Two weeks ago in Sunday school, I began the lesson for our grade 1-5 class with a game. To my surprise, a number of the kids started shouting excitedly that we hadn’t shared our weekly news. Each week we always start class by taking turns sharing anything special we’ve done during the week like a sporting event, a special outing, some time with friends, or anything that brought them joy since we last saw them. This sharing then leads into our prayer and praise time.
I was thinking about praise this week and how to describe it to our Sunday school kids - what does it mean to praise God? Growing up in the church I always believed that praise was simply the time we spent singing at the start of service. However, praise is actually anything we do that expresses our appreciation and thankfulness for what God has done. A quick search reveals that “praise” is mentioned about 340 times in the Bible (NIV). Along with love, praise is one of the most frequently used verbs/action words – there must be a message in this. Psalm 145:3 reads, “Lord, you are great. You are really worthy of praise. No one can completely understand how great you are.”
In order for children to understand the significance of praise, they need to know more of who God is. By learning about trials, circumstances, characters and Scripture in the Bible, God’s attributes are revealed. God is loving, forgiving, holy, all-powerful, all knowing, merciful, just, sovereign and everywhere – to name a few. When children have the opportunity to know God, they can see He is worthy of praise! They can also see that God truly wants the best for them, and that He is concerned with every detail of their lives. That’s why we like to start every week with a time of reflection, and praising the great things God has done over the past week - we want to build this behaviour into the lives and routines of our kids. James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.”
As Easter approaches, with Palm Sunday this week, we have lots of opportunity for praise and worship. We are coming together as a church community to celebrate the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is through our risen Saviour that we have forgiveness and the assurance of salvation. What greater reason do we have to give praise this Easter!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
For those that may not know, when I'm not working at our church I keep busy with my job at WEC (Worldwide Evangelization for Christ). One of my favourite things about working at this mission organization is getting to read newsletters and prayer letters from missionaries around the world. Stories of redemption and grace, struggles and perseverance come through our office every day. They allow us to rejoice and to grieve with those out on the field who are working to show Jesus to their neighbours in a meaningful and life-changing way.
One letter that passed through our office recently began with a quote that struck me. It was a Latin phrase meaning “To hold and to be held”.
What a beautiful phrase, with a beautiful contrast in imagery: “To hold” is active and conjures up images of strength and purpose. “Being held” conveys an idea of safety and rest.
But what does it mean to have safety and strength? To have purpose and to rest?
I've often said in my blog posts (mostly as a reminder to myself) that in Christianity, there is no striving for God's love. He gives it freely and unconditionally. Praise the Lord for that!
But that doesn't mean that we don't strive for anything; that we don't have something to hold onto.
We strive to know God more, and to make Him known. We intentionally seek His will for our lives. We are purposeful about being in His Word; loving Him more as we learn more about who He is.
This takes discipline and strength. More strength than I have some days.
Because sometimes I struggle to hold on, and I just need to be held.
Days when I don't understand why God put me in a certain situation. Days when I see people I love hurting, and my prayers seem to go unanswered.
It's on these days that I'm so grateful to be held.
Held in the knowledge that my weakness doesn't diminish God's strength. That my doubt doesn't unravel His perfect plan.
Whatever season you are in right now, know that God is working in it, and He is working in you.
Hold on to Him, and when you don't have any strength left, be held.
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4
When it comes to the local church, times have changed. A few generations ago, the local church was a natural hub for the community – a connecting point – providing support and services to the entire neighbourhood. But in recent years many churches have struggled to balance gospel-centred ministries with community-centred programs. How much time should we give over to programs and events where the Word is not preached and there is no opportunity to come to Christ?
Several years ago, a ministry leader said to me, "We are a church, not a social program." Ouch. That’s a little harsh. He’s right though, we absolutely should be making disciples who love God. But we also need to love people and serve the world.
It would be so much easier if the Bible said, “Pick one - would you like to love God, love people, or would you prefer to serve the world?"
I can love God when I read my Bible, making notes in the margins and whispering “Amen!” at the encouraging parts. I can love people by making meals or talking to them when they are feeling blue. And I can serve the world by giving my money to organizations that are doing great work.
But in actual fact, for the Christ-follower, loving God comes first and the rest follows closely behind. You see it is out of the overflow of loving God that we love the people that He has placed in our lives. 1 John 4:19-21 says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.“ And because Jesus Christ lay down His life for those He loved, we also die to self and serve others.
As a church we are committed to our neighbours. Calvary provides free space for GirlZone, a group presented by Boys & Girls Club, plus a playgroup for parents who are newer to the country or who need support, and for the Halton Prenatal Program (HPNP) for expectant and new mothers.
A number of people from Calvary are involved in a community Food For Life program, and we provide space and support for community endeavours such as North BurLINKton Dinner Night Out and 55+ Lunch, partnerships with Halton Police, and more. At different times of the year we collect shoeboxes of toys, baby bottles of coins, and a variety of food and hygiene items for our community. We run movie nights, game nights, pizza nights, student hangouts... the list goes on.
We don't tell you this to pump ourselves up, rather to help you see that Calvary is extensively involved in our community on many different levels. What happens on a Sunday morning is exceedingly valuable, but it's just a piece of the puzzle that makes up our church calendar.
So the question remains - since we are a church, how much time should we give over to programs that are not Theocentric? For the answer we look to Scripture. 2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” Church, everything we do is God-centred because it begins with a love for Jesus and a desire to serve Him and the people He has placed in this community. We love others because we are loved, and we serve others because He served us and laid His life down for the church.
While we are not a social program or community centre, God has strategically placed us in the centre of the Mountainside community for a reason.
Curious about some of these things we've listed? Find out if you can drop in and see, or even if you can support some of the programs that are happening. Maybe GirlZone would like you to organize snack or teach a game. Dinner Night Out could need you to wash dishes or make coffee. You might be the ideal person to spearhead the next church BBQ or games night.
Love God? Love people? Serve the world? I’m thankful that we don’t have to pick just one. By God’s grace and through His love we have the privilege of engaging in all three.
Each week we post about a range of things from the Christian life, faith and more.
In these posts we hope you'll catch a glimpse of ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.