Devotions

  • Restlessness

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    As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10

    But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20

    Insight

    One night my husband was out of town for the week on a business trip.  For the sake of my sanity, I decided to hire a babysitter for the evening.  I left my 3 kids with a kiss and went to Target.  Four and a half hours later, I came back.  The sweet sitter asked, “What did you do while you were gone?” to which I replied, “I went to Target.”  “What else did you do?”, she asked curiously.  “That’s it,”  I had to reply as my face was probably turning 50 shades of red. Cue crickets.

    Yes, I stayed in Target for 4 straight hours.  I thoroughly walked the store three times over.  I needed nothing in particular yet, I exited with a full cart.  Looking back, I see that I was restless for something to do.  Don’t misunderstand – I was never without a long list of tasks that needed to be done around the house.  But I was missing more meaningful work.

    Whether it’s Target or trash television, our lives will be filled with aimless endeavors until we decide to live for something greater. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with shopping at Target (if you are a mom, you understand that child-free shopping can be very relaxing).  But what I was beginning to discover as I fidgeted my way through every aisle was this: God wanted more of me than what I was giving.

    God had given me gifts and He wanted me to use them. I truly believe it was a divine restlessness that night and in that season of my life.  He was saying, in essence, “Hello!?  Are you going to spend all of your time in Target buying meaningless things or are you going to get to work on what is most important?”

    “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  I was learning to really believe God’s Word that He, indeed, had given me gifts that were of value to His kingdom.  The Bible is clear that the Body of Christ is less effective when all of its parts are not doing their work.  God has gifted and arranged us in His body for His purposes (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).  This is not a small truth.

    God is simply waiting for us to say, “Yes, Lord!  I’m all in!  Whatever Your purposes for me may be!”

    It took time and searching for me to figure out those purposes.  And because He doesn’t give us the entire novel of our lives, it is still unfolding.  Be prepared that when you ask for God’s vision for your life and tell Him that you are “all in”,  He will change you.  He will rearrange your priorities.  He will open doors and close some.  Walking out His vision has been scary at times and completely inconvenient.  The real, eternal work of His kingdom is unglamorous.  It’s sweat, commitment and hard work.  However, I can testify that it is way more fun to live in reliance on His faithfulness than shopping at Target for countless hours.

    Reflection

    • If you are feeling restless, consider God is trying to get your attention.  He may be asking you to use your gifts for His glory. Ask God for His vision for your life and get serious about seeking it.  God wants you to play your instrument so that your notes will be used in His beautiful symphony.

    Prayer

    Lord, thank you for being the Master Creator.  Thank you for designing me with a need to create.    Help me to create for Your priorities and Your glory and not my own.  Whether it’s tackling laundry piles to make dirty things clean or writing words with intention, help me to live my life for You.  In Your name, Jesus.  Amen. 

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Harassment By A Thousand Cuts

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    Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

    Insight

    My husband and I are coming out of some weekend. You know it’s crazy when you lay your head down Sunday night and think, at least tomorrow is Monday.

    It was one thing after another. On Saturday, while my husband surfed, someone stole his backpack and flip-flops. The car keys were in his backpack, so I worried when he’d return to the beach with the spare, there would be no car to greet him. Thankfully, that was not the case. We dodged a bullet, but it nicked us, it felt like a paper cut – annoying.

    The rest of the day, we kept losing items around the house, adding frustration to both of us. More nicks. Tension was rising.

    Sunday morning we woke up, excited for a day with only two things to do: one, my husband had to work a bit. Two, we were going to go to the beach. Work took longer than expected, so the beach got pushed to after our daughter’s nap time. Slight nick.

    Then things really crumbled. When we were finally ready to go to the beach, I loaded a small beach bag in the car. As I went to shut the door, I realized my daughter’s fingers were gripping the other side. It was too late- her tiny toddler fingers got pinched. She screamed and my heart broke. As my daughter iced her fingers, the porcelain glass holding ice water dropped, shattering everywhere. Crushed fingers, a broken heart, glass everywhere, and delayed beach- nick, nick, nick, nick.

    After we calmed down and reassessed the situation, we decided to still go to the beach. We carefully loaded everyone in the car, my husband turned the key, and… nothing. Really? A drained battery? After all this??? Nicked, again!

    Occurrence after occurrence of frustrating circumstances brought us to the point of disbelief and even laughter. The kind of laughter that comes when you have the choice of curling up in the fetal position and crying because everything has gone wrong or laugh at how ridiculous your day has been. I did both.

