For those of you who don't know, before I started working here at the church, I worked in retail. (Glorious retail!) And, although I loved the people I worked with, I was so happy to move into the role I have now. I'm especially thankful as the Christmas season rolls around.
This past Christmas, our family was celebrating at my sister-in-law’s home. And as we were eating our Christmas dinner, my husband Mike said, “Hey Jo, remember the last time we were here for Christmas, we were packing up to go home at this time because you had to start work the next morning at 5a.m.”. Because, if there's one thing you know working in retail, it's that Christmas isn't truly Christmas if people can't go shopping for great deals on Boxing Day.
It just seems like people are always concerned with the next thing. Never content with where we are now, we constantly look to what might lay ahead.
To keep going with the retail theme, one year in late January I remember trying to buy some winter boots for my son who had grown out of his pair. No luck, they've already got the sandals out in the shoe store. Looking to buy a nice summer dress in July? Sorry, they've already rolled out the fall flannels. Sometimes this incessant looking ahead drives me crazy!
With one exception.
On December 26, after all the excitement of Christmas is over and I finally have a moment to rest, I sit down... and I think about Easter. Because the story of Christ's birth is beautiful and miraculous, but it means little to us without the incredible, powerful, life-giving work of the cross.
Sometimes these days after Christmas can be disorienting. You've spent so much time looking forward to a certain day, and – in a flash – it's here and gone. But Emmanuel, God with us, is as true and powerful today as it is on Christmas day, and as it was 2000 years ago. So after the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and the decorations are packed away, let's remember that, as God's people, we still have so much to look forward to. We have new life in Him, and an eternity to worship our Christ the Lord!
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
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.
- 1 Peter 1:3-4
Like most people I can get caught up in the hype of a new year:
“It’s a brand new year; are you going to be the same old you?”
"A fresh book with 365 blank pages."
"A blanket of shimmering snow before you, just waiting for your first footprints to fall."
"Sitting at a crossroads of undiscovered adventure."
Oh, I know them all.
But that first one – the one about being the same old me – that one lands pretty hard with me. Because as Christians we are called to be growing in our faith. Growing in our dependence on the Saviour. Growing in our devotion to His Word. Growing in our love for one another. Growing in grace. In Mercy. In holiness.
A number of years ago I was going through a pretty tough time emotionally and spiritually. I felt like no matter what I did, I could never be enough for myself, my family, or my God. Nobody made me feel this way – my family was just as loving and kind as they had always been, but I was held captive by my own feelings of unworthiness. My thoughts consumed me.
Let me rephrase that…
My thoughts about me consumed me. And then Scripture became something I turned to in order to make me feel better about my thoughts about me.
Colossians helped to break me out of my reverie. You see, when I got to Colossians 3 it felt like God was shouting at me, “You have received all the blessings and grace and mercy and kindness of being a child of God, so why don’t you start believing it and living like it?!?” God can shout pretty loud, but sometimes He has to in order to drown out the sound of our own thoughts.
So I started praying Colossians 3:1-3 every day – sometimes every hour. When my earthly mind told me that I was failing again, Colossians reminded me that the victory was already mine. When my thoughts kept my eyes on myself, God used Colossians to remind me to fix my eyes on Jesus. My old self has died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.
So when I think of the brand new year, I can honestly say that I don’t want to be the same old me. I don’t even want to be a better version of me. I want to be someone who is changed by God’s Word and impacted by the gospel message that the old has passed, and the new has come.
With this new year before us, Pastor Aaron is beginning a series on Colossians, looking at the supremacy of Christ. As we work through this book, we have put together a custom Bible reading plan for you to follow. Beginning on Sunday, January 13, 2019 the Colossians Bible reading plan will be available daily in the "Bible" tab of the Calvary App. Each day will give you a short passage in Colossians plus a few selected passages in the Old and New Testament. Saturday we have scheduled a catch up day, a day where you can read any passages you have missed, or go deeper with the material you have already studied.
