Devotions

  • Futility Rises

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    For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. ROMANS 8:19-25

    Insight

    Futility rises when something is pointless.

    Futility causes us to question God. Where was God in the midst of the suffering? Where was God when we poured our heart out to Him?

    More than anything else, as humans we crave peace. Our worst nightmare is coming face to face with uncertainty, pain, tension or struggles. The last thing we want is for life to throw us a curveball. Yet, we are foolishly engaged in a losing battle. It is inevitable we will face struggles or encounter circumstances that don’t seem to make sense.

    There will be interruptions in this life that possess the ability to shake our faith.

    Paul, the author of Romans, understood it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ one will run into problems and trials, but ‘when’ (Romans 5:3). Later on in Romans, Paul speaks to the futility of the world. He says that creation was subject to futility and is slave to corruption (Romans 8:20-21). He takes it a step further and describes creation’s response to this futility as groaning and suffering (Romans 8:22).

    What Paul was concerned about was the heart of his readers and their perspective on the trials they encounter. Why is this happening? How could God allow this to happen? What’s the purpose behind this seemingly senseless act? How did I end up in this situation? What did I do to deserve this? What am I going to do now?

    These are a few of the heart jarring questions that race through our minds when we run into problems. We want to know the point to the futility.

    It’s as if Paul understood our tendency to lose perspective and its ability to influence our prayer life and walk with God. In the midst of the struggle, we find ourselves at a fork in the road. One turn leads down a trail towards bitterness, anger, cynicism and resentment.  We can very easily let the futility of this world paralyze us by questioning the very existent of a loving God. What we don’t realize is that a batch of quicksand awaits us down this path. The moment we turn in this direction our forward momentum stalls out and we remain here wallowing in our own frustration and confusion.

    On the other side is a trail that at first appears rocky and difficult to navigate. There is part of you, especially your heart, that doubts it is even passable. You realize those first few steps will be the most challenging because it requires you to trust that these trials were not random or meant to punish you, but were funneled through the lens of a loving and sovereign God. It is realizing the futility breeds hope not despair.

    We are not designed to be filled with what has been created in this futility, but we are designed to become what all of creation is anxiously awaiting. The anxious longing is for the revealing of you and I as God’s children – holy, accepted, and forever complete. God set it this way so that even the longing in our hearts is for Him (Romans 8:23). Remember, every longing at its core is a longing for life. This means uncertainty should awaken our faith and our faith awakens our hope.

    Hope always pushes us to believe that God’s future is coming, even though we cannot see it.  Faith enables us to see what our eyes cannot.

    The truth is that our full redemption is coming.  No circumstance can stop it.  God is with us and the truth is He is enough.  We cannot always see these two things, “but if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:25).

    Our anxious longing is transformed into eager hope.

    Reflection

    • How does uncertainty influence your prayer life?

    Prayer

    Lord, I need to shut my eyes and see with my heart!  I need to trust in Your presence in my life and Your concern for my future!  I also need to see that my future is already secure and unshakeable, even though it doesn’t look that way from here.  Awaken my heart to hope and transform my anxious heart to an eager one. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • The Standard

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    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

    My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

    Insight

    It is easy to lay down our law. To have a standard that goes before us everywhere we go. A conglomeration of things we consider good and that we use to make judgements about the quality of other things and people. We use it to measure others and put them in their places. We use it to measure ourselves and put ourselves in our places. We strive to enforce it. For some reason, our law makes us feel right, safe, and even valuable.

    The problem with our standards is that they can become so big and imposing that we lose sight of their place and purpose. We let them rule us and bind us as we put our trust in them to make systems, situations, other people and ourselves right, safe, and valuable.

    Some of us really struggle under the weight of the law we impose upon ourselves. Though we may accept that we no longer live under the Law of the Old Covenant, that we live in a constant state of grace, and are free and saved by faith through Christ, we lose our footing as we try to chisel out new commandments on the stony parts of our hearts. “I shall not fail in any endeavor. I shall be best at everything put before me. I shall not let fatigue keep me from having a spotless house. I shall not let personal weaknesses show at work. I shall only accept those who exhibit the best qualities and values I hold dear.” And so it goes, countless laws scratched out to make things right in our small, myopic understanding of our lives despite the brilliant grace that envelops us.