    This day needed to end. God graciously reminded me of His new mercies every morning, and it could not come fast enough. We put on praise and worship music to fall asleep to and went to bed hopeful.

    Our weekend was full of nicks, painful little cuts meant to distract us from God’s goodness. It could have been death by a thousand cuts, but it was more like harassment. Some call it Murphy’s Law, I call it the enemy.

    The Bible says Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, he is a thief looking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8).

    However, the book of Job shows us that God is still in control. Job went through unimaginable pain and suffering, though the enemy had to get permission from God to unleash anything on him. God was in control then, over Job’s circumstances, and God is still in control – over all our circumstances.

    But when the nicks come, where does your heart go? Do you feel defeated, or do you know you have a victorious God who is your loving Father? It is a fight to realize His goodness in the midst of frustration, pain, and stress. It feels more natural to cave in, be angry, and lash out at others. My husband and I tried that too and trust me- it just adds more stress!

    However, nothing truly defeated us this weekend. Yes, the frustrations mounted, almost blocking everything else from our vision: morale was low, stress was high, even physical pain was high. But God refocused our eyes to see His mercy. The car was not stolen, my daughter’s fingers were not broken, we ran and laughed on the beach, and we came together at the end of the night – nicked, but hopeful.

    God had the enemy on a short leash for us this weekend, and for that I am grateful.

    I am holding onto Isaiah 43:18-19 today as we start our week. I choose not to dwell on this past weekend or question God’s faithfulness, but to look for His new things and to see the way He is making in the desert.

    Reflection

    • How do you respond to the nicks that come your way? Where does your heart go and what messages about life and God are you believing in those times of frustration?
    • What verse(s) can you hold onto that remind you of God’s everlasting love, goodness, provision, and faithfulness to you? Use this as your Sword of the Spirit in times of getting nicked.

    Prayer

    Thank you God, that You are above all things, that You are in control, and on my side. Thank you that You provide streams in the wasteland and walk through the waters with me. I hold onto You and Your Truths: You are my good Father, You have called me by name, and I am Yours. Reveal Your goodness to me, let me see beauty from ashes and dry bones come to life. I need You and Your promise of life and life to the full. I want to experience victory with You. I love You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

    PC3 writer Erin Beil wrote today’s devotional.

  • Healing Words

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    We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

    Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

    Insight

    In my twins’ fourth grade class they played Secret Santa for their Christmas party.  The teacher asked each child to draw names, choose a gift under $5 and write a letter to their chosen classmate telling them what is special about them.

    I didn’t think much about this exercise before the party.  But watching and listening to nine and ten year old boys sitting in a circle and reading aloud the letters they had written to one another was moving and powerful.  Each child waited with excitement as they anticipated the letter written especially for them.

    You could see their eyes light up and their faces beam as they listened to their classmate read what was special about them and call out their gifts.  You could easily see this was more pleasing to them than the most expensive gift on the planet would have been.  Honestly, I was surprised by how seriously the boys took this activity. It was truly a magical endeavor and I watched with tears in my eyes for the beauty of it.

    I could see the Scripture coming to life in these sweaty, sweet and goofy boys:  “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

    If only we really believed and practiced this.  As we grow into adulthood, we become experts at using words to suit our purposes.  Instead of being used for healing, they are far too often used to tear others down.  We use rash or harsh words or we calculate them carefully measuring one’s worthiness before giving them our words or deeds of love.

    But the Bible commands us to freely love and express words of love.  “We love because He first loved us.”  This is the only pure reason we are to love.  More often, however, we use words of love because our children behaved well or we deem one deserving.  That’s not Biblical love.  Biblical love is freely given simply because He first loved us.  That’s it.

    In our family room, we keep this verse written on the wall: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”.” I admit this is a tall and lofty order and in the heat of the moment I find it impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.  But with God’s help, it is possible.  We must believe this so that we may live graciously and choose gracious words.

    I once read that those who need love the most ask for it in the most unloving of ways.  I believe this to be true and as a mom I can easily see this in my family.  I constantly have to remind myself that words are powerful and each word I speak facilitates either good or evil, healing or damage, wisdom or thoughtlessness.  We live in a world that screams for more self-controlled children when what we really need is more self-controlled parents who lovingly choose their words and actions carefully.

    “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Today may we choose gracious words.

