The Confidence of Knowing God’s Love

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,

2 Corinthians 4:1

Did you have a grandmother like mine? In my grandmother’s house there were smells and expressions that told me I was loved and safe. Smiles, fresh-baked chocolate chip (or oatmeal) cookies, and hugs were common. So, there I felt safe and loved. Now, it wasn’t a perfect home. My grandfather swore a bit. It was a farm, so rougher language and louder speech was common, but I never felt unsafe there. There were also large farm implements, large farm animals, barbed wire, and bees and wasps. Yet, I never felt unsafe there. Why? I always felt safe because I knew I was loved there.

In my grandmother’s house, the language of love was cookies, hugs and smiles. In my grandmother’s house, love was a settled thing. It gets me thinking, is my understanding of God’s love settled like that?  In our homes we have words that tell us we are loved. Those expressions tell us we are accepted. They make us feel safe. Do we hear the words that God uses to tell us the same thing?

In the Scripture, some of those words are the same. However, there are three important words that we don’t use as often in our families that are profound words in the Scripture. These words are mercy, grace, and called (chosen). These words are used throughout the New Testament to encourage Christians to know the certainty of God’s love. Did you notice how Paul uses it in the verse at the top of this post? He says that the mercy we have received makes us not lose heart! This wonderful mercy that we have received tells us that we can have confidence right in the middle of life’s messiness.

Where does Paul say that we can have such confidence? Verse 2 says that we can have the confidence of God’s love in our fight against sin. Verse 2 also says that this mercy is so wonderful that we don’t have to add to or take away from the good news of Jesus to make it better. Verses 3-6 tell us that we can share the love of Jesus with confidence because the God who created light in darkness is still shining a light in our hearts! Verses 7-11 are the famous verses that declare that we don’t lose heart even though we live in broken clay pots. Those pots can be broken due to age, infirmity, or by the actions of others. Yet, this mercy we have received  keeps us from losing heart because each struggle becomes an opportunity. They are an opportunity to live for Jesus and an opportunity to know this mercy and love even more.

How can brokenness be an opportunity to shine for Jesus? How can brokenness show us that we are loved? Brokenness becomes an opportunity to shine when those struggles make us lean into the love of God that we have learned about in His Word. In those moments we discover that His love is still right there. When, in our brokenness, we understand that Jesus, too, was broken specifically as God’s act of love for us, then our brokenness no longer threatens our understanding of God’s love for us. Like a supportive family that you know is always in your corner, this love of God is an immovable rock in our life. It is the rock we stand on. It is the rock we run to when we don’t understand life. God’s love, declared definitively in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is settled.

This is the challenge for us: to hear the words ‘mercy’, ‘grace’, and ‘called’  as God’s words of love to us. We are used to our words that make us feel loved: hugs, smiles, and chocolate chip cookies. You won’t find those words in Scripture! Yet, we must hear the words that God uses! They are there and they declare that God’s love for His people is settled. That settled and extravagant love is the source of God’s people’s profound confidence. Consider these verses (the highlights are mine):

Romans 9:26 26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

1 Corinthians 1:24 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Colossians 3:15 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Romans 15:9 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Your name.”

Ephesians 2:4-6 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

1 Timothy 1:13-16 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15  It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Titus 3:5-7 5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6  whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 4:16 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

So, do you hear God’s love for you? I do. I hear that God loves me in such glorious wonder. It’s not the way Grandma said it. It isn’t said with hugs, smiles, and chocolate chip cookies. Yet, God’s love is even more settled. Let this love blossom in your heart and give your life confidence. It is the confidence of knowing that you are loved. It is the confidence that knows that this love is settled.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 23 – Superstitions, where do they come from?

This week we are thinking a bit about superstitions. Where do they come from? Why did we adopt them? What do they mean to us?

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics At Calvary!

When we think about the important issues facing America right now, we need to hear clear and helpful information from our leaders. In politics, in culture, and in faith we need our leaders to tell us what they believe and … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics
  2. At Calvary – Ep 27 – Number 23 on the Top Theological Questions Asked of Google
  3. At Calvary – Ep 26 – The Glory of Gospel Thinking
  4. At Calvary – Ep 25 – Families and Patriotism
  5. At Calvary – Ep 24 – Fitly Spoken Words
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Grace, Listening, Grace, Love, Grace, Patience…

There is a word in the Christian vocabulary that we really like on one hand, but also really struggle with. The word is grace. As we see the polarization of our communities right now over our differing responses to the virus and our differing responses to the protests and civil unrest, we can clearly see what happenswhen grace is missing from our culture. Yet, do we choose grace in how we live, react, and discuss the struggles of our day?

