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Posted in Dreams, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on April 27, 2017

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No Substitute For The Right Piece

Posted in Happiness, Pursuing Jesus, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on June 30, 2016

I loved sitting and putting puzzles together as a kid.  I started with the big wooden pieces and worked my way up to the small, intricate and difficult puzzles with hundreds of pieces.  The frustrating thing that came with the more challenging puzzles was the way it seemed there were similar shaped pieces that looked a lot alike.  Invariably there would be an empty spot that would form with a odd shape, then I would joyously find a piece that appeared to be an identical match, only to have it not quite fit.  It was at this point; I would push, remove and repeat for numerous times.  My hope was that somehow it would turn into the missing piece that would exactly fit the hole.  But, in the end, it was the wrong piece.

It was not until I gave up and looked for another piece that I was able to fill the spot.  Much the same, many of us are living this puzzle called life and all of us want to be happy.  Yet, we find ourselves pushing and pushing the wrong pieces into the holes of our lives.  We think, “If I can just get married, obtain a new job, move to a new city, or reach a new high, then I’ll be happy.”  The reality is that we are trying to force something into a hole that only God can fill.

Each of us are made by a Creator that loves us and wants good things for us, but He is the missing piece for many.  We try to cram relationships, careers, money, things money can buy, positions, and other things and it leads to frustration, hurt, anguish and pain.

Just like getting the right shape in the right place can only complete the puzzle on a card table, we cannot find happiness until we get Jesus in the God-shaped hole in our lives.  Once we do, then we begin to experience life to the full that Jesus came to bring.

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A Better Way To Live

I heard the other day that no matter how big the plate is that we Americans will tend to eat about everything on it.  So, a strategy for weight loss is simply to use a smaller plate.  What is that saying about us as people?  Do we really have that little self-control?

Unfortunately, this behavior doesn’t just show up in our eating habits, but also in our spending habits as well.  Most Americans would need to borrow money or use a credit card if they had an expense come up for more than $400.  Do we really think our refrigerator will never go out?  Why don’t we save for occasions like that?  For many of us, we’ve never been taught how.  So, we use this pattern: consume first, save second (what we feel we can) and give last (what’s leftover).  What this makes of us is a consumer.  We consume all we can as a first option.

Generous people flip this list, so it looks like this: give first (a set amount), save second (a desired amount) and spend what’s leftover.  When we do this, we become planners.  Also, giving first is a biblical principle found throughout Scripture, often with promises attached (Prov. 3:9-10).

What should we give toward?  Here are my criteria:  What am I grateful for?  For me, that is easy, it’s the local church.  The local church kept me through my life from making poor decisions and living with fewer regrets.  Then, what breaks my heart?  Again, I believe the church is the best agency to address the needs of humanity.  When the church is firing on all cylinders, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the lost are found and people are brought into the full life of Christ.

Take a look at your life.  Are you just a consumer?  God intended for you and I to be much more than that. If we really got ahold of this, needs would be met, and the world would be changed.

For a negative example, look at the story Jesus told about a guy in Luke 12:16-20.

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You Weren’t Born This Way

We can be born black, white, rich, poor, southern and northern, but one thing we all have to learn is how to be generous.  One of the first words from a child’s mouth is “mine.”  Parents are often heard encouraging their kids, “Now, share that with your sister.”  Just getting older doesn’t mean we have this trait perfected.  Generosity is something that must be learned and practiced for it to be engrained in our lives.

Our culture plans for random acts of kindness and giving, but true generosity is more than random.  Truly generous people order their lives around generosity.  It’s interesting that Jesus said, “Happy” or “Happier” will be the result of generous living (Acts 20:35).

It’s truly not a matter of income either, because you’ve met wealthy people who aren’t generous and poorer folks who are.  The key is: it’s more about being than doing.  Doing implies an action, as in a one-time event, while being carries the idea of consistent behavior.  It’s who you are.  Being is about the heart.

So, if you want to be happier, live more free from worry over money, and then set your money free with generosity.  If you do, you’ll find you don’t care when pastor’s talk about money, when someone is asking for money outside the grocery, or a sympathetic ad comes on about a charity.  A generous person already has a plan for generosity and so they can say “no” to certain things, because they’ve already said “yes” to things that grip their heart.  We’ll talk more about that this weekend.

