A great way to grow closer to the Lord is to read His word, pray, and write down what He is teaching you! Many of the people at Paradise Calvary Chapel do just that and we get to share them with you here!
James 4:8, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
Communication is vital to any relationship. Effective and frequent communication is how we grow closer to those in our lives. Ineffective and infrequent communication is likely to push people away and cause strife. Over the years I've learned that the type of relationships we have is highly dependent upon how we are able to communicate with each other. When I speak with the cashier at the grocery store, topics are surface-level and brief. I speak to them long enough to get through the line and then promptly forget about them once they are done doing what I needed from them. If I were to speak with my husband that way, I could hardly expect to grow closer to him, let alone maintain the relationship we have. The same goes for our relationship with the Lord.
Using the Bible as a guide, we see how David communicates with the Lord in Psalms. He cries out to God and asks questions of God constantly:
Psalm 25:4-5 and 16-17,
"Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!"
David was a man after God's own heart because he desperately wanted to know God's heart and fervently expressed his own heart to God. He doesn’t merely seek the Lord when he needs help; he sought to know Him and His ways, whatever it took. We can clearly see throughout 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, and Psalms how God drew closer to David when David drew closer to Him. They maintained good communication with each other.
Many Christians often say that they want to hear from the Lord, but still many of them are communicating with God on a surface-level, just getting what they need and going on their way. We can create effective and frequent communication by expressing our hearts to God in prayer and by letting Him communicate with us through reading His Word and being still.
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
If there is one verse that has been on my heart the most recently, it would be John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is a very simple concept at it's core, but very difficult in practice for me. Intellectually I understand what it is saying, that I must put Christ ahead of myself, that I must live for Him instead of for me, and that I must seek to grow nearer to Him each day, and thereby grow further from myself in the process.
He must increase, but I must decrease...
Again, I understand the concept, but the struggle is converting that understanding into action. The first part of that verse is a natural reaction to the second part- if I decrease, Christ will automatically increase in my life. The problem is that I refuse to decrease, much like Paul writes about in Romans 7. In order to for me to decrease, I need to stop making life about me and make it more about Him.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
It's not just about the increasing and decreasing here, either- there is a sense of urgency to it- it must be done. The verse doesn't say “He should increase...” but that “He must increase...” It is a necessity to the fulfillment of my life, for Christ to increase, and myself to decrease. It makes sense to me that this is the answer I have been getting, ever so quietly yet persistently, for some time now in response to my prayers- my burdens, my cares, my concerns are all about me, myself, and I... and to be free of them, I must decrease. But how do I accomplish this? Truly, I don't.
He must increase...
Life is not about me, it cannot be about me. For Christ to increase in my life, my life has to become His life. His life was given over to the Father, and given over to serving others. He served others without wanting a reward, a pat on the back, or any recognition (and even told a number of people to keep what He had done secret entirely!) and not only did He not seek recognition, Jesus, as God in the Flesh, knew that the end result of His service to mankind would be ridicule, betrayal, and death. Christ increases in my life by turning my life over to Him- turning all of my burdens over to Him, turning my actions over to Him, and turning my thoughts over to Him. And if Christ increases in my life, what, then would be the natural effect of His increase in my life?
...but I must decrease.
Hope is the expectation of future good. It is having the belief that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. Hope is believing that God works all things for good and that His plans include a good future for us.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11
I recently walked through a season of hopelessness. It was a time filled with deep loss, discouragement, uncertainty, and doubt. I was (and still am if I am being completely honest) grieving the loss of my grandfather, uncle, and grandmother. I was receiving nothing but negative feedback at work. I was doubting the calling God had on my life to be a teacher. Nothing seemed to be going right. But in the midst of hopelessness, God was moving. He had a purpose for this hopelessness. His purpose was to reveal His character to me and to cause me to recognize my need for Him. I realized that there was nowhere to run but into the arms of my God and Savior and into His unending hope.
In Exodus, we are shown how a seemingly hopeless situation can turn into one full of hope. Pharaoh commanded that every male child born in Egypt must be cast into the river to die. Moses was one of those babies; everything pointed to hopelessness. If the world’s ways prevailed, he would have been killed in the river. But God had a future and hope for his life. Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and adopted into the royal family. He grew up to be a great man of God with an incredible resume. He spoke to God in the burning bush, he witnessed God write the 10 commandments, and he lead the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea which God split. If that doesn’t speak of hope, I don’t know what does.
