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!
“Bless the Lord, O my soul!…You are clothed with honor and majesty…[He] walks on the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104:1, 3).
What gives this body life? What makes it to move or to speak?
What separates it from the dead, from corpses that doth reek?
Is it not the breath in my lungs? The life that rises in my chest?
So what is the breath of my soul, what is the answer to that test?
I was driven like a wave, to and fro I chased every whim and desire;
Like chaff winnowed in a breeze, I chased worthlessness until my soul did tire.
I was but dead bones, dried out by vain attempts to take a fitful gasp;
As if I were beating the air, my hands failed to take life in their grasp.
My heart resided in the house of the prince of the air, a house of putrid decay;
But what is his power compared to the King of Heaven, who rescues all from dismay?
In the beginning, the earth was void and still, like an orb of cold stagnation.
Then Your Spirit moved across the waters, and filled it with animation.
So Your breath fills me up, gives me life, and makes my soul respire.
Your Holy Spirit fuels my heart, by it every breath I inspire.
Though I struggle, and face many painful toils, snares, and stings,
My God will lift me up, and make me to soar on eagle’s wings.
You blew down the walls of my pride, the house I so carefully erected,
To fill me up, even though I was a broken vessel so dejected.
Where can I find this precious breath? This Spirit which renews me with vitality?
Is it not in Your Word, my redeemer? From which You teach truth and reality?
Who can hold back this force, this power Which brings life to the nations across the world?
It’s like holding back a hurricane, or Euroclydon, in a sail left unfurled.
Who can understand the ways of the Lord, by skill or by happenstance?
It’s like predicting the wind, without seeing the leaves it makes to dance.
Like a mighty whirlwind He shakes the earth, and makes its dust to fly;
A cyclone by which He catches me up, taking my soul up high.
He will gather His children swiftly, racing to the corners of the earth.
Praise the Lord, our redeemer, who heals our spirits and gives us second birth!
“You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:29-30).
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God….Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire” (Psalm 104:1, 4).
Who can resist the Lord? Truly, who can stand in the day of He coming?
A bush in the desert, red-hot glowing, is more likely of surviving.
He searches the ends of the earth, with fire that blazes within His eyes;
Seeking to discern the hearts of men, and seeing through their truth and lies.
All our works had amounted to nothing. They were like fuel burnt up in a conflagration;
But exchanging our ashes for beauty, You made us rulers in Your holy nation.
As by venom from a burning bite, sin would cause us to wither like the grass,
But You crushed that fiery serpent, and trampled sin under feet of brass.
Kindle in me, oh Lord, the flames that from heaven fall,
Those Holy flames that give me strength to answer Your call.
Purge my iniquity with the coals from Your alter,
Lest I speak with unclean lips, and in my weakness falter.
You purify my soul, separating silver from the dross,
Mark me with Your brand, so that they will know the power of Your cross.
Set up Your pillar to guide me, so that even in the night I may be warmed by Your provision;
For the night presses in about me, but under Your pillar’s light, I will survive all derision.
Even when they stoke the furnace of their wrath, to silence the words You share with me,
How can their power compare to Yours? Why do they contend with Your great fervency?
Don’t they know, that the heavens cannot withstand You? And mountains melt beneath Your feet?
Was I fool such as these? Did I boast as the rebel does, saying, “Him I will defeat!”?
You command an army of angels, each one in a chariot ablaze,
Fire and brimstone bend to Your will, the rebellious cities they will raze.
Sustain me in my weakness, send from heaven the Great Comforter down!
Holy Spirit, descend like tongues of flame, and rest on my lowly crown.
The passion of Your words burns within me, Oh Lord, and it burns within my soul!
They consume my bones and exhaust me to contain, Your glories I must extol!
You accept the gifts of our offering, consuming the wood, the stubble, and the hay;
And give us back gold and gems purified, even when what we owe we can’t repay!
“For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
“You covered [the earth] with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains” (Psalm 104:6).
The world tosses my soul about, churning my heart into a squall and rancor;
I struggled in my own strength, but without hope, I was adrift with no anchor.
I forsook Your fountain, and foolishly sought cisterns that were empty;
But You waited, knowing I could only be satisfied by Thee.
My soul wandered in a dry place, and You gave rain;
Your grace falls like snow to cover my crimson stain.
You shower the world in a flood of hope and mercy,
And still I ask, “but is Your grace sufficient for me?”
