Goodness of God

Lucy and I sat together in church last Sunday. That is not necessarily an anomaly, but often when I’m preaching, I’m down in front, close to the stage. (Lucy prefers 10 rows back, where she alleges, she can see me better.) As we sang the words to “Goodness of God”, we both glanced around the room, each of us noting people we knew were suffering, or who had experienced severe loss. Cancer there. The death of a child over there. Divorce. Widows and widowers. Parents praying for prodigals to come home. On the screen the words rolled by:

I love Your voice, You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father, I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God

I was proud of the faith in the hearts of the worshippers I watched. It takes faith to worship through pain, believing that God is in fact good when life is hard. Job 5:7 says, “man is born to trouble – as the sparks fly upward.”  Jesus promised,“in this world you will have tribulation.”  But we affirm by faith that God is good. His mercy endures forever. His lovingkindness is everlasting.

God has purposes in pain, the highest of which is always His own glory. He is magnified when suffering saints cling to Him as their world gives way in the fires of trial. Faith is refined like precious gold so that its genuineness results in praise and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7). Life’s losses forge faith that holds onto the singular prize worth treasuring.   

Suffering also produces in us endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5). God grows us deeper and more hopeful as He carries us through the sorrows of this broken world. To be sure these are rarely traits we perceive or appreciate in the moment, but over time God’s love for us is poured out by the work of His Holy Spirit whom He has given to us. He does not waste hardship.

Pain also enables us to experience a communal life of fellowship as we weep with those who weep and comfort those who sorrow with the comfort we ourselves have experienced from God (2 Corinthians 1:3,4). We all drink bitter water at some time in our lives, but we are refreshed by those who have gone before us in their own suffering and found God to be truly good. And then together we sing and command our hearts to believe:

All my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor

See also Lamentations 3:22-23 & Hebrews 4:15-16

God is Love

Each Monday, the preaching team meets to reflect on Calvary’s weekend services across three campuses. We review the messages given and frequently talk about what was left unsaid. Portions of planned sermons often end up on the cutting room floor. There is never enough time to share all the treasures of study.    

Reflecting on the completion of 1 Thessalonians there was a good deal of content we did not have time to dive into. The Word of God is like that: an unlimited reservoir of faith building truth. Each Sunday there are nuggets we wished we could have spent more time exploring.

One gem stood out this week: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). Paul explains that God Himself teaches His family about love and how to practice it. God is the teacher; we are the students. He is the model; we are the disciples. This makes perfect sense since God is love, so everyone who has been born of God learns how to love directly from the Source (1 John 4:7).   

Think of this. One of the ministries of God in our lives is to guide us to be more and more loving. He delights that His love would be broadly known in the world, and we are the ones He entrusts to demonstrate it. We love because He first loved us. We learn to love by believing His great love for us.  

The last year has groomed the whole world in new habits of isolation, self-protection, and a reluctance to engage with others. Fear has become a dominating reality. The fear of missing out (FOMO) has been replaced with a fear of entering in. God has given us this unique time in history to be His loving church, engaging with those around us who are lonely or afraid. What the world needs now is love, God’s love.

Let’s reimagine church as the community center for the display of His love. The hub out of which God’s love flows through us to a world lost without Him. It’s time to enter in again and find your groove in the labor of love! There is a role perfectly suited for you somewhere in the regathering plan to “rebuild church”. Is it with kids? Students? Making coffee? Music? Greeting? Giving? Mentoring? We invite you to jump in – and bring someone with you! May God Himself teach us to love like Jesus in our day. 

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”  
John 13:35

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor


Winter left reluctantly this year. Late snows seemed an appropriate illustration of the stubborn year it has been. But finally longer and warmer days are producing buds on the trees and blooms in the garden. A welcome change and a reminder of God’s providential faithfulness to His creation generally and to us particularly.

Last week we remembered His kindness to Calvary at our annual membership meeting in which we celebrated the multiple blessings of God in a difficult year. He provided all that we needed financially, He gave us grace to adapt to changing times with new strategies for ministry, and He kept us together in a loving unity during a time of disagreement, particularly on how to respond to the pandemic. Seasons change but God’s faithfulness does not.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23.)

It has been encouraging to see increasing numbers of people in our services each week. We were created to worship Him and to enjoy the fellowship of our shared life in Jesus. Being in the room together reminds us we are not alone in the travails of life and that we are a community of people on a mission to love God and love others. Our regathering this spring brought to mind what it must have been like when the Israelites returned to the land after 70 years of captivity! (Sort of). In 537 B.C. the first exiles returned to reestablish a worshipping community. The temple was in disrepair, the walls of the city were broken down. There was work to do but they rejoiced to be back in the land. God had been faithful to His people again.

We sense we are in a rebuilding phase at Calvary, reestablishing the patterns of life together as worshippers on mission. It is a hopeful season that we pray will produce new fruit that glorifies our faithful God. As you are able, we encourage you take your next step toward community life and service in the mission He has for us in here and around the world. Faithful is He who calls you!

Tom Shirk
Senior Pastor

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