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!
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55).
What are you going to have done with your body when you die? This is a question I’ve asked myself. Shockingly, dying is expensive; the average funeral costs the same as a used car. Now, I get the sentimentality, I really do, but I’d rather not make my loved ones foot that bill, so cremation is probably what I’ll go with—it just makes the most sense to me. The biggest reason is that whatever happens to this ever-deteriorating body doesn’t matter much to me; they may lay me down to rest, but I think of it more as a nap. (I realize this may all be morbid, but bear with me.) The simple truth of the matter is that when Jesus rose and took those steps out of the tomb, He conquered death—for good!
One of the questions that was brought to Paul in his teachings was, “What about those of us that have died?” Well, he gave a, “Don’t worry, we’ll catch up with them!” sort of reply (I Thessalonians 4). Simply put, the Lord is coming, and when He does, He will gather His believers—all of them, the living and the dead. This is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring concepts in the Bible. To think—no matter what happens to our bodies—when the Lord returns, we will imitate Him and be resurrected.
Whenever I think how much Christ defanged death, I can’t help but wonder how I can be so distracted by all of my worries and cares; literally the biggest threat to my being has been resolved! Now, don’t take this all the wrong way; I may not be afraid of death as a concept, but the whole getting there still freaks me out. It’s easy to forget that many of our problems are inconsequential when compared to the fact that we have eternal security. Death has gone from being “The Great End” to just an inconvenient doorway.
Sometimes I consider what the world will be like after my time here has expired, which is why I think about funerals and costs. I’d rather not have a funeral altogether; if anything, I want them to throw a going away party. I understand that it is painful to see loved ones go, which is why I’d rather have them cheer each other up. I’ll see them later, and until they catch up, I’ll be in a much nicer place than a stuffy funeral home.
Because of the Philippians’ patriotism, Caesar granted citizenship to the entire city of Philippi. This was a pretty big deal, since only a small percentage of the Roman Empire actually had Roman citizenship. Paul wrote to the Philippian church, though, to remind them that there are bigger authorities than the government. He explained that, while the people of the world “set their mind on earthly things,” we as Christians know “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:19-21).
Although the world might look like it’s falling apart, in the grand scheme of things, the present political issues are nothing but a blip in the timeline of the planet. Votes will be vetoed. Rules will be overruled. Conquerors will be conquered. Kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall, and some new development is already on the rise. Politics, if nothing else, are incredibly fleeting—but I say that as a comfort. The accompanying worries will be short-lived. Evil plots are shaky, and human shortcomings are momentary. The Lord, though, is a foundation that endures for eternity.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate in politics. In fact, if Church entirely separated from state (or from any other institution, for that matter), how would the light of Christ have opportunity to shine in it? What I am saying is that we shouldn’t worry. God is not ignorant of current issues, and He has power to sway things if He so wishes (Proverbs 21:1).
More than that, I am saying that we shouldn’t place our identity and zeal in a political party or social movement, but rather live—heart, soul, mind, and strength—for the sake of representing Jesus, glorifying God, and obeying the Holy Spirit, regardless of the political environment around us.
You have dual citizenship: one of your kingdoms is temporal and temporary, and the other is eternal. For which will you raise your flag of identity? For which are you going to fight? Pick your battles wisely! Don’t get riled up over the kingdom of secondary importance. If you submit yourself to the eternal King, He will take care of the temporary kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).
The pages of my Bible are well worn. Many are marked with a bright highlighter, and a few even have notes scrawled into the tiny margins. I’ve gone through the Bible numerous times in my life, some books much more frequently than others. Inevitably, my studies sometimes take me to a book that is less exciting than others. It’s easy for me to get the feeling, “Oh, here we go. Let’s get this over with…” This is especially common of me to do when I find myself in the books of laws and logistics, such as Numbers or Deuteronomy. I realize these books are important, but for a long time, I didn’t personally enjoy them. I would have much rather read the parts with action, and reading accounting records just doesn’t have the same appeal.
My world was rocked, though, when I spoke with a very important mentor to me. He asked me what book God spoke in the most. Thinking hard on it, I provided Jeremiah or Ezekiel. He told me, “Good guess, but the answer is Leviticus. Nearly the entire book is God’s instructions to Moses." His answer blew my mind.
