Devotions

  • It Will Ruin Your Appetite

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    Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  1 John 2:15

    Insight

    Studies have shown that men tend to put on a few extra pounds once they tie the knot. Sadly, I can relate to this fact. My squishiness and expanding waist line have nothing to do with me relaxing after finally getting the girl and letting myself go. It is due solely to my wife being an amazing cook and baker. She puts Rachel Ray, Gordon Ramsey and Martha Stewart to shame.

    It is a common occurrence after a long day of work to be welcomed home with the delicious aroma of some sweet treat. Entering the kitchen, I’ll see my wife’s creations: sugar cookies, gingerbread, apple crisp or some other delicious delight. Reaching out for a taste, I’m greeted with a smack on the hand and my wife saying to wait till after dinner so I don’t spoil my appetite.

    The next few hours are torture. Like a magnet, I’m drawn to the kitchen. All I can smell is that baking bliss. Pictures of sugarplums dance through my head. Okay, I might not take it that far, but the reality is I want to give into my desires. After all, one nibble won’t do me much harm. But, one nibble tends to lead to two, which eventually leads to me polishing off a baker’s dozen. With my stomach grumbling, I secretly resent my wife for making me wait. Why is she blocking my appetite? Why is she preventing me from enjoying something she created? How can she be so cruel?

    Now stop for a moment and consider how many of us view God. Don’t we react the same way I did when it came to indulging in a sweet treat? As it relates to our desires, don’t we push back on God and His character similarly to the questions I had of my wife? God, why give us this world full of temptation and fill us up with all these desires and wants? Why place us in this world and tell us to not love anything in it?

    Take this train of thought a step further. Not only do outsiders view God as the ultimate killjoy, but what do they see when they look at the lives of many believers? A joyless life filled with duty and drudgery. This make them run away from faith because, in their mind, the moment they accept Christ is the instant when all their fun ends.

    Even as believers, we have a problem with pleasure. In our eyes, enjoyment is full of danger. Pleasure has become synonymous with sin and, as a result, we don’t know what to do with it. There are things in this world that we love to do, but we feel guilty if we enjoy them too much. If life is going well, we hesitate, and expect for the other shoe to drop to put our enjoyment in perspective. We know deep down inside that the world doesn’t satisfy, but secretly we are jealous of those who get to indulge in all the “fun.”

    One of the reasons we wrestle with our view of pleasure is that the Bible presents the world as both a gift and a temptation. At first glance, it appears the Bible is presenting two opposing viewpoints. There are Scriptures that speak of the allure of this world while others celebrate enjoying the gifts God has given us. We shouldn’t be fooled. We open ourselves up for all sorts of pain and disappointment when we love this world. Knowing our tendency to abuse God’s pleasures due to our sinfulness, Scripture warns us more about falling for the world’s pleasure than enjoying the things of it.

    However, our response shouldn’t be to run from all pleasure. Our hearts need to be awakened to the goodness of God by submitting our pleasure to Him. Every longing we experience is a longing to be alive. The pleasure we pursue must be surrendered to God and submitted to His authority. This requires personal reflection on our part. We need to test our desires. Desire without knowledge is no good. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Pleasure isn’t a right, but rather a gift.

    We should enjoy pleasures according to God’s design while acknowledging that they are a gift from Him. Everything finds its meaning and purpose in the context of its relationship to God. He gives us desires so we can trust Him for the fulfillment of those desires. Our response should be to receive them with thankfulness and generosity. Trust is the foundation for a relationship. God invites us to trust him with the desire of our heart.

    Reflection

    • As it relates to joy and pleasure, how are God and Christians perceived?
    • In our culture, pleasure is synonymous with sin. Do you tend to view pleasure in this light? Why or why not?

    Prayer

    God, today may I reflect on my desires. Show me those pure desires, which are gifts from You. When it comes to those twisted desires, the ones I’ve warped in my mind and my heart, give me the courage to stop looking to them for fulfillment. May I trust You with the desires of my heart. Amen.

  • Above All Else

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    My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. PROVERBS 4:20-23

    Insight

    To say my car is a tad messy would be the understatement of the year. It looks like a bomb went off in it. Don’t ask me how it got this way. Last I remember my car was tidy and clean. But, slowly over time, a fast food wrapper or two made an appearance. Then it was some workout clothes that showed up next. Before I knew it, there were children’s toys galore that were left by my two little rugrats. Add in some overdue library books, mix CD’s, empty shopping bags and stray receipts and you have a complete mess.

