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

Our Family on the Other Side


"Our Family On The Other Side" Brian Loveless Sermon on June 11, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas. Part 3 of the series "Family Matters"

One of the tough things that's happened in these last few weeks, I know so many of you are aware of and it came as such a punch to the heart for so many of us, and that was the news about Austynne Roberts.  James and Cindy Roberts, and their family, from the time I came to Calvary they were an integral part of this this church body.  They were busy and everything, they’d grown up here, very connected to our lives and to our families, and when I got here their daughter Austynne was seven years old.  We just saw Austynne grow up through youth camps, through the youth department over across the street.  Teenagers, she sat right down where you're sitting, week after week.  I had the privilege of seeing something as a relatively young pastor that's new to me, and that is watching somebody come all the way up and see them coming into their own as a young woman.  Austynne and her family moved to the Aledo, Willow Park area some years ago.  They joined the Church of a great friend of mine, Clark Bosher, and he's a product of Calvary as well.  We've still kept in contact, they'd still come back [here] and our people go over there for different events.  This last week we got word that Austynne, at 21 years of age, had been in an auto accident that took her life. I think I've gotten to the point I'm accustomed to brutality.  I think if you've been a pastor any time at all you better get accustomed to the hardest things in life because you're going to see them constantly. Maybe part of it was that I was laid up, part of it was that I was home, but a lot of it is I knew that girl!  She was just coming into her own. But it hit me really, really hard and I think it did a lot of you too.

The last time I was with you, on Mother's Day, we were starting a brand new series simply entitled Family Matters.  I appreciate James our young pastor, our youth pastor, who's really developing and all these things, he preached for us.  My friend Joshua Reese came and preached for us and they've been in the vain of family. We've been talking about raising kids, and talking about making marriage work. It's not easy but it can be good.  We've been talking about what it is when you have your parents who raised you, now starting to be faced with a lot of changes in their life and difficulties physically and emotionally, and how you kind of relate to that. All those things were things we either tackled or intended to tackle.  I'm telling you, laid up there at home the thought occurred to me that there's a topic we don't address that often that has everything to do with family.

What about our Christian family members that have already gone? There are a lot of you in this room that have family that have already gone. For some of you it's a mate, for some of you it's a child or a grandchild, for all of us it's somebody that we love, somebody in our circle who's already gone home.  So as we're beginning to wrap up the series on the family it's been weighing on my heart to answer this question: what has become of them?  We can't see them anymore, we wish we could. We can't talk to them anymore; we'd give almost anything if we could.  What is their current state? I want to entitle our time together this morning Our Family on the Other Side.

Before we get to our text: 2nd Corinthians 5 is absolutely gorgeous. It's going to fill in a lot of gaps for us. Before we get to that 1st Corinthians 2:9 tells us this
But as it is written, Eye [has] not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: 

Now I want to note before we even get into our text what this is saying. I believe this text refers to far more than eternity; far more than just the afterlife, but it certainly includes that. Here's what its saying - your physical five senses, what you see, what you taste, what you touch, what you hear, what you smell, will be of zero help to you in understanding the afterlife.  Those five senses can get you pretty far down here, and I'm telling you when you lose one of those senses you understand that especially, but they won't help you at all in understanding what comes after the pulse stops beating, the lungs stop breathing. All you'll see is a casket, all you'll hear is the cry and laments of family members, all you'll feel is the agony of separation.  So the text tells us upfront, your physical senses aren't going to help you understand what happens after life is over.

I believe it's also saying very plainly the culture is going to be a very little help to you in explaining the afterlife. The stuff that other people can come up with, and they show it in their movies, and they put it in their comics, and you see it on sitcoms, and people write books about it; very little, zero might I say, help in helping us understand about what comes after you die. But listen to this,

1st Corinthians 2:9 Eye [has] not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his [Holy] Spirit: 

In other words the Holy Spirit of God wants to show us, tell us, narrate for us, some things that come after you die.  Well how is He going to do that? I've never had the Holy Spirit like come down and “Brian, let me give you some information...” Let's look at our text 2 Corinthians 5:1.  If you're with me this morning say “Amen” (you hadn't heard that in a while).


2 Corinthians 5

  For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle [that’s our body] were dissolved [or died], we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this [this present body] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon [or further clothed] with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked [we don’t want to die and that’s it, we long for something more].
For we that are in this tabernacle [this body] do groan [there’s that word again], being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed [not just die], but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of [or by] life.
Now he that hath wrought us [or designed us] for [that very same or] the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest [you’ve heard of “earnest money”, right?  The down payment, the promise] of the Spirit.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Okay, he says again you're not going to figure out what's happened to your loved ones on the other side that have already passed away by looking for it physically. All you're going to see is death, but we don't walk by sight, Christians. We walk by faith! God says the Holy Spirit is going to show you what's coming, by faith, to which we say again, “Lord that's awesome. I got people over there.” Some of you have more people over there now than you have here.  “I want you to show me this by faith Lord, but how does that work?”  My friends there is a scripture I've come back to again and again. It's so simple, but if we forget it, we forget it to our detriment.   

