Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014: A Look Back

Thank you for an amazing 2014. Devotions By Chris had three times more visits than it did in 2013. I will be making some changes in 2015 that will continue to help more believers grow in their faith and find encouragement in God’s Word. Be sure to let me know what you think.

These were the Top 5 posts that were viewed on my site this year. Take a moment to check them out to see what God wants to say to you on this last day of 2014.

1. 2014 New Year Prayer – Thank you for 2013 and all the things that you showed me through it. Thank you for the victories and answers to prayers that you gave. Help me to continue to learn from the defeats I faced and the changes that you made in my life. I may never fully understand why things happened this year that weren’t part of my plan, but were a part of yours. Even when I don’t understand, help me to trust you still. Bring healing to the pain I’ve endured and…[continue reading here]

2. Times Of Transition – Transitions in life are hard. They mean that one part of your life’s story is over and a new one is about to begin. They are the space between where faith is tested and fear fights to creep in. They are a temporary no man’s land that we have to walk through in order to grow. As we walk through them, it’s hard to see what’s coming next. The territory is so unknown to is that we put our attention and focus on…[continue reading here]

3. Called To Do Something – We’ve all been planted in different soil and come from different seeds. Each one of us grow at our own rate, produce different fruit and have our own purpose. When we compare ourselves to others, we lose sight of who God made us to be. We each are called to do something that only we can do. We have been planted where God wants us. It’s up to us to grow and produce what He wants us to. It’s up to us to…[read it here]

4. The Best New Year’s Resolution – I had a Bible teacher in high school who had us write something in the front cover of our Bibles so we would never forget it. I’m glad he had us do it because I haven’t ever forgotten it. He had us write, “This book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book.” It strikes a chord with me as much now as it did then. In order to lead a successful Christian life…[continue reading here]

5. Worship With Our Lives – Each of us are called to do something. We are called to worship God with our lives. He has given us the tools we need and the people around us to help us accomplish it. We simply need to quit making excuses and hiding in our routines to keep from doing it. Our lives honor Him most when we fulfill what we were made to do. Our lives become worship when…[read it here]

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Reflection And Purpose

At the end of each year, I like to reflect on where I started the year, all that happened in the year and then ask myself if I accomplished all that God had for me in that year. Reflection is as much about looking forward as it is looking back. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate the victories God has given us, to see whom God brought into our lives or took out and to see where we have fallen short of our goals. I think it’s important for each person to ask themselves, “Did I do things this year that moved me closer or farther away from God’s plan? Did I accomplish the things He wanted me to do?”

I believe God has a plan for each one of us (Jeremiah 29:11). We all have different talents and gifts that God has given us (I Corinthians 12:7). The question is, do you know what gifts God has given you and are you using them for His purpose? Have you found out how they fit into His plan for your life? You were put on this earth for a purpose. Your life matters to God and to others. A big source of dissatisfaction is not doing what you were made to do.

If you don’t know yet what you were made to do, ask yourself, “When do I feel the most alive? What brings me the most joy?” Contrary to what you might think, God doesn’t ask us to do the things we hate. You are most productive when you are doing what you love. God understands that so He typically asks us to do the things that we love. He just wants us to use them for His glory, not ours. He wants to use us to grow the Kingdom and to encourage others using the gifts He has given you. He’s put something in each of us. It’s our responsibility to find out what it is.

Bob Goff, who is one of my favorite authors, often tells people, “Find out what God made you to do, then go out and do a bunch of that.” It sounds simple enough, but the finding out is the hard part for so many. God did not create us to arrive safely at death. He created us to go out and do. When you get out and do things, there’s going to be wrecks, scars, bumps and bruises. That’s ok. It’s in those times that life is happening. It’s in those things that we define our purpose and find out reason to do more. We shouldn’t let them sideline us. We should let them push us to do more.

