Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14
I despise cleaning dirty dishes. Scratch that. As a writer, I can do a much better job capturing the disdain I have for this everyday household chore. Here goes: I abhor, detest, hate, loathe, look down my nose at, eschew and often reject doing the dishes.
But, rules are rules, and there is one in our household – whoever doesn’t cook, cleans. And, because I am far from a culinary wizard (or mainly because my wife is an exemplary chef), most nights I’m stuck with the pots and the pans.
I’d be lying though to say I do them every night. In fact, there have been times when I’ve let them slip for a few evenings. Life gets busy, my girls need my attention, or I’m just exhausted from a long day at work.
As a result, the plates begin to pile up. The leftover food becomes like plaster and requires a chisel to dislodge it from the plate. The longer I procrastinate, the more prominent (and stinkier) the problem becomes.
Such is life. Let me ask: when you put off a crucial conversation, does the pressure subside? When you ignore a broken relationship, do you find yourself hoping to run into that person? When you leave the bills on your desk rather than pay them, does it make your debt disappear? When you ignore the “Honey Do” list, does your house suddenly look like it should be on HGTV? When you keep your struggles to yourself and off limits to God, does it reinvigorate your prayer life?
Nothing ever magically works itself out due to our procrastination. It only makes things worse. I recognize this isn’t an earth-shattering insight, but I tend to live my life ignoring this principle, and as a result, I come face-to-face with a great deal of regret. I suspect I’m not the only one.
Tomorrow isn’t promised. All we have are the moments before us right now. So today, I want us to consider what we’ve been putting off and the damage our neglect has caused. But, I hope we all take it a step further and exchange passivity and procrastination for action and courage.
- What circumstances in your life have you been neglecting and why? What damage has your neglect caused?
- What is one step you can take today to address this issue?
God, rather than close my eyes and hope the issue disappears, today, let me respond with boldness and courage. May I address the things You’ve placed on my heart in a way that honors You and speaks to my trust in who You are. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Studies have shown that 57% of Americans utilize the snooze button on a regular basis. Those numbers mean that on average we spend 3.5 months of our lives hitting the snooze button. We ignore the buzzer going off welcoming us to a new day. Instead, we tap the button, roll over, and convince ourselves that we will get out of bed eventually. Then there are those of us who can’t bare facing their current circumstances, so they just pull the covers above their head hoping it will magically go away. But, hitting the snooze button doesn’t change the reality of the world we want to escape or avoid.
Many of us live our lives, in essence, hitting the snooze button. All of those hopes and dreams we put off for another day. We’ll get around to finding our life’s purpose a little bit later. We pass off the responsibility for things like developing our prayer life, restoring a broken relationship, getting our finances in order or decluttering our closets to our future self.
The problem with snooze buttons is that they provide us with the illusion of activity. Because we have the best intentions, and we think (and worry and obsess) about these things often, we fool ourselves into believing we are making some headway. Intentions aren’t the same thing as actions. It’s hard to take a step of faith or produce any movement when your feet haven’t even hit the floor.
If we put off taking action long enough, we will eventually go back to sleep, and all of those hopes and dreams fizzle out. Three things drive our procrastination. First, we want to put off the pain. Change is always scary, but that doesn’t mean transformation isn’t needed. Doing something new or taking a step of faith is uncomfortable and requires us to be stretched.
Second, we want to prolong our pleasure and have our will be done. There are things we know we need to stop or let go of, but deep inside our hearts we enjoy them and want to continue what we’re doing so, we don’t act. There’s a reason why we find ourselves stuck and often remain there. The enemy is trying to undermine us every step of the way. Sometimes the enemy isn’t tempting us to do bad things, but instead tempting us to do our own thing. Temptation appeals to what we want without consideration of how we were made and who we are becoming.
And, finally, we desire everything mapped out and planned to perfection. We need to know how things will turn out and every step along the path crystal clear before we jump into action. We don’t like to fail and the only way to avoid failing all together is by not trying in the first place.
All of us are becoming something. The question is whether we are doing it intentionally. So, how do we stop hitting the snooze button, take action and work on the person we want to become in 2018? If we’re going to change our behavior, it begins by changing what we see. An encounter starts with where we set our eyes.
Are our eyes focused on our fears and failures? Can all we see are the obstacles, excuses, and things standing in our way? Or, are our eyes centered on the person we are becoming and the One who is with us every step of the way?
- Regarding taking action and living out your faith, where do you find yourself hitting the snooze button? What are you trying to avoid? Why are you trying to avoid it?