My mentor challenged my perception of the books and passages I always considered tedious and boring. If God Himself is the orator, and it is in these books that He most frequently speaks, shouldn’t that say something about their importance? The truth of the matter is that most Bibles have Jesus’ words in red, but not God’s. I’ve often thought of how beneficial it would be if God’s words in the Old Testament were also so marked, just so we could see how vocal He was.
Today, there are still parts of the Bible that I don’t fully grasp; if you were to quiz me on what the differences are between some of the minor prophets, I’d probably ask to pass. Even though these books don’t receive as much esteem or glamorization as other passages, it doesn’t diminish their importance. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
Every word of the Bible is a divinely inspired, precious gift from heaven. It’s not up to me to decide what is important and what is inconsequential. It’s up to me to read, and not from just the parts that catch my eye, but from cover to cover.
“[Love] does not seek its own, is not provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5).
Oh, how very easy it is to punch back. Ask nearly any guy, and he will tell you: if you take a hit, you hit back—defend yourself! Well, sometimes it’s hard to be lying on the floor, ready to let loose your fury on the person who put you there, yet choose to hold back your wrath. It’s not easy, but it’s usually right. Most Christians will read this sentence and nod their head in agreement, but this isn’t just an analogy. For me, this stirs up a very poignant and painful memory.
To summarize, one night my brother woke me up and asked me to do something, to which I refused. My brother didn’t like that answer, and in an effort to convince me to comply, pulled me to the ground. On the way down, apparently I kicked him, and he instinctively punched my face, knocking my head onto the floor. For a very brief, but intense, moment I wanted to hit him; I don’t think I ever had such a desire to inflict pain onto him. I’d always been bigger than him and was confident that, if I indulged in my vengeance, I would likely win. By the grace of God, I held back. I took a moment, and I saw what would happen next: I’d hit him, he’d hit me, and we would repeat that sequence until one of us eventually wore out. Instead, I stayed on the ground, let his head cool off, and I went back to bed without any more incident.
Neither of us walked away undamaged. I awoke with a black eye, but that was nothing compared to the damage to our relationship. I believe my brother still carries the guilt of that night. It took a long time before all those wounds healed, but how much worse would it have been if I had hit him back? How long would we have traded blows, even though we loved each other? How much worse would we have both been if I followed that instinctive desire to satiate my anger? Thankfully, I don’t know.
I cannot claim that my heart was exclusively in the place of love, but I wanted to minimize the damage of what happened, so the results were not dissimilar. When love gets dragged around, when it gets pushed down, and even when it gets hit, it takes the pain, because any other action is going to make the situation worse. When we love people, we care more about that connection, about improving their lives, than we do about how it makes us feel. It isn’t always easy, but God hasn’t asked us to follow an easy path. After all, we’re called to be like Jesus. How much, I wonder, did Jesus resist His desires to protect Himself and His honor on the day of His death?
Do you complain about the weather? I know I do, especially when it’s as hot as it typically is in Las Vegas. If nothing else, at least the weather is predictable: three months of winter, nine months of summer—that’s normal, right? Even when we complain about the weather, we’re usually not surprised about it. If we’re at all curious, we can look on our phones with some certainty to see what the weather will be like.
The old world wasn’t like this, though. People could take guesses or rely on almanacs, but the weather was relatively unpredictable, and it was often interpreted as either judgement or favor from the gods.
Wind was perhaps one of the most significant factors in determining weather. Wind could bring rain, but it could also blow heat from the desert, or cause a calm body of water to become violent. This was the case for Paul while he was on a ship as a prisoner; an eastern wind blew in so strongly that the sailors called it Euroclydon (Acts 27:14). This Euroclydon eventually shipwrecked Paul. This would have been contrary to the desire of the sailors, but not of the Lord.
Is every storm from God? I’d say not; the devil used a great wind to slay Job’s children (Job 1:19). However, God is the ultimate authority on His creation. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 30:4, “Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment?” Solomon recognized that no man has control over the weather. No one but God can bind the wind to his will.
Perhaps the disciples had Solomon’s verse on their minds when they were out on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus. They were being tossed about, fearful for their lives. All the while, Jesus was peacefully asleep. Once Jesus awoke, all He did was tell the sea, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39) This astonished His followers, to say the least. “And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (Mark 4:41). Jesus did what no one had done before: He ordered creation to submit to His will, by His authority alone.