    But, here’s the weird thing. Over time I’ve grown comfortable with the chaos and mess.

    I’ll look around my car and recognize things aren’t as they should be, but it doesn’t move me to act. I promise myself that next weekend will be the time I finally clean it out, but something always seems to come up. So, the clutter remains and gets worse over time.

    Unfortunately, most of us treat our hearts similar to the way I take care of my car. We don’t pause and consider what’s happening on the inside. We’re so busy with surface-level things of life that we forget to number our days and tend to our hearts. We become so preoccupied with getting our lives to a manageable point or a better future that we miss both the moment right now and the reality of the coming eternity.

    We don’t realize the damage ignoring our hearts can cause.

    Our actions and behaviors are just symptoms of a greater problem. They serve as revealers to what is taking place inside our heart. Every single action has some underlying belief that remains below the surface if we don’t pause and reflect. Why do I do what I do? What is driving my behavior? What do my actions say about what’s occurring inside my heart?

    Instead, we settle for behavior modification, rather than true heart change. We are after a transformation that we can’t accomplish on our own. We might be able to change our behavior, but we are incapable of mending our heart. We focus on behavior. God focuses on the heart. We must position ourselves to focus and depend on God’s work in our hearts and lives. And the most important thing we can do is depend on Him.

    God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who abide in Him, those who walk with Him in faith. Our efforts were never the impetus for God’s transforming grace. They won’t be the impetus for our changed hearts either. Our efforts are not the source of the change we are after; they can’t be. Rather, they get us in a position for God to change us.

    Reflection

    • Reflect over this past few days. What do your actions say about what’s occurring inside your heart?
    • In what situations is God transforming your heart?

    Prayer

    God, help me to tend to my heart. May I not settle for changing my behavior, but rather trust that You are willing to transform my heart. Help me to trust the process. Give me the endurance to continue on when things get challenging. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Weight Of The World

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    The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25

    Insight

    Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to deal with our mindset by paying attention to what our mind focuses on. This is where we get ourselves into trouble. We don’t set our minds on anything, so it is free to drift towards whatever seems to deserve the most attention. When faced with a difficult decision or things we cannot control, we get consumed with pressure.

    Sometimes this pressure comes from within, fueled by believing two destructive myths. First, we believe we can control more than we think. We get angry and frustrated with trying to control the things we can’t. Then there is the “messiah” myth that leads us to believe we contribute more than we do. If we don’t act, no one else will. If we don’t spring into action, nothing will get solved. If we don’t make the right decision, then everyone is doomed to failure.

    Too often when we consider faith or trust, we tend to “wait and see” if God will do something. Then, and only, then will we respond to the thing that He has done.  We think of faith as “observe and decide,” leaving us frustrated and paralyzed in our walk with God.

    Why? Because He doesn’t invite us to observe and decide, but rather to taste and see. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Taste and see serves as an invitation to experience. We see not with our eyes, but with our being. We know He is good because we have experienced it.

    God draws us to faith and trust in all things. Consider the words found in 2 Corinthians 5:7 where we are told to “walk by faith, not by sight.” We are called to walk by faith, at the expense of seeing with our eyes.  When the pressure is on us, we are not able to sit and observe.  We have to step out and taste – then we will see.

    When we walk with Him, we find Him to be a blessing to us as we take refuge in Him.  So, step out in faith– taste and see. We need a new perspective in those moments when pressure is consuming us. When we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, and all we want to do is freak out or indulge in temptation, we must taste and see that Lord is good by casting our cares on Him.

    Reflection

    • Where do you feel the weight of the world placed on our shoulders?
    • What pressures are you facing? How can you tell whether they are internal or external pressures?

    Prayer

    God, all too often I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. But, that is not what I was meant to bear. Instead of cracking under pressure, may I lay everything down at Your feet. In your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Dirty Dishes

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    A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

    Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:25-27

    Insight

    The chore I dread the most is doing the dishes. Technically, I’m supposed to tackle them every night after dinner, but my disdain for this task often means an overflowing sink full of dirty dishes is staring back at me come Saturday morning. This is when I consider making the switch to paper products.

