The Gift Unmistakably Seen

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Crucifixion Events

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The death of Jesus may be the most attested execution in all of history. It’s certainly the most meaningful execution, as the death of Jesus brought a fulfillment to prophecy that was made in the immediate aftermath of humanity’s first sin. 

I have frequently written about the historicity of the Bible. The crucifixion of Jesus is not a “once upon a time” or “in the make-believe land of Israel” story, but an actual event, which involved actual people, at an actual moment in history. Even the way the four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus attests to the historicity of this event.

Check out this chart of the events that show how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record this historical moment. 

When did this moment in history occur? Consider this scholarly insight from The Archeological Study Bible

“In what year was Jesus born, and when was He crucified? These are long-standing historical questions. The seemingly obvious answer to the first—that He was born in A.D. 1 (there is no year 0)—is incorrect, however, since the calculations on which our modern calendar is based were faulty. …

“The chronology of Jesus’ life, though clear in outline, cannot be fixed with absolute precision. Matthew and Luke both inform us that Jesus was born before the death of Herod (4 B.C.), though it would appear that His birth occurred toward the final years of Herod’s reign, suggesting an approximate date of 6-4 B.C. The next chronological marker comes from Luke 3:1, where we learn that John the Baptist’s ministry began during the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius. Since A.D. 14 is the generally accepted date for Tiberius’ accession to the throne, John’s ministry would have commenced between August A.D. 28 and December of 29. Jesus began His own ministry shortly after John had embarked on his, at some point in A.D. 28 or 29, making Jesus about 32 or 33 years old at the time. This fits well with Luke’s statement that Jesus was ‘about 30 years old’ (Luke 3:23).

“The duration of Jesus’ public ministry was approximately three years. While the exact chronology of this period is difficult to ascertain, the final phase of His ministry allows for closer scrutiny. It is clear that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea from A.D. 26-36. …

“Taking Friday, Nisan 14, as the day of the crucifixion, astronomical data informs us that the only years from A.D. 29-36 that could have seen Nisan 14 on a Friday are A.D. 30, 33 and 36. A.D. 36 is easily dismissed as too late, while A.D. 30 seems too early (although some who begin Jesus’ ministry in A.D. 28 and shorten His public ministry find it acceptable). This leaves A.D. 33 as the most likely date for the year of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” 

As you celebrate the victory over sin and death that Jesus won by His sacrificial death on the Cross, rejoice also that this is an actual historical event that bought your freedom from your sin. It is indeed miraculous, but it is also historic. Let’s never lose sight of either of those facets. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Christmas Unwrapped At Easter

Remember as a kid when you would unwrap a gift and discover it wasn’t something you really wanted, but then your parents explained that it was something you needed? The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was a little like that—it wasn’t exactly what people were hoping for, but it was exactly what they needed. 

The real meaning of that Christmas gift wasn’t realized until after Jesus was crucified and resurrected back to life. 

Join us this Sunday as we begin a 4-part series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter. We would love to have you join us either in person or online for this eye-opening time together. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can check them out here:

Year-End Review (2021 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. And nor just teaching, but reminding folks of whatwe have learned too. The apostles Peter and Paul both saw the value in this as well.

So here are all of the sermon series that I shared in 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 minor messages 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, I would love to have you join us! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Such Love!

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Such Love!

     Our Savior so loved us that He stripped Himself of His robes of radiance. Listen, you children of God, it is the old story over again, but it is always new to you. He stripped Himself of His bright array. He laid aside His scepter and His crown and became an infant in Bethlehem’s manger among the horned oxen. Thirty years of poverty and shame the King of heaven spent among the sons of men, and all out of love to us. Jesus the heavenly lover, panting to redeem His people, was content to abide here without a place to rest His head that He might rescue us!

     Do you see Him yonder in the garden in His agony? His soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death! His forehead, no, His head, His hair, and His garments are red with bloody sweat. Do you see Him giving His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them who pluck off His hair? See Him, as He hides not His face from shame and spitting, dumb like a sheep before her shearers and like a lamb that is brought to the slaughter! He opened not His mouth but patiently bore it all on our behalf. See Him with the Cross upon His mangled shoulders, staggering through Jerusalem’s streets, unwept for and unpitied, except by poor feeble women! 

