The Scarlet Thread Pt. 1 - In The Beginning

Did you know that the Gospel is painted beautifully throughout all of Scripture; not just the four books we call the Gospels?

For centuries many Christians have thought of the Bible as a simple collection of stories about morality. Like each story is meant to teach us some new life principle. But it seems in every century there are some Christians who see the bigger picture. They see that there is a Grand Story behind all of these stories. Some of these Christians started calling it the Scarlet Thread through the Bible, and this Scarlet Thread is the story of the Gospel.

See, the Gospel is not a set of facts. The Gospel is a story. I want to reframe our understanding of the Gospel, as told in the Bible, because, truth be told, all of the Bible is the Gospel. From Genesis 1:1 to the final “Amen” in Revelation.

I wish I could go through each chapter with you to find the scarlet thread of the Gospel. I wish we had the time, energy, and focus to see how each book of the Bible is really part of the Gospel story. But for the time we have, I’m going to spend the next few articles looking at some very familiar stories through the lens of the Gospel.

We’re going to look at Adam and Eve, Joseph, Moses in the Exodus, and a couple others. We’re going to see how each of these characters cast a shadow of the Christ.

I said it begins in Genesis 1:1 and that’s where we’re going to begin with this article. I don’t even really want to talk about Adam and Eve just yet. I simply want to talk about the beginning.


I’m sure you remember the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And that’s how the Gospel begins. God created. He’s a creative God. But He didn’t just make planets and stars. The pinnacle of His creation is humankind. Furthermore, Colossian 1:15-17 tells us that “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Jesus Christ was present at the Creation of this perfect planet. But not only was everything created by Him, all things were created through Him and for Him. It’s funny how sometimes our feeble little brains can lose our eternal perspective. Sometimes we just get so caught up in life that we forget this world doesn’t revolve around us.

It’s amazing how this one verse can bring about a new perspective for that is so powerful that it can crash my pity party. I’ll admit I can get really mopey at times. But when I’m confronted with the reality that this world was created by, through, and for Him, and not me, it allows me to see my life and circumstances in a way that frees me from my sense of entitlement.

So chapter one of the Gospel is simply this: God rules. He created this universe, which means He owns it. We’re the crown of His creation, but that still means He owns us. I suppose if you don’t like the rules of the Universe then you can go create your own. But this is God’s universe. Created by Him, through Him, and for Him. He owns it, which means He makes the rules. And the best part of it is this: His rules are what’s best for us. His rules are not cruel and overly demanding. His rules are meant to bring us to the one thing that can give us the most joy. Himself.

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids the Bible by Jon Nielson

My one year old daughter loves to read. What I mean by “read" is more just flip through pages, look at all the colors and animals, and mumble through her favorite words. Every night we try to read a book before she goes to bed, and often times we read through a Children’s Bible that does a great job depicting the biblical stories and relating them to the gospel. It has caused me to think of how I will continue to teach my children the Bible. I know this can often be a struggle for parents. A lot of words can be difficult to understand, the chapters and can be long, and the parent’s may not have a full understanding of what a passage means in order to articulate it in a clear way. This article by Jon Neilson gives some very helpful and practical ways we can do this. Enjoy!

In Christ, 
Brandon H.



6 Ways to Teach Your Kids the Bible

The Gospel Coalition · by Jon Nielson · July 26, 2017

I’m a father of three young kids. I can’t think of many things more important for them than regular exposure to the living Word of God. If you’re a Christian parent of young children, I assume you share the same conviction: Your kids need to hear from God, and you long for them to listen carefully to his good Word.

But it’s hard. Life is busy, kids are lively, and reading the Bible often struggles to compete with the Disney channel, Legos, and the newest phone app.

Here are six tips my wife and I have found helpful in our rhythm of Bible reading with our young kids (currently 6, 5, and 3).

1. Pick a regular time and place for Bible reading.

In general, children tend to love a routine—a regular, anticipated time with Mom and/or Dad associated with a particular activity. Sporadic and random Bible reading may not engage your children in the same way a regular, planned, prioritized “special” time will.

In our home, we’ve chosen the chunk of time before bed for Bible reading. Our two older children know that, in the 15 to 20 minutes before bed, we’re going to gather in their room to read a Bible story, discuss it together, and pray. They’ve come to look forward to it, and it’s become as regular and natural a process as brushing their teeth. It may even help them sleep better, as many bedtime routines seem to.

2. Read short chunks.

Some of us will have to guard against being overly ambitious in the beginning. Since we believe in the power of God’s Word, we want our children exposed to as much of it as possible. So we read two full chapters from Genesis each night. Needless to say, a 5-year-old’s eyes will probably start to glaze over.

I encourage you to pick manageable passages, chosen based on thoughtful criteria. You may decide to begin in Genesis, and move through the Bible sequentially. The key is to not rush it, and to think ahead of time about the right “chunks” for each day.