We'd encourage you to read the passages thoughtfully and prayerfully. Consider these things:
- Keep a journal or make notes in the margin of your Bible
- Re-write the passage in your own words
- Ask "Who - What - When - Where - Why - How" questions of the passage
- Think about the "Big Idea" of the passage, and write it down. This will give you a map through Colossians.
- Personalize the meaning: Ask: "How could my life be different today as I respond to what I'm reading?"
Working harder is exhausting, and it just keeps your eyes focused on you. This year, set your eyes on things above. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation. The One in whom we find life.
This morning (Thursday), we had the opportunity to connect with our Fellowship pastors and leaders in the Hamilton/Niagara area for some encouragement and training. The topic today was on “Dealing with Conflict”. While you might not find that the most interesting of topics, I was reminded that a lot of what we do as Christians and leaders in the church is manage conflict – either before it happens or when it is happening. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to learn about it and ourselves and how we can deal with it better and in a more Christ-like way.
Our speaker was Bob Flemming. Bob is our Regional Director for FEB Central (of which Calvary is part). Bob helps churches get established, grow and at times, steps in to assist a church that is stuck. A lot of the time the problem causing the “stuck-ness” results in conflict between two parties.
I was thankful this morning to be reminded that working towards oneness, harmony and indivisibility is not just a worthy cause, it’s biblical and it honours Christ.
In a church, conflict can come in many forms. From two people who struggle to work together in a ministry, to a family that struggles to get along, to a marriage that is feeling the pressure, and right up to a church that is in conflict because of changes that have taken place.
No matter what the cause of the conflict, we all have a responsibility for the way that we react. This is so true as we are seeking to follow Christ and grow in Him. Yes, we might be hurt. Yes, we might feel that we aren’t being listened to. Yes, we might feel that we are being taken advantage of. Yet we all have the choice for how we are going to react and respond.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemaker for they will be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9). If you remember from our sermon series in Proverbs, Jesus was calling upon the OT wisdom writers to instruct the new covenant people on how they ought to live out their faith. Peace-making and dealing with conflict is wise in God’s economy. One proverb I especially find helpful is Proverbs 17:1.
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house fully of feasting, with strife”
Do you get it? It’s better to work towards peace in all areas of our life, rather than living with conflict or strife.
Let me ask you a question as I close – “Is there an area in your life that you are harbouring conflict and strife?” My prayer is that we are called as gospel people to work towards peace. What are you doing in order to be a peacemaker. May we seek God’s wisdom to deal with conflict in a Christ honouring way.
By the way, I am so thankful for the peace and unity that we are enjoying at Calvary these days. God has been and continues to be, gracious to us. May we seek to live for Him and the Gospel for His glory in this area for a long time into the future!
There's something about a good shock that invigorates us. It perks us up and brings us focus. I had an Old Testament teacher in Bible College who was very kind, and very knowledgeable. He wasn't one to raise his voice, unless pronouncing how he thought YHWH, the Hebrew name for God, should be pronounced. But once when class hadn't officially started and people were still milling around and talking, this teacher raised his voice and bellowed in a frustrated tone, “WHAT, ARE YOUR EARS PAINTED ON?”
The class went from calm conversation to utter silence.
We stopped what we were doing, frantically found our seats, and did our best to be quiet for fear of more yelling. But after a moment, the teacher burst into laughter and the class quickly followed suit as we realized he was joking. What followed was a really engaging class. There's just something about a good shock that perks you up.
This past weekend, our Junior Highs went to BEDLAM where they had the opportunity to rock-climb and skateboard, spend time with kids their age from all over Ontario, listen to an awesome worship band and be taught the Word – all in a setting that is geared to their own age.
Our speaker spent the weekend on the story of creation. How and why we were created, and what humanity did with that creation. On Saturday night he brought out a baseball bat and mirror. First he talked about how God had created us in His image, how we were created to be a reflection of him. But because of our sinful actions we had broken that creation – we had broken that reflection. And it was at this point that he swung the bat into the mirror and shattered it to pieces.
Every little conversation was silenced.
