March 20, 2018

Today you should read: Luke 24:36-53

Last week, my wife and I were hosting a few friends from Connect Group at our house. Since they also have kids we were doing a “build your own pizza night.” I put the pizzas in the oven, set the timer, and immediately my daughter began to ask when we could eat.

After a moment, we heard a noise in the play room and some kids came romping through the kitchen. My wife asked, “Where’s Josie?” We looked in the play room and she wasn’t there. We looked around the house, she wasn’t there. We went upstairs, she wasn’t there. She wasn’t anywhere.

This set off a search that got more and more frantic as the moments ticked by. Soon we were scouring the neighborhood asking every person we saw if they had seen our daughter. At first, I was timidly calling out, but after 10 minutes I was shouting. At first, I didn’t want my neighbors to think we were bad parents or that we didn’t love our kids enough to keep an eye on them. But soon, I couldn’t care less what my neighbors thought. I just wanted my little girl back.

After 15 or 20 minutes of searching, one of our CG members heard Josie in the woods behind a neighbor’s house responding to one of my shouts. When it rains we have a small creek that floods behind our house and she apparently wanted to go see the water. The back door had been open because we were hot from cooking and she slipped out without our knowledge.

Without a doubt, this was the most terrifying 15 minutes of my life. And yet, this is exactly how God pursues people and wants us to pursue people. Jesus said, “46 Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

If we truly understood lostness, how could we not ask every person we encounter. All of us struggle with, “What will they think of me?” But if we truly understood the price that Christ paid, we probably couldn’t care less what people thought.

God sent the Holy Spirit to believers to empower them with the message of the Gospel as the same Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to God. He is our guide to help us find the lost. My daughter was found because I shouted, however, it was my friend from Connect Group who was listening and heard the response. In the same way, we can proclaim the gospel, but not be witness to the results. It’s our job to shout and plead, it is not our job to save. There are times, however, when we are in the right place at the right time, that we get to hear the one who was lost cry out “Daddy!”

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate


March 19, 2018

Today you should read: Luke 24:13-35

In 2000, one of the pastors at my home church invited me on a trip with him, along with another close friend. He was speaking at a youth camp in Oklahoma, and the church that invited him also provided the funds for him to bring some family. Due to various circumstances, his wife and kids couldn’t go, so we took their place. WIN! It was an incredible week. I still have connections from it, and many great memories of my time with all of them still fill my mind.

On the way home, we were on a packed flight. Our seats were a few rows separated. We struck up conversation with a few guys whose seats were also separated from each other. When we got off the plane, we were glad to be reunited and heading home. Something clicked, though, as we realized who those guys were. It was our moment of Christian celebrity. We were all sitting with Chris Tomlin and his band. This was unreal to me at the time, since most of my trip down, I was listening to the then brand new “One Day” album. The guys that recorded it were chatting it up with me on my flight. I was like a kid at Christmas. My pastor talked the entire way home with Chris Tomlin and didn’t realize it until I made the connection when we de-boarded.

That personal anecdote falls WAY SHORT of the stories the disciples could tell of their encounter on the road to Emmaus. They had, walking alongside them, the Risen King! But their eyes were shielded from realizing it until Jesus was ready.

Have you ever had an encounter like that? No, I don’t mean with Chris Tomlin. Have you ever been going through your day and then realized that God’s hand had been with you the whole time? That the Lord ordained your steps? That His Spirit gave you wisdom?

Imagine how the disciples must have felt when they realized it was Him. They were still living in the horrid reality of His cross. Now they could see the tangible proof of His resurrection.

What can we learn from this passage?

1) Christ is risen. Doesn’t get any more important than that, folks.

2) Jesus really did mean that He is “God with us”. For those on that ancient road, it meant Him walking among them. For us, it is the fact that His Spirit is with us everywhere we go – His Spirit whom He sent to live in us.

3) Everything in Scripture either points forward to Him (OT) or points back to Him (NT). When you read your Bible, read it through the lens of Jesus Christ. He tells us we can (v.27).

4) Pay attention. The King of Kings, risen from the dead, is with you everywhere you go today. Do you see Him?

What insights did you glean from today’s Jumpstart reading?

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor 

March 17, 2018

Today you should read: Luke 24:1-12

How exciting would this moment be!? This is the moment that everything hinges on. If Jesus did not come back from the dead, He would have simply been a great prophet. And more significantly, He would not have conquered sin, and we would still be left hopeless.

