Encouragement for Thursday

From our dear brother Joel Barton for you.

The ongoing COVID-19 challenge has caused all of us to change our lives and habits in the short term, if not unforeseeably in the long term. On many Saturdays I try to explore different area parks to walk socially distant from many people, while appreciating nature and taking pictures. Something that has caught my interest in many areas I have visited is that existing on all sides of Cleveland are remnants of the old electric interurban railway– the trolley system. From what I have read some lines began construction as early as 1887. Different lines with different names ran to the west to Toledo, and then to Detroit. To the east they ran to Erie, Pennsylvania and points beyond. To the south they ran to Columbus. To the southeast they ran to Akron and Canton. This system was vital for transporting people and goods at the turn of the twentieth century and in the following decades. As the automobile became more common and roads and highways developed, the need for the interurban declined. Different lines changed hands, were absorbed by others, and eventually went bankrupt. The last of the interurban lines in the area closed due to labor problems in 1938, and never reopened. Their day had passed.

In Bay Village and Berea there still stand concrete supports that once held heavy wooden track beds and metal track. Concrete made over 100 years ago is apparently a lot more durable than modern concrete. An old restored (on the outside, anyway) passenger car rests in the parking lot of a shopping center in Avon Lake on Lake Road. It marks the location of an old stop on the westbound line. In many places extra tall electric poles that once held the lines needed by the system have been adopted by modern utility companies. In some accessible locations you can see built up banks of ground that once held the metal track that has long since been removed. Even though I didn’t live during the time the system was in operation, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness that something that was once so vital and important is gone without ever being encountered by many people living now.

Last Saturday I visited a park called The Rookery in Geauga County. The park has a few hiking trails That go through woods and along ponds and a river. The trail I chose to walk is a corridor that runs through the woods and along ponds where you can stop to appreciate nature. The corridor has two signs near the beginning explaining that it once held the track of the interurban line with a split that ran from Cleveland to Middlefield one way, and Chardon the other. There are also pictures of the some of the cars and people who worked on the line. As I walked down the trail looking at nature around me I was struck by the history of what was once there. It also dawned on me what a great purpose the former track bed now has. Instead of allowing people to pass through the area in somewhat of a hurry as it once did, the path now allows people to slow down and appreciate God’s creation in nature.

I think we tend to get caught up in what we are doing daily, and in the circumstances of our past. We can’t help but look at a situation we are in and wonder how it might have been different if only…

The Apostle Paul has personal advice for each of us from his own life. He sought to make his life like Christ’s, following Him with his behavior in faith. In Philippians 3 Paul reminds us that his goal was “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:11).

In verses 12-16 Paul presents his goal in a way that gives us a crystal clear picture of our goal:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

Like the corridor of the old interurban railway through The Rookery, we have had a purpose in life and manner of living that has served us while we have been here. But as good as that purpose might have been it pales in comparison to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Our future as believers holds much more than our past or present ever could. I can’t help but think that if the old Geauga County interurban line had a consciousness it would have been pleased with what it has become.

Take heart and be encouraged!

COVID-19 Response & Precautions

Please note: mask policy updated July 12. (see #6 below)

How we are looking forward to Sundays: As we care for one another, even in a time like this, we are making known the manifold wisdom of God. 

• Our attitude in gathering is with no regrets, that is, no broken/hurt relationships. 

• Our attitude in gathering is to remember that we are easing our way back into things. 

• Our attitude in gathering is to remember that this is temporary. 

• Our attitude in gathering is to remember that this is a most wonderful opportunity. 

And so for Sunday… Calvary Community Church is taking several precautions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. If for any reason you are not feeling well, stay at home. If you have a fever, stay at home. 

2. If for any reason you are just not yet ready to gather together, that is okay. The service is currently live-streamed and recorded to YouTube. Additional platforms will be available soon.

3. We will be using the main double doors (front of the building, facing Clague Road) for entering/ exiting the building. The doors will be propped open. A greeter (one of our deacons) will be there for just one reason: to greet you. The windows in the sanctuary and the front double doors will remain open during our service to increase airflow and ventilation.