     See Him, you who love Him, and love Him more as He stretches out His hands to the nails and gives His feet to the iron. See Him, as with power to deliver Himself He is made captive. Behold Him as they lift up the Cross with Him upon it and dash it down into its place and dislocate His bones. Hear that cry, ‘I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint’ (Psalm 22:14). Stand, if you can, and view that face so full of grief. Look till a sword will go through your own heart as it went through His mother’s very soul. Oh, see Him as He thirsts and has that thirst mocked with vinegar! 

     Hear Him as He prays and has that prayer parodied, ‘Look, He is calling for Elijah! … Let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down’ (Mark 15:35-36). See Him as they who love Him come and kiss His feet and bathe them with their tears. Will you not love Him who did all that friend could do for a friend? He who gave His life for us?

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

My friend, if you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, I ask that you would consider this amazing act of love all for you. Jesus went through all of this for you! Won’t you accept His love and invite Him into your heart today? 

If you do have a personal relationship with Jesus, look again at your Beloved Savior. Let this love rekindle your heart to share Christ’s love with everyone around you.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

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. 

Join us this Sunday as we learn the invaluable lessons from the confessions of a dying Man. I would love to have you join us in person or on Facebook. 

Here are the confessions of Jesus we have already discussed:

Poetry Saturday—How Few Receive With Cordial Faith

How few receive with cordial faith
the tidings which we bring?
How few have seen the arm revealed
of heav’n’s eternal King?

The Saviour comes! no outward pomp
bespeaks His presence nigh;
No earthly beauty shines in Him
to draw the carnal eye.

Fair as a beauteous tender flow’r
amidst the desert grows,
So slighted by a rebel race
the heav’nly Saviour rose.

Rejected and despised of men,
behold a Man of woe!
Grief was His close companion still
through all His life below.

Yet all the griefs He felt were ours,
ours were the woes He bore:
Pangs, not His own, His spotless soul
with bitter anguish tore.

We held Him as condemned by Heav’n,
an outcast from His God,
While for our sins He groaned, He bled,
beneath His Father’s rod.

His sacred blood hath washed our souls
from sin’s polluted stain;
His stripes have healed us, and His death
revived our souls again.

We all, like sheep, had gone astray
in ruin’s fatal road:
On Him were our transgressions laid;
He bore the mighty load.

Wronged and oppressed how meekly He
in patient silence stood!
Mute, as the peaceful harmless lamb,
when brought to shed its blood.

Who can His generation tell?
from prison see Him led!
With impious show of law condemned,
and numbered with the dead.

’Midst sinners low in dust He lay;
the rich a grave supplied:
Unspotted was His blameless life;
unstained by sin He died.

Yet God shall raise His head on high,
though thus He brought Him low;
His sacred off’ring, when complete,
shall terminate His woe.

For, saith the Lord, My pleasure then
shall prosper in His hand;
His shall a num’rous offspring be,
and still His honours stand. 

His soul, rejoicing, shall behold
the purchase of His pain;
And all the guilty whom He saved
shall bless Messiah’s reign.

He with the great shall share the spoil,
and baffle all His foes;
Though ranked with sinners, here He fell,
a conqueror He rose.

He died to bear the guilt of men,
that sin might be forgiv’n:
He lives to bless them and defend,
and plead their cause in heav’n. —William Robertson

[Reblog] What’s So Good About Good Friday?

I posted this 10 years ago on Good Friday.

Good Friday? Good for whom?

For you and me? Yes.

Good for Jesus, no. It was Bad Friday for Him, wasn’t it?

Or was it?

The writer of Hebrews says, “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross, scorning its shame.

What joy?

It was for the joy of what was nailed to the Cross.

So what exactly was nailed to the Cross?

Isaiah records an unusual statement from God—

Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

That seems unfair! We receive double(!) for our sins! Here’s a 2-minute video where I explain what this means culturally—

Only when invoices were paid-in-full did they get doubled-up.

The Bible tells us that we’ve all sinned, and that the invoice or penalty for our sin is death. We have the IOUs of sin nailed to the door of our heart where God says “You owe Me your life!” But we cannot pay this debt by ourselves.

But Jesus can. And Jesus did! Check this out—

He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross…. (1 Peter 2:24 NLT)

Having canceled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His Cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP)

That’s what is good about Good Friday. Jesus knew that taking our sins on His body, and then allowing His body to be nailed to the Cross, would double-up and nail-down our sin once and for all!

When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was really saying, “It is paid-in-full!”

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Why Did Jesus Suffer?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Why Did Jesus Suffer?

     Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it. If you cannot always understand how this or that grief worked toward the great end of the whole passion, yet believe that it has its share in the grand why. Make a life-study of that bitter but blessed question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     Why, then, did God forsake His Son? I cannot conceive any other answer than this: He stood in our place. There was no reason in Christ why the Father should forsake Him—He was perfect and His life was without spot. God never acts without reason, and since there were no reasons in the character and person of the Lord Jesus why His Father should forsake Him, we must look elsewhere. … 

     He bore the sinner’s sin and He had to be treated, therefore, as though He were a sinner, the sinner He could never be! With His own full consent He suffered as though He had committed the transgressions that were laid on Him. Our sin and His taking it upon Himself are the answer to the question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     So long as the smile of God rests on the man, the law is not afflicting him. The approving look of the great judge cannot fall upon a man who is viewed as standing in the place of the guilty. Christ suffered not only from sin, but for sin. If God will cheer and sustain Him, He is not suffering for sin. The judge is not inflicting suffering for sin if He is manifestly encouraging the smitten one. There could have been no vicarious suffering on the part of Christ for human guilt if He had continued, consciously, to enjoy the full sunshine of the Father’s presence. It was essential to being a victim in our place that He should cry, ‘My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?’ … 

     Beloved, see how marvelously, in the person of Christ, the Lord our God has vindicated His law!

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

The great apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about his singular focus—When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) 

“Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it,” Spurgeon said. 

That earth-quaking, darkness-inducing, temple-rattling, soul-piercing cry of Jesus—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?—could only have been uttered by someone perfect. I know plenty of reasons why God could have forsaken me, but Jesus knew only a single reason. 

Jesus did not suffer because of something He had done wrong, but because of all I had done wrong.

That Cross was stained with His blood for my sin. 

Because He was forsaken, I am now accepted in the Beloved Jesus (Ephesians 1:6-7). Think much on this: Jesus was crucified for you and me SO THAT we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of our sin. Justice was satisfied. Now, by faith in His sacrifice on the Cross, we can come to God not only with our sins forgiven, but we can be accepted by Him as His children. 

My friend, think much on this. Resolve to know the unspeakable value of Christ crucified for you. And then rejoice greatly that you are accepted in the Beloved. If you would like to know more, please contact me.

Year-End Review (2019 edition)

Ten years ago God called me to pastor at Calvary Assembly of God, and we have so thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cedar Springs! One of the really cool things I get to do is teach an amazing group of people every Sunday. Here’s a recap of the series and messages from 2019.

Boldly Praying—As a general rule, God would like us to pray much more boldly than we typically do. Jesus told us that we could pray mountain-moving prayers, but C.S. Lewis rightly observed, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” 

Christ’s Passionate Journey—In action movies, the crucial moment usually is filmed in slow motion. The Gospels do the same as Jesus approaches the Cross. For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1000 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! 

Is That In The Bible?—Sometimes things that sound “biblical” aren’t actually in the Bible at all, and sometimes they are there but are misquoted. 

Selah—When you see this word in the Bible it can mean either a pause from the noise to reflect on something, a preparation for an exciting accent, or a reflective time of consideration. We are working our way through the Selahs in the Psalms.

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—The five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of these prophets writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power!  

Fading Gratitude—Looking back at the history of God’s people in the Bible, there is a distinct up-and-down cycle. I believe their slipping away from God can be directly linked to their forgetfulness. If there is a peril in our forgetfulness, there is also a power in our thankfulness!

The Carols Of Christmas—How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2020, 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, I would love to have you join us! 

%d bloggers like this: