Devotions

  • Cookie Jar

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    The man of integrity walks securely. Proverbs 10:9

    “Character is revealed most of all in what we feel and do without thinking.” Dallas Willard

    Insight

    When you were a kid you never understood why sweets were off limits before dinner or how a chocolate chip cookie or two could ruin your appetite. In your young mind, parents were cruel dictators who forced you to eat your vegetables. With your belly growling, mom distracted by another sibling, you just happen to stroll into the kitchen.

    Your eyes instantly lock on the cookie jar. Your heart starts beating a million miles a minute. Your mind goes through all the different scenarios that could take place. It might be your sugar deprivation, but you swear those cartoon characters appear on both shoulders giving you differing advice about what to do.

    From what you can tell, it all comes down to two choices: (1) be patient and wait until after dinner for your delicious treat or (2) sneak in when no one was looking, devour it quickly and pray that you don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar. If you were like me, you took the advice of the oh-so-wise Cookie Monster and thought that “C is for cookie and that is good enough for me.”

    The choices that seemed like a matter of life and death as a kid (glue your mom’s vase back together or come clean, tell your dad you spilled Kool-Aid on the brand new carpet or blame your sister, cheat on a test or get the grade you deserve) seem almost trivial now as an adult. Yet, what we have failed to realize is that as the choices we are faced with become greater so do the consequences for our actions.

    Often we aren’t faced with choosing between good or evil, but rather better or best. These gray areas make it increasingly difficult to take the right course of action because we can justify in our minds that we will be the only one who knows, that it is not that big of a deal, or we can get away with it without anyone having the slightest clue.

    Instead of taking the time to examine the hole in our heart, we become experts at hiding our real selves. Integrity sounds good in theory, but if we are honest we see it more as an inconvenience. After all, we deserve what we want when we want it. Life becomes more about our immediate gratification than the condition of our heart. What it comes down to is a lack of trust in God.

    We think that just like our parents were holding out on us with the cookies before dinner, God might not come through. We take matters into our own hands and our actions become just reactions rooted in fear and insecurity.

    On the flip side, faith and trust serve as foundations for a life definied by integrity. When integrity guides our steps, we no longer react based on our insecurities, but respond with the assurance of who we are in Christ. We trust Him for our provision, guidance for our future and fufillment of our deepest wants and desires.

    Reflection

    • Would you say you are a person of integrity? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the ways that you?
    • Many of our struggles with integrity are not over choices of good vs. evil, but rather better vs. best. How do these “gray” areas complicate the every day choices we decide to make?

    Prayer

    God, help me to be the same person when I’m in a crowded room or behind closed doors all by myself. I often go about my day giving little regard to my wholeness and integrity. Open my eyes to those places where I exchange my character and influence for immediate gratificaiton. Today, may I walk in such a way that people see Your reflection in everything that I do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Scouting The Wilderness

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    We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

    Insight

    For seven years now, my daughter has been a member of a certain girls’ organization that focuses on leadership skills, camping and selling cookies. I was all in at first. I mean, she looked so cute in that brown vest covered in colorful patches.

    Lately I’m less enchanted. In fact I have gone from hinting Lucy may have outgrown this stuff to outright begging her to quit. I know that sounds horrible. But no one talks about how much is required from the moms. I’m not even the leader, but now the massive middle-school award project— which absolutely nobody warned me about — is requiring me to step far out of my comfort zone.

    In the “Wilderness” series, Mike Ashcraft is teaching us about temptation. One temptation for me, in this particular scenario, is to quit. Maybe not literally, but to withdraw all my effort in helping my daughter achieve this award. Another temptation is the opposite: tackle all the work myself and not rely on other moms or ask Lucy to do her part. A third temptation is to whine about the project incessantly.

    I’m tempted to quit because I’m afraid the project will end in disaster, so best to get out now. I’m tempted to “do it all” because I’m a control freak and that way I don’t have to rely on unreliable people. I’m tempted to whine to get attention.

    Mike says this about temptation: It will be over, and it will matter. This week I got a glimpse of both realities.