We all wish we could improve the weather on occasion, metaphorically or literally. Yet none of us have the power to do so, just like all of humanity that has proceeded us. However, unlike so much of the world, we serve a God who does have power over all creation. If even the wind obeys Him, how much more should we?
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3).
I used to do a lot of hiking, and I’ve been missing it more and more. Las Vegas is in a valley, but we have mountains all around us. When it snows, Mount Charleston looks incredibly inviting, but oh so often I put it off. “Next time!” I tell myself. “I’m busy right now, but next time I’ll be able to get out of this valley!”
Here’s the thing about valleys, though: you don’t see the big picture. You become focused on what you’re doing. I used to work in the wilderness, and there is a huge difference when you’re on a mountaintop than when you’re in a ravine. From a mountain, you have a perspective that nearly threatens to take your breath as you behold the awesome majesty of the world. Land and direction make a bit more sense as you can see everything at once, maybe even things you didn’t see before. There’s also a sense of security; being higher up gives the advantage of a better view so it’s easier to see danger as it approaches. Security, majesty, perspective—it’s little surprise to me that people in the Bible often went to a mountain to seek the Lord.
Moses may have had the greatest of all hikes. When he climbed Mount Sinai, he was in the physical presence of the Lord, as close to God as he could possibly get without getting killed (Exodus 33). It was there that the Lord gave Moses His commandments. Meanwhile, back in the valley, the people grew fearful. They didn’t know what was happening, so they sought their own solutions to the situation. If they had perspective, maybe they would have known to wait.
God invites us to enjoy His presence, to join Him on His mountain. So often I get carried away with the details and get bogged down in the valley of life. I look to the mountain and think that I’ll get there eventually, but I continue to labor in the valley. When I finally get to that blessed mountaintop, I always ask myself, “Why didn’t I come here sooner?”
Waiting is hard. Sometimes, waiting feels like the hardest thing in the world—especially if what you’re waiting for is something you’re really looking forward to. I have been waiting for something for a long time, and recently I’ve made a much more intentional effort in praying for it. I know the Lord hears me. I know that this prayer will be answered. The Lord’s response may be yes, or it may be no, but I’m confident that I will have my answer. In this confidence, why is waiting still so hard? Perhaps it’s the not knowing, or perhaps it’s because of immaturity, but I can’t help but think that, above all else, perhaps it’s just that we are impatient.
Tell any child, “Wait five minutes,” and what happens? Those five minutes suddenly become the length of eternity itself! That, however, is nothing compared to promising a child a surprise. There have been times when I’ve told my nieces and nephews that we were going to do something fun, and every few minutes, until the second the surprise is revealed, they ask, pester, and beg for any hint of what my plan is. Does it matter that I know they’ll enjoy it? Does it matter that I’ve never disappointed them before? Does it matter that any surprise they receive will be good for them? No, not by one iota.
I’ve seen this in children. I’ve seen this in adults. I’ve seen this in myself. When we want something, especially something we’re excited for, it becomes very difficult to wait for it. In this day and age, patience isn’t a virtue that is reinforced very frequently. Want that obscure online purchase now? Upgrade to same day shipping. Like a product that hasn’t been released? Preorder it. Want to learn a new language or skill? Try out this app to learn it in just a few weeks. I don’t think this is a problem unique to our generation, or to America; this is a human problem. We want what we want when we want it.
There is a verse in Revelation that always catches my eye when I see it. After the fifth seal is broken, John sees all the people that have been martyred for Christ, and they ask God “with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer” (Revelation 6:10-11). It’s almost funny. Even in heaven, we’re still asking the Lord, “Yeah, but when?”
The Lord works in His own time, and though I’m anxious for an answer to my prayer, I still must wait with patience. Hebrews 6:12 says, “Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
Life can be difficult at times. There are so many moving parts: kids, careers, finances. It can all feel so overwhelming. On the same note, life can also be so full of abundant blessings. It all depends on your perspective. So what is your perspective? As a Christian, a follower of Christ, we should always look at life from the best perspective. Yes, life is hard at times, but God is good, and that good God is the one calling the shots. That should give you peace and comfort. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Is there anything better than having Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives? Is there anything better than having an intimate relationship with the One who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be saved? For me? No, there is nothing better than that, because “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
The Lord has definitely taken my family and I through many seasons. Some were difficult and some almost unbearable, but some had us praising Jesus from the mountaintop. No matter what the season or circumstance we were in, we had the comfort of knowing that Jesus was right there with us.
