Back to Church

An ancient biblical writer once lamented that everyone in his day lived in autonomous independence of God while relentlessly pursuing personal status, wealth, health, successful work, pleasure, and leisure. Daily observing a culture of indulgence and self-affirming pride, he did his best to behave well, stay pure, and seek after God. But all he experienced was trial after discouraging trial. It seemed everyone else was getting ahead while he was falling behind. They were living it up; he was living without. “In vain I have kept my heart clean,” he cried.

Is there nothing new under the sun?! This scene has played out again and again in history in the lives of serious-minded Christ-followers who have learned that in this world we will have tribulation (while many who have little reverence for God do just fine, thank-you). The turning point for our dispirited friend above came from the last place most people think to look. He went back to church (technically, back to the sanctuary of God). He returned to the place where the truth of God about things present and things to come was clearly articulated. Life makes more sense when God’s perspective on current and future realities is known.

There is a future for the godless, and a future for the righteous; they are not the same. None are righteous apart from the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection, but through faith in His gospel we are saved to the uttermost. We are made secure, not by our good behavior, but by His completed work on the cross. He is our refuge.  

On the verge of giving up on God, our psalm writer made one more trip back to the community of faith. His conclusion: “For me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.” He discovered God’s nearness in the community gathering of God’s people. That’s where God is worshipped; that’s where truth is told about life and death; that’s where stories of God’s faithfulness to one generation are told to the next. He confesses at one point that if he had walked away to embrace what his culture was pursuing, he would have betrayed the next generation of God’s children. 

We can’t do that. Children need to hear about God’s work in earlier generations. One protection against defection is a faithful congregation of vibrant Christ-followers (parents, grandparents, and friends) who confidently testify that though “our heart and our flesh may fail, but God is the strength of our life and our portion forever.” The next generation needs this. Being in church is where they will hear it.

Dave Horner is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Biola University; he grew up in Boulder and has been a friend of Calvary Bible for many years. Dave recently wrote an article entitled, “We Need to Get Back to Church”. Turns out being together in church is good for us! Dave says, 

[W]e need to go back to church for our children’s sake. [A]ccording to the Harvard study, “regular service attendance helps shield children from the ‘big three’ dangers of adolescence: depression, substance abuse, and premature sexual activity. People who attended church as children are also more likely to grow up happy, to be forgiving, to have a sense of mission and purpose, and to volunteer.”

As we get ready to ramp up another year of post-Covid ministry, let’s get our families back in church as often as we can. Young and old together, telling the story of God and His gospel to each other. And let’s think about those in our sphere of influence who need to be around the community of faith so they might find faith in Christ for themselves.

With you on the journey,


Blessed Assurance

As the old preacher was wrapping up his millionth sermon, he launched into autopilot and invited the congregation to close their heads and bow their eyes. Whoops. So close and yet so far. The last thing we need is a closed head!     

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!”  So goes the old hymn. But life here can seem anything but a foretaste of heaven. It can be hard and discouraging; it can rattle our sense of assurance that Jesus has us in the palm of His hand or that we are securely under His watchful care. When that happens, we must open our eyes and our minds to the truth which God has spoken.

Assurance of our salvation is an anchor for our feelings and thoughts especially in troubling times. The Apostle John said, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). He didn’t want his readers to be wishy-washy about being saved to the uttermost through the grace that is in Christ Jesus. He wanted them to know they were safe and secure for all eternity.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17). The ministry of the Holy Spirit is one of confirmation that God is our Father through faith in His Son, and that eternal life with Christ awaits us as a guaranteed inheritance.

Jesus Himself gave three succinct proofs of a true disciple. Each of these serve both as evidence and assurance that we genuinely know (follow) Jesus – according to HIS criteria. The first proof is a love for the Word of God and the commitment to remain obediently in it. Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31, 32). The truth of God shapes us, sanctifies us, and frees us. We want to be in it – be obedient to it – be under its authority – because we are truly in Him.

The second assurance that we are saved and being transformed by Jesus is a growing love for others. Jesus said, “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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35). Evidence of love is evidence of belonging to Him. And a loving community of Christ followers is a powerful witness to a world without Him.

