Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:6
Even though it seems like an oxymoron, we tend to think of the family from a very individualistic mindset. Our attention, focus, and concern are either centered on ourselves or just the individuals who live underneath our roof. We do everything in our power to make sure they are well-mannered, well-fed, well-taught and well-adjusted. Not only does this mindset cause us to potentially elevate our family unit to idol status, it misses the mark of what God intended.
The family is much bigger than we realize, which means the redemptive story God is telling is too. The purposes of God in our lives aren’t isolated or independent. They are intended to impact and influence others. Our purpose is a small part of God’s larger purpose for the family that continues toward completion in the generations that come.
In essence, each family is given a brick. What we do with this brick is up to us. We can look at our lives and our family story and feel shame, hurt, anger or embarrassment. This might lead us to believe our brick doesn’t matter or that it’s insignificant. When we reflect on our past or our current situation, we can believe the lie that our brick is an odd shape and couldn’t possibly fit. As a result, we take our brick and go home or we shatter it into a million pieces.
But, there is another way. We can look at the brick we are holding in our hands and realize it is critical to the foundation God is building. The truth is we each bring our lives together to become the place where God dwells. Scripture speaks of the church being a family and uses the imagery of a house’s foundation to describe it. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our family story because God accepts us and has the power to redeem all things.
When we don’t add our brick to the foundation God is building, someone or some other family isn’t as supported and encouraged as they need to be. What God is redeeming is the relationship between He and His people as we dwell together. He provides us with opportunities to influence, input and contribute to a family much bigger than ourselves.
- Every individual and family is given a brick that is part of the house God is building. How would you describe your brick? How does your answer make you feel?
God, rather than being self-centered, help me to understand family from Your perspective. Expand my view of who my family members are. Let me care for those You’ve entrusted me with and see my part as important and valuable to the house You are building. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:1–7
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26–27
I have a built-in topic for this sermon series on “Picture Perfect” families. I am called to write about dating and relationships.
Can you say pressure?
Aren’t people who write about relationships supposed to have counseling degrees? Supposed to be now married with 2.5 kids? In a relationship comprised of two perfect, smiling, sweater-clad Christians who live their lives perfectly “by the book”? Whose relationship is the envy of any person in their circle?
I am supposed to have it all together. And so is my boyfriend. I am supposed to be the bearer of all wisdom on how to have a perfectly healthy relationship, right? So, us having legit struggles we are working through individually and together does not fit the equation.
Now, of course, I am to do my best to live a life worthy of my calling and be above reproach, and my boyfriend, knowing my calling and being on board, should try to as well, but who told me that we’re EVER going to be perfect? Or that my dating writings are all about others following ME and MY wisdom? Or that a Christian relationship equals one devoid of pain, struggle, or, at times, intense growth?
What does it really mean to be in a Christ-centered relationship?
Neither me nor my boyfriend are perfect, but our relationship started with The Rock. So time and time again, as we journey to heal from our individual hurts, habits, and hang-ups (hurting the other at times in the process), we return to Jesus. We pray, we talk to a person we trust, we don’t take too long to talk it out, we affirm our love, and we learn from each other. We grow. We encourage each other and our calling.
We are each messy, imperfect people whom God uses to sharpen the other and spur him or her on but to also show the love of Christ, even in our unattractive moments. And because we are in many of the same communities and others know our lives and beginnings, others see us working through things, praying through things, surviving and growing. They see OUR MESS.
However, there is wisdom in what to share with others. There is sacred space within a relationship and also discernment in who to share one’s issues with. Even when you’re a relationship writer.
This hasn’t been the easiest relationship I’ve been in, but it’s the best relationship I’ve been in. And the more I release my expectations of what I thought a Christian relationship was supposed to look like, the more I am free to enjoy the gift of the one tailor-made for me at this season of my life and perhaps longer. One that seems to be growing me closer to Jesus, community, and calling. I can’t say any of my other relationships ever did that.
- Have you ever felt pressure in an area of your life to look like you have it all together? Do you think you might be extending this pressure to anyone else you’re in a relationship with? Where is this pressure coming from?
