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Rejoicing At The Coming Of The Judge

As we continue in our series called Selah, here is the recap of Sunday’s message that Pastor Craig shared on his blog. 

In Psalm 50, we read the first-of-twelve psalms written by King David’s handpicked worship leader, a man named Asaph. On the day that Asaph first took up his position as worship leader, David gave him a special song, which definitely influenced Asaph’s songwriting.  

Psalm 50 has a pretty easy outline: an introduction in the first six verses, followed by 17 verses of God speaking to His people—speaking to you and me! In between the introduction and God’s speaking is the word selah.

Selah means a time for us to pause and carefully consider. So Asaph is essentially saying, “God is getting ready to speak with us, so we need to selah—pause from what we are doing so that we can pay careful attention to His words!”  

Asaph sets the stage in the first verse, telling us that the Mighty One, God, the Lord speaks. The words that are about to be spoken come from THE I AM—the All-Sufficient One, the Omnipotent, the All-Knowing, All-Powerful Ruler of the Universe. Asaph also reminds us that He is coming as THE Judge.

When you hear that THE All-Powerful, All-Knowing One is THE Judge that has summoned you into His courtroom, it’s quite likely that your heart would skip a beat. Especially when God lists some of the sins you and I are guilty of breaking in verses 16-20. 

It’s also possible that the news that you have to appear before THE Judge could cause you to rejoice. What? How can we rejoice at that?! David taught Asaph this concept in the song he gave him: God’s people should rejoice over God’s judgments. 

You see, in Psalm 50 God says, “I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices, or for all your attempts to follow the rules.” It’s not in the practices of the law that we find salvation.

God doesn’t need our sacrifices, but He wants our hearts. 

In order to win our hearts for Himself, THE Judge did something absolutely mind-blowing—THE I AM became flesh like us. And then He became the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, paying our penalty Himself when He died on the Cross (see Hebrews 2:14-17; 7:17-27). 

This is why we can rejoice when we hear we have to stand before THE Judge. When you have placed your faith in what Jesus did for you on the Cross, when THE Judge opens His perfect record book to your page He will read this inscription written in the crimson red blood of Jesus: PAID IN FULL!

This is why we can rejoice at the thought of seeing THE Judge face to face!

Join me next Sunday as we wrap up this summer looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. We plan to restart this series next summer, unless the Judge calls us home before then! 

Ultimate Wisdom

Here’s the recap of Sunday’s message that Pastor Craig shared on his blog

Last week I posted a quote on some of my social media channels that simply stated: “Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” This seemed to me to be a fairly uncontroversial statement, but one anonymous reader really took me to task for using the hashtag #objectivetruth. Apparently, he thinks there is no such thing. 

But don’t we all rely on objective, external standards all the time? For instance, a gallon of gasoline is a gallon regardless of where you buy it, or whether you feel like it’s a gallon or not. And when you go to pay for your gasoline, the price isn’t based on how the gas station attendant is feeling at that moment, but on the objective amount posted. 

Psalm 49 is somewhat unusual in that it is a “wisdom psalm.” This psalm feels a lot more like something we would read in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes than it does a prayer or song in the Psalms. 

For instance, the first four verses of this Psalm sound a lot like the opening verses of the Book of Proverbs. And verses 5-13 of the Psalm echo what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2

This psalmist—like Solomon—wants us to understand how important it is to get wisdom. So we are urged to listen intently to those who have hard-won insight, to those who have “been there, done that” so that we don’t have to repeat their folly. 

What is that wisdom? It can be broken down into two profound statements:

(1) Everyone dies. 

That can be a really depressing truth IF your focus is building your own kingdom. If all there is to life is what you can earn and build before you die, only to realize that your “kingdom” ends at your last breath, that can be very depressing. 

However, this realization that everyone dies can be a very liberating truth IF your focus is on the eternal kingdom that is awaiting you in Heaven. When you realize that Jesus is preparing a place for you to experience ultimate joy and unending pleasure forever and ever, then you will live here for what’s coming next! 

