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! 

Book Reviews From 2021

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I love reading, and I love sharing my love of good books with others! Here is a list of the books I read and reviewed in 2021. Click on a title to be taken to that review.

24

AC/DC

Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible

George Whitefield

Hal Moore On Leadership

His Last Bow

Holy Sexuality And The Gospel

How Christianity Changed The World

How I Got This Way

How To Bring Men To Christ

Jesus On Trial

John Adams

Miracles Out Of Somewhere

My Lucky Life

Out Of The Silent Planet

Perelandra

Pilgrim’s Progress

Prayer

Prophet With A Pen

QB

Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers

Secrets Of Dynamic Communication

Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully

Shepherd Leadership

Star Struck

Talking To GOATs

That Hideous Strength

The Art Of Writing And The Gift Of Writers

The Hidden Smile Of God

The Hiding Place

Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

To The Work!

Voice Of A Prophet

Washington’s Immortals

Word-For-Word Bible Comic: Jonah

Here are my book reviews for 2011.

Here are my book reviews for 2012.

Here are my book reviews for 2013.

Here are my book reviews for 2014.

Here are my book reviews for 2015.

Here are my book reviews for 2016.

Here are my book reviews for 2017.

Here are my book reviews for 2018.

       Here are my book reviews for 2019.

Here are my book reviews for 2020.

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Confident, Bold, and Joyful

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Zechariah pronounces more messianic prophecies than any other biblical writer, with the exception of Isaiah (and he wrote 66 chapters!). These prophecies are fulfilled in Christ’s First Advent, and promised for His Second Advent. Check these out for yourself…

(All of the biblical references for the above chart can be viewed by clicking here.) 

(All of the biblical references for the above chart can be viewed by clicking here.)

Why is it so vital that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies? 

(1) The historicity of these fulfilled prophecies gives us a confidence for the future. 

These fulfilled prophecies assure us that God is sovereign over all history. There are no accidents, and God needs no help from anyone else in fulfilling what He has promised. As a result, no world event—no matter how big it may seem—should be able to rattle us! 

(2) The authenticity of what God has done gives us boldness for today. 

When God does the miraculous, He authenticates His Word. This authenticity has always made God’s people stand out (see Genesis 41:39). It’s also why people recognized Jesus as the divine Son of God (John 3:2; 9:30-33). So we can live with the boldness to know that what God says He will do, He will do! 

(3) The exclusivity of God’s promises and fulfillment of those promises gives us joy for our testimony. 

Only Jesus could have done all of this (Luke 24:26-27, 44), so only Jesus can fulfill what is still remaining to be fulfilled! We can have supreme joy in knowing that only Jesus is our hope of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). 

It’s vital that we know this is true so that we can live confident, bold, and joyful! Our confident boldness and our bold joy both glorify God and attract seekers to Him. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series looking at the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can access all of those messages by clicking here. 

You may download a PDF version of the above charts by clicking here → Zechariah prophecies for the First Advent or here → Zechariah prophecies for the Second Advent

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God’s Signet Ring

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God foretells that He will make governor Zerubbabel “like My signet ring.” This means that Zerubbabel would have God’s supreme authority—he could speak for God. 

How could this happen? Zerubbabel couldn’t do it himself, but God sovereignly placed him in the family lines of both Joseph and Mary. This family lineage of Jesus Christ carried BOTH the covenant-fulfilling, kingly authority that traced back to Abraham AND the satan-crushing promise given to Adam’s human line. 

Jesus joined these two promises through Zerubbabel the signet ring. Jesus became God’s Ultimate Signet Ring so that now every promise is “Yes” in Him. This mens every time we pray and claim promises in God’s Word, Jesus adds His stamp of authority—His “Amen!”—to our prayers (see 2 Corionthians 1:20). 

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Sword Of God

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

Zechariah is the longest book of the minor prophets. His ministry overlaps Haggai the prophet, Ezra the priest, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. I point all of this out because we need to always keep in mind that the Bible isn’t a collection of stories. It’s a verifiable (or falsifiable) record of real people at real moments in history. Many of the stories in the Bible confirm and even amplify each other. 

Let me remind you of what we learned from our study of the minor prophet Haggai:

  1. Hear the Word 
  2. Consider the Word 
  3. Obey the Word 
  4. Stand assured, encouraged, and unmovable on God’s Word 

Aren’t you more assured of a message that has a confirmation? Like if one person gives you a compliment that you hadn’t considered before, and then later on someone else notices the same attribute. I think we are more ready to receive the word when it has a confirmation like that. 

