I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14
Many of us walk into the future looking backward hoping to rewrite history. We carry our own burdens, regrets, mistakes, and failures because we believe we are responsible for making our past right. A mixture of guilt and pride clouds our version of redemption.
Because we can’t see redemption we don’t think it is possible. What we have to understand is that it is impossible to return to the beginning of this game of life.
This is why we need to be reminded over and over again of Paul’s words found in Philippians 3.
We are not people with problems needing to be fixed and character flaws needing to be changed, but a people looking for direction. As hard as it is for us to hear, the truth is that the past is irreparable. Our wounds cannot be fixed, but they can be healed.
The hope we can cling to is that the future is always available. There may be scars, mistakes, and failures, but there is a story of victory where everything that was wrong has been made right.
Stop being so concerned about the past you have no control over and begin to focus on a future filled with hope in a passionate pursuit of God. Press on toward winning the goal of a deeper intimacy with your Creator.
- Where are you trying to rewrite history? What would it look like to leave the past in the past?
Lord, may I finally come to the realization that I am incapable of rewriting the past. Yesterday is in the books, but unlimited potential exists for today. Yet, this will not come if I keep clinging to the baggage of the past. May I turn my focus not only to the future, but towards Your grace and mercy. My hope is I would forget the past and focus on how You are transforming me today. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” JOHN 8:1-11
Scripture doesn’t tell us what happened to the woman caught in adultery. We don’t know if this encounter with Jesus changed her infidelity to devotion, her lust to true love and her sin to a sincere desire to know the one who said, “I do not judge you.” But, you have to believe this encounter shook her to her core. She had been caught in an act that was punishable by death. She had been drug across town into the temple courts and cast before a group of people to be judged. Punishment was inevitable. She knew it and the crowd knew it as well. But, then she encounters Jesus and she is now free.
Jesus enters in this situation and upsets the normal course of events by accepting the woman without approving of the sin. Jesus doesn’t bring up the act and start talking about adultery or the other sinful things she has done. His focus is on the future. It’s a picture of love and forgiveness where the charge is “I’ve forgiven you. Now go walk in it.”
This is a message we all need to hear. Many of us struggle to understand the concept of grace, especially when it comes to past shortcomings and failures in our relationships. Sometimes forgiveness seems almost unobtainable. There are those who operate every single day from a place of constant condemnation, whether it is from themselves or others. They carry the baggage of past relationships with them into the future. They also hold onto their guilt and shame while at the same time try to walk with God.
The problem with this is that when one lives under this constant condemnation they cannot have life. They are incapable of living freely. Why? When the junk that we have created in the past frames our lives, we are imprisoned to live a life shaped by fear, guilt, and shame.
What does this story mean for YOU? Where do you see yourself in her story? Because if you were to remove the particular circumstance of her position, and enter yours, aren’t you in the same position as she was? We are all in need of that same Savior. Jesus entered the picture so that we don’t have to live like this anymore.
When Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin,” He wasn’t saying “Go and earn back your life,” He was saying you have been given life, now go and do something with it. Take what you have encountered through me, allow it to shape who you are, and LIVE it out. Let it spill out into every area of your life. This doesn’t mean from this point forward that we aren’t going to face fear, or feel pain when we see those who have carried the stones in the past. What it does mean is that we are no longer defined by it. We are to live freely under the authority of God and His grace. The demands of the law are replaced by grace. This is what should now define us. God is saying to us all: now GO and LIVE.
- Where are you hold on to baggage from your past? What would it look like for you to “GO and LIVE”?
God, help me to go and live. Allow me to walk and trust in Your freedom. May I view myself through my new identity in You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
In case you missed it, adult leaders from all over our church hopped on buses last week for a 12-hour ride with about 500 middle and high school students. Unpaid, voluntarily, these super humans (if we’re being totally honest) chose to spend their week with a bunch of kids with one purpose; to help them connect. To connect with God, with each other, and with their leaders.
I wasn’t raised in church; in fact, I’d go as far as to say that I was intentionally raised out of the church. In the 5th grade, I managed to make a few friends at school who attended a youth group, and for whatever reason, I was allowed to go. Sometimes I’d catch a ride with my friends, or sometimes the youth group leaders would come pick me up. Either way, each week I was there. For a few years I’d have told you that I went there to hang out, or because it was fun. Whether I was learning how to skateboard or talking to a leader about something tough going on at school, I was always made to feel part of the group, and I was always made to feel welcome. As I got older I started to piece together that in the big ways, and in the little ways, they were always loving me the way God does.
In high school, I had my first opportunity to go to camp. Much like many of the kids at PC3, I relied on scholarships to be able to go. It was through the generosity of families at the church, that I had the opportunity to connect further, and to build stronger relationships. It was the first time that I was able to remove myself from my routine, and experience God in a whole new way. It was the first time that I realized my relationship with God didn’t depend on my parents or my success at school or work. I figured out that my relationship with God was just me and Him, and that no environment, no event, no other person could interfere with His love for me, and my ability to be loved.
It was also the first time that I had spent more than an hour with my youth leaders. Youth group each week was a great time to have fun and study a few verses. But an entire week away with friends and leaders offers connection in a way you can’t get at home. To participate in activities where you rely on each other, to break bread together, to pray and cry and hope and sing together for an entire week – this is when you get the biggest opportunity to share your faith together. And for some kids, it’s when they find their faith in God.
Our faith isn’t meant to be hidden, but shared. We grow in our faith more when we do it together. Hebrews 13:7 shares what most youth group kids already know; to remember our leaders and the faith that they had. These adults, these leaders, these super humans, gave students an opportunity to meet God in a whole new way. Masked in meals and obstacle courses and games and late-night cabin chats, was relationship building and faith seeking on a whole new level. When kids go to camp, they come back changed. It’s pretty tough to find a better example of God’s love, than the love of a youth leader.
- What opportunities do you have to make an impact on someone else and their faith? Where can you get deeper than sharing a few Bible verses, and forge stronger connections with God and each other?
God, thank you for the hearts of the leaders in our lives! Thank you for the effort that they put into shaping our hearts and our minds and our faith. Help us to see where we might be able to impact others to help them grow in their faith, and to see Your love! In Your name, Amen.
PC3 writer Annalee Thomasson wrote today’s devotional.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4-5
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Even though it is in the past, many of our wounds still feel fresh. When someone gets too close and touches them, we cringe and recoil. They hurt too much. They remind us of things we wish we could forget. But, the pain brings those events back to the surface. We relive the hurt all over again.
Sometimes these wounds come at the hands of others. It might have been harsh words, inconsiderate actions or unspeakable events. Other times, these wounds are a result of our own heart making an appearance in a not so nice way. Broken promises, lies, addictions, bad behavior or exchanging our integrity for some immediate need.
Regardless of how these wounds and scars became a part of us, our reaction to them is the same. We hide from our past because of shame, judgment, and disappointment. We cover up our scars from God and others. We keep everyone at a safe distance.
Our scars become our identity. Anytime we look in the mirror, the only reflection we see staring back at us is our hurt and shame. Without even knowing it, our past can infiltrate our present and influence our future. We walk into the future looking backwards. Rather than seeing what is ahead, we spend our days captivated by the rearview mirror.
Something must change. If we allow our past experiences to define our future, our future will look no different than our past. For God to transform our character He must have access to “all of us,” including our past and our future. We need to learn from our past, not be defined by it. We must review our past experiences looking for God’s presence instead of using it to build a case for not moving forward.
Jesus shows us His scars to remind us that He cares about our own. He meets our shame with forgiveness. We might see brokenness, but Christ sees beauty. From our limited perspective, we convince ourselves that due to our past there is no way God can use us to make a difference in this world. Yet, God uses us as instruments in the lives of others.
God chooses us despite our past. We are free from trying to change our past when we understand His promise to redeem it. God can take any brokenness and turn it into a perfect picture of His love. So, what would it look like to turn your scars into a beautiful story of redemption?
- What would it look like for God to free you from your past?
God, I do my best to hide my scars from You and everyone else. Every time I notice my scars I feel ashamed. The pain seems so fresh. I relive those moments again and again. If I’m being honest, I’ve allowed my wounds and scars to define me. Today, may I expose my wounds and allow them to be touched by Your grace, mercy, and love. Allow me to trust that in the midst of my brokenness that You saved me and redeemed me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
This devotional was inspired by Tony Ferraro’s message “Let It Go.”
And compassion is on its way to us. You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing. You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean. Micah 7:19 (The Message)
I used to spend every single morning watching the sunrise at the edge of the earth. Rain or shine, low tides or high waters, I would take everything in my heart and on my mind and I would meet God where I felt Him the most. I’d run my fingers through thousands of grains of sand, and listen as the tide rolled in. God and I would talk. Sometimes about heavy stresses. Sometimes about the silly things. Some days I’d just listen.
No matter how long I spend by the sea, it’s still absolutely unimaginable to me; the life that it holds. We’ll never know what it’s like to swim Mariana’s Trench (deepest part of the ocean), but Micah 7:19 says that this is in fact where our sins are kept. Well, maybe not Mariana’s Trench in particular. But the Bible says that our sins have been cast that deep.
Can you imagine the thing you feel the most guilt over; the thing you are most afraid of; the thing you can’t speak of. Can you imagine it, at the bottom of the sea? So deep that it could never get to you? So deep that it could never come back to the surface? But instead, on the surface, is the compassion of God. On the surface, you are swimming in the love of the Father, and your sins are 36,000 feet below, and never coming back up.
Our sins often act as the lens through which we see ourselves and our surroundings. When a student fails an exam, they don’t see how hard they studied – they just see that they failed. When you don’t get that promotion at work, you don’t see all the ways you are good at your job; you just see that you weren’t good enough. When you cause an accident in rush hour, you don’t see the years you’ve driven without a glitch – you just see a totaled car. When you fight with your spouse, you won’t see all the things you do agree on; you’ll just see how you disagree. But what if the failures and the let downs and the lies and the fears were all cast so deep into the sea that all that was left was compassion?
When was the last time you talked to God? When all you can hear is a list of your shortcomings and wrongdoings, imagine that list just sinking to the bottom of the sea. Then, think about where you need His compassion, and remember that you’re already swimming in it. It’s surrounding you like the water of the ocean, and it’s coming at you as sure as the tide.
- Where do you fall short of God’s glory? What are the fears that you want to give to Him? In what areas do you need to receive His compassion?
God, thank you for casting my sins as deep as the sea. Help me to give up my guilt and fear and allow Your love to surround me. I know that where I fail, You have compassion for me. I know that I can rely on You in my shortcomings. In Your name, Amen.
PC3 writer Annalee Thomasson wrote today’s devotional.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 JOHN 4:18
Lately, one of my biggest fears revolves around parenting. I am constantly anxious about how we can teach our daughter the facts of life without her falling victim to the culture’s views on sex, dating and marriage.
During Tony Ferraro’s message last Sunday, he told us that “Fear forces us to disallow God to be God, because we rely on self instead of Him.” This means I need to stop thinking I’m in control, and start really believing in God and relying on Him.
Here are the steps Tony suggested for turning to God with our fears:
- Be real with ourselves. I messed up God’s plan for intimacy in my teens and 20’s. What if our daughter makes the same mistakes? That’s where my fears come from; I am projecting my own regrets onto my daughter’s future. Good to be aware of that.
- Understand the difference between caution and fear. Caution is wise movement; fear is stagnant. If we choose fear around this topic by overly sheltering our daughter, she won’t have the information she needs to take care of herself. Instead we’re trying to move forward by explaining God’s heart for this area of her life.
- Give God all of me. As Tony said, God wants 100% of us because He gave all of Himself to us through Jesus. I take that to mean God wants my husband and me to always be learning ways to talk with our daughter about His plan for sex, dating and marriage. It’s not a one-time discussion. Too important for that.
- Be willing to stand in truth. Culture flies in the face of God’s plan for us. I can’t control my daughter’s decisions, but I can give her God’s blueprint (something I never had), trust her to make good choices, and know God’s grace covers all our mistakes. All of mine and all of hers.
- Is there one fear that tends to dominate your thought life lately?
- Do you have any reason to believe God isn’t interested in helping you in this area?
- What would it look like to trust Him to cast out this fear?
Dear Father in Heaven, thank You for Your perfect love, demonstrated through Christ’s death on our behalf. Help me to abide in You and give you every concern, large and small. Yes, it’s a fallen world, but we can let the light of Your Word pierce the darkness and cast out our fears — for Your glory and for others to see there is a better way. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. PROVERBS 4:20-23
This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” JEREMIAH 17:5-10
To say my car is a tad messy would be the understatement of the year. It looks like a bomb went off in it. Don’t ask me how it got this way. Last I remember my car was tidy and clean. But, slowly over time, a fast food wrapper or two made an appearance. Then it was some workout clothes that showed up next. Before I knew it, there were children’s toys galore that were left by my two little rugrats. Add in some overdue library books, mix CD’s, empty shopping bags and stray receipts and you have a complete mess.
But, here’s the weird thing. Over time I’ve grown comfortable with the chaos and mess.
I’ll look around my car and recognize things aren’t as they should be, but it doesn’t move me to act. I promise myself that next weekend will be the time I finally clean it out, but something always seems to come up. So, the clutter remains and gets worse over time.
Unfortunately, most of us treat our hearts similar to the way I take care of my car. We don’t pause and consider what’s happening on the inside. We’re so busy with surface-level things of life that we forget to number our days and tend to our hearts. We become so preoccupied with getting our lives to a manageable point or a better future that we miss both the moment right now and the reality of the coming eternity.
We don’t realize the damage ignoring our hearts can cause.
Our actions and behaviors are just symptoms of a greater problem. They serve as revealers to what is taking place inside our heart. Every single action has some underlying belief that remains below the surface if we don’t pause and reflect. Why do I do what I do? What is driving my behavior? What do my actions say about what’s occurring inside my heart?
Instead, we settle for behavior modification, rather than true heart change. We are after a transformation that we can’t accomplish on our own. We might be able to change our behavior, but we are incapable of mending our heart. We focus on behavior. God focuses on the heart. We must position ourselves to focus and depend on God’s work in our hearts and lives. And the most important thing we can do is depend on Him.
God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who abide in Him, those who walk with Him in faith. Our efforts were never the impetus for God’s transforming grace. They won’t be the impetus for our changed hearts either. Our efforts are not the source of the change we are after; they can’t be. Rather, they get us in a position for God to change us.
- Reflect over this past few days. What do your actions say about what’s occurring inside your heart?
- In what situations is God transforming your heart?
God, help me to tend to my heart. May I not settle for changing my behavior, but rather trust that You are willing to transform my heart. Help me to trust the process. Give me the endurance to continue on when things get challenging. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41
In the midst of our uncertainty we often second guess and doubt God has our best interest at heart. Just like the disciples caught in the storm, we picture an indifferent God. We reason He has little concern for the circumstances we are facing. Worry forces us to drift towards questioning God and wondering if He cares.
Worry produces uncertainty in a mind that has no better alternative. It takes root in faulty thinking. If we allow our minds to focus on the world, we will look around, and fear will take over. Worry will take root, and faith will lose out.
When we are afraid, we accuse God of being indifferent: Can’t you see what is happening? Do you not care?
This is what is happening to the disciples in today’s reading. Looking around, they are afraid. Their circumstances are stealing their peace and their faith.
They start to freak out. Worry takes root, and fear takes over.
Yet, there is a truth that they are about to encounter. Take a moment and reread the passage again slowly. Get a picture of this scene in your minds. Jesus gets up startled from being awaken but even more so by their question. “Do I care? You are wondering if I care?”
He pauses to calm the storm before He addresses them. “Hold on one second; let me get these gale force winds to chill and the raging sea to quiet down so we can talk.”
His question cuts to their heart. “Why are you afraid? Do you have no faith?”
Do you notice the connection between fear and the absence of faith? Jesus reminds us that if He is with us who can be against us. He invites us to trust that our lives are valuable and lie beyond our circumstances.
Worrying chokes out the fruitful work of God in our lives. Our need to control our circumstances prevents us from letting go of our worries and concerns. Worrying highlights one’s perspective by revealing his or her picture of God. When our concerns convert over to worry, we develop a perspective that causes one to function as though God does not exist.
Worry, concern, anxiety, fright, and panic are all different levels of fear, and they all wreak havoc on our walk. The Bible says that God didn’t give us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
The challenge before each one of us is how we will respond to a situation we have no control over and no knowledge of the end result. Worrying sheds light on how we define and deal with uncertainty.
God has promised us that He will be with us. This is the truth we must lean on when everything in us wants to freak out.
- Where is worry choking out the fruitful work of God in your life? In what situations are you holding on to your worry?