(2) Our eternal destination after we die is determined before we die.

If someone told me that he had discovered the secret to immortality, and then he died and came back to this life to tell me that his theory was correct, I would be wise listen to him. 

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us!

He told us that He would die on a Cross and that He would be raised back to life. AND HE DID IT! His hard-won insight, His “been there, done that” wise words to us are this—“Believe in Me. I died to pay the penalty for the sins that will keep you out of Paradise. So place your faith in what I did, and ask my Father to forgive your sins. Then I promise you that you will spend forever and ever with Me in Paradise!” 

THIS objective truth determines everything else about our lives. 

So I’ll repeat it again—

“Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.”

Craig T. Owens

Join me next Sunday as we continue our series where we’re looking at the Selahs in the Psalms.

City Of God

Pastor Craig shared a recap of his Sunday message on his blog. Be sure to check out the full video below too! 

With “LONG LIVE THE KING!” still reverberating in our ears from Psalm 47, the sons of Korah ask us to zoom a little farther out to see now that the King has assumed His rightful place, how things begin to change. 

So Psalm 48 opens with the same praise with which Psalm 47 closed—Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise! The Hebrew word for great mean massiveness! God is great beyond comprehension. He is larger than any problem. He is unique. He is uncontainable, unlimited, utterly beyond description. His glory is so bright that no sun is needed (see Revelation 21:23).

His glorious light reveals God’s beauty all around us. As C.S. Lewis noted, “I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen. Not because I can see it, but because by way of it I can see everything else.” Indeed, the psalmist reminds us that the city of our God has become “beautiful in its loftiness.” 

Look at how majestic our King is, and how majestic He makes His city, with phrases like the city of our Godthe city of the Great King, and the city of the Lord Almighty.

God makes His city secure forever. 

Selah—pause and consider that. 

About 1200 years after this psalm was written, Augustine would write his book called The City of God in which he contrasted the City of God with the City of Man. He noted how the Romans had gods they trusted in, but the Romans had to “rescue” their gods from the invading barbarians. Rome ultimately fell to those invading barbarians, but, Augustine said, the City of God can never fall because it isn’t a tangible place. The City of God resides inside God’s people. 

So notice that after the Selah the word “city” doesn’t appear any more. Instead, we read about:

  • God’s temple (v. 9; the Hebrew word is heykal) means the palace of God the King
  • the villages of Judah (v. 11) is translated daughters in the KJV, but it actually means “the beloved apple of My eye” 
  • her towers (v. 12) are something that has grown up because it’s been nourished, not something built up by brick and mortar
  • her citadels (v. 13) are the highest and strongest places, which recalls God’s massiveness that we read in verse 1 

Here’s the question for all of us to ask—Is my heart a City of God or a City of Man? 

God does not dwell in palaces made by men.

God dwells where He is enthroned! 

When people look at the “city” of my life, can they tell God is on the throne? The telling characteristics of a City of God is one where…

  • … thoughts continually turn to my King and His unfailing love (v. 9)
  • … praise, rejoicing, and gladness are constantly rising to God (vv. 10, 11)
  • … the King is able to freely walk around His kingdom—anywhere He likes (v. 12)
  • … others can walk around and see what a God-enthroned life looks like (vv. 12, 13)

I’ll ask it again—Can people clearly see that God is the unrivaled King of your heart? 

Join us next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms.

Awesome God, Awesome Praise

On Sunday, we continued our series looking at the Psalms that tell us to Selah. Here is a recap that Pastor Craig shared on his blog

Last I week I told you how Hebrew poetry often puts the climax in the middle. In Psalm 47 that middle climax is in verse 5—God has ascended. This is one of seven “psalms of enthronement” in the Psalter. Since all of the Scripture points to Jesus, let’s look at the definition of this word ascend and see how it fits with Jesus: 

When a king is coronated—when he is heading toward his throne—we can expect the people to be happy. So the psalmist tells us that in God’s case the people are clapping and shouting (v. 1), telling God how awesome He is (v. 2), thanking Him for subduing their enemies (v. 3), and expressing their gratitude that He has established them as His people (v. 4). 

