Monthly Archives: December 2013

Plan Your Next Chapter

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Can you believe this year is over? I like to think of each year as a chapter in my life closing. It gives me the opportunity to find closure for the things I want to put in my past and keep there. They’re still a part of my over all story and the development of my character, but I can choose to leave them behind. I remind myself that there’s not a great protagonist without an antagonist, and no one achieves greatness without being marred by failures and disappointments. It’s how we choose to see those things in our life, how we respond to them and whether or not we have the ability to move past them that makes us great.

How do you choose to see the roadblocks that came into your life this year? What are you going to do about the failures and disappointments that happened? How are you responding to life changes that came out of nowhere? Bitter. Angry. Hurt. Faithless. Defeated. Those are words I would have used for the times when I’ve faced years that didn’t go according to my plan. It’s not wrong that you feel those things. They’re normal human emotions that God placed in us. If we hold onto those emotions and allow them to steer our decisions and life, then we get into trouble.

God told us in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and sin not.” He was saying that’s ok to feel these emotions, but don’t let them control you. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s a choice. One that only you can make. You can choose to leave those feelings behind in this chapter along with the reasons for those feelings. You can choose to pick out the good things in your life and to move forward with them instead. Begin your next chapter on a high note. Begin the next year free from the things that held you down this year.

Next year is full of blank pages waiting to be filled. You have to choose if you want this chapter to be a comedy, tragedy, drama or adventure. Just because this year was full of drama or tragedy it doesn’t mean that next year has to be. I’m reminded of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I read when I was a child. At the bottom of each page, you had the choice of what the character did next. If you thought they should do this, then you turned to page 38. If you thought they should do that, then you turned to page 64. Life is a lot like that. You choose your next steps.

I choose to let God order my next steps. I still have to take them, but I don’t have to take them alone. Before you do anything or begin to write your chapter for next year, stop and ask God what He wants to fill your pages with. Ask Him to help you close this chapter and to move on from it. Seek His wisdom in where you go from here. Spend time in prayer and planning instead of just letting life take you where it wants. Just like a budget tells your money where to go, a plan tells your life where to go. Get together with God and make a plan for an amazing new year.

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Bridges Of Love

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How can we be proactive with God’s love? I think that’s a question each of us should ask ourselves daily. In our fast paced world where we are inundated with news and information constantly, we have become very reactive. As soon as we see an event or headline, we’re quick to react and tell the world where we stand or how we feel about it. In our reaction, we are acting out of the heat of the moment and emotion. Being reactive usually builds walls that divide instead of bridges that show love. The only way I’ve seen to build bridges is to be proactive in sharing God’s love.

When you look at Jesus’ life, there were times when He was reactive and proactive. When He would go into the homes of notorious sinners and eat with them. He was bring proactive. He was building bridges of love instead of walls of hate. He knew the best way to win others was to spend time with them. He knew that listening to what they had to say built value in that person. You never hear Jesus blasting them. Usually He blasted the people who had a problem with Him building bridges. There’s security in building walls. There’s monotony in building walls. But there’s vulnerability in loving others and building bridges.

For some reason, we have lost our ability to be vulnerable to the world. We have decided to be known for all the rules and regulations instead of compassion. When that is what we’re known for, we are no better than the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. It drove them crazy that He spent time tearing down the walls of regulations meant to keep others out. It infuriated them that He built bridges over where they had dug ditches. His ability to see the person and not their sin flew in their faces and they killed Him for it. They had lost the over arching message God has always sent the world: Love.

When I look at my life, I ask, “Am I building walls of regulations to separate myself from those who need Jesus or am I building bridges of love to lead them to Him?” If I can quote every scripture that says what sin is, but can’t recall any that teach me how to show love, what have I gained? We quote I Corinthians 13 in weddings mainly these days, but it’s really about our message to the world. Verse 2 says, “If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing (MSG).” Without love our message and actions fall on deaf ears.