God, for far too long, I’ve been hitting the snooze button while You are calling me to act. There are areas of my life I know need to be addressed. I’ve ignored the promptings to take action and have courage. Today, I say no longer will I settle for inactivity and letting fear win. May I get out of bed and face my circumstances with faith and boldness, knowing You are with me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
Like most parents right now, I’m going a bit stir crazy. Our girls have had precisely one school day since December 20th. ONE. And thanks to this latest storm turning our roads into an ice skating rink, we’ve been stuck indoors for what seems like forever.
Cabin fever has officially taken over our household. If you’re reading this, please send rations our way because we’ve blown through our bread, milk, and eggs (and all of our junk food). All kidding aside, feelings of restlessness have set in and are taking their toll. You can only play so many card games, read so many books, binge watch so many Netflix shows, and do so much laundry, before you slowly lose your everloving mind.
Being in close quarters has everyone on edge, with grumbling, disagreements, and bickering breaking out. I keep reminding myself that this too will pass. As soon as we get back to our typical routine, these feelings will quickly subside.
If a heart remains unsettled for too long, it begins to lose its balance. Not only does it do damage to our heart, but it cripples our faith. Restlessness takes its toll on our mindset and perspective as well as our relationships. Failing to address the symptoms only exasperates the problem.
When we can’t find peace, when God feels distant, when we are unable to shake feelings that something is missing or needs to change, we must pay attention. Rather than resist, we should lean in and be curious.
Restlessness serves as an invitation to seek His presence and perspective. He uses our unsettled heart to teach us more of His own. Only God knows what drives our discontentment. If we’re willing to trust Him, on the other side of our restlessness is a peace that passes all understanding.
- Where are you experiencing a bit of restlessness? What is driving this reaction?
- What is God trying to teach you through your unsettled heart?
God, bring light to the places where my heart remains restless. Let me have the courage to confess where I am discontent, distracted or distant. Help me to trust that contentment is only found through pursuing You with my whole heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Living in coastal North Carolina, it’s a rare occurrence for the temperature to drop and to see white flakes falling from the sky. For that snow to stick and begin to accumulate is even more out of the ordinary.
But, today, when I opened up the blinds and looked out my window, a fresh blanket of pure white powder greeted me. It was a breathtaking sight – one that brought shrieks of joy to my two girls who pleaded insistently to go outside.
We obliged, bundled up and trekked out into the cold for some winter fun. We played with neighborhood friends, did some sledding (with boogie boards in typical beach lover fashion) and, of course, did the obligatory Instagram photo session.
My favorite photo of the bunch was the one of our house blanketed in snow. Our two cars. COVERED. The girl’s sports equipment. COVERED. The trash can. COVERED. All of the yard tools I forgot to bring in. COVERED.
The reason why this photo caught my attention was due to it be a striking reminder of the power of God’s grace. Today’s passage in Isaiah speaks to this point.
The cross took care of the ugly stain sin left on our lives and our hearts. His sacrifice settled the issue of our struggles once and for all.
Our past regrets. COVERED.
Our present missteps. COVERED.
Our future failures. COVERED.
The power of this truth should influence the way we view ourselves. Instead of looking at our lives and focusing on our struggles and shortcomings, we set our eyes on our new identity in Christ and what He says about us.
His grace should be the only thing we see. Rather than trying to cover our shame, we can rest in the reality of it being covered by His love. And that is a thing of beauty.
- What personal struggles do you doubt God has covered and taken care of through His grace? What makes you resist resting in this reality?
God, I stand amazed by Your love. I’m so undeserving of this affection and attention, yet you extend it to me anyway. You’ve made something beautiful out of my mess, and for this, I am forever grateful. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:11
I can barely feel my fingers as I type these words. My office could be mistaken for an igloo thanks to the space heater shorting out the circuit breaker. With the number of blankets wrapped around me, I am well on my way to my new life as a Sherpa.
Like most everyone in the nation, I’m trying to survive this great winter cool down. The temperatures have dropped to the point where I find myself googling tips on how to prevent my pipes from freezing. Yes, even miles away I can see my northern readers doing a collective eye roll, but you have to understand the frigid temperatures caught many of us southerners off-guard.
To keep my mind off the cold, I began scrolling through Facebook mindlessly at first, but then a thought struck me. There were people I hadn’t reached out to in forever. Even though based on social media standards we were “friends,” my relationship with them had thawed. Some of those connections, if I’m perfectly honest, were downright frozen.
For whatever reason, just like the frigid temperatures, I’m experiencing right now, my cold heart in these relationships had caught me off-guard. But, this is what happens when we don’t tend to our relationships or when we enable pride, fear, apathy, envy or bitterness to win over love and forgiveness.
