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Aug-29-16

4 Tips For Making Better Goals

posted by Craig T. Owens

If you are planning on making some goals this fall, these tips Pastor Craig shared will help. 

1 Corinthians 10.31I have noticed a lot of similarities between the September back-to-school rush, and New Year’s Day. Except instead of resolutions, in the fall most people set new goals, or try to readjust their schedules to take advantage of a new season.

This is an excellent idea, and the perfect time to do it.

In a psalm written by Moses, he tells us to understand the value of our days, and be as wise as we can with what we do with each day God has given us (Psalm 90:12).

The Apostle Paul echoes these thoughts:

Be very careful, then, how do you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

One way for us to make the most of every day is to wisely set some goals. Here are four tips that I’ve discovered to help me.

(1) The fewer the goals, the better.

Craig Groeschel said, “To do more things, do less things better.” I totally agree. I would suggest limiting yourself to just 1-2 goals at a time. Then put these one or two goals on your calendar first. In other words: Don’t prioritize your schedule, but schedule your priorities.

(2) Don’t fall into the sacred/secular trap.

So many people—even Christians—think that there are spiritual goals and non-spiritual goals. But the Bible says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Every goal you set is a spiritual goal, because every goal should help you live your life wisely, in a way that honors and glorifies God.

(3) Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.

You may have heard these before, but I really like to use them. Make your goals:

  • Specific—not “I want to eat better” but “I want to eat two servings of fruits or vegetables each day.”
  • Measurable—have a way to track your progress toward your goal. How many pages did you read? how many calories did you eat? how many minutes did you work out?
  • Achievable—don’t set a goal to run 5 miles a day if you’ve only been a couch potato. Ramp your goals up little by little in a way that’s achievable for you.
  • Relevant—I like to ask a “so that?” question about each of my goals in make sure it’s moving me forward. “I want to exercise for 20 minute three times per week, so that my blood pressure comes down, so that I can live medicine-free, so that I can….” I think you get the idea. Keep going to make sure your goal is relevant for your life.
  • Time to review—set a date to revisit your goals and see if you need to adjust anything.

(4) Make a “stop doing” list.

You cannot do everything, so focus on the important, not the urgent. And remember not everything can stay on your calendar. For instance, if you want to read more in the evenings, you may have to eliminate some TV time; if you want to exercise in the mornings, you may have to eliminate that second cup of coffee.

Just a couple of verses after Moses challenges us to make the most of every day God has given us, he asks God for His helpMay the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for usyes, establish the work of our hands.

May God give you wisdom as you make new goals, and may He bless the work of your hands as you implement your new strategies.

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Aug-22-16

7 Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep

posted by Craig T. Owens

As we continued on a Psalms of Ascent series, Pastor Craig shared a highly practical message with us. Here’s the recap he posted on his blog

Psalm 4.8It’s no secret that being tired can lead to a lot of not-so-nice consequences. Everything from automobile crashes, to poor work performance, to foot-in-mouth statements, to giving in to temptations, to health issues are all traced back to not getting enough peaceful sleep.

But did you know that sweet sleep is something God wants to give you?

Psalm 127 says, “God grants sleep to those He loves.” Guess what? God loves you, and wants you to have a peaceful night’s sleep!

Here are some benefits to getting solid sack time:

  1. Muscles are repaired—the body “turns off” muscles during sleep so they can repair themselves.
  2. The hormone leptin, that regulates your appetite, is adjusted.
  3. Your blood pressure is lowered.
  4. Your heart rate is lowered.
  5. The energy-producing cells we all need are restocked.
  6. Your immune system is re-energized.
  7. Memories are consolidated from short-term memory banks to long-term memories.
  8. The hormones that allow you to concentrate are replenished.
  9. Your “database” of decision-making options is re-calibrated.
  10. Bottom line—you get healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

All of this God wants to give to those He loves. “God loves me, so I’m going to sleep peacefully tonight!”