What you (and maybe even everyone around you) may think is an impossibly hopeless situation could be God’s way of bringing you hope—just like Moses. When you are feeling like there’s no hope (like I was), remember that God can bring hope out of the most unsuspecting circumstances because He has a future and a hope for each and every person. I am reminded that a season of hopelessness cannot compare to the hope that I have in what the Lord spoke over my life when I was young:
“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth. By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You” -Psalm 71:5-6
I think one of the hardest things for me as a Christian is the fear of the unknown, not knowing what to expect. We are called to have the faith of a mustard seed; we are to trust God through the most difficult times, not ever knowing what the end result will be. But… it is also in these times where our hope in Jesus is our saving grace. Why? Because even though we don’t know what our end result will be, we know that we serve a good and loving God and we know that what the word of God says is true and that it never returns void.
Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
I am a planner! I like to have my calendar filled out for the month and I have it on my fridge where I can see it every day so that I know exactly what to expect when it comes. This gives me a sense of control over my life and I really like being in control. But ultimately, I am not in control. The Lord is! Over the past few years since I have been attending Calvary Chapel Paradise the Lord has made that very clear to me. The fact that our family attends Calvary Chapel Paradise is a prime example of how I make my plans; and then the Lord makes His…
I grew up at Calvary Chapel Spring Valley (now Calvary Chapel Las Vegas). My mom started going to church there when I was very young and I also graduated from Calvary Chapel Christian School. A little over three years ago Pastor Derek announced that they were going to be planting a church and Pastor Tim Warholic would be the head pastor. I thought, how great for the Warholics! They were good friends of ours and I would definitely be praying for them and the team that would be going with them! Little did I know that as we prayed for them we felt the Lord calling us to join them in this church plant. Here is my response, “No way Lord! My church home is Calvary Chapel Spring Valley! It has been and always will be! “ Now don’t get me wrong, we love Pastor Tim and Grace and their sweet family but MY plan was to stay where I was. It was comfortable for me. It was all that I knew. I could never leave! That would be crazy! It was the fear of the unknown. But as you can see, three years later, our family is diligently serving the Lord at Paradise Calvary Chapel and we are exactly where we are supposed be! Because God knows better than we do! The Bible says it best…
Proverbs 16:9, "A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."
We can make our plans because it may give us a sense of control, but in the end the Lord’s plan is greater than anything we could ever imagine! And it will always work together for good!
"I have a lot going on" seems to be the response to many people these days. Truth be told, I really do. I have a beautiful wife, 4 amazing children, a crazy dog and a demanding full time job as a construction superintendent. On top of all that, I know that God has called me to be a leader at our church, a youth leader and whatever else God calls me to do.
So often I find myself adding more to my schedule than what my week will even allow. Between all the items to maintain and take care of, the reality exists that the only time I possess to cut from is my sleep time. When we are performing and focusing too much on all this busy work, a horrible thing takes place. We start to lose focus of what our priorities should be. I am not simply talking about prayer and Bible time because I still am able to do that regularly but what about simply taking time to rest in the Lord. Do you set time aside for that? I have had to face the harsh reality of me letting this important time slip away and each week there has been less and less time spent just enjoying the Lord and all the things He has blessed me with! Even writing this devotional has slipped through my grasp and driven into the black hole that is time. Everyday we need to position our priorities in a way that aligns with Gods will and not just what we have placed in a position of hierarchy in our lives.
Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
In Romans 12:2, Paul talks about not allowing the world to conform us, but that to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. It is vital to our Christian walk to take time to block out the world and allow God to restructure our thinking so that we will focus and prioritize what is good and acceptable to the will of God rather than our own way of thinking. It is my hope that we will not just be convicted of what we have prioritized but also that we will be given the desire to change our way of thinking.
Jesus is truly our ultimate example and we are able to witness throughout Scripture the way He that prioritized His life as a man; He spent a good portion of everyday focusing on ministry and things He had to accomplish without ever compromising on His time spent with the Father God and resting in Him! This is what continued to give our ultimate example the strength and focus He needed to accomplish what the Father had for Him no matter how difficult the task. Take some time this week, lift your eyes and grow in the knowledge of what God has for you today!
Man, what if we had the ability to predict the future? Imagine knowing what was going to happen days, months, YEARS from now and being able to plan accordingly. I could prepare a 5-year plan and know that it would actually work out. In reality, that sort of ability is absolute nonsense and balderdash for us human-folk. For me, I really like knowing the next step, and the step after that, and the step after that. Where will I be six months from now? Will I have a different job? Will I be living somewhere else? Am I doing what I need to do now in order to prepare for this wild future I know nothing of? I’d like to think that all of these questions are coming from a place of responsibility and preparedness, but I think that really, if I’m being totally honest, they are coming from a place of fear, insecurity, and impatience. Ouch.
