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Stories, Lessons and the Works of the Lord

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
candi@calvaryburlington.ca

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Supporting a Great Cause

This past Sunday we talked in our service about Pregnancy Support Services of Hamilton. PSSH is a Christ-centred ministry which promotes life-affirming pregnancy options. They offer education, support and assistance to women and their partners as they face important decisions about pregnancy and sexual integrity. With PSSH clients receive pregnancy options counselling, post-abortion support, mentoring for both men and women, and Sexual Health and Relationship Education, plus there's an on-site baby boutique for infant wear and maternity clothes.

PSSH saw 250 new clients in 2017. Their services are free of charge, and they rely solely on donations to run their programming. One of the trends that they have observed is an increasing number of people who call from the Burlington and Oakville area who don't want or aren't able to travel into Hamilton. With this in mind, it has been on their hearts to expand their program into Burlington and Oakville to provide assistance to men and women in this area.

Formula 4 Hope is an opportunity for Calvary to partner with PSSH to help them raise money for their current clientele, and for their future site in Burlington/Oakville. We're asking each family to take a baby bottle home and to fill it with money. You can do this daily by filling it with whatever spare change you have in your pocket or purse at the end of each day, or you can do a one-time donation with paper money and/or cheques. Continue collecting until June, then return your filled baby bottles on Father's Day.

It's our tradition on Mother's Day and Father's Day, in lieu of giving small gifts to the men and women in the church, to donate those funds to an organization that is on the ground working with people in crisis. This year, in addition to the Formula 4 Hope baby bottles, Calvary is donating to PSSH on behalf of each man and woman who attends the church. In this way we can have the cumulative effect of seeing many small amounts add up to one big donation. 

Please be generous; PSSH does so much great work in our area and it would be wonderful to see them continue to expand to meet the growing needs of our busy city. If you have any questions, please contact us, or visit PSSH online at www.preghamilton.ca

 

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Halo Project

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?”[1]

 

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.”[2]

 

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.’

Jeremiah 29:7

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

aaron@calvaryburlington.ca

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The Power of an Invitation

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,

Pastor Aaron

 

 

 

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