So, I ask again, how can we be proactive with God’s love today? What can you do to show others His love instead of His anger? Where can you build a bridge today instead of a wall? Who in your life needs you to listen to them instead of preach at them? Who in your path needs a hand that will lift them up instead of pushing them down? Each of us have the responsibility to love. Each of us have the capacity to do it. Jesus said the world would know us by our love. He didn’t say they’d know us by what we’re against. It’s time to be proactive with His love.

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Returns And Exchanges

It’s Free Friday! What are you going to let go of today? What’s holding you down that you need to be free of? Today’s the day you can make that choice to let go. To celebrate the last Free Friday of 2013, I’m giving away the “Circle Maker” Bible Study DVD. Keep reading to find out how you can be entered to win it.

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The day after Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year in the retail world. Everyone is out returning what they got for Christmas. Either it didn’t fit or they didn’t like it, so they returned it. Today, you and I have the same opportunity in our lives. We have the choice to send back the things that we don’t like in our lives and exchange them for the things we want. It boils down to a choice that you make. You can hold onto the things you don’t want in your life and accumulate a bunch of junk that weighs you down or you can return it.

This is the last Friday of 2013. Each of us have picked up things in our lives this year that we don’t want. Each of us have had things happen that we didn’t see coming. Each of us have held onto something too long and it’s keeping us back. In order to make 2014 the year we want it to be, we have to let go of the things that are holding us down. You can’t pick up the good things that will come your way if your hands are full of the things you’d rather return. You can’t be free unless you let go of the things that are keeping you in a self imposed prison. You make the choice to stay locked up in the past or to be free to receive what the future holds.

I’ve got a closet full of things that I’ve never returned. I didn’t want to offend people by returning their gifts for what I really wanted. Every time I look in my closet, I see things that were given to me that I don’t like. They are hanging there taking up space and collecting dust. The same is true of the closets in our lives. It’s time to clean them out and make room for the new things God wants to give you. He doesn’t want us to look into the closets of our lives and see regrets. He doesn’t want us to be thinking of the things that could have been. He wants us to exchange them for what He has to offer.

Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on The Lord releasing the weight of it and He will sustain you (AMP).” He doesn’t mind you returning the things that weigh you down or hold you back. He wants you to release the weight of those things that are holding you back and He will strengthen and support you. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us to go to Him when we’re weary from carrying the things that hold us back. Give them to Him and take His yoke. In The Message, Jesus says, “I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.” What He gives fits and is perfect for you. Get Free today by exchanging the things in your life that you don’t want for the things He wants you to have.

In order to win “The Circle Maker” Bible Study DVD, go to my Facebook page for Devotions By Chris here and “like” it. I will choose a winner at random December 28, 2013 from the names of people who have liked the page and post it on my wall. If you win, private message me how you would like to receive it. If you know someone that needs to hear this message, please repost or share from your own wall.

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One Voice. One Mission.

I’ve been intrigued with the story of the Tower of Babel since I was a kid. If you are unfamiliar with it, after the flood wiped out the entire human race except for Noah and his family, there was one language on earth. As the population grew, they began to separate and move away from each other. One such group moved to the area of Babylon and decided to build a great city and a tower. Genesis 11:4 says, “And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top reaches to the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves…’” (LEB). God saw what they were doing and confused their languages. They separated into groups again and moved apart.

I’ve always heard this story come at the angle of pride or as the origin of languages. I’d like to take what they did and apply it to what we as the church could do today. In verse 6, God says something powerful that we can build on. He said, “Behold, they are one people with one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. So now nothing that they intend to do will be impossible for them (LEB).” If we, as the Body of Christ, could learn to be one people with one language, there would be nothing impossible for us.

When you look at the task of the Church given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, we are required to go into all of the world to preach the Gospel and make disciples of Christ. God said if we had one language and one mission, that nothing we intend to do would be impossible for us. We have the ability now, more than ever, to fulfill the Great Commission. We have the technology, knowledge and ability like no other time in history to do the impossible. What are we doing with that ability though?