    It will be over: We just found out that the last of the $1,100 of in-kind donations we need to build our project is being covered — and by someone quite unexpected. So the financial part is over, praise God!

    It will matter: If I had convinced Lucy to quit before we finished this project, she would have learned that it’s okay to bail out on commitments. Instead we both learned that persistence with requesting donations pays off, that she can make a presentation to a complete stranger, and thank-you notes are vital. We both see how character-building really does lead to hope, because now that the materials are secured, we are hopeful about the next phase of the project.

    And even if it doesn’t go as planned, we will have gone through it together. With God’s sometimes-surprising, always-supernatural help.

    Reflection

    • What temptation are you facing today?
    • If you indulge, who will you become?
    • If you resist, who will you become?

    Prayer

    Dear Father in Heaven, I have been gritting my teeth through these last few weeks, trusting You barely enough to hang in there. You don’t want us to quit before the miracle happens! Help us remember that resisting temptation shapes our character into the person You designed us to become. Amen.

    PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.

  • A Better Yes

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    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

    Insight

    A few years back I had the crazy idea to put on my running shoes again and take part in the Wrightsville Beach Half-Marathon. Having a few races under my belt, I figured it would be a piece of cake, even with a little bit of time off.

    Boy, was I wrong. Life happened, causing the training schedule to go out the window. But, there I was on race day ready to pound the pavement. And at first, everything was going great. Then, around Mile 12, with my hamstrings and calves burning, I felt a bit of pain in my knee. With every step, the misery got worse.

    My heart didn’t want to give up, but everything in my body was yelling for me to give in to discomfort and quit. Less than a mile lay before me and this ordeal being over. The easy (and very tempting) option was to waive the white flag and stop short. No one would blame me – I endured long enough.

    Nothing was going to stop me from the glory that awaited me on the other side of the finish line. Mustering every ounce of endurance I had left, I limped (and cried) as I held my head down while hordes of cheering spectators kept reminding me that “I can do it.”

    And, do it I did. I’ve got the medal to prove it. Now, I tell this tale not to brag about my athletic prowess. I share it because it illustrates the tension many of us experience when we encounter struggles, suffering, and temptation.

    We get pushed to our limits. We start to lose hope. We come up with excuses and justifications as to why we have every right to stop short.  We compare our pain to those around us who are racing by us effortlessly.

    Eventually, we reach a point where the story will unfold in one of two ways. Either we’ll collapse under pressure by giving in and giving up, or we will step into the moment and allow perseverance the opportunity to do its work. In those moments, saying “no” for the 1,000th time will only get us so far. We don’t need more strength, but rather more reliance.

    Instead of attempting to be determined on our own with a NO, we have to find a BETTER YES by remembering what awaits us at the finish line:

    A transformed heart.

    A greater hope.

    A deeper character.

    A fresh perspective.

    A tale of faith and hope.

    An encounter with God’s faithfulness.

    Today, in those wilderness places where you’ve lost hope, are wrestling with temptation or are staring struggles straight in the eye, find your better YES. Head towards the finish line and let God guide your steps.

    Reflection

    • Think of the places where you are suffering, struggling or battling temptation. Why do you want to give in and give up? How have you lost heart and hope?
    • What would finding a “better yes” look like in this situation? How can you display perseverance, character, and hope?

    Prayer

    God, You never gave up on me so I will never give up on You. I trust that You are shaping my heart and have a higher purpose for my days. Help me to take another step of faith today, knowing that You are using everything I encounter to mold and shape me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Connect Or Compete?

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    The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

    Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Psalm 51:6

    Insight

    When we are not comfortable in our own skin, we will pursue any avenue to obtain feelings of affirmation, even if they are temporary. Since we are created in the image of God who desires relationships and intimacy, we are hard wired for connection. We want to hear we belong, we are loved and we are valued.

    The problem arises when we, as broken people, try to fill and satisfy these God-given desires by looking to other broken people to speak value and worth into our lives.

    How we relate to and are received by others determine our sense of self and feelings of security. We determine how valuable we are based off the perception of others. This places us on dangerous footing. By seeking the applause of the crowd, we become nothing more than an actor on the stage of life – we pretend, we play a role, we overcompensate, and we crave attention.

