Coming Apart

What is the one thing that many of us fail to guard in a fast paced culture? -Our time. Especially to cultivate ideas, listen to God, and allow ourselves to get in a contemplative mode. Instead we hurry around with our cars, phones, iPods & other gadgets and people filling our lives with noise.

Even in the ancient times of the Bible, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come apart.” One person commented on this that, “if you don’t ‘come apart’ you will come apart.” (Get away from the noise before you come apart at the seams)

Do you have a problem hearing from God? When is the last time you pushed all the sources of noise in your life aside and sat quietly and waited on God…for more than a minute?

Could it be that many of our stress related issues might be resolved if we took time for concentrated meditation? Allowing the Spirit of God room in our lives to operate from within.

Try it. Take a look at your calendar and when could you make this happen? Here’s a few suggestions on finding this time: stay off Social Media for a day, don’t watch TV, return calls tomorrow, tell the people around you that you need to take some time to “come apart.”

Have you had some times where God refreshed you in His presence just by waiting? Do you need some de-stressors in your life today? Give this a try and feel free to share what happens after you “come apart” in a good way.

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Follow Your Heart…Really?

Posted in Character, Culture, Decisions, Heart, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 14, 2016

Our biggest issue is a heart issue.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking about marriage, money or race.  If your heart is not in the right place, nothing else really matters.

The problem is that all of us have a heart problem.  The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above al things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9-10). You know your heart has a problem when it keeps trying to get you to do the wrong thing. Like if you are in debt, but you go into H.H. Gregg and see a new TV and think, “I can’t keep watching that little 46” I have at home, when here’s a beautiful 60” on sale that I should have!”  What is that?  Friend, that’s a heart lying to you.

You can’t build a good life on a bad foundation, or raise a good harvest with bad seed.  Also, we really don’t have a race problem in America, we have a heart problem. If our heart is right, then we will act right.

How do we get our heart right?  “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:9-10)

So, stop telling people to follow their heart or listening to people telling you to follow yours. Instead guard your heart and don’t allow anything that can pollute it to gain access. Americans are crazy about pure water, food sources, and air, but think nothing of other crud entering their minds and hearts.  Don’t allow yourself to be deceived (which your heart can easily do).  Address the root of the problem by guarding your heart with God’s Word. Only God can make a perfect heart that leads to peace, happiness and joy.

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It’s Not God’s Fault

Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself, “What is the common denominator in all my bad relationships?”  Think about this – it’s you!  How many of our issues, challenges and problems are the result of us trying to play God.  When I act like God, I’m going to make choices that I want regardless of what God has spoken.  So, when my life is going in a bad direction, who’s fault is it?

The Bible talks about how there is a way that seems right, but in the end it leads in death. What it’s saying is that we think we know what will make us happy, and way too often we get our cues from the culture. I wouldn’t get my advice from a bunch of people addicted all kinds of stuff and still can’t get happy.  Just saying!

When Jesus wanted to tell people how to be happy, He starts off with be “poor in spirit.”  That doesn’t sound like something you read in a magazine.  Yet, the encouragement is to admit some things about you, to get authentic.  Admit you are broken, because we all are, just maybe in different locations.  Set your pride aside and declare that you are not enough on your own.  Then, ask God for help. We move from confession to petition. With less of you, there’s more room for God.

Finally, we accept help from other people, because God uses others when we dare to be honest.  We all need a place to go where people won’t judge us, but hear us and pray for us.  When you admit you are poor in spirit, that’s when the power comes.  As you position yourself, then Jesus comes in His power and takes us to places we could never go on our own.

Don’t be the reason you’re not happy.  Humble yourself, admit you’re not enough, ask for God’s help, and accept help from others, in so doing, you’ll find a joy you never dreamed!

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Identity Theft

Posted in Culture, Perspective, Victorious Living, Words by PCraig on May 26, 2016

One of my favorite fairy tales is that of Snow White.  The most famous scene in the movie is where the evil queen asks her magic mirror, “Who is the fairest of them all?”  The reply is that though the queen indeed is fair there is another, Snow White, which is fairest of them all.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with image and appearance.  It’s not just about looking in a mirror, though that is a significant part, it is also about followers and social media friends.  Our worth becomes measured in our physical, financial, and social media image.

For many, their identity has been taken or stolen from them.  Not their social security number, name, online passwords or credit card information, but who they really are.

