God Didn’t Give Up by Will Maxwell

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Will Maxwell has been attending Calvary Baptist Church since 2012 and resides in Grand Prairie, TX with his wife and children.  Will assists Calvary's Communications Team during the week in the sound booth as well as ushering and helping with the Judgement House production.  When he's not working or pursuing his Electrical Engineering degree with UNT, Will enjoys playing video games, carpentry, and keeping his marksmanship skills honed.  

God Didn't Give Up

Although I wouldn’t know until years later, my journey to Christ started while I was in the military.  I enlisted in the Marine Corps out of high school and served for nine years.  I was active duty during 9/11 and spent significant time deployed to the Middle East. I was close to other Marines, men I considered brothers.  Some of them were devout Christians and whenever a situation would go awry they would look to me and say, “God was watching over us today.” Being the hardened heart I was, I would brush it off and crack a joke.  Truth be told, I often could not explain why certain things happened the way they did. I lost too many brothers along the way.  We didn’t grow up together, but I would have traded my life for theirs without hesitation. I carried a huge amount of guilt, not for what we were called to do, but the fact that friends, my brothers, did not survive. I felt left behind. I wanted to be with them cracking jokes and hanging out.

When I left the Marine Corps life behind in 2008, I had a hard time dealing with being in the “real world”.  People seemed rude and as if they truly did not care about anyone but themselves. I found it difficult relating to anyone who had not been military and deployed.  This was very dark period for me; I was fighting an uphill battle every day. I leaned heavily on my wife of 14 years (and counting) and a former Army brother I met after joining the civilian world.  We developed a bond quickly because Daniel understood what it meant to have a rough night (because of my nightmares) or that I felt off (because of my anxiety) or the pain was bad today (from my back injury). He could look at me and know something was off and that I needed him to just be there. Half the time we didn’t talk, and when we did, we were cracking jokes.

Daniel invited us to his church many times in the first years I was out of the military.  Eventually, my wife started attending on a regular basis while I stayed home or “had something to take care of”. Soon, my wife recommitted herself to Christ and invited a Life Group into our home.  I was absolutely against that, but I love her, so I let it ride. As the weeks passed, I found myself getting involved with the group. I also realized these people did not judge me in any way. They knew about my military service, deployments to the Middle East, and they did not care. They showed me unconditional love even with all of my faults (to include anger, rage, and the occasional outburst).

Over time, I started attending the church on a regular basis and enjoyed helping out around the church (especially preparations for the Judgement House production).  I developed a friendship with the Pastor, Brian Loveless, and Outreach Pastor, Ron Adams. I would meet with these men regularly. They would always tell me that Christ will accept me, faults and all, but I did not believe I was worth saving.  I did not believe that Christ would want me in His church, but God didn’t give up on me. Since I wasn’t listening to God’s pull on my heart, He found a more forceful way to get my attention.  In the span of a single week we had our car repossessed, could no longer pay our bills, and everything else that could have gone wrong did!

When things fell apart, I had a meeting with Brian. I laid everything out and again he pointed out, “Christ is after you and is calling you”. In that moment, I understood that I could not do life my way. I needed Christ in my life. I needed Christ to lead me and lead my family. That was when I finally accepted Christ in the pastors office, crying and broken.  The feeling that I had someone in my corner was instant.

I would be lying if I said my walk with Christ since that moment has been easy. There have been trials and times where I fall flat on my face. The difference is instead of trying to do it my way, I allow Christ to direct me through prayer and open myself up to His “nudge” in the right direction. I still have flaws, but they are being worked out through our trials. God puts me in situations that are difficult, and once the initial shock is over, instead of getting vengeful I start looking for the thing that I am supposed to learn from this.

In 2013, my wife and I had two miscarriages relatively close together.  The losses tore me up inside, but instead of letting it destroy me; my wife and I lead tour groups through the Judgement House production.  We explained what we were going through to each and every person in our group and how we believed that God would see us through. Our church family rallied around us too; giving support, listening, and encouraging us.

A few years later, God gave us two more sons.  One was born in January 2015.  And a year later, God put an 18-year-old man in my path, leading me to bring this young man into the family. Now all four of our living children are thriving and our family is complete.

