Recommended Christmas Album by Brandon Hochstetler

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Recommended Christmas Album

This month I wanted to recommend a Christmas album that my family really loves to listen to this time of year. Three years ago, Sovereign Grace Music produced an album called “Prepare Him Room”. The idea of the album came from a family devotional book called “Prepare Him Room” written by Marty Machowski. I personally have not gone through that devotional, but have heard great things about it. The album includes a mixture of familiar Christmas hymns (many of them reworked with different melodies and lyrics) as well as some original songs. Some of the highlights include their rendition of “O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story)” which really encapsulates the power of the Gospel story through new lyrics in both the second and third verses, as well as the song “Who Would Have Dreamed” and “He Who is Mighty”. I love the chorus in “Who Would Have Dreamed” which says:

Who would have dreamed, or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our Hands?
The giver of life was born in the night,
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world.

I hope this album serves you and your family well as you take time to reflect on the reality of the incarnation. I am very thankful to Sovereign Grace music for providing such a beautifully crafted, gospel rich album!

You can find more information about the album and Sovereign Grace Music at

The Scarlet Thread - Pt. 5 The Wandering

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The Scarlet Thread/Luminescent
Pt. 5 “The Wandering”

This is part five of our blog series, “The Scarlet Thread.” Here’s how it’s gone so far. God rules, according to the story of Creation. We sinned and ruined Creation, according to the story of Adam and Eve. God works despite our sinfulness, according to the story of Joseph. We can be freed from the slavery to our sin, according to the story of the Exodus. And NOW, I want to share with you the story of the Israelites Wandering.

Quite frequently the Bible uses different metaphors and pictures to illustrate a truth. In the story of the Exodus, the Bible uses the picture of the Israelites wandering for 40 years in order to illustrate a dull, powerless Christian life. This is something I hear very often in ministry. It is common for someone to say they feel like their spiritual life is stuck in a desert, or a wasteland. There’s no passion, no power, and really no life to their spirituality. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, because I believe this is something everybody experiences at some point in their Christian life. The story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness just might hold the key to get you out of your figurative wilderness. It goes like this…

The wilderness came after the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptians. In a very real sense, the Wilderness wandering was self-imposed. It’s not like they spent 40 years completely lost without a map. They actually knew exactly where they were supposed to go, they were just not allowed to go there because of their lack of faith.

When I was in kindergarten, I experienced something similar. My school was about one mile from my house. One day, when my mom came to pick me and my brothers up from school, she had gone inside to see a teacher while we waited in the van. After a couple minutes, I also ran inside to grab something I had left. When I came back out, the worst thing imaginable to a kindergartner happened. The van was gone. My mom thought I was hiding behind the seat (something my brothers and I did regularly) and so she started on the way home.

I knew where my house was, and so I started walking in that direction. The only problem was, there was a man out on a run, coming in my direction. At that point, I panicked! I wandered back into the parking lot, and began sobbing. The whole ordeal felt like an hour, when in reality my mom quickly realized I wasn’t in the car and turned right back around to get me. I knew the direction I was supposed to go, but my fear kept me from moving in the direction.

This is what happened to the Israelites. Moses has even seen the Promised Land they were meant to travel to. But their lack of faith (fear), kept them from entering. I’m guessing you know exactly what that is like. After all, isn’t fear the most human thing about us?

See, God delivered them from Egypt, then gave them the 10 Commandments. They were on their way to Canaan, the Promised Land. Just before they arrived, they sent their spies to check it out. The spies said, “Nope. They’re big. They’re strong. They’re fortified.” God said, “Go take it!” And they said, “Mmmm, nope.”

These were God’s chosen people; the famous Israelites! They had already been through so much. God had come through on a Promise He made a couple hundred years ago. He had brought them all this way, and at this point, they officially lost their faith in Him. As a result of their lack of faith God says, “Ok, I’m going to send you back into the wilderness for 40 years until every one of you who rejected the Promised Land dies.”

Sounds harsh, right? But it’s what God determined was necessary in order to bring the Israelites to a place of faith. Sometimes He deals with people in ways we don’t fully understand. But when we look at God’s actions in light of the big picture we can see that what He does is always for our good and His glory.

So when it comes to The Scarlet Thread, what does the wilderness represent? First off, it does not represent being lost in our sins. Remember, the Israelites were delivered from the sin masters already. So for us, the wilderness comes AFTER we’ve become a Christian. The Wilderness then represents the carnal Christian. A person who has been redeemed and forgiven by Christ and yet refuses to surrender to God’s authority. If you are not currently experiencing a beautiful relationship with God in which He reveals sin, you repent, you enjoy talking with Him, you see blessings and thank Him for them, then you might be living in the Wilderness.

Your wilderness is the twilight zone between enslavement to sin and living the full, Christian life. The Israelites enjoyed neither the comfort of their old slavery nor the milk and honey and beauty of the Land of Promise. They were dumped in the middle. Perhaps you feel the same way. It really might be the most miserable place to be for a human. The Israelites had caught a glimpse of the beautiful Promised Land. They had seen the fruitful trees, the green fields, the strong cities, the clean waters. They KNEW it could all be theirs. And yet they turned away.

They also remembered having a bed to sleep on in Egypt. They remembered that they had food to eat and water to drink back there. It was a place they called home, but they could never go back to. The pain of wandering is great because you feel like there is no place to belong and knowing every day in the wilderness is a day that could have been spent in Canaan.

Remember, they were brought OUT of Egypt in order to be brought IN to Canaan. God’s plan was for them to enjoy Canaan. And yet, they cheated themselves out of it because they had no faith. Can you imagine, today, a Christian being filled by the magnificence of the Holy Spirit, God pouring His power into them? Jesus Christ completely redeeming them and now their record is perfect. A Christian is capable of so much. But can you imagine them refusing, whether by ignorance or deliberate rejection, the beauty, glory, and power of that life?

The Israelites were promised so much, yet they chose the Wilderness. And a Carnal Christian is someone who has Christ living in them and pretends like He is not there. If you have determined that you won’t have an intimate connection with God, and that you will only take what you like from Christianity and leave the rest, then you have chosen the wilderness.

But take heart! There is good news if you are in the wilderness! There is a cure!

Three things you’ll need to do.

1. Admit you’ve lost faith. The Israelites had faith enough to free them from Egypt, but they lost that faith. They had enough faith to be saved, but along the journey, they started complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt. So they wandered for 40 years and many of them died without ever admitting to their faithlessness.

