30 Years

Jun 10th 2014

30 years ago today I was jumping from a railroad bridge into the Delaware river and riding a dirt bike. My friends were in town and we were celebrating. 30 years ago today, I was putting on a brown tuxedo for the very last time, with a cumber-bun! 30 years ago today it was 100+ degrees in eastern PA, I remember this well, because I was standing in an unconditioned church sweating from places that don’t normally sweat. 30 years ago today I said yes to the most beautiful bride. 30 years ago today, I did.

“I did” is the past tense of “I do”, right? I said,”I do.” “Do you Dan take Lynn whom you hold by the hand as your lawfully wedded wife?” “I do” began the ride of a lifetime. Other than the choice to surrender my life to Christ, not a single decision has affected and shaped my life more than the decision to marry Lynn. I can’t say that she’s my better half because I’m not really sure where she begins or when she ends. She is my best friend, my greatest encouragement, my most gracious critic, and my partner in ministry. She has been (and yes always will be, even though the last one just graduated) an amazing mother. She has shaped me more than she knows through her prayers and through her heart.   I have a prayer shield made up of men from Calvary, but Lynn is my intercessor.

We have laughed together, feasted together, vacationed together and argued together. Once in a great while we have even exercised together. Together we have raised my four most favorite sons and daughters in the whole wide world; Yoshi, Snaker, Louby and Bear. This last week all four, plus Josiah who has been grafted into our family, were home for Josh’s graduation. I love the fact that they love each other and like being with each other. Do they fight? They fight well. They are perfecting the skills of teasing and annoying handed down to me from my father. And they still like being with each other.  So much of the health and well-being of our family flows out of Lynn’s heart.

As I look back on 30 years worth of vacations, dinners, arguments, tears, laughter, back-to-school nights, games, dates, holidays, worship, Disney-trips, bills, late nights, broke-down cars, science projects, country projects, kid’s sleep-overs, mission trips, prayers, ministry discussions, sermon evaluations, hospital visits, long drives, practical jokes, lifegroup meetings, and discussions about our future, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade-in a single year, (maybe a day or two, but probably not even a month). They have all been too good to miss.

Most of you who read this will know that, while I am writing this to celebrate and honor Lynn and our marriage…it’s mostly true with very little hyperbole. I have known her longer than I haven’t and I  love her more than I imagined; more than I imagined I could on that day 30 years ago in an old unconditioned stone church… where I said, “I do.”

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Looking Back in Gratitude and Forward in Faith

May 22nd 2014

May 22, 1994. It doesn’t rank up there with worldwide famous days (though for a certain Balogh it was somewhat important). Elaine Crosby won an LPGA tournament in Oregon and the Toronto Raptors unveiled their new name and logo. But it was a big day for me. 20 years ago on this day, I was preaching my very first sermon as Calvary’s lead pastor.  On May 13th, 1994 Lynn and I rolled into State College with all our stuff in a UHaul. It was a Friday. Yep our first official day in town was Friday the 13th!  We only had three children then and we moved into the Christan Church’s parsonage. I’ll never forget our first night outside….no mosquito’s…thought we were in heaven.

I had that first weekend off, so the following weekend, May 22nd was my first weekend to preach. I preached from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. Here’s a quote from that very first message,

 Do you know what excites me about being a Christian? God, the almighty King of Kings, the creator of the universe has a dream. He has a vision for each one of us. He has plans for our congregation and the church in State College. I don’t come this morning saying, “I have a plan. I have a dream. Just follow me and everything’s going to be great.” I come saying, “God has a plan. God has a dream. We need to be on the lookout for God-drawn-dreams. God-ideas, not just good ideas.”

20 years later, at the start of a new chapter of Calvary’s story, I still believe those words. With all my heart, I still believe those words.  God has a plan. God has a purpose. God has a dream for each of our lives.