Even when I fled to the uttermost parts of the sea,
Determined to drown in my sins and proud iniquity,
You never left my side, Your right hand wouldn’t let me go;
And even in those depths, Your glory continued to show.
In the still of Your peace, my confidence builds and grows like morning dew,
But then troubles rise like the sun, melting my courage until I’m through.
In the night You call to me, testing my faith to draw me near,
But unstable as water, I sink in waves of doubt and fear.
In trial, I cry out, “Why have You led me here, to this place of desolation?”
But You lead me through it to lay me by still waters and grant my heart elation.
Your cloud guides my path, though before me, fear rolls in like a tide;
I say, “I can’t cross, I’m surrounded on every side!”
“Peace, be still,” You tell me, ushering me on, “Why are you bereft?”
Then You dried my path, walling my fears on my right hand and my left.
You broke Your stone to fill my cup and slake my thirst;
From that flow, You spring forth life ‘till I think I’ll burst.
Oh fountain of eternal life, help me in my unbelief!
Let me not forget to drink from whence my soul finds its relief.
Remind me, oh Lord! Remind me, lest I struggle and forget:
You are faithful to save, and You haven’t failed to save me yet.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).
“You who laid the foundations of the earth, So that it should not be moved forever” (Psalm 104:5).
Into the dust, You breathed Your life and soul;
I was below the dust, You made me whole.
In stubborn pride, I wandered the wilderness,
Now I walk the Eden of Your righteousness.
I was a broken vessel, shattered, dishonored, and in disarray.
Then You gathered up my shambles, to mold them as a potter does clay.
Spreading seeds of faith on dry soil,
You saved me from this mortal coil.
Your spirit fell on my heart of stone,
Redeeming what I could not atone.
Beneath the moorings of the mountains,
I laid myself in the grave;
You crossed the chasm, broke my prison bars,
And this poor sinner saved.
With sweat and toil, I built my house, confident in my thinking;
“I am wise!” I cried, yet my foundation was sand that was sinking.
You plucked me from the pit, which I dug lacking all reflection,
And hid me in the rock, to place me under Your protection.
You are the chief cornerstone, which crushes my sin like fine sand.
On the foundation of your promises, I make my stand.
I hung a millstone about my neck, to cast myself into the sea;
Taking off my burdens, You hung them up on the mount at Calvary.
The mountains bow down to You in reverence,
So who am I, that You come to my defense?
The weight of guilt pulled me down into miry clay,
Reaching down, You raised my hope out of dismay.
For my sake, You rested in a tomb in the earth,
To keep me from the pit, and give me second birth.
I will rejoice from the mountain of the Lord, I will rejoice!
For from the mountain of my God and King, He gave me a choice:
To stay below, and to the dust return, as is the Earth’s way,
Or ascend to Him, and walk the new earth on that glorious day!
The earth will quake, and with the stones we’ll cry,
“Behold, our redeemer, the Lord Most High!”
“I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:21-23).
“Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident…In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:3, 5).
Over a break, I went on a hike up a mountain. The top had a magnificent view, but there was somewhere that had an even better view—a rock formation where stones were stacked like platforms over the cliffs below. Of course, I had to go out and climb on them—after all, what else are you to do with perfectly climbable rocks?
Between me and the vantage point was loose shale, and I had to be very careful to avoid a very long fall, but that wasn’t the only part that gave me concern. Once I reached my goal, the world was a bit more daunting. The rock under my feet was secure, but I had the instinct to drop down to all fours. My brain was convinced that if the slightest breeze didn’t send me to my death, I’d grow overconfident in my amazing standing-on-a-rock prowess and make a fatal misstep.
In reality, I was far safer on the rock than I was on the shale, and I knew that, but my fears still were boisterous enough that I eventually left my perch.
How similar was this experience to walking in the spirit, or trusting in the Lord? Sometimes we reach a spiritual mountain, and the view is glorious! Even when we think we’ve reached the top, the Lord still points out a better view and leads us a bit further, saying, “Hey, stand over there!”
Even if we’re brave enough to follow His direction, it’s very easy to be shaking in fear the whole way. Then, once we get to the pinnacle the Lord has sent us to, what are our greatest threats? Either stumbling in fear from not trusting in the strength of the foundation beneath us, or growing overly confident in our own capabilities, forgetting what brought us to the rock in the first place.
