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Prayer Is The Battle

We launched a new series on prayer on Sunday. Here is the recap Pastor Craig shared on his blog.

When I was growing up and struggling with a problem, my Mom would always challenge me with one simple question—“Have you prayed about it?”

This is a great question because it helps us keep the main thing the main thing.

Typically we have three substitutes for prayer—

(1) Ignoring the problem. We’re like the board of directors that was facing falling sales and falling profits, but their solution was to just wait for something magical to happen.

(2) Talking about the problem. Christians often call this “a prayer request.” We take 10 minutes to give our friends all the gory, depressing details of our situation and oftentimes say “please pray for me” as we walk away. Solomon said, “Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).

(3) Working to solve the problem. This isn’t in the Bible, but many times we act as if it is: God helps those who help themselves. Instead, God wants us to call on Him so He can reveal things to us (see Jeremiah 33:3).

Something that is in the Bible is this: “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” But there is a condition for this, and it’s the part of the sentence that comes before the asking that makes all the difference—

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7).

Oswald Chambers said, “We are apt to think of prayer as a common-sense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for work; whereas in the teaching of Jesus, prayer is not to fit us for the ‘greater works,’ prayer is the work. Prayer is…the means whereby we assimilate more and more of His mind, and the means whereby He unveils His purposes to us.”

Prayer IS the work!

We don’t ignore the problem, and we don’t just talk about the problem. But neither do we pray and then work on the problem. Prayer is the work!

It can’t be stated enough: Prayer doesn’t prepare us to work, prayer IS the work.

Even the Apostle Paul identified this in his teaching on spiritual warfare. In language similar to what Jesus said in John 15:7, Paul says, “Be strong IN the Lord and IN His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God SO THAT you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Paul doesn’t tell us to ignore the devil’s schemes, nor does he tell us to talk about them. But neither does he tell us to put on God’s armor to fight against the devil’s schemes. He tells us to put on the armor of God so that we can pray (see Ephesians 6:18-20).

The armor of God is NOT to fight in, but to shield us while we pray!

PRAYER IS THE BATTLE … PRAYER IS THE WORK

When you are facing a difficulty, don’t ignore it, don’t just talk about it, and don’t go to work fighting it. Listen to the Holy Spirit asking you, “Have you prayed about it,” and then drop to your knees and PRAY!

This principle is illustrated so wonderfully in the life of David. We’ll be looking at David’s prayers over the next few weeks, and we hope you will join us in learning that prayer is the battle!

The Prayers Of David

The life of David is an open book for us. One of the unique things about David’s life is that we get to read both the historical narrative of his life, and his diary-like thoughts recorded in his psalms, songs, and prayers in the Book of Psalms.

David’s prayers are gut-level honest and full of raw emotion.

His prayers are also very helpful for anyone who desires to be as close to God as David was, to be one God describes as “a man after my own heart, who will do everything I want him to do.”

Join us this Sunday as we begin an exploration of the passionate, personal, powerful prayers of David.

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!”

Application Questions—End Times Events

After listening to today’s message, get together with a friend or two to discuss these application questions:

  1. In light of Christ’s soon return, how should I live today?
  2. What good news can I share with those who are skeptical of the Bible’s message?
  3. What does it mean to me to live with “blessed hope”?

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What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

In our series on our foundational beliefs, here is a recap Pastor Craig shared on his message about church leadership.

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

What Is The Church Supposed To Be Doing?

As we continued in our series looking at our Foundation Stones, here is a recap of the message Pastor Craig shared yesterday about the mission of the Church.

Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus commissioned His followers. He gave them a mission which Christian often refer to as The Great Commission.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

There are several pictures in the New Testament of how the Church could live out this Great Commission, but one of the pictures that I find the most helpful is that of a Body.

The human body is an amazing creation! Just to accomplish the simple task of picking up something between our thumb and forefinger is a miracle in itself. The structure of bones and ligaments and tendons, the interaction of nerves in the fingers coordinating with the optical nerve, not to mention the enzymes and blood vessels that are all doing their part.

Yet if any part is not functioning properly, that simple action becomes more difficult. Maybe it even becomes impossible.

The Church is the same way. Every part of the Church Body has to be functioning in healthy order for the whole Body to be effective.

Here are four aspects of a healthy Church Body that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4:

  1. Caring for one another
  2. Mobilizing for evangelism
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Helping organize for more meaningful ministry

If every part of the Body is doing its part, we’re Living out the Great Commission.

If some parts are missing or unhealthy, we’re Wallowing in the Great Omission.

It’s not about your church (small “c”) or my church. It’s about all Christian disciples being a part of one Church—one Body—going into all the world and making disciples of all peoples. That’s what the Church is supposed to be doing!

One-And-Done? Ongoing? Later?

In our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths, Pastor Craig shared some insight into the concept of sanctification. Here is the recap he posted on his blog:

If I were to ask five different Christians to give me a definition of sanctification, I just might get five different definitions!

Part of this comes from incorrect either-or thinking. However, Jesus seems to tell us that sanctification requires a both-and thinking.

In Christ’s prayer for His followers in John 17, He uses the word sanctified three times (see verses 17-19). Although He is using the same Greek word each time, He uses a different “flavor” of the word to make it really clear what He means.

First of all, the Greek word for sanctified means the process of being made into a saint. So I sometimes I like to say the word this way: SAINT-ified.

Check out Christ’s prayer. First He says, “I sanctify Myself,” and then He says, “that they too may be truly sanctified.” Same Greek word, but each time is slightly tweaked.

Jesus uses a “flavor” of Greek which means sanctification is something that He has done completely and totally on His own once and for all. In other words, Christians are completely and totally sanctified at the very moment they surrender their life to Him.

But when He talks about His followers, the “flavor” of Greek means sanctification is something that is an ongoing process. In other words, we are being SAINT-ified.

So which is it? Sanctified once, or sanctified through an ongoing process?

It’s not either-or. It’s both-and!

Think about a married couple. From the moment the pastor says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife” they are married. It is done; fully completed. There is nothing the bride or groom can do to become more married.

However, the groom can begin to look at the marriage through his bride’s eyes. Then he can serve her in a way that helps her feel more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment within the marriage. Neither of them becomes more married, but they can get more enjoyment within the marriage.

The same thing for Christians. At the moment we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior we are saved from the penalty of our sins. We can’t be more saved. But through the process of SANIT-ificiation we can experience more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment within our relationship with Jesus.

My paraphrase of 1 Peter 1:15-16—But just as He who called you has paid for your once-for-all saint-ification, so keep on being saint-ified in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

What about you? Are you satisfied with just being saved, or are you striving for a joy-filled, more fulfilling, increasingly satisfied relationship with Jesus Christ? It can truly be a wonderful both-and relationship!

The Promised Power Of Pentecost

As we continued our study of our foundational truths, here is a recap Pastor Craig shared from Pentecost Sunday.

When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt on the night of Passover, fifty days later they arrived at Mount Sinai where God delivered the Ten Commandments to them. This became the birth of the Jewish nation. For millennia following this, not only did the Jewish people observe Passover but they also celebrated “The Feast of Weeks” (also known as Pentecost) fifty days following Passover.

But on the first Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, something amazing happened which was a game-changer for the new Christians. An event which became the birth of the Christian nation.

On that Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit was poured out of Christ’s followers in a way never before seen in history. Although this had never been seen before, it was the fulfillment of something God had promised thousands of years before.

  1. Promised

This blessing of the Holy Spirit had been hinted at when God first called Abraham, as He promised that from Abraham would come a blessing for all peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3). Jesus said that this blessing would be realized with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then Peter tied the Day of Pentecost experience to the fulfillment of those promises (Acts 2:38-39).

  1. Commanded

Jesus had this empowerment of the Holy Spirit and He wanted all of His followers to have it too, so His directive to His follower is not a suggestion. Twice when Jesus tells His followers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the verbs He uses are commands (see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4).

  1. Normal Experience

For the first Christians, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a normal experience for them following salvation. This baptism gave them power to…

  1. Initial Evidence

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by an initial physical evidence of speaking in a language you’ve never studied. This is to be an unmistakable proof—primarily to you—of the Spirit’s outpouring. But the ongoing development of Christlike character is the continual evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

So what’s the controversy? Why do people spend so much time arguing this baptism isn’t for us, or for now? If we start down that path, what else are we going to say is outdated or exclusive for some?

Doesn’t seem much more logical to simply accept what God promised all His people?!

So here’s the question I would ask you—Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not?

Calvary Assembly of God

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