The problem is we often sabotage God’s blessing of sweet sleep by our own poor decisions during the day. So here are seven things you can do to cooperate with God’s blessing of sleep:

  1. Reduce stress. Stress causes your body to release cortisol, which prepares your body for fight-or-flight. This means when you’re trying to quiet down for the night, your body is still screaming, “Go, go go!” Stress is mainly triggered by worrying over things outside of our control, so check out what Jesus said to us about not worrying—Matthew 6:25-34.
  2. Reduce late-day caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, so if you are pouring it into your body late in the date, you might fall into bed exhausted but the caffeine is keeping your brain buzzing. As a result, you don’t have the normal deep sleep patterns.
  3. Eliminate emotional caffeine. Arguments with other people release cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream. If these disagreements are happening later in the day, your body is fighting against God’s plan for your tranquil sleep. So take care of any disagreements quickly (Ephesians 4:26).
  4. Exercise. Getting some movement into your daily routine flushes cortisol and adrenaline from your bloodstream.
  5. Go to bed and get up at the same time. There’s a reason God made the sun to rise and set at predictable times. Your body also functions best on a predictable schedule.
  6. Reduce “blue lights” close to bed time. The blue light waves of dawn tell our bodies to stop releasing melatonin, the sleepy hormone. The red light waves of dusk tell our bodies to increase melatonin so we can go to sleep. But when we’re staring into the blue light of our phones and tablets, our body is being sent a conflicting signal.
  7. Pray. Two great passages you can pray before bedtime are Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 3:24. Claim those promises of sweet sleep!

God loves you. He wants to give you the blessing of peaceful sleep. If you’re going to sleep peacefully tonight, make sure you are not sabotaging what God wants to give you.

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Aug-15-16

Who’s The Boss Of Your Family?

posted by Craig T. Owens

Scott Troost continued our series on The Psalms Of Ascent with this look at Psalm 127—

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Aug-11-16

1:one:(12)

posted by Craig T. Owens

Hey, Calvary Assembly of God, how did you do on your 1:one:(12) challenge for July? Hopefully you got your 1 in (or even more)! Whether you did nor not, August is here, so get started on your 1 for this month. There are always lots of great things happening every month, so go get your 1!

For our guests that may not know what 1:one:(12) is all about… just ask us!

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Aug-8-16

Hang On To Joy

posted by Craig T. Owens

Pastor Josh Schram continued our series on the Psalms Of Ascent with an insightful look at Psalm 126.

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Aug-1-16

4 Blessings From Trusting God + 1 Curse For Not

posted by Craig T. Owens

As we continue our journey through the Psalms Of Ascent, here is a recap Pastor Craig posted on his blog on our study of Psalm 125.

Choose lifeWhen you have a decision to make, isn’t it nice when you know the outcome of each option ahead of time? I mean, it makes it way easier to decide when you know what you’re going to get with each decision.

Like just before the Israelites head into the Promised Land, God says, “You can choose Me and have a whole lot of blessings, or you can choose another god and miss out on all My blessings” (Deuteronomy 30:11-20).

Easy choice, right?

I think the songwriter of Psalm 125 had that Deuteronomy passage in mind when he wrote his song of ascent. Basically, he says, you can trust God (v. 1) or you can walk on crooked paths (v. 5). What does it mean to trust God? Literally it means to have a confident expectation that He is Who He says He is, and He does what He says He’s going to do.

To help make the decision easier, the songwriter lists four blessings that come when we trust God—

  1. We become as secure and unshakeable as Heaven is (v. 1).
  2. We experience God’s “surroundedness” over, around, above and beneath us (v. 2).
  3. We escape evil’s clutches (v. 3).
  4. We experience God doing good for us (v. 4).

Of course, we can also choose not to trust God. We can try another path on our own. The curse for doing that is pretty sad—God will allow those who aren’t responsive to His voice to walk away from Him (v. 5).

