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A Messy Life

Sometimes it’s easy to know what the right thing to do is, but it’s very difficult to do it. In my own life, I’ve found that I’ve passed on doing the right thing because my pride got in the way. Other times I didn’t do the right thing because my flesh wanted it and I gave in. In any of those cases, I can tell you that it’s created a mess. I’ve found that when I get into a habit of choosing the wrong thing, my life becomes a mess and it takes a while to make things right.

One of things I like to tell my son is, “You know the great thing about a mess? They can always be cleaned up.” No matter how much of a mess our life can be, it can always be cleaned up. It can take years sometimes, but once we determine to add God to the equation, miracles happen. I believe that miracles are the incubators for miracles. When things look so bad that there’s no way out, He can make a way.

The person who wrote Psalm 119 was a person who made some messes in his life and didn’t want to make any more. In verse 31 they prayed, “Lord, don’t allow me to make a mess of my life, for I cling to your commands and follow them as closely as I can” (TPT). They understood that it takes prayer, knowing God’s Word and following it no matter what to keep from creating messes. If you’ve made a mess already, it can be cleaned up with God’s help and choosing to do the right thing going forward. If you want to prevent future messes, continue to follow God’s Word. It has all the instructions you need.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Times Of Conditioning

I always loved it when basketball season was starting in high school. What I hated was going through conditioning for it. Coach would have us start off with stretches. We would then have to run about a mile. Once everyone was back in the gym, we began to do exercises that strengthened our core. Our legs would get wobbly around that time, but then we had to start doing drills. If you messed up, you had to take a lap around the three acre property. To wrap up practice we would run the lines, or horses as we called them. The next day, we would do it all again. Our bones ached. It hurt our muscles to go upstairs for classes. Coach would remind us, “We may not be the tallest or the fastest team, but we will be the best conditioned team.” He was right. We ran the legs off every other team straight to the State Championship.

Conditioning has a purpose with the end in mind. It hurt going through those times, especially not knowing if it was going to pay off. In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men were on the run from Saul. They were considered fugitives. They had to move out of the country and live with one of Israel’s enemies. When Israel rose up to fight that country, David and his men went to fight on behalf of the enemy. They weren’t trusted, so they were sent back to the town of Ziklag where they had been staying. As they arrived, they saw smoke rising into the sky. Another enemy came in while they were at the battle front, burned their town and captured their wives and kids. David’s men began to talk of killing him. It was a dark day for David, but it was all part of God’s conditioning for him to become king.

David kept his eyes on God instead of his circumstances. Verses 6-7 say, “David strengthened himself with trust in his GOD. He ordered Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the Ephod so I can consult God” (MSG). David understood that sometimes God’s plan takes us through painful circumstances. It often leads us to places we don’t understand. Like David, it’s important in those seasons when everything seems to be falling apart and our closest friends are turning on us, that we strengthen ourselves in our relationship with God, and that we consult with Him. Conditioning is often very painful, but there’s a reason and a season for it. We must go through that period in order to be prepared to endure what’s ahead. God’s plan and purpose for you are good. Don’t quit when things look bleak. Trust Him more and those times of conditioning will pay off.

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Focusing On Heavenly Things

One of the things I talk to people about pretty often is dreams versus goals. All of us have dreams whether it’s a nicer house, car, job, vacation, etc. We love to dream because it’s easy. It requires nothing of us to think of what could be. What we don’t like doing is setting a goal, planning, sacrificing and working towards it. That requires focus and determination through distractions and disappointments, but it’s the only way to turn dreams into reality. I have several highly motivated friends who are wired to be goal oriented. They write them down, put them where they can see them, talk about those goals and think of ways to accomplish them. It’s hard to have a conversation with them without their goals coming up. They’re always on their mind. They don’t just dream. They do.

When I read Colossians 3:2, it reminds me of my goal oriented friends. It says, “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]” (AMP). When we have our mind set on something and we habitually think about it, we can’t help but move towards it. God is wanting us to not just have our mind set on things here, but to also be consumed with heavenly things. How often do you think of heavenly things throughout your day? How often do you consider what it would look like if His Kingdom were to come and His will were to be done on earth as it is in Heaven? We need to be thinking of those heavenly things first and seeking them for our world constantly.