3. Stop to explain and gauge comprehension.

Even if the passage for the day is only one chapter, that can be a lot for a young child to absorb if read all at once. It’s incredibly important to stop often along the way, explain things, ask questions to gauge comprehension, and ensure your kids are following along and grasping what the passage is saying.

4. Think of age-appropriate questions for discussion.

This aspect has become my children’s favorite part of our nightly time together in God’s Word. I’ve begun thinking of a few basic questions for each of them that will help them do three things with the passage we’ve read: (1) solidify their comprehension of the passage, (2) connect it to the Bible’s overall story, and (3) apply it to their lives.

When you ask simple questions, you’re doing much more than “quizzing” them to ensure they were paying attention. You are actually leading them, interactively, in a time of interpreting and applying God’s Word. And you are preparing them to engage the Scriptures directly on their own in the years to come.

5. Connect each passage to Jesus.

Jesus makes an amazing—even shocking—statement to the Pharisees in John 5: “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life. But it is they that bear witness about me.” He is saying, in no uncertain terms, that the Scriptures are centered around him—his incarnation, his life, his teaching, his death, his resurrection, his return.

What does this mean for daily Bible reading with our kids? It means if we’re trying to help them understand any part of the biblical storyline, we must give them a sense of how that part connects to the major character—and great climax—of that big story.

6. Let Bible reading lead to prayer.

Listening to kids who are learning to pray can be humorous. If yours are anything like mine, their prayers can be hilarious in their simplicity and self-focus. God has heard prayers in our home for dogs, movies, imaginary people, and, of course, coveted toys.

If we’re honest, though, our children’s prayers often are really just “kid versions” of our own. We can easily resort to praying only for our needs and wants, rather than spending time praising and adoring God, and asking for his Spirit’s work in the lives of others. One way to grow in our prayer lives, then, is to intentionally tether our prayers to our reading. We can help our kids “talk back” to God daily, based on the ways he’s speaking to them through the Scriptures.

Parents, press on. Daily, prayer-fueled exposure to the Word of God is the best gift we can ever give our kids.

Reprinted from The Gospel Coalition, Inc.. Copyright 2017 Find the original article here at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/6-ways-to-teach-your-kids-the-bible


Before The War Series by Brian Loveless

Everybody will go to war this week with something.  There is going to be some obstacle for you and it's going to be a fight just coming face to face with it again.
- Brian Loveless



"The Fights Too Big For You" Brian Loveless Sermon on June 25, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas. Part 1 of the series "Before The War"
 

** Part 2 "Standing On Your Knees" was not recorded due to technical difficulties.

"The Armor Of Identity" Brian Loveless Sermon on July 9, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas. Part 3 of the series "Before The War".
 

"The Armor Of Surrender" Brian Loveless Sermon on July 16, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas. Part 4 of the series "Before The War".
 

"The Armor Of Intercession" Brian Loveless Sermon on July 23, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas. Part 5 of the series "Before The War".
 


Camp Debrief

Right now, I'm sitting in my office thinking of the incredible week I just had with the teens. I'm also getting ready to leave in two days with our kids for their week of camp. Some might cringe at the idea of going to camp with teens and kids, but I honestly love these weeks! During these weeks I get to spend virtually unlimited time with our teens kids. I get to hear their stories, learn more about them, AND I get a front row seat to the work God does in and through them during camp. Allow me to give you a quick recap of my week with the teens, in hopes of letting you see a little more clearly why I love camp:

This last week at camp was nothing less than a miraculous answer to many prayers. We had eight students put their faith in Christ and dozens more surrender their sins, passions, expectations, plans, and themselves to Jesus. One student shared with our group how he had been resisting the call of God to surrender himself throughout the week. He talked with a couple leaders early on about an addiction he had, yet felt no conviction about. He knew the Lord was working in him, but he refused the invitations. It was during the Independence Day fireworks show, of all the times and places, that he quietly surrendered himself to God. In his words, "What's that about?" The answer is that a week of camp, away from the pressures, distractions, and routines is exactly what God wants in order to work in their lives. This week at camp is designed, from the services, small groups, and even the extra events, to put these teens face to face with the God they've been avoiding and I have seen the mighty work that takes place when this happens.


Some of my favorite moments at camp are the morning devotional time. We, as a youth group, get together for a brief challenge. The location we meet at is a deck overlooking some beautiful farmlands, woods, and open prairies. It's a special moment for the leaders and the teens when we get to see God's glory in creation while hearing God's glory from His word. It really is a powerful time that the teenagers treasure when they get home.


