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!
How tall did the tower of Babel rise? Sometimes I wonder, just as I wonder how much chaos was strewn when God disrupted languages. Imagine: families, friends, maybe even spouses, suddenly couldn’t understand each other. In a single moment, all of their achievements crumbled to dust; with the remnants an unfinished tower as a haunting reminder of what they had done.
If you’ve never been to Israel, I highly encourage you to go. It truly makes the bible come to life in ways that you never experienced before. One of the things that happened to me during my visit was to explore the ruins of a fort. This fort must have been mighty and impressive when it was standing, emphasis on when. As I stood on those ruins, I could not help but think how powerful—how certain—the people behind those walls felt. Once they were invincible; now signs hang to warn visitors from venturing into areas prone to collapse. I’ve never seen a more perfect example of pride in my life.
This was a place that gave those defending the area confidence in their success, and in standing in their position they could be confident that their strength would be enough to handle any threat, maybe it would even last forever. But that’s not what happened. Maybe they faced many threats, maybe the fort itself could have gone unconquered, but that fort didn’t keep the country from being conquered; and eventually it’s necessity yielded to time. Despite how mighty it once was considered, it became meaningless.
We can become very confident in our accomplishments, our skills, and prestige; but how easily can that confidence and pride evaporate? I have little doubt that all of us have heard stories of great men falling from the peak of their power never to rise again. Take Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, for example. Nebuchadnezzar was essentially the ruler of the world; true he hadn’t conquered everyone, but he was essentially the supreme super-power of his day. When Nebuchadnezzar looked at his kingdom, he attributed his success to himself, and God struck him with madness for a time. After his insanity, Nebuchadnezzar sung a different tune:
“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:34).
One of the things that I try to remind myself whenever I start to become confident in my situation is that it can all be gone tomorrow. I may work hard, but without the Lord’s will I struggle in vain. Recognizing the Lord’s authority and blessings gives us both gratitude and humility; and perhaps, encourages us to work in our lives to worship Him. Maybe if that had been the purpose of Babel, it would be standing today.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I’d like to say I always trust in God. You probably would too. When you read these first two sentences, you probably thought to yourself, “I do trust in God.” The reality is, yes we do trust him, but sometimes our being lacks real faith or trust.
Right now I’m in a weird place where I have a lot going on in my life and I want to trust God, and I do when you get down to it, but I also am human. What I mean by that is, I am a human with a human brain and I sometimes have thoughts where I doubt. I think there is no way God will come through. There is no way He will get me out of the situation I am going through. Then, even worse, I start thinking “I will take care of it, God. I have a solution for the problem. I know what to do.” I don’t know why we do this. I mean, God of the universe who created everything and has a plan for all the things in the world, and especially every tiny detail of my life, has it all under control.
The bible tells us about how the birds of the air are taken care of, and how much more does our father in heaven care about us. We know that He has every hair of our head numbered and every grain of sand on the beach numbered. His ways are not our ways. Do you think He has bad things planned for us? I don’t really think so, but sometimes on this road of life, it might seem that way.
We question and ask, “God, what’s going on here?” We don’t know why we go through certain things, or go through trails or have temptations. The bible reminds us, what’s impossible with man is possible with God. I start stressing out and my wife reminds me to give it to God and pray. She is right—don’t tell her I said that, haha. When we truly give it to Him to deal with, let God and let go, He will take care of it. This is His party, we are just invited.
“And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26).
I have to admit that when it comes to social media I am not completely “down with the times.” If I am being honest I mostly use it for selfish reasons such as posting extremely adorable pictures of my kids and then waiting to see how many people tell me how adorable they are. But, from time to time I will take a moment to scroll through my Facebook feed. Sometimes there are different ads, sometimes there are news articles, or all the political jargon, but what breaks my heart the most is all the hate that I see. There is so much sadness, pain, anger, hurt, bitterness, un-forgiveness, self-righteousness and the list goes on and on.
When social media first began it was for the most part used to keep people connected in a fabulous new way. Now, what I see is people using social media as a platform to say whatever they want, to speak their minds and give their opinions no matter who they hurt or offend. They say what they want to because it’s their right. It’s true! We do have a right to speak out. But as Christians, how are we speaking out? We are held to a higher standard. We are to be in this world but not of this world. We actually have an obligation to speak out and share the gospel of Jesus Christ in love! The Scriptures say that the world will know that we are Christians by our love!