I don’t think God minded that the people were building the Tower of Babel. I think the problem was that they were doing it to make a name for themselves. Some versions say it was to make themselves famous. When we do things in His name for our selves or to make our name famous, it will fail. If we learn to do things for His and to make His name famous, we will succeed. We have to get past trying to grow our churches and denominations for our own glory. We have to move past trying to get switchers from one church to another. We weren’t called to do that. We were called to grow His Church by winning the lost.

If we all focus on winning the lost rather than each other’s members, we’ll see explosive growth in the Kingdom. We can only do that if we have one voice and one mission. We were already given the one mission. Now we just have to learn to speak with one voice and to work together. Nothing will stand in our way or be impossible for us. Our desire should always be to make His name known, not our own. Our goal should be to proclaim His Gospel, not ours. That holds true for you and I on an individual level as well as our churches on a corporate level. What can you do today to make Him known to those around you?

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Getting To Bethlehem

From the moment Jesus was born, people began to look for Him. The heavenly announcements rang throughout the universe. God wanted everyone to know His son was born. He took His omnipotent power, wrapped it in flesh and made Himself as vulnerable as He could. He wanted us to know the depths of His love by giving up everything to come be a part of our broken world. From His announcements, three types of people came to see the child. They were all eager to find Him, but not all reached their goal.

The first to hear the news were shepherds in a field. God looked for those who were nearby to tell the news to. They were sitting around chatting when an angel appeared to give them the announcement. After he told them, more appeared and they begs to sing. Luke 2:16 says they hurried to Bethlehem and found the baby. When some of us hear the story of Jesus, we hurry to accept Him into our lives. We hear the Good News and rush to a changed life. Rich or poor, God doesn’t care, He just wants to find those who will listen and be moved.

The next to find out about the birth of Jesus were the wise men from the east. They saw a star that lead them to Bethlehem. Many theologians believe that it took them around two years to make their way to Bethlehem. When the arrived in Judea, the found the palace in Jerusalem to inquire about the new king. King Herod explained there was no king born. He called the priests in and asked where the Messiah would be born. When they said Bethlehem, he sent them there, but wanted to know where in Bethlehem.

I love how “The Bible” series depicted the wise men arriving to see Jesus. They had this look of shock on their face. One of them said, “The King of kings was born in the most humble of places.” For some of us, the birth and life of Jesus doesn’t make sense. We are a far way off from salvation. It takes us time to come to the truth and to have our lives changed. We don’t accept the message right away, but we continue to seek. If that’s you, God is still calling out and sending His signs to lead you to His son. Keep seeking and you will find Him.

The third person heard about the birth from the wise men. After the left for Bethlehem, King Herod was scared that he would lose his throne. He didn’t want to give up everything he had to embrace everything God had. He set out to kill the baby and stop the message. An angel appeared to Joseph though and warned him. His family alone was spared from the massacre. There are many who will hear the story of Jesus, but will refuse to give up their lives for His. They won’t want to get off the throne of their lives and let God be in control. They will do everything they can to stop the Gospel. Yet God still invites them to come.

John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Each of us have been invited to come and see. Each of us reading this have heard the announcement of His birth. Whether you’re near or far, the choice is yours to make your way to that manger. The choice is yours to accept eternal life. God has not quit announcing His plan. When we hear it, we have to choose to get off the throne of our life and let Him sit on it, we can choose to seek Him more or we can choose to try to do away with the message. It’s your decision.

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Be It Unto Me

A friend of mine recently wrote a post entitled “Hail Mary, Full of Grace“. It got my mind rethinking what I had assumed about Mary. It was a very thought provoking piece and in today’s post, I want to share some of what it sparked in me. I encourage you to click the link and read that post as well.

