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 have heard it said that you shouldn't ask God for two things; faith and patience. This is because for both of these characteristics of a person to grow, you have to be placed in situations where they are pushed to their limits. Lately I have been feeling convicted about the amount of faith that I have in most situations. I am good at putting up a facade by make exclamations of faith, but in my heart I can feel anxiety and fear push out the peace and joy that faith brings. Because of this, I have reluctantly, hesitantly been asking God for more faith and while it hasn't been easy, I am so thankful that I did.
I have struggled with fear and anxiety for most of my life; starting when I was a teenager. Whenever I would be faced with a trial or stressful situation, my reaction in the flesh is to analyze the threat from every angle possible and determine all of the possible outcomes. This would quickly spiral out of control until I was left with a list of the most horrible “what ifs?” I could come up with. This continued for a good part of my life until I met the Lord and starting studying His word. It was only then that I realized that this spiral I had been experiencing was something I was choosing. I was choosing to handle situations under my own strength instead of choosing to have faith in God’s provision.
As I have walked with the Lord the past years, I have found it easier to choose faith, but have found that I am not consistent in choosing faith. I would read verses like Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
Since I have been asking for faith, God has put me into situations where my only option is to trust that He will come through. It has definitely challenged me, but I wouldn’t trade it because the more I have trusted God in these situations, the more he has grown my faith. That has been my realization through this whole process: we must be pushed out of our comfort zone on a regular basis to effectively continue to grow our faith.
Once I accepted that I will regularly and continually be pushed out of my comfort zone, it became much easier to just trust the Lord through those seasons. I no longer see trials as catastrophic, but as little pushes from the Lord outside of my comfort zone to develop my character. Each time realizing a new area that I can stop trying to provide for myself and have faith that the Lord will provide in my weakness.
In comedy, they say that timing is everything. This was certainly the case when a routine mailbox stop resembled a late-night comedy skit about the perils of the popular ride-sharing trend.
Upon returning home from a long day of errands, my husband stopped the car half a block from our house to retrieve our daily load of junk mail from box #9. As he exited out the driver’s side door, I sat waiting in the front passenger seat. Suddenly the door behind me sprung open and I heard a woman’s voice breathlessly thanking us for waiting and profusely apologizing for her delay.
When something completely unexpected comes at you out of nowhere, it takes your brain a few seconds to catch up. Confusion reigned for all three of us in those few seconds; my husband and I wondering why this thirty-something woman dressed in nightclub attire thought nothing of joining us, and this loquacious stranger now occupying our backseat abruptly stopped mid-sentence with a look of horror on her heavily made-up face.
Obviously in her head-down haste to make up for lost time, she jumped into the first vehicle she saw erroneously assuming it was her Uber ride. When it became painfully obvious to her what she had done, a very different round of apologies began and she quickly jumped out. We assured her that all was well and that no harm was done.
I was recently reading Proverbs chapter 2, focusing on verses 1-11 when my mind went back to that day at the mailbox. I was prompted to compare my own reckless haste as I sprint through my often hurried days to the woman who had carelessly jumped into a stranger’s car. Oblivious to the spiritual dangers that lurk, I often charge ahead from one activity to another without even a prayer for guidance. In comparing wisdom to foolishness, Ephesians 5:15 says, “See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.”
Back in Proverbs 2, verses 1 through 5 clearly map out wise, thoughtful driving through life as opposed to foolish, feckless riding along. It’s a call to be both studious and vigilant in the things of God. This is my takeaway from the passage:
* Receive God’s Word and treasure His commands
* Listen for the wisdom He speaks as you read and pray
* Understand the personal application of His Word
* Ask Him continually for discernment and understanding
* Search endlessly as in a treasure hunt for the knowledge of God
In verse 5 we are offered the priceless gift of understanding both the awe and the intimacy of knowing God! The abundant promises contained in these few verses also include wisdom, righteousness, justice and the assurance that God is our Mighty Shield and the Preserver of our way.
“When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you.” (Proverbs 2:10-11)
In my life, the sin of pride has been a reoccurring theme that I’ve struggled with even before I was saved. It’s not the only sin that I’ve had to deal with since God saved me, and He has helped me with a lot of those faults, but sometimes pride still rears it’s ugly head. I become puffed up in my success and I start to think I deserve the glory when it’s God that has done this in my life. Thankfully, He has the love and patience to head me off at the pass before I fall back into those old habits.