Just like the story of the prodigal son (in Luke 15), the Father will allow you to walk away, but He will continue to long after you. And hopefully like that wayward son you will “come to your senses” and return to your Father. When you do, He will run to you, wrap you in His love, restore you to His family, and allow you to experience all of His blessings again!

The choice is up to you. I pray you will choose life and blessing and surroundedness, and God’s goodness toward you.

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Jul-25-16

How To Escape Your Fears

posted by Craig T. Owens

Jesus is ChampionFear is crippling. Fear robs us of seizing opportunities. Fear cuts short the abundant life God desires for us to have. One definition of fear captures it well: F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Oversized fears can turn into what psychologists call phobias. One website actually lists 543 unique phobias!

Where does this fear come from? Why are so many plagued by fears?

I believe the answer is found in this: fearful people aren’t looking far enough ahead. They are looking at their fears, and not the Champion of their fears.

King David knew what it was to have assassins stalking him, to be on the run for his life, to not know if someone was a friend or foe, to not even know where he was going to sleep at night. So he begins his second song of ascent with this thought: “If the Lord had not been on our side, here’s a list of really bad things that would have happened to us.”

Notice the “if” statements. David is not saying “if there were no God,” of “if God didn’t care for us.” In other words, David is clearly saying that God exists, and that God is for us!

I like this—Oh, blessed be God! He didn’t go off and leave us. He didn’t abandon us defenseless, helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs (v. 6, in The Message).

David is not telling us how to escape our fears, but to begin celebrating that we have already been freed from our fears! 

We seem to think that satan and Jesus are still duking it out, that the outcome of the struggle is still up for grabs. I’ve got fantastic news: Jesus already won! He is already the Champion!!

We’ve flown free from their fangs, free of their traps, free as a bird. Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight (v. 7, The Message).

Speaking of birds flying free, J.B. Figgis wrote, “Do you find yourself asking, ‘But am I to step out onto nothing?’ That is exactly what the bird is seemingly asked to do, yet we know that the air is there and that the air is not nearly as insubstantial as it seems. And you know that the promises of God are there, and they certainly are not insubstantial at all” (emphasis added).

What fears plague you? Jesus has already set you free from that. The battle has already been won. You just need to find the promise of God in the Bible that tells you how He has canceled that fear.

Now begin to swing that promise like a sword at your fear every time it raises its ugly head! Stop being crippled by your fear, and lift your eyes up to the Maker of heaven and earth who has set you free!

Check out my full message on this song of ascent—

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Jul-18-16

How Christians Can Overcome Ridicule

posted by Craig T. Owens

Has anyone ever ridiculed you for your Christian faith? If so, this message is for you. Here is the recap Pastor Craig posted on his blog

Much ridicule and contemptHave you ever been…

  • …told to keep your religious beliefs to yourself?
  • …laughed at for living out your biblical convictions?
  • …excluded from the “in” crowd?
  • …put down because your morals are too strict?

The writer of the song of ascent in Psalm 123 must have experienced this quite a bit. He uses phrases like we have endured much contempt and we have endured much ridicule.

These are not words which the songwriter could easily brush off. One translation says, “our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning” of these ridiculing people. In other words, it’s not something he could just brush off by thinking, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Literally translated, the phrases exceedingly filled mean bad things multiplied 10,000 times! 

The ridicule and the contempt hurts! So the psalmist cries out Mercy! three times. This isn’t like saying “Uncle,” or having your cornerman throw in the towel, or even tapping out in a UFC match. This is a soul crying out, “God, if You will give me Your gracious favor for one more round, I will not tap out, I will not go down, I will go through!”

So he looks to the only One who can help him—my eyes wait upon Jehovah. Just like a servant who is completely dependent on his master for his daily bread, just like a maid who is trusting her mistress will give her favor, this guy says, “My eyes are fixed on Jehovah! If He can’t help me, no one can.”