    Reflection

    • Our feelings provide clues to what is in our heart but they do not have to be our heart’s commander or the commander of our words.  Do your words reflect your feelings or the values of Christ?  Ask for God’s help in choosing gracious words that bring healing to any situation you are confronted with today.

    Prayer

    Father, help me to choose my words wisely and to speak only words that will benefit the listener.  Help me to love others and express words of love simply because You have loved me so well and not because I think they are deserving.  Whether it is the words I speak to my children or a stranger on the street, I pray that my words are pleasing to You today.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Perfect Imperfection

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    Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:1-2

    Insight

    Life is really stinking messy with imperfection.

    Let me start this with an admission: In my recent adult years, I have made some huge mistakes that have had high costs. I wish I was brave enough to name them for you now, but I know we all have these kind of deep regrets that we wish we could bury forever. Mine are no different, so I know you understand. At the root of most of my mistakes is my desire for perfection. I want the world to view me as being on the top of my game all the time, no matter what the cost. And when that image cracks, it’s a long hard fall.

    Over the past several weeks, we have spent a lot of time talking about the broad message of forgiveness and hope. Having just passed through the Easter season, lining this message up against the context of our own messy lives creates a striking parallel. It’s easy to gloss by this similarity and simply view the resurrection of Christ on a world-view, eternal, forgiveness-for-all scale. And while of course this view is accurate, we miss the nitty-gritty, everyday application for our own individual messes. It’s easy to understand and accept Christ’s overall sacrifice for the forgiveness of my sins on a big picture level, but I struggle to accept or forgive myself when I fail time and time again.

    I saw a poster recently that said, “You were born to be real, not perfect.” Brene Brown calls perfectionism a “shield.” The reality of both is that when we spend our time focusing on upholding a specific image of ourselves to the world, we never actually walk in the person God created us to be. The problem with trying to be perfect is that it creates an impossible standard by which we judge the world. No one can uphold the mantle, as of course I can’t either. When I think about how I use my own insecurities as a shield to mask my weaknesses and also my failures, I’m challenged to also think about the ways I’m limiting my true potential.

    I love Ephesians Chapter 5 in the Message. The title of the chapter is labeled, “Wake Up from Your Sleep.” That’s exactly what learning to walk as forgiven people looks like. The walls and barriers that we build by trying to portray an image get totally broken down. The first line of verse one reads, “Watch what God does, and then you do it.” The verses go on to talk about love and loving others extravagantly. Verse 8 reads, “You groped your way through the murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain.”

    If I believe what God says about me… that I was made, crafted, woven in his image… if I truly claim to trust his plans, then no matter what I hold fast to that hope. Inside that kind of hopefulness, there isn’t a scenario where God isn’t using every single moment to craft me into more. In God’s economy there’s room for imperfection. It’s not an easy thing to accept, but forgiveness starts by accepting that perfection isn’t an option. Failure and mistakes are part of the gauntlet of life. When sin entered the world, it was a guarantee that we as the generations to come would choose the wrong over and over again. That doesn’t mean there won’t be tangible consequences, but there’s hope.

    My mistakes have had high costs, as I’m sure yours have as well. Mostly in the brokenness of relationships. If I could go back and do things again, I would certainly never live out the moments the same way twice. But what I’m learning to accept is that everything happens to move us forward in life. God doesn’t waste these hard parts. He simply doesn’t. He uses them to reshape our character, to mold our hearts to be more like his, and to strengthen our resolve to live more in line with his moral standards.

    The only question is will you let him? Are you brave enough to face the hard parts knowing that His outcome is far greater than your own? And do you have the courage to walk boldly through the valley in an effort to rise to the mountain again? Life on earth is long, and the days are full of opportunities to try again, to make better choices, to be different. Are you willing to rest in His forgiveness of you so that you can start the process of forgiving yourself and the people who have hurt you?

    I say, yes! Let’s go for it!

    Reflection

    • What areas do you see yourself struggle to let go of an image or picture in your head of how you should be or what you should be. What is your next step towards starting to believe that you’ve already been forgiven and that God is already using every part of your story for His use?

    Prayer

    Father, thank you that we can walk every day in Your light. The gift of the cross and the resurrection provide the framework for our own walk through the muck to the other side of difficult situations. Help teach us how to bravely be real, to drop our shields and the image we try to uphold, so that we can learn to love and forgive extravagantly. Above all us, help us rest in Your image of us, that we can learn to forgive our own failures and have the courage to rise again. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

    PC3 writer Kaitlyn Boscaljon wrote today’s devotional.

