Creating A Peaceful Environment

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

The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime… (1 Samuel 14:52). 

Have you ever worked in a hostile environment? I was involved with one organization where all of the staff members called the weekly meeting the “staff beating” instead of the staff meeting. This was largely because the senior leader started off every meeting by asking for problems that needed to be addressed, but then he “addressed” the problem by attacking the person who shared the problem. 

I was reminded of this recently when I was scrolling through YouVersion and saw that my son had highlighted 1 Samuel 14:52 that said that Saul’s reign as king was noted for the constant fighting. I added the comment, “I don’t think the definition of peace would ever include ‘fought constantly.’ How sad that Saul’s lack of leadership would keep his people constantly in conflict.” 

Make no mistake about it: It was his poor leadership that created this environment. We often read of his jealousy of anyone else who was successful, and we see that although he had a loyal army, he kept them bottled up. 

On the other hand, consider this statement about the reign of king Asa: “In his days the land was quiet for ten years. … He had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest” (2 Chronicles 14:1, 6). This peace and quiet and rest is directly tied to Asa’s obedience to God’s laws. 

A mark of a godly leader is one whose obedience to God fosters an environment of peace for his people. 

This is part 62 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. And I would also encourage you to check out my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, where I outline in more detail the characteristics of godly leadership. 

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The Key To God’s Treasure

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

…the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure (Isaiah 33:6). 

What treasure is Isaiah referring to? There is an amazing list of blessings in this chapter! Things like…

  • God’s graciousness 
  • God’s strength
  • Salvation
  • God’s justice
  • God’s righteousness
  • A sure foundation
  • “A rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge” 
  • Eternally secure in God’s presence
  • Seeing God’s beauty 
  • Having evil people removed from my life 
  • Peace 

How do I get the key to this treasure? By placing my faith in Jesus. Jesus paid the price, so He could take the key from the devil and hold it securely. When I am in Him, I have access to this key to God’s riches! 

With all of this treasure accessible to me, how do I now live? In a word: Nobly. “But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand” (Isaiah 32:8). I am a child of God, a joint-heir with Jesus. I lack no good thing, so I can live securely, gracefully, and nobly. I must live this way to bring glory to my Lord and my Master every single day! 

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Panic From Puniness

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

All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent (Isaiah 28:29). 

Throughout the Scripture, God always makes clear the two options we have: Our way or His way. 

Man’s way is described like this: “For it is: do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that, a little here, a little there” (v. 10). In other words, man says, “We’ve got this all figured out. We have a plan for everything.” 

Until they don’t. 

Until the world is not going according to plan, and worldwide panic sets in, and a new plan needs to be formulated. In the meantime, people are fearful, angry, confused, and panicking. 

God describes His way like this: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic” (v. 16). 

God has had a plan in place since before time began. Nothing disrupts His plan. Nothing derails His plan. So the one who trusts in Him “will never be stricken with panic.” 

So here’s the decision everyone will have to make: Will I trust the puny plans of a finite human, and experience the panic that sets in when those plans fail? Or will I put my trust in the only One whose plans are never thwarted? One plan leads to panic, and the other leads to peace. 

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Links & Quotes

One of the last pictures I took with my Mom ♥

“Love of the Word appears preeminently in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He read it publicly. He quoted it continually. He expounded it frequently. He advised the Jews to search it. He used it as His weapon to resist the devil. He repeatedly said, ‘The Scripture must be fulfilled.’ Almost the last thing He did was to ‘open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:45). I am afraid that man cannot be a true servant of Christ, who has not something of his Master’s mind and feeling towards the Bible.” —J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading 

“The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. …The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach.” —E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer 

I have blogged several thoughts about the historicity of the Bible. Here’s a post on Breakpoint about yet another archeological discovery that once again vindicates the Bible’s trustworthiness.

“Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture. … The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well. … The devil … the world … and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent.” —Martin Luther

Looking at God’s awesomeness brings a peace that nothing else can.

