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!
I love the story of Ruth, as I’m sure many do. It’s just a lovely story; how it hasn’t been made and remade into a movie is beyond me. The way Boaz’s redemption of Ruth parallels Christ’s redemption of us is one that has been made many times, but it is not the topic of discussion I’d like to make here. Rather, something that has been on my mind recently is in the first chapter of the tiny book. Ruth and Naomi met in the land of Moab during a famine, where Ruth married Naomi’s son.
Both Ruth and Naomi’s husbands died, leaving them both widowed and destitute. Naomi tells Ruth and her other daughter in law to return to their homes and find new husbands, but rather than leaving for her own benefit, Ruth clings to Naomi, even after Naomi tells her: “And she said, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you,Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God’” (Ruth 1:15-16).
This level of love and loyalty is astonishing to me, Ruth was giving up everything to stay with Naomi, with no prospective benefit. One line that gets my attention is “your people will be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth wasn’t just leaving her home and her people, she was leaving her entire belief system and world view. This runs in contrast to her sister-in-law, who Naomi notes returned to her people and her gods (Ruth 1:15). Ruth was leaving what was familiar, comfortable, her tradition, and her identity so that she could be with someone she loved, and make room for a new and better God.
This is something that is easy for me to fail to appreciate if I don’t take time to recognize it. I grew up in a Christian household, but many people don’t. Many people grow up in a home with contrary, sometimes even antithetical, beliefs. Yet, when they come to know the grace and love of God they still choose to abandon their old lives, their old traditions, and their old gods, for something foreign and unfamiliar. I am humbled by that sacrifice as I never was asked to make it myself; I didn’t have to leave my people or my God when I accepted Jesus, I embraced them.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Some have to be what Jesus spoke about in His message in Luke 14:26-33, and die to themselves. Like Ruth, they have to be taken to the point where they have lost everything they have, before they are willing to give up who they are, so they can be brought to the One who will redeem them.
Beautiful fall weather had us outside last week tidying up the yard. A decision was made to remove a 20-year-old oversized shrub. Twenty years is a long time for a plant to be in one place and its roots had gone deep enough to creep under the driveway.
About 30 minutes into shoveling, pushing and pulling, we looked up to see two young women making their way toward us. I knew by their friendly smiles, manner of dress and book in hand that they had a religion they intended to share. My husband quickly told them that if they pulled the bush out, he’d convert to Jehovah’s Witness. He was desperate, but joking. The pair were actually Later Day Saints. Sister Shin was from Korea and Sister Housley was a blonde, blue-eyed westerner.
It didn’t take my husband long to begin the inquisition. I’m not sure which he enjoyed more, the break from shoveling or the opportunity to inflict discomfort by his prodding questions. Sister Housley clearly did not enjoy the banter and soon disengaged. Sister Shin, on the other hand, personified patience and even insisted on helping pull the stubborn plant out. Ignoring our hesitation, she picked up a yard tool and went to work. Before long, the twenty-year-old stubborn shrub was out. It had been defeated by the teamwork of a worn-out homeowner with a shovel, and a young stranger with fresh determination.
After a moment of celebration, the question & answer session picked up where it left off. However, Sister Housley was beyond done. Trying her best to move Sister Shin along, she pronounced that we were obviously not ready to hear her truth with an open heart. But the Korean stood her ground. She pressed on, reading aloud from The Book of Mormon and showing us colorful pictures. She didn’t understand as her counterpart had that she had zero chance with us.
When asked if they had grown up in LDS households, both said that they had. We shared that we were raised Catholic but were compelled to search for Truth once we left home. Our conversation ended when they were asked what had been left out of the Bible that necessitated a new revelation, or rather, what exactly was made complete by the Book of Mormon? They could not give a meaningful answer. I gave them each a bottle of cold water as we said our goodbyes.
Roots that go deep provide stability and nourishment, but they can be extremely hard to pull up when it’s time to remove that which needs to be uprooted and replaced. We continue to pray for them as we told them we would.
“He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots’” (Matthew 15:13).
The Lord sometimes can warn us or start to prepare us for a difficult season to come. Over the summer we had a lot going on. A lot of new changes happening in the coming months. We were going to have a baby in August, my husband was starting a new position in August, and our kids were starting school—in August. We had started to prepare and we were going to be ready!
Well the Lord had a different plan. The baby came in July. We were thrown off. We weren't expecting it, the pregnancy had been going so well this time.