Romans 10:17
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

God says I know you've lost people. I know you got family that your hearts still attached to, and they knew my Son Jesus Christ, and they died. But I don't want you to sorrow like other people sorrow. I know you're sad, I know you're hurt, but don't sorrow like a lost world! Don't sorrow because of what you see, and hear, and feel; go to this book and find out what's really going on!  Find out what comes after they breathe that last breath. Find out what happened after their neurons stopped firing, and their lungs stopped breathing. God says I have some stuff to share with you, and he shares that in 2 Corinthians 5. 

By the way I believe it is because we have so often looked to the physical instead of the spiritual, we've so often looked to the culture instead of the book, that we have such a distorted view of heaven, most of us.  We've seen too many movies; we've heard too many jokes about St. Peter greeting you at the gate.  It's all about harps and halos, and it's all about angels earning their wings.   I can't tell you how many people that are Christians, you've talked to me about, “well I'm glad my loved one is now my guardian angel in heaven with their wings.”  My friend, your loved one never became an angel. Your loved one is made in the image of Almighty God, they're not angels, and they are something that will be even more glorious!

By the way, all that business about St. Peter at the gate is based on the belief that Peter was the first pope.  That’s a Catholic belief. But the Bible says nothing about that!   All that about halos, and wings, and clouds, and boredom has nothing to do with [the bible]. So today we go to [the bible] to see what the Bible says about our family on the other side.  I want to give you three things, does that surprise you? I had somebody Facebook me while I was home, they said Pastor Reese preached a message just like another preacher I love, three points; it was so good. 

Three thoughts this morning from our text, there could be a lot more, but for time’s sake three things about our born-again loved ones.

Number One:  They Are Very Much Alive. 
They are very much alive.   Look at verse 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We are confident [there’s that word again], I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

The Bible makes it crystal clear over, and over, and over again that a person’s soul lives on when their body stops living. I hear people talk about the whole idea of annihilation, even religious people, when you die that's it. If you believe that, throw [the bible] in the dumpster because I'm telling you from Genesis to Revelation it says you don’t.  When the body dies, the soul lives on. What's the soul?  Your mind, your will, your emotions, your personality; the thing beyond the physical that makes you distinctly you. That's your soul.  God says when your body dies, that lives on. Let me give you some scripture in Ecclesiastes 7, Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it

Luke 23:42, remember Jesus was being crucified and there were thieves on either side of him and the one said 42 Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. [He was thinking maybe one day at the resurrection; that was a common belief.  I’m going to die, I’m going to be unconscious, my soul is going to sleep, but maybe one day you’ll remember me] 
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily [Truly] I say unto [you], Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Maybe a day later that guy died.  He suffocated hanging on that cross, he couldn't draw a breath, he'd lost so much blood.  He died but Jesus said no, the day before he was with me in paradise.  What did he mean? Not his body, but his soul! A few moments later Jesus, the Bible says cried with a loud voice he said “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” The soul!  Now they took his dead body down and it was absolutely dead they pierced his heart! The pericardial sac was pierced, blood and water came out; he was dead! The body was dead but his soul very much alive had gone to be with the father. Our text makes it crystal clear, a person's soul lives on after death, but let me tell you something else, our text makes it crystal clear that a Christian soul immediately goes to be with Christ. Immediately!
Y'all, I have been there so many times holding the believers hand when they breathe that last breath. I've been there so many times when they turned off that machine and we just waited, and sometimes it took a long time, sometimes it was real quick.  I've been there with a lot of you, when you were grieving, grieving, grieving the loss of your loved one. You were there with them when they breathed that last breath. I want to tell you something for those born again loved ones, the moment they were absent from the body, the Bible says they were present with the Lord. The Bible says, there's only one of two states for a Christian you're either here or you're there. You say “well what about purgatory? What about a holding place for the soul until your sins can be properly dealt with and then you can be worthy of heaven?” Can I only tell you friend, if you're a Christian there's nothing more that needs to be purged because Jesus purged your sins on the cross - one time - forever!   The doctrine of purgatory isn't even based on the Bible, it's nowhere in there; it’s based on the Apocrypha.  It's based on church history. It’s never in Scripture. You’re either here as a Christian or you're immediately with Christ.  What about soul sleep?  I have a Seventh - day Adventist friend and they talk about the fact that your soul is sort of dormant, unconscious in your body, until one day the resurrection happens and you get woke back up. Can I only tell you again you have to colossally misinterpret Scripture to come up with a belief that the soul does anything but go to be with Jesus immediately when you die.

John 11:23 Lazarus had died and his sisters were grieving.  Martha said to Jesus Lord I know if you'd have been here he wouldn't have died and Jesus said your brother's going to rise again. Martha said to him I know he'll rise again at the resurrection, at the last day. I mean he's dead he's unconscious now, but one day he'll come back to life. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life he that believes in me though we were dead yet shall he live, but He goes further whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die!  And then He asked her do you believe this?  What was he saying, your soul never dies, and it doesn't sleep. If you have a Christian loved one they were here one moment and the moment they passed they were with God.   But there's something else in this text.

Chapter 5, verse 1
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Here's the thing, the Bible doesn't just promise life after death for a believer. It promises life after life-after-death. In other words, your soul never dies. Jesus says I'm going to put your body back together and glorify it and make it what it was always intended to be and I'm going to give it back to you at the resurrection.  One day every Christian will receive a glorified body that is infinitely superior to the body they possess in this life.  The scripture makes it plain.  By the way, some smart believer is asking right now “okay my loved one’s passed away but the trumpet hadn't sounded, there hasn't been a rapture yet, there hasn't been a resurrection, yet are they just a disembodied soul?”  I believe the Bible has a lot to say about a temporary body that we receive in the meanwhile until Jesus takes that old body and puts it back together and reshapes it and gives you a brand new glorified one.  Do you realize in Lazarus and the rich man it talked about his finger, it talked about his tongue? In Revelation chapter 6 the Saints that were awaiting the resurrection the Bible says they wore robes that means there must have been a body. Some of you are zoning out a little bit let me help you.