Haggai delivered a word directed to Zerubbabel the governor, which we saw was a prophecy pointing to and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. God called Zerubbabel “My signet ring—a mark of God’s supreme authority. 

That might have been a difficult thing for Zerubbabel to accept, so Zechariah is given a confirming word two months after Haggai’s prophecy (Zechariah 4:1-9). This prophecy affirms the message given through Haggai, and also points to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. 

But then Zechariah is also given an amplifying word, as he speaks a word from God to Joshua, the other “olive tree” in his God-given vision (Zechariah 3:1-9; 6:9-13). 

Zechariah confirmed and amplified Haggai’s message. And then Jesus fulfilled both of their prophecies! We have the benefit of seeing the prophecy and fulfillment, which should build our faith in ALL of the promises in God’s Word. 

The Word of God then become the (s)word of God in our mouths and hearts!  

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would wield the sword of God, and this is the same blessing we can claim today. Jesus defeated satan’s temptations with the sword of God, and so do the saints of God today (Isaiah 49:2; Psalm 149:6; Ephesians 6:13, 17; Luke 4:1-12; Revelation 12:11). 

Because of these specific prophecies that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we can now stand assured, encouraged, unmovable, and well-armed with the same sword of God. 

There isn’t a more effective sword or shield than God’s (s)word! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series discovering the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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God’s Precision

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I love how often archeological discoveries absolutely verify biblical accounts. Haggai is a great example of this: He so precisely dates his prophecies, which are then corroborated by extra-biblical records from the Medes and Persians.  

For instance, check out these specific dates:

  • 538 BC—Cyrus issues a decree allowing the Jews to return to Israel (Isaiah 45:1-3) 
  • 537 BC—exiles return and in 536 BC they lay the foundation of the temple (Ezra 3:8)
  • 536 BC—opposition arises and the work stops (Ezra 4:1-6) 
  • 520 BC—Haggai and Zechariah arrive and begin ministering (Ezra 5:1-2; Haggai 1:1-15) 
  • 520 BC—opposition arises again and Haggai speaks a word of encouragement (Ezra 5:3-5; Haggai 2:1-9)
  • 516 BC—after receiving a favorable reply from King Darius, the temple is completed (Ezra 6:13-15)

(You can check out all of the above referenced verses by clicking here.) 

The reason these dates are so important is that they precisely align with the prophecy spoken by Jeremiah BEFORE the Israelites were even taken into exile. God said that they would return to worship in Jerusalem 70 years after their exile (Jeremiah 29:10-14; Daniel 9:1-2). Which is exactly what happened: They were taken into captivity in 586 BC, and the temple was completed in 516 BC! 

Haggai’s final prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23) has an unusual ending. It’s unusual in that it doesn’t sound like “The End” that usually ends a book of the Bible. That is precisely because it’s not the end. 

God tells Zerubbabel that he is God’s “signet ring,” a mark of God’s supreme authority. Zerubbabel was not the signet ring, but he was a forerunner—a type—of Jesus. 

So when we trace the genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament, we see that Zerubbabel appears in the family line of both Joseph and Mary—both the family line from Abraham who received God’s covenant, and the family line of Adam who heard God promise that a human offspring would crush satan’s head. 

These genealogies are as precise and exacting as the dates for the return of the exiles. God does everything exactly according to plan. He speaks His promises to us, and we can stand on those promises. Jesus is THE Signet Ring that stamps His “Amen” to every promise of God on which we stand.  

God is not vague; He is precise. He has a plan for all of history—which is His story—and He has a precise plan for your life too!  

So in building on our list from last week, let’s add one more item: 

  1. Hear the Word of God
  2. Consider the Word of God
  3. Obey the Word of God
  4. Stand assured, encouraged, and unmovable on the Word of God.

What God says He will do, He will do! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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“I Am Thirsty”

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

Jesus has just broken a 3-hour silence with His megaphone-voice cry: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Now His final three statements will follow in rather short order, beginning with, “I am thirsty.”

It might seem trivial that Jesus expressed His desire for a drink, especially since He also knew that there was no thirst-quenching water nearby. Far from being trivial, however, this was eternally important because it completed His mission. 

Before saying, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew “that all was now completed.” The Greek word for know is sometimes translated as “see” and sometimes “know.” When it’s “see” it’s always in the past tense—“saw” or “have seen.” Perhaps in His 3-hour silence, Jesus was reviewing His earthly life, looking back to see what He had accomplished. Make no mistake about it, Jesus was on-mission for all 30+ years of His life in Israel. 

