Devotions

  • For All Intensive Purposes

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    People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13

    Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. James 4:8

    Insight

    My world got rocked today. Everything I know is wrong. Since you are wiser than the person wearing the dunce cap (ME), you were probably well aware that it’s “for all intents and purposes” and not “for all intensive purposes.” No wonder people would shake their heads at me anytime I uttered the latter.

    Finally, someone dared to stop me mid-conversation and graciously tell me I sound silly every time I use that saying. It made me wonder how many everyday phrases have I been saying all my life incorrectly?  I’m hoping that my repeated error didn’t “wreck” havoc on their peace and comfort, and there was no “deep-seeded” anger directed at me. Let’s pray that they allowed my mistake to “fall by the waste side” and that there is a “statue of limitations” on holding on to their frustration.

    Funny how changing a single letter or two can alter the meaning of a word or phrase. Two words that look and sound almost identical can have drastically different meanings and implications.

    In the church world, we often mistake (and treat) concession for confession. The dictionary defines concession as something done or agreed to usually GRUDGINGLY in order to reach an agreement or improve a situation.  It entails the admitting of a point claimed in an argument or acknowledging defeat.

    Here is how it tends to play out in our faith journey and struggles: we notice a continued weakness, a wandering eye, an out of control temper, or jaded attitude. We witness the ramifications our words and actions have on others or come face-to-face with the realization that we hoped to find fulfillment and purpose in lesser things. How do we tend to respond?

    We go to God, plead our case and treat it as a negotiation session by attempting to justify what took place. We try to payback or come to terms with God. If, and only if, this fails to do the trick, we concede. We create a list of things we’ve done wrong, look to God and mutter, “Okay..okay…you were right, and I was wrong. I promise it won’t happen again. So, we’re good, and I can go, right?”  We do this for a host of different reasons: to alleviate guilt and deal with our shame, because we feel obligated or as a way to get on with our lives and our agenda.

    Confession is not just rattling off the things we have done wrong and moving on. It entails a process of agreement AND acknowledgment. We profess our faith in a better yes when we engage in the act of confession. By doing so, we take steps towards aligning our hearts with His own. Concession produces guilt and while confession sharpens our vision.

    Reflection

    • Regarding your struggles, where are you conceding to God rather than confessing?
    • How can you begin to align your heart with God’s in the way you respond to this struggle?

    Prayer

    God, may I not attempt to keep anything hidden from You. When I conceal my struggles, my soul groans. I want to experience the full life You promise me. Remind me that I find freedom in confession. Help me to embrace Your ways above my own. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Embrace Debate

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    But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him. Deuteronomy 4:29 

    O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

    Insight

    As a huge sports fan, there is nothing better than arguing with friends (and sometimes complete strangers) about random sports topics. Who is the greatest quarterback of all time? Was or wasn’t that a catch? Should college players get paid? Does defense indeed win championships? What sport has the best athletes? Could a college team beat a pro team?

    To fill the around the clock coverage, sports networks like ESPN thrive on these arguments. Countless hours arguing around the water cooler have taken a toll on workplace productivity. These debates rage on forever and rarely if ever get settled.

    Everyone suddenly becomes an “expert” and pleads their case with well-rehearsed facts, points, and insight that would make any high-powered attorney envious. We listen to refute rather than to understand the other point of view. We become so entrenched in our stance that changing our mind is an impossibility.

    An unwillingness to take a step back and consider a new way of thinking isn’t strictly reserved for something trivial as an “MJ or LeBron” debate. A rigid and stubborn belief system can very well influence our faith, emotions, and perspectives. We recite and throw out “Christianese” words without ever considering the implications they should have on our lives.

    We allow our train of thoughts to run wild without paying attention to what track they are leading us down.  We get set in our ways. What has been, always will be.  We’ve thought the same thing for years upon years without putting what we believe to the test.

    We surround ourselves with people who look like us, think like us, behave like us and believe like us. What’s even scarier is when we attempt to use our theology to create and craft a god who would agree with every viewpoint we hold. We are sometimes guilty of creating God in our image.

