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An Unforgettable Year

The Verdict / John Munro
The Truth Network Radio
January 7, 2021 9:11 am

An Unforgettable Year

The Verdict / John Munro

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January 7, 2021 9:11 am

Pastors Rob Reece, Nathaniel Pearce, Tim Hathaway, and John H. Munro December 27, 2020

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Greg Laurie
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J.D. Greear

Good morning. It's good to see you in the house of the Lord. The saints gathered to worship our great God. Dr. Monroe asked me to speak a little bit about this unforgettable year in the life of Calvary Church, the body life at Calvary.

And as he said earlier, he goes really without saying that 2020 has been a very challenging year, a year that we couldn't have imagined. Four years ago, we began this community life ministry with the idea of making sure that every person that comes on this campus is connected, that the front door is open but the back door, so to speak, is closed. We wanted to be very intentional about making sure that every person who comes on this campus has a place to learn and grow in their faith, a place to fellowship, a place to become a part of this local body of believers at Calvary Church. And many of you play a huge role in this ministry, the ushers and greeters in particular.

I think of Malcolm Weeks and Jeff McNeice and so many of you who served faithfully this year, including the Christmas Eve services. And so all of this leads us to help connect people in this local body. Now, prior to the pandemic, if you've been around Calvary Church long enough, you know that seven days a week, this place is teeming with life.

Seven days a week, there's always something going on. People come on this campus for worship. They come for Wednesday night electives.

They come to drop their kids off at the CDC or for champ sports. And the key places that we wanted to connect our people were the ALGs and the membership class. These are the places where people learn and grow and fellowship together.

And so these these are the key places that we wanted to connect people. Now, in fact, before the pandemic, the ALG attendance was record high. We had almost 1400 people each Sunday going to an ALG. In fact, we were almost out of class space, if you can imagine that in this building. All of our ministries practically were growing. More and more people were taking the membership class. The Wednesday electives were high. There was a waiting list on the for Awana. There was a waiting list to champ and for CDC. By all accounts, Calvary Church was thriving and growing.

And then March came and you know what happened. And all of a sudden, this place that was booming with activity seven days a week was completely quiet. No programs, no ministries.

Dr. Monroe was preaching to an empty sanctuary. So how do you connect people when they're not here? And that was the question. Well, we still have this mission, don't we, to be and to make authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

That mission does not stop because of a virus. And so while our programs and our ministries are very important, these programs and ministries ultimately connect people to a person. And that person is Jesus Christ himself. And so the first thing we did as leaders in this church was lift up our prayers and supplication to our leader, the head of the church, Jesus Christ. And we prayed and we prayed and we prayed more. And then we made a decision to reach out to our membership.

There's over 3000 people in the membership roster at Calvary Church. And so between the pastors, the elders and the deacons, we all divided up this list. We all reached out to you to make sure that you're doing OK. And hopefully every single one of you at least received at least a couple of calls. And so we wanted to reach out to you and make sure you're OK and offer you prayer and encouragement. And in fact, I found personally, and I'm sure my other pastors and elders and leaders can attest to this as well, that you offered us much encouragement.

We were blessed to hear that through this trial, you were experiencing joy, that you trusted the Lord and his sovereignty and his goodness. But, you know, others in our Calvary family got pushed further into that refiner's fire. We said goodbye to dear friends. We said goodbye to brothers and sisters.

We think of Samuel Cale and Phil Devine and Doug Aldridge and others. And many of you through all of this have shown your love and support to these families. And you continue to do so. You continue to bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

And that's why we're here, right? For each other. And brothers and sisters, I will tell you, the hospital report is long and the prayer report is long.

I don't think I've ever seen it this long. And we can't go out and visit them because of hospital restrictions. But we call. We offer a word of encouragement. We pray with them. We let our brothers and sisters know that we love them, that we're here for them. And one other thing we did is we've started to open up many of our other ministries.

CHAMP Sports, the student ministry, the children's ministry. We wanted to make sure you knew that we're here. And we want you to be connected, still learning, still growing, still a part of this church family.