It’s been a good 20 years filled with laughter, tears, good times and difficult days. I shouldn’t even mention names because there is no way that I could include every name that has been part of that journey.  But when I think way back, names like Bill, Steve, Theresa, Cathy, Bob, Pat, Joan, Kay, Dan, Stacy, Wendy, Herb, Christina, Kim, Kendel and many other staff, leaders and friend’s names always come quickly to mind (and some of those names represent more than one person!).  As people who have partnered with us, loved and supported us, you are such an important part of who we are now and where we are headed. In the last few years God has added more names to that list…and I am anticipating that it won’t stop.  That’s one of the amazing themes of the last 20 years, the people that God draws to Calvary. So amazing.

As I look back I remember our first unity service at Eisenhower. 12 congregations packed the place out and it was so good. I remember Bless the Fest, and Lighthouses of Prayer.

I remember people sitting in the aisles at 1250 University Drive and the first Sunday we were at the North High School auditorium. I remember mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Estonia and Myanmar. I remember packing a semi with food for Muslims in Somalia. I remember praying with people to receive Christ and praying with people to receive grace in the midst of hard times. I remember preaching at Stacy Yackeren’s funeral filled with young people from State High. I could go on and on.  I really could.

For me most importantly, I remember the way that my family has grown, my kids have met God, grown and been loved here. Even though Calvary has grown from 300 to 1500+, you have been our family.

The last twenty years have been filled with God-stories of live’s changed, people served, and people coming to know Christ.  Today as I look back I can’t help but wonder what God will do in us and through us in the next 20 years? Whether you were here years before I came, or you came years after I was here… thank you. It’s one thing to go hard after a great cause. It’s one thing to be part of a great community. But there is simply nothing like being part of a great community that goes after a great cause.

Lynn and I can’t imagine being part of a greater community or a greater cause.

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Happy Birthday Lynn!

May 10th 2014

First some random facts:

  • We’ve been together for 34 birthdays…and yes…she was a 5 year old freshman at Bethel when we met!
  • We’ve known each other for 64% of our lives and don’t even try to do the math.
  • We met in a shower and double-dated with each other’s roomates…but switched before the night was over.
  • Her favorite date night was horror movies.
  • When she fell for me, she bled all over the rocks and rolled into the river.
  • She was the world’s most beautiful bride. I know everyone says that, but really she was…
  • She once sang (with a trio) the Star Spangled Banner at a Spikes game.
  • I believe I have only forgotten one of her birthdays in my whole life. But I made up for it by taking her out to the little not-all-that-great-but-if-it’s-your-birthday-you-eat-free steakhouse. Yeah not one of my finer moments.
  • She started her nursing career serving kids who had cystic fibrosis and nobody loved those kids more than her.
  • I think she was probably the first person to teach our oldest daughter to use a four letter word for poop. Well it wasn’t really teaching, more like modeling just before the deacons (first church not Calvary) came over for supper…when she broke something in the kitchen.
  • She’s probably a safer driver than I, but she’s also the only one who has ever caused damage to our cars…multiple times.
  • Her four greatest gifts to me are named Sarah, Katy, Jake and Josh…(and we have since added Josiah to mix as well!)
  • She makes the best cinnamon rolls and chocolate covered rice krispee bars.
  • She spends hours and hours praying for people.
  • She gave a devotional once that was quoted in Brazil and at Bethel’s commencement.
  • She is currently part of the search team choosing the national president of our conference.

She is a prayer warrior for many. She is the mother of our children. She is a leader in our church. She loves to laugh, pull pranks, and worship…and yes all three of those go together well. She is a friend to so many. She is my best friend. Nobody knows me better and nobody loves me more. She is not perfect, but she is the first to admit it and she has a deep desire to grow. She has a heart that spurs me on to love others, even those who hurt me or annoy me. She is the Velcro (strong bond but willing to let go) of our family.

