Blog posts from Calvary Burlington
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.
In my experience I've found that you don't always get to see the things the people do for others. Whether it's something large, or something small, you know it's happening, but you don't always know the who or how. Well, last week I got to witness, first hand, that kind of background service. I had the privilege of assisting our youth with their roles in Forest Cliff Camp.
I watched our "Actors" set up the various activities each morning; they got covered in colourful dyes when they ran tie-dye and they got wet on the water days; they put elbow and knee pads on the campers for skateboarding and they reloaded Nerf guns relentlessly; they helped out campers who were struggling with laser tag and they climbed Spider Mountain to encourage the kids to get to the top; they stood guard on Gearbox to make sure everyone was safe, and after all of that, I saw them tear down each activity at the end of the long, hot, days.
I saw them cheer and clap the kids into camp every day. I saw them stand out in the heat of the sun to make sure everyone was having a good and safe time. I saw them having fun with the campers whenever they got the chance. And I saw them dancing along to the songs in the morning session.
I saw service
The kind of service that Christ has called us all to: without grumbling, without petition, without a selfish thought, they served. They served the campers, they served the counselors, and they served Jesus.
Watching the students' willingness to work warmed my heart, and encouraged me to continue to serve them. If you see one of our actors, make sure to thank them for their willingness to serve the Lord at Forest Cliff Camp, and encourage them to continue the good work they are doing.
Mike Sanders, Director of Youth