Encouragement for Thursday

Last Saturday I wanted to go out walking somewhere. With the weather outside being a combination of rain, sleet, and snow at different times, I tried to think of somewhere inside. I decided to visit a place I hadn’t visited in many years– the Cleveland Museum of Art. As an added enticement it doesn’t cost anything to enter the museum. Because of the weather I did pay to park in their garage. I spent about 4 hours there, and know that I didn’t see everything. I just got tired. As always I took pictures. I have attached one to this message.

The picture is a wide angle view of the atrium between the two main buildings. I am standing on the second level near the escalator at the east end of the museum looking out over most of the span of the atrium. There seems to be a little encapsulated world in the atrium. I was able to see various parts of the museum: the cafe and restaurant on the opposite end of the atrium; the gift shop in the corner next to the cafe; a special gallery behind a glass wall around the middle of the right side; the main entrance to the main building on the left side; some displays and meeting rooms along the upper level perimeter walkway. Throughout the atrium are scattered tables and benches, mostly populated by people.

As I looked more at the picture I started to enlarge the picture view on the screen to be able to see the people. I am not a nosy person and usually keep to my own business. But, I found myself wondering what was happening with all of the people. Near the bottom of the picture close to me there is a couple of women in the right corner resting on a bench and having a conversation. A bit to their left is a family that looks to be dressed for a wedding. The little boy lying down on his back has an expression of total panic for fear of falling backwards off the bench. The girl on the bench to the right looks tired or bored. Moving along the right perimeter is a man sitting on a bench looking at this cell phone. There are people behind the glass wall in the special display that are in a world of their own, of sorts. There is a museum employee in the round desk in the middle of the atrium, to help direct people or answer questions. On the left side in front of the entrance to the main building is a man giving his sportjacket to his partner– she must be cold. At the tables further down people are eating, drinking, and visiting. You can even see people shopping in the gift shop. At various points throughout are people walking from one place to another, seemingly oblivious to everyone else.

I wondered, are these people having fun? Are they worried? Are they simply enjoying time with their family or friends? Are they looking for someone else? Are they in a hurry to get somewhere? Are they just killing time? Are any of them really hurting in some way? I haven’t really got a clue to the answers to any of these questions, except to say yes. Probably all of these questions could be answered “Yes.” The thought entered my mind that this group of what seems like a world of people in this large atrium to me would seem like a tiny snow globe to God.

God knows what is happening with all of these people, and with each of us all the time. It is hard for me to fathom. He knows who is hurting physically, mentally, or spiritually. He knows each of us better than we do ourselves. I am reminded of the words of Jesus:

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7).

Then a little later in the same message:

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Luke 12:22).

God knows all and knows us intimately. More importantly He has the power to help and save us. It is only through Christ that we can ultimately conquer our humanness and stay together.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

I thank God I don’t need to see and understand everyone’s problems, because it would simply overwhelm me. I simply couldn’t do it. But he does see and understand, and knows what each of us needs. He gave us the answer in His Son, Jesus.

Take heart and be encouraged!

Because He Lives

This Sunday, as we continue through the book of Daniel, we will begin Daniel 9. We know that Daniel prayed (cf. Daniel 2:18). And we further know that Daniel prayed regularly (cf. Daniel 6:10). Yet, Daniel 9 is the first time that we get to hear Daniel pray. That’s interesting.

Throughout the week there are four community groups which meet at the church building. At Calvary, community groups are all about each one of you watching out for each one of you. Sometimes a community group will meet for prayer or to think thru the Christian life together or for Bible study or just for fellowship around some breakfast. There is a community group for men that meets each Tuesday at 8:30 am (breakfast fellowship). There is a community group for men and women that meets each Wednesday at 9:30 am (fellowship, devotional and prayer). There is another community group for men and women that meets each Wednesday at 6:30 pm (prayer). And there is another community group for women that meets each Thursday at 7:00 pm (Bible study).

Be looking forward to gathering together for communion on Good Friday (April 15) at 6 pm! And then there is Resurrection Sunday, April 17. Just now writing those words, I thought about those great words:

God sent His son
They called Him Jesus
He came to love
Heal and forgive
He bled and died
To buy my pardon
An empty grave
Is there to prove
My Savior lives

And 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

March 27, 2022 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, March 27, 2022, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for March 27

Online giving is available here.

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CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 148:1-2, 13
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
Praise him, all his hosts!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For his name alone is exalted;
    His majesty is above the earth and heaven.

All Creatures of Our God and King

Psalm 62

GRACE & ASSURANCE — Isaiah 57:15
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Only A Holy God

QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 71:3
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

SERMON — Daniel 8

May the Mind of Christ My Savior

BENEDICTION

Encouragement For Thursday

It seems that lately I have seen a lot of birthday recognitions and notices for people I have known for quite a while. A lot of these people comment that they are either getting old or feel old. Some of these people are older than me, some are around my age, and some are noticeably younger. I suppose “felt” age is relative. Actual physical age is not, although people’s opinions of what is considered “old” varies quite a bit.

