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!
It’s been raining. That’s my favorite part about the seasonal changes here. Somewhere between the biting winter and the burning summer are these sporadic little rainstorms. I love the smell of the rain in Las Vegas. The typical petrichor is mixed with the distinct scent of exhaust fumes and melted asphalt. You’d think the stench of road mixed with the fragrance of air would be unpleasant, but I love it. I like to think it means the sky is washing the city.
During the last rainstorm, I was reading the Bible with someone close to me, and he pointed out Titus 1:2, which says, “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” For some reason, the verse was striking—there was something about trying to wrap our minds around eternity, and how God knew about it before time began. If eternal life is the thing granted to those who have been perfected, it only makes since that God has always known eternal life, because He has always been perfect.
And God is so very perfect. He is pure. He is completely undefiled. By His very nature, He cannot have unity with anything that contradicts Him…that’s why when we sinned (turned from His ways), we were eternally separated from Him. He adores us, though, and ever since we fell away, He’s been doing everything in His power to get as close as He can to dwelling among us. His first method of doing that was setting up the tabernacle in the Old Testament.
Those Mosaic laws didn’t perfect us to the degree of His purity, though. A tabernacle in the middle of the camp was not complete unity. His love for us and desire to be with us was so great, that He ended up sacrificing His purity for our sake. He took our sin upon Himself so that we could have the righteousness of Christ. Now, because of Jesus, He dwells within our tabernacled hearts, and we’re promised an eternity with Him in perfection.
After that rainstorm stopped, the Vegas valley was blanketed in foggy, smoggy clouds. The person I’d been reading with saw that the Stratosphere hotel was completely shrouded. It wasn’t visible at all. He said the Stratosphere was like our sin. Logically, we know it’s there because we’ve seen it every day, but now it’s covered by something from above so it’s no longer seen.
Although we’ll never be perfect on this side of heaven, we still learn about Him in spite of our imperfections. We learn through contrast, realizing His perfection by recognizing our imperfection, and vice versa, and the more we see of His love, the more we’ll yearn and strive to be close to Him, too. We must remember to not let our imperfection belittle us and distract us from a sense of awe, because His purity overshadows all our sin.
What is love? that is a question I asked myself a bit growing up. I had grown up in the church, grown up on movies, and always said goodbye on the phone to my family with: “I love you!” Still, eventually, I started to ask myself, what is love as a concept? I prayed about this for a while, and was ever unsatisfied with the answer I received from the dictionary, until one day it hit me and it all made sense. Love wasn’t a sappy word you say about things you like, it’s not something said to convince other people you enjoy their company, it was a verb, an action. Love is the demonstration of one’s feelings, an act of showing how valued something is in their life.
That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t the final conclusion of my epiphany. If love was the action of showing how valued something was, how is it measured? Ultimately, it’s measured by the value of what you’re willing to give up for the thing that is loved. Life is full of resources, resources like time, energy, and money, all of which are important to us to have and utilize. Love asks: “how much of those resources are you willing to give to me so I can be better off?” Once I realized that, everything else about love started to make sense.
Verses like 1 John 4:7-8 suddenly took new meaning: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If love is the act of showing others how much you care about them by giving things up for their benefit, God is the very essence of that. He desires to make us better, and He only wants the best for us. Like how a parent will spend countless hours slaving away to improve their children’s future.
The act of love wasn’t the only thing this realization shone new light on. If love is the act of giving up things you like for the benefit of others, than pride is that act directed inwards towards yourself. Pride is saying, “I’m more important than you, so if I give these resources up, it’s to make me happy and it doesn’t matter how it affects you.” Every person that rebels against God, every broken relationship, and all despicable acts of evil, come from this concept of desiring to love oneself, rather than others.
Many more revelations on love came to me after God gave me the insight to understand the concept; but none of them were more important than this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
The world is slowing down. Science tells us that the earth is winding down, granted it’s only a few milliseconds every hundred years or so. Sometimes, I wish that it was slowing down faster. When I was a child, it seemed like every day went on forever, at some point in life though, that changed. Life no longer seemed like it was trudging along slowly, suddenly, years were melting away faster than seemed reasonable. My aunt once told me that life was like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it seems to go.
Life is fast, and it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in a day to get it all done. Of course, there would never be enough hours you could add to a day to get it all done. In that fast pace, it’s easy to put things off. Instead of prayer time here, I can use that time to make coffee; instead of scripture time there, I can do research for a project. The list goes on and on, for what we do and decide to put our spiritual lives on the back burner. Thank goodness for days like Sunday, a day where I have to tell myself: “Slow down! This is time I’m devoting to the Lord.”
