Joy – Peace – Hope

A few weeks before Christmas I made a purchase on my phone, which seemed altogether routine. Within minutes text messages alerted me to the possibility that my purchase was fraudulent and that I should call this number. I did and was immediately talking to a very convincing woman concerned that I was being taken advantage of. “Would you please give me your email address and phone number to verify who you are?” she asked.
I could hear the wind blowing as I offered up my phone number. “Are you outside?” I asked. Her questions for more of my personal information continued. “Wait, who are you?” I demanded. She mumbled something about needing to confirm my identity. I hung up on her. I’m not a complete dummy; just an average one.
I then called the fraud department for my credit card and spoke to another kind woman who confirmed the bogus charge – twice the amount of my original purchase attempt. She cancelled it, and then my card, and offered to send a new one. “I’m so stupid,” I muttered. “No,” she assured me, “you’re actually very smart to have called right away. These people are really good at what they do.”
Really good at lying and stealing. Nice resume. My anger got the best of me for a while as I contemplated the special place in hell there might be for liars and thieves. Is there a credit card department?
All this is just another manifestation of our broken sinful world operating under the influence of the father of lies whose mission is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). We know that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The prince and the power of the air is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). Our spiritual enemy is a liar and a thief. But worse than stealing a few hundred dollars, his mission is to steal our joy, our peace, and our hope.
Don’t let Satan steal your joy. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” The key to lasting joy is obedience and rest in our Father’s love. No fuller joy exists. Satan deceives with many counterfeits, but they are fleeting. Faithful abiding is required for lasting joy.
Don’t let Satan steal your peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The pathway to peace is not alcohol or money or popularity. These are empty imitations which the enemy champions. The Prince of Peace offers a peace that passes all human understanding even in the worst of times. Come unto me, Jesus says, and I will give you rest. Don’t be fooled by cheap substitutes.
Don’t let Satan steal your hope. You have entrusted your life and salvation to the One who is able to save to the uttermost. We have a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls; a hope grounded in the assurance that Jesus has gone before us to the very presence of God and today prays on our behalf. He saves us completely; He will never leave us or forsake us; He is preparing a place for us; He will come again, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. He is our hope. When the scammer of all scams asks you for your personal identity, tell him you are hidden safely IN CHRIST!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
With you on the journey,
See more.
Joy – John 15:10, 11. 
Peace – John 14:27
Hope – Hebrews 6:19, 20

Going Back in the Box

Lucy and I did a Liberty jigsaw puzzle together over the Christmas holiday. Successfully assembling five hundred and sixty-two wooden pieces of fascinating shapes and colors is both a mental and tactile triumph. (I’m a simple man). There is something joyous about solving a puzzle – putting every piece in its intended place – and bringing order to complexity. There is a measure of genuine satisfaction in seeing the beauty of a final picture as it was created to be. Then, too quickly, it all goes back in the box.

I’m not sure why this particular two-day achievement felt so invigorating, but it probably has something to do with the fact that we actually finished it. So much of life feels incomplete; there is always more to do. Our work is never done. Or in puzzle analogy, the pieces don’t seem to fit together and there are just too many of the same color. Worse, we don’t have the picture on the box to work by!  Rarely, do we get to see how all of life is coming together into the beautiful picture the Creator intended.

But God has provided a picture for ordering the puzzle that sometimes is our life. As we begin another year it will do us well to remember that His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Being immersed in the Word of God is profitable for every mystifying complexity of life. Just as a legend on a map, the truths of the Bible are the single most helpful guide for navigating life in this fallen world. Living under the Bible’s authority helps us understand our purpose (Romans 8:29), order our priorities (Philippians 3:13, 14), and moderate our passions (2 Timothy 2:22).

Here are a few suggestions for starting 2023 with a new commitment to Biblical Authority:

  1. Join us each Sunday in our study of the Gospel of Luke. Read each chapter several times before you arrive
  2. Read through the four gospels two or three times this year
  3. Try again at a “Read Through the Bible in a Year” plan
  4. Read one chapter of Proverbs and three Psalms every day

I’m praying your 2023 will be a year of transforming study in the Word of God. Being grounded in biblical truth is the foundation for thriving as a Christian in the perplexities of this world. Someday, WE’RE all going to go “back in the box.” Until then, steady Bible intake is the key to remaining rooted and grounded in His love. Charles Spurgeon once said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to a person that isn’t.”