If you get a generosity plan, you will be happier, give more, save more and consume less.  I hope you’ll join me on this generosity journey and make the world a better place.

 

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The Power Of Presence

Posted in Perspective, Victorious Living, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on April 21, 2016

We’ve had several people from our church family in the hospitals recently.  In every case, each one is always so grateful when someone from church comes to visit. There’s something about the power of presence.

The last words recorded in Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ life are these, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Quite a promise if you ask me.  Yet, how many times do we feel alone, isolated, on our own? Just because you feel that way doesn’t mean it’s true.  I’ve felt lonely in a crowded room, felt hurt only because I misunderstood, felt unsure because it was a new experience. In these cases, my feelings were only a perception; the reality was something different.

What I’m saying is that you may feel tired, hurt, lonely, powerless, inadequate and needy – but the reality is that someone who created the universe is with you!  More than that, He’s promised to never leave you either – wow!

Why would an incredible God, as described in the Bible, want to hang out with me?  Here’s the answer: God is for me.  Hard to understand, but it’s true.  Paul says, “If God is FOR us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

None of this means that everything in my life will be great or turn out just like I want it to, but it does promise, I’ll never be alone and God is for me.  What more do you need? We have His presence with us always and the promise that it’s because He is for us.

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Revelation Explanation

Last weekend, I asked all my Crossroads family to read the first three chapters of Revelation and I’ve had some people asking questions.  So, I thought I would just use my blog and cover a few things.

First of all, did you realize that you are blessed if you read, hear and take to heart the message in Revelation?  Says so in Rev. 1:3.  That is an awesome promise!

Who are the angels and stars that are mentioned?  Most scholars believe these to mean the messengers of the seven churches.  This means that Jesus is holding these churches and leaders in His hand.  They are not sovereign, but under the authority of the One who paid the price for His church.  He walks among them and is very much concerned about them.  Just like He is still concerned and watching over His church today.  God is still the true leader over His church and it’s leadership.

What is the sword from his mouth?  The sword in Jesus’ mouth symbolizes the power and force of His message.  Even when Jesus walked the earth in human form, his voice had power to raise people from the dead and cause others to fall to the ground (John 18:6).  In Ephesians 6:17, we are told to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Back at the beginning of creation, God set things in motion through the power of His word.  True Christ-followers do not need to fear the words of Jesus, only those who will come under His judgment.  For them, it will be terrifying.

One has to keep in mind that much of Revelation is figurative language.  In other words, it most likely is not a true sword that will come from Christ’s mouth, but rather the power of His voice and words will be like a sword of spiritual power upon His enemies.  Also, consider how tough it would be for a man of 2,000 years ago (John) to write down the incredible things he was seeing.  How could his ancient mind even wrap itself around all that he was experiencing?

You might also notice the repetition of the number seven throughout the Bible, as this is the number of completion.  Though it is used over 50 times in Revelation and over 700 times throughout Scripture, we must be careful not to overemphasize it by attaching symbolic meaning in each instance.  Sometimes a seven is just a seven, especially if Scripture is not explicit about a meaning.  However, there are times, it seems, that God is communicating the idea of divine completeness, perfection, and wholeness.

I hope that by reading these first three chapters, you have allowed the Holy Spirit to speak a new, fresh word into your spirit.  Perhaps one of these seven messages is meant for you today so you can “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

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The God of Comfort

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Isn’t this a question that goes against the grain of our lives?  I mean, for those of us with a strong sense of justice, we believe that it’s fair for someone who harms others to suffer.  But, people filled with kindness, generosity and love should be given a pass on pain right?

The problem is that this is not how reality works.  And an even greater problem is that we think it should be that way.  As we discussed last weekend in our services, when we believe that God exists to make me happy and I’m not happy, then God messed up.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul refers to God as “the God of all comfort.”  What makes this significant is that you don’t need a comforting God if you’re always comfortable.  They time you really appreciate “the God of all comfort” is when you are uncomfortable, in pain, hurt, and even agony.

