A Blank Check

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If someone wrote you a blank check, how much would you write it out for? Would you write it out for millions of dollars so you wouldn’t have a care in the world? Would you write it out to cover your basic needs so you wouldn’t be “greedy”? Would you keep all the money or give some away to others in need? Maybe you would write it all out to an organization that is near to your heart. It’s an interesting question I think. I’ve never been given a blank check nor have I written one. I think it would be cool either way to be a part of something like that.

I’ve been reading “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram and in the chapter “Make Great Sacrifices”, he challenges the reader to write a blank check to God with our lives. It seems easy to do at first, but then you start to think about that blank. Will God cash that in for everything you have? Will He just ask for what He needs in this moment? What will it cost you ultimately? With the questions comes fear and fear keeps us from leaving that check blank. It either causes us to put an amount in there, limitations on it or stipulations.

Didn’t jesus tell us that God was a good father? Didn’t He say that if earthly fathers could give good gifts, how much more so our Heavenly Father? Then why are we so afraid to write that check out? Are we afraid He will make us destitute? Psalms 37:5 says, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.” So that’s not it. Is it that we think He will send us to some remote part of the world that we’ll hate? I don’t think He’d do that either. He knows that you need to be happy to thrive and do His work.

The truth is that we see our lives as our own and not His. That’s not easy to write and I’m sure it’s not easy to hear. If we truly believed I Corinthians 6:19-20 that’s says, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price”, we’d be willing to write that check out to God. If we truly believed it when we say, “Everything I have belongs to God,” we’d be more willing to give up our possessions for the Kingdom. We would ask God how much He wants us to give instead of just giving Him 10%. We would be willing to relocate wherever He needed us, give up that lucrative salary and do whatever He asked.

As it is, most of us live good Christian lives instead of great ones because we aren’t willing to let go of the temporary things for the eternal things. We aren’t willing to give up our sight so we can walk by faith. I believe the early church turned the world upside down as Acts 17:6 says because they understood what it meant to offer themselves as living sacrifices (living blank checks). They got it that their lives weren’t their own. What if we started living like that? How different would the world be if we wrote God a blank check with our lives? How different would your life be?

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Heaven’s Hound

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In the late 1800’s Francis Thompson wrote a open called “The Hound of Heaven”. I know I probably read it in high school, but I can’t remember much more about it than the title. When I think about God and His relentless pursuit of us, I think of that poem. I think of how God isn’t content to leave us alone. He sniffs us out, finds us and chases us until we are His. He wants nothing more than for each one of us to know Him and to be with Him. He goes to whatever lengths He has to in order to get our attention. He risks everything just so we can see His love for us.

Throughout my life, I’ve read and heard about Jesus asking the crowd, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?” He answers the question with, “Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” He draws a parallel with God who does the same with us. God isn’t content with 99 sheep in the pen. He’s looking to have every one rescued when they’re lost. He will go and search until He finds that one and brings them back.

I remember as a kid thinking, “I’d leave the one. I’ve got 99 others right here. Why would they leave them to go after one?” It didn’t make sense to me because I never had sheep. I still don’t have them, but I do have pets. Shepherds love their sheep like you and I love our pets. I’ve seen it over and over when someone loses a pet. They post it on Facebook. They put out flyers with “Reward” written at the top. They drive around the neighborhood calling out to that pet. They don’t give up until that animal is home. Why? Because a pet is a member of the family to most people. Imagine how much more they’d search if it was their own flesh and blood.

You and I are not animals. We are members of God’s family. We are made in His image with His craftsmanship. We are members of His family. Romans 8:15 tells us that God has adopted us as His own children. When one of us wanders off or strays, He goes into search mode. He sends out the warnings. He calls out to us in a desperate attempt to find us. He leaves all that He has behind because He would trade it all just to have us back. It doesn’t matter if we did something stupid and that’s why we got lost. It doesn’t matter if we purposefully did it like the Prodigal Son. All that matters to Him is that we get home.

Just like a hound sniffs out what he’s looking for, God comes looking for us until He finds us. He’s given up everything He has to rescue us. He’s paid the reward in advance so that we could go home. He sacrificed His Son to pay the cost of our sin. There’s nothing we could ever do to keep Him from wanting us to go home with Him. There’s no sin strong enough to break the work done on the cross. If you’re lost today, stop and listen. God is calling out to you. He’s looking for you and He won’t rest until you’re where you belong at home with Him.

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Until Victory Is Won

My son always wants to help with whatever I’m doing. If I’m shopping in the store, he wants to be the one to get the item off the shelf. He says, “Here, let me help.” When I’m bringing in the groceries, he wants to carry a bag. Every once in a while he gets one that’s more than he can handle. He’ll say, “It’s too heavy. Help me, Dada.” I’ll reach down and carry the bulk of the weight, but still let him do his part. I’ve been in his shoes before. I’ve had baggage that was too heavy for me to carry on my own. I’ve just haven’t been as eager to ask for help as he has. I think there are many who are in the same boat.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land. On their way, they were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses had Joshua recruit some men to go fight the Amalekites while he stood on top of a hill holding the staff. As the battle raged on, Moses, Aaron and Hur noticed that as long as Moses had his hands raised, they were winning. When his arms were lowered, they were getting beat. They encouraged Moses to hold his hands up, but after a while he couldn’t do it anymore. He needed help.