    In all honesty, I know that I have refused the fact that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I need to do well in everything I am responsible for. I need to be the perfect mother to my children. I need to be supremely informed in discourse. I need to be unusually compassionate and thoughtful. I need to be a fixer. I need to be the best image of Christ I can be. All of these are good and desirable, but none of these require me to make God enough. They require me to make myself enough. They demand my attention.   I must legislate my righteousness, adjudicate my sin before myself, and execute my own harsh punishment. God is not really in the equation. This is my doing, a result of works or lack of works.

    But reality is not so. I am not sufficient and my insufficient law broadens my view to see God actually is. His brilliant grace is sufficient.

    Friend, who are we to lay down any law? What law could we possibly raise as our standard? When the blood of Christ goes before us, when the grace of God is poured out on us, when the Holy Spirit gently convicts, comforts, and strengthens us why would we take death by the hand in hopes it would make us right, safe and valuable? God’s written law given to Moses could not give life so how much more does our own personal law take our life away?

    Jesus has given us life by the grace of God with His blood. Therein we are completely right, completely safe, and completely valuable. Not one standard of our own can be raised when His banner over us is love. Your law is obsolete. Receive His grace.

    Reflection

    • In what ways/areas have you chiseled out laws in the stony places in your heart? How can you take steps to apply God’s grace to be right, safe, and valuable?
    • How do you see yourself, your weaknesses, in the light of God’s grace?

    Prayer

    Dear Lord, Let me be mindful that the grace of Jesus and Your love and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are always with me. Let me see that there is nothing I can add to what You freely give me. Your unmerited favor makes me right, safe, and valuable. You are sufficient and You are all I need to be the person I should be. You are enough. Amen.

    PC3 writer J’vanete Skiba wrote today’s devotional.

  • The Fine Print

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    This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

    However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5

    Insight

    Gift giving is tricky business. The thought the giver puts behind a gift shows how much he or she values the intended receiver. The response to the gift is critically important as well. If the receiver keeps describing what the gift is over and over again then there is a good chance they are less than thrilled with what the box contains. The next morning they’ll be waiting in line with receipt in hand to exchange their gift for cash. This way they can do whatever they want with the return.

    God’s gift of grace seen in the life of Christ shows how we are valued in God’s eyes and the depths He would go to fulfill His covenant with us. Through Jesus we have been made clean, set apart, and our sins are no longer held against us. This gift of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation is waiting to be received and unwrapped.

    The choice is ours on how we respond and what we ultimately do with this gift. Will we tear into it and put it on?  Will we tire of it after a few days? Will we tuck in a closet so no one else can see it or play with it? Will we bring it out only when we need it? Will we exchange the gift for something we deem more valuable? Will the gift overwhelm us to the point where we whip out our wallet and try to pay it back? Or will we stare at the box prideful and wonder why we even need this gift in the first place?

    Most of have a hard time receiving gifts. Some of us even have safety gifts lying around the house on the off chance that someone surprises us with a gift. Think about it for a moment. When you are given a gift, what is the first question that pops into your mind? Chances are good it is ‘what do I have to give in return,’ ‘what’s the catch’ or ‘where’s the fine print?’ Since we love systems that provide a sense of control, we apply this same line of thinking to the Gospel.

    We are sinners because of our fallen nature not because of what we’ve done. Sin is refusing to trust before it is failing to obey. It’s a relational not a behavioral issue. Death is not the result of a broken rule, but a broken relationship. There is no system of rules that would ever allow us to be right with God.

    When we try to justify what we’ve done or we ignore the fact that we’ve been made righteous through Christ we are robbing the cross of its’ true power. Grace that is earned ceases to be grace. We are attempting to put conditions on a free gift. Most importantly, and most tragically, we are creating a religion and not pursing a relationship. Religion is a system we create and use to get to God. Instead of behaving better, we must start to believe and trust in the good news of the Gospel.