    New things require a new way. We often see what we’re looking for, so a fresh perspective is needed. We must put ourselves in situations where there is a shift in what we see. The same holds true for our thoughts. It’s important to take inventory of our thoughts – are they based on facts or fed by lies and fear?  Rather than dig our feet in, we have to embrace curiosity, welcome pursuit and look for ways to understand rather than be understood.

    This involves less talking and more listening, asking questions with humility as well as journaling and praying our hearts out. It entails walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, considering their perspective and hearing their story. Rather than a debate, pursue a dialogue.

    Each one of us must allow our faith to be stretched by exploring what we believe. By placing ourselves in environments where we’ll be tested, we provide ourselves with opportunities for our faith, and what we truly believe, to rise to the surface. And finally, we should ask God to reintroduce Himself to us so we can see Him with fresh eyes.  There is no argument about it – this is a prayer God always answers.

    Reflection

    • How can you see a situation you are facing with fresh eyes?
    • What are tangible steps you can take to place yourself in an environment where your faith, perspective, and viewpoint will be challenged?

    Prayer

    God, often I try to put You in a box that’s easy for me to understand and control. But, my ways are not Your ways. Your wisdom is too great for me to understand. Open my eyes so I can see You from a fresh perspective. Give me new glimpses into Your heart, character, and faithfulness. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • In The Weeds

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    “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Deuteronomy 30:19

    But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

    Insight

    As I gaze out the window overlooking my backyard, I’m dumbfounded by what I see – a green yard filled with patches of grass that are at least ankle high. Only a few short weeks ago, it was practically a wasteland. Except for the random weed, there was no life.

    But, thanks to a few seeds, some attention and a WHOLE LOT of rain (whoever did the rain dance needs to have their shoes taken away), bleak surroundings got replaced by blooming vitality. Life overtook dead places.

    I’ll be honest, I had lost hope of ever mowing something other than dirt and rocks. The longer something remains desolate, the quicker optimism disappears.

    Take for instance, those places within us that remain off limits and shut off from everyone, including God. It might be a withered dream, a dull faith, a shriveled-up connection, or a calloused heart. The light hasn’t pierced these hidden places in quite some time. We’ve resigned ourselves to living in the weeds.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. God has the power to bring life to dead places if we let Him. The One who conquered the grave can revive the most barren parts of our heart and soul. But, He gives us the choice whether we want to walk in this reality or not.

    We are offered life or death – what we experience is up to us.

    Don’t shortchange this offer by viewing it solely through the lens of what happens on the other side of eternity. We don’t have to wait. Summer has already come. Nourishment for our soul begins right here and right now.

    When we trust Him, God floods our heart with His love. New life begins to bloom while deep roots grow that lead to stability, gratitude, and generosity.

    Reflection

    • God brings life to dead places. Right now, where do you hope to experience this truth?
    • Why does this situation come to your mind first?

    Prayer

    God, bring life to those dead places of my heart. Revive them and breathe life into my soul. Help me to trust that hope is not lost and that You can transform any situation. Give me the courage to walk in the life and love You provide me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Nose Blind

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    Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.

    “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” Luke 5:36-39

    Insight

    For over two hours I tore the house from top to bottom looking for it. No luck. In the midst of my frantic searching, I asked my wife Jenn if she’d seen my beloved Baltimore Orioles hat. She hesitated and then fessed up, “It was disgusting…and I threw it away.”

    “You did WHAT!?!!” How dare she toss my cherished cap into the garbage?  Over the years I managed to make it fit perfectly around my big noggin. I wore it so much, it became part of my everyday wardrobe. I loved it, Jenn despised it, and for good reason. I had gone “nose blind” to its musty smell, sweat ring, holes, rips, and tears. The reality is the hat was disintegrating right before my eyes, but I didn’t have the heart to give it up.

    It’s funny the random stuff we’ll cling on to and won’t let go. Sometimes it is material possessions like my hat, but often it can be things of the past that have the power to destroy our heart and debilitate our faith.

    Negative self-talk. An unwillingness to forgive. Destructive behaviors. Shame. Guilt. Mistakes. Regrets. Hidden sin.

    Many of us have held on to this baggage for such a long time that it’s become part of our identity. We wouldn’t know ourselves without it. Over the years we’ve learned to live with it. Everyone see the damage created by our clenched fists; everyone except for us.

