Devotions

  • Rinse And Repeat

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    For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4

    Insight

    The problem with resolutions and promises lies in their “all or nothing” belief system. It’s either perfection or utter failure. One either fixes everything entirely, or they’ve dropped the ball completely. The pressure this places on our shoulders is often too much to bear. We usually respond by settling for the status quo or relying solely on our strength and will-power to produce the change we desire.

    When this occurs, a vicious cycle begins to spin out of control. The reliance on ourselves never produces the change we hope for, which in turn amps up our disappointment and frustration. We reason that we just didn’t work hard enough this time, so we try and try again, with even more determination. We pull up our bootstraps and exert extra effort, only to inevitably find ourselves coming face-to-face with futility. Rinse and repeat.

    Here’s the hard truth: no matter how strong we make it, our flesh is still weak. If it were capable of transforming our heart and altering our character, there would be no need for Jesus. We could’ve saved ourselves. Our spirit (in Christ) is willing, ready and prepared for God’s will and God’s ways. But, even though our spirit is willing, our flesh is weak.

    The flesh can’t be trusted but instead must be trained and brought into submission to the truth of our willing spirit. What are we teaching our flesh to do? TRUST. We need to prepare our flesh to trust. Before we can submit our will to His, we must believe what we’ve received in Christ.

    Our hope for change begins by thinking process over perfection and promises. Rather than promising to commit, we commit to depend. To watch is to fix our eyes on what is true about ourselves and the hope that Christ provides. Keeping in step with the Holy Spirit helps in our tendency to try harder and go ahead without Him. The body must be trained to do what the mind says. We buffet our bodies and make them our slaves so that our bodies are servants instead of masters.

    Reflection

    • Where are you relying solely on your willpower and strength to bring about change in your life? What is fueling this approach?

    Prayer

    God, change only comes when I stay in step with Your spirit. Rather than rush, may I rest, reflect, and then respond today. Help me to transform my mind and sharpen my focus so I can walk with You in obedience. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Run Free

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    Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

    And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

    Insight

    The other night, while taking the trash to the curb, I forgot to shut the door behind me. As I walked back up to the house, I noticed my error and began to panic. Rushing inside, I frantically looked for Tucker, my labradoodle, while calling out his name.

    Sitting quietly there on his blanket, he lifted his head, confused over all this commotion. After catching my breath and allowing my pulse to come down, I realized times have changed and felt a bit sad.

    You see, Tucker was an elite runner. He was the canine version of Harry Houdini, the greatest of escape artists. If Tucker saw an opportunity, regardless of how small, he would jump into action. He had no problem taking out anything that stood in his way, including my mother, mother-in-law and three separate dog sitters (true story).

    Years have passed, he’s grown older, and now Tucker has resigned himself to indoor life. The thrill of the chase has fizzled away. The memories of roaming free grow fainter as each day passes.

    Some days, if I’m honest, it feels like I’m right there with Tucker. Moments of “running free,” stepping out in faith and feeling like I was living out God’s purpose seem so distant. The mundane, predictable and easy way often win out. The excuses flow. The doubt takes over. The circumstances facing me seem too daunting. In other words, I’ve passed over my hopes and dreams and, instead, settled for life in the doghouse.

    But, I was meant to run free. And so were you. Faith is only faith when it is lived out and experienced, which can’t happen if we’re stuck indoors.

    All our hopes for transformation in this new year rest on our willingness to pursue Christ’s heart with reckless abandon. It entails action and stepping out into the unknown. Growth happens when we push forward. And just like Tucker feels when the wind is whipping through his hair, joy fills our heart with every obedient step we take.

    Reflection

    • In what areas of your life have you settled and resigned yourself to status quo? Why have fear, doubt and status quo took over?
    • What is causing you to settle instead of step out in faith?

    Prayer

    God, I’m tired of enabling my doubt and fears to win over displaying courage. You’ve made me for so much more than I realize. You’ve called me to run and live free, full of faith and hope. May the way I spend my days point others towards Your love. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

     

  • Power Save Mode

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    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

    Insight

    I’m an introvert to my core, but often the reason why I don’t call or text my friends and family is that I’m waiting for my dead phone to resurrect itself.  My iPhone has seen better days. The screen is cracked in a million places due to an unexpected encounter with the pavement while running.

    A spotty battery has me playing the game of “what inconvenient time will my phone die?” on a daily basis. Often, the winning guess is either right before lunch or when I’m picking up my girls from school. My phone’s favorite trick is saying it’s at 50% and then a second later shutting off inexplicably.

    Not a big deal, you say? Just plug it in, let it charge for a few minutes, and I’ll be good to go, right? Nope. For this magical dream to come true, it would require a semi-functional charging port, which it doesn’t have. No cable can make a consistent connection. The prongs don’t grip tight enough.

    Granted, this issue does allow me to live out my childhood dreams of being MacGyver. For instance, my phone is currently propped up on a picture frame with the duct tape cable dangling at the precise angle needed to charge. Unfortunately, I have to stand very still because if I sneeze, type on my laptop too hard, or even blink, the connection disappears.

    Without a stable connection to a power source, my iPhone is useless. It has no life and just sits there unused. It can’t function. Neither can it accomplish the tasks it was designed for by its creator.  The same holds true for us.

    In all the hoopla of the new year and conversations about change and transformation, we can quickly forget the importance of staying connected to a consistent power source. Instead, we rely solely upon on our strength, wisdom, perspective, and effort to get the job done. The pace and pressure amp up which drains our energy reserve. We might see temporary change or immediate results, but they aren’t sustainable over the long haul.

    Eventually, our battery, better known as our heart, reverts to ‘power save’ mode by either shutting down, growing frustrated or settling for status quo. Scripture backs up this point. Jesus says that if we remain connected to Him we can accomplish great things, but apart from Him, we can do nothing. God honors our effort when we rely on His strength.

    Reframing our perspective, understanding our purpose, identifying our next steps and filling our heart with hope requires us to stay connected to Christ. Don’t take this link for granted. Make refueling your heart and soul a priority.

    Reflection

    • How would you describe your current connection level to Christ? What is either preventing a connection or fueling it?
    • Where are you relying on your strength and wisdom to get things accomplished?

    Prayer

    God, You offer hope, healing, and comfort. You provide wisdom, insight, and guidance. You encourage, spur on, and challenge. All of these things are at my disposal if I’m willing to stay connected to You. Remind me that Your love is the source that powers my heart to accomplish great things in this world. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Decisions, Decisions

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    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. JOHN 1:1-5 

    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. PHILIPPIANS 1:6

    Insight

    I’ve been participating in PC3’s My One Word ever since Mike Ashcraft invited us all to come along for the ride in 2007. Some of my past words are: enough, still, plank (Matthew 7:4 about taking the plank out of my eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s), release, trust and secure. As a writer, I respect the power of words. The Bible backs me up on this, as John 1:1-5 testifies to the ultimate Word, Jesus Christ.

    One word that has been on my short list for many years is decisive. Oh, how I would love to be a decisive person, confidently saying “yes” or “no way” or “Thai food” when I am asked to choose something. But I have always hit the “snooze button” on that word.

    As Mike reminded us last Sunday, we hit the snooze button on our faith to avoid having to change. Change is scary. If I pick decisive as my word, then I actually have to make decisions instead of deferring them to other people, delaying the choice for so long that it’s no longer there, or (worst of all) making a choice and then changing my mind.

    The way I pick my words is a clue to how deeply the problem runs. Typically I will write down eight or 10 selections on scraps of paper, then let my daughter pick one out of a hat. I’ve even asked my husband and daughter ~ two extremely decisive people ~ to pick a good word for me. Wisely, they’ve refused.

    This year, I had picked edify as my one word. Build people up, build God’s Kingdom. A great choice, right? Then Mike went and blew it all up on Sunday when he shared about that woman who told him she couldn’t decide between love and decisive. Mike basically said that decisive was the obvious choice. Hello, neon sign!

    And so I erased edify on our kitchen chalkboard and replaced with decisive. I know God is faithful and He will help me through this year of living decisively. Already, in just two days, I’ve felt strangely empowered, as if this simple word is giving me permission to make decisions. Of course, I have the Word Himself to help me through every one of them. 

    Reflection

    • Have you picked your word for 2018?
    • If you haven’t, is there a word that scares you, and if so, why?
    • Do you trust God to help you live out your word these next 12 months? 

    Prayer

    Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for the power words have in our lives. Thank you that Your Son is The Word. He has the first and the last word in everything. Help us all to choose a character trait we need Your help with, and trust You to make a difference this year. We know that You are by our sides always, from 2018 to eternity. Amen.

    PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.

  • Detestable Dishes

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    Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1

    Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

    Insight

    I despise cleaning dirty dishes. Scratch that. As a writer, I can do a much better job capturing the disdain I have for this everyday household chore. Here goes: I abhor, detest, hate, loathe, look down my nose at, eschew and often reject doing the dishes.

    But, rules are rules, and there is one in our household – whoever doesn’t cook, cleans. And, because I am far from a culinary wizard (or mainly because my wife is an exemplary chef), most nights I’m stuck with the pots and the pans.

    I’d be lying though to say I do them every night. In fact, there have been times when I’ve let them slip for a few evenings. Life gets busy, my girls need my attention, or I’m just exhausted from a long day at work.

    As a result, the plates begin to pile up. The leftover food becomes like plaster and requires a chisel to dislodge it from the plate. The longer I procrastinate, the more prominent (and stinkier) the problem becomes.

    Such is life. Let me ask: when you put off a crucial conversation, does the pressure subside? When you ignore a broken relationship, do you find yourself hoping to run into that person? When you leave the bills on your desk rather than pay them, does it make your debt disappear? When you ignore the “Honey Do” list, does your house suddenly look like it should be on HGTV? When you keep your struggles to yourself and off limits to God, does it reinvigorate your prayer life?

    Nothing ever magically works itself out due to our procrastination. It only makes things worse. I recognize this isn’t an earth-shattering insight, but I tend to live my life ignoring this principle, and as a result, I come face-to-face with a great deal of regret. I suspect I’m not the only one.

    Tomorrow isn’t promised. All we have are the moments before us right now. So today, I want us to consider what we’ve been putting off and the damage our neglect has caused. But, I hope we all take it a step further and exchange passivity and procrastination for action and courage.

    Reflection

    • What circumstances in your life have you been neglecting and why? What damage has your neglect caused?
    • What is one step you can take today to address this issue?

    Prayer

    God, rather than close my eyes and hope the issue disappears, today, let me respond with boldness and courage. May I address the things You’ve placed on my heart in a way that honors You and speaks to my trust in who You are. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Stop The Snooze

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    So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

    Insight

    Studies have shown that 57% of Americans utilize the snooze button on a regular basis. Those numbers mean that on average we spend 3.5 months of our lives hitting the snooze button. We ignore the buzzer going off welcoming us to a new day. Instead, we tap the button, roll over, and convince ourselves that we will get out of bed eventually. Then there are those of us who can’t bare facing their current circumstances, so they just pull the covers above their head hoping it will magically go away. But, hitting the snooze button doesn’t change the reality of the world we want to escape or avoid.

    Many of us live our lives, in essence, hitting the snooze button. All of those hopes and dreams we put off for another day. We’ll get around to finding our life’s purpose a little bit later. We pass off the responsibility for things like developing our prayer life, restoring a broken relationship, getting our finances in order or decluttering our closets to our future self.

    The problem with snooze buttons is that they provide us with the illusion of activity. Because we have the best intentions, and we think (and worry and obsess) about these things often, we fool ourselves into believing we are making some headway. Intentions aren’t the same thing as actions. It’s hard to take a step of faith or produce any movement when your feet haven’t even hit the floor.

    If we put off taking action long enough, we will eventually go back to sleep, and all of those hopes and dreams fizzle out. Three things drive our procrastination. First, we want to put off the pain. Change is always scary, but that doesn’t mean transformation isn’t needed. Doing something new or taking a step of faith is uncomfortable and requires us to be stretched.

    Second, we want to prolong our pleasure and have our will be done. There are things we know we need to stop or let go of, but deep inside our hearts we enjoy them and want to continue what we’re doing so, we don’t act. There’s a reason why we find ourselves stuck and often remain there. The enemy is trying to undermine us every step of the way. Sometimes the enemy isn’t tempting us to do bad things, but instead tempting us to do our own thing. Temptation appeals to what we want without consideration of how we were made and who we are becoming.

    And, finally, we desire everything mapped out and planned to perfection. We need to know how things will turn out and every step along the path crystal clear before we jump into action. We don’t like to fail and the only way to avoid failing all together is by not trying in the first place.

    All of us are becoming something. The question is whether we are doing it intentionally. So, how do we stop hitting the snooze button, take action and work on the person we want to become in 2018? If we’re going to change our behavior, it begins by changing what we see. An encounter starts with where we set our eyes.

    Are our eyes focused on our fears and failures? Can all we see are the obstacles, excuses, and things standing in our way? Or, are our eyes centered on the person we are becoming and the One who is with us every step of the way?

