Epiphany

As we relaunched our series on Pentecost, Pastor Craig shared this message with us. Read the recap here, and be sure to check out the video of the full message below.

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost immediately following Christ’s ascension, Christians were speaking in languages that they had not learned. As they did so, they were “declaring the wonders of God” in all the languages of the world. Some people mocked, saying they were merely babbling drunks, but everyone in Jerusalem was “amazed and perplexed” at this remarkable event, which prompted Peter to preach a powerful sermon (Acts 2:8-21). 

Peter began his sermon by quoting words “spoken by the prophet Joel” (Joel 2:28-32). It’s unlikely that Peter had a copy of Joel with him, so this quotation was delivered from memory and Peter’s sermon was given spontaneously as the Holy Spirit empowered him. In looking at the passages in both Joel and Acts, I see three notable differences.

  1. Joel begins by saying, “And afterward I will pour out My Spirit,” but Peter begins with the words, “In the last days…I will pour out My Spirit.” I’ll address this point further in just a moment. 
  2. Peter inserts “and they will prophesy” at the end of verse 18, a phrase that Joel didn’t say at the end of Joel 2:29. I think this is the Holy Spirit emphasizing that what the crowd heard was indeed prophecy, not mindless babbling. 
  3. Joel concludes with “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” but Peter says, “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The word Joel uses for “dreadful,” meaning an awesome day worthy of reverence, was a day of sorrow for those about to be judged guilty, and a day of supreme rejoicing for those about to be judged innocent in God’s sight. The word Peter uses for “glorious” is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. The word is epiphanes: where we get our English word “epiphany”—a light has dawned and the truth is finally realized! 

Let’s go back to the difference between “afterward” in Joel and “in the last days” in Acts. In a sense, the “afterward” for Peter was what everyone was experiencing right then—after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (John 16:7; Acts 1:4-5). 

Let’s also consider the “afterward” in Joel’s day. What came before was a disaster of locusts consuming the land, which prompted Joel to call for the solemn response of prayer and fasting. This heartfelt response from godly people trigged God’s outpouring of His Spirit—the afterward—that led to a blessing “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-3, 10-13). 

Both Joel and Peter conclude that it is God’s desire that “everyone…be saved”! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to help people have an epiphany of both their sin and the salvation that Jesus purchased on His Cross.

The word “disaster” comes from the Latin word disastros. The root word astros pertains to the heavenly lights (star, sun, moon), and the prefix “dis-” is a pejorative (something that has a belittling effect). So disaster really means no guiding lights, or hopeless darkness. 

Jesus was prophesied to step into this hopeless darkness and bring light and hope—“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Zechariah prophesied that Jesus was the fulfillment of this: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).  

Jesus is THE Epiphany, THE Ultimate Light, but He also tells us, “You are the light of the world (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).  

In a world of hopeless darkness, Christians are to be Christ’s Light-bearers. 

We cannot do this on our own. 

The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world. 

When Joel saw disaster coming, he called for a fast. This fast led to the outpouring of God’s empowerment on godly people, so they could take the Light to those lost in deep darkness. I think the same response is needed from Christians today. 

When it appears this world is plunging deeper into darkness—when we hear of disasters (remember that disastros means people are without Light)—we need to pray and fast so that the Holy Spirit can be reignited in us, so that we can then be realigned to best shine the light of Jesus brightly. 

Our lives can and should be the epiphany of Christ’s love for the world to see! Let’s all pray: “Holy Spirit, make us Your epiphany to a dark world!” 

If you’d like to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostalplease click here.

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 which 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. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join us this Sunday at Calvary Assembly of God as we rejoin this series. You can check out what we learned in this series in 2019 by clicking here, the messages from 2020 are here, and the messages from 2021 are here

Saved From The Consequences Of Folly

Here is a recap of Pastor Craig’s message on Mother’s Day. Be sure to check out the full video below.

I am so grateful for the blessings of a godly mother and a godly wife! I can relate to Abraham Lincoln who said, “All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother. … I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” 

Mothers—both the natural, physical, and adoptive mothers—can save the rest of us from a world of hurt. We see this in a story in the Bible of a mother that saved innumerable people from the consequences of folly. This is an amazing story in 1 Samuel 25, so please take some time to read it for yourself.  

