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Losing To Win


Several years ago, when things were going downhill in my life, I started to get upset at God. I was losing everything. Several friends had abandoned me during the process. I lost my business, had a vehicle repossessed, lost my business, and had to file for bankruptcy. I cried out, “God, where are you?!? Why are you letting this happen to me? Have you abandoned me? Don’t you care that I’m losing everything?” I didn’t get an answer and I continued to lose more until I had nothing left to lose.

I didn’t think God was there in those moments. Every once in a while though, my friend and Sunday School teacher, would say, “Chris, I believe God wants me to say this to you…” While those messages were encouraging, and I believed they were from God, I wasn’t personally hearing from Him. I was doing my best to keep from getting bitter towards Him because I felt abandoned and was upset over everything I had lost. What I couldn’t see, was what I was really losing though. 

I realized later that I didn’t just lose a bunch of material things and relationships, I lost my pride. God used that time to strip me of pride that was keeping me from a deep relationship with Him. I also lost my dependence on my self. Somehow I thought that everything I had in life, I had earned on my own. I forgot that God was my source and Jehovah Jireh. Through all of that, I gained a deeper faith and a dependence on God to be who He wanted to be in my life. I just couldn’t see it when I was losing the things that I thought mattered.

I Peter 4:12-13 says, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (MSG). God uses difficult times to refine us. When they come, the dross in our life floats to the top and is skimmed off by God. What’s left over is pure gold. If you’re in the thick of it now, don’t quit or think God doesn’t care. He’s refining you and cleaning out the things in your life that are keeping you from Him.

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The Promise Of Restoration 

When I was 28, my first wife left me for someone else. My life felt like it was over. After a long bout of depression, I realized I had to start all over. In the wake of our divorce, I had to file for bankruptcy, and nearly had my house foreclosed on, as well as lost my business, a vehicle, and most of my  friends. Everything I had built my life on was gone. The foundation for a successful life was gone. I didn’t know where to begin or how to start over, but God did.

He spoke to me multiple times through multiple people. One of those messages was, “What seems like an end is really just a beginning.” I have held onto those words for the past 13 years. While it was no fun to begin again, at least it wasn’t the end of my life. God gave me hope in that message in a time when I couldn’t see how I could survive more than a few minutes at a time. When there was no hope, there was no reason to live. God changed that with those powerful words.

In Joel 1 and 2, God speaks to Joel about a time when everything would be gone from the land. Joel 1:4 describes it like this: “What the crawling locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten; and what the hopping locust left, the stripping locust has eaten” (AMP). It was a wave attack like we face in our lives. It’s one hardship after another that seems to have no end. In those times we wonder where rock bottom is. Sooner or later you’d think we’d run out of things to lose.

But God doesn’t leave us in that barren land of devastation. He restores us and takes what seems like an end and turns it into a beginning. Joel 2:25 gives us the promise of restoration after devastation. God says, “And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten–the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust, My great army which I sent among you.” Just like God has restored my life, He will restore yours. He will replace the years the locust have stolen with greater things than you can dream of.

I can attest it took time. It didn’t happen over night. Rock bottom for me was a deep hole that took nearly a decade to crawl out of. I held onto the promise of restoration throughout the hard climb up. God was faithful to His promise and will be for you as well. The restoration He has brought in my life has far exceeded any dream I ever had before the locust stole my early adult life. God has a greater dream and plan for your life than you can imagine. If you’re in the time of locust, hold on to His promise. Restoration is coming.

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Faith That Climbs Mountains: Haiti Days 4 & 5

On Wednesday, we got to the orphanage early because the kids at school have chapel first thing. As we got there, the kids were all lined up outside. They sang a song together that they had sung in church. After that, they sang the National Anthem of Haiti as they raised the flag over the school. They then prayed and went into the main room for chapel. Each class walked in one by one in an orderly fashion in their bright red shirts and blue bottoms.

 

 

Once inside, we sang several songs and prayed. One of our students had volunteered to teach chapel that morning. He told them the story of a father who had a son (me) and a daughter (my wife) (This created many jokes from the Haitians all day!). The father gave each of them a mango seed. One of us threw it away and were mad because all they got was a seed. The other was great fun and buried the seed. They watered it and cared for the tree as it grew. When it was old, the tree produced more mangos that people from all over could enjoy.

  

He then shared how what God gives each of us may not seem like a lot. What matters is what we do with what God gives us. Many people throw away the little things God gives them because they seem insignificant. But if we are willing to plant it, cultivate it and feed it, God can use it to plant seeds in the lives of so many others. He pointed out that each person who took a mango from the tree not only walked away with food, they walked away with a seed they could plant. The replication of the growing process is endless as long as we use the seed for its intended purpose. 

After chapel service, the kids went back to class and we went back to work. We were able to finish all of the projects we were assigned to do. The pirate ship was now painted with weatherproof paint and the ground behind the school was level. We gathered out front, cleaned up our messes and the kids came out for recess. We played with them, loved on them and many were coved up by them. They love to pile on top of people. It seems the more they can get on you the better. 

  

After lunch, we held a service for the orphans. Our students reenacted the story of David and Goliath. It helped that we had a boy who was fairly short and one who was 6’9″. The kids watched in amazement as he fell. They were told that they can defeat the things in their lives that they’re afraid of. We then sang, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing that He cannot do for you!” After singing. We handed each kid a paper and crayons. We asked them to draw the thing they were most afraid of. After they showed others what they were afraid of, they ripped the paper and declared that with God, they don’t have to be afraid. 

  

On Thursday morning, several of us got up early to climb the mountain across from our guest house. For me, it’s always a spiritual journey. As we go up, there are Haitians crying out to God, praying and signing. It’s a very reverent thing for me to walk by as they pour out their hearts to Him. I often pray for them as I walk past. The path is very steep and rocky. There are many times people on the team want to give up. I tell them to quit looking at the summit and find a place about a hundred yards away. I ask, “Can you make it to there? Then let’s go there and rest again.” We inch up the mountain at times, but in the end, when you reach the summit, the view is all worth it. You almost forget how difficult it was to get there.

  

In our Christian lives, it’s very much the same. The path is narrow and often rocky. There are plenty of opportunities to give up. If we are willing to walk along side of each other, we can help motivate and encourage each other through those times. God did not intend for us to stay in the valley. He wants us to climb to the top of the mountain like Moses did and spend time with Him. When we finally get to Heaven, I don’t think we will complain about the climb. We will rejoice that we made it and celebrate together.  

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