Monthly Archives: October 2013

Stand and Shine

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Every year at this time, I’m amazed at how many Christians are scared of Halloween. They believe that in partaking in it, they are partaking in witchcraft or celebrating the devil’s holiday. I get it if they don’t want to dress up and go knocking door to door asking for candy. What I don’t get is sitting at home in the dark with the lights out hoping no one comes and knocks on their door. To me, that is the opposite of what Christians should be doing. We should have the most lit up yard and offer the best candy available. We should have a table set up in our driveway and be sitting out there hoping others will come join us in conversation.

In Matthew 5, Jesus said we were to be salt and light. He didn’t tell us to run and hide. In verses 14-16 in the Message Jesus says, “Here’s another way to put it: you’re here to be light, bringing out God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in Heaven.”

Jesus said to keep an open house and to be generous with your lives. He didn’t tell us to hide our light and to give in to darkness. He told us to do the opposite. If there is no light, there can only be darkness. Why would we hide our light on a day where it is needed most? To me, that is falling into the enemy’s trap. He wants you to hide your light. He wants you to close your door. He doesn’t want you talking to your neighbors because they might hear you open up and talk about God. Jesus said that when you open up to others, you’ll prompt them to open up to God.

Most of us are scared to go door to door to share our faith. There may be people in your church who do it, but it’s not something most of us would ever do. We make excuses, we tell ourselves it’s ineffective, we say it’s offensive and we don’t want to push people away. Yet tonight, you don’t have to go door to door witnessing. You have people coming to your door hungry, looking for something more than candy. They’re looking for Light to see whose door to knock on. Oddly enough, the ones who bear the true light are cowering in darkness. They’re putting their light under a bucket while the lost search for light.

You don’t have to celebrate Halloween tonight. You don’t have to dress up. But I believe you are playing into the enemy’s hands and doing the opposite of what God has called you to do if you turn off your lights and hide. We are called to be salt and light. As Jesus put it in Matthew 5:13, “If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” Don’t lose your usefulness tonight. Let God use you to build relationships with your neighbors, open up conversations and to talk to others about God. Don’t run and hide, stand and shine.

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E-Book Help Needed

This off time message is on purpose.

As part of the changes that I’m making to the site, I’d like to offer an e-book at the start of next year. I believe that there are people who are facing circumstances that are destroying their lives and will be able to benefit from this book. While each of us face our own mountains, the same enemy is there telling us that we are the only one who has ever gone through that and no one else can understand. It tells us that we are alone in our pain. While our circumstances are different, the pain and struggles are very similar.

In this book, I want to reach out to those who are hurting, going through a difficult time and/or are facing a mountain that they can’t climb alone. The book consists of 31 devotions of hope and it’s broken into 4 parts. The first part is “Broken Dreams” and deals with the feelings of having the bottom fall out again and again. The second part is “Survival” and talks about how to survive when you’ve been knocked down. The third part is “Getting Back Up” and is about finding the strength to stand when everything pushes you down. The final part is “Hope Renewed” and is all about moving forward with a new outlook on life.

I will post a new devotion each day on a separate site where only you will have access. Not only will you be helping me out, but you will also be testing out a site that has a bright future. I’d like to start this Friday, November 1st and continue every day until December 1st. I’m only looking for ten people who will read each day and provide their honest feedback on each post. If you aren’t interested, but know someone who could benefit, please pass this on to them. If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of and are willing to help me out, please email me at chris@devotionsbychris.com. Thank you.

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My Expectations vs. God’s Reality

I’m getting close to my next Haiti trip. This trip has been an emotional roller-coaster for me. When I initially planned it, I had close to 40 people wanting to go. I had something at work come up on the week that we had agreed to and I couldn’t get out of. When I switched the week, it was like all the momentum was lost. Almost everyone couldn’t make it on the new week. I barely got ten people who could go. Soon after the deadline, people started contacting me letting me know they couldn’t make it after all.

I decided I would cancel the trip even though I felt strongly we were supposed to go. I began to allow my feelings to dictate my actions instead of what I knew God had said. My expectations for the trip were not being met by a long shot. I started with 40 and ended up with three from that original group. Of the ten who had signed up, five had dropped out. Money for the trip came in slowly. Out of frustration I went to God and complained. He didn’t beat me down, but He did remind me that this is about Him and not me.

I’m the type of person who likes to have a plan and to work that plan. When the plan goes out the window, I try to make a new plan. When all my plans fail, I begin to question myself and God. Did I hear Him? Is He paying attention? Why do I feel like I’m alone in this? Did I have the wrong expectations? I don’t think it’s wrong to ask God the hard questions or to be honest with Him when things don’t go as planned. He sees our hearts and knows our thoughts. Why not be honest with Him? I think He appreciates that more than us pretending that we’re ok with how things are.

