Pressing On

Pressing On

The famous Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe was no stranger to adversity. Growing up in the early 1900's as a Native American, Jim experienced the horrors of racism and prejudice. Not only that, he had to deal with the reality of death at an early age. His twin brother died when they were only 9 years old. And before he reached adulthood, both of his parents also died, leaving Jim an orphan.

 But God blessed Thorpe in one particular way—his athletic ability. He was one of the first players to ever play professional baseball and football. He was one of those rare athletes that excelled at whatever sport he tried. And among all of his accomplishments, perhaps his greatest was his two Gold medals in the 1912 summer Olympic games in Stockholm Sweden. Shortly before he was to start in the pentathlon, someone stole his shoes. Instead of giving up, Jim went to the trash and found two shoes … of two styles. One was an athletic shoe and another was a loafer. Each shoe was a different size. He compensated by adding an extra sock. He was determined to run the race that he had been asked to run. His perseverance and resolve to finish the race is what enabled him to run it. Jim was determined to run the race set before him with no excuses.

 You and I, have a race set before us. In fact, more than once the Bible uses this kind of imagery to describe the Christian life. The Apostle Paul, when nearing the end of his life said this: [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). His life was focused on the one event which truly mattered - the mission that God had set out for him. Or consider what Paul said to the church at Galatia: [7] You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7). You see they had believed the truth of the gospel, they were applying that belief to their behavior - but someone had hindered them. An obstacle had been thrown on the track.

 If the Christian life is akin to running a race, the obstacles are endless. We get begin to run well after righteousness, and yet find ourselves sidetracked by a besetting sin. We begin to run well seeking to know the truth of God, and yet find ourselves floundering to read the Bible. We begin run well living out the gospel in our lives, and yet find ourselves sidetracked by the schemes of the enemy.

An Internal Threat

An Internal Threat

Mortgage crisis. High lending fees. Foreclosures. Payday loans. Oppression. Corporate greed. One might think I grabbed those words from headlines in the news this week. But in reality, they’re an excellent way to summarize the problems in Nehemiah chapter 5. And at the same time, I doubt anyone would argue the contemporary nature of those problems. Once again we see that the book of Nehemiah, although removed from us by time and culture is in fact a very applicable book.

 As we resume our study this morning, let me remind you of where we’ve been. The people of God spent a good number of years in exile as a result of their disobedience. God had warned them time and time again. They ignored his warnings and broke covenant with him. But even in the midst of God’s just punishment, he promised to one day bring the scattered people of God back together to rebuild the city of God - as well as their lives. And because God is always faithful to his promises he does just that. He raises up Nehemiah. A man who studies his Bible and prays. A man with a passion for the glory of God. And he uses Nehemiah to lead the people in the rebuilding effort. And they get to work building the walls of the Jerusalem.

 But what proved true for Nehemiah and the people - what is always true for us - is that opposition is inevitable. Anytime you do something good for God, opposition will come. We’ve saw that chapter 4 especially as they people of God face verbal abuse and physical threats. But they didn’t give up. Nehemiah led them to work hard and trust hard. But what we’re going to see today is that the opposition continues in chapter 5. And this time it isn’t opposition from the outside - its opposition from the inside.

Adversity And Sufficiency

Adversity and Sufficiency

Sometimes the most difficult task is not getting started, but keeping going. One of the more arduous projects I have ever taken on was the finishing of the lower level in our home in South Dakota. I did some extensive tiling in the downstairs - about 600 square feet of flooring and a shower. Getting started wasn’t the hard part. I bought the supplies. I watched YouTube videos, and probably annoyed the flooring guy at Home Depot with all of my questions. But while getting started wasn’t that difficult, finishing it was. What I thought would take a few weeks turned out to be six months. I ran into all sorts of set backs I wasn’t expecting - uneven spots in the floor, warped tiles, tight corners, mortar drying too fast…let’s just say I was ready to quit more than once.  

Of course, Christians face adverse situations that are far more serious than mixing mortar and laying tiles. If there is something you and I know, it’s this: adversity and setbacks are common to the Christian life. In fact, the book of Nehemiah along with other parts of the Bible remind us that every time we are living for the glory of God in all things, we will face adversity and persecution to one degree or another. As we mentioned last week, the Apostle Paul once told Timothy that all who desire to live a godly live in Christ will be persecuted. When an individual Christian, as well as the corporate church, move along the path of faithfulness - there will be opposition and adversity to be certain. The question is what are we going to do about it? Let’s turn to chapter 3 and chapter 4 of Nehemiah. I won’t read chapter 3 right now. We’ll refer to it as we move along.

