The Best Counselor

Posted in Counsel, Decisions, Holy Spirit, Victorious Living, Wisdom by PCraig on May 25, 2017

I don’t think anything is more important in life than from whom you receive your guidance. Proverbs talks about if we want to be wise, then we should hang with the wise. If we take up company with foolish people, it’s no wonder we make foolish decisions. In today’s reading of the One Year Bible in John 14, Jesus talks about “another Counselor” that will be with us. He identifies this “Counselor” as the Holy Spirit. He then goes on to say a couple of things that the Holy Spirit will do.

One benefit the Holy Spirit brings is He will teach us things. I don’t know if you’ve had this happen, but many times when I’m reading the Bible, it’s like it jumps off the page and reads my mail. I mean it is like God is literally talking to me face to face through His Word. Sometimes I learn how to be a better man, husband, father, leader, while other times I understand more of God’s love for me. Powerful things happen as I allow the Spirit to teach me.

He also comes to remind us of Jesus’ words and teaching. Maybe you’re going through your day and feeling discouraged, then the words of Jesus saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” come back to you and your built up in faith. You decide that if He is with you, what can be against you? Amen! When this takes place, we are no longer operating in our natural abilities; instead we are plugged into the supernatural abilities of the Spirit.

These are just two of the many ways the Holy Spirit can enable us to live life to the full in Christ. We’ll be exploring these and more during the Breath, Wind & Fire series that begins this weekend. I hope you can join us in person or online via podcast, for what I believe will be a powerful three weeks focus on the Holy Spirit.  He’s the best counselor I know!

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Who’s Your Person?

Recently, I’ve been encouraging my staff to seek out a mentor in their lives. Someone they can call, email, text or visit with during the month that can help them process thoughts, ideas and decisions.

This is a great idea for a young married couple as well. I think it would be great if each newlywed could have a seasoned couple in their lives to help them navigate this new adventure of marriage. How many couples could avoid collapse?

I know I have personally benefited from many different people in my life. One of those that has impacted me greatly, is my pastor, Tom Paino. I only had one pastor my whole life of growing up in the church! He dedicated me, baptized me, performed our wedding, ordained me, and dedicated our daughter. The most important thing he did was lead by example. His steady leadership taught me the value of perseverance, continuity, and strength. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked his opinion, sought his counsel and asked, “What would Pastor Tom do?”

Who do you have in your life that you can trust to have wise advice? What person can you reach out to that is further down the road and knows where the potholes are located? Let me encourage you to find that person. If you don’t have someone today, then get busy thinking through your contacts, acquaintances and friends. Get them in your life and you’ll be the better for it.

Today’s reading of the One Year Bible affirms this when it says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” This principle is not only true for a nation; it’s true for you.

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Principles of Perseverance

Posted in Attitude, Choice, Decisions, Expectations, Faith, Perspective by PCraig on December 1, 2016

Last weekend at Crossroads, we were challenged by Randy Ruiz to not give up. He read from one of my favorite passages, in Galatians 6:9 where Paul says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Here are three main points that Randy made that I would like to remind all of us to put into practice each day:

1) I’m Not Going To Allow What I See – To Affect What I Know! All too often we allow what we see to determine our actions. Instead, what if you acted your way into faith? In other words, don’t see how it is today, begin to, in faith, act as though it is already done.

2) You Never Allow Your Present Situation to Name Your Future! Sometimes we allow what we are going through currently to dictate our future. History is filled with people who had every reason to believe they would never achieve in life, but they did anyway. Why? They didn’t allow their current conditions to forecast their future. (We know things can change as fast as Indiana weather!)

3) Israel Made a Permanent Decision Based on a Temporary Feeling. It’s sad when people act in the moment and quit a job, quit a marriage, or give up on their dream and then regret it later. Don’t allow what is a temporary discouraging season to cause you to make permanent choices in your life. Instead, let this be a mantra, “This too shall pass” during those seasons.

So many of you told me that you were encouraged by the message, so I trust this reminder will keep you running in the race!

