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God Is For You!

We kicked off our new series called God’s Favor on Sunday. Here is Pastor Craig’s recap of his message.

I’m going to make a statement that might shock some people.

Some of you who have been around Christianity might have heard this before, and you may even mentally agree with it. But even people who mentally agree with it want to add a “Yeah, but…” to it. Or they mentally agree with it but don’t live like it’s true.

Ready? Here it is …

God is for you.

Far too many people mistakenly think God is looking for an opportunity to punish them; He’s trying to catch them doing something wrong; He’s perched on the edge of heaven with lightning bolts of judgment in His hand. God doesn’t want to blast you; He wants to bless you!

Although the word favor appears quite frequently in Scripture, God’s favor is also implied in the word grace, which means God’s unmerited favor.

It’s unmerited because none of us is worthy of God’s favor; it’s not something anyone can earn. We have all sinned, and therefore we’re all worthy of the death penalty. Every single one of us!

I have worshipped idols, I have blasphemed God’s name, I have broken the Sabbath, I have dishonored my parents, I have coveted, I have lied, I have committed adultery, and I have murdered. And so have you (see James 2:10).

Do you understand what Jesus did for us on the Cross? HE SWITCHED PLACES WITH US!

Jesus became my sin, and He made it possible for me to become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Check this out:

For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us!

“It was because of His grace that God the Father sent His only Son to die in our place. To say it another way, Christ’s death was the result of God’s grace; grace is not the result of Christ’s death.” —Jerry Bridges

Don’t allow the devil’s lies of your unworthiness keep you from missing out on this truth. All of us are unworthy of God’s favor. But God demonstrated that He was for us when Jesus died on the Cross in our place. Now there is no more guilt, no more condemnation, absolutely nothing standing in the way of all of God’s unmerited favor because

GOD IS FOR YOU!

God’s Favor

Pastor Craig announces our new series that begins THIS SUNDAY

What if I were to tell you that God is for you?

What if I were to tell you that God wants to bless you?

What if I were to tell you that God’s favor is constantly pursuing you?

Well, here’s me telling you that it’s all true!

“Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”(Romans 8:32).

Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence?

Knowing God’s favor is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross!

Join me this Sunday as we begin a new series exploring the wonderful depths of God’s favor. You can join me in person at Calvary Assembly of God, or tune in on Facebook Live at 10:30am Sunday morning.

How Should Christians Handle Objections?

A recap from Pastor Craig’s message on Sunday…

It’s no secret that when a Christian says, “This is what I believe,” or “This is what the Bible says,” or even something as simple as, “I believe in God,” that there will be people who disagree. Sometimes their disagreement may even become an outright attack.

How are Christians to respond?

Here are five ways I’ve found to be effective and Christ-honoring—

1. Don’t argue. Arguments tend to create an “I don’t want to lose” feeling in the other person, which makes them unable to truly hear what you’re saying. Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4).

2. Ask questions. Jesus was a master at this. Look through the Gospels and you will see Jesus asking questions to clarify others’ positions. Questions stimulate further conversation, while statements tend to shut down the conversation. Questions develop a relationship, while definitive statements make you seem superior to the other person.

3. Don’t argue. Yes, this is good enough to repeat! Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7).

4. Pray for mercy. Remember that if you are really speaking truths from the Bible, the person arguing against those truths is arguing with God, not with you.

5. Pray for light. Paul said that the “god of this age” has blinded people (see 2 Corinthians 4:2-4), so we should pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them light to see the truth.

“Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte

Let’s be passionate for people, not passionate to win an argument!

I go into more detail in this video…

What’s The Best That Could Happen?

Pastor Craig recaps his message from Sunday morning. You can also watch the full video below…

I’ve had a good friend recommend a musical artist to me and I haven’t enjoyed the music.

I’ve had a good friend take me to a restaurant I haven’t liked.

I’ve had a good friend tell me how wonderful a certain movie was, and I thought it was a dud.

And I’m sure some of my good friends could say the same thing about my recommendations.

But you know what? All of these folks are still my friends.

I’ve never had one person say to me, “Your restaurant suggestion was awful. I’m unfriending you on Facebook and blocking your number from my phone. I never want to see or hear from you again!”

Yet sometimes I think church-going Christians feel like this might happen if they invite a friend to come to their church.

Seriously?!

Let’s consider the odds—

  • How likely is it that if you invite a friend to church and they say “no” that they are also going to say, “Get out of my life forever”?
  • If they do accept your invitation, but find that your church wasn’t a good fit for them, how likely is it that they’re going to say, “We can never hang out again”?

I think you would agree with me that both of these responses are highly unlikely!

But consider the other side—what if you invite them to your church and they say “yes”? What if after attending your church they like it? And what if by attending your church they enter into a personal relationship with Jesus?

If that happens, you’ve changed the course of their eternal destiny! 

Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenarios (which seem highly unlikely), we should be focusing on the best-case scenario!

If you’re still uneasy about inviting someone to your church, or even trying to have a conversation with them about your personal faith, here is a simple phrase to consider: Come and see.