2. Appreciate the Manna. Every day, while they wandered, God sent manna for them to eat every morning. It literally just showed up laying on the ground every morning. They named it manna, because that literally means, “What is it?” And this is where it gets crazy. They described the Manna in Exodus 16:15, 31 as tasting like fresh oil and honey. Meaning Manna was a reminder that God was presently with them, but also calling them to the Promised Land. (It flowed with milk and honey). It was a small wafer that wasn’t really enough to fill them up completely.

Manna was God’s way of calling the Israelites back to Him and back to the Promised Land. Every day they had a reminder of what they were missing. What they had in the wandering was not enough to satisfy. It was simply a call to surrender to Christ and enjoy Him completely.  So what is your manna? Is there a place or time when you regularly feel convicted and challenged to make things right between you and God? Thank him for pursuing you that way. And listen to His calling!

3. The last thing to do is annihilate your unbelief. God sent the Israelites into the wilderness to wander around until all of the unbelieving Israelites died. For you, God is working to kill off your unbelief as well. He’s proving Himself to you every day. He’s sending out regular calls to come closer and deeper into Him. Perhaps you are in your own wilderness, feeling unsatisfied with where you are. Wishing you could have your sin and also wishing you could have a satisfying relationship with Jesus. Leave behind your unbelief. Listen to God’s call to you. Surrender to Him. And follow Him into the Promised Land of an empowered, fulfilling life in Christ!

The Gift

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In 1905 William Sydney Porter, an author that most of us would know simply as O. Henry wrote what many considered to be a Christmas masterpiece: the Gift of the Magi. It's a story of Jim and Della Young. A young couple who were desperately poor, but on Christmas Eve they wanted to get each other gifts out of the tremendous love they had for one another. Della is grieving over the fact that she can't give her Jim a gift that reflects her heart’s love for him. She looks at the money she's been saving over all these last weeks and she looks and there's only a $1.87 to give him.  The most prized possessions that this couple has - she has her beautiful waist-length hair and he has a gold watch passed down to him from his father, and from his grandfather before him. So Della’s looking in the mirror on this Christmas Eve and weeping about the fact that she doesn't have the money to get him a gift.  While she's looking in the mirror an idea occurs to her - she'll sell her beautiful hair. She goes to the hairdresser, she sells her hair, she gets $20, so now she has a total of $21.87.   She goes out looking for a gift to give him and she finds this beautiful simple little gold chain that can go on Jim's watch. She goes home and gets dinner ready. She's got this little gold chain and she's excited to give him a gift but also terrified at “What will he think when he sees me? When he sees my hair is gone?” Jim comes in the door and he just stops in his tracks and has the strangest look on his face. Della says “Honey I know it's different, I know it's strange, and I know it's not what you expected, but I can explain.  I love you so much I sold my hair to get you this little gold chain for your watch. I hope you can still love me like this.” She's worried and Jim says “Honey I love you so much. I could never love you less for anything. You'll understand why I was so surprised when you see your Christmas gift.”  He hands her the gift and Della opens it up and it was the series of little jeweled, fancy combs that she had seen in a store window some months before.  Della makes the point, by the way, “Where did you get the money for these combs?”  He'd sold his watch.

I told my daughter Aubrey that story.  I was just kind of kicking around some things in my mind and I said “Have you ever heard the story of the Gift of the Magi?” I told Aubrey this whole story and I said “What do you think of that?”  She was like “Aw dad, ya know...”  I didn't know if she'd heard much of what I had said.  About 15 minutes later I hear her in the other room telling her little brother, Vance, the story and she gets to the end of the story and she says “Isn't that terrible!?” I’ve got to confess to you I was thinking the same thing.  Isn't that terrible!?  Like the worst Christmas story ever?  Like well, you had a little bit and now you got nothing - Merry Christmas!   I find it interesting that the author didn't view it that way at all. He ended his story by saying this, “and here I have told you the story of two children who were not wise, yet of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise.”

This morning we are starting a brand new series that, God willing, will last for the entire month of December very simply called Christmas Stories. There are some amazing Christmas stories out there. From Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, to “The Little Match Girl”, to the famous, famous one that most of us read to our kids on Christmas Eve - “The Night Before Christmas”.  Y’all it is my heartfelt belief that the most beautiful, magical Christmas stories are found in the first four books of this New Testament.

Today's story begins in an incredibly unlikely place with an unlikely audience. It doesn't begin with Mary, it doesn't begin with shepherds, it doesn't begin with Joseph, it doesn't begin with a manger. Our story begins before there was Earth, before there was man, before there was a material universe as we know it. Our Christmas story starts when there was only God and His angels.

 John 1:1 this morning. How many are glad you're here? Say Amen! 
John 1:1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Now most of you, if you've been in church any time at all, or you've been around the scripture at all, you know that when the Bible refers to the Word in this context its talking about Jesus Christ. If this language sounds familiar, I believe it's because this language in John 1 is Genesis language. In the beginning Genesis says, in the beginning God created, in the beginning God gave life, and what John 1 is telling us is that there in the beginning when God was, and he was creating, and he was giving life, so was Jesus!  Genesis tells us that in the beginning God was. John tells us in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God the same was in the beginning with God. l I can't fathom it. I can't properly describe it. I can't paint a picture for you. All I can say is God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son, all 100% God yet distinct personalities, for eons before planet Earth ever came around, God was doing life with God. God the author of joy, the author of peace, the author of life, the author of love, was doing life with God. Jesus was there and the angels were watching. Genesis tells us in the beginning God created, but John 1:3 says all things were made by Jesus, and without him was not anything made that was made. Colossians paints an even straighter picture when it says for through Jesus God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth he made the things we can see and the things we can't see, such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, authorities, in the unseen world everything was created through Jesus and for Jesus. Oh listen! We're very prone to only think of Jesus in terms of what He did on earth. Understand Jesus was integral to the whole process of creation. When the universe was spoken into existence it was spoken by the lips of Jesus. 

