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.
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
As I write this, I have just finished packing up the costumes from this year's CB Kids Christmas program. It offers me a moment to reflect on all the preparations over the past six weeks, having the children learn songs and poems about Jesus’ birth. I’m reminded too of all the programs and presentations that Calvary has had in past years and the people who allowed us a moment to just pause in the business of the season. Through all of this, the message has remained the same year after year - God promised to send a Saviour to the world, and there in a stable, that promise came true. Jesus was born quietly and with simple beginnings. I love how God kept this incredible, world changing event so humble. He could have done it many different ways, with glitz and glamour, but that was not His plan.
It’s easy for us to get lost in the bustle of the season, but let's try to find ‘the simple’ this Christmas. Take moments to find peace and quiet in random, small things. I love playing board games with the family, watching a holiday movie with snacks, or hiking through trails. What are some activities your family likes to do?
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and I wish you happiness for the year ahead!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
Let the celebrating begin! The Christmas season is upon us and with it comes the opportunity to mark the birth of Jesus into our world. I don’t know about you, but every time I think about that event and all that God made possible through the gift of his Son it both encourages and challenges me.
The encouraging part of the gift is obvious yet amazing. The fact is that the God of the universe came to earth because of his love for you. Jesus considered the value of your soul great enough that he would trade the comfort of heaven for a straw-filled manger bed.
It’s the challenging part - our response to this gift - that sometimes gets lost in the chaos of all things Christmas. Yes there are trees to be decorated, presents to be bought and meals to be prepared. Might I suggest that while God wants us to enjoy celebrating this great gift to us, it matters more to him how we respond to that gift. How will you respond?
First, I hope you respond by accepting the gift of grace that Jesus brought into the world. After all, Jesus didn’t come so that we could look back fondly and think of him as a sweet little baby lying in a manger. He didn’t come so that we could read the Bible and appreciate the moral teaching and social revolution he brought into his time on earth. Jesus came to live and to die so that the forgiveness of God the Father could be made available to us. Jesus went to the cross for our sin and shame so that we could have a clean heart and a fresh start before God.
Second, once you have accepted this gift I hope you respond by sharing it with others. You can do this in a number of ways: Invite someone to come with you to hear our Sunday School kids share their Christmas gifts of song with us - people love to watch kids, so this would be an easy invite for you. You might also invite them to come on Christmas Eve at 5:00pm. We intentionally have the Christmas Eve service early so that you and your friends can leave here and continue with Christmas celebrations wherever they may be. Friends, Christmas is an easy time to invite someone. It’s a time when people are open to hearing the Christmas story and singing carols. It might seem like a simple gesture to you, but these invitation communicate the value we place on God’s gift to us.
So I do hope you enjoy celebrating this Christmas season, but more importantly I hope you respond to all that God has done for you. Be encouraged - God loves you! Be challenged - the gift of Jesus is yours to share with others!
Hey guys! It's Jolene here, writing my first blog post as Worship Director here at Calvary. I have to say, I feel really blessed to be serving in this role. For those who may not know, I attended Emmanuel Bible College for a degree in Youth and Worship Leadership which has really shaped how I worship and how I think about worship. One of the biggest takeaways from my time there was the importance of authentic worship. That whatever we encountered in our week, whatever roller-coaster ride of emotions we've been on, that's what we bring on Sunday morning. We come broken and we come dirty. Sometimes we come confused or overwhelmed. But God takes where we're at, and turns it into something beautiful.
I'll be honest, as excited as I've been to take on this role, I've also felt hopelessly inadequate at times. But I know that even on those mornings I'm feeling anything but confident, God can take what little I have to offer and use it for His glory. What an amazing God we serve! And I can't think of a better place to serve him.
Church, I love worshipping with you. And I'm so thankful for a team that is committed to using their gifts to bring praise to our God. I love forward to learning and growing with you as we worship together.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Romans 11:36
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
I want to be candid with all of you and say this: I love our Junior Highs. We just got back from an awesome weekend with our Juniors up at Bedlam, and I want to let you know that your prayers were certainly felt. I got to witness the fruits of your faithfulness to pray. Our trips to and from Muskoka Woods were safe and fun, nobody got sick, and everyone survived. Plus, I got to see our Juniors serve each other, make connections with other kids in similar ministries, and truly consider what it means to follow Jesus. I even witnessed one of our students going out of their way to help another student feel wanted and involved. It was amazing. I was encouraged seeing these same things from all the other kids up there; hearts seeking truth, with a willingness to learn and serve together.