My son Vance, my 10 year old, has been after me for a while now “Daddy lists let's camp. Let’s get the old tent out and let's camp. Let’s just do it right there in the backyard,” we got that patch of ground okay and here's the thing I've been making some excuses. I want to be with him I want to spend time with him but it's always, “Son it's real cold out there right now if we're going to freeze to death” or lately it's like “ Son it’s getting pretty hot man there's a lot of mosquitoes out there.”   I'll be honest with you the reality is sleeping in the tent past the age of 40 is like a pretty difficult proposition. Have you slept in a tent like on the ground after the age of 40? Don't you wake up like “my back hurts!” Right? You’re like “I got a sore throat.”  “I think I got lice!”   I don't know what happened but like overnight my body breaks completely down.   I mean and usually let's be honest when you're camping out back it's like somewhere around 3:00 in the morning you wake up and you're like “why? why am I'm on this pad? I got like a king-size bed in there!  Ten paces away there's a pillow top waiting on me! I got a big-screen TV!” Right?  “a Xbox! It's right there!” Right?  Here's the thing, the Bible says that we that are in these Tabernacles groan for our house that is from above.

You know what tabernacle means? Tent.  You and I for 21, 40, 60, 90 years we have these tents pitched for us. We're living in them, we love in them, we travel in them, we know beauty and pain, we know glory and agony in them, but God is saying  a couple of paces away I got a house waiting on you. It's so much better than your tent!  And every joy you've ever known as good as it was, it's just a foretaste of what I have waiting on you when I put that body back together and give you a glorified form. The first thing is please, please believe it about our born-again loved ones they are very much alive. They are conscious today. They know they're in the presence of God. They know that they're alive. They remember!  People asked, “Do they remember?” I believe they absolutely remember you and life. Here's the second thing, they not only are very much alive, and they are still themselves.

Number Two:  They Are Still Themselves. 

You know what I mean?  I think a lot of us had the fear like, “well the Bible says we won't be male or female, and the Bible says we won't be married, and I don't think we will remember, because how could you be happy if you remember the things on earth?  So I'm going to be there, look nothing like I look, not remember any of my relationships, and basically stroke a harp and on a cloud for eternity and I don't remember anything about my former life. And that's supposed to be good why?”  That's the stuff people don't say in polite church circles but it's what a lot of us have thought.  That's a distorted view of heaven.

Here's the thing, if you read this book about eternity you begin to understand that in heaven nothing good about your present life will be diminished. It will only be enhanced. Charles Stanley once said that sin is not a thing; it's a lack of a thing. Sin is corrosive. Sin eats away. So I want you to think of this, science tells us we only use a very small percentage of our brain in this life. I don't know this, it's a theory, perhaps that's because of the fall in Genesis chapter 3; because sin eats away at perfection. Think of a pie and sin takes 3/4 of the pie and leaves you with a sliver, so the best joy you've ever known on earth, the happiest most peaceful memory you have, the greatest love you've ever shared, the beauty of seeing your babies born, the best things you've had in life were just a piece of the pie, and in heaven my friends we receive the whole pie!  

By the way I think there's a lot of error people say “well we won't be male or female in heaven” where does the Bible say that? It says we won't be given in marriage, it doesn't say we won't maintain our gender identity. You say “well it won't be the same if I'm not married to my mate in heaven” but who's to say? We will have a love for everybody that transcends anything we knew on planet Earth.  Friends it's not a diminishing.  And by the way I want to put this right, in heaven the Bible says your mind will be the same mind you had down here, only sharper! Your soul will be the same soul only now completely pure! Your skills will be the same skills but now unhindered in their expression. 

And by the way, we're going to work in eternity we're going to travel this universe and eternity doing labor for God, but we'll never get tired, and it'll be a labor that we desire with all our hearts!  God will change you in heaven, yes he will, but he will never obliterate you, or replace you, you are you in eternity! But a better you than you can possibly imagine.  Scripture indicates a considerable amount of continuity between our present earthly bodies and our future resurrection bodies. Whenever the disciples saw Jesus, after He rose from the dead in a glorified body, they recognized Him as Jesus. Sometimes it took a little time because I believe He was the youngest, most vibrant version of Himself. He hadn't been beaten up for 33 years in the body, and so there was that moment, but they still knew it was Jesus. On the Mount of Transfiguration they knew that was Elijah, they knew that was Moses.  How did they know? Did Moses have like a gold chain that said “Moses” around his neck?  No.  Was there a sign like, “Hey you’re in the presence of Moses.” No. There was something about that glorified body that made who you really are so plain to people it couldn't be mistaken. You’re going to be you in eternity but a better you than you can imagine! And that means that husband that's gone home, that wife that’s gone home, they are still them!  That child that's gone on, they’re still them. 

