The Great Shepherd

We began our Advent series on Sunday. Here is the recap Pastor Craig shared on his blog, and you can find a link at the bottom of this page to watch the full message.

God delights to show up when the situation seems hopeless from any human standpoint. When He does what no one else can do, He alone is glorified!

A very notable dark time took place in Israel about 700 BC as the nation was surrounded by enemies. Micah prophesied the arrival of the Messiah. But he also prophesied that before He came, there would be dark days. He talks about the siege of enemies surrounding them, Israel’s ruler being stuck on the cheek with a rod, not to mention the strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry that plagued the nation within its own borders (Micah 5:1, 11-13). 

But whenever it seems darkest, God is not the least diminished! He always gets the final word, the decisive word, the best word. 

So into this inky darkness, Micah prophesies a ray of light—“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). 

I’m sure many people thought that Bethlehem was too small of a village for anyone of significance to be born there.

The Last Battle is the final book in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. This story also portrays a similar dark time. Shift the ape has convinced Puzzle the donkey to wear an ill-fitting lion skin to pretend to be the great king Aslan. Through tricks, sleight of hand, deception, and the plans of some evil schemers, many of the Narnians come to believe that Puzzle is Aslan. But it’s confusing because this “Aslan” is not the kind, strong king they believed in, so many begin to just look out for themselves. 

In a fitting setting, Puzzle is being hidden inside an old stable. A great battle takes place with the true Narnians ending up inside the stable, and yet once inside they discover not a dark stable, but a sunlit land spreading farther than their eyes can see. Lord Digory observes, “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”  

But I love this line from Queen Lucy, “In our world too a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” 

Inside that Bethlehem stable was born the Great Shepherd! Who was inside that stable and what He would accomplish became so much grander and more beautiful than any human had ever imagined! 

Jesus is our Great Shepherd—He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4). 

Jesus is strong, majestic, and great (John 10:10-15). 

Jesus equips us to be victorious (Hebrews 13:20-21). 

Jesus walks with us every step of the way (Psalm 23:1-6). 

And Jesus takes us Home to be with Him forever (1 Peter 5:4). 

(Check out all of these passages by clicking here.) 

Our faith is not rooted in some mysterious thing with an uncertain history. It is a faith rooted in real historical events. The Great Shepherd being born in the town that was prophesied 700 years beforehand is one more proof that God is in control, that God loves you, and that God always gets the final word, the decisive word, the best word! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series Bethlehem Is Proofyou find the full list by clicking here

Bethlehem Is Proof

The prophet Micah foretells that the Messiah will arrive in dark times. Enemies will surround Israel, and Israel’s ruler will receive a nasty punch to the jaw. Demonic strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry will appear to be gaining the upper hand. 

And then Micah turns his attention to a small village just south of Jerusalem—a village so small that it is often overlooked—a village from which no one would expect Israel’s Deliverer. 

And yet, Micah writes, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). 

Jesus the Deliverer was born in the little town of Bethlehem, and His birth there 700 years after Micah foretold it is our proof that God always gets the last word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Please join us this Sunday for our Advent series Bethlehem Is Proof! We would love to have you join us in person, but you can also watch the sermons on Facebook or YouTube.

Spirit-filled Dads

Pastor Craig shared an encouraging and challenging word for our dads on Fathers Day. Here is the recap of his message, but you can also watch the video of the full message below.

Last week I mentioned that there are numerous people who only appear in the Bible once. They come on the scene—many of them nameless to us—to play their part and then we never hear about them again. 

But we still hear from them because their lives are still teaching us. 

Remember that each of you is God’s gift to the world IF you are using God’s gift in you to glorify God in the world. We meet one of those gifts in the Book of Luke that can teach us Dads some valuable lessons. 

There are several “one-timers” listed by Luke in the Advent story. Luke was a first-rate historian, researching his subject and talking to eyewitnesses to the events. Some of these one-timers have a few details Luke shared with us: 

  • Zechariah and Elizabeth—we know their family lineage (priestly), Zechariah’s role in the temple, and the fact that Elizabeth was barren 
  • Shepherds—we know where they came from (the fields surrounding Bethlehem) and their occupation. 
  • Anna—we know her tribe (Asher), her father (Phanuel), and role (prophetess), and that she had been married and is now widowed. 

But all Luke can say of Simeon is, “There was a man called Simeon…” (Luke 2:25-35). 

Although, even that short introduction is packed with meaning. 

Simeon in Greek means harkening while Simeon in Hebrew means heard. So he was both one who heard God and one who was heard by God. This speaks to me of an intimacy of relationship. Simeon didn’t view his conversation with God as a monologue but as a dialogue. I think that far too often we view our Bible reading time as God simply speaking to us, and our prayer time as us speaking to God. But both of these activities should be a two-way dialogue.

A.W. Tozer has a great definition of a godly leader that I believe accurately portrays Simeon: “A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation.” 

I think this means that a safe, godly leader is one who sees what is happening in a Christ-less culture, who then cries out in pain to God, and then who hears the Holy Spirit telling him how to live a holy life in that Christ-less culture.

We could call this external pressure grief over unrighteousness. Simeon so stood out in his culture that Luke calls him “righteous.” This is one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. 