How does a Christian respond in times like these? Although no one has said anything to me personally, I feel some real pressure to respond to what is currently happening in our world and in the Christian community. Some of that pressure is coming from my place in the community as a leader. Some of that pressure is coming from our culture which says that if you don’t comment about current events, you must be on the “other” side of things. (and who wants to be on the ‘other’ side?) Some of that pressure is also coming from my heartfelt belief that Jesus has the answers for our current situation. His truth is not just reserved for the “spiritual” matters. His truth is clearly helpful and essential for the cultural and personal matters of our world.

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God   may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

However, while feeling this pressure I believed that I should take time to consider what type of response is needed from me. We have heard from Christian leaders in cities that are currently being split apart by racial tension. I don’t just want to repeat them. We have heard from faithful believers who have seen or personally experienced unjust and unequal treatment by authorities in their communities. I cannot testify about what I have only rarely experienced. We have also heard from faithful believers who see that unjust treatment as an anomaly that needs to be addressed but not as a sign that the system is broken. I live in a small community with little crime – so I don’t have much experience with that. So, I asked myself, “What word does my community need from me right now? What need do I see that Jesus clearly addresses?”

6  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.

            Ephesians 5:6-8

This is what I see… I see people, good people, succumbing to the spirit of our age. I see people who should live by grace and mercy expressing themselves in judgment and labels. I see us dismissing the hurting and rushing to condemn those who express themselves differently than we do.

What do we need at a time like this? We need a renewed commitment to grace. We need a renewed commitment to listening. We need a renewed commitment to loving our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. We need a renewed commitment to patience.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

            Matthew 5:43-45

We live in an age where people rush to judge. We live in an age where individuals are not heard for what they have said but are labeled by what they have not said. We live in an age of ‘gotcha’ discussions. In such an age, we are faced with two temptations. First, we are tempted to jump in with both feet and fight like everyone else does. Second, we are tempted to separate into camps and say, “But what about them?” every time someone like me encourages us to live better. There is a better way!

19  This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

            James 1:19-20

Christian, we don’t turn the other cheek, love our neighbor as ourselves, or choose kindness and compassion because it is easy or because we are weak. It is not capitulation to withhold judgment, listen, and think deeply before we respond. And it is not automatically wicked when someone disagrees with us about what solutions are needed in our communities. We turn the other cheek because our Master told us to. We love our neighbor both because of His command and because that is what we need back from our neighbor. We choose kindness and compassion because that is what God did for us. We take time, listen, and then respond in truth with love because we reject the knee-jerk and harsh spirit of our age.

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. AND Ephesians 6:12 12 For we do not  wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the    heavenly places.

            2 Corinthians 10:3-4

This is the type of leader I will strive to be. A leader who listens. A leader who chooses kindness and compassion. A leader who speaks the truth as I understand it in love. I commit to not being rash, quick-tempered, or quick to judge. This is what we need in this age. No, it won’t be always liked or appreciated. I’m okay with that. I am not choosing this for popularity. I’m choosing it because this is the path of  thoughtfulness and love. My encouragement today: be this with me. Let us together be different in the world.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 22 – Christ confidence. The God-ward way we find our ability to do what He has asked of us.

This week we are thinking about self-confidence. It seems, in many ways, to be a slippery thing for us. Should we be talking about self confidence, or should we be talking about Christ confidence? Is this the God-ward way we find our ability to do what He has asked of us?

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics At Calvary!

When we think about the important issues facing America right now, we need to hear clear and helpful information from our leaders. In politics, in culture, and in faith we need our leaders to tell us what they believe and … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics
  2. At Calvary – Ep 27 – Number 23 on the Top Theological Questions Asked of Google
  3. At Calvary – Ep 26 – The Glory of Gospel Thinking
  4. At Calvary – Ep 25 – Families and Patriotism
  5. At Calvary – Ep 24 – Fitly Spoken Words
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Be An Example

Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”  Quite a statement!  It speaks of Paul’s desire to see those around him become like Jesus.  It speaks of a discipleship that was more modeling than teaching.  It also speaks of a man who was willing to let people see him for who he really was.  The invitation –  see my heart for Christ and copy it.