1 Corinthians 15:49 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Matthew 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

In short our bodies will be like Jesus’ glorified body. The Bible (Philippians 3:21) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,

Almost very message I've done on heaven in the last few years has included this quote because I'm telling you I never read it without the hairs going up on my neck. Randy Alcorn uses scripture, after scripture, after scripture, after scripture to back this up in our resurrected state we'll have real, substantial, and spiritual bodies that will have physical substance. You're not going to be a ghost. We'll be capable of talking, walking, touching, and being touched. Christ’s resurrection body could appear suddenly, apparently coming through a locked door, and disappeared just as quickly. Christ ascended into heaven in His new body this suggests we may be able to fly and transcend the present laws of physics. Christ ate food in His resurrection body both He and we will eat and drink in heaven. Every reference to sitting at a table and having a banquet in heaven should forever free from the myth of floating around like ghosts. Get ready for some great food. Though we'll eat and drink there will be no hunger or thirst in heaven at least none that remains unsatisfied. Our heavenly bodies apparently won't need what is now essential—food, drink, oxygen, covering, etc.—but we'll be fully capable of enjoying them.

Let me tell you something else about our loved ones Hebrews 12:18 and 22-23 after my own dad passed away, this insight was given to me that blessed my heart and I hope it'll bless yours. Paul said 18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, In other words he’s using the analogy of when the Ten Commandments was given the people were so in awe at the glory of God, burning fire, and smoke, and trumpets, and voices, they were mortified to be in his presence. He said that that's not what you're experiencing you're come to Mount Zion and under the City of the ... I’m messing this whole thing up let me go back up.  I've only got one eye y'all only got one eye.  I'm going blame everything on that by the way. Jenny's like “you didn't take the trash out,” I’m like “honey I got one eye.” *laughs* you think I'm joking?

18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, [That's what's going on around us right now y’all in heaven] and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

You know a lot of the struggle of this life, Christian is our sanctification. I'm still so banged up, and I still struggle with temptation, I still struggle with my mouth, and struggle with getting angry, and bitter, and writing my own story about what people think and what they said, right?  I know that's just me y'all might not have any of those problems, but you probably do. Our sanctification, He's transforming us into the image of Jesus, but it's slow-going.  You know the Bible says the moment you breathe that last breath your sanctification fast-forwards completely and you are perfected.  No more struggle with sin, no more struggle with temptation, no more God I'm seeking you but I can't find you.  No He's right there and you can see Him! By the way no more cancer, no more suicide, no more car accidents, no more war, no more violence, no more confusion, no more hatred... what God designed this to be He hasn't given up on it! The Missio Dei, the mission of God, is He's bringing it all back! And your born-again loved one that has passed on, my friend is in the presence of the perfect God and their sanctification is complete!  One last thing, then we're gonna be done.  Our loved ones that have gone on before if they know Christ are very much alive, they are still themselves, and they are truly home. 

Number Three:  They Are Truly Home. 

I want you to notice verse 8 in our King James We are confident,  I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

If you're reading another translation this morning it probably says “home” with the Lord because the Greek word there is “indemas” meaning to be present, to be to be home, is to be among one's own people and in one's own land.  You’re either present in this body or you're home.  What does home mean to you? I'll tell you after two weeks in Uganda, seeing a lot of suffering, and a lot of hunger, and a lot of trouble, about two days before I got back my heart was longing for home. Not just a house, I love my house. You google “home” it'll just pull up all this real estate stuff but home is something more isn't it? Home is familiarity. It’s the place where you can take your shoes and socks off and be comfortable.  Home is where the people you love are, home is where you have meals with them, you laugh with them and you hurt with them.  You suffer with them but you rejoice with them. That's home. Here's the thing you guys, God tells us every taste of home you've ever had on planet earth is but, what does the old song say? “A foretaste of glory divine.”  Just the sound of a song you've never heard. Just the taste of bread you've never really sampled. Just a smell of a flower you've never seen in life.

Some of you, in the great spiritual moments of your life, when you felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, it was like nothing in your life!  You thought “If I could just live there...”  That's home!  I want to put our picture back up of Austynne. Twenty one years old. You know why that's so hard?  Because in the flower of her youth we saw her go away, but that's not how God saw it. I don't know if this is original, people think it is, but a 19th century American clergyman named Henry van Dyck wrote this and I'll conclude with it:

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then some one at my side says: 'There, she is gone!

'Gone where?'

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when some one at my side says: 'There, she is gone!' there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: 'Here she comes!'

She gets to grow up in glory because a few days ago Jesus Christ said here she comes! So many of you listening to me, He didn't have me preach this for no reason. You got people that know Christ and they're on the other side. And it hurts, and it should. You had to say goodbye, but I want you to know for them, if we could see what they're enjoying right now, we wouldn't have them back.  

Calvary Car Show by John Parker

Johnny Parker has been attending Calvary Baptist Church since he was an infant and his wife, Tammy, since she was 16 years old. When the Parkers aren’t organizing the annual Calvary Car Show, Johnny serves as department leader for the school-age Sunday school classes as well ushering and deacon committee.  Tammy has spent over 20 years serving in the nursery department and continues to serve in other areas of Kid City.  In their spare time, Johnny & Tammy prioritize family time with their children and grandchildren for family Sunday dinners and games.

