Love One Another

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

Strong biblical teaching will produce a church that knows how to love. The better your understanding of the character of God the richer your love for Him will be. The deeper your appreciation for the sacrificial work of Christ the more passionate your love for Him and for others will be. Anyone and everyone who is genuinely saved by the grace of Jesus will become more and more like the Master.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34).

The aim of all our learning at Calvary is not merely to increase knowledge but to mature into a congregation centered on Christ and overflowing with His love. Only a church that knows the Scriptures and is grounded in sound theology can become a people who love God and love others in a way that makes the world say, “Wow!”

What the world needs now is God’s love on display. The Bible promises that in the last days terrible times will come. We are at least closer to the last days than the Apostles were 2000 years ago! Only the church that is rooted and grounded in His love and truth will be witness to His transforming love in our day. This is our call and mission at Calvary.

We face a couple obstacles. COVID has forced many of us into a retreat toward self-protection. While a degree of this caution was wise at a certain level, I fear there is an unhealthy trend toward not engaging with other people. This inhibits the free expression of loving others in a sacrificial way.

Additionally, a friend recently shared an article about the widespread problem of lassitude, a cultural consequence of forced isolation. I had to look it up – but lassitude is the state of physical or mental weariness; a lack of energy; sluggishness and exhaustion. Then I had to ask God for forgiveness. Something about the last year has recalibrated our levels of energy and passion. It’s been hard; and we’re tired.

Jesus understands and can help us. In Revelation 2:1-7, He told the Church at Ephesus that He knew of their toil and patient endurance; but warned them that they had abandoned their first love. He encouraged them to repent and do the works they first did when they came to know Him. It is a helpful reminder that in our weariness Jesus calls us back to Him to do the first things.

One of those first things is a rigorous study of His living Word. People who know their Bible and understand good theology emerge into a loving community. So, we’re returning to a mark-it-up series in 1 Thessalonians beginning this Sunday. Our aim: to be a learning community and a loving community. And as we do this, may it be said of us as it was of the Thessalonians, “your faith in God has gone out everywhere.” That is God’s plan for His church in a world that needs Him so deeply.

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor

Battle Ready

I lied to my mother when I was 10 years old. One morning as we were heading out to school, she asked her four oldest sons, “Do any of you boys know what’s happened to all the matches that were in the cabinet above the stove?” No. No. No. “Maybe Ricky Brown took them,” I said. Ricky was a neighbor kid who was always hanging around our house. Later that day as she did laundry, my mom set aside a pair of my jeans. When I got home from school, she handed them to me and asked what was in the pockets. I plunged my hand in and pulled out five packs of matches. I was quarantined until my father got home. I still remember the reckoning which occurred prior to the abolition of spanking and was accompanied with a very explicit explanation: “You lied to mother. You lied about Ricky Brown.”

I am thankful my dad knew lying was wrong and disciplined me for my good. I learned the lesson that lies cause pain. It is one thing to tell a lie at age 10; it is something altogether worse to live according to a lie. Today we are bombarded with untruths about so many things in which the Bible is actually quite clear. Lies creep in; they are relentlessly repeated, and then gradually believed at a level of presumption that would have been for generations unthinkable. It doesn’t matter where you look today, politics, sociology, entertainment, relationships, even in church, you’ll find teachings and affirmations that are promulgated without the slightest notion of how they don’t line up with the clear teaching of Scripture.

This is our enemy’s design. Every untruth that raises itself up against the truth of God comes from the enemy, “who is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). He traffics in deception; his strategy is to deceive, beguile, and corrupt God’s truth. Our battle with the devil is not so much a contest of power as it is of truth. If the Bible is a lamp to our feet, it must be known and shown upon the pathway of our lives. Jesus prayed to the Father on behalf of all His disciples, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17.)   

Sadly, a George Barna Research survey from more than a decade ago indicated that 73% of the general population in America do not believe Satan is real. What’s worse, 40% of self-described Christians strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but merely a symbol of evil.” That in itself is a very effective lie. But the wise Christian understands that every lie is a scheme of the enemy to take us out as we attempt to live meaningful, God-pleasing lives. We are not ignorant of his designs.