But we also looked outside these walls to a world that's seemingly disintegrating right before our eyes. We had to show this world, who is watching us, by the way, that we do care. That we're the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. And not only do we care, but we have the answer, and the answer is Christ himself. And so this is what we did as a church family.

This is some of the things. Many of you contributed to the medical bags that we distributed to the medical workers in the community. Hundreds of nurses and doctors and others in the medical community received these gift bags, which also contained gospel tracts. We hosted blood drives.

The food pantry provided for 240 families and over 200 children, including families or children in four Title I schools. The street ministry continued to serve the homeless on Saturdays. The prison ministry served meals to over 700 inmates, and many of those inmates have reached out to us and want spiritual guidance already. The Be A Light ministry has been praying for about 300 households, and discipling has already taken place through these ministries.

And the good news clubs, which began in the schools, still took place online. And all of this was this body coming together for the cause of Jesus Christ. This is what we're called to do, to share the love of Christ and proclaim his gospel. Now, as I mentioned, Calvary's ministries were growing rapidly, I would say, steadily. Almost across the board our numbers were growing.

And they do give us a good indication of how the church is doing, but they don't tell us how the heart is doing. And that is very true. And it's true that this year every single one of us, both individually and corporately, have been put into that refiner's fire. And none of this that's going on is random.

Not one bit of it. God is sovereign. Every single thing has a purpose. And you can be sure of this, that this is a test of our faith, a test of our endurance, a test of our trust of the Lord, a test of our love of the Lord and our love of each other. And every single one of us has been put into this vice grip, so to speak. And some have radiated the light of Christ. And we've seen that. And for others, some, there's been anger and resentment and bitterness and fear.

And some have fallen away. Now Jesus told us that He's going to build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. A politician can't stop the building of His church. A virus can't stop the building of His church. And in fact, in times of intense trials and persecutions, the church actually thrives.

It radiates the light of Jesus Christ. The only thing that would hinder the growth of the church is if you and I are not being and making disciples of Jesus Christ. If we take our eyes off of Christ, set your mind on the things that are above, Paul says. And as we do this, as we stay focused under the headship of Christ, we have to remember, we have to put in place all those one anothers that Scripture tells us about.

And I want to read one of them to you. This is Hebrews 10, verse 25. Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near. And I'll remind you that the log that rolls away from the fire will smolder out. It is very important as we see that day drawing near that we come together as the Lord's people.

This is time to draw near the Lord and near to each other. Now, I don't negate the seriousness of COVID. My wife is a nurse. She works in infection prevention.

I know it's serious, but I'm even more serious about this, that that day is a day closer than it was yesterday. In my ALG, I have a young lady in her 20s who this year, we talk about a hard year, was diagnosed with stage four cancer. And as much as she can, as much as the doctors will allow her, she comes to my ALG on Sundays.

We meet in the banquet room, and as long as these doors are open, and as long as the Lord allows, I'm going to be there for her and for you and for everybody else who's my brother and sister in Christ. And I know Dr. Monroe and all the other pastors say the same thing. I'm not going to let anything stop me, not a mask.

If I have to do Zoom, I'll do Zoom. I will not forsake the gathering together of the saints. And it's not because I'm a pastor. It's because I'm a part of a greater priesthood, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own possession, and we're called to care for one another and bear one another's burdens. And Christ prayed Himself that we might be one so that the world will know we belong to Him. So I want to invite you, if you're able, if you're not at health risk, to come on, come on back to fellowship with your brothers and sisters.

If you're not able, take advantage of the Zoom. We're here, and we need to draw close. How precious it is when brothers dwell in unity. It's my privilege to serve here at Calvary Church. It's the joy of my life. And if I can do anything to help you do, let me know. Thank you.

Thank you very much. You know, we remain committed at Calvary Church to the ministry and the mission given to us by God. And even though COVID has certainly made some changes, yes, it's definitely an unforgettable year.

It's an unforgettable year for discipleship as well. So what have we been doing, and how have we met some of the challenges and the demands of this new era in which we are? You know, back in March when the lockdown came and we all had to stay home, we began to pray as to how we can continue to minister to God's people, how we can continue to disciple the people of God.