Then come the Selah / Pause—what is happening during this pause? The King is being crowned. He has ascended to His rightful throne. So this is selah/pause is really a deep breath that’s about to explode in a crescendo of praise! 

Now there are shouts of joy (v. 5a). In our earthly understanding, it would be something like: “LONG LIVE THE KING!!” There is also a sounding of trumpets (v. 5b) which literally means a thundering of trumpets. And then there’s the singing—lots and lots of singing. In fact the word sing appears five times in the next two verses. 

There are so many ways to say LONG LIVE THE KING—singing, dancing, raising our hands, falling down on our knees. shouting.  

Our God is praise-worthy. He is clap-worthy! He is sing-worthy! He is dance-worthy! He is shout-worthy! He is bowing-worthy! 

An awesome God requires awesome praise! 

Why does it seem that we are prone to worship so quietly. Perhaps we need to take it up a notch or two (or three or four). Perhaps we haven’t gazed into His awesome beauty enough to realize just how incredible He is! 

Do you think shouting praises to the King of kings is too undignified? Did you know what when the King of kings returns, He is going to shout and there is also going to be a thundering trumpet? For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16)! 

Here are 4 important lessons from this Psalm of Enthronement—

  1. God is the King of all kings, enthroned on the Throne above all thrones. He is worthy of your “undignified” praise and acclamation. 
  2. God should always get your best praise. In verse 7, the phrase sing praises with understanding really means to sing with insight and skill. 
  3. God deserves a holy vocabulary. We see the word awesome in verse 2. Every time this word is used in the Scripture, it’s speaking of God. So why would we use a word like this for something a hamburger!?!
  4. All nations and kings and peoples and tribes will bow before God at the end. They will bow in either acclamation for their King, or in abject terror of the All-Righteous Judge. Let’s remain missional so more people in the end are crowning Him as their All-Merciful King. 

I hope you can join me this next Sunday as we continue our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms

The Nearness Of God

We are looking at the Selahs in the Psalms this summer. Here is the recap of his Sunday message that Pastor Craig shared on his blog.

I think too often we’re in too big of a hurry when we read the Bible. 

Think with me for a moment how much longer it takes to sing the lyrics of a heart-stirring song than it does to just say the words. The psalms were written as songs, and although the melodies that accompanied them has been lost to the pages of history, we would still do well to move more slowly and deliberately and passionately through these inspired songs. 

Let’s slowly consider Psalm 46 from four different perspectives…

First, as a pause from the noise. Selah can be used three different ways: (1) a pause to reflect; (2) a deep breath to crescendo into something bigger; or (3) a contrast between two very different things. There are three selahs in this psalm, and all of them call us to a pause from something noisy. To pause from…

  • natural upheavals—the earth gives way, the mountains fall, the waters roar, the mountains quake
  • political upheavals—nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall 
  • religious upheavals—God has to serve the judgment of desolation, as He breaks the bow, shatters the spear, burns the shield

Selah/Pause from these upheavals and reflect—God is our refuge … the Lord Almighty is with us.

Second, notice the contrasts. The songwriter takes us to man’s mountains that fall and quake, but reminds us that THE mountain of God is our sure fortress. In the imagery of water we see man’s attempts at refreshing that are roaring and foaming, but we also see God’s river that brings life and makes people glad. And look at how man’s use of power results in uproar, but God makes wars to cease

Selah/Pause and reflect—aren’t God’s ways better than man’s ways? 

Third, notice the nearness of God. Twice the songwriter reminds us “The Lord Almighty is with us.” And then we hear God Himself speak to our anxiety-prone hearts, “Be still and know that I am God.” Those words “be still” can also mean “let go.” Let go of earthly things, negative voices, fears, trying to control events. If your hands are full of that, how can you grab onto God?! 

