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Church Picnic

Our church picnic is always a fun time!

Instead of our usual meeting place, on Sunday, July 1, we will be meeting at Morley Park in downtown Cedar Springs. We’ll have the grill fired up, and we are asking everyone to bring a dish to pass and your own drinks.

We’ll sing some songs together, play together, and pray together. It is going to be a wonderful time!

(If you need directions, please click here.)

A Warrior For God’s Favor

Pastor Craig shares a recap of his Father’s Day message. 

I love this guy!

Caleb is a dog. I’m not kidding: his name literally means dog. To be more specific his name actually means a rabid dog. What?! Yeah, but it totally fits his life.

Caleb first shows up on the scene when the Israelites are getting ready to explore Canaan for the first time. They have just been delivered from Egypt and in about two months have arrived at the border of their promised land. Moses wants to send a representative from each tribe to scout out the land.

So the first thing we learn about Caleb is that he is a leader of the largest, most powerful tribe in Israel (Numbers 13:1-3, 6).

After scouting the land for 40 days, these men come back with a report for everyone. Halfway through their report, Caleb interrupts everyone—“We should go take the land right now, for we can certainly do it!” (13:30). Caleb was outspoken for God’s favor. He firmly believed that God was for them.

Unfortunately, nearly all the other scouts (except Joshua) disagreed with Caleb. They warned that there were giants in the land that would eat them for lunch. In essence, the same people who had seen God deliver them from the Egyptians and part the Red Sea for them now thought that God wasn’t able to defeat giants. This vocal majority turned the entire nation against Moses and wanted to return to Egypt!

So God promised that none of the adults would enter the promised land, with only two exceptions: Joshua and Caleb. God pointed out that Caleb “has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24). This is where we first learn that Caleb is rabid. The term rabid means zealous, intense, fanatical, inspired. Caleb is a man who is focused—intensely, wholeheartedly focused—on God. In fact, this word wholehearted is used about Caleb three more times (see Joshua 14: 8, 9, 14).

Along with the rest of the Israelite community, Caleb wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. He never thought God had forgotten him; he never lost his intense wholeheartedness; he stayed rabid the whole time. He had a trust in God that never diminished. His motto might have been: “God said it; I believe it.”

After 40 years in the wilderness, and then five more years fighting to claim their promised land, Caleb was still raring to go. He told Joshua, “I am still just as strong as I was 45 years ago. I’m 85 years old and still ready to take on giants. Let me at ‘em!” And he did it! Caleb drove out three giants in order to claim his territory (Judges 1:20).

But Caleb wasn’t done yet. He then used God’s favor to be a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul tell something that Caleb lived out: God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need AND plenty left over to share with others(2 Corinthians 9:8). Without a word of complaint, Caleb gladly accepted not only the responsibility of letting the Levities live in the town he had conquered, but he also took on the added duties of making that city of Hebron a “city of refuge.” In this city, Caleb would keep anyone safe from those seeking their lives until a proper trial could be held.

Caleb was successful for nearly 90 years because he was convinced that God was for him.

Nothing could distract him from wholeheartedly clinging to God’s favor!

Caleb was a warrior forGod’s favor, and he was a successful warrior because of God’s favor. The same can be said of you IF you will decide to cling to God’s favor wholeheartedly.

God’s Gift To The World

In our ongoing series on God’s favor, Pastor Craig had these encouraging words to share on Sunday.

You are a gift. You are God’s grace gift to the world.

Max Lucado said it this way: “You are you-nique.

God made you on purpose and for a purpose.

God implanted unique abilities in you from conception (see Psalm 139:13). And check out what God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew and approved of you…” (Jeremiah 1:5). Before you were even conceived, God already knew all about you AND He approved of you!

Why did God implant these unique abilities in you? Because He knew of the unique opportunities you would face during your lifetime (see Psalm 139:16). Because God is for you, He gave you all that you would need to successfully face every opportunity that came your way.

Every one of us has been given these grace gifts of unique talents and opportunities, The Bible says, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7). If God is for you, and God is for me, then that means that you have been gifted to be a blessing to me and I have been gifted to be a blessing to you (Romans 12:3-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

Let me state it again: every one of us has been entrusted by God with unique talents in order to successfully face the unique opportunities that He knew we would face. Jon Bloom reminds us, “Some are given more, some are given less, but all are given much.”

So what do we do with what we’ve been entrusted? There are two possibilities: (1) We can invest our talents and abilities in a way that glorifies God, or (2) We can squander the talents God has given us.

How do you squander the grace gift of your life?