And we were very much concerned about this for a number of reasons. First of all, the commission to the church was given to us before COVID ever came into place. Before COVID visited us, we had the Great Commission. Therefore, the question we could ask is, with COVID, how did God change the mission to the church? And the natural answer is that the mission did not change. The mission to make disciples of all nations remain the same even with COVID-19.

Have you ever noticed how the birds never stopped looking for worms in the mornings? They didn't stop. Have you ever noticed the trees continued to grow, the weeds in your yard and your garden, they continued to grow. So we also had to continue to disciple. Also, our mission here at Calvary Church to be and make authentic followers of Jesus Christ remained the same because the Word of God had not changed, the Great Commission to the church had not changed, our commitment to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ had not changed and will not change. So I'm thankful for the opportunity of being a part of Calvary Church.

So then we began to pray, Lord, how then can we minister to our people? So we discovered Zoom. Much like many of you, I didn't know about Zoom. Of course, my kids say, well, you didn't know Zoom, Dad. No, I didn't, but I'm glad to learn about Zoom. So we learned about Zoom. We introduced Zoom to our people. Our ALG leaders quickly got on board and by the third week, all of our ALGs were meeting via Zoom.

So that was wonderful and we thank God for that. We continued with our personal and group discipleship. In fact, throughout this year, one-on-one discipleship relationships were born. Many were born. Group discipleship relationships were born. We continued to interview prospective teachers to teach in various areas of adult discipleship. We met over Zoom. Many were approved.

Some were still going through the process, so that continued. Our electives also went virtual, so we continued that and God has blessed that. Our men's Bible study classes met over Zoom. Our support ministry classes met virtually as well. And like Pastor Reece said, we also took to the phones and we began to call and minister to our people, encourage our people.

And I personally have had some wonderful conversations over these many months. And so God continues to work among us here at Calvary Church and we continue to thank him for his commitment to us, his love to us, and therefore our commitment remains strong to the body of Christ. But why is it that we are committed?

So we know the Great Commission hasn't changed. We're very much convinced that this commitment of God to us, it began many, many years ago and thankfully it hasn't changed. In fact, I think this began, we have a commitment because first of all, he was committed to us and remains committed to us. We see that as early as back in the Garden of Eden after sin entered our sphere, darkness descended upon mankind when Adam took the fruit. You note in Genesis 3 verse 7, when Adam took the fruit and we're told both their eyes were open and then what did they do?

They went and hid themselves. So we were troubled by darkness and God made us this promise in chapter 3 verse 15 that the seed of the woman shall bruise the seed of the serpent, the head of the seed of the serpent. So we know that commitment began there. I believe it runs as low even as that animal trough into which our Savior was placed shortly after birth and even still beyond that, as vertical as the cross on which our Savior died, that commitment of God to us remained the same.

It never changed as he himself is immutable, he's unchanging and unchangeable. His commitment also could be seen as deep as the borrowed tomb into which our Savior was laid after he died. But also that commitment remains as victorious as the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

So we have the commitment from our God and so we also would remain committed. So COVID or no COVID, Calvary Church remained open even throughout the COVID period. We know some churches closed, we know we had to do things differently, but I'm thankful for the fact that we remain open.

So yes, it's this unforgettable year, but Calvary remains committed to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ and we're thankful again to you, our pastors, our elders, our deacons, every single member of Calvary Church for your prayers, for your encouragement, and for coming alongside us to serve as well. So the Gospel is very important. Discipleship is very important. We know that darkness came into our world. Turn with me to Isaiah 9 and verse 2. We read there that the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light, a great light. Those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. They walk in darkness because they live in darkness and so the light of Jesus Christ came into our world to provide the light for us that we could not otherwise have outside of him.

So we remain committed to the call to make disciples. But also because the Son called his followers to live in light. John 8 and verse 12 tells us that Jesus spoke to them saying, I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but we will have the light of light. So we're no longer walking in darkness.

We were born in this darkness of sin. We're no longer walking in darkness in Christ. And so then also we are told in Matthew 5 and verses 14 through 16 that we are of course, verse 14, the light of the world, a city hid on a hill, so we therefore must shine our lights for Christ. And so we've been doing so in our various ministries at Calvary Church, taking a different platform, a different format if you may, but we've continued to doing so. And of course our great commission calls us to make disciples of all the nations.