Maybe I’m overanalyzing this experience, but whenever I’ve been in a place of trouble, I do long for the security that I receive and the view I see when I stand on the power and stability that is our rock.
“His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water” (Psalm 1: 2-3).
My water bottle usually gets a comment or two because of how it looks. It’s nothing fancy, just an old, glass, lemonade bottle, but I like it more than the typical metal bottles you find in the store. Besides, it was much cheaper! The biggest reason I use it is because it makes it easier to track exactly how much water I’ve had in my day. If I look at it and see it’s still mostly full, I remember, “Oh, yeah! I haven’t had enough water today!” As anyone living in a desert will tell you, staying hydrated is very important, and sometimes it’s easy to forget to take a drink.
Sometimes I think of my Bible in the same way. “Oh, yeah! I haven’t had enough of the Word today!” There is a thirst that resides in our souls, and sometimes we forget how thirsty we are until something reminds us of how long it has been since we last tasted God’s presence. It’s really easy for me to get caught up in the busyness of my day and to get distracted by all of the wheels I have spinning. Maybe that’s why I occasionally find myself thirsty for God’s Word. Just like how going without drinking water all day makes me practically drown trying to quench the dryness in my throat, I have to submerge in the Bible to refresh my soul.
Some days, I find myself reading the equivalent of a bottle of the Word. It’s survivable, but definitely not healthy. Even if I can survive on the fountain of the Holy Spirit that resides in me, that doesn’t mean I should settle for it. David said it best in Psalm 143:6, “I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land.”
I’ve heard it said that we should have at least eight cups of water a day. I think a better rule is drink what you need whenever you’re able to, and then drink a little bit more.
Sometimes I take a moment of personal reflection, considering my life and what I’ve done, and I think, “My poor mother!” One memory that makes me say that is one from my early childhood. I must have been six or seven, and I was at a Christian music festival when I reenacted every parent’s worst nightmare: I got lost. Once I realized I was alone, I did what my parents had instructed me to do in that situation: I found someone who gave me directions to our RV site, and I went to wait. I can only imagine the terror I put my parents through—especially my mother, who was both infuriated and overjoyed when they finally discovered me.
Now, I insist that I wasn’t technically lost. After all, I knew exactly where I was; I was just alone. I only asked someone for directions because that’s what my parents told me to do. In all fairness, isn’t that the certainty we have when we’re lost and don’t realize it?
The fact that many people are lost is clearly evident in the way they live. Often they don’t realize it, and if do, they don’t always choose to seek the appropriate guidance to remedy their situation. More often than not, they are confident that they have everything under control. They think they know where they’re going and how to get there.
Of course, this isn’t something I can exclusively lay at the feet of unbelievers, pointing to them with the claim, “Look at those guys! They don’t know what they’re doing!” The truth of the matter is sometimes it’s easy to get off the beaten path, to walk with your head held high in confidence without looking at where your feet are going. Then, in a fit of sanity, you look around and notice that you not only don’t know where you are, but you’re not sure where you’re going.
I wonder if that was the situation David found himself in when Nathan confronted him about Bathsheba. Now that was a situation where David got himself good and lost. It was only when he acknowledged what he had done and sought forgiveness that he found his way back to God.
Honestly, at the festival, the idea that I was lost never even entered my mind. It was only after I was found that it registered. That’s not the perspective my mother had. I’m sure she had every horrible scenario make its rounds in her head. Just as my parents were searching high and low for me, we have a Father in heaven that will go to the ends of the earth to seek us when we lose our way.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” (Luke 15:4-6).
There’s a difference between knowing a bungee cord will catch you and actually believing in it enough to step off a ledge. The same principal applies to my walk: I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and I know that the Lord is a savior and a healer, but when I read that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3), and I looked down at the little, crumbled, broken bits of soul-shard in my hands, I had a hard time believing it.
What can God do to fix something so broken as my heart, something so continually self-destructive as myself? Even if He does have the power to heal my brokenness, is He willing? I wasn’t very convinced that He would, but then He nudged me to read the entirety of Psalm 147.
The Psalm starts off by saying how good it is to praise God. Some translations say that praise is “fitting” for Him, and that He is beautiful. We see His beauty in creation; the universe alone attests to it. The vastness of galaxies and precision of gravity prove His greatness as a creator. His understanding is limitless, too; not only does He know the number of the stars, but He knows each one by name (Psalm 147:4-5).