The Annual Calvary Car Show

When I was on the trustee board, the topic of Kids Camp came up.  One of the issues was a lack of fund raising being done for the little kids to help those who could not afford to go to camp. Some kids wanted to go but could not do so because of a lack of funds. This information was very troubling to me because I was saved at Minnetonka Youth Camp and the thought of a young boy or girl possibly missing out on something that was as dear to my heart and important as camp because of money was a problem.  I asked the Lord to use us to help, if it was the Lords will.

Tammy and I asked the Lord to lead us and show us what our part would be "if any" in making sure that any child who wanted to go to camp would be able to do so without it being a burden on their family finances. The ball started rolling fast and I knew whatever the Lord had in store needed to be a big one time event and not the usual cookie, cake, twenty dollar bag of fundraiser popcorn type effort. There were no car shows in town except the city "cruise in" which was only drawing 20-30 cars, it wasn’t really a car show. We figured if the church put on a car show and did it professionally, it would attract lots of spectators as well as classic car enthusiasts.   Especially if 98% of them would otherwise never step foot on our church campus.

The thought was to raise money to send every kid to camp who wanted to go as well as attracting lots of folks who would come to the car show.  Folks would come only expecting the car show but find more than that through the love of Christ manifested by our members who would one after the other introduce themselves and love on these folks.  Letting them know that they go to church here and invite them to visit us sometime.

My prayer is that when one goes to the Calvary Car Show they are swallowed up by the love of our Savior and when they leave they say to themselves “Wow I'm not sure what this feeling is that I'm feeling but those were the most loving, nicest, and warmest folks I've ever been around" We as born again Christians would know that the feeling they experienced was not from our kindness or even our love, but the love of the Savior of the world Jesus Christ himself.  He was tugging at their heart and placing in their heart that they HAVE TO get back to that place, the place where they thought they were going to a CAR SHOW but as it turns out it was not about classic cars at ALL!  It was about the joy in those people at that church, it was about the pressing down upon our very existence that there is something bigger than ME, and whatever it is, it is calling ME, and I MUST answer that call.

Gospel Shaped Worship Planning

As I prepare for worship each week, I first of all spend time time in prayer and ask for direction and guidance from the Spirit as I plan every element of the service. I also make sure that the songs we sing and the elements of worship are not chosen at random but follow an intentional rhythm or structure. I do this because I believe the way that a worship service is structured ultimately shapes our views and understanding of God. 

Why Gospel Shaped Worship?

- Corporate worship is a Christian’s expression of authentic devotion towards God (Psalm 148:13)
- Corporate worship is a divine dialogue between God and His people (Isaiah 6)
- Corporate worship is profoundly formative (1 Cor. 14:40) 

Structure of Gospel Shaped Worship 

Call to Worship 
- Worship always begins with God speaking to us. He speaks, and we respond
- Practical: 
- Reading a passage of Scripture (Psalm 100:1-4)
- Repeating phrases such as “worship begins with God”, “God speaks, we respond”

Adoration and Praise
- Adoration and declaration of War
- Goal- Put the glory of God on display 
- Adoration provides the language and images of God’s glory for God’s people
- Practical: 
- Ask what songs in your library are about what God has done, not what we do. 
- Take an inventory of songs and compare them to a list of attributes about God.


Confession (and/or) Lament
- Involves recognizing (1) the world is not the way it was meant to be (2) we as a church are not the way we were meant to be (3)  I am not the way I was meant to be
- Practical: 
- Can be sung or prayed: “Give Us Clean Hands” // Praying through Psalm 51
- Pray for both corporate and individual sin


Words of Assurance 
- After recognizing our sin and the fallenness of the world, we hear an answer from the Lord that assures us, “It is finished”
- Practical: 
- Songs about the cross and forgiveness of sins
- Doesn’t always have to be long, but simply a reminder that God has heard us, and in Christ, He’s forgiven us 

The Peace
- Paul begins almost all of his letters with a greeting of peace. It’s a peace that flows directly from God. It is a natural result of the gospel. 
- Practical:
- Make the greeting time more meaningful by connecting it with the gospel
- Occasionally give more time to the greeting
- Scripture Reading : John 13:34

- Giving also flows directly from the gospel (2 Corinthians 8-9)
- The primary motivator for giving us the transforming power of the gospel 
- Practical: 
- Seize the opportunity to point out ways the giving is a call to worship 
- Allow the Scriptures to make the hard call to give
- Be thankful

Pastoral Prayers 
Instruction: The Sermon

- A beautiful, tangible, concrete gift where we can physically remember the gospel story. 
- In a single act it remembers the past, embraces the present, and hopes for the future. 
- Practical: 
- Thoroughly discuss your church’s theology and ecclesiology pertaining to this issue 
- Understand that communion can by celebrated a variety of ways

Commitment/Preparation for Sending
- Our attention is brought to the future.
- Practical: 
- Repeat or reaffirm what was taught in the message
- Historic confession of faith 
- Songs: “O Church Arise”

- Sending or blessing
- “Worship like creation, ends as it began: with God’s blessing”- James K.A Smith
- Practical: 
- The Call to Worship and Benedictions are like book ends to the service. Consider connecting the two in some way 
- Make clear that the benediction is offered by God 

Additional Resources on Gospel Shaped Worship:
- Christ-Centered Worship- Brian Chapell
- Rhythms of Grace- Mike Cosper
- Story Shaped Worship-  Robbie F. Castleman
- Imagining the Kingdom- James K.A. Smith 
- You Are What You Love- James K.A Smith 
- Gospel Shaped Worship- Jared Anderson 
- The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology- Nicholas Wolterstroff

Judgment House Planning 2017

[Pastor Brian Loveless]
Today we’ve sort of designated as Judgment House Sunday and by that we mean we are beginning in earnest now to get ready for October.  Two sets of dates, two weekends in October, if you want to jot this down: October 20th - 22nd and then October 27th - 29th. We will be doing a production called Judgment House. This entire campus will be transformed into an eight scene walk through drama that really vividly depicts a story of life, death, and eternity.

