Encouragement for Thursday

Many times I have heard people use the expression “The good die young.” It is often used to try to soften the effect of someone young passing away, but it is hogwash. Someone good might indeed die young. Our savior Jesus experienced His earthly death at a young age. No other human has ever been as good as He was. Noah died at the age of 950. It would be a stretch to call that young in any possible way. Yet Noah belonged to God and dedicated his life to serving Him and showing His glory. I believe Noah would be considered good. The choices we make in life can certainly affect how long we live, but the length of our earthly life doesn’t depend on our being “good” or “bad.”

I considered these thoughts because of a recent news item. Lucile Randon, known as Sister Andre, died on January 17, 2023 at the age of 118. She was recognized as the oldest living person on Earth. In 3 more weeks she would have reached 119. Sometimes at my current age I feel old and I am roughly half that age.

It is somewhat staggering to read of the things that she related as influences in her life. She spoke of learning a new word, “electricity,” when electric lights came to her school in the early 1900’s. She said that the day she felt happiest was Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I, and she was able to be reunited with her soldier brother. She lived through the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic in 1918 as a teenager. She was baptized at age 26, and dedicated herself to service as a nun in the Catholic Church with the Daughters of Charity 15 years later. She was assigned to work at a hospital in Vichy (occupied) France during World War II and worked there 31 years. She spent much of her life serving orphans and the elderly. She kept working in active service to others to the age of 108. She lived at a nursing home in Toulon, France, and became the oldest person to recover from COVID in 2021. Until her death she was recognized for trying to positively influence her neighbors.

When asked about the reason for her longevity she replied “Only the good Lord knows.” She believed that continuing to work helped keep her going. She also ate chocolate and drank a glass of wine daily. I think there is some benefit from blending enjoyment in life with fulfilling work. She echoed Paul’s belief that she would be better off in Heaven (“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1:23-24)). As she aged she lost her eyesight, and had trouble hearing. Her body became weaker, but her mind and spirit kept her trying to benefit those around her. In one of her last interviews she said “People should help each other and love each other instead of hating. If we all shared that, things would be a lot better.”

I don’t know if I will die this year or if I will live to be 100. To borrow Sister Andre’s line, “Only the good Lord knows.” It is a bit overwhelming to think about living to 100. In any case her life serves as both an example and a challenge. I can only hope to be as faithful and as useful to God and His service when I am at an advanced age. Our society seems to make us feel that we become less valuable as we get older. Is it possible that in God’s sight we become even more valuable?

Take heart and be encouraged!

January 22, 2023 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, January 22, 2023, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

DownloadWorship Guide for January 22, 2023

Online giving is available here


CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 27:1, 4
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.

Immortal Invisible

How Great Is Our God

GRACE & ASSURANCE  — Micah 7:18-19
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
    because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.

His Mercy Is More

The Risen Christ


“The Surpassing Worth of Knowing Christ Jesus” – Phil. 3:4-11

Knowing You


Encouragement for Thursday

I can sense a question coming: “Joel, why do we see a picture of the left rear fin of a 1957 Buick Special? It isn’t particularly encouraging.” It is a reminder of a memorable time for many (although before my memory). Our country and economy were generally strong. Family and church life maintained primary importance with many people. Many even loved the bold, flashy styling of cars like this Buick.

This picture wasn’t included for any of these reasons. If you look closely in the chrome on the fin, bumper, and trim, you can see reflections of me (or at least parts of me). “Oh yeah Joel, now that you mention it, I CAN see you. At least your distorted head and some of your body and arms. Well, it doesn’t look totally like you, but I see at least a partial resemblance.”

“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-12, CSB)

I believe I am generally a patient person. But there are times I find myself thinking, “Why can’t I pray more effectively?” “Why can’t I explain things better?” “Why don’t I listen as well as I should?” “Why am I not a more consistent example of Christ?” I believe Paul considered some of the same lines of thought for the benefit of all believers. In the passage above Paul mentions abilities and qualities that help us to mature. The intended meaning of the word “perfect” there is not “flawless” as we tend to understand it as modern Americans. The idea of the word (telos) in Greek is “completion,” “finish,” “end,” or “goal.” The lifetime sanctification we experience as believers leads us from being children in faith to mature adults, ready to meet Christ when He returns.

Our ultimate goal is reaching the point when the most obvious, shining characteristic we show is God’s love. It takes time—a lifetime, in fact. Our dedication to faith and hope in Christ will help us reach the finality of our development in God’s love. It may not be at the pace that we would like, but it will be at the pace God knows we need. Don’t forget the Spirit’s help. One day we won’t be an imperfect reflection, but a clear image of His love and nature!

Take heart and be encouraged!