She is a child of God. Maybe I have been most impacted by watching her journey over the years, as a child of God.  That journey has been filled with ups and downs, not a few of them caused by me! But for the last 15 years there has been this steady desire to know God, to listen for his voice, to serve Him. I remember years ago when she would complain about not getting stuff from scripture and now so often what God gives her in his word is an encouragement to me. I’m sure they may be people who pray more or better, (whatever that means) but honestly I don’t know them. And as she has journeyed as a child of God, her heart has grown to love many of God’s kids.  

This month marks 20 years that we have been serving together in State College. It marks the 18th birthday of our youngest son. Next month will mark 30 years that we have been married. A lot of marker-moments. But there are few moments that have shaped my life more for the good than the birth-moment of Lynn.

Happy Birthday Sweets!

There is One Response to : Happy Birthday Lynn!

  1. Ruthann Wessel Wrote:

    This was so beautifully written and so true. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your amazing wife. I still remember when your journey with Lynn began. It’s such a joy seeing how God is using you both in His Kingdom. Hugs to you all from Long Island.

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1×1 Initiative #3–Yes a Church Without Walls Can Build Buildings!

Apr 28th 2014

In the last 20 years Calvary has quintupled (is that a word?) in size. We had ~1800 in all our gatherings on Easter.  All of that has happened while owning nothing more than a 15,000 square foot facility! We have lived out the vision that a church is more than a building. In fact, I’ve never been crazy about building buildings…more passionate about building people and investing in cities. But I’ll never forget an aha moment I experienced in Texas while listening to a pastor talk about their 100,000 ft addition. Yep they do everything big in Texas! They called this addition the Town Square and it was more for their community than it was for them.  

That’s when it hit me, “A Church without walls builds facilities for the community.” That has been our top driving priority. While our priority hasn’t been and isn’t now to build buildings. Facilities are tools that God can use to transform people and we believe it’s time to invest in a new facility…just like our spiritual pioneers did 50 years ago. When I think of the lives that have been transformed at 1250 University Drive over the decades, I do get a bit excited to think about what God might do in the next 50 years.

One of the questions that came up at our Q&A on Sunday night was, “Why build first at Harvest Fields?” Below is a Top 10 list of sorts…

10. Beautiful Property: If you have been there you know what I mean. We want people to use this property and we believe more will use it if there is a facility.

9. Donor Integrity: At Calvary we have always done our best to honor donor intent. In 2005 $2.7 million was pledged to develop a facility and the property at Harvest Fields. Over the course of the next 4-5 years those dollars were given to Calvary by people to develop the Harvest Fields property. Without going back to those donors to get permission, we feel the need to honor those gifts by continuing in that direction.

8. Sewer: Having gained permission to connect to city sewer, we now have 5 years to build or loose that access. If we don’t build now, we may not get sewer service again.

7. Expanding Our Reach Along the 322 Corridor: We are aiming for three solid sites along the 322 corridor. We don’t currently have a site on the Harvest Fields end.

6. An Opportunity to help the CityChurch: With a solid relationship developing between Calvary and the State Theater, and the development of Harvest Fields, if this initiative goes well 1250 University Drive can be used to solidify 2-3 other smaller citychurch congregations.

5. Few Churches on the Harvest Fields Side of the Region: There are only two churches in Harris Township (last time a church was built in Harris Township was near the time of the Civil War)!  There are few churches stretching around Mt. Nittany to the mall.

4. Good Favor with Township Leaders: We have developed good favor with township leaders and we don’t want to lose that.

3. Harvest Fields History: A great deal of  work has gone into developing this site. Work on this project has been ongoing since 2005, well before we went multi-site. To set this project aside now would be to set aside thousands of hours of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, Harris Township and other local officials have gone to lengths to support us in the sewer wars, not building would be difficult to explain to them.

2. First Step Not the Last Step: A successful initiative will allow us to move more quickly to other facility needs. As we build facilities, we are building them as a unified movement. The support of the whole movement in this initiative will lead more quickly to the next development opportunity.

