Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer, pleading for your children, for in every street they are faint with hunger. Lamentations 2:19
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1
Most folks jump for joy when they hear its the first day of spring. The warmer weather. The longer days of sunlight. I, on the other hand, load up on tissues, throat lozenges, and Benadryl. I brace myself because I know….POLLEN IS COMING.
As soon as everything becomes coated in yellow dust, my eyes begin to water, and my nose starts to drip. Allergies turn me into an extra for The Walking Dead as my congested head seems separated from the rest of my body.
The worst part is how all that coughing and sneezing keeps me up at night, preventing me from getting any solid shut-eye. Instead, I toss and turn, utterly restless. Frustration sets in when the elusive state of peace remains just out of my reach.
Restlessness on a physical level, like when we have allergies, lets us know that something isn’t right with our body. Spiritual restlessness speaks to a disconnect on a heart level.
Our souls will remain unsettled until we find something worthy of our worship. For some of us, those aches and pains aren’t constant. We can dull the symptoms by utilizing wealth, relationships, hobbies, addictions, etc. At best, it’s a short-sighted distraction capable of only lasting so long.
When the deeper questions of life creep in or we encounter uncomfortable circumstances, the soul searches for an anchor to provide security. All of these aches are the heart searching for a place to rest. Whether we realize it or not, we are longing for God in those moments. The contentment we seek only comes through an encounter with Christ and His life-changing grace.
However, restlessness isn’t reserved solely for those who are searching for hope. As believers, we can experience unsettled and confusing times. We feel fidgety due to mistaking non-stop worrying with praying. It might stem from feeling convicted over our actions and the Holy Spirit speaking into those places. Then, there as those times when God won’t allow us to let something go because He’s placed it purposefully on our heart. He wants us to display courage, take a step faith or move us into a new season.
And finally, restlessness reminds us this place isn’t our home. We live in a broken world. The intimacy and connection to Christ we might feel right now pales in comparison to what we will experience later on. It simply serves as a glimpse into something more glorious.
When you find yourself toss and turning, pay attention and take note. God uses our restlessness to bring us closer to Him and awaken us to our need for His grace and direction in our lives.
- Where are you experiencing restlessness? What causes you to be uneasy or unsettled in this place?
- What do you believe God might be trying to teach you through these feelings?
God, let me find contentment in You, and You alone. Help me to address those places where my heart is restless. Give me the insight to know what is driving these feelings and let me look to You for wisdom and security. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. Ephesians 4:14-15
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. John 1:16
Karma. It’s a word our culture has been throwing around a lot lately. If a car speeds past us on the highway at 90 mph, and then a few miles down the road we see that same car pulled over by cop, we smugly think, “Ha, bad karma.” On the other hand, it’s “good karma” when we hear stories of people who live selflessly and then one day win the lottery.
Karma is a fun word to say and it sounds spiritual. But I submit to you that karma’s got nothing on grace.
I’ve been learning a little about karma in a Bible study called World Religions From a Christian Perspective. Karma is a Buddhist belief that the good you do comes back to you as good, and the bad you do comes back as bad. Every action has a reaction either in this life or in the next life (Buddhism teaches reincarnation), with the ultimate goal of ceasing to exist as an individual.
Make a mistake? Too bad. Karma can’t erase sins; it just keeps a running tally. Your only hope is in your own efforts, which of course are imperfect, thus the necessity for multiple lives.
There are some similarities between karma and biblical truth. The book of Proverbs has lots of examples of bad actions leading to punishment, and good actions to rewards. Galatians 6:7 is the “reap what you sow” verse: “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Yes, our actions have consequences. But while our good works point others to God and earn us rewards in heaven, they cannot save us. Only the work of Christ on the cross can do that.
By grace through faith in Christ, our sins are forgiven, the Holy Spirit transforms us, and we receive eternal life with God. None of which we, as sinners, have coming to us.
With karma, we get what we deserve. With grace, we get what we don’t deserve.
For years I sprinkled the word karma into conversations. But now that I realize that karma isn’t biblical truth, and it actually falls way short of the grace upon grace that God offers.
- List the gifts you’ve received by God’s grace. What would your life be like if you made this list daily, either in your mind or on paper?