  • Throne of Grace

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    In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8

    Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

    Insight

    Each morning before my kids get out of the car to go to school, I make sure to tell them I love them.  Those last words are the most important thing I want them to remember as they face their day.  I intentionally use this farewell sentiment to conclude our morning time because, come what may during the course of their day, this is what I want them to know.

    I recently observed that the last sentence of the Bible is this:  “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people, Amen” (Revelation 22:21).  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  I believe just as I intentionally tell my kids that I love them, our Lord intentionally issued these final words (through John, the Spirit-led, human author of the book) about grace because He knows it is one of our deepest needs.

    Christ has already given us grace; He simply wants us to receive it.

    In Christ, the Bible tells us that we have received the remarkable riches of His grace.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that He lavished on us.”  In Him, our guilt is removed and our freedom is gained.  He offered Himself as the once for all satisfaction of God’s justice for our sins.

    Therefore, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

    We can not skip over the profound implications of this verse.  What do we find when we approach the throne of God?  We find mercy.  We find grace.  We find forgiveness.  We find peace.  These are things we all innately long for and they are the very essence and character of God.

    In Christ, let us not be hesitant to come to Him with our messiness, our needs, and our authentic selves.  As we approach the throne of grace with confidence, we can be sure that we have access to the very presence of God Himself.  And, in Christ, we have full assurance that He will give us everything we need and more.

    Our world is packed full of anger, artificialness, judgment, pain, resentment, and uncertainty but it desperately needs more grace.  I confess that when approaching the throne of Gina you may at times find these things.  But, I am working on it – not by trying to muster willpower to change but by understanding how loved I am by a God who reigns on a throne of grace.   Grace is, in fact, our best teacher (Titus 2:11-12).

    We can only forgive others to the extent that we understand we are forgiven.  We can only offer as much grace and mercy as we believe we have been given.  We can only impart the peace we have received for ourselves through Christ.

    “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people”.  The Lord knows how much we need grace for others and ourselves.  I believe Christ wants His church so identified with grace that it begins to naturally radiate from our lives.

    For me, abiding in grace today means I will not yell at my kids.  It means I won’t freak out at my husband when he doesn’t do something I ask him to.  I won’t honk at the person who pulls out in front of me.  Lord knows I may feel like doing those things, but instead of acting on it, I’ll choose to remember his throne of grace, receive it, and ask for the strength to extend it to others.

    Reflection

    • “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). Do you believe this?  If you’re like me, it is hard for you to believe.  However, this truth brings a tremendous amount of grace and freedom to all of our relationships.  Spend time thanking God that He has given you everything you need.  If you find this difficult to believe, ask God to give you the gift of belief in this truth.

    Prayer

    Father, thank you that we may enter into Your presence with confidence.  Thank you that we can trust You to give us all that we need.  Help me to abide in Your grace and truth so that I may love others well.  In Your name, Jesus.  Amen.

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Undeserved Grace

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    You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

    Insight

    My junior year of college, about a year after my father died, I was a mess. I happened to attend a Christian college but, at that point, this fact meant nothing more to me than the occasional chapels we were required to attend. The end of the semester was at hand and a massive paper was due in my least favorite class. Whether it was grief or entitlement or both, I don’t know, but I do know that I cheated on the paper. I found a student who had previously taken the class and, with her blessing, used her paper and put my name on it.

    I foolishly thought it was a great plan and it definitely took a load off my shoulders. In fact, my load was incredibly light for a glorious week until my professor called and wanted to see me in his office as soon as possible. I just knew I had been caught.

    What would I do? What would I say? Would I be kicked out of college? At the very least, he would fail me for the entire class. I thought about my poor mom and began to feel shame and guilt that I would put her through the embarrassment of having a daughter who cheated. I also thought about the thousands of dollars my blue-collar parents had poured into my tuition and how all of the money may be wasted.

    I walked into his office tepidly, sitting in the chair he offered waiting for wrath. As I stared off into space, the first thing my professor said to me was, “Gina, I forgive you.” That was not what I thought he would say. I continued staring into space silently trying to process what was happening. “Gina, I forgive you,” he said again. He kept saying it until finally I looked back at him and tears started streaming down my face.