The emotions that would come out of this moment are insane. Think about it. They went in mourning to visit the tomb and upon arrival it is open and Jesus is gone. Then they see the angels who tell them that Jesus is risen! I wish that I could be in that moment to see the emotional shift that happens as the angels are reminding them of Jesus’ words about that very moment. In response to this news they immediately go to tell the eleven.

Easter is approaching, and this is the very thing that we celebrate. The resurrection of Jesus. The moment that the Son of God conquered sin and death. This is the action that proved without any question that Jesus was indeed Lord.

In the excitement of this news there is something important to point out. Only Peter is excited when he hears the news. The other disciples DID NOT BELIEVE. Yes, the people who were closest with Jesus didn’t believe. Before we get too worked up about this though, how true is this in our own lives. If we truly believed in these truths, we wouldn’t continue to walk in condemnation. We wouldn’t seek the world instead of Jesus, we wouldn’t fail to share the Gospel. When these things are true in our lives we become like the other disciples who did not believe; we seemingly try to discredit all that Jesus has done.

So as we are nearing Easter, would you focus on the truth of what Jesus has done? Would you take time to marvel at the freedom we have in Jesus and thank Him for the miracle that is His Resurrection?

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

March 16, 2018

Today you should read: Luke 23:26-56

Good Friday is 2 weeks away and what a perfect time to read about it and reflect on it. I love Good Friday because you can’t get away from the holiday’s message. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but we like to put fun, kid friendly spins on holidays originated in Jesus to make it an “official” holiday. Like Jesus’ birthday wasn’t enough for us so we embraced a creepy, jolly, plump guy with a white beard who travels via sleigh and reindeer and tell our kids that he somehow fits through chimneys and gives gifts to the good kids and coal to the bad ones (by the way I’m still searching for that one kid who gets that lump of coal. If a parent seriously does that I might have to report child abuse). Or even better, Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Like that’s not miraculous enough and reason enough to celebrate. We had to steal a tradition from the Alsace where an oversized human proportioned bunny who hides a basket full of eggs and candy from children so they can find it in the morning.

And please don’t worry because I’m not one of “those” Christians. You know the kind that thinks that everything is pagan, secular and worldly and takes the “fun” out of “fundamentalism.” I actually practice all of those things in my family traditions and believe that one’s Christian conscience & conviction can guide that for each family. What I am saying is that there is no alternative to Good Friday’s message. There’s no redeeming Santa to St. Nick or Easter eggs to new life. It’s all about the events of that day and the implications of it. The message of this holiday is singular in purpose as we read today & it’s that we killed God on a cross & that we call this historical, bloody, gruesome death GOOD somehow.

Even other countries around the world honor this day. They may not recognize it as a federal holiday but still change the day’s usual schedule in recognition of it. For example, India, the 2nd largest populated country in the world, the birthplace of Hinduism & Buddhism, a country that is only 2% Christian closes down all of its schools, colleges, stock market and banks for Good Friday. Indonesia, the 4th largest populated country in the world and the country that holds the world’s largest population of Muslims observes it as a national holiday with govternment offices, schools & certain businesses closed by law and many newspapers refuse to publish anything on this day.

You see, universally we all recognize it as the day Jesus died and all call it “GOOD FRIDAY.” The sad part is many don’t know why it’s Good, even people in our country and in the church. We observe this day, call it good and even get that the Gospel message, which means “Good News”, comes from it but don’t see the full picture behind it. It was good because it was partly FOR US. His death was not in vain because Jesus was made to be our sin on that cross that he died on that day and that He died partly FOR US.

That little word “FOR” has pretty big implications in this Christian belief. In theological terms, it means that Jesus’ death was a substitutionary atonement. His death was in our place solely for our benefit and without benefit for himself. Just to be perfectly clear, this means that Jesus took the penalty for our sins in our place so we do not have to suffer the just penalty of those sins for ourselves. The wrath of God that should have fallen on us and the death that our sins merit fell on Jesus instead.

Read the many different Scripture passages supporting the doctrine of substitutionary atonement: (Jesus death FOR US)…

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

“He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12).

“[He] was delivered up for our trespasses” (Rom. 4:25).

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

“Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).

Jesus died for us. We have a holiday to remember it and God’s Word to show us it but do we really believe that & are our lives different because of it?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor