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!
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).
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me,’” (Isaiah 6:8).
Sometimes I ask myself, am I listening to the call of the Lord? Have I already heard it, and have ignored that call, or just wasn’t paying attention? I’m not always certain of the answer, sometimes I think I’m right where the Lord needs me, and sometimes I wonder if I’m on the right track at all. It makes me really admire the ones that the Lord called to by name, and when they heard His voice had the courage to say “Here I am!”
In perhaps one of my favorite passages in scripture, the prophet Isaiah had a vision. He saw the throne of the Lord, and angelic seraphim worshiping Him. Isaiah was humbled, he knew he was a sinner and confessed that he was unworthy of being in the Lord’s presence. One of the angels took some of the coal from the temple’s alter and pressed it against Isaiah’s lips, telling him his sin was purged; fire was often a symbol for God’s judgment, and the act of searing Isaiah’s lips was a symbolic of Isaiah’s sins being burned away.
After Isaiah’s repentance, God asks who He should choose to send His message to Israel. Isaiah immediately shouted, “I’m here! Send me!” I love Isaiah’s spirit, but I always notice that God didn’t make His request until after Isaiah’s sins were addressed. It also says something how God could have spoken to Isaiah and told him what to do, but He didn’t do that. God needed a messenger, He didn’t demand one. He waited until Isaiah’s heart was in a place that could serve Him, and then He asked so that Isaiah would choose to follow His instructions.
This happens so many times in the bible, where God calls out to people, after they respond to Him, God continues. God does this in our lives, He has special tasks for us, but He waits until we are humbled to ask for forgiveness and then asks us to do His will. There are many different tasks God asks His followers to do, some He has teach where they live, others He sends to the ends of the earth. So, keeping in mind God’s tendency to call and wait for us to respond, I still ask myself, if God were to call out to me, would I have the heart and courage to answer: “Here I am, send me!”?
She’s stubborn in a good way. My friend dissects beliefs with debate and introspection before adopting them, and when it comes to the values that make up her identity, she sticks to her guns and puts up a good fight. Lately, her analytical soul-searching has made her question how much, exactly, God wants changed. “To what extent am I steeped in darkness? At what point will my religion overtake my humanity? In short, how much of myself is God asking me to give up?”
Simple answer, my friend, is 0%. Sure, there are plenty of verses about self-denial and transformation, but Christian humility isn’t renouncing identity; it’s relocating it (100% of it) into Christ.
I think the fear is in thinking that God doesn’t want to see your personality. “God wants cookie-cutter Christians.” You silly, silly goose. He’s the One who invented your personality, and He adores it. In fact, He’s so obsessed with the “you” that He made, He gave His self up just to keep it from corruption. Trace back to Genesis 2, your origin story. Initially, you were created in God’s image, so becoming more Christlike won’t be losing yourself; it’ll be becoming the person you were truly meant to be. Since God is your Creator, He knows your inner mechanics better than anyone, even you. He designed you with great intent, and planted you here and now according to that purpose. Aligning your priorities to match His isn’t quitting on them, but rather guaranteeing their success.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” This word “workmanship” is the Greek word “poiema,” which is from where we get our English word “poem.” You are His work of art, the kind of masterpiece to which a sculptor devotes his life. Ever since Genesis 2:7, He’s been forming you. You’re clay, and He’s the potter that puts His treasure in earthen vessels.
This means that getting familiarized with His Word and getting to know who He is means understanding yourself. As you obey Him, you’ll put to use the gifts He’s crafted into you. When you draw close and experience His incredible goodness, you’ll recognize the aspects of yourself that aren’t in tune with that beauty, and you’ll want to give them up. The deeper you relate to the humility that prompted His sacrifice, the more you’ll be willing to pick up your own cross and deny yourself, even if that means denying what you think is your own identity. After all, that’s what selflessness is.
As a masterpiece-in-progress, it’ll sometimes hurt to have rough edges of yourself sanded away, or pieces of stone chipped off your heart. Your flesh, this world, and the enemy will harden you, so you'll feel like finding loopholes in His mold. You’ll fight against His attempts to form you into His own image. You’ll resist His sweet artistry. Sometimes, you’ll be so hardened and brittle, you’ll break.
Keep submitting to His handiwork, though. Trust the Author of your faith to write your character. Don’t be afraid to put off the old man; you’ll find the new one’s better. Lower yourself to such a place that He is the only thing left in you to be seen, for that is when you’ll find yourself in a state of utmost completion.
We live in a world where being strong is very sought-after trait. We want strong cleaners, cars, even furniture, if you have kids. We also have everything around us telling us to be strong and to never be weak or let our weaknesses be seen.
Strength is mentioned over 360 times in the Bible. When you look at verses in the Old Testament, you will find that verses where strength is mentioned are generally speaking of the strength of God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Basically, when we consider everything the Bible says, we are told to use what strength we do have to love God, and to let ourselves be weak the rest of the time so God can be strong.
