… So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” Acts 8:26-31
I spent some time on the South Carolina coast while going to college. During this time, I learned to surf. I learned this beautiful sport while going out with a group of friends, most of whom could surf well. While my surfing never expanded beyond beginner, I think I kind of “got it.” To be on a board, with a group of friends, simply waiting on the waves, is 90% of the joy. At least that’s how it felt to me.
That was over 20 years ago. I have tried to revive my surfing ability since moving to the NC coast four years ago. But it has proven much more difficult than it was back in the day. I have seen some of the world. For a time, I have lived not only on the Carolina Coast, but in the Florida Keys, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This makes me somewhat of an expert at knowing what a beautiful day at the beach looks like. There were two specific times during the last four years in Wrightsville Beach where the beach, the sky, and the waves were so beautiful they took my breath away.
On both days I was at the beach by myself with surfboard… and time. I was able to paddle out and grin joyously at the magnitude of it all. On both occasions, I distinctly remember two massive waves that were— perfect. But on both days, on both waves, as the water rose beneath me and I paddled into the ideal position, can you guess what happened? I got scared. I froze. Fear overcame my faith and belief system just for a split second, and that’s all the time needed to miss a grand opportunity.
My One Word this year is READY. I will get my mind READY and my body READY for the next big wave. And hopefully I’ll be out with some friends instead of being alone, and maybe these friends alongside me will provide the motivation that I need to stand up and live the life that I want to live.
If you’re new to the faith, or complacent in it, please know that it all starts in the heart. Self-reflection and self-examination are always at its core. This is often done while we wait, and while we are still. The next step is to immerse yourself in the body of the church, no matter how difficult or scary this may seem. Like the Ethiopian eunuch, we cannot do it alone. We were not called to. We were called to have brothers and sisters, we were called to set our hearts on God, and we were called to love.
- What are you afraid of?
- If following Christ is a team sport, who’s on your team?
Father God, You are the maker of wind and wave. You control each revolution of the earth, and even time itself. Help me to be still. Help me to look inward. Surround me with a community of believers that will help me stay the course. Forever and always, I am Yours. Amen.
PC3 writer Jeff Headrick wrote today’s devotional.
This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14
In life, we face crossroads all the time. Situations present themselves that force us to consider, decide, or choose. They show up in different ways: a job promotion, a health diagnosis, unpaid bills, a strained relationship, getting into college, moving to a new city, finding out you’re pregnant, becoming an empty nester, etc. The list could go on and on.
Sometimes these moments are significant and noticeable. Other crossroads present themselves as feelings of being tired of status quo, worn out by the daily grind, sorrow that won’t go away, indifference, or a lack of overall passion and purpose.
How will we respond to what we see? Will we stick our head in the sand and pretend like it doesn’t exist? Will we distract ourselves from the decisions before us? Or, will we view these circumstances as an opportunity for growth, change, and transformation?
The hour is at hand. Life moves forward whether we want it to or not. Attempting to maintain the way things are is an exercise in futility. Even though we love the safety of “what has been,” the growth we ultimately crave, doesn’t reside there.
Throughout Scripture, the imagery of sleep is used to describe the state of being spiritually unaware. Jesus understood the devastating effect our slumber has on our heart so He commands us to watch and pray. He is urging us to open our eyes and fully see what is at stake. He’s addressing the places where we are intentionally distracted.
A crossroad can catalyze change, but only if we’re willing to pay attention. To watch and pray is designed to empower action. Christ’s call to “sleep later” isn’t a call to hustle, but rather wake up. God’s direction always requires our response.
A decision provides action for our beliefs. A decision is a conclusion to act after consideration. It propels us to move in a direction when faced with a crossroad. Many of us know what God is asking us to do or where He is leading us, but we refuse to take that first step. The fifth step along the path is irrelevant if we remain paralyzed with the first one. Rather than being bogged down by the unknown, we’ve got to decide to decide.
- On a scale of 1-7, how spiritually awake are you right now: (1) completely asleep to (7) fully awake? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
God, awaken me from my slumber. Help me to pay attention to where You are moving in my life. Open my eyes to the things I’ve been missing, denying or pretending aren’t there. Let me respond to these circumstances with courage, hope, and faith. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
If people can’t see what God is doing,
they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 (The Message)
By your words I can see where I’m going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path. Psalm 119:105 (The Message)
The other day when I was cleaning up, I came across a box of old childhood photographs. While coming to grip with some of my questionable fashion choices and haircuts, I took a stroll down memory lane. Many of the photos brought a smile to my face, but one, in particular, stood out.
