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! 

Book Reviews From 2019

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

Sovereign Love

Jesus is on His passionate journey toward the Cross. Every step on this journey is a step of love. 

After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye. 

Jesus knew this time was coming (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4), and His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers. 

After they entered the garden to pray, events began to unfold at a fast pace, ultimately culminating in Jesus being crucified. 

But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.

The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it as well.

Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.” 

Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, it has no standing army, it requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.” 

Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake, He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.

What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God. 

No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18) 

“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle 

Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB) 

Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you and I could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on us. Jesus loved us so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him. 

The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love? 

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross? 

If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love too (John 13:34-35)?

Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did there for you. 

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