Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Flood Barrier

In June 2016, Houston meteorologists predicted torrential rain and flooding in the area. One man decided he didn’t want to lose his home. He drove to Louisiana to purchase an Aquadam. As he rolled the barrier out around his house, his neighbors gave him looks and thought he was crazy. He filled the barrier with water and waited. When the 27” flood waters came, the inside of his house remained dry. The flood barrier worked. I’ll never forget the pictures I saw of it (you can see here). There was brown water everywhere with a small line of green and his house in the middle.

To me, it’s a great picture of what God does in our lives. Every one of us are going to go through storms. Every one of us are going to endure rising flood water coming into our lives. We will get wet. We will have to choose to trust God or to worry. When I see the storm clouds on the horizon, one of my first prayers for myself or others is Isaiah 59:19. It says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (KJV). I ask God to build an Aquadam of sorts around myself or the person under attack to prevent total loss.

I’m reminded also of Psalm 32:6 that says, “So all your loyal people should pray to you in times of need; when a great flood of trouble comes rushing in, it will not reach them” (GNT). The Amplified says the distressing waters will not reach the spirit in him. It may be pouring right now in your life, but the Lord God is lifting up a standard against the enemy to keep the waters from destroying your spirit. Keep praying in this time of need. Keep trusting God’s ability to hold back the flood. Take your eyes off the storm and the rising waters and look to Heaven where your help comes from. He is your flood barrier and His mercies toward you are new every morning.

Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner on Unsplash

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Joy In Pain

In the darkest time of my life, I was so upset and angry I couldn’t eat or sleep for days. In the night, I would lay down, but I couldn’t sleep. As tears rolled down my face, i began to sing a couple of songs I learned as a kid. The first one was “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the other one was “Rejoice in the Lord Always”. As depression and bitterness we’re trying to make theirselves at home in my mind, I could only combat them with these songs. I knew that I was in a bad situation and that adding in those two things would make things worse. I tried to remember that God knew what I was going through, even if He wasn’t stopping it, and that joy would give me strength to endure anything.

When I was younger, someone once told me that there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on circumstances so it comes and goes based on my condition. Joy is internal and not based on any external situation. It comes from understanding that no matter what my condition is, I’m still loved by Jesus and there is nothing that can separate me from it. When you learn to look at your life through the lens of Jesus’ love rather than your cure circumstances, you learn to have a joy that gives you strength no matter what you’re going through.

Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice because of your constant love. You see my suffering; you know my trouble” (GNT”. God is very much aware of your pain, your suffering, your stressful situation or whatever you’re facing and He knows how to work it our for your good. Even though you can’t see how anything good can come from it, keep trusting in His plan and resting in His love. Let joy spring up from within you and turn the ashes of what was your life and what could have been into fertile soil for God to do something new and unexpected. His joy will strengthen you and His love will sustain you through whatever comes your way. Keep trusting in His plan.

Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

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Have Mercy

I read some disturbing information recently. The Barna Group, a Christian research firm, found that we as Christians are struggling with giving and receiving mercy. They found that 25% of Christians have someone in their life that they say they cannot and will not forgive. Also, they found that many of us are grappling with whether certain people deserve compassion or forgiveness. The study found that we are no different in embodying merciful attitudes and actions than non-Christians. If you don’t know, mercy and forgiveness are central to our faith.

Mercy is simply having compassion and showing kindness to someone in need. When Jesus looked at the crowds, He had compassion on them. When someone needed Jesus’ help, they would cry out, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” As you and I have received God’s mercy and forgiveness, we are to give it. They should be a part of the DNA of our new life in Christ. It’s our love that we should be known for, but right now, there is no discernible difference between us and the world. We need to individually ask God to let His mercy, kindness and forgiveness to flow through us. We carry His name. Let’s also carry His attributes.

Here are some Bible verses on how we are to be merciful.