It captured a bunch of my buddies and me outside a cabin while at summer camp. We were tired, exhausted, smelly, sunburnt, but having the time of our lives. Little did I know, but a few days later the trajectory of my life would change forever after giving my life to Christ and starting a relationship with Him.
But, that’s not the reason why I smile every time I see this photograph. It has to do with what is missing in the frame, namely, my glasses. No wondering I’m squinting in the picture. Without my glasses, I’m blind as a bat. Everything becomes a blur.
Having secured our team’s win in the heated cabin competition, all of us jumped into the lake to celebrate. Unfortunately, in the midst of the commotion, someone inadvertently knocked my glasses off, sending them to the bottom of Saranac Lake. Did I forget to mention this occurred on the first day of a week-long camp experience?
So, for the next seven days, I stumbled around camp. I wore people’s emergency pairs or prescription sunglasses to get by, but they didn’t do the trick. I routinely bumped into things, tripped over objects, and had a continual headache.
I learned a valuable lesson, okay, two that week. First, always bring a backup pair of glasses with you on vacation. And second, seeing clearly matters. Distorted vision influences us in more ways than we realize. It sends us in the wrong direction. We stumble. We become tentative. We’re unsure of taking our next step. The world around us looks and feels different, and in turn, we respond in a way that isn’t natural or freeing.
Scripture speaks to the danger of having a lack of vision. Rather than walking with confidence, we stumble all over ourselves. This confusion leads us down paths of regret, frustration, and futility. When we don’t possess a clear picture of the person we want to become, we are more apt to fall for anything, including settling for second best and status quo. Temptation becomes more appealing when everything around us is blurry. Without a steadiness to guides us, we hesitate to step out in faith.
But, with His words speaking into our lives, we can suddenly see where we are going. We might not know what lies along the path or where it will lead us, but we can pinpoint what our next step is, which is all God is asking us to take. Today, consider the lens you use to view the world around you and how they are shaping the way you see yourself.
- Would you say you possess a vision for the person you are becoming? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- Where are you not seeing clearly? What is distorting your view to these circumstances?
God, when I focus my eyes on You, everything else makes sense. Help me to set my gaze towards Your love and Your grace. Give me the confidence to walk boldly into my future, knowing You have a plan and purpose for me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me. Micah 7:7
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Having two young daughters and no family in town, carving out a consistent date night with my wife has proven to be tricky. Sometimes it feels like I serve as my daughters’ Uber driver who whisks them to and from social events, after-school programs, youth group and sports practice. Jenn (my wife) is also in nursing school at night, which only adds on to the scheduling chaos.
As a result of all of these demands, we’ve become very creative in ways to make our relationship a priority. One way we do this is instead of having a date night, we improvise and have date mornings. Nothing fancy, sometimes it’s laughing over a cup of coffee, conversations at a bagel shop, or, when we’re really splurging, going to eat at “Christian Chicken” (aka Chick-Fila).
This past week, we had one of our date mornings. We enjoyed our meal, caught up and then kissed each other goodbye. When I walked to my car, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The delivery truck had just arrived, and it had conveniently blocked me in (along with a few other vehicles).
So, I went back inside and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I thought of all the work I needed to get done. The looming deadlines. The incomplete tasks. The unanswered emails. In my head, I began to wonder in frustration, “Don’t they know I have places to go and people to see?” In reality, this delay held me back for no longer than maybe 30 minutes (no biggie).
The reality is none of us like to wait. We don’t do delays. We resist holding patterns, roadblocks, and setbacks. We lose our minds when the internet isn’t lightning speed. We’re always in a rush to fulfill our needs, wants, agenda, and desires.
Our impatience also makes its way into how we interact with God. We desire for Him to change our circumstances in an instant. When God doesn’t do things according to our plans and our times, we begin to question if He cares, His faithfulness to us, and what is driving His seeming indifference. We want to get from Step A to Step Z in no time flat while skipping all the formation, struggles, and insight that come along the way. We expect to know our life’s purpose in less than a day.
While we yearn for the fast-forward button, God often attempts to get our attention through the pause. It’s in these moments of waiting where our trust gets strengthened and our faith tested. The snooze button isn’t always a bad thing. Those few moments before we take action serve as a way to recalibrate our heart and align it with His own. Waiting on God isn’t idle time, but rather a season of preparation and refinement of purpose. Don’t rush and miss what God might be teaching you in the quiet stillness.
