But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved…so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV)
When I eased out of the parking lot and began to accelerate up the road, I had no idea where I was headed. I needed to get somewhere with commerce and fast. However, it wasn’t the current lack of shopping options that was the enemy–I got myself into this. I waited until The Eleventh Hour to arrange gifts for a team gift exchange at work. “Waited” is used loosely here. Truthfully I had completely filtered it from my mind and had not a fraction of a clue I was supposed to be prepared for this thing. Everything in my world halted as my co-worker kindly got me wise to my new charge.
God sort of rams us into scenarios such as this. Consider David’s status in Psalm 63. As David’s account of his time in the wilderness of Judah shares, he was in a “dry and weary land where there is no water.” As always, being human sets us in a degree of desperation.
My work Christmas gift predicament was in full force. I was not even sure if it was a “Secret Santa” affair, a Yankee swap, or just old-fashioned gift-giving. Regardless of formalities, I was empty-handed and time was at a premium. It was 11:15 a.m. (literally The Eleventh Hour!) when I was tipped off; the party started at noon.
As I raced through the streets, my first thought was to go downtown. It was in the vicinity, and surely I would find something unique there. Then the second wave of resistance hit me–I cared. I really cared about getting something meaningful for my co-workers.
As enemies pursued, David sought the help of God. David reveals his next step: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands,” (Pslam 63:3-4 ESV).
Nevermind quenching thirst or satiating hunger. Nevermind physical survival. David’s desperation took a backseat, an understatement mind you, to the Lord’s unwavering love.
No waffling over it. David stopped everything to praise God. I stopped everything. Reluctantly I did. I stopped my to-do list. I stopped my precious planning time in the heat of a big deadline to turn-in grades. I stopped–in my tracks. In my piddly self-sovereign world, I was mad that I had to press pause on my agenda. Nonetheless, it leveled me that nothing felt bigger or more important than wowing the awesome people on my team. They are my foxhole buddies, and I love each of them. I desperately wanted to please them, be it in a big or small package. Nevermind a deadline.
“Love always has a creative expression,” Mike Ashcraft said. Although waiting for it is inevitable, this is a profound phenomenon we see paralleled in our lives.The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus at His birth because each meant something. They wanted to symbolically honor this baby, this high priest, this king that had come to save the world. When they saw the star marking all this, that was it. They were eager to praise Him. Nothing could be better.
It dawned on me that I cared for my co-workers. We keep each other going for our cause, and that’s bigger than what any of us individually do. As I struggled to produce an idea, I did what any reasonable person would do: panic, increase the recklessness, and duck into Wal-Mart with an open mind.
There was nothing particularly elaborate about the gifts I bought. In the end, I bought each of them a gift card for the coffee shop and a small scented candle. Each scent symbolized something about them that has made an impression on me. I began to feel so much fulfillment as my idea for the gifts came to shape. There was a sense of value.
David realized his ultimate self-worth was in the Lord. Matthew 6:33 states to “seek first His kingdom and his righteousness” and God will bless you with all that you need: your safety, your provisions, your identity even, and what you should do with your time in this life. See, God’s love is boundless. He covers all of the longings we will ever have. We have to stop going on “God-hunts” and reaching at things horizontally to fulfill our self-worth. We have to get vertical by seeking and accepting the gracious truth that our identities, our lives, our every fulfillment is through Him.
- What drives you to do the things you do? How did it all come about?
- What is something that has fulfilled you? Why did it?
- List out your idea of how God would fulfill your sense of wonder. Now consider today’s scripture. Why might the differences in these be important?
Father God, I ask that You open my eyes to all the ways You bless me and keep me sustained. Help me to stay upwardly positioned and focused on seeking You. I pray Your will and steadfast love will be a deciding factor in all my days, all my endeavors. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
PC3 writer Adam King wrote today’s devotional.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:3
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:3-5
Songs have the ability to bring us to places. We hear a tune and instantly we’re transported back to our childhood, high school years or an important event of the past. Songs have the ability to bring us information. It’s why we know that Jenny’s phone number is 867-5309 and that the mode of transportation for that small town girl who was living in a lonely world was a midnight train.
Songs also have the ability to bring us to places where our hearts get exposed. When we’re down in the dumps, there are tunes that pick us back up. When we’re nervous or unsure of ourselves, we cling to lyrics that inspire us to reach new heights. When we find that special someone, a song defines that relationship. Anger, worry, love, laughter – all the emotions under the sun have a song describing them.
For many of us, music serves as an escape. There’s a place inside each of us where the rats dwell and fear resides. It may be subtle. It may be obvious. Or, you might have just become an expert at concealing and containing it. As soon as those thoughts and feelings creep to surface, we jump into the car or put on our headphones and turn the music up.
Yet, regardless of the volume of the song those places don’t go away. And because these places of insecurity, fear, and restlessness still reside, we can’t be still. The stillness reminds us of restlessness. Restlessness makes us wonder, but in the wrong direction. We wonder what’s wrong with me, what did I do, and we wonder if things can ever be different.
This gives way to all the other rodents to emerge and to begin to fill the space of our lives. We are full of fear and anxiety. It is what we use to compensate and convince other people that our kingdoms are in order and maybe even a little better than everyone else’s. There is no freedom in living this way. There is no fullness – only the chaos, pain, anger and insecurities we are full of.
How does God tell us to respond to this madness? Quite simply, He tells us to learn a new song. God invites us to be still, wonder and reflect on His love. Worship is a weapon that pushes the darkness back in order to help us see beyond our circumstances and the emotion of our current situation. Christ’s love puts a new song in our hearts.
All throughout the book of Psalm, we witness the writers pour out their hearts to God. Yet, in the midst of their pain, worry, anger and anxiety, worship springs up to refocus their eyes and refuel their hearts. We don’t get filled with His love by working harder, promising more or trying to the best of our ability to earn it. We get filled by grasping not with our hands, but our hearts.
The way to be loved is to be still. We take in His love so it takes over our hearts. Love doesn’t politely invite fear to leave. Through singing a better song, love comes in full force to drive it out. Yet, resting in His love does so much more. It enables us to not view stillness as a potentially scary proposition, but rather an invitation to align our hearts with what it has been searching for all along.
Love always overflows in a creative expression. What we are filled with dissipates what we are full of. His love for us empowers us to love and awakens us to see.
- Where do you need to use worship as a weapon? What would worship be battling against in this situation?
God, allow a new song to arise in my heart. When I’m worried, let me worship. When I feel restless, let me rest. When I struggle, let me be still. Help me to trust in Your love and let this security guide my steps. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”
The man asked, “What in particular?”
Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”
The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”
“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” MATTHEW 19:16-26 (THE MESSAGE)
As you read this passage, you can almost feel the crowd of people leaning in a little closer when they hear the rich, young ruler’s question for Jesus. They had been captivated by his miracles and confounded by his words, but the answer to this question is why they had followed Jesus in the first place. In the clearest possible terms, this young man asks how he can take hold of eternal life. If there was ever a place to look for a straightforward presentation of the gospel according to Jesus, we would expect it here.
Yet Jesus’ response leaves not only the crowd scratching their heads but us as well. Instead of giving an answer, Jesus puts this young man to a test by asking him if had he followed all of the commandments. After the young man says he has the commandments all down pat, Jesus states that the only other thing he needed to do was sell all of his possessions. We are left wondering why Jesus would give out wrong information. Salvation isn’t earned by works but by grace alone. Jesus never said money is evil but rather the love of money. So why this test?
The answer can be found in verse 22 when it says Jesus’ response was “the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away.” He had to choose between his possessions and Jesus Christ. He failed the test. No matter how perfectly he followed the rules and regulations, because he was unwilling to turn from what he loved the most, he could not be a disciple of Christ. This point of the story isn’t that we should sell all our possessions and give everything we have to the poor.
For this young man, money was his idol. For you, it might be something completely different. When we are gripping tightly onto something else for our fulfillment, it is impossible for us to receive God’s grace and follow him with our whole heart. Clenched fists don’t leave much room for receiving. We must take the time to examine ourselves and pinpoint what things we need to let go of and lay at the feet of Jesus.
- Where do you find yourself having clenched fists?
God, there are things in my life I know I put before You. I am embarrassed to acknowledge this, but I know it is true. Please help me to identify these things and why I feel the need to hold onto them so tightly. Show me what it is I’m afraid You won’t provide for me that I think these will. I know that You are the only provider of eternal life and that these things get in the way of following You wholeheartedly. Please help me to let go and give You my heart, undivided and with pure intentions. Thank You for loving me in spite of my holding on to things other than You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4
My all-time favorite verse is Romans 5:3-4. I have it memorized from another translation, “suffering creates perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope.”
I had the whole chapter typed up, I printed it, and I practically nailed it down to my desk when I was a teacher. At the time, I was paid so little and my husband was starting a business and then we found out we were pregnant. I thought surely that this suffering was helping us grow and we could have hope because it would soon change. God would grow us through it and we would come out of it with fresh eyes, better posture, a beautiful baby, and maybe even a bigger paycheck.
That was almost five years ago. This year we entered a new season of a different kind of “affliction”. I was so confused. I called out to God, “Why are You putting us through this? I cannot possibly have hope in anything else for I am always disappointed!” Maybe one of the harder aspects of growing into adulthood is the realization that it’s not always rainbows and butterflies like I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s tough stuff. It’s challenging and so often it looks like the suffering never ends, like maybe you don’t suffer to reach the end goal of hope, but that it’s a never-ending cycle.
I lost hope. I told my husband when he shared a big potential move for us that I wasn’t going to invest hope in it. I told him, “I’m just going to pray that God leads us where He wants us to go, but I’m not praying that He does this specific thing.” More often than not over this last year my husband and I have been praying for the exact opposite of what God wanted for us. It’s been obvious with the many shut doors – though sometimes it feels like a true slam-in-the-face theatrical door shutting. This left me bitter. It left me feeling like I could not possibly have hope, but I knew I needed it and that I just needed to know where my hope should really be.
So I asked myself two questions:
- What is the bigger picture?
The answer was: My ultimate hope was that this affliction would be relieved. That made me realize that it didn’t matter HOW that happened. This opened my eyes to see that I was praying for the wrong thing and in the wrong way. More or less, I was trying to tell God HOW to relieve us.
My response: I started praying that He would reveal to me some “wins”. I asked God to show me that He was currently carrying us through this affliction one step at a time.
- Where do I invest hope?
The answer was: Right there, in my favorite chapter, Romans 5:2 “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!”
My response: My hope was invested in the change of our afflictions to put forth my earthly desires. I was not investing my hope in the glory of God. So I began to pray, “God may everything we do during this season be what You have called us to do and let everything we do glorify You.” And really, His glory trumps my suffering every day. Every day.
5:5-6 “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless (sinners), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
I let myself become bitter because I was disappointed by hope, but I wasn’t investing in “THIS hope (which will not disappoint us).” I have to remind myself that I have hope because of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No matter what prayers aren’t answered. After all, Garth Brooks says it best, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Because Christ died for us we have hope in the glory of God. Write it down. Remind yourself daily. Because THAT hope and THAT glory will waste away your affliction.
- Where are you investing your hope? Has this led to disappointment?
- Do you see how God is already working through this affliction for you?
- Do you have hope because of His glory?
Father, I know the stones You’re throwing at me are meant to be used to build a bridge and that bridge is what You want me to take to go to the place You have planned for me. God, I ask that You provide an abundance of strength and understanding as I try to grow through this season of affliction. I ask that You overwhelm my family with peace as we wait patiently for Your next call. But, Lord, most importantly, pull me to You daily, yank on my heart and my mind to remind me to find time to grow in my relationship with You by spending time in prayer and in Your Word. Amen.
“There are many affections which do not rise from any light in the understanding.” –Jonathan Edwards
Desire without knowledge is not good – how much more will hasty feet miss the way! Proverbs 19:2
A few years ago, I braved the crowds at WalMart on Black Friday. This experience still gives me nightmares. Working on a few hours of sleep, I amped myself up for the chaos that was going to ensue with a few caffeinated beverages. I had a mission and nothing was going to stand in my way. If anyone impeded my goal, I had already decided I might have to stiff-arm them into an end cap. Midnight struck and I raced down an aisle. As I booked it to the toy section, I pictured my daughter beaming with joy as she ripped through the wrapping and discovered that hoped-for gift, ensuring I was “Father of the Year” after all.
My dream did come true. My daughter squealed with joy when she received that year’s “must have” gift. She wanted this gift so badly and she received it. For a while, the toy went everywhere with her. But, where is that electronic gizmo now? It is in the bottom of her toy chest with dead corroded batteries. The gift that was once at the top of her wish list hasn’t seen the light of day for ages.
I really can’t blame my daughter. I did the same thing growing up with Christmas presents. I’d talk my parents’ ears off about how my life would be complete if I just received that acoustic guitar, Playstation gaming system, mountain bike or a pair of Air Jordans. In my eyes, those toys were the missing piece to finding joy, happiness, and completeness. But, those feelings were fleeting at best.