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
I have four kids and coincidentally, just as they learn from me, I learn a great deal from them. It is those moments of discipline and correction that I actually need to take a look at my own heart. One question that I consistently ask my kids is this, “What would Jesus do?” As soon as this question is asked my kids immediately stop and think, then most times—not every time—they are able to respond to the situation the way Jesus would. This is so simple, yet so difficult for us to do. Well here is the answer: Jesus always responds in love!
While we are here on earth we are to be ambassadors for Christ, a representation of who He is. God is love! Are we representing Him well? Are we loving people the way He loves? No matter what?! This world is ugly. People are hurting. People need love. People need to know and feel and believe the love of Christ. As Christians we need to be showing the love of Christ in all that we say and do. Let’s ask ourselves: “What would Jesus do?”
I Corinthians 13:4 says that love does not envy. Envy, jealousy, covetousness, and the like involves looking at the world—especially the worlds of other people—and wishing you had it for yourself. That’s not loving, though, because wanting stuff and status more than you want save a soul isn’t going to turn anyone to Jesus. So what does love do?
Envy’s opposite is contentment, which is trusting that—regardless of whether we’re lavished in luxury or imprisoned and impoverished—God has always been sovereign, He still loves us, and He will take care of us. The Bible says countless times that God is a good father and gives us good gifts, and so much of Scripture is just a list of examples of His provision— from giving Adam a wife in the garden to giving the Israelites manna through the desert, or even giving us a Savior for our darkest moments. Being content means saying, “I accept whatever You give me, because I trust in You.”
To say it more simply, the problem with envy isn’t wanting stuff. The issue is a lack of trust in God. This is why love does not—cannot—envy: God is love, and He cannot distrust Himself! Likewise, if we are living and loving as Christ did, we’ll be totally dependent on Him, and we won’t be wishing for the things He hasn’t chosen to give to us. Our reliance on His plan will overcome our desire for comfort.
It’s especially wrong for us to be jealous of people who do not have Christ. On the outside, it might look like the people in the world are achieving their goals and living the life others only dream of living, but you must remember that they’re doing it in their own strength. They’re striving for it. They’ll burn out, sooner or later, or they’ll at least have to come to terms with the fact that all the gain in the world won’t fulfill their soul the way they hope it will. Solomon would be the first to tell them that worldly winnings are vain because they’ll eventually fade away. People cannot take their achievements into the afterlife.
You, however, have eternally lasting rewards because Christ conquered sin and death. The greatest obstacle you’ll ever have to hurdle has already been accomplished. What more could you possibly want?
Psalm 37:1 says it this way: “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Any way you slice it, truly loving someone involves showing them Christ in some way or another. That’s why not envying plays a part in loving others: when you wind up shipwrecked, beaten, in prison, but you still keep praising Jesus anyway, the world will see. They’ll find themselves wanting what you’ve got, even though they expected it to be the other way around.
It’s been raining. That’s my favorite part about the seasonal changes here. Somewhere between the biting winter and the burning summer are these sporadic little rainstorms. I love the smell of the rain in Las Vegas. The typical petrichor is mixed with the distinct scent of exhaust fumes and melted asphalt. You’d think the stench of road mixed with the fragrance of air would be unpleasant, but I love it. I like to think it means the sky is washing the city.
During the last rainstorm, I was reading the Bible with someone close to me, and he pointed out Titus 1:2, which says, “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” For some reason, the verse was striking—there was something about trying to wrap our minds around eternity, and how God knew about it before time began. If eternal life is the thing granted to those who have been perfected, it only makes since that God has always known eternal life, because He has always been perfect.
And God is so very perfect. He is pure. He is completely undefiled. By His very nature, He cannot have unity with anything that contradicts Him…that’s why when we sinned (turned from His ways), we were eternally separated from Him. He adores us, though, and ever since we fell away, He’s been doing everything in His power to get as close as He can to dwelling among us. His first method of doing that was setting up the tabernacle in the Old Testament.
Those Mosaic laws didn’t perfect us to the degree of His purity, though. A tabernacle in the middle of the camp was not complete unity. His love for us and desire to be with us was so great, that He ended up sacrificing His purity for our sake. He took our sin upon Himself so that we could have the righteousness of Christ. Now, because of Jesus, He dwells within our tabernacled hearts, and we’re promised an eternity with Him in perfection.
After that rainstorm stopped, the Vegas valley was blanketed in foggy, smoggy clouds. The person I’d been reading with saw that the Stratosphere hotel was completely shrouded. It wasn’t visible at all. He said the Stratosphere was like our sin. Logically, we know it’s there because we’ve seen it every day, but now it’s covered by something from above so it’s no longer seen.
Although we’ll never be perfect on this side of heaven, we still learn about Him in spite of our imperfections. We learn through contrast, realizing His perfection by recognizing our imperfection, and vice versa, and the more we see of His love, the more we’ll yearn and strive to be close to Him, too. We must remember to not let our imperfection belittle us and distract us from a sense of awe, because His purity overshadows all our sin.
What is love? that is a question I asked myself a bit growing up. I had grown up in the church, grown up on movies, and always said goodbye on the phone to my family with: “I love you!” Still, eventually, I started to ask myself, what is love as a concept? I prayed about this for a while, and was ever unsatisfied with the answer I received from the dictionary, until one day it hit me and it all made sense. Love wasn’t a sappy word you say about things you like, it’s not something said to convince other people you enjoy their company, it was a verb, an action. Love is the demonstration of one’s feelings, an act of showing how valued something is in their life.
That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t the final conclusion of my epiphany. If love was the action of showing how valued something was, how is it measured? Ultimately, it’s measured by the value of what you’re willing to give up for the thing that is loved. Life is full of resources, resources like time, energy, and money, all of which are important to us to have and utilize. Love asks: “how much of those resources are you willing to give to me so I can be better off?” Once I realized that, everything else about love started to make sense.
Verses like 1 John 4:7-8 suddenly took new meaning: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If love is the act of showing others how much you care about them by giving things up for their benefit, God is the very essence of that. He desires to make us better, and He only wants the best for us. Like how a parent will spend countless hours slaving away to improve their children’s future.
The act of love wasn’t the only thing this realization shone new light on. If love is the act of giving up things you like for the benefit of others, than pride is that act directed inwards towards yourself. Pride is saying, “I’m more important than you, so if I give these resources up, it’s to make me happy and it doesn’t matter how it affects you.” Every person that rebels against God, every broken relationship, and all despicable acts of evil, come from this concept of desiring to love oneself, rather than others.
Many more revelations on love came to me after God gave me the insight to understand the concept; but none of them were more important than this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
The world is slowing down. Science tells us that the earth is winding down, granted it’s only a few milliseconds every hundred years or so. Sometimes, I wish that it was slowing down faster. When I was a child, it seemed like every day went on forever, at some point in life though, that changed. Life no longer seemed like it was trudging along slowly, suddenly, years were melting away faster than seemed reasonable. My aunt once told me that life was like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it seems to go.
Life is fast, and it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in a day to get it all done. Of course, there would never be enough hours you could add to a day to get it all done. In that fast pace, it’s easy to put things off. Instead of prayer time here, I can use that time to make coffee; instead of scripture time there, I can do research for a project. The list goes on and on, for what we do and decide to put our spiritual lives on the back burner. Thank goodness for days like Sunday, a day where I have to tell myself: “Slow down! This is time I’m devoting to the Lord.”
When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, they challenged Him on the sabbath and accused His disciples of profaning it, but Jesus wanted them to understand that they had their perspective backwards: “And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). God, in His bountiful wisdom, knew we would work ourselves into the ground if given the opportunity, and He wanted us to have the mentality of giving up some of our oh so precious hours to remember our relationship with Him.
I wish that the world would slow down, that I could spend just a little bit more time doing the things that I would like to do; to finish my projects and complete my goals. Alas, time ever marches forward in an ever quickening pace. It almost makes it mind boggling when I consider eternity. We spend so long worrying about the day to day, it’s easy to forget sometimes that our day, year, and lifetime are all just a drop in the bucket compared to what it’s going to be like someday. A time where we won’t have to worry about filling up the hours to get everything done, instead we’ll be able to simply indulge in the presence and gifts of God.
“I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end,” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).
Man I miss the snow. The desert has its own majesty, but there is something about snow. Every year growing up, we had at least a few good snowfalls. Ignoring the hijinks my family would engage in, waking up and looking out at the window was an experience that is difficult to replicate. The world would be blanketed in white and everything seemed new, the only thing to think about was how to enjoy the day. Granted, obligations and tasks didn’t evaporate, things needed to be done despite the wet and the cold, but that wonder that first hits is still something that I miss.