    Our relationships become no more than a means to an end. We use other flawed individuals to get what we want. Our days are spent always comparing and always competing. Bitter envy and selfish ambition begin to take root in our lives.

    We find ways to compete rather than look for opportunities to connect. It’s almost impossible to root for anybody when we are always trying to compete with everybody. We have no frame of reference to really consider others because our default is to figure out how to gain the upper hand.

    Our relationships aren’t a cure for our loneliness, but serve as the context for expression. How we deal with our loneliness impacts every relationship we have. In Genesis, when God looked at Adam and said it wasn’t good for man to be alone, God wasn’t saying people could fill us in ways that He couldn’t. God was making a bold statement about Himself. The reason it is not good for man to be alone is because man cannot glorify God by himself.

    Throughout history, a body of people reflecting the image of Christ is what has glorified God. We come together to support and encourage one another as we seek to glorify God through the way we live and interact with one another. People will see God’s love through our love for each other.

    This can only take place if we understand the origin of our true self-worth. Instead we must let our true worth and identity be spoken into us from God. It begins by trusting that we have value in the eyes of God. The only relationship that makes us valuable is the one we have with our Creator.

    Seeking affirmation from God leads to a deeper trust, faith, satisfaction and dependency in Him. But, it also transforms our approach to human relationships as well. When we are no longer looking for a human solution for our loneliness, we are free to find a connection with others.

    Reflection

    • Which one are you more prone to do: compare yourself to others or compete with others? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
    • Where do you tend to compare and compete? How is this inhibiting your ability to be authentic with others?

    Prayer

    God, rather than compete, may I look to connect with others. Instead of hiding my true self from those around me, may I have the courage to reveal my heart knowing I am loved by You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Does It Matter?

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     Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

    Insight

    When we quit trusting God cares, provides for us and loves us unconditionally, we quit obeying. And when we quit following, we stop believing that God has a grander purpose for the struggles we face. We don’t tend to drift due to theological reasons or holes in our belief system.

    The break in our connection with Christ happens because we violate our conscious over and over. If we don’t address our struggles, we finally get to the point where we say, “It doesn’t even matter anymore.” We don’t believe or think our way away from God; we behave our way away.

    We often forsake the very thing (FAITH) that can sustain us through our encounters with temptation. The battle of belief centers on surrendering our power for His provision, our will for His ways and our lives for His purposes.

    We have to pay attention to where our thoughts wander and the lies we believe when in the thick of the wilderness. At the heart of every temptation resides the question: Can God be trusted? If we fail to understand that God utilizes our struggles to develop perseverance and shape our character, we waste so much mental and emotional energy wondering why we face hardships and temptations over and over again.

    We leave ourselves vulnerable to feeding into the lies the enemy wants us to believe.  Some of us wonder if our struggles are punishment for not having enough faith.  We reason that if we were a good Christian that we wouldn’t struggle. Wrestle with something long enough, and we’ll stay put in the land of “that’s just who I am.” The validity of the struggle isn’t the main issue, but rather what our attitude is in the midst of the battle.

    What we fill ourselves with after facing temptation is critical to how we recover. We need to create space for recovery. By tending to our hearts, we learn how to respond differently when temptation rears its ugly head again. By strengthening our faith, we activate a sustaining source that we can rely on no matter what comes our way.

    Reflection

    • Think of the issue you struggle with the most. What lies are you believing when you give in to this temptation? How does Scripture demolish those lies?

    Prayer

    God, may I display faith when I find myself in the wilderness. Help me to understand that You have a purpose for the circumstances I encounter. Allow me to quiet the lies of the enemy while tuning my ear to Your promises and truth. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.  

  • Frame My Perspective

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    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. PROVERBS 1:7

    Insight

    In terms of our faith, the rubber meets the road when we attempt to live it out. Yet, residing in a culture of convenience, we are susceptible to selective devotion where we bargain with God about what it truly means to die to ourselves and pick up our cross.