This past season, for me, has been a season of uncertainty and newness. There have been so many big life changes, twists, and turns. I originally had a perfectly planned out idea of what this past year would look like and through time and through various trials, my original plan was blown to pieces. I wish my first reaction could have been “Oh, praise the Lord, for He is good, and His plan is better anyway!”, but it wasn’t. I was disappointed, and hurt, and confused. Why? Because MY plans failed. I had invested so much into what I thought was best for me and paid far less attention to what God was calling me to. But there was a verse that kept popping up, whether it was in my personal study time or it came from a friend. This verse was Luke 12:28…
“If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?”
“O you of little faith.”
Golly, where was my faith? Here I am, a child of God, serving the Creator of the entire universe, and I am worrying about my future? It says right there in His word! If God can take care of the grass and the birds of the air, how much more will he take care of us? (Matthew 6:25-34)
In Psalm 147:5, it says this:
“Great is our Lord, and mighty in power;
His understanding is infinite.”
Our God is able.
In Deuteronomy 7:9, it says this:
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;”
Our God is faithful.
God’s plan is always better. It may not be according to our understanding and it may not align with what we think we want or need, but it is always better. It says in His Word that He knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. He brought us into existence. He knows what He’s doing. Where is our faith? Is it in ourselves, or is it in Him?
Devote; devoted; devotion: “To dedicate, have dedication, loyalty. To apply a purpose.”
Our English language is extremely broad, and detailed. To those who put together its words from the beginning, and established books like Dictionaries to define what those words mean, must have taken the assignment pretty seriously. They must have had dedication, a purpose, an intention for others to use, see, and rely on those words for communication.
Amazingly our language continues to grow, and develops over time. I love books, and don't read them. I have to admit that. Well, I just haven't read lately. (very lately). But what is so cool to me, is that the use of words combined together can create so much. We take for granted how intelligent and organized our God really is. From the Holy Bible, to a school book, words fill pages with intention. What would it be like, if devotion was lost? Thank God it's not. We still have people that care. People from all over, devoting their hearts to something good. DRs creating medicines, Preachers and teachers writing lessons, and good ole country singers, purposely making us cry.
Loyalty, “Faithful to one's friend, country.” God knows the importance of dedication and devotion in a relationship. We survive as humans this way. Without any relationships, none what so ever, it would be very lonely. You can be married, single, older, young, rich, poor, and still have relationships of all sorts. But the most effective, intentional relationship we all should have is with God first. To be faithful to each other, and devote time to each other. Even though we are different from God, it says in Genesis 26, “Then God said, let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over the all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” His own image, and having authority. Thank You Lord, that You love us and desire us. Thank You for creating "good". My prayer is not only for myself to continue my relationship with God to be purposeful, but for all of us, to be devoted to that relationship and to the good of mankind. To be devoted to God, to be loyal to each other, and teach the next generations how important all these words are that are written in His Book. And thank You Lord, that Your words have been saved for us today, and for tomorrow. Let us take to heart how important these words are.
“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” Romans 1:20
A little over six months ago I was at one of the lowest points in my life thus far. I was bound by a severe stronghold. This stronghold had me stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of sorrow, loathing, and fear for years; and I saw no way of being able to break the chains that held me. In my darkest hour I cried out to the Lord, asking Him for His help, for His forgiveness, and for His mercy. This I did, (for the first time) from a true place of repentance. Then out of the darkness the Lord answered and pulled me into the light. Psalm 107:14 says “He brought them out of the darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands apart.” By His mercy, grace, and love, God delivered me and brought me out of the darkness; out of the shadow of death, and He broke the bands that held me. He truly set me free.
If this wasn’t miraculous enough, He kept working in my life. I truly felt the gifts of the Spirit working in my life for the first time. I felt true joy, true fortitude, and true hope. However, I can remember along with these gifts, came an attack. There were times that I was initially reflecting on this period, still feeling a lot of sorrow and a lot of guilt. I had felt that my choices, and this stronghold, had seemingly wasted many years of my life. I had a hard time dealing with my foolishness and my sin nature and I had a feeling that all that time was for not. Then one day I was riding the bus, and really digging into the Word and this verse was revealed to me as if the Lord was speaking directly to me. Romans 5:3 says “but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope."
