Each week the Calvary staff blog about Christian life, ministry and more. Some of our blog posts focus on ministries and events inside the church, while other posts look outside our building to how we live out the gospel in our everyday lives. Each of these posts is crafted to encourage and challenge you in your faith journey. We'd love to hear from you! Create an account and log in to leave us a comment and let us know how the blogs impact you.
You may recall that during the month of February, our Student Ministries was working through the four ancient Greek words for love. We do studies like this to help us better understand what the original authors of the New Testament were trying to convey with their letters. And to better wrap our 21st century brains around 1st century people. We finished our series with the ultimate of all loves, which is Agape. Agape love describes the unconditional, divine love that God has for his creation, for us. Agape is a love that is selfless, and sacrificial. While researching this I stumbled on an article that describes Agape love like this;
“Agape...is unmotivated in the sense that it is not contingent on any value or worth in the object of love. It is spontaneous and heedless, for it does not determine beforehand whether love will be effective or appropriate in any particular case”
Agape love is not based on the value of what's being loved. Agape doesn't say, “If you're worthy of this, then you can experience it.” It doesn't require something; it is an undeserved love. Which makes perfect sense to why this is the love that the New Testament authors would use to describe God's love for us. We've done nothing to deserve His love, yet he gives it anyways.
Isn't that amazing?
I think of a passage like Romans 5:8, which states:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.
Agape love. Unconditional, undeserving, sacrificial love for His creation. Why? Simply, because He does. We've done nothing to deserve it, we've in fact done everything in our power to reject it. Yet, He gives it, to the point of sending His son to die on a cross, that we might know it. Wow.
It's really easy to stop there, and just say, Agape love, that's God's love for us, neat!... BUT, our New Testament authors don't stop there. Several times we see this word used to describe how we ought to love others. John 15:9-13, We see Jesus commanding his followers...
“This is my commandment, that you love (agapate) one another as I have loved (egapesa) you.”
Jesus is calling us to love each other sacrificially, selflessly, unconditionally, and maybe the toughest of all, undeservedly. That's tough, don't get me wrong. Agape love is a tall order that none of us should take lightly. But it's something we've been commanded to by Jesus himself. This word is also used to describe the love, in a passage you all likely know very well, Galatians 5:22-23, which states;
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love (agape), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
It's really easy to zoom past that first “fruit” and get to some of the more specific fruits of the Spirit. We get caught up thinking, okay, be kind, be patient, be peaceful, be good, be faithful, be loving. But the word used here is not philia (which describes a friendly love), nor storge (familial love). The word used in Galatians 5:22 is agape; unconditional, undeserving, selfless, sacrificial love. The fruits of the Spirit at work in our lives STARTS with this kind of love. And under this kind of love, the rest of the fruits get their framework, and their purpose. How God loves His creation, we too are to love.
We are about to enter into that time of the year where God's agape, love, is on display for all to see. Even the un-churched will hear of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us all. When you approach the cross this Easter, reflect on God's agape for us. Reflect on the fact that you can't earn it, and that you've done nothing to deserve it, YET, God gives it freely, unconditionally, and sacrificially, because He loves you.
Mike Sanders, Youth Director
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I remember one of the first times I worked my way through the book of Hebrews. I had been hesitant to read Hebrews because I found it hard to understand all the Old Testament references and what they had to do with the message that the author of Hebrews was trying to communicate.
So, I sat down and started chasing all those footnotes and cross references that you find in your Bible (a little aside – this is one of the reasons why I don’t think your primary Bible should be a digital device that doesn’t include these). As I read the Old Testament quotes, suddenly the book came alive as I saw the incredible way the author built the case surrounding the supremacy of Christ and the power of salvation through His death on the cross.
One of my favourite sections – and really it’s the pinnacle of the book in many ways – is in chapter 10 where the author writes, (italics mine)
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:11–14 (ESV)
When I first read those verses, I wondered why it would mention “stands daily” and then “sat down”. Why would the author put these little details in? As I chased down the cross-references and read some other material I was struck with the thought that the reason why the priest could never sit down was because his job was never done. Every day, day after day, sacrifices would have to be made for the people by the priests. It was a never-ending job that required unbelievable dedication and endurance. There was no shortage of work. Sin continued to be committed, sin needed to be atoned for, and a sacrifice was necessary.
Until THE day when everything changed. Jesus changed everything.
Jesus gave His life as the final and ultimate sacrifice for your sins and mine. In one final act, Jesus took the punishment for our sin. The punishment that we are responsible for because we can’t keep God’s perfect law, was taken on Himself. Not multiple sacrifices, but ONE SINGLE SACRIFICE that made atonement for all sin for all time.
