Pathways Devotions

Winter Spring, 2021

Week 3

April 11-17

Unburdened Children

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4


When we were children, most of us were comfortable with life. Some childhoods are difficult (increasingly so as our culture deteriorates) but most are free from worry. We didn’t obsess about family finances, our health, our security, or any other “adult” concern. As we grew older, reality set in. After all, we would one day be adults and have to concern ourselves with these things. But there was a time, however brief, when we could simply live life and trust all the details to older and wiser people.

Though we grew out of our human childhood, we are always God’s children. We grow up spiritually, but we never grow to be independent of our heavenly Father. The carefree attitude that many children have can be ours. Why? The details are being taken care of by Someone older and wiser. He has not asked us to stay up late to worry about how to make ends meet. He has not burdened us with resolving the family crises. He has let us see some of the family stress, of course, and He even asks us to play a role in handling it. But bearing the burden? Never. That’s the Father’s task, not ours.


We tend to think that ignoring the burdens of life is irresponsible. And we are not to ignore them; we are to cast them into His arms. But there is nothing irresponsible about that. In fact, it honors God when we refuse to worry about something He has promised to do. He has never betrayed our trust. Sometimes the most faithful thing we can do is to sleep calmly, or to run freely, or to rest without anxiety. Such a posture indicates that we are trusting His ability to parent His children. We know whose hands guard our family, and we know how secure His house is. The more we act like unburdened children, the more we prove our faith. And that always pleases our Father.

Week 4

April 18-24

Convinced of Sin

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.” John 16:8-9


The Holy Spirit is the consummate convincer. It is His area of expertise: Where we are ignorant, He reveals. And we are perhaps nowhere more ignorant than with regard to our own sin. It is our biggest blind spot, at least before He shines His light into our darkness.

Why must the Holy Spirit convince us of sin? Because we do not at first believe in Jesus. If we did, there would be no need. He is the Lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world. We would be forgiven and cleansed already through our faith. But because we did not believe, and many remain who do not, He must come and convince. We are only driven to a Savior when we know we need saving. The Holy Spirit must convict us of sin so that we will know we need saving. We must know so we will believe.

This is the struggle between the human race and faith. We resist being told we are sinners. After all, we’ve spent quite a bit of effort to present ourselves otherwise. We’ve put our best foot forward to make the right impression—on God and on others. Why would we willingly hear the witness of a Spirit that says we’re corrupt to the core? Why would resourceful people such as ourselves readily present ourselves to Someone who came to save us? Save us from what?


This is not just an evangelism issue. It is also a discipleship issue. Having been saved by grace, we still seek to be perfected by works. The Spirit will not let us. He will not only remind us that we came to the Savior one day years ago; He will compel us to come to Him today. And tomorrow. And the next day. As long as sin is present, so the Spirit will convict. And as long as He convicts, we must not resist. Drop the pose of self-righteousness and remember your need of grace. Let your belief in Jesus’ salvation be as real as it was on day one.

Week 5

April 25 – May 1

Convinced of Judgment

“The prince of this world now stands condemned.” John 16:11


Jesus did not pull any punches. All throughout His ministry He has called a spade a spade. So, when He calls Satan the prince of this world, we know He is precise in what He says.

Did you really wonder who was governing the world systems? Surely we have seen enough headlines to know. There is a malicious, personal evil unleashed in this world through the foolishness of our fall in the Garden. He has ravaged this planet with vengeance and hate. He has distorted all that is good and corrupted all that is God’s. He’s in this mess up to his ears: the economic systems, the political systems, the religious idolatries, and in the very heart of man. Yes, at both a macro and a micro level, the adversary has exerted his illegitimate authority.

The Holy Spirit of whom Jesus speaks comes into this world for a threefold purpose: to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He can do so because judgment has been rendered. The prince has been passed over in favor of the Son. The usurper has been usurped. The regent gives way to the heir. The mutineer has been stripped of his power.