I don’t know what gifts God put inside of you. I just know they’re unique to you. I don’t know what God’s plan is for your life. I just know it’s part of a larger plan and your role is critical to the overall success of His greater plan. It’s up to each one of us to reflect on where we’ve been to see where we’re going. It’s up to each one of us to find that thing that brings us joy and then to figure out how to use that for God’s purpose. For me, asking myself the tough questions during a time of reflection gives me the ability to move forward and to do more. I hope you make your greatest impact for the Kingdom in the coming year.

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Trusting God’s Resolutions

My pastor preached a series based out of Psalm 103 on the benefits that God gives. Verse five particularly stood out to me as I read it in the Amplified version. It says, “Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]!” There is so much promise for us packed into this one verse.

The first half reminds me that God knows what we need and what we want. I’ve been trying to teach my son the difference between those two for a while now. He will say, “Dada, I need that toy.” I reply, “No. You want that toy. You don’t need it.” I figure I’m a lot like that with God. I pray to God often about my needs and He points out that they are wants. Like a good father, He wants to bless us with our needs and wants, but He wants us to understand the difference.

The last part of that first half reminds me that God knows what’s going on in my life and where He’s taking me. He knows what each situation needs so that the outcome is for my benefit. What He knows it needs and what I think it needs are often different. In my prayers, I’m learning to ask God to resolve my problems in the best way He knows how instead of me telling Him how I’d like them to be resolved. I find that I’m happier with His resolutions.

I had always been confused by the next part of the verse. I had never understood the phrase “so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” until I learned about the molting process. The adult eagle will shed his feathers and grow new ones for his exact age and even for the season he is in. God knows what season if life each of us are in. He provides us with the things we need in order to be renewed accordingly. He understands what worked for you five years ago won’t be the same thing you need today. He gives us good things that are relevant to where we are in life.

The final part of that verse says why He gives us those good things. It’s so we can be strong, overcoming and soaring. Strength helps us face the future challenges in life. Overcoming is how He wants us to live each day. We may get knocked down, but an overcomer gets back up and keeps moving forward no matter what. God also provides us with wings to soar. He wants us to rise high and fly. The higher we go, the closer we get to seeing things from His perspective. When we get His perspective, we know how to pray better.

God offers lots of benefits to us as believers. I think once we begin to understand what they are and why He gives them, we are more apt to do what it takes to receive them. God is good to us and sees our bigger picture. He’s not afraid to give us what we need instead of what we want. We may not always like how He answers our prayers, but as we soar higher in life, we’ll have his perspective and be able to look back and see what He was doing. He has your best interest at heart. Accept the gifts He gives for each season of your life.

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10 Scriptures on Hope

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1. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. (Psalms 39:7 NLT)

2. Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord ‘s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so I put my hope in him. (Lamentations 3:21-24 GNB)

3. For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11 AMP)

4. Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. (Hebrews 10:23 GNB)

5. And so faith, hope, love abide [faith–conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope–joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love–true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 AMP)

6. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5 NLT)

7. You will live secure and full of hope; God will protect you and give you rest. (Job 11:18 GNB)

8. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. (Psalm 71:5 ESV)

9. There is hope for your future; your children will come back home. I, the Lord, have spoken. (Jeremiah 31:17 GNB)

10. May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. (Romans 15:13 AMP)

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The Christmas Story

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever— no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.” The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God. “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38 MSG)

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 MSG)

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told! (Luke 2:1-20 MSG)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”

When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly: It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear. From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”

Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”

Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country. (Matthew 2:1-12 MSG)

Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

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It’s Not About Santa

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When people ask my three year old son what Santa is bringing him for Christmas, he says, “It’s not about Santa, it’s about Jesus.” Some people laugh or say, “All right!” But others aren’t so enthusiastic. They look at me puzzled and I let them know that we don’t teach our son about Santa. I’m usually met with an incredulous look as if I’m the worst parent ever. They either look back at him and ask, “You don’t believe in Santa” or at me and ask, “How can you not teach him about Santa? Don’t you think you’re robbing him of childhood joy?” I simply say, “No.” Then the question of why comes up and I explain.