1. Show mercy and compassion for others, just as your heavenly Father overflows with mercy and compassion for all.

Luke 6:36 TPT

2. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; but [to the one who has shown mercy] mercy triumphs [victoriously] over judgment.

JAMES 2:13 AMP

3. How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy! For tender mercy will be demonstrated to you.

Matthew 5:7 TPT

4. Mercy to the needy is a loan to GOD, and GOD pays back those loans in full.

Proverbs 19:17 MSG

5. Show mercy toward those who have doubts; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and to others show mercy mixed with fear, but hate their very clothes, stained by their sinful lusts.

Jude 1:22-23 GNT

If you’d like to read more about Barca’s study on mercy, click here.

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My Mentor Job

A friend of mine at “A Mike For Christ” recently asked a question that took me a while to answer. He asked, “Who in the Scriptures besides Jesus teaches you much, whether about God, spirituality, or your own humanity?” I’m not a person who like it when people give me the easy answer, so I don’t like to give the easy answer. A lot of names came to mind when I read the question, but I asked myself, “Which person in the Bible teaches me about all three?” I wondered if there was someone who gave me insight into God, what it means to be spiritual and taught me about my own humanity.

I came up with Job. You may say, “That’s an easy answer. Why didn’t you say Mephibosheth or someone like that?” Job I believe met all three criteria in my own personal life. He taught me a lot about who God is. One of the first things I learned about God is that He doesn’t cause the bad times in my life, but He allows them so that He can prove my faithfulness to Him. Satan went to God and pointed to Job’s righteousness. Satan told God that he only lived that way because of all the blessings. God responded in Job 1:12, “All right, you may test him,” the LORD said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence (NLT).

Job also taught me about spiritual things. He proved that you could maintain your integrity in the most difficult of circumstances. Having lost his kids, his possessions, his money and everything precious to him, He fell to his knees and found cause to worship God. When his friends accused him of wrong doing, he did not flinch. When his wife told him to curse God and die, he responded with wisdom, “Shall we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” When he had no reason to hope, to trust or the worship, he did all three because of his foundation found in his relationship with God.

He reminds me of my humanity later on in the book. God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind and asked him some tough questions like, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Do you know where the gates of death are? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons?” I’m reminded that God is in control and my feeble attempts to control my life are out of my hands. The things that happen can be a consequence of my behavior or they can be from God to prepare me for things that are coming. Either way, God has set them into motion and they are far too great for me to understand even if He answered my question of “Why”.

Job is the oldest book in the Bible and it still speaks to me. Every time I read it, I gain insight into who God is and how He sees me. I get challenged to live a life of worship. When hard times hit unexpectedly, they reveal what’s really on the inside. For job, that was worship and integrity. When life’s storms hit my shore, I look to Job for advice and proof that I can survive anything. He was human and he endured Satan’s worst attacks on his life. His humanity was exposed in the storm, but so was his foundation. I want to be that kind of follower of Christ. I want to have that sure of a foundation. I want God to be able to point at me and say, “Have you considered my servant Chris? He is blameless – a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” If Job did it, so can you and I.

So I ask you, who in the Scriptures, besides Jesus, teaches you much about God, spirituality or your own humanity?

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Don’t Despair

Imagine you’re running for your life. Not only is someone out to kill you, but they have an entire army with them. They have eyes everywhere that are constantly giving up your location. You’re running out of places to hide, and they’re closing in. You see a cave and run into it. You go back into the dark, damp cave and crouch behind a rock. There’s only one way in and one way out. You can hear voices outside from the army as they approach. Your heart is beating so fast you can almost hear it. Just then, a person’s silhouette darkens the cave opening and they step into the cave. Your heart sinks. This is it. Game over. Hope is gone. Despair sets in as the move closer and closer to you. Inside, you’re crying out to God for help because He’s the only hope you have.