    Without even realizing it, clinging to the past is influencing our present and determining our future. When things get familiar, we get comfortable, even if it is hurting us in the end. We like comfortable and we don’t tolerate disruptions to our routine very well. Our desire for the predictable past often outweighs our hope for the potential of the future.  We settle for the beast we know rather than displaying faith and trusting in a better future.

    Embracing the new isn’t something that comes naturally to us. Change breeds fear. The more anxious we feel about change, the more we fear the future. The more we fear the future, the harder we hold onto the past. Yet, the only way to embrace the new thing God is doing in our heart, mind, and soul is to let go of the old. Loosen your grip today.

    Reflection

    • What things of the past are you unwilling to let go of and release? Why do you cling to them?
    • What would it look like to drop this baggage?

    Prayer

    God, I can’t change the past. The only place I can display faith is right now. And today, I will do so. My past has weighed me down for far too long. I don’t want to carry that burden any longer. I’m letting go of the past and embracing a better future centered on You and Your love. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Road Race

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    For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18

    And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

    And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:12-13

    Insight

    Growing up a summer tradition for our family was participating in a local charity road race. We’d race around town going from clue to clue hoping to get to the finish line the fastest. Our propensity to argue over tasks and inability to read a map often doomed us from the beginning.

    In this mashup of Smokey and The Bandit meets The Amazing Race, we would inevitably end up lost on the side of some dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Like clockwork, my younger brother would pipe in from the back seat, “MOM!…Where are we?”

    From time to time, we all find ourselves lost. We wander down paths we didn’t intend or we trek down well-worn roads that feel comfortable, even if they’re leading us in the wrong direction. The Bible is filled with stories of people who are all alone: hurt, lost, confused, worried and angry. The wilderness and wasteland have become their home.

    And in every occasion, God shows up and asks them a question: “Why are you here?” He does this not to pile on more guilt and shame or make them feel less than. God inquires to expose their heart so He can deal with the issue at hand. He does the same for us. In order for Him to lay down the path in the wilderness or bring water to the wasteland, it requires us to first confront our surroundings. What we believe about our current place determines our way into the future.

    If we believe we are where we are because of our choices, we’ll punish ourselves or try to earn our way forward. On the other hand, if we believe we were led into the wilderness because of our circumstances, we may end up blaming God or others. Either way, we lose hope, faith, purpose, and direction – the very things that have the possibility to sustain us.

    “Why are you here?” can be a frightening question, but it also has the power to liberate and free us. By being vulnerable and putting words to what is taking place inside our heart, we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of its true state. The very act of verbalizing our thoughts shrinks the boundaries of the wilderness and places us one step closer to a new hope and a new way. Every journey begins by recognizing our starting point.

    Reflection

    • As the summer begins, how would you describe the place you find yourself in?
    • Why are you residing in this place and what brought you here?

    Prayer

    God, help me to pay attention to my surroundings. Let me slow down long enough to see the places that my words, actions and choices have led me. Let me be vulnerable with You, knowing my transparency will be met with unconditional love, unfathomable mercy, and unending grace. Help me to step into the new future You have for me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Procrastination Olympics

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    Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

    For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
    I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

    Insight

    If procrastination were an Olympic sport, I would have more medals than Michael Phelps. Nowhere have I honed my world-class skills of putting things off more than packing for vacation. The night before a trip, usually when I’m flipping channels on the television, I remember I’ve failed to do any laundry and have no clue about the location of my suitcase. Eventually, after another Office rerun, I get around to haphazardly throwing clothes into a random duffle bag hoping I don’t forget anything for the journey ahead of me.

    Unfortunately, my lack of preparation always causes me to encounter “interesting” situations on vacation. I can’t enjoy the water because my swim trunks are nowhere to be found. I look a little silly at the formal event with flip-flops because I forgot my dress shoes. Preparation matters more than we know.

    Today we embark on a different type of journey…the summer season. Summer is a disruption to the rhythm we’ve lived in for the past nine months. It may very well be a welcome disruption, but we lose our grove nevertheless. So we want to embrace the disequilibrium of summer and use it to prepare us for the fall.