The third mark of an assured disciple is one who bears observable fruit for God. Their life demonstrates His new life in a myriad of ways. Again, Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples (John 15:8). Proof of discipleship is bearing fruit for God. That fruit may be new Christ-like character (Galatians 5:22, 23); a life of service to others (John 13:14); a fervent life of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and worship (Hebrews 13:15, 16). But the point is, by their fruit you shall know them. Assuredly.

I’m praying for God’s blessed assurance to you today. Make it your story. Make it your song. Praising your Savior all the day long!    

With you on the journey,


Flourishing Faith

It takes faith to live in a broken world. Without it, the relentless waves of disease, murder, corruption, sexual perversion, political chaos, and social confusion erode the peace of the strongest mind and the security of the purest heart. Our world is in trouble; evil abounds.  Satan – the god of this age – is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. Deception and violence are his craft; daily headlines confirm he is now at work in the sons of disobedience. His time is short, his doom is sure, but until then he is on a mission to steal, kill, and destroy. We need faith to live well in our fallen world.   

This is not to suggest that we put faith in our faith. But instead, that we confidently believe the revelation of who God is and what He has said and done. The object of our faith is of greater significance than the measure of the faith we may feel in any despairing moment. We do not trust in the fortitude of our subjective faith but in God Himself who is our fortress in times of trouble. And our God reigns. So, what must we believe about God when the days are evil?

Here are 10 truths to affirm about God, with every muscle of your faith, knowing that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.

  1. He knows the affliction of His people and He cares. Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-8; 1 Peter 5:7.
  2. He is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18.
  3. He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him. James 4:7, 8.
  4. He paid the full debt for our sinfulness. Hebrews 10:12-14.
  5. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1.
  6. We can never be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:37-39.
  7. He has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee that we are His children. Romans 8:14-17.
  8. He will not forget your good work and the love you show to others. Hebrews 6:10-12.
  9. He is preparing a place for us to live with Him forever. John 14:1-4.
  10. He will make all things right. And then all things new. Revelation 21:4, 5.

This we believe; God help our unbelief. Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Many men and women have preceded us in their own difficult journeys of faith. In some cases, they are the Unsung Heroes of the Bible, whose ordinary lives were lived in relative obscurity. But in their day, they believed God, obeyed His call, and received their commendation. We are going to study their stories during the weeks of Summer 2022 and pray that our own faith will flourish as theirs did, to the pleasure and glory of God.

Don’t stop believing!



Attractive Faith

“When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as onboard ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops, he shows up the others who are rushing on by acting as a fixed point.” – Blaise Bascal

The New Testament book of James calls the true church to be a distinctively anchored stake in the ground against the onslaught of unrestrained cultural impulses. His epistle is a litany of countercultural wisdom from above. Rejoice in trials. Resist temptation. Kill hubris. Cultivate humility. Worship God not wealth. Guard your tongue, don’t slander. Seek the will of God today without presumption about tomorrow. Whew.

There is little doubt the author would be quickly cancelled if his writings first appeared on Twitter and not in a book of antiquity. He’s hard hitting and no-nonsense about rectifying early church dysfunctions. And even though it’s 2000 years old, addressing its own unique historical context, the little book of James remains a clarion call for the church in our own day to be a fixed point of reference to a world rushing toward the last days. It reveals a God honoring pattern of life for the church guaranteed to be recognizable as other-worldly.

For some observers of the distinctive church of Christ it is immediately appealing to see a community of people who persevere in difficulty with joy; who don’t worship money; who hope in God; who show humble care toward the weak, the poor and the hurting. The church that shows its faith by good works toward those in need is attractive. Faith is seen to be alive, not dead. Therefore, some may dare to hope that God is alive and draw near to Him.

For other onlookers, a church uniquely Christ-honoring in its values and morals is an offense, and on the wrong side of history. A convicting presence of light in a world that loves the darkness more. This of course brings a level of scorn. Many are “surprised that we no longer join with them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign us” (1 Peter 4:4). More maligning is ahead for the church that stands firm in Christ.

Yet, real faith demonstrated in good works creates the platform to share the good news of our perfect Savior. The word of His cross has always been folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It remains the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. God has no other plan than that His church be His unique, called-out people serving in good deeds and announcing His gospel to a world that needs Him more than it knows.