As a member of God’s family, the Scriptures declare that we are in Christ, loved by God, saints of God, and made beautiful by Him.  It is only when we begin seeing ourselves as God sees us that we can have a self-worth that is not based upon often temporary and changeable sources.

We may mess up, but positionally in Christ, He declares us as loved, saints of God that are made beautiful by Him.  I’m so glad to be free from measuring myself by culture’s shallow standards of worth, but rather by the eternal measurement of God.

So, look in the mirror today and declare what God says about you over what others may say.  Don’t let some mirror tell you that you don’t matter or measure up when God says you do in His eyes.  “I am a child of God!”

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There Is Hope This Christmas

Posted in Culture, Encouragement, holiday, Hope by PCraig on December 23, 2015

I don’t think any of us can fully imagine the raw violent culture that depicted the world into which the Christ child came.  The Bible tells us that King Herod was so terrorized by the thought of a child being born as “king of the Jews” that he had every boy in Bethlehem murdered who were two or under.  (See Matt. 2)

We continue to live in a violent culture.  Videos are released showing the beheading of Christians by terrorists.  A couple walks into a Christmas party and begins to shoot everyone they can.  Bomb threats close schools and shopping centers.

Yet, still today, there is hope through the one born to Joseph and Mary over 2000 years ago.  His birth gave hope by fulfilling promises that were made centuries before.

Into a violent culture came a victorious Savior.

Into a rein of terror came God’s terrific plan.

Into an age of uncertainty came a certain promise.

For unto us is born, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  There is hope this Christmas, wrapped up as God’s finest gift to the world.

To as many as receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.  John  1:12

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Don’t Worry Anymore

Posted in Culture, Fear, Perspective, Stress, Worry by PCraig on July 8, 2015

Do you worry too much?  How much is too much?  Who’s definition will we go by?

Personally, I think we live in a stressed-out culture.  I’ve never felt like more people were nervous, anxious, fearful, concerned, angry, up tight and on-edge than today.  Studies have shown that people are more stressed today than in the past 25 years, especially women (according to NY Daily News).

Compare this with the words of our leader, Jesus, who said, “Do not worry about your life” (Luke 12:22).  So, how do some of us go from worrying about basically everything, to worrying about hardly anything?

I think the key is found in what Jesus says in the next few verses.  The principle is this, take a look around and notice the stress level of the birds.  They don’t worry about what to eat, what they will wear, or where they will live.  God has provided everything they need.  If He has done this for birds, then you don’t have to worry because you are MORE valuable than birds!

Finally, He says; if you can’t change little things with worry, then why worry about the rest.  It’s true, worry doesn’t have the power to make anything better, but it can sure make things worse.  I’ve never had anyone come in my office and share, “Pastor, I was having a rough time, but then I began worrying and wow, how things improved!”  

I can’t wait to talk more about this topic this weekend in our series Get Smart on Stress.  If you live around Avon, then invite someone!

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Grace Is Enough

Posted in Attitude, Culture, Faithfulness, Perspective, Victorious Living by PCraig on September 4, 2014

A couple weeks ago I spoke from the passage in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” and I still can’t get away from it.  I just think in a culture where we want to be able to take a pill and be skinny, shoot serum in our face to rid wrinkles, and get our groceries delivered; it’s difficult when things just won’t change overnight.  We want things instantly and when it doesn’t work that way, we often want out.

Paul wanted out of his situation, but instead of fixing it, God offers His grace to compensate.  Are we okay with that?  I mean, if God doesn’t fix your condition and offers grace and strength instead, are you ready to run to someone else?

Let’s get real; if God doesn’t give you a good boyfriend soon are you ready to hook up with any guy who comes along?  If He doesn’t fix your spouse soon, do you have the attorney on speed dial?  If He doesn’t give you that job, are you ready to walk out of church and give up on God?

What losers we are when we do this.  We lose out on experiencing strength in our weakness, grace in the midst of our turmoil and a sense of His presence that is only known in times of pain, hurt and heartache.

I know that God promising grace and strength might not be the answer you’re looking for, but it is enough to see you through.

Have you had great times with God in the hour of crisis, loss or loneliness?

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Should we just let Boston, Chicago and San Francisco go to hell?

Posted in Christian Lifestyle, Culture by PCraig on August 2, 2012

As far as I can tell, there have been three major city mayors that have jumped into the chicken fight and declared that Chick-fil-a is not welcome to do business in their cities.  All this comes as a result of the CEO (Dan Cathy) of the fast food chicken restaurant commenting to a reporter that he supported the “biblical definition of a family.”