Those who hadn’t been listening, or who had fallen asleep, instantly perked up. Something big, loud, and messy had just happened on stage, and suddenly everyone's attention was focused on the stage. And then our speaker used the shocked silence to share the Gospel.
Whenever I see Gospel presentations with this kind of wow factor, I think about the scene after Jesus’ crucifixion, when He appears appears to the disciples alive and well.
The Gospel of Luke puts it like this,
Luke 24: 36-37
...Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
I can just imagine the silence that overtook that room when Jesus appeared. The teacher they watched die, whom they buried on Friday, the one they were mourning, suddenly standing before them. For anyone doubting who Jesus was, this must have been an instant eye opener, an instant realization.
Can you imagine the response of those disciples? How energizing that must have been? How that must have shaped their lives, their ministry, and their resolve going forward? Is it any wonder that all of these Apostles maintained their belief in Jesus, even when 12 of the 13 (including Paul) were murdered for it? They had seen the risen Christ! The initial shock of Jesus’ return had silenced all their doubt, their wavering, their fear. Instead, they listened, they learned, and they got to work. And the Gospel needs to do the same to us.
What, are our ears painted on?
Mike Sanders, Director of Youth
It’s hard to believe it’s November already! Our CB Kids have had a busy fall. In September our JK to Grade five started a new curriculum teaching them about the ‘Life of Jesus’.
Beginning with his humble birth in a manger, our CB Kids have been learning that Jesus is a real person and how He can help them in their lives today. You may have seen our kids leaving Sunday school with manger crafts and glittery stars the past few weeks. It has been great to take our time learning about the Christmas story instead of rushing through it in December.
We also had our CB kids back to school night and our Superhero night. We learned that God is with us everywhere, even at school, and that He can also use us in super ways. We had lots of fun and look forward to our Ugly Sweater night on Thursday, November 29th. It will be a fun time of Christmas crafts, games and snacks.
Our Children’s Ministry has also started practicing for our Christmas presentation happening on December 9th. Even our little preschoolers have been working on a special poem. It’s always a busy start to pull out the costumes, choose the best poem and find the perfect song. In the end, it’s the message that is most important. Our children have been learning that presenting the story of Jesus’ birth allows others to hear the amazing story of our King’s birth and the incredible gift that it is.
The song that we chose this year is called ‘Baby King’ by Jason Gray, and our children have been busy learning all the words. Here is just a little part of it:
Come now you don't have to fear anymore
There's never been a king quite like this one before
He knows its not easy to let down your guard
That it might take a baby to open your heart
And tenderly pull your defenses apart
Ring every bell, Shout out the message, all hail the coming of Jesus
Lord of us all, small and defenseless, power comes swaddled in meakness
Don't be afraid, He came as a baby King.
I know this season of celebration and family will pass in the blink of an eye. Over the next several weeks we will all be in the thick of shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning, and attending Christmas activities. I hope too that we can find the Baby King in all the holiday happenings.
Tanya Chant, Family & Children's Director
It’s unfair that all the fun stuff is made for kids. Light up shoes? For kids. Scented markers? Apparently for kids. And while I do my devotionals and navigate through page after page of monotonous black print on white pages, kids get these beautifully illustrated Children’s Bibles. Pictures of animals lining up 2-by-2 to board the ark, or of the stormy sea before Jesus calms the waves. But my favourite Bible illustration – by far – can be found on the very first page; the lush green landscape of the Garden of Eden.
In my mind, I imagine a Sunday School teacher reading through the story of Genesis to her class. The children in awe as she describes the plants and animals. Giggling as Adam and Eve are strategically placed behind leaves and shrubbery. And then, as the snake slinks out of the tree and starts up a conversation with Eve, I imagine the kids shouting, “Don’t listen to him! Don't do it! He’s the bad guy!”
Or maybe I imagine that because that’s what I’m internally shouting as I read that story.