Let that sink in a minute as we approach the time of year where we come together as a church to remember that Jesus died and rose again (Good Friday and Easter) so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be made right with God. And then Jesus SAT down.
The priests in the tabernacle had no need of chairs because their work never ended, but Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, offered himself as a single sacrifice for sins, for all time. After his sacrifice was offered and accepted, he did what no other priest serving in the tabernacle had done before. He pulled up a chair and sat down at the right hand of His Father (1). Your sin and mine has now been covered by the sacrifice that Jesus made. By faith, we accept that gift of grace. It moves me to tears to think that my Saviour did that for us, for His church, for any who would believe.
As we gather this Easter weekend, it is my prayer that the prodigiousness of this grace, that was poured out in the finality of Christ’s sacrifice, would move us all to proclamation and mission - proclaiming the good news to our friends and neighbours and serving people as an expression of love because of what Christ has done for us. Why not invite them to join you on Easter Sunday at Calvary – you never know what they will say until you ask.
And remember…. He sat down…
Pastor Aaron Groat
I have always enjoyed reading the book of Psalms. It’s often my ‘go to’ if I’m looking for encouragement or I want to read a few verses for devotion.
The idea of God as our protector is a beautiful image and of great comfort.
The person who rests in the shadow of the Most High God
Will be kept safe by the Mighty One.
I will say about the Lord, “He is my place of safety. He is like a fort to me.
He is my God. I trust in Him.”
The Lord says, “I will save the one who loves me.
I will keep him safe, because he trusts in me.
He will call out to me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him in times of trouble.
I will save him and honor him.
I will give him a long and full life.
I will save him. (Psalm 91:1-2, 14-16)
The Bible offers many verses describing God as refuge, fortress, deliverer, shield, protector and strength.
On a drive to work one morning, there were two children who presumably were walking to school. The older sister looked to be caring for her younger brother. As they walked down the sidewalk, a large truck was parked, and was blocking part of the walk way. The sister intuitively moved her little brother to her side opposite the truck and out of potential harm. She was protecting her brother, took his hand and cared for him.
This small illustration made me think of God going before us and acting as our protector. While we may face trials and obstacles of all sorts- God will certainly walk through things with us.
Director of Family & Children's Ministry
Psalms 46:1 - God is our place of safety.
Recently I was reading the first part of the book of Ephesians, and I was struck by the use of the word ‘in’ - have you noticed it before? I would encourage you to grab your Bible or a Bible app and take a minute to check it out.
The word 'in' is just a small word but it is amazing how it reminds us and reassures us.
In Ephesians 2, Paul reminds the believers that in their trespasses they were dead. Separated from Christ, without hope and without God. Remember, he says, because you were inside a life of sin you were outside of a relationship with the Heavenly Father.
But Paul also uses the word in to reassure us. Paul says to the Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus we who once were far off have been brought near” (Ephesians 2:13). As believers we are in Christ Jesus, and being in Christ is a pretty amazing place to be! Look at what Ephesians 1 says about being in Christ:
In him, we were chosen
In love, we were predestined for adoption
In him, we have redemption through his blood
In him, we have forgiveness of our sins
In him, we are lavished with grace
In him, we can know the mystery of God’s will
In him, we have an inheritance
In him, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit
In him, the Holy Spirit is our guarantee of inheritance, to the praise of God’s glory
In our sin we were cut off and shut out, lost forever. But now in Christ we can enjoy a loving and right relationship with God the Father.
I’m so thankful for the small word in. Are you?
Director of Administration, Communications & Frontline Ministry
A New Thing
Ugh. February, am I right? What a “blah” month.
(Unless you're really into Valentine's day, or it's your Birthday month, then I'll allow you to enjoy it) The excitement of the holidays have faded. You've likely totally bailed on your New Year's Resolution. (I don't know who's reading this, but let's be honest with ourselves...)
February like the “Monday” of months.
Right now, as I look out the window, the snow is mostly melted; the only remnants being the hardened piles along the side of the road, crusted with gravel and old Tim Horton's cups. The sky is a melancholy grey, intermittent drizzles of rain adding to the dreary effect.
But guys, I'm excited! I'm excited because it smells like Spring. I know, I know, Spring is technically a month away, and there will likely be another snowstorm or two, but I can feel spring coming. That anticipation keeps me going through all of these “blah” February days. And I'm so thankful that – as Christians – we get to live in this same kind of eager expectation.
Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” God is doing a new thing. God is making us new! He is doing a work in us, even now (Phil. 1:6).
Can you feel it?
Those parts of us that were lifeless – that were buried, and covered in dirt and dust – will spring with new life.
In a couple of months, wildflowers will grow through the cracks in the sidewalk, the trees will be budding with secret promise, and these “blah” days of February will have been forgotten in light of the new life to come.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'” (Rev. 21:1-5a)
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
Love, Love, Love, and... Love
When you read those four “loves”, were you aware of what type of love I meant? Do you get the sense that I meant different things with each subsequent “love”? Did you think you were about to read the lyrics to a Beatles song? Or, are you a scholar, and immediately realized that I'm about to start talking about the four Greek words for love? If so, pat yourself on the back!
Chances are, if you grew up in the church or went to youth group, you've likely done a study, probably around Valentine's Day, on the four Greek words for love. It's an easy series you can run with youth during February to get students into the Bible and understanding the different ways we are called to love each other and God. Our students are going to get that chance this February, as each week we're going to look at one word to see how it is used in the Bible, and how each one teaches us about how we are called to love.
As I was working on this series for the students, I was reminded of just how important it is to study the Bible. This document that we all hold dear. That we proclaim speaks truth into our lives. We need to be reading it, regularly, and we need to study it. We live in a culture that doesn't teach the Bible in school, and many don't at home. Our exposure now is through Church, Sunday School, or, for those that don't attend a church, the vast ways it's misused and misinterpreted in our various medias. The book itself is relatively easy to read, and we can glean profound insights. But to truly understand the meaning of what's written requires patient contemplation, study, and prayer.
The English language is often more concise than some other languages, but it can also be too concise. And we see it in the example of love. In ancient Greek there are four words for love: Philia, Storge, Eros, and Agape. Each word carries with it a sense of love, but tied to a specific direction, or expression of the love we feel for others. English has streamlined this down to one word. But it's too simple. I love my wife, I love my son, I love having a car, I love living in Canada, I love worshiping in church, and not least of all, I love Jesus Christ. Certainly all the things that I “love” don't reflect the exact same idea, right? Of course not. As 21st century people we understand what kind of love I mean with each thing, based on what it is. But we certainly don't have that understanding when it comes to 1st century scripture authors. THAT's why knowing which ancient Greek word they used can help us better understand the type of love they are talking about in each instance. Does this mean we need to carry around a Greek New Testament and a Greek Lexicon, and all take Ancient Greek for the next four years? No, although it may give us a deeper appreciation for the text we all know and love...
My challenge for you all, with a possible prize...
Read Romans 5:8, then do some studying and figure out which “love” word is being used here. Once you have that, look up that Greek word to discover its meaning. Then email me and let me know what you found!
Mike Sanders, Director of Student Ministries
Over the last few months, the news in Canada has a bitter tone when it comes to freedom of thought and religion. A name like Jordan Peterson, the U of T professor at the centre of a controversy surrounding the use of gender pronouns, is being used in conversations in an increasing fashion. Add to this the government's recent requirement for applicants to the Canadian Summers Jobs program to sign an attestation stating they support Canadian constitutional rights as well as the right to reproductive choice, leaves any person of faith or faith-informed ethics wondering how long it will be before people of faith or conscience can live unhindered in our country.
Our government fails to recognise that people of faith or even differing faith values contribute greatly to the fabric of our Canadian society. They are guided in their behaviours precisely because their faith informs them so. If faith groups were to stop their mandate, the burden would have to be picked up by city, provincial or federal government in a way that would ‘hit them right in the pocket book’.
While this post is not necessarily to argue issues at play in our broader Canadian context, the government does in fact need people of faith and/or faith informed ethical values to function in society in such a way that contributes to the health and vitality of our country.
Recently a study group was commissioned in Canada to look at the effect that churches and other non-profit agencies have in their cities and towns. The study, now published online, is titled, The Halo Project.
“Any city’s social infrastructure includes several factors. Key among them would be local religious congregations. It has long been known in Canada that churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have social, spiritual, and communal value. But what if we could measure the value of what they contribute to the common good in their neighbourhoods and communities? That is the jumping off point The Halo Project.
Inspired by similar research in the United States, the Halo Project began to examine and measure how religious congregations fare as economic catalysts. The first phase of this research examined 10 local congregations in Toronto. What we found was that those congregations all make significant common good contributions that have remarkable economic value when measured by traditional economic development tools.
But just how much economic good do those congregations do?”
