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.
When I was in High School I attended a church that believed that when you were too old to attend Sunday School, you were just the right age to begin teaching Sunday School. By the time I hit grade 10, I was teaching a boisterous class of grade 4 boys in a big gymnasium crisscrossed with room dividers.
Words can’t describe the noise level. Each week I came, woefully unprepared, to teach Bible stories to those boys and hoped I was making some sort of a difference.
Recently I read Psalm 78 and reflected on those early days of teaching Bible stories in a gymnasium in Kitchener. You have to understand that Psalm 78 was written by Asaph; he had been appointed to pass on the stories of the marvellous deeds of God Almighty so that future generations would know and worship the Lord. But here’s the thing you'll notice when you read that Psalm: Asaph didn’t just tell the historical stories; he taught lessons about the goodness of God in the face of Israel’s repeated disobedience.
Stories and lessons? C’mon, what’s the difference?
Well, the facts of what happened in Israel’s past is the story, but why and how God responded is the lesson. The physical and spiritual acts performed by God to rescue his people is a story, but the impact of how we worship and serve a faithful God is the lesson.
Psalm 78:6-8 tells us that God established a testimony and law which we are commanded to teach to our children so that they in turn tell their children, so they will set their hope in God and not forget His works. Check it out:
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
And I think this goes beyond the value of just teaching stories to our own children – this is transferrable to the relationships we have with those who are spiritually younger as well. By knowing the law and testimony of God (the stories and the lessons), future generations will not harden their heart toward the Lord.
I confess that many times I have told the stories of God without teaching the lessons. Telling the story is easy, but teaching the lesson is hard because it means getting personal. It means examining my heart to ensure that God is doing a work there before I teach others about God wanting to do a work in their heart. It means being humble and teachable and vulnerable. It means ensuring that my testimony begins with God’s testimony. It means knowing with certainty that God is the hero of my story (both the parts in the past and the parts yet unwritten) before I try to teach anyone else that God also wants to be the hero of their story. I taught Bible stories for years before I realized that if the people don’t see how the lesson impacts me, they’ll never see how it can impact them.
You might be a Sunday School teacher or helper, or maybe you are influencing future believers in your family, workplace or your community. As you communicate God’s Word, remember that it is the lessons that draw people to set their hope in Christ.
I’d love to hear from you about the lessons God is teaching you. Let’s grab a coffee (or three!) and encourage each other with the marvellous works of the Lord.
Candi Thorpe, Director of Administration, Communication and Frontline Ministries
It took me a while to decide what to write about this week. I wanted to write something beautiful and inspiring, but instead I’m going to write about discipline.
I even gave a few tries at writing a lovely little Mother’s Day blog, but no… we’re going to talk about discipline.
Before we go any further, take a moment to read through Hebrews 12.
To many of you it’s a familiar passage. It encourages us to run the race set before us. When I was younger, I always thought that was a great analogy, because it seemed so exciting! I pictured the 100-meter dash at the Olympics; adrenaline pumping, crowds cheering, putting everything on the line.
But the reality is that our race is more like a really, really, really long marathon.
You’re probably going to feel like walking for part of it. Or you might get a cramp partway through and wonder if you’ll make it to the finish line at all.
You will get tired.
But the author of Hebrews writes, “It is for discipline that you have to endure…. For the moment, all discipline feels painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Emphasis added)
As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to discipline a child. But I also know that not to discipline my son would be a disservice. Because I don’t just care about who he is now, I care about his whole life. It can be painful and frustrating, but we discipline our children because we love them.
And how much more does our Father in Heaven love us. So much so that he takes the time – despite our resistance, despite our stubbornness – to shape and mold us into who we are meant to be.
So press on - even when you feel exhausted, even when you’re overwhelmed – press on to the finish line.
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
“I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God's call through Christ Jesus to the life above.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
“For He disciplines for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10)
There is no doubt that the tragic events of the past couple weeks have rattled us all a bit. From the tragic loss of life in a bus crash to the senseless violence of a man in Toronto, all of us have been forced to hold our loved ones closer and recognise the brevity of life.
There are no easy answers when it comes to the why. Why did this happen? How could God have allowed this to take place? These are good questions. These are hard questions, and in the middle of the crisis there are no easy answers. I find later that after some time has passed, allowing a period of reflection, we can come to terms with some of these things, but it’s never an easy process.
What encourages me about both of these events is that people came together to reach out beyond themselves to find hope and encouragements. Many turned to their faith and it was in the confidence and hope of the gospel, they were able to start the process of healing and restoration.