Those connections go cold and freeze up altogether. Our hearts become the artic. Days, weeks, months, and years go by, and eventually, you find yourself living in the ice age. Instead of walking on eggshells, a lack of crucial conversations has us tip-toeing on cracked ice. There’s no stability or security in living this way. We wrap ourselves up in our excuses and justifications. When we do this, the only thing that heats up is our anger.
There are some relationships where safe boundaries are needed. For others, reconciliation is off the table. But, for most of these frost-bitten connections, the opportunity for things to thaw is possible, and it starts with allowing the warmth of Christ’s love to guide our words, actions, and attitudes. His love can melt the coldest of hearts.
- In what relationship has your heart grown cold? What is driving this bitterness?
- How can you begin to thaw out this connection point?
God, warm my heart with Your love today. Thaw the places where my heart has gone cold. Open my eyes to the relationships that remain frigid and distant. Give me the courage to seek forgiveness and reconciliation where I am able. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
If it were up to my dad, you wouldn’t be reading this devotional because it wouldn’t exist. Now, before you get the wrong impression let me reassure you that he isn’t anti-religion or faith; he is just that much of a golf fan.
His dream for me was to make the PGA Tour and to spend my days on the links wearing a polo, khaki pants and a visor. There was only one problem: the game of golf and my perfectionist tendencies were a recipe for disaster.
Slicing and hooking my opening driver into the woods. SIGH. Hitting a shot in the water. MUTTER UNDER MY BREATH. Ending up in a sand trap. GRUMBLE. Barely missing a makeable putt. THAT’S IT! My dad soon realized his dream wouldn’t become a reality when I wrapped my putter around a tree in frustration (true story).
Over the years, I’ve learned how to handle my mistakes, screw-ups, and failures with a bit more grace. However, coming face-to-face with my shortcomings is never comfortable.
Just like many of you, I had all these intentions that 2018 would mark “a new year, a new me.” This mantra might have meant working on your anger, eating better, sticking to a budget, devoting time to prayer, or being more patient. And just like me, you are probably standing here on January 3rd and are already dealing with not measuring up. Your hope for change was quickly met with typical behavior, not-go-great attitudes and actions that lead to regret.
In golf terms, you stood at the tee post, looked down at your ball and took a swing. Unfortunately, your ball went sailing in the wrong direction.
Just like on the golf course, my drive to do everything correctly the first time causes me to experience a case of the “spiritual yips.” I get in my head and over think things. One wrong move, one poor decision and I feel like there’s no point in playing the game. Things will always be the same. So, I take my club and go home.
I need to remind myself over and over again that change is indeed possible. But, it won’t come easy and will require me to fight. It’s filled with two steps forward and one step back. Adversity, setbacks, and roadblocks are part of the game. And, most importantly, I’ve got to extend myself a bit of grace because the God I worship extends it to me in more ways than I can comprehend.
Christ offers each one of us a mulligan – a second chance. The power of the cross gives us much more hope than just another shot. The old system of religion demands perfection, the new one centered on Christ rests in His grace.
He’s not only the God of second chances; Christ is the one who offers unlimited opportunities to experience grace, forgiveness, and mercy. His mercies are new every morning which means that the mistakes of the past are left there – in the past. Take another shot today.
- Where are you dealing with discouragement and feelings of futility? Why have you lost hope?
- Where do you need to extend yourself a bit of grace and realize that transformation takes time?
God, remind me during those times of struggles and failures that my mistakes aren’t the end of the story. Open my eyes to the abundance of Your grace and mercy. Speak into those places where I’ve lost heart and hope. Give me the courage to try again and rely on Your strength to guide my steps. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:17-18
You never know what you will come across when you read the “In Other News” section found near the back pages of most newspapers. This is the place where tidbits of strange happenings make their home. They often tell of random events that don’t seem to fit anywhere else, but in the place labeled ‘other.’ If you ever find yourself in a bad mood, I’d suggest picking up your daily paper and reading this section. You are always guaranteed to find one story that makes you at the very least chuckle or, at the very most, question what is wrong with humanity.
One of my all-time favorite “In Other News” stories is the one about the fiasco that took place a few years back during Halloween in White Plains, NY. A guy named Oscar was taking his daughter trick-or-treating in a local neighborhood. Both dad and daughter were dressed up in costumes going door to door. You might be wondering what is noteworthy about a little girl who dresses up like a princess or Disney character getting candy. We haven’t got to what Oscar was wearing; his old orange prisoner’s jumpsuit.