During the month of March, we are going to get “BATTLE READY” so that we can stand firm against the schemes of devil.  We will study Ephesians 6:10-17 taking note of several particular strategies that threaten our spiritual lives. We will be careful not to give Satan too much attention or credit. And we will be anchored in the promise of God: Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world! (1 John 4:4.)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10, 11.)

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor

The Great I AM

“And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:16, 17).

The last 11 months have revealed the true substance of our faith. Difficult times create a winnowing experience, where that which is light and fluffy is blown away and that which has substance remains. As the threshing process separates the chaff from the grain, so does pain separate some people from the faith they thought they had. COVID, social unrest, political animosity, repression of civil liberties, economic uncertainty, and crushing isolation have sown a whirlwind of winnowing. Some people have fallen away; others are afraid they might. How can we remain strong in faith in trying times?

Although not intuitively obvious to us, we do learn from Scripture that God has purposes in our suffering – purposes of refinement. God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. He brings pain into our lives to produce the fruit of righteousness in us (Hebrews 12). To Peter Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31, 32).

Hard times and persecution separate fluff from substance. This is bad for attendance but good for the church. The Church which Jesus is building is not in jeopardy if the world falls into chaos and there is a winnowing. He will build his church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. That is His promise to the end of the age. The only danger to the church is compromise, acquiescence, or silence.

In the face of a massive cultural move to define what truths can be published, and what truths must be cancelled, the Church will increasingly be scrutinized and pressured to compliance with cultural (not biblical) norms. The antidote is to be grounded more deeply in the truths of Scripture. The word of God is not bound, neither can it be silenced. Those called to proclaim it can be threatened and cancelled. But the gospel remains the power of God to save all who will believe. So we must know it and follow the One it proclaims.

Jesus is the great I AM. He is the Bread of Life who satisfies every longing soul. The Light of the World who rescues sinners from darkness. The Door to opens the way of salvation. The Good Shepherd who speaks to His listening sheep and leads them to safety. The Resurrection who grants eternal life. The Truth who is real reality. And he is the True Vine who yields a flourishing life. He is the One and only uncreated, uncaused, all sufficient, omnicompetent, eternal God who entered our world and invites us to enter His. There is none like Him; He is in a class by Himself and so we follow Him. We listen to Him. We worship Him. And we proclaim His saving grace to world that is lost without Him. Keep courage in the I AM.  All else is sinking sand. “But though the earth gives way and the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, we will not fear” (Psalm 46:2).

With you in the journey,

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor


A new year is always the perfect time to renew our commitment to the most important things. We know what to do to restart better habits for our body; but do we know exactly what will renew a deeper life for our soul? It is this: saturation with the Word of God. Job 23:12 says, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.” And Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) On the night of his betrayal, our Lord prayed to the Father on our behalf: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Nothing will renew our spiritual life more than a faithful emersion in the Word of God. The methodologies for regular Bible reading are endless. Just pick one, tell a friend, and get to it. Read through the entire Bible in a year. Read through the New Testament in a year. Read through the gospels as many times as you can in a year. Read and pray your way through the Psalms, the Old Testament prophets, or the letters of Paul.

If 2020 was the year of bingeing Netflix, let us commit to make 2021 the year of consuming the Bible! “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:10)

January begins a new series in our preaching schedule. Jesus: the I AM who changes everything. Why this series? To focus our lives on Jesus Christ. If the last year of isolation, fear, and uncertainty has shown us anything, it is that we must be anchored in our true identity as followers of Jesus. He once asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” But the larger question for us today is, “Who did Jesus say that He is?” Seven times He declared His true identity with statements that began with the loaded phrase: I AM… Each of these reveals His deity, His authority, and His transforming power in the lives of those who truly believe in Him. He is the great I AM; uncaused, uncreated, self-existent, self-sufficient, all-sufficient, omnicompetent, and eternal. To calibrate our lives around anything less is futile idolatry.

On Sunday, January 17, we will begin holding in-person services on each of our three campuses. It will be a phased regathering in which we will initially hold worship services but not all of our other programs. Details about service times and other logistics are available on our website and will be communicated in our weekly updates in the days ahead.