1. Trusting and Following God: The leadership team (made up of people from a variety of our gatherings) looked at all that has transpired over the course of the years and felt that God is leading us to develop the property at Harvest Fields.  In addition to the reasons listed above we considered that…

  • For more than a decade, every time we have gathered leaders together to pray and ponder what God is doing with Harvest Fields, we have walked away believing we were to develop the land. This started in 1997 when Steve and Kay Heinz gathered a group of Calvary leaders and shared their vision of God using this property.
  • In 2003 (the Harvest Fields Board) considered selling the property. We put it on the market, but at some point the board spent an evening in prayer and decided that God did not want us to sell the land. We received a multi-million dollar offer the next day and it cost us to say no, but we felt confident in saying no, because of that sense of God’s leading. Without that prayer-time the property would have been sold.
  • In April of 2005 we started a capital campaign for new facilities. While our campaign consultant encouraged us to aim for a goal of 1 million. We believed God for more and pledges to the campaign exceeded all expectations at 2.7 million.
  • On May 15, 2005 a vote was taken to approve Harvest Fields as the site of a new facility passed with 99% of the vote and a year later Calvary purchased the property with a 100% vote to purchase.
  • From 2006 to 2010, as difficulties with access, sewer and the design of the building arose, we called people to pray at many different points. In March, 2009, we gathered leaders to a time of fasting, prayer, and seeking God for future of Harvest Fields. It was a significant time of meeting with God, and again we came away with a renewed commitment to developing “Harvest Fields” for the community.

If you add up all those reasons…it still doesn’t take away our need for faith. But then again that’s what we are seeking… opportunities to grow in faith and generosity.

There is One Response to : 1×1 Initiative #3–Yes a Church Without Walls Can Build Buildings!

  1. Ginny Smith Wrote:

    Yes, Calvary, it’s time!

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One By One Initiative #2

Apr 25th 2014

Few trips have shaped my heart like the trips I’ve taken to Myanmar.  If you’ve been there you know what I mean. From children like Abraham and Glory, to passionate students like Timothy and Ti Ti, to dedicated leaders like Joseph, David, Bawi, Moses and their families, it’s really all about the people. Of course the culture is intriguing, and when I go I can’t stop filling my eyes with the sights, but what shapes my heart is the people.

The One by One Initiative will give us an opportunity to expand our reach in Myanmar…which will give the people of Myanmar an opportunity to have their hearts shaped by Christ. Lois Himmelberger, who has been shaped by the people of Myanmar, put together the picture-story below. As you read the pictures, pray for our One By One Initiative and the people of Myanmar.

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The Day Before the New Day

Apr 19th 2014

We think of Resurrection Sunday, as a story of triumph and celebration, but for just a moment put yourself in the sandals of those who do not know. Put yourself in their day before the new day lives. Judas has committed treachery and suicide all in one weekend. Tough-talking Peter has denied Jesus out of fear for his life.  Only John and a handful of women had enough courage or loyalty…to end up at the cross in the moment of Jesus’ greatest need. Put yourself in the bed of those who wake up on Saturday morning before the first Resurrection Sunday.

Little do they know there’s a new day coming.

What is life like, the day before the new day? How do you feel?  Can you relate?

You’ve begun to wonder…who are we? Who am I? I’m a failure. I’m a betrayer of friends. I’m a nobody. I’m unworthy. I’m unwanted. I’m the dreamer of lost dreams, the giver of no hope, the person with no future. But what they didn’t know, couldn’t know was that Jesus was doing something that would forever change the answer to the question, “who am I?” At the darkest moment of Saturday night, they were just a few hours away from a new day. And when that new day dawned something happened, something changed.

When the something that happened, happens to them, it will change them forever. Cowardly Peter will no longer hiding in his room, he will be preaching to 1000′s of Jews in Jerusalem. He will be performing miracles! John will no longer quiet, he will be standing up to the Jewish High Council. They will be rejoicing when they get beat; singing when they get thrown into prison; forgiving people as they get stoned to death. It will be an amazing change radical change.