    Instead of calling the Dean or failing me, he offered me the chance to write the paper on my own. It was one of the most grace-filled things anyone has ever done for me. I humbly received his forgiveness and grace. I submitted the paper again and this time I used my own words. There were no deductions for the late submission, no subtracted points for the incident…it was as if it never happened.

    I walked away from that experience softened. I felt the sting of my depravity and gazed a glimpse of the grace of God, albeit through a grey-haired, science-loving professor. His grace for me filled a need I didn’t even understand that I had. It would be a few years later before I would thirst to get to know God for myself (it was easier to let others tell me about Him). But on that day in his office, I surely felt the grace and kindness of God through the grace and kindness of my professor.

    How much different would our world be if everyone extended this kind of grace? Grace that is surprising, undeserved, and even unjust. If my classmates knew about what happened, I am sure they would have been angry that I was given so much grace. From their perspective, the scales were completely unbalanced. Truly, it was unfair. On the other hand, this professor’s kindness was a landmark on a journey that led me toward repentance.

    Our flesh may beckon us to bring out the scales but God asks us to put them away. He is the One that will do the measuring. The gospel of Christ, in the words of Bryan Stevenson, tells us that we are more valuable than the worst thing we have ever done. Today, I am so thankful this is true and my prayer is that everyone would come to know it.

    Reflection

    • It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is ourselves; however, self-condemnation leads nowhere. Brennan Manning asks, “Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?” Truly receiving the grace and forgiveness of Christ pulls you from self-condemnation to Christ-exaltation. Do you need to forgive yourself for something? Spend time thanking Christ for His absolute and completely sufficient sacrifice.

    Prayer

    Father, help me to see everyone through the lens of Your grace, including myself. Thank you for Your undeserved suffering for my sin. Please help me to extend the grace You have so freely given to me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Dirty Feet

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    Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:3-5,12-17

    Insight

    On a recent trip to California, we stopped at a park called Torrey Pine to see miles of ocean and gorgeous overlooks.  What was meant to be a quick pit stop turned into an hour long hike.

    At each overlook, the kids wanted to go farther.  The view was certainly breathtaking.  There was a slight problem, however.  I was wearing sandals and walking through the dirty, dusty sand and rock was totally annoying me and my feet.

    But this quick stop turned mountain trek was the first nature-inspired activity the kids were eagerly participating in without the slightest complaint.  They were sincerely awe-struck by the greatness of God’s creation.  It was truly beautiful.  How could I ruin the moment by complaining about my sandals and dirty feet?  (Ok, I really wanted to.)

    By the end of the hike my feet were filthy.  I was trying to enjoy the moment and marvel at the view like my kids, but honestly I couldn’t wait to get back to the car and use Wet Ones to wipe off the dust.

    After thanking God for Wet Ones and also for the fact that I do not live in Biblical times, it struck me why foot washing would have been such a big deal back then.  The shoes people wore had a thick sole but thin top.  Much of their feet would have been exposed.  So, when not riding a camel or donkey, walking through dirt and sand would have made their feet extremely dirty.

    I began to seriously imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to have their feet washed by Jesus.  It was a common and necessary cultural exercise.  However, this was mostly a job reserved for slaves.  It was completely unexpected by His disciples that He would take on such a lowly role.

    The life of a slave had little to no value.  Slave life in Roman culture was extremely difficult.  They were used for manual labor and often chained or even branded.  For any reason, they could be starved, whipped, or beaten to death.

    I can hardly imagine such a life, yet I know this kind of life still exists for many today.

    And this is who King Jesus chose to identify Himself with shortly before His time on the cross.    He was not only showing the disciples how to lead by example but He was establishing His identity.  He was uniting Himself with a people considered to be the lowest rung of humanity.  In a simple and single act Jesus affirmed the dignity and value of all people.

    He also profoundly broadened the disciples’ view of serving others.  He revolutionized their categorization of people and the social caste of their world.  He wants to do the same for us.  “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

    Reflection

    • “The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).  Washing the feet of the disciples was much larger than the act itself; He was shifting the disciples’ worldview, challenging them to see every person as worthy of their love and service.  Spend time reflecting on ways you may categorize or judge people.  Today, how can you imitate the type of service that Jesus exemplified?  It doesn’t have to be big — washing feet was a simple act.