4. Hand sanitizer is located on the information table in the foyer and in the sanctuary. 

5. The sanctuary is arranged with social distancing in view. You still have the freedom to sit where you choose. 

6. Masks: New as of July 12: Following the guidelines from the State of Ohio, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, masks will be required inside the church for everyone age 10 and over. According to the guidelines, officiants are exempt so our pastor will not be wearing a mask while preaching, and the worship team will not wear them while leading.

7. We encourage abstaining from hugging, shaking hands. 

8. The offering plate will be located as you enter the sanctuary/exit the sanctuary. (Online giving is available here.)

9. Children’s Church and nursery will be available. 

10. The worship order for Sunday will be published at this blog on Saturdays with a link to download and/or print the worship guide.

11. We will be singing for a shorter amount of time, and all of the singing will be at the end of the service.

12. The building is thoroughly cleaned each week.

Guard Your Heart…For People

Our fighter verse for this week is Proverbs 4:23. The first part of the verse really resonates with me: keep your heart with all vigilance. When I first read it, I thought, “I can do that. I have done that.” Guard your heart would be the same as keep your heart. And I thought a really good way of guarding your heart would be to build a wall around it. Build a wall around it to keep people out. And the reason to keep people out would be so that no one can hurt my heart. If there is no wall, my heart is vulnerable. This is the same as keeping someone at “arm’s length.” But to get any closer would be letting someone too close. It is the same as not letting people get to know me.

But this is the exact opposite of Solomon’s point! Do not guard your heart to keep people out, but guard your heart for people. Listen to the last half of the verse: for from it flow the springs of life. Springs of life are good and for others’ good!

This was just more I thought about after posting the video.

We will be in Luke 17:11-19 this Sunday. And as we prepare for this Sunday, it is good to reflect on the joy of last Sunday. Remember last Sunday and look ahead to this Sunday.

I am thankful for you.

Worship Service: July 26, 2020

We will livestream the service on Youtube this week.

Since we will not be printing the worship guide yet, the format has been modified to make it more tablet/phone friendly. You can download it here:
Worship Guide for July 26

This is our order of worship for Sunday, July 26, 2020, at Calvary Community Church:

WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP

Psalm 131

QUIET PREPARATION

Romans 5:1-2

HEARING FROM GOD’S WORD

“Lord, Increase Our Faith” – Luke 17:1-10

My Faith Has Found A Resting Place

Is He Worthy?

Encouragement For Thursday

From our brother Joel:

[Preface to this week’s message: this message might be the longest I have done. It contains a bit of personal reflection, and personal philosophy. I suspect many of us have the same feelings, so I hope you stick with it.]

Recent trips to stores have been a reminder of the time of the year. Stores have prominent displays of school supplies and clothes for growing students. When I was a little tyke I didn’t enjoy clothes shopping in the least. I still don’t, really. When I was in elementary school there was a much more limited choice of stores for mom to choose from. There was no WalMart, no Target, and no mall with its variety of stores. There was no Amazon and no internet (imagine that, young people!). In this area we had Zayre and Uncle Bill’s, but they didn’t have much in the way of decent clothes for kids. We also had the May Company, Higbee’s and Halle’s. When I was young we didn’t shop at those stores often because we weren’t “made of money” according to dad. That left two major options– Sears and J.C. Penney.

We were a Sears family, in contrast to my best friend Kurt’s family, which was a Penney’s family. North Olmsted had both a Sears and a J.C. Penney in the Great Northern strip shopping center, in the dark ages before the mall was built and opened in 1976. They were much smaller stores, and had some stock of common products in them. But both of those stores thrived because of their catalog business. They each had large and busy catalog desks. Mom selected most of my school clothes in the catalog and ordered them either in the store or over the phone. Usually in about a week the store would call and say “Your order is in,” which was the signal to go to the store to pick them up.

