Year-End Review (2022 Edition)

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

The apostle Peter said he wrote two letters to the church “as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1). And Paul reminded his young friend Timothy to “keep reminding [your congregation] of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14). 

In the spirit of those great apostles, I have made it a practice to take time at the end of each year to look back on all that we have learned in the previous year, and then to look forward to where God may be leading Calvary Assembly of God in this upcoming year.

Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Awesome—Jesus told us that we could pray in His name and expect amazing things (see John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24). This does not mean that simply adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name, Amen” to the end of a prayer unlocks a secret code. Rather, it means that the more we understand just how awesome our Savior is, and that He is the Key to God’s storeroom, the more we will being to align our prayers with the will of God. Jesus desires for His Father’s glory to be seen on earth through the answers to our prayers. The writer of Hebrews opens his letter by reminding us that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Is That In The Bible? (part 1 and part 2)—A meme that makes me chuckle every time I see it is a “quote” attributed to Abraham Lincoln in which he says, “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.” (Not to spoil the joke for you, but unless Lincoln knew how to time travel to the future, I don’t think he knew about the modern internet! 😂). I love this meme because it captures something that so many people fall into: a quick acceptance of a statement without verifying its source or thinking through the implications of the statement’s truthfulness. I think you may be surprised to discover just how many phrases we call biblical aren’t, and how many phrases there are that we never realized are actually in the Bible.

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.

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. 

Craving—Doesn’t it seem like far too many Christians think of their relationship with Jesus as bland? After all, we’ve been told that any cravings we have should be quickly downplayed so that they don’t carry “good Christians” away. But what we discover in the Bible is that God made us to be craving creatures—He wants us to long deeply and find ultimate satisfaction for those longings. In short, God created us to long after the things that only He can fulfill. As we dive into this new series, I think you will find it quite eye-opening and heart-lifting. 

The Great Attitude Of Gratitude—There’s something about gratitude that distinguishes people. Think about it: would you rather hang around with grumblers or grateful people? The gratitude of Paul and Silas certainly made them stand out from the crowd when they were in Philippi. Wrongly accused, beaten, and thrown in prison, but instead of bellyaching, they were praising God. Later on, when Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Philippi, the theme of gratefulness permeates his letter. The distinguishing mark is actually in the title: The GReat ATTITUDE spells out GRATITUDE!

Bethlehem Is Proof—The prophet Micah foretells that the Messiah will arrive in dark times. Enemies will surround Israel, and Israel’s ruler will receive a nasty punch to the jaw. Demonic strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry will appear to be gaining the upper hand. And then Micah turns his attention to a small village just south of Jerusalem—a village so small that it is often overlooked—a village from which no one would expect Israel’s Deliverer. And yet, Micah writes, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Jesus the Deliverer was born in the little town of Bethlehem, and His birth there 700 years after Micah foretold it is our proof that God always gets the last word, the decisive word, and the best word!

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2023, and we’ll be launching some brand-new ones as well. If you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

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

Links & Quotes

In reading Matthew 12:38-40 I notice something important about how Jesus answered a request. Be careful of quarreling with those skeptical of Christianity. When it gets to point that they aren’t looking for evidence to believe but another point to argue, do what Jesus did: point them to the empty tomb! 

Some skeptics of the Bible want to make the argument that the Gospels were written at a much later date, thus they aren’t as accurate. Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace addresses that topic in this video. 

The Gift At Work In Us

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

Last week I said, “You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do.” 

That “IF” is a big one. 

I’ll be the first one to admit that I struggle with consistency in this! But before we all get frustrated, throw up our hands and say, “This is so hard! Why even try?” I’ve got a word of encouragement for you: God’s Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected. 

In order to explain this, I need to go back in time. In fact, I need to go all the way back to when Time began. The opening words of the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God the Father, the Nicene Creed says, is “the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

But God the Son is involved in Creation, as is God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:2). Again, the Nicene Creed quotes John 1 about Jesus, “Through Him all things were made,” and the Creed also says the Holy Spirit is “the Giver of life.” 

So the Father created everything through His Word and by His Spirit. 

All of the Godhead is also involved in our salvation too. The Father loved us and gave us His Son. Jesus paid the price for our atonement and justified us with the Father. And the Holy Spirit draws us to the Father through the Son as He sanctifies us. 

The reason I said the Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected is because when Jesus said, “It is finished,” nothing was left to be done: it is a perfect Gift, fully paid for. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. … [But] by one sacrifice He [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:1, 14). 

Do you see those verb tenses? Jesus made our atonement perfect, but we are now being made holy by the Holy Spirit. 

The process of sanctification (or as I like to remember it: “saint-ification”) isn’t a one-and-done work. It’s an ongoing work. The Father wants us to remain IN Jesus and bear fruit, so the Holy Spirit remains IN us to bring out that fruitfulness (see John 14:16-17, 20; John 15:1-7). 

This is often an uncomfortable work. 

When I serve as a coach or a consultant, I tell people up front, “There is going to be a time that you won’t like me very much because I’m going to keep uncovering things that you’ve overlooked. It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement. But if you will stick with me, I promise you that there will be a noticeable improvement on the other side of this uncomfortableness.” 

God disciplines those He loves. He wants His Son’s Gift to be seen by the world, so the Spirit must keep saint-ifying us. He will continue to hover over us, never letting us get complacent, vivifying us so that more and more of Jesus is increasingly seen in our lives. 

It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement! 

So don’t lose heart. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t let satan turn the Holy Spirit’s conviction into his condemnation. 

Instead, listen to this prayer from the apostle Paul and make it your own prayer—

For this reason we…have not ceased to pray and make special request for you, asking that you may be filled with the full, deep, and clear knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom—in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God, and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things. 

That you may walk, live, and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition.

We pray that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance, and forbearance with joy, giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints—God’s holy people—in the Light. (Colossians 1:9-12 AMP) 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s gift to the world in everything you say and do. The Gift in you has already been made perfect, and now the Holy Spirit is going to help you demonstrate this Gift more perfectly. Your fruitfulness is being made holy through His loving work in you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of the messages here. 

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

The Gift Preached To The World

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

Ever since Resurrection Day, we can continually celebrate the greatest Gift ever—the death and resurrection of Jesus! 

After making His bodily resurrection abundantly clear, Jesus ascended back to heaven. And now we await His second advent. But here’s an important question: If Jesus ascended back into heaven, where is our Gift now? Quite simply: If you have invited Jesus into your heart, YOU are the gift! 

Remember on Good Friday I talked about what Jesus perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished!” It was an inside job. He came to change us at our core—we have been brought into at-onement with God and we stand in His presence just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. 

But there is one more step, an ongoing process called sanctification or as I like to say it, “saint-ification.” 

Even as we are in this process, Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to Go…preach (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). That means “as you are going” or “wherever you go” tell everyone the good news of the greatest Gift ever. 

Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be effective at this preaching (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Notice that in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will BE My witnesses,” not you will do witnessing. The Holy Spirit empowers us to BE God’s gift to the world, and to use Christ’s authority properly. 

The apostle Paul echos this. He tells us how everyone can receive the Gift of Jesus. Paul then notes that people hear about this Gift because those who have received the Gift are preaching to them (Romans 10:8-15). 

We are all preachers or proclaimers of the Greatest Gift. Don’t confuse preaching with being a pastor. Preaching is a lifestyle for all Christians, whereas pastoring is an office that only some Christians are called to. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.” 

Here are three things that I think preach unmistakably. 

(1) Loving, practical service to those in need (John 13:34-35; Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus said it pretty simply: If someone is hungry, give them something to eat. This practical love is an unmistakable sermon. 

(2) Loving, practical service to those you dislike—or who dislike you (Luke 6:27-36) 

Anyone can do loving things for people they like, but when you bless people who are mean to you, another unmistakable sermon is being preached. 

(3) Jesus-exalting fruitfulness (Galatians 5:19-25) 

Paul contrasts the fruit of those who haven’t invited Jesus into their hearts with those who have. Our fruits of kindness in an unkind world, or self-control in a hedonistic world also preach an unmistakable sermon. 

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

If the Gift of Jesus is in you, then your life IS the sermon. Preach it well! 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find all of them listed here. 

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

The Gift Paid For

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

On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the greatest Gift ever—Jesus our Savior conquered sin and death!  

I don’t know about you, but many times when I’m given a gift, I feel like I need to give a gift back to the giver. I want this gift to seem appropriate for the gift I was given so that the other person knows that I really appreciated their thoughtfulness. But there is a danger if we try to do this with God’s Gift to us.  

One of the psalmists wondered how to repay God. After praising God for the salvation He worked, the psalmist asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:1-6, 12). 

As I said, not only is there a danger in trying to give God a gift that somehow reciprocates what He’s given to us, but how do you give a gift to the One who needs nothing (see Acts 17:25; Psalm 50:9-12)? 

Let me try to explain it this way. What if a rich friend gave me a house, all its furnishings, and all its food? He said, “I want to provide this place for you to live and not concern yourself with your housing or food needs. The house has no mortgage, I will pay for the utilities, and I will keep your kitchen stocked with food.” 

I would, of course, exclaim, “Wow! Thank you!” But what if I then began to make monthly mortgage payments, or started leaving money in the cupboard to pay for the groceries? Wouldn’t I really be saying to my friend, “I’m not sure you can afford this.” Or maybe even, “Let me give you something so you won’t think me ungrateful and then end up taking back your gift.” 

In my attempt to give back to my generous friend, I’m really questioning his resources that will allow this gift to continue or his motivation for blessing me. 

The psalmist in Psalm 116 gives us two ways we can express our gratitude to God for His Gift of Jesus (Psalm 116:13-14).  