He is powerful enough to create, and He is caring enough to nurture His creation. This Psalm explains how He goes out of His way to orchestrate the globe’s weather just so that grass will grow to feed cattle. He even listens to the hungry cries of baby birds, and aren’t His people more valuable than those? (Psalm 147:8-9; Matthew 6:26).
He’s taking care of animals I will never meet on mountains I will never see in ways that will never affect me. He is both mighty and considerate enough to fine tune details I will never even notice. In short, He is in control of far more than I realize.
How could I honestly think He’s concerned with my ability to fight a battle He has already won? My ability to keep my commitments is void in light of of His promises. Verse 11 says, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” In other words, all He requires of me is that I revere Him and expectantly look forward to the manifestations of His steadfast, steadfast love. He wants me to trust Him, and to rest assured that the binding up of my broken heart will come to pass. I believe that’s why this Psalm says so often to praise Him with thanksgiving, even if that means thanking Him in advance.
I am an agreeable person, or at least I like to think so. I try and be helpful when I can be, and one of the words I’ve used to describe myself to people is “complaisant.” I remember one occasion when I was describing myself to a friend that “I’m complaisant—with an I!” She looked very confused for a moment before I explained. Complaisant is a homonym; it has the exact same pronunciation as the word complacent, which is a word that I absolutely didn’t want her to think I said. Complacent, with an E, is the word so frequently heard in church, often preceded by the phrase, “Do not be.”
Complacent—with an E—means to be uncritically satisfied. Most every time I’ve heard this has been during a teaching on how people fell into sin because of carelessness, as if being complacent and lazy were the same. If you’re uncritical, then you’re content with how things are. It means you neither strive to improve nor recognize when you’re not good enough; it is essentially wallowing in pride. Anyone who has made the mistake of becoming tolerant of sinful behavior is not striving to be like Christ.
On the contrary, to be complaisant—with an I—means to comply with the desires, advice, or instructions of others. If you’re complaisant, then you are accommodating, or at least try to be agreeable. Complaisance is essentially being a servant to someone. We can see our ultimate example of a servant in Jesus, who was complaisant to the will of the Father—even to the point that He was willing to die. “[Jesus] said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will’” (Mark 14:36).
When I told my friend, “I’m complaisant—with an I!” I was trying to make a very important distinction. More importantly though, I make the distinction in my own life. The line between complaisance and complacency is one that I have to be conscious not to cross. If I ever stop examining myself or become lazy in my walk, I will begin to slip from the former into the latter. I Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” What happens to an athlete who falls into the trap of thinking they are good enough all the time? They stop striving, and by extension, they grow weaker in achieving their goals. Even if just to remind myself to serve others and serve the Lord, I must clarify that my goal is to be complaisant—with an I!
God sent Jeremiah the prophet to address the people of Israel because they were caught up in a nasty cycle of sin. The nation had gotten wrapped up in all sorts of idolatry, and they adopted false gods from other people groups to the point that God described His beloved people as being like an unfaithful bride. The little graven figurines and the rituals weren’t the worst of it, though. The Israelites hadn’t simply gotten complacent and strayed onto the wrong path; they were running onto it.
God explained to Jeremiah, “No man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course” (Jeremiah 8:6). That was the main problem. The sin itself wasn’t Israel’s biggest fault. The real issue was that the sinners didn’t acknowledge their need for a savior.
Today, that’s especially true in light of the cross. God sees our mistakes as us just deviating off course, and will tell us, “Whoops, that wasn’t the right way,” as if we’ve stumbled off the sidewalk curb—so long as we get back up and continue on the right path. Now, if we gave up on the straight-and-narrow and shamelessly turned to our new course, then we would be truly lost.
The point is, God doesn’t care about performance as much as He cares about heart. Good deeds done to make up for bad deeds mean less to Him than sincere regret for bad deeds. He wants to use willing servants, not already-perfect prodigies. Think about how David sinned with Bathsheba, and how he tried to cover it up with murder and deceit. Even so, David is still described as being a man after God’s own heart! In his song of repentance, David writes to God, “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).
When your flesh and the world and the enemy get the better of you, don’t get hung up on the fact you’ve fallen. It happens, and the Father awaits your return with open arms. The important piece is that you run back to Him rather than trying to cover up the sin yourself, rather than just shrugging it off, rather than continuing in it.