    Romans 5:19 (ESV) say, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” We are righteous because of Jesus and not because of anything we do. Life is not the result of a broken rule obeyed, but a relationship restored. Our righteousness comes solely through Christ’s righteousness rather than our good deeds. Our righteousness is established through our trust in Christ and the acceptance of God’s grace. Our perception of the goodness of God’s grace is proportionate to the perception of the devastation of our sin. This doesn’t mean big sin equals big grace. It’s realizing that we all have fallen short of God’s glory. A debt has been paid and Christ now justifies us.

    It all comes down to a matter of trust. Relationships always require trust. We are loved without condition to the point we trust without condition. Unconditional love is the only thing that allows unconditional trust. Stop looking for the fine print and instead just trust in the goodness of God.

    Reflection

    • Many have fallen victim to believing the misconception that grace saves, but hard work sustains faith. How have you struggled with this mindset? In what ways does this distort the original intent of God’s gift?
    • We have a propensity to justify ourselves through our behavior. Why does this tend to be our reaction to the Gospel message?

    Prayer

    God, too often, I look for the fine print in Your offer of grace. Foolishly, I try to earn my standing with You through my behavior. Instead, may I trust Your free gift with open arms. In order to have a relationship, trust must be the foundation. Today, I will trust I am loved without condition In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Grace With A Passion

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    Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.1 Peter 5:8-10

    Insight

    Enclosed by a sea of more than 100,000 football fans at Michigan Stadium, “The Big House,” the 5th-ranked in the nation Michigan Wolverines set up for a field goal from 37 yards. With six seconds left, this would be the last play of the game. On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineers of Appalachian State waited, having just scored a go-ahead field goal of their own to make it 34-32. Led by fearless quarterback Armanti Edwards, the Mountaineers had stayed the course scoring 21 points in the second quarter alone.  Although Appalachian had displayed a sensational first half of football on this first day of September in 2007, Michigan’s senior All-American tailback, Mike Hart, had rushed the ball for 188 yards helping the Wolverines claw back. They had earned this one shot to save face. Snap, spot, kick is away–blocked! Time runs out and my Apps have pulled off the “biggest upset in college football history.” I love it every time.

    David and Goliath comes to mind. We hear it referenced to complete so many analogies of an underdog prevailing. David, meek and compassionate, heroically takes down Goliath, a brooding champion who is large and physically imposing. This is an uplifting illustration lending itself to so many instances in our existence. However the real gem is not so much in prevailing in a tough situation, but in the fact God wants to show us how mighty He is and that he has a strong desire for us, His people.

    God works through us when we are too weak to prevail on our own. He does a lot with a little to show He is mighty.

    God showcases his strength for us time and again. With a meager five loaves and two fish, things looked bleak for the crowd of 5,000 Christ was helping. His disciples determined they should all go home because it was late, they were in a “remote place,” and they didn’t have enough food to feed the crowds. Still, Jesus insisted they all stay. He looked to the heavens and was able to provide plenty of bread and fish.

    With God’s strength being so powerful, it is the circumstances and not the outlook that appear measly. How do we gain such a hopeful outlook though?

    We encounter tough circumstances, and so many times, chalk it up as a rough patch. As human beings we are capable and perhaps well-versed at recognizing and soldiering through adversity. It could be a challenging deadline or project at work that causes an ongoing and unwelcome uneasiness. Sometimes, it concerns basic needs. How do you provide food and shelter for the next month when finances are coming up short?

    Like the Mountaineers stuck to their style of play that Saturday in Ann Arbor, God wants us to stay the course with Him when we are inherently weak. God’s dream for us is bigger than our our plan to just survive. He is not a distant but a close father, and more importantly, He wants deep intimacy with His children.

    In order for this to happen, our part is critical. We have to accept grace.

    Simply put, sin patterns are what keep us from an intimate walk with God. Being in a community where Christ is the focal point and grace is celebrated is helpful. James 1:5 states this; “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Grace is not just about atoning for sins however. Dallas Willard said, “The interpretation of grace as having only to do with guilt is utterly false to biblical teaching and renders spiritual life in Christ unintelligible.”

    Grace is a sweet, sweet gift that allows us to experience deepened trust, truth and boundless freedom. Grace tears down the facades we build and diminishes the grip of sin. We have to receive it though. Grace is nothing we have to earn (and certainly is not deserved), but in order to experience it, we have to position ourselves in a posture of humility. Trust and surrender welcome God’s grace.