    Prayer

    Father, help me to see the ways in which I keep people at arms’ length because I hold a prideful and self-righteous view that I am somehow better than them.  Forgive me, Lord, for my presumptive sin and the sin that I am unaware of.  Shape my heart to see everyone the way You do and to wholeheartedly serve everyone uninhibited by preconceived notions or ideas that I hold about them.  Shift my entire paradigm if You need to, Lord.  Thank you for leading by example.  In Your name, Jesus.  Amen.  

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Our True Enemy

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    Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1

    For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

    Insight

    We see throughout the Bible that Jesus is not simply calling us to be a church that believes.  He is calling us to be a church who loves.  But let’s be real — sometimes loving others feels more like stepping into a wrestling match than a holy discipline.  In our quests to love others, we may often have good intentions but when things get hard, we find it easier to walk away.

    The Bible is clear about the struggles in our lives and relationships: there is no struggle with flesh and blood, our struggle is with the enemy (Ephesians 6:12).  It is the enemy that tries to wreck havoc in our relationships and havoc in the world around us.  It is the enemy who wants us to fixate on other people as if they are the problem.  The Bible says that the devil is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short (Revelation 12:12).  The enemy came to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10), but Jesus came to teach us to walk in the way of love.

    When love and forgiveness feels more like a wrestling match, let us ask God to see our true enemy.  Believe it or not, 100% of the time our true enemy is never the person standing in front of us!  It is futile to spend our time fighting people.  Understanding that our struggle is not with flesh and blood frees us to love others the way Christ has called us to.

    We are called to wage war differently than the rest of the world (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).  Paul teaches us in Ephesians 6:10-20 the kind of war we are to wage and how to take our stand against the devil’s schemes.  Christ does not call us to wage war against others with sharp words, clever comebacks and cunning tactics.  Instead, Christ calls us to wage war with love (patience, kindness, and hopeful endurance) and to fix our minds on His Truth, His Gospel, His Spirit and God’s Word.

    So today, instead of fighting people, let us talk to God.  Let us wage war in love and prayer against our true enemy, appealing to the only One who holds the divine power to transform hearts and lives.

    Reflection

    • Think about a situation in which you have found it difficult to love.  Ask God to give you spiritual eyes to see the spiritual battle that is happening.  In what ways can you fight with love and the spiritual weapons God has given you?
    • Christ calls us to follow in His footsteps and walk in the way of love.  Ask Christ to show you the next step you need to take to love someone today.

    Prayer

    Dear Lord, forgive me for the many times I have seen my enemy as flesh and blood and not the true enemy that You describe in the Bible.  Help me to wage a war of love and not one filled with the ways of the world.  Help me to value unity as much as You do and thank you for leading me in the way of love and peace.  Please grant me the courage to walk in it.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.  

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • In God’s Place

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    But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21

    Insight

    Before Joseph asked this question of his brothers, “Am I in the place of God?”, a long history preceded.  His brothers, jealous of him since the time of his birth, sold him into slavery and left him for dead.  Before eventually rising to power in Pharaoh’s court, Joseph endured long imprisonment and was even punished for doing the right thing.  His story, filled with suspenseful twists and turns, is one wrought with hardship and suffering.

    If anyone was deserving to withhold forgiveness, it would have been him.  Instead, when finally coming face to face with his betrayers, his own brothers, Joseph understood his place.  He understood that he was not God.  Now that he was in power, he could have treated his brothers harshly.  He could have taken vengeance into his own hands.  Yet instead, Joseph left room for God to work asking,  “For am I in God’s place?”

    This simple question reveals a lot about how God desires us to see forgiveness. A healthy view of forgiveness can dramatically shift the course of our lives.  Rather than being weighed down by anguish and bitterness, we can choose to live a different way.

    Forgiveness is a cornerstone of our faith.   The entire life of Jesus assumes that God does, in fact, hold the guilty accountable.  This is both scary and a little satisfying, depending on whether or not you see yourself as the offender or the offended.  When I am the offended I easily forget that I too have been an offender. The truth is that all of us are both.  To give forgiveness, we must first truly receive it.

    One of the main verbs relating to forgiveness in the Old Testament was nāśāʾ, meaning “to lift up, carry or take”.  I love this imagery.  It reminds us of the heavy weight an unforgiving heart bears and signals the freedom a heart dependent on God creates.  Ultimately, forgiveness is releasing our fate and the fate of others to a power higher than ourselves. This does not absolve responsibility but leaves justice and consequence in its proper place – with God.