Before my wife and I got married, we discussed whether or not we would teach our kids about Santa. We both agreed that we would not. The first reason is that we both knew people who remembered the day they found out that Santa wasn’t real. They still remember the disappointment that their parents lied to them. The way I look at it is if I lie to my children about a man they’ll never see and can travel to every house in one night bringing presents, how will he believe me when I tell him about God and the gift of salvation?

If I plant seeds of doubt that things I tell him aren’t real, they can grow up to produce fruit that makes him doubt his faith. I measure success as a parent as whether or not I’m able to pass down the Christian heritage that was passed down to me. Everything I do should build that foundation, not put cracks in it. I believe that lying to my children would be detrimental to what I’m trying to do as a parent. I’m more concerned with his eternity than I am his childhood joy.

The next reason I don’t teach him about Santa is that I want to teach him the value of hard work. His mom and I work long hours and make sacrifices to be able to provide for our family. I want him to know that we are the ones giving him the gift because we were able to work hard and to save money up. I don’t want him to think he gets anything for free in this life. We were both taught that if you want something, find a way to make money, pay your tithe, save the rest and then go get it. I want to build that same work ethic into him.

The last reason we don’t is that I don’t want to use presents as a means to behavior modification. I don’t want to constantly tell him, “You better be good or Santa won’t bring you anything!” At the end of the day, no matter how good or bad kids are, parents get their kids a present at Christmas. So they really aren’t using positive reinforcement as they think. Their lie to the child is a temporary fix to a long term problem. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they won’t depart from it.” We believe in being consistent with our discipline throughout the year.

I don’t think that parents who teach their kids about Santa are bad or wrong. I understand why they do it. These are our personal choices. With this post, I simply wanted those who do teach their kids about Santa to understand why we don’t and to hopefully spark some thought. We even celebrate on Christmas Eve so there’s nothing under the tree on Christmas morning. We choose to make Christmas about Jesus and His birth. We believe He is the real reason for the season and want to start early in teaching our kids. I hope this helps explain why we don’t teach them about Santa.

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Entertaining Unaware

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I don’t think the innkeeper ever gets enough credit at Christmas. Sure, we mention him in passing when reading Luke 2 for our plays, but no one ever really thinks about him. To me, he played a critical role in the birth of our Savior. He provided the setting for every nativity you’ve ever seen. Yet have you ever looked at a nativity and thought of him? I know the scene isn’t about him, but it wouldn’t look like that if it weren’t for him.

We know that Ceasar Augustus had called for a census. It’s not like the censuses we take today where government workers come to your house and ask you questions. Each family had to travel to the hometown of their ancestors. For Joseph, that was Bethlehem. It was an 80 mile trip that he and Mary had to walk or ride by donkey. Mary was obviously in her third trimester and I’m sure had to stop pretty often.

By the time the two of them arrived, the town was full. I’m sure they went to his family to try to stay with them. After having no luck with any of his family, they started going to the inns in the city, but quickly found out it was no better. Joseph must have been getting desperate. Mary could have been having contractions and he needed some place for his son to be born. As the sun set, he knew they were out of options. Maybe this particular innkeeper had compassion on them and offered shelter in the stable.

We really don’t know the details, but what we do know is that they ended up in his stable. This particular innkeeper thought differently than the others. With no room in the inn, he offered them the only other place he had. He wasn’t going to turn a weary pregnant woman away. I’m sure he had no idea that she was carrying his Messiah. I’m sure he didn’t know that his stable would become a sanctuary. We simply know that he offered what he had and it was more than enough to be the setting for the birth of the King of Kings.

It makes me wonder how many times I’ve not had time or room for people in my life. How many times have I been like the other innkeepers in Bethlehem? What if some of them were sent to me by God? I believe that God gives us daily opportunities to open up and let others into the inn of our lives, but too often we are busy and are full so we turn them away. I believe if we found even just a small space for them, we could change their world. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood – being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without even knowing it (AMP).” The innkeeper entertained the Son of God unaware evacuee he was open to helping others.

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