Lately I’ve been feeling haughty, at work—also at home, even at church. I’ve reached a level within my company where my opinions and voice matter, I’m important. I was starting to believe that I deserved my respect, that I had earned it myself, maybe even deserved more; I was valuable, shouldn’t I be treated that way? I was feeling prideful. However, I recently made some mistakes that cost the company money, a lot of money. I wasn’t fired or anything like that, but I’ve lost the standing that I once had. It was humbling to say the least, and that’s when I realized the trap that I been walking right into. I had started to believe the sweet lies my pride had been telling me, that I had earned my position, when in reality all of my success has been a gift from God.
Looking back on it now, it’s obvious that God was showing me that He had placed me where I am and that it wasn’t what I had earned; and God had to show me that He had blessed me with the gifts and talents that let me be in that situation. He knows what my spirit is, and that I was feeling prideful. It’s not unlike King Saul. God raised Saul up from his family to be king over Israel. He started out humble, but eventually he believed that he deserved the success that he had, but it all came from God. When Saul became too prideful and disobeyed God, God gave those blessings to someone else, King David.
King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:18 "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” Thankfully, my fall was that hard, and while it hurt, I know from past experience that it was for the best. I feel that God taking me down even a few pegs is saving me in the long run. He has blessed me with a great family, a wonderful wife, a successful job; and it’s easy to start to believe that these are things that I’ve earned. The Lord knows when our pride is getting the better of us, but He also knows when we recognize our failures and come before Him with a broken and contrite spirit.
Patience has been a big lesson during the last six months. I have two small children, and they require a lot of attention. I gave myself a year-long break from life just so I could be with the baby—and maybe get over the sleep deprivation. After this break, I returned back to being a part of ministry in the church. This was the plan I had with my second daughter, and when the time to return came around, I was excited to get back into ministry and begin serving again. But God had other plans. The next few months, our family faced intense spiritual warfare, and for the longest time I didn’t recognize that it was a transitional season in our family’s lives. It was a way for God to say to me: “Hey, when storms hit you, you don’t rely on me, and I need you to change your perspective.”
The storms lasted four months. A huge part of those storms was that I kept having panic attacks. It was all very bizarre. I’ve gone through transitional periods before, but nothing like that. It taught me, though, about God’s faithfulness to stay with me, to wait for me to figure out how to ask for His help. I had to sit through some storms and analyze what I would need ask for. I had to question myself: “If there’s one thing I need from God to get me through this, what would it be?” One day I would ask for His wisdom, and then I would feel shaken again and would ask for His strength. It was all God teaching me how to rely on Him daily. Now that I’m not in it, I can see how it prepared me for where I’m at right now. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
I’m in a new business adventure—super fun!—that has me inside strangers’ homes and outside of my comfort zone. It’s allowed me to work much more with unbelievers and to share the gospel; something that God really impressed upon my heart during those rough months. That season of storms was not fun—it was awful! But if God hadn’t prepared me the way He had, I would be on much shakier ground now, like the foolish man that built his house on the sand. I learned that every minute that I’m not fully relying on God is another moment that I am much more prone to falling into temptation and to sin.
1 Timothy 2:1
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
It has been about seven months since I moved back to Las Vegas from Southern California and have been attending Paradise Calvary Chapel. God’s grace has continually allowed me to witness and be a part of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the body of our church. It has reaffirmed some things, changed some of my various views, given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of our Father’s unending supply of love, mercy, forgiveness and grace but the biggest revelation has been the answered prayers of all the brothers and sisters in Christ.
Through prayer has came an enrichment of praise, worship, thanksgiving, as well as the reading, studying, meditating, and application of the Word on a daily basis. The most enlightening part has been the intercession for others. James talks about the importance of prayer for one another in meeting certain needs. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his book “Life Together” that “Intercession is a daily service we owe to God and our brother. It’s a gift of God’s grace.” Christians pray anytime and anywhere---and they make a difference. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing”.
I have discovered that while praying for others I must not be afraid to ask others to pray for me. Life is happening for everyone but prayer is a bond of unity to strengthen all who participate. Jesus told us to love our enemies and those who persecute us. How do you do that without prayer?
The apostle Paul reminds us that the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us and it is for the saints according to the will of God. Further along in Romans 8, he tells us that Christ who is risen and at the right hand of God makes intercession for us. With Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding for me encourages me to intercede for others.
Intercessory prayer shows our love for others whether they are believers or non-believers. We forget ourselves in prayer for others and only ask that God’s will be done. One of the most powerful things someone has said to me is “I’m praying for you”. It shows me that they only want what God knows is best for me and that only He can accomplish it.
Who are you praying for today?
In 1 John, the bible talks about how God is light and in Him there is no darkness, not even a little. It also says if we say we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. I think this is so crazy and straight to the point because when we look in the mirror, we want to believe that we are walking in the light. Sometimes we think we are doing pretty good. We go to church, maybe say a five second prayer before we eat our food, talk a little bit of Christian lingo on the streets—I myself have tried to justify my sin. But God knows the truth and can see directly in our hearts.
We should be continually trying to live in the light. Like Christ, showing fruits of the spirt, gentleness, kindness, patience, etc. Not as hollow attempts to justify ourselves, but because God naturally produces those fruits in us. A fruit tree will produce fruit. You would never walk up to an apple tree and notice that avocados were growing on it. It just wouldn't happen. In the same way, we say we are Christians, there should be signs of that in our lives.
If you were arrested right now, would the judge find enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? Being a Christian does not mean we just try to say less swear words, go to church, and be a nice person. Heaven is not for good people, it's for forgiven people and the only way to be forgiven is to accept the free gift of Jesus dying on the cross for our sin. We walk in the light because he loved us first and he died for us.
John tells us that if we walk in the light as He is in the light the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin and we are justified. We cannot continually live in sin and say we are walking in the light. Now, we will sin, but when we do the Holy Spirit convicts us, and when we ask for forgiveness we try not to do it anymore. Sin should be disgusting to us. When we are walking in the light next to Jesus our soul should desire to be on fire for him and living for him and acting like him. We need to be telling people about Jesus, making disciples and giving God all the glory he deserves.
1 John 1:5-7
"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. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
I am a modest man I do not consider myself literate enough to teach, minister or even advise. I still consider myself an infant in my walk with the Lord. I have had in my heart lately to sit down and write out my feelings towards my walk and journey through this infancy that I call my walk.
On a day that I thought was just another day to learn and further my knowledge as I went into the men's conference at GreenValley CC, something happened. A friend I have known for quite some time albeit we never really sat down shared stories but we each knew of one another in passing. I knew he was devoted, passionate, dedicated and extremely educated in our faith. However I on the other hand have never really proclaimed that walk to anyone let alone him. I keep to myself, I do what I think is right and what I know, and just carry on with my day.
I have not seen this man in some time and I have never seen this man in the Lord's sanctuary. I was overjoyed that I finally got to tell him that I was walking and have been for some time but on the other hand I was perplexed and kind of saddened that a man would assume or judge a book by its cover.
As I sat there, in a room full of God's warriors I find myself looking around the room looking at faces of all types. Clean shaven corporate looks, average Joe's, big burly tattooed bikers and many others. There is absolutely no way that anyone could or should judge a book by its cover. If I had never met any of these warriors before, you would never know where they stand in their life. There is never a reason to judge anyone based upon their looks and passing encounters, as you could be standing next to your brother in Christ and not know any different. That condemnation and thought of knowing that I judged someone without knowing them and judging completely wrong would make me weak in my knees and want to beg for mercy.
One of my favorite verses is:
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
I Corinthians 13:11 NKJV
We need to put away those childish actions and ways and grow further and deeper into the Lord.
Pride: “A lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority in some respect.”
I used to think I was a humble person--I’ll pause now until the laughter dies down. Early in my Christian walk, I had a much too shallow an understanding of the sin of pride. My mistake was in limiting its scope to encompass almost exclusively, the verbally boastful. In actuality, pride lives in all of us. But for most of us, most of the time, its activity remains politely unseen so we often miss it, even deceiving ourselves as I did. I’ve come to learn that pride invades and pervades our “self-talk” all day long. We constantly evaluate others according to our own personal standards. Pride’s pernicious persistence flows easily from the evils of criticism and condemnation.
Look back at the definition of pride. Notice especially the words, in some respect. That covers a lot of territory. Like in respect to appearance, intelligence, ethnicity, entertainment choices, political affiliation, financial status, etc. etc. The list is never-ending. It is said that all sin begins with pride. It robs God of the glory due to Him alone when we elevate ourselves. God’s word tells us to esteem others as better than ourselves. In my world, that gives the position of importance to anyone who isn’t me.
So, where does pride reside? In the heart, or inner man. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). In Proverbs we read that the proud in heart are an abomination to the Lord. But didn’t we receive a new heart when we were born again? Yes! And with it came Holy Spirit power to resist evil. But we still have free will. And we still have an enemy who prowls around like a lion, seeking whom he may devour.