Lord, forgive me for accusing You of not caring. I use my circumstances to justify my response and, as a result, worry rushes in. Lord, I will fix my mind on You and trust that Your peace will guard my heart and mind. All of this is for the sake of Your glory and not my own. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
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
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 118:6
What do our fears say about our view of God?
In the midst of our anxiety or when we are facing uncertainty, this question rarely, if ever, gets answered. We’re too busy looking for ways to gain back control, experience sanity or hide our struggles from God and others.
Fear can cripple our faith and destroy our connection points toward those around us. We get to choose between trusting God with our fears or having our lives ruined by them. Even though fear is an emotion we experience before something occurs, our anxiety and despair can get its fuel from our past experiences. They create an emotional imprint, that guides our future reactions, when we encounter similar situations.
If we paused and took a moment to examine our hearts, we’d come to the realization that living in fear is living as if God doesn’t exist. We might know in our mind that God is our protector, but we fail to believe it in our heart. Instead, we fall for the lie from the enemy that God has forsaken us, having left us to figure it out on our own. Or simply, that He doesn’t care about us at all. When we choose fear, we make a decision that we are safer, relying on our own understanding and abilities, than trusting God.
Yet, the idea that God would abandon us in our greatest time of need is completely contrary to God’s heart and nature. Throughout Scripture, we see God tell individuals who are gripped by fear to not be afraid. Why? Because He is with them. Because He loves them. Because He views them as valuable. No matter what we might be facing, we can have complete confidence that the God of the universe is by our side. Overcoming our fears and healing our fear-based wounds require that we honestly interrogate the depths of our faith.
God is the conqueror of every fear we have. We must keep this truth in front of us because a life of faith requires us to face uncertainty, troubling situations, and difficulty. After all, without fear, there is no courage and not much faith. The trying times present us with an opportunity to walk in what we believe about God. By displaying courage, we are acknowledging our reliance on Him.
- What are the small fears that keep you from stepping into God’s purpose for your life?
God, when fear makes an appearance in my heart, give me the courage to address it. Remind me that I am loved, cared for and valued by You. No matter where my feet may take me, You are right by my side. I shall not fear because You are with me. Help me to walk in this assurance. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
This devotional was inspired by Tony Ferraro’s message at Port City Community Church on “Fear.”
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law. PROVERBS 29:18
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. PSALM 119:105
You’ll never make a sacrifice for the Kingdom of God when your greatest concern is your own needs and well-being. We often speak about faith, but deep down inside we crave certainty.
Rather than yearning for certainty, we must pursue clarity. Clarity is knowing what you should do.
God’s desire for us is to build bigger faith. Sadly, what we often want is less risk. When God gives us the ‘WHAT’ and ‘WHY,’ we find ourselves continually asking ‘HOW?’ Our mind begins to race over what the future holds and the thousand decisions and outcomes that might follow down the line.
It takes us down a path where we second-guess everything and live our lives based off of our circumstances and feelings.
This must change and it begins by crafting a vision for your future. In order to decide, you must know who you want to become. Your decisions move you either towards or away from that picture. Fear and insecurity often threaten our willingness to trust that we can become that person. We drift towards settling for immediate gratification simply because we can’t see any farther down the road. This is a vision problem.
The opposite of vision is not being blind, but rather being scattered. In other words, if you don’t have a vision for the person you want to become, you’ll be all over the map when it comes to your decision-making ability. Vision frees us from regret. Psalm 119:105 says God’s word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.
Even though we desire a gigantic spotlight that illuminates the entire way, God only gives us a flashlight to enable us to see a few feet ahead. We desperately want the end of the path to be clear and in a direction we desire before we even consider moving. What we fail to realize is the purpose of the path is our formation.
Your job is just to take that next right step. The proceeding steps along the path are in the future. But, you can never get there if you don’t take that next right step which is presented to you today. As we seek His face and meditate on His word, we become more confident in taking each step regardless of the uncertainty we might face. All God is asking is for you to be concerned about the here and now and respond to each moment according to the purpose you were designed for: to display God by having his life and heart fully formed in you.
This requires motion and movement. It begins by stewarding each moment and viewing it as an opportunity to work towards expressing God’s love to those around you.
- How does one develop a vision for the person they want to become?
God, help me craft a vision for the person I want to become. I desire that both my words and my actions would bring You glory. May I see every decision I face in light of that vision. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.