Dear Father in Heaven, You are the Word made flesh. Help us to understand who You are through Your dear Son, who represents You in every way. Help us to live under Your grace, which is vastly superior to other human-made systems of trying to understand life. Show us how to wrap truth in grace in all of our words, actions, and relationships. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. Psalm 65:8
I have heard all about you, Lord.
I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger, remember your mercy. Habakkuk 3:2
During my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland on a cross-cultural trip. Everything about this experience was a treasure: the people were welcoming, the history was rich, and the food made my belly oh so happy.
But, nothing compared to the scenic landscape: The Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, The Giant’s Causeway, Killarney, Coral Beach in Galway, just to name a few. From the brilliant green hills and dramatic cliffs to the magnificent castles and charming villages, the Emerald Isle serves as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
A picture from the trip used to sit on an end table in my bedroom. I know it sounds cliché, but the photo doesn’t do the view justice. It fails to capture the beauty that took my breath away almost twenty years ago. My memory escapes me regarding the specific location of the snapshot, but I can recall very vividly taking in that view for the first time.
Being a chronic worrier who tends to overthink things, I had a lot on my mind and heart that day. In an attempt to process what I was thinking and feeling, I separated myself from our school group. Lost in my little world, I headed up a side trail and eventually sat down with my head in my hands. Something prompted me with these words, “You’ve spent too much time looking down…the time has come to look up.”
And when I did just that and noticed the beauty before me, I began to weep – tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of thankfulness. I stood in awe of a God who not only created this view but created me. If He put so much effort and time to carve out the cliffs, splash color on the hills, and hold back the power of the sea by utilizing sand, I realized He cared for me as well.
Just like the photo I took that day has faded over time, so has my tendency to carve out moments to marvel at God. “Life” often wins out. In our hyper-competitive, super-driven culture, taking the time to be still, worship, and stand in awe of God seems counterproductive.
But, it’s the exact opposite. We’re wired to worship, and when we fail to do so, we aren’t living by our design. The chase for fulfillment, security, and purpose isn’t found in the hustle and bustle of this world, but rather in those moments of wonder and reflection.
They reframe our perspective about who is indeed in control. They reminded us of the care and intention He took in forming us. They provide peace and rest in the chaos. They enlarge our view of our Creator and confirm that He alone is worthy of our worship. They encourage us to stop being consumed by our tiny kingdom and start living for something more significant than ourselves.
Even though the world He created screams His name, it doesn’t take a picturesque scene to marvel at Him. As we go about our day, opportunities to worship and stand in awe are all around us. All we have to do is pay attention. Wonder always leads to worship.
- When was the last time you had an awe-inspiring moment that made you say, “WOW!” and caused you to worship God? How did this experience expand your view of Him as well as influence your heart?
- How can you ensure having “awe” moments are a priority throughout your days?
God, I’m left speechless when I consider the work of Your hands. You are an artist like no other. Open my eyes to the beauty of Your creation. Help me to see You in everything around me. Let me worship You as a response to these moments of wonder. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
Every single day we witness tragedy and heartbreak. We tune into the news or open up social media and we are bombarded with headlines reminding us we are in a broken and hurting world. We might not have a crystal clear picture of what we were meant to be as a people and a nation, but we can all agree that our present state is far from ideal.
Missing the mark goes deeper than just us collectively as a nation. It is something we are confronted with on a personal level. In John 10, Jesus makes a bold promise that He came so that we may not only have a life but life to the fullest. Yet, many of us fail to experience this reality. A full life isn’t the words we would use to describe our days.
We react to this tension in a host of different ways. For some, they attempt to mask and hide their struggles. They avoid weakness and vulnerability at all costs. Try harder and don’t let anyone see you sweat becomes their mantra. They use their perceived power to put other people in their place so they can grasp on to a pseudo version of significance. Arrogance tries to distract the audience away from the insecurities that are lurking deep down inside. They puff out their chest, tie on their Superman cape and pretend nothing that comes their way will ultimately be their kryptonite leading to a downfall.
The exact opposite of these individuals are those who respond by wallowing in the pond of their own self-pity. This response can be very easily confused with humility when in actuality it is just low self-esteem and an inferiority complex in disguise. The world is out to get them. From their perspective, joy, fulfillment, and purpose aren’t in the cards for them. Rather than strength, they suffer. The glass isn’t just half empty, it is cracked and leaking.
