All posts by Calvary Temple

The Love of God

By Pastor Nikki Ragush

Love is one of the deepest desires of every human. For some people they seek to find love through a marriage, others have dreamt about being a parent their entire lives, some find acceptance and love through deeply knit friendship groups, and some dedicate their entire lives to singleness as to focus solely on God. A variety of these things can be melded together, and at points people may feel very loved yet also at points they may feel loneliness and emptiness. People always seem to try and explain love, never finding a solution that completely satisfies the meaning of the word. Scripture says “God is love”, but that still seems vague for those who want to completely grasp, understand, and then dissect this concept. God is one of the greatest ways we can understand love, but it sometimes seems to be complicated what it looks like.

Hosea is probably one of the prophets that sticks out the most in my mind because the story is odd. Most people think that as a prophet God would want you to have a solid base around you… but God goes against our expectations. We find out God’s first command to Hosea “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2) The first thing God calls Hosea to do is to commit himself in marriage to someone who was unlikely to commit themselves back. I myself am not married however I know that when I commit to support someone there is an expectation they also will support me; whether in a friendship, a relationship, as a teammate, or as a co-worker. I remember many times in grade school being rather frustrated after a group assignment where I ended up doing more work than others, feeling like they didn’t care about me or my grades.

If we simply look at the situation we see Hosea in, we probably would see it being unfair and possibly a little ridiculous for God to ask this of Hosea. However, this imagery should mean something to us, because God’s reasoning for this is to prove a point… Hosea’s life became an object lesson to each one of us.  We say “God loves us” but do we truly understand how deeply He feels this love and how unconditional it is. God knows these people don’t care about Him, He sees them worshipping other god’s even when He’s proved himself in the Bible time and time again.

In Chapter 3 we see God call Hosea to reconciliation with His wife, ““Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”  (Hosea 3:1) God knows that He himself begs and pleads for His children to follow Him still knowing that some still are temptation and find something that may in the moment satisfy them.

God wants all of us. He doesn’t desire for us to have a couple hours on a Sunday, maybe ten minutes a day studying His word, or the quick prayer at meals when He is thanked for our food. I encourage you to read through this book and think that the God who made the entire universe desires to have all of your attention. We may not have the same idols, however sometimes it is obvious in our lives what we value most by the way we act, the way we speak, and where our time goes. God wants a full commitment to him, and He is ready to be fully committed to us but God allows us to make this crucial decision. The love of God is so beautiful in Hosea; it is unconditional, forgiving, understanding, and passionate.

Called by God

By: Pastor Heidi Kratz

Jonah 1:1,2

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against  it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

In Kids’ Church we have just finished studying the books of the Prophets in the Old Testament.  The prophets are divided into 2 parts:  Major Prophets and Minor Prophets.  The book of Jonah is one of the Minor Prophets.  A prophet is one who is called by God and speaks for him.  In the Old Testament prophets were sent in times of crisis when the children of Israel were in trouble.  In the “What’s in the Bible” series they talk about prophets being like an alarm clock  for God’s people.  What is the purpose of an alarm clock?  To wake us up so we don’t miss something important.  Prophets had a difficult job to do.  They had to give a message to God’s people when they were wandering and going their own way.

Jonah’s call was to “go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it”.  Jonah knew that God’s call was going to be difficult so what did he do?   He ran away and ended up inside a fish praying desperately for God to help him.  I would also be in “distress” (Jonah 2:2) if I was inside a fish for 3 days and nights.

In Chapter 3 the Lord called Jonah again.  “Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it”.  This time Jonah obeyed.

What are you called to do?  If you are a disciple of Jesus we are called to live a life of sacrifice.  It is not an easy path at times, but we can put our trust in God to help us in our calling.

“But I, with a song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you.”  Jonah 2:9

 

One Who Serves

By: Pastor Vern Kratz

As I read through today’s passage, found in Luke 22:1-38, I note several phrases and verses that just jump off the page, some of them I have never really spent a lot time thinking about before. Let me encourage you to take the time to read it and see what words or phrases the Holy Spirit highlights for you. It’s a great passage to read this week as we head towards Good Friday and Easter morning.

But right in the middle of today’s passage there is a verse I want to dwell on for just a moment, because it is a good reminder for all of us.

Verse 24 tells us, “…a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.”

Can you imagine? Jesus is about to be crucified, sacrificed for the sins of the entire world. So he gets together with his closest followers, his closest friends, for a final meal together, and all they can do is talk about themselves and argue as to who was the greatest.