We don’t always do what we read we are supposed do. No one likes to be weak or completely reliant all the time. I have been working very hard recently not to depend on myself to do things without the assistance of my family or, more importantly, of God. It can become so easy to just do things on my own, because I know how and when they’re being done. When we rely on God to be our strength, though, we submit all control of how and when things will be done. When we submit to God, that’s when we get see what the “Big P” plan is for our lives.
I learned a lot while working on this devotion, praying about it, and talking to my wife. I mentioned to her that I was discovering what God really says about strength in the Bible. She mentioned to me that we have to also be careful not to confuse strength with perseverance. We can continue down the path in which God is guiding us and give Him complete control at the same time. When I gave some thought to this, I realized that I often correlate letting God be my strength to me doing nothing.
I think sometimes we must do that, but we have to be faithful while He continues to be our strength, rather than focusing on how we can change things. There are so many times when we don’t want to persevere where we are; instead, we could pray about it and continue walking down the path. After studying about strength, I have begun asking myself, “Am I letting God be my strength?”
Every day I find myself, as well as people around me, hurriedly and worriedly rushing after things of the world. We absorb ourselves in work, or revel in lazy pleasure. To what end?
In the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon lamented, “Vanity, all is vanity,” because everything seemed so pointless, so in chapter two, he decided to try an experiment. In a quest to find something that might have some kind of value, Solomon decided to see what would happen if he put his limitless resources and kingly authority toward attaining whatever he fancied. He vowed that any time he felt himself desiring anything, he would say yes to it and deny himself nothing; thus he began pursuing all the pleasures and successes of the world. If you had unlimited power and resources, what kinds of things would you pursue to make yourself happy? What kinds of achievements would you work hard to accomplish?
Solomon determined to put effort and hard work into to accomplish things of worth, and set out to contemplate the philosophies of wisdom, madness, and folly. He surrounded himself with servants, musical performers, and beautiful women, all of whom were ready at all times to obey his every whim. He obtained herds of livestock and hoards of treasure until he was wealthier than anyone else in his kingdom. He built wonderful mansions and castles, vineyards and gardens, orchards of fruit and pools of water. His utopia shut out all dissatisfaction. In a way, he re-created his own little garden of Eden. That is what all human striving is, after all, isn’t it? A vain attempt at getting back into Eden—trying to find the kind of peace we’d have if we were united to God.
Now, it took Solomon a lifetime of this grasping for the wind to figure it out, but we know how the chapter ends: he still says it’s all vanity. It did not matter that he was the wisest man in the world, or that he had been so hardworking, or that he had acquired so much, or that he had experienced so many pleasures. He could not take anything he had earned to the grave with him; everything would just get left behind and passed down to someone else. At the end of his life, his wisdom did not change the fact that he would die just like the fools. That’s why he wrote, “There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
In saying this, though, Solomon makes a contrast. Even though he describes the world as just an endless cycle of nothing, we know this perspective isn’t true, because there is a life beyond this world. That is Solomon’s hidden message in Ecclesiastes: by showing how pointless and hopeless life would be without God, Solomon shows us how very important it is to live with God. We have hope because we know there’s more to life than just what is under the sun.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
I love this scripture. So simple and so comforting. With the Lord as our Shepherd we will never be in want of anything. This illustration of the Lord being our shepherd is such a beautiful picture of the loving character of our God. God’s word gives us so many different illustrations, but this one in particular is one that God uses in my life time and time again to remind me of His unconditional love.
Being a shepherd is a job that requires every part of you. Sheep are not considered to be wise animals. They are fearful. They are timid. They are wanderers. They flee in the in the presence of danger. But, in the same note they know that their shepherd is with them. To protect them. To take care of them. To lead and guide them. To provide for their every need! The shepherd loves and cares for his sheep day and night, no matter what!
In our ladies’ bible study we have been discussing how the Lord (our Shepherd) restores our souls. We have been discussing what restoration looks like and how we, as the Lord’s sheep so desperately need that restoration, the refreshing and renewing of our hearts and souls that only the Lord can bring. I have recently just been through a restoration process of my own with the Lord. My relationship with the the Lord had come to a halt. I was feeling complacent. I wasn’t going backwards but I definitely was not moving forward. My pride was allowing me to believe that I was fine.
I love the Lord. I know God’s word and what it says, but I had gotten to a place where I was no longer pursuing the Lord. What I found I was actually avoiding Him. I was avoiding Him because I was fearful of what He might say, or reveal about the condition of my heart. Thankfully, my Shepherd pursued me, broke down the walls of pride, and my heart began to soften.
It was hard, and painful, but it was necessary. I began to seek Him again. I began to pray again. I was no longer avoiding Him. He was completely restoring my heart and soul. Bringing me back to the place of intimacy with Him that I once had. The definition of restoration is the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it or cleaning it. What a beautiful picture! This is what the Lord did for me. Even more than that, He allowed this process of restoration in my life so that ultimately He could get the glory. So that the people in my life could see the goodness of the Lord, my Good Shepherd. The good shepherd who left the ninety-nine for me. Thank you Jesus!
"He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake."
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:12-13).