It doesn’t say if Moses asked for help or not, but it does say that Aaron and Hur acted on his behalf. They saw a need and improvised to help him out. They grabbed a stone for him to sit on so they could hold up his arms. They stood there until the sun went down and the Amalekites were defeated. Moses named the place Yahweh Nissi which is God My Banner. God gave the victory, but it was won because two people saw another who needed help and lifted him up. They sacrificed their comfort for those who were engulfed in a battle.

If you look around at the people God has placed in your life, there are those who are fighting battles and they’re growing tired. They can’t hold their hands up anymore. They’re struggling and losing the war. God is looking for people like Aaron and Hur who will go to those who need help, hold them up in prayer and sacrifice until their battle is won. By helping them, in turn you are helping others that they are holding up. When Aaron and Hur helped Moses, they had a direct affect on the army fighting below. We never know how far our help really goes.

Whose arms has God asked you to hold up? Who in your life needs you to help them win their battle? It may not be easy for you, but If God is asking you to do it, you’re going to have to make the sacrifices necessary. You’re going to have to spend time holding their hand, standing beside them and lifting them up in prayer. Your role in their battle may not be glorious, but it is vital to their victory. They may not ask you to do it, so you may have to offer it. You also may have to improvise in order to get them through the day. Do your part in holding them up until God gives the victory.

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The Rock Of Help

When I get overwhelmed by circumstances and things going on in my life, I do an exercise in faith. Before I panic, I force myself to remember times when God has come through for me. I try to think of all the times before when things have been hopeless and at the last minute, He answered. Doing that reminds me that God answers at just the right time, that He sees my situation and that He’s been faithful in the past. When I begin to take my focus off of how impossible my situation is and remind myself of how capable God is, my attitude starts to change.

The Israelites were at Mizpah offering sacrifices to God for their sin. I Samuel 7 tells us that all of Israel was there repenting. While they were gathered for offerings, the Philistines decided to attack them. The Israelites were scared, confused and began to panic. Samuel cried out to God on their behalf as he made a sacrifice. Verse 10 says that as he was making the sacrifice, the Philistines showed up for battle. God spoke from Heaven in loud claps of thunder that threw the enemy into confusion. After Israel routed the Philistines that day, Samuel set up a rock and named it “Ebenezer” which means rock of help.

Anytime that Israel was in distress, they simply had to look at that rock and remember that God came through in an impossible situation. It was a reminder that if He did it before, He’ll do it again. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. David knew that too. I wonder how many times he passed by Ebenezer and called out to God. In Psalm 61:2, he wrote, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” He wanted to be led to God, but also to that memory that God saves us just in time.

When we get overwhelmed, our prayer shouldn’t be one of panic. It should be that we are led to the rock that is higher than we are. When the enemy comes in like a flood, we need to run to that rock for safety. When we can’t see tomorrow because of all the trouble today holds, we need to remember the God we serve. We need to call to mind the great things He has done in the past and remind ourselves that we are not forgotten. We have not been abandoned. He will come just in the nick of time as He always has.

Don’t make your decisions based on fear. Make them based on the faith that God hears us. Make them based on how He has responded in your life in the past. Your situation may seem hopeless. You may be outnumbered, out gunned and surrounded, but you serve a God who is able. He is able to deliver you from whatever you are facing today. It’s not too late. You’re not too engulfed. You’re not finished. When you’re overwhelmed, run to the Rock of Help. He’s there for you in your time of need.

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Is It Well?

It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back from all God has for you. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “It Is Well” by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

I was 23 when my mom passed away from cancer. I remember praying every day for her. There were no social media sites around to get tons of people to pray, but there were email lists. I sent emails to everyone on my list asking them to pray for her. I had faith that God would heal her. As I was going about my business at work on day, I answered the phone. My brother told me to get home as quickly as possible. In a panic I began trying to hurry things along. I then realized I hadn’t hung up. I held the phone to my ear to see if he was still on the line. I heard my dad say, “Don’t kill yourself getting here, son. She’s already gone.”

A day or so later, I sat down to write an email to all those who were praying. As I wondered what to write, the words of an old hymn came to my mind. “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well.'” I began to write to the people who had prayed so diligently to thank them for their prayers. I let them know that she had passed, but that it was well with my soul. As much as I wanted her to be healed, I understood that God’s reasons were better than my own.