Each of us have our own expectations in life, in relationships, in work, in family, in plans we make and of God. If you’ve lived more than a day, you have found out that those things rarely live up to our expectations. Plans fail. Life changes. We get dealt what we think are bad hands. Just because things don’t happen according to our plans, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t happening according to His plans. We see a small piece of the puzzle at a time and think we know where and how it fits in the whole, but God is looking at the picture on the box. He sees your life from beginning to the end and knows exactly where each piece fits and why they fit where they do. His reality is greater than our expectations.

His reality for my trip is a group of people only He could fit together. His reality is that the people He chose have the right skill sets to accomplish what He wants us to accomplish on this trip and not what I wanted to accomplish. I can fight Him and continue to be disappointed because my expectations aren’t being met or I can let go of my expectations, embrace His reality and know that what He wants to do on this trip is greater than anything I could have imagined. God always leaves that choice up to us. We can choose to be bitter and resentful or we can choose to let our plans and expectations go in order to embrace His. What’s your choice?

By the way, He sent five more people and has created a team that I could have never imagined or put together. I can’t wait to share with you what God has planned for this group!

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Victory

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I saw a poster recently with a picture of Michael Jordan on it. It caught my attention because it’s been over ten years since he played. Underneath his photo, in big letters, it said “Victory”. Then it wrote out the definition of victory. As I thought about it, he became synonymous with winning and victory, but that’s not his full story. Before he became a star, he couldn’t make his high school team. After he became a star, he failed at gambling, marriage and baseball. He failed in more areas than he succeeded in, but he did not let those failures define him.

You and I are the same. Our failures outnumber our successes. I get caught up sometimes just thinking about my failures. I wonder why I still try. I beat myself down because my failures seem so stupid. I think I should be able to beat them, but each time I fail, I get down on myself. I saw a friend on Facebook ask the other day, “Is it a true portrait of a man to see him when he is tempted?” I thought a lot about that. My first inclination was to say yes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I thought that because I allow my failures to define me.

You and I are more than who we are when we are tempted and when we fail. We are also the person who knows where to seek forgiveness after a failure. We are the person who stands on mountain tops with our arms outstretched looking up to Heaven when we’ve succeeded. We are the person who pushes through when we don’t feel like it and no one seems to care. We are complex and should never allow ourselves to be defined or think that an accurate portrait of ourselves is who we are when we fail.

In Romans 8, Paul listed all kinds of things that could define us. At the end of that list, he said, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ.” It’s time we started to see ourselves as God sees us. We are not all the mistakes, failures or temptations that we face. You and I are victors. We are the very definition of victory if we are willing to get back up, seek forgiveness and to try again. We may not be considered synonymous with victory in the world’s eyes, but we are in God’s. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see a failure. He sees someone made in His image with the power to win.

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Opening Closed Curtains

When my first wife left me, I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to lay down and not have to worry about getting up. I was ready to quit everything: my business, my friendships, my obligations and my life. I couldn’t find the strength I needed to face each new day. I couldn’t stand to see the sun come up and remind me that another day had begun in this new life. I bought thick curtains so I could block the light from coming in.

Those curtains were very symbolic of what I was trying to do to everything else in my life. I wanted to block out everything good around me. Other’s happiness just made me more miserable. In fact, it made me bitter and angry. I didn’t want to see others who were happily married or in a fulfilling relationship. If I knew someone in my life like that, I closed the curtains on them. If someone was happy and bubbly, I shut the curtains on them. If someone tried to reach out to me to cheer me up, I slammed them shut on them.

Slowly I began to isolate myself from the positive things in my life. My world grew darker and darker. My brother took me to a doctor who put me on anti-depressants. The thought that I had to take a pill to cope with things made me upset. All they did to me were to numb the pain I was feeling. I felt like a zombie as I went through the motions of life. I still wanted the curtains shut and worked at pushing others away. Thank God I had friends and family who wouldn’t let me keep the curtains closed.

Every time I shut the curtains, they would open them. Every time I pushed away, they came closer. One friend would come to my house each morning at 9:30, knock on my door and tell me to get up because people needed me. Day after day she would knock on my door and throw the curtains of my life open. If I didn’t show up to work soon after that, she’d call and throw them open again. Soon I began to get up on my own. I began to find purpose in my life.

Just because the person who was supposed to love me through thick and thin, through sickness and health, through riches and poverty until death had rejected me it didn’t mean that others had. Because she didn’t need me in her life, it didn’t mean that others didn’t. As I began to slowly open the curtains and to allow light back into my life, I quit taking the medicine with my doctor’s approval. Each day, I opened the curtains a little more, even when I didn’t want to. I had to force myself to get back to the person I knew I could be. I had to quit pushing everyone away. It was a long, hard road, but one that was worth struggling down.

I wonder what part of this story speaks to you. Where are you today? Are you the one holed up in your world with the curtains closed trying to keep the light out? Are you the one who just wants to quit at everything and let the world pass you by? Have you found yourself letting the light in a little at a time? Are you a friend who has been pushed away by someone you love or care about? Or are you the friend who keeps knocking and opening the curtains for those who close them? I think we find ourselves in one of these places at some point.