January 15, 2023 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, January 15, 2023, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

DownloadWorship Guide for January 15, 2023

Online giving is available here


CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

The Solid Rock

In Christ Alone

GRACE & ASSURANCE  — James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Christ is Mine Forevermore



“Rejoice in the Lord (But Know What It Means)” – Phil. 3:1-3

Just As I Am


Encouragement for Thursday

Recently I read an article discussing our fascination with New Year’s day. It contained a quote I don’t remember reading before:

“I wish for those I love this New Year an opportunity to earn sufficient, to have that which they need for their own and to give that which they desire to others, to bring in to the lives of those about them some measure of joy, to know the satisfaction of work well done, of recreation earned and therefore savored, to end the year a little wiser, a little kinder and therefore a little happier.” (Eleanor Roosevelt, in a column from “My Day” on January 1, 1937)

I wonder how acquainted she was with The Scripture because her thoughts parallel Biblical teachings. Ecclesiastes came to my mind immediately:

“This is what I observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

Intertwined in her words is the message of Jesus in Matthew 7:9-12:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I think sometimes I miss the gifts of God in my present because I am either dwelling in my past or yearning for my future. I am reminded of a quote by Allen Saunders (often incorrectly attributed to John Lennon, who later used it in a song): “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” Sometimes our past offers motivation—we either want to repeat something that worked well for us, or change something that didn’t. Our future, especially as believers, means an eternal future in God’s presence. It is hard to not look forward to that. Our present is our life. Every day we live for God’s glory, learning and maturing a little bit each day along the way. That development shows that we belong to Christ, and that the Spirit lives in us. The development and display of who we belong to serves to reach others for Christ whether we realize it or not. Every day matters. When Christ returns, all of our days will help prepare us to meet Him as mature servants.

Lord, help us to receive comfort and strength from remembering our past. Help us to receive comfort and strength from looking to our future, knowing that our eternity lies with You. Let that comfort and strength serve us each day in our present, so that we can be your agents here on Earth, letting the world see You. Amen!

Take heart and be encouraged!

January 8, 2023 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, January 8, 2023, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

DownloadWorship Guide for January 8, 2023

Online giving is available here


CALL TO WORSHIP —  Psalm 16:8-9, 11
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Be Thou My Vision

Here I Am To Worship

GRACE & ASSURANCE  — Psalm 39:4-7
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.

Ancient of Days

There Is A Fountain



“Humility Means Risking Your Life For Others” – Phi. 2:25-30



December 25, 2022 Worship Service

Candles 5

This is our service order for Sunday, December 25, 2022, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

DownloadWorship Guide for December 25, 2022
Please note: We have changed the format of the worship guide to save on printing costs.

Online giving is available here


CALL TO WORSHIP —  Psalm 98:1-2
Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Joy to the World

The First Noel

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels We Have Heard on High


SERMON — “Be Strong! You Do More Than You Know” – Haggai 2:1-9

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (stanza 5)

Encouragement for Thursday

Merry Christmas! This week I would like to share 2 songs and videos. The first is a beautiful classic Christmas hymn that we do not often sing. The second is a secular song that we often hear during the Christmas season. Please watch and listen.

After hearing those songs you might be thinking they have little in common, which is incorrect. Both had at least their lyrics written by Benjamin Russell Hanby. Benjamin’s father William was a maker of harnesses and saddles. He was also a minister (later bishop) of the United Brethren Church. Their home in Rushville, Ohio, in Fairfield County, was a noted stop on the Underground Railroad in the 1840’s. Benjamin grew up with the same dedication to God, and to the abolition of slavery as his father. The family eventually moved to Westerville, Ohio, where William helped establish Otterbein University. Benjamin enrolled there at 16, and graduated. He also became a minister in the Brethren Church. The Hanby family continued to assist former slaves by providing shelter and protection in their Westerville home.

Benjamin was a self-taught musician, and loved music. He began to write songs in support of abolition. One of his earliest and most famous songs was “Darling Nelly Gray,” which was based on the account of an escaped slave named Joseph Selby. He planned to save up enough money to free his love, Nelly Gray, who had been sold to a plantation as a slave. Unfortunately Joseph was very ill, and died in the Hanby home before he was able to fulfill his dream. Joseph and his story made a deep impression on Benjamin. “Nelly Gray” became very popular, and was sung by troops on both sides of the Civil War– as inspiration for the Union, and in a derogatory manner by the Confederacy. He wrote several other songs in support of abolition.

He discovered that he loved teaching, especially children. He continued to write musical scores and lyrics. One of the songs he taught to his classes was one designed as a sing along to help his students develop– “Up on the Housetop.” He also wrote many hymns, including “Who is He in Yonder Stall?” He moved to Chicago to work with a music publishing company to produce and publish his music. There he contracted tuberculosis, and passed away at the young age of 33.

