Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table (Part 2): Tasting Community

Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table (Part 2): Tasting Community

My family enjoys a good buffet.  There’s enough food to feed the hungriest parent and plenty of options to satisfy the pickiest child.  However, my wife and I have discovered one major drawback to our trips the local buffet – we may show up together, but we rarely eat together.

With three children ages 5, 9, and 11, we find ourselves taking shifts to the buffet line.  My wife takes one child through the line, and I’ll take another, while our oldest child works her way through on her own.  Once our two youngest children have their food, I will typically stay with the children at the table, while my wife gets her food.  Once she returns, I’m ready to take round 1 through the buffet line.  Finally!  I sit down and grab my fork to eat, and then I hear a voice next to me, “Daddy, I’m ready for seconds.”

Welcome to the buffet – where we all get what we want, but scarcely enjoy it together!  This illustrates why increasingly, we prefer a “family meal” at home or in a sit-down restaurant to the everyone’s-pleased-but-not-together experience of the local buffet.  We miss the joy of tasting, not only our food, but the community we have together.

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Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Where do you want to go to eat?  This question in my home typically elicits one of three answers.  If it’s not my children’s favorite fast food joint or a place serving breakfast all day, it’s almost always their favorite buffet – known affectionately in our home as the hog trough.  Why?  Because buffets are full of choices – unending choices, sure to please the pickiest eater.  Of course, the enticing, all-you-can-eat dessert station, complete with cotton candy, might have something to do with their palate’s restaurant of choice.

Our lives are often a lot like that buffet.  Every week includes a series of choices – some that fill us well and others that feel good for a moment, but leave us empty, like the cotton candy in the dessert line.  But in any case, we make the choice – from the places we shop, to the sports we play, to the videos we stream on the device we choose to carry into the restaurant we choose to patron, to the church activities in which we engage.  Life’s options often feel like a line at the local buffet.  In fact, for many of us, the Christian life has become a series of trips to the buffet line.

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Hurry Up and Wait!

Hurry Up and Wait!

Nearly every morning, one of my children waits by the door.  Backpack slung around their shoulders, left hand on the doorknob and eager anticipation written on their face.  “Dad, can I go yet?  I don’t want to miss the bus!”  “Not yet,”  is often my reply 5-10 minutes before it’s time to leave.  “Isn’t there something you can do while you wait?

This familiar exchange reminds me that unlike their father, this young child has mastered the art of being early, which means the opportunity to learn the art of “hurry up and wait!”

Life, in many ways, is a series of waitings – filled with regular opportunities to hurry up and wait.  We wait to graduate from school.  We wait to hear back from a prospective employer about a new job.  We wait for the day we can finally afford that house, that car, that vacation.   We wait to meet the love of our life.  We wait for the birth of a child.  We wait by the bed of a sick or dying loved one.    We wait for that diagnosis to discover the cause of our symptoms.  We wait for reconciliation.  We wait by the phone for a call that may never come.  The question for us is not will we have to wait, but instead, what will we do in our waiting?

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10 Pastoral Prayers for 2018

10 Pastoral Prayers for 2018

As we move into a new year of ministry together, I am keenly aware of our need for God’s work in our midst.  I am also conscious of my tendency to pray small prayers, asking God to do things that feel safe and manageable.

However, as I read the Bible, and particularly the prayers of God’s people, I am struck by the humanly impossible petitions and promises contained within its pages.  God’s promises to His people are not attainable through human effort or intellect, and the prayers of Scripture often ask God to do what only an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and gracious God can do.

To that end, I have found myself praying prayers for Calvary Presbyterian Church that only God could answer and that are clearly beyond my grasp.  I invite you to do the same.  Below are 10 specific ways in which I am praying for the people of Calvary in 2018:

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What is the Purpose of a Gift?

What is the purpose of a gift?  In recent days, I have been thinking about this question, as my children excitedly complete their Amazon wish lists with a number of items they hope to receive as gifts this year.  As I scroll through their list, I’m not sure there is enough hours in a year to play all the video games they’ve saved, enough space to fit all the stuffed animals my daughter has marked, or enough bins to hold the variety of Legos they want to add to their collection.  As I look around our home, interspersed with long-neglected toys, clothes that still include the tags, and books collecting dust, I cannot help but wonder – how long it will take for this year’s gifts to join them in the dustbin of obsolescence.