You see, when I was at my lowest I felt that I had no hope. My character was lacking and I felt that I had no perseverance to get through. But through this time and through these trials, He had brought me to the place where I could have an attitude of true repentance and surrender and through that, I was set free. In being set free I was able to walk in the light, and through walking in the light I received His gifts. Through these things God has produced perseverance, character, and hope in my life.
I grew up in the church and for the longest time that's where my testimony ended. I was raised loving Jesus and I still do. I'd always repeat the salvation prayers in Sunday school and I always meant it, I'd sing all the songs, and I'd tell my friends about Jesus. I was serving a lot on worship teams and assistant teaching, but eventually I realized I wasn't getting spiritually fed myself. I'd try to stick with my commitments, especially since the praise I received from it felt wonderful. I was a little girl who had a deep passion, but a hurting heart.
Slowly, I quit my commitments and began to seek out that fulfillment I craved. Looking back, I know that I should have been studying on my own and letting the Holy Spirit teach me and lead me to someone to disciple me. But I didn't do that, I let my hurting heart grow hard and pushed the church away. I still loved Jesus, but I was drifting and lost. I was on a road of self destruction where I was constantly sabotaging myself and my relationships.
I didn't recognize that I'd become a toxic person. After years of loneliness and fruitlessly searching for fellowship I just didn't have a lot of love left in me. I remember calling out to Him during this time, begging to hear his voice like I did when I was younger, but I made no steps of repentance; I was too busy blaming everyone around me for my problems.
During those couple years it was like I had fallen in the mud and just didn't see the point in getting out of it, but that's what the world does, they wallow in their self pity and let the mud dry in layers over their skin, like a pig. As a Christian, we make the choice to get out of the mud. Like a lamb, we'll bleat to the Shepard until He pulls us out and let Him wash us off.
Speaking of mud, there was a time as a kid that my brothers were playing in a big mud pit. They wouldn't let me play too so I waited until they left to step in and watched my black, sparkly boots sink in. Once the mud was nearly over my toes I tried to pull myself out. But I couldn't. The more I tried to wiggle my feet and legs to get free the deeper I sunk. It got to the point where the mud was nearing the top of my boots, soon it would spill over and ruin the fluffy lining and my socks. So I finally yelled for help. A minute later my dad had me standing barefoot (my socks came off when he pulled me out) on a near by plank while he dug out my boots. If I had listened to my brothers, who said I would be too weak to pull myself out, or called for help the second I realized I was stuck then I probably could have spared my favorite boots.
I don't like coming to terms with my own weakness and I don't like asking for help, but those are fundamental parts of living life as a Christian and receiving forgiveness. We are not strong enough to face sin on our own and if we try we'll fail. All we can do the next time we see a mud puddle is to avoid it, step out of it a soon as we realize we're in it, or to call for help if it's already trapped us.
Psalm 40:2, "He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps."
In the past few weeks, my family has suffered tremendous heartache - the sudden loss of my youngest nephew, Micah. When a sudden loss or tragedy comes, it would be easy to blame God, or to fall far from Him. We often wonder why these things happen and sometimes we point the finger and assume that we have the better plan. As humans, we don’t have the full picture yet. There are so many question unanswered in these situations, that we often let our confusion cloud our trust of God.
But during these seasons we would be wise to draw even closer than before, so that He can be our strength. Though we may never have an answer to our “why did this happen?” while we are here on earth, we know that He knows our pain. The Father experienced loss as He gave His only Son up for us.
When the chest pains start, (or the not being able to eat, or the nightmares, or the anxiety - because everyone experiences the grief differently), and getting dressed starts feeling like too much for today, we turn our eyes back to Him. My sister has said several times during the last week, that if she did not have God, her sufferings throughout this entire process would be so much worse than they are, and I completely agree with that statement for our entire family. I talked to my mom briefly the other night about how we are all just taking the next step, slowly, one by one. It is by the grace of God that we continue on. The hope that we have in Christ is strong enough to carry us when we cannot pick ourselves up off of the floor. I remember in times like these, that Hebrews 7:25 says “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus is constantly praying on our behalf. When it is challenging to even ask for the grace to be strong, He is already providing it.
My favorite verse, Psalm 73:26 reads, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” When we turn to Him, He will provide the strength when we do not have it. He will allot the next breath. He is our peace in times of trouble and has grace abounding for us.