When overcompensating and suffering fails to lead to a full life, people lose hope and feel like they are out of options. Why try, when nothing seems to work? As a result, they withdraw. They disconnect from the world and those around them. Even though there is breath in their lungs, they aren’t living. They medicate and numb their pain away. Playing it safe by not trying ensures they will never fail.
This begs the question: why are we so far from where we are meant to be? Why is it so hard to live that full life? And, where is fullness found? The fullness we crave comes from being both strong and weak. It involves confronting our arrogance as well as those moments of self-condemnation. Life to the full is being fully alive, having the courage to be weak, and being connected to our human purpose while at the same time participating in the glory of God.
We spend so much of our energy agonizing over the ways we don’t measure up and fall short of everyone else’s standard. Most of us are trying to get God’s attention in ways that don’t even matter to Him. Focusing on who we are not is getting in the way of who God wants us to be. We must remind ourselves that God had a purpose for our life long before anyone else had an opinion about it.
- Where do you need to be strong enough to risk, even if it means coming face-to-face with failure? Where do you need to be vulnerable enough to display your weakness?
God, may I look to You, and to You only, for a life fulfilled. Help me to embrace my weakness, but not be defined by it. Allow me to have the courage and strength to risk and take steps of faith. Let me vulnerable to you and others. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. Hebrews 11:1-2
All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. Hebrews 11:39-40
When we let comfort and convenience overpower our willingness to step into the unknown, we choose to sit on the sidelines. If our eyes focus solely on whether our tiny, individual kingdom is comfortable, we will miss out on opportunities to be used by God. There is an incredible cost associated with making this decision.
To tell a great story with our life, we must choose calling over convenience.
The life and meaning we desire take root when we sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves. God’s vision for the person we are becoming has little to do with our peace and pleasure. It gives little regard to our comfort and convenience.
No epic Bible stories exist about a man or woman who settled for comfort. The people God utilized were those willing to be inconvenienced and sacrifice their needs and wants for a greater good. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Hebrews 11.
This passage, often dubbed “The Hall of Faith,” mentions individuals driven by faith and convictions who refused to settle for comfort. They trusted in God’s character as well as His promises.
Imagine for a second if they took the easy route and chose convenience instead. Noah wouldn’t have built an ark in the middle of the barren land. Abraham would have missed the opportunity to see God’s promise fulfilled in Isaac. Moses and the Israelites would have never left Egypt or crossed the Red Sea.
This list doesn’t even mention those from the New Testament who exhibited incredible faith – people like the apostle Paul, Peter, John and the rest of the disciples. If they settled for security, the early church, along with the life-changing message of the Gospel, would never have dispersed to the ends of the world.
They did answer the call, and many heard their radical message of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. In the face of fiery opposition, they spoke of God taking on human form, being vulnerable, and willingly dying on a cross to bridge the divide that our sin created. This message has been changing the world ever since.
- What type of story are you telling with your life? Where does faith make an appearance in your story?
God, I want to tell a great story with my life. I want my days to count, which won’t occur if I’m consumed with making a name for myself. Help me to live for something bigger than my glory. May Your name be praised by the way I live my life. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6
Brackets, brackets and even more brackets. Like most of you, my productivity at work takes a severe hit during March Madness. Being a huge sports fan, this is my favorite time of year. But, as a writer, I’m instinctively drawn to this tournament for another reason.
Stories, stories and even more stories. With 64 schools dreaming of cutting down the nets, there are plenty of stories to go around. In the midst of the broadcast, we get to hear the backstory of players, coaches, and universities:
An unrecruited walk-on earned a scholarship through hard work and dedication. Basketball served as an escape from a turbulent childhood. Persevering after the death of a parent. A small town community down on their luck rallying around their school. A player trying to live up to the legacy of their athletic legend of a father.
These profile pieces give us a glimpse into the player behind the uniform. They serve as a reminder that every person has a story. There are things a person is dealing with that sometimes can’t be seen. Life is a journey that takes us down many paths. We encounter different circumstances. We deal with various struggles. We have unique scars and wounds.
For all of our unique stories, we’re all offered the same hope. It doesn’t matter if you are big or tall, black or white, rich or poor. The beauty of the Gospel is that everyone is welcome. However, our unique story influences the way we encounter and draw close to the Gospel.