- In what situations are you rushing to act and respond when God is urging you to wait and reflect?
- What is God trying to help you understand during this time of waiting?
God, I’m impatient, even in my faith. In my rush, I often lose sight of who is truly in control of my circumstances. I forget that You have a purpose for me and it can’t be found in the blur of racing. You urge me to wait and be still. Not because you are cruel or demanding, but rather because You care that much about my heart. Help me to trust in this reality. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13
A few years back we were cleaning out my grandparent’s house. Decades of memories were placed in either moving boxes or the trash bin. We worked all day to get the house ready to be shown by the local realtor. Eventually, their place was cleared except for a few large pieces of furniture – couches, beds, tables, and desks.
As we took a break and rested our bones before the final push, my eyes went to one item that had always grabbed my attention as a kid. When I would walk in the door for a holiday dinner, it was always the first thing I noticed.
In a golden decorative hutch, my grandparents displayed their finest china and crystal. Everything was immaculately kept. The glasses sparkled. The bowls flickered in the light. The plates shined. Each piece had its place. After the scolding I received when I put my fingers on the cabinet glass as a toddler, I quickly realized how treasured the pieces inside were to my grandmother.
In fact, this china was so valuable to her it never left the confines of the cabinet. Even for special meals on Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas, we ate off of regular plates. The china was of utmost value, but it was never used.
As believers in Christ, we have been given something more priceless than what was contained in my grandmother’s hutch. Yet, we can’t afford to make the mistake of treating our faith like china. Our theology, and the hope and freedom we have in Christ, can’t remain in the cabinet.
Our values can’t simply be lip service. They are meant to be lived out. We must take our faith out of our comfortable hutch.
A walk with God requires us to put our faith into action. This is something “Comfortable Christianity” resists at all costs. It’s easier to be consumed with our own wants and desires. Yes, inside the hutch, we might be safe, protected and insulated. But, we are missing the opportunity to be used by God to bring Him glory.
Denying ourselves and picking up our cross isn’t something we can just believe in theory, but a challenging step we need to take in order to be conformed to God’s image. When we aren’t placing ourselves in environments where we will be stretched, we can foolishly believe we are more patient, loving, generous and forgiving than we really are. We can say we value things like love, forgiveness, grace, and understanding, yet they are really just aspirations we have if those values are rarely seen in our actions and words.
When we choose to be inconvenienced, the gaps between what we think our convictions are and reality come to light. Transformation occurs in those moments when we are willing to deny ourselves. We are able to pinpoint where our actions don’t line up with our perceived values. We are also confronted with the places where we resist dying to ourselves and letting go of our agenda. God’s Truth is far from safe and was never intended to remain theoretical.
- Where do your values not line up with your actions? What is creating this disconnect?
God, it takes no effort to appear loving, kind, compassionate and forgiving when everything is going my way and according to my agenda. Often I avoid places where I know my faith is going to be tested and my heart will be displayed in its true state. Today, may I step into situations where I will be challenged and conformed to Your image. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. Proverbs 20:5
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
You have a say in who you become this year.
It’s very easy to hear a statement like this and begin to list all the things you need to change feverishly. Many items that make the list are attempts to make up for the past or avoid remaining the person that you currently are. Almost all of the selections are some version of behavior modification centered on replacing the bad with the good.
We spend countless hours focusing on how we are going to change and ignore the most crucial question: why do we want to change in the first place? Why do we want to get more organized, lose a few pounds, not lose our temper, repair broken relationships or spend more time in prayer?
Our motive for change tends to be rooted in whether or not we like the way we are. This mindset will not lead to the change we long to see. The purpose of the human heart is like deep water, and only a man of understanding has the power to draw it out. We must begin to look at our lives to understand why we want to be different. To understand requires us to articulate what we are experiencing and this understanding addresses the more important question of WHY?
If the WHY remains unanswered, we might experience surface level change, but our heart remains unaffected. We need to stop managing our behavior and begin to focus on what we see. When we understand what matters, we can start to pursue what matters.
Jesus invites us into the process of seeing the world differently. When wisdom is spoken about in the Bible, it tends to use the imagery of our eyes awakening. Vision allows us to see what we hope to become and not just what we not longer want to do. When we understand what matters, we can stop reacting and start responding. It is our values that define the things that matter. Our values get expressed in the way we live our lives and spend our days.