    My reluctance to deal with the dishes each night created this mess. I have no one to blame but myself. Ignoring the plates, pans and bowls didn’t make them go away. All it did was let the grime, gunk, and food residue congeal to form such a hard structure that I need a chisel to remove it. A dried out Brillo pad and hard as a rock sponge remind me of my neglect. The dish soap, which promises to make things come off easily, is no match for the soda stains, sour milk rims, and crusty pans. The only thing that works is rolling up my sleeves and getting in there with some elbow grease and scraping away the mess.

    The reality is many of us treat our anger similarly to the way I handle my dishes. We ignore the warning signs and let bitterness and cynicism sit and fester. Without realizing it, our heart becomes hardened, our perspective becomes jaded and we see ourselves solely through the lens of a victim. We find ourselves making excuses and justifying our anger.

    By making ourselves out to be the victim we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. How often do you catch yourself saying, “if my wife would…..if my boss would…..if others just……” It’s always someone else’s fault. Pride is a funny thing. When you are all alone, your pride enables you to justify your behavior. In your mind, anything and everything can seem logical. Anger keeps your excuses relevant.

    The longer we neglect our anger, the more resentment, revenge and entitlement scar our heart. Ignoring the problem gives the enemy traction in our lives. Anger destroys the fertile soil in which God’s word takes root. Anger is never static. It is looking for an opportunity to destroy us, and the work God is doing in our life. Anger desires to see us explode outwardly or implode inwardly by simmering with resentment or engaging in destructive behaviors. Our anger serves to reveal some wickedness in us. It serves to reveal some hardness that prevents the work of God in our lives. This is why anger can’t be managed. It must be mastered. Once sin is crouching at the doorstep of our hearts, we must quickly realize and address it or else it will dominate us and leads us to hurt others and ourselves.

    It goes deeper than a will-power trick or exercise. What is required is a perspective change that is rooted in God’s word. Being slow to anger is not just sucking it up or becoming a pushover. It is about allowing God to do something in your heart that brings about life and peace. Resentment and revenge require forgiveness. Entitlement is only defeated by gratitude. The rise of anger should awaken you to God’s perspective and His grace.

    Reflection

    • How do we give the devil a foothold by holding on to our anger? What occurs as a result of not dealing with our anger?
    • Anger destroys the fertile soil in which God’s word takes root. Are there places of your heart that have become hardened? Is so, where and how did it happen?

    Prayer

    God, may I not let the sun go down on my anger. Rather than ignore the problem, help me to explore what is driving my anger. Help me to take my anger seriously. I desire for my life to be defined by forgiveness instead of bitterness and resentment. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • In The Wilderness

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    Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:1-2

    Insight

    Everybody encounters temptation. Yes, everyone. No one is immune, including Jesus. If He was tested, then so can we. At the core of every temptation, we come face-to-face with a question that exposes our heart: Can God be trusted? The heart of temptation is trust. Whether we realize it or not, our ability to withstand temptation hinges on our confidence in God. It might sound odd, but temptation is a byproduct of love because love requires the option for it to be rejected.

    Unfortunately, in the midst of the trial, we fix our eyes on ourselves, and as a result, our wants trump everything else. Every temptation forces us to question our identity as well as His goodness by putting us in the center. It works to disintegrate the wholeness we desperately want to experience.

    When we give in to temptation, we stop believing God cares and is sovereign, so we resort to taking matters into our own hands, which always leads to trouble. Sin breaks trust. We get swept up in the moment and foolishly believe that the only thing at stake is our needs, our wants, and our desires.

    However, with every temptation, there is always more at stake than we think. We know numerous individuals who destroyed their reputation, legacy, and integrity by giving into temptation. It’s easy for us to see someone else’s future being at stake when they’re wrestling or making bad choices, yet, when we’re in the thick of it, we can’t see beyond “the now.”

    Some of us have been scared, hurt or influenced by another individual’s inability to deal with temptation. Maybe it was a parent, family member, friend or co-worker. Their choices had ramifications on us, which means our decisions do as well. They create a ripple effect and touch others, especially those in our sphere of influence.

    Most importantly, our faith hangs in the balance during those moments of temptation. Even though we can’t lose our salvation, every time we sin, we weaken our relationship with God, we damage our accountability with God, and we hurt our intimacy with God.