King Saul and David have finally separated from each other, with Saul returning home to Gibeah and David returning to his stronghold at En Gedi. Eventually, David moved west from En Gedi to the Desert of Moan, where the town of Carmel was nearby. 

A prominent citizen of Carmel was a man named Nabal. He is described as “very wealthy,” owning 1000 goats and 3000 sheep. But he apparently gained his wealth through less-than-honorable means because he is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.” We find out later in the story that he’s also hard-hearted and hard-headed, not listening to any counsel others may offer him. 

That fits him because his name means “fool.” I find it hard to believe that his parents named him this from birth. If they did, it reminds me of the opening words of C.S. Lewis’ book The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader: “There was a boy named Clarence Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Instead, I think Nabal’s dealings were so mean, surely, and foolish that the name stuck. Perhaps he even wore that name as a badge of honor. 

It came sheep-shearing time—which is really payday for shepherds—so David sends some of his servants to Nabal to ask for whatever he might find to give as a gift to “your servants and your son David.” David’s men had been a constant source of protection for Nabal’s herdsmen, so a gift of gratitude does seem appropriate. 

Nabal doesn’t just say, “No,” but he insults David. As his foolish nature controlled him, he not only insulted David, but he insulted God too by implying that David wasn’t anointed by God, but was merely ruthlessly climbing a ladder of success. Probably Nabal thought this way because that’s how he himself gained his fortune. 

Nabal’s response lit David’s fuse! In fact, David’s response to his men was just four words long: “Put on your swords!” 

Fortunately, one of Nabal’s servants informed his wife Abigail of this. 

In the same verse where Nabal is described as mean and surely, Abigail is described as “intelligent and beautiful.” Whereas Nabal’s name means fool, Abigail’s name means “my father’s joy.” She must have been born at just the right time for her father and she continues to be a just-in-time woman! 

This servant brought Abigail word of Nabal’s foolish response, telling her that David’s men were indeed “a wall around us” while they were in the desert. And then he says, “Think carefully about what you should do because disaster is hanging over us!” 

Abigail acts quickly, wisely, and humbly. 

The first thing she does is send hundreds of pounds of food to David and his men. She sends the gift that Nabal probably should have sent. Then Abigail herself follows the gifts on her own donkey. When she encounters David and his armed men coming down the mountain pass, she humbly falls at his feet asking David to reconsider. 

Abigail doesn’t tell David he shouldn’t be angry, but she points him to something bigger and more long-lasting than his immediate thought of revenge. She reminds him that he is God’s anointed leader, and she asks, “When you become king, do you want this bloodshed on your conscience?” 

Abigail’s words have an immediate effect on David, who calls off the attack, praises Abigail, and praises God for sending Abigail to him. Abigail rescued Nabal’s family and workers from imminent destruction, and she saves David from the consequences of his rash response. 

The next morning, when she relates this story to Nabal, he has either a stroke or a heart attack, and then dies ten days later. Justice is served, but it’s served by God and not by David.

Later on, David takes the now-widowed Abigail as his wife. 

Abigail’s name scarcely appears anywhere else in the Bible, but there is one notable appearance: 

Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. (2 Samuel 3:2-5) 

Amnon, first in line for the throne, raped his half-sister Tamar and was then killed by Absalom, who was Tamar’s brother. Absalom, third in line for the throne, not only avenged his sister’s disgrace but led a coup against David, where he was killed in battle. 

That leaves Kileab as the obvious heir to King David’s throne, yet this is the only place he is mentioned in the Bible. I think Abigail’s wise influence saved Kileab from the drama of aspiring to be king, a painful future, and perhaps a premature death. 

From this amazing story, I would like to offer three takeaways for Moms:

  1. Use your inner beauty to persuade foolhardy men—1 Peter 3:2-3 
  2. Use your Holy Spirit-given wisdom to dissuade foolishness—Matthew 10:19 
  3. Use your prayer life to bring a legacy of peace—Psalm 116:16  

(Please read all of the above verses by clicking here.) 

Godly mothers, please be encouraged today at how much influence you exert over others in your life. Your inner beauty, God-given wisdom, humility, and prayers are making more of an impact than you may ever know. I believe in heaven the full story will be shared, and you will be praised for being a wise and faithful servant. 

May God continue to bless, empower, and use our Moms to save us from the consequences of our foolishness! 

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! 

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