And so again, through Calvary Church we've been able to reach many people, some who have left Calvary Church and they've been able to join us again, some who have learned of Calvary Church throughout this period of time, joined us on live stream for worship, some of our discipleship classes, some of our Bible study classes, we have people joining us from all over the world. But we also have this exemplary leadership through men who have gone ahead of us, disciples, the apostles, they themselves who made disciples. And we have Paul who reminds us in 2 Timothy 2, 2. We see there four generations of disciples and disciple makers. Paul, who was discipled, he discipled Timothy. Then he called Timothy to go and to disciple others, faithful men, who in turn would disciple other faithful men. So you see why our mission cannot change. Why we remain on this path because of the word of God given to us and the call given to us. So thank you again for those of you who have continued to serve alongside us, who have encouraged us along the way.

But then I'll part with this challenge to us. How have you served? How have you been involved in the sharing of the gospel with a neighbor, a friend, a family member, and also the discipleship of someone? How have you been growing in your walk and your relationship with Christ throughout this difficult era? 2021 is just a few days away. My challenge to myself and to you is that we will grow and continue to grow and help others to grow as well in Christ.

Thank you. If you would, please turn your Bibles to Revelation chapter 7. Revelation chapter 7, that song that we just sang, Yet Not I, that was introduced, new to us here in 2020, one of the blessings of this year and every year, adding new music that means so much to us, a great song for a life of discipleship and also a life of worship essential to each one of us. Before I make a couple of comments about 2020, I wanted to look at the things that are constant in worship, and this is a great passage that represents so many important things.

So let me read this for you. Revelation chapter 7, beginning in verse 9, After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.

Amen. The book of Revelation, we have several of these places where we can peel back the window and look into the perfect worship of the future. And as we're told in the Word, His will on earth be done as it is in heaven. It gives us a taste or a picture of our future and also of our worship on earth.

There's a couple of principles from here that are constants for us. First of all, notice that our worship is to be God-centered. Here standing before the throne and before the Lamb. The Lamb of God is the center of our worship. It's to be focused on God. Our worship is to be filled with content about God. It's to be given to God.

It's for the Lord to be pleased and offered up to Him. Notice here as well that a multitude from every nation and from all tribes and peoples. Another privilege in our worship that people from so many generations and from so many backgrounds can all come together and unite in worship. It's a constant for us and we've seen it even this year here at Calvary and I'm so grateful.

I took just a couple of minutes yesterday to look at the rosters even from our Christmas Eve service for those who served in music and we had about I think between 85 and 90 people between the three services serving on the platform here and I was just looking at the breakdown from that and we had like 14 high school students and 12 college students and right on through every decade equally represented and people, internationals, I think over 20 internationals and just representative of any given Sunday at Calvary Church and what a privilege we have and especially during the year when there has been so much division and hurt and brokenness in our country and in our world we celebrate that we can worship as one body. Also notice the message in worship, the focus is the gospel. Salvation belongs to our God. And in verse 12 all these great attributes of God, the content in our worship.

Notice that they're around the throne and they fell on their faces and they worshiped wholeheartedly. Our worship is to be wholehearted and here as well at the end of verse 12, forever and ever worship is to be eternal. So we have these constants whether it's 2019 or 2020 or the future and I pray that we've been faithful. I believe that we have been here at Calvary and I appreciate your focus in that regard and may we continue to be God-centered in our worship.

Some of the uniquenesses of 2020 though, I just wanted to share a couple of the challenges and maybe a couple of the specific joys and trials. You know back in, we found ourselves saying things that we never thought we would say. Back in March right when the pandemic began, I think it was the first Sunday when we only live streamed the service and at that point we were allowed to have a hundred people in the sanctuary and we were trying to be very specific with that and I think we had pastors and their families and we had a student choir and we had music team, tech team and we had a kind of a guest list and the students were here rehearsing and the service was yet to begin and we got up into the 90s and so Jordan Shaw, our chief of staff said, hey, the kids, if you have parents coming to the service, call them and tell them don't come, go to Starbucks instead. And so something we thought we would never say, don't come to church, go to Starbucks instead.