    We give Him access to select areas of our hearts all the while fighting for our convenience and our comfort. We attempt to put guidelines and boundaries on our sacrifice.

    We desire to serve God and reflect His heart, as long as it doesn’t disrupt our agenda.

    This leads to the compartmentalizing of our faith. In a world that preaches “have it your way,” we can very easily pick and choose aspects of the faith that are appealing to us while ignoring and passing over the more difficult sayings and commands from God’s Word.

    This reveals our desire for comfort and safety.

    Rather than use Christ’s life as our marker of growth and transformation, we can base our level of obedience off of those around us. If we have a faith similar to and on par with our family and friends, we coast and settle for a spirituality centered on our own self-sufficiency.

    Instead of seeking God with all of our heart, soul and mind, we spend our days nestled in our cocoon of comfortable faith.

    If we don’t let the word of God transform our mind and heart, we will enable our belief system to be molded and shaped by our culture. We’ll live life with no conviction or foundational principles leaving us vulnerable to ignoring the places where unforgiveness reside.  This enables society to set our values and priorities rather than Christ.

    Every human being has a system of beliefs that shapes everything about him or her. It impacts their perspective, influences their identity and affects their relationships. We act on these beliefs because we trust they are profitable.

    This should cause us to pause and ask ourselves: What defines our reality? How did we come to this system of beliefs? What information do we feed ourselves that in turn shapes our perspective?  What are we feeding our soul?

    Reflection

    • How do convictions and values frame the activity of your faith?

    Prayer

    God, transform my mind. Let Your Truth frame my perspective. May I ground myself in Your Word and use that as the foundation for my life. In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

  • Climbing The Ladder

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    As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Psalm 42:1,2 

    Insight

    Growing up as a middle schooler, the city pool was the place to see and be seen. Since we were too young to get a part-time job, our days were consumed with playing Sharks & Minnows and Marco Polo while filling our stomachs with Sunkist Soda and Twizzlers from the Snack Bar.

    Still, in terms of popularity, nothing topped the diving board.

    When someone made his or her way to dive, they knew all eyes were fixed on them. Pull off a cannonball, screwdriver, or back flip, and the audience was left utterly impressed.

    I hate to admit it, but I was always a bit reluctant to go on the board.

    While waiting in line, I would marvel at how my friends would run to the end of the board then twist and contort their bodies with no fear on their faces. Even though they didn’t often enter the water perfectly, they made their actions appear almost effortless, and from the looks on their faces there was no doubting how much fun they were having.

    As I climbed the ladder, my nerves seemed to get the better of me. Face to face with the board, my feet felt like quicksand and I froze. With friends egging me on to do something, I knew retreating back down the stairs would be an action I’d never live down. It was now or never to perform my first front flip.

    The same holds true in regard to the transformation we hope to see play out in our actions and words. Many of you have taken the time to climb up the ladder by recognizing character gaps and areas of your life that demand your attention. Now you find yourself staring at the end of the board with a mental image of yourself diving into the water. Part of you cannot wait to launch out into the deep end.

    Yet, you’ll never experience that reality without movement.

    Thomas Edison once said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” You may have a vision of the person you want to become, but it would be pure insanity to think you will transform into that individual without movement.  Your feet are frozen and you are in desperate need of a push to put the movement toward growth into action.

    Engaging in spiritual disciplines is what creates this movement. They enable your vision to become a reality by forcing momentum and setting a direction you are moving toward. Just like my friends jumping off the diving board, chances are good your movement at first won’t feel natural.

    But disciplines enable you to experience freedom and abandon, while standing on the board frozen by your vision only leads to frustration and discontentment. Disciplines do not produce change; rather they create a context where change can occur. They put us where God can begin to work within us to transform our character into His heart.

    Reflection

    • What spiritual discipline do you need to engage in to fuel the movement you desire in your character?