From a human perspective, for many, the older they get the line for “old” moves farther away from their own age. When I was about 10 I remember thinking that my uncles in their 50’s were old. When I became an adult I seem to have lost any sense of what “old” was. Maybe that was a good thing. People tend to blame many of their medical problems on aging, even when it may not be the primary cause of their problems. Through firsthand experience I have learned that many physical problems simply happen because of flaws in our individual bodies, probably originating in our genetic makeup. At the same time, time and wear do take a toll on our bodies and minds as time passes.

In many places Scripture acknowledges the effects aging has on us. Scripture also helps us keep it in perspective. Asaph the Psalmist recognizes the failure of the flesh, but turns his thoughts to the eternal.

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

The term “portion” as understood in traditional Jewish usage refers not to a simple part of a whole, but as a part of an inheritance. Asaph knows that his heart and body are temporary, and will eventually fail. He also knows that his inheritance from God will last forever.

The Apostle Paul considers the matter further, and is blessed with the benefit of having seen God’s plan through Christ unfold.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul feels the effects of aging and physical decay, but keeps his focus on his future through faith. All we see is temporary, but we can’t see eternity. You might be thinking, “Wow Joel, it’s hard to keep focus on eternity when my present pain and trouble is distracting me. How can I keep from being depressed by my current situation?” I certainly recommend following Paul’s advice to fix our eyes on eternity rather than the present. At the same time a good attitude can help.

What kind of good attitude? Another Paul wrote something that gives me a hopeful look at aging. When he was about 17, Paul McCartney began writing a song that was a partial tribute to his father. He had been a member in a band even before Paul was born. Paul remembered the songs his dad used to sing around home, and wanted to capture their 1920’s vaudeville sound and feel. He worked on the song on and off for over 10 years, finally finishing it with the help of Beatles bandmate John Lennon. It wasn’t released by them as a single, but appeared on their “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Over the years it has grown to be one of their most unique and recognizable songs. Although it is not an expressly Christian song it presents a lighthearted look at growing old that focuses on positive experiences rather than negative ones. We need more of that. When Paul was born in 1942 the average lifespan in England was only 63 years. He has said in more recent years that if he were writing the song today he would change the age to 84 or 90. Lighten your heart for a few minutes with “When I’m 64.”

Take heart and be encouraged!

March 20, 2022 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, March 20, 2022, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for March 20

Online giving is available here.

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CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 136:1, 3-4
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

It Is Good To Sing Your Praises

How Great Thou Art

GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 136:23-24
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

His Mercy Is More

QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 136:26

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

SERMON — Daniel 8

May the Peace (Benediction)

BENEDICTION

Encouragement for Thursday

This week’s message coincides with St. Patrick’s Day this year. Patrick lived during the 5th century, in the Britain that was under the control of Rome. At 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped, but later returned to Ireland as a missionary. He is credited with spreading Christianity through the country. His death was believed to be on March 17, 461. The remembrance of this day as a feast day by Roman Catholics began sometime in the 9th or 10th century. Its celebration in various forms has continued to our present day.

Much less well known than Patrick is a blind Irish monk that ministered in the 6th century, likely due directly to the influence and teaching of Patrick. Dallan Forgaill was a writer of poetry and hymns, and wrote the following in his original language:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art

High King of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O ruler of all

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O ruler of all

These words were translated into English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne in 1905 and arranged into verses by Eleanor Hull in 1912. It has been sung using an Irish folk tune called Slade since around 1919. It has always been one of my favorite hymns. I appreciate that Sharon chooses it as a worship song from time to time. It has a very personal and intimate feel that is a direct conversation with God. The words “Be Thou my vision” and “Still be my vision” touch me much more deeply when considering that Dallan Forgaill was not blessed with physical sight. He was not able to see the light of the sun that we take for granted daily, and his personal light came from his faith in God: “Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

I am thankful for my eyesight, and even more thankful that God sent His Son to light my eternity.

Please listen to this version of the hymn by Selah:

Take heart and be encouraged!

Encouragement for Thursday

Seafood is one of my favorite types of food. I really like a lot of types of fish, preferably broiled or grilled. I tend to dislike fish with a lot of bones, and really don’t care for fried catfish. I also love different types of shellfish, especially scallops and conch (OK, maybe it’s a sea snail). I eat it cooked—my favorite method tends to be fried in a light batter. I have never cared for raw shellfish, and usually avoid it. Some people do and are occasionally rewarded in ways beyond satisfying their taste buds. The following news item came to my attention the other day. Please watch the short news video:

When I saw the story and news video, Jesus’ parable immediately came to mind:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).

When Mr. Spressler found the pearl in the 12th clam of his appetizer it was a complete surprise. He wasn’t looking for one. When it appeared in his mouth, he first thought it was a problem—a lost tooth. When he and his wife stopped to look at it they quickly realized it was something of great value. They plan to preserve it in a meaningful form and keep it as a reminder and treasure.