If you’ve ever read the story of Jesus’ birth, you’ve read how the angel visited Mary and told her that she was highly favored and would conceive a child who would be the Messiah, the Son of God. Before the angel left, Mary responded in Luke 2:38. She said, “Be it unto me according to your word.” In essence, she was accepting this task to bring the Son of God into the world and to raise Him as her own. She accepted her calling just like you and I would when we get a calling from God.

Since reading my friend’s post, I’m wondering if she really understood what all that would entail and the hardship that would come along with it. Soon after being told she was pregnant, she went and visited her cousin Elizabeth for a few months. I wonder if she had told her friends that she was pregnant, out of wedlock, and was carrying the Messiah. I wonder if they laughed at her and ridiculed her. I wonder if that’s why she spent several months with Elizabeth. When she said, “Be it unto me”, I wonder if she knew that her calling would bring ridicule from others.

Where she sought support, she found laughter. Where she looked for help, she found closed doors. Being pregnant without being married was enough reason to kill someone. Telling others you were carrying the Messiah was blasphemy. Mary did not have an easy road. After Jesus was born, they stayed away from their home for a couple of years. They then were uprooted and had to move to another country with another culture and language. By the time they were comfortable there, they had to move back. They didn’t even get to go back to their hometown. “Be it unto me” meant that they would be uprooted and not have a “home” for several years.

Later in life, Mary watched this precious, God-given child get murdered right in front of her. She could only stand by and watch as she was powerless to stop this act. She spoke to Him as He was dying. I’m sure she began to rethink everything. How could the promised Messiah be hanging on a cross dying? How could her calling lead her to a hill called Golgotha? As they placed his lifeless body in the tomb, I’m sure she questioned that visit from the angel and wondered what was happening. “Be it unto me” meant she wouldn’t fully understand God’s plan.

When God calls us, we are gung-ho to say yes. We are all about being used by Him. But when people start doubting the ministry we were called to, it affects us. When our lives get uprooted because we said yes, it’s hard to understand. When things start happening that seem contradictory to what we thought God was going to do, we start questioning our calling. We won’t see the full picture of what God is doing in our lives, yet we still should follow. We will be told we can’t fulfill our calling because we lack the ability, yet we should still walk by faith. We will have bad things happen to us because we are in His will, yet our response should still be, “Be it unto me.”

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He Simply Obeyed

Joseph, the father of Jesus, has always been one of the people in the Bible that have intrigued me. There’s not much written about him, but he played such an integral role in the story of our salvation. Outside of Jesus, we tend to focus on Mary when we think of the birth of Christ rather than Joseph. We’ll look at her role tomorrow. For today, I want to spend some time looking into the man who would shape the man Jesus would become.

Joseph is mentioned in all four Gospels, but not a word of what he ever said was recorded. I’ve always heard it said that “actions speak louder than words.” If that’s the case, then Joseph speaks volumes. Here’s a man who is engaged to the woman he loves and finds out from her that she’s pregnant. He knows it’s not his. Instead of blowing up and making a big scene, he thinks his response through and decides to handle things quietly so as not to disgrace her publicly. He had every right to have her stoned to death, but he chose not to.

While he was still reeling from the news, an angel visited him and explained that the baby was indeed conceived by God. In Matthew 1:21, Joseph received some amazing news. Not only would he be the earthly father of the Messiah, he would be the one to name Him. God reserved that honor just for Joseph. In verse 24, it says, “When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel commanded.” He didn’t question or argue with God. He simply obeyed at the risk of looking like he had gotten her pregnant before marriage. He took the shame that would have been Mary’s and provided a covering so that Jesus would be born.

The next time we read about Joseph is when the wise men left for home. The angel came back to him at night and said, “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother. Stay there until I tell you to return (Matthew 2:13 NLT).” The next verse says that during the night Joseph left for Egypt. He didn’t even wait until dawn or for Jesus to wake up. He obeyed immediately. Again, he never questioned the angel or God’s plan. He simply obeyed. He was a man of action when it came to obeying the voice of God. I think that’s just who he was as a person too. He was a hard worker, a man who feared God and a man who heard from God.

