The Most Repeated Command

Posted in Attitude, Choice, Encouragement, Happiness, Joy, Perspective by PCraig on April 12, 2018

The most repeated command in the Bible is probably not what you think it is. It’s be happy! It comes in many forms and words such as, blessing, blessed, peace, joy, prosper, and others. It is proof that our God is for us and not against us.

That means instead of thinking God is getting in the way of your happiness, He’s actually making a way for your happiness. He is the solution and not the problem. Most of the other commands in the Bible are actually to keep us from things that lead to unhappiness. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and life to the FULL” (Jn. 10:10). God is not just holy, He is happy, and the two go together.

Last weekend, we launched a new series called FINDING HAPPY. We learned that there are habits of happiness that can lead us to more peace, love and joy. Science says that only about 10% of what happens to you actually impacts your happiness. This explains why two people can undergo the same set back, but one bounces back while the other gives up. It’s not the circumstances, but our perspective that makes the biggest difference.

So, this week, I want to again encourage you with two new habits, and here they are:

Switch worry for prayer (Phil.4:6). What is you worried less and prayed more? Every time worry tries to land in your lap, toss it out like a hot potato. Say, “Oh no you don’t, I’m not accepting this worry, fear, fret, concern and anxiety. Instead I’m tossing it over to God in prayer and let Him carry it.”

Live Thankful (Phil. 4:7). Take it from the Apostle Paul, when you choose to be thankful, you can be in prison but free.   Just be thankful for the simple things like: “I’m forgiven, washed, liberated, free, I have family, friends, a home, a church…” It’s hard to be depressed and thankful at the same time.

What would happen this week if you let your feelings follow your actions, instead of the other way around? I believe, you’ll experience God’s peace that transcends our human understanding and find a joy you can’t explain.

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Easter Everyday

We just finished celebrating the greatest event the world has ever known – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It not only changed history, but it changed my history! All that I’ve done before won’t matter anymore when we know Jesus is alive.

The first person to meet and greet Jesus after His resurrection was none other than a woman whom Jesus freed from seven demons. And, you think you’ve got problems! She had seven problems she couldn’t solve, fix or repair. Her life was broken in seven places, and only Jesus had the power to set her free.

We all have demons that we deal with in our lives. Some allow their pain to defined them, spend their lives trying to numb it or escape it to no lasting impact. Mary Magdalene, as she was called, was the kind of person we give up on, but not God. He has a way of weaving them into His story, by showing up and showing off His amazing grace. This is one of the great reasons why I love God. He chooses people we wouldn’t choose, does what we can’t do, and transforms us from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory.

She thought she would never hear His voice again. This one, that had freed her, taught her so much, and might be the Messiah. However, on that Sunday morning, she heard Him call her by name, “Mary.” That’s all it took. She went from sorrow to gladness, from hopelessness to hope, from weakness to strength. Jesus is truly alive.

What about you? The resurrection is the central fact of history, but is it the central fact of your life? When it is, that’s the game changer. He moves from being alive to being alive in me.

God is still in the resurrection business. He resurrects relationships, careers, dreams, and hopes.  Seek Him today and you will find Him. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus because she went to Him. Once she saw Him, I think it was like it was Easter everyday. It can be the same for you and me.

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A Last Promise

Posted in Encouragement, Perspective, Stress, Worry by PCraig on March 22, 2018

Have you ever gone into the gym after not working out for a long time and be discouraged over the weakness you feel? Maybe you can’t push the weight you used to and you feel like a failure. Initially, it can seem like it’s going to take forever to get back to the place you were before. Discouragement has a way of dragging down your soul in whatever area you encounter it. And, it seems like when you get discouraged in one space, it has a way of spreading.

I can’t imagine how discouraged the disciples must have felt when the One they thought could be the Messiah was arrested, tried and killed. They could have thought, “I’ve wasted three years of my life following someone that wasn’t the real deal after all.”

Maybe you’ve had a marriage dissolve, a business fail, revenue is down, pressure is mounting, or physical ailments are taxing you daily. If we’re not careful, we can get caught up in the whirlwind of discouragement, which often leads to fear paralysis. It’s no wonder one of the most repeated commands in Scripture is “fear not.” God knows this is an area where we all can struggle.

During these times, it’s easy to dwell on the negative facts of our situation: lack of money, stack of bills, pain in our body, rebellion in our kids, emotional hurt and the list goes on. However, there are other facts that can help us during these times of testing. Here’s just one: God is with you always. He promised it more than once, but you can look it up in the very last verse of Matthew.

I’ve heard it said, someone’s last words could be some of their most important. I think Matthew wanted to share some last words of Jesus that gave him courage for the future: He is with me…He promised. Plus, He’s with you and me too!

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What Happened to Happily Ever After?

