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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.

God Is For You!

We kicked off our new series called God’s Favor on Sunday. Here is Pastor Craig’s recap of his message.

I’m going to make a statement that might shock some people.

Some of you who have been around Christianity might have heard this before, and you may even mentally agree with it. But even people who mentally agree with it want to add a “Yeah, but…” to it. Or they mentally agree with it but don’t live like it’s true.

Ready? Here it is …

God is for you.

Far too many people mistakenly think God is looking for an opportunity to punish them; He’s trying to catch them doing something wrong; He’s perched on the edge of heaven with lightning bolts of judgment in His hand. God doesn’t want to blast you; He wants to bless you!

Although the word favor appears quite frequently in Scripture, God’s favor is also implied in the word grace, which means God’s unmerited favor.

It’s unmerited because none of us is worthy of God’s favor; it’s not something anyone can earn. We have all sinned, and therefore we’re all worthy of the death penalty. Every single one of us!

I have worshipped idols, I have blasphemed God’s name, I have broken the Sabbath, I have dishonored my parents, I have coveted, I have lied, I have committed adultery, and I have murdered. And so have you (see James 2:10).

Do you understand what Jesus did for us on the Cross? HE SWITCHED PLACES WITH US!

Jesus became my sin, and He made it possible for me to become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Check this out:

For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us!

“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

Don’t allow the devil’s lies of your unworthiness keep you from missing out on this truth. All of us are unworthy of God’s favor. But God demonstrated that He was for us when Jesus died on the Cross in our place. Now there is no more guilt, no more condemnation, absolutely nothing standing in the way of all of God’s unmerited favor because

GOD IS FOR YOU!

God’s Favor

Pastor Craig announces our new series that begins THIS SUNDAY

What if I were to tell you that God is for you?

What if I were to tell you that God wants to bless you?

What if I were to tell you that God’s favor is constantly pursuing you?

Well, here’s me telling you that it’s all true!

“Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”(Romans 8:32).

Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence?

Knowing God’s favor is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross!

Join me this Sunday as we begin a new series exploring the wonderful depths of God’s favor. You can join me in person at Calvary Assembly of God, or tune in on Facebook Live at 10:30am Sunday morning.

How Should Christians Handle Objections?

A recap from Pastor Craig’s message on Sunday…

It’s no secret that when a Christian says, “This is what I believe,” or “This is what the Bible says,” or even something as simple as, “I believe in God,” that there will be people who disagree. Sometimes their disagreement may even become an outright attack.

How are Christians to respond?

Here are five ways I’ve found to be effective and Christ-honoring—

1. Don’t argue. Arguments tend to create an “I don’t want to lose” feeling in the other person, which makes them unable to truly hear what you’re saying. Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4).

2. Ask questions. Jesus was a master at this. Look through the Gospels and you will see Jesus asking questions to clarify others’ positions. Questions stimulate further conversation, while statements tend to shut down the conversation. Questions develop a relationship, while definitive statements make you seem superior to the other person.

3. Don’t argue. Yes, this is good enough to repeat! Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7).

4. Pray for mercy. Remember that if you are really speaking truths from the Bible, the person arguing against those truths is arguing with God, not with you.

5. Pray for light. Paul said that the “god of this age” has blinded people (see 2 Corinthians 4:2-4), so we should pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them light to see the truth.

“Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte

Let’s be passionate for people, not passionate to win an argument!

I go into more detail in this video…

What’s The Best That Could Happen?

Pastor Craig recaps his message from Sunday morning. You can also watch the full video below…

I’ve had a good friend recommend a musical artist to me and I haven’t enjoyed the music.

I’ve had a good friend take me to a restaurant I haven’t liked.

I’ve had a good friend tell me how wonderful a certain movie was, and I thought it was a dud.

And I’m sure some of my good friends could say the same thing about my recommendations.

But you know what? All of these folks are still my friends.

I’ve never had one person say to me, “Your restaurant suggestion was awful. I’m unfriending you on Facebook and blocking your number from my phone. I never want to see or hear from you again!”

Yet sometimes I think church-going Christians feel like this might happen if they invite a friend to come to their church.

Seriously?!

Let’s consider the odds—

  • How likely is it that if you invite a friend to church and they say “no” that they are also going to say, “Get out of my life forever”?
  • If they do accept your invitation, but find that your church wasn’t a good fit for them, how likely is it that they’re going to say, “We can never hang out again”?

I think you would agree with me that both of these responses are highly unlikely!

But consider the other side—what if you invite them to your church and they say “yes”? What if after attending your church they like it? And what if by attending your church they enter into a personal relationship with Jesus?

If that happens, you’ve changed the course of their eternal destiny! 

Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenarios (which seem highly unlikely), we should be focusing on the best-case scenario!

If you’re still uneasy about inviting someone to your church, or even trying to have a conversation with them about your personal faith, here is a simple phrase to consider: Come and see.

Invite them to come and see your lifestyle that seeks to glorify Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). Let them see that you live your life like Jesus: doing good (Acts 10:38).

Invite them to come and see the Creator behind the creation (see Psalm 66:5). Whenever there is a discussion about the weather, or nature, or a medical science breakthrough, ask them, “Have you ever thought that if there is such a beautiful design there must also be an intelligent Designer?”

Christian, you have the best news ever! Don’t keep it to yourself. Invite those around you to come and see what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. Who knows? You may be a part of changing someone’s eternal destiny.

Come And See

Pastor Craig announces a new series…

Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them!

Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves.

The Easter season is upon us, so we have a golden opportunity to reverse this stat. There is something about Easter and Christmas where even those that don’t normally attend a church service feel like this season might be a good time to do so.

I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words:

Come and See

No pressure. No promises. No gimmicks. Just this: “Come and see for yourself what a relationship with Jesus is all about.”

Over the next two Sundays we’ll be looking at some obstacles we church people may have to overcome, and some excuses many unchurched people use. But all of this will help us to simply and clearly say to our friends, “Come and see!”

Please join me in person or watch on Facebook Live.

Looking Ahead To The Second Advent

Throughout 2017 we have been reviewing our foundational truths. Here is Pastor Craig’s recap of his message covering our belief statements on the end times events. 

Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.

Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”

The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).

During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.

“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

After this will come the New Heavens and New Earth where Christians will commune with God for ever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5, 12-21).

In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!

In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—

  • therefore encourage each other with these words
  • wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior 
  • stand firm … let nothing move you
  • Jesus says, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me

Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!

As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Calvary Assembly of God

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