I have a saying, “family does not have to share our blood but must be willing to shed blood for each other.”  It’s an idea carried over from my time in the military. You must be willing to help each other, be there when a family member has needs, fill in the gap when one appears. You must be willing to follow through with action, not be the type of person who attends church each week just to check off a box. I have a large church family now, and when we have rough patches, they’ve come running to help.  There are multiple women I call “mom” who pray over us, brothers and sisters in Christ willing to help.  Being a follower of Christ is more than getting baptized and making a proclamation of faith.  Those things are important, but there is much more. You need to read the truth (the bible), you need to surround yourself with friends who will speak the truth into you, and you need to be an active member of your church (both through work and through tithing) and the most important task of all - pray on a regular basis.

Pray for your family, pray for others when they are in the middle of a trial, pray for your pastor, pray for your church. One on one time with God through prayer will open you up to direction and guidance.  You will be amazed how he uses you! Being a follower of Christ is not easy. You will face trials on a regular basis. You will have more questions than answers most of the time. However, eternal salvation and being in a relationship with Christ is worth it. I wake up every day with all the faults I went to bed with, but I now lay it all at the cross every day knowing He will see me through.  My sincere hope is that my story will speak to someone who needs to hear it; someone struggling to understand that Christ is there for you. His gift is free and all you have to do is accept it. And if you have questions, come to our service at Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday, we will help you answer them. 

Three Keys To a Powerful Prayer Life via Tim Challies

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I recently found a couple of articles helpful concerning the subject of prayer and I wanted to share them with you.  Today we'll look at the keys to a powerful prayer life.  Next time, we'll discuss unanswered prayer!

In Christ,
Brandon H.

3 Keys To a Powerful Prayer Life by Tim Challies

Every Christian comes to find that prayer is difficult. Prayer is a tremendous joy and a tremendous blessing but the joy and blessing come through tremendous difficulty. Thousands and tens of thousands of Christians have written about prayer and offered their counsel on becoming more skilled, more consistent, and more confident in this precious discipline. I was recently reminded of David McIntyre’s counsel as offered in The Hidden Life of Prayer and it both encouraged and motivated me to pray and to pray all the more. Here are his 3 keys to a powerful prayer life.

A Quiet Place. The first key is a place of quiet, a place that is free, or as free as possible, from distractions. “With regard to many of us, the first of these, a quiet place, is well within our reach. But there are tens of thousands of our fellow-believers who find it generally impossible to withdraw into the desired seclusion of the secret place. A house-mother in a crowded tenement, an apprentice in city lodgings, a ploughman in his living quarters, a soldier in barracks, a boy living at school, these and many more may not be able always to command quiet and solitude. But, ‘your Father knoweth.’” Of course today we have distractions that may arise from the very devices we use to pray—the iPhone that houses our prayer app, for example—so we need to take special care that we “silence” our devices so they do not distract us.

A Quiet Hour. Having found a quiet place, we also need a quiet, committed period of time. This is the second key. “For most of us it may be harder to find a quiet hour. I do not mean an ‘hour’ of exactly sixty minutes, but a portion of time withdrawn from the engagements of the day, fenced round from the encroachments of business or pleasure, and dedicated to God. … We who live with the clang of machinery and the roar of traffic always in our ears, whose crowding obligations jostle against each other as the hours fly on, are often tempted to withdraw to other uses those moments which we ought to hold sacred to communion with heaven. … Certainly, if we are to have a quiet hour set down in the midst of a hurry of duties, and kept sacred, we must exercise both forethought and self-denial. We must be prepared to forgo many things that are pleasant, and some things that are profitable. We shall have to redeem time, it may be from recreation, or from social interaction, or from study, or from works of benevolence, if we are to find leisure daily to enter into our closet, and having shut the door, to pray to our Father who is in secret.” The most important appointment you make every day is the one you make with God. All of life’s other responsibilities will threaten to encroach upon this time. You will be constantly tempted to neglect it. But it is too good, too sweet, to miss.

 A Quiet Heart. With place and time secured, we now face the most difficult task—securing the heart. McIntrye is right when he says “For most of us, perhaps, it is still harder to secure the quiet heart.” Prayer is difficult when we are hurried or surrounded by distractions. Prayer is more difficult still when our hearts are withdrawn, when our hearts are distracted, when our hearts are uninterested in praying. McIntrye shows how this has been the challenge of many great Christians: “Stephen Gurnall acknowledges that it is far more difficult to hang up the big bell than it is to ring it when it has been hung. Mc’Cheyne used to say that very much of his prayer time was spent in preparing to pray. A New England Puritan writes: ‘While I was at the Word, I saw I had a wild heart, which was as hard to stand and abide before the presence of God in an ordinance, as a bird before any man.’ And Bunyan remarks from his own deep experience: ‘O the starting-holes that the heart hath in the time of prayer; none knows how many bye-ways the heart hath and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God’.” It is difficult but necessary.