Genesis tells us in the beginning God gave life, but John tells us in Jesus was life. He elaborated in John 5:26, the Father has life in Himself and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. Here's the picture I want you to get. Long before the manger, long before Christ came down and did miracles, long before the cross, listen! There was Jesus in heaven sharing life with his Father, speaking the universe into glorious existence, breathing life into His creation, and there drinking it all in were the Angels. Every day their greatest joy was seeing what Jesus would do that day. Every day the point of their life was hearing what Jesus would say. Everything about Him is so glorious and magnetic. There's not an earth yet, there's not a universe as we know it yet, there's just God and that's enough! It was glorious and there was peace. I think we kind of lost the true meaning of the word peace.  We think of peace as like an absence of war and absence of conflict.  The Jews had a word for peace in the Hebrew it was Shalom. Listen Shalom meant life as it's intended to be. Not just an absence of conflict but a presence of beauty, and glory, and wonder. It was life as God created life to be! In wrapping their life around God the Angels have peace but they would soon learn a lesson that they never should have had to learn. They would learn that no God, means no peace.

You see there was perhaps the brightest of the Angels, an archangel we believe, musical, beautiful, named Lucifer.  And Lucifer, The Shining One, determined at some point that the only thing greater than the glory of God and the peace that came with it would be if he could be God. If he could sit on the throne, if all would bow the knee to him.  Lucifer rebelled against God and a third of the Angels, we believe, rebelled against God. Jesus said in the New Testament I was there and I was watching when Satan fell like lightning from heaven. I watched angels become demons. I watched Lucifer become Satan. He went from The Shining One to The Accuser. Listen when this happened, when there's no God, when there's no glory, there is no peace. We don't know how long, in terms of time that went, after that event but we do know the time passed.  The angels once again marveled. They're standing there watching God, watching Jesus, and He does something brand-new! He decides to create the earth. He creates man and woman. He makes them in his own image. He gives them a garden. He gives them a place. He shows his glory to them. Adam and Eve, wrapped around God, made in the image of God, they are drinking in His glory and they are showcasing it to the world. It was glorious and there was peace, but that Shalom, as you know, didn't last long.  The enemy, this fallen angel, takes them down the very same path that he'd gone. He makes an offer: you don't have to worship God, you can be God! Why bow the knee to him when the world can bow the knee to you? Instantly he says your eyes will be open and their eyes are opened! They get what they wanted but they lose what they have, and they learn the lesson - no God, no peace.

Here's the thing that occurred to me during this study that I don't know that I've ever articulated to a congregation before. I don't know that I've ever really consciously like done the math on this. If I understand my Bible right, while angels are unimaginably powerful, they are not omnipotent.  OK? Here's what this means:  you saw angels in the Bible.  If you're simply thinking of like sweet little cherubic naked babies with wings, that ain't the Bible version of angels!  Read your Old Testament and see one angel wiping out an army. Read your scripture and find Roman soldiers, the most battle-hardened, bloodthirsty men on the earth at that time fall down in terror at the presence of one of these shining ones. Angels are incredibly powerful but they're not all powerful. They know a lot, they've been watching mankind for generations, but they're not omniscient. They don't know everything and I find it amazing that in the Bible you find this this tremendous scripture which tells us in 1 Peter 1:12 that the angels desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel. So when man rebelled against his creator the angels must have wondered “What on earth is coming next?”  They knew what the truth of Romans 3:23 - all have sinned, all mankind has sinned and come short of the glory of God. They knew Romans 3:17 - the spirit of it, the way of peace they have not known, and I wonder if they didn't think something like this, “Surely God will abandon this fallen creation. Surely just as Lucifer is cast down, without ever a chance or a hope of being restored, perhaps He will destroy this earth and its inhabitants and start again.”  But I think these angels must have marveled when God didn't. For the next 4,000 years of human history, they would see a story of divine interventions. Adam goes against God, he tries to be God, he falls and now he's naked. Now he's self-conscious, now he realizes I don't have any peace.  I'm going to spend my life trying to find peace in all these places but I don't have it anymore. I'm naked as the day I was born. And God, instead of shunning him, has the first bloodshed that we ever see in the Bible. When God takes one of these little creatures that he's created, kills it, and wraps Adam in the skins. The angels are watching and wondering. We see Noah, when God looks down on the earth, and man has gotten so corrupt that God says, I'm going to judge it, I'm going to wipe it out. The Angels say you're justified in that God; you’re a God of justice. Yet we see this man named Noah, who found Grace in the eyes of the Lord, and we see that God does a whole new thing with this group of people and the Angels marvel. You see Abraham, who decides to take matters into his own hands.  He goes and gets Hagar, they have Ishmael, and it seems like the line that God is creating through Abraham is over. But then God comes down and tells Abraham and Sarah, I'm giving you Isaac. I'm going to make a way where there is no way and the angels see it all.  They see for thousands of years all these divine interventions for Israel, all these divine interventions for mankind, they start hearing prophecies. God tells men, I want you to write this down because one day... You know about the old covenant, do this stuff and avoid this stuff and you can earn eternal life, but I'm telling you there's a new covenant coming that no man can earn. I'm going to write my law on men's hearts. God says I'm sending a Savior one day and He's going to be a Jew, He's going to be from the tribe of Judah, and they're going to pierce His hands and His feet, Psalm 22. Isaiah 53 says they're going to lay stripes on His back to redeem a people and the Angels hear it, the angels see, and the Angels wonder what He means. Divine interventions and prophecies. Another thing that the angels see for all these centuries, are occasional Christophanies - times when Jesus leaves the throne in heaven and makes a trip down to earth. We see it before the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah when Christ comes down and talks to Abraham. We see it when Jacob, the patriarch, wrestles with an angel all night and at the end of that wrestling match he's afraid that he'll die because he's looked in the face of God. We see it in the fiery furnace when there's three Hebrew children who are being persecuted, we think to death, but the fires can't burn them and when Nebuchadnezzar looks into the fire he says I see not three, but four, and one of them as the appearance of the Son of God. And the angels must have wondered “Jesus why?  Why are you doing this? Why are you going down there? What's the point of all this?”

All this transpired for centuries. The angels desired to look into it.  They decide to try to put all these puzzle pieces together. What is Christ doing? What is the point? Until one day those same angels come to approach the throne of Jesus Christ, like they had done every day for all eternity, and when they come to approach the throne of Christ, Christ isn't on the throne. He's gone! Where could He have gone? Where would the Son of God be?  For the first time in the history the Trinity, in a sense, is broken up. There's the Father, there's the Spirit, but where's the Son? The rumor echoes through the ranks that Gabriel has made a visit down to Planet Earth to some folks. The rumor begins to echo through the ranks that Jesus has gone down to earth and that He's in a city called Bethlehem.  I picture in my mind the angels, who lived on the glory of God.  It woke them up in the morning if they sleep there, and put him to bed at night. They had drunk it in. It’s the greatest thing in their life just being in the presence of Jesus.  They long to see Him, and they want to know what's going on, and they make their way to Bethlehem, and what they find is indescribable.