James ends his letter with a vivid image of the church’s mission. Lead wanderers back to the truth and save sinners from certain eternal death. What a mission!  Who is equal to this task?  Go back to the beginning:  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5). This is our day to be the church and His wisdom will not fail to guide us nor His grace to guard us.

With you on the journey,


Holiness, Mercy, Love

God is a being beyond whom no greater being can be conceived. Every one of His perfections is infinite and none of them will ever diminish. While we cannot fully know Him now, all that He wishes us to know about Himself has been graciously revealed through the creation, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and most clearly in Jesus Christ. On earth we see through a glass dimly; in eternity we shall see Him as He is. Heaven will be an everlasting discovery and delight of what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no heart has ever imagined. God is greater than we know or can even dream.
What attributes we do know about Him are most clearly seen in His redemptive work on the cross. As we approach the celebration of His passion this Easter three are worthy of reflection and praise.
The Holiness of God. He exists in a category by Himself and is set apart from all else. Morally, He is entirely without sin or imperfection. There is no shadow of turning with Him. Good Friday is good because Jesus Christ the holy One bore the sins of the unholy; the righteous One died for the unrighteous to bring us to God. If there had been another way surely God would have devised it. But there was not. God’s holiness demanded a substitutionary atonement, and the unblemished Lamb of God took our place (2 Corinthians 5:17).  
The Mercy of God. Mercy is essentially the withholding of a severe consequence due to the offender. As we cling to Christ by faith God in His mercy does not count our transgressions against us. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us. This is the epitome of mercy.

The Love of God. Salvation procured through the death and resurrection of Jesus is not a transactional arrangement. We bring nothing but our broken sinfulness and at our worst, He loves us. We esteemed him not, but God shows His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. See how great a love the Father has given to us.
This is our God, revealed in the magnificence of the Easter story. The One who alone is holy, extends mercy to sinners because of His infinite love. As we move toward passion week let us prepare our hearts to worship Him. There is no one like Him. And let us invite others to come and meet Him through the Risen Savior.

Firm Faith

The world is convulsing. Just as COVID seemed to be waning, war breaks out. Another massive global disruption resulting in death and destruction. We lament with the psalmist: How long, O Lord, will the wicked triumph? But in our lament, we unwaveringly affirm: For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. Until then, we pray, we stand firm in faith, and we fulfill His command to go to all the world and make disciples.

One of our global partners shared this email from a Ukrainian pastor and colleague on the eve of the Russian invasion:

This is quite possibly our last means of correspondence for some time. War is imminent and the consequences will be dreadful. We are not leaving, how can we? As an elder in the assembly my responsibility is to shepherd at all times. It would be a terrible testimony to get up and leave. We have been preparing for this day. God is about to give us a great opportunity to show our Christian faith practically and reach out into our community with the Gospel. As we write, the military jets can be heard overhead, and we covet your prayers! We are not any braver than you – but confident we are where God would expect us to be.

Such courage is inspiring and spurs us to pray for the Church in difficult places. Faith anticipates God’s grander purposes in times of trouble. The gospel proclaimed by faithful churches is the only hope for a world plummeting downward. We too must be where God expects us to be. The Apostle Paul instructed Titus: And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14.

It has been a deep joy to see how the people of Calvary are stepping into the urgent needs of our local community. More than 130 grant applications have been received for the Kingdom Assignment: Marshall Fire Fund. We are now praying with, caring for, and distributing tangible relief to hundreds of our neighbors, co-workers, and friends who were severely impacted by the fire. We’re praying that each recipient will experience the love of God through a church that cares about them and find deeper faith in Jesus the Savior. 

Additionally, 45 of our members have come alongside 27 Afghan refugees to help them settle into our communities. Currently, all three refugee families are in housing, the children are enrolled in school, and many of the adults have been employed and begun to work! God has answered so many prayers, and our volunteers have served so well. Urgent needs are being met and lives are being transformed.

The Book of James reminds us that faith without works is dead. How great is it to see these examples of generous, living faith intersecting with the pressing needs of our troubled world?!  Thank you for your financial giving that makes this possible. And thank you for your prayers that these acts of service will result in spiritual life change. Let us be the Church right where God expects us to be!

Praying for you and with you,

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor