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!
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Just outside of San Francisco, there is a beautiful green knoll that overlooks Half Moon Bay. As you approach it, you can see the glistening of shiny objects in the grass. But, as you draw nearer, you are overtaken by the thundering sound of hundreds of whirly-gigs spinning uncontrollably as the ocean breeze catches their delicate arms. It is the deafening sound of collective sorrow, of toys left behind for children who no longer need them - and that is where my beautiful grandson Micah lies.
Micah, our golden-haired, blue-eyed boy, died unexpectedly during his afternoon nap on Good Friday, 2017. While we might argue that 20 months is far too short a life – it was exactly the right amount of time for Micah to do what God purposed for him to do here on earth.
The day of Micah’s funeral, was sunny, beautiful and warm. It was amazing how many journeyed to support us – Christian and non-believers alike. One-by-one, friends of my daughter and son-in-law came up and said wonderful words about Micah and his impact. But the most memorable came when Micah’s Grandpa Morgan got up and proclaimed the gospel message to the hundred or so mourners. He spoke so eloquently and with such conviction that you could have heard a pin drop! I’ve thought many times since then what seeds were planted in that message that would not ever have been planted had this tragedy not occurred.
Through Micah’s extraordinary life and death, I have learned many lessons.
- Life is a gift, God has a plan, and we all have a purpose.
- Tomorrow is not guaranteed so make the most of every day, every encounter, and every opportunity.
- Our sorrow is not unique and because it is not – we can help others.
There are definitely seasons in our lives – and each season has purpose. In this season, we have suffered, grown, loved, been loved and God has provided. He has brought people into our lives that have suffered similar loss and as a result of our loss, we are able to be of kingdom service in giving others the great hope that we have. Because Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave we look forward to an eternal season in which there will be no tears, where we will be healed, and where we will dance!
After blowing it again, I was feeling terrible, a failure. I felt like Paul when he said "Oh wretched man that I am" (Romans 7:24). I wondered why we have to have these sinful natures. Wouldn't it be nice if we lost the sinful nature when we were born again?
When Jesus was a baby, we're told He was wrapped in swaddling cloths. They would wrap babies in swaddling cloths for 2 reasons. First, it kept their arms and legs out of harms way. Second, the resistance would stregthen the babies muscles.
Then I thought of our sinful natures are kind of like swaddling cloths. The more we resist the temptation, the stronger we get. The sinful nature is always putting pressure on us When a temptation comes along and we resist it, we become stronger. If God did take away our sinful natures, how would He know we were obedient to Him, how would we know? So I concluded that we actually need the temptations. They make us stronger. James 1:12 tell us that enduring temptations leads us to receiving the crown of life!
We have an awesome promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it".
Sadly, we don't always make use of this escape clause and we stumble again. So how do we keep from stumbling? I think one good way is prayer. Jesus tells us in the Lord's prayer to ask not to be led into temptation. Again, while Jesus is praying in the garden, just before He is arrested, He tells His disciples to watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation, (Matthew 26:41).
Job stated another way in Job 31:1 where he makes a covenant with his eyes not to look at tempting things. That works, I try not to look at donuts. If David wasn't spying on Bathsheba from his rooftop, he would have been spared a lot of grief.
Another way is to think of worthy things as mentioned in Philippians 4:8. If we meditate on worthy things, temptations will be crowded out. "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16)
Confession is another way. James 5:16 "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed, the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." I know what you're thinking. If I confess my sins to someone, what happens if they tell someone else? Your pride may take a hit and that is a good thing!
I've been thinking a lot lately about the problem of self. We know that the Bible says that pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18), and pride is simply an unhealthy focus on one's self. We also know that we are to deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24) to follow Christ. The problem is that even though we know these things, we have so much build-up of self through society and culture and, for many of us, through upbringing as well. We have, over time, become accustomed to ideas that construct a better feeling about our selves- that we need me time, we have to have higher self-esteem, we should pamper ourselves, etc.—don’t even get me started on Self-Help books!
The problem is that in our construction of self, we build up such a tolerance and even a dependency on these ideas that we need to focus on our selves, when that is not at all what God wants, and what he has actually both warned us about—as in Proverbs—and called us not to do—in Matthew.