I am always impressed by someone like Benjamin Hanby, who was able to make such an impact on so many people in such a short earthly life. Again I am reminded of Jesus’ parable about the talents, where someone who makes the most of their blessings will receive even more. During his lifetime the efforts of his family to help many to freedom and safety was undoubtedly appreciated by many and had a lasting impact. “Darling Nelly Gray” played a role in rallying people to the cause of ending slavery. After his lifetime his songs have lived on. “Who is he in Yonder Stall?” beautifully describes Christ’s person, work, and place in the Kingdom, reminding us of God’s greatest gift. Even a less serious song like “Up on the Housetop” continues to remind people of Christmas and establish the mood of the season.

We know that we do not deserve God’s grace, and can in no way give Him any gift comparable to His gift of Jesus to us. We can accept His gift and try to live a life pleasing to Him. I am reminded of the final words of Christina Rossetti’s carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter”: “Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart.” It is a blessing to see these words lived out in the life of Benjamin Hanby.

Take heart and be encouraged!

December 18, 2022 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, December 18, 2022, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for December 18, 2022
Please note: We have changed the format of the worship guide to save on printing costs.

Online giving is available here


CALL TO WORSHIP —  Psalm 95:6-7
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.

Here I Am To Worship

Good Christian Men Rejoice!

GRACE & ASSURANCE — Luke 1:78-79 CSB
Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the dawn from on high will visit us
 to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

See Amid the Winter Snow

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Agnus Dei

SERMON — “You Have Kept My Word” – Revelation 3:7-13

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (stanza 4)


Encouragement for Thursday

Many of the hymns or carols we sing in the Christmas season come from a Western European or British Isles origin. This is natural because these are the areas of origin of most immigrants to America during the time our holiday traditions were being established. Some writers were immigrants or were descended from them. Other carols were brought from their home country and translated to English when necessary. One of our most joyous Christmas songs has a decidedly different origin.

From ancient Biblical times people have enslaved other people to suit their own desires or purposes. In some occasions it was due to indentured servanthood, where people were dedicated to working for others for a given period of time to pay a debt. On other occasions it was due to a conquering nation in a war taking advantage of those conquered. This was the cause of the slavery that the Jews endured in Egypt during the time of Moses. These two occasions were also the cause of slavery in Africa. Indentured servanthood existed, and conquered tribes were taken as servants by their conquering tribes. Beginning in the 7th century or so Arab Muslims and Europeans are believed to have participated in the practice of chattel slavery in Africa, where captured people were seen as property to be bought and sold. Africans captured as property were sold in Europe, and in China and the far east. It is believed that the Portuguese first brought African slaves across the Atlantic in ships to the Americas in the 1600’s. The first ship was supposedly intended for the Spanish inhabitants of the Caribbean and Central America. It only made it as far as a landing near the Jamestown colony, where the slaves were sold instead. Thus began the disgraceful history of slavery in North America.

When the United States became a country in 1776 slavery was an accepted practice. Some slaves were treated well, and many others very poorly. Regardless of their treatment they were seen as belongings without their own personal freedom. In the early 1800’s people began to question the morality of slavery. There was a movement within the country that wanted to declare that all people should be considered free, and not subject to ownership or servitude by others. They wanted this declared at a federal level to guarantee this right to all. Many southern states seceded from the union because they didn’t believe that the federal government should be deciding this, and that states should be able to decide this type of law themselves (calling this “states’ rights”). Hence the Civil War. As we know the Union won, and slavery was ended.

The experience of slaves in America draws a parallel in my mind to the slavery that the Israelites experienced in Egypt and Babylon. They were subjected to a hard, harsh life and looked ahead to the day when they would be free. The feelings of sorrow and despair buoyed by hope in God built the foundation for a very particular type of music that blossomed in the mid 1800’s– the spiritual. Nothing could stop them from worshiping God, and many did. Despite their enslaved status, poor living conditions, and uncertain earthly futures they maintained a strong faith in the God who would save their souls.

Spirituals were songs that were created and taught verbally, and passed to new generations. They weren’t written on fancy sheet music in universities, or practiced on pianos or organs in churches or well to do homes. John Wesley Work III, a musician and music professor at Fisk University, began collecting and documenting spirituals. He wrote them down, transcribed the music, and eventually recorded many of the songs with Fisk students. His 1907 collection, “Folk Songs of the American Negro” included one of our most jubilant Christmas songs– “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

The verses of the song give an account of the events on the night of Jesus’ birth, and end with the acknowledgement that God will reward those who seek Him and eventually make them great in His sight. In between the verses is the chorus, which declares Christ’s coming boldly and with joy:

Go, tell it on the mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere.

Go, tell it on the mountain

That Jesus Christ is born.

I struggled to locate a version of the song that I believed shared the original intent and feeling that was intended when the song was written. Many of the versions I watched were stylized performance versions that didn’t seem quite right. I finally found one that captured the exuberant spirit I think the song intended. There are a LOT of people singing in this video and they seem genuinely excited. Please step outside your musical comfort zone as I did and feel the joy!

Take heart and be encouraged!