Christian, find a quiet place and a quiet time where you can quiet your heart before God. These are the keys to powerful prayer, to effective personal devotions. If you need further inspiration, consider Jesus himself:
Crowds were thronging and pressing Him; great multitudes came together to hear and to be healed of their infirmities; and He had no leisure so much as to eat. But He found time to pray. And this one who sought retirement with so much solitude was the Son of God, having no sin to confess, no shortcoming to deplore, no unbelief to subdue, no languor of love to overcome. Nor are we to imagine that His prayers were merely peaceful meditations, or rapturous acts of communion. They were strenuous and warlike, from that hour in the wilderness when angels came to minister to the prostrate Man of Sorrows, on to that awful “agony” in which His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood. His prayers were sacrifices, offered up with strong crying and tears. Now, if it was part of the sacred discipline of the Incarnate Son that He should observe frequent seasons of retirement, how much more is it incumbent on us, broken as we are and disabled by manifold sin, to be diligent in the exercise of private prayer!
Copyright © 2016 Tim Challies ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find the original article at http://www.challies.com/articles/3-keys-to-a-powerful-prayer-life

Jonah Chapter 3: Reach (Part 1)

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I’m the youngest of three boys in my family. So as the youngest, I got beat up a lot. And of course, I deserved most of it, because there were times I thought I would hurt them, scare them, or annoy them, thinking I would have the upper hand. But there was one problem, I was always the one that ended up getting hurt. For instance, one day I was sitting on the counter in the kitchen and I took a jab at my oldest brother. I think it was more of a chin scoop. You know when you scoop the extra skin under somebody’s chin? All it took from him was a flinch toward me and I jerked backwards and nailed my head against the cabinet.

I intended to get the upper hand, but the results were rarely what I expected. And it usually hurt!

Before I explain how this has to do with anything, let’s do a quick review of the story. Let’s summarize it this way: The people of Nineveh were in need of revival. Jonah had already experienced revival (he had run from God and was swallowed by a fish where he repented) and he was now going to go to Nineveh so they could experience revival.

Now, this is where the story gets interesting and it’s also where my plans of bullying my older brothers comes in. I’m going to go ahead and spoil the story of what happens to Nineveh. Jonah preached, the people repented, and God graciously withheld His wrath! Normally, there is a danger that happens for preachers after a great victory like this. Think about the pride of preachers when they start advertising how big their church is, or how innovative their methods are. But Jonah had another issue at hand. What should have been a cause of great rejoicing, became a reason of great anger with God. Jonah threw a temper tantrum because God forgave the people of their sins.

Is this not bizarre? Jonah goes to Nineveh, preaches for them to repent or die. They repent, and Jonah gets angry! What’s really going on in Jonah’s head? Didn’t he want them to be saved? Maybe Jonah’s conversation with God in the belly of the whale went something like, “Fine, God! I’ll go preach! But they won’t listen, and you’re going to kill them anyway. Which is fine with me. They don’t deserve to live!”

Or maybe he did have a genuine moment of compassion for the people of Nineveh, but soon lost that compassion and resorted back to his self-righteous racism. Whatever the case was, Jonah expected the people to refuse him, to continue in their sin, and get killed by God. But just like annoying my brothers never ended the way I expected, the results were not what Jonah expected.

In verse two, Jonah gives us a glimpse into why he refused to go to Nineveh in the first place; because he knew that God was gracious, merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. Let’s be honest, that’s just awful! To purposefully not share the Gospel because you knew God would forgive someone is despicable. Jonah was being both religious AND rebellious in his response to the Ninevites’ evil.

But while we’re being honest, I think we all need to admit something. We often do the same thing. And it should genuinely scare us how tolerant we can be about evil in our lives.

There’s no doubt that there is evil in the world and we understand that God has a plan to deal with it. But all too frequently, we choose to react to evil with our own plan. “Well, it’s really not that big of a deal.” “Somebody else will talk to them.” “Boy, I really hope they learn their lesson someday.” Gossip, avoidance, revenge, judgment, etc. Often times, our response to evil in the world only emphasizes the evil in our own hearts. It’s how we respond to the evil in the world that reveals what we are truly like.

If we respond with unnecessary judgment or cruel harshness, that reflects the religious person we are. If we respond with passivity and acceptance of sin, that reflects the rebellious person in us. What we want to do is respond to evil in a way that reveals the repentant person we are.

So, how are we supposed to answer the evil in the world? That’s what the rest of Jonah 3 is about, and what the next articles will discuss.