    In the book TrueFaced, Bruce McNicol describes “The Room of Good Intentions” and “The Room of Grace.” We often times pray self-deprecating prayers when we occupy “The Room of Good Intentions,” depicting ourselves as low, vile forms of life. This is completely false to a God who sees us as saints (Romans 8:26-27). We do this though as a way of making ourselves feel humble. McNicol writes:

    Indeed, in God’s eyes this behavior exhibits not humility, but pride. Why? Because we are trusting our own assessment of ourselves and taking credit for our relative goodness. We are denying God’s longing to be our goodness, our power, our ability, our strength, our healing, and our truth.

    “The Room of Grace” is a place where trusting God in our identity and with handling our sin is the bottom line. It is here we experience the true power of grace! McNicol states, “Conversely, prideful striving in The Room of Good Intentions sucks grace–and therefore power–right out of the room.”

    In 1 Peter 5, we are reminded ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In verse 10, Peter writes, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

    Recall that the Lord told Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He spoke this to him when Paul wanted his “thorn,” an unnamed but notable weakness, eliminated. It was not so much about conquering this thorn but inviting God’s incomparable, powerful grace to his life. Two things, friends: 1) God wants us close to Him. 2) God’s strength prevails.

    Reflection

    • Do you live in the “Room of Good Intentions?” What key things have you noticed in your walk or your life that might differ in the “Room of Grace”?
    • Is there a cumbersome sin pattern or perhaps life-dominating sin blocking you from prosperity in some way? How might you go about addressing it?

    Prayer

    Father God, I am so thankful for Your grace. It is a grace that not only covers my sins but strengthens me where I am weak. I surrender my weakness to You, and I pray for You to help me trust You more, and guide me as I take on a stance of humility in my life. In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

    PC3 writer Adam King wrote today’s devotional.

  • All We Need

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    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] 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.

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:1-11

    Insight

    The message of grace is for every single one of us, wherever we are in terms of faith and a walk with God. If we all have weaknesses in our lives, then we are all in need of grace in life. Grace is simply the love and acceptance we did not deserve and could not earn. But, how is God’s grace all we need in the midst of our weakness? What does grace have to do with weakness?

    Let’s look at the words of Paul found in Romans 5 to answer that question. Having never met this group of believers in Rome, Paul writes this letter in order to communicate the foundations of faith to them. For the first four chapters, he explains how the Gospel truly is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Paul showed how God has the right to judge unrighteousness, because He is perfectly righteous. In Romans 3, he goes on to speak about how every human being has missed the mark of God’s perfectly righteous standard. We’ve all failed. But the good news of the Gospel is that we can be made right with God by grace, a gift that is received through faith. Paul wanted this community to understand that Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves – pay the penalty for our sin by His perfect, sacrificial death on the cross.

    It is in chapter 5 where Paul shifts his attention from how we are justified to the results of our justification. Justification is a legal term used to declare someone not guilty. Through our faith, by God’s grace, we are declared to be not guilty before God and this has lead to peace with Him (Romans 5:1). Yet, this peace goes much deeper than our picture, which typically is seen as strictly the absence of conflict. Paul uses the word “shalom” to describe the peace we experience which carries the idea of harmony, wholeness, contentment and completeness. Shalom is complete peace and Paul tells us that’s what it’s like between us and God now because of the Gospel. It’s not just that we don’t have conflict for some period of time, it’s that all conflict has been resolved.

    Not only do we now experience peace with God as a result of justification, but we also now stand in grace (Romans 5:2). This is an important point for us to remember. We can lose sight of grace and take on the mindset that it is on us to prove ourselves worthy of that salvation, deal with the power of sin in our lives and live out the Christian faith. God’s grace doesn’t just save us. It gives us a safe place where God wants us to live, to grow, to become, and to be shaped more and more into the image of His Son. God’s grace doesn’t stop at salvation. It’s not something we get one time, it’s what we stand in for all time.

    Paul goes in verse 11 to highlight how due to grace we’ve received reconciliation. If justification is the language of the legal system, reconciliation is the language of friendship. Justification is to be declared right legally, but reconciliation is to be made right relationally. We’ve been brought back into a right relationship with God.

