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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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Robbed At Gunpoint

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 “Hurt Healer: reaching out to a broken world” by Tony Nolan. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

I was driving out in the middle of nowhere when I came to a four way stop intersection. I looked to my left for oncoming traffic and then to my right. When I looked right, there was a man standing there with a gun up to the window. He demanded my car. My first thought was to punch it. He must have seen the look in my eyes. He said, “If you hit the gas, I’ll shoot. Put it in park and get out.” What could I do? I got out. He walked around the car and hit me in face with his gun. He then punched me in the stomach and when I bent over, he kneed me in the face. I don’t remember much after that.

I woke up in the middle of the road at this intersection not knowing really where I was. I was covered in blood and hurt all over. I could barely move. I reached for my phone, but it was gone. There was no one for miles. I passed out again from the pain. I woke up to the sound of a car coming. I could hear the tires hum against the pavement. As he slowed down, he moved out of the lane I was laying in. Finally, I had hope as he pulled up next to me. He sat up in his car to look out his passenger side window and see me. It took everything in me to say, “Help,” but it came out as a whisper.

He turned his head back to the road ahead of him and started driving off. I remember seeing a fish on the back of his car and a bumper sticker that said, “God is my co-pilot”. I tried to say, “I’m a Christian too,” but he was gone and I didn’t have the strength. I laid my head back down and waited. My mind began to wonder what would happen if a wild animal came up to me. How would I defend myself? As my mind ran with all these scenarios, I heard another car coming. I began to hope again and tried to turn on my side. It hurt so badly, but I was able to do it.

This man was wearing a suit and was in a nice car. He was in the lane next to me because I was still in the road. I tried to wave to get his attention, but he didn’t even look my way. He was willing to go around me, but not look at me. I began to cry as he drove off. Every time my body moved as I tried to catch my breath, it hurt even more. I’m not sure if I was crying from the pain, the disappointment or the fear of dying there on the road. The sun was going down and so were my dreams of being rescued. I knew if it got dark, the chances of someone seeing me before they hit me were minimal. I prepared for the worst.

As it got dark, I could hear music far off. As it got closer, I could tell it was heavy metal. It was loud and over powered the sound of the car’s engine. As it got closer, I just knew this guy was going to hit me. I saw the headlights coming right for me and his hands beating the steering wheel. I thought, “This is it. I’m going to get killed by a punk after all this.” At the last second he swerved and hit his brakes. The car came to a screeching halt. He jumped out and ran over to me. “Are you ok, dude?” I could barely talk. He picked me up, put me in his car and drove me to a local doctor’s house.

The doctor took care of me, and nursed me back to health over a few weeks. When I was finally able to leave, I asked what did I owe him. He politely said, “Nothing. The guy that brought you in gave me his credit card and told me to charge it all to him.” I protested, but he wouldn’t let me pay. I asked about overages too. He said the guy told me that when he came back through here, he’d pay anything else that the card didn’t cover. I was shocked. Of all the people I thought should help me that day, it was the one I least expected.

Hopefully, by now you recognize my story as the parable of the Good Samaritan told through the eyes of the victim. How many hurting people do we drive by each day? They may not be physically beat up and laying in the road, but they are mentally and spiritually beat up and laying in our path. They call to us for help, but we look away or worse, see them and then ignore them. This world is full of broken people who need a neighbor, who need someone to show mercy and need help getting back up. It’s our responsibility as Christians to be the ones who extend grace and mercy even to the ones we don’t like or have nothing in common with. That’s what being a Christian should be about. Today, let’s get free of religiosity and pride. Let’s get our hands dirty helping others.

If you would like to win “Hurt Healer” by Tony Nolan, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (May 3, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Choosing Words Of Life

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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 “Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot” by Kurt Bubna. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

My friend, who is a missionary in Haiti, was talking to me about the orphans he’s helped rescue. He was telling me about one of the new children who was abandoned along with her siblings and left in their home to fend for themselves. She is paralyzed and was lying in her own filth naked when they rescued her. When they got her to the orphanage, the ladies and children referred to her as the crippled girl. They would ask, “Can you bring the cripple over here so we can feed her?” They would say, “Take the cripple outside so she can watch the other kids play.”