We'll have thousands of people, ultimately, walking this campus and going through this dramatic depiction of those things. They'll end in a counseling room where we're able to clarify and re-clarify the gospel and thus far in the years that we've done this production we've had over a thousand people make professions of faith in Christ!  It's a powerful, powerful thing. 

I think the twin benefit is it not only leads people to Christ, a lot of churches all year long will befriended people with the intent of “I'm going to share Jesus with them and if I can't win them to Christ just yet, I'm going to invite them to judgement house.” A lot of our neighbors come to this production and they know that we put this on.  The other benefit is, frankly, it brings our church together like crazy when we have a need for so many people, hundreds of people, to be able to pull this off so everybody can have a role in this whether it's security..

Well Ron's going to get to that here in just a minute so I'm going to steal his thunder completely. We're going to show you just a little promotional video for Judgment House and then Ron Adams, who's done a marvelous job with us through the years, as well as a brand new leader in this, Keith Fletcher, are going to come and say a few words to you so watch this [promo video starts at 2:07]:

[Associate Pastor Ron Adams]
All right, does it make you want to get ready to do it now?  And just seeing those videos and watching them this week and seeing which ones to pick out it just makes me ready to do it again.  I’m looking forward to it.  Like we said, we're going to be starting on here pretty soon. For those that are in the cast, we will be starting up in July.  It's going to be a long process but we always have a good time doing it. Before Keith comes up here I'm going to give you some statistics from years past and then I'm going to introduce the coordinators for each part of Judgment House.

The last time we did judgment house, in 2015, we had 2,870 people come through our church with 518 salvations.  The national average for Judgement House is 7%.  That is 18% of the people that came through last Judgment House received Christ as Savior. 

In six years, the cumulative totals (and this is really exciting) six years of Judgment House we've had 16,142 people come through Judgment House with 2,034 receiving Christ.  Yeah again the national average is 7% and we're at 13% for the six years! Wo what we have done here in Grand Prairie at Calvary Baptist Church we have made a name for, not only our church, and for the city of Grand Prairie, but for our Lord and Savior!  We've got churches that are calling now, wanting to know when it starts, and when we're going to be doing it. The word is out there they know we're doing it and they can't wait to come. 

The prayer request that I'm going to ask of our church is start praying for those souls that are going to be coming.  Start now.  Start praying for those churches, and for the people that are coming, that their hearts will be prepared when they come through judgement house this year.

Keith will come here in just a second, he's going to describe the script and all the different opportunities that can take place during judgment house, but I'm going to give you the coordinators.  When you get your sign-up sheet and you see what area you want to do, you'll know which coordinator you need to go to see about an opening or if you can volunteer to help with them. 
  •          Registration - Karen Snead
  •          Security -  Mike Snead
  •          Construction - Terry and David Green
  •          Counseling - Pastor Brian Loveless
  •          Prayer Team - Marsha Adams
  •          Tour Guides -  Ashley Contreras
  •          Concessions - Dan Bickle
  •          Cast Refreshments - Teresa Dixon
  •          Cast - Jamalyn Bowen
So those are the different areas, those are the different coordinators that you want to speak with if you're interested in taking part in judgement house this year. Now I want to introduce this gentleman right here because I got to thinking last year, you know Keith has worked for Fox Sports Southwest and he's been a director and a producer behind the scenes of all of the programs that happens on that TV station.  I was thinking “man, what talents that we could use for judgement house.”  So he's going to co-direct Judgment House with me going forward and so if you need to speak with someone you can speak with either me or Keith and hopefully we can give you the information that you need. He going to come and describe the script and some of the other volunteer opportunities that we have. 

Thank you. Y'all ready for a little Christmas in October?  The scene one is going to open up with a Christmas Eve service has just let out and a church reception hall (for lack of a better term and to be sure it'll still be the Williams building) but the church service has just let out and we meet our three central characters:
Alice, an older teenager who lost her father a few years back kind of went all in on religion and God in prayer and after her father's death is kind of “meh”, she's done with that.

Next we meet Clyde.  Clyde is, well he's been around awhile and has a past and he's not proud of, he's kind of past those days, but church and church people it's not a place for him.  Heaven’s not a place for him and he's at a point where it's like he's okay with it.  You know, “I made my bed I got to sleep in it, its fine.  That's the way the cookie crumbles.” and we'll see how things go for him.

Next is Betty, a member of the church and she's one of those who knows everyone and talks about them and is one of those little church hens who just has done you know “yadda yadda”.   The Judgment House veterans don't see a very good path for Betty in it.  You know?  We'll see how things go!