A very thought-provoking Q&A with Sean McDowell and Dr. Stephen Meyer: Does Science Point to God?

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Beautiful Homegoing

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Beautiful Homegoing

You shall come to the grave at full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season. (Job 5:26) 

     The Christian’s death is always timely. ‘You shall come to the grave at full age. 

     ‘Ah,’ says one, ‘that is not true. Good people do not live longer than others. The most pious man may die in the prime of his youth.’ But look at my text. It does not say you will come to your grave in old age, but in a ‘full age.’ … All fruits do not get ripe and mellow at the same season. So it is with Christians. They are at a ‘full age’ when God chooses to take them home. … 

     There are two mercies to a Christian. The first is that he will never die too soon. And the second is that he will never die too late. … 

     ‘But,’ say some, ‘how useful might they have been had they lived.’ Ah, but how damaging they might have been! And were it not better to die than to do something afterward that would disgrace them and bring disgrace to the Christian character? Were it not better for them to sleep while their work was going on than to break it down afterward? … 

     Again, the Christian never dies too late. … God is too good a Husbandman to leave His wheat in the field too long and let it shale out. …  

     Now the last thing is that a Christian will die with honor. … I think there are two funerals for every Christian: one is the funeral of the body, and the other of the soul. Funeral, did I say, of the soul? No, I meant not so. I meant not so. It is a marriage of the soul. For as soon as it leaves the body, the angel reapers stand ready to carry it away. They may not bring a fiery chariot as they had for Elijah. But they have their broad spreading wings. I rejoice to believe that angels will come as convoys to the soul across the ethereal plains. … I think the most honorable and glorious thing we will ever behold, next to Christ’s entrance into heaven and His glory there, is the entrance of one of God’s people into heaven.

From The Death Of The Christian

As I mentioned last week, this sermon was so providential in its timing for me because my precious mother went Home to be with Jesus just days before I opened to this sermon from Charles Spurgeon. 

We are comforted by the promises Rev. Spurgeon shares because they are based on the truth in God’s Word. “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Isaiah 57:1-2). 

At my Mom’s graveside committal service I shared this—

One of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis made a comment, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” 

This part that we called Claudia Owens was just the body that carried around who she really was. What a beautiful soul that we got to experience for 78 years. What shined through was so sweet and graceful and wonderful. What a glimpse we got! But a joy to know that it was only a glimpse. That the part of my Mom that was so beautiful that we got to see, was only a fraction of her full beauty! The part that was really her, that is at Home with her Savior Jesus now is shining in all its brilliance. … 

We will all miss her and we will grieve our loss. But as the apostle Paul reminded us, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. We know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We know that this body is sown perishable ravaged by the disease of cancer, but that my Mom is now in a place with no more tears or disease. We know that the same Savior that prepared a place for Claudia has prepared a place for us.

And we concluded with this prayer that can be offered up for every Christian who has died at their “full age”: 

Heavenly Father, 

We commit this body to the ground with the full assurance that her soul is in your everlasting presence. Holy Spirit, help us in our grief to be reminded of the hope of eternal life that we all share. Thank You, Jesus, for purchasing this hope on which we stand.

As I mentioned last week, if you don’t have this blessed assurance of the marriage of your soul when you take your last breath here on earth, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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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—The Death Of The Christian

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Death Of The Christian

You shall come to the grave at full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season. (Job 5:26) 

     Let me tell you a parable. Behold, two men sat together in the same house when Death came to each of them. He said to one, ‘You will die.’ 

     That man looked at him. Tears suffused his eyes, and tremblingly he said, ‘O Death, I cannot! I will not die.’ He sought out a physician and said to him, ‘I am sick, for death has looked upon me. His eyes have paled my cheeks, and I fear I must depart. Physician, there is my wealth. Give me health and let me live.’ The physician took his wealth but gave him not his health with all his skill. The man changed his physician, tried another, and thought that perhaps he might spin out the thread of life a little longer.

     But alas! Death came and said, ‘I have given you time to try your varied excuses. Come with me. You will die.’ And he bound him hand and foot and made him go to that dark land of Hades. As the man went, he clutched at every side post by the way, but Death, with iron hands, still pulled him on. … He did not come to his grave, but death fetched him to it; the grave came to him.

     But death said to the other man, ‘I am come for you.’ 

     He smilingly replied, ‘Ah, Death! I know you; I have seen you many a time. I have held communion with you. You are my Master’s servant. You have come to fetch me home. Go and tell my Master I am ready, whenever He pleases. Death, I am ready to go with you.’ And together they went along the road and held sweet company.

     Death said to him, ‘I have worn these skeleton bones to frighten wicked men. But I am not frightful. I will let you see myself. The hand that wrote upon Belshazzar’s wall was terrible because no man saw anything but the hand. But,’ said Death, ‘I will show you my whole body. Men have only seen my bony hand and have been terrified.’ 

     And as they went along, Death ungirded himself to let the Christian see his body, and he smiled, for it was the body of an angel. He had wings of cherubs and a body glorious as Gabriel. The Christian said to him, ‘You are not what I thought you were. I will cheerfully go with you.’ At last Death touched the believer with his hand. … So did Death put his finger on the man’s pulse and stopped it for a moment, and the Christian found himself by Death’s kind finger changed into a spirit. Yes, found himself brother to the angels. His body had been etherealized, his soul purified, and he himself was in heaven.

From The Death Of The Christian

I love God’s timing. In my ongoing series looking at the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, I simply turned the page to the next sermon for this week, and this parable was especially timed for me because my Mom just passed away on December 26. 

What a godly woman she was! 

What a thrill it is to know that Death did not take her to her grave, but that she came to her grave at full age, fully ripened in God’s timing. Our family is at peace because we know that my Mom is now at Home with her Savior Jesus—the home she has been longing for! 

Our family loves the promise in 1 Thessalonians: And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve because we will miss her, but we have such an unshakable hope of her eternal home! Paul goes on to tell us that we should “encourage each other with these words” (v. 18). 

So let me encourage you, my friend, with this question: Will Death have to take you to the grave, or will you come willingly with him? If you have your sins forgiven because you have placed your faith in the sin-forgiving work Jesus Christ did upon His Cross, then Death will have no fear for you. If you are uncertain or fearful, don’t lose another moment! Pray to God: admit you are a sinner who is helplessly trapped in your sin, believe that Jesus paid the full penalty for your sin, and then ask God to forgive your sins because of your faith in Jesus. The moment you do that, you will be completely forgiven and the fear of Death will be removed. 

If you have any questions about this, please get in touch with me.

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Quieting The Storms

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

“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” —Anxiety & Depression Association of America 

A multitude of factors go into someone’s anxiety: genetics, temperament, brain chemistry, life experiences. In addition to those factors, we have to keep in mind that humans are a three-part being—with a body, mind, and spirit—and a disease in one area does affect the other two areas. 

All of this means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety. But there is one Healer: 

  • He may supernaturally heal your body, mind, or spirit 
  • He may direct you to a medical doctor, a mental health professional, or a spiritual counselor 
  • But always, He will walk through the challenges with you, strengthening you, and preparing you to minister to others going through a similar struggle (Psalm 23:1-6; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 

David wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). Notice that he said “when” not “if.” David knows what you probably know too: we can be easily consumed by our anxiety, doubts, and fears. But David also knows (and I hope you do too) that at those moments, we can go to God as our trustworthy First Source. 

One of the dictionary definitions of anxiety is a feeling of disquiet. All of the conflicting thoughts make it hard to concentrate, the abundance of noise makes it difficult to talk to yourself, let alone talk to God. 