Looking at those painted figures on a page, it’s easy to think, “Really?? Eve! Adam! What’s the deal?! There was literally only one rule!” Adam and Eve had access to what seemed to be heaven on earth if only they would be obedient in this small way. I would give anything to be in that garden; to walk with God.
And yet, in full honesty, every day I struggle with obedience. Each morning I wake up determined to do my best, and each evening I skulk around like Adam and Eve did after eating from the forbidden tree. But we are not made to dwell on our sin (as I'm so often inclined to do) and it was in reading through Romans 5 that's I've started to reconcile this.
Read the verses here from the Message:
“So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.
Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?”
As we look ahead to communion this Sunday, (and even further ahead as we anticipate Christmas), let us dwell on this incredible “rescuing gift” that God sent in his Son. The sin of Adam and Eve belongs to us still, but the guilt and shame do not! Think about that! Delight in that!
So often I fall into the same sin that Adam and Eve did. And when I see it, I have the same exasperation as when I read that Genesis story. But the beauty of the grace of Jesus is that it far surpasses the sin of Adam. It far surpasses my sin and yours. So please come to Calvary this Sunday prepared to receive the overwhelming grace that is given through Jesus Christ.
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
“Where’s the heartbeat?”
That small question began us on a journey that so many other couples have travelled, the journey from expectant parents to grieving people.
We were excited to become first-time parents in 1998 — we had waited quite a while after getting married in 1991 and we were ready to begin the next chapter in our lives.
Unfortunately the pregnancy was far from easy –– there were hormones to take, lots of complications, and then the diagnosis of a cystic hygroma (sac of water) at the base of our baby’s head, indicating potential birth or learning defects.
Despite the doctors’ advice we continued with the pregnancy because, whatever would happen, God would prepare us.
We were not prepared.
On June 26, 1998 I gave birth to our firstborn, a girl named Rachel Ann. She was born still, and we grieved. Oh, how we grieved.
Some told us to “just have another one” as if babies were as plentiful as Tic Tacs or sticks of gum. A few told us that the Lord knew we wouldn’t be able to handle her medical issues so He just spared us by taking her home. Most said they were sorry for our loss. Some didn’t say anything at all.
October marks the 30th anniversary of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, a time when families and friends remember little loved ones who were gone too soon.
If someone you love has experienced the loss of a child, there are a number of ways to comfort and support to the family. Here are just a few:
- Celebrate Life
In the eyes of those who are grieving, it makes no difference if the child was miscarried after a few days or born still at full term. Where there was life, now there is none. The Psalmist reminds us that God knit us together, and we were known by Him from our earliest moments of life. So celebrate the life, no matter how briefly he or she lived.
- Honour the Child
Try not to refer to him or her as “the miscarriage” or “the stillbirth” when you are speaking to the grieving parents, but instead say “your child.” Ask if the parents named their child, and if they did then use that name in conversation. You may be surprised to know that even parents who do not know the gender of their child still use names or nicknames for their baby, so ask what they named the child and lovingly weave the name into conversation.
- Give Some Space
You may want to call, visit, hug, make meals and pray. But they might not be there just yet. Be available and ready to bear the burden of grief when the parents want to talk, but don’t push. Recognize that too much space might be seen as uncaring, and too little space can be suffocating. Watch for signs that the parents want to talk, or that they want to walk.
- Remember the Whole Family
Many guys go into caregiver mode after a loss, wanting to ensure their spouse is recovering well. But Dads grieve too, so remember to check in with them. Give them a safe space to talk or not, depending on how they are feeling. And the same goes for grandparents — they are experiencing all kinds of emotions as they process the loss of their grandchild. My mom told me after the fact that she was absolutely wrecked, but felt she couldn’t let her guard down for fear of upsetting me or others around me. Check in with all the family members and let them know you are praying for them.
- Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds
Grief takes as long as grief takes. The Bible tells us that there is a time to mourn, but it doesn’t qualify the statement with a timeframe. Don’t assume that just because “enough time has passed” (whatever that means), the family is ready for another pregnancy. It’s frightening, it’s daunting, and it’s kinda none of your business when they decide to try again — if ever. Time doesn’t heal wounds, but God in His mercy can bind up wounds, trade ashes of grief for the beauty of life. He heals.