The focus on the weekend was On The Move. Which, if you've ever seen a Junior High, you know that describes them perfectly. We were asked to move toward Jesus with actions. To lean in, to stand up in community, to move towards transformation, and to make the jump. We looked at the life of Paul when he was encountered by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and talked about how the circumstances with which Paul was transformed may be miraculous, but the transformation in his heart is the same for us as it was for him. We were invited to leave our 'garbage' at the foot of the cross as an act of our willingness to be transformed by Christ. But we were also open to not leave it at the cross, and encouraged to discuss that with someone we trusted. If you get a chance, ask our Junior Highs about the garbage they were invited to leave at the cross, and encourage them in their pursuit of God's mercy.
It is my hope and prayer that this message got through to our kids, and I would ask that you continue to pray for our Junior Highs as they continue their journey towards the truth of Christ.
The new Calvary App is here, and we think you'll love it!
First we have to mention that when you install the App, please allow notifications. We won't inundate you with texts, but there are things you will want to know about (program updates, inclement weather). After you download the App open it and allow notifications. Then navigate to the side menu (top lefthand side of the screen) click Settings, and then Notifications. There you can select which groups can notify you. Definitely click General, and then add any other relevant groups.
Here are just a few of the features of the new App:
The Home screen features an entire section devoted to Sunday morning. You'll find the online Bulletin and the digital Connection Card, as well as our new Sermon Notes section. There you can fill in your notes and then email them to yourself so that you can look them over during the week.
The Events tab gives you our calendar at a glance. Within each event you can add it to your calendar (use the calendar icon on the top righthand side of the screen), or send the event via text or email. Pro tip: use this feature to invite someone to a games night, or to remind family members about upcoming programs.
The Media tab allows access to the latest sermons and notes. Pro tip: Download the sermon to your phone so that you can listen on the go, and save on your data charges! You'll find the Downloads in the Menu (three little lines in the top lefthand side of the screen). Also cool is that the media player is also available online through the desktop experience - click here to see it.
The Bible tab gives you both a full Bible and a reading plan - no other Bible App needed! Pro tip: The App will read Scripture out loud, and iOS users can airplay it to an Apple TV for an even bigger sound experience.
One of the main reasons we love the App is that it isn't cookie-cutter. It has been fully developed and is customized for our church family. You'll notice that at the time of launch we have an entire section devoted to #TheGreatestBook - our national initiative to get back into God's Word, including a 14-day devotional. At other times of the year we will have tabs for Christmas at Calvary, Easter, Summer Camp and more.
This is just a taste of what you'll find in the App; download it today and check it out for yourself.
Anyone who has ever been to an event for the first time (like a business lunch or a party) and didn’t know a soul understands the power of an invitation.
Hey, come and join us, sit at our table
With those eight words, someone can turn an event into an experience. With that simple invitation, someone can change longing into reality - A longing to connect, a longing to engage, and a longing to know someone.
In Luke 15, Jesus reminds the disciples and the religious leaders of His day about the pursuing God that we serve. Through three short discourses, Jesus teaches that the God of the Bible is a missionary God who graciously pursues people (the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost boy). If the church has been given the mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus and call people back to God, then there must be an ask somewhere along the line.
The problem is, that long this line, we have forgotten the strategy of simply inviting a friend, a co-worker or a neighbour to church or something like Christianity Explored. I get lost in my thoughts at times trying to figure out why we struggle with inviting people to a place where they can meet this Jesus that we claim has radically transformed our life. The women at the well in John 6 responded to Jesus with invitation and John records it like this:
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John 6:28-30
So the question for us this week is this... Who are we inviting to meet Jesus?
Seriously, who has God place in your life that you are seeking to invite to meet with Jesus. It can be a simple invitation, because the research tells us that over 50% of people will respond positively to an invitation to attend church or some event at church. That means 1 in 2 people will actually join you at some point. If we were betting people, I would take those odds any day! I only took one course in statistics in university but I think this might be a good percentage.
With Christianity Explored coming up on October 16, prayerfully consider who God is leading you to invite. God is working and He invites you to join Him in the invitation process today! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. It’s a great program designed for people to meet Jesus. Hope to see you there with your guest!
You are dearly loved,
In Student Ministries, we endeavour to change the lives of the students in our program. When I was a youth, and even a young adult, I often found that my best learning came from either hands-on experience, or from object lessons. There's something to be said about having something tangible that you interact with to help you recall information later in life.
I think of the experiment with beaker of water, a Jesus beaker (water mixed with bleach or ascorbic acid), and a sin beaker (filled with iodine). The demonstration is that you pour the sin beaker into the beaker of water, and it makes it all dark and cloudy. But you pour in the Jesus beaker and it gets clear. But then, to demonstrate the cleansing power of Jesus they pour the more of the sin beaker into the Jesus beaker, and it just stays clear. It's a demonstration of the saving power of Christ and His ability to cleanse beyond what we think is possible (click here for a video).