He told them, “Her name is Cassandra. Call her by her name, not her disability.” He was met with some resistance because it’s their culture to call people by their disability. Before you get all upset, it’s in our culture too. When we look in the mirror, we don’t always see a child of God. We see someone who is too fat, not good enough or a failure. When we look at our reflection, our mind says, “You need to lose weight. You won’t get the job. You will never amount to anything.” We sit in judgement of ourselves and affect our own attitude about life and God.

We also label other people. “He’s such a liar. Why is she such a drama queen?” We talk about them to other people and tear them down. It’s not just our culture, it’s our sinful nature. It’s bred into us. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” There is great power in the words we speak towards ourselves or towards others. We don’t always think of them as bringing life or death, but that’s what this proverb tells us. It concludes with, “You choose.” We have the power to speak life into the person in the mirror and to others.

One day, Jesus was teaching in the temple and a group of Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus. “Adulterer!”, they screamed out. They looked at Jesus and said, “Moses and the law give us the right to stone this woman to death. What do you say?” Jesus looked down and began to draw in the dirt. They insisted on an answer from Him. After all, she was labeled as an adulterer. Jesus looked past her failure and up at them. He said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” With that, He began to draw in the dirt again. When He looked back up, it was just the woman standing there. He asked where the people who had labeled her were. Jesus smiled and said, “Didn’t even one of them condemn you? Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

We don’t know what Jesus was drawing on the ground. Was He drawing out the sins of the men wanting to stone her? Was He writing out the positive things about this woman where only she could read them? What we do know is that He didn’t let sin, failure or labels to define this woman. He didn’t let others define her that way either. We need to follow that example. When you see that person staring at you in the mirror, speak positive things about them. “There stand a princess of the King of Kings. There is someone who is the temple of God. There is someone who is just the way God made them.” Change the words you use about yourself and others and you will change everything. You can choose to speak life.

You set yourselves up to judge according to the flesh by what you see. You condemn by external, human standards. I do not set Myself up to judge or condemn or sentence anyone. (John 8:15 AMP)

If you would like to win “Epic Grace” by Kurt Bubna, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (April 5, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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No More Plateaus

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. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “Fresh Air: trading stale spiritual obligation for a life-altering, energizing, experience-it-everyday relationship with God” by Chris Hodges. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

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Two years ago, I was losing weight. I had adopted a better diet, began to exercise more and controlled the portion size of the food I ate. For weeks, the pounds came off. Five pounds. Ten pounds. Fifteen pounds. Twenty pounds. Twenty pounds. Twenty pounds. I got stuck. I couldn’t lose any more. I hit a plateau at twenty pounds lost. I wanted to lose more, but nothing I did pushed me past it. I are healthier. I exercised more. I ate smaller portions. Nothing worked. I was stuck. Eventually, I quit trying. I adopted the mindset that this was my ideal weight.

It wasn’t long before I allowed junk food to slowly enter my diet. I began to exercise less. Holidays came around and I justified the larger portions. I put on one pound. Two pounds. Four pounds. I began to drift backwards. “When I get to ten pounds, I’ll go back to that healthy lifestyle,” I told myself. I became stuck in this limbo of wanting to lose weight, but not really doing anything about it. I plateaued again.

I find that the same thing happens to us spiritually. We desire to have more of God in our lives. We want to be a stronger light for Him. So we read our Bible more, pray all the time and find ways to share our testimony. We make a difference in one life. Two lives. Five lives. Ten lives. Ten lives. Ten lives. We hit a plateau in our spiritual growth and the lives we influence. We read more. We pray longer. We look for more people to talk to, but nothing changes. We then adopt the idea that this is where God wants me to stay.

It’s not long before we read less, pray few times a day and quit looking for opportunities. We get caught in a spiritual limbo. The problem is that checking off spiritual boxes like reading and praying will produce some growth, but not a sustained growth. We’ve got to break down scripture into bite sized chunks to understand it deeper. We’ve got to spend silent time in prayer listening to the voice of God to communicate with Him. We’ve got to do things differently than we’ve done them if we want to break through those plateaus.

We’ve got to quit settling for where we are spiritually if we really want to grow. We’ve got to change how we study and pray to get to that next level. We’ve got to get to past living a life of rules and checked boxes if we truly want to experience who God is. Sustained growth comes from the inside out, not the outside in. You’ve got to want it more than anything else and then make the sacrifices that will produce the results you’re looking for. “Draw near to God and (then) He will draw near to you.” You’ve got to make the move first. You’ve got to do the work that draws God to you. His desire is to be constantly moving closer to you. Break free of the plateaus today and climb that mountain. You will experience new life and fresh growth if you do.

If you would like to win “Fresh Air” by Chris Hodges, all, you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (February 1, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page you’re already entered. If you enjoy reading these daily devotionals, please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Free to Read the Bible

It’s Free Friday! Time to let go of the things that hold you back and keep you down.  Choose to let go today and embrace all that God has for you.  To celebrate, I’m giving away “the voice New Testament: Step Into the Story of Scripture”.  “the voice” invites story lovers to step into the story of the Bible like no translation can do.  Keep reading to find out how to win

If you haven’t done so yet, I’d like you to take a moment and watch the video below.  These are Christian leaders in China who are getting their very first Bible.  Up to this point in their lives, they have never had their own Bible.  Before this, they used pages of a Bible that they had hand copied and used those to preach and study from.

This is a powerful video and reminder that we need to cherish God’s Word.  Each day when it’s time to read it, we make excuses as to why we’re too tired or promise ourselves that we’ll do it tomorrow.  Our Bible collects dust on our night stand and our walk with Christ slows to a crawl.  We spend our time doing other things that require our attention and then wonder why God never speaks to us.  We have silenced God in our lives by keeping our Bible closed.

A couple of years ago, our church was raising money to buy Chinese Bibles to send to ministers in China.  They challenged us to count the number of Bibles in our houses to see how many we had.  I had over 20 Bibles.  I had surrounded myself with God’s Word, but was living in silence because not one of them had been opened in years.  I had taken God’s Word for granted and put it on a shelf next to other books.  I treated it as if it was just another book.

After watching this video, I decided to free myself of the excuses keep me from God’s Word.  I began to dig into it daily.  I got up earlier to make sure I had time to read it.  Instead of making it the last thing I did each day, it became the first thing I did.  If God wanted the “first fruits” of my income, why not give Him the first fruits of my time? I quit reading a chapter a day.  I read until I heard from God and found a Scripture I could apply to my life.

A radical thing began to happen.  My outlook on life changed.  My crawl turned into a walk and eventually a run.  The silence from God was broken.  His voice came through loud and clear.  I was able to make the right decisions and resist temptations that had beaten me every time.  I grew stronger in my faith and put it into action.  People noticed a difference in me.  It all began when I quit letting my Bible collect dust.

Where is your Bible right now?  Do you know where it is?  How long has it been since you opened it?  How long has it been since you opened the Bible app?  How are things going in your Christian walk?  It’s not a coincidence that the two are related.  The more you are into God’s Word, the more vibrant your life will be.  Let your excuses collect dust instead of your Bible.  It’s time to value what so many have given their life for.  It’s time to appreciate what you’ve been freely given.  It’s time to love God’s Word again.

If you would like to win “the voice New Testament” and see the Bible in a fresh, new light, go to my Facebook page here and “like” it.  I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (January 25, 2014) who has liked my page and give them the Bible.  If you have already liked my page, you are automatically entered.  If you like these daily devotions, please share my page with your friends so they can receive daily encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Free To Do What God Made You To Do

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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. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live” by Emily P. Freeman. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

So many of us feel like what we do doesn’t matter. We see ourselves as a grain of sand on a seashore full of sand. “How can one grain of sand make a difference,” you ask yourself. When you look at the world, there are over seven billion people who are here doing their own thing too. It’s hard to think that anything you do can make a difference in their lives. You don’t think you have much to offer them. You see others with talents that you wish you had and abilities beyond your own.