Do you know what they found? The study may or may not surprise you.
The 10 congregations they examined in Toronto spent more than $9.5M in budgetary expenses, but the common good, or their 'halo effect', through "weddings, artistic performances, suicide prevention, ending substance abuse, housing initiatives, job training – and a whole host of other areas that make cities so much more livable – is estimated to be more than $45 million per year." The Halo Project reports that every dollar a congregation spends is the equivalent of $4.77 worth of services that the city does not have to provide.
Applying that ratio just to the 220 parishes of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Toronto yields a potential annual contribution of $990 million in common good services, and this represents only one religious tradition. The full impact of all religious congregations in Toronto would be staggering.”
I find these results are sobering.
Please do not let the media or anyone else fool you into thinking that the church or other religious groups do no not make a valuable contribution to our society.
It is my prayer that we would continue to build community partnerships that would benefit our community here in Burlington. There are so many people who can be helped and encouraged through the work that we do through God’s people. We do this “work”, not because we have to, but rather because our faith informs our values that we should. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the people of Israel while they were in exile in Babylon.
‘But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’
I trust that if we ever needed to hire summer students to assist us in our mission in the city, we would raise the money as a church ourselves and not have to depend on the government’s program. I hope that Burlington knows that Calvary is here to love them, to help them, to encourage them, and when given the opportunity to talk about the hope that we have in Christ, that we share it with love and grace. For another great article on this topic, I invite you to check out this article.
Our mission at Calvary is, Making Disciples Who Love God, Love People and Serve our World. All three of these phrases come together to point us to Christ’s mission for the church. May we never forget that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to “Serve our World.”
Pastor Aaron Groat
In case you may have missed it, our CB Kids are having an Olympic themed night this coming Monday, February 5th. With the winter Olympics starting this month, we thought it would be a great opportunity to play some fun games and to see what the Bible has to say about sports.
Whether it’s gym class, recreational or competitive sports, there are so many good character-building traits that can be cultivated through sport. Things like teamwork, perseverance, respect, time management, winning and losing, and good sportsmanship, for example. On Monday, we will be looking at some examples of winter sports and how hard athletes must train to compete. In whatever the situation - sports or other activities - God’s Word will help us to stay strong in life.
Some of the games that evening will include, ice cubes and curling, hockey and Oreos, and skating and toilet paper. There will also be a snack and craft time. If you are in SK-grade 5, come out at 6:15pm. It’s going to be lots of fun!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
“But those who trust in the Lord will receive new strength” Isaiah 40:31A
“All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25
Maintaining relationships can be a challenge, even with phone calls, "snail mail", email, and social media. In fact, social media - that thing that was designed to bring us together - sometimes works against us and leaves us as disconnected as ever.
Recently Facebook (and soon Instagram) changed their algorithms to suppress posts from pages, such as our Calvary Burlington Facebook page, in favour of boosting posts from individuals and groups. Their reasoning is that a public page is something that you follow, whereas friendships and groups are something with which you engage.
When their algorithms changed, we instantly saw a plunge in the number of people who saw and engaged with our posts on Facebook. This was disheartening because our staff try to post a balance of information that is useful to those in the church family, and that which is encouraging or invitational for the community as a whole.
With this change in algorithm, we could have responded in two ways:
First, we could pay Facebook to boost or promote each post on our page. That seemed like a terrible way to steward our finances, plus it looks a little tacky to have each of our posts say, “Sponsored”!
Our second – and best – option was to create a Facebook group. What's the difference? Well, a Facebook page is open for anyone to follow, and a Facebook group is closed and is based more on a sense of community and shared interests.
What does this mean for you? On our Facebook page you’ll see content posted by “Calvary Burlington” related to information and encouragement, stuff that you can share with your friends and colleagues to let them know what is going on with Calvary Burlington and how your faith has impacted you. And in our Facebook group you will see prayer requests, photos of the church experience, and comments related to the faith journey posted by both Calvary Burlington and the church family. In fact, within the group it is the church family itself that creates the content!
So, if you attend Calvary, we hope you will follow and contribute to both. If you are not yet part of Calvary's group page, send us a request to join - it would be great to see you there!
It is not our intention to overwhelm you with information, but we honestly believe that this group is a tool that we all can use to continue creating community and to build one another up in the faith. If you don't yet attend Calvary, stop by on a Sunday. You'll find people just like yourself - people who don't have it all figured out but who are trying to understand more what it means to follow Jesus.
See you online!
