Monthly Archives: June 2014

Following The Pattern

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My pastor’s wife was sharing a story with me a few weeks ago. She was telling me about a wedding in the church where several ladies were tasked with sewing the bridesmaid’s dresses. One of the ladies went to her and said, “When you get to the part where the sleeve attaches to the dress, follow the instructions. It’s not going to make sense and it’s going to go against everything you know about sewing, but follow the pattern. It will work.” A few days later she got to the sleeve and looked at the pattern. She thought, “This isn’t right. It won’t work.” She then remembered the word of the other lady and followed the pattern.

When she finished, the dress came out the way it was intended. She’s still not sure how. She just knows that for that dress, it seemed wrong to her, but she stuck with the pattern and it worked. It’s a lot like God’s Word. There’s some stuff in there that doesn’t make sense. Love your enemies. If you want to be first, be last. Celebrate finding one sheep instead of being happy with the 99. Bless those who curse you. There are a lot of things that seem backwards when we first look at them, but ultimately the pattern of God’s Word works.

I was praying on Saturday night about what scripture to read for service on Sunday morning. God clearly spoke, “Psalms 143.” I closed my eyes and went to bed. I woke up early Sunday morning and read it first thing. I immediately thought, “This can’t be right. Maybe I didn’t hear you, God.” I proceeded to read Psalms 140-145. I decided that Psalm 145 was what God meant. I highlighted each verse so I could copy it and paste it in my notes. Right before I clicked “copy”, the voice of The Lord spoke and said, “Really? You’re going to ask what I want and then change it?” I immediately went to Psalm 143, copied it and pasted it.

When it came time for me to read the scripture, it became abundantly clear that Psalm 143 was the right choice. It didn’t make sense to me at the time God spoke it, but in the moment, it was perfect. God does that to us a lot. He asks us to do things that don’t make sense in the moment or on the surface. It goes against what we think should happen, but He asks us to follow His pattern no matter what. He knows the final outcome. He knows what your future moments will be like and He asks you to trust Him now even when it doesn’t make sense. You’ll be glad you did when it’s over. His ways are higher than ours. He knows best. Trust Him today even when you can’t see how it will work.

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Lesson Learned

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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 “AHA: Awakening.Honesty.Action.” by Kyle Idleman. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

Have you ever been stuck on a problem or in a situation and didn’t know the answer of what to do? Have you spent days and nights racking your brain trying to figure out the solution? It’s stressful. You’re in a no win situation with no doors or windows opening telling you, “Thos is the way out!” It’s complicated too. If you do this, then that will happen. If you do that, then this will happen. Then, when you least expect it, you see the answer. It was there the whole time, but your vision was cloudy.

That’s how the prodigal son was. He had taken his inheritance early (mistake). He had moved away from his family so he could be himself (mistake). He wasted all the money from his inheritance on partying (mistake). He didn’t take time to build real relationships with others. All the friendships he had made were superficial and shallow because they were built on his ability to pay for drinks (mistake). When a famine came, all those superficial friends wouldn’t lend him a hand. They only looked out for themselves. Every mistake he had made was staring him in the face. His hunger was a constant reminder that he had messed up.

Here he was trapped in a foreign land. He had no friends, no shelter, no food, no money and no way back. He had to be honest with himself. He had no way out of the situation. He thought for days on how to get some money back. He found a job slopping pigs. He was so hungry that he wanted to eat the food in the slop. I’m sure he got angry at himself as he watched the pigs have enough food to eat. He probably tried to think of ways get some of the food out of the trough with no one looking. He was desperate. Hope was running out when he had a moment of clarity. He could go home to his father and feed his pigs. At least his father fed his servants unlike his current employer.

That moment of clarity led to action. He got up immediately once he saw the answer to his problem. He rehearsed his speech the whole way. “Dad, I’ve messed up. I don’t deserve to be called your son. Will you hire me? I’m starving and am willing to work hard.” While he was going through the words as he walked, his father saw him and ran to him. His father embraced him and kissed him. The son pushed the father back and started to say his speech, but the father wasn’t listening. He saw the hunger and desperation in his son. He had his servants prepare a feast for his son. The son never had to worry about food or shelter again.