As 2022 came to a close, the congregation at Calvary gave very generously, especially to the Heart of Advent fund. More than $153,000 was given to advance church planting here and around the world. Thank you for your support of the work God is doing through Calvary. Your generosity changes the world!

With you on the journey,


Sovereign Over All

Of all the glories for which God must be praised, His providential rule over all things shines brightly at Christmas. The incarnation of Jesus occurred at the perfect time and in the precise place of God’s sovereign design. In the eternal decree of God, Mary and Joseph humbly and submissively arrived in the prophesied city of Bethlehem, guided along by angelic announcements to the praise of a massive heavenly host singing: GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST! God was at work in every detail to carry out His rule and His will in sending Jesus to our broken world.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4, 5.

The world into which Jesus arrived was dark and ruined. Rightly does the carol describe: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” Our hearts are encouraged to know that 700 years before His birth, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be a LIGHT for people in darkness. And that He would be a righteous King that springs forth as a BRANCH from a hopelessly hewn stump.  Further, Jesus would be a GOOD SHEPHERD who comes to save, nourish, and lead a people prone to wander. God was sovereignly speaking in Isaiah’s day. He was there in Bethlehem 2000 years ago orchestrating the incarnation and birth of His beloved Son. He is here today as Immanuel, inviting us to come and worship through the wonders of the Christmas story.

This is an important anchor for our souls because we sometimes strain to see God’s sovereign rule in the tragedies of our shattered world. Life can feel dark, confusing, and hopeless. And when it does, we should recall that God does His best work in the worst of times and then worship Him as Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace. 

However impatient or impetuous we may be God is never rushed and He is never late. He always acts with precise timing according to His perfect will. Christmas reminds us of this. There is not an incident of which He is unaware; there is not a moment in which He is absent. As 19th century Dutch pastor, Abraham Kuyper, often said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

He is our Lord, and He has made us His children. Come and behold Him with fresh eyes. Come and adore Him above all else.

Merry Christmas.


Loved by God

“How do you feel God feels about you?”

A pastor and friend of mine recently asked this question to a group of Christian leaders. He was not asking about our theology or cognition but about our emotional experience of God. If you close your eyes and imagine how God feels about you, how would you answer? This was a question for our hearts not our heads. How do you feel God feels about you?

Do you ever feel as though He’s disappointed with you? We are often disappointed with ourselves. We haven’t accomplished all we thought we should. We have failed to do what we ought. Life hasn’t worked out as we hoped. We’re not tall enough, smart enough, pretty enough. And on and on. Besides our self-assessment, our polarized world makes it obvious that people are frequently disappointed with us as well. You should wear a mask. Why are you still wearing a mask? You need the latest booster. Why are you getting any more shots that don’t work? You voted for who?! Obviously when God thinks about me, He is disappointed too.

Or perhaps we have the feeling God is distant from us. He doesn’t appear to be that interested in my circumstances or aware of my problems and worries. He doesn’t seem to hear my prayers or solve my problems. Does He even see me? Does He take notice of my life? How does God feel about me? He’s nowhere to be found.

It is not wise to trust our feelings if they are uninformed by the reliable truth of God. The Bible emphatically announces that the most transformative reality for our spiritual formation is the certainty that we are loved by God. God wants us to know this. He wants us to experience it. He wants us to feel loved by Him.

From the moment of birth, a child looks up in search of the face that goes with the voice she heard while in her mother’s womb. Picture a mother and father going nose to nose with their precious new baby, lavishing love and smiles and kisses. That infant looks up for the delight of her parents who would now sacrifice everything for her well-being. As she is being delighted in, joy is released in her tiny brain and a relational attachment is formed with these two happy faces. She is loved by her parents, and she knows it. She feels it and has joy.

God wants the same for us. He wants us to have joy and an attachment to Him experienced because of His perfect love. Sadly, we’re often not convinced of His love – so allow your feelings to be informed by His Word:

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV).

“You shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:23b-26.

Information about God’s love is not the same as experiencing God’s love. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul prayed for our heads and our hearts.

[I pray] that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19.

In these tumultuous days you may not be prized by the world, but you are lavishly loved by God. May this be the anchor for our identity and our meaning and our joy.

With you on the journey,


Dining with Jesus

There has never been a teacher like Jesus. He spoke the words of God with such power and authority that everywhere He went people marveled at His wisdom. Whether he was teaching in the synagogue or telling parables on the road by a vineyard, Jesus could hold a crowd in rapt attention. One of His favorite settings to impart the truth of God was around the mealtime. Reclining at a low table, dusty feet extended away from the table, Jesus was always winsome and wise, sharing life altering lessons as He ate with new friends. Can you imagine having dinner with Jesus?

Luke 7 records such a scene. The dinner host, named Simon, welcomed Jesus to a meal, but thoughtlessly extended none of the common courtesies expected in a culture with a high view of hospitality. As a privileged man, a Pharisee, he provided an impressive meal. But by his neglect of Jesus, he shows his intention to impress his friends more than to be appropriately hospitable. He doesn’t mind being seen with Jesus but keeps Him at arm’s length. He offered no kiss of welcome. No provision was made for the common washing of dusty feet before a guest of honor reclined to eat. There was no blessing given. Simon was polite but guarded. He was open to having Jesus in the house but reluctant to be drawn into serious spiritual conversation.

Simon is not unusual; his is a common response. Many people are open to having Jesus around but never come to make up their minds about Him with any sense of true conviction. He’s there in the house but they remain on the periphery, never quite honoring Him with the appropriate response. They hear Him speak, but don’t listen. They remain polite around His spiritual claims but have never appropriated them personally. They are at church, but they never join in. They allege token respect but never give sacrificially of themselves.

In stark contrast a broken but grateful woman slipped into the house quietly and took her place at Jesus’ feet, washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair. She worshipped with gratitude and served Him with joy. Hers was the response of a Kingdom follower. Poor in spirit; overflowing with repentance. Then she gave of herself because she knew she was both loved by Jesus and forgiven of her sins. She could not hide her love nor hold back extravagant gratitude – no matter what others would think or say.

Jesus promised her: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” He said it again and again. She is the dinner guest Jesus blesses with peace and full forgiveness. She could not express her gratitude too much or too often. He sends her out in peace and on mission. So he does with us as well. Let’s be good dinner guests with Jesus!




Good News for All

One of the challenges of our current study in the Gospel of Luke will be the sections we will not fully address as we cover one chapter each week. We’ve already passed over an exciting episode in chapter two in which we get a glimpse of Jesus as a twelve-year-old.­­­ He and his family traveled to Jerusalem in a large caravan to observe Passover. When the feast was over, and the caravan pulled out to return home, the boy Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem! Surely Joseph assumed the boy was with Mary and the other children; Mary was sure He was with Joseph and the other men. (I wish we had that husband-wife exchange recorded for us in the Bible. “I thought you had him.” “You were with him last.” “Well, you’re going to have to tell God you lost His Son.”) They quickly headed back to Jerusalem in search of Jesus.


On the third day Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions. The rabbis were astonished at his understanding and at the answers He was giving to them. His tutoring lesson ended abruptly with a question or two from his mother: “How could you do this to us? Your father and I have been worried sick about you, searching everywhere for you.” Every mom can place herself there with Mary. Paralyzing fear and anxiety give way to unfiltered exasperation! (I remember getting lost at the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal. Suddenly separated from my family, I stood alone by a streetlight for about 15 minutes waiting for my parents to find me. Suddenly my mom emerged from a throng of people, ran to me, threw her arms around me, hugged me with tears streaming down her face, kissing me, squeezing the breath out of me. And then, like a switch went off in her brain, she lit into me with the terror of a mama bear robbed of her cub! “Don’t you ever…” is about all I can remember. Mom’s get that.)


Jesus answered his parents, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This was not a disrespectful reply, only the admission that the temple was the safest place for him to be. And further, that Jesus – at an early age – had a very clear understanding of His identity and ultimate life mission. He was the Son of God and the Son of Man. He had come to do the work of His Father in Heaven. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was talking about. And yet, after this reunion He returned with his parents to Nazareth and lived with them there as a submissive teenager.


I love that the Bible gives us this glimpse of Jesus as child. Beyond submitting Himself to His parents, He yielded Himself to everything required for the Creator to live as a human in our fallen world. He emptied Himself of all His eternally existing divine prerogatives, and took the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And in human form He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even a death on a cross. To accomplish this mission, He subjected Himself to the universal human experience of being a baby, a child, a teenager, and a man. Though he increased intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially, He always knew who He was; He always knew why He came. 

He came to bring good news for all people. Let’s pray many discover it as we journey through the Gospel of Luke.