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!
The book of Proverbs paints an obvious contrast between folly and wisdom. While the world's ways (folly) promote fame and fortune, God's ways (wisdom) instructs me to serve and give to the lowly people, because I'll gain a heavenly treasure that will last much longer and be much more valuable. Folly says to get back at people who've hurt me, but wisdom says to trust God to take vengeance, because He knows the situation much better and can deal with those other people much more effectively. Folly says to run toward whatever makes me happy, while wisdom says to run after God, because having wisdom means knowing that God's will is the best place to be in, that He will provide everything I need, and that He will give me a joy far deeper than any kind of happiness the world can offer. God's way—the wise way—is clearly so much better than the way of folly, yet…I find myself so quick to be foolish.
In one of my favorite chapters, Proverbs 9, Solomon personifies wisdom and folly as if they are two women, walking around a city and calling to the city dwellers. The woman who represents wisdom shouts in the middle of the city square, at the city gates, or on the tallest hill in the city, telling the people to come to God's ways. The woman who represents folly does the same thing, except she tells the people to follow the ways of the world and their selfish desires. Both are calling, so why does it seem easier for me to hear the woman named Folly than it is to hear the woman named Wisdom? Why do I look back and realize I've obeyed what felt good to the flesh in the moment, or what seemed rational from the world's-eye-view, instead of following the sagacity given by my omniscient God?
Some translations of Proverbs 9:13 say that the woman named Folly is loud and seductive. In other words, foolishness is hard to ignore. The feel-good ideas of this world are all around me. Sin is incredibly attractive; it strikes my curiosity.
God's voice, on the other hand, is described as sometimes being quiet and gentle, like a low whisper (I Kings 19:12). Even though Wisdom is calling out in the middle of the city square, it can be hard to hear her over the sound of all those people who need to hear her. The noisy intrigue of a foolish thought can drown out the still, small voice of God's good sense. The world is a noisy place, and its ideas are alluring. So are you tuning in to that tender whisper? Are you familiar with which voice is His? Remember to take time to go to a quiet place, and listen to what God is saying by opening His Word.
“And [the rich man] said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:30-31).
You’ve probably heard some variation of this sentence before, or maybe even said it yourself at some point in time. “If God would only just (insert impressive miracle), then I would believe!” Some would find this to be a compelling argument, and I myself was stumped by it for a very long time, until I was hit by a truck filled with common sense. People typically don’t go see a magician and realize that magic is real, or watch a UFO documentary and go looking for aliens, unless they came to the table already having some measure of belief. Even when people face something they know to be absolutely real, if it isn’t something they want to believe, they’ll rationalize it away.
We all have times in our lives when we irrationally deny something blatantly obvious, because accepting it as truth is too uncomfortable. This was the conclusion I drew when I thought long and hard on the validity of the if-God-was-real challenge that unbelievers issue. Could a giant miracle change someone’s opinion? Maybe, but maybe not. Jesus healed the blind and rose the dead from grave, and people didn’t deny that He did miracles, but they still denied His divinity. When Jesus was being crucified, his skeptics said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42).
When I was younger, I was asked why I believed in God. What could I point to to prove God was real? Wanting to provide a scholarly answer, I answered by talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and how they supported proof that the prophecies in the Old Testament predated Jesus’ time. My little brother answered, “Because I believe it in my heart!” I was surprised to find that his answer was met with more approval, and I’ve matured enough to understand why. The only proof that we can offer others of God’s reality is by showing them what God has done in our lives and how our relationship with Him affects us.
There is a saying that goes, “If you could be argued into salvation, you can be argued out of it,” and how true it is. If some magic trick was all it took a person to believe, then it’s not unreasonable to say that the same could convince them otherwise; that’s not belief, that’s actually faithlessness (Hebrews 11:1). God is willing to give us miracles to help in our unbelief, but He does so for those that seek Him, believe enough to genuinely ask, and have faith that He can really do what they ask.
“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13).
I think stating that the last few weeks, even months, have been less than convenient would be an understatment. Coronavirus has caused a great deal of pain, discomfort, and anxiety—and I believe that is the least of what can be said for it. That said, in the early days of the virus, when information was at its most uncertain, I could not help but look about and wonder at the fear I saw in the world around me. It was only later that I realized why. I can’t say that I’ve heard from the Lord many times in my life, but I there was a word that I received in my heart from Him last year and the year before; simply put, that this would be a year in which He would bless me, and answer a very particular prayer that I have been asking for a very long time. Knowing that the Lord had good plans for me, that He was going to bless me, made me confident during the first dark days of the lockdown—perhaps overly confident.