In Philippians 3, Paul gives us an example of what I am terming the Deconstruction of Self. In verses 4-6 Paul shows off the construction that he has built up over the years—he lists qualities that would give him reason for pride. Then, Paul tears the whole thing down and rejects the very foundation of that construction in verses 7 and 8:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
In this passage, Paul displayed what had been built within him over the years, and then deconstructed it and even pointed out that it was the equivalent of bodily waste when compared with even just the knowledge of Christ, not even the presence of Christ, but simply knowing the He is there! Paul goes on to finish out this small section by further tearing down his life's construct by telling us that even in spite of his qualifications, he was not worthy of even the knowledge of Christ, and he hoped merely to be found in Christ when his life was over.
Paul was like many of us, including myself. He was told how great he was, how proud he should be of this, how much he needed to work to achieve success, and many other things to build him up; and in Christ he was able to tear that all down to the very foundation, and replace that foundation with Christ. Upon that new foundation Paul built not construction of self, but a temple fully dedicated to Christ. May we also do the same.
This past week I received the news that nobody wants to hear. My Sister-In-Law, Meghan (33) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer throughout her body. The sadness that fell on me knowing that she has two young children (5,7yrs) and a loving husband crushed me. At this time I wanted to be with my brother and give him whatever support he needed as he began this journey. As I have lifted up their family in prayer and looked to the Lord for healing it has come to mind, why does the Lord allow this to happen? Why would a loving God allow us to go through such things as cancer?
Searching for these answers I found that the Bible clearly shows us that God Loves those who are His Children and He works all things together for good (Romans 8:26) In this he shows us that as believers when we are going through these situations is for a higher purpose. As I read in James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I challenge you to reread these two verses now several times and meditate on them for a few minutes.
As I searched for the answer to my current pain, it came to me that in the past, I have gone through close family sickness, and death. These times are very painful, but those past trials seemed to always allow me to share my faith with others. In fact this current situation opened up a dialog with me and the CEO of the company when he asked me how my family was after learning the news. I was able to share with him, how I put my faith in the Lord during this time.
The verse above from James finishes by saying Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. This final statement is tough when we are in the beginning or middle of a trail, as we cannot imagine the benefits of being subjected to the hurt and sorrow. But the Bible clearly teaches us that God is faithful to complete the work he has begun in each of us and these types of trials, although not comfortable are a must to strengthen our faith and walk with the Lord.
My Prayer is for everyone who is in a painful trial that we can look to the Lord and rest assured that through perseverance we will be mature and complete and not lacking anything.
Psalm 27:13 “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance that you thought could never work out well? A difficult season can often produce hopelessness in our hearts. Proverbs says that “hope differed makes the heart sick”, and truly sometimes we find ourselves hoping for a light at the end of a tunnel, a ray of hope to break through our season of darkness. Sometimes that light doesn’t appear when we were hoping it would, and it really can produce some heart sickness.
I’m sure David could relate to this sentiment after years of running from Saul, hiding in caves so that he wouldn't lose his life to the unjust jealousy of a neurotic king. Whatever hopelessness David may have experienced, we benefit from the perspective that David was able to gain. In the midst of a dark season of his life he was able to refocus on the unchanging truth that he could completely trust in the goodness of the Lord.
We know from Hebrews that, “without faith, it is impossible to please God, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” He doesn’t expect us to trust blindly, or to conjure up an abstract faith. When we find ourselves in those places; whether uncomfortable, painful or scary, we must trust that as we cling to the knowledge of the goodness of our God He will meet us. We must believe that He will reward us.
I have gone through some tough seasons; in the middle of them I definitely questioned how the Lord’s goodness could shine through in the midst of all of the heartache, or how the reward could be worth it. However, in those times when I have chosen to believe what the Bible declares about the character of God, I had the chance to trust that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Looking back, the Lord has always been faithful to sustain me through the difficulty, and has worked things out so much better than I could have thought possible. So many times, besides the eventual resolving of my trial, the reward has been knowing God better because of them. I would never ask for a difficult season, but oh how thankful I am to know Jesus better because of the ones He has allowed me to go through.
Another Psalm says “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Him.” If you find yourself in a trying season, I urge you to cling to what you know to be true about the goodness of our God; determine to hope in His goodness—I can guarantee that you will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.”