Can we say that today? Can we invite others to not just learn from our words, but also our lives?  This is the mark of a servant leader.  They are people who are not trying to hide themselves from others.  Instead, they seek to show themselves to others.  In order to do so they must be genuine.  They must be who they claim to be.  They must claim who they really are.  What a task!

And yet, as I think about that, I am reminded that essentially we do that by nature.  Oh yes, there are those who aspire to greatness and put on a face that they hope people will not see through.  These are people of power.  These are people of prestige.  These are not people I am usually speaking to.  Us average Joes don’t put on much of a front in the presence of others.  Sure, we try to mind our manners and stuff, but we are not fake.  We do not hide our true nature from people.  We share it.  For those who are married, we share it with our wives.  If we have children, we share it with them.  Do we have coworkers?  They see it too. Even our neighbors see us and who we are, at least a little.  It is natural!

Yet, the word discipleship can be scary for us.  We may fear that we will lead someone else astray.  It is quite a challenge.  Yet, if it is going to happen naturally any way, why not make it count for Jesus!  Seek to be that person that Jesus is calling you to be.  Do it when you successfully obey Him and when you stumble badly.  Be righteous in Christ’s way, and deal with your sin in Christ’s way.  What a lesson you and I could be for someone.  Maybe, we will even be it for those we do not know are watching!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 21 – Thoughts about The Empty Nest

This week we are thinking about the empty nest. Another one of my children has just graduated High School. This means that we are one child away from the empty nest. I just wanted to share some musings about this season of life.

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics At Calvary!

When we think about the important issues facing America right now, we need to hear clear and helpful information from our leaders. In politics, in culture, and in faith we need our leaders to tell us what they believe and … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics
  2. At Calvary – Ep 27 – Number 23 on the Top Theological Questions Asked of Google
  3. At Calvary – Ep 26 – The Glory of Gospel Thinking
  4. At Calvary – Ep 25 – Families and Patriotism
  5. At Calvary – Ep 24 – Fitly Spoken Words
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Why I wear a mask at church – Guest blog

by Amy Jakes   May 27, 2020

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy for all people.

–Titus 3:1-2

Over the last couple of weeks, several from our church family have asked me this question. Giving a complete answer in the two minutes before church starts or when rushing off to my Sunday School class after church just didn’t seem possible. So, here are my thoughts:

I have no good reason to avoid wearing a mask.  It’s not a gospel issue. It costs me nothing. The governor, the health department, the church insurance company, and even The Family Leader all recommend wearing masks at church for those who are able.  If someone were to get sick from our church, the steps we have taken show due diligence…  The leadership is doing everything we can to help keep people “safe.” (Do I believe it will keep people safe? Do I believe it will make a difference?  That’s irrelevant. God’s Word tells me to submit to the authorities.  Paul and Jesus had much more corrupt authorities and yet they taught to submit on everything but preaching the gospel.)

Some people are scared.  If my wearing a mask when I am at church or even out and about comforts people, I’m all for that.  It seems like a common courtesy that again costs me nothing. I don’t want my preference about masks to give Christ a bad name in the marketplace of ideas.  Christians got a reputation for not caring about people when they met during shutdown, when they didn’t wear masks, when they didn’t social distance.  If I’m going to get called out, I want it to be for telling people Jesus is the only way.

Each of us needs to decide, thoughtfully, how we will handle the mask issue. This is something that Satan can’t wait to use to divide people.  Passions run deep on each side of the issue. Yet as believers we are told to live in grace with one another. This should not be an issue that divides us. Wear a mask.  Or don’t. But as with everything else in life, search the scriptures to know how God wants you to live. Be convinced in your own mind and let others be convinced in theirs.  

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

–Romans 12:18
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At Calvary – Ep 19 – Confirmation Bias… Is it a problem?

Sorry about the broken link… Come back and give it a listen now! Confirmation bias. What is it? How does it affect what we hear? When it comes to public policy decisions, this is a very important concept to acknowledge and seek to overcome. So it is in our everyday life as well!

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics At Calvary!

When we think about the important issues facing America right now, we need to hear clear and helpful information from our leaders. In politics, in culture, and in faith we need our leaders to tell us what they believe and … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics
  2. At Calvary – Ep 27 – Number 23 on the Top Theological Questions Asked of Google
  3. At Calvary – Ep 26 – The Glory of Gospel Thinking
  4. At Calvary – Ep 25 – Families and Patriotism
  5. At Calvary – Ep 24 – Fitly Spoken Words
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At Calvary – Ep 20 – Can You Have Professional Sports without Fans?