So, if you are currently in a situation of discomfort, it doesn’t mean God has let you down, it means He wants to lift you up.  If we never had a problem, we would never know how God could solve them.  Your pain is an opportunity to know the depth of comfort that only God can provide.  Invite Him into your pain today.

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He’s Alive

Approximately 2000 years ago everything changed when a man who claimed to be the Messiah rose from the dead.  Not only did a few women and the disciples confirm this, but also Paul tells us that over the course of many days he appeared to more than 500 at the same time.  These people became radical witnesses of the resurrected Christ and went all over spreading the news.  We call it Good News because it means God the Father accepted the sacrifice of His own Son as payment for the sins of humanity.  Now, there is an advocate that paves the way for us to be worthy of coming before the Father to obtain grace and mercy.

Here are a few reasons to celebrate this weekend:

You may feel discouraged – but He is alive

You may feel uncertain – but He is alive

You may feel weak – but He is alive

You may have sorrow – but He is alive

You may be sick – but He is alive

You may be tempted – but He is alive

You may feel inadequate – but He is alive

You may be lonely – but He is alive

It doesn’t make any difference what you are going through today, Jesus Christ being alive changes everything, so be encouraged today my friend.  The world is convulsing in the birth pangs of a new age that is about to dawn, because Jesus is alive!

Our Resurrection Celebrations at Crossroads are this Easter Sunday at 9 & 10:45 a.m.  Celebrate good times c’mon on!!

P.S.  Our Helicopter Easter Egg Drop is this Saturday at 11 a.m.  Tell somebody right now!!

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Reaction To The First Fight

The reaction to last Sunday’s message was surprising to me.  After each service, the front was filled with people coming down for prayer with our prayer partners.  Also, I had people coming to me saying, “Your message had a profound impact on my life, I am going to be making some changes as a result.”  An email I received this week added, “I couldn’t write fast enough for all the things you were saying that I needed to hear.”  Plus, Facebook had people announcing lifestyle changes they were making because of the sermon.

This got me thinking, why all this stir?  I honestly didn’t think it was going to have that huge of an impact ahead of time.  It just shows me how God knows what He’s doing and uses us in spite of ourselves.

Here’s what I want to share today: don’t let anything keep you back from what you want most in your life, especially for what you could have now.  Too many settle for what they can experience today over what God has dreamed for their lives tomorrow.

You are better than that!  You are a child of God, manufactured in His image to fulfill a destiny that is beyond your own ability.  He longs to show forth His power in your weakness and demonstrate His wisdom in your inadequacy.

Don’t you dare settle for less than what God has for you today, tomorrow or ever!  Get a mirror and look into it and confess, “I am well able to start a new habit today that will improve my physical, mental, relational or spiritual growth.  I will not allow the negative talk of the naysayers discourage or distract me from my goal.  I will accomplish all God wants me to accomplish in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Friend, that is who you are and I believe you are going to win this FIGHT!

FIGHT part 2 is this weekend with the focus on fighting for truth – invite someone!

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Fighting Back

What would you do if you knew someone was trying to cause harm to you or your family and you could do something about it?  Wouldn’t you try?  Isn’t there something inside you that would rise up in response?

I’ve got news for you, if you didn’t already know it, someone is trying to bring harm to you and yours.  Jesus totally identifies this individual and his intentions in John 10:10, where He says, “the thief has come to steal, kill and destroy.”  In other words, there is a thief who is intent on robbing, killing and ultimately destroying you and yours.  So, my question is, “What are you going to do about it?”

Now that you know there is someone intent on brining harm to you and your loved ones, what can you do?  Over these next five weeks we are launching a new sermon series called FIGHT – Winning Life’s Battles over hurts, habits and hang-ups.

The enemy wants to put you down, but Jesus wants to lift you up.  Satan wants to remind you of your past, but Jesus wants to give you hope and a future.  The evil one desires to “steal, kill and destroy”, but Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”  I believe what Jesus says more than what the devil says – how about you?  Learn how to fight back and live the life Jesus intended for you to live.

Join me for what I believe will be a powerful series of freedom, deliverance, healing, hope and release!

FIGHT begins THIS Sunday, November 2 @Crossroads.

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