My husband was recently offered an opportunity that he just could not pass up. It was career opportunity to do something that he loves, an opportunity that we knew was literally handed to us from the Lord. With this new career came new responsibilities, and this new position is more demanding of his time than we have ever experienced in the past. In most recent events, we found out that he would now be traveling for work every single week. This is going to be tough for us. We have a very active lifestyle with four very active children. How on earth were we going to handle such a huge change in our lives? Well, we have Jesus. He has allowed all of these things to take place. His hand has been in every detail. He is with us, so we will survive!
Life with Jesus is not always easy, but life with Jesus is the only life worth living. The free gift of salvation is an opportunity you just cannot pass up! Those thoughts of a future and a hope that the Lord has are for those who accept the free gift of salvation. Live a life with Jesus by your side!
Have you ever heard of 16 Psyche? Don’t worry, it’s not some mystical level in a cult somewhere. 16 Psyche is an asteroid that has caught the attention of many people in the media and the space exploration industry. Some have said that this hunk of rock has a wealth of precious metals with an estimated worth of $10,000 quadrillion—that’s quadrillion with a Q! Many say that if the asteroid were mined and its gold brought to earth, it would completely collapse the economy because of hyper-inflation. Everyone would have so much gold, it wouldn’t be worth anything.
When I first heard this, I couldn’t help but laugh at how this reservoir of treasure is just meandering through the cosmos. People often get impressed when they meet people with wealth. Some people can become celebrities simply because they have a vast amount of money. Still, if you were to take every dollar on this planet, it wouldn’t even be a fraction of this single asteroid.
It hit me that this asteroid, for all intents and purposes, belongs to God. After all, no one else knew about it for most of history. Even now that we know about it, we still can’t collect it. This is just one asteroid. God created the entire universe, and everything He created rightfully belongs to Him. On that scale, this one asteroid is pocket change to Him.
God has such a vast amount of wealth, it’s actually incomprehensible. He uses gold for pavement, for crying out loud (Revelation 21:21)! It actually makes me embarrassed when I consider how much we fret, toil, and squabble over the treasures we try to accumulate. God isn’t just willing to care for our needs; He’s able. In fact, He has more wealth than all of humanity, and it’s just floating around space. When I think of that, I can’t help but feel a bit silly that I question whether or not God will satisfy my needs.
I’m not saying that God would send down an asteroid to your backyard to fulfill your needs, but we should have confidence in the fact that our heavenly Father has resources at His disposal beyond what we can even conceive. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Did you know it’s purported that the Las Vegas strip is the brightest spot on Earth when viewed from space, or that the casinos use about nine million lightbulbs per floor? If you’ve ever driven on the bright streets of Las Vegas, you would probably notice you could drive comfortably at night without your headlights. Once off the strip, though, things change, and the night gets very dark very quickly. From the dark, the brightness of the strip can be seen from any direction in the city.
I remember one occasion when I was driving into Las Vegas from a not-so-popular freeway. Without street lights or other cars, it was practically pitch black with a blanket of stars, but far away in the distance, I could see the orange glare of the city’s illumination.
In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells the people, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It is not hard to picture that image of being in the countryside on a dark night and seeing a brightly lit city off in the distance. That’s the kind of hope that God wants us to be to the world, the kind of comfort we’re supposed to bring to the hopeless.
Something that I learned in chemistry is that light occurs from a reaction; it may be the intended goal, but it occurs because something else was done first. In other words, light doesn’t happen on its own. It takes work. There is no light that exists in the universe that occurs without some kind of energy to produce it.
That is like us in our spiritual lives. Being a light may be the goal, but it happens as a result of some other effort, like living in submission to God and showing His love to the world. Conversely, darkness is easy. Darkness just happens. It’s what the natural world has a tendency for, and there is no distinction between one darkness and another.
Just like the Las Vegas strip in the middle of a desert, we should be distinct enough from the world that we stand out. As we live in a way that honors God, showing His love to each other and to the world, the light of heaven will naturally flow out as a beacon to those that wander in the dark.