Are you depressed because life has not turned out the way you thought it would? Maybe your marriage is troubled, your kids are rebellious, your health is failing, or your job is ending. In these times, we might ask, “God! Can’t you stop this from happening?”

It’s tempting to wonder if God cares and is even paying attention in hard times. Especially if you begin to compare yourself to others and wonder, “Why do they seem to get all the breaks?” This is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading the Bible. God’s Word is not written like a fairy tale, where all ends “happily ever after.” Rather, the Scriptures are filled with pain, illness, trials, separations, murder, even rape and incest, to name a few. Yet, in the midst of all this ugliness, God so often revealed His beauty. In spite of what was going on around them, God showed His grace in troubled times.

This is what Easter is all about. Through the horror and pain of beatings, torture and crucifixion, God provided a way for you and I to have a fresh start. The Scripture says that we become a “new creation” when we surrender our lives to Him. Just because you put your faith in God, doesn’t mean it will end with “they lived happily ever after.” But, it does mean, you’ll never go through anything life slings your way alone. He said to be sure of this, He will never leave us or abandon us, but go with us always, even to the end of the world.

And, actually, the Bible does promise a “happily ever after,” – after this life is over, which will last forever. So, hang in there, eternity is a long, long time, and will more than make up for the suffering in this world.

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In The End

Are you doubting God’s love because you are in a time of crisis? “God! I just found out I have an incurable disease. I thought you loved me!” As we get closer to the time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, it reminds me of the suffering that led up to Easter.

The Bible is clear that Jesus underwent all kinds of emotional, physical and mental anguish leading up to His trial and conviction. Often, we picture Jesus as perfect, and though He is, it does not negate the fact that He suffered much.

In addition to Jesus, we find that many people that we would call “good” in the Bible went through times of persecution, illness, heartache and trials. Why would we think we are exempt? Where did we get it that if God loves us, He will keep all bad things from touching us?

1 Peter 2:21 “For God call you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”

Later Peter goes on to say (1 Pet 4:19) “…keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

Our job is simply to keep on doing what is right and leave the results up to God. So, today, no matter what may be going on in your life, or not going on, chose to keep doing what is right. Sure, it’s not always easy. Yes, there are others that do wrong, but seem to be doing just fine. The story isn’t over yet friend. Just like it looked as though Jesus was going through trials He didn’t deserve, the people didn’t realize it was part of a bigger plan.

He is still the God of the final word. Don’t give up too soon. Never let the enemy get you to believe a lie about God. Keep on doing the right thing, and in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

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God’s Not Dead

Posted in Encouragement, Faith, Friendship, Priorities, Pursuing Jesus, Words by PCraig on March 1, 2018

I went to a preview showing of God’s Not Dead – Light In The Darkness at a theatre the other night. I must say that I have enjoyed the previous two movies and was looking forward to this release.

Because it has not yet been released, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you, I’ll be careful in my comments. This one is different from the others. Not that it makes it good or bad, it’s just a unique take on the topic.

One of the best parts of the film is how it shows the struggle of a young Christ follower that is struggling to keep faith. She battles to keep believing because of surrounding herself with those who don’t share her beliefs. She is also romantically involved with someone who doubts. And, she doesn’t always stay consistent with attending spiritual gatherings that could encourage her along the way.

These are much of the same things that I’ve noticed happen with others who struggle with doubt. Too often, we get around others that are anti-faith and listen to their words, then worse yet, we can get romantically or at least emotionally attached to people that don’t share our faith, producing disunity. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t make faith gatherings a priority in our lives. We go to church, life group, youth group, if it can fit in our schedule rather than making other things work around it.

Even the disciples were doubters and struggled to believe at times, but once they encountered the resurrected Christ, gathered in unity to encourage each other, and stood firm in what they knew, nothing could bring them down.

My prayer is that you will bring your doubts to God, surround yourself with encouragers and not allow yourself to be influenced by those who have failed to see Him. I’ve seen too much, felt so much, and heard too much to turn back now.

Friends, He is alive! The tomb is still empty. Doubters were transformed into evangelists when they touched Him. I look forward to celebrating the resurrected Savior along with you on Easter, and I hope you will support God’s Not Dead – Light In The Darkness when it releases on March 30. You don’t have to be perfect, or have a life without doubt to be a follower, or we would all be disqualified.

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3 Things Jesus Says About Worry

Posted in Encouragement, God's love, Happiness, Worry by PCraig on January 25, 2018

Don’t worry, be happy. Sounds like a pithy statement without much substance, but I would argue that it has the ingredients of a happy life. Maybe it’s clearer if we look at it backwards: if you want to be happy, you can’t be filled with worry.