I want to make a plea to those who haven't exactly got involved in a ministry effort. The Guatemala trip is like a bucket list thing, maybe someday, its not your budget this year, probably next year, you're in good company. If going door-to-door and handing out Bibles isn't your thing, not that this church does this or has, not there's anything wrong with that... I realize there's a baby step process in ministering to other people - this is your golden ticket!

There is no role to small. Preacher said its all hands on deck. A lot of us get involved as many of you.... we need you! Don't think that we got it covered. There are a lot of bases that needed to be covered. For some of you, I know that this can seem like an awfully small church sometimes. It can seem very connected and you're kind of on the outside.  Can I tell you that I've been there? I married into this church in 2005 to a third generation member.  My Mother in law, my brother in law, know everyone.  It took
so long, five or six years after starting here, to kind of feel connected to anyone until six years ago, three judgment houses ago, preacher asked me to be a tour guide. Reluctantly I said “if you need help yeah that’s fine.  If I’m taking someone’s spot and they went back in that's fine too.”  I did it and I got to meet everyone. I finally made put names to faces, remembered names. 

What it did was, it changed how I came to church and how I interacted at church. It changed why I came to church, really.  To be honest it affected my excuses for not coming to church.  Slowly it brought me closer to God! It changed my life. I realized, (are you sitting down?) all that time before, what I was getting out of the church was exactly what I was putting in to church. (Facepalm) Moses smell the roses! It's like this, you know, Wow!  So I'm just telling you if you're looking for the opportunity to get involved, this is your golden ticket to get to know everyone here. You're going to spend a lot of hours with them. You're not going to do anything you don't want to do.  Ushers, I I guess that's my cue to send people down, and we're going to have these little sign-up sheets. Put your interests and what you what you would like to do, and there's some options. You won't do anything you don't want to do. We need you to get involved. The numbers don't lie. Actually they do because that's just the numbers of people who commit to Christ here. that doesn't account for those who go back to their churches, into their hometowns, and do that the next week, or the next, or maybe six months down the line.  You got to get involved.  It's going to be rewarding in many, many, many ways. It's going to be fun. 

Christmas in October!  Thanks guys!  

Calvary Baptist Rummage Sale

There will be something for everyone from deal seekers to avid collectors as well as a bake sale and concessions.  All proceeds will help send Middle & High School Students to Camp!

Almost any donation will be accepted including children's items,  clothes, electronics, collectibles, etc.  Items such as paint, weaponry, and perishables cannot be accepted.  So far we have full collections of items (baseball cards, precious moments, etc.), sports equipment, furniture, clothing and so much more!  Here's a sneak peek at some of the items for sale:


We need your plastic shopping bags too!  A box will be available in the welcome center to collect bags.  Linda Keetch will be available after services to to collect donations or you can arrange to drop them at the office during the week.

Here are ways you can get involved.  Student Ministry Members should contact James Robinson to sign up for your time slot.
Rummage Sale: Contact Linda Keetch
  • Help price items before the sale
  • Work with customers, taking money, making change, etc.
  • Full set up for sale, including moving all items on May 12th 
Bake Sale:  Contact Joyce Felton
  • Donate baked goods
  • Help run the Bake Sale in Family Life Center
Concession Stand: Contact Dan Bickle
  • Volunteers to work concessions for 2-3 hour shifts
If you have additional questions or need more information, please contact the Church Office at  (972) 262-5656 during business hours.  

Romania Missions Part 2 by Steph & Chris Watkins

Chris and Stephanie Watkins began attending Calvary Baptist Church in April 2016 and reside in Grand Prairie, TX with their daughter, Ema.  The Watkins volunteer to teach regularly in the Boulevard (4 years old through kindergarten) area of Kid City.  They like to spend time outside in their community garden, camping, and spending time with friends playing games or watching movies.  Click here if you missed Romania Missions Part 1 by Steph & Chris Watkins.

When we first arrived, my friend’s organization was working with five families. They provided food once a month, work when the center had work to pay them for, and an after school place for the nine children to have a shower, meal, tutoring, bible study and a reprieve from the village. The women were sent home each week with strips of paper to make beads. They would come once a week to the center and have a bible study and string their beads into necklaces. Each woman was paid for the beads they made, which provided somewhat of a steady income for the family. The missionary couple that was leaving a couple months after we had arrived had befriended two teenager families in the Roma Village. The foundation did not want to leave those two families without someone to be there for them when the other couple left. We were asked then to create and expand the teenage family ministry. We started with five teenage families and ended with seven. Our youngest mom had just turned 13 and our oldest mom was 19 turning 20. In the Roma culture girls “marry” between the ages of 9 and 12 and start having babies soon after. A girl can get “married” a few ways. She is sold by her father, raped by someone and then taken as his wife, or the few just claim they are together, have sex and are married. Out of our seven families only two were married legally. All the others just claimed marriage and were married in the eyes of their people.

Romania in general is a poorer country and the town where we lived in was out in the country. A good income for a Romanian was comparable to about $300 US dollars, and for the Roma it was much less.  Even though there’s tons of need everywhere, the difference is you can SEE the need everywhere in Romania where in the states you have to look for it more; it’s not as obvious here. Here in The States we pray for God to show us someone in need whereas in Romania we didn’t need to pray for it, it was just there. You couldn’t walk through town without seeing someone in need. Every day we had people knocking on our door or front gate asking for something, most of the time, it was food. Occasionally they needed shoes or diapers for the kids. We did provide food packets every month and child resources weekly for the families.