But Jesus, was the Master Teacher, and was graciously patient with his sometimes immature disciples. Even in this moment, when all thoughts and efforts should have been turned towards Jesus to encourage and lift him up and strengthen him for what he was about to endure, Jesus instead takes it as an opportunity to remind his followers of how they ought to act towards one another.

Jesus reminds them (and us), “…the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Verse 26)

This was among some of Jesus’ final words before going to the cross. I would consider them of great importance. Something we should take heed of and put into practice.

How can you choose to be a servant today? How can you place someone else’s needs ahead of yours? How can you bless someone else today? By doing so you are becoming more like Jesus.

Jesus said, “But I am among you as one who serves.” (Verse 27)

There are a few verses in today’s passage that I don’t quite understand, but verse 26 is pretty clear, Jesus wants us to serve. As we continue with our week leading up to Easter let us continue to remind ourselves that Jesus came as a servant and he expects us to follow his example.

Be a blessing this Easter!

Afflicted by God

By Gary Jennings (Lead Pastor)                                                               

RAP – It’s simple to do. Read a passage; Apply the passage, and Pray the passage. Everyone can rap.

I sat down in my chair on Tuesday morning, March 16, opened up my Bible and got ready to be blessed by God’s word. Our scripture for this day was Lamentations 3:1-33. I must admit, this reading was far from blessing me as I read the first twenty-one verses. My first reaction was that this is not great sermon material at all. In fact, has any preacher used this as his text to exhort the people of God? There is no exhortation here. I wanted to sink in my chair. There are no Godly fuzzies. There are no spiritual butterflies. There are no incredible one liners to stick up on my fridge door to help me begin my day with. I wanted to forget what I just read. If you have not read this, you must do so. But do so at your own risk.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations and here is what he says about God in the first 21 verses of Lamentations 3: He has driven me away, He has made my skin and my flesh grow old, He has walled me in, He dragged me from the path and mangled me, He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows, He has broken my teeth with gravel. He has trampled me in the dust. Wait a minute, is this my God? Are you being blessed and exhorted as I quote? What am I to do with this? Shall I skip this and go on to something more pleasant? Ah, yes I could, but no, I can’t. I must try to understand this. This could be great, if I stop to ponder.

I do remember my sister Karen experiencing discomfort from my mother. It’s called discipline; and she needed it. She was bad. I recall the usual procedure. Mom would send her to her room and she would go on and on through sobs and tears about how bad mom was. I got used to the routine and the descriptive downer one liners about my mother. Mom was still in the house, and probably in the kitchen preparing for our next meal. But today, I must say Karen turned out very well. She is a great sister, mother, and wife, and I love her dearly.

I remember my own discomfort I experienced from my parents. The suffering I am referring to is also being sent to my room and being alienated from the family; losing my family privileges, not getting my allowance; not allowed to watch The Beverly Hillbillies for a couple of evenings. My parents even took my car keys from me one time. How could they? They were such meanies. Oh, but look at me now. I am almost 60 and my wife says I turned out pretty good. I agree. Ha.

So let’s get back to that Lamentations scripture passage and try to figure this one out. The writer says in chapter 33:22, Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Another scripture verse that comes to my mind is Hebrews 12:6, where it says, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. God is our heavenly Father, and He loves us too much to allow us to go our own fleshly way. So He corrects, so that we may turn out to be more like Him.

Pastor Ruth Denboer said this in one of our staff meetings; God is interested in our holiness, not our happiness. This is so true.

So, we are told that the writer in Lamentations 3 is identifying with God’s chosen people, the Israelites. They were like a wayward child. They were rebellious in so many ways. Because God had restoration on his mind, corrective measures were being taken.

Jeremiah was feeling what the people were feeling as he penned these descriptive words. My outlined Bible tells me that there are two themes for Lamentations. First, the misery that sin brings, and secondly, the love and compassion of Jehovah for the subjects of his wrath

Ah, now I get it. Sin never pays great dividends.

By the way, if you are reading Lamentations 3, please do not stop at verse 21 in discouragement, keep reading. It does get better.

Don’t Give Up

Pastor Ruth Denboer

What an interesting combination of scripture this week.  We start with Jeremiah reminding the Israelite people to obey God and stay where God had put them … even though it meant they were in exile and it was not pleasant.  He reminds them it was their own sin that put them there.  Then we jump into Lamentations … which is exactly that … a book of Jeremiah’s laments (cries) as he witnesses the spiritual death and physical destruction of the Holy city of Jerusalem.

