When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago. Before we started, I was telling the lady next to me that I enjoyed the exercise, but as a Christian I don’t subscribe to the new-age beliefs that the teacher shares during class. The lady smiled condescendingly and said, “Maybe you can be open-minded. All religions work together.”
Class started before I could offer a defensive retort like, “Well, you can be so open-minded that your brain falls out!”
Mike Ashcraft has been talking to us about knowledge that puffs us up versus love that builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). I had just met this lady, and if I had launched into a lecture right then, I would have lost her. Perhaps God is giving me time to earn the right to speak truth to her later by loving her in the present. I pray that as I am friendly to her, God will give me another chance to share the freeing, saving truth of the cross.
After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I had wrapped myself in the world’s prideful lies that made it easy to dismiss the fact that I needed a Savior:
- “There are many paths to God.”
- “People who do more good than bad will wind up in heaven.”
- “Jesus may be real for you, but not for me.”
- “Sin is a made-up concept used to make me feel guilty.”
- “There is no absolute truth.” (Which, by the way, is an absolute statement!)
Isn’t the point of being open-minded so we can wrap our brains around the truth when we see it and hold on tight? Our brains are given to us to awaken our hearts; otherwise what difference is there between humans and computers?
When I finally dug deeper into Christianity, I discovered that the meaning and purpose I was searching for is only found in the context of my relationship with God. Loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and loving others as myself are God’s commands that allow me to be part of His plan to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:11-20). What a privilege that is.
- What lies have you believed about God in the past?
- As you get to know Him better through His Word, what truths have you discovered?
- How has living for Christ affected your relationships with people around you?
Dear Father in Heaven, the world is full of vague, fluffy lies meant to distract us from the only truth that leads to a meaningful life here on earth and eternal life in heaven with You. Fill our hearts and minds with the truth of Your Son, who came here to rescue us from the sin we inherited from Adam. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:20-26
Self-denial isn’t resigning one’s self to a life of misery and drudgery. The opposite is true. Dying to ourselves and living for Christ is where true joy, security and purpose are found. But, this requires work and intention on our part.
It entails counting the cost of following Christ (Luke 14:28). We do this by exposing the areas of our heart where we are chasing comfort and convenience above all else. It necessitates being honest about the line items on our personal agenda we don’t want to scratch out. It means slowing down long enough to reflect and ponder. It begins with possessing the courage to push through comfort’s charm and head towards the specific purpose God has for our life, which leads towards a place of refinement, inconvenience and stretching.
The apostle Paul urges us to “work out YOUR salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Once again, not a very comforting or convenient statement. Now, don’t confuse these words for a charge to earn spiritual merit badges through good works. Remember, God’s grace is a free gift.
You can’t earn something that is given to you with no strings attached. So, what Paul is telling the believers in the church of Philippi, as well as us, is to put into action God’s saving work in YOUR own life. The way you go about your day should serve as a response to being loved.
Working out your salvation entails ruthless personal reflection, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and clarifying your calling. It means possessing a willingness to say to God, “Yes, Lord I will obey….now what’s the question? I’m going to follow you wherever you lead. I’m going to trust you with who I am becoming. I am going to submit my ways to You.”
Christ calls each one of us to die to ourselves and pick up our cross. This is a universal command, but one that gets displayed in obedience in a variety of different ways.
Jesus calls us to follow Him (John 12:26), and following Him means, first and foremost, to die. To lay down our desires. To lay down our hopes and dreams. To put aside anything other than full devotion to Him and His plan for our lives. To be willing to part with the things that we so easily cling onto for life and to say to God, “I’m willing to lay them down if it means I can be used by You to bring You glory and bear fruit so that others may know You as God.”
We shouldn’t overvalue comfort when we count the cost of being a disciple. Instead, we have to choose our calling over our comfort. Clarifying your sacrifice will make room for your purpose and your calling to become clear. The time has come to put the work in so you can articulate what YOUR cross is.
- In what situations do you need to drop your agenda and pick up your cross and follow Christ?
God, I want to stop overvaluing comfort when I count the cost of being a disciple and following You. I want to do the work necessary to articulate my cross. Instead of comfort, may I confidently deny myself knowing that You will use this sacrifice to make an impact. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
In our minds, we create “truths” that determine our direction and influence our perspective. They are often rooted in our desire to experience freedom, peace and hope. Chasing after those things, and proving to others they are true, becomes our agenda and purpose. They are so powerful they don’t even need to be verbalized to control our mindset and lay claim to our heart.