If you have walked this journey of miscarriage and/or infant loss, my heart aches for you. But your story is not for you alone. Mark Batterson says, “If you don’t turn your adversity into a ministry, then your pain remains your pain. But if you allow God to translate your adversity into a ministry, then your pain becomes someone else’s gain."1
Maybe your ministry is comforting others with the comfort that you yourself received (2 Cor 1:3–5). Or maybe your ministry comes from realizing how alone you felt and you don’t want another man or woman to experience that sadness. Regardless, I pray that your ministry to others is informed by your experience with a healing, loving and merciful Father.
On Thanksgiving Sunday we spent some time in Habakkuk, a small book in the Old Testament. Habakkuk was a prophet who was called by God to give a message to the people that judgement was coming because they had been so disobedient and spiritually dysfunctional. Frankly, Habakkuk is ticked with God that He won’t do anything about it, and that the people are getting away with their sinfulness. He writes,
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. (Hab 1:1-4)
Israel was in spiritual ruins, and God tells Habakkuk that he is going to use the Babylonians to judge Israel’s sinfulness (1:6). Habakkuk does not see this as a good thing and complains again, basically asking God, "Aren’t you able to do this some other way?".
God uses this moment to instruct Habakkuk about who He is, what He is doing, and how He is going to go about doing it. He also takes the time to remind Habakkuk about our proper response to God during times when we don’t completely understand what God is doing or why He is doing it. God reminds Habakkuk that “the righteous will live by faith”. There is a quiet confidence that the child of God can know that when we don’t completely understand our challenges, that we can trust Him.
Through a series of conversations between God and Habakkuk, Habakkuk finally comes to grips with what is happening. He understands that even though he and the people might suffer under the Babylonians, that God is still God and is sovereign and will be with them through it all.
Often the greatest tests of our fragile spirituality happens when we are faced with impeding suffering, pain and abuse. I am not talking about some fake, mask wearing, smile faking spirituality that tell everyone that “I’m ok”. What I am saying, and I think Habakkuk is instructing us, is that even when life is tough, God is there, doing something that requires faith and trust in Him.
The climax of the book comes when Habakkuk announces his reconfirmed faith and trust in God, and the song he sings is captured in chapter 3. For our time on Sunday we focused on three truths about cultivating a heart of thankfulness, even when we don’t feel like it or understand what God is doing. They flow out of the verses found in Habakkuk 3:17-19:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk realizes because of who God is, that he can...
- Thank God regardless of the challenges (17)
- Thank God for his salvation in the challenges (18)
- Thank God for God’s strength through the challenges (19)
So what was the take away for Thanksgiving Sunday?
Despite our challenges, what are we thanking God for? He has given us His Spirit to be present with us through our challenges, and that He ultimately gave us His Son, Jesus Christ. That through faith in His work on the cross we can find hope for this life and the one to come. Even while we wait and trust through the challenges we face, God’s strength is sufficient in our weakness.
I hope this is your experience with God. If you have any questions about this or about following Jesus in the challenges of life, I'd love to talk with you. Send me an email or set up a time to talk on a Monday night.
Pastor Aaron Groat
I'm a big story kind of person. Not necessarily the small details, but the overall larger story.
One of the things you often hear when working in youth ministry, is the question “Where does God fit in to my life?” … or perhaps “Where does God fit in to my story?”. Well, this fall our Students are working through a lesson series from Compassion Canada that tries to shift that focus. Shift it away from ourselves, and instead on to how we get involved in God's story. But do you ask that question of yourself? Where does God fit in to your life, your story?
In my early days as a believer, I had a very me-centred focus on God and what it was to be a Christian. I thought it was all about what I had to gain, about how God fit in to my overall story arc. And as I mentioned, I'm a big story kind of guy, I like to look at how the thing unfolds. So, in my late teens, God was just becoming the supporting character in MY story arc. But it wasn't until a few helpful and loving people stepped in, to show me the error in that logic, that I began to see that I was, in fact, NOT the main character.