The songwriter’s conclusion is this: “I will continually lift my eyes up to You, to You Whose throne is in heaven.” There are distractions, and hurts, and those who ridicule me—lots of them!—but I will develop the habit of redirecting my eyes UP to look to God.

  • When I feel anxious: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I feel scorned: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I’m hurt by others: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I’ve had my fill of ridicule and contempt: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • When I don’t think I can answer the bell for another round: I will redirect my eyes UP.
  • No matter what: I will redirect my eyes UP!

Check out the full video of this encouraging message. And if you are in the area, join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent.

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As we continue to look at the songs of ascent, Pastor Craig shared a cool look at Psalm 122. Here is the recap he posted on his blog

Place of peaceKing David loved God, and he loved God’s people. He was passionate about everyone getting as deeply connected with God as he was, so he wrote worship songs, setup worship teams, and organized the temple for worshippers.

The first song of ascent he wrote was one anticipating how good it was going to be when everyone got to the temple in Jerusalem to worship.

In fact, David was so excited about what he was expecting to happen in their worship together that he practically glowed with joy! Really! The word for rejoiced in his song means to be so cheerful and happy that you make others around you bright by your happiness. 😀

What was it that David thought was going to happen? First of all, we need to look at the name Jerusalem. Traditionally this means the City of Peace, but the two words that make up “Jerusalem” are much richer than that. Yes, -salem means “peace.” But the first part of the word (yara-) literally means water flowing through, or an arrow being shot out.

In other words, David anticipated that we are going to a peaceful place to be sent out full of peace, to take that peace to others who don’t have it, but desperately need it.

While we are in our “Jerusalem” (for us in the New Testament, this is our “church,” even if it’s just two or three people getting together), here are five blessings you should expect—

  1. Unity—with all the “tribes” joining together.
  2. Praise—joining together to tell God how great He is!
  3. Learning—we come together to learn God’s statutes.
  4. Judgment—what?! How is judgment a blessing? If you are nervous about being judged, just remember Who does the judging in God’s temple: the Holy Spirit. He judges us in a loving way, and in a way that allows us an opportunity to see our sin, repent from it, and experience unconditional forgiveness. That is exciting!
  5. Peace, security, prosperity—the word shalom is used multiple times in the closing verses of this song. The best definition of shalom is: nothing missing, nothing broken. In other words, when we gather together to worship we should expect that God will heal any dis-ease we have, that He will supply what has fallen short, that He will fill up what’s empty.

With those five blessings in mind, here’s the declaration all Christians can make—

Inside these walls…
we live in unity
we praise the Lord
we learn God’s laws
we judge ourselves by God’s standards
repenting, confessing, forgiving, and being forgiven
we fight for peace
we bless God and one another
We descend back to the valleys
to take this message to valley-dwellers
that they, too, may pilgrimage
with us to Jerusalem
It starts here in God’s family!
It starts with me!

Check out the full video of this message, where I explain each of these ideas more fully. And if you’re in the area, join us on Sunday as we continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent.

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Jul-7-16

Psalms Of Ascent

posted by Craig T. Owens

The Psalms Of AscentEvery year, Jews from around the world made four pilgrimages to Jerusalem for various feasts and sacrifices. These journeys reminded them of God’s goodness as they went to the Temple to worship, and they helped refocus on God’s ways as they returned to their regular routines.

Jerusalem is over 2500 feet above sea level, so the pilgrimage there was a physical workout as well as a spiritual workout. So these times climbing up into God’s presence were beneficial for God’s people, preparing them to minister in their cities in the following months.

The Book of Psalms contains 15 songs that these pilgrims would sing to and with each other as they traveled up to Jerusalem. These Psalms of Ascent are still instructive for Christians today.

Please join us this Sunday as we begin a look at the life-changing truths these pilgrimage songs can still teach today to all of God’s people.

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