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.
This Sunday is “Name-tag Sunday” and I am so excited! And not just because I am terrible at remembering people's names (although I often am), but because most of my introductions go like this:
Me: Hi there! My name's Jolene.
Invariably a sweet older lady: Oh, Julie! What a pretty name!
Me: Oh, no, sorry, I'm JOLENE.
Older lady: Angeline! How nice!
Me: You know what? Just call me Jo. So nice to meet you!
Those interactions can be awkward and difficult, but there is value in being known, and being known rightly.
I could have let that little old lady call me Angeline, but that's not who I am.
It's interesting, though, that I would put so much time and effort into making sure people pronounce my name correctly, but when it comes to who I really am, I allow myself to get it wrong all the time.
All too often, I let Satan convince me that my identity is based on personal effort and accomplishments, and because of that, I am never satisfied with who I am.
I am constantly striving.
Constantly trying to make more of myself.
Constantly trying to prove my worth.
Constantly trying to hide my flaws.
There's a song I've really grown to appreciate called “Who You Say I Am”, and what I love about it is that it brings me back to the truth - that my identity is not based on what I do for Christ, but on what Christ has done for us.
Because when we strive to make more of ourselves, we are inherently making less of Jesus.
Of His power.
Of His might.
And I thank God that His power is made perfect in weakness, because often that seems to be all I have to give Him, but I am even more thankful that I am not defined by my weakness. That through His power and through His promise, who I am is wholly and completely because of who Christ is in me.
Jolene (Jo!) Sanders, Director of Worship,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Galatians 2:20
On a recent Sunday morning while driving to church with my family, I listened to a message on the radio telling the story of Jesus' crucifixion. And as the pastor was walking us through the sequence of events that day, a thought struck me that had never occurred to me before.
The pastor started by saying that the two criminals hanging on either side of Jesus initially mocked Jesus in his plight, even though his fate was the same as their own. Along with the crowds, they ridiculed this man who claimed to be the King of the Jews.
But somewhere in that time, the attitude of one of the criminals shifts. Instead of scorn, this criminal begins to rebuke the other, defending Jesus' innocence. Then he goes even further, asking Jesus to remember him when He enters His kingdom.
I know many of you reading this already know the story. You've probably read it numerous times. So had I. And yet, something struck me, and challenged the way I understood this situation.
At this moment, Jesus had been abandoned by pretty much everyone that was close to Him. The crowds in Jerusalem that were singing his praises a week ago, were now demanding his death. One of his disciples betrayed him, another denied knowing Him at all. And as he hung on a cross, He felt forsaken even by his Heavenly father.
Jesus was dying. And his dying carried the crushed hopes of all who had believed in Him and the reign of His Kingdom.
But this criminal looked at Jesus hanging on the cross – Jesus who was beaten and bloodied, who barely looked like a man anymore – and saw a Saviour; saw HIS Saviour.
Do I have faith like that?
Can I look beyond the broken and the bruised and see Jesus?
Despite my circumstances, can I cling to Jesus in hope of His Kingdom to come?
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16–18
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
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
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
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