But just one of many things where everything was just upside down. Some of the challenges that we've had in worship, I think to state the obvious, worship is so greatly enjoyed as the body of Christ and being together and we didn't have that privilege for so many months. And even now as we come together we have these masks which are necessary and these masks fog up our glasses and we can't read the lyrics and so it's not as fulfilling as it was in seasons past but we look forward to the season ahead and I think that's a reminder to us as well that our imperfect worship here on earth, even if we give our hearts to it as best we can and we might be looking through foggy glasses but we know that one day we will see clearly perfectly for all of eternity when we see Him face to face. We had the challenge as well of the number of musicians when we began way back in March and April, we were only allowed to have four people serving and that number has grown but of course a challenge and I thank my teammates for working through that and many others. We've all had many challenges this season. Some of the, of course, Rob mentioned the trials that we've had, we've had loss within the worship ministry within our church, the passing away of some of our brothers and sisters, some have moved away, we missed them, we didn't get to say a proper goodbye.

But maybe some of the joys that we've had in this season as well. I've enjoyed, like Nathaniel was saying, didn't know much about Zoom in January, feel like I know more about it now and I've enjoyed the collaboration that we have with our staff and our worship ministry, not only the fellowship that we've been able to experience through that but also the collaboration as we work together, staff, volunteers, everyone that's been very helpful. I'm thankful for all the students in the great job that we do. We think of those who are educators and students of every age, we know this has been an incredibly, still is, challenging season, has brought many of our college students home to study from home and I'm thankful for so many of them who serve faithfully in our worship here and it's just representative of what we have going on here at Calvary, what a blessing with the next generation. Just like any Sunday, you know, we have Brooke here from high school playing keyboard, Sua, who's a college student who is home playing cello like she does so many times for us. Ben Smith here, just finishing up at Cedarville, who's going to be coming on our worship staff in January. Jonathan Freeman here on bass playing today who came up through Calvary, serves as a worship leader with Pastor Khalilah Yub down in Florida, now home for a day and just representative of so many others and how God is at work in the next generation and we've seen that even expanded during this difficult time.

I think of the many other joys. I think one stands out to me though from this entire period and that's the people that I work with in the worship ministry and we know that's a church-wide thing here, but just all of the work that has gone into the logistical and planning component of every element. You saw many of the things on the screen and in the video that we've done, the virtual choirs, the virtual orchestra, the organ concerts, the music camps, all of these events which obviously take planning, but in this particular season take not only planning but also trying to be as safe as possible with all the protocols which are necessary and I'm just so grateful for the people that I serve with and their wholehearted service.

You've seen over the past couple of months we've been able to add certain sections of the choir and of the orchestra into our worship and Ron Elmore who works with our instrumental music, we were polling the orchestra members to see how many were able to come back in November and Ron said that one of our orchestra members said, I would crawl through broken glass to play again. And I thought that is the attitude of the people that I serve with, just the greatest people and I thank you here at Calvary for your desire to worship and for your hard work and I thank our worship staff, our full-time staff, Brian Harrison, Chelsea Hathaway, Christy Driscoll, several part-time and all of our volunteers for all of the planning and the work and the prayer that has gone into this entire season. Takeaways as we look ahead, I think make sure that we keep God at the center of our worship. Another element, we've used technology this year with Zoom and becoming with our services being virtual which is a great privilege but at the same time we have to be careful that we don't take a consumer mindset with that which can lead to just being critical like we're watching The Voice on TV or whatever element where we just become critics but giving all that we can to be engaged in worship. To assemble when we can, Pastor Rob already challenged us in that regard.

We know that many cannot be here for health reasons or distance reasons. We completely understand that but for those who can be in this room, there's no substitute for the assembly of the body of Christ. A favorite psalm of mine is Psalm 73 and it's where the psalmist, he's looking at the wicked and wondering why do the wicked prosper?

