Pressing On

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Today’s Devotional

by Pat Cooper
September 27, 2019

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
— Philippians 4:11

2,000 daunting miles over an unforgiving landscape, early settlers of the Western United States braved the American wilderness and the harsh elements of mother nature (a spiteful woman whose weather-related tantrums were neither forgiving nor remorseful), to stake their claim on just a small slice of the what historian James Truslow Adams would in later years call the American dream.

Had they prayed before leaving Missouri? Probably. Were they expecting a cloud to lead them by day and a pillar of fire at night? Probably not. But those who were believers may well have read and rehearsed the words of Exodus 13:17–18, thus committing their safekeeping along the trail into the hands of a providential God who they believed purposed their journey and would see them through. They had no illusions, knowing it would be difficult and many times perilous, but they loaded up the wagons with all their worldly goods, harnessed up the horses, looked to the western sky, popped the reins and said, “Giddy up.”

Contemplating those early pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail, I cannot help but set beside their story that of Israel wandering through the wilderness in search of the land of promise. Looking at both, and the thousands of years between them, I find God at work in every era, generation to generation, still fulfilling his promises today and I think to myself:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
— Psalm 23:4

Reaching up for a hand to cling to with the expectation of that hand coming out of the heavens to take yours seems like an act of insanity, but there are countless stories of people who, against all odds, persevered through many perils to reach their promised land, finding patient persistence to have a huge payoff. People who put their Egypt in the rear-view mirror, accepting detours to be ordained of God for a greater good, and reciting with each twist and turn the words of the apostle Paul, who said:

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:13–14

 

We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

Opportunity in the Detour

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Today’s Devotional

by Crystal Brashear
September 25, 2019

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.
— Exodus 13:17—18

People used to go for drives just for fun. Whole families would pile into the car and spend afternoons driving around. They gazed at the scenery; they conversed with one another. Driving was an entertaining way to pass the time, like going to a movie or hanging out at a party. It was fun because of what might be discovered outside the windows. It was meaningful because of who rode in the cab beside them. I wonder if anyone does that anymore?

These days, I can arrive at my destination without remembering most of the journey. I only recall the negative moments: the place where a stalled car plugged up traffic, the time I was cut off by that driver on her cell phone. I rely on my Waze app to warn me of hazards and police cars ahead, and I ignore the rest. I forget I am speeding through God’s creation. I forget that his presence fills my cab. I focus on where I am heading and what I must do when I arrive there. I wonder if you ever do that, too?

How much more would I enjoy the journey, including inconvenient-seeming detours, if I were more aware that the God of the universe traveled with me? That he was with me every second, leading me on the path of protection, guiding me along the path of provision? I trust him with my forever. How much better would my detour feel if I remained aware that he is with me, right now?

Detours become opportunities for connection with God when viewed in that light. A detour ceases to be an inconvenient, confusing or scary diversion. Instead, it becomes an occasion to spend time in life-giving, relational time with the Person who loved me so much, he gave his very life to protect me from the death I deserve. Right now, let’s find Love in the detour. It won’t change the route, but it will change how we see what happens along the way.

We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

God Is in the Detour

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Today’s Devotional

by Joy Vroonland
September 24, 2019

Our lives have just taken a major detour, and I’m discovering how very great God is in ways I just couldn’t see from the mountaintop.

In mid to late August, a bunch of things started unraveling in the life of a very close relative. We would have a role, and everything would turn upside down. We knew that. But there was so much more that we didn’t know. How would we proceed? What’s right? What’s smart? How do we protect those that need protecting?

During the initial shock, I knew I needed to pray, but didn’t really know how or what to pray for. Mine were wordless prayers mixed with tears. I thought back to a sermon Casey Coats had preached the previous month. It was his “Press Pause” sermon on July 7. I remember thinking that it was a good sermon. It was about Job, and how he handled his tragic losses. It was good for other people. I didn’t really have an application for myself at the time, but it came flooding back to me as I sat there wondering what to do, how to pray. I pulled out my computer, went to clifec.com and found that sermon again. This time I listened intently. What was it Casey said that Job did? After receiving his final blow, “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground” and did the most remarkable thing: he worshiped. (Job 1:20)