If mom or dad needed to go to a bigger Sears we went to the “Big Sears,” which was the one at W. 110th Street and Lorain Road. It seemed like a real excursion to my brother Jeff and I. It had at least two floors and a basement, if I remember correctly. One of the big treats there was the snack counter, where we could usually get some fresh popped popcorn. We would sometimes beg successfully for mom to get some of the hot peanuts, cashews, or mixed nuts out of the glass case to take home.

Jeff and I (and most other kids) looked forward to the Christmas catalog (the Wish Book) coming out in the fall. In those days we weren’t flooded by advertising on cable T.V., which hadn’t been invented yet. We would lie on the living room floor and go through the toy section to see what new toys had come out. It gave us time together and brought us closer. It seemed like a much smaller world without online apps, games and electronic gadgets.

If something was broken and dad needed a part of some kind, or needed a new tool for a repair, he went to Sears. There are many of his Craftsman tools in the basement. We had large and small Kenmore appliances. I can still hear dad saying, “If you buy something at Sears and anything goes wrong with it they’ll replace it, and won’t give you any guff about it.” I don’t think we had to take much back. For us and many common American families, Sears was a part of life.

You might be wondering at this point, “Gosh Joel, why are you waxing nostalgic about Sears?” One evening about a week ago I went past the Sears at Great Northern Mall and noticed the “Store Closing” signs. Later I did a little research through the internet that I now take for granted, yet rely on daily. I learned it was supposed to close in September. I also learned that this is the last Sears still open in the entire state of Ohio.

Sears, Roebuck & Company was founded in 1893, and soon became the largest retailer in the country due to its catalog business model. It remained the largest retailer until the 1980’s, when it was surpassed by Kmart. Eventually Kmart bought Sears. When I was a kid I am sure I never thought about the possibility that Sears would not be around. It seemed that Sears always was, and always would be. I guess Sears didn’t notice the world rapidly changing around it. People wanted things cheaper, faster, and delivered right to them at home. It wasn’t set up for that. Now it’s too late for it to change.

As humans we have a natural sense of appreciation for family, belonging, and familiarity. Sometimes we get so caught up in the fast pace of the world, and reaching for something more or better in some way that we lose sight of things that might be more important. We look back with nostalgia secretly hoping to regain something we have lost, but can’t find it. I miss the good times, relationships, and sharing of life that happened when I was young. I can’t go back in time to experience those days again except through my memories.

Solomon warned us long ago that this would happen:

“1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, 4 and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiates 12: 1-7).

I would like to think I have always had appreciation for God and His blessings, even as a child. But I realize I haven’t always had the sense of appreciation for the blessings I have had to the degree I should have. In verses 3 through 7 above Solomon is giving us a picture of our aging process. Our arms (the keepers of the house tremble), legs (the strong men are bent), teeth (the grinders cease because they are few), eyes (those who look through the windows are dimmed), ears (the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low), hair (the almond tree blossoms), and slowing down in movement (the grasshopper drags itself along)— are all signs of our aging, until we reach the time of death when the mourners come, our body returns to the earth, and the spirit returns to God.

It seems strange that it took something like the death of Sears to cause me to look backward in appreciation for the experiences and life that have been blessings from God. Throughout Ecclesiastes Solomon warns us to appreciate life as we are living it, when we are young and can enjoy it. I will try to make an effort to stop and smell the roses more, and appreciate life as it happens. I am thankful for memories, but even more thankful for His blessings. I pray that we all remember our past fondly, but appreciate our present and future even more!

Take heart and be encouraged!

When These Trials Give Way To Glory

This Sunday we will be in Luke 17:1-10. I like the sound of that; we will be in Luke 17:1-10. So, as we prepare for this coming Sunday…

Remember, as we gather for the teaching of God’s Word there are two active participants: the preacher and the listener and both are to be affected by the Word of God.

And remember last Sunday. It was so good to gather together at the Lord’s Table. Remember, communion brings us together! I have been continually thanking God for last Sunday and how good He is to us.