Invite them to come and see your lifestyle that seeks to glorify Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). Let them see that you live your life like Jesus: doing good (Acts 10:38).

Invite them to come and see the Creator behind the creation (see Psalm 66:5). Whenever there is a discussion about the weather, or nature, or a medical science breakthrough, ask them, “Have you ever thought that if there is such a beautiful design there must also be an intelligent Designer?”

Christian, you have the best news ever! Don’t keep it to yourself. Invite those around you to come and see what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. Who knows? You may be a part of changing someone’s eternal destiny.

Come And See

Pastor Craig announces a new series…

Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them!

Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves.

The Easter season is upon us, so we have a golden opportunity to reverse this stat. There is something about Easter and Christmas where even those that don’t normally attend a church service feel like this season might be a good time to do so.

I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words:

Come and See

No pressure. No promises. No gimmicks. Just this: “Come and see for yourself what a relationship with Jesus is all about.”

Over the next two Sundays we’ll be looking at some obstacles we church people may have to overcome, and some excuses many unchurched people use. But all of this will help us to simply and clearly say to our friends, “Come and see!”

Please join me in person or watch on Facebook Live.

Looking Ahead To The Second Advent

Throughout 2017 we have been reviewing our foundational truths. Here is Pastor Craig’s recap of his message covering our belief statements on the end times events. 

Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.

Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”

The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).

During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.

“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

After this will come the New Heavens and New Earth where Christians will commune with God for ever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5, 12-21).

In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!

In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—

  • therefore encourage each other with these words
  • wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior 
  • stand firm … let nothing move you
  • Jesus says, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me

Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!

As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

In our series on our foundational beliefs, here is a recap Pastor Craig shared on his message about church leadership.

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

What Is The Church Supposed To Be Doing?

As we continued in our series looking at our Foundation Stones, here is a recap of the message Pastor Craig shared yesterday about the mission of the Church.

Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus commissioned His followers. He gave them a mission which Christian often refer to as The Great Commission.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

There are several pictures in the New Testament of how the Church could live out this Great Commission, but one of the pictures that I find the most helpful is that of a Body.

The human body is an amazing creation! Just to accomplish the simple task of picking up something between our thumb and forefinger is a miracle in itself. The structure of bones and ligaments and tendons, the interaction of nerves in the fingers coordinating with the optical nerve, not to mention the enzymes and blood vessels that are all doing their part.

Yet if any part is not functioning properly, that simple action becomes more difficult. Maybe it even becomes impossible.

The Church is the same way. Every part of the Church Body has to be functioning in healthy order for the whole Body to be effective.

Here are four aspects of a healthy Church Body that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4:

  1. Caring for one another
  2. Mobilizing for evangelism
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Helping organize for more meaningful ministry

If every part of the Body is doing its part, we’re Living out the Great Commission.

If some parts are missing or unhealthy, we’re Wallowing in the Great Omission.

It’s not about your church (small “c”) or my church. It’s about all Christian disciples being a part of one Church—one Body—going into all the world and making disciples of all peoples. That’s what the Church is supposed to be doing!

One-And-Done? Ongoing? Later?

In our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths, Pastor Craig shared some insight into the concept of sanctification. Here is the recap he posted on his blog:

If I were to ask five different Christians to give me a definition of sanctification, I just might get five different definitions!

Part of this comes from incorrect either-or thinking. However, Jesus seems to tell us that sanctification requires a both-and thinking.

In Christ’s prayer for His followers in John 17, He uses the word sanctified three times (see verses 17-19). Although He is using the same Greek word each time, He uses a different “flavor” of the word to make it really clear what He means.

First of all, the Greek word for sanctified means the process of being made into a saint. So I sometimes I like to say the word this way: SAINT-ified.

Check out Christ’s prayer. First He says, “I sanctify Myself,” and then He says, “that they too may be truly sanctified.” Same Greek word, but each time is slightly tweaked.

Jesus uses a “flavor” of Greek which means sanctification is something that He has done completely and totally on His own once and for all. In other words, Christians are completely and totally sanctified at the very moment they surrender their life to Him.

But when He talks about His followers, the “flavor” of Greek means sanctification is something that is an ongoing process. In other words, we are being SAINT-ified.

So which is it? Sanctified once, or sanctified through an ongoing process?

It’s not either-or. It’s both-and!

Think about a married couple. From the moment the pastor says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife” they are married. It is done; fully completed. There is nothing the bride or groom can do to become more married.

However, the groom can begin to look at the marriage through his bride’s eyes. Then he can serve her in a way that helps her feel more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment within the marriage. Neither of them becomes more married, but they can get more enjoyment within the marriage.

The same thing for Christians. At the moment we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior we are saved from the penalty of our sins. We can’t be more saved. But through the process of SANIT-ificiation we can experience more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment within our relationship with Jesus.

My paraphrase of 1 Peter 1:15-16—But just as He who called you has paid for your once-for-all saint-ification, so keep on being saint-ified in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

What about you? Are you satisfied with just being saved, or are you striving for a joy-filled, more fulfilling, increasingly satisfied relationship with Jesus Christ? It can truly be a wonderful both-and relationship!

Calvary Assembly of God

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