I also love having the spur-of-the-moment conversations. I'll grab one of the boys and drive around the campus in our golf cart. Because the atmosphere of camp and the work that the Holy Spirit has been doing in them, I've had some incredible, deep, and heartfelt conversations with the teens. These are times when I get to hear directly from them about their sins and struggles, but also how God is moving and calling them to a better life. One student shared his testimony of how God saved him and brought him out of his depression. He said, "I realized I had to have hope that Somebody was looking out for me. That's when I started attending church and met Jesus."

There are times I can't help but tear up when I think of what these teens have been through and how Christ has brought them through it. I love camp because of these stories. I love camp because of the unique work that Jesus does there. One of our girls, who has been through more than any teenage girl should go through, told me she felt God calling her to do something. As she is praying to determine what that will be, she has decided to go on our next Guatemala Mission trip in August in hopes of getting more clarity. This is God's glory doing it's redeeming work, and I am unbelievable thanking that I get a front row seat!

     


The Fight's Too Big For You

  

"The Fights Too Big For You" Brian Loveless Sermon on June 25, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas. Part 1 of the series "Before The War"





The Impact of Lifegroups by Morgan Moody

Morgan and Josh Moody joined Calvary in July of 2015, right after their daughter Paisley was born. Morgan serves in kid city in the nursery as well as a life group leader. Josh co-teaches Sunday school for the Calvary young adults class, as well as serves as life group leader. During their spare time the Moodys love to hang out with Paisley and find cool family adventures to go on, like seeing Shamu, trampoline parks, splash pads and attending sporting events.

My husband, Josh and I wanted to find a home church. We didn’t expect to spend a year and a half looking. We both had only had one pastor growing up; mine was my Granddad, and Josh’s was his Dad. Our standards were set pretty high for that reason alone. Who could compare to family? We both come from families that have a well-known legacy and cherished the feeling of being completely comfortable in a congregation. We are proud of where we come from and carry the Langley and Moody names with great honor, but we are also our own people.  In our new church home we wanted to be known as Josh and Morgan Moody. 

In the beginning, the thing we craved the most was the very thing that scared me when walking into Calvary’s doors. Would I know anybody? Would anybody talk to us? God kicked that fear to the side very quickly and brought many people to us. Relationships began to form, but they still lacked the intimacy we hoped to find. I knew that intimacy would come from a life group.

However, this is where our expectations differed. In college, I had incredible discipleship leaders and experienced exactly what a life group should be. Even now I keep in contact with the lady who poured into my life like I was her own. I was also privileged to have a couple who opened their doors and made sure that we, as college students, had a second family away from home. I remember one evening in college when I was wrestling with what God wanted me to do in a particular situation. I was walking the sidewalks on campus and pleading with God. Since I am an ugly crier and my face turns really red, it is pretty obvious when something is wrong.  As I was walking, I passed Eddie, my mentor’s husband. He asked if I was okay.  In order to quickly get away, I just said, “Yeah,” as fast as I could. In thirty seconds, he had called his wife, Missy, and by the time I was passing their house on campus, she was sitting on the steps waiting for me to pass by. This is what true discipleship looks like, to be willing at any moment to direct someone to God’s word or to simply pray with him or her. When I graduated college and got married, I continued to crave this intimacy with people my age.  I simply wanted to be surrounded by people who were in a similar stage in life as we were and could be part of the village we could rely on as we focused on Christ.

As we sat in church last summer and heard the announcement about life groups forming, my heart began to pound from excitement. This was just what we needed! Just as quickly, my heart fell. I knew Josh would not want anything to do with a home group. His experience was completely opposite of mine. He had experienced groups that were centered on arguing about what was going wrong in the church and catching up on the latest gossip about who, what, where and when in the congregation. This left Josh with a bitter taste in his mouth and disillusioned about what life groups could be. I wanted to be the submissive wife and follow his direction, but I also knew this was what we needed. To my surprise, he agreed to try it out for one season. Two days later, Brandon called and asked if we would be leaders of a life group. When Josh shared Brandon’s request, I laughed, knowing that this was God’s sense of humor on display. We agreed to be leaders and could never have envisioned all the blessings we would receive by accepting that position.

Our group was made up of mostly college age students and young couples. We became a family and a village. Most Wednesday nights, people would still be at our house when the clock hit 9:30.  They felt comfortable and this was their home.  When Josh would travel, they would stay and make sure our house was picked up and would always make sure my trash was taken out. One of the sweetest outcomes of our time together came from watching our daughter, Paisley, and her friend Brooklynne participate with our group. By the end of this season they both understood what it meant to pray. They saw their mommas, daddies, and friends pray weekly together. During this season, I found the intimacy I longed for and Josh realized that life groups aren’t such a bad idea.

If you have never tried a life group, please prayerfully consider joining one. You never know what blessings or relationships you may be missing. Keep an open mind. We have all been the newbie and realize the discomfort it can bring. We will love on you! If you are a seasoned life group member, remember the anxious nerves you felt walking in the first few times.  Love on the newcomers and make them feel like they have been there all along.  Together we can encourage each other and guide each other. Speak with love and use God’s word to guide you as we do life together.