For someone who left a string of broken relationships and poor choices in their wake, they key in on Christ’s forgiveness. For someone who has been disappointed by others, they cling to God’s faithfulness. For an individual who had unspeakable things happen to them, they cherish that Christ makes them clean and has the power to redeem all things.
The same message, a different experience.
So, today, take a moment to reflect on your own story. What does the Gospel mean to you? How has an encounter with Christ’s love shaped your own story? When you find these answers and articulate them it frees you to see your story as a part of God’s story.
- What aspect of the Gospel are you drawn to the most (forgiveness, reconciliation, hope, freedom, etc.)? Why does this aspect speak to you?
- Complete the following sentence: The Gospel means to me ________. What makes you answer in the way that you do?
God, thank you for Your faithfulness. No matter what I experienced or encountered, You have never left my side. You were there every step of the way. Help me to see how You were showing me part of Your heart in the midst of my story. Give me the courage to articulate the hope I have found in You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
The law of their God is in their hearts, their feet do not slip. Psalm37:23-24, 31
My steps are established. This not only implies a sovereign planning, but also secure ground upon which to walk. The stability of our walk rests in our delight and our willingness to worship.
I love this twist. We tend to lean so heavily on our circumstances to bring about joy in our hearts. But, today’s passage reminds us that joy comes from our faith and a delight centered on God.
Instead of looking at what is happening around us, we look up and allow our hearts to worship. He establishes the steps for those whose hearts are delighted in Him.
Worship awakens our hearts to God’s beauty, and His truth reminds us of His holiness. His Word reveals both His grace and His character. Hiding it in our hearts guards and protects us from being persuaded and enticed by lesser things.
It is the deceptive power of sin that disrupts and lures us away, down a slippery slope. This is why I love verse 31. God’s Word hidden in our heart provides traction for our feet.
Our delight and our joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Stability in our steps is not the absence of falling. Even though we may fall, the Lord holds us up. The truth of God’s Word living in my heart secures the steps the Lord has established for me.
- What promise in Scripture do you need to lean on for support today?
Lord, I will not depend upon my circumstances to awaken the delight of my heart. I will merely look to You. Awaken my spirit with Your beauty and guard my heart with Your truth. I will trust that my steps are established by You and I will walk in this security. I want my actions to be an act of worship flowing from a heart that delights in You. In your name, Jesus. Amen.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30
Why is our gratitude so valuable to God? Our gratitude is something we possess that God desires. The sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies God more than any effort we can bring to God. Why does it have such great worth in His eyes? Our gratitude magnifies God and is our acknowledgment that God is good in all things. When our heart is grateful, we recognize Him as the ultimate gift giver, and God rejoices.
As a father of two young girls, nothing brings me more pleasure than watching my children enjoying themselves. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when we entered Disneyland on a family vacation – a picture of pure joy, excitement, and wonder. As they threw their arms around their mother for a hug and squealed, “This is awesome….thank you!,” I had to fight back the waterworks.
An encounter with Mickey Mouse is far from cheap. The vacation was very costly and took a great deal of work on our part (as well as my parents). But, the cost was the last thing on my mind when they twirled around in their Disney princess’s dresses. Their enjoyment was my pleasure. I think God responds the same way when He witnesses us enjoying the things He created. And when we react in thankfulness, the waterworks happen. But, don’t worry, they are tears of joy.
Gratitude is our best attempt to express the truth of God’s goodness. Even though we will never be able to express it truly, thanksgiving is our human way of magnifying Him and setting Him apart as He is. There is an element of both recognition and expression in our gratitude. A thankful heart shapes and forms us, leading us to express our praise in worship. The purest form of thanksgiving involves valuing God above all else and recognizing His holiness.
- Why is gratitude the greatest gift we can give to God?
God, today I am grateful for all You have done for me. But, more importantly, I am thankful for who You are. The God who created the universe knows me and desires for me to experience a life full of joy. You sent Your Son to make our relationship right. This is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. May my life overflow with gratitude. Help me to realize that You love me and work everything out for my good. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Psalm 103:1
Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:18-19
We need to position ourselves to see differently. We can’t take this step for granted. Why? Because if we fail to do so, we are going to filter and edit what we see through what we’ve always believed and what we have come to imagine about God. We are looking to understand what God reveals, not merely what we observe.