Joseph heard from the angel one more time. Again, it was at night and the angel said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel.” Joseph woke everyone up, packed and headed out before sunrise. He simply obeyed what the angel spoke to him. Mary didn’t argue with him over waking her and the baby up to leave. She knew that he was a man of obedience to God. When he told her God spoke to him, she trusted him. She was obedient as well. Simple obedience is what God desires from each one of us. I believe that’s why Joseph was chosen to be the earthly father of Jesus. It’s a trait that Jesus would see modeled in Joseph and later practiced when He went to the cross. You’ll recall that Jesus said, “Not my will be done, but yours.”

Our lives are built around following our own will. They’re built on doing what’s right for ourselves and making ourselves look good in the eyes of others. Those things are the opposite of what being obedient to God is all about. Joseph was a man of simple obedience. He was a man of few words. A man of action. We could learn a lot from this silent hero in the Bible if we just took some time to listen to his actions. The next time God asks you to do something out of the ordinary or that could paint you in a negative light, will you argue with Him or answer in simple obedience? You won’t have to say a thing. Your actions will speak louder than words.

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The Prince of Peace

It’s Free Friday! What are you going to let go of today to be truly free? This week, I have been breaking down Isaiah 9:6 piece by piece. It says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NLT)”. Today, we’ll look at Prince of Peace. It will fit perfectly into the Free Friday series.

I have a friend who recently asked me, “How do you let go?” He’s had a very rough couple of years. It started with one event and it has snow-balled to the point that it has affected every area of his life. He no longer has an optimistic outlook on life. He’s waiting for the bottom to fall out again. You see, every time he thinks he’s hit rock bottom, something else happens and the bottom falls out. This one event has changed not just his life, but who he is. He struggles with bitterness and holding on to resentment. He doesn’t need a shallow answer to his question.

I could only share what worked in my life when I had held on to that kind of pain. My catalytic event was different than his, but I recognized the pain and hopelessness in him. I know all too well the mental battle he is facing. It took years for me to let go even after I finally did hit rock bottom. Everything I did for the next few years was done out of a heart that was still holding on to the pain and trying prove that they had made a mistake. I wasn’t living for something. I was living against someone. There is no peace when you live like that.

It wasn’t until I was reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:15. He said, “If you refuse to forgive others, your Father (God) will not forgive your sins.” I couldn’t find peace in my life because I was holding on to bitterness and wouldn’t forgive. I had to make the mental choice to forgive and to let it go. I had to go through a mindset change because for years I had let that control my thoughts and actions. When I finally let go, the Prince of Peace came in brought balance back to my life. Thoughts of anger and bitterness no longer controlled me. It was still a fight to keep them out. I had to be on guard against them.

When I did let go of the things that were driving me, I found that my hands were free to receive from God. I also noticed that my motives changed and my outlook did too. I was no longer bound to the mindset that bad things were just going to keep happening and I needed to put my head down and deal with if. I now had a source of peace in my life. When bad things happen now, I hold on to the Prince of Peace instead of the pain and bitterness that the situations could cause.

We each have that choice. We can let events define us and change us or we can cling to the one who created us. I saw a quote the other day that said, “You won’t know the strength of the anchor until you feel the force of the storm.” Too many times we don’t trust the anchor and we let go of it. The storm then causes us to drift aimlessly. Bitterness becomes a sail on the mast of pain. The winds of life blow us around until we hit the rocks. We have to consciously pull down that sail and cut down that mast. It’s our choice of what we hold on to. I have out my trust in the anchor, the Prince of Peace.

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The Everlasting Father

This week, I’ll be breaking down Isaiah 9:6 piece by piece. It says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NLT)”. Today, we’ll look at Everlasting Father.