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is calling me to go—and stay—near to Him! 

Fourth, see how God’s peace and protection surrounds AND permeates me. In our Western literature, we are used to the climax—or the payoff—being at the end of the story. The story builds and then comes to a conclusion where the hero prevails. But in Hebrew poetry, the climax—or the payoff—is typically in the middle. So when we read Psalm 46, it’s tempting to say, “Hallelujah! Verse 11 says God is my fortress. That’s the climax, the payoff!” But really the payoff—the most important part—is the middle. In this psalm, that is verse 6. Everything else builds to this and radiates out from this. 

Read this psalm for yourself by reading the verses in this order: 6, 5, 7, 4, 8, 3, 9, 2, 10, 1, 11.

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is not only IN me, He also surrounds me. I’m invited to come close to Him because He is already in me. Nations rage, but His voice in my heart silences the upheaval. He is with me. He is the Most High Sovereign God that controls the outcome of all nations. Earth quakes and kingdoms rumble, but I will have no fear; I will be still and know He is God. He is my refuge, my strength, my help, my fortress! 

Don’t rush the reading of the Psalms. Slowly “sing” these inspired lyrics and listen to how the Holy Spirit will whisper to your heart. 

I’ll be continuing our series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday, and I would love to have you join me. 

God’s Preference Is You

Pastor Craig shared these thoughts on Sunday’s message.

My dear friend Josh Schram relaunched our summertime series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. “Selah” (or “Interlude” in some Bible translations) can mean either a time of reflection, a deep breath to go into something stronger, or a time to weigh the contrasts. 

Psalm 44 is a classic example of a Selah calling us to weigh the contrasts! The first 8 verses of this psalm celebrate the recollections of God’s past victories, declarations of God being our King, and crescendoing to a note of continual praise—O God, we give glory to You all day long and constantly praise Your name!

Then comes the Selah—pause. 

And after the pause, the scene turns dark. The psalmist now recounts how bad his situation is, descending to the low note of “we collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt” (v. 25). 

Josh reminded us how our preferences change over time. Consider the telephone—we’ve gone from push-button corded phones, to phones with longer cords, to cordless phones, to bulk bag phones, to smaller cell phones, to smartphones. It’s very human for our preferences to want more and better. 

But God’s preference never changes. God’s preference is YOU! 

He can never love you any more than He already does. Nor can He love you any less. 

The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:22—yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered—when he explains that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).

In marriage vows, we usually promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.” True love goes through it all! 

God’s love goes through it all with us. That’s why the psalmist’s last words are so hopeful: Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love. His unfailing love is our assurance of His presence and His ultimate rescue. Paul also reminds us “indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17). 

Josh said, “I want you to remember one thing: Nothing!” Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Ever!  

Hillsong United has some memorable words in their song Highlands—“I will praise You on the mountain, and I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way. … You’re the heaven where my heart is, in the highlands and the heartache all the same.” 

No matter what you’re facing, God’s preference is you. He love you, and He wants you to grow closer to Him through this trial. Praise Him for His unfailing love on the mountain and in the valley, and then wait in eager expectation for Him to come to rescue you. 

Selah

Pastor Craig shares some information with us about our summertime series.

The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our new summer series.

Selah can mean…

  • a pause from the noise to reflect;
  • a preparation for an exciting accent; or
  • a reflective time of consideration

Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang.

Summertime is typically a time for us to pause from our regular routine. Perhaps it’s a vacation, time with friends and family, driving around with the windows down and the music blasting, or just a quiet walk through woods or along a beach. In any case, whether we realize it or not, we’re actually doing Selahin these break-from-the-routine activities.

Join us this Sunday as we continue our summertime look at each of the Psalms that ask us to Selah. I think you will find that this Sunday summertime pause will be both refreshing and encouraging. You can join us either in person or on Facebook Live.

Not How But Who

Here is the recap Pastor Craig shared on part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #3—This is how you should take Communion.… Is that in the Bible? Quite simply: No, it’s not. 

Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. They only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8). 

In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life. 

Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions. 

Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138). 

In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us! 

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP). 

But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Jeremiah 33:31-34

Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate! 

It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate. 

Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant!

The Devil Isn’t Scared Of You

This is part 2 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?” Here is the recap Pastor Craig shared on his blog.

Statement #2—Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Is that in the Bible? Yes, those words are there, but we need some perspective. 

First of all, demon are real and they are dangerous. No, the devil and his henchmen are not behind every calamity we face. C.S. Lewis explained it well—

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” 

C.S. Lewis

Some people think there is a struggle between Jesus and satan that has an uncertain outcome, almost like Jesus and satan are locked in an epic arm wrestling duel. But the victory is already assured—Jesus has already won (Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-58)!  

But while we are on Earth, we are living in a battle zone. Jesus said the devil’s agenda was pretty straightforward—steal, kill, destroy. He tries to do accomplish this in a number of ways: everything from lying to us, to intimidation, to misquoting Scripture. 

And that’s where we need to be aware. Yes, the words “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” are in the Bible, but they are only valid when spoken in light of the first part of the verse—“Submit yourself to God.” 

satan is not scared of your show of force toward him, but of your show of submission to God.” 

Craig T. Owens

There were some guys who tried to invoke the name of Jesus in a spiritual battle, and they ended up running out of the house bleeding and naked (Acts 19:11-16)! 

Last time I said that God helps those who cannot help themselves. The prayer He loves to respond to is, “God, help!” If ever we face a situation that we cannot help ourselves, it’s dealing with demons. We can’t, but God can! 

So before anything else submit yourself to God. Hide under the shadow of His wings, let Him be your shield and your defender. Only then will the devil flee from you (see Psalm 91). 

Remember: the devil lies. He can even use Scripture to lie. His lie is getting you to believe you can resist him on your own. The truth is he’s not afraid of who you are, but he flees when he sees Whose you are!

Does Self-Help Get God’s Help?

On Sunday we explored part 1 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?” Here is the recap Pastor Craig shared on his blog

Statement #1—God helps those who help themselves. Is that in the Bible? No, it is not! 

The reason why I think people have accepted this as biblical is an incorrect view of God. 

  1. Humanism says God is us, which makes us believe, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” 
  2. Fatalism says there is no God and therefore no meaning to life, which makes us believe, “The outcome is what it is and no one has any say in the matter.”
  3. Deism says there is a God, but it’s hard to get His attention, which makes us believe “He is either disinterested in me or unapproachable. He’s only available for the ‘big’ things.”

The Bible flat-out rejects all three of these isms. 

Instead, we see a loving, approachable God. One who is both all-powerful and all-loving. He says things like…

  • I made you and know everything about you, and I remain infinitely interested and intimately involved in your life 
  • Come to Me and I will give you rest
  • I want you to cast all your anxieties on Me
  • Don’t be anxious about anything, but tell Me about everything that troubles you (Psalm 139:1-18; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6)

Not only is “God helps those who help themselves” untrue, but the exact opposite is also true—God helps those who cannot help themselves! 

In Isaiah 40:28-29, we read that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak

“Yes, it is our strength, not our weakness, that is our hindrance and stumbling block.” 

Horatius Bonar

God gives power to the weak. He gives strength to those with no might of their own. God does NOT help those who think they can help themselves! God helps those who cannot help themselves! This is what Jesus came to do, and why we should rejoice in the fact that He does indeed help those who could never rescue themselves (Isaiah 53:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9)!

It is our can’ts that God uses as His opportunities to show how limitless He is. Our limitations magnify His love and His power. 

One of the best prayers you could ever pray is simply, “God, help!” This simple prayer acknowledges in just two words that you can’t but He most assuredly can! 

But those who wait for the Lord—who expect, look for, and hope in Him—shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up close to God as eagles mount up to the sun; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. 

Isaiah 40:31 AMP

Join us next week as we continue to explore various statements and ask, “Is that in the Bible?” 

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