    Prayer

    God, may I posture myself to learn. I know often I hesitate when I consider all the growth that needs to occur in this area of my life. Allow me to trust in the vision of the person I know You want me to become. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • A Simple Yes

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    Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37

    Insight

    Decision-making is a skill that requires practice – this is why a learner’s permit is required before a 16-year-old can experience full driving privileges. A student driver is learning to make high stakes decisions. As a driver, you have to be decisive. You either step on the gas or hit the brake. You can’t do both. Hesitation can get you killed.

    Jesus offers strong words in His sermon recorded for us in Matthew 5. He covers many topics and among them is a small section that I labeled in my Bible with the words, “decision-making.”

    Jesus is not calling us to be rash in our decisions, but rather to be clear. We need to be decisive in what we say and what we mean. Then we have to take it a step further and do what we said we would do. In our culture, we utilize vague language and indecision to buy time, manipulate circumstances, or just plain blow someone off.

    I believe this is part of our problem with indecision. We hesitate. We don’t commit. What if we have a better offer? What if doing one thing will cause us to miss out on something else? “What if” is the question of the day so we keep things vague. Maybe, possibly, kind of, and the list goes on.

    Our actions make us distrustful of one another and guarded in our relationships. It is difficult to commit because it is difficult to trust. It is difficult to trust because it is difficult to commit. So we hesitate, and the cycle continues.

    Jesus’ charge in Matthew 5 is very pointed. Playing games with our words and our commitments should be taken seriously. It is ‘of evil’, Jesus says. The reason He is so harsh regarding our hesitation in making decisions is two-fold: (1) We are either being deceptive or (2) We are unwilling to take responsibility for our words. Both of these lack the character of Christ, whose image we are supposed to reflect.

    This passage does not forbid taking the necessary time to process decisions or seeking wise counsel. Instead, Jesus addresses our unwillingness to take responsibility or manipulate a situation to work in our favor. It could involve withholding truth or being deceptive (these are the same thing).

    Knowing where our eyes are set is critical to confronting our motives and behaviors. The eyes of a fool focus on the ends of the earth and the pulse of what everyone else thinks. They are trying to please or to one-up everyone else. The eyes of the discerning remain fixed on Christ, and Jesus calls us to make a decision.

    Bring your decision to Him. If it is a big enough decision to cause you to worry, then it is a big enough decision to bring to Christ. Don’t hesitate or manipulate, ask. His Spirit brings Truth to our minds and guides us in applying this knowledge. So pray, trust, and decide!

    Reflection

    • Where are you struggling with indecision or making your “yes” be yes?

    Prayer

    Lord, I lay this decision before You. I ask for wisdom and guidance. Give me the understanding to know what to do and the courage to take those steps. Let my yes be yes and my no be no. I will no longer languish in no man’s land because I refuse to take responsibility. I will not allow my indecision to jeopardize my integrity. Thank You for Your challenge to decide. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Wilderness Of Words

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    Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

    “O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble, why are you like a stranger to us?…You are right here among us, Lord.  We are known as your people.  Please don’t abandon us now!” Jeremiah 14:8, 9

    The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

    Insight

    Merriam-Webster defines wilderness as “an area essentially undisturbed by human activity” or “an empty or pathless area.” This definition of wilderness sounds exactly like how I now feel:  I have a strong urge to sprint but no clear path in which to run.  

    Day after day I sit down to read my Bible, then my mind and heart wanders to a thousand different places – any place but the page in front of me.  Words popping off the page, raising me to life, correcting me, most of all, guiding me, is gone.  I stare at the page and see nothing but words, jumbled together, formless.  I keep staring in hope that God will make His words light up again and in doing so will illuminate my dark places.  Another day passes.  I keep staring but I see or feel nothing.  Caught in a wilderness of words, I’m left undisturbed, empty.  

    I hate it.  Maybe I wouldn’t mind so much if I had not once experienced the pure provocation and joy of these same words.  Once, they were a “lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” Once, they excited me.  Once, I couldn’t wait to turn open a page.  

    I think now that I took this gift for granted but remembering this once-lived reality is why I keep trying, keep staring, keep reading.  I believed it once; I know I can believe it again.