Worship was not my first response to our situation, but from my long-term memory arose a fragment of a song: “Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise.” (Psalm 22:3) If I wanted God in this situation, I would have to join Job on my face and praise my Lord. I love hymns, and began singing the ones that jumped into my heart – Holy, Holy, Holy; Great is Thy Faithfulness; How Great Thou Art. And the peace that transcends understanding began to guard my heart and my mind. (Phil 4:7)

I’ve written before about how I seem to be able to tell stories about my life with the “Christian” version, which includes Jesus, or the other version, which leaves God out and protects me from looking like a crazy person. This story cannot be told without invoking God. At every turn amazing and surprising things are happening: divine appointments, deceit revealed, people available that want to help, grace for each day, peace when there shouldn’t be. This is hard, make no mistake, but this detour, in which almost everything is out of our control, is giving me a front-row seat to the God Show. People ask me how I’m doing and the only thing that can come out of my mouth is “Well, we’re going through a bit of a rough patch, but God is so good! You think you know that God is good when things are going well. But you can’t really know how amazing he is until you are in the valley.”

This detour is changing my life. It is changing my faith. I hear songs encouraging people on a detour to just wait with faith, things will change. I’m here to tell you, you don’t know when or even if things will change for the better. However, the Lord is there. He is the blessing. Don’t wait for something out there in the future. Drive through the detour with your praise set on high, and look for the Father right where you are. You will be amazed.


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

Good All The Time

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Today’s Devotional

by Joe Paris
September 23, 2019

“God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”

I remember hearing this classic saying growing up in my tiny church in Washington, Illinois. As a young Christian, I used to think this sounded very cliché. Over time, I have come to greatly appreciate this reminder.

At some point in our lives, I think we have all found ourselves on a detour, a season where our lives didn’t quite go as planned. We call these seasons detours because our plan didn’t go as smoothly or as timely as we had hoped. Something went wrong. What was supposed to take a few days took years. Something that was supposed to be simple became more and more complex.

It’s easy in these moments, even for the seasoned Christian, to focus solely on the detour, but that’s a mistake. Instead, we should focus on the guide. It is easy to focus on what should have happened or what could have been, but I have found that it’s most helpful is to remember that, even in the detour, God is both good and aware of the situation.

When I was in my early 20s, I had plans for my life. I knew where I wanted to work and what degrees I wanted to complete, and I had a timeline for my family. None of these came in the manner or the time that I had scheduled. School took longer, plans were delayed, and marriage wasn’t for a few more years. I found myself frustrated with the detour.

I’m sure many of you can identify on some level with this story. The promotion never came. The report from the doctor’s office wasn’t what you prayed for. Your child never came home and the list of hurt goes on and on. In the detour, it’s hard to have joy. It’s hard to maintain hope. But remember that, on the detour, God is both aware of the situation, and he is good.

“God is good all the time” isn’t cliché. It’s the truth and a great reminder on the detour.

We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

First World Problems

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Today’s Devotional

by Lisalette Hamon
September 20, 2019

We’ve all seen it: a kid opens 10 presents at Christmas and shouts for joy each time. No more than three hours later, this same kid is whining because he or she is bored and has nothing to do. We call this a First World problem, which, according to Dictionary.com, is “a fairly minor problem, frustrating situation, or complaint associated with a relatively high standard of living, as opposed to the more serious problems associated with poverty.”

All we want is for this kiddo to be grateful instead of focusing on the little negative. We’d love for them to realize all we did and went through to provide these gifts for them. We’d love for them to remember how they pleaded with us for these very gifts that now seem to mean nothing to them.

I think we’d all agree this is an issue. An ungrateful heart is what it is. The real tragedy is that even though we, as adults, recognize this issue in our kids, we continue to allow ourselves to struggle with the same issue: an ungrateful heart. Oh, how quickly we forget how much God has provided for us, and we focus on any negative. When things aren’t perfect, how quickly we wish we could go back to old ways, even though we know God sacrificed so much for us to have freedom from those ways. And oh, how quickly we forget how many of our prayers and requests God really has answered when there is still something else out there we would like. I guess we lack perspective like our kids, too.