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CalvaryBurl/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/calvaryburl/
I think throwing up is pretty much the worst way to start the day. I mean, yes, worse things can happen, but for me, that’s a pretty rough 6am wake-up. I found myself at the start of a day where I eyed the soda crackers suspiciously, not knowing whether their bland taste and texture would eventually wage war inside of me, or whether my glass of ginger ale would be an ally or a foe. Cautiously, I avoided both, and spent the day laying in bed as the energy slowly drained out of me.
That was my Saturday a couple of weeks ago. Just an awful day.
And then came Sunday.
Pastor Aaron had graciously offered to lead worship, but I wanted to come in to do what I could. So I sat at the keyboard and sang a little. Mostly I was just getting through. I was empty. In so many ways, I was empty.
And I’m so glad I came in to church that morning because it was one of the best worship experiences I have ever had.
There is something beautiful and freeing about knowing in a very real way that you don’t have anything that you can bring to God – that simply your presence is enough (because sometimes even that can be difficult).
There’s an album I love by Shane and Shane called “Bring Your Nothing” and in describing the idea behind it, Shane says “The only thing I bring Him is what put him on a cross, and I bring that in and He trades it for everlasting life…”. That hits me pretty hard. There is nothing we can do to redeem ourselves, but when we come to God In humility – when we bring our nothing – God does an amazing work in us, through us, and for us.
My challenge and my prayer for you this week, is that you embrace your “nothing”. Don’t feel guilty about it and don’t just accept it; rejoice in the knowledge that when God invites you into his presence, all He wants is you.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)
Jolene Sanders, Worship Director
Inadequacy is something that we all, if we're being honest, struggle with at different times in our lives. We feel inadequate in our jobs, our families, our relationships, or even in our church. As 21st century humans, we are fraught with the perils of our self worth, our value, our contribution both to society, and to God. I am however encouraged to know that this feeling of not being good enough is something the Apostles also felt and wrestled with. It encourages me to know that they not only overcame it to accomplish great things in the name of God, but they turned it around to be a reflection on the goodness of God.
The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes the following; starting in chapter 12, verse 7:
"But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. Three different times I begged the LORD to take it away. Each time he said, 'My gracious favour is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weakness and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Paul recognizes that without this “thorn in my flesh” he would be prideful in his own accomplishments. But because of this weakness he cannot boast in himself, he can only boast in the way Christ works through him.
So when you are feeling inadequate, worthless, weak, or otherwise unworthy, remember that Christ's power works best in your weakness. For when you are weak, then you are strong.
“Aaron, there is a fine line between pastoral manipulation and motivation, make sure you stay on the motivation side and leave the other side to God.”
As a young pastor, these words were drilled into my head by my mentor. It was a truth that was to be lived at every turn when it came to pointing people to Jesus. When you think about it, using guilt to get someone to do something is always the easy means. We can get anyone do to anything if we guilt them into doing it but then we motivate them to grow in Christ, then Christ does the work and produces results that only the Holy Spirit can do.
All this to say, whenever we talk about prayer and our need to reengage in the practice, it’s super easy to dive into the guilt/manipulation world. It’s really easy to bring the hammer to feel the sting that we don’t pray like we should and that we could always resolve to do better.
I want us to understand that this is not the tactic that we are going to take when we talk about prayer this month. God wants us to do better than guilt; He wants us to come to Him because our hearts are inclined to Him. He invites us to come. My task as your pastor is to motivate us all to see the beauty that exists in communication with God. Not for what He will do for us but for what He wants to do in and through us.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
How’s that for motivation? The writer of Hebrews motivates us to see the confidence that we can have in coming into God’s presence in prayer! Building on this, starting January 14, we want to spend four weeks motivating and encouraging us in the area prayer in our church.
Prayer is integral to the of the life of our church. If we want God to move in power in our lives and in our church then it has to begin with prayer. To supplement the weekly preaching and worship ministries on Sunday, some of events that we are looking forward to are:
- A 24-hour prayer day (1 hour shifts/signup)
- Encouraging weekly prayer huddles across our region
- Evening concert of prayer & worship
- Daily encouragement prayer emails over the series
- List of requests
- A social media campaign (#thechurchthatpraystogether)
- Using the PrayerMate App as a tool to help us
No matter where you are in your prayer life, it’s our vision to take the next step in growing in our discipleship at Calvary. I am looking forward to the journey. I know you will also. I think 2018, by God’s grace could be our best year yet! Let’s come together in prayer in see what God does in our lives and in the life of our church.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” 1 Timothy 2:1
Pastor Aaron Groat