Often, they begin with the word IF. As in, if I get married, then I will finally be happy. If I had more money, then I would feel more secure. If humanity could all agree on my side of the issue, then there would be unity.
Each IF/THEN statement is based upon what we think will handle the affections of our souls. Yet, no matter how hard we might push for them to be true, they always leave us disappointed. They collapse under the pressure because they weren’t designed to be the source of our hope.
Truth doesn’t set us free so that we can do whatever we want. In fact, that is no freedom at all. If we’re not careful, we can use that freedom and still be enslaved through our self-absorption.
This doesn’t lead to freedom, but rather frustration and futility. Why is this case? Because everything finds its meaning and purpose within the context of its relationship to God. Apart from Him nothing makes sense. The only foundation strong enough to support the weight of our desires is God’s truth. Our lives were created in the image of God to demonstrate His compelling beauty and the greatness of His love.
Freeing truth compels us to love. We demonstrate our understanding of God’s truth when we give our lives away. The way in which we do this flows from our relationship with our Creator and our willingness to stay connected to Him. Rather than a principle or an issue, truth is always found in the context of a relationship.
Human beings are designed to relate to one another in the context of love. Whoever loves is known by God and it is this knowing that serves as the source for which we love others. The heart is the source of love while the soul and mind are instruments of love. Our hearts must be awakened to live and to love. Our minds are useful to that end.
- Lust, envy, anger, comparison, pride, jealousy, indifference, complacency, etc. Where do you need to dig deeper into the truth to expose the state of your heart? How can you utilize your mind to awaken your heart to love when it comes to this issue?
God, I desire to be drawn to Your truth in such a way that it is forged into my character and heart. Help me to trust that everything I desire and hope for finds its meaning and purpose in You. May I transform my mind in order to awaken my heart to Your will. 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
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Being a mom is such a joy! You start out with this tiny human who happens to look like you, and slowly (but also quickly) you end up with grown adults who are living the life you taught them to live. Along the way there are these fascinating times of watching them physically grow, learn new concepts, and achieve new things. It’s incredible, and rewarding, and there is no bigger blessing.
But also some days your husband leaves for work with a full belly, and a hot cup of coffee, and a cheery smile. And you are left with one toddler screaming with an ear infection, the other throwing everyone’s breakfast on the floor, one dog peeing on the carpet, the doorbell ringing, the car alarm going off; all while you have your own head in the kitchen sink because you’re eight weeks pregnant so your mornings are pretty much all about vomit. And it’s in this moment when you’re thinking Come, Lord. take me home… that He reminds you – you are not in control.
It is on these days, when you are laughing because it’s all you’ve got; and you’re raising the white flags, that you toss your hands into the air – and you praise Him. It’s a real good thing that this life isn’t actually up to me; because it would all go down in flames every single day. Instead, I can sing praises that HE is in control, and I can give it all to Him. We are more capable than we think, when we trust God, and let Him help us carry our load. I can be a leader in my family when I trust God to first lead me.
So when it all hits the fan, remember Isaiah 41:10. 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.
You don’t have to fear your life spinning out of control; He is with you. You don’t have to wonder if you’re strong enough to handle what’s next; He is. And when you can’t even stand on your own two feet, He will hold you up. You don’t even need to understand why you feel like you’re drowning in the ocean waves. All that matters is that you let Him be the captain of your ship.
- Where in your life do you need to toss your hands in the air, let go of your control, and praise Him?
- When it takes a village, who do you turn to? Have you praised Him for your village lately?
God, during those moments that don’t make sense, that test my limits, that make me want to quit, may I instead praise You. Remind me that You are in control of my circumstances, even when it doesn’t seem that way. Give me the boldness to trust You with every step I take. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
PC3 writer Annalee Thomasson wrote today’s devotional.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Psalm 51:6
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.Isaiah 29:13
We see what we want to see. We are masters at looking for what fits our agenda and disregarding everything else. We use our mind to either find truth or hide truth. If one believes the glass is half empty, then everywhere they turn they will see a world that always hands them lemons. When one tunes into a political debate, everything they encounter will be viewed through the lens of their party affiliation meaning they can dismiss everything the other political pundit is saying. If you watch a movie knowing the surprise twist at end, you begin to notice clues that went unseen during your first viewing.
The lens we use to view the world shapes our response to it. This principle holds true when it comes to our understanding of God and our view of His authority. If we reason God can’t be trusted, we will more than likely pinpoint the places where, from our perception, He let us down. If we feel there isn’t enough evidence to believe in God, our eyes will search for everything to confirm this point. If we can convince ourselves God is not real, we will always have a reason why we can disobey Him.