    In the midst of weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, we are saved by grace. While we may still experience weakness in this life, we can rest in the peace we have with God. God doesn’t look at our weakness and think less of us. Instead He loves us and offers His grace to sustain us. It is this grace that strengthens us. God’s grace reconciles us to the greatest source of power this world has ever known.

    To find God’s strength we must stand in God’s grace. We must stand in His undeserved, unearned love and acceptance. We must let go of our effort and our pride and receive God’s grace. This requires us to be brutally honest with God about our weakness. If we aren’t vulnerable and transparent with Him, we will never accept the opportunities to depend on Him in our places of weakness and experience how His grace covers us. But, if we do, then we will find a secure place we can stand in the midst of any circumstance we face.

    Reflection

    • Trusting in God’s grace isn’t a one-time decision. We must rely on it on a daily basis. Where do you need to currently put your trust in God’s grace?

    Prayer

    God, rather than hide my weakness, may I have the courage to be transparent before You. Help me to realize that Your grace meets me in my struggles. It is Your grace that sustains and supports me when I am weak. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

    Today’s devotional was adapted from Clay Everett’s message “Grace is What I Need.”

  • Edit and Filter

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    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves. 1 John 1:8

    Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

    Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

    Insight

    For the first time in history, we are living in a world saturated with technology edited and filtered to perfection.  Social media can be fun, but it can also be dangerous.  With each photo on Instagram or status update on Facebook, we are creating an image of how we want the world to see us.  Naturally we want to show our “best selves” to the world.  But the truth is that if we exposed what is behind the filtered photograph, we may see a very different picture.

    Our culture does not place a high value on vulnerability.  We edit and we filter and we often create appearances that cover the truth of who we really are.  Being vulnerable simply means to be exposed.  It is uncovering the truth about about who we are and what we are struggling with.  This does not mean airing our dirty laundry on social media or to anyone who will listen, but it does mean trusting God and His faith family enough to be real about our struggles.

    From an early age we are taught not to be vulnerable.  In fact, our culture often glorifies being the opposite of vulnerable.  We are rewarded when we show strength, not weakness.  Basically, the world wants us to have it all together, hold it all together, and document our amazing ability to keep it together on social media!  This societal pressure can make us guarded and protective of our real selves.

    But God asks us to do just the opposite.  He asks us to acknowledge our sin, pour out our hearts to Him, and confess our sins to one another.  We can live in secret shame and try to hide our sin from others, or we can do what God asks us to do and be vulnerable.  As we learn to walk with God and trust Him, our vulnerability will increase.  We can be vulnerable precisely because He can be trusted.

    The vulnerable acts of acknowledgment and confession are the first steps in moving from shame to healing.  Confession does not necessarily have to be admitting our sins to God or others, but it can also mean talking about something that causes embarrassment or shame.  Sometimes our greatest shame stems from the sin of others.

    God wants to make us whole.  But unless we are honest about the whole of who we are, He can not change us.  Jesus did not wait to die on the cross until we had it all together, He died while we were still sinners.  We must believe that He is more powerful than our shame or any consequence that might come from telling our truths.

    No one likes to feel exposed or weak, but as we risk being vulnerable in the way that God asks us to be, our trust in Him will deepen.   God takes the shadow of our shame and shines a light on it.  As we share our secrets, when we find the bravery to confess to God and to each other,  secrets lose their power over us and God reclaims His proper place in our lives.

    Reflection

    • It is scary to risk being vulnerable with others, but God wants to use our vulnerability as an avenue for healing (James 5:16).  Can you think of an area of your life that God may be calling you to confess to someone in the faith family that you trust?
    • Our identity is not found in our sin, but in Christ alone.  God asks for confession so that we may release our sins to Him.  Otherwise, we hold onto sin and its load becomes a heavy weight to carry.  What do you need to unload today?