    Reflection

    • Regarding taking action and living out your faith, where do you find yourself hitting the snooze button? What are you trying to avoid? Why are you trying to avoid it?

    Prayer

    God, for far too long, I’ve been hitting the snooze button while You are calling me to act. There are areas of my life I know need to be addressed. I’ve ignored the promptings to take action and have courage. Today, I say no longer will I settle for inactivity and letting fear win. May I get out of bed and face my circumstances with faith and boldness, knowing You are with me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

     

  • Cabin Fever

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    The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:10

    But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

    Insight

    Like most parents right now, I’m going a bit stir crazy. Our girls have had precisely one school day since December 20th. ONE. And thanks to this latest storm turning our roads into an ice skating rink, we’ve been stuck indoors for what seems like forever.

    Cabin fever has officially taken over our household. If you’re reading this, please send rations our way because we’ve blown through our bread, milk, and eggs (and all of our junk food). All kidding aside, feelings of restlessness have set in and are taking their toll. You can only play so many card games, read so many books, binge watch so many Netflix shows, and do so much laundry, before you slowly lose your everloving mind.

    Being in close quarters has everyone on edge, with grumbling, disagreements, and bickering breaking out. I keep reminding myself that this too will pass. As soon as we get back to our typical routine, these feelings will quickly subside.

    If a heart remains unsettled for too long, it begins to lose its balance. Not only does it do damage to our heart, but it cripples our faith. Restlessness takes its toll on our mindset and perspective as well as our relationships. Failing to address the symptoms only exasperates the problem.

    When we can’t find peace, when God feels distant, when we are unable to shake feelings that something is missing or needs to change, we must pay attention. Rather than resist, we should lean in and be curious.

    Restlessness serves as an invitation to seek His presence and perspective. He uses our unsettled heart to teach us more of His own. Only God knows what drives our discontentment. If we’re willing to trust Him, on the other side of our restlessness is a peace that passes all understanding.

    Reflection

    • Where are you experiencing a bit of restlessness? What is driving this reaction?
    • What is God trying to teach you through your unsettled heart?

    Prayer

    God, bring light to the places where my heart remains restless. Let me have the courage to confess where I am discontent, distracted or distant. Help me to trust that contentment is only found through pursuing You with my whole heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Covered

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    “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

    Insight

    Living in coastal North Carolina, it’s a rare occurrence for the temperature to drop and to see white flakes falling from the sky. For that snow to stick and begin to accumulate is even more out of the ordinary.

    But, today, when I opened up the blinds and looked out my window, a fresh blanket of pure white powder greeted me. It was a breathtaking sight – one that brought shrieks of joy to my two girls who pleaded insistently to go outside.

    We obliged, bundled up and trekked out into the cold for some winter fun. We played with neighborhood friends, did some sledding (with boogie boards in typical beach lover fashion) and, of course, did the obligatory Instagram photo session.

    My favorite photo of the bunch was the one of our house blanketed in snow. Our two cars. COVERED. The girl’s sports equipment. COVERED. The trash can. COVERED. All of the yard tools I forgot to bring in. COVERED.

    The reason why this photo caught my attention was due to it be a striking reminder of the power of God’s grace. Today’s passage in Isaiah speaks to this point.

    The cross took care of the ugly stain sin left on our lives and our hearts. His sacrifice settled the issue of our struggles once and for all.

    Our past regrets. COVERED.
    Our present missteps. COVERED.
    Our future failures. COVERED.

    The power of this truth should influence the way we view ourselves. Instead of looking at our lives and focusing on our struggles and shortcomings, we set our eyes on our new identity in Christ and what He says about us.

    His grace should be the only thing we see. Rather than trying to cover our shame, we can rest in the reality of it being covered by His love. And that is a thing of beauty.

    Reflection

    • What personal struggles do you doubt God has covered and taken care of through His grace? What makes you resist resting in this reality?

    Prayer

    God, I stand amazed by Your love. I’m so undeserving of this affection and attention, yet you extend it to me anyway. You’ve made something beautiful out of my mess, and for this, I am forever grateful. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • The Ice Age

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    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3

    Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:11

    Insight

    I can barely feel my fingers as I type these words. My office could be mistaken for an igloo thanks to the space heater shorting out the circuit breaker. With the number of blankets wrapped around me, I am well on my way to my new life as a Sherpa.

    Like most everyone in the nation, I’m trying to survive this great winter cool down. The temperatures have dropped to the point where I find myself googling tips on how to prevent my pipes from freezing. Yes, even miles away I can see my northern readers doing a collective eye roll, but you have to understand the frigid temperatures caught many of us southerners off-guard.