    Imagine Joseph’s story with a different ending.  Instead of forgiving his brothers and releasing their fate to God, imagine that he decided to pay back evil for evil.  The temporary satisfaction Joseph may have felt in “paying back” his brothers would have paled in comparison to experiencing the power of God and His capacity to bring good from evil.  Because of God’s work through Joseph, many Israelites survived a famine.

    “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  We will not experience this promise if we constantly try to manipulate circumstances or put ourselves in the place of God.  Forgiveness leaves room for God to work in all things for the good of those who love Him.  We have not been deserted.  Like Joseph, we can trust Him enough to forgive.

    Reflection

    • Joseph’s posture of forgiveness required a great deal of humility.  Sometimes as we read verses in Scripture we easily miss the emotion and despair that would have accompanied the words.  The Bible says that Joseph “was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there” (Genesis 43:30).  Because of his deep hurt, forgiveness was not easy.  We can see that Joseph grappled between his desire for revenge and his desire to surrender.  In fact, his first instinct was to throw his brothers in jail.  He could have left them there, but he didn’t.  It is never too late to allow God to take our burdens and hurts through an act of forgiveness.  Is there someone you need to forgive today?
    • Often the most difficult person to forgive is ourselves.  If we deny ourselves this grace by continuing to live under a heavy weight, we deny God’s work for us on the cross.  Do you need forgiveness?  Spend time with God thanking Him for His unmerited grace.

    Prayer

    Lord, thank you for freeing me from the bitterness of vengeance and vindication.  Thank you for Your radical grace.  Help me to live in a posture of forgiveness and humility.  In Your name Jesus.  Amen 

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • In The Face of Animosity

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    If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that.  LUKE 6:32-33

    Insight

    One afternoon I was driving with two of my children in the car as we approached a stoplight.  I looked down to play with the radio and suddenly the car that I thought was way in front of me had somehow crashed into mine.  I had not been paying close enough attention and I hit her.  Thankfully, everyone was fine.  But I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

    The young woman I hit came flying out of her car and tried to get in mine (thankfully the door was locked).  She was yelling and screaming curse words at me, demanding that I get out of the car (in the middle of the MLK highway) so that she could “teach me a lesson.”

    I pleaded with the woman that I had kids in the car but it made no difference as she continued to yell.  Then suddenly, as quickly as she had appeared, she drove away, not even stopping to exchange insurance information or waiting until the police arrived.

    My kids were completely terrified.  One was crying very hard and shaking.  Even though I was crying too, I was angry.  Extremely angry.  I wanted to chase her down and accept her offer to get out of the car and unleash my pent-up fury on her.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

    The next day in my quiet time I read today’s Scripture from Luke 6. Jesus could not have been more clear.  He may as well have been sitting across from me at the table reading me the Scripture Himself.

    Loving someone is a choice and He is calling me, and all of His disciples, to a radical love.  This type of love chooses kindness, patience and true forgiveness even in the face of animosity.

    In Acts 6-7 we learn the story of Stephen.  Stephen was an early messenger of the Gospel and courageously spread the good news in face of persecution.  He eventually paid the price with his life.   In Greek, Stephen’s name means “crown or victorious.”  Yet, read what happens to him.

    By all human standards, Stephen seemed anything but victorious: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59-60).

    Stephen was stoned to death, yet he found freedom and victory in the supernatural love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  To the very end, Stephen chose love.

    If Stephen could automatically decide to forgive those who stoned him, how could I do anything but forgive a woman who simply yelled at me?

    I wasn’t given another chance to love that woman, but I did have a chance to pray for her.  Let’s be honest, at first I was kind of half-heartedly mumbling a prayer for her, asking God to help me forgive her and to somehow use the situation for my children to know His love a little bit better.  The words were there but it took my heart some time to catch up.

    The Lord knows I am not Stephen.  But I pray that as I continue to walk with the author of love Himself, my heart will be so filled with love that everyone around me might somehow be touched by its natural overflow.

    Reflection

    • Stephen’s story shows us that our victory is not based on our circumstances, but our ability to choose love.  What else do you learn from his story that is applicable to your life today?

    Prayer

    Dear God, thank you for being love.  Thank you for showing me what true love looks like.  I have no idea what today may bring, but help me to choose Your way of kindness, patience, love and forgiveness.  I pray that You would shape my heart in such a way that I might choose love as quickly as Stephen and as naturally as breathing.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

    Today’s devotional was written by PC3 Writer Gina Fimbel.