Max Lucado wrote a little book called God Came Near, he said these words a lot better than I could:
The omnipotent in one instant makes Himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierce-able.  He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. He who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent on the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The Creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. He came not as a flash of light, or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter.  The hands that first held him were unmanicured,  calloused, dirty. No silk, no ivory, no hype, no party, and no hoopla. Angels watched as Mary changed God's diaper. All my life I've pictured every dealing of the angels with Jesus as being glory in the highest!  Glory! I wonder if their first response at that wasn't more like Aubrey’s, “that's terrible! Jesus why would you leave glory and come down to earth in a stable with animals, and filth, and manure? God why would you leave the praise of all the created order, all the angels, all of us singing your worth, to come down like this? Why would you lay aside your glory?”  Do you remember the scene in the scripture when Jesus tried to wash Peters feet and Peter said “no, no, no, no, no! It's inappropriate. That feels weird. You're God!”  Can you imagine how the angels felt seeing Jesus like that? I don't know how the final puzzle piece slid into place. I don't know when the moment of divine insight came. I don't know exactly what it looked like when they got it, that aha moment from God of what he was doing, but we know that they did because of Luke 2.

Turn back with me one last time Luke 2:8

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord [by the way folks, think Shekinah glory that filled the Old Testament Tabernacle, that filled the Old Testament temple, to where the priests had to leave it was so bright and glorious!] the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,

If you've been at Calvary any time you know we've talked about the fact that most of us, like when you think of Moses, you picture Charlton Heston. Most of us when we picture this scene think of three or four angels with their hands raised like we've seen in a thousand Christmas programs. I want you to understand what when the Bible says that there were these shepherds, God pulls back the curtain between the physical and the spiritual, and lets them see. The Bible uses the word multitude. That Greek word is pl├ęthos which we get the English word plethora. It is used to describe ,in the bible, the sand grains on the seashore, it is used to describe the stars in the sky. I believe there were perhaps millions of angels, spread out over all the mountainside.   What they've realized about that baby in a manger is so critical and so beautiful that they all showed up! Here’s what they sing “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace [Shalom] goodwill [God's favor] toward men. They realized that God has laid aside His glory. Jesus has laid aside His privilege and He's made this journey all the way from heaven to a cattle trough, to bring fallen men back into a relationship with God. He has made a way, once again, for them to taste the glory of God.  For us to taste the glory of God! And once again have Shalom. Once again have peace.

One evening many years ago an actress by the name of Mary Martin, Jenny and I were talking about this I believe she's from Weatherford , Mary Martin was about to go on stage for a production of South Pacific. Just before she stepped out on stage, she received a note from the famous lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. Here's what it said: “A bell is not a bell until you ring it. A song is not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay; love isn't love till you give it away. Love isn't love until you give it away.”  So on the surface when I look at Jim and Della I say that is the worst Christmas story I've ever seen. They gave up everything.  Do you know why they were wise? Because giving your heart is the greatest gift in the world and it brings the greatest return in the world. Two thousand years ago, listen to me, God gave us His heart. He sent His son because love isn't love till you give it away.

Let me ask you a question this morning. You may be here today and the truth is, for some time God's been pursuing you about something. You've seen evidence of His goodness in your life, you've had wake-up calls in certain areas that you know something's off and it needs to be made right. Maybe you've ignored them, maybe you've pushed them to the background. Maybe you're not a believer yet but something's happening in you that's pulling you that direction. Maybe you're not a believer yet and you've been skeptical and maybe you've been angry. By the way, every atheist I've ever met is a person who's been hurt terribly in life.  You may be here and there's some things happening with you, including this service today, that you just can't explain.  Love isn't love till you give it away.

I want to tell you something, listen, 2,000 years ago God showed you how He felt about you.  Not the new, improved, cleaned up version of you. He knows exactly what you are and that's the person he gave his son for. He gave him away, for you! What would it look like this very morning for you to reciprocate? What would it look like this very morning for you to take that step of faith toward your Creator and say God I want to trust you, I want to love you. I want to go from my love being somewhere in the realm of my mind and my theology and I want to express it you.  You know what? For a bunch of us it means we need to get out of our comfortable little safe lives and do the one thing that Jesus did, which is serve other people. Love isn't love when it's just a theological statement.  Love isn’t love when it's just attending a church service. Love isn't love because you sing it and talk about it. Love isn't love till you give it away. What is God calling you to do? What is that step of love that he's challenging you in today?

The Boulevard Ministry with Holly & Ruben Alvarez

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Holly and Ruben Alvarez have been attending Calvary Baptist Church since 2010 and reside in Grand Prairie, TX with their two boys. Ruben serves on the deacon committee and security team.  He and Holly both serve faithfully in the Park and Boulevard areas of Kid City. Quality time is incredibly important to the Alvarez family. They enjoy anything they can do together including vacations, movies, games, playing outside, and visiting local attractions.  When they aren't spending quality family time, Holly and Ruben host game nights at their home to fellowship and do life with one another.

The Boulevard 

Holly and Ruben have been serving the in the Boulevard ministry, specially designed for preschool and kindergartners, for approximately six years. It wasn’t long after they joined Calvary that the Alvarezes knew they wanted to get involved and the Boulevard seemed like an ideal place to start. 

They believe the Boulevard ministers to kids who are at the beginning and best stages of their lives.  It is where they start truly understanding and learning more about Jesus and His love! The Alvarezes say they absolutely love this age. The kids come in so ready to sing, play, and learn. Everything is new and exciting for them. For Holly and Ruben, it is like seeing things for the first time all over again through the kids eyes. 

Holly says the more she works with children the more she feels like understands God's love for all of His children. In fact, Holly's favorite verse since she was a little girl has been Matthew 9:14 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”. Even now it reminds her that there is a meaningful purpose behind the children's ministry. Especially knowing those little minds are the future.