    Why? Because for as much as we love the longer days, the warmer weather, and hanging by the pool, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves complaining about the humidity, traffic, and frizzy hair. We’ll yearn for fall to come and before we know it, it will be here.

    But, will we be ready for it? When fall arrives, will our eyes be searching and paying attention to where God is moving in our lives? Or, will our procrastination get the better of us? How can we utilize the summer to grow our faith? What would it look like to leverage the sixty summer weekdays to prepare our heart, mind, and soul for something new?

    The disruption of our rhythms can serve as a great season of preparation. If we’re intentional, it leads to new perspectives, new understandings and a new level of trust. Scripture says that those who ask receive, those who search find and those who knock will have doors opened. We can rest on this promise in the midst of this time of preparation.

    We aren’t asking to see what we are already looking for. We are asking Him to help us see something new by opening our eyes and learning to be expectant for the new things He wants to do in us and through us.

    Reflection

    • How can you utilize the summer disruption to prepare your heart for the fall?
    • What aspect of your heart, character, and faith have you procrastinated in addressing?

    Prayer

    God, help me to pay attention to my heart. Use the summer months to form and shape my character. May I not put off for another day what I know needs to be handled. Let me pursue Your heart and be ready to take my next step of faith, whatever that might be. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Rattle And Screech

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    Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

    So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of ChristEphesians 4:11-13

    Insight

    I drive a 2001 Ford Focus so I don’t much pay attention to the tachometer. That gauge is pretty much irrelevant. When I turn on the ignition, I’m more concerned my car starts than the RPM it is producing. 50MPH is about as fast as it goes and that’s when it is coasting downhill. Anything over that speed makes the car grumpy. It begins to rattle and screech, letting me know not to push my luck. If I get anywhere close to the Red Line, there is a good chance the car might combust. Over the years, I’ve learned the limits of the Focus and have come to the realization that it’s an “in town” car as in if I take it on the highway it’s a goner.

    The tachometer on a worn out Ford Focus might be irrelevant, but the gauges that exist in our heart, mind and soul should be of utter importance. There is a Red Line that exists for each one of us. Unfortunately, our tachometers tend to run hot in the overheated category. Since we have nothing to govern us, we push our lives to the limit.

    We are driven, but don’t know where we are headed.

    Perfection pulls us while fear pushes us. Deep down inside we also have this fear we are going to miss out. We are driven by our fears more than our pursuits. We’ve become rotten with perfection. We have this mindset that “If I can just get this, or if I can just achieve that then my life will be perfect….I’ll finally experience this FULL life.” We are chasing perfection with this destination thinking and it is driving us insane. We push and push and push hoping that once we achieve what we are chasing, then we can slow down, enjoy and be satisfied. But, perfection and satisfaction never come. The full life is nowhere to be found.

    When is enough….enough? Where is your Red Line? What is God calling you to do? These are questions that often remain unanswered. Why? Because we never stop long enough to ask the questions in the first place. Knowing ourselves requires us to know our own Red Line.

    Without knowing ourselves, we will drive in a million different directions at lightening speed.

    Too many options paralyze us and breeds in us a sense of discontentment. With all the available options, we wonder if we didn’t choose well. When anything is possible, everything is possible so in the end nothing is possible. We second-guess our decisions. We compare and compete with others which inhibits integrity from taking root in our lives. No one ever hopes that life turns out terrible. But, somewhere along the way we give up. We don’t stop chasing, but we just remain in park spinning our wheels. Our RPM’s rev, but our lives remain still and we are unmoved.

    It’s hard to walk with God when we are running so fast after everything else.

    We are chasing perfection as if it was a destination. But, when we look at how the Bible speaks of perfection, we get a completely different picture. Perfection is more about satisfaction than it is excellence. Contentment breeds integrity. We need to develop a deep sense of satisfaction that centers on the process of our growth. God is more concerned about what we are becoming than what we are doing, but what we do is very important.

    Perfection, from a Biblical perspective, means complete and done. When the word ‘teleios’ is mentioned in Scripture, the heart behind it is one concerned with the transformation of our mind, heart and character. It speaks about maturity and focus. Walking in our security in Christ should drive our direction, define our priorities and determine what we pursue. When we know ourselves, we never have to prove ourselves to anybody else. God doesn’t want us to be someone else, He desires for us to exactly who he made each of us to be. He has placed a call on each of our lives.