He learned some valuable lessons in the ordeal. He learned that real relationships aren’t made by paying for everything. He learned that you should always prepare for the worst outcome and have enough to survive it. He learned that family loves you no matter what. He learned that pride will keep you from having real relationships. He learned that being honest with yourself and God pushes you to action. Most of all, he learned that no matter what he has done, the Father will always accept him back if he’s willing to return. The past is pushed aside and arms are wide open to the child who returns.

If you would like to win “AHA” by Kyle Idleman, go to the Devotions By Chris Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (June 28, 2014) who has done liked my page. If enjoy reading these daily devotionals, please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too. You can also follow me on Twitter here.

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Chasing Vultures

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In Genesis 15, God spoke to Abraham (Abram) and told him that his reward would be grand. Abraham fired back at God, “What use are your gifts as long as I’m childless.” He wasn’t being rude. He just wanted someone to give an inheritance to. He had been blessed by God in every way, but had no one to give it to. That’s when God planted the dream of having a son on his heart. He took him outside to count the stars to number his descendants. God said, “You’re going to have a big family!”

It was then that he made a sacrifice to God for giving him the dream of a big family. While the sacrifice was on the altar, verse 11 says, “Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.” When I read that, I thought, “That’s a weird verse to have in the Bible.” The more I think about it though, the more I know it was on purpose. You are going to have to protect the dreams that God gives you and you are going to have to protect them. The enemy wants to come in like a vulture and steal them.

I looked up vultures on the internet and found that there are many types of them. They are all birds of prey. They can spot their target from miles away. They will pick at their food and eat it until it’s gone. That’s what our enemy does. He circles above our heads and threatens to take our God given dreams away from us. He picks at them until we let them go and give them up. We wonder why God gave us the dream only to have it picked apart and eaten. It’s up to us to chase the enemy away.

One thing I learned about vultures is that they don’t mess with things that are healthy. They only prey on the weak, the sickly or the dead. The first line of attack is to keep the dream God has given you alive and healthy. Don’t let it sit dormant in your mind. Write it down. Tell others about it. Own it. Steward it. When it feels like it is taking forever for it to happen, keep believing in God. Habakkuk 2:3 says, “If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” The dream God gives you will take place in His time, not yours.

If your dream is weak, sickly or dead it is still not beyond God reviving it. Joseph’s dream must have seemed dead to him. He had been given it over 20 years earlier. Since the time God gave it to him, he had been betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape and was forgotten in prison left to die. I’m sure there were many times as he sat in that prison that the vultures circled his dream, but he refused to let it die. He knew that God had given it to him so he chased the vultures away. He kept believing until the Pharaoh called for him one day.

Whatever dream God has given you, it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth chasing the vultures away. Even if they are circling overhead, don’t get discouraged. Stand your ground. Own your dream. Patiently wait for God to bring it to life. What He started in you, He will finish. What He planted in your heart will grow and come to life. While you are waiting for that to happen, grab the Word of God and chase those vultures away. Your dream is worth fighting for no matter how bad things look right now.

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Quit Helping God

My son gets frustrated some times while playing his learning apps on the iPad. He will carry it over to me and say, “Help me, DaDa.” I’ll look at what the app wants him to do end start to show him. He will then start trying to help by doing something else on the screen while I try to show him the right way. I ask him to stop and watch, but he gets frustrated with me. He eventually takes it back and keeps on trying until he comes back and asks for help again. We go in circles until he just gives up trying to do it.

It reminds me a lot of how I try to do things. When I can’t get past something or really need God’s help to accomplish something, I run to Him and cry out, “Help me, Father!” He looks down and tries to show me what He wants and how I should do it. Instead of watching and learning, I bat His hand away and say, “Ok, I got it.” He knows I don’t. He knows there’s more to it than I see. He’s trying to help me connect the dots, but I’m not patient enough to watch and learn. I take it back out of frustration and keep trying.

I’m glad that God is more patient than I am. I know He gets frustrated with us trying to always do things instead of learning from Him. It reminds me of two sisters in the Bible found in Luke 10:30-42. There is one sister, Martha, who is busy trying to do everything for The Lord. She is working hard so that everything is right and there are no problems. She wanted to serve Jesus we’ll, but got frustrated in the process. Her sister wasn’t helping, so she asked Jesus to help. “Tell her to lend me a hand,” she said. The Lord tried to help her, but not in the way she was expecting.