Just by chance, or because God has a great sense of humor, a county correction officer was out trick-or-treating with her child and spotted the familiar jumpsuit. Fearing he was an escaped convict, it sent the local jail into lockdown until they could establish no inmates were missing. Meanwhile, cops found Oscar and confiscated the genuine jumpsuit. Oscar was arrested and charged with petty larceny and possession of stolen property, both misdemeanors. You see prisoners are not permitted to take their jumpsuits home when they are released.
The 6th chapter in Romans speaks in great detail about how we were once slaves or prisoners to sin, but since we have accepted what Christ did on the cross, we have been set free. The chains have been taken off and we are able to live life freely. The door to our jail cell has been opened, we’ve been released and all we need to do is hand in our prisoner’s jumpsuit on the way out. We have been set free.
Very few words in the English language evoke more emotion than the word freedom. Something inside us feels liberated and joyful whenever it is spoken or experienced firsthand. We picture chains being broken and the weight of the world taken off our shoulders. It is only natural for us to yearn to be free.
Yet, how many of us still have the orange jumpsuit tucked away somewhere deep in our closet or take it out and wear it from time to time? We don’t know what it is, but there is something keeping us from getting rid of our old garb. We are so accustomed to how the prisoner’s jumpsuit feels that we struggle to part with it.
The longer we keep this jumpsuit in our possession the greater the pull we will feel to go back to our old lifestyle. In essence, we are helping put back on the very chains that Christ went to the cross to break for good. The reason we find ourselves dealing with the same old struggles time and time again is that we are suffering from a case of mistaken identity.
This piece of clothing symbolizes our old condition, not our new identity in Christ. Our sin nature might always be a part of us, but we are no longer obligated to sin. Our freedom is found in God’s truth. Rather than living under the constant pressure of trying to reach an unattainable standard (the law), we are instead covered by God’s grace, which looks so much better than that tacky, old orange jumpsuit.
- Why do you keep the orange prisoner’s jumpsuit that symbolizes your old identity still around? What security do you think it provides you? What makes you doubt that you can ever let it go?
- Where is God shaping you right now? What would it look like for you to walk in freedom?
God, today I want to walk in Your freedom. May I see myself the way You see me. Help me to trust that the old is gone and the new has come. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Psalm 98:1
For a writer, a blank page is both exciting and absolutely frightening. It offers freedom of inspiration as well as potential frustration. Even though there are endless opportunities to create, the possibility of finding yourself stuck is just as real.
Today, on the first day of 2018, we find ourselves holding a journal with 365 blank pages and a pen. Nothing has been written so far.
What are you going to do with your pages? Will you rise to the challenge and fill it with chapters of faith, trust, and courage? Or, will you falter from the pressure and never put pen to paper?
Who will be the main character in your story? Will everything center on you – your wants, your needs, and your desires? Will you make much of yourself? Or will you write stories that speak of humility, encouragement and ensuring others get to play the part of a hero?
How will you allow God to weave His way through the tale you are telling with the pages you’ve been given? As people read your story, will they notice His presence in your life? Will they be awoken to His greatness and worth?
Look at the pen in Your hand. A great story requires you to write. It involves stepping into the unknown and creating. Don’t let fear, complacency, anger or worry keep you from writing your story. Get writing.
- What is your prayer for 2018? Why is this on your heart?
- How is God authoring your story currently and where is He leading you to take a step of faith in this new year?
God, I look forward to the new year that is in front of me. I pray that I would step into 2018 ready to tell a tale with my life that points others to You. I might not know what each chapter holds, but I do trust that each page has a purpose. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Italian, Mexican, French or even the cuisine God himself blesses: southern barbecue. These cuisines don’t grab our girls’ attention or, when they were younger, open up the hanger to ensure the food airplane has a safe landing. Truth be told, over the years, dinner at our house often turns into a battle of wills, especially with our youngest daughter, Paige. My wife and I want so desperately to expand her pallet. Sadly, we often underestimate her stubbornness to stick with what she knows and trusts.
When we introduce something new to the dinner menu, she holds her ground. Even though she hasn’t tasted it, she is already convinced this new item is, in her words, yucky and gross. We urge her to just take a bite and see because we know that if she tastes it, this item will skyrocket to the top of her “approved food” list. Instead she stares at her plate, pushes her food around with her fork and says, “no thanks, I don’t want to.” This protest has nothing to do with her mom’s cooking. My wife is an amazing cook and this isn’t even a cheap ploy to earn brownie points in hopes of her whipping up a batch of those delicious chocolate treats later. But, if she by chance is reading this I wouldn’t be opposed to you ‘Betty Crockering’ up.
Paige’s fickleness to new foods shouldn’t come as a surprise. Just like everyone else, she is resistant of what she doesn’t know. Take for instance how someone exploring the Christian faith or even a new believer approaches the Bible. They’re tentative, unsure and apprehensive. However, they desperately desire some words of wisdom. Not knowing where to start, they flip to some random book in the Bible and begin reading. Instead of timeless truths that unlock the mysteries of life, the first scripture they read sounds something like this:
If you bring a bird as a burnt offering to the Lord, choose either a turtledove or a young pigeon. (Leviticus 1:14) They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the dirty foam of their shameful deeds. They are wandering stars, heading for everlasting gloom and darkness. (Jude 1:13) And the Lord says, “Bodies will be scattered across the fields like dung, or like bundles of grain after the harvest. No one will be left to bury them.” (Jeremiah 9:22)
They bulldoze their way through a few more verses hoping it gets better, but pretty soon they are waving the white flag in surrender. As they ponder what burnt offerings of turtledoves mean to their marriage or how they treat their kids, feelings of hopelessness, confusion, and frustration begin to take over. Now let’s be honest, we have all felt this way at one time or another. The uneasiness of how to approach the Bible is not resigned to new believers. We’ve heard how Scripture is living and active, but that is far from what we often experience. This does not negate the truth, but rather exposes a greater problem on our part.
We desire to get connected with God, but there are so many things that get in the way or discourage us. Our schedules are jam-packed and it is impossible to squeeze God in. Everywhere you turn there is someone vying for your attention or needing something. If we get around to reading the Bible, it’s often rushed and scattered. Our mind might be present at the moment, but our heart is distant. Sadly, sometimes we treat spending time with God similar to grocery shopping or cleaning the bathroom as if it was nothing more than something to be checked of the ‘to do’ list.
When reading the Bible, a submissive heart and attentive ears are a must. Top this off with a heavy dose of vulnerability and transparency, and it is easy to see why we aren’t tuned into the Spirit speaking to us through His Word and letting Him shape our values. To taste and see that the Lord is good means we have to approach the text with not only our heart and mind, but our life as well. We have to be willing to allow God to speak to us on His terms and according to His purposes.
This can be a scary venture especially if you are sitting at the table in this way for the very first time. Scripture has the ability to reveal where we are resistant to faith as well as exposing our dark tendencies to use God. Tucked away in that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a promise. Scripture can change us. It can make us competent and equipped for every good work. Christ’s heart can become our own. Yet, this can only happen if we are receptive to receiving His word and acting upon it.
- How willing are you to “taste and see” that the Lord is good? What are you doing with this invitation?
- Does the vulnerability and transparency required of the Bible make it a place of refuge or a place of discomfort for you?
God, I will never figure out what truly matters apart from knowing You. May I “taste and see” that You are good today. Give me the courage to be transparent and vulnerable before You and allow You access to every part of my heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. PSALM 62:5
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” LUKE 10:41-42
Mary did the better thing: she embraced stillness. She was spending time with the King Himself. All while her sister, the productive one, was running around preparing a meal, anxious and frustrated and bossy.
Unfortunately, I can relate a lot more to Martha than Mary. I will err toward productivity — or at least busyness, a poor substitute — rather than feel lazy by doing nothing. “Quiet time” is great so long as it doesn’t take too much, well, time. All the better if I can pray on the go.
But what does this fast-forward mentality fill me with? More static and confusion. We can’t be receivers of God’s love and peace if we are moving targets. Imagine a soda factory. As fast as bottles move through the production line, they at least pause long enough to be filled up with bubbly liquid.
For me, hitting the pause button is easier when I play a praise song before I dive into the Bible. I wish I could say I do this every morning. But when I do it, I see how in the span of a three- to four-minute song, my pulse rate slows, my mind calms and my heart fills with joy. Joy begets joy, and I’m eager to continue being filled by reading His Word.
Mike Ashcraft reminded us on Sunday that there is a connection between stillness and fullness. Stillness allows us to be loved by God just as we are, without checking off a to-do list or earning the right to be loved.
It’s never too late to be still. Christmas is the perfect time to practice, and perhaps a time when we all need it most.
- Does your quiet time look more like a serene meadow or a soda factory?
- What would you like your time with God to be like?
- What’s one small step you can take in that direction?
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for wanting to spend time with us. You see the best in us and You’re delighted when we seek You. And oh how we benefit! Your peace is a balm to our weary souls. Help us to proactively seek You rather than simply check the “quiet time” box and move on. Fill us with Your love and peace, so we can overflow with love and peace to those around us. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.