    Prayer

    Lord, I want You to have the power in my life, not my my secrets.  Help me to believe and live like You are more powerful than my secrets.  Increase my bravery to confess where there needs to be confession and to trust where my trust is weak.  Thank you for giving me your faith family to walk beside me as I confront sin in my life.  But most of all, thank you for giving me Yourself.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Faulty Heart

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    My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

    My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:5-8

    Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God. Psalm 62:11

    Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5

    Insight

    These verses have a beautiful motif—that God is powerful and all that we need. This truth should produce joy and peace. The Lord is strong! In our daily lives, or at least in mine, I can forget that simple idea. I forget that God is big and beautiful, but more than that I forget that He is powerful. I limit Him to the scope of my tiny world. I limit Him to the abilities of my mind. I limit Him to my circumstances. But He is a limitless God. Ah! I am in love with that. He has no limits—He is infinite in all that He can do and in all His ways. His very being is infinite. My eyes are at once filled with the fog of tears at the thought, for how majestic and great are His ways. And yet, I am also sitting in exasperation at my own faulty heart. He is limitless and I so often forget that He is.

    But that is part of learning who He is and walking with Him, remembering His ways and remembering Him. As we learn to constantly live with Him, during the sprints of life and during the dark times, we slowly learn to bring Him into each moment. And when we reach a place where we are consistently reminded of His character and we are absolutely in awe of all that He is—that is when our weaknesses, our circumstances, and our pride all fall to the wayside. When He is magnified in our lives, it changes our entire world and perspective. It is not enough to know our weaknesses; we must know who He is. It is in the moments of learning who God is that our weaknesses are paradoxically multiplied and yet overshadowed. When we stare at perfection, our faults blaze. And yet, standing in the presence of Him who knew no wrong, He covers us in His blameless blood. We are at once overcome with our imperfections and His goodness. It is in our darkest places that His light shines brightest. It is in the place of our greatest inabilities that His ability is overwhelming. It is in our weaknesses that God has the biggest space to move.

    In my own life, it is when I am completely helpless, desperate in my weakness, where I see God move the most. It’s when I am stretched—in my finances, emotions, job, ministry, and relationships—that my cries become dependent on God. It is when I recognize that I cannot do something and gently open up my clutched fingers, that I see my faithful God come in and work with a power that is beyond words. It is when I recognize my limits and inability when God shows up. But I don’t want to only recognize my limits in my weaknesses; I want to recognize my limits in my strengths. For I most often forget to invite God to be with and work within me when I am operating out of my strengths. But even in my strengths, my abilities pale in comparison to what He is and all He has to offer.

    Now, this is not to say that we each don’t have talents or abilities or that He doesn’t work through those, but it is to say that we often 1) limit God to our talents, 2) avoid opportunities because we are terrified of our weaknesses, or 3) miss God partnering in and multiplying our strengths because we think we’ve got a grasp on it. The goal should be to invite Him into every area, both our weaknesses and our strengths. Inviting Him into each area becomes easier the more you know His character and His ways. The more you know Him, the more your life is shaped by reliance on Him. Our lives should characterized by our dependence on God.

    Reflection

    • Do you find yourself more dependent on God in your strengths or weaknesses?
    • What does partnering with God in both your strengths and weaknesses look like?
    • In what ways are you in awe of God?

    Prayer

    God, You are beautiful in all of Your ways. Allow me see a different part of who You are today. I ask that You lift the veil of my stubborn self to see my strengths and weaknesses in the light of all that You are. As I walk through my day show me where I am depending fully on myself. Let my strengths and weaknesses not be hindrances in my relationship with You, but rather tools to further glorify Your name and become ever more like You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

    PC3 writer Charissa Wright wrote today’s devotional.

  • Provide Grace

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    Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:20-21

    Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 

    Insight

    This past fall I felt an urge that God was leading me to serve in Guatemala City with Port City’s college ministry, Overflow. There was so much excitement when I found out that all my paperwork made it through and that I’d be part of the team leaving for a week. From October to March all I could think about was being able to serve others internationally for the first time.

    Being in Guatemala was unbelievably impactful. From the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep I was surrounded by so many learning opportunities from the team, guest speakers and leaders. There was, of course, many opportunities to serve at the seminary school we were housed at as well as local childrens programs.

    However, I feared coming back to America. I had no idea how God would use this experience in me nor what opportunities would pop up.