If life has taught me anything, it’s that adults are a myth; there’s no such thing in this world as a “grown up.” When I was young, I believed in the myth wholeheartedly; I even had such fanciful thoughts that I would one day become one of these creatures. Alas, the world has shown me the truth, there is no such thing as adults—just large children.
I’ve worked around kids; I have many nieces and nephews. They’re loud, impatient, petty, short-sighted, and—quite often—they don’t know any better. Now, children can be adorable, as well; there are very few things as adorable as when they do their best to make their parents happy. Nonetheless, they can be a handful even on the best of days.
As I’ve observed children and how they behave, I’ve come to the realization that they are exactly how God sees us. There is not one description that I gave for a child that I can not help but feel applies to adults. If you think I’m wrong, spend some time driving and just wait and see how long it takes before someone has the exact same look of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum. Seeing the world as what amounts to a gigantic playpen really gives perspective to how God sees us. When we’re rebellious and disobey God, and then lie, say that we’ve done nothing wrong, and blame other people for our mistakes, it looks eerily similar to how a toddler first refuses to follow the rules, and then does everything to avoid being punished. Conversely, when we do well and seek to please God, the picture of that child trying his hardest to make breakfast for his parents comes to mind; he makes a mess and he uses the wrong utensils, yet it’s still heart-melting to see him putting so much effort into making his parents’ day. Sometimes, we mess up, and we become that child who broke a plate, or who got hurt playing. Some of us know that the best thing to do is go tell Dad. Other times, we get the brilliant idea, “Hey, I can handle this,” and the situation can very quickly become much worse. I can admit that there have been times in my life that going to the Father for help hasn’t been the first thought that came to mind, but it would be so much better for me if I did. It brings God joy when we want to please Him, but it’s also important to remember when to go to Him for help—He’s the only grown up we can ask, after all.
This year, my husband started praying for more faith, and when I found out, I couldn’t believe it. That meant the Lord might put us into situations where we’d have to be mature enough to have that extra measure of faith, and I was praying, “Lord, please don’t do that to me!” We were obviously conflicted. Ultimately, though, I knew faith was something we should pray for.
I’ve never had a terminal illness like cancer or anything, but I’ve consistently had health problems since I was a teenager, whether it was illness or injury. When we were growing up, it seemed like I was always the one that was in the hospital, or needing to go to this doctor or that doctor. Before I was a Christian, I used to ask my aunt, the spiritual counsellor of my life, “Why is God doing this to me? I have three siblings, why does this only happen to me?”
Now I’m a believer and God has taken me so far in being content with my body. At least, I think I’m content--that whatever happens, happens--but when something happens out of the blue, I still ask “What’s up Lord? Why would You do this to me?” Now there’s new stuff, but I believe the Lord is using this to grow my faith. On a daily basis He is showing me He can give me a different measure of faith.
James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I know that whatever it is that’s happening to me—whether it’s nothing, or something I have to deal with it for the rest of my life—I know it’s in His plan for something good. So it doesn’t matter if it ends up being some rare disease that there’s no treatment for; it doesn’t matter, because whatever I go through, the Lord is going to be there. It might mean I’m going to get to witness to people I would have never met if I didn’t have something wrong with me. We don’t know what the Lord is going to do, but I know in some way it’s going to be used for good.
Getting a new job is exciting. The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, hopefulness, and change is blissful. However, after few weeks, months, or years, that feeling seems to wear off. It becomes easier to see the flaws and problems that once were coated by the excitement. Irritation and disappointment, seem to, arise more easily and frequently. Conflicts and tensions that weren’t there before spawn and spoil the experience. It becomes tempting to compromise and retaliate, even to throw in the towel.
Lately I was more prone to get frustrated at work. I got easily irritated. I got consumed by thoughts of how I would do things better. I started to notice things that get completely overlooked and unaddressed. It started to affect my attitude. I was no longer coming to work excited and thankful. Instead of being unmovable in the Lord i was swayed by the flaws of this world. I was no longer showing grace to my coworkers. I wasn’t being patient and kind. Instead I was showing the “I don’t care” attitude. I began to complain and focus on all the negative aspects of the job.
Fortunately, our God is faithful and long suffering. He reminded me “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17. Another scripture that kept coming to mind was 1 Corinthians 15:58 “ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast. Immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I kept asking God, everyday before work, for the past few weeks, to give me strength, grace, peace, and joy. He has been so faithful to answer and now I get a chance to share that with my coworkers. In a place that is filled with complaints, resentment, and hopelessness, God is moving and bringing light to the lost. It’s those situations where unbelievers can see the hope we have in us. In face of adversity and tribulation we have confidence in God. We can rejoice in times of trouble. We can be calm during an intense storm. We can praise though the toughest pain. For God no issue we bring to Him is too small or too big. Our circumstances are not hidden from Him. Wherever we are, God is with us.
I’m a thankful for the place God has placed me in. I lost sight of it for a while but God has brought me back. I’m overjoyed and excited to go to work again. I can stand confident in God’s promises and hope that we have in His resurrection though HIs son Jesus Christ.