This is how David lived and must have felt when Saul walked into the very cave he was hiding in. It was a desperate, hopeless situation. Maybe that’s where you are today. You feel trapped with no way out. You can’t sleep. You’re mentally drained and exhausted. You’re tired of running and hope is gone. People may be wondering why you haven’t thrown in the towel and given up yet. Despair is knocking on your door telling you that there is no hope or anyone who can help you. I just want to say, as someone who has been there, that despair is a liar. When you have no hope, you still have a prayer and that is all you need because God hears even the faintest cry for help.

I’ve found that just because I can only see one way out, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way. God is able to make a way where there is no way. He is able to bring hope into the darkest cave. He is Jehovah Jireh your provider. He is Jehovah Rapha your healer. He is Jehovah Shalom your peace. He is Jehovah Nissi your victory. Psalm 27:14 says, “Trust in the Lord. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord” (GNT). No matter what is going on in your life, trust in the Lord. He sees you and knows the very number of hairs on your head. He has not forgotten you. He will not abandon you. He will strengthen you and walk through this with you as He did for David, myself and countless others.

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

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Embracing Your Brokenness

We’ve all read the story of Humpty Dumpty. I’m not sure why he was up on that wall or what caused him to fall. What we do know is that when an egg has a sudden stop against the ground, it creates quite a mess. Shell gets sent in every direction and in every size. It’s an impossible task for anyone to pick up all the pieces and put them together again so we don’t try. Something that’s just as impossible is to try to fix the brokenness in our own life, but we try to do it all the time. We think that if people see the cracks in our shell or that our life is in pieces, they’ll reject us, so we try to fix our brokenness.

The truth is that we are all broken. Some of us are more broken than others. Some of us are better at hiding it. Some of us look at the mess and give up, but every one of us find some type of coping mechanism to appease either guilt we feel or the hurt left over from our brokenness. We all have that inner desire to be made whole. We’re afraid that our brokenness or way of coping with it will be exposed, so we cover it up and try to make everything look like it’s perfect. It’s impossible for you and I to heal our own brokenness and to make ourselves whole.

The good news is that God is able to pick up the pieces of your life and put them back together into a beautiful mosaic work of art. You see, your brokenness is what makes you human and in need of God. It’s what makes you approachable by others in their brokenness. In Psalm 25:21 David cried out to God regarding his own brokenness, “Use all your skill to put me together; I wait to see your finished product” (MSG). When God puts us back together, he leaves the cracks and the lines to do away with the facade that we’re perfect. Don’t try to cover them up, for through your brokenness others will find their wholeness.

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Preparation And Conditioning

In high school I had a coach that was tough. He would spend an hour and a half of a two hour practice conditioning our team. We would run laps outside and sprints inside. When we would beg for water, he’d say, “You can’t stop a game to get water.” After we would practice our plays for about 30 minutes, we’d finish practice with more running. Before you left, you had to make 100 free throws. He would tell us, “We may not be the best team on the floor, but we will be the best conditioned team.” I can tell you he was right. We ran the other teams out of the gym because they would get tired. When we held the state championship trophy, it was all worth it.

God, like that coach, is always looking ahead in our lives, seeing what we can’t see. He knows what it will take to condition us now so that we will endure the things that are coming. Preparing and conditioning are never easy, nor are they fun, but they build in us the endurance to push through where others fail. They get us in shape spiritually for the spiritual battles that we will face. At times during conditioning we can feel like giving up or want to start questioning why we aren’t spending more time practicing the things God is going to use us for. I’ve learned that if the enemy succeeds in destroying our witness, he can keep us from giving the message. We must be able to endure the pressure first.

I love the way The Passion Translation words Psalm 23:4. It says, “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have!” God’s path rarely goes where we think it should. Many times it goes into dark places of testing and conditioning because God wants to build your trust in Him before the enemy attacks. What you learn in the valley will sustain you in the battle. Preparation and conditioning are necessary to make you more than a conqueror. The greater God’s plan is for your life, the greater your preparation and conditioning will be.

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