Have I wasted my life so to speak? Then he goes into the temple and it says his perspective is restored and he goes on to say God is a strength in my heart and my portion forever. It's a great illustration of having our perspective restored and how often I've had that experience especially this year when we're discouraged, we get our off focus, feel weak, we come in, we're strengthened, we're preaching to Pastor Monroe the experience of worship and it's reminded me of just the importance and the value of that. Thank you all for your partnership in worship. I'm excited about the season ahead and I just had one verse here to read as I close. Romans 15 5, may the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we do that in 2021 and beyond.

Thank you. Well, I think our three pastors have done it well in giving us in a sense a review of 2020, the challenges, the joys and of our continuing commitment. If you have your Bible, turn to 2 Timothy chapter 2 and I want us to read two verses, verses 8 and 9. Right at the beginning of COVID as we began to realize the seriousness of it although none of us knew it was going to last so long, these two verses were impressed by the Spirit of God on my heart.

I remember very early on Greg Ambrick who had just joined us as our media director and he and his team have done an outstanding job particularly through the COVID and ongoing. He asked if he would do a little video of me of my study just to give some encouragement to people at the beginning of COVID and I refer to these two verses and they have been an anchor to me and I trust to you through COVID. We thought it was just going to last for a couple of months and life would be back to normal and people have reacted in all kinds of ways to COVID even in our congregation. We have people who think that the idea of COVID as some kind of communist conspiracy doesn't really exist to others who believe that the church should be shut down and we should all stay in our homes and I believe that the Lord has led us our leadership, my fellow pastors, our elders, you the congregation, our deacons to do what is right. We have not closed the church. I felt very strongly although many churches have been closed that we should not do that that we've heard from our fellow pastors the injunction that we should meet together and not neglect the assembling of ourselves together as a matter of some.

We realize that may not always be possible but we believe strongly that COVID-19 or the government or our enemy Satan would not stop the spread of the gospel. And this is what Paul is saying here in 2 Timothy 2 verse 8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David. That is, and Tim has reminded us at the very center of our worship is the Lamb, is our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to remember him, we are to get our eyes on him. Over and over again we are to look to Jesus Christ. Communion, this too in remembrance of me. The writer of the Hebrews, looking unto Jesus the author and the perfecter of our faith.

And this is essential, particularly in difficult times. And certainly in our worship, yes there are difficulties, yes there are problems, yes there are challenges, yes we can be despondent but we are going to remember Jesus Christ that we worship a risen Savior. A Savior who is greater than COVID-19, who has conquered death. Therefore, we the people of God are not to fear. We are to remember our Lord Jesus, Paul is saying, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, he's the son of David.

He's going to come as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as prophesied in the Old Testament as he is the son of David. As preached, says Paul, in my gospel. Now elsewhere he said it isn't his gospel, it was the gospel he received from God. But he owns it, he's been saved by this magnificent gospel. He preaches this gospel. So here, he does what he normally doesn't do, he refers to it as my gospel. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David.

As preached in my gospel, central to worship, central to preaching, is our Lord Jesus Christ. For which he says, I'm suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. For the preaching of the gospel, Paul is bound.

He's put in prisons, they try to silence him, they stone him, they bring him before the judges and most of you know the story of Paul as presented in Acts. And here he is, towards the end of his life, writing his last letter. He's going to say, I've finished the course, I've run the race, I've fought the good fight in chapter 4. And so he realizes this, now he's coming to the end of his life and he's been imprisoned for the gospel. There is opposition to the gospel. The Roman Empire is against him.

They want him to say that Caesar is Lord and of course, as a follower of Jesus Christ, he can't do that. He's been saved by this gospel. He's committed to the gospel. And then he says, how wonderfully, that although he is bound with chains as a criminal, but the word of God is not bound. And that's the verse that came to our mind at the beginning of COVID.

With all that is going on, yes with suffering. Suffering in personal cases, suffering as a church, suffering for the gospel, but we must always remember the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel is not bound. The word of God is not bound.

Our theme at Calvary is for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. You cannot bind the gospel. You cannot stop the gospel. You cannot stop the building of the church of Jesus Christ because it's being built by our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

And the very gates of hell will not prevail against it. So right at the beginning of this COVID as we met, as we decided what to do, we're aware of government, we want to respect our government, we're not loose cannons, we want to be good neighbors, we want to be responsible citizens, but our first commitment is to the gospel. And so we met for a few weeks. I preached to that camera and some of you actually watched at home, didn't you?