    To keep my mind off the cold, I began scrolling through Facebook mindlessly at first, but then a thought struck me. There were people I hadn’t reached out to in forever. Even though based on social media standards we were “friends,” my relationship with them had thawed. Some of those connections, if I’m perfectly honest, were downright frozen.

    For whatever reason, just like the frigid temperatures, I’m experiencing right now, my cold heart in these relationships had caught me off-guard. But, this is what happens when we don’t tend to our relationships or when we enable pride, fear, apathy, envy or bitterness to win over love and forgiveness.

    Those connections go cold and freeze up altogether. Our hearts become the artic. Days, weeks, months, and years go by, and eventually, you find yourself living in the ice age. Instead of walking on eggshells, a lack of crucial conversations has us tip-toeing on cracked ice. There’s no stability or security in living this way. We wrap ourselves up in our excuses and justifications. When we do this, the only thing that heats up is our anger.

    There are some relationships where safe boundaries are needed. For others, reconciliation is off the table. But, for most of these frost-bitten connections, the opportunity for things to thaw is possible, and it starts with allowing the warmth of Christ’s love to guide our words, actions, and attitudes. His love can melt the coldest of hearts.

    Reflection

    • In what relationship has your heart grown cold? What is driving this bitterness?
    • How can you begin to thaw out this connection point?

    Prayer

    God, warm my heart with Your love today. Thaw the places where my heart has gone cold. Open my eyes to the relationships that remain frigid and distant. Give me the courage to seek forgiveness and reconciliation where I am able. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • More Than A Mulligan

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    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

    Insight

    If it were up to my dad, you wouldn’t be reading this devotional because it wouldn’t exist. Now, before you get the wrong impression let me reassure you that he isn’t anti-religion or faith; he is just that much of a golf fan.

    His dream for me was to make the PGA Tour and to spend my days on the links wearing a polo, khaki pants and a visor. There was only one problem: the game of golf and my perfectionist tendencies were a recipe for disaster.

    Slicing and hooking my opening driver into the woods. SIGH. Hitting a shot in the water. MUTTER UNDER MY BREATH. Ending up in a sand trap. GRUMBLE. Barely missing a makeable putt. THAT’S IT! My dad soon realized his dream wouldn’t become a reality when I wrapped my putter around a tree in frustration (true story).

    Over the years, I’ve learned how to handle my mistakes, screw-ups, and failures with a bit more grace. However, coming face-to-face with my shortcomings is never comfortable.

    Just like many of you, I had all these intentions that 2018 would mark “a new year, a new me.” This mantra might have meant working on your anger, eating better, sticking to a budget, devoting time to prayer, or being more patient. And just like me, you are probably standing here on January 3rd and are already dealing with not measuring up. Your hope for change was quickly met with typical behavior, not-go-great attitudes and actions that lead to regret.

    In golf terms, you stood at the tee post, looked down at your ball and took a swing. Unfortunately, your ball went sailing in the wrong direction.

    Just like on the golf course, my drive to do everything correctly the first time causes me to experience a case of the “spiritual yips.” I get in my head and over think things. One wrong move, one poor decision and I feel like there’s no point in playing the game. Things will always be the same. So, I take my club and go home.

    I need to remind myself over and over again that change is indeed possible. But, it won’t come easy and will require me to fight. It’s filled with two steps forward and one step back. Adversity, setbacks, and roadblocks are part of the game. And, most importantly, I’ve got to extend myself a bit of grace because the God I worship extends it to me in more ways than I can comprehend.

    Christ offers each one of us a mulligan – a second chance. The power of the cross gives us much more hope than just another shot. The old system of religion demands perfection, the new one centered on Christ rests in His grace.

    He’s not only the God of second chances; Christ is the one who offers unlimited opportunities to experience grace, forgiveness, and mercy. His mercies are new every morning which means that the mistakes of the past are left there – in the past. Take another shot today.

    Reflection

    • Where are you dealing with discouragement and feelings of futility? Why have you lost hope?
    • Where do you need to extend yourself a bit of grace and realize that transformation takes time?

    Prayer

    God, remind me during those times of struggles and failures that my mistakes aren’t the end of the story. Open my eyes to the abundance of Your grace and mercy. Speak into those places where I’ve lost heart and hope. Give me the courage to try again and rely on Your strength to guide my steps. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.