Father God, while Your Word does provide instructions on times to receive godly counsel, it also says that when You ascended into heaven you would give us Your Holy Spirit to “teach us all things” (John 14:26). Help us people-pleasers to learn how to live for Your approval first. You will not lead us astray. Also, help us to receive the love that You want to give us, and teach us Your ways so that we may love others with a Christ-like love that may look a bit different than what we see in this current culture. Amen.
PC3 writer Andrea Barilla wrote today’s devotional.
For he wounds but he also bandages; he strikes, but his hands also heal. Job 5:18
Where is that next meal coming from?
I don’t ask that question. I don’t ask it for myself or for my children. Yet I find myself wrestling with what God has not provided for our family. Oh, the embarrassing amount of times I’ve asked God why He hasn’t given us something we’ve prayed for when I have given my whole life to serve Him.
The other day I told my husband, “I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel, but I do believe that God cares for those who are generous. If you’re okay with it I plan on giving these things away to someone who needs them instead of selling them.” What I was actually trying to communicate was: God will take care of us financially because instead of selling these things I am going to proudly give them away. My husband responded, “I think we should give them away because so much was given to us already not because of what reward may be waiting for us.”
Gut punch received.
But that “where is my reward” mentality woke me early this morning after a sleepless night with a seemingly never sleeping one year old. I’m pretty sure my Bible (that new fancy study Bible I just HAD to have) hasn’t been opened in three weeks. You know, #momlife #excuses. I was in such a bad mood because I went to bed wrestling with God. “Where is my reward?” I kept asking.
Knowing that I was being ridiculous to even ask that question I turned to Job. Why? I guess to remind myself that God described Job with this statement; “no one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Yet, God told Satan to go ahead and wreck his world.
I’m pretty great, but I’m not even remotely as awesome as Job was so why do I expect God to send me amazing rewards and no challenges? Job’s wife told him to “Curse God and die!” But Job said, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10)
Gut punch received.
It took me less than 5 minutes to read this heavy statement, but it took me three weeks to seek these words. I was finding myself hopeless in the very adversity that God was putting me through, failing to muster up perseverance and denying the chance to build character.
Job’s friend Eliphaz said to him, “For he wounds but he also bandages; he strikes, but his hands also heal.” (Job 5:18)
We can forget that while God has a plan for our lives, life is not necessarily going to be easy. It’s especially easy to forget that while that pretty Hobby Lobby sign says, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, this is the Lord’s declaration, plans for your well being, not for disaster, to give you future and a hope” the verse is actually followed by “You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
Gut punch received.
We can wait for His promise and grow frustrated when it’s not received on our time, but it’s easy to miss that He is currently keeping us from disaster, especially when we’re too busy to open our Bibles and seek His truth.
And note to self: because of #momlife I should be seeking God more than I ever did before.
Where is my reward? It’s in His forgiveness, His grace, and His gift of adversity.
- What are you focused on: what’s not in your life or all of the good God has already provided?
- How do you see God using your circumstances for His glory?
Father, thank you for everything You have provided for myself and for my family. I give thanks to You that my family is fed, healthy, and happy. God, please, in my moments of impatience and desire for reward remind me that I have received my reward. Remind me that Your Son, who gave His life for me, was the best reward I could possibly receive. 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. Thank you for loving me and for caring for me even when I stomp my feet like a toddler. I love you and I praise you. Amen.
Marcy Bolick, PC3 Wilmington’s Grow Zone Director, wrote today’s devotional.
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Now all the glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20
Last Sunday, the father of a prodigal spoke to us from the stage at PC3. His son had been addicted to heroin for many years. The father was a pastor, which made his son’s struggle even more painful and public. Yet this pastor’s message was about prayer and redemption when life isn’t “picture-perfect.” The pastor prayed throughout those years, waiting with Jesus. The son turned back to God, gave up drugs, and now works for the church and is active in PC3’s addiction ministry, Refuge.
God wastes nothing. That is redemption, and I have seen the beauty of it.