If there’s one word that comes to mind to describe last year it would be interesting. The world has always had an element of instability, but it seems to have grown to impressive levels. People, governments, media, and numerous others seem to have had a profound change of heart as they have turned from what had previously been important, maybe even defining, beliefs they’ve held. This isn’t the first time such events have unfolded, but I feel that it is now maybe more pronounced. This is one reason why I am constantly thankful for the mentoring I had when I was young to always have a way to back up anything that I believe in; since then, the Bible has become a foundation in the formation of my opinions. That stability is something that I have been grateful for many times, especially in today’s world.
This past year has been especially eventful for me personally, I’ve had to put certain goals on hold as I attempt to bring order into my life and my finances. There were times when I wasn’t certain how I was going to pull enough money together for all of my expenses; but even as the margin on my bank statements between red and black ink narrowed, I would remember that this wasn’t my first time waiting for the season in my life to change. This wasn’t the first time when I called on the Lord to help bring me opportunities to find work, and even when I had no idea when or where my reprieve would come from, I knew that God would be faithful to hear me once again. This new year brought me the resolution that I was seeking, making me exceedingly thankful for the blessings that God has given me and for the constant that He is in my life.
There is a certain dependability that comes from the Lord, a comforting calm in a sea of chaos. Just as we receive this from our Lord, as His servants and ambassadors we should strive to deliver this certainty to the world. That means being constant, reliable, and dependable, having an firm grasp on a values and a commitment to keep them. Without having a mooring in our understanding of God and the Bible, we’re just as stable as the world around us, or as Jacob said, stable as water. Perhaps stated best in James 1:23-24 “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
Luke 2:25 “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Luke 2:36 “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity.”
I recently started reading through the book of Luke. At first I almost considered skipping the first couple of chapters of Luke with the mindset that Christmas had just passed and that I had heard the Christmas story more than enough times over the years. But I decided I wanted to read through the book start to finish. When I came to these verses in Luke 2 I realized that I had never heard a teaching on these specific passages. If someone had asked me who Simeon or Anna were in the New Testament I would have shrugged my shoulders.
Tuning in to these short stories of these two people reminded me of something significant: God always has a remnant of faithful followers. I think that we make the mistake of thinking that the times that we live in are so dark, worse than any other time in history and that the world is progressing at a faster pace than ever towards sin and evil and rebellion towards God. But remember that over the course of history it’s always been like that. The Bible is filled with more downs than ups it seems like when it comes to Israel. Just read the books of the prophets in which apostate Israel is continually likened to an unfaithful spouse or an animal who rebelled against it’s owner/master. And after thousands of years of these cycles of sin and repentance, back and forth, we get to Jesus’ day. The Jews rejected Jesus and His message of the kingdom, the religious leadership was so prideful and self righteous that they sought to kill Him.
Jesus was living in a dark age as well, but the gospel accounts are sprinkled with short accounts of people like Simeon and Anna who were faithful to God and awaiting His salvation through the Messiah. Sometimes I feel alone or misunderstood when I’m at work or living my normal life outside of church. I feel like I’m the only Christian and that I’m seen as the odd one out, or as intolerant, or just as misguided. I wish I had other Christians to work with. But I’m reminded that even through it seems dark around me, that God always has people faithfully serving Him where He needs them. He’s placed me where He wants to use me to be an example and to represent Him and to speak to all those who are looking for redemption as Anna did! I want to with faithfully for the “Consolation of Israel (God’s people);” to spend my days serving, fasting, praying, seeking God and waiting for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
“But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, "friend, go up higher." Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The morning of the try outs for the Christmas play this year God arranged for a spontaneous special conversation! I happened to be dressed slightly dramatic. Which precipitated this statement from my child. She said to me that it seemed like she always wants to stand on the rock and I want to sit under the rock. It was such sweet timing to talk about desires and natural mans tendencies to need to be noticed, sometimes taking credit for receiving a blessing, ability, or gift. Instead of doing the activity only to bring glory to our Savior.