The world was just as dirty as it was when the snow fell, but that’s buried by white fluffiness; the only thing that is seen is a fresh and clean world. That’s the mental picture that I’m reminded of when I think about how we’ve been cleansed by God’s grace. The great news is, God only sees the clean us, He doesn’t look for what was underneath. We have a fresh start, that is only filled with possibilities. I wonder how excited God is when He looks out and sees us, is it that same giddiness that encompasses all of us as children in the snow?
Snow isn’t for everyone, I get that, that’s part of the reason why many move to deserts like the one we have here. By the same token, many don’t accept the gift of God’s grace and repent. These people are still blemished by the crimson of their sin, and we can be certain that God won’t be able to miss those stains.
Thankfully, we came to our senses and see that we are incapable of becoming clean on our own; and it’s up to us to share that with the world. This isn’t an obligation, it’s a privilege. By being His messengers we have the opportunity not just to delight Him, but to show His grace to others. God’s grace comes flittering down like flakes of fresh snow, and there’s nothing more joyful than being with someone for their first snowfall.
“Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters” (Proverbs 25:13).
At eighteen I was a senior in high school, I had knowledge of God but not relationship with HIm. Every night I would tell God facts of the gospel message as a prayer. At that time, my plan was to come to Las Vegas for college because that was cool; UNLV had just won the basketball title. One night during that dispassionate prayer, the thought came: “you need to go to Missouri.”
Missouri was my other choice, and my cousin was running campus crusade there. I knew it was God’s calling. I had never experienced it before, but I knew. I asked God: “Would You have me change everything?” The answer was yes. I remember it clearly, yet I don’t remember giving God’s call a second thought the next morning! That was 1992. It wasn’t until 1997 when I found the relationship part of a walk with God!
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
God’s leading hand still comes into my life in His timing and His way, but I find my initial response is often the same! As if God is asking me to walk in the sand. It’s soft sand that is hard to walk in. I want to say: “Why would I walk through the soft deep sand? It’s the harder way.” Often I can’t see the end of the sand either! It feels like everybody else is on the paved road, having an easier time and able to walk more comfortably. It feels irrational to take the harder road! What can possibly be at the end of this sand? This isn’t a way I would have charted for myself, yet to the best of my understanding it is the way that will please God!
“But as it is written: eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Genesis 13 comes to mind. Abraham and Lot's shepherds fighting so Abraham tells Lot to pick the land he would like to live because there was no longer room for them to live together. Lot picks the land that looked well watered and lush. That left Abraham with sand, the harder ground. In that place of hard, quiet, desolate place of infertility was the promised land!
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalms 27:13).
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
There are a lot of bright lights in Las Vegas, and for this reason it can be very easy to miss paying attention to the moon. Still, occasionally I’ll look up in the sky and smile as I see a brightly glowing full moon, or maybe the glimmer of a crescent moon just starting to wax. I grew up with a telescope, and living far from the city I would occasionally go out and blind myself in the middle of the night as I stared into the silvery disk that hung in the sky. Those nights when it shone so bright, you could take a stroll at midnight and not miss a step.
The moon is wondrous, but no one mistakes it for the glory of the sun. At night, we don’t feel the heat from the moon, because it does not create the light that it shines; the moon is merely a reflection of a greater, more powerful, light. This is the way I believe it’s important to think of the church. Yes, the church is a capable force for good, charity, and love, but those traits are a mere reflection of the God we serve. That is not to diminish the church in any way, but is a reminder of our status and privilege.
We have the unique pleasure and duty of being a reflection of the glory of God in this world. When we go into the world speaking of God’s love and what He’s done in our lives, and showing that love to others, we become a sort of mirror for the world to see Him through. Some of us only show a sliver of a crescent, but some have the fortitude to make life as fully a reflection as possible.
God works in ways that are subtle, at least to us they are subtle. When He visited the Israelites on Mount Sinai, He told Moses that fully revealing His glory would kill him (Exodus 33:20). Instead God shows the world glimpses of who He is, through the world, through our interactions with others, and even though us. This won’t always be the case though. Just as the glory of the moon fades at the dawning of the sun, the glory of the Lord will be on full display on the beautiful day of His return.