Blog posts from Calvary Burlington
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
Over the last few months, the news in Canada has a bitter tone when it comes to freedom of thought and religion. A name like Jordan Peterson, the U of T professor at the centre of a controversy surrounding the use of gender pronouns, is being used in conversations in an increasing fashion. Add to this the government's recent requirement for applicants to the Canadian Summers Jobs program to sign an attestation stating they support Canadian constitutional rights as well as the right to reproductive choice, leaves any person of faith or faith-informed ethics wondering how long it will be before people of faith or conscience can live unhindered in our country.
Our government fails to recognise that people of faith or even differing faith values contribute greatly to the fabric of our Canadian society. They are guided in their behaviours precisely because their faith informs them so. If faith groups were to stop their mandate, the burden would have to be picked up by city, provincial or federal government in a way that would ‘hit them right in the pocket book’.
While this post is not necessarily to argue issues at play in our broader Canadian context, the government does in fact need people of faith and/or faith informed ethical values to function in society in such a way that contributes to the health and vitality of our country.
Recently a study group was commissioned in Canada to look at the effect that churches and other non-profit agencies have in their cities and towns. The study, now published online, is titled, The Halo Project.
“Any city’s social infrastructure includes several factors. Key among them would be local religious congregations. It has long been known in Canada that churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have social, spiritual, and communal value. But what if we could measure the value of what they contribute to the common good in their neighbourhoods and communities? That is the jumping off point The Halo Project.
Inspired by similar research in the United States, the Halo Project began to examine and measure how religious congregations fare as economic catalysts. The first phase of this research examined 10 local congregations in Toronto. What we found was that those congregations all make significant common good contributions that have remarkable economic value when measured by traditional economic development tools.
But just how much economic good do those congregations do?”
Do you know what they found? The study may or may not surprise you.
The 10 congregations they examined in Toronto spent more than $9.5M in budgetary expenses, but the common good, or their 'halo effect', through "weddings, artistic performances, suicide prevention, ending substance abuse, housing initiatives, job training – and a whole host of other areas that make cities so much more livable – is estimated to be more than $45 million per year." The Halo Project reports that every dollar a congregation spends is the equivalent of $4.77 worth of services that the city does not have to provide.
Applying that ratio just to the 220 parishes of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Toronto yields a potential annual contribution of $990 million in common good services, and this represents only one religious tradition. The full impact of all religious congregations in Toronto would be staggering.”
I find these results are sobering.
Please do not let the media or anyone else fool you into thinking that the church or other religious groups do no not make a valuable contribution to our society.
It is my prayer that we would continue to build community partnerships that would benefit our community here in Burlington. There are so many people who can be helped and encouraged through the work that we do through God’s people. We do this “work”, not because we have to, but rather because our faith informs our values that we should. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the people of Israel while they were in exile in Babylon.
‘But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’
I trust that if we ever needed to hire summer students to assist us in our mission in the city, we would raise the money as a church ourselves and not have to depend on the government’s program. I hope that Burlington knows that Calvary is here to love them, to help them, to encourage them, and when given the opportunity to talk about the hope that we have in Christ, that we share it with love and grace. For another great article on this topic, I invite you to check out this article.
Our mission at Calvary is, Making Disciples Who Love God, Love People and Serve our World. All three of these phrases come together to point us to Christ’s mission for the church. May we never forget that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to “Serve our World.”
Pastor Aaron Groat
Inadequacy is something that we all, if we're being honest, struggle with at different times in our lives. We feel inadequate in our jobs, our families, our relationships, or even in our church. As 21st century humans, we are fraught with the perils of our self worth, our value, our contribution both to society, and to God. I am however encouraged to know that this feeling of not being good enough is something the Apostles also felt and wrestled with. It encourages me to know that they not only overcame it to accomplish great things in the name of God, but they turned it around to be a reflection on the goodness of God.
The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes the following; starting in chapter 12, verse 7:
"But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. Three different times I begged the LORD to take it away. Each time he said, 'My gracious favour is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weakness and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Paul recognizes that without this “thorn in my flesh” he would be prideful in his own accomplishments. But because of this weakness he cannot boast in himself, he can only boast in the way Christ works through him.
So when you are feeling inadequate, worthless, weak, or otherwise unworthy, remember that Christ's power works best in your weakness. For when you are weak, then you are strong.
“Aaron, there is a fine line between pastoral manipulation and motivation, make sure you stay on the motivation side and leave the other side to God.”
As a young pastor, these words were drilled into my head by my mentor. It was a truth that was to be lived at every turn when it came to pointing people to Jesus. When you think about it, using guilt to get someone to do something is always the easy means. We can get anyone do to anything if we guilt them into doing it but then we motivate them to grow in Christ, then Christ does the work and produces results that only the Holy Spirit can do.
All this to say, whenever we talk about prayer and our need to reengage in the practice, it’s super easy to dive into the guilt/manipulation world. It’s really easy to bring the hammer to feel the sting that we don’t pray like we should and that we could always resolve to do better.
I want us to understand that this is not the tactic that we are going to take when we talk about prayer this month. God wants us to do better than guilt; He wants us to come to Him because our hearts are inclined to Him. He invites us to come. My task as your pastor is to motivate us all to see the beauty that exists in communication with God. Not for what He will do for us but for what He wants to do in and through us.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
How’s that for motivation? The writer of Hebrews motivates us to see the confidence that we can have in coming into God’s presence in prayer! Building on this, starting January 14, we want to spend four weeks motivating and encouraging us in the area prayer in our church.
Prayer is integral to the of the life of our church. If we want God to move in power in our lives and in our church then it has to begin with prayer. To supplement the weekly preaching and worship ministries on Sunday, some of events that we are looking forward to are:
- A 24-hour prayer day (1 hour shifts/signup)
- Encouraging weekly prayer huddles across our region
- Evening concert of prayer & worship
- Daily encouragement prayer emails over the series
- List of requests
- A social media campaign (#thechurchthatpraystogether)
- Using the PrayerMate App as a tool to help us
No matter where you are in your prayer life, it’s our vision to take the next step in growing in our discipleship at Calvary. I am looking forward to the journey. I know you will also. I think 2018, by God’s grace could be our best year yet! Let’s come together in prayer in see what God does in our lives and in the life of our church.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” 1 Timothy 2:1
Pastor Aaron Groat
As I write this, I have just finished packing up the costumes from this year's CB Kids Christmas program. It offers me a moment to reflect on all the preparations over the past six weeks, having the children learn songs and poems about Jesus’ birth. I’m reminded too of all the programs and presentations that Calvary has had in past years and the people who allowed us a moment to just pause in the business of the season. Through all of this, the message has remained the same year after year - God promised to send a Saviour to the world, and there in a stable, that promise came true. Jesus was born quietly and with simple beginnings. I love how God kept this incredible, world changing event so humble. He could have done it many different ways, with glitz and glamour, but that was not His plan.
It’s easy for us to get lost in the bustle of the season, but let's try to find ‘the simple’ this Christmas. Take moments to find peace and quiet in random, small things. I love playing board games with the family, watching a holiday movie with snacks, or hiking through trails. What are some activities your family likes to do?
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and I wish you happiness for the year ahead!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
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!
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,
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.