Even from Starbucks. I could see you as I looked at the camera, you're there with that big mug of coffee and you're saying, what's Monroe saying today? We saw you. So you watched and I preached to an empty sanctuary for a few weeks. Tim was here, two or three people worship, Brian and a few of the tech team, a couple of people on the camera, a total of about 10 people in the whole building.

A very, very strange experience. But we did what we, why did we do that? You and God's grace, just a few years ago, there had been a debate here at Calvary as to whether or not we should have live streamed. And Tim and I, as we met, we began to think, yes, we should do live stream. But people say, well, that involves money.

Why would you do that? You know, if you do live stream, people are going to sit at home and not come to church. And we said, no, we don't believe that. But you can reach people through live stream. And in God's goodness, before the COVID, we were set up for live stream. We spent some money in the technology, Brian and others had led us. And the wonderful thing is then that when COVID came, we as a church were ready to live stream.

And do you realize that there are people all over the world who watch the service, who watch the worship, and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached. I think that is wonderful. It's marvelous. Just a few years ago, that would have been thought inconceivable.

Similarly with Zoom. I mean, there it is. You talk to these little, we had a prayer time with the elders and pastors this morning.

I was saying to Bob Boger in the earlier service, here we're on Zoom and we're praying, we see these little head and shoulders. Is it ideal? No, it's not ideal. We want to meet. But the technology has enabled us to do ministry with the live groups and different ways that we can keep together as the body of Christ, as Rob has said.

But nothing, nothing can be the substitute for actually meeting together, can it? A couple of times, good and now we're on vacation, we watch the service live stream. And as Tim has said, it's very easy, all you see is the screen. It's very easy to be critical, isn't it? I think, well, they can worship better and what's this person wearing and what's this person saying and so on. And it's just not the same sitting at your home watching a screen as opposed to actually being here. And let me tell you as a preacher, it is very, very different, a totally different experience preaching to that camera to an empty sanctuary and I thank God for the live stream. But it doesn't compare to preaching to people that I can see even with your masks, at least I can see if you're awake or not, preaching to people who are there.

It was totally different. And we feel, yes, you know, when we come together, Paul says, we are the temple of God. We are the house of God. God is always with us, that's true. The Holy Spirit indwells us as individual Christians, that's true.

The Scriptures clearly teach that. But the Scriptures also teach that when we come together as the people of God, God the Spirit is in our midst. We come through the doors, it's not because of this sanctuary, we appreciate this marvelous sanctuary, of course.

It's not because we've got a big platform and very gifted musicians. It's not because I'm here or any particular pastor is here. It's because we who are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, when we come in obedience to Scripture and we come together humbly to worship God and our worship is focused on the Lamb, as we've heard, and is focused on the greatness and grace of God, and this word is opened and the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, the Holy Spirit is here.

And we can sense the difference, can't we? That God is at work. The Spirit is convicting people. The Spirit is challenging people.

Yes, through live stream, through verdict radio, all of these are expanding. And so it is in the grace and the goodness of God that though the challenges of COVID have been great on us, particularly in leadership and all of us, yet through that, Calvary Church is reaching more and more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ than we've ever done in the history of this church, and praise God for that. I want to thank you as we come to the end of the year as well for your generous giving. I remember way back in March and April, as I met with my fellow leaders and elders and executive committee and so on, we thought, how are we going to survive financially?

People are just not going to give. We heard that the giving will go down, and I remember saying, let's trust God. I mean 15 years as a pastor of Calvary Church is not the perfect church. It doesn't have perfect pastors, you've met four of the imperfect pastors.

It is easy to find fault, yes, with Calvary Church, but one thing I know over the 15 years I've been at Calvary Church, God has always met our need as we've cried out to Him. And this congregation is a very, very generous congregation. And when people are presented with a need, the people of God have responded and you have responded magnificently, more than we actually believe. God once again has surprised us with His grace. So we give thanks to God for your generosity. Now as your pastor, I have to say, we haven't quite met the year-end challenge. And some of you are sitting on very big checks, I don't know what you're going to do with them.