When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, they challenged Him on the sabbath and accused His disciples of profaning it, but Jesus wanted them to understand that they had their perspective backwards: “And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). God, in His bountiful wisdom, knew we would work ourselves into the ground if given the opportunity, and He wanted us to have the mentality of giving up some of our oh so precious hours to remember our relationship with Him.
I wish that the world would slow down, that I could spend just a little bit more time doing the things that I would like to do; to finish my projects and complete my goals. Alas, time ever marches forward in an ever quickening pace. It almost makes it mind boggling when I consider eternity. We spend so long worrying about the day to day, it’s easy to forget sometimes that our day, year, and lifetime are all just a drop in the bucket compared to what it’s going to be like someday. A time where we won’t have to worry about filling up the hours to get everything done, instead we’ll be able to simply indulge in the presence and gifts of God.
“I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end,” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).
Man I miss the snow. The desert has its own majesty, but there is something about snow. Every year growing up, we had at least a few good snowfalls. Ignoring the hijinks my family would engage in, waking up and looking out at the window was an experience that is difficult to replicate. The world would be blanketed in white and everything seemed new, the only thing to think about was how to enjoy the day. Granted, obligations and tasks didn’t evaporate, things needed to be done despite the wet and the cold, but that wonder that first hits is still something that I miss.
The world was just as dirty as it was when the snow fell, but that’s buried by white fluffiness; the only thing that is seen is a fresh and clean world. That’s the mental picture that I’m reminded of when I think about how we’ve been cleansed by God’s grace. The great news is, God only sees the clean us, He doesn’t look for what was underneath. We have a fresh start, that is only filled with possibilities. I wonder how excited God is when He looks out and sees us, is it that same giddiness that encompasses all of us as children in the snow?
Snow isn’t for everyone, I get that, that’s part of the reason why many move to deserts like the one we have here. By the same token, many don’t accept the gift of God’s grace and repent. These people are still blemished by the crimson of their sin, and we can be certain that God won’t be able to miss those stains.
Thankfully, we came to our senses and see that we are incapable of becoming clean on our own; and it’s up to us to share that with the world. This isn’t an obligation, it’s a privilege. By being His messengers we have the opportunity not just to delight Him, but to show His grace to others. God’s grace comes flittering down like flakes of fresh snow, and there’s nothing more joyful than being with someone for their first snowfall.
“Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters” (Proverbs 25:13)
At eighteen I was a senior in high school, I had knowledge of God but not relationship with HIm. Every night I would tell God facts of the gospel message as a prayer. At that time, my plan was to come to Las Vegas for college because that was cool; UNLV had just won the basketball title. One night during that dispassionate prayer, the thought came: “you need to go to Missouri.”
Missouri was my other choice, and my cousin was running campus crusade there. I knew it was God’s calling. I had never experienced it before, but I knew. I asked God: “Would You have me change everything?” The answer was yes. I remember it clearly, yet I don’t remember giving God’s call a second thought the next morning! That was 1992. It wasn’t until 1997 when I found the relationship part of a walk with God!
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
God’s leading hand still comes into my life in His timing and His way, but I find my initial response is often the same! As if God is asking me to walk in the sand. It’s soft sand that is hard to walk in. I want to say: “Why would I walk through the soft deep sand? It’s the harder way.” Often I can’t see the end of the sand either! It feels like everybody else is on the paved road, having an easier time and able to walk more comfortably. It feels irrational to take the harder road! What can possibly be at the end of this sand? This isn’t a way I would have charted for myself, yet to the best of my understanding it is the way that will please God!
“But as it is written: eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Genesis 13 comes to mind. Abraham and Lot's shepherds fighting so Abraham tells Lot to pick the land he would like to live because there was no longer room for them to live together. Lot picks the land that looked well watered and lush. That left Abraham with sand, the harder ground. In that place of hard, quiet, desolate place of infertility was the promised land!
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalms 27:13).
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
There are a lot of bright lights in Las Vegas, and for this reason it can be very easy to miss paying attention to the moon. Still, occasionally I’ll look up in the sky and smile as I see a brightly glowing full moon, or maybe the glimmer of a crescent moon just starting to wax. I grew up with a telescope, and living far from the city I would occasionally go out and blind myself in the middle of the night as I stared into the silvery disk that hung in the sky. Those nights when it shone so bright, you could take a stroll at midnight and not miss a step.