There is a very practical side to the advent of the Holy Spirit in your heart. He is there to convince you that the authority that Jesus has regained—remember that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18)—means that as His co-laborer and joint heir, you are no longer under Satan’s thumb; he is under yours. You represent the One with all authority; you must learn how to represent Him to the enemy.

Do you feel defeated? Then the Holy Spirit wants more of your heart. You must fellowship more deeply with Him. There is no defeat there. God has rendered judgment, and the Spirit will convince you of it. He will also help you enforce the victory. The malicious prince is forever condemned.

Week 6

May 2-8

Always Enough

“How many loaves to do you have?” Mark 6:38


It is a common human tendency to focus on what we lack. Whether we are looking at possessions or problems, we usually zero in on the downside and try to figure out what to do about it. We may have most of what we need toward a certain expense or be mostly pleased with a project. But that’s not what we usually see. We ignore the “most” and focus on the little bit that still needs fixing. Our dissatisfaction and want loom larger to us than all that God has already provided. We grow quite discontent with just a small element of imperfection. The glass, for most of us, is always half—or even only 10 percent—empty.

Jesus did not look at circumstances this way, and He did not teach His disciples to do so either. He knew what He had already been given, and He knew the God who promised to supply all our needs. When five thousand men and their families needed feeding, Jesus counted a small handful of fish and loaves—and gave thanks! He took what they had in hand and looked to heaven (v. 41). And instead of focusing on the five thousand men and their families for whom there was no available food, Jesus gave thanks for what they had. It wasn’t much, but it was what God had provided. And God never falls short in meeting a need.


Could it be that we often miss out on God’s supply because we focus so much on the need and so little on what He has already given? Has Jesus given us a lesson here in praying for provision? There is no pleading, no reminding God of how many people are hungry or how little food there is, no prayers of anguish for the provision Jesus hoped would come but suspected might not. Jesus went through none of the rituals we go through when we see a great need or a lack of resources. Resources are never insufficient when God is involved. So, Jesus gave thanks. And the text is succinct and understated as it tells the result in verse 42: “They all ate and were satisfied.”

Week 7

May 9-15

The Heart’s Delight

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38


We live in an age in which many people think God is distant. We are amazed, then, when we learn that the relationship we are called to have with Him exceeds any other relationship in its level of intimacy. We are reluctant to believe such a truth. It is a theological proposition, perhaps, that God desires an intimate relationship with us—something that preachers say to convince us of His love, but that only the super-spiritual actually experience. We may wonder, deep in our hearts, if this is true for all of us.

But not only is it true, it is one of the major emphases of the entire Bible. Not only does God love us and we are to love Him, He delights in us and we are to delight in Him. This is no sterile act of our will—a love that must press on in spite of the coldness of our hearts. And God’s love for us is not portrayed as a struggle for Him, either; He does not simply tolerate us in spite of His lack of feeling. No, the feeling is real. This relationship in its fullness is the most pleasurable relationship we could possibly have—with anyone.


Meditate today on what Jesus says here in the context of two Old Testament verses: “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4) and “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Think of that. God sings! Not just about anything, but about us! And He asks us to return the feeling. It’s an amazing invitation.

Jesus intended this revolutionary truth to sink into our lives. It is not just a pleasant pat on the back that will help us have a better day. It is the truth that shapes our hearts for a lifetime. An eternal lifetime. Allow it to do its work in you, and see your relationship with God transformed.

Week 8

May 16-22

The Heart’s Contentment

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38


Despite our extraordinary calling—to experience God’s love and to love Him in return—we fill our lives with idols. Given the greatest invitation in the universe, we treat it as an obligation that we might be able to squeeze in around our other interests. Could anything be more ludicrous? The infinite, holy, jealous, merciful, mighty Ancient of Days makes a straight path for us into His heart of passion, and our response is so often to say, “We’ll see; I’ve got some other things I’d like to do, too.” The angels must be astonished at the squandering of such an opportunity.

The idols of our hearts grip us tightly. We are afraid to let go of them. We are, in imagery provided by C. S. Lewis, like children content to make mud pies in a slum because we can’t imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the beach. We hang on to what we know—our idols—because fellowship with God is too incredible for us to grasp.

Our idols are essentially one-night stands. They provide a moment of empty pleasure, but there is no lasting joy in them. They string us along with the offer of contentment, but contentment never comes. They rob us of something far more valuable—an intimacy of infinite depth with a Lover whose love has no limits.


The passions that draw us away from God can be intense. Jesus does not ask us to rid ourselves of passion, but to turn that passion toward God. When we realize this and break ourselves free from the illusions—or delusions—that make us think we can find fulfillment in anything other than Him, our lives begin to resemble watered, fruitful oases where there was once desert. Determine to pursue God in love as a response to His loving pursuit of you. Leave everything else behind.

Week 9

May 23-29

Big Mountains

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20


The key to having mountain-moving faith is not the size of our faith. A mustard seed’s worth is enough. The key to this faith is the size of our God. And there is no shortfall there. Jesus is clear: Nothing will be impossible.

Why, then, don’t we experience dramatic answers to our prayers as often as we’d like? If our faith isn’t too small—and it’s hard to get smaller than a mustard seed, so that can’t be the problem—and our God is so big, what’s the problem? It’s a matter of perception. Though God is big, our expectations for Him are not. Or they are misplaced. One way or another, they do not accurately reflect His power and His goodness and His wisdom. We misunderstand one of these three attributes. The answer to the immobility of our mountains is within us: It all depends on how we see God.

Our inclination is to pray that God will move our mountains—according to our wisdom—so that we can see Him as able and willing. In His mercy, He sometimes answers. But God’s inclination is to reverse the order. He wants us to see Him as able and willing before we pray. Then we will see mountains move—according to His wisdom.


Are there issues that overwhelm you? Relax and rejoice! God is teaching you an invaluable lesson about Himself. If you are crushed under the burden, He has you in a good place. He will drive us to this place whenever our problems are large and He is small in our eyes. He will let us be defeated so that we’ll have no choice but to turn our eyes toward Him. He will let us come to the end of our own abilities in order to accomplish His desire. What is this desire? For us to see Him as so large that everything else becomes small. But the mountains will usually remain until we see Him this way. Faith precedes experience.

Week 10

May 30 – June 5

Big Prayers

“’If you can’?” Mark 9:23


Many times when we are confronted with an “impossible” situation, we tend to ask God to help alleviate the symptoms rather than to intervene in a mighty way. It’s as though we are afraid of asking too much. We just don’t see miracles that often, so we assume God isn’t interested in doing them. But to the contrary, according to the Bible, He is intensely interested in intervening in our situations. He is waiting for simple, believing, worshipful hearts.

Such was the case with the father whose son was possessed by a destructive spirit that “robbed him of speech” (v. 17). Everyone, including Jesus’ disciples, tried to help. No one could. What was Jesus’ response? Did He rebuke them for assuming too much from Him? No, He rebuked them for their unbelief (v. 19). When the father appealed to Jesus—“if you can do anything”—Jesus finds the hint of uncertainty ludicrous. “’If you can’?” He repeats incredulously. Of course He can. He’s God incarnate, the One by whom the father and the mute boy and the surrounding crowds were created. He is not limited by the situation itself in any way.


Do our prayers also undermine Jesus’ mastery of a situation in our own minds? Do we also hint that He might not be able to do what we ask? That the circumstances might just be too overwhelming even for Him? Jesus would lovingly mock us as well with the same response: “’If you can’?” Of course He can. His adequacy is not the question. And because no situation is bigger than He, neither is any prayer. Our requests should be huge. The issue for us is not whether He can, but knowing His will and His ways—and assuming the best of them.

Jesus really may answer our prayers exactly the way we expect Him to—or He may not. But He always stands ready to intervene in response to our belief. Never does He refuse a persistent, patient, trusting plea for His involvement. He is always willing. And He always can.


Week 11

June 6-12

Big God

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20


Many times we put our faith in faith. We take Jesus’ teaching about mustard seeds and mountains to mean that faith is the object we are to desire the most. But we must be careful. Though Jesus is consistent and frequent in His praise of faith, He never says that faith is the end of the matter. It is not faith in our own ability to have faith that is the key to answered prayer. It is faith in Him.

A bleeding woman came to Jesus for help in Matthew 9:20-22. She never said to herself, “If only I can muster up enough faith, I will be healed.” Rather, she says: “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus is the object of her faith. He commends her unbridled pursuit of Him and His power, not the self-cultivation of a spiritual development. In her mind, there is nothing of herself in this pursuit—no strain to believe more, no determination to be better or to grow in knowledge. It’s simply Jesus. He is the variable that matters.

Jesus’ recommendation of faith is a far cry from some modern ministries’ emphasis on the faith of the believer. In fact, if we stressed the power of Jesus and never considered the quantity of our faith, we would be in a league with those whom Jesus rewards with words of approval. The substance of faith is never what matters; it’s the object of faith. How much we have isn’t the issue. It’s the One in whom we trust.


Have you struggled to have more faith? Take your eyes off your faith and put them on God. Your understanding of God is your faith. Your belief will never grow larger; your view of God will. Meditate on His grandeur and you’ll find yourself trusting Him more. And you’ll also find that nothing is impossible.

Week 12

June 13-19

Big Answers

“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19


We know that all blessings come from God. He is the author of all that is good, and all we receive comes from His grace, not our merits. Knowing this, we might ask why Jesus says it is the faith of this leper that has made him well. Why doesn’t He say: “Rise and go; I have made you well”? Or “the Father has made you well”? Why does everything seem to depend on the faith of the recipient?

Perhaps faith is the currency of heaven as dollars are the currency of the American economy. Perhaps God’s own ground rules for this planet limit Him to intervening in the affairs of man only when asked with a right understanding of who He is. Perhaps faith is a mystery we will never comprehend this side of heaven. Regardless of the reason, it is solidly biblical. God responds to faith in Him, and He often withholds His blessing when faith is absent. When faith is gone, God seems distant. And when faith is great, God reveals Himself as greater still.

An awful lot depends on how we see God. If we see God as hard and begrudging, we will find Him to be so, both to His and our own disappointment. When we see Him as able, willing, loving, magnificent, and awesome, we will find Him to be so, to His and our own delight. This is not just a matter of psychology, in which the faithful and the faithless receive the same blessings but value them differently. It is a matter of a living relationship with an available God. When we open our mouths wide, He fills them (Psalm 81:10). When we don’t, He doesn’t.


Does God seem absent? unavailable? slow to act and as overwhelmed by your problems as you are? There are times when He may test our faith in this way. But it is more likely that He is acting in exactly the way your faith expects Him to. You want big answers to your prayers? Pray big prayers, and know the size of the God you seek.

Week 13

June 20-26

Unlimited Wisdom

…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24


We live in a world where wisdom is obscured. There are heavenly places where the wisdom of God is clearly visible, but not here. No, the Bible calls our home a place of spiritual darkness. There are multitudes of competing philosophies and perspectives, worldviews that give different definitions to the meaning of life and how we got here. We have distorted emotions that make us strive after things that aren’t really important, or that cause us to be blind to the things that are. We set goals for ourselves that may or may not coincide with eternal truth. Why? Because eternal truth is a matter of debate in the dark world in which we live.

But when we embrace the God who has called us and drawn us to Himself, we begin to learn from Him. We may have internal debates with ourselves—with the morals and traditions of those who reared us, with the philosophical agendas of those who schooled us, or even with our own desires and impulses. But deep down, we know: God has a monopoly on truth, and if we want truth, we need Him.