    What was at stake when Jesus faced temptation? WE WERE. Our hope, freedom, and life hung in the balance. If He gave into the immediate, our eternity would forever be changed. Everybody faces temptation. And on some level, everybody has fallen to it. Everybody but Jesus.

    When Jesus came to die for our sins, He didn’t just come to pay for it; He came to free us from the power of sin. He not only broke the power of sin over us for eternity, but also right here, and right now. The temptations won’t go away, but when we understand what is lying below the surface in these testings, we will find the power to pause and stand firm in Him. The wilderness feels God-forsaken, but the wilderness is God ordained. It’s in these moments where we face resistance and resistance builds strength.

    Reflection

    • Where do you feel like wandering? How did you arrive in this place of wilderness? What is the thing you want or need the most?

    Prayer

    God, may I not take the power of temptation lightly. Instead, allow me to examine and notice the things that pull at my heart and entice me. When I meet resistance, help me to stand strong, fully confident that You are the source of my every need. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Cheap Imitations

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    Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Mark 8:34-37

    Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11

    Insight

    During one of my late night infomercial binges, I came across an advertisement that was touting a pillow as “the most comfortable pillow you will ever own.” I have to admit this piqued my interest as I tend to toss and turn most evenings. One pillow is too firm while another is too lumpy and don’t get me started on those paper thin ones.

    Peace and tranquility, and most importantly, rest always allude me on my queen size mattress. In some regards, the same can be said about the perceived peace that a life focused on personal comfort and convenience provides us. It’s like a refreshing oasis that is just beyond our reach. We chase happiness which we believe will satisfy, but it never does.

    Some of us are afraid that we will be disappointed in this life. We don’t want to miss out on anything here. After all, we only get one shot at this life, so we pour energy, focus, and attention on the things of this world. Our days are spent taking care, managing, and building up our kingdoms. We live for comfort and convenience hoping to find fulfillment in them. Media and culture confirm our decision by bombarding us with messages about “bigger, better, faster” being the sole way to true happiness.

    Pursing comfort and convenience seems like the right path. We act in ways we think are best for us, based on our feelings, with little regard to the consequences of our decisions. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.” Comfort and convenience don’t allow our life to be simple when our quest is always for more. We continue to chase after the newest, latest and shiniest thing. This leaves us restless and unfulfilled. Consumerism can only function when discontentment reigns so we continue to pursue comfort and convenience and the crazy cycle continues to spin.

    We make our life about all the things here on Earth thus missing real life for fear of losing it. We turn to lesser things for fulfillment and feeling alive. Jeremiah 2:13 compares those things we pursue to cracked cisterns that are incapable of holding water. No one is immune to this pursuit, even the wisest man to walk with earth, King Solomon (1 Kings 4:29-34). From pleasure and relationships to money and power, he had it all. Comfort and convenience defined Solomon’s life. Yet, he was still unfulfilled. Solomon finally gave up his fruitless search and declared his foolish pursuits as worthwhile as “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11,17).

    For a moment, let’s pretend that somehow, someway, we managed to gain the whole world just like King Solomon. When we spend our days chasing perishable things, and our days are up, what are we left with? Nothing. Would the pursuit of comfort and convenience be worth the effort? Jesus is posing the same question to us as He did to the disciples in Mark 8: What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?

    Happiness by the world’s standard is fleeting at best, but the joy of the Lord is constant. Happiness is mostly based on circumstances while joy centers on knowing who you are in Christ and living out of that security. Jesus understood happiness is settling for something that is second rate. He wants us to experience the real thing, which is Himself. It breaks His heart that we are willing to settle for cheap imitations.

    Motivators like convenience and comfort can accomplish many amazing things, but one problem they will never solve is quenching the yearnings of the human heart. At the core of these wants is a connection we are missing which can only be filled by God. These longings we are pursuing point to our longing for God. Being created in God’s image, we have a spiritual thirst that only He can satisfy. Author and theologian C.S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

    Reflection

    • What does focusing all of our attention and energy on ourselves cost us?