It’s one thing to want a toy so badly, only to find out once you get it that it comes up short in leading to fulfillment. Yet, what if your whole life was like that? What if you spent all your years chasing pleasure only to come to the end of your days and realize it just led to emptiness? What if you put all this pressure on your hobbies, your job, your possessions or even your family to find that elusive joy?
Many of us live by the motto that “the heart wants what the heart wants.” We let our heart lead us and disengage our mind. Desires pop up out of nowhere. We see something and now we want it. We don’t think about why we want this item, we just go after it. There is no mental, intellectual or spiritual understanding. We chase our desires without stopping long enough to ask the question: where are these desires coming from?
Desires have the ability to arise without any awareness. Our affections are awakened by so many things. From our perspective, joy and fulfillment are found in what we have, what we could have or what we think we should have. We leave no room for process and we begin to define what is right by how we feel.
This leads us to chaos and disappointment. Every desire might be legitimate, but every fulfillment of that desire is not. Unfortunately, we often don’t engage our minds to test our desires. As a result, our understanding isn’t awakened to see what our affection really is and how it should be properly fulfilled. Instead, we justify gratifying our desires based on how it feels or by excusing our behavior by saying that’s the way we are wired. Proverbs 19:2 reminds us that just because you want something and go after it doesn’t mean you’ve thought about the desire.
So, we chase after every desire hoping it will lead to fulfillment. There is something about this world that makes us grab for things. And in the midst of the chasing, we are let down. When we use gifts outside of God’s purpose for them, we will never find meaning or fulfillment in them. Why? Because everything finds its meaning and purpose within the context of its relationship with God.
- What danger arises when we don’t reflect on our desires as well as the gifts we are pursuing for fulfillment?
God, too often I let my desires drive my pursuits even though I haven’t taken the time to ask why I am pursuing those things in the first place. The time has come to stop chasing and start reflecting. Help me to stop chasing and start reflecting. May I realize that You are the only thing that can truly fulfill my desires and bring joy and life. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
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. 1 John 4:9
The first Christmas after my father died our family headed to Disney World. His death was two months prior and my mother couldn’t stand the thought of trying to have a “normal” Christmas without him. We packed the car and drove from Virginia to Florida in the middle of the night. Despite the beautiful and sparkly Christmas lights, my insides remained desperate and dreary. I wanted to enjoy Christmas but even the happiest place on earth didn’t erase the heartache and emptiness we felt without my dad. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over as the holiday was just another reminder that he was gone.
My teen-self didn’t know it then, but what I most longed for that Christmas was the person and presence of Christ. I needed to know that my family mattered to God. I needed to know that God was for us, not against us. I needed to know that I was still loved. Simply put, I needed to know through personal experience of the everlasting and comforting love of Immanuel, “God with us.”
Whether it is because the death of a loved one or a wish unfulfilled, the holiday season can be nothing more than a lonely reminder that life is not what we hoped it would be.
“God with us.” That is the whole story of Christmas. God didn’t simply make an appearance or send good wishes, He walked the earth, He suffered, and He died for us. And even though this happened hundreds of years ago, the presence and person of Jesus is still real and with us here and now. He patiently waits for us to see Him, to come to know Him, and to ultimately adore Him.
It has been many years since my father’s death and the sting can still burn. That’s the thing about grief: it hits you like an overwhelming wave, unexpectedly and without warning, you are suddenly and relentlessly knocked to your knees left gasping for air. Yes, there are times when I think about my dad with a peaceful comfort. But there are still other times of deep sadness, pain, and even guilt thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said. If you have lost someone close to you, maybe you feel those things too.
Experiencing death apart from Jesus leaves us desperate, bitter, and alone. It’s a hard tomb to climb out of ourselves. I know because I’ve tried. While the enemy has come to “steal and kill and destroy; [Jesus has] come that [we] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This thief wants us to remain isolated, guilt-ridden, and ashamed but God sent Jesus into the world to show us a new and better way.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2-3). Those last words are powerful: “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
This was a new way of thinking. Death, the inability to conceive a child, or even the inability to conceive a son – these were things 1st century culture said should bring shame. These things meant you were cursed by God. These things meant you were surely a sinner and not living a righteous life. These things often left those experiencing them isolated and alone. In many ways this is still true today even in (perhaps especially in) Christian circles- painful situations leave us feeling crushed, judged, and alone.
But Jesus’ arrival on earth was the beginning of good news. He flipped earthly wisdom upside down. God, through His Son, was teaching His people a new way to look at the world and to see each other. Experiencing painful situations doesn’t mean that God does not love us. It means that we can depend on Him all the more. It means that God is working in ways we cannot yet see. In our weakness, we can look to Him for strength. The incarnation of Jesus – God in the flesh – was not just something that happened a long time ago. He wants it to be our treasured reality for today.
“Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.”
(Psalm 34:17-18 MSG)
- I recently read, “I can’t remember the last time I prayed for an hour, but I can’t remember the last hour I didn’t pray.” I love this because it reflects the invitation that Jesus gives us to come to Him with all things. We can pour out our secret thoughts to Him, cry to Him, and talk to Him about it all. What do you need to bring to God this morning?
Lord, thank you that I can come to You in my grief, my weakness, and through my tears. Thank you also that I can come to You with great joy and small pleasures. Thank you that in Your presence I find relief, love, and truth. Thank you for loving me despite myself. In Jesus name, Amen.
PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19
We do desperate things when we long to be loved. We will go to dramatic lengths to experience love, confirm we are loved or to show others we are lovable. From people pleasing and attention seeking to fixing our behavior and becoming a doormat, there is nothing off limits to what we’re willing to do in order to experience that elusive thing called love. All of these responses focus on our behavior and working towards being worthy of love. If we can just perform, act and look worthy than maybe we actually will be worthy.
This perspective on human love we transfer over to our interactions with God. We have to clean up our behavior and get our act together before we can approach Him. And if, and when, we mess up, we reason all that hard work was for nothing. We head back to the starting line all over again.
Yet, Christ’s love is so drastically different than that of the world. And because of this reality, we have to see God from a different perspective than the default lens we use to see Him. The command to seek first His Kingdom is a gracious command to align our hearts with, not only what it wants the most, but in fact what it was made for.
Understanding we are loved by Christ transforms the way we see everything else. This is why Jesus invites us to change where we set our eyes. He understood the connection between our eyes and our hearts. Our hearts are changed by what we see, but our lives flow out of what is inside our hearts. The desires of our heart drive everything we do.
To seek is to look for something. To stare at something is to take it in. We take in Christ’s love so it takes over our hearts. This can only happen when we look intently at who God is. This doesn’t happen in a rush. It won’t occur in an instant. It’s impossible to experience unless we’re willing to let go of our perspective.
Everything begins with an encounter where what we see is influenced, challenged or impacted. It might be a conversation with a friend, facing difficult circumstances, a challenging Scripture or a situation where our faith is tested. These encounters have the ability to form and shape our heart as well as widen our perspective of God’s love and His faithfulness. As a result of these encounters and the formation process that comes with it, our hearts express themselves in relation to what they know. We can’t run to expression too quickly. We must slow down and let these moments transform us by changing the way we view God.
- What do you see when you look at Jesus? Where did this viewpoint or impression of Him come from? Would you say this lens lines up with how He’s described in Scripture? Why or why not?
God, let Your love be the lens I use to view the world around me. Help me to rest in the security of knowing that I’m loved completely and fully. Shape and mold these truths into my heart so they will guide my steps. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:3-13
Throughout the Bible, we see individuals who are alone. Terrified, worried and confused, these individuals are in hiding. The stories of how they came to their hiding places vary, but they all have a common ending – God appears.
He shows up on the scene not to belittle, judge or condemn them.
He comes to ask personal questions that confront their brokenness and heal their hearts. When turmoil and confusion reigned, God continued to pursue and love them with compassion and grace.
The same is true with us. God meets us in our loneliness and He asks us a question: Why are you here?
If we don’t take the time necessary to search our hearts, answer those deep questions and lean on the security God provides, our emotions and feelings will cause us to stumble during the storm loneliness brings.
This is a scary venture for sure, but we don’t have to do it alone. Even in the midst of our pain, we are never truly alone.
God promises His presence – that He will never leave or forsake us. The feeling of loneliness does not equal the absence of God. Neither does it equate to a failure of faith on our part.
In fact, embracing loneliness by answering the question “why are you here?” can be a way towards deeper faith and deeper dependency.
God has already overcome what we are most afraid of – He’s made a way for us to walk through it, but not avoid it.
When we allow God to search us and speak to our deepest needs, wants and desires, we come to realize God cannot only redeem our loneliness, but it can become something God uses to build our trust, dependency, and faith in Him.
- How does God come to you when you are in your place of loneliness and despair?
- God asks each one of us: Why are you here? If you are currently experiencing loneliness, how would you reply to God’s question?
God, in the midst of loneliness and despair, You are by my side. I am never alone. You come to me, not to condemn, but to help me realize my utter dependence on You. May I possess the courage to find truth in my innermost being. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. Ephesians 3:14-18
I married a surfer. Therefore, we go to the beach a lot. I mean, a lot, especially in the summer. Honestly, sometimes it seems like too much. “All that work packing up our stuff, schlepping it onto the sand, cleaning everything up back at home,” I whine.
What happened to the Midwesterner who didn’t see a beach till she was 17? Where is that wide-eyed girl who first saw the ocean the way it should be viewed — with complete awe and wonder?
Think about this: our oceans, seas, and bays hold 321 million cubic miles of water. That’s enough to fill about 325 quintillion gallon jugs of milk. (A quintillion is a 1 with 18 zeros, by the way.) Then God stocked the ocean with 1 million species of plants and animals. Well, those are the known species. Scientists say there could be up to 9 million species we haven’t even discovered yet.
So what does the size of the ocean tell me about God? Well, I might surmise that the Creator of something so grand must be beyond grand Himself. And if He placed something so vast in our midst, perhaps it’s to remind us that His love is infinitely wide, long, high and deep.
In light of that big love, how can I dwell on the little things? But I do. I let my eyes fall to the worries of the day, and pettiness fills my heart. I don’t take time to contemplate God and His infinite love and care. I treat my heart like a mere machine, a functional instrument that pumps blood to the rest of my body.
But as Mike Ashcraft said last Sunday, we are made to marvel at greatness. When we seek God’s great kingdom, we align our hearts not with our petty desires, but with the life we were made for: A life that glorifies Him. After all, nobody else made the ocean. And no one else died on a cross to save us. To Him, and only Him, be the glory.
- Pick something in nature that amazes you. Take some time to mull it over in your head. If you’re really inspired, look up some facts about it, and share your findings with someone else.
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for making this beautiful world! Most days we go from A to B not noticing all of Your fingerprints. Yet You gave us beauty to give us hope. Let us not take that for granted. Help us be grateful and inspired as we give You all the credit. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Psalm 102:25-26
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:11
Even though it is important to talk about God’s love, justice and all of His other attributes, there is one that is absolutely critical in our ability to trust God – His unchanging nature. We tend to only trust things that we believe are consistently true. We do not trust something that we feel moves and changes.
If what we believe about God determines what we trust Him with, then we must see Him as unchanging above all else. Why? God’s love, justice, providence and all His other attributes provide no security or foundation if they are inconsistent.
If we think God’s love is unpredictable then we won’t trust His love. If we think God’s mercy is erratic then we won’t trust His mercy. If we think God’s grace is fickle, we won’t trust His grace.
We must learn to rest in the fact that God’s character does not change. There are implications to this reality. God’s unchanging nature means that His attributes are perfect. He can’t become less loving or more loving. The extent of His wrath, justice and faithfulness are all complete. Nothing can be added or subtracted from them. If there were things that God did not know, He couldn’t be all-knowing. If there were things God could not do, He would not be all-powerful. His consistency is the glue that holds together all the other attributes. It is at the core of all others.
An unchanging God that is revealed in His Word logically means that His Word is also unchanging. Scripture teaches us that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. This gives us clarity on what it means to follow Him. We don’t have to guess.
Often times we spend more time listening to ourselves than listening to God. Tuning our ears to the wrong voice, we begin to doubt His promises are true. But, they are. No matter the situations or problems you are facing today, God says He is with you. No matter who may forsake you, He is with you through thick and thin.
In this ever-changing world, we must cling to His promises. As we do, we will find purpose in our pain. We experience freedom from our past as well as hope for our future. He is with us. He is our firm foundation and we know that God is working all things together for the good. Because we believe God is unchanging, we can freely trust. We are free to trust in His word and how He has revealed Himself to us. We can trust Him despite our changing world.
- What security is found in trusting in God’s unchanging nature?
God, thank you that in the midst of this ever-changing world I can cling to Your promises. Your truth remains the same. Your character can be trusted and counted on. You are the security I long for and today I am grateful. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.