    Knowing that calling requires the eyes of our hearts to be opened. Our call is simply what God has asked us to do and what He’s entrusted to our care.  We must know God in order to know ourselves. God will never do something with us without doing something in us first.  We can’t bypass the process.

    Talking about God’s call for your life can be very intimidating. It may seem like such a big undertaking that you don’t know where to start. There may also be a fear of being wrong or a fear of misinterpreting that call that makes you hesitate to move. You may push in different directions due to a feeling of futility. But, what if we replaced this sense of futility with a sense of curiosity? What if we took the time to get to know ourselves: learning our strengths, weakness and pace? In order to be yourself, you must know yourself.

    Reflection

    • How would you describe your current pace of life?
    • What are some warning signs alerting you that you are at or over the Red Line?

    Prayer

    God, help me to pause long enough to reflect on the pace of my life. Expose the reasons why I push so hard. I desire for my motives to pure and honor You. May my life serve as an offering to You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Opportunities In Disguise

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    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

    Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3

    Insight

    Disappointment is inevitable. Living in a broken world, we are bound to experience this emotion at one point or another. It doesn’t discriminate and it touches us all. Sometimes the distress comes from unforeseen circumstances: not getting into college, a failed relationship, a lost job, a grim medical diagnosis. Other times the hurt and pain come from the words and actions (or lack thereof) of those around us. Then there are those occasions when the disappointment rests on our own shoulders. We look in the mirror and are discouraged by the reflection. We let ourselves down.

    And, if we’re brutally honest, on occasion we are disappointed in God. Our dreams shatter into a million pieces and while picking up the shards, we wonder how a good and loving God could allow things to unfold in the way that they did. Confused and frustrated, we are left with the question of…WHY, GOD?

    If not addressed, disappointment has the power to damage and debilitate while creating doubt and distance. Left long enough, it leads to depression and despair. We were never meant to wallow in disappointment. We must empty our hearts to God rather than keep it inside. He invites us to take our heartaches to Him. He empathizes and understands our struggle. He also offers a way out.

    Yes, disappointment is inevitable, but hopelessness is optional. We might not have any control over what happens TO us, but we do have a say in what happens IN us. Our character gets tested and formed when it meets adversity. The choice is ours whether we let disappointment have the final word and halt us in our tracks or if we find the courage to dust ourselves off and take a step of faith.

    God doesn’t waste anything. He uses everything, including our disappointment. Just because we can’t see God working doesn’t mean He isn’t up to something. Scripture says that in “ALL THINGS God works for the GOOD of those who love Him, who have been CALLED according to HIS PURPOSE” (Romans 8:28).

    The tension many of us face in the midst of disappointment is an unwillingness to let go of our dream, our hope, and our agenda and embrace the greater purpose God has for our life. Obstacles are really opportunities in disguise. Our setbacks have the ability to set us up for a transformation we couldn’t imagine on our own.

    We only get to experience this if we’re willing to ask a better question. We can’t stop at “Why, God?” A question like that leaves us stuck in the past, a place that can’t be changed or fixed. Instead, we need to turn around and look towards the future by asking, “What now, Lord?” By seeking out this answer, we learn what our next step is – not only out of the land of disappointment but also into the future God has for us.

    Reflection

    • What disappointments are you currently carrying with you and how are you processing this situation?
    • What is one way you can be honest and pour out your problems to God this week? How can you move from “Why, Lord?” to asking, “What now, Lord?”

    Prayer

    God, Your love never fails and never disappoints. Remind me of this when I encounter circumstances that have the power to steal my joy and make me question my faith. Help me to see that You use my experiences, both the good and bad, so I can better reflect Your heart and love to others. Mold me in any way You see fit. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • House Of Cards

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    For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 

    Insight

    Without discovery, faith is impossible. When you feel that you have all the right answers, there is no need to be a learner. Curiosity isn’t required. Humility  is never displayed. One simply stops growing because they believe they’ve arrived.

    We all know people like this. They have all the “right” answers, but very little to no understanding. The truth hasn’t changed them. All that head knowledge hasn’t managed to work its way into their heart. A transformed life is nowhere to be found.