- Think of the places where you hope to see change. Why do you want to experience growth in these areas?
- How would you describe the vision you have for the person you want to become in 2018?
God, I don’t want to just fix my behavior. I desire to see my heart transformed in the upcoming year. It won’t be easy and will require me to be honest about its current state. Help me to be less focused on HOW I am going to change and more concerned with WHY I desire to improve in the first place. Let me live out my values and be driven by a vision centered on You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
The problem with resolutions and promises lies in their “all or nothing” belief system. It’s either perfection or utter failure. One either fixes everything entirely, or they’ve dropped the ball completely. The pressure this places on our shoulders is often too much to bear. We usually respond by settling for the status quo or relying solely on our strength and will-power to produce the change we desire.
When this occurs, a vicious cycle begins to spin out of control. The reliance on ourselves never produces the change we hope for, which in turn amps up our disappointment and frustration. We reason that we just didn’t work hard enough this time, so we try and try again, with even more determination. We pull up our bootstraps and exert extra effort, only to inevitably find ourselves coming face-to-face with futility. Rinse and repeat.
Here’s the hard truth: no matter how strong we make it, our flesh is still weak. If it were capable of transforming our heart and altering our character, there would be no need for Jesus. We could’ve saved ourselves. Our spirit (in Christ) is willing, ready and prepared for God’s will and God’s ways. But, even though our spirit is willing, our flesh is weak.
The flesh can’t be trusted but instead must be trained and brought into submission to the truth of our willing spirit. What are we teaching our flesh to do? TRUST. We need to prepare our flesh to trust. Before we can submit our will to His, we must believe what we’ve received in Christ.
Our hope for change begins by thinking process over perfection and promises. Rather than promising to commit, we commit to depend. To watch is to fix our eyes on what is true about ourselves and the hope that Christ provides. Keeping in step with the Holy Spirit helps in our tendency to try harder and go ahead without Him. The body must be trained to do what the mind says. We buffet our bodies and make them our slaves so that our bodies are servants instead of masters.
- Where are you relying solely on your willpower and strength to bring about change in your life? What is fueling this approach?
God, change only comes when I stay in step with Your spirit. Rather than rush, may I rest, reflect, and then respond today. Help me to transform my mind and sharpen my focus so I can walk with You in obedience. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
The other night, while taking the trash to the curb, I forgot to shut the door behind me. As I walked back up to the house, I noticed my error and began to panic. Rushing inside, I frantically looked for Tucker, my labradoodle, while calling out his name.
Sitting quietly there on his blanket, he lifted his head, confused over all this commotion. After catching my breath and allowing my pulse to come down, I realized times have changed and felt a bit sad.
You see, Tucker was an elite runner. He was the canine version of Harry Houdini, the greatest of escape artists. If Tucker saw an opportunity, regardless of how small, he would jump into action. He had no problem taking out anything that stood in his way, including my mother, mother-in-law and three separate dog sitters (true story).
Years have passed, he’s grown older, and now Tucker has resigned himself to indoor life. The thrill of the chase has fizzled away. The memories of roaming free grow fainter as each day passes.
Some days, if I’m honest, it feels like I’m right there with Tucker. Moments of “running free,” stepping out in faith and feeling like I was living out God’s purpose seem so distant. The mundane, predictable and easy way often win out. The excuses flow. The doubt takes over. The circumstances facing me seem too daunting. In other words, I’ve passed over my hopes and dreams and, instead, settled for life in the doghouse.
But, I was meant to run free. And so were you. Faith is only faith when it is lived out and experienced, which can’t happen if we’re stuck indoors.
All our hopes for transformation in this new year rest on our willingness to pursue Christ’s heart with reckless abandon. It entails action and stepping out into the unknown. Growth happens when we push forward. And just like Tucker feels when the wind is whipping through his hair, joy fills our heart with every obedient step we take.
- In what areas of your life have you settled and resigned yourself to status quo? Why have fear, doubt and status quo took over?
- What is causing you to settle instead of step out in faith?
God, I’m tired of enabling my doubt and fears to win over displaying courage. You’ve made me for so much more than I realize. You’ve called me to run and live free, full of faith and hope. May the way I spend my days point others towards Your love. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
I’m an introvert to my core, but often the reason why I don’t call or text my friends and family is that I’m waiting for my dead phone to resurrect itself. My iPhone has seen better days. The screen is cracked in a million places due to an unexpected encounter with the pavement while running.