Remember, too, that we are gathering to pray together each Sunday at 9:30 am in the fellowship room. We need this time to ask for God’s help and for His will to be done.

I am so very grateful for your joyfulness.

Worship Service: July 19, 2020

We will record the service and post it on Youtube and Facebook after the service has concluded.

Since we will not be printing the worship guide yet, the format has been modified to make it more tablet/phone friendly. You can download it here:
Worship Guide for July 19

This is our order of worship for Sunday, July 19, 2020, at Calvary Community Church:

WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP

Psalm 89:1-2, 52
I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
Blessed be the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.

QUIET PREPARATION

Colossians 2:13-15
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.
This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame,
by triumphing over them in him.

HEARING FROM GOD’S WORD

“When Earth is the Extent of Our Heaven” – Luke 16:19-31

Be Thou My Vision

Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor

Encouragement For Thursday

From our brother Joel:

Pastor James’ message Tuesday focused on fixing our bad attitudes. We feel hostility, unrest, and general disharmony among many people in our society for various reasons today. Most people normally look toward how they can change the ideas and opinions of others. As he reminded us, we cannot. We can look toward changing our own ideas and behavior. As he read through David’s thoughts and feelings in Psalm 55, I think we all recognized our own thoughts and feelings there also.

Even as forgiven, saved believers we face a struggle between our earthly nature and our maturing and sanctification to Christ’s image. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). He also reminds us of the cause of those actions; “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:20).

Thankfully as believers we most importantly have the Helper that Jesus promised would be sent– the Holy Spirit. As we let God know about our bad attitudes the Spirit also groans with us, making our struggles known.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:18-24).

Many of the feelings that we might be experiencing today appear in the list of works of the flesh– enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy. It is striking to me how most of the works of the flesh listed in the verses above are focused on interactions with others. As Pastor James pointed out, the answer to our bad attitudes lies with changing ourselves and not others. The answer to the works of the flesh lies in the fruit of the Spirit. Notice that the fruit listed– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control– are all qualities to be developed within us. In turn these qualities affect our interactions with others. We aren’t blessed with a full, mature complement of them instantly when we become believers (wouldn’t it be great if that was true?).

We are forgiven sinners who belong to His family because of the sacrifice of Christ. That doesn’t mean we can’t, or don’t still sin. The struggle is real. As we attempt to have better attitudes and be better ambassadors for Him, let us remember the final words of Paul in Galatians 5– “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25-26).

It is a tough challenge. Through prayer and studying God’s guidance in Scripture, along with the Spirit’s groaning and influence we can continue to mature and bear more of the fruit of the Spirit. I am certainly glad we have these blessings to help us deal with our shortcomings, rather than trying to face them of our own accord. Thank God for His foresight and love for us!

Take heart and be encouraged!

How Do I Fight My Bad Attitude?

There are three things to keep before us as we journey through this week.

1. God is always doing more than we know.

2. Is He Worthy? May this song and Revelation 5 continue to be the
melody of our hearts and what captivates our thinking. Is He
worthy? He is! He is! He is!

3. This Sunday we will gather at the Lord’s Table together and be
doing one thing together: Proclaiming the Lord’s death until He
returns. He is alive. This reminds of the song Because He Lives.

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And this Sunday, we will think through together, Luke 16:19-31.

And an additional note regarding facial covering. The following is a link to the printed order. Page 5 provides the exclusions, that is those who do not need to wear a mask. https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/publicorders/Directors-Order-Facial-Coverings.pdf. And of the exclusions there are three to pay attention to. “The requirement to wear a facial covering does not apply when: a. The individual is under ten years of age; b. A medical condition, including those with respiratory conditions that restrict breathing, mental health conditions, or disability contraindicates the wearing of a facial covering;…m. Individual is an officiant (anyone in front of congregation singing, reading, praying, leading communion or speaking) of a religious services.”

Oh, and we are praying together this Sunday morning at 9:30 in the fellowship room. It is a much needed time to be together and pray.

Keep looking forward.