  1. Not discovering it—I have a gift?
  2. Devaluing it—I’m nothing special.
  3. Overvaluing it—I’m super-important. I don’t need anyone else.
  4. Laziness—I don’t want to mess it up, so there’s no need for me to invest my gift.
  5. Short-sightedness—My gift is just for me, so it doesn’t matter what I do with it.

I hope we can all say what Erma Bombeck wrote: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left but could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.’”

How do you honor God with your you-niqueness? I can tell you in just three simple words—You be you!

If you will just be who God made you—not downplaying your talents, not wishing you had someone else’s talents—that’s when you will feel fulfilled, and God will be glorified, and the rest of the world will be blessed! So…

YOU BE YOU!

Is It Really The 11th Hour?

As we continue to learn about God’s favor, here is how Pastor Craig recapped his Sunday message. 

When we’re down to the last minutes before a crucial deadline, we often refer to it as “the eleventh hour.”

Have you been there? You’re sweating it out, wondering if God is going to come through for you. Or perhaps thinking about what you might need to handle yourself in order to meet the deadline. And then God comes through for us, and we let out a deep sigh of relief and gratitude.

But why a sigh? Were we worried that God wouldn’t come through? Did we think God’s supply was limited? And what made us think that it was “the eleventh hour” anyhow?

What we often think is the eleventh hour is really God’s first hour! God is never late. He’s never scrambling to come up with what we need. We might be the ones “scrambling,” but God never is. He always has the perfect resources at the perfect moment.

We should know this because the Bible tells us: God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Jesus tells a story about an eleventh-hour situation in Matthew’s Gospel. Men were waiting around to work for the day when a landowner came along to hire them. He hired some guys first thing in the morning and agreed to pay them a full day’s pay. He hired some other workers at 9:00 AM and promised to pay them fairly, and then he hired even more workers at noon and at 3:00 PM, also promising to pay them what was fair. Finally, he hired some workers at 5:00 PM—literally at the eleventh hour—without any mention of pay.

At the end of the day, every single worker was paid a full day’s wage. Every single one of them. Jerry Bridges notes why this is significant:

“Each worker, regardless of how long he had worked, received a day’s wages. He received not what he had earned on an hourly basis, but what he needed to sustain his family for a day. … Those eleventh-hour workers were hired because they needed to receive a day’s wages. They had been standing all day waiting for someone to hire them so they could earn money to support their families. They needed to work more than the landowner needed their work. He hired them, not because of his need, but because of their need.” (emphasis added)

You see, God knows what you NEED and He generously supplies that NEED right on time.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The problem comes when we start looking down the road wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day (see Matthew 6:11, 31-34).

God’s favor toward us is out of all proportion to our work or sacrifice. He gives exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

If you’re feeling anxious—like the clock is ticking down to the eleventh hour—perhaps you should recall how God has provided for you in the past. Then discipline your thoughts from running ahead to tomorrow as you pray, “Give me this day what I need.”

Here’s a prayer I’m praying—

“God, I remember the wonderful deeds You have done for me. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works in the past. Therefore, I ask you today for my daily bread. Let my heart be on guard against scrambling as though I were in an eleventh-hour situation. You are my all-loving, all-gracious Father. You know what I have need of even before I ask. May my attitude be one of assured contentment in your abundant, right-on-time supply. May you be glorified as others see this confidence in my attitude.”

We Must Pray

We Must PrayPrayer is the vital empowering source for the church. Unless we pray, we are operating only under our own power, and that can become very tiring. But when we wait on God, He empowers us with His strength!

We invite you to join us for prayer each month. Our next prayer time is Sunday, June 3, at 5pm. We will be meeting at Pastor Craig’s home to pray (let us know if you need directions).

Please come invest an hour of prayer with us.

 

Do People Know That You Know That God Is Good?

As we continue learning about God’s favor, here is the recap that Pastor Craig posted after Sunday’s message.

If you’ve been reading my series on God’s favor the last few weeks, I hope you truly know this: God is for you!

But the key question for Christians comes down to this—Do others know that you know that God is for you?

You see, God is for you because God is joyful and happy, and He wants you to not only know this but to radiate this joy and happiness to those around you.

Here’s how it works:

(1) Joy is an inside job. The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great delight caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” When we know by our personal experience with Him how good God is, joy is birthed in our heart as we see Him as All-Good and All-Satisfying.

(2) Joy is regardless of my external circumstances. Some people try to pursue happiness apart from joy. Trying to get happy without having the foundation of joy is like having a flower that has been picked from the plant. Happiness may be pretty for a short while, but it is already fading because it is completely dependent on the environment around it. True happiness isn’t dependent on external circumstances because it is rooted in something far greater.

(3) Knowing God’s favor fuels our joy. There is a Hebrew word for know which means “knowledge through intimate, personal experience.” Psalm 100 describes happy people and their joyful praise. Their joy comes from this: They know that their Lord is God and that He is good. This joy comes from seeing and savoring God’s favor.

(4) Our internal joy should bubble up into external happiness. All throughout the Bible we read how those who are filled with joy as they get to know this exceptionally good, all-satisfying God cannot help but burst out in songs of happy praise (see Psalm 28:7 and Luke 10:21).

(5) Our external happiness becomes our testimony. In Psalm 126 we read that God’s people who were full of God’s joy burst out into happy praise. When they did the people around them recognized that God had done great things for them.

Check this out—

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be unhappy is a sin. An unhappy Christian gives God no praise, robs His glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. The happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too!” —Craig T. Owens

So let me ask you again: If you call yourself a Christian, do people know that you know that God is for you? Are you making God look All-Good and All-Satisfying by your deeply fueled joy and your face-brightening happiness?

What a testimony it is when God’s people are happy in Him!

If you have missed any of my other teachings about God’s favor, be sure to check them out:

Pentecost Shows That God Is For Us

Pastor Craig shared this recap of his message on Pentecost Sunday…

I have been trumpeting this truth: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you.

Yesterday we remembered Pentecost. In Jewish history, Pentecost is simply a celebration that took place fifty (pente) days after the Passover. But the first Pentecost celebration after Christ’s resurrection became the launching point for the Church. On this Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit. This baptism is primarily for two things:

  1. Christians are empowered to know more clearly that “God is for me.”
  2. Christians are empowered to tell others more persuasively that “God is for you.”

We only continue to grow in our understanding of God’s favor by believing what Jesus did for us on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Spirit helps us to know this—

Now we have not received the spirit that belongs to the world, but the Holy Spirit Who is from God, given to us that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly bestowed on us by God.(1 Corinthians 2:12 AMP)

Check this out…

(1) The baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers me to know more clearly that God is for meFor you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing—in that though He was so very rich, yet for your sakes He became so very poor, in order that by His poverty you might become abundantly supplied(2 Corinthians 8:9 AMP).

(2) The baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers me to tell others more persuasively that God is for them—You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses(Acts 1:8). All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation(2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Because God is for you, He wants to baptize you in His Holy Spirit!

If you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit, ask for that gift that God wants to give you. The more of the Holy Spirit there is in your life, the more you will recognize God’s favor and be equipped to be His witness.

We will be continuing to explore this topic of God’s favor on Sunday. I hope you can join me either in person or on Facebook Live.

5 Lessons From 2 Mothers

As we continued in our series called God’s Favor, Pastor Craig shared a special message on Mother’s Day. Here’s the recap he shared, but be sure to check out the video for the full message.

If you’ve been reading my series of posts on God’s favor, I hope you are becoming more aware of how strongly I want you to know this: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. (If you want to read some of these previous posts, check out the link at the bottom of this post.)

In writing his account of the birth of Jesus, Luke is captured with the idea of God’s favor. Luke uses the word favor more than any of the other gospel writers, and he uses the word quite frequently as he relates the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. During his narrative we meet two women—Elizabeth and Mary. Here are five lessons we can learn from these two mothers.

(1) “Favor” is not the same thing as “favorite.” To say, “I am the one on whom God’s favor rests” is not the same as saying, “I am God’s favorite.” Elizabeth recognized God’s favor on both herself and on Mary (Luke 1:25 & 43), and Mary also recognized God’s favor on herself (Luke 1:28, 30, 48-49). But nowhere did these women think they were God’s favorites. God has no favorites, but instead He showers His abundant, never-ending favor on everyone!

(2) “Favor” probably didn’t look like what they would have planned for themselves. Elizabeth didn’t get pregnant until the age when she should have been a grandmother, and Mary got pregnant before she was even married. I’m sure neither of them thought their lives would go this way! But God knew what He was doing all along (see Isaiah 45:7-9; Psalm 139:16).

(3) They needed humility, obedience, and perseverance to remain in the place where they could recognize God’s favor.No one can stop God’s favor, but the devil would love to keep you from recognizing God’s favor. One way satan does this is by trying to get us to appeal to our pride (“I think I can do this better”) because then obedience to God and perseverance through the trying times is very difficult to maintain.

(4) God’s favor is for God’s glory (not necessarily for our comfort). God is accomplishing HIS plan through us. His favor toward us places us where He needs us, when He needs us there, and with the talents we need to respond correctly when we get to that moment. Mary spoke the words that I’m sure were also in Elizabeth’s heart: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me just as you have said.”

(5) God’s favor doesn’t necessarily answer all our questions. Even though God’s favor places us in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, we will still undoubtedly have questions about why God is doing what He’s doing. If you feel that way, you’re not alone—Hebrews 11 is full of people who felt the same way. But hang in there and keep trusting God: He knows what He’s doing! In the meantime remember this: God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you, that you, ALWAYS having ALLsufficiency in ALL things, may have an abundance for EVERY good work(2 Corinthians 9:8).

Check out this video of the full message I shared on these lessons from the life of Elizabeth and Mary.

Join me this Sunday as we continue looking at God’s favor. You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live.

If you’ve missed any of my previous posts on God’s favor, check out:

What If I Sin?

As we continue in our series on God’s Favor, here is a recap Pastor Craig shared of Sunday’s message. Be sure to check out the video to see the entire message! 

I have been trumpeting this truth: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. God wants you to know that you have found His favor.

But what happens if we sin? Do we lose God’s favor? In a word—NO!

Here’s what happens instead: God becomes our Prodigal Father.

Let me show you from both the Old Testament and the New Testament what I mean, but first, let’s define prodigal: it means recklessly extravagant or lavishly abundant. This is always how God treats His children.

In Isaiah 59, the prophet reminds us that nothing about God’s strength or ability to respond to our pleas has been diminished. Instead: your sins have separated you from your God—we can leave God, but He never leaves us!

Isaiah catalogs all our sins that have become a quicksand trap for us. God looks to see who can help us, and finding no one, here’s what He does: so His own arm worked salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him.

God did what was underserved. God did what no one else could do: HE HIMSELF BECAME OUR SALVATION!

If ever there was a definition of recklessly extravagant, lavishly abundant love… this is it!!

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story that people often call the story of the prodigal son, but it’s really the father who is prodigal. The son squanders all his father’s blessings on wild living and finds himself bankrupt, starving, and completely disgraced. But the moment the son came to his senses and began to move toward his father by confessing his sin, his prodigal father ran to him!

Jesus tells us this father was overflowing with compassion. There wasn’t anything his son could have done to diminish the father’s love, nor was there anything the son could have done to make his father love him more. The father was all-loving all the time. He was recklessly extravagant and lavishly abundant in his love.

The father RAN to his son and covered his son’s disheveled, stinking rags with his royal robe.

This is exactly what Isaiah said God would do for us…

  • instead of ashes, we get a crown
  • instead of rags of mourning, we get an anointing of gladness
  • instead of a spirit of despair, we get a garment of praise
  • instead of shame, we get a double portion of God’s riches
  • instead of disgrace, we get God’s inheritance

How does all this happen? Our Prodigal Father abundantly, lavishly“clothes me with garments of salvation and arrays me in a robe of righteousness”!!

Don’t ever buy into satan’s lies that God loves you less, or that you’ve used up your changes, or that your sins are too many or too big. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Join us this coming Sunday either in person or on Facebook Live as we learn more about God’s favor toward us.

Finding God’s Favor

Here is how Pastor Craig recapped the second message in our series on God’s favor

“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

God had been showing us His love throughout the Old Testament period, but the Advent of Jesus made it abundantly and unmistakably clear that God is for us!

Check out how Luke focuses on God’s favor in a way that no other Gospel writer does:

  • John (the one who would announce the arrival of Jesus) means Jehovah is a gracious Giver.
  • Elizabeth (John’s mother) said that God had not only shown His favor to her by making her pregnant, but she also said God had removed her disgrace.
  • Mary (the mother of Jesus) was greeted by the angel with the phrases “You are highly favored” and “You have found favor with God.”
  • On the night of Christ’s birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
  • Jesus, in His first public sermon, quoted Isaiah’s words, saying He had come to proclaim God’s favor.

But please notice this truth—We don’t try to find or earn God’s favor. It’s already there; we just need to realize it’s there!

You see, we don’t grow in God’s favor, nor do we get more favor, but we progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with God’s favor that is already there. Check out what Moses said:

If I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly and that I may find favor in Your sight(Exodus 33:13)

The angel said to Mary, “You are HIGHLY FAVORED” (Luke 1:28). God uses the same word when He says to us: God made us ACCEPTED in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).

How can this be??Because on the Cross, Jesus switched places with us. He took all our sin and DISgrace, and gave us all of His righteousness. Now when God the Father looks at us, all He sees is the righteousness of His Son. Now all praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us and His favor that He has poured out upon us because we belong to His dearly loved Son(TLB).

God’s grace is undiminished.It is as full today as it ever has been. God could never love you more than He already does. God could never love you less because of anything you do. Keep your eyes on Him and you will find just how much favor He has for you!

Join me this Sunday either in person or on Facebook Live as we continue to learn more about God’s favor.

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