We quote Matthew 6:31, but do we really hear what it’s saying? Read it again. Jesus said, “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.” We need to be thinking of His Kingdom first instead of our own. It is the most important thing. We like the last part of that verse where all these things will be given to us, but the price for that is to be constantly keeping our mind habitually focused on the things above (His Kingdom). God has no problem with us working on our own goals and living the life He created us to live. However, that needs to come secondary to His Kingdom. We need to be living and thinking with eternity in mind and focused on the things God desires.

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A Cry For Love

Several years ago I read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It caused me to realize that I was terrible at loving my spouse the way she needed to be shown love. However, it also taught me how to and gave us language to help us communicate better when we were feeling unloved. I was reminded of this book when I read a friend’s post on social media. She wrote that she, like many girls, has insecurities and wanted to be put on a pedestal by her man. She wanted to be told that he loves her and to be communicated with constantly. She completed the post by saying that sometimes we are too damaged from previous relationships and need reassurance and love more than anything. From reading that, it’s clear what her love languages are, but more than anything it’s a cry for love.

One of our greatest needs is to be loved. God put inside each of us the need to be loved, to know love and to love. Genesis says that we are made in God’s image, and 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Part of that image that we’re made in is a love shaped hole in our life. He created us in a way that only He can fill that void and need in our life, but if we don’t look to Him to fill it, we will search elsewhere. We expect other humans to fill that void and unfortunately it’s not enough. We will always be searching for that missing part and feel like something is missing. I’ve talked to person after person who has searched in unconventional ways to try to stop that feeling of something missing only to feel like there’s something wrong with them or that they must be unlovable. Their cry for love is often silent and unseen by us.

I believe our highest priority in life is to find intimacy with God and that it will determine the course and impact of our life. We cannot truly love others or receive true love until we have received love from God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love each other because he loved us first” (NLT). Once we know what love is, we’re more capable of loving others more fully because we have experienced true love. We know that God’s love is selfless because He loved this world so much that He gave us His one and only Son. He went to great lengths to demonstrate His love for us when we least deserved it. He heard our cry for love and responded. That void you feel, no matter how you express your cry for love and need for intimacy, is first found in Jesus. No person or thing will ever fill it. You were created to know God and find your wholeness in Him. No matter what you’ve done or what lengths you’ve gone to to fill that void, God still loves you a desires intimacy with you. He’s only a prayer away.

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Maturing In The Faith

When my wife and I first got married, I didn’t trust her intuition. She would say, “I don’t think we should go there.” When I asked her why we shouldn’t, she couldn’t give an answer and would just say she had a feeling. If I really wanted to, then I would make the decision and we would go anyway. Something would happen, and she would be right. Other times, she would come home, talk about an issue she had somewhere, and I would tell her how to solve it. It turned out that most of the time, she just needed to vent or process the situation and didn’t need me to solve it. Over time, I’ve learned to be a better husband in these two areas. I’ve learned to trust her intuition and stay quiet (sometimes). We’re both thankful I’m not the same as when we first got married. I’ve matured in several areas and I’ve still got room to grow.

If growth and maturity are expected in spousal relationships, why would we think it would be any different in our relationship with Jesus? You shouldn’t be in the same place you were when you first believed. Growth and maturity are expected. As you spend time in prayer and reading the Bible, your faith and trust in God should grow. With that growth comes behavioral change on your part. Maturity shows up in different ways in us. Instead of complaining or asking God to remove us from His growth and character development processes, we begin to ask Him for the grace to endure them and for Him to create well developed fruit in our lives through them.instead of ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit to say something to someone, we push past the fear and trust what He says. Each of us have room to grow, and that maturity happens when we trust God more tomorrow than we do today.

Here are some Bible verses on maturing in our faith.

1. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you.

Philippians 3:14-15 GNT

2. So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.

Hebrews 6:1 NLT

3. So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG

4. But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature].

1 Corinthians 2:15 AMP

5. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

John 15:8 TPT

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Evicting Shame

Have you ever had someone in your life who constantly reminds you of your past mistakes? Sometimes it’s a spouse, a friend or a family member, and sometimes it’s your own voice in your head. They seem to bring them up at the most inopportune moment. No matter what you do, because of them, it’s like you can never move on. You’d like to move on and forget it ever happened, but they’re there to make sure you never forget. It’s difficult to move forward when you’re constantly looking backwards. Your past becomes like a ball and chain that impedes your progress.