I knew a tough season was ahead. I was confident or maybe even prideful about it. Thinking "I know Lord. Yeah, yeah, we've been here before. It will be fine. Whatever it is I'll just pray and let You get us through it." Well that is not how it went at all. And it took me longer than it should have to recognize my pride. I'm really having to use discipline and self control to keep my eyes and heart focused on the Lord. This was a tough season. Much more difficult than I anticipated. Of course as it was approaching I just figured we'd been through tough seasons before, it won't be so bad. I know it's coming so I'm mentally prepared. But I found myself crying at some point every day for a week straight.
This season hasn’t ended, and I’m learning through this another level of needing Jesus. He is for sure stretching my faith and how glorious is that!? Because I am weak and He is strong. So although I know He is in control, and I know with Him I will prosper, I am still human with human emotions, desires, and needs. But every time I started to feel overwhelmed if I just stopped, breathed, prayed and honestly gave it to Him, it would get easier. So why is it so hard to think to do that in the moment? I've decided this must be one small reason why I'm in this season; to learn that discipline. He's conditioning me and growing my wisdom. And in that I find peace and comfort. Hallelujah!
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4)
It’s a bit ridiculous, but one of my favorite things to do when it’s cold is to blow out a long stream of white puffed steam. The vapor dances in the air briefly before dissipating, never to be seen again. That’s the kind of imagery I think David conjures when he discusses his own mortality; “Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” (Psalms 39:5). It’s hard not to see his point, compared to God the best any of us can ever do or offer seems insignificant; like a puff of steam on a winter day.
The revelation of one’s own relevance in the grand scheme of the universe is almost enough to instigate a existential crisis; or it least it would if the analogy of our existence ended there. It is true that we have a short time on this earth, and much of what we do may not effect much in the long run, but God doesn’t see our lives as inconsequential. David praised in wonder at the power and awesomeness of God, how He made the universe in it’s complexities, and asked: “What is man that You are mindful of him,And the son of man that You visit him?For You have made him a little lower than the angels,And You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalms 8:4-5).
Even when we think our lives mean nothing, God doesn’t. He has numbered every one of our hairs (Luke 12:7), He’s collected our tears in a bottle (Psalms 56:8), He is fascinated by us and by no means discounts our deeds. The bible repeatedly tells us that we will give an account for all of our deeds when we stand before God, so someone is keeping track of what we do. Thankfully, Jesus redeems us from our sins, wiping our slate clean, and amazingly our good deeds are remembered. Jesus told His followers that anything they did for others in His name would be remembered, even as simple as giving a cup of water to someone thirsty (Mark 9:41).
Will the earth quake and the sky turn black when any of us die? Probably not, but that doesn’t make our lives meaningless. While it is true that our acts will begin to fade into memory as soon as our time is up, but we are being observed by someone who values what we do. So, even if life may seem like just a vapor in the wind sometimes, its every moment is watched by our Lord in the clouds
I've been thinking a lot about how I view God and how God views me. If only I could consistently see God for who He really is—Sovereign (ultimate power); Omnipotent (unlimited power) “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light" (Genesis 1:3); Omniscient (knowing everything) "...His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5); Omnipresent (everywhere present)—no one can hide from Him; Immutable (Never changing) "For I am the Lord, I change not..." (Malachi 3:6). And many more attributes - all which should be a comfort to me as a believer. I mean, the character of God is true and unchanging. His promises are true and unchanging.
But alas, in my tiny imperfect human mind I become distracted by my condition and limit God. When I try to take control of my life—essentially becoming my own god—I am disrespecting the God of the universe who is perfect in all His ways and He loves and cares about me! How can I have one moment of failing faith or disbelief? How can I not treat Him with reverence and awe and respect? How can I shrink the gift of the cross—minimizing His Holiness and minimizing my sin? But, I am a sinner, running amuck with my free will. Oh, Heavenly Father, forgive me for my disbelief and my lack of faith and my selfishness and arrogance! Teach me to walk by faith, not sight.
I praise God for His grace (unmerited favor) and His love. When I come to Him over and over with the petty problems of my condition, He never says to me "Go away! You are so annoying and dumb!" No, He takes me in His arms, forgives me and loves me even more not because of any acts of righteousness on my part, but because I stand in grace and my position is assured because of who I am in Christ.
If only I could see myself as God sees me—forgiven, spotless, loved beyond measure. How I pray that each day I become humble and teachable in the ways of my Lord and Savior, living in the freedom of knowing who God is, and knowing who I am in Him. I must constantly nourish my mind on Biblical truths growing in holiness (sanctification); seeing more of His holiness and more of my sin; seeking my position in Christ and the transformational life of joy and hope and love that God gives me by His grace.
How precious are His promises and because of the character of God, I know they are true and never changing. Amen.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
We love looking forward to something good! The anticipation of a future thing or experience brings energy to our souls. Consequently, anticipation doesn’t confine itself to our intellect; our emotions ride piggyback. The expectation of something good can literally hijack our minds and hearts. We will trade hours of being in the present with hours of imagining the future.
But what about the kind of expectation that depends on another human being for its fulfillment? If I have a strong belief that something good will happen, and that thing depends on the actions of someone other than myself, I may be in for a big disappointment. Disappointment in ourselves can be painful, but disappointment in the failure of others to live up to our expectations doubles the pain and is relationally poisonous. Many times, an expectation is placed on someone else without their knowledge. How unfair is that? It puts them squarely in the crosshairs of our indignation, blindsided by our disappointment in them.
My husband and I have talked about childhood Christmases when we didn’t get that one thing we asked for. His was a certain battleship and mine was a doll family. We were sure they’d be under the Christmas tree on December 25th. But they weren’t. We remember well the disappointment.
Marriage brought new expectations. Not of battleships and dolls but of grace gifts. Continual random acts of kindness and sacrificial serving, unlimited favor and forgiveness, never forgetting an important date on the calendar and making each other our number-one priority. It’s as if we expected dating behavior to continue forever! The problem with expectations placed on others goes well beyond marriage. Friendships have been needlessly derailed by it, families have been tragically destroyed by it and churches have suffered painful fractures when expectations replaced humility and submission.
Here’s what I’ve learned. If I am feeling terribly disappointed that someone let me down, I might need to check my heart. It may mean that I felt like I deserved better, or that I felt like something was owed to me, or that for someone to be so negligent, they must not care about me. I, I, I, me, me, me. If we have truly died to self, we are wrong to take the perceived failings of others as a personal affront. A Bible teacher once said, “Dead things don’t feel pain when they are kicked.”
There is only One on whom we can fully depend. Only One whose actions on our behalf are fully sufficient. His name is Jesus. Everyone else will fail to meet our expectations. We can expect it.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31 & 32).
How tall did the tower of Babel rise? Sometimes I wonder, just as I wonder how much chaos was strewn when God disrupted languages. Imagine: families, friends, maybe even spouses, suddenly couldn’t understand each other. In a single moment, all of their achievements crumbled to dust; with the remnants an unfinished tower as a haunting reminder of what they had done.
If you’ve never been to Israel, I highly encourage you to go. It truly makes the bible come to life in ways that you never experienced before. One of the things that happened to me during my visit was to explore the ruins of a fort. This fort must have been mighty and impressive when it was standing, emphasis on when. As I stood on those ruins, I could not help but think how powerful—how certain—the people behind those walls felt. Once they were invincible; now signs hang to warn visitors from venturing into areas prone to collapse. I’ve never seen a more perfect example of pride in my life.
This was a place that gave those defending the area confidence in their success, and in standing in their position they could be confident that their strength would be enough to handle any threat, maybe it would even last forever. But that’s not what happened. Maybe they faced many threats, maybe the fort itself could have gone unconquered, but that fort didn’t keep the country from being conquered; and eventually it’s necessity yielded to time. Despite how mighty it once was considered, it became meaningless.
We can become very confident in our accomplishments, our skills, and prestige; but how easily can that confidence and pride evaporate? I have little doubt that all of us have heard stories of great men falling from the peak of their power never to rise again. Take Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, for example. Nebuchadnezzar was essentially the ruler of the world; true he hadn’t conquered everyone, but he was essentially the supreme super-power of his day. When Nebuchadnezzar looked at his kingdom, he attributed his success to himself, and God struck him with madness for a time. After his insanity, Nebuchadnezzar sung a different tune:
“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:34).
One of the things that I try to remind myself whenever I start to become confident in my situation is that it can all be gone tomorrow. I may work hard, but without the Lord’s will I struggle in vain. Recognizing the Lord’s authority and blessings gives us both gratitude and humility; and perhaps, encourages us to work in our lives to worship Him. Maybe if that had been the purpose of Babel, it would be standing today.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I’d like to say I always trust in God. You probably would too. When you read these first two sentences, you probably thought to yourself, “I do trust in God.” The reality is, yes we do trust him, but sometimes our being lacks real faith or trust.
Right now I’m in a weird place where I have a lot going on in my life and I want to trust God, and I do when you get down to it, but I also am human. What I mean by that is, I am a human with a human brain and I sometimes have thoughts where I doubt. I think there is no way God will come through. There is no way He will get me out of the situation I am going through. Then, even worse, I start thinking “I will take care of it, God. I have a solution for the problem. I know what to do.” I don’t know why we do this. I mean, God of the universe who created everything and has a plan for all the things in the world, and especially every tiny detail of my life, has it all under control.