    Suddenly, I’m consumed with guilt for thinking such a thought.  Furthermore, writing it down seems like surrender to a reality I’d rather ignore.  I think about all of the shiny, happy Christians sitting by me in the chairs on Sundays.   The ones who never seem to have a simple problem much less a cross to bear.  I know that’s a lie but this doesn’t stop my mind from thinking it.  I feel alone and isolated in the struggle.  

    I keep staring and these words finally touch a nerve:  “O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble, why are you like a stranger to us?”  

    I deeply resonate.  Funny how a question written thousands of years ago can speak to me now.   These words, spoken to God by the people of Judah in response to a long drought:  “You are right here among us, Lord.  We are known as your people.  Please don’t abandon us now!”  

    “Yes, God!  Hear them!  Hear me!”, I think as I keep reading.  But the story continues and I regret that it caught my attention.  Although Jeremiah begs God for grace and mercy on behalf of the people of Judah, God refuses.  This doesn’t seem like the very good gospel.  God even asks Jeremiah not to pray for them or intercede on their behalf.  Devastating.  I keep reading.

    The people of Judah cry out for God’s attention and rescue, but they do so half-heartedly while refusing to obey Him.  The only thing that God would eventually accept was authentic repentance.  God needed them to admit the truth about where they were before He could transform them and lead them to where He wanted them to go.

    My sorrow turns to relief.  I am reminded that God doesn’t want my fluffy-fake expressions of loyalty but He wants the truth about my heart.  He can handle the ugliness, the heartaches, the confusion.  He just needs my truth.  I think about the father in Mark crying out to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  I am grateful for his bravery.  I am grateful God made sure it was recorded for me to see.  This man didn’t need pat-Christian answers; He needed the power of God.

    Reflection

    • As you read this today, maybe you can relate to the wilderness experience.  Take heart that you are not alone and reach out to God to help you.  In the end, our efforts are but sinking sand; God is the solid rock of power and faithfulness.  Confess your doubt and unbelief and wait expectantly for God to transform it.
    • Perhaps, you are reading this and you are filled to the brim with gratitude for God’s word.  Spend time thanking Him for this gift.

    Prayer

    Lord, thank you that You are stronger than our unbelief.  Thank you for being the anchor in our storms.  Help us to overcome the places of darkness and doubt.  We can’t do it without You.  Amen. 

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Drift

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    Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

    No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

    Insight

    When facing temptation, our most significant vulnerability resides in the place between our desires and God’s provision. It is here where we are most prone to stop short, quit, or give in.

    We resist being dependent upon anything other than ourselves. During those times when our faith wanes, and we begin to question God’s faithfulness, we rely on our strength to deal with the struggles before us.

    If we’re not careful, we will wander in the wilderness, in the space between God’s promise and the Promised Land. We spend our days drifting from one thing to the next. Drift is the natural direction of our thoughts, attitudes, choices, and actions.

    Left on its own, our heart will head in whatever direction leads to our needs, wants and demands being met in the way we see fit, and according to the schedule we have laid out. We will do what we’ve always done, even if it leads to frustration, struggles, and regrets.

    Focus is required to deal with the drift. But, focus entails more than just paying attention. To obsess about clarity only paralyzes us. This doesn’t mean that clarity isn’t necessary, but instead, that clarity is increasingly nuanced and understood in the journey as part of the process.

    Focusing also involves leaning on God and displaying enduring dependence. Temptation ends in one of two ways, by either indulging or resisting. The way out isn’t to satisfy our cravings or even for us to suddenly be ushered out of struggles into something more wholesome. The level of temptation we face does not determine God’s faithfulness.

    We tend to define God’s faithfulness by how He gets us out. But, we see His faithfulness when we depend on Him to get us through. Instead of looking for Him to prove His faithfulness, we need to learn to rely upon it.

    Reflection

    • What direction do your thoughts, attitudes, choices, and actions head toward when left on their own? How would you describe your “drift”?

    Prayer

    God, help me to pay attention to the condition of my heart, especially when I encounter temptation. Let me focus on Your faithfulness when everything in me wants to give in or give up. May I rely on Your strength and power to deal with my struggles in a way that brings You honor and displays my trust. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.