Acting Under The Providence Of God

Acting Under The Providence Of God

Which is better? To pray or to act? If you fell terribly ill, should you pray or go to the doctor? If you were unemployed, should you pray or work hard on your resume? If you’re a parent having difficulties with your son or daughter, do you pray or start making changes in your household? For most of us, it doesn’t take much pondering to realize that we should do both. If we move to action without prayer, we essentially take matters into our hands. But just because we’ve prayed, does that mean we should be sitting on our hands waiting for a miracle to happen?  

The story of Nehemiah, like so many great stories of the Bible, introduces us to the doctrine of divine providence. The providence of God tells us that God is always at work. Whether we see it or not, God is directing all things in the universe. He is in complete control of all things. He governs the world with wisdom and love. And nothing happens by chance or fate.  

Listen to how Tony Evans describes this attribute of God:

“Providence is the hand of God in the glove of history. It is the work of God whereby He integrates and blends events in the universe in order to fulfill His original design for which it was created. It is God sitting behind the steering wheel of time. Providence refers to God’s governance of all events so as to direct them toward an end. It is God taking what you and I would call luck, chance, mistakes, happenstance and stitching them into achieving His program.” 

So what does it look like to live in light of God’s providence? As we move along in our series Nehemiah shows us what it means to pray and act, all the while having a keen awareness that God is always at work. Last week when we left him, he was broken man. Weeping and praying over the ruined state of Jerusalem. We listen to him plead with God to lead in an effort to see the Holy City of God rebuilt. And in a very real sense, this story illustrates how the damaged and ruined areas of our lives need to be rebuilt.

Spiritual Discipline: Transformation

Spiritual Discipline: Transformation

Today’s message focuses on killing sin and putting on Christ. In it we will look at the spiritual discipline of taking off the old man and putting on the new man:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!  - assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul ties this passage to the one prior that used the word “walk.” Note verses 1 and 17:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

As we move though this chapter, Paul links today’s subject with the purpose of gifts in the first 16 verses. So, Paul wants us to walk worthy of our calling, and he does not want us to walk like a Gentile. The biggest obstacle to using our gifts in the body is sin. Since every spiritual gift given to the church is packaged inside a sinner, the topic this morning is relevant to everyone who desires to use the gift(s) God has given them.

Spiritual Disciplines: Using Your Gifts

Spiritual Disciplines: Using Your Gifts

Last week Karl challenged us to be consistent students of the Word and to be diligent before God as we discipline ourselves in the work of our sanctification – the process of becoming like Christ. Today I would like to build on the foundation Karl laid, looking at the fourth chapter of Ephesians to discuss the argument Paul makes for being worthy of your calling in Christ.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  Ephesians 4:1-16

Paul states God’s purpose for gifts in verse 13, then restates it in 14 and restates it again in verses 15 and 16.

1.       Positive: v13 - until all of us attain the unity of the faith

2.      Negative: v14 - until all of us are no longer undisciplined children following every new doctrine or scheme

3.       Positive: v15-16 - until all of us respond like Christ, building up the body until everything works as it should

Spiritual Discipline

Spiritual Discipline

Good morning. Welcome to church. I am excited to be able to do what I love this morning and proclaim the truth of God’s word. Nothing on earth has the ability to give me more joy than to read scripture and be challenged to live for Christ. Today, we will be looking at a passage that should change our lives if we take it seriously. It’s my desire that the Holy Spirit would do a tremendous work in us and sanctify us even more.

 The word sanctify comes from the Greek word hagiazo. This word has a meaning of being “set apart” or “separated.” Nobody was more set apart from the world than Christ himself. In other words, if we are to be sanctified the end goal is to become the image of Jesus. Sanctification does not come at salvation, but comes through a process of conforming ourselves to the image of Christ after we have been redeemed.

 If we are to conform ourselves to the image of Christ, then we must know Christ. We have a level of responsibility to be disciplined in our spiritual lives. Discipline is something that we have to learn. The most disciplined people in our lives had to learn how to be disciplined. A baby is not born with discipline.

Advent Week 3: Longing For Christ

Advent Week 3: Longing For Christ

Already but not yet is a theme that rings throughout the New Testament church and history. Christ has come; Christ has defeated sin and the grave; Christ has won the final victory. Yet we still longingly await His second coming. We still wait for the end of sin and death and heartache and destruction. The full storyline of the Bible has already been written, but is awaiting completion. Trevin Wax explains this storyline as follows:

 Creation: One Hebrew word sums up the picture of Genesis 1 and 2: shalom. Peace. Earth was full of God's shalom, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God's intention. The world was made for human flourishing; there we could live in joy in the presence of our Maker, worshiping God by loving Him and one another forever.