Ruben says serving in the Boulevard has been confirmation for him that this is where they should be. There is a need for children's ministry and they want to be a part of it! Ruben feels like the Boulevard builds up his own faith just by being there, seeing the kids each time, and showing them all about God’s love for them. 

The Alvarezes also feel like serving in the children's ministry holds them accountable. Not only to those kids, but to others, themselves, and more importantly to God. It helps them to stay grounded and involved in each other’s lives. It's another way to share life with one another.

Preparing to Love Well at Our Thanksgiving Gatherings by Scotty Smith

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Preparing to Love Well at Our Thanksgiving Gatherings


And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19

Heavenly Father, this portion of your Word highlights the wonders of your love, the heartbeat of the gospel, and the essence of your being. You are love. We praise, bless, and adore you for being so generous, merciful, and grace-full.It also underscores our calling to love all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations, all the time—including our upcoming Thanksgiving gatherings. Relationships expose our need for the gospel more than anything else. At a time when our world, communities, and many of our families, are divided along political, spiritual, or cultural lines, may your love be supersized in our hearts and midst.

Because of your great love for us in Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of the risks of love. As this Scriptures says, we can “know and rely on the love God has for us”. May your perfect love continue to drive out all our fears—including the fears related to the loving in stressed, awkward, or broken family stories.

Help us love our family members in fresh and creative ways. Give us thick skins, so we won’t take things too personally. Give us big hearts, so we’ll love family members for who they are, not who we want (need) them to be. Fill us with your kindness, compassion, patience, and forbearance. Nobody in our families is beyond the need or reach of your grace—including us.

Replace our irritation with intrigue, and our hair-trigger reactions with long-fused respect. May we “roll out the red carpet,” more than we roll our eyes; listen more than we launch, and cherish more than we challenge. Whatever culinary delights show up on our Thanksgiving menu, may the greatest feast be your welcoming heart and Fatherly kindness. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

Reprinted from The Gospel Coalition, Inc.. Copyright 2017 Find the original article here at

The Scarlet Thread - Pt.4 The Exodus

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The Scarlet Thread
Pt. 4 The Exodus
John 8:34-36

Let’s do a quick recap of the last three posts from this series: God rules over all of creation. Mankind sinned and ruined the perfect relationship. God is powerful enough to pour out grace despite our sinfulness.

We ended the last post with Joseph’s brothers coming to Egypt for food and Joseph forgiving them. He invited his entire family to live in Egypt with him. But eventually the pharaoh who favored Joseph died, and the next one was afraid of all of those Israelites living in their country. So he made a deal. If you want to live here, you have to work for us. But this pharaoh was sneaky. He broke the deal and made slaves out of the Israelites.

This sets the story up for one of the most meaningful sections of the Bible. The story of the Exodus. Exodus means, “A mass departure of people”. It’s the story of how Israel escaped their enslavement. For a long time, I thought this was just a story about Israel’s history, and it didn’t have a lot to do with me. I was dead wrong. I have since come to realize that the story of Moses and the Exodus has within it the keys to a full, Christian life.

Think about it: hundreds of years have passed since Joseph brought his family to Egypt. Several generations have now been born into slavery. All these people knew in life was to serve the Egyptian Empire. As each pharaoh died, the successor was even crueler. Doubling their work. Even killing their children. There was no hope for the Israelites. They didn’t have the power to overthrow such an empire as Egypt. They didn’t have the weapons to attack. They didn’t even have the motivation to try to escape. They were hopelessly enslaved to their sin.

A thousand years later John, the author of the Book in the Bible, explained that this is the human condition every person is born with. We are all born into slavery. (John 8:34)

The thing about slaves is they only do what their master commands. Before a person is redeemed by Jesus Christ, they must obey the sin nature in themselves. They can’t resist it. That’s why this world is in such a corrupt state. Because this world is enslaved just like the Egyptians were. The Scarlet Thread in the story of the Exodus begins by telling us we were born into slavery.

The Scarlet Thread then moves on to introduce us to a deliverer named Moses. Moses was actually found and adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. She found him floating in a basket down the river. She named him Moses which means, “Drawn out” and also “Son”. Because she drew him out of the water and adopted him.

Moses eventually realized he was actually a Jew just like the slaves, and chose to identify with them instead of as Egyptian royalty. When he tried initially to help the Jews they rejected him, and because of his choice, the Egyptians rejected him. This was now a man who had no place to go. He was an outcast. And so he went into exile for 40 years, working for a shepherd in no-man’s land.

I can think of another man who came to earth and was rejected by His own people. I can think of an outcast who wanted to free His people but was instead turned away. Moses is a shadow of the Christ, albeit an imperfect shadow. Moses was drawn out of a river, but he was then sent to draw the Israelites out of slavery. Israel couldn’t save themselves. They needed a deliverer, but they were so stubborn and lost in their own slavery that they initially resisted their deliverer.

This happens so often in reality, doesn’t it? Even many of us were perhaps too stubborn to accept that we needed a deliverer. We thought maybe we could save ourselves. But slaves need a deliverer, and for the Israelites, one was sent. For us, the One has also been sent. (John 8:35)

The struggle to be free from the slavery of sin is great. The sin nature doesn’t want to let go. But there’s a point in this story that is so important, if you don’t get it, nothing else will fit into place. Jesus Christ is the One who sets us free. Moses had a battle with Pharaoh. He brought plagues and still Pharaoh didn’t want to let the people go. Time and time again God had to battle the sin nature represented by Pharaoh and Egypt.

You know what Israel did during this time? Watched in anticipation. You know what they didn’t do? Try to do God’s job.

So after several terrible, awful plagues from God, Pharaoh decides to release the slaves. They pack up and start heading out. Only to have Pharaoh change his mind and start chasing after them. Your sin nature does not give up easily. When God began working in your heart, or when He does begin, your sin nature is going to pursue you viciously. (John 8:36)

Moses finally led them across the Red Sea where God once and for all delivers them from the slave masters. The crossing of the Red Sea is symbolic of the deliverance God gives His children from the sin master over their lives. This is a beautiful part of The Scarlet Thread that we should celebrate.

The Red Sea is interestingly named, because it was when Jesus shed His blood that our slave masters were defeated. When you put your trust in Christ and His sacrifice to save you from the slavery of your sin, you are figuratively passing through His blood that was shed in your place. And whoever the Son of God sets free, He is free indeed!