In an age of relativism, that means a lot. It means that no matter how much our society tells us that truth is a matter of one’s own opinions and all perspectives are valid, we know that there are absolutes. We can fix our lives on them. We can build on solid foundations. We can be guided confidently into our future even without knowing it. Why? Because we know the One who does.


Think about what God’s unlimited wisdom, revealed to us in Jesus, actually implies. If Jesus is the wisdom of God that was expressed in terms we can comprehend, we can base our lives on humility, service, sacrifice, love, and faith without any shadow of doubt that these things will prove utterly worthy in eternity. We can act in ways that are contrary to our culture because we know God’s ways will last and our culture will not. We can tap into truth that has no depth limits. We can know everything we’ll ever need to know.

Week 14

June 27 – July 3

Unlimited Power

Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. Psalm 68:34


The power of God is an amazing thing. We can scarcely even begin to understand it. We strain to comprehend the vastness of our own solar system or the intensity of our sun’s heat, and then are overwhelmed by the thought that there are thousands of such systems and millions of hotter stars. We try to understand the infinitesimally small measurements of an atom, and then are flabbergasted to think that our smallest known particles may have smaller particles still. And to think: The hand that created such vast mysteries and such detailed intricacies is the hand that holds our lives.

We know people who do not believe the miracles of the Bible but readily accept the miraculous nature of the known universe. But we who know the power of God have no trouble accepting parted seas, burning bushes, a virgin birth, or even a resurrected body. And an even greater miracle is the life that He breathes into a dead, sinful soul. Dry bones get up and dance, and we usually take it pretty casually; but if we really thought about the miracles of God’s hand—the everyday, ordinary ones as well as the dramatic, unusual ones—we’d constantly be in awe. The power of God—and especially the power of God in Christ—is amazing to behold.


Try not to lose that sense of amazement. It’s easy, having a fallen nature in a fallen world, to see life as being mundane and ordinary, but it never is. It is being sustained by One who is all-powerful. Whenever you begin to lose sense of that, try this exercise: Contemplate the vastness of this creation; then contemplate the amazing details of it; then consider all the things God has done in redemptive history and also in your life. Then realize the awesome truth: The God of all that power, who has done all those things, and who continues to sustain it all, is the God who is watching over you.

Week 15

July 4-10

Unlimited Love

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! 1 John 3:1


First Corinthians 13 is a familiar passage to many. It is read at weddings and any other time someone wants to define love from a biblical point of view. For most of us, it is the surest description of how we are to love. But think about the passage’s foundational idea: love is not an out-of-the-blue emotion. It is a choice that takes its cues from the very nature of God. And if God loves, we can know that His love, like all of His attributes, is infinite.

That’s an amazing thought. God doesn’t just love us; He loves us infinitely. When He forgives, He forgives completely. When He saves, He saves thoroughly. When He makes a covenant with us, it’s a forever covenant. The eternal, infinite God does not express His core attributes in temporary, partial ways. He is an extreme God with an extreme love.

That’s good for us to know, because we question His love often. Things don’t work out as we planned, and we wonder if God loves us. He doesn’t give us what we asked for, so we speculate that He might be withholding His affection. When we harbor such thoughts, we are underestimating God. We are applying our finite experience to an infinite being. The result is a distorted view.


Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, making a couple of slight assumptions. Instead of seeing it as your instructions on how to love others, see it as God’s unlimited expression of Himself. To paraphrase: God’s love is infinitely patient, infinitely kind. It is completely devoid of envy, boasting, and pride. It is never rude, self-centered, or easily angered, and it keeps no record—none at all—of wrongs. God’s love could not possibly delight in evil, and it always rejoices with truth. His love is extremely zealous to protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

Having read that as a description of God, now envision that kind of love as the subject of today’s verse, 1 John 3:1. That’s the kind of love God has lavished on us—unlimited, amazing, and free. We can never exhaust it.