When I was a kid, I would come home from school each day to find my mom in a stupor from drinking wine all day. I quickly learned that if I wanted a picture-perfect life, I would have to create the illusion of it myself. I cleaned our house as best I could, but I rarely invited friends over, lest they would see the real mess our lives were.
God wasted none of this. When I was 17, my mom reached out for help and has been sober ever since. For many years, she worked with other alcoholics in recovery. She prayed during my own prodigal years of partying and eating disorders and scoffing at the thought of God.
Her prayers paid off in the form of my husband who had a spiritual renewal early in our marriage. He started going to church. I didn’t sign up for church! Ah, but God signed me up, and at age 43 I finally got it: Jesus is who He says He is. He is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. He is my security today when life is careening all around me.
Jesus is all we need. I know that’s cliche. But at the heart of every cliche is truth. I cling to Jesus now, as I pray for my brother, who doesn’t know Christ. How will that situation be redeemed? I have no idea. In the meantime, I can pray. I can lay my brother at the foot of the cross and know God is on the case. I can live in the moment with the Lord, pressing into him. Then I’m in the best possible position to receive God’s help and to be God’s help.
As we wait with God the Father— not for Him — He infuses us with the truth of His saving grace. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, we are always welcomed home.
- Where in your life have you seen bad situations redeemed?
- Is there something in your life that you’re waiting for God to fix?
- What would it look like to wait with God, rather than simply for Him?
Dear Father in Heaven, the perfect world You created is broken because of sin. But Your rescue plan has been set in motion! Jesus saved, still saves, and will save until the great day when He returns. Until then, let us run into Your arms daily, allowing You to contain our lives and fill it with Your grace. Bring others to Yourself through us, we pray! Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise – “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:2-4
When I was a boy I grew up in a world of yes sir, no sir, and we all need to be at church every time the doors are open. I was honored to be instructed in this way. I loved the Lord from an early age and I responded well to discipline. At least initially.
As I grew into manhood I realized that my family’s definition of who God was and how we should honor Him differed from mine. I grew to believe that what the Lord loved most was a broken and contrite heart; and that the two most important things for me to do were to love God and love people. Over time I became more passionate about my daily walk with God than anything else. My prayers seemed to have more meaning. My conversation with God– was actually a conversation. I’m still working on getting to church every time the doors are open.
I have also struggled with the difference between family and friends. Have you ever given that any thought? Family seems to have hurt me more often than friends. It’s rarely intentional, but sometimes my family does things that cause me pain.
We’ve all experienced it. Our family often believes that they have the right to treat us more poorly than others since, after all, well, they’re family. I mean, that’s actually a rationale with some people. I think Christ would agree that a godly family takes no right of familiarity in the treatment of one another. If anything, a godly family should raise the bar of how we treat one another. Not lower it.
Let’s explore further. There are some great biblical examples of friends and family. I love the story about how David and Jonathan bonded and became friends. When we study Samuel we learn about Jonathan and David—they were not technically family. But my, what a love they had for one another (Samuel 18.4).
Another Bible passage that frames my friends and family perspective is the one where Mary and Jesus’ brothers are looking for Jesus and find Him with His friends:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12.46-50)
What’s really crazy is that in all of this mental warfare, prayer, praise, and prosperity, you would think I have formulated a plan to teach my kids. Now the shoe is on the other foot! You would think that I have a notebook with an outline for them to follow and a few core verses to give them some guidance. Nope, just a lot of love and a focus on my own walk. It means far more than any words that might come out of my mouth.
I believe that a broken and contrite heart is still the best way to stand at attention before God. I believe that while the family is important, so are friends, and even the strangers, the widows, and the orphans that are standing directly in my path. I believe that walking with God is less about yes sir, no sir, and perfect weekly church attendance, and more about an hourly mindset focused on our Maker, His will, and which steps He wants us to take next.
I’ve learned that through music, through scripture, and even through a run on the south end of Wrightsville Beach, there is a path to God always at the ready. He wants nothing less than to treat me like a son; He wants to treat me like family.
- What has your path of family looked like?
- Are your friends like family? Why or why not?