He also calls Simeon “devout.” This is a compound Greek word that only Luke uses in the New Testament which means to catch good things and make them your own. Simeon took hold of the things of God, made them his own, and then observed them carefully.

Finally, Luke tells us that Simeon was “waiting for the consolation.” He was living expectantly to see God’s Word come to its fulfillment. He could do all of this because the Holy Spirit was upon him and the Holy Spirit had revealed truth to him. 

That phrase “revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” again speaks to the intimate relationship Simeon had with God. 

Simeon knew that what God promises, He fulfills. He knew the consolation God had promised through Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1-2), and then Simeon saw its fulfillment in Jesus the Christ—

“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

In today’s darkening, Christ-less culture, godly men like Simeon are needed again. 

Dads, do you feel the external pressure of today’s culture? If so, I pray that you will also feel the inward strengthening of the Holy Spirit drawing you into a more intimate relationship with Himself.

God gives His Word to men that will wait expectantly and pray fervently for its fulfillment. God is looking for men—for Dads—that will not cave in to cultural pressure. 

Guys, let the Holy Spirit’s inward pressure strengthen you to stand strong. As you see the external downward spiral away from God, don’t collapse, don’t complain, but hear God’s Word and remain a righteous and devout man for your family and your community. 

In our series We Are: Pentecostal, we talked much more in-depth about how the Holy Spirit wants to help us. You can check out all of those messages by clicking here.

Go Deep Bible Study

We would like to invite you to an in-depth Bible study.

We will be meeting at 6:00 on Wednesdays to discuss how to apply to our daily lives the lessons from the most recent Sunday sermon. Even if you missed the Sunday message, there will be so much for you to learn at our mid-week Bible studies.

Each Bible study will last about an hour, and we will endeavor to make the video of the teaching available in a day or so following the class. You can get a map to the church by clicking here.

Our Foundational Beliefs

You may read a quick overview of our 16 foundational beliefs statements by clicking here. In 2021, Pastor Craig T. Owens taught on all 16 of these statements, unpacking how we can apply them to our daily lives. Please click on any link below to be taken to each of his messages. On that link, you may read a short recap of his message, or watch the video of the entire sermon.

  1. The Scriptures are inspired 
  2. One true God 
  3. The deity of the Lord Jesus Christ
  4. The fall of man
  5. The salvation of man
  6. The ordinance of the Church
  7. The baptism in the Holy Spirit 
  8. The initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit 
  9. Sanctification 
  10. The Church and its mission
  11. The ministry
  12. Divine healing
  13. The blessed hope
  14. The millennial reign of Christ
  15. The final judgment
  16. The new heavens and the new earth

Year-End Review (2021 Edition)

Here is a catalog of all of the sermon series we heard during 2021.

Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Foundation Stones—Any architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise…[and] make no headway because they build without foundation.” We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but more than just having them listed there, it is important to discuss them.

Be A First Responder—There is a line in an old hymn that convicts me every time I sing it: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Why are we so slow to drop to our knees in prayer when trouble strikes? It seems we fool ourselves into thinking the problem is small enough to handle on our own, or we think God isn’t concerned with something that may seem trivial, or we’ve been-here-done-this before and know the way to go. But this isn’t what our Heavenly Father desires; instead, He wants us to come to Him before we try anything else. Instead of making prayer our last resort, why don’t we strive to make it our first response!

Confessions Of A Dying Man—In our justice system, rarely will a judge allow hearsay testimony to be introduced in court. But there is one notable exception: a dying declaration. A dying declaration is the statement of a mortally injured person who is aware he or she is about to die. This statement is admissible testimony in court on the theory that a dying person has no reason not to tell the truth. Jesus was nailed to a Cross. Mortally injured, unable to escape, He had no reason to lie. In His dying moments, struggling to get enough air in His lungs to be able to speak, Jesus choked out seven statements that still have a profound impact on us today.

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—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 summer series. It means a pause. 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. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minormessages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

X-ing Out Anxiety—Two brothers—one a doctor and one a pastor—addressed the prevalence of anxiety in our culture. They wrote, “A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” Anxiety can negatively impact our relationships, our ability to think creatively, our physical health, and even our relationship with God. Thankfully, one of the titles given to Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Join us for this freeing series called X-ing Out Anxiety, where we will be learning what God’s Word says about getting free from the anxiety that is robbing us of life, and replacing that anxiety with His peace.

People Will Talk—Sometimes celebrities and other people in the public spotlight will hire a publicist to help promote their cause, build their brand, or present them in the best possible light. If you wanted to stretch the terms, you could say that some of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament disciples could have been viewed as the “publicists” for Jesus. At least, that’s what critics might point to. But despite the best efforts and high salaries of publicists—both ancient and modern—they cannot control the “word on the street.” What people are actually saying about the one in the spotlight is usually the best evidence of who that person truly is. As we celebrate this Advent season, we are going to look at what the people on the street were saying about Jesus at the time of His birth. Before He ever performed a miracle or presented a parable—before any of His “publicists” could try to make Him look good—people were already talking. And what they said about Him is truly enlightening.

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2022, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, we would love to have you join us!