Rather than weigh in on an American business owner’s right to say whatever he believes in, which could be anything.  Cathy could have said that he believed that eating more chicken is the way to eternal life, and most of the media would have paid little attention.  However, because he used the Bible as a guide for today’s values, he has come under attack by left-wing extremists who believe in freedom of speech as long as it agrees with them.

So, here’s my question, what do we do about leaders, like these three mayors and the cities they represent, who say people like Cathy aren’t welcome to do business in their city?  Do we just walk away and shake the dust off of our sandals?  Here’s my take on a Christian’s response:

  • Don’t fight fire with fire.  In other words, don’t yell back slanderous things about these mayors or the cities they represent, though there could be plenty of ammunition.
  • Realize that there are many good, godly people in these cities that don’t agree with their own mayor’s response.  Rather, they agree with Cathy’s definition of a family and are probably a little embarrassed or even angered by their mayor’s comments.
  • Wake up and realize that there is a battle for the souls in this nation.  When mayors of major US cities feel bold enough to speak against the traditional and biblical definition of marriage without fear of being voted out next election – that’s a sign!
  • We should pray for these cities and do all we can to support those who are lifting up the only Savior and only source of truth (the Bible) to these populations.
  • Do all you can to bring others in your area to Christ, knowing that all it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing.  How long will it be before the mayor of your city feels they can say something similar without fear of losing their job?

What was your response to recent events?  Are you doing all you can to live the life in such a way that people want what you have?  What would Jesus do?

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That’s Controversial

Can controversy be a good thing or bad thing?  I think it can be either one, it just depends upon what’s behind it.  If you are being controversial for the sake of being controversial, then I think that’s phony.  If you are being controversial to draw attention to yourself, then I think that’s pride.  If you are being controversial to answer questions no one is asking, then that can be sensationalism.

But, what if you’re being controversial for the sake of being relevant?  For example, we recently did a sermon series called Q&A in which the congregation got to vote on the topics by way of texting.  I then took the most popular subjects and made a series out of them.  Several of these had to do with sex, such as masturbation, homosexuality, pornography and living together.  Others were concerned with theological issues, like why is life unfair? and end times.  Still others concerned themselves with social subjects of tattoos, suicide, drinking and cursing.

The series was quite popular with the congregation, but it also had a lot of controversy considering some of the topics.  My feeling is the Bible is pretty graphic and detailed when it comes to these sorts of topics and so why can’t the church speak that directly?    When the Bible spoke directly, then we let it speak for itself, at other times we looked at principles to apply, but always we sought unity.

The positive feedback far outweighed the negative and some pretty powerful things happened as well.  For example, one guy came to me a few weeks later and admitted an addiction to lustful thoughts and was powerfully convicted by the series.  Another person said that the material shared on suicide gave them great comfort because of someone who had taken their life.  These are just a couple of examples of the way God used it.

My point is that we didn’t do the series to be cute, edgy, or controversial.  We did the series to speak directly to the topics our culture is struggling with the most and give a biblical response.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  There’s something I love about releasing the truth of God’s Word and watching it set people free that makes any risk of being misinterpreted worth it.  Are you willing to take the risk to be relevant and watch God set people free?  Let’s do all we can, with all we have to reach one more for Jesus!

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Q&A Series

Posted in Culture, Evangelism, witnessing by PCraig on June 16, 2011

We’re getting ready for a new series called Q&A that will address hot topics in our culture.  Among these will be homosexuality, tattoos, suicide, gambling, along with others.  Jesus discussed many of the topics of his day and would say, “You have heard it said…but, I say…”  That’s exactly what we’re doing with this series.  We’re going to look at what the culture says and then see what God says.

This is a great series to invite lost friends and co-workers to attend.  As a matter of fact, they can even help decide the topics.  Currently, we have brochures at the iCenter and on posters in the lobby that explain how to text in your vote for a particular subject.  Be sure to pick up some of these brochures to hand to your unsaved friends and co-workers.  Let them know that if they think church is boring, they haven’t been to Crossroads.

It takes an unselfish Christian to allow topics to be discussed on Sundays that don’t necessary cover areas of personal struggle or need.  Jesus said, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost,” and when we reach out to those who are lost, we are accomplishing his desire.  Let’s leverage this to grow God’s Kingdom and to see people come to faith in Christ.

The Q&A series begins August 14th for 3 weeks.

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