It has been said that no person pleaded with a people more, calling for a national conversion than Jeremiah did.  And that no one besides Jesus was treated with as much contempt as he was.   Yet he continued to believe.

It is very difficult watching people we love suffer for any reason.  But of course we know that suffering touches all of us at some point.  It is particularly difficult watching children suffer.  It is easy to wonder, “Where is God?” But we must remember this, in a world that is plagued with evil, sometimes even the innocent suffer.

I found these verses smack in the middle of the book of Lamentations to be so inspiring.

Lamentations 3:

20I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. 

21Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

22The faithful love of the lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.

23Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

24I say to myself, “The lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

We must not forget where our help comes from.  It is easy to push away from God when trouble comes, but the end of the readings this week remind us that this is exactly the time we need to run to God with persistence.  This is when we need to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness.  The faithful love of the LORD never ends!  His mercies never cease.  I will place my hope in Him!

No doubt there are times we need to talk ourselves back to believing this, but as we read in Luke 11: 9“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

DON’T GIVE UP when the going gets tough!  Instead … go to God!

 

 

Solomon’s Wisdom

Solomon’s Wisdom

Pastor Nikki Ragush

Our High School Youth (Focus) are currently going through the book of James together. In the 3rd chapter it begins to talk about wisdom, which I thought was fitting for this week’s reading. There are many gifts that we can pray that God blesses us with, and wisdom is one I’ve continued to seek for much of my life.

Solomon has the opportunity to ask God for anything in the world; initially people may imagine a trip, a new house, a nice car, all their debt to be paid off, a large family, and many other possibilities. Solomon knew immediately what he needed though to pursue the journey God was going to take Him on, he needed wisdom. It’s kind of funny to think that Solomon had enough wisdom already to ask for wisdom, but he knew that was only a small portion of what he’d need to continue to rule as king. God’s Word version of the Bible explains it that Solomon asked “Give me a heart that listens so that I can judge your people and tell the difference between good and evil. After all, who can judge this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9) Wisdom isn’t as complicated as we sometimes can make it out to be, however Solomon knew the difference it makes in everyday life.

Right away God gives Solomon an opportunity to put these newly given wisdom to a test with two women fighting over who a baby belonged to (1 Kings 3:16-28). God didn’t given Solomon the wisdom to know immediately who was the mother to this child, but instead helped Solomon to figure out a test that would quickly reveal who was truly the mother of the child. Wisdom wasn’t something super glamorous or even obvious, but it was a constant help to Solomon.

I think of situations I run into daily in my life, sometimes I’d like God to give me the answer on what to do, but having wisdom is as if God has already equipped us with the ability to know what to do. If I was to characterize wisdom as a person they’d be the dependable friend who always stands beside you, maybe you don’t have some crazy fun story to tell every time you hang out but you know they’ll be there for you in a pinch. James says wisdom can be seen in this way “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10)

Open the eyes of my heart Lord!

Open the eyes of my heart Lord!
By: Pastor Heidi Kratz
Luke 18: 41-42

“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

I have been wearing glasses since my early elementary school days. The style of glasses have changed a lot since I was a kid! You didn’t have many options in style or color with your frames back then. Today, you have an entire store of frames to choose from.

When I began having trouble reading the board at school I needed a weak prescription. Every year my eyes would get worse. Now I couldn’t find my way out of a room if I didn’t have my glasses or contacts on.

To have my vision back would be amazing. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be blind and then instantly be able to see again.

Through his faith, the blind man was healed physically and spiritually. Jesus is the one who has the power to bring physical sight to the blind and he has the power to open the eyes that are blind because of sin.

We sing a song in Kids’ Church that goes like this:
Open the eyes of my heart Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you. I want to see you.

As the blind man desperately cried out to God, we need to cry out that the Lord would open the eyes of our hearts. In our busy lives we need to see those who are hurting around us and those that have been blinded spiritually by sin in their lives.

Love Each Other

By: Pastor Vern Kratz

Today’s reading comes from John 15:1-17.

As I read the passage I am reminded about a lot of things. The first thing I am hit with is a reminder that sometimes I need to take a step back and take a good look at myself and make sure I am doing the things I am supposed to be doing – the things that are important to God.

Jesus uses the illustration of a gardener that needs to prune his plants so that they can be more fruitful. Sometimes we need to change or quit something so we can be better at something else. For example, if I quit complaining about situations, then the by-product of that would be a healthier attitude towards life – that’s a good thing. What do you need to cut off or change from the pattern you are presently following with your life, so that you can experience a more fruitful, abundant, and blessed life?