But that’s not quite the end of their story. Did you know the Israelites wished they were back in Egypt? The slave masters were dead. They were free people, but they still longed for the days of Egypt, because to them they felt a sense of security. Now that might sound crazy to you, but that’s not totally unheard of.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln established the Emancipation Proclamation that said “all slaves are and henceforth freed from slavery.” But there were slaves who were born into slavery that knew no other way of life. They didn’t know where else to go. In a sense, the lifestyle of slavery meant security for them. And so they remained on the farms and fields. They were proclaimed free, and yet they chose to remain put.

I think there are many Christians who don’t know they have a choice. I think many people believe they are still slaves to sin. All the while God is saying, “I’ve declared you free. You don’t have to go back to that sin. You can enjoy the abundant life of freedom.”

So here’s what I challenge you to do. I want you to memorize this verse. “If the Son has set me free, then I am free indeed.” Say that to yourself. When you’re tempted, remind yourself of that glorious Gospel. You are free from the slavery of sin. But within you is a desire to return to your sin. My word to you is this, if you have passed through the blood of Jesus by putting your trust in Him to save you and free you, then you are free! There’s nothing left for you in Egypt. Live your life of freedom! Enjoy the costly liberty bought for you by Jesus Christ Himself.

"What Is Heaven Really Like?" Brian Loveless Sermon

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Take your bibles this morning if you would, turn to Revelation 21.  The heaven scene; always one of the most powerful moments at Judgement House. When people have come from that hell scene; it's hot, and it's dark, and it's terrible.  They walk down that long hallway in what we call the Long Building, the Winnie Long building, and they come down through heaven. They have that little white robe placed around their shoulders to symbolize a new body. They get to line up there in the heaven scene and Daniel comes by to every single person in there, and just speaks some word of encouragement. You know my wife, Jenny, she noted a long time ago... I honestly had not even noticed this, and she caught it, and when she told me this it moved me so much... she said you know no matter how anybody kind of laughs off the drama,  no matter how they sort of poke fun at the hell scene, whatever, she said when they get to heaven everybody wants to see Jesus. Everybody wants to see Jesus.

Judgement House Weekend One Testimonials

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Judgement House 2017: Broken has been incredible, but don't take our word for it.  Check out what others are saying...

The Scarlet Thread - Pt. 3 Joseph

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The Scarlet Thread
Pt. 3 Joseph

Mankind is capable of doing incredible things. From antiquing, remodeling, refinishing, to repurposing there is this desire in us to redeem used, worn out things. We have an ability to envision value and purpose in things that seem like trash.

We get this from our Creator. Remember, we’ve been made in God’s image. So if we love to redeem things, I think that means God loves to redeem things. And when we talk about the spiritual part of you I think this especially makes sense.

The Bible says that before a person puts their trust in Jesus, they are considered spiritually dead. The Holy Spirit is not living in them, giving them life. But even after a person puts their trust in Jesus, the Bible says every good thing we try to do is the equivalent to a heap of dirty laundry. Very dirty laundry.

Now, I don’t want to bum anybody out prematurely, so allow me to give you some good news. God is powerful enough to give grace despite our sinfulness. That’s important to remember. Keep that in mind.

The Scarlet Thread is the story behind the stories of the Bible. It’s the Gospel and it runs through every chapter of the Bible. The goal of this blog series is to give you a jump start on reading the Bible in a new, Gospel-oriented way. So we’re just getting a few of the more familiar Bible stories and finding the Scarlet Thread running through them.

So far we’ve looked at the story of Creation in Genesis 1. We’ve looked at the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. And now I’d like to look at the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-41. As you read through this, I’m going to point at the sins of the characters in this story, and show how God is powerful enough to give grace despite their sinfulness.

1.   Joseph Sinned (Genesis 37:1-8)
He was no perfect saint. He sinned frequently. He was selfish, lustful, bitter, and proud. I know this because Joseph was a male human-being. He had his own issues. You can almost hear some pride hiding behind his words when he shares a prophecy with his brothers saying they will bow down to him. Joseph was a sinner. But God still poured out grace. God chose Joseph to rule a country despite his sinfulness, just as He has chosen to save us when we didn’t deserve it. This choosing was not because we were worthy of it but because God is generous. A Scarlet Thread of the Gospel.

2.   His Brothers Sinned (Genesis 37:18-24)
His brothers sinned long before they plotted against him. They had committed murder in their hearts already by their hate, and then they planned on killing him. That’s messed up! But God still poured out grace. Reuben, the oldest brother, saves Joseph from the murderous plot of his brothers by providing an alternative to death: throw him in a pit. Nice, Reuben.

Now, the name “Reuben” means “behold, a son” which symbolized another Son that would also deliver His people from death. A Scarlet Thread of the Gospel.
On a side note: Reuben would later sleep with his father’s concubine. A obvious no-no! This guy was a shadow of the Gospel, but only a shadow. A two-dimensional image of the real thing.

So the brothers throw him in a pit, don’t know what to do with him, and decide to sell him into slavery. My brothers bullied me, but they never achieved the bully status of selling me into slavery.

3.   The Slavers Sinned Genesis 37:36
The slavers sinned by committing a crime against the image of God. All people are made in God’s image and are inherently valuable. Slavery, the owning of another human being, is deeply wrong. But God still poured out grace. He led the slavers to sell Joseph to a wealthy officer of Pharaoh. As far as slavery goes, this was an alright gig. He excelled in his service so much that Potiphar made him head of the household.

God never wants us to remain enslaved to our own sins and addictions. The Gospel is what frees us from that spiritual slavery. A Scarlet Thread of the Gospel.

4.   Potiphar’s Wife Sinned (Genesis 39:11-15; 20-21)
Potiphar’s wife sinned by committing adultery in her heart and lying as well. Joseph didn’t deserve this. He was just a handsome guy minding his own business and yet because of one scandalous lie he was immediately thrown into prison. But God still poured out grace. Joseph eventually rose through the ranks of prisoners and earned favor in the sight of the guards.

God often times takes us through dark paths. He doesn’t promise us an escape from the difficulties, but He promises we will persevere. A Gospel Thread.

5.   Pharaoh Sinned (Genesis 41:7-8; 14; 37-40)
Pharaoh went searching for answers and put his trust in things other than God. He ruled with cruelty and with no regard for God or the people made in His image (like Joseph, the slave/prisoner.) But God still poured out grace. Joseph was brought in to interpret Pharoah’s dream and was given the opportunity to save millions of people from an unexpected famine.