It will be a change that comes not merely through the inspiration of a good story, or the renewing of an old purpose, or the giving of a new dream. It will be a fundamental change of identity, a redemption of the heart, like being reborn. It will be a change of such magnitude that although every other circumstance stays the same, it will still be a new day. But this is Saturday. The day before the new day.

For them. For us. Today is the day after the new day. And still today God offers us a new day. In 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, Paul writes,

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Let me ask you could today be the new day for you? And if you have already embraced a new day…are you living like someone who has been given a new day?

There is One Response to : The Day Before the New Day

  1. Mike Berrena Wrote:

    Through the eyes of His Mother Mary, oh the heart break, the pain, but she knew it had to be
    Dan, good stuff. I struggle this day.

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That Great Black Friday

Apr 18th 2014

The Apostle Paul once wrote these words,

When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I Corinthians 2:1-2 (NLT) 

Some might say Christianity is too obsessed with Christ crucified.  Too focused on his death. Why can’t you focus on Jesus teaching and his good deeds? Why so much focus on his death?  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John saw the death of Jesus as a central theme of Jesus’ life and they focused nearly a third of their gospels on his last week. How many biographies have you read that focus so much on their subject’s death? Paul (the guy who wrote the majority of the NT outside of the gospels was no different. In his letter to the church in the city of Corinth, he wrote, “the Jews ask for a sign, the Greeks seek wisdom, but all I’m going to do is talk about Christ crucified…”

Ponder this for a moment. Take your heart back to Christ crucified. Betrayed by friends. Marked physically in a way that caused people to turn their heads away. Marked by nailprints and a cross. Marked for life…marked for death. Thousands of years before it happened, the prophet Isaiah was given a glimpse of Christ crucified. He wrote in Isaiah 53:

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned out backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we did not care.  Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace…whipped and we were healed!

We have sanitized the cross made it into a geometric shape that holds diamonds and hangs around our necks.  We’re surrounded by crosses,  silver and sanitized, but to really understand this great black Friday we celebrate, we must regain our vision of the cross as it was before sanitation.

The cross was a way to kill people. Crucifixion probably began with the Persians but was perfected by the Romans as a form of torture, designed to produce a slow death with maximal pain and suffering. It was one of the most humiliating and cruel forms of execution.  The word excruciating comes from the Latin word for crucifixion. C.S. Lewis points out that the crucifixion did not become common in art until all who’d seen a real one had died off.

From the outside it’s difficult to understand our movement’s initial embrace of the cross. Here is this struggling movement, persecuted, scattered, poor, doing anything they can to spread the good news of life, the good news of a Kingdom of God here and now. They are doing everything they can to invite people into community with them and the logo they choose to be recognized by is a symbol universally understood to represent pain, rejection, death, failure, and humiliation.

Who thought that was a good idea? Apparently Paul did. In Galatians 6:14, he wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” In essence what Paul was saying is, “We Celebrate Christ Crucified.” Part of me cringes when I put those three words together.

Celebrate — Christ — Crucified.

It is a mysterious wonder that they could be put together and still have meaning. Jesus in the garden…sweating drops of blood…groaning…scourging…beaten…black-eye, split lip…ridicule, scorn…A crown of thorns pushed down upon his head…(blood), spit is expelled upon his face. Listen as the crowd chooses the murderous Barabbas instead of Jesus.

Celebrate — Christ — Crucified

His own cross falls upon his own shoulders to carry through town (with help from a man named Simon). They come to the garbage dump called Golgotha….shoved to the ground…arms stretched across the beams…a soldier presses his knee against his forearm, and a nail against his wrist. Lifted up for all the world to see. Then the sin comes. It descends upon him like a black cloud; all the physical suffering in the world could not compare to the inner pain, the disgust, despair, the experience that comes as the sins of the world, past, present, and future settle upon his soul.

Celebrate — Christ — Crucified.