Her sister Mary was sitting at His feet listening to Him. She was patient and wanted to learn how to better serve. Instead of continuously trying to work to get it right, she stopped, handed her time over to Jesus and watched. She didn’t try to bat His hand away while He spoke. She didn’t interrupt in order to show she got it. She just waited. The Lord rewarded her in His response to her sister. He said, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

If you’re looking to God for help today, take time to sit at His feet and listen. Quit trying to do it all, stop completely and learn. He would rather us take the time to listen and learn than to keep working in our trial and error ways. He wants to take it out of our hands, show us what He wants and then to give it back. Don’t keep batting His hand away when He’s trying to show you. It’s ok to stop working when you’re sitting at His feet. It’s ok to leave the complicated things behind to do something as simple as listening. Taking time to listen to His voice will not be taken from you. It’s just up to you to position yourself where you can hear.

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The Blue Prints Of Faith

Due to my schedule, I’m reposting one of my most popular posts this year.

In our small group last night, we were reading from Genesis 6 where God gave Noah the blueprints for the ark. He told him it was to be 450 feet long, 45 feet high and 75 feet wide. He told him what kind of wood to use, how many levels to have, how to waterproof the wood, to build stalls and even told him why he was to do it and how it would happen. I got a little jealous of Noah as I read all of that because he got a blueprint of exactly what God wanted from him with each step.

I’d love for God to do that for me. Instead, I feel more like Abraham who God told, “Leave your native land and go to the land that I will show you.” There were no blueprints, no reasons or navigational directions. He was simply told to pack his stuff, leave his relatives and everything he’d known for a land that he would be shown without being given a reason. I don’t know if he felt the doubt, frustration and fear that I do from being in those shoes.

At first, I started to think that Abraham was the one who really acted in faith. After all, he didn’t get a step by step guide like Noah. The more I think about it, the more I see how much faith it took from Noah to accomplish his task even with a blueprint. When God shows you something you’ve never seen or heard of and asks you to do it, that requires a lot of faith. Even with a blueprint, you are venturing into the unknown, the uncomfortable. It requires faith to start building.

Another thing I see with Noah is the sheer enormity of the project God asked of him. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much God asks of us, but just like with Noah, it starts with one board and one nail. It took him a hundred years to complete what God asked of him. As our group leader pointed out last night, imagine Noah on year 33. After all those years, he was only a third of the way done. He’s worked night and day every day for over 39 years and only has a little of the project to show for it. Most of us would have quit. By faith, Noah got up the next day and kept following the blueprints.

Whether God has given you a set of blueprints or has asked you to follow Him with blind trust, it requires faith on your part. Faith to pick up that first board or faith to pack your bags and take that first step. Which of these two do you identify with? Has God asked for endurance from you to see His plan through in the face of ridicule and a seemingly lack of progress? Has He asked you to leave everything you’ve known to do something He’ll show you later? Either way, it requires faith and He has faith in you to accomplish it or He wouldn’t have asked you. Take courage and do something today that moves you in the direction of what He asked you to do.

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Haiti Day 5: We Said Goodbye

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Instead of going to a traditional church on Sunday, we took church to the Myan orphanage. We sang a couple of songs in English and then did one in Haitian Creole. Some children got up and recited memory verses and others sang a song they had learned. A few members from our team shared scriptures and short messages for each child. We then stood in a large circle around the room and went one by one telling one thing we are thankful to God for. The answers from some of the children were clothes, a bed, food, a beautiful house, someone to wash their clothes and one just thanked Him for everything that’s been done for her.

After we said our tearful goodbyes, we went back to the guesthouse to put our work clothes on. We headed to the Gonaives orphanage to finish the job. The children loved the warm yellow that we painted it. The old gray didn’t have a happy feel to it. It’s amazing how a little paint can transform not just a house, but a child’s outlook on life. Every new orphan that walks through the freshly painted gates will be greeted with a heart to show them love and a beautiful house to welcome them home.

The words “home” and “family” mean so much when you see the world through an orphan’s life. They don’t have a mother or father that they can go to for advice. They don’t have a safe place they can go when it storms. There are no family reunions that they can go to in order to connect with their roots. They aren’t even guaranteed their next meal or clothes when they grow. They miss the chance to be children when they have to grow up so fast in order to survive. That’s why orphan care is so important.

We may not be able to help every orphan in the world, but we can make a difference in the lives of a few. At our nightly devotional, we each shared the name of an orphan who changed our lives or touched our heart. We collectively smiled as each name was called out. It was the smile that says, “I know that kid! They touched my life too.” These team members may not have known the name of an orphan before they came. As we are leaving, I can tell you they don’t just know the name of an orphan, they know one personally.

I often think I would like to have known James in the Bible. He was hard nosed and didn’t pull any punches. His book in the Bible is short, but power packed. In the first chapter verse 27, he said, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” This week, each member of our team got to experience what pure and genuine religion feels like. My hope is that what was born in Haiti will carry on with each of them for the rest of their lives. May they never stop giving what God has placed in their hands or serving Him faithfully.

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Haiti Day 4: Feeding The Least Of These

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Day four started out like most days. We were up early, ate breakfast and had a morning devotion. We heard from one of our team members about I Corinthians 13:1-3. It doesn’t matter what we do on this trip or back home. If we don’t do it in love, it’s not worth anything. We were challenged to look at our motivations in helping these orphans. We also shared some take aways and what God spoke to us the night before.

We went back to the Gonaives orphanage to continue the paint job. The day before, we had done cut work and trim work. Today, we had to retouch, finish cutting and then start painting the walls. The children loved the bright yellow that we were painting. We also painted the outside wall to the orphanage so that the entrance would stand out on the street. The staff seemed to enjoy it as well.

We took a break from painting when it got close to noon. We loaded up in the trucks and drove across town. We went into the poorest part of Gonaives to a place called Raboto. It sits right on the ocean and is where a lot of fishermen are. The beaches are covered in the filthiest trash you can imagine. There are pigs roaming around eating what they want. Broken boats and boats that look broken are also strewn about the beach. Children are running around in all of it as well. Their houses, made of tin, line the beach and have walls up to keep them from seeing it directly.

It’s in a place like this that our team not only encountered Jesus, but became His hands and feet. We weren’t going just to see how the poorest people live. We were taking them food. About 150 children crowded into the room where we were setting up to feed them. They were singing and laughing. The energy level was high. You sense how excited they were. Our being there meant that they were going to get to eat that day. Their parents have barely enough money to feed themselves, let alone their children. This food is the only meal most of these kids will get.

I watched as a couple of them brought other containers with them. When they were handed their food, they carefully split it up and put some into the other container. I thought, “Wow! That kid is taking their parents some food.” As I watched a couple more kids do it, I remembered that it was Saturday. We typically bring food in Monday through Saturday. That meant these kids were rationing their food so they would have some the next day when we don’t feed them. It broke my heart to see that.

After our team served these children lunch, I took them to the back to show the school we had built. Since so many children were coming each day for food, we decided to provide them with an education that they couldn’t otherwise afford. I had them look at the beach and pointed a few hundred yards away to the salt flats. There, people dig holes so when the tide comes in and goes back out, they are filled with water that drains into the earth leaving salt behind. It was there that our youngest orphan was abandoned by his parents. He had been left to let the tide take him out. God ordained that a fisherman would come into that spot and hear his cry. His life was rescued.

We went back to the orphanage to continue painting and doing crafts with the kids. We came back to the guesthouse to clean up, have dinner and devotions. God moved again during our time of honoring Him. The message we heard was simple. God wants to use what we have. We heard stories of an 8 year old holding a concert in their front yard to raise money for orphans. We heard about a 16 year old who raised $16,000 in two months to be able to outfit and paint every room in the Myan orphanage. We also heard of a dentist who took 100% of what came in on one day at his practice and donated it.

Each of us have something we can give God. The less we have in our hand to give Him, the greater the miracle He can do. He is looking for us to offer Him our everything instead of excuses of why we can’t do anything. He is looking for people who will listen to what He wants to do through them in their community and then to step out and do it. Each one of us are able to reach people that others can’t. Each one of us have God given ideas. If God gives them to you, He wants you to do them. He’s not asking you to tell someone else to do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough in your hand to make it happen. Step out in faith and let Him work. If He gives the vision, He’ll make the provision.

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