That’s what shame does. I believe many of us live with it constantly holding us back. “No one will accept you if they knew about… You can’t go back to church now. You’ve been gone too long. You don’t deserve to be happy. How can you call yourself a Christian?” Shame is a master manipulator who hits below the belt in an effort to kill our desire for growth. Understand this: SHAME IS NOT FROM GOD! These voices and thoughts are not God speaking to you. He loves you and wants you to succeed and grow and move forward. He wants to set you free from shame, and it starts with you refusing to listen to that voice.

I love Zephaniah 3:17. It says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (AMP). God is a warrior who is fighting for you to win this battle. He loves you and doesn’t bring up your forgiven past. He rejoices over you and delights in you because you are His child. That’s who God is. It’s time to kick the voice of shame to the curb and to embrace God’s voice. Anytime those other thoughts come in, push them out. Don’t entertain them. Open your Bible and replace them with what God really says. You are forgiven. You are accepted. You are loved.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Being Accountable

Accountability is a word we use a lot in church. We like to ask people if they have an accountability partner. Each of us should have someone who holds us accountable to help us keep from stumbling. The military uses accountability too. The leader needs to know where all their soldiers are at any given moment. For them, accountability isn’t just a top down approach, it’s also bottom up. If a soldier is not in their designated place of duty, they are failing in their duty to the chain of command. They could create chaos on the battlefield if they’re not where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Each individual soldier has assigned duties that must be done so that the whole achieves their goals. It’s important that soldiers are accountable up, down and horizontally in their chain of command.

When Cain killed Able and God called out to him about his brother’s whereabouts, he asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In reality, we are. You and I are to be each other’s keeper in the Church. We’re to help each other man our stations, reach our potential, fulfill our calling and encourage each other to keep going when we get ready to give up. You are not just responsible for yourself as a Christian. Like a soldier, you’re to help your brother or sister when they need help, carry them when they need carrying and fight alongside them when they’re under attack. We must be vocal when we need help, get discouraged or feel like walking away from our duties. We each need to have someone we trust and are accountable to so that we help each other. Let’s not forget we are in a battle.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 says, “Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out” (MSG). You are not just responsible for yourself. God has placed other believers around you for you to help and for them to help you. Accountability is what makes the Body of Christ function to its potential. Each of us need to do our own part and we need to be helping our fellow brothers and sisters stay on task to do theirs.

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Symbiotic Relationships In Church

Years ago my uncle had a small fishbowl with a Beta fish and a plant growing on top. He said it was a symbiotic relationship where they both benefit from the environment. When I studied up on symbiotic relationships, I found that there were four types. The first type is parasitism where one side benefits from the relationship (the parasite) while the other side is affected negatively. The second type is commensalism where one side benefits, but the other side is not harmed. The third type is amensalism where one side is not affected by the relationship, but the other side suffers because of the harmful, chemical compounds released by the first. The last type of symbiotic relationship is mutualism where both sides benefit from the relationship. All four of these exist in nature, but they also exist in our churches.

Ever since the Early Church began, it was designed to be a mutualism symbiotic relationship. The Greek word used was Koinonia which referred to community, fellowship and joint participation where people shared what they had with each other. Because people are involved in church, it got derailed and is often derailed to this day. Church does not exist to feed you believe it or not. When I hear the phrase, “I’m just not get fed there,” it’s usually coming from someone who approaches church as a parasitism symbiotic relationship. They want to be fed without contributing. When they feel they aren’t being fed, they either leave or create a amensalism relationship where they try to harm the pastor or other. As James 3:10 put it, these things ought not to be.

Ephesians 4 talks a lot about the Church and the relationships. It gives the responsibilities of the five fold ministries, but it also gives the parishioners their’s too. Verse 16 says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT). Jesus puts us together in Koinonian fellowship, but if we don’t do our part in the relationship, the body isn’t healthy or growing. Each of us have the responsibility in our own church to make the body healthy. Your church should be better because you’re in it with the gifts God has given you. If you’re not contributing to your local body with a mutualism approach, you fall into one of the other types of symbiotic relationships that is not beneficial to the Church and are not doing what God requires of you. If you find you’re in one of the other types, reach out to your pastor this week to find out where they think you can be most beneficial to that body of believers.