This all happened as a foreshadow to how God has chosen to save us from an unexpected demise. The Scarlet Thread.

6.   His Brothers Sinned Again Genesis 42:1-2; 13
Years later, his brothers wind up in Egypt, looking for food. When Joseph approaches them in disguise, they lied directly to his face about him being dead. Really they had been lying about his death all along. Can you imagine what a miserable life you’d live, carrying that kind of a secret with you?

But God still poured out grace. Joseph put them through a test, eventually revealed his identity, forgave his brothers, and then brought them all to live with him in security and comfort.

Likewise, God will forgive our sins when we come to Him. He will provide a place in Heaven for us to live with Him in security and comfort. A Scarlet Thread.

The Scarlet thread of Joseph’s story, and your story, is this: Nobody has ever earned God’s grace. It has only ever been given despite our sinfulness. Everybody has disqualified themselves from a place at His table, and yet, in His marvelous grace He invites us to live with Him forever.

Where Is God in a Mass Shooting? by Russell Moore

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In light recent tragedies, it seems like we have more questions than answers. We are hurting, we are angry, and we are confused. In this article, Russel Moore explains God’s presence in the midst of suffering. I hope this encourages you like it did me!

In Christ,
Brandon H.

Where Is God in a Mass Shooting? 

by Russell Moore

A few hours ago I was on the phone with a friend in Las Vegas. He and his neighbors had just lived through, and will be living through for some time, the trauma of seeing in their own city the worst mass shooting in modern American history. I reflected after that conversation what my friend, a strong Christian and a respected leader, would say when asked by those around him, “Where was God in all of this?” He will have a word for his community, but for many Christians, when disaster or great evil strikes, this is a hard question to answer. Maybe that’s you.

The first thing we must do in the aftermath of this sort of horror is to make sure that we do not take the name of God in vain. After a natural disaster or an act of terror, one will always find someone, often claiming the mantle of Christianity, opining about how this moment was God’s judgment on an individual or a city or a nation for some specified sin. Jesus told us specifically not to do this, after his disciples asked whether a man’s blindness was the result of his or his parents’ sin. Jesus said no to both (Jn. 9:1-12). Those self-appointed prophets who would blame the victims for what befalls them are just that, self-appointed. We should listen to Jesus and to his apostles, not to them. Those killed in a terror attack or in a tsunami or in an epidemic are not more sinful than all of the rest of us.

We live in a fallen world, where awful, incomprehensible things happen. When an obvious and egregious injustice such as this one is done, we should stand where God does and see this as real evil, not as an illusion of evil. This means that our response to such should not be some sort of Stoic resignation but instead a lament with those around us who are hurting.

Christians sometimes suppose that our non-Christian friends and neighbors want to hear a detailed explanation, to justify God in light of such horror. The Bible doesn’t give us easy answers. The Word of God instead speaks of the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7). When tragedy fell upon Job, an ancient follower of God, and asked why such happened to him, God did not fully answer him. God instead spoke of his own power and his own presence. That’s exactly what we should do.

We do not know why God does not intervene and stop some tragedies when he does stop others. What we do know, though, is that God stands against evil and violence. We know that God is present for those who are hurting. And we know that God will ultimately call all evil to a halt, in the ushering in of his kingdom. We know that God is, in the words of the hymn, both “merciful and mighty.”

When my wife and I were going through a difficult time, years ago, a friend stopped by, a respected theologian who spoke often and well of God’s sovereign providence. I expected him to speak to us of how God was working in this tragedy we were facing. He didn’t. He cried with us. He sat with us. He prayed with us. And as he left, he turned and said, “Russell, I don’t know why God permitted this to happen to you, but I know this: Jesus loves you, and Jesus is alive and present right now in your life.” I’ve never forgotten those words.

Our neighbors do not need us to provide easy answers to what is, this side of the eschaton, unexplainable. What they need, though, is a reminder for us that life is not the meaningless chaos it seems to be. There is a loving Presence at work in the universe. They need for us to weep and hurt with them, as Jesus did at the grave of his friend. In short, they need us to be a people of the cross, a people whose God is not distant and blank but a God who instead loved the world enough to send his Son to bear in his own body the full measure of the curse of evil. In the cross, we see evil and horror. We also see that God is there. And in the empty tomb, we see that death does not get the last word.

Copyright ©2017 Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. All Rights Reserved. Find the original article at

Judgment House 2017 - FAQ's

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October 20-22 & October 27-29

Fridays 6:00-10:15pm
Saturdays 4:00- 10:15pm
Sundays 4:00- 9:15pm

Christmas is a time of celebration, but this year some folks are lacking in Christmas spirit. Alice, Betty, and Clyde are three very broken people who are in dire need of Christ’s love and mercy. Alice struggles with the pain of losing her father to cancer. Becky is guilty of self-righteousness. Clyde cannot fathom the idea of God’s grace covering his multitude of sins. Will they acknowledge their brokenness and allow Jesus, the ultimate Savior, to heal them before a fatal Christmas day accident?  Groups are filling up fast! Reserve your time slot today by calling our office at 972-262-5656.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Judgement House?
Judgement House is a walk-through drama that presents the gospel as well as the consequences of a person's choice to accept or reject salvation through Jesus Christ. Groups walk from scene to scene, building to building, throughout our campus until they reach the final scene and their tour is complete.

How long does it take?  
Groups of approximately 30 people leave every 15 minutes with our tour guides. It takes about one hour to walk through the entire drama. 

Do I need a reservation?
We encourage groups large and small to make a reservation by calling the church office.  Reservations are currently being made from opening each night till 7:30 pm. Individuals as well as groups can make a reservation by calling 972-262-5656 at any time. 

Will I have to wait long?
We make every effort to take each group through quickly to avoid long wait times.  However, there can be wait times as much as 1-2 hours.  This is one reason we highly recommend making an advance reservation.  The best time to come for a shorter wait is early each evening on the first weekend of Judgement House 2017 (October 20-22).

What is the cost of admission?
The cost this year is $7.00 per person.  This can be paid by cash, church check or credit/debit card when you come to Judgement House.   However, we will not turn anyone away if they truly cannot afford this.  Calvary Baptist Church spends between $6,000 and $10,000 each year to do Judgement House.  Expenses include the fees for the script, feeding the over 200 volunteers who work each night, set designs, advertising, permit fees, printing and mail outs, and rental of equipment used during the two weekends for the safety of our guests.