The moon is wondrous, but no one mistakes it for the glory of the sun. At night, we don’t feel the heat from the moon, because it does not create the light that it shines; the moon is merely a reflection of a greater, more powerful, light. This is the way I believe it’s important to think of the church. Yes, the church is a capable force for good, charity, and love, but those traits are a mere reflection of the God we serve. That is not to diminish the church in any way, but is a reminder of our status and privilege.
We have the unique pleasure and duty of being a reflection of the glory of God in this world. When we go into the world speaking of God’s love and what He’s done in our lives, and showing that love to others, we become a sort of mirror for the world to see Him through. Some of us only show a sliver of a crescent, but some have the fortitude to make life as fully a reflection as possible.
God works in ways that are subtle, at least to us they are subtle. When He visited the Israelites on Mount Sinai, He told Moses that fully revealing His glory would kill him (Exodus 33:20). Instead God shows the world glimpses of who He is, through the world, through our interactions with others, and even though us. This won’t always be the case though. Just as the glory of the moon fades at the dawning of the sun, the glory of the Lord will be on full display on the beautiful day of His return.
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” John 8:12.
I recently watched a video series highlighting advancements in brain health and the treatment of brain diseases. My mother passed away after suffering for about four years with Alzheimer’s, so I am on a crusade of sorts to find the causes and cures of this brain-stealing enemy. In one particular video presentation, a physician who specializes in the science of neuroplasticity, discussed a somewhat new area of brain treatment using LED and laser light to cause the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections. This “re-wiring” of the brain with light sets the stage for a far-reaching range of healing benefits for damaged brains.
During the lecture, he mentioned just a few areas of potential healing that can take place in the brain through light therapy. It’s being used to reverse dementia, heal traumatic brain injuries, treat PTSD, eliminate pain and even restore vision that had been lost. Light-infused brains are re-creating healthy connections and healing is happening.
So, as I was listening to this, my “heavenly-mindedness” went on full alert. I was reminded in my spirit that Jesus is the Light, and, as we used to say often and passionately at the first Christian church we ever attended, “Jesus is the Healer!” Within seconds my mind went to what I know about light in Heaven. Revelation 21:23 says, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” The only source of light needed is God. A warm brilliance that will infuse everything with spectacular glory!
God’s Word also tells us of an unimaginably trouble-free existence in Heaven. No more sorrow, no more tears. No more pain, no more suffering. No more deterioration, no more diseases. No more death! In the presence of ultimate Light and Goodness, all things are made new, pure and flawless.
I appreciate doctors and scientists who are driven to explore new ideas for healthful living and disease healing, but as Christians, we know that whenever something is “discovered” by man, it is God who is giving the revelation. It is God who created life and who shares His knowledge in His measure and in His timing. We will surely reign eternally with some of those who practiced medicine here on earth, but there will be no more need for their help as our Great Physician will have healed everything by His grace-filled, love-powered divine energy expressed in marvelous light.
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5
I remember wearing a heavy coat that came up past my chin, and looking down at my little pink boots as I walked home. My steeply-sloped driveway was covered in a thick sheet of blue-cellophane ice—hard-packed against the ground and glistening with sun. Even at that young age, I knew to be careful. That day, though, I still slipped on the ice and fell flat on my back. It happened so quickly. By the time I realized my body was flinging downwards, my stomach had abandoned its post and I’d already heard the hard clap! of the back of my head against the concrete.
I didn’t get up right away. Stunned by the jolt, I watched my breath cloud the air, felt the contrast of hot tears on cold ears. Everything was still and silent. Everything ached and roared. The cold seeped into my coat and my heart throbbed into my skull. I laid on the sidewalk for a long time.
I might not live where there’s ice on the ground anymore, but I regret to admit that I still do this same thing. I’m walking with Christ, heading home, when suddenly I slip on the ice. I stumble over temptation, disregard caution, lose my footing, get complacent, get cocky, turn astray—it doesn’t matter. The point is, I still fall. I hate to say it, but even though I’m a new creation, I’m still revisited by temptation to go back to my old ways. Even though I’m risen with Christ, I still fall into past sins. Even though I’m saved, I still feel guilt as if I’m not, and when I do, it takes me a long time to get back up. Surges of regret pulse through my head: scoffs from the enemy, disappointment from within, maybe a combination of both—maybe I believe his lies so gullibly, I even tell them to myself.