I think too often we view God in that lens, from our perspective, from our story line. We're the main characters in the story of our lives. Everyone else is a secondary or supporting character. But is that really how it is? When you read the Bible, who's the main character? Is it the people interacting with God? or is God the main character, and all the people in the Bible are the supporting cast? I'd argue that it's the latter, that we are the supporting characters in the far greater story of God. We are the characters who are part of the cast, some of us have speaking roles, some of us nod, shake our heads, or otherwise react to what's happening in the scene in front of us. We each have a role to play in this story of life, but ultimately this is a story of God. Of His almighty sovereignty, His everlasting grace, His big beautiful plan for redemption. And because of that, we don't need to ask where God fits in to our story, but rather where we fit in to God's story.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Secondary characters don't pull stunts like this. This is the work of one really big main character whose story is bigger and better than anything this world could come up with. And I'd like to know more about how I can get involved in His story.
Mike Sanders, Youth Director
I love to go on long walks and hikes. Everyday I walk my dog in the park by my home I always pass a tree. It’s just an old tree, and I’m not even sure of what type it is, but every time I go by, I am reminded of my children and when they were little. Each of them climbed this tree on our visits to the playground, and somehow they all carefully navigated their way to the main branch.
That tree seemed so much bigger back then. Now when I pass by, I recall those moments and how quickly life goes by.
Have you noticed that the tree is a very symbolic image in Scripture? Many varieties are mentioned including the olive, palm, oak, willow, pine, fig, and poplar – just to name a few. There are many themes that come from this imagery as well. We often talk abut being rooted in our beliefs and values, and bearing fruit from our faith.
We have such a small window of time to build into our children, to guide them and to be examples.
I love that our church has a Sunday school program where our children can gather, grow and learn. Our children’s ministry is rooted in God’s Word and we teach from Bible-centred curriculum. May we be reminded that the roots are what give a tree its strength, and nutrients!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
“Let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96:12
“He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8
Is there any better feeling than being the best at something?
It doesn't even matter if it's something seemingly insignificant. Somehow, there's still satisfaction in knowing that if your talent somehow became an Olympic sport, you'd win the gold.
You may not know it, but I was pretty athletic as a kid. Track and Field was one of my favourite days of the year. Triple jump, high jump, 100 metre dash, I loved it all.
I remember one year in particular, when I was in grade 7. My whole class was out at the track, cheering each other on as groups of us ran the 400-metre race. I remember being so nervous, my heart beating so fast, as my group lined up and we were told to “Get ready... get set.... GO!” And I went! Sprinting around the track with all my might. The race was two times around the oval track and after the first lap I was in the lead. Classmates cheered all of us on as we started our second and final lap.
About halfway through the second lap, my classmates cheers became more intense, shouting my name and urging me to go faster. I pushed myself even harder, and by the time I crossed the finish line my legs felt like jelly.
My time was noted, confirmed, and my teacher announced that I had broken the school record for the girl's 400-metre run.
It was official. I was the best.
At the 400-metre race, at least, and even then, my record was broken the very next day when the 8th grade girls ran the race.
But for that one day, for 12-year-old me, life was good.
It's so easy to understand why people chase that feeling. It's also easy to understand why so many people are left frustrated and disappointed when their best doesn't measure up to those around them.
I have been serving as the Worship Director at this church for just over a year now. And I am thankful every day that Jesus accepts my best, even when it is far from the best. Every Sunday morning, as the nerves start to kick in, I pray a prayer that reminds me that what I offer to God – on a Sunday morning or otherwise – only has value because of the heart I offer it in. I want my worship to come from a heart that desires to bring glory always and only to our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
A month ago, I sent this article to our worship team about the attitudes of worship. I encourage you to read it. And as we come together on Sunday morning, let us come with honesty and humility, bringing our whole heart to Him as we worship.
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
- 1 Samuel 16:7
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
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