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I remember how my life and thinking changed the day my son was born and I became a father. A minute before my son was born, I had an idea of what being a father was. The minute after he was born, I knew. My whole way of thinking and reason for living changed in an instant. Suddenly, I had an awesome responsibility to protect and shape his life. Who he becomes is largely dependent on what I do as a father. He will mimic what I say, treat others how I treat them, base his idea of love on how I love his mom and act the way I do.

When I think of myself and my role as a father, I begin to see the relationship God wants to have with each one of us. As a father, He wants to protect us from the things that would harm us. He wants to point us in the right direction and to shape our lives. He wants nothing but the best for you and me. He wants us to talk like He talks, treat others the way He treats them, act like He acts and love like He loves. His desire is for us to mature and to develop into the people that He dreams of us becoming.

When I think of myself in the role of a child, I begin to see how my actions are not much different than those of my two year old. He tests every boundary. When I say, “No”, he looks at me and struggles with the decision to do it or not. He weighs the consequences of being disobedient versus doing what I say. He throws fits when he doesn’t like what I have to say. He also runs and jumps into my arms when he’s afraid. He gives me hugs and kisses to show his affection for me. He has no idea of the real dangers around him because I’m looking out for them.

As an Everlasting Father, we don’t have to worry that He’ll disappear on us or leave us. He will always be there to look out for our well being. He sees the dangers around us in our lives that we don’t see. He tells us no to keep us from injury or harm. Like a two year old, we stomp our feet and argue with Him because it’s not what we want to hear or do. We are often disobedient and suffer the consequences of those actions. That doesn’t change God’s love for us as children. In His love, He continues to correct us and to shape our lives so that we can be the people who He wants us to be.

I believe God positioned Himself as a father so that we could see how He sees us. He wanted us to see what it feels like to give out unconditional love, to experience the satisfaction that can only come from a child climbing into your arms and saying, “I love you.” He wanted us to see that He only wants good things for us. In doing so, He sometimes has to say, “No” in order to make sure we are on the right path and protected from danger. He gives us good things and has our best interest at heart always. He is your Everlasting Father who loves you.

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Mighty God

This week, I’ll be breaking down Isaiah 9:6 piece by piece. It says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NLT)”. Today, we’ll look at Mighty God.

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Each of us will face difficult times in our lives. It’s part of life and necessary for growth. I was watching a TV show that had an artist in it. When it appeared he was nearly finished, he began to break it apart and destroy it. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “Destruction is part of creation process.” He went on to make something even more beautiful than what he had originally made. As an artist, he wasn’t content with just a beautiful work of art. He wanted a masterpiece.

God works the same way in our lives. Just when we think He’s almost done with us and our lives are right where He wants them, things start breaking apart. We thought things were going well and life was going great. From our perspective, we were happy with what He was creating. He, as an artist, sees more in you and wants to bring about that masterpiece. He’s not content with just a beautiful life that people can look at. He knows that there’s complexity and character that is created in the destruction process that can’t be formed any other way. He uses the broken pieces to create a mosaic piece of art.

We don’t understand the process and we question His methods when they happen. We get overwhelmed when we look at the things that were once dear to us laying broken on the floor. We lose sight that we are His art and He is working on us to develop the person He sees in us. It’s in those times, where my focus is on my own brokenness, that I have to remember He is the Mighty God. He is bigger than the things that, in my eyes, are going wrong and falling to pieces. He is more powerful than the forces that break apart our lives. He is in control and knows what He’s doing.

When pieces start to break apart from my life, I call to remembrance Job 36:5 that says, “God is mighty, but He does not despise anyone! He is mighty in both power and understanding.” When life falls apart, We often think that God is mad at us or despises us in some way because of something we’ve done. God does not despise you! He is working things for your good and betterment. The destruction in your life is part of the creation of the masterpiece He sees in you. He is mighty not just in power, but also in understanding. He knows what He’s doing in your life even when you can’t see it. He’s creating a complex piece of art in you that can only be done through the destruction process. When He’s done, you and others will stand back, look at your life and be amazed at what He was able to do in you because He is the Mighty God.

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