We each have a choice when something we really, desperately want to happen doesn’t. We can choose to be bitter at God over it or we can choose to say, “It is well.” It doesn’t mean that I agree with the decision that God made. It simply says, “I trust you, God even when I don’t agree.” We somehow think that our selfish desires are more important than His holy plan for the world. We argue, scream and fight with Him when things don’t go our way. We sometimes see it as Him attacking us or mocking us, but it’s the farthest thing from it. He sees the whole picture from eternity’s perspective. I see a pixel of it from a moment’s perspective.

I don’t know why God does what He does. I don’t know why things happen that hurt us. I simply know that nothing happens in my life without Him knowing about it. He knows what I need to go through today to prepare me to be the person He needs me to be tomorrow. He knows what I need to go through now so I can help someone in the future. I can get through my grief. I can rise from the ashes of a life that has been burned to the ground. I can rebuild what has been torn down. With that in mind, I can find the courage to say, “It is well.”

If you would like to win “It Is Well” by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, go to the Devotions By Chris Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (July 26, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already “liked” my page, you are already entered for this drawing. I would appreciate it if you would invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Treasure Hunting

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As a kid, “The Goonies” was one of my favorite movies. It was about ordinary kids who found a treasure map and searched for it so they could keep their houses from being foreclosed on. As kids, we thought we could do the same thing. We searched our attics for a map that would lead to treasure, but never found one. There’s something about the adventure that comes from searching for hidden treasure that draws us. We know there will be pitfalls, twists and turns, but if we follow the map, we’ll find the hidden treasure.

If you were given a treasure map today, you know you’d have to go on that adventure. You’d drop everything to try to find it. I know I would. Well, I found a treasure map in the Bible. Colossians 2:3 says, “In Him (Jesus) all the treasures of divine wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and all the riches of spiritual knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and hidden (AMP).” The real treasure we should seek is in Christ. The treasures that are hidden in Him are eternal ones.

If you’ve ever said, “I wish I knew what God’s purpose in this is,” then this treasure is worth seeking. That verse says that the answer to that is hidden in Christ. The verse before it tells us how we can find this treasure. It says, “That they may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly… Christ.” The way we find the treasure is to continuously try to become more intimately acquainted with Jesus. We can just stop at our Sunday school knowledge of Him. We have to spend time searching for Him.

I’ve found that the more I’ve searched out who Jesus is, the more exciting my life has become. A life of faith is full of adventure. It has twists and turns, fear, difficult choices, friendships and heart pounding moments while being chased by an enemy who wants to keep you from finding that treasure. With every twist and turn, there are things I find that let me know I’m on the right path. There are people I encounter who are searching too. They push me to keep going when I think I’ve gone far enough. They encourage me when I feel like giving up. They share the treasures that they have found so that I am all the more richer in Him.

If your life is dull, it’s time to start searching for Christ more than ever. If you crave adventure, it’s time to look at the map a God gave us and start following it. We weren’t called to stay at home and live predictable lives. We are called to adventure. We are called to seek the treasures that God has hidden for us to find. The more you study the map, the more adventure your life will take on. God will draw you out of the attic of your mind and into the action of following Him daily. He wants you to find the treasure, all you have to do is get out of your house. What’s holding you back?

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Prayer For My Day

Heavenly Father,

I recognize that you are the King of Kings and The Lord of Lords. You are the creator of a universe so vast that we can barely comprehend it. You speak and galaxies come into existence. Your word is powerful and true. It always accomplishes what you want it to. You can see beyond the farthest star and choose to look into our hearts and lives. Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls without you knowing about it. You are deeply concerned with us and our world.

I know you see the turmoil that this world is engulfed in. There’s fighting between countries, terrorist who are killing innocents, Christians who are being persecuted and so many other evil things going on. It’s easy to look at all of that and be fearful. I pray that you would give me peace. Send your Holy Spirit to comfort me and to remind me of what you have said. You will not leave me or forsake me. You will not leave me abandoned even though the world appears to be falling apart.

I pray that you would help me to see others who are concerned about everything so I can remind them that you are in control. Help me to be an encourager to them. Give me words to speak so that they will have your peace as well. Use me today in someone’s life. Let me speak life into them. Give me words of hope. I don’t want to say anything that isn’t from you, so guide and direct my speech. I yield myself to you and your plan. I know that it is far better than the plan I have.

Thank you for all you’ve done for me. Thank you that you have always provided in my moment of need. I can’t think of a time when you didn’t come through just in time. You have been faithful to me even when I’ve been unfaithful to you. You’ve loved me when I haven’t shown you love. What you give me isn’t conditional on what I do. You freely give all you have because I’m your child. You are an amazing father who cares for me. I don’t say thank you enough for the consistency of your blessings. With all I have in me, I say, “Thank you!”

Watch over me today and protect me. Put people in my path that you want me to be a blessing to. Open my ears to hear your voice and give me the courage to do all that you ask of me. I want to walk by faith and not sight and that takes courage. I’ll step out in faith today if you ask me to. I’ll speak your words to someone in need if you prompt me to. I’ll be your hands and feet to whoever you ask me to because of all you’ve done for me. I love you and praise you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

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