Both giving and receiving gifts is a special experience, but the reality is, once the initial excitement wears off, gifts often fail to live up to the purpose for which they were given in the first place.  This is a picture of what can happen in the local church.

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3:21 Week of Prayer and Fasting

Week of Prayer Fasting November
3:21 WEEK OF PRAYER AND FASTING – November 12-18

 The elders of Calvary PCA have called for a week of prayer and fasting November 12-18, leading into commitment Sunday, November 19, as we pledge our gifts to the 3:21 initiative.  We have asked members of Calvary to set aside one day this week, dedicated to prayer and fasting that we might seek His will and not our own.  Click here to confidentially register for a day of prayer and fasting.

We are asking that the Lord would enable us to operate out of a position of our freedom in Christ, rather than out of a position of compulsion, duty, or fear.  As you pray and as you seek God’s wisdom for how He would have you contribute time, talent and treasure to the 3:21 initiative, remember that in Christ you are those who are:

  • Free From Bondage to live as those who are truly free (Gal. 5:1)
  • Free From Condemnation to live as those who are accepted by God (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Free From Fear to live as those who are the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:15)
  • Free From Results to live as open-handed servants of God (1Peter 2:16)
  • Free From Selfish Desires to live out the great commandments of love for God and love for neighbor (Gal.5:13)

May God give us grace to pray, live, and give as those who are set free in Christ!

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Learning to Pray from a Daughter and a Dot

Learning to Pray
Learning to Pray from a Daughter and a Dot*

“Go brush your teeth, and I’ll come help you get ready for school.”  With these familiar words, I attempted to send my 5-year-old daughter, Elise, from the kitchen with marching orders to get the day started and give me an opportunity to do an all-important check of my Facebook feed.  Monday morning priorities, you know.

As Elise hopped down from the table with her usual exuberance, she moved, not toward the hallway, as instructed, but instead she skipped the opposite direction toward me.  “Elise,” I said in full daddy-tone. “What did I tell you to do?”  Without missing a beat, she gave me a giant hug and snuck a peak at the phone in my hand.

“Prayer dot!” she exclaimed.  Her eyes locked on my face, looking to see how I would respond to her spotting the green dot affixed to the upper right hand corner of my iPhone screen.  “Elise, I said…”  Ugh!  I can’t encourage the members of Calvary Presbyterian Church to pray for the ministry of our congregation every time they see that dot throughout their day and suddenly ignore it when my own daughter eagerly wants to stop and come before her Heavenly Father.

“I guess we should pray,” I said.  With that, Elise and I both lifted up Calvary and our ministries before our great God, and then, she bounded down the hallway with joy on her face, prepared to get ready for her morning at school.

As she turned the corner, I sat at the table thinking, “my daughter just used a dot to teach me to pray.”  While I seek to teach our congregation to pray for our 3:21 initiative and therefore, to entrust all we are and have to our Lord, He is using simple prayer dots as my daughter’s teaching-aid to instruct me in the way of faith.

As you go before the throne of God’s grace in the coming weeks to lift up the ministry of Calvary in prayer, may you have the gift of going before him with the faith of a child, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:14).  May we have open hearts to be taught to pray, even by the smallest in our midst!

*Learn more about Calvary’s 3:21 Initiative here.  Prayer dot cards are available at Calvary each week.  We encourage each of our members and attenders to take one and use it to help guide your prayers during our 3:21 Initiative.

3:21 Initiative – God’s Glory in All Generations

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3:21 Initiative – God’s Glory in All Generations

We live in an amazing area of the country with tremendous resources and opportunities.  Each year, Raleigh is rated as the #1 or #2 place to raise a family by a variety of publications.  According to the Wake County website, Wake county is growing by an average of 62 people per day – that’s 22,630 people per year – good for the second fastest growth rate of any county with >1 million residents in the nation.  If that number stays flat, that’s 226,300 people in 10 years.  Since Calvary was planted in the mid 1970s, the population of Wake County has quadrupled from approximately 250,000 people to around 1 million people in 2014.  Estimates are that in just under 40 years (2054), Wake County will hit the 2 million mark.

This is great news for us, because the church is called by Jesus Christ to the great commission.  As you go, make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).  The beauty is if we desire to reach the nations, all we need to do is walk out our front door.  Of the 62 new people per day in Wake County, 9 of those (15%) are international residents.  We are called to make disciples where we are and where we are sent.  And God has graciously planted us in the middle of one of the most vibrant, growing and changing areas of the country.  But what does that mean for who we are and what God would have us to be?

Paul has a vision in Ephesians 3.  In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul lays out first what God is building – A church made up of diverse people to be the house of the Holy Spirit (2:19-22).  In other words, the church is the place where God would live.  Second, He tells us how God is building this Church – By saving people by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (2:8-10), so that all the ways in which we would divide would be broken down by our union with Christ.  Third, He tells us the why or purpose of the Church (Ephesians 3:10) – that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

In other Words: The church is a diverse community of people saved by grace through faith in Christ to display the wisdom of God to the world.

On the ground, what’s clear is only God can do this!  Before laying out this vision, Paul acknowledges this saying in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”

Then he continues with His vision for the church, “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

All we do should be about bringing glory to his name in all generations where we have been planted.  This is why we say that Calvary PCA exists to bring glory to God in this generation and the next by making disciples where we are and where we are sent.

Over the next five weeks, we will be engaging in what we are calling the 3:21 Initiative, in which we desire to cast this vision that the church would Bring Glory to God in this Generation and the next.  On a practical level, this means that we are taking the next steps toward the renovation and expansion of our facility at 6520 Ray Road in order to meet the needs of an ever-changing, ever-growing community.  This will include a commitment of time, talent and treasure on the part of God’s church.

In order to prepare our hearts to prayerfully commit this vision to “the one who is able to do far more than we ask or imagine,” we will be preaching through several pieces of the 3:21 Initiative over the next 5 Sundays:

3:21 Sermons

 

October 15 – VISION

Ephesians 3:21

Glory to God…

  • In Christ
  • In His Church
  • Throughout all Generations

 

October 22 – TRUST

2 Peter 1:16, Hebrews 11:1

Faith Must…

  • Be Anchored in the Truth
  • Believe in the Truth
  • Grow in the Truth
October 29 – GENEROSITY

Romans 11:36

All Things are…

  • From Him
  • Through Him
  • For Him
Nov 5 – SACRIFICE

Romans 12:1-2

Living to Die & Dying to Live…

  • Motivated by Mercy
  • Marked by Worship
  • Moved by Transformation
November 12 – COMMITMENT

Romans 12:3-16

All In…

  • Belonging in Christ
  • Gifted by Christ
  • Loving for Christ
 

Other Key Dates

  •  10/29@ 5:30pm – 3:21 Property Update
  • 11/12-19 – Week of Prayer and Fasting
  • 11/15 – Church-wide Prayer
  • 11/19 – Commitment Sunday
  • 12/03 – Celebration Sunday

 

As we enter this season together, there are two things, I pray we will keep in mind:

#1 – God is building His church to be the place of His Dwelling.  Brick and Mortar are a means to the end of making disciples where we are and where we have been sent.

#2 – Our goal here is to see this vision made a reality – that the glory of God would be made known in and through this church from generation to generation – now and in the future.

Join us in prayer over these next several weeks that God would be please to bring glory to His name, unity in Christ’s Church, growth in faith and love, and a culture in which we would faithfully make disciples where we are and where we are sent.

Fall Again: Good News for the Seasons of Life

Fall Again
Fall Again: Good News for the Seasons of Life

As I sat in my window seat, sipping a complimentary beverage at a local coffee shop this week, I peered up from behind my computer screen to catch a glimpse of a sign I somehow missed as I entered the door just minutes before.  There it was in bold letters with illustrations of autumn leaves around the headline – “Fall Again.”  In spite of the high 80s temperatures outside, the sign reminded me of what I had conveniently forgotten: Fall is here; another season in a busy year.

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Good News for A Lonely World: The Message of Exodus 21-40

Good News for a Lonely World
Good News for a Lonely World: The Message of Exodus 21-40

A recent headline from an article by Dr. Keith Ablow declared, “Loneliness is Now More Deadly than Obesity.  And We Don’t Have a Plan to Reduce it.”[1]  He cites findings presented at the recent American Psychological Association conference asserting that, “social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death.”

We live in a paradoxical time in which we are surrounded by others and inundated nearly every moment with so-called “social” media, yet recent studies show that people feel more isolated and lonely than ever before, and it’s killing us.  One only needs to observe a sea of people checking their smartphones in a crowded restaurant to know that we bring many of our feelings of loneliness upon ourselves, but the reality is that the solution may be deeper than simply downgrading to an old-school flip phone.  This is but a symptom to a deeper problem.

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