But wait! According to the Bible, we First World adults are not alone — the Israelites had similar issues and struggles as us. So maybe it isn’t a First World perspective issue. Maybe it’s a God-perspective issue. Maybe we so easily focus on what isn’t there rather than what is. Maybe we focus on what we’d like to still see happen, rather than what has already happened. Maybe our perspective could be shifted if we began with a grateful heart.

So let’s do that. Let’s start our days by giving thanks for all we have. Let’s start our prayers by thanking God for how incredible he is. Let’s rejoice in all he has done, because he truly has done enough already just by sending Jesus to die for us. Our sin cost him a lot, so let’s remember that when we are wanting more. Let’s remember how good he is so we have the right perspective to live out our day.


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

No Such Thing As A Detour

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Today’s Devotional

by Nolan Jones III
September 19, 2019

It was funny to me when I found out that the topic of this week’s devotionals was Israel’s time in the wilderness, because I have recently been feeling like I have spent that last 20 years of my life in the wilderness.

The people of Israel were well aware that God had promised to take them to the Promised Land, but they were not aware of what the journey to the Promised Land would look like. They had no idea how long they would be in the wilderness or what suffering and hardships they would endure before they reached their destination.

When I look back over the last 20 years of my life, I feel like I have been wandering in the wilderness, and I feel like I’m still there.

Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1999, I felt God call me to abandon all my future plans and to pursue full-time ministry. I was 21 years old, engaged to my wife, I had been working as a horseshoer for about four years, and I was trying to get into veterinarian school. I had my whole future planned out, and things were going according to plan. God had saved me a year and a half earlier, and everything was changing. God was producing in me a greater love for him and a constantly growing desire to share the gospel and see people saved. And in the summer of 1999, I felt a call to go to Bible college and become a preacher. It was extremely scary to walk away from the life I had envisioned and pursue the unknown, but I trusted God and did it. I started my first semester of Bible college in the fall of 1999.

Now, fast forward 20 years. How’s my preaching ministry going? What church am I pastoring? Well, the fact that I am writing this devotional is a clue that things have not gone according to plan. What happened? Good question.

Sometimes I feel like the last 20 years have been one detour after another. It’s been 20 years since I felt God’s call, and I’m still a horseshoer. I’m getting older. Time is slipping away. My health isn’t what it used to be. My mortality is ever before me. Will I ever reach my destination? Will my life be a waste? These are the thoughts that litter my wilderness wandering.

But then a bright light pierces the darkness:

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
― Psalm 139:16 NLT

God is sovereign.

With God, there is no such thing as a detour! God has ordained every day of our lives. Every single thing that comes to pass in his creation has been sovereignly and eternally decreed. He is moving all of history toward his eternal goal and his purposes cannot be thwarted.

Everything that happens in my life and your life is all part of his eternal plan. Every time you felt your life was taking a detour, every time something or someone got in the way of your plans, every trip, stumble and fall. every heartache, every loss — they are all part of his eternal plan.

How does that make you feel? Angry? Confused? Secure?

Does it make you angry that God’s eternal plan included such pain and loss? Are you confused as to why he would allow such things to happen to you? Does it bring you any security at all to know that your God is sovereign, and that nothing happens apart from his eternal decrees?

Trust me, I understand. I have felt all those things. But after all is said and done, the feeling of security rises above all the negative emotions, because I know that the last 20 years of my life have not been one detour after another. For the last 20 years, God has been accomplishing his purposes in my life. Every step of the way I have been exactly where God planned for me to be.

God’s purposes do not lie only in our destinations, but also in our journeys.

In the last 20 years, God has broken me thoroughly and has been rebuilding me from the ground up. The man he called into full-time ministry 20 years ago was not ready for it back then. That man struggled with addiction, was full of pride, was a poor husband, and so much more. Today, I am not what I should be, but by the grace of God, I am not what I was. He is still sanctifying me and conforming me into the image of his Son. And all along the way, he has been using me — even as a horseshoer — to minister and witness to people in barns and pastures.

Will I ever get to walk in my calling? I believe so. Whatever God has eternally ordained for my life will happen at the moment he ordained for it to happen. But whether or not I will ever enter full-time ministry or pastor a church, I can find peace in knowing that God is sovereign and every moment of my life I have been exactly where he eternally decreed that I should be. I might not accomplish all that I plan to with my life, but I can rest assured that God will accomplish all he plans to with my life.

And since he has eternally decreed all that comes to pass, it appears that he ordained that at this very moment I should be writing this devotional. And that you should read it. Interesting, huh?


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

What Desert Are You In?

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Today’s Devotional

by Laci Prewitt
September 18, 2019

I’ve been to the wilderness lately. Well, it was Palm Desert, which is basically a city full of country clubs, high-end stores and one cactus museum, but it is the desert. I was there in February, and I went swimming, because in the desert it never gets very cold, even in the winter. And I have to be honest with you, it was not a faith-growing experience. To be very specific, it was a vacation, and it was amazing. Hands down, my favorite vacation location to date. I loved every second of it, and if you get a chance to go, take it — and eat at Guillermo’s. You will not be sorry.

While this was a great trip, I remember clearly driving through the desert to arrive at our destination. There is nothing in the desert. Maybe some palm trees. Maybe. But even those are an anomaly and are not supposed to be there. It is scorching hot in the day and cold at night. It’s beautiful but barren. And in California, if it were not for Palm Desert and Palm Springs, it would be a valley filled with dust and lizards.

During Sunday’s sermon, when we recounted the experience of the Israelites as they were lead out of slavery into the desert, it was easy for me to relate to their complaints. I could picture myself in the valley with nothing around me, and I have to tell you, I had a hard time judging them for complaining.

Three days without food? We’re all freaked out about how long the line at the Mesquite Chick-fil-A is going to be while the Forney location remodels theirs. Come quickly, Jesus! Forty days without water? My son cried yesterday because I asked him to get his own glass instead of drinking mine. We were in the kitchen. Heaven, help us.

Then the whole Israelite community grumbled to Moses and Aaron in the desert.
— Exodus 16:2

I mean, I get it. They were just freed from slavery, and yes, this is not what they expected. But let’s give them a break. “Hangry” is a new word for a reason. When we put ourselves in their dusty shoes, we might find ourselves shaking our heads while complaining, “Yes we were treated poorly, worked long hours and owned nothing, but we were not dirty, tired, hungry, thirsty and nervous.”

I could be wrong, but I think this is point of the story. Yes, it happened to the Israelites, but it has been passed down from generation to generation for us to relate to. For us to see that even though we’re grouchy because we think God is taking a long time, we are not alone. We’re scared and hungry, and that is okay because when they asked for water, even though they were ungrateful and lacked faith, they received water. And when they were hungry, and Moses was appalled at their behavior, God sent them food.

We are going to see throughout this series that the wilderness was never easy. It was rarely enjoyable, and they spent a long time there. But spoiler alert: they are not still in the desert. Their story turns a corner. They received what was called “The Promised Land.” A land special because it was promised to them by God and, after the time in the desert. they got to arrive there. Finally.

So, what about you? What “desert” are you in? What are you complaining about while you are there? Don’t be ashamed. Cry louder, complain more. God can take it. Frankly, he made you, and he won’t be surprised anyway. But while you are in your waiting, remember who God is. He keeps his promises. Always. It’s his very nature. And your desert has a promised land on the other side, if you keep walking.


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

Through Christ

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Today’s Devotional

by Andrea Bailey
September 17, 2019

I love the feeling of scaling the side of a rock and making it all the way to the top. I love the feeling of hitting my stride when I am running. I love to push into a yoga pose that I have been trying to get for a couple of weeks. I don’t, however, love the regular day-to-day exercise that allows me to be able to do all of these other things.

Recently, I decided that it was time for me to up my exercise routine. I made a plan to begin each day with early morning exercise, and I joined a group to keep me accountable to doing just that. During the first week, I got up and joined my group for an intense workout. By lunch, I could barely move my legs without feeling the ache of my terribly sore muscles. This is when my grumbling began. My co-workers and sweet family got to hear the woeful tale of just how out of shape I was. Some of them got to hear the story several times. My husband even texted me an article of remedies for post-workout pain.

Each morning at the end of the workout, my coach strongly encouraged all of the newbies to come back because the workouts will always be tough, but eventually the pain will subside. No matter if it is working out or something much more substantial, pain eases over time. As the pastors have reminded us so eloquently, between the promise and the payoff there is a process. Over the years, I have learned that I usually grow the most during the process. The celebration at the other side is fantastic, but the lessons come when you are in the middle of the wilderness. Paul encourages us in Phillipians 3:12–14 to press on towards the call of Christ Jesus. Then, in the next chapter, he gives us the secret to making it through the wilderness:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
— Phillipians 4:11–13 NLT

If we look to Christ each and every day, in each and every minute, we are able to be strengthened through him and find fulfillment. Finding peace in the small troubles helps us learn how to trust Jesus through the bigger ones. God is with us. We just need to keep our eyes on him. Find the blessing where you are.


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here

He Is Up To Something

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Today’s Devotional

by Randy Wade
September 16, 2019

I’m not the most romantic guy. When it came time for me to propose to my wife, I had to think long and hard about how to make it special. I’m old enough to remember the day when you proposed without recruiting an army of people to hide in the bushes and celebrate with you after she said yes. It was 100% up to me as to how this thing would go down, which meant I would be 100% responsible for the memory it would make.

After giving it a great deal of thought, I decided to send my then-girlfriend on a scavenger hunt. It started out at the church where she was working. She came to her car to find a big stuffed teddy bear in the driver’s seat holding a rose and the first clue. After a couple of stops on the hunt, she knew what was happening, but she didn’t know when I would be there. She had no idea how many stops there would be until she heard me say the words, “Will you marry me?”

I know most of the detours we will talk about in this series aren’t as exciting as the stops she made on her scavenger hunt. Why? Because at every stop she was given a gift and a note of encouragement that she was getting closer. She had something tangible to look at and know that the big question was on its way. When you and I go on a God-ordained detour in our lives it can often feel scary and uncertain. The next stop is unknown, and we never really know when we will be able to finally step into the fulfillment of the promise he has made to us. We wonder why we are on such a long and difficult journey. Wouldn’t it be easier if God just took us straight to the promise?

I guess one could argue that my wife would have enjoyed skipping all the stops. It was a cold and rainy night, so it certainly would have been more comfortable if I would have just surprised her at work, where she was surrounded by family and friends. It would have been easier, and maybe even more comfortable, but it wouldn’t have taken her to all of our special places. It wouldn’t have given her a story to tell for years to come.

What if the detour you are currently on is God’s way of conforming you more into the image of the Son? What if the easiest way isn’t the best way? What if there are things you need to see and experience in the wilderness that will prepare you to appreciate the promise more fully? What if God is building in you, on the detour, a story that you will tell for years to come?

Trust him at every turn, and you will one day step into the promise that he has for you. Here is the way the writer of Proverbs saw it:

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9

If he has you on a detour, stay the course, because God is up to something!


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.

The Discipline of Prayer

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Today’s Devotional

by Pat Cooper
September 13, 2019

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
— Luke 11:1

At first, when I saw my name appear on the list of devotional writers addressing prayer this week, I panicked. Oh, no! Not my strong suit, I thought. What will I write? Do I have anything at all to contribute that will benefit someone out there? I began several sentences, but nothing clicked. Every typed word seemed mundane, without feeling, and if I couldn’t make the connection, how could I expect anyone else to?

Honestly, my prayer life has fallen way short of my own expectations. Maybe because so many times, my petitions seemed not to make it past the ceiling, pretty much to the point where I would begin to question if God were listening. And if he is, does what I have to say or ask of him matter? Will anything change?

We all experience unanswered prayer, sometimes more often than we would like to, which can prompt questions and doubts. We may ask, “Why bother? Will my prayer have an impact? A bearing on the outcome?” If it concerns the Cowboys versus the Redskins this weekend, probably not. Even though I feel certain God is a Cowboys fan, I seriously doubt it is God’s voice Kellen Moore will hear in his headsets when feeding in plays to Dak. However, as F.B. Meyer suggests, “The greater tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”

We are encouraged repeatedly in scripture to pray, “always without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus taught his disciples in Luke 18:1 that they should always pray and not give up.

If prayer is a discipline you need help with, as I did and still sometimes do, it would be well worth your time to contact us. We would love to have a conversation with you and share a treasure chest of resources to help in your quest to develop an effective life of prayer.


We pray that God has used this devotional to encourage and challenge you. If you would like to speak to someone about a spiritual decision or engage in a spiritual discussion, please click here. If you would like to support the ministry of Community Life Church, please click here.