If you are in a deep depression, seek help from your doctor, church, family and friends. It’s not weak to admit you need help. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things you can do. If you know someone struggling, don’t let them push you away. Keep knocking on their door. Don’t have thin skin. They need you more than you know. You can’t quit on them even if they’ve quit on you and everything else. Pray for them. Pray that you will have wisdom and favor when trying to reach them. Pray that God will show you how to open their curtains and let His light in.

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Free Yourself From Fear

Today I’m starting something new on this site. I’m celebrating by giving away an autographed copy of Ted Dekker’s book “Outlaw” that released this week. I’ll tell, you more in a minute on how to win it. First, I want to share with you my idea. I’m going to be doing a series called “Free Friday’s” each week. Each of us have things in our life that hold us down. There are things that keep us from being all that God wants us to be. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to cast off those things that hold us so easily beset us. We need to free ourselves of them.

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Today, to start the series, I want to talk about fear. Each of us have fear in our lives. It rears its ugly head in different ways. There is the fear that presents it’s self in the form of panic. That fear paralyzes us in so many ways. I’ve had this kind of fear in my life and it kept me from getting a good night’s rest for many years. This fear is usually caused by an event in our past and it keeps us from a bright future. It took a lot of prayer and God speaking to me to relieve it. He assured me that He was with me and wouldn’t allow the harm that I feared to come against me.

Another fear that some of us face is the fear of failure. We are so afraid that we’ll fail at something that God asked us to do that we never start it. That fear works in conjunction with our pride. We’re more afraid that our reputation will be ruined than we are that God will be disappointed that we didn’t act on His request. We stay in a constant state of planning instead of acting. I did that with my writing for years. I was so afraid of failing that I never tried. I read something by Mark Batterson that said instead of “ready, set, go”, as Christians we are called to “go, set, ready.” Free yourself of that fear, do what God said to do and let Him work out the success of it.

A fear I’m currently dealing with, and many people I met last weekend, is the fear of success. What if I succeed? Am I ready for the changes? Am I ready to chop wood and draw water (Ted Dekker’s message to us) for the rest of my life? I get so afraid of success that I don’t even try. I allow that fear to determine my actions, my planning and my writing. I would love to be a success, but on the other hand, the fear of “what if…” creeps in and sabotages me. Today, I’m freeing myself of that fear and I’m going to let God do what He wants to do. I’m going to accept His idea of success and not what fear has painted in my mind.

What fear do you need to be free of today? It’s time to give it over to God. It’s time to be free. II Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” My prayer for you today is that you will release yourself from the prison that fear has held you captive in for so long. Whatever that fear is, God is greater. Put your pride aside. Put your doubts aside. Put your trust in the one who is greater in you. It’s Friday. What fear will you be free from today?

In order to win the autographed copy of Ted Dekker’s new book “Outlaw”, click here to go to my new Facebook page, like it and then share it with your friends. Anyone who does this by midnight Central Standard Time, today, October 25, 2013, will be entered to win. I will draw a name at random tomorrow and will announce the winner. I will ship you the book via US Postal Service. Thanks for your support and I look forward to finding something to be free from each Friday.

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Lose The Label

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I’m working out of town this week so I thought it would be fun to watch the World Series in a group environment. I left my hotel and went to Buffalo Wild Wings knowing they would have the game. When the hostess was starting to seat me, I requested a seat where I could see the game. She replied, “What game?” I let her know I was referring to the World Series. She went and asked her manager about it and he informed me they would have it on a TV or two, but wouldn’t be playing the sound. I looked at him puzzled and he replied, “This is a football town. People don’t care about baseball.”

I thought it was strange that he just declared the whole city as a football town. Then I started to think how many times I label myself as something. I’m not good at that. I can’t learn that because I’m not good at math. I have OCD. I’m quirky. I’m an introvert. I don’t do well around other people. Whatever the label, we put them on ourselves and give ourselves an excuse not to do something. We’ve said things about ourselves so much that we can’t see any other options. We believe it so it’s true.

God does not define you by your limitations or labels. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see what you can’t do. He looks at who He created you to be. He sees the potential to rise above the labels you’ve anchored yourself with and desires that you cut free of them. The limitations you have in your life are self imposed. I know people who have physical disabilities who don’t allow themselves to be defined by them. They accomplish more than people without disabilities because that’s not how they see themselves.

If you allow the label you place on yourself, you will never be able to do what you dream of. You will never reach the potential of all that God created you to be. When He made you, He didn’t call you fat, stupid, lazy, disabled, impaired, OCD, tired or anything else negative. When He made you, according to Psalm 139, He said you were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It goes on to say, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” If God thinks about you that much about you and they are precious thoughts, then it’s time you changed how you thought about yourself too.

Are you smarter than God? Do you somehow know things about yourself that He doesn’t? It’s time to have the mind of Christ and see yourself in the same light that He does. Quit looking at what you think are liabilities and see how He can use those for His glory. Quit giving yourself excuses not to try something or to follow His will by labeling yourself with negative things. You are more than your self imposed limitations. When you get that, truly get that, you will be free and you will open the door for God to use you like never before.

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