 Fall: Adam and Eve rejected God's rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as "the fall," and because they represented all of humanity, their action affects us too. We have -- through our attitudes and actions -- declared ourselves to be God's enemies. This rebellion results in physical and spiritual death.

 Redemption: Thankfully the loving Creator who rightly shows Himself to be wrathful toward our sin is determined to turn the evil and suffering we have caused into good that will be to His ultimate glory. So the next movement shows God implementing a master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people. The grand narrative of Scripture climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 Restoration: The story doesn't end with redemption. God has promised to renew the whole world, and the Bible gives us a peek into this glorious future. The restoration of all things will take place in two ways. Christ will return to judge sin and evil, and He will usher in righteousness and peace. God will purge this world of evil once and for all.[1]

 Beaux Williams gave us an excellent explanation of how the fall brought a curse upon man, woman, the serpent, and all of creation:

 ·         alienation and condemnation before God

·         alienation between each other

·         death (Physical and Spiritual)

·         the ruin of all humanity

  • hostility between the serpent and the woman

  • hostility between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman[2]

[1]Ed Stetzer, The Big Story of Scripture,, November 28, 2012, accessed December 12, 2018,

[2]Beaux Williams, Looking Forward to Christmas, Sermon, Calvary Baptist Church, Holland, MI, December 2, 2018.

Advent Week 1: Longing For Christ

Advent Week 1: Longing For Christ

I would like to invite you to join me in recognition and celebration of the Advent Season. It may be you have faithfully observed Advent every year from your childhood. Perhaps this is the tradition you learned from your parents or the church you grew up in. Or it may be you are completely unaware of the meaning of the Advent Season. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, the season of Advent is a time in which we look with eager anticipation towards the revelation of our Savior Jesus Christ. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” “Advent looks back in celebration at the hope fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s coming, while at the same time looking forward in hopeful and eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when He returns for his people” ( In a time of busyness and distraction, it is an opportunity for us to reflect and remember God’s great redemptive work of sending his Son, Immanuel, God With Us.

This We Believe: Last Things

This We Believe: Last Things

As a kid, I remember hearing mother talk about reading The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. They made the book into a movie narrated by Orson Welles. I watched the movie and felt terror at the idea that the world as we know it was going to end. The view presented by Lindsey was classic dispensationalism and historic pre-millennialism. Later Tim LaHaye continued this view writing his series Left Behind. Both works are fictional, but based upon theological viewpoints I would contend the culture at large assumes they represent the only Christian view of the end times.  

Over the past two months, we have examined our beliefs and basic doctrines in preparation for approving an updated Statement of Faith. The last portion of doctrine to be included is our doctrine of Last Things, or end times. There are many doctrines we believe and hold dear which are clearly and easily defined or described in the Scriptures. What we believe about Jesus Christ from the virgin birth to His death and resurrection are unmistakably plain and evident to the reader. The doctrines of the Holy Spirit, God the Father, the Trinity, the Scriptures, the church, the ordinances, humanity, the atonement, salvation, and resurrection are plain and generally agreed upon among Bible-believing churches. The doctrine of Last Things offers the biggest challenge in understanding what truly is to come. Today we will examine our position, which includes the common truths accepted across a broad spectrum of Christian belief, and we will also look at the varying positions which have been predominant in the church.    

My hope is our study of Last Things will not give you all the information you need to debate a position, but will stir the longing in your soul for Christ’s return. I hope that stirring will drive you to the Word and to prayer. I am not going to give you a specific timeline of events because no one truly knows. We will briefly mention various historically held views of end times, but this will certainly not be comprehensive.

Historically the Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation view has been taught at Calvary. This view may in fact be completely accurate. However, as one digs deeply into the text of Scripture, a clear timeline of End Times events cannot be plainly established. We have reworded our doctrinal statement in a manner which does not exclude this particular view, but is also gracious to other views which have just as much Scriptural grounding and historical support. We have included only those ideas where the Scriptures leave no doubt.

This We Believe: The Church and The Ordinances

This We Believe: The Church and The Ordinances

Today we continue our overview of doctrine with the topic of the church and its ordinances.  When it comes to these doctrines, we are different than many denominations. There are some who don’t believe that the rite of baptism is important and don’t practice it and others believe who baptism is required for salvation. Still others agree with us that baptism is symbolic of what Christ has done, but their mode is different (sprinkle water vs immersion).