Continuing with the gardening illustration, another thing that I am reminded about is that I need to stay connected – both to God and to other people that will have a good influence on me or who I can be a good influence on. Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself” and then he said “apart from me you can do nothing.”

God is our source of everything! And if we try and live a life disconnected from him then we are no longer attached to the One who is to be our source. When that happens just like a branch that is cut off from the vine withers, so we will wither and our spiritual vitality will become shallow or non-existent. To experience God’s blessing we need to be in regular communication with him. We need to be connected to him. We also need each other and we need to love each other.

Which brings me to my last reminder for today: the fruit that a plant produces is the proof of whether the plant is healthy or not. The same way our lives need to bear fruit that proves whether we are spiritually healthy or not. And one of the fruit or evidences of our lives should be the love and concern we have for other people. Today’s passage concludes with a simple command from Jesus: Love each other.

It’s February and this month contains: Valentine’s Day, Marriage Week, and Random Acts of Kindness Week. February is a good month for us to make sure we loving and caring for each other. I want to take stock of what fruit my life is producing. The fruit in my life is seen through my love and concern for others.

Our love for one another is important to God. Happy belated Valentine’s Day!

The Scriptures say

By Pastor Ruth Denboer

The Scriptures say” … This is the response we read from Jesus when He was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. There are a few things that hit me from this story.

1. It all happened in the wilderness. There are definitely times in our lives when we feel like we are living in the wilderness. Life just seems barren, maybe we feel very alone, and maybe we feel things are quite parched. Satan loves to tempt us when we are alone, when we are vulnerable. But we must not forget the truth. We are never alone.

Deuteronomy 31: 6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

2. Satan still comes with the same temptations. He still tries to convince us that we should try this, or try that, to help satisfy our needs. He’s still at work trying to convince us to distrust God’s provisions for our lives. He loves to make us shift our confidence from God as our provider, to somehow believe that we must be our own provider.

We are constantly being tempted to believe the proclamation of fears all around us telling us that we will not have enough. Scriptures say that God will supply all of our needs!

Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

3. All Jesus had to use against Satan to quiet Him was Scripture!
Jesus simply replied with, “It is written”, or as in the NLT translation I was reading, “the Scriptures say”. This was enough to silence the lies and tempting mockery of the enemy.

4. We don’t have to prove anything to Satan. Jesus didn’t waste a miracle in the presence of Satan, but used miracles as a witness to His disciples and those who He came to save. Miracles are signs to the unbelieving hearts, proving the existence of a God who loves us and cares for us.

Jesus could have done all the things Satan was tempting Him with in the wilderness that day, but instead, this becomes such a fantastic example for you and me. From this encounter we can see the power of standing by the truth, and not wavering. We are able to resist Satan with Scripture, and have the same result as Jesus had that day. Satan left him alone.

Take up your cross, and follow me

Take up your cross, and follow me
Mark 8:34-35
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
Throughout my four years at Bible school we studied the Bible very intensely, reading through all different sections of the Bible and having them come alive. However, this section may have been one that has stuck with me most and continues to challenge me almost daily. Possibly you know it better from Matthew 16:24,25 or Luke 9:23,24. Whenever I see in the Gospels that multiple writers have found it important to include something, my brain clicks in and I desire to see why.
Why does this particular verse hit me so hard? Because Jesus isn’t vague, His message isn’t easy, and he’s only giving two choices. Jesus either allows people to continue in their selfish ways, hanging on to their lives and eventually losing them. Or, following Christ, taking up our cross, letting go of control of our lives, and having our lives be saved. So we can choose, try to have control even though it will never work, or just let God take control now. It’s truly a simple decision, however living it out and continuing to make that decision each day may not be so simple.
When we think about the cross we may only think of a necklace people wear around their necks now, or a symbol someone has in their house, but the cross had a much different meaning when Jesus spoke of it. This verse says we each have our crosses, and Jesus’ was death. Jesus literally had to carry the cross that he’d die on, he’d have to watch friends abandon Him, be humiliated, and ultimately die for nothing he’d done wrong but to save those who had done nothing to deserve it. Giving our lives likely will not mean death, but it could mean giving future plans, possessions, and even dreams to God.
We either choose to hold tightly onto our lives eventually having control slip away, or we give control to God right now and allowing Him to lead us on our next journey.

 

Pastor Nikki Ragush