  1. I will lift up my cup of salvation. This isn’t lifting up a cup to say, “Cheers,” but lifting it up for a continual refilling because He is the only Source that can refill it. 
  2. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord. One picture of our relationship with Jesus is a marriage, where Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. At almost any wedding you may attend, the bride and groom make vows to each other that essentially say, “I only have eyes for you. My heart is only longing for you. I’m devoted to you forever, no matter what!” 

In my Good Friday message, I said that Jesus IS the perfect Gift. When He said, “It is finished,” He left nothing undone. 

For me to then say, “Thank you for that Gift. Now I must do _____,” is to really say, “I don’t think the Gift was perfect. There are still some things needed to complete it.” 

Or it might be fear speaking that says, “If I don’t give something back, You may withdraw Your Gift from me!” 

I think these stem from two misconceptions: 

Misconception #1: “God does loving things.” Truth #1: Yes He does, but more than that God IS love.

God is love. He could never love you more than He already does, so stop trying to earn His love. And He could never love you less than He already does, so stop worrying. 

Misconception #2: “God supplies my needs.” Truth #2: Yes He does, but more than that God IS provision. 

God is provision. He never runs low. He is never dependent on someone else. He is never short-changed. He knows exactly what you need, and He can perfectly provide for you each and every moment. 

Don’t try to repay God for sending His Son Jesus, but celebrate God’s Perfect Gift by continuing to let Him fill your cup of salvation, honoring your vows to Him, and living securely and joyfully in His love and provision. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of those messages here. 

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

Links & Quotes

How would you respond to someone who asked, “Why would God punish Jesus for what I did?” Here’s a thoughtful reply from cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace.

“It were a good strife amongst Christians, one to labor to give no offense, and the other to labor to take none. The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others.” —Richard Sibbes

What can archeology tell us about the place where Pilate sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion?

Doug Clay shares some thoughts on what the resurrection of Jesus means for us today.

Wow, check out this photo from the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the most distant star yet photographed.

Celebrating my Dad’s 90th birthday!

Fight The New Drug shares the benefits of quitting porn from people who actually quit using pornography.

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. ◀︎◀︎

Poetry Saturday—The Bag

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

Away despair! my gracious Lord doth heare.
         Though windes and waves assault my keel,
         He doth preserve it: He doth steer,
         Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel.
         Storms are the triumph of His art:
Well may He close His eyes, but not His heart.

Hast thou not heard, that my Lord Jesus di’d?
         Then let me tell thee a strange storie.
         The God of power, as He did ride
         In His majestic robes of glorie,
         Reserv’d to light; and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.

The starres His tire of light and rings obtain’d,
         The cloud His bow, the fire His spear,
         The sky His azure mantle gain’d.
         And when they ask’d, what He would wear;
         He smil’d and said as He did go,
He had new clothes a making here below.

When He was come, as travellers are wont,
         He did repair unto an inne.
         Both then, and after, many a brunt
         He did endure to cancell sinne:
         And having giv’n the rest before,
Here He gave up His life to pay our score.

But as He was returning, there came one
         That ran upon Him with a spear.
         He, who came hither all alone,
         Bringing nor man, nor arms, nor fear,
         Receiv’d the blow upon His side,
And straight He turn’d, and to His brethren cry’d,

If ye have any thing to send or write,
         I have no bag, but here is room:
         Unto my Father’s hands and sight,
         Beleeve Me, it shall safely come.
         That I shall minde, what you impart;
Look, you may put it very neare My heart.

Or if hereafter any of My friends
         Will use Me in this kinde, the doore
         Shall still be open; what he sends
         I will present, and somewhat more,
         Not to his hurt. Sighs will convey
Any thing to Me. Harke, Despair away. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

►► 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:

Links & Quotes

I love the humanitarian work of Convoy of Hope wherever there is a need. They are on the front lines of Ukraine right now. If you are looking for a good organization to support financially, please check out their current efforts and click the Donate button on their page.

Dr. Roy Spencer always brings clarity to the climate change debate. Here is a post looking at the numbers behind the claims that climate change is largely man-made.

I love following the archeological and paleontological discoveries as they come to light. The Institute for Creation Research shares some enlightening news that comes from the discovery of a human vertebra.

Dan Reiland shares about 5 enemies of the soul that hurt your church.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace talks about the evidence that makes the resurrection of Jesus a reasonable conclusion:

“For the diligent the week has seven todays, for the slothful seven tomorrows.” —Anonymous

In light of all the uncertainty around us, this quote is a good reminder. “I want you to pray about world events and pursue peace as you are able. However, it’s crucial to recognize what you can change and what you cannot. Fretting about things that are beyond your control will drain your energy and discourage you. Instead of this hurtful focus, endeavor to fix your thoughts on Me. … Remember that I am a God of justice and I know everything. Eventually I will right all wrongs. So be still in My presence—trusting in Me with a steadfast heart while waiting for Me to act.” —Sarah Young, in Jesus Always

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