can take on the world by the power of your faith alone, it’s during devos. But I know you. Because I know myself. It makes utter sense to my brain to get anxious and worry about things from time to time. Now, I’m not saying we fret about everything, you and I. If we did, we’d need some serious help. But my point is this: We do not question the rationality of fear in our lives. If we think it’s something that just might hurt or harm us, physically or otherwise, we accept the fact that fear makes total sense. 
 
Hold that thought.
 
Do you ever think about how unreasonable it is to have faith? Now we want to say, “No,” don’t we? For all the same reasons listed above. But c’mon. We see that situation or circumstance, we can’t see the solution yet, and so we get to work trying to figure it out and fix it. We may have a vague sense of faith in our mind that all will be well, but often our actions make it look like we’re pretty sure it says somewhere in Scripture that, “God helps those who help themselves.” Even if we don’t say it’s unreasonable to have faith, sometimes our actions betray our belief.
 
But think about this: In a way, fear and faith are the same “muscle”. Both of them are a settled belief that something is true. Fear expects and believes the worst will happen. Faith hopes and believes the best. But the true distinction between the two is way down deep at the root-level. We have to ask about both fear and faith: Is my belief, my settled conviction, planted in the soil of truth or lies? Spiritually, it’s critical to discern the nature of the soil in which we’re growing. 
 
Fear sprouts from roots in soil made toxic by lies like these: God is distant. God doesn’t care. God can’t do anything about this. God is too busy for me. God is mean. God is a bully.
 
But faith springs to life from soil that is fortified by truths like these: God loves me. God likes me. God cares about everything that happens to me. God can and will make a difference. God is able to see me through this difficulty. God never abandons me.
 
Next time you’re given the opportunity to choose between fear and faith, go back to the truths you know about the One Who loves you more than you can possibly imagine.
  • If you’re unsure of these truths that help bring life to faith, jump into God’s Word. If you don’t have a Bible, grab a copy of the New Living Translation and plan to read through the New Testament with us in 2015!
  • Instead of fretting and fearfully striving, what would happen if you experimented—even just this once—with praying about the next thing you’d usually tend to fear, exercising that muscle of faith instead, and trusting that the God Who loves you will never abandon you?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Freeway: The Christmas Cover-Up - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Dec 04, 2014

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
 
I tend to go all goofy when I meet famous people. I don’t ask for autographs. I don’t go weak-kneed. I get squishy-brained. I have solidly and consistently asked these people the oddest question, “What are YOU doing here?” But there’s one famous person I met, chatted with easily, and who even bear-hugged me before I ever figured out who he was. I was at a small meeting at a big church on the west coast. At one point this Santa-Claus-of-a-guy came in and chatted with the dude leading our little meeting, then proceeded around the table speaking to all of us in turn, and ended up by wrapping each of us in a big hug. As he was preparing to leave the room I realized this was the pastor of the church in which we were meeting - a guy who had authored a book that sold over 30 million copies and holds the honor of being the second most translated book in the world after the Bible. I was oblivious until I realized who he was, then stood there stunned that I had met such an influential individual, interacted with him without freaking out, and even been invited to hang out at his home that evening with the group. An invitation I declined out of fear that I would later ask him, in his own home, “What are you doing here?!”
 
For the thirty something years from Jesus’ birth to crucifixion, many people struggled to recognize, let alone acknowledge, the King had been born in Bethlehem. Herod. The Pharisees. Caiaphas. Annas. Joseph. Pilate. The families of Mary and Joseph. They couldn’t or wouldn’t see that Jesus was the promised Messiah and King - whether due to ignorance or fear. However, if we can’t see that Jesus is King, we will never be able to see past our blind spots. Herod was murderous. The Pharisees were proud. Caiaphas and Annas were drunk on power. Joseph was embarrassed. Pilate was a coward. The families of Mary and Joseph were scandalized. None of these blind spots were insurmountable. Some people changed. But others refused. How about you? How will you respond to the birth of our King, Jesus, who has already shown up on the scene, interacted with His people, and sacrificed His life for you—before you even recognized who He was?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Freeway: The Christmas Cover-Up - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Dec 03, 2014

So don't make judgments about anyone ahead of time -- before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
 
I kind of like being the foreigner from time to time. It probably helps that I’m an introvert. If you ever want to retreat into a bubble by yourself, a foreign country is the ideal place to do so. Perhaps you know the feeling? You’ve been overseas for a vacation or mission trip. Or maybe it was in an ethnic restaurant where the staff spoke the native language of the proffered cuisine. Or perhaps you’ve traveled to another part of the US where your accent made you stand out like a sore thumb around the locals. I’ve felt keenly foreign on visits to India and Bulgaria. But surprisingly, one place my “foreignness” has popped up, where there was no language difference: the United Kingdom. I’ve committed a number of gaffes in England and Ireland ranging from mildly putting someone off through the phrasing I chose, to inadvertently dropping offensive swear words that just wouldn’t qualify as “cussing” to any American.
 
Everything can go sour with just a few words. Sometimes the meaning and intent of both our words and our hearts can be easily misperceived by the people around us. Sometimes we wind up misunderstanding God’s words and His heart toward us as well. We can try to hide behind our own silence or behind excuses of being misunderstood. But when we slow down in the rush and tumble of hurried communication, stop and ask Jesus to pull back the covers on what we want to keep hidden, so much is revealed about us. God sees clearly into our hearts. This might scare you. But it can encourage you as well. His light shining on the places in our hearts that need His touch brings healing and growth to us. Sure, we stumble and fumble at times in the process of becoming more like Jesus. But God knows how to communicate His heart to us. He knows how to help us. He knows how to walk us from where we are to where we could be. 
  • Pray and ask God to help you hear His voice and follow His lead in your life.
  • What is God saying to you today?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Freeway: The Christmas Cover-Up - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Dec 02, 2014

Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.
 
A few weeks ago, I had to book a hotel room out of state. The local university was playing a big homecoming game. There was only one hotel with vacancies. An old place on the river, built well over 100 years ago. After I reserved the room, I googled directions and inadvertently discovered the place was famous for being haunted. Numerous hotel visitors had claimed to have seen this “diminutive spirit who was fond of pranks,” including one who awoke to see her “standing by the bed, rocking back and forth.” Well, that was a bit disconcerting. Unless you’ve never experienced such things and can laugh it off as a fairy tale. Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to unnerving spiritual experiences.
 
It brought a moment of anxiety, but do you know what this was? Motivation. It was an opportunity to dig down into the well of my identity in Christ to remember the authority that was rightfully mine because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. Sure, I’d prefer that my experience remain free from any startling ghostly -- or demonic -- encounters. But I needed to actively recall that, thanks to Jesus, the worst that could happen was that I might be startled or slightly shaken by an unsettling experience.
 
Naturally, I used part of my drive to remember a few truths. Like the fact that all the spiritual world is under Christ’s authority (Colossians 2:9-10), that I’m seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), and that the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18). When I entered the hotel room, I verbally claimed the space for Jesus and eventually went to bed, slept peacefully, and had no problems at all during my stay. (Confession: I did sleep with the light on, so my faith is obviously still growing.) Sometimes a challenge in our pathway can be exactly the motivation we need to draw near to Jesus and cognitively walk through an inventory of where we are, who we are, whose we are, what we believe, what we know, and how we live.
 
What are you facing that would benefit from stopping, stepping back, regrouping with Jesus, and making a plan for moving forward? It might be something traumatic. Or scary. Or simply the sense of being driven instead of led through the busy season ahead. What is it for you today? 
  • Ever get stuck in a situation where you realize the best thing you can do is to step back, assess the situation or circumstances, get with God to prayerfully make a plan and then go initiate it? Pray and ask God to speak to you about how to navigate the season you’re in and the challenges you’re facing.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor


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