Oh Lord, thank you for all You have done for us. Thank you for all the blessings that family can provide, and thank you for a humble mindset when family disappoints. Thank you for forgiveness. It is the glue that holds us all together. Amen.
PC3 writer Jeff Headrick wrote today’s devotional.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
The school bus hadn’t even come to a complete stop before I hopped off, darted to my room and closed the door behind me. It was report card day and let’s just say, my scores were far from spectacular. I knew the fate that awaited me once my parents got home – disappointing looks, long lectures and the inevitable grounding.
I wouldn’t be seeing the light of day for a very long time. And, at that moment, I was completely fine resigning myself to a life behind the door. After all, I had a stash of Pop-Tarts and a half-drunk Gatorade to keep me alive. As long as that door was closed, I didn’t have to deal with the embarrassment of my lackluster performance. The barrier the door provided kept me protected from the consequences. I reasoned if I ignored the issue long enough, it’s as if the poor grades had never happened.
To put it simply, I believed the lie that I would be the safest hiding behind closed doors. This line of thinking doesn’t just trip up naïve middle schoolers; many adults, and families, utilize it to deal with their mess, dysfunction, and shame. We present a picture that distorts reality. Everything we don’t want the world to see or know, we toss behind closed doors and slap on “DO NOT ENTER” and “OUT OF SERVICE” signs to keep people at bay.
The constant fighting. The wayward son or daughter. Struggles with finances. A lack of communication. Infidelity. Addictions. Conflict with our kids. Being at our wit’s end as a parent. Disappointment and disillusionment. All of this mess we relegate to a life behind closed doors. We attempt to take our secrets to the grave, not realizing that when we do this the grave actually takes residency in our hearts and our relationships.
Living life behind closed doors creates a vicious cycle. The more we keep hidden, the more alone and isolated we feel. And the more alone we feel, the more danger we put ourselves in. We either ignore our problems altogether and enable the issues to only grow more daunting or we attempt to fix everything by relying solely on our own strength. We find it easier to justify our words and actions as well as rationalize giving into temptation.
When we lock the door, we not only cut off our connections with others, we stifle our intimacy with God. He can’t heal what we don’t reveal. This isn’t a comment doubting God’s power and ability. He can redeem anyone’s story. It speaks to the reality that those things we keep hidden we aren’t ready to hand over and experience true change and transformation.
In the midst of the mess, we think all we want is to disappear. But, what we really desire (and need) is to be found. Maybe it’s time to stop hiding. Maybe it’s time to open the door and let people in.
- What struggles, both personally and as a family, have you hidden behind closed doors?
- Why does this remain off limits to God, yourself and others? What makes you resistant to be transparent and vulnerable about this struggle?
God, there is far too much of my family story I relegate to collecting dust behind closed doors. The reasons for me doing so are many – guilt, shame, fear, and embarrassment. Yet, You didn’t let my mess stop You from knocking and asking to come in. You not only entered my room, You sat down in the middle of my mess so we could deal with the junk together. Thank you for making a way for me to live free. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Families are filled with broken people who have their own struggles and failures. Even though we know this to be true in our head, we struggle to believe this in our hearts. Why is this the case? All we see, or at least all we center our attention on, are those “picture perfect” examples of ideal families seen in advertisements, movies, and television shows. These pictures of perfection also flood our social media feeds where family after family posts the best of themselves.
Even in Christian circles, we’ve been engrained to dress in our “Sunday bests.” The blow-up that happened on our way to church or the arguments that might have taken place during the weekend have no business being spoken when we worship. But, if we can’t bring our problems to church then where can we bring them?
Every family has its stories, no matter how hard they try to dress them up or hide them. Silently we struggle alone. We lose hope and heart. We doubt that anything will change. We reason that our situation, or that family member who went their own way, is too far gone for God’s redemption.
But, this is simply not the case. God has a way of bringing beauty out of brokenness. If redemption means God uses everything, then it is safe to assume God wastes nothing, including our pain, heartbreak, and shame. We can run to Jesus in our mess, and He gets us. God is kind enough and strong enough to handle all of it. When our children or life bring us to our knees, we’re in the best position for God to help us.