I want to make something clear. If you take Christ out of the equation, there would be no celebration. No one with an actual heart would ever… Celebrate Crucifixion. We celebrate Christ crucified.  Why? Because in the cross of Christ we find our ransom from sin (I Peter 1:18-19. In the cross of Christ we find our way back to God (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). In the cross we find the power of God (I Corinthians 1:17-18). In the cross of Christ we find the love of God (John 3:16).

The cross did not tame Jesus; it did not defeat Jesus. It elevated Jesus and let loose in the world the power of life. Something happened when Jesus died on the cross. Something deep down in the foundations of reality shifted. It isn’t just a story that shows the soft side of God. This is cosmic redemption — grace started working it’s way
backwards and forwards through time. Power was let loose and love was poured out and life was redeemed on that great black Friday.

We celebrate Christ crucified… and risen… but that comes later!

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The One By One Initiative

Apr 12th 2014

Over the course of the last decade or so, I’ve heard more than one church researcher (like Aubrey Malphurs) make these two statements, 

  1. All church congregations die.
  2. The most productive years of  a congregation’s life are the first 15 years.

There is ample evidence for both statements. Every year 4000+ congregations die. They close their doors and the building gets sold for unique condo’s or an antique store. This is not necessarily a tragedy. Though how churches die is sometimes a tragedy, the end of a congregation’s life, doesn’t mean that the church that Jesus is building is somehow less vibrant or healthy. If the church is more organism than organization then death is natural part of the cycle.

Yes church congregations have a natural life-cycle. You could say that like people a church goes from birth, to growth, to maintenance to retirement to death. But unlike people a church congregation can have a reboot. If it occurs, it usually occurs somewhere in the growth phase (during the first 15 years).  In some traditions, it might be called a revival. In other traditions, a relaunch. Sometimes it simply comes with a revisioning of the mission and the goals of a congregation.

That’s where we find ourselves at Calvary. In 1995 we started a revisioning process at Calvary. We called it “Vision 2000″ and we were asking the question, “Who are we to be as we head into a new millennium. In 1998 we started to get a new mission statement and new goals into place and a new season of growth was upon us. From 1998-2001 we grew by almost 250%. It was in 2002 that God further refined our vision with the calling to build a church without walls and from 2002 to 2013 we again grew by almost 100%. From 1998 to 2013 we went from 300 people in one worship gathering, in one place to close to 1300 in eight worship gatherings in four places.  

From 1998 to 2013…that’s about 15 years…which means we either consolidate what we’ve done and get ready for retirement…or we start another life-cycle. We don’t believe that God is done with us yet. We believe that He has given us a unique opportunity to be part of a unique mission in a unique place. Our One By One Initiative is our first steps into that new cycle. You could imagine an extreme home makeover that gives a family new hope. Or perhaps imagine a company going through a strategic relaunch. But perhaps the best metaphor is that of labor. Something new has been conceived in our midst and we are in the first stages of labor and delivery.

Over the course of  the next few weeks, I’m going to do a series of blog posts talking about this new vision. I realize that not everyone who stops by this blog, is a part of Calvary, but you are welcome to follow along and pray for a good birth. Let me close this one by giving you the opportunity to watch a video that gives a glimpse into Calvary’s next chapter.

 

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From Faith to Faithfulness

Apr 05th 2014

In the spring of 1975, I finally received that little piece of paper all teens crave, my learner’s permit. (Yes they grow drivers young in South Dakota.) With a learner’s permit I wasn’t permitted to drive alone after dark. One evening, there was a talent show at school and I wanted to go, but my folks didn’t want to drive me. So they let me drive with clear instructions to come home immediately after the event. No driving uptown. Now uptown in my town was nothing more than three blocks. But there was a pool hall/bar on the last block, to which all my friends were going. So I went. On my way home I rolled through the lone stop sign and was pulled over by a police officer who upon viewing my license decided to escort me out back home…with lights flashing.

He walked me to the door and asked to talk with my father. I don’t remember their conversation, all I remember is my father looking at me and saying the words, “I guess we just can’t trust you any more can we Dan?”

I’m not sure how those words would play in your mind, but my father’s trust was of great value to me at the time. So those words brought a certain sense of devastated sleeplessness. What a terrible thing it is for a son to hear His father say, “I guess I can’t trust you.”

How do we paint the picture of someone who lives their one and only life in an uncommon way? What leads to greatness in God’s Kingdom? What is it that will lead to living an heroic life? In our society, in the Christian conversation, there is far more dialogue about faith than there is about faithfulness. Over and over again the question is asked, “Can God be trusted?” Over and over again we have encouraged and even sometimes pleaded with people to trust in God. We have written books to persuade people that God can be trusted.

Did you ever wonder if God might occasionally get tired of having his trustworthiness doubted?

Did you ever wonder if he has the same question for us?  Sometimes people are asked, “If you had just one question, and could ask God anything, what would you ask? What if God could ask us one question? I wonder if He might ask, “Can I trust you?”  

Last weekend at Calvary we gave away $25,000! That would be close to an average weekend offering for us. So rather than taking an offering, we gave an offering. One of thoughts that you might have had if you were with us… “Wow that’s kind of risky. You don’t have much control over how that money is used once it walks out the door.” But isn’t that what God does every day?

Every day He gives us resources to use as we choose; 1440 minutes to use as we choose; opportunities to use as we choose; talents to use as we choose; money to use as we choose. It’s kind of risky. Every day we can choose to live our lives with open hands and open hearts — that’s called generosity — or we can choose to live with closed fists.  That’s called something else.

Last weekend, I shared Jesus parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14-30) and then near the end of the message (listen here) we gave everyone an envelope which contained $10, $20, or $50. Very simple instructions were given with the money.

  • Use it to bless someone outside of yourself or your family.
  • Don’t give it back to Calvary.
  • Give it (use it) by May 5.
  • Share Your Story with us.

Already the stories are being written. One family pooled their money and went and bought the ingredients to make their neighbors (a bunch of college students) a meal. One family pooled their resources and gave it to a woman who works with the homeless in our community, so that she could take them out to dinner at the Olive Garden. One of my favorites, a woman who had a bit of an altercation at a McDonald’s drive-thru paid for the meal of the man who was angry with her (because she beat him to the window :) Now that’s what you call a happy meal!

Two thoughts coming from this assignment.

1. Even if  you weren’t with us that weekend, you can still join us. Just take a $10, $20 or $50 from your wallet. Bless the money with a prayer saying, “God this is your money, please give me an opportunity to bless someone.” And then do it!

2. It is not drudgery to be generous. It is a joy that God has blessed us to be a blessing. That’s really the point of Jesus’ story.

 

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I Love The Church

Mar 13th 2014

I do. I love the church. Make no mistake I’m not a go-to-church fanatic. When I”m on vacation I don’t search the yellow pages for the closest evangelical church, I sleep in. I’ve even been known to look for reasons to cancel church in favor of things like serving the community or just visiting another church in town. But I do love the church.  

Lately it seems like I keep running into people who have “graduated from church” or found a new way of doing church, or have a particular ax to grind against a particular church that they think they know or don’t even care to know. I’ll be honest my emotions in these encounters have run the gamut from annoyance to anger. Again, make no mistake, I’m not a blind-to-her-faults pastor any more than I am a go-to-church fanatic. I see the places where the church is messy, and messed up. I’m painfully aware of missed opportunities and missed people.  Some of us are more concerned about the style of music being played than we are about the neighbors we are called to love and sometimes we fight the wrong fights. I know that there are times when I love my job more than I love Jesus and times I love comfort over sacrifice. I know that for some of you the church has brought hurt rather than healing. Should I go on?

But I love the church.

I’ve experienced many of her varieties. Independent Fundamental Baptist. Denominational. Charismatic. Mainline. But I’ve spent the last (almost) 20 years as part of a church that is a combination of many of those varieties. Our pastoral staff includes pastors who have served or grew up in Presbyterian, Charismatic, Christian Missionary Alliance, Catholic, Nazarene, and Christian Church congregations. We have people on staff who grew up in Christian homes and people who more recently became Christ-followers and frankly that diversity mirrors the people who call Calvary their church family…and there is not a single one of us who hasn’t messed up…and I love the church in all her messy glory.