I’m learning that there’s a difference between conviction of the Holy Spirit and condemnation from Satan, though. Both point out my deficiencies, but conviction brings a sense of yearning that makes me strive after God’s holiness; condemnation brings a sense of irreparability that makes me hesitant to show my face to Him.
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Even though I mess up, I know I’m not living according to the flesh because I am “in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in [me]” (Romans 8:9). In short, my most profound proof of salvation, my greatest consolation, is this: I have heard His voice.
In other words, I might still have flesh, but I’ve got the Spirit. Maybe I’m not perfect yet, but I am saved by He who is. My boyfriend once explained it this way: salvation is the acceptance of eternal security; sanctification is the process of removing all doubts about it. “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). For every look back at our mistakes, taking many looks up at Him is what gives us hope, and hope in Him might be all we need to roll over, claw our little fingernails into the ice, and get back up.
Jesus could be a bit of an introvert. Throughout the gospels, we often see Him waking up before sunrise and sneaking off to faraway wildernesses, just so He could have space to Himself to pray. However, Jesus was also a bit of a celebrity, and fame requires some deal of extroversion. In Matthew 14, when Jesus withdrew to a desolate place to be alone, a crowd followed Him. He had every reason to be annoyed with them or to send them away, but instead He had compassion on them. He welcomed them, healed them, taught them, and fed them.
I wish I could relate to the end of that as much as I can to the beginning. I have the introversion down to an art; it’s my involvement with, investment in, and impact on other people that needs work. If people interrupt my reading time, I send them away. “Leave me alone; I’m busy spending time with the God of love!” Other people are on the opposite extreme, though: swamped in so much service and participation, they don’t have time to cultivate the depth of their own relationship with God.
Pause. Fast forward to I Corinthians, where Paul compares two specific spiritual gifts. The first is tongues: the ability to speak in another language, sometimes one that is only understood by God, as a very personal form of praying. The second is prophecy: the ability to receive divine truth and express it to others for their benefit. Paul wrote, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied” (I Corinthians 14:5). Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean Paul expected everybody to speak in other languages or to understand the mysteries of God’s inner thoughts. Contextually, Paul was saying that speakers of tongues only benefit themselves, whereas prophets benefit everyone. In other words, spending time in study and prayer is good—very good!—but it’s even better to share those studied truths with other people. It’s one thing to draw near to Jesus; it’s another to help someone else draw close to Him, too.
Even though I don’t have either of those spiritual gifts, I feel we all have a “tongues” and a “prophecy” aspect to our walks. We all have the times of private prayer, and the times of public proclamation. Sometimes we’re sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and other times we’re hard at work, busily serving others, like Martha. Solitary introspection and social involvement are two sides of the same coin of sanctification. As Jesus demonstrated on that mountain, we need to remember to have a careful balance of both. What use is it to be well-studied in the Word if we never put what we learn into practice? Likewise, how effectively will we be able to pour into others if we do not first allow ourselves to be filled? Both feet must be moving, step by step, if we are to move forward in our walk.
I first met him in Southeast Asia. He was found in a rural village, living under one of the houses, which are usually on stilts to avoid the flooding that comes during the rainy season. He was chained to one of the posts because he was severely demon possessed and the people were afraid of him. I was with some missionaries who took him under their wing when they found him. They brought him to the city, into their own house, to take care of him. He remained mute and savagely violent, and he stayed isolated in his room. The only thing he really had in there with him was a Bible, and he read it.
So many Psalms are about the love of Scripture. After all, reading what God has written is our main source of hearing His voice. The psalmists long for relationship with God. The sons of Korah, who were worship leaders of David’s day, wrote in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God,” and again in Psalm 63:1, 5, “My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water….My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.”
Well, given his dark condition, I’m sure the young man I met was soul-hungry. He devoured the words, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, cover to cover, day in and day out, all through the night—for years. He did not receive counsel. He did not have a psychiatrist, or go through a therapy program. He simply attended worship services, received the love from believers, and read that life giving, soul-dividing, double-edged Book.
And boy, does it have the power to transform. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8).
After all that reading, that young man emerged out of his room as the outgoing, college-bound, joy-filled person I know him to be today. He is the beloved leader and preacher of nightly Bible studies, and has since traveled to other Asian countries to share his testimony.
If God’s Word could sober him and transform him so much, what would happen if we read it as diligently and as desperately as he did? How much more clarity if mind would we receive, being that we are already saved and sane Christians?
“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).