    The day before we left to head back to Wilmington one of the leaders from Guatemala answered my thoughts. After breakfast, she mentioned a connection she felt when I shared my testimony at the beginning of the week. She was also raised in a family who didn’t pursue a relationship with the Lord and still hasn’t. I explained the hardships I was facing from it and how I feared their judgement, which led me to shy away from sharing anything about God in their presence.

    I did what Francis Chan said fear would cause me to do: nothing.

    With teary eyes she explained, “All you can do is provide grace and be a light in the relationship.”

    She reminded me of how easily missions go unseen day-to-day in our surroundings. The mission I left unseen and untouched was in my family. The gospel had no chance of flowing into their lives because I internalized my relationship with God around them. So, allowing my life to be a light of God’s mission didn’t mean regurgitating the Gospel to them, but simply translating it into actions displaying God’s love and grace while being diligent and vulnerable.

    It has taken a process of small steps; reading my Bible publicly, continuing my quiet times, understanding their perspective, speaking to them with the same intentionality I would with a Christ-loving friend, being open about my hardships, and sharing joyful moments.

    Months after my trip my little sister shared with me, “Casey, I bought that devotional book you have and I have been praying.” I responded to myself, “stay cool, stay cool.” Then she continued, “What does it mean to be saved by Christ?” At that point I was fighting back tears. God opened up the door I had been waiting for for a long time. I was finally able to share to her the life of Jesus, what it meant for Him to be her Savior, and the everlasting life with Him.

    God is good.

    God has perfect timing.

    God calls us to live out the light of the Gospel in ALL areas of our lives, whether it is at our workplace, school, with friends or family. We do not have to wait until the next mission trip or weekend. We are free to serve and to live out God’s mission right now, right where we are. There is always a number of needs around us. Until you have sight of where God is guiding you, be transparent with your identity in Christ and take faithful steps forward to gain perspective.

    Reflection

    • Reflect on what and who surrounds your life. How are you living as a light of the Gospel in all these areas?

    Prayer

    Father God, I praise You for the community that surrounds me. Remove all fear, so I may be able to walk boldly in the identity You have blessed me with and live out Your mission everyday to all. In all that I do, I pray to glorify Your great name. Amen.

    PC3 writer Casey Pham wrote today’s devotional.

  • Prepare For Rain

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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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

    Insight

    Have you ever read the Parable of the Two Farmers? Don’t go looking in your Bible, you will not find it there. However to its credit, it did show up in one of my favorite movies, Facing the Giants. It goes like this: 

    There were two farmers who desperately needed rain, and both of them prayed for rain. But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it.  Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain? The answer: the one who prepared his fields.

    This is not a Bible story but a simple illustration that conveys a complex thing. You do not always realize it, but you are one of those farmers praying for rain. Each of us have a respective field: work, finances, family life, school, friendships, etc. We can seem spiritual enough through prayer, but how do we respond with our faith?

    We find ourselves in predicaments desperately needing rain on the fields of life. Although He could, God does not always let it rain immediately. Sometimes though, it is more of a process than a plan.

    In a world where we can optimize so much in our lives, we crave specifics. We get leveled by the world’s pressure to find and do what we are “good at” so that we can be useful. This produces hard questions. “Am I where I’m supposed to be?” or “What are we going to do?” Maybe even, “Am I good enough?”

    We default to the doctrine of Jeremiah 29:11 so often in Christian culture. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper…not harm you…give you hope and future’.” People quote it. People tattoo it. I admit it is printed on the front of a journal I use now. It is a marquee verse and rightfully so, but we can miss the point in Jeremiah.

    By including this in His Word, God is not promising some dramatic revelation of our precise calling. He is promising hope for us–His people.

    At some point, we do step into a specific role God designed for us, but the point is to walk with Him. It is here we find real identity. Like the farmer who prayed and prepared, it is important for us to assume a posture of active waiting. One truth we can lean on is that God is closest to the broken.

    This year at work, I walked through some valleys; rough valleys. So many times I naively asked God to just “throw me a bone” or “give me a break.”

    As a middle school teacher, I was constantly hoping for that burning bush moment when I get the supreme orders, the answer. I was hoping for the Forrest Gump, “After that, shrimpin’ was easy” moment. It would make sense after riding out a hurricane of adolescents! Looking back, I did receive blessings from God. It called for lots of prayer from lots of folks. Still, the specific triumph I craved was ridiculously anticlimactic but so much bigger than what occupied my mind’s eye. The Lord provides. God worked in me as I was driven to surrender to Him, letting Him draw near.