It’s tough not to get jealous when you see that God gave someone else ten talents and you look down at the one He gave you. It’s not easy to see the life of luxury others live while you struggle check to check. Others who don’t live the way they’re supposed to seem to be blessed beyond measure while you do everything right and wonder where all your blessings are. You wonder what your one true talent is and fear that it’s too late to find it and develop it. These are all thoughts that many of us have because we compare ourselves to others.

God doesn’t measure you according to the abilities He’s given to someone else. God measures you according to what you do with what He has given you. If your talent is raising godly kids at home, make a difference in the world through your children. If your talent is keeping things clean, then do it for the glory of God. If your talent is being able to get in front of large groups to perform, do it for an audience of One. Your life, no matter how mundane or spectacular, is meant to find ways to glorify the One who made you. Each of us have a purpose and a role to fulfill. God made you to do what only you could do.

I love what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech. He said, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.” You can’t successfully be someone other than the person God made you to be.

Whatever God has made you to be, I encourage you today to embrace that with everything in you. Free yourself of the comparisons that only make you put yourself down. Free yourself of the guilt that comes with not making as big a difference as others. Free yourself of the thoughts that your just a…. (Whatever you tell yourself). You are a child of God with a talent that no one else has. Your are the one God hand picked to raise those kids, be married to that person, fulfill that role in life. Your job is to do it better than He expected. Don’t bury your talent under thoughts of comparisons. Instead, invest it in the thoughts of doing what you do for God’s glory.

If you would like to win “A Million Little Ways” by Emily P. Freeman, all, you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (January 11, 2014) who has liked my page. If you enjoy reading these daily devotionals, please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Free From Dark Clouds

It’s Free Friday! What are you going to let go of today? What’s holding you down that you need to be free of? Today’s the day you can make that choice to let go. To celebrate Free Friday, I’m giving away “Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot” By Kurt Bubna. Keep reading to find out how you can be entered to win it.

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Disney put out a movie recently called “Frozen”. My favorite character has to be a snowman named Olaf. He’s the world’s only snowman who loves summer. He’s always upbeat and looking at the bright side of things. Even when he’s melting, he’s saying positive things. In the end, he gets his wigs to live in summer. He’s given his own snow cloud that follows him around so he can live through the times that would normally wipe him out. We can learn a lot from that snowman.

Many of us walk around with a dark, rain cloud over us instead of having our ideal climate overhead. We see the world through lenses that are tainted by the things that have brought us pain. We see negativity in every situation because that’s all that we believe will happen. We’ve lost our ability to see good coming from anything. When something good happens to one of our friends, we aren’t genuinely happy for them. Instead, we’re either bitter or we believe that the floor is going to drop out from under them too.

For many of us, that dark cloud is caused by our past. We’ve never learned to forgive ourselves from the things that God has forgiven us of. We allow others to label us with a scarlet letter. We love under condemnation instead of freedom. Romans 8:1-2 says, “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air (MSG).” Once you are forgiven from Christ, you are free from the black cloud of your past.

The first part of that scripture says that we no longer have to live under that cloud. That means that if it’s still there after you’ve been forgiven, it’s there by your choice not God’s. He wants to come in and clear the air over your head. He wants to create your ideal climate so that you can be who He called you to be. He knows you’re still going to mess up from time to time and He knows you aren’t perfect. His desire is that you understand He is a God of second (and third, and fourth,…) chances. He’s not there to hit you over the head and put a dark cloud over you every time you mess up. He’s there to clear the air and to forgive you.

If you’re living under that dark cloud today, let God’s Spirit come in and clear the air over your head. Get free from that cloud that affects you negatively. You simply do it by accepting His forgiveness is enough. Don’t condemn yourself or allow others to condemn you for the things you’ve been forgiven of. Let God use the dark things in your past to be a positive testimony of what He can do. The choice is yours. Will you let go and be free today?

In order to win “Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot” by Kurt Bubna, go to my Facebook page for Devotions By Chris here and “like” it. I will choose a winner at random tomorrow, January 4, 2014 from the names of people who have liked the page and post it on my wall. If you win, private message me how you would like to receive it. If you know someone that needs to hear this message, please repost or share from your own wall.

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