I like to use object lessons in my teaching, because of their lasting power. With our big fall kick-off, we got one of our youth to stand in the middle of a circle blindfolded, and then had the students, one at a time, clap their hands quietly around them. The person with the blindfold had to point to where the clap came from. Simple enough, until we packed the pinna of their ears with play-doh. And that caused the blindfolded person to point forwards, when the clap came between their legs, they had lost their ability to discern the vertical direction of the clapping. We then related that back to our ability to hear God's call, or to understand his will. When we are in tune with God, and using our ears as intended, we can see where he's calling us, we can hear his voice better. But when we pack our ears with things of this world, we lose our ability to discern the direction of his voice, and his will. How do we do that? We started with a focus on our love for God. To love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength. If you can get your love of God in tune, it will be easier to hear his call.
Mike Sanders, Youth Ministries
I have always considered myself to be a youthful person. I lived independently at 14, graduated High School at 17, got married at 18, owned a home at 20, and I just always felt young. Recently though I was faced with my unyouthfulness when my son came home on his first day of school with an assignment that began, Now that you're in grade 12. Grade 12? Are you serious? When did I get old enough to have a child in grade 12? Apparently it happened this September!
The assignment was quite an interesting one; it told the students that although their age and stage of life were rapidly changing, their core identity was what made them who they are. It went on to ask the students to describe themselves and their thought processes in various categories using just one word.
What do you think about; In what ways do you demonstrate independence; Why do you consider certain things to be right or wrong; How are your dreams connected to your goals. It was challenging.
The final section focused on spiritual construct and the students' belief system. My son brought me his paper to proof read, and in the box that asked, Describe your thoughts about God, he had written this word: Friendly.
I questioned him, but he said that since God was his friend and he was friends with God, they are friendly. Now, if I had been asked to write down just one word describing my thoughts about God I would have pulled out bigger words like Redeemer, convenantal love, Creator, forgiven, chosen. But friendly? Really?
Oh, I how wanted him to change that word. But it was his assignment and his choice so I let it go.
Since then I haven't stopped thinking about that word. I realized that my own word choices focused on what God had done for me or how God felt about me, but my son's word was focused on relationship. At the core of his identity, he knows he has a relationship with God.
It's not such a far-fetched thing to have a friendly relationship with God. James 2:23 says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness - and he was called a friend of God, and Jesus says in John 15, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Maybe this week take some time to think about one or two words that describe what you think about God. Or you're reading this and you honestly don't know what you think about God. This could be a great time to plug into something like Christianity Explored so that you can ask questions and take the time to thoughtfully consider the topic of Jesus.
As for me, rather than reminiscing about my younger days I will choose to quiet my heart and think a little more clearly about the relationship I enjoy with Jesus.
Candi Thorpe, Director of Administration
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8
Before our times of celebration around the Communion table this summer, we reviewed the theological importance of what we were doing. They were good reminders and I pray that they were helpful for what we do regularly at Calvary.
The purpose behind reviewing these fundamental principles was to introduce a change to the way that we serve communion. For years at Calvary, our Elders have faithfully served communion along with other men in our church, and I want to thank them for their faithful service to the body of Christ. During the spring, we reviewed the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, a question surfaced: Who should serve the two elements that we take together?
As we look at the Bible, Scripture gives no explicit teaching on who should distribute the elements of Communion, so we are left simply to decide what is wise and appropriate for the benefit of the believers in our church. The Elders have reviewed this topic over the last few months, and beginning this Sunday you will see both men and women participating in the serving of the elements to the church.
Just as has been our practice, one Elder (including myself) will lead the distribution of the bread and cup, and our servers will be people from our congregation who are walking in fellowship with God and each other, and who use their serving gifts to bless the church. Frankly, we believe that there is no biblical reason why only Elders or leaders, or only men, should distribute the elements. As Wayne Grudem summarises, Would it not speak much more clearly of our unity and spiritual equality in Christ if both men and women, for example, assisted in distributing the elements of the Lord’s supper.
I am looking forward to this weekend where we will all participate in the beautiful expression of Christ’s sacrifice for us. If you have any questions, you are invited to contact us.
As you prepare you hearts for worship on Sunday, we are praying that the time gathered around the Lord’s Supper as men and women would be worshipful, celebratory and encouraging. What a joy it is to remember the price that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, paid for our forgiveness and future hope.