Sean Brandow, the chaplain to the Homboldt Broncos, spoke to the community vigil of this hope when he said,
“Where was God? That question has two answers. God is on the throne and God is with the broken-hearted. We know that God is on the throne, Jesus walked this earth, he died, he was buried, he rose again. It says in the scripture that he is now seated at the right hand of the Father, in control of setting up our leaders, putting people in the place where they need to be at just the right time, for just the right purpose, making sure that things line up according to his plan. I don’t claim to understand how this seems like it’s in God’s control at all, but it is. He’s still on the throne, he’s still God. You know, I asked the question as you look at God on the throne, it’s easy to look at God from a distance but the second part of that question of where is God is that he’s with us.” 1
I’ll allow you to read the rest of the message yourself, but those two answers cut across the airways of Canada and beyond. In other words, our God is still sovereign and He is still with those who suffer. Powerful words to our nation who is struggling to find meaning in these situations. I don’t claim to understand how God’s sovereignty works, but I do know that He is working out His plan in this world that is so much bigger than me or my comfort. I don’t claim to understand how his comfort works but I do cling to the truth that He is with me no matter what. He loves us and in spite of the evil around us, He is with us through the pain and anguish – gently encouraging and speaking words of hope and love.
So this week, in spite of what is happening in the Homboldt or Toronto, be reminded of the hope that we have in Christ. Peter reminds the church of this hope today and a time coming soon.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-6
Pastor Aaron Groat
As I begin to write this blog it is actually snowing outside. I’m not sure that we’ve had ice storms and snow hang on this long in quite some time. Although the snow can look beautiful on certain landscapes, I’m sure we are all ready for a real spring. We are ready for some sunshine, some colour in our gardens and to get outdoors! Today as I look out at the grey sky, I am reminded of Psalm 113:3 “From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised!”
I love the fact that whatever the topic, or lesson, story, big idea, praise or need for encouragement, the Bible always has an answer. In our Children’s Ministry we encourage our children to learn about the Bible and to study Scripture. Our focus verse for this year has been Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” We also review a new verse with our Bible story each week. We believe that it is important for our children to learn about the Bible and who God is and how much he cares for them. We also want our kids to understand how Scripture applies to their day to day life.
One of the resources I recently came across can be found at Ministry to Children. They offer lots of free lessons and ideas for learning verses. There is one titled “Short Bible Verses for Kids” and there is an option to print a colouring page for younger children. Check it out if you think it might be something fun to study.
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
I love a good story. No matter if it is a children’s book, a biography, or an engaging video, I love to hear a well-crafted story. Unfortunately, if you have been in a relationship or married for any length of time, you know that stories can get old. So much so that I jokingly tell newlyweds to not use all their best material in the first year – they have the rest of their lives to tell the same stories over and over again (profound apologies to my dear husband who has heard all of my stories repeatedly over the last 27 years).
What about you, what's your story? When someone asks you about your faith, are you still talking about the moment that led up to your conversion, or do you have a new story to tell?
Don’t get me wrong - as believers we are supposed to tell the story of what God has done in our lives. Psalm 66 says, “Come and see what God has done; he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of men… Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.”
Yet, when the Psalmist wrote these verses, I don’t think they were meant to serve as a passive observation of all the things the Lord once did. Instead, I believe they were meant to be a call for others to witness and testify to God’s mercy and power. Come and see! Come and hear! Come and experience! Come!
Notice how many times the Psalmists write about singing a “new song” to the Lord (see Psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144, and 149 as examples). These ancient hymns tell us, "Sing a new song, you who love the Lord, because God continues to demonstrate goodness, marvellous grace, mercy, victory over the enemies of His people, and many other amazing things."
If you are a Christ-follower, you definitely have a conversion story. That thing that God once did in your life. But if God doing new things in your life and in mine, why are we still telling the same old story?
Now, before you think that I am defaming the song, Tell Me the Old, Old Story, please hear this - the story of the cross is timeless and absolutely should be told over and over again. That beautiful thing that was done on our behalf to deliver us from death to life underpins every single thing we could ever share about who we are, but it should also underpin why we live the way we do! We give God the glory because it is He who is doing the work in our lives.
So what’s your story? Throughout the month of April, write down at least four ways the Lord has met your need, sustained you, answered your prayer, or delivered you.
Sing a new song. Tell a new story. God’s deeds are awesome yesterday, today and forever.
Candi Thorpe, email@example.com
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.
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