A spotty battery has me playing the game of “what inconvenient time will my phone die?” on a daily basis. Often, the winning guess is either right before lunch or when I’m picking up my girls from school. My phone’s favorite trick is saying it’s at 50% and then a second later shutting off inexplicably.
Not a big deal, you say? Just plug it in, let it charge for a few minutes, and I’ll be good to go, right? Nope. For this magical dream to come true, it would require a semi-functional charging port, which it doesn’t have. No cable can make a consistent connection. The prongs don’t grip tight enough.
Granted, this issue does allow me to live out my childhood dreams of being MacGyver. For instance, my phone is currently propped up on a picture frame with the duct tape cable dangling at the precise angle needed to charge. Unfortunately, I have to stand very still because if I sneeze, type on my laptop too hard, or even blink, the connection disappears.
Without a stable connection to a power source, my iPhone is useless. It has no life and just sits there unused. It can’t function. Neither can it accomplish the tasks it was designed for by its creator. The same holds true for us.
In all the hoopla of the new year and conversations about change and transformation, we can quickly forget the importance of staying connected to a consistent power source. Instead, we rely solely upon on our strength, wisdom, perspective, and effort to get the job done. The pace and pressure amp up which drains our energy reserve. We might see temporary change or immediate results, but they aren’t sustainable over the long haul.
Eventually, our battery, better known as our heart, reverts to ‘power save’ mode by either shutting down, growing frustrated or settling for status quo. Scripture backs up this point. Jesus says that if we remain connected to Him we can accomplish great things, but apart from Him, we can do nothing. God honors our effort when we rely on His strength.
Reframing our perspective, understanding our purpose, identifying our next steps and filling our heart with hope requires us to stay connected to Christ. Don’t take this link for granted. Make refueling your heart and soul a priority.
- How would you describe your current connection level to Christ? What is either preventing a connection or fueling it?
- Where are you relying on your strength and wisdom to get things accomplished?
God, You offer hope, healing, and comfort. You provide wisdom, insight, and guidance. You encourage, spur on, and challenge. All of these things are at my disposal if I’m willing to stay connected to You. Remind me that Your love is the source that powers my heart to accomplish great things in this world. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. JOHN 1:1-5
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. PHILIPPIANS 1:6
I’ve been participating in PC3’s My One Word ever since Mike Ashcraft invited us all to come along for the ride in 2007. Some of my past words are: enough, still, plank (Matthew 7:4 about taking the plank out of my eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s), release, trust and secure. As a writer, I respect the power of words. The Bible backs me up on this, as John 1:1-5 testifies to the ultimate Word, Jesus Christ.
One word that has been on my short list for many years is decisive. Oh, how I would love to be a decisive person, confidently saying “yes” or “no way” or “Thai food” when I am asked to choose something. But I have always hit the “snooze button” on that word.
As Mike reminded us last Sunday, we hit the snooze button on our faith to avoid having to change. Change is scary. If I pick decisive as my word, then I actually have to make decisions instead of deferring them to other people, delaying the choice for so long that it’s no longer there, or (worst of all) making a choice and then changing my mind.
The way I pick my words is a clue to how deeply the problem runs. Typically I will write down eight or 10 selections on scraps of paper, then let my daughter pick one out of a hat. I’ve even asked my husband and daughter ~ two extremely decisive people ~ to pick a good word for me. Wisely, they’ve refused.
This year, I had picked edify as my one word. Build people up, build God’s Kingdom. A great choice, right? Then Mike went and blew it all up on Sunday when he shared about that woman who told him she couldn’t decide between love and decisive. Mike basically said that decisive was the obvious choice. Hello, neon sign!
And so I erased edify on our kitchen chalkboard and replaced with decisive. I know God is faithful and He will help me through this year of living decisively. Already, in just two days, I’ve felt strangely empowered, as if this simple word is giving me permission to make decisions. Of course, I have the Word Himself to help me through every one of them.
- Have you picked your word for 2018?
- If you haven’t, is there a word that scares you, and if so, why?
- Do you trust God to help you live out your word these next 12 months?
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for the power words have in our lives. Thank you that Your Son is The Word. He has the first and the last word in everything. Help us all to choose a character trait we need Your help with, and trust You to make a difference this year. We know that You are by our sides always, from 2018 to eternity. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.