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Taking The Step In Front Of You

Posted in Decisions, Excuses, Faith by PCraig on September 29, 2016

Many of us are sitting and waiting on God to do something special, while God may be waiting for us to do something simple. Obedience is not complicated. When a parent says, “I want you to go into your room and clean it up,” that is not unclear. Forty-five minutes later when you go check and it looks exactly like it did earlier, or maybe worse, that is not obedience. “But, I got sidetracked by organizing my pencil drawer” is not a good excuse. (This is all just hypothetically speaking)

How many times are we waiting on God to heal, provide, deliver, breakthrough, and create, while we sit in disobedience to what He’s already said? Today is a great day to start making commitments and stop making excuses. And, if you think that God can’t use you because of your past, then just pick up a copy of the Bible and start reading. It won’t take you too long to discover that God specializes in using imperfect people.

God’s grace is all you need to get started. It’s often in our weakness that His strength shows up the most. Rather than waiting on God to bring a breakthrough in your life, why don’t you rise up today and BE the breakthrough you need! God still honors faith and it doesn’t matter if it comes from a prostitute, prophet, politician, or plumber.

Just begin to press on in God’s grace, knowing that He often shows up after we take the first step. (We will see this big-time in this weekend’s message!)

What is your “first-step” of obedience today?

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A Perspective on Opposition

Posted in Attitude, Christian Lifestyle, Decisions, Perspective by PCraig on July 30, 2016

Ever feel like everything is against you when you are trying to do the right thing? Maybe you decide to lose weight and someone brings cupcakes to work? Or, you are trying to get out of debt and the car breaks down? It can get really discouraging and, if we’re not careful, fill us with the temptation to give up or quit.

It can be like this in regards to living a life of faith. We make a commitment to serve and live for God and then all hell breaks lose in our home, boss, career or girlfriend. What is up with that?

Jesus said that we should consider ourselves “blessed” when it happens, according to Matthew 5:10-12. I don’t know about you, but “blessed” is not the first word that pops into my mind. However, it is important to see it from a different perspective. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

So, whatever your day looks like, understand that persecution, difficulties and challenges are going to come our way. It may not be a result that you are doing something wrong, but that you are doing what’s right. Spiritual opposition is going to happen.

You may not be quite ready to take it as a complement, but, it may just be that because you are trying to do what’s right, there’s an enemy trying to stop you. Let the friends make fun of you for praying before lunch. It’s okay if someone else wants to do a deal that’s unethical, you won’t. Others may dress their daughters like call girls, but you want to live holy.

When you make decisions such as these and desire to pursue godliness and heaven’s approval over man’s, something happens inside of you. A strength begins to build, a power is released an intimacy with God floods your soul, and you feel good about yourself. All this happens when you don’t allow yourself to quit in the midst of the battle. Be encouraged today that maybe the opposition you face is a better sign you’re going in the right direction.

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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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Disappointing People The Right Way

Posted in Choice, Commitments, Decisions, Family, Perspective by PCraig on June 23, 2016

There are times I have to disappoint people, and I don’t like it.  I can’t be in two places at once, so I have to make a choice.  There is a call to answer and so you can’t answer everyone else’s.  Opportunities present themselves, but you can’t have it all or possibly do it all, so what do you do?

I’ve failed in this area so many times that it isn’t even funny, but over time I have learned some principles that serve as a guide and help me sleep at night.  One thing I would suggest is you must prioritize your life and do so with the idea of living your life on purpose.  What are your priorities?

Here are mine:

  • What do I feel would please God most in this situation, choice or dilemma?
  • What does my family need me to be right now?  Present? Listening? Engaged? What does that look like?
  • What does my church family need right now? Is there an area I need to pay closer attention to at this season?

Now, this list is written in priority order for me.  God first, family second and occupation third.  I would like to tell you that this is the way it’s always been, but I’m afraid my wife might write a blog someday and embarrass me.  The truth is that it used to be church first, God second (because I thought He put me in charge of the church), then family a distant third (because God liked it when I let Him be in charge of my family.  The problem came when I saw in the Scriptures that He said HE was in charge of His church and I was in charge of my family.  That changed my life!

For many I’ve witnessed, the miss-alignment looks more like family first, career & personal ambitions second, then God (and things of God) a very distant third.

So, if you were to apply the priority list of God first, family second, and occupation/dreams/goals/job third, what does today look like for you?  How about this coming weekend?  How about the year so far?

We’re about halfway through this year, so the good news is you can still turn it around and finish strong.  Here’s what else I’ve found, when I put God first, not just in my words, but in my time, talent and treasure (the real measurements); then He has a way of blessing the other areas in ways only He can do — see Matthew 6:33.

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The Power of a Pre-Decision

Last weekend, during my introduction, I mentioned reading several books on my recent break and that one of them focused on change.  I thought I would take some time to unpack some of the thoughts from Change Anything.

One of the initial factors identified, concerned itself with interrupting your impulses by connecting with your goals during crucial moments.  Another way that I have talked about this is “pre-deciding” before the time you have to decide.  In other words, before you get in backseat of the car with him, before you pull out your credit card, before you order your food, you decide ahead what you will do.

You say to yourself, “When it comes time to order, I won’t get what sounds good, I’ll order what’s healthiest.”  Now, this doesn’t mean there won’t be a struggle and challenge to do the right thing, but it does give you extra strength going into the situation because you have an inner resolve.

Growing up in church we used to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”  It was like we were saying, “I am not going to turn around now matter what comes my way.”  So, whether you sing it, speak it, spray it, play it, or display it, be sure to decide ahead what results you want.

I have decided some things about today, I will move forward in faith, grow in my knowledge, stay pure, live a healthy lifestyle and serve my Jesus!  I’m ready for a great day, how about you?

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The Second Biggest Decision You’ll Make

Posted in Choice, Decisions, Marriage, Mistakes, Relationships, Wisdom by PCraig on February 4, 2016

We all make choices each day.  Someone has said that our lives really are the sum of our decisions that we make along the way.  What is so crazy is that in the moment, we often don’t know what ways in the balance.  How many times have you looked back to see that had you chosen differently at the time, your life would have gone in a different direction.  If you had gone ahead and married him, if you had moved and taken that job, if you had attended that party, or if you had spent your money on that instead of saving it.

All of us have had moments like these; therefore, it’s supremely important that we weigh every decision.  Outside of choosing to follow Christ, I believe the second most important choice is whom we will marry.  This person will have 24-hour access to our lives and bring joy or pain like no one else is able.

So, how do we choose wisely?  Are there things to look for in a future spouse?  Do warning signs appear that we can see and pay attention?  What are the big things to make sure they possess before going any further?

This weekend starts a series called Lasting Love, which pulls from the story of Ruth found in the Scriptures.  Over these next four weeks we’ll discover what to look for in a potential mate.  As a result, we can be equipped to make wise choices and live with fewer regrets.

I hope you can join us!  (Sundays @ 9 & 10:45 a.m.)

Here’s a video invite:  https://youtu.be/eliCsF6ZyHE

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Getting To The Light

Posted in Decisions, Distractions, Purpose, Wisdom by PCraig on October 9, 2014

The recent promotion of the blood moon this week got me focused on the moon, more than usual.  Even last night as it was shining so brightly, I was thinking of how it guides the Sea Turtle hatchlings to the sea.  When we’ve vacationed in Florida, the beach hotel where we stayed asks its boarders to close their windows at night.  The purpose is to avoid distracting the baby Sea Turtles and getting them confused.  You see, the babies crawl toward the brightest light.  On an undeveloped beach, the brightest light is the moon.  On a developed beach, it can be an artificial light source coming from hotel rooms.

When that happens, it leads to a disastrous outcome.  Rather than follow the pure light of the moon to the ocean, they follow the wrong light in the opposite direction.  This is how we human folk do at times.

Rather than follow a path of purpose and destiny designed by God, we too often get distracted by things that move us in the wrong direction.  Peer pressure, excessive time on social media, bad habits, addictions, and meaningless time wasters can provide diversions that get us off course.

So, what about you?  Are you living a purpose-driven life or are you allowing shiny distractions to lead you in a wrong direction?

Unlike sea turtles, we can discern right and wrong, false and true, real and artificial, if we will.  God’s Word is a pure light that can help us find the meaning and purpose that brings about joy and fulfillment.  This is why we need to hear it preached, read it for ourselves and pray for application.

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