I'll tell you what to do with them. Give generously and cheerfully to the Lord. I trust you did that today, you've got a few days to the end of the year, and we praise God for that. We had a particular challenge with our child development center, overnight it closed down and the tuition stopped coming, of course.

How could you charge parents when we weren't able to have them into the building and it's locked down? And it presented a tremendous challenge because we had about 150 employees, some of them full-time, some of them part-time, some of them single mothers, single parents, this is the only source of income. And it presented us as a church with a tremendous challenge and yet in the goodness of God, we have continued CDC, it closed down, we've reopened it, certainly there are less children, certainly we had to make some difficult decisions dealing with the state with their requirements, but in God's grace, the child development center is continuing and we believe that it will continue through the COVID, past the COVID and God's goodness will continue to grow and grow. Another great item of praise, a lot of work went into that behind the scenes and we have so many people to thank for their wisdom, for their advice, for their generosity and for their hard, hard work. God has done an amazing thing at Calvary Church. This has been an unforgettable year, been very difficult to be a pastor through COVID-19, but in God's grace, we are committed to meet, to worship God, to spread His word, not just in this building, but throughout the community. And our missions program continues and thrives and Pastor Cashwell was here, he would tell us how it has continued to thrive even through COVID-19.

We give thanks to God then for this unforgettable year and we stand, thank you, we stand committed and if you're new to Calvary, let me tell you what Calvary is about. We've heard it from our brother Nathaniel Pierce, our pastor of discipleship, that our mission is to be and make authentic followers of Jesus Christ. If you're not following Jesus Christ, we want to tell you about Jesus Christ. He's the Son of God. He's the Savior of the world.

He came to save you and to transform you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, we want to help you in your growth as a disciple, to tell others about Jesus Christ and to serve Christ and we have hundreds of opportunities for you to serve at Calvary Church. What's the basis? You might say, what's the theological basis? God anchors Calvary Church through the storms, through COVID-19.

What is it? It's said very simply in our theme verse, for the Word of God, we take the Bible seriously. I'm going to preach on this next Sunday, Lord, about God's Word.

We take this very, very seriously. This is not just a book. It is the living Word of God. We're committed to the Word of God.

That anchors us. Everything we do is to be biblical. Wasn't it significant that when our pastor of worship stood here a few minutes to tell us about worship, what's the first thing he did?

To talk about a style of worship, to say whether you like guitar or drums or organ or bagpipes, which always has my vote, but I'm not voted every time. It's none of my style, he referred us to the Word of God. In our counseling, in our discipleship, in our community life, whatever we do is anchored in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. We exalt our Savior. We do not preach ourselves, but we are your servants for Christ's sake. And my fellow pastors, my elders, my deacons, all of us join what Rob Riese said, that we are here to serve you, to stand committed for the Word of God and for the gospel that Jesus Christ will be raised high, that you will fall in love with Christ. Not only will you proclaim Christ, but you will display Christ as you go back to work tomorrow, wherever you do, wherever you go, that people will see something of Jesus in you. And that is our commitment, and that remains strong through 2020. And Lord willing, if the Lord doesn't come, that will continue to be our mission in 2021. Thank you for your support. Thank you for the way so many of you have worked hard in many, many ministries, much of it unseen, as we are committed to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

And we praise God that His Word, the gospel, the Word of God is not bound and continues to reverberate around this world and point people to Jesus Christ, because we firmly believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus. He'll save you. He'll forgive you.

He'll give you eternal life, and you'll join us in being and making authentic followers of Jesus Christ. Father, help us, we do pray. You've surprised us with your grace. Your mercy has been poured on us. Thank you for your patience with us. We're sometimes self-willed.

We sometimes want our own ideas rather than yours. Today, as a congregation, we renew our commitment to your Word. We renew our love for Jesus Christ. And we say as Paul did when he was converted, Lord, what would you have me to do? Continue to protect Calvary Church, Father, we do pray, and continue from this church to sound out the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray in His name, Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-07 05:02:14 / 2024-01-07 05:21:37 / 19

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