The bible tells us about how the birds of the air are taken care of, and how much more does our father in heaven care about us. We know that He has every hair of our head numbered and every grain of sand on the beach numbered. His ways are not our ways. Do you think He has bad things planned for us? I don’t really think so, but sometimes on this road of life, it might seem that way.
We question and ask, “God, what’s going on here?” We don’t know why we go through certain things, or go through trails or have temptations. The bible reminds us, what’s impossible with man is possible with God. I start stressing out and my wife reminds me to give it to God and pray. She is right—don’t tell her I said that, haha. When we truly give it to Him to deal with, let God and let go, He will take care of it. This is His party, we are just invited.
“And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26).
I have to admit that when it comes to social media I am not completely “down with the times.” If I am being honest I mostly use it for selfish reasons such as posting extremely adorable pictures of my kids and then waiting to see how many people tell me how adorable they are. But, from time to time I will take a moment to scroll through my Facebook feed. Sometimes there are different ads, sometimes there are news articles, or all the political jargon, but what breaks my heart the most is all the hate that I see. There is so much sadness, pain, anger, hurt, bitterness, un-forgiveness, self-righteousness and the list goes on and on.
When social media first began it was for the most part used to keep people connected in a fabulous new way. Now, what I see is people using social media as a platform to say whatever they want, to speak their minds and give their opinions no matter who they hurt or offend. They say what they want to because it’s their right. It’s true! We do have a right to speak out. But as Christians, how are we speaking out? We are held to a higher standard. We are to be in this world but not of this world. We actually have an obligation to speak out and share the gospel of Jesus Christ in love! The Scriptures say that the world will know that we are Christians by our love!
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
I have four kids and coincidentally, just as they learn from me, I learn a great deal from them. It is those moments of discipline and correction that I actually need to take a look at my own heart. One question that I consistently ask my kids is this, “What would Jesus do?” As soon as this question is asked my kids immediately stop and think, then most times—not every time—they are able to respond to the situation the way Jesus would. This is so simple, yet so difficult for us to do. Well here is the answer: Jesus always responds in love!
While we are here on earth we are to be ambassadors for Christ, a representation of who He is. God is love! Are we representing Him well? Are we loving people the way He loves? No matter what?! This world is ugly. People are hurting. People need love. People need to know and feel and believe the love of Christ. As Christians we need to be showing the love of Christ in all that we say and do. Let’s ask ourselves: “What would Jesus do?”
I Corinthians 13:4 says that love does not envy. Envy, jealousy, covetousness, and the like involves looking at the world—especially the worlds of other people—and wishing you had it for yourself. That’s not loving, though, because wanting stuff and status more than you want save a soul isn’t going to turn anyone to Jesus. So what does love do?
Envy’s opposite is contentment, which is trusting that—regardless of whether we’re lavished in luxury or imprisoned and impoverished—God has always been sovereign, He still loves us, and He will take care of us. The Bible says countless times that God is a good father and gives us good gifts, and so much of Scripture is just a list of examples of His provision— from giving Adam a wife in the garden to giving the Israelites manna through the desert, or even giving us a Savior for our darkest moments. Being content means saying, “I accept whatever You give me, because I trust in You.”
To say it more simply, the problem with envy isn’t wanting stuff. The issue is a lack of trust in God. This is why love does not—cannot—envy: God is love, and He cannot distrust Himself! Likewise, if we are living and loving as Christ did, we’ll be totally dependent on Him, and we won’t be wishing for the things He hasn’t chosen to give to us. Our reliance on His plan will overcome our desire for comfort.
It’s especially wrong for us to be jealous of people who do not have Christ. On the outside, it might look like the people in the world are achieving their goals and living the life others only dream of living, but you must remember that they’re doing it in their own strength. They’re striving for it. They’ll burn out, sooner or later, or they’ll at least have to come to terms with the fact that all the gain in the world won’t fulfill their soul the way they hope it will. Solomon would be the first to tell them that worldly winnings are vain because they’ll eventually fade away. People cannot take their achievements into the afterlife.
You, however, have eternally lasting rewards because Christ conquered sin and death. The greatest obstacle you’ll ever have to hurdle has already been accomplished. What more could you possibly want?
Psalm 37:1 says it this way: “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Any way you slice it, truly loving someone involves showing them Christ in some way or another. That’s why not envying plays a part in loving others: when you wind up shipwrecked, beaten, in prison, but you still keep praising Jesus anyway, the world will see. They’ll find themselves wanting what you’ve got, even though they expected it to be the other way around.