Even though it might be scary or intimidating, there is freedom by accepting an invitation to imagine. By engaging our minds, we awaken our hearts. Our eyes open to the hope that is found only through Christ. The incarnation of Jesus, God’s arrival, was a game-changer. His sacrifice fundamentally changed everything, especially the way we approach God and our connection with Him.
No longer do we reside under the burden of the old law. A new way, leading to life and freedom, took over. Trying to wrap our minds around what’s been done on our behalf is impossible. It goes against the grain of everything culture teaches us. Rather than trying to earn our way into favor and access to Him, we only have to trust and abide.
Our ability to abide, to remain and stand still, is where we get into trouble. We try to understand God from our perspective, and in turn, without even knowing it, we create human-made solutions and alternative ways to justify ourselves before our Creator. Truth gets misused and becomes a token of the law and not a means of grace. Truth without grace crushes. When we misuse truth, relationships change, including our relationship with God. Instead of freedom, we settle for a “give and take” performance mindset, which is old covenant thinking.
Truth is required for grace to exist. Grace without truth dissipates, but grace rooted in truth is an expander. It builds, breathes, and fills us with life. Grace and truth make up the fullness of God’s expression of love. God’s grace sounds too good to be true, and this is why we have a problem receiving it. But, that doesn’t change it from being offered to us.
When we understand what we received through Christ, the response is to worship. Worship is evidence of understanding. We use worship as a declaration that we know and believe He is worthy. Sometimes our minds awaken our heart and sometimes our heart provides a focus for our mind. Worship creates space for the right perspective by allowing us to slow down and engage our heart, mind, and body. Worship starts when we receive grace upon grace upon grace.
- What situations are you facing where you need to worship to gain perspective? What would you be declaring by pausing and deciding to worship as a response to these circumstances?
God, You are powerful. You are filled with mercy and unending love. You are faithful to me. My mind cannot imagine the numerous ways You extend me grace on a daily basis. Help me to pause in the midst of the hurry to worship You for who You are. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Here’s your interesting, but irrelevant fact of the day. SeungBeom Cho of South Korea is the world record holder for solving the Rubik’s Cube puzzle. In 2017, SeungBeom restored the cube in a mind-boggling 4.59 seconds. His performance makes me feel like such a slacker. I haven’t looked at the stopwatch lately, but it is still ticking away at about 31+ years.
Yes, that’s right. I’m still waiting to crack the code for the Rubik’s Cube my parents gave me on Christmas morning when I was eight years old. That’s if you don’t count the time when I peeled off all the stickers and re-glued them back in hopes of looking like a smart cookie.
The Rubik’s Cube is a puzzle I have yet to crack (mark my words – it will happen one day). The only thing that once appeared more puzzling than that colorful cube was unlocking God’s will for my life. As Christians, we often equate God’s will with some complicated algorithm. It feels like a spiritual “choose our own adventure” book where you’re terrified of picking the wrong route.
This perceived pressure makes us hesitate not only to open some doors, but it causes us to resist closing others as well. We either push harder or are left paralyzed and plagued by doubt and worry.
We want so desperately to move from Step A to Step Z in no time flat. If there were a fast pass to get to the head of the line to ensure we were where God had called us, many of us would take this option in a heartbeat. But, that’s not how God works.
Not only does this approach require no faith and dependence, but it also ignores a critical point. Every day God is shaping our character. Too often we are so concerned about the future that we ignore the opportunities presented to us today.
And, here’s the craziest thing. His will for us today is the same as it was yesterday and will be years from now. He wants us to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” Pretty simple, isn’t it? God’s will is not so much about what we do, but rather who we are becoming.
So, when you think of His purpose for your life, don’t let your eyes wander down the path. Instead, remember that walking humbly with God requires a first step, which is presented to you today. What is the next right thing you can do to bring God glory? Have the courage to step out in faith knowing you are in God’s will right at that very moment.
- What is the next right thing you can do today to bring God glory?
God, I must confess that I make knowing Your will too complicated. I want to see the complete picture. But, You require me to walk by faith. Today, may I sense where You are leading me and have the boldness to obey. Thank You for taking each step with me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.