As we face disappointment, we shouldn’t just wait for Jesus to act, we must wait WITH Him expectantly. Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God. On the other hand, prayer is keeping company with God. He infuses us with new strength as we stay connected to Him. While we wait for answers to prayer, we must ask ourselves whether we are waiting with our worries, doubts, and fears, or are we waiting with Jesus?
- As it relates to your family situation, where does your heart need to be encouraged? Why have you lost faith and hope in these circumstances?
God, You extend grace to everyone, including myself. No one is too far from Your reach. Help me to realize that there are no perfect people and no perfect families. We all have our own struggles, failures, and regrets. May I be transparent and honest with You, and others, about what is going on in my world. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. LUKE 15:18-20
Picture someone who has wronged you. I mean full-on, blatantly crushed you. If the wound is any bit a fresh one, it’s probably hard to imagine running to that person to forgive him or her. For the prodigal son, he experienced forgiveness in that way precisely.
It was not just love that drove the father to run to his once lost son. He was protecting his son from due punishment. Let us recall the son’s sins against his father: he requested his share of the family’s wealth (on a whim), took it, then blew it all on “reckless living.” Then he decided to come back.
In a first century Jewish community, the village would have performed a kezazah. This was a ceremony against anyone who squandered his inheritance among Gentiles then returned home. They would have broken a large pot in front of the son and yelled something such as, “You are now cut off from your people!”
There was no kezazah. The father ran to his son before anyone could fault him as he entered the village. Forgiveness was clear. Celebration commenced.
Christ shared such parables as the lost son to convey the nature of His Father. God’s forgiveness is indispensable. But run to someone to forgive? Even do them a solid for their otherwise doomed reputation? Suppose they are out to burn you again. Can we not at least wait and make them state their case?
Like the lost son, we are prone to wander. We stray from the good path God has paved for us. Sometimes we even do detestable things that bear zero consideration for loved ones. Still God is full of grace. What He offers to us is incomparable, especially in terms of forgiveness. Not only does He refocus our humility, but He frees us from the grips of our sin.
My mind goes to a person who has wronged me multiple times. It has hurt me and angered me. A kezazah would be the warm-up! It has been a tumultuous path to forgiveness, but I know it is necessary in order for me to live free. Vengeance is suffocating. When you live in The Room of Rogue Justice, it consumes. There is no alternative to a constant defense of your character and an endless wait for their just deserts. The Room of Forgiveness has open doors leading to possibilities. It holds potential for progress.
In the same way the father forgave the son, we have to forgive others. Tough to swallow? Absolutely it is, but it is essential. It’s sort of a green light or admission ticket to live on; to live freely and stop walking on the egg shells of keeping up appearances while we contemplate penalties.
The father had a right to authorize the ultimate slam on his young son. He instead loved, dispensed forgiveness, and redeemed a bad reputation. God too is justified in disowning us. But He delights in loving us, knowing us, and blessing us. Forgiveness makes it possible. We arguably could slam justice down on some of our transgressors. What might come from that?
Here’s what we do know: Psalm 36 reminds us the Lord’s justice is like the great deep. It preserves “man and beast.” We are all included in that!
Justice has the potential to become a questionable thing in a worldly sense. But rejoice! God’s truth in forgiving is unquestionable.
Maybe there is someone you need to forgive. Maybe you are not yet in a position to communicate that forgiveness. That’s OK. Approach forgiveness in the heart first. It will give potential to opening doors rather than surely stifling peace.
- For what specifically might you need to offer up forgiveness to someone?
- How will you prepare your heart to do it?
- What might come out of it?
God, in the midst of the uncertainty of life, there is one thing I can count on and that is Your unending love. Thank you for welcoming me back home. Even though I didn’t deserve grace and mercy, You threw a party when I returned. My redemption provides ultimate security and frees me from the bondage of unforgiveness. Rather than seek justice when others wrong me, may I reflect Your love instead. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
For further study: Luke 15:11-32, Ephesians 4:31-3 and Psalm 36
PC3 writer Adam King wrote today’s devotional.