So then, what chance do we have of overcoming this insidious thing? This thing that God hates. This glory thief. Where is our hope? God’s word says that He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The last thing I want is for my heavenly Father to oppose me! I desperately want the grace promised to the humble.
Truly the King of my heart knows how to heal it. He is more than ready to forgive when I approach Him in humble repentance. Proactively, I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to alert me as soon as my heart goes in the direction of criticism. Reactively, I quickly seek forgiveness when I realize I’ve missed the alert.
Self-talk is inevitable but not always profitable. Prayer-talk is available and always profitable as the Father is willing and able to lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from evil.
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” 2 Corinthians 13:5
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
When we moved my mom into a memory-care facility in early January, we chose a brand-new facility: clean, efficient, cheerful, great staff, with two enclosed atriums. While we were pleased with the facility and we knew that we could no longer adequately care for Mom ourselves, I had the over-arching feeling that I had let my mom down.
Now, five months down the road, I see things in a different light. I have learned that her new home is not a place to grow worse and die—it is just a new chapter of life—one in which she has acquired a much larger family and that family has embraced her and they have also embraced me.
As in any family, there are good days and bad and each person in the family has his or her own idiosyncrasies. There’s Rebecca who spends her time rearranging the furniture, another woman who yells in Italian, another who talks to her toy dog, Cal the cowboy and resident Casanova, and my mom, aka: Cal’s girlfriend who believes that she and Warren Buffett and Paul McCartney are lunch buddies.
But of all the residents there, the most notable is Nelsba. Nelsba, a devout Christian, is a high-functioning resident who says that this home is her ministry and that’s why she is there. She routinely looks after the others, guides them, holds their hands, calms them down, reassures them, and listens. At suppertime, she sets the table for the others and they all feel her love. It is a humbling experience to see her in action.
In the short time I have known her, I have grown to love Nelsba and I listen attentively to the lessons she lives out daily. Just a few of those lessons include:
- This life is crazy—and sometimes messy, dirty and stinky—so get used to it.
- Give unconditional love—even when you know the situation will not improve.
- Give yourself in service—regardless of your circumstance.
- Consider all human life sacred.
- Don’t judge yourself or anyone else too hard.
- Help to uplift others spirits.
- Listen – even when what’s being said doesn’t make sense.
- Show respect to all and be kind.
And last but not least…
- Make sure that everyone has an opportunity to hear the gospel message.
Bonnie and I have a giant schnauzer named Yogi. Dogs are great aren't they? I think even cat people can appreciate the loyalty of dogs. They love you unconditionally and they rely on you for everything. I heard of a young boy who prayed, "Dear Lord, please make me as good as my dog thinks I am.” They're happy just to hang with you wherever you go, they don't care where. They don't worry about their next meal. In Matthew 6:25 Jesus tells us not to worry about what you will eat or drink, if He feeds the birds, He will take care of you. Well, dogs have that down pat, they trust us for everything. I would like to be like that, where I rely on God for everything. So often I rely on other things foolishly.
Yogi is definitely one of the family. I don't think he worries about why he was picked to be adopted into our family. I don't think he worries if he is good enough. There has been a lot of commercials on TV using little puppies lately. Everybody loves puppies (even cat people). If the puppies were capable of thinking of such things, they might worry about why we love them when they pee on the floor, make messes and chew up shoes. "How could humans love me when I am so bad and do all of that?" I wonder all the time why God loves me when I'm so weak and disobedient, but Romans 8:15 - 17 tells us we are adopted and joint heirs with Christ!! We should be wagging our tails!
Yogi is deceived easily. He never tires of chasing the laser light. He has stomped his large paw on it several times, I'm sure he doesn't feel it. He has bitten it with an audible chomp and never felt it on his teeth. The light keeps going and he keeps chasing it and never catches it. How many things do we chase after that are illusionary, things that really won't satisfy. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all that we need will be given to us.
Yogi failed dog obedience school. Even the instructor couldn't stop him from pulling too hard on a walk. Yogi pulled him all over the parking lot, he wasn't much bigger than Yogi. He said that Yogi is a profound puller and had no advise to remedy the problem. When Yogi does obey us by coming or dropping some contraband we are very pleased with him. When we leave the house and are coming home, Yogi is watching out the front window waiting for us to return. It warms my heart to see him waiting for us. God is pleased with us when we are obedient and wait for Him.
Lamentations 3:25 “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”