    Prayer

    God, I’ve made a costly mistake. I’ve devoted so much time and energy focusing on my needs, my wants and my agenda. Pursuing these things always felt like the right thing. I thought if I don’t take care of myself, who will? But, You take care and provide for me in ways I cannot comprehend. You are where true life is found. All of my longings point me to Your grace. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Off The Tracks

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    Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

    Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

    Insight

    Rest and downtime are precious, but very rare, moments when you have young children. A few years back, my wife and I were experiencing this sweet feeling of bliss as both our daughters were off in dreamland. Unfortunately, as soon as the tranquility appeared, it quickly departed when a loud voice and horns jolted us from off the couch: “OH NO….WE’RE OFF THE TRACKS!!!”

    We bolted upstairs to our daughter’s room while the message continued to play over and over again. Frantically we attempted to locate the source of all of the commotion. Our girls, now wide awake, looked on puzzled as they watched their mom and dad search underneath desks, toy boxes, and dressers. After what seemed like an eternity later, we found the culprit: A Leap Frog ABC Train that somehow turned itself on.

    OH NO…WE’RE OFF THE TRACKS! That evening we received the message loud and clear. The same can’t be said for many of us when our soul attempts to get our attention and alert us to the issues taking place on the inside.

    We’re in such a hurry caring for everything else that we often forget to tend to the most critical part of ourselves. We devote a great deal of time, energy and thought to the external world (bills, jobs, family, media, schedules, etc.) while disregarding the internal.

    All of this running around is getting us nowhere fast. The full life we desire always seems just out of reach. In our attempts to get our lives moving in a better direction and destination, we allow our souls to become a train wreck. Many of us are “off the tracks,” and we don’t even know it.

    Our soul is our life. When we neglect it, we aren’t truly living. But, when we slow down, turn our attention to the inside and tend to our soul, we experience the capacity to live in a way where our circumstances don’t define us, and where we can love and respond to the needs of those around us without wanting anything in return. Peace on the outside only comes when we’re attuned to what’s taking place on the inside. Wholeness originates from within.

    Reflection

    • Where has your soul gone “off the tracks”? How can you tend to this area?
    • Why is wholeness found only from within?

    Prayer

    God, help me to pause and look within myself. Expose the places that I’ve dismissed or underestimated their influence and impact. Refresh my soul with Your love and Your grace. Breathe new life and new words of mercy in me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Hit The Wall

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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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1,2

    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

    Just like long distance running there will inevitably come a time in your walk with God when you “Hit The Wall.” Marathon runners say somewhere around mile 20 your pace begins to slow, your stomach starts to ache and your legs feel like lead (or Jell-o). Doubt begins to creep in as they begin to question if they have the ability to make it to the finish line. With their energy level at zero, hope seems lost. Some runners persevere while others call it quits. Change will always be met with resistance. Maturity is found in those moments when you embrace the struggle by facing it head on.

    Maybe the person you are trying to help finds themselves caught up in the struggle. They’ve lost hope. Their excuses to quit seem to outweigh their willingness to endure. Part of them wants to wave the white flag in surrender and go back to their old routine.

    Maybe in the midst of the struggle is where you are residing right now.

    This is the time when you need to rely on perseverance. While hope fuels your pursuit, your convictions will be what holds you together in the midst of the struggle. Quite simply, without convictions that ground you, hopelessness will reign supreme when you “hit the wall.” Convictions help us recall His faithfulness, which provides us with the strength, and will of heart to persevere. Hebrews 10:36 says you “need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

    A conviction that should bring us all hope comes from Philippians 1:6 where it says “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This passage makes room for our struggle as it reminds us that everyone is a work in progress.

    Unfortunately, most of us make no provision for our struggle. We see our struggle as something that is wrong. Somehow we believe that contrary to every other type of change, which occurs in our lives that the spiritual ones should be easy, and come with little to no resistance. Our transformation is a process where struggle is inevitable. Resistance builds strength and strength only shows up in our life through the act of surrendering to God.

    God has numbered our days to form us into His image and it will take until our very last breath for this to happen. When we are tempted to give in, it is not to time to quit. This is the moment where we must look to God to see what He is teaching us. This is the moment when we need community the most.

    Change cannot and does not occur without struggle. The encouraging thing is that God wants to meet us in the midst of our struggle. That is exactly where He wants us to be. Where we have exhausted all our human strength, patience, and will and have nothing else to rely on but Him.

    Reflection

    • What is your normal reaction when you meet resistance (Hit The Wall) in an area of your life where you are trying to grow?
    • How can you help someone today persevere in the midst of a struggle they might be facing?