We pretend that we are unsure and claim there isn’t enough evidence to submit. But, the truth is, we don’t want to submit in the first place. We want God’s ways, but on our terms. We desire God’s vision just as long as it lines up with our perspective. We all establish a standard by which we measure truth. More often than not, the standard we use is ourselves. What implications does this truth have on me? What is God asking me to do and am I willing to do it? Rather than pursuing God’s truth, our tendency is to spend our energy protecting our own truth so we can be the one calling the shots. When we find truth but don’t like it’s implications, we disregard and dismiss it.
On the flip side, we can obey out of obligation. “Grin and bear it” defines this type of obedience. There is no joy to be found, only duty. Obedience doesn’t automatically equal a heart that is in step with God. When we go through the motions, we remain in neutral and there is no pursuit of God’s heart. Instead, just like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, our hearts can be far from God and we can be more concerned with how others perceive us than with how God sees us.
All of this speaks to the importance of testing our motives. The one thing God wants from us is the very thing we can hide from everybody else- our motives. These drivers influence everything about us, including our perspective and response to authority. It could be very easy to say that we are the only ones who know what drives our behavior but that is giving us too much credit. We don’t tend to look beneath and explore our hearts. We fail to ask important questions like: What drives our behavior? What do we really want? What is it that we truly desire?
God desires truth in our innermost being. This entails testing our motives and coming face to face with what drives our behavior. In order for our hearts to be captured, they must be available. When God captures our heart, His commands become irrelevant. Obedience becomes an expression of the work taking place inside our hearts. It’s through the renewal of our mind that our heart gets transformed.
- We want God, but on our terms. In what places are you ignoring the implications of God’s Truth in order to protect your own? How are your motives influencing your response to what you see in this situation?
God, I often stay at the surface and fail to explore the depths of my heart. Expose where my motives are off base and not honoring You. As difficult as it might be, may I encounter Your Truth and let it transform my heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:15-18
What we see affects the condition of our heart. Our heart is forged by what we encounter. For better or worse, our lives are always expressing what is inside. Yet, very few of us stop long enough to consider where our eyes are set. If we did, we’d notice that our gaze is constantly moving and doesn’t stay in any spot for very long.
In our search for fulfillment, freedom and purpose, we move from one thing to another. Even though we are chronically disappointed, we continue this futile search in hopes that this time will be different. The sad reality is that most of our lives are spent responding to the things that catch our eyes. There is a big difference between what catches our eye and what has the power to capture our heart.
Freedom is found when we focus on who we are and let the One who defines us define our days. Freedom comes from discipline and endurance so when the time comes we will be free to respond in obedience naturally. Obedience from the heart takes time. As our hearts are changed, we are free to live out as we were made. Restrictions are liberating because they help us see what we truly want and desire.
God’s commands serve as placeholders to help us do what we want to do until we want to do it. Our heart always follows our obedience. We are only free to the point we are willing to submit to God’s authority. This requires trust on our part. Trust stems from the confidence we have in the authority of God. When our picture of God grows clearer, our obedience becomes more consistent.
It also involves understanding how God sees us. We are His children. We are worth the life of His son. We are image bearers. We are His ambassadors in this world. When we view ourselves in this way, we begin to see the purpose behind the restrictions and commands God put in place. They are not there to oppress but to liberate.
God cared about our freedom so much that He gave us the Holy Spirit to serve as our advocate and guide. When we look intently into the law, the Holy Spirit prompts us to respond in ways we could not do relying on our own strength. He opens our eyes to places where we resist obedience. He cuts to the heart of our motives not to condemn but to convict. He is always pointing us towards the way of freedom.
- Where do you need to create a placeholder for your heart to catch up to your obedience?
God, instead of looking to lesser things for freedom, let set my eyes on Your heart. You desire what is best for me. You want me to walk in freedom and security. This only comes when I am willing to submit to Your ways. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Psalm 51:6
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalm 119:160
Our words and our minds have the power to create realities that shape how we view the world and our part in it. Sadly, we are prone to remain stuck within them. Why? Because they require little effort on our part and we are able to avoid the hard work required of seeking out what is true. These false realities influence the way we interact or label others. They fool us into believing that what we are seeing, feeling and thinking is true. They confirm our biases, viewpoints and limited perspective.
These strongholds reside nowhere close to freedom and peace. Not only do they leave us divided as a person, but they enable division to take root in our communities. A world without truth isn’t wrong, it’s insane.
Because we can want wrong things and believe wrong things, we can’t depend on them to lead us to life. So, what else do we have? How can we experience the security and purpose we crave? It comes only when we are willing to mine for truth and wisdom. We have to put our agenda to the side and be willing to seek out truth in a way that sets us free.The truth provides us a foundation that is strong enough to support the weight of our desires.
Understanding truth establishes the essence of reality. Not only that, but it gives us purpose. We were made for life with God and life for God. We were created in the image of God’s compelling beauty and greatness and were made to display that beauty and greatness in everything we do. The way of Jesus is the redemption of that image and the power by which we actually live in a way that reflects His glory.
Scripture speaks of the tongue having the power of death and life. When our words are disconnected from the truth, we create false realities. Knowledge is designed to connect our souls to the truth while language was designed to express our soul’s desire for freedom. Language doesn’t simply communicate, it expresses. It helps us understand and articulate truth.
Unfortunately, we have the tendency to use our words to conceal and avoid the truth. We play word games in order to avoid looking inside of our heart. Yet, God desires truth in our innermost being. Truth is discovered as it is revealed.
The knowledge we seek must reach beyond what we want or hope to be true and instead be anchored to the truth. The ways of Jesus is very different then the ways of this world, which are filled with shortened truths and diminished realities. Together, as a community, we can bring a force of sanity into our culture by being a place of grace and truth.
- What issues are you gathering information about to buttress your own beliefs rather than seeking understanding and encountering truth? What does the Gospel do to this issue?
God, help me to seek Your truth and not my way. Give me eyes to see where I’ve created false realities that go against the truth of who You are, how You love me, and the purposes You’ve given me. Let me seek wisdom that guides my steps, influences my speech, and grounds my actions in love and grace. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
Knowledge is more than what we know in our heads. It is more than a compilation of facts. Knowledge is also an experience. As we come to know more about the character of God, we also experience the joy of His love for us. It is personal, intimate and life-giving. In the same way, knowledge transcends the abstract of ideas to the actual, lived experience of the heart.
Generally speaking, the more we know about someone, the more likely we will love them. I have heard it said there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.
In our digital age, we have more information at our fingertips than any other time in history. As we watch our televisions or scroll through the news, we learn about the pressing issues of the day and we gain knowledge about the ins and outs of them. It seems like everywhere we turn, we have people telling us how we should think or feel about things. We may believe that we are free thinking beings; slowly but surely, however, we end up seeing people (and groups of people) as soundbites. People are more than issues and soundbites. Solely depending on FOX, CNN, newspapers or talk radio to form opinions about things does humanity a great disservice and prevents us from truly loving “the other.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself” Jesus tells us. Human relationships are powerful. They are powerful because through our interactions with another, we begin to see the world a little differently. Relationships allow us to experience a kind of knowledge that facts never can. The more we come to know people and the more we take the time to listen to their stories and learn from their experiences, the more we will begin to see the “issues” with empathetic eyes.
Issues are really just people. At a time in our culture when groups of people seem really angry at each other, I think it’s important to remember that the things that pull us apart are not greater than the things than bind us together.
Listening is a simple and practical way that we can love our neighbors. As we navigate the issues of our day, it is crucial to form relationships and listen to people who have a different perspective than our own. Otherwise, we end up validating our feelings as we surround ourselves with people who think and feel just like we do. Anne Lamott says, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Culture teaches us that we are the center of the world but God teaches us that we are part of a body and this body is part of a larger community. Like it or not, we are connected to each other. Love compels us to grow and stretch and be willing to see the world and people in new ways while fear wants us to remain exactly as we are. Fear wants us to stay unchallenged and comfortable. Fear wants to keep us suspicious of people. Fear wants us to shun those who are different than us. Fear desires us to be judgmental and condemning. Fear wants to keep us isolated and segregated. But fear is the opposite of love.
Love longs for us to ‘listen to learn’ not ‘listen to respond.’ Love cares for us too much to let us stay exactly as we are. Love asks us to love others even when we don’t understand them. Love’s desire is not to keep us comfortable but to conform us into the image of His son.
- Is there a particular group of people that you find yourself easily condemning? If so, confess your sin and ask God to forgive you. Ask Him to help you see them with new eyes. Be brave and strike up a relationship with someone that you know is different than you.
Father, thank you that You are love. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Help me to love others in the same way. Help me to seek peace with those I disagree with instead of judging or condemning them. Help me to walk in a manner worthy of the calling You have for me. In Jesus name, Amen.
PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.