But now that He has seen His life, He “knows.” This word is in the perfect tense. He’s seen it all and He knows He has accomplished all He set out to complete. As He had told His audience earlier in His life, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till ALL is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). 

In looking back on His life, Jesus saw one final thing: He needed to be given vinegar to drink just as David prophesied (Psalm 69:13-21). With that sour sip, ALL the Ts are crossed and ALL the Is are dotted! 

When John writes, “Knowing all was now completed, and so the Scripture would be fulfilled,” he uses the Greek word which means mission accomplished! 

Why did Jesus need to fulfill ALL the prophecies and complete ALL the law? Check out His earlier statement from the Amplified Bible: “For truly I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook identifying certain Hebrew letters will pass from the Law until all things it FORESHADOWS are accomplished.” 

The law was just our temporary guardian and the temple practices were just a shadow of the realities of Heaven (see Galatians 3:23-25; Hebrews 10:1-10). ALL of them were merely pointing to Jesus, so Jesus made sure ALL of them were completed. 

His “I am thirsty” statement was really His “Amen” to His completed mission. 

Jesus fulfilled every Scripture so that we could stand on every promise! 

Check this out: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

The shadows of the law were turned into the substance on which we can come boldly before the throne of God’s grace! In just three words—“I am thirsty”—Jesus completed His mission for God’s glory and for our eternal help! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying confessions of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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“Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

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

Dying declarations are powerful statements!

As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, His first dying declaration prompted such a change of heart in a hardened criminal that the criminal’s own dying declaration caused Jesus to say, “Amen!” The story is found in Luke 23:32-43.

But first, we need to ask, why were criminals crucified alongside Jesus? An obvious answer is that it fulfilled a First Testament prophecy—He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). 

How did this come about? Maybe…

  • Pilate was trying to justify his actions? 
  • the Sanhedrin had used these criminals as “evidence” that Jesus was stirring up a rebellion against the crown? 
  • a Roman centurion suggested, “Let’s kill three birds with one stone”? 

Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been very happy about this, especially since Barabbas (a fellow criminal) had just been released. They probably blamed Jesus for their awful predicament, so they naturally joined in the mockery. 

And what cruel mockery it was! 

  • the people stood watching these crucifixions and, since Luke uses the word for a sports spectator, it appears they were cheering the bloodshed they were observing
  • the Pharisees and Sadducees derided Jesus
  • the Roman soldiers continued the inhuman mockery and abuse that they had begun hours before 
  • the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus blasphemed Him 

Luke kindly records that only one criminal was hurling insults at Jesus, but Matthew and Mark make it clear that both criminals were blaspheming Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). 

It appears that one criminal, although at first a blasphemer, had a change of heart. 

Perhaps it was because He heard this Jesus, who was being so horribly mistreated, ask His Father to forgive His tormentors instead of asking for retribution. The apostle Peter says that when we follow Christ’s example in this it can actually make people become ashamed of their slander against us (1 Peter 2:23; 3:14, 16). 

Or perhaps this criminal had been in the crowd earlier that week on Monday when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God all day. If he was, he would have heard Jesus talk about the rewards for the righteous and the punishment for the wicked, and he would have heard Jesus talk about how even criminals like himself could be allowed into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 21:28-32). 

All of this was working on him until his own slander against Jesus stuck in his throat and he rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. He said, “We are guilty and deserve this death sentence. But this Man is totally innocent!” 

Then turning to Jesus, he delivers his faith-filled declaration, “LORD Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He called Him Lord, asked for a reward, and acknowledged that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this earth. This dying declaration was more faith-filled than even the disciples of Jesus could make, since all but one of them had fled in fear!

Jesus is so moved by this man’s declaration that His first word to him is Amen: “I tell you the truth [literally: Amen!], today you will be with Me in paradise. 

King David taught us that the sacrifice that God accepts is a broken heart, and the apostle Paul agrees by saying that it is the heart change and the confession of our mouth that brings our salvation (Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 10:4-11). 

My friend, Jesus has opened the way to Paradise for you by His death on the Cross. When our humbled hearts speak the truth about God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, “Amen!” and God welcomes us into His presence for ever and ever! Don’t wait another day, but cry out to Jesus today: tell Him that you are guilty, but you believe He has paid for your sins. He will then say the same word to your heart: “Amen! You will spend eternity in Paradise with Me!” 

If you would like to follow along as we look at all seven of the dying declarations Jesus made from the Cross, please click here. 

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