For ten months we have done our best to balance three biblical commitments: respect and submission for our local governing authorities, the call to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” as a local church, and a commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are moving forward with in-person services with these three commitments in mind.

We understand that for some members of Calvary, meeting in-person is not advisable at this time. We will continue to provide our online worship services and HomeGroups and encourage you to tune in with us each week. Whether you are with us in-person or worshipping with us online, we love you and deeply value your crucial role in our fellowship.

For those who choose to return to in-person services, we ask that you do so with a spirit of grace and patience! The regathering will be a new thing, rooted in simply worshipping together again and studying God’s Word as a family. We will observe the guidelines of social distancing to the best of our ability. Masks will be required for now. We have installed new air-filtration systems on each of our campuses called the Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization System, a state-of-the-art air purification system to assist in reducing concentrations of viruses, particles, allergens, mold, odor, and bacteria in the air distribution system. To the best of our ability, we want our worship services to be simple and safe.

We have been praying for you. Pray for us as we launch into a new year and a new season at Calvary.

Warmly yours in Christ,

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor

A Hope-Filled Christmas

I put my Christmas lights up the day before Thanksgiving. This annual chore is normally not performed until December 1, on principle. But this year, it seemed right to hasten a new season into existence. I took some grief from the neighbors, but by the end of the weekend their wives evidently got after them too and now our corner looks pretty festive. I like Christmas lights once they’re up.
A new season brings new hope. Hope of cards from family and friends far away. Hope for presents under the tree; stockings stuffed with trinket treasures, and the possibility of a white Christmas. Hey, maybe even a vaccine for COVID-19. Hope is a gift that lifts our eyes above the din around us toward the expectant arrival of something longed for. 
When the events of the very first Christmas are told in the opening books of the New Testament, it had been 400 years since the last book of the Old Testament (Malachi) had been written. The Advent of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin in the obscure town of Bethlehem, shattered 400 silent years of God speaking into human history. That long, dark season of silence is poetically captured in the carol, O Holy Night.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Languishing through 10 months of COVID seems trite in comparison to 400 years without a word from God. Who could remain hopeful? Ah, but a remnant was waiting. Longing. They had not lost hope. Simeon comes to mind. When he held the baby named Jesus, just eight days after His birth, he declared to God: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation.”  Hope fulfilled is a tree of life!
Hope well-grounded is a powerful force for flourishing through the complexities and exigencies of life in 2020. In our December worship services we’ll be anchoring our hope to the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus. Immanuel. Savior. King. Our series is called, A Thrill of Hope! Maybe you know someone who needs a fresh dose of hope this Christmas; why not invite them to join you online to worship with us?
Lucy and I love serving at Calvary with you; we pray God will give you a hope-filled Christmas!

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor

Highs and Lows

Have you ever played the game “highs and lows?” It’s a great way to connect with others as everyone shares their high and low points of their day, week, or year. This season has been filled with both ups and downs for us all. There have been highs and lows within our families, work, church, community and country. It can be quite the rollercoaster.

As we journey through the book of Acts together we have seen the life of Paul through all kinds of ups and downs, highs and lows. He lives through times of comfort (Acts 18:2, 3) and times of need (Acts 16:23, 24). He encountered good civic leaders (Acts 13:6-12) and bad civic leaders (Acts 14:5, 6). Sometimes people listen to his message (Acts 17:11, 12) and sometimes they reject it (Acts 13:50). He has times where he is on his own (Acts 17:16) and times when he experiences rich community (Acts 18:1-5).

Paul shares how he lived through a multitude of circumstances. He did this not by his own tenacity but through the strength that came from Jesus. (Philippians 4:13). He didn’t make it through the good or hard parts of life by sucking it up, toughing it out, never showing weakness, pulling it together, or looking on the sunny side of life. He made it because of Jesus. This same source of strength is available to you too.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13.

As we face the highs and lows together it is important to look to Jesus for stability. And being strengthened by Him lets us encourage one another and build one another up, just as we continue to see and hear that you are doing.

Tom Shirk and Thomas Milburn
Senior Pastor and Erie Campus Pastor