    We can assume two things: God wants us to be close to Him and He wants us to be people of action, even when we are in waiting.

    Paul wrote to Philemon from prison telling Philemon to “prepare a room” for him, confidently trusting in Philemon’s prayers for his release. If you ask for rain, prepare for rain. James later writes that we should ask God faithfully for wisdom and depicts anyone who doubts as a “wave tossed by the wind.”

    Let us recognize and rejoice in the cross in all this.

    Hebrews describes Jesus as the “author and perfecter of our faith.” He endured agony, especially in the waning stages of His life on Earth, seeing a perfect joy for all, surpassing anything else. Remember Gethsemane. Even Christ wanted God to act swiftly and help him escape the suffering of the Cross. But we can celebrate that Christ made it possible for us to be with God.

    You can trust two more things: God hears us and God moves on time. He is much more than a superficial deity of signs and symbols. He loves us and uses us in beautiful ways we do not expect. When we let God work in us and through us, the outcomes we imagine become small and trite.

    Dare to set aside specifics and let God work. Welcome His closeness. The plan happens when we enter God’s presence.

    Reflection

    • Where is the place in your life you need to surrender? How might you need to “prepare your fields for rain?”

    Prayer

    Father God, in Your will alone, how is it You might use me? Please grant to me the wisdom I need to find clarity in the droughts and dilemmas of life. Strengthen me to trust, pray continually, and actively wait. Draw close and help me to recognize Your presence. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.  

    PC3 writer Adam King wrote today’s devotional.

  • Unfinished Business

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    Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

    When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

    When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” JOHN 21:4-19

    Insight

    After watching his friend and teacher die on a cross, Peter didn’t know where to turn. So, he returned to his old life and the only thing he ever knew: fishing. Peter was hoping the blowing winds of the sea would silence the guilt, regret and worthlessness he felt inside. He reasoned his days of being a fisher of men were a thing of the past after denying Jesus three times (John 18:15-27). Then, Jesus appeared on the scene in a familiar way, to deal with some unfinished business.

    As Peter reached the shore, there was probably a mixture of anticipation and awkwardness. None of the disciples, including Peter, knew how to start the conversation or break the ice. After all, it’s not every day that your teacher and friend conquers death.

    This probably left them overwhelmed, especially Peter who couldn’t erase the memory of those denials and the sting of hearing that rooster crow. Peter probably reasoned “how could I, a coward, ever be a leader?” This was the unfinished business Jesus came to address. It’s the crucial conversation that needed to take place.

    Jesus wanted to confront the regret, restore his friend and assure Peter that he is loved. Jesus didn’t shy away from the issue, but created a clear path for the conversation and restoration to take place. This is not only good news for Peter, but it is good news to us. Why? Each one of us has at one time or another turned away. We’ve looked to lesser things to fill our heart. We’ve given our affection to someone else. We’ve sinned. We’ve failed to step out in faith. We’ve been ashamed of our beliefs. We’ve put our light under a bowl. We’ve loved the darkness. We’ve turned our backs. We’ve doubted we matter to God. We’ve given up on the life God has for us.

    Jesus doesn’t brush aside Peter’s sin. Instead, he makes Peter confront it. But, Jesus does so in order to bring true repentance. Jesus challenges Peter in a loving way. Romans 2:4 says that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance. Only when someone is broken over his or her sin can God begin the process of restoration.

    This is a pivotal moment in Peter’s life. Confronting his regret through the lens of Christ’s love transformed Peter. Doing the same can have a profound impact on your life as well. Just like the song How He Loves says we don’t have the time to maintain our regrets when we think about the way He loves us.

    Reflection

    • What would it look like for God’s love to erase your regrets?
    • What unfinished business do you need to work out with God? What crucial conversations need to take place?

    Prayer

    God, thank You for loving me in spite of myself. Thank You for loving me during those times I run, deny, doubt and sin. Remind me of this love when I find myself maintaining my regrets. Allow me to confront my regrets through the lens of Your love and may that transform my character and heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.