We held weekly bible studies, brought the moms and babies to the center to teach them to how to bathe their children and babies, they would come once a week for showers and baths, and provided them with diapers and formula if needed.  We provided food while in the hospital as well as monthly packages, started a morning center for the kiddos who were 18 months or older, in-home financial budgeting lessons and guidance, and jobs for the men when we had them. Eventually the girls started making the joy beads as well.  We saw God work in and through us continually while we were there. But we enjoyed seeing it when the families we served saw and experienced God. One week, Chris figured out how much a family would need to make and how many days they needed to work to pay their bills for the month. Then they prayed for the work to come. The Roma have a hard time finding jobs in Romania because nobody really wants to hire them. As the week went by, we didn’t see the husband of one of the families at all until the end of the week. When we ran into him and asked him where he was, he replied that he was working all week. Then Chris reminded him that they had just prayed for work and how God provided. He thought for a second and his face lit up, like a light bulb turned on. It was awesome to see him recognize God’s provision and how He answered his prayer.

We also became their advocates in the medical system; we would take them to doctors and be their voice.  With the conditions in which they lived in, there were a lot of medical needs, especially with the young children. We would help with their medications, but also help them with their medical care. The Roma did not receive the best medical care and sometimes don’t receive any medical care at all. We would intercede for the families on a continual basis. Sadly I think the only reason our families got treatment is because we were with them and we were Americans and would give them money to get help.

 The conditions of the hospitals over there are not the same standards as our hospitals here in the states. One of our young families was having their first child. They had her in the delivery room while strapped down on a metal table. As we waited in the waiting room with her family and her husband we found out that she was going to need to have a C-Section. At that point the family got really anxious and we didn’t really understand why. We were told that while a procedure may be routine in the States, it can be dangerous over there. We prayed and then we talked with the doctor. We realized that they were not going to give anesthesia and that we had to bribe the doctor so they would give her the proper medications. 

Chris and I were a shoulder, a reprieve, an ear, and a friend. We LOVE them and miss them greatly. The Roma people gave us a piece of their hearts, which in a culture like theirs means more than any monetary item we could give them.    

My time in Romania has changed my prayer life and how I relate to God and others; always being thankful for what have. The Roma have an expectation that because we are Americans we are rich.  Their thoughts are we have unlimited resources and we are to help them.   There are times we have been exhausted by helping the families and others in the Roma village because after we help meet a need they automatically bring you a list of more to do, demanding you do them too. This was routine throughout our entire time there. Half way through our time there I realized that I am no different with my relationship with God. I have frequently given my “request” to God and when he answers I usually give him another list. With this perspective I have learned to stop and say thank you and appreciate what God has given us. And when I do ask a request I do it with a grateful and cheerful heart.

God used Romania to instill an excitement for watching God work in others life’s; rejoice with others and shoulder each other’s burdens.  He also reminded us of His provision.  One of the many opportunities that I, Chris, had was working with each family individually – a financial bible study teaching Gods principles on finances and helping them each create a budget for their family. During the process of helping them budget, and teaching them how to manage their resources, I noticed that God always provides exactly what the families needed. Now, the families mismanaged their funds but it was a revelation to me and a couple of them that He always provided and He expects us to be good stewards regardless of what stage of life we are in or how much is given. It was also eye opening to the concept of how we are slaves to our debts (Proverbs 22:7).

In the Roma village the concept of debt is handled rather differently than in the states and while helping the families budget, I realized they spend most of their time working to pay off debt. For us, going from both of us having full-time salaries in the States to an income that changed from month to month was unstable.  The funny thing for me, Steph, though is that I was never concerned about the money coming in while we were in Romania. I knew God wanted us there and that He would provide. Different story in the States, I remember before moving constantly being worried over money with both of us working two full-time jobs.

We may not have the luxuries that we had in the states, like consistent power, a washing machine that holds more than 5 pieces of clothing, and an oven that is no bigger than an easy bake, BUT we had EVERYTHING we needed and more plus we were extremely grateful that He continued to provide each month. We are more grateful for what we have we have A LOT to be thankful for and we have learned the blessings of complete reliance on God.

Our previous church was really big on community. We had been with our same group, before we left the states, for five years. We valued them we loved them. Going thousands of miles away where you know two people, only five speak the same language as you, your new “village” has no stoplights and only one stop sign, you have to drive 40 min for most everything was a huge culture shock, and that’s even before you get to the culture being a shock itself.  Our friends and family were now eight hours behind us time wise and trying to set up Skype or FaceTime dates presented its own challenges. All that to say we quickly realized how important community was/is to us and how isolating living in a strange country could be. Isn’t it wonderful that God knows us and he made us for biblical community? 

The church we attended in Romania was wonderful, three and a half hour long services may have taken us a bit to get use to but it was wonderful. The people were great and many spoke English. We were placed in a group with five other missionaries in the area! God gave us people who understood and were walking similar paths. We weren’t alone! One time we went to McDonalds after church (yes, they have McDonalds and yes, it is different) and we noticed there was a group of four Americans speaking English! We introduced ourselves and they told us they were missionaries as well. God did not leave us in isolation, but we had to take a step as well. It would have been easy to live “alone” physically, but spiritually and emotionally we needed each other. We cannot stress how important and valuable biblical community and fellowship is to us. We are so grateful to be at Calvary!