So what am I saying? Is it wrong to critique the church, or a congregation? No. The apostle Paul’s letters contained critiques for the church of Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi and others; critiques about what they believed, how they loved, and how they did church. Critique is okay. Just take care. Remember that the church isn’t just an organization built by men, it’s a bride loved by Christ. Remember that before it was ever your church, it was his bride. I try to imagine how I would feel if someone put all their thoughts about Lynn’s (my bride) shortcomings on Facebook. Yes I have to imagine hard because the shortcomings are few and far between… :) but I don’t imagine I would be wearing a smile or giving you a sympathetic nod. If you went on too long, my heart might even get fierce.

If we feel compelled to critique, perhaps we might first ask Jesus to help us love his bride the way he loves his bride. We might ask him to help us see her, as he sees her…and then with humility we might start with ways that we (as part of his church) might better his bride. (And to use another metaphor with which you might be familiar, “if you are a hand start by bettering the hand.”)

I love Calvary, that’s the part of his bride with which Christ has connected me. I scroll through Facebook and run across someone who found Jesus at Calvary on Campus. Then I’ll remember a cowboy who wanted to be baptized with his boots on. Then I’ll read an email from a lady who found freedom from an addiction because of the way that people served him and God ministered to her at Calvary. Then I’ll shake my head at the way some of you have invested yourselves –all-in–all the time. As I walk down the hall where my kids sat in a kid’s class on Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening youth group event, my heart is glad because my kids still like church. And as I think about my kids I’m reminded of mission trips we’ve taken as a family…our growing partnership in Myanmar. Later I sit in on a community non-profit meeting where the people can’t stop saying thank you for the way Calvary serves the community; and by the way, the meeting is being held in a room where people have poured out their tears and their hearts in worship and prayer.

In spite of the mess, lost people have found Jesus, lonely people have found a friend, people stricken by poverty have found living proof of a loving God, marriages have been redeemed, sinful people have found grace, people have been served and Jesus has been lifted up.

And Calvary isn’t alone in that journey. This happens in church after church…it is simply amazing what Jesus can do in the midst of our mess.

Remember that, the next time you are disappointed in his bride.

There are 3 Responses to : I Love The Church

  1. howie shultz Wrote:

    really like this…thanks Dan

  2. Shawnee Wagner Wrote:

    Thank you for this. I feel that I’ve finally found a “home” at Calvary-Warriors Mark…something that has eluded me for a long time. I grew up going to a Christian & Missionary Alliance church and that is where I went to the altar the first time (at age 12) to be saved. I’ve made many mistakes throughout my life, the biggest of which was allowing my marriage of 20+ years to dictate my views on church and I didn’t take my girls when I should have when they were younger and when the foundation is built. Thank goodness my youngest is an active member in the Youth at Calvary-WM…I hope that my oldest will find her place there as well.

    As I was going through a divorce about 4 1/2 years ago, I found strength in my “family” and in my friends and through the Warriors Mark United Methodist Church for a time…but it wasn’t until I remarried and Clark and I decided to take Pat & Lisa up on their numerous invites to attend Calvary-Warriors Mark that I found a church family. I felt an immediate connection to Bruce Eveleth and the people within the small congregation at Calvary-WM and that has grown even more strong with Denny and Gloria leading us. I’m so thankful for my church family, and my new family of friends that I know I can count on from there. Through marriage classes, financial peace, and many LifeGroup sessions, my feeling of being home has only grown stronger.

    Thank you, too, and your family for staying with Calvary…that gave me a little “uneasy” feeling when you talked of leaving. So glad you were called to stay. Thank you for the inspirational words above.

  3. dan Wrote:

    Thanks Shawnee, you and Clark are such great parts of our Calvary family…thank you for sharing some of your story!

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