    You don’t need to trust anyone if you think you have everything under control. But, here’s the thing about control – it’s an illusion at best. The only predictable thing about living in this world is its unpredictability. No matter how much effort we put into letting our control freak nature determine every facet of our life, we’ve already lost. It only takes a small gust of wind for our feeble house of cards to come crashing down and for us coming face-to-face with the reality that there is only one God and we are not it.

    Our response to life’s uncertainties can push us to look toward God and His Word. Yet, we must get gut level honest about our reasoning for doing so.

    If we’re not careful, we’ll use the Bible to find answers rather than to relate to God.  In the face of uncertainty, our default mindset is “tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” This promotes excuses and prevents ownership. We love formulas because they establish predictable and controllable outcomes. Certainty is the enemy of faith.

    When you can see 10 steps down the path, you don’t need any faith to take the first step. Faith requires uncertainty.

    Discovery keeps us curious about the future and engaged in the process, even when the desired results don’t come right away. Faith is the heart set by which our experience catches up with reality. Each step of faith we take provides us with an opportunity to discover things about God we didn’t know before. The foundation of a relationship isn’t our behavior, but trust.

    Discovery makes room for our struggle, doubts and questions. When we embrace discovery, we make good mistakes and fail in the right direction. Discovery breaks our tendency to control and execute by pushing us to trust and obey. We need to stop living according to the plans we’ve made and instead embrace the process of discovery to know God more. If we put ourselves in situations where we collide with God’s truth and allow it to be formed in our heart, we can’t help but be transformed.

    Reflection

    • Are there any situations in your life where you doing everything in your power to control the outcome? Why are you fighting for control in this area? What makes you reluctant to let go and trust?

    Prayer

    God, may I never stop growing and pursuing Your heart. Help me to realize that it is only through discovery that I am able to exhibit faith. Rather than attempting to control all my circumstances, give me the courage to simply do what I can and trust You with the rest. In those situations where I am fighting for control, open my eyes to what You are teaching me and want me to understand. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • A Way Out

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    For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:24-28

    Insight

    When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we yearn for relief. Rather than persevere, we look for a way out.  The harder something is to endure, the more we will want it to be over.  Relief allows us to catch our breath for a moment. The chaos calms down. Uncertainty subsides.

    We gain back control, or so we think. At best, relief is a temporary fix. If we don’t get to the root of our struggles, it’s not a matter of if, but when temptation will rear its ugly head again.

    We desire a change in our circumstances while God’s focus is molding and shaping our character. A quick fix prevents Him from completing a transformative work within us. The power of redemption is that He is redeeming, restoring, and awakening our heart.

    Character produces a hope by which we become more of ourselves through whatever struggle we might be facing.  The foundation of our hope comes from our identity, not a change in our circumstances. The important thing isn’t that our situation will be different, but that we will be different.

    Waiting has a purpose. It isn’t wasting time; it is recovering hope. We shouldn’t confuse patience for passivity.  Waiting as a declaration of trust serves as an act of worship. Temptation leverages fear while hope harnesses faith. Shame always attempts to undermine our worth, attack our identity, and disconnect us from His grace. It tries to convinces us that “if we struggle, we must not be good.”

    The enemy doesn’t just ruin us by tempting us to make bad decisions. He works in more profound and subtle ways. He tells us to trust our strength and our perspective and slowly undermines our trust in God’s provision, perspective, and purpose for our lives.

    Worship becomes a weapon we yield in the wilderness to combat the lies the enemy tells us. Christ endured temptation to enter into our struggle. He is working and fighting for us. He intends for the battle to draw us closer to Him.  The tendency is to pull away, but we must draw near for this is where we learn to understand our value while encountering His grace. He isn’t just redeeming our circumstances or our situation; He is redeeming us.

    Reflection

    • Where do you need to display patience and allow waiting to serve as a declaration of your trust in Christ? How can worship serve as a weapon when facing this specific situation?

    Prayer

    God, help me to trust Your faithfulness in the wilderness. Grow my courage and perseverance. Rather than searching for relief from my circumstances, may I be curious about how You are using them to shape my character and reflect Your heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.