Their finding of the pearl reminds me of the first situation that Jesus described in Matthew 13:44. A man found an unexpected treasure, and realized what a valuable discovery he made. To him it was worth selling all he had to keep it. The Spresslers didn’t have to go to that length to keep the pearl they found.

In the second situation Jesus described a man who was searching for valuable pearls. When he found one of great value he also sold everything he had to buy the pearl. The point Jesus is making is that the kingdom of Heaven is the most dear treasure that we can have. Some might encounter it by chance as the first man he described. Some might find it by searching for that one item more valuable than all else, as did the second man. In either case the important thing to remember is that it is the one thing that is worth keeping above all else.

Lord, please help us to always remember the treasure we have in the kingdom of Heaven. All of the other successes and happiness we might gain really mean nothing if we aren’t in Your kingdom and in Your presence forever. Help us to keep our hearts in the right place.

Take heart and be encouraged! 

As You Pray

As you pray remember two things:

1. God hears. In Genesis 16 is the story of Hagar. Listen to something amazing said to her. “And the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction'” (v. 11). The name Ishmael means God hears! Can you imagine, as a mother, the daily reminder every time you looked at your son and whenever you said his name that God hears. Consider, too, Psalm 34:15. “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.” And look ahead at verse 17. “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears…”

2. And God is able. So, remember that God hears and know that God is able. This makes think a little bit about the book of Daniel. In Daniel 3 and Daniel 6 it is emphasized that God is able. In those two chapters God is able to rescue, but regardless think upon those three words: God is able. Now get ready for Ephesians 3:20-21. It is so important to remember that before Ephesians 3:20-21 is Ephesians 3:14-18, a prayer! In regard to that prayer the Bible says, “Now to him who is able…” What?! God is able. Keep reading. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” That is all in relation to Paul’s prayer for Christians in Ephesians 3:14-18. Paul prayed what he prayed knowing that God is able.

Put it together. God hears and God is able. Imagine if God hears but God is not able. Or, God does not hear but God is able. What do we know from the Scriptures? God hears and God is able. That is amazing. That is awesome. And as you pray today, know and remember that God hears and God is able. And you get to talk to the God who hears and who is able.

March 6, 2022 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, March 6, 2022, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for March 6

Online giving is available here.

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CALL TO WORSHIP —  Psalm 133:1, 3; 95:1
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our Salvation!

Oh How Good It Is

Be Unto Your Name

GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 139:7, 9-10

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

He Will Hold Me Fast

QUIET PREPARATION — Lamentations 3:25-26
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

SERMON — Daniel 7

Ancient of Days

BENEDICTION

Encouragement for Thursday

It is easy to be concerned and depressed by events in our world. In our country we have difficulties from inflation and economic issues. Those seem to pale in comparison to the situation brought about by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. I have read comments from some that seem to believe these events are what Daniel, and later Revelation predict as the end of the world and our present age. Do I agree? No. Do we see some of the same type of unjust political domination far beyond Daniel’s time, in the future? Yes. We have already seen it a number of times. Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander attempted it. Some of the Roman emperors attempted it. Attila the Hun attempted it. In our world’s more recent history, we can see it in the reigns of leaders such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. As Pastor James declared about Putin, God will hold him accountable for his actions. Leaders have responsibility to God and to their people.

The language of both Daniel and Revelation can be taken as further warning to a destructive pattern—that there will always be those who attempt to rule by their own power and for their own benefit. These books had an initial literal interpretation that applied to a group of people reasonably close to the time of their writing. But further, their messages teach all people going forward that they will see similar challenges. I fear that many lose sight of this valuable lesson while they search to find a single person that seems to be the fulfillment of a particular prophecy. The most important lesson taught is that God has already won the war. If we also want to win we must stand with Him.

As you probably know from reading some of my past messages, my mind tends to return to the book of Ecclesiastes at times. In chapter 1 we have an evaluation written by someone much wiser than me—Solomon. He learned many years ago that people seem to fall into the same traps repeatedly:

“All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them”
(Ecclesiastes 1:8-11).

Why do leaders keep returning to the temptations of power, control, and domination? First, they are sinful humans who do not keep God first in their mind or priorities. Second, they don’t remember the former generations. Power and control on Earth are temporary and fleeting. Things never last or turn out well for those who lust for them. Yet it will continue: “even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.”

By now you are probably thinking, “Gee Joel, you aren’t being very encouraging this week.” There is always encouragement to be found if you look toward God and check your own perspective. God is concerned primarily with eternity, and we should be too. Our world situation seems to change and recycle itself in an unfortunately depressing fashion. Fortunately not everything does:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It was touching and encouraging to see the video last Sunday of the Ukrainians singing praise in their home. Despite a horrible immediate situation, they were able to keep their perspective in relation to God and His overall will for their lives and eternity. I hope that we remember the benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21 as encouragement that applies to each of us:

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Take heart and be encouraged!