Fighting to Say ‘Yes’ When God Says ‘No’ by Ann Swindell

Here's a great article I wanted to share with all of you!  

In Christ, 
Brandon H.

Fighting to Say ‘Yes’ When God Says ‘No’
The Gospel Coalition · by Ann Swindell · April 6, 2017

God doesn’t always grant healing and wholeness in this life, a painful reality that came to a head for me in college. I wrestled with the knowledge that God could heal me instantaneously—a small thing for him, surely—and the truth that he didn’t.
By the time I entered college, I’d struggled with trichotillomania—a hair-pulling condition—for a decade. I pulled my eyelashes and eyebrows out every day, even though I hated it and wanted to stop. Neurologically, my brain couldn’t stop itself, and that meant I couldn’t heal myself. Because of the “no” I kept getting in response to my prayers for healing, God seemed silent and distant.
One day, as I felt my frustration toward God mounting, I headed to the prayer chapel. I poured angry, hasty words onto journal pages with dark strokes of ink. I told God he seemed mean and cold and distant and impossible to deal with. I sat there with eyelashes scattered across the pages—ashamed they were no longer where they should have been.
The tears I cried weren’t new, but they felt surprisingly fresh. “I keep asking this question, God,” I cried. “Why? Why won’t you heal me? My hours of praying and begging, even my days of fasting—what have they done? Anything?”

I answered myself: “Nothing. They’ve done nothing! I’m worse than I’ve ever been.”
I wanted to push him away—this God who is all places and everywhere—and I wanted to run from him. I began to understand how people become bitter, how the seeds of anger turn into deep roots of distrust. I’m not proud of my bitterness or the ways I fought God. But it’s the truth: I was mad. In fact, I was offended.

Choice of Offense
When we’ve begged and pleaded with God, and he still doesn’t change our situation, we’re left with a choice: We can offend him or obey him. Offense puts us in the judgment seat. We declare what God should do and how he should work. We’re offended when he doesn’t follow our plan. We point our finger and tell him he’s wrong.
While it’s good to be honest with God, there’s a distinct difference between heartfelt honesty and hostile honesty. Heartfelt honesty comes to God on its knees, crying out with humility and trust. Hostile honesty comes to God pointing a finger. When our honesty turns hostile, we become bitter. We judge him and run from him. By doing so, we reject the very source of comfort we desperately need.

Choice of Obedience
The second choice we have is obedience. We say yes to God, even when we don’t understand him. This option feels harder in the short term. But it’s the only real one if we’re going to continue walking with Christ.

In mercy, God pulled me back from the crag of prideful offense. Through small steps of obedience, he reminded me of his truth and kindness. He softened my heart in two ways. The first way was through a woman named Nita, the wife of one of my professors. She and I met twice a month to talk about my walk with the Lord, to discuss the Word, and to pray.

As we talked one afternoon, my words came tumbling out. My anger, frustration, and hurt bubbled over, and I started crying at the kitchen table. What I remember most is not what Nita said but what she did. She put her hand over mine, and she cried with me. She didn’t chastise or immediately correct. Her hand and her silence let me know I was allowed to feel those emotions. She didn’t force me to be anywhere other than where I was.

When she spoke, her voice was a violin, wavering with emotion but full of deep conviction. “Ann, we don’t always understand what God does or doesn’t do. But we always know—we always know—that he loves us.”

“It just makes the no harder to hear sometimes,” I said. “Because I don’t understand why that’s his answer. It’s hard for me to reconcile his love with the no.”
“I understand, Ann. I do.”
I recalled the losses Nita had endured, the sorrows she had walked through, and I knew that she did understand. Her eyes were glossy, and she took a big breath before speaking again. “But who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35).
I shook my head. “Nothing, Nita.” My voice was a whisper. “Nothing and no one.” Not even a no. Nita’s kindness and truth spoke blessing to me. She pointed me to the Word and offered me compassion. That day, through her, God began to heal my hurt and frustration.
The healing and softening continued as I obediently read the Word and spent time in prayer. As I met with Christ, I couldn’t harden my heart against him. By reading the stories of men and women in the Bible who waited and trusted, I came to trust God’s sovereignty over my life, even when I didn’t understand it. And, as I poured out my heart to him in honest and humble prayer, I came to experience his comfort and love.

Better than Healing
In my obedience of small steps toward God, he pulled me back from offense. He showed me all I really need is Jesus. To walk away offended is more devastating than continuing to deal with any sickness or unwanted condition.
I may not have healing, but I have Christ. And he’s more than enough for me.

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Ann Swindell’s new book, Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want (Tyndale, 2017).
The Gospel Coalition · by Ann Swindell · April 6, 2017