    Prayer

    God, may I look at my struggles differently. Allow me to view them as ways you are stretching my character and bring me closer to Your side. Give me the words to help and encourage others who are struggling to hope things can change. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Searching For Connection

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    Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9

     I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25

    Insight

    The other day my daughter’s cellphone decided to take a swim in the sink. Granted, it was only a 5-second jaunt, but the encounter caused it to go on the fritz.

    We jumped into action, dried it off, stuck it in a bag of rice (and then Damp Rid), and shed a few tears (her for being without a phone and me calculating how much a potential replacement might cost). And now, we’re praying, praying and praying some more that her cellphone exhibits the power of Christ and resurrects from the dead.

    We’re now over 24 hours in and I don’t know if Madison is going to make it. The lack of connection is killing her. No apps to play. No Instagram to check. No text messages sent. And no phone calls received. She’s far from an electronics addict, but being disconnected even for this short while is taking a toll on her.

    The grief she feels is similar to how we respond when our hearts wander in search of a connection they can trust. God hardwired us for connection (with Him and with others) so if this malfunctions we suffer. When the heart is void of contact, it causes tremendous problems in all aspect of our lives. The detachment influences our mindset, our attitude, our relationships and our actions.

    We wander and worry, with nothing keeping us secure and grounded. As the heart looks for its resting place, it seeks out secure links in everything and anything. From prestige and success to possessions and people, it yearns to find security in a connection that matters.

    The things of this world might distract us for a bit. Our achievements will fade in time. The amount of stuff we collect during our days can’t come with us in the end. Even our relationships with others will sometimes be strained, tested, and challenged.

    Other than Christ’s unconditional love, everything we put our hope in will let us down. The human soul only experiences a secure and unshakable connection when its anchored in His grace. Every longing we have is a longing for God. By staying close to Him, we find true rest.

    Reflection

    • How would you describe your current connection level?
    • How are the longings you are experiencing a hunger for a deeper connection with Christ?

    Prayer

    God, in You, and You alone, does my heart rest. Let me look to You for the security, purpose, and wholeness of my heart. Satisfy my every longing, knowing You are better than everything else. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Outfit Change

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    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have TAKEN OFF your old self with its practices and have PUT ON the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:5-10

    Insight

    Being a father of two young ladies, I’ve quickly learned that “we’ll be ready in 5 minutes” is girl code for “it will be at least a half hour until we are walking out the door.” In that timeframe, there will be at least a dozen outfit changes that take place. One look gets replaced with another.

    As I sit patiently on the couch, I’ll hear the issues they have with every outfit: The top clashes with the bottom. Those jeans are so out of style. They don’t have cute enough shoes to go with their ensemble. The skirt is way too short (this outfit change was brought to you by the protective dad in me).

    A flurry of trying on and taking off apparel ensues for what seems like an eternity. Coming to a final consensus on an outfit seems like an impossible task. Trying on different outfits isn’t exclusive for tween girls. Many believers do the same exercise when it comes to trust in their identity in Christ. Today’s passage found in Colossians 3 speaks of TAKING OFF your old self and its practices and PUTTING ON the new self clothed in Christ. (v. 9-10).

    Don’t be mistaken. Some read this verse and think this it is like putting on a new pair of jeans or a fancy top only to take it off before bedtime. This isn’t what Paul is talking. Neither is it looking at your tag to see what label you are wearing. Even though you sin, you are a new creation. Paul is referring to a once and for all identity change. Your old self is gone and replaced with something brand new.

    When we enter into a relationship with Christ, an incredible transformation takes place. In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul talks about the drastic change that occurs within us when we accept what Christ did on the cross and decide to walk with Him. Paul once again uses the imagery of our old self passing away, dying to Christ, as He forges a new self alive through Him. A transformation like this occurs not by our power, but solely through His ability to transform us into something new.

    I’m far from a fashion expert, but I know one thing: that outfit no longer fits. It’s not flattering and, most importantly, it’s not who you are. Imagine if you lived out of your new identity and were no longer paralyzed by attempting to put back your old self? How would that influence how you approach your day and what you see reflecting in the mirror?

    Reflection

    • In what areas do you struggle with seeing yourself as a new creation in Christ?

    Prayer

    God, only You could transform my heart and my character. It is through the beauty of the cross that I am made new. May I trust in the security my identity in You provides. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.