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Integrated Into Christ

One of the things that I’ve taught for years is that habits, behaviors and attitude are all learned behaviors. You have the ability to change them with enough dedication and thought process changes. In the late 1980’s, Stephen Covey wrote a book called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It sold so many copies in the first 11 years that it was named the most influential book of the 20th century. It taught people principles they could change personally to move from dependence to independence, and it also taught how to become a better team player as well. Many people attribute their success in business and in life to this self help book.

Unfortunately, many people approach the Bible as a self help book. They look at it as a book of do’s and don’t’s that will make you a better Christian in order to get into Heaven. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we will just act right, say the right things and spread love then we will be good Christians. The problem with that thinking is that it’s all behavior based Christianity. Romans 7 address that. If we try to live our Christian lives based on behaviors, then we’re going to be miserable. Jesus didn’t die to make you a better person. He died to give you new life. The changes in our life are a result of our love for Him, not our will power. The root of behavior based Christianity is that we are trying to integrate Christ into our lives instead of integrating our lives into Him.

In John 15:4, Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (NLT). Fruit isn’t produced on your own trying to be a good Christian. Fruit is produced through the new life Jesus gives us when we are fully grafted into Him. When we surrender our lives to Him, we are letting Him integrate us as branches into Himself as the Vine. Life changing power comes from that surrender and integration. It doesn’t come through will power. You are saved by grace, through faith, not by your good behavior or works (Ephesians 2:8). It’s not your habits that make you a Christian, it’s your heart. Man looks on the outward things, but God looks at your heart. Romans 8 addresses living surrendered to Christ in contrast to trying to do things on your own in Romans 7. We each need to make sure our lives are grafted into Christ where true life and fruitful living are.

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Praying For Our Nation

I’ll be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow to join with thousands of others who will be praying for our nation. Jonathan Cahn will be hosting a prayer event called “The Return” from 9-5 EST. It’s a group of people who are gathering to humble ourselves, to pray, to ask for repentance and to ask for our nation to return to God. Franklin Graham will be hosting “Prayer March 2020” from 12-2 EST. It’s a 1.8 mile march with seven stops and seven prayer focuses. Both are simulcast so you can join from wherever you are. I will also be going live on my Devotions By Chris Facebook page at each of the seven stops. You can join me by liking my page here.

This is not about politics. I do not see the hope for our nation embodied in a person or a party. Our hope is in Jesus and in the Church standing up for what’s right. Throughout the Bible, when the people of God were in trouble, the leaders would go to the capital, humble themselves and pray. The nation as a whole needed to seek God’s forgiveness and i believe that’s what we need today in our country and in our world. As believers, we need to be constantly praying for these seven areas that we will be praying for tomorrow. Will you join me in prayer this weekend and daily going forward? We need God to bring salvation, healing and an outpouring of His love on us.

Here are some Bible verses that I will be praying at each stop tomorrow.

1. Lincoln Memorial: Humbling ourselves in repentance and asking God to forgive our sins and to heal our land.

If My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 AMP

2. WWII Memorial: Our military, police and other law enforcement, firefighters, and their families. Security and peace for the nation.

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 NLT

3. Washington Monument: Salvation of the lost. Renewed strength in our families. Frontline medical workers and solutions to the coronavirus pandemic. An end to abortion.

Children born to a young couple will one day rise to protect and provide for their parents. Happy will be the couple who has many of them! A household full of children will not bring shame on your name but victory when you face your enemies, for your offspring will have influence and honor to prevail on your behalf!

Psalms 127:4-5 TPT

4. The White House: The president, the vice president and their families. All those who work in the White House and in the executive branch of our government.

Now therefore, O kings, act wisely; Be instructed and take warning, O leaders (judges, rulers) of the earth. Worship the LORD and serve Him with reverence [with awe-inspired fear and submissive wonder]; Rejoice [yet do so] with trembling.

Psalms 2:10-11 AMP

5. National Museum of African American History and Culture: Compassion and kindness toward one another. Respect and reconciliation between races. Healing in communities torn by violence and injustice.

Beloved children, our love can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds.

1 John 3:18 TPT

6. National Archives: Religious freedom. Boldness for churches to stand firm with the Word of God and to preach Jesus Christ in a troubled world.

And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Acts 4:29-30 MSG

7. U.S. Capitol Building: Our Congress and other leaders at the national, state and local levels. The Supreme Court and judges across the nation.

Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 TPT

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