Jesus even addresses this issue when he says, “Don’t worry,” in his great sermon on the mount. From Matthew 6:25-34, he focuses in on the topic of worry as it relates to our everyday lives. Here’s three things Jesus says about worry:

  • Don’t worry about the basic needs of life, because it won’t change anything.
  • Don’t worry about clothes, food, or drink, because God knows what you need.
  • Don’t worry about tomorrow because it only ruins today.

For me, the biggest reliever is that I know my Father loves me, cares for me, and wants to provide for me. My part is to trust in Him and not in worry.

If you missed last week’s message on this topic, here’s the link to the podcast:

https://welcometocrossroads.org/messages/

 

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Waiting On A Miracle

Posted in Attitude, Encouragement, Expectations, holiday, Hope, Miracle by PCraig on December 14, 2017

Do you remember how agonizing it was to wait for Christmas as a child? It seemed like forever to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Now, as an adult, it seems like Christmas comes too fast.

Does it seem like you are in a waiting period in your life currently? Waiting on a job, or a marriage, healing, direction can seem to take forever to happen. It can even seem like God is late in bringing these things into your life can’t it?

The very first Christmas seemed like God was late to those who were waiting for Messiah to come. It had been hundreds of years and yet each year they were disappointed. But the Scripture teaches that it all happened at the “proper time” (Luke 1:20).

The lesson is that God has a “proper time” for everything. He’s never late and He’s always on time. But, it’s His calendar and not ours!   In the meantime what do you do?

  • Don’t lose hope. Things could change tomorrow.
  • Never give up. God can do anything at anytime without restrictions.
  • Do allow this waiting time to be a time of growth spiritually.
  • Keep trusting in the God who still has a plan for the world and you!

It may look like a dark night, but remember, it did in Bethlehem 2000 years ago when hope was born!

We’ll be focusing more on the topic of waiting this weekend in part 3 of A Christmas Miracle in our 9 & 11 a.m. services.

 

 

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Get Excited For Christmas Again

Posted in Attitude, Encouragement, Expectations, holiday, Perspective by PCraig on November 30, 2017

I remember being a kid and being so excited about the Christmas season. It seemed like it took forever between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My heart was full of expectancy about everything that surrounded the holidays. I loved the lights, decorations, songs, parties and of course the gifts. Each year I looked forward to all the potential the season had to offer.

Something happens as we get older. We become the one to fix the lights when they don’t work. We have to put up the decorations, plan the parties and pay for the gifts. All of this can taint the season. If we’re not careful, we can transform from the expectant child to the Grinch.

This is not only a problem with Christmas; it’s a problem in marriages. Two people walk down an aisle to go live life in love, only to discover that there are pressures they never planned to experience. They didn’t anticipate one of them losing their job, or having a special needs child, or finding themselves attracted to someone else at work. When burdens come, it’s all too common for us to begin dreading the very thing we once anticipated.

My challenge to us all this season is to take joy in this time of year. The story is about a Savior who left His throne to be born in a manger, live and teach, then die a sacrificial death for our sins.  So, rejoice in forgiveness!  Also, be careful what comes out of your mouth. Instead of dreading the holidays, your marriage, your job, your family, why not expect the best? Let a spirit of expectancy build in your heart and find it’s way into your mind and mouth. Changing how you view things can go a long way toward how you experience them.  I’m choosing to celebrate the reason for the season.

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The Voices In My Head

Posted in Counsel, Distractions, Dreams, Encouragement, Holy Spirit, Mind by PCraig on November 9, 2017

It happens to me every week. I want to quit. I’ve wanted to quit my run halfway into it. Just last week I completed my first half marathon, but after several miles, I asked myself, “Why can’t we just walk?” Toward the end, the voice got louder with each step.

But if it’s not running, I’ve had other things: my marriage, my job, my writing, my blog, or even God. This is just the nature of life. The temptation to quit is a recurring theme.

And if the voices in our heads were not enough trouble, the voices in our culture also urge us to “throw in the towel,” “make a change,” or “take it easy on yourself.”

What these same voices fail to tell you is there is a price to pay for quitting, just like there is for success. Somehow, the enemy voice doesn’t mention what the cost will be for giving up: poor self-image, weakness, depression, missed opportunities, and far worse.

In my experience, the thing that keeps me going is answering this question, “Why am I doing this?” I then try to remember the dream. “Why I am doing this hard thing that I am doing.” I try to get connected to the original vision, because that keeps me going when the going gets tough.

This is what the apostle Paul did when faced with imprisonment for preaching the good news of Jesus. He would remind himself of who he was in Christ, the great work that he was doing, and the reward that awaited at the end. We can do the same!

Plus, God is faithful to provide encouragement if we are looking for it. Sometimes it comes through a song, a Scripture reading, a friend, a blog, or the whisper of the Spirit’s voice inside our heads. Tune into the right voice today and you can keep on keepin on to the finish line.

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