I’d like you to consider another psalmist’s words. Look at the first half of Psalm 94:19—

  • When anxiety was great within me… (NIV) 
  • In the multitude of my anxious thoughts… (AMP)
  • When doubts filled my mind… (NLT) 

The setting of this psalm is one of lots of disquieting voices: a desire to see the wrongdoers punished, listening to arrogant words, getting fed up with boasting words, seeing good people being trampled, hearing foolish words uttered about God (vv. 1-8). 

Experiencing anxiety is not sinful, but I do think that we grieve God’s heart when we immediately run to other sources for relief instead of going to our loving Heavenly Father first. After dealing with the disquiet in the opening verses of Psalm 94, the psalmist says, “My anxiety level was sky high!” But then notice how that verse concludes—

  • Your consolation brought me joy (NIV) 
  • Your comforts cheer and and delight my soul (AMP)
  • Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer (NLT)

Jesus told us about our Comforter who would always be with us (John 14:1, 16-17). A little further on in these same remarks Jesus also said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV). 

I like that phrase, “Be of good cheer.” That phrase is just one word in Greek, and sometimes it’s translated “be of good courage.” In every single instance, it’s only used by Jesus and it’s only used when He comes close to anxious people (Matthew 9:2, 9:22, 14:27; Mark 6:50, 10:49; Luke 8:48; John 16:33; Acts 23:11). 

A furious squall battered the boat, almost swamping it. The disciples were—to say the least—disquieted! In their anxious state they notice Jesus peacefully sleeping. They wake Him up with, “Don’t You care that we’re drowning?!” Jesus stands up and says to the storm, “Quiet. Be still.” 

Recall that one of the descriptions of anxiety was being disquieted. That prefix dis- means to be separated: our anxiety would seek to distance us from God’s presence, to make us feel like His help is too far away. But when we go to Jesus, He alone can say, “Quiet” to our disquieting thoughts. He can remove the “dis-” and bring us close to Him. Only His peace can X-out the noise of the storm and bring you to a place of quiet rest. 

After Jesus said, “Quiet. Be still,” notice this: “THEN the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39). And the great thing is this: Even if another storm begins disquieting us just a few minutes after the calm, we can go to Him again. There is no limit: We can continually go to the Eternal Source of peace, to the only One who can speak, “Quiet” to our anxious thoughts. 

Please follow along with us as we learn more about X-ing out our anxieties. 

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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. Please join me either in-person or online at Calvary Assembly of God.

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

Known And Unknown Threats

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

I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me (Psalm 120:1). 

What power and love is packed into this short verse! “I call…He answers.” There’s nothing else I need to do—just called to my God. There is no delay or deliberation on His part—He answers me. 

Distress” comes from the root word that can mean a tight spot, or it can mean a hard pebble. The distress we face may be a full frontal assault or it may be a nagging, almost indefinable, annoyance. Since Psalm 120 is a Psalm of Ascent, whatever the distress is, the psalmist feels like it is keeping him from going up into God’s presence. He lists three known distresses: 

  1. Deceit—people around him were lying or distorting the truth. 
  2. Separation—he wants to ascend into God’s presence but feels held back by those among whom he lives. 
  3. Turmoil—he’s looking for peace, but everyone around him wants to stir up trouble and controversy. 

What about those annoying, hard-to-identify distresses? In the next Psalm of Ascent the call is for us to trust God and to not worry. But in this psalm, there’s no calling to God for help because no specific threats have been identified. Still we learn that our Heavenly Father, who does not slumber, perpetually watches over us. Our Father knows our needs before we can even perceive them, and He is fully prepared to handle them. 

So we are promised: 

  • I can sleep securely
  • I can travel safely
  • I can work each day confidently
  • I can pass through the night unharmed
  • I can move around without having to look around
  • The LORD will watch over my coming and going both today and forevermore! 

Father, may any distresses I experience today send me ascending into Your presence. Whether I know what the threats are or not, I know that You are watching over me and will answer me whenever I call to You. I thank You for this confidence that I have both today and forevermore! 

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