I walked tall, and while I exercised caution, I was never worried about getting sick. I knew that only one of two things would happen: I would either not contract the virus, or I would recover if I did. It was the only thing that made sense to me, after all, the Lord had good plans for me. That said, I was worried about spreading the disease, so I maintained social distancing and washed my hands on a frequent basis. Over time, however, I saw the worry on others and how it weighed them down, including other believers, and that’s when I realized that my confidence was outside the norm. It was only then that I realized why I was in a unique situation: not everyone received this message from the Lord.
As time passed, people in my social circles lost people they loved, and that’s when I truly grasped the extent of my confidence, and perhaps the callousness that I had been feeling because of it. Not everyone sails through every storm, and sometimes the Lord calls people home when we’re not ready for it. The storm of coronavirus will come to pass, but it will take with it many. Some may have been confident like me, many more will have been scared and uncertain about their future, not just their future on this earth, but their future in eternity. My heart, while not worried, has grown a sense of compassion for those that are frightened of the unknown future ahead of them, and similarly, it’s important that our hearts remain soft for those who lack the eternal security that we can sometimes take for granted.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21).
I’m a visual person. If you really want me to understand something, I’ve got to see it. For that reason, the action-based, dramatic parts of the Bible have always been ones that stick with me, one of them being Israel’s escape from Egypt.
I can only imagine what it would have been like to walk through a sea while an enemy pursued. If I saw that, I’d take about two seconds to respond, “You’re kidding, right? We’re about to walk through that?”
Moses just would reply, “That’s what God says.”
Israel had just witnessed the utter devastation God rained in Egypt, and when they saw Pharaoh chasing them, they were besides themselves with fear. Isn’t that so like us? When God leads us out of a time of tribulation, as soon as things get heated again, we panic. Sometimes what we’re afraid of gets close and makes us sweat. God didn’t stop the Egyptians in their tracks; He let them get close enough to Israel that the Israelites legitimately thought they were going to die in the wilderness. When Moses went to the Lord, He practically responded, “Didn’t I just tell you what the plan was? Why are you freaking out?”
This was Israel’s first real test of faith since the plagues of Egypt. Their enemy was behind them, and they could think of no way out before them, but God made a way, and He was glorified in the process.
Like I said, I’m a visual person, and the lesson that this passage of Scripture paints is a remarkable one. We like being comfortable, the lazy kind of comfort that keeps us from upsetting the status quo. That kind of comfortable isn’t always what’s best for us, though. God pushes us out of our comfort zone so that we can serve Him and grow. It’s in those times of discomfort that God brings us His comfort, the kind we need to get through. Sometimes it’s easy, but sometimes we have to walk through the midst of the sea, with the waters at our sides and the enemy at our backs. Sometimes we get so distracted by our fears that we forget that the Lord has parted the water and made the path in front of us dry.
While he was teaching a youth group across town, my boyfriend set up an imaginary bus between the chairs in the sanctuary. It’s next stop? Hell. He asked the youth if they believed they deserved to go to hell. Well, almost the entire youth group got up out of their seats and went to the imaginary bus in the center aisle—but I didn’t.
After everyone returned to their seats, he asked the flip question, if anyone believed they deserved to get on a bus going to heaven. I sheepishly and solitarily side-stepped into the center aisle. Now, I certainly don’t think I’m worthy in and of myself to ride the bus to heaven, but I’m also certain that my bus ticket doesn’t say my final destination is hell. Because, Jesus, right?
It’s sort of a trick question. Can we deserve to go to hell, and simultaneously deserve to go to heaven? Deservedness is a matter of your identity. Is it in Christ? We, as Christians, are adopted by the King, and an heir does nothing to deserve his inheritance; it’s given to him because of his identity as his father’s child.
Satan will try to lie to you about your identity; he’ll tell you that you are not a qualified ambassador for the Lord. You aren’t worthy to represent Jesus. You cannot give God glory. You are not a little Christ. Satan wants to trap you in sin, too: lust for it, guilt from it—it doesn’t matter, just as long as you think you’re good for nothing other than messing up, as long as you believe you’ll never escape the inevitable fall.
Falling short is not falling from grace, though. Whenever you mess up (I say when, not if, since you won’t be perfect until you’re eternally separated from this flesh), don’t get stuck in the worry and wallow. It’s easy to revel in the guilt of falling into mire, or to anticipate another slippery slope of temptation. Regretting and dreading sin is just as hindering as the sin itself. Instead, be grateful that you’ll inherit everything jointly with Jesus. Change your perspective to gratitude that He’s already accomplished the ultimate victory.
Paul said it better than I could: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 1:12-14).
Look at how much He loves you: the Old Testament was written to set the stage for the New Testament, and the New Testament was written so that you would find the gospel message. That means the entire Bible was written so that you could be a part of the continuing story. It’s sort of a trick question: do you deserve to represent Christ and give God glory? Don’t kid yourself. It’s what you were created for.
You don’t have to go spend much time in the health field industry before you learn a very important lesson: what people are complaining about usually isn’t the real problem. I work with people that have conditions of pain, often chronic ones, and I frequently have to explain that while it may hurt in the area they are talking to me about, the problem is likely coming from somewhere else. I’ll have people question my knowledge of anatomy when the very thing that hurts them is the last thing on my list of priorities.
People are like that in a lot of ways, especially with the problems they face and the struggles they carry. Not too long ago, I was concerned about my finances, and that concern boiled over into a a display of frustration, which the people around me didn’t deserve to see. Yes, the conversation that we were having stirred up my feelings of concern, but the conversation wasn’t the problem. The frustration wasn’t even the problem. The problem was that I was worried, but the worry culminated into an uncomfortable situation that was entirely unnecessary.
That story, as shortened and vague as it is, is not unique. We all have experiences where we deal with a symptom of our problems rather than the cause.
Once, I asked someone which superpower he would want, and he told me, “I don’t want to feel pain.” He wasn’t talking just about physical pain; he was talking about emotional and spiritual pain. Unfortunately, this is the logic so many people have: they just want to escape the pain their problems cause. However, masking a symptom seldom cures it.
There is a sickness that pervades all of our souls, and it’s called sin. The prognosis is fatal, and it often manifests itself in many unpleasant and painful symptoms. Thankfully, we have the greatest physician of all, and what does a good physician do? He treats the cause. In order to receive His aid, though, we have to do two things: acknowledge we have a problem that needs to be fixed, and then ask Him to help.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55).
What are you going to have done with your body when you die? This is a question I’ve asked myself. Shockingly, dying is expensive; the average funeral costs the same as a used car. Now, I get the sentimentality, I really do, but I’d rather not make my loved ones foot that bill, so cremation is probably what I’ll go with—it just makes the most sense to me. The biggest reason is that whatever happens to this ever-deteriorating body doesn’t matter much to me; they may lay me down to rest, but I think of it more as a nap. (I realize this may all be morbid, but bear with me.) The simple truth of the matter is that when Jesus rose and took those steps out of the tomb, He conquered death—for good!
One of the questions that was brought to Paul in his teachings was, “What about those of us that have died?” Well, he gave a, “Don’t worry, we’ll catch up with them!” sort of reply (I Thessalonians 4). Simply put, the Lord is coming, and when He does, He will gather His believers—all of them, the living and the dead. This is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring concepts in the Bible. To think—no matter what happens to our bodies—when the Lord returns, we will imitate Him and be resurrected.
Whenever I think how much Christ defanged death, I can’t help but wonder how I can be so distracted by all of my worries and cares; literally the biggest threat to my being has been resolved! Now, don’t take this all the wrong way; I may not be afraid of death as a concept, but the whole getting there still freaks me out. It’s easy to forget that many of our problems are inconsequential when compared to the fact that we have eternal security. Death has gone from being “The Great End” to just an inconvenient doorway.
Sometimes I consider what the world will be like after my time here has expired, which is why I think about funerals and costs. I’d rather not have a funeral altogether; if anything, I want them to throw a going away party. I understand that it is painful to see loved ones go, which is why I’d rather have them cheer each other up. I’ll see them later, and until they catch up, I’ll be in a much nicer place than a stuffy funeral home.
Because of the Philippians’ patriotism, Caesar granted citizenship to the entire city of Philippi. This was a pretty big deal, since only a small percentage of the Roman Empire actually had Roman citizenship. Paul wrote to the Philippian church, though, to remind them that there are bigger authorities than the government. He explained that, while the people of the world “set their mind on earthly things,” we as Christians know “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:19-21).
Although the world might look like it’s falling apart, in the grand scheme of things, the present political issues are nothing but a blip in the timeline of the planet. Votes will be vetoed. Rules will be overruled. Conquerors will be conquered. Kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall, and some new development is already on the rise. Politics, if nothing else, are incredibly fleeting—but I say that as a comfort. The accompanying worries will be short-lived. Evil plots are shaky, and human shortcomings are momentary. The Lord, though, is a foundation that endures for eternity.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate in politics. In fact, if Church entirely separated from state (or from any other institution, for that matter), how would the light of Christ have opportunity to shine in it? What I am saying is that we shouldn’t worry. God is not ignorant of current issues, and He has power to sway things if He so wishes (Proverbs 21:1).