Hence the symbolism of being on the rock they thought I shared with her was that we both need to be digging a hole under the rock. Under the rock I have no assumptions it is Gods will that I will gain what I desire today. I will only give my best and no matter the outcome give my best each day after accepting, praying, and praising God, whether things are my way or not. As the passage says at the top of the page, sit at the back til God asks me to move up or in my analogy sit under the rock learning humility as long as God asks me to. And until He asks me to come out and gives me my tasks that now can be done in humility and grace and love in Jesus name!
That day I saw my child able to think of others during auditions. Able to acknowledge others’ desires for the same parts and a heart to want them to have the joy of receiving the parts. That goodwill towards others wavered as reality set in that God did not have a bigger role in the play for her. As the days went on I saw her struggling with it. We started praying at night about it and she saw the power of prayer! As she prayed she could again be joyful for others and not self focused!
I’m not always willing to sit in the back or be under the rock and wait to be asked to move up; I do pick the best place, the best piece of cake, the best job at school sometimes! I am thankful for Gods grace and patience with me as I try to on purpose to make the choice to be in the back or under the rock til God moves me up and confess when I have not chosen this—which is plenty! This parable is my rule of thumb for pursuing humility!
I am not sure about anyone else, but I am personally starting to like closed doors. I have found that when I am given a choice between two or more courses of action, I have trouble deciding which to choose, and I end up agonizing over the decision and praying over and over about what to do, only to reach the time of deciding and see that there is really only one open door- the other(s) had been closed before me.
Case in point, I had a decision that I really needed to make at work- to continue working a shift that I started out not wanting, but then saw some benefits to, or change to the shift I started out really wanting, and also saw some detriments to. So I prayed about it and thought about it, talked to others about it and generally had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I continued to pray and trust that the Lord would have His way in either situation, and then went to work with an idea of what I wanted. I got there, and what I had decided was no longer available- God closed the door so that I did not make that particular decision.
I find these days that God uses this method to guide a lot of my steps- He will present a choice, and then when I ask Him to guide, He will gently close some doors and open others.
It makes me think of Paul and how he had wanted to visit the Corinthian church, but had surrendered himself to the Lord's Will and found that in spite of his plans, God had opened a different door.
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.(1Co 16:5-9)
The thing that gets me about this account is that while Paul recognizes the open door, he also sees that it will not be easy, as there are always adversaries awaiting his steps, even when God is directing those steps. I see the same thing in my life, but the adversaries this time are not what I had expected.
In this decision, this path... this open door, my main adversary is my flesh, as the struggle will be with putting the Will and direction of God before my wants and desires, rather than facing outright opposition from the Enemy. But, because of the door that is open, I know God is directing, and God will provide the strength to take those steps through the door.
In the past while the Lord has been speaking to my heart about prayer, encouragement and support toward others. These 3 things have always been weaknesses of mine. I am more of a get it done type of person so actually acknowledging and meditating on seasons that other people are going through is not something that even close comes natural for me since in a lot of these cases I can’t be helpful in a physical way. My natural tendency is to assume that because prayer is the only way I can be helpful to someone that it’s not enough, that there must also be a physical aspect to being there for them. I think it’s simply a matter of humility. I need to learn over and over again to put down my pride and go back to the truth of God’s word and promises. Galatians chapter 6 is rich with how we are to be toward others, specifically verse 2:
“Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”
Encouragement and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I like it when other people encourage me and try to give grace when their encouragement is actually extremely discouraging but every time I try to encourage someone I feel like I just make it worse. At this point, I just smile and pat them on the back and try to be a good listener. And other times I make the unwise decision of opening my mouth. But Philippians 2:3-4 says:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
To know what to pray, I need to ask God for help. To be able to encourage someone correctly, I need to ask God for help. A proper encouragement would be God giving a word of wisdom or knowledge for that person. To be able to properly support someone physically, emotionally, mentally, or physically I need to ask God for help. The Bible makes it clear that we should always be asking God for wisdom. He is a loving Father who is more than happy to give it.
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
This verse is so perfect. These are all topics that are struggles when it comes to supporting others. Gods wisdom is pure. A lot of times supporting others is hard because our heart toward them may not be pure. We might be judging them. IMPARTIAL. Don’t even get me started on the impartial junk. To say it’s difficult to support someone you don’t get along with is hard would be a grave understatement. And Sincerity. Most of the time people can sense insincerity. These struggles are the result when I try to encourage and support without the Spirit of God.