As we are approaching day 90 (in just two weeks) of the Corona virus pandemic, we are hearing of states and businesses reopening. However, everyone is still being VERY careful about mass gatherings where it is difficult (can we say impossible?) to avoid being exposed to water droplets from the person next to you. This includes professional sports. What have some professional sports organizations decided to do? They are choosing to have games, races, and matches without fans!

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics At Calvary!

When we think about the important issues facing America right now, we need to hear clear and helpful information from our leaders. In politics, in culture, and in faith we need our leaders to tell us what they believe and … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 28 – 3 Card Monte in Life, the Church and Politics
  2. At Calvary – Ep 27 – Number 23 on the Top Theological Questions Asked of Google
  3. At Calvary – Ep 26 – The Glory of Gospel Thinking
  4. At Calvary – Ep 25 – Families and Patriotism
  5. At Calvary – Ep 24 – Fitly Spoken Words
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Forgiveness – What we want, we should give

There is nothing so nice as an encouraging verse. However, thinking deeply and carefully about those encouraging verses can be equally challenging! For example, consider the Scripture that invites us to forgive…

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

This verse, and many others like it, use very encouraging language to describe our relationships with one another. These words, like kind, tender-hearted, and forgive, describe feelings of closeness and friendship. What they don’t describe is how challenging these concepts will be for us. Other words, like hurt, anger, and betrayal, so often overshadow the encouraging words that we are truly shocked by their effects. We are shocked by how long hurts take to fade. We are shocked by the depth of betrayal we feel. We are shocked by the intensity of our anger. Suddenly a verse that seems so encouraging to us becomes a verse that almost mocks us in our frustration or pain.

We wonder… how can it be fair to be forgiving and tender-hearted when someone has wronged me like this! If you have asked that question, you are certainly not alone. However (and please don’t hear judgment or condemnation of how you feel – just deep thinking), when we are deeply hurt I don’t think that we are thinking clearly about our desire for fairness. We may feel that we want fairness in that moment, but we really don’t. And no, I don’t mean that we are always wanting something harsher that fairness, like vengeance. No, I mean that we may believe we want fairness in how we are hurt; but we don’t want fairness equally. We don’t hope for justice when we have wronged someone. Which means, in the moment we are hurting we may believe we long for fairness; but such longing is coming out of our pain and not out of who we are in the core of our being.

Why do I say that? I say that because we consistently long for mercy (which, by definition, isn’t fair) if we are the ones who hurt someone else. We long for forgiveness. We long for restoration. We plead for it. In fact, we are sometimes even impatient for it when a friend delays in giving it to us. Why do we live in such contradiction? Why do we want justice when we are hurt and mercy when we have hurt others? Two words: pain and life. These are imperatives for us. We avoid pain when we can, and seek life whenever we can. Both when we have been hurt and when we have hurt others, we feel the tug of war between these two imperatives. Too often when we are hurt we are tempted to minimize the call of life in our hearts. We want to protect ourselves from more pain. This is where God’s teaching about forgiveness challenges us. He calls us to value life over protection. This is who He is.

Jesus tells us several times in the gospels that the way we forgive others is the way that God will forgive us (see the Lord’s prayer and His parable of the unmerciful servant). I don’t know about you, but that scares me a bit! In our verse today, Paul encourages us to forgive just like God has forgiven us. These aren’t separate truths. They are the same truth said from the flip side. Paul takes what Jesus says in the gospels and flips it over as our challenge. How would I put these two parallel encouragements together?

We, as Christians, must always let how much we have been forgiven by God influence how much we will forgive those who have hurt us. Anything less is a horrible forgetfulness of God’s gracious work in us.

This isn’t easy. Re-read what Jesus experienced on the cross and then tell me if it was easy for Him. He was stripped, whipped, beaten, mocked, and crucified. He even cried out over His feelings of abandonment while hanging on the cross. No, His path to forgive us was not easy, but it was the path of life for us. Living in forgiveness today is an extension of that path lived out in us. First, it is the path of life because as we live this way we are living out the revealed character of our God. If Jesus has so changed us that we can do this, it assures our hearts that we are truly His. Second, it is the path of life because in our relationships things like bitterness and grudge holding are the path of death.

So, when I am hurt or feel betrayed, I keep choosing forgiveness. It is not simple or easy. Yet, it is the path of life. It is the path Jesus has walked before us. I want to walk with Him in this path. If it is the path of life, why would I want to walk in any other?

Be encouraged!

Pastor John

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