More than that, I am saying that we shouldn’t place our identity and zeal in a political party or social movement, but rather live—heart, soul, mind, and strength—for the sake of representing Jesus, glorifying God, and obeying the Holy Spirit, regardless of the political environment around us.
You have dual citizenship: one of your kingdoms is temporal and temporary, and the other is eternal. For which will you raise your flag of identity? For which are you going to fight? Pick your battles wisely! Don’t get riled up over the kingdom of secondary importance. If you submit yourself to the eternal King, He will take care of the temporary kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).
The pages of my Bible are well worn. Many are marked with a bright highlighter, and a few even have notes scrawled into the tiny margins. I’ve gone through the Bible numerous times in my life, some books much more frequently than others. Inevitably, my studies sometimes take me to a book that is less exciting than others. It’s easy for me to get the feeling, “Oh, here we go. Let’s get this over with…” This is especially common of me to do when I find myself in the books of laws and logistics, such as Numbers or Deuteronomy. I realize these books are important, but for a long time, I didn’t personally enjoy them. I would have much rather read the parts with action, and reading accounting records just doesn’t have the same appeal.
My world was rocked, though, when I spoke with a very important mentor to me. He asked me what book God spoke in the most. Thinking hard on it, I provided Jeremiah or Ezekiel. He told me, “Good guess, but the answer is Leviticus. Nearly the entire book is God’s instructions to Moses." His answer blew my mind.
My mentor challenged my perception of the books and passages I always considered tedious and boring. If God Himself is the orator, and it is in these books that He most frequently speaks, shouldn’t that say something about their importance? The truth of the matter is that most Bibles have Jesus’ words in red, but not God’s. I’ve often thought of how beneficial it would be if God’s words in the Old Testament were also so marked, just so we could see how vocal He was.
Today, there are still parts of the Bible that I don’t fully grasp; if you were to quiz me on what the differences are between some of the minor prophets, I’d probably ask to pass. Even though these books don’t receive as much esteem or glamorization as other passages, it doesn’t diminish their importance. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
Every word of the Bible is a divinely inspired, precious gift from heaven. It’s not up to me to decide what is important and what is inconsequential. It’s up to me to read, and not from just the parts that catch my eye, but from cover to cover.
“[Love] does not seek its own, is not provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5).
Oh, how very easy it is to punch back. Ask nearly any guy, and he will tell you: if you take a hit, you hit back—defend yourself! Well, sometimes it’s hard to be lying on the floor, ready to let loose your fury on the person who put you there, yet choose to hold back your wrath. It’s not easy, but it’s usually right. Most Christians will read this sentence and nod their head in agreement, but this isn’t just an analogy. For me, this stirs up a very poignant and painful memory.
To summarize, one night my brother woke me up and asked me to do something, to which I refused. My brother didn’t like that answer, and in an effort to convince me to comply, pulled me to the ground. On the way down, apparently I kicked him, and he instinctively punched my face, knocking my head onto the floor. For a very brief, but intense, moment I wanted to hit him; I don’t think I ever had such a desire to inflict pain onto him. I’d always been bigger than him and was confident that, if I indulged in my vengeance, I would likely win. By the grace of God, I held back. I took a moment, and I saw what would happen next: I’d hit him, he’d hit me, and we would repeat that sequence until one of us eventually wore out. Instead, I stayed on the ground, let his head cool off, and I went back to bed without any more incident.
Neither of us walked away undamaged. I awoke with a black eye, but that was nothing compared to the damage to our relationship. I believe my brother still carries the guilt of that night. It took a long time before all those wounds healed, but how much worse would it have been if I had hit him back? How long would we have traded blows, even though we loved each other? How much worse would we have both been if I followed that instinctive desire to satiate my anger? Thankfully, I don’t know.
I cannot claim that my heart was exclusively in the place of love, but I wanted to minimize the damage of what happened, so the results were not dissimilar. When love gets dragged around, when it gets pushed down, and even when it gets hit, it takes the pain, because any other action is going to make the situation worse. When we love people, we care more about that connection, about improving their lives, than we do about how it makes us feel. It isn’t always easy, but God hasn’t asked us to follow an easy path. After all, we’re called to be like Jesus. How much, I wonder, did Jesus resist His desires to protect Himself and His honor on the day of His death?