We have a reservation but more are coming, is that a problem?
We're thrilled you have a larger than anticipated group, please call our church office at 972-262-5656 as soon as possible to update your reservation!  Extra attendees will be handled as walk-ins and will have to wait until there is a place available in a group for them to go through.  For example, if you reserve a group for 30 but 60 come, 30 of them will be handled as walk-ins and may have to wait.

Is the production wheel-chair accessible?
Yes!  There are provisions made for wheel chairs to enter every scene except the hell scene which is down stairs.  For the safety of the participants there is a video of the scene provided upstairs.  We even provide wheelchairs for use by older guests or people who have difficulty walking long distances.

Can I bring my child(ren)?
We do not recommend Judgement House for children under 10 years old due to the intense nature of some of the scenes.  However, it is up to the parents.  If you feel your child is mature enough for each scene you may take them in.  For our two intense scenes one of our team will stand outside with your child until you have returned.  However, we do not have these volunteers available for your child during every scene.  Please arrange care for younger children so you can have a better and more meaningful experience during your tour.   There is no childcare provided for the public during Judgment House.

Is Judgement House just a way to scare people into being saved?
Judgement House is not intended to "scare" anyone into making a decision.  It is intended to make you think about your eternity.  In this year's script you will see three characters, each making decisions as they are faced with different circumstances.  When they reach their final destination you will see the result of those decisions.  At the last room our pastor will sit down with each group and talk about the characters and ask the group to consider how what they have seen applies to their individual life.  We hope that you will make the decision to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but that must be your personal decision.

What if it rains?
Our security team is very careful and concerned about the safety of our guests.  If there is any lightning the tours will stop, but if it is only rain tours will continue.

Is there a rain out weekend?
Yes, should there be a reason we cannot have Judgement House, we do have an alternate plan to continue one more weekend, but that is not likely due to the number of people involved and the large amount of our campus used for these two weekends.  Barring a major development Judgement House 2017 - "Broken" will be held October 20-22 and 27-29, 2017 and once it is over it will not be done again here at Calvary Baptist for two more years, putting our next production in 2019.

How do I get involved?
Judgement House productions require all hands on deck so we need your help! Construction is every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 7 - 10pm.  You can call the office at 972-262-5656 or contact our coordinators to find out how you can help in any of these additional areas:
         Cast Childcare - Kim Hochstetler
         Cast Refreshments - Teresa Dixon
         Cast -Ron Adams
         Concessions - Dan Bickle
         Construction - Terry and David Green
         Encouragers - Pastor Brian Loveless
         Prayer Team - Marsha Adams
         Registration - Karen Snead
         Security -  Mike Snead
         Tour Guides -  Ashley Contreras

You can also PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!  Pray for those building sets, acting in the scenes, working in registration, concessions and food preparation, security, childcare and the many other places our people are working.  Pray for good weather and for traveling mercies as groups go through Judgement House.  Pray for strength, endurance and the power of the Holy Spirit as we work each night.  Pray for those who come to understand and make the decision God wants them to make.  Pray for God's will to be done in each life that is touched by Judgement House 2017.

You can also visit our website at

Waking Up by Trina Hall

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Trina Hall has been attending Calvary Baptist Church since 2012 and resides in Grand Prairie, TX with her husband. Trina can often be found helping out local missions organizations and advocating for miscarriage and infant loss awareness in the Grand Prairie area. 

Waking Up

On July 27, 2007 I faced a tragedy that not only changed my life, but also many others lives;  like a ripple in a pond. My daughter and my grandson were in a major car accident on a country highway. My grandson was killed and my daughter was severely injured, suffering eight broken bones and undergoing nine surgeries.  Ultimately she lost both of her legs and spent three weeks in a coma.  That moment in time shocked me to my core and grief filled my life. When my daughter finally woke up, I was there to tell her that her son was gone.  Instead of crying or screaming like I expected, she was reserved.  I asked if she heard me and her reply was, “Yes I know Dale is gone.”  I asked her how she knew and she told us she had seen Dale with Jesus.

I was completely shocked. Until then, I had spent my time seeking God in the wrong direction. I had a nature-based belief system, but in that moment my whole life changed.   God brought my family, and me, to the realization that there was heaven and God was in charge!   I felt like I had woken up.  God has a plan, and even though we may not know it, we have to seek Him for guidance daily.  We cannot control our lives the way we think we can; we need His path, His word, and to seek His face.

My husband and I re-dedicated our lives back to God.  I asked God to remove this pain and replace it with something that would bring glory to Him.  In the weeks that followed, I prayed hard seeking what God wanted me to do. Then one day I knew. I asked my husband for a sewing machine. He thought I was crazy since I have never sewn before, but he bought it for me anyway.  I had no idea how to work it but God gave me a gift to sit and learn that machine so I could use it for His work.  I felt like God wanted me to start making children’s clothes and send them to missionaries across the world.  I started making clothes for children in Papua New Guinea and Haiti.  The smile of those children and love that God was sharing was the gift that God has given me.

From there I also started making angel gowns and blankets for those that have lost tiny babies. I donate them to the hospitals each year.  God has also given to me a gift to make jewelry help the missionaries with things they need.  Along with a portion of the proceeds, I send medical items, baby bottles and clothing, as well as formula to regions of the jungle where mothers are too ill to care for their children or have died in childbirth.

I thank God for changing my life to help others and share His love to those who needs him in their lives.  God wants all of us to be the ones to share His word and His love to everyone in this world. All Glory goes to God for giving me the gifts he has given to share His love.  The motto in my heart is verse Matthew 25:40 which says “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ”

May The Peoples Praise You

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Psalm 67:1-7

1 God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.
2 That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
3 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. 5Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
6 Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

We introduced a song couple weeks ago called “May the Peoples Praise You” written by Keith and Kristyn Getty, Staurt Townend, Ed Csh, and David Zimmer. I have learned to appreciate songs that have been written by multiple writers. The depth of Biblically based lyrical content combined with a singe-able and beautifully written melody shows that the song has been labored over, prayed over, and written from the perspective of multiple different sources. This song comes directly from Psalm 67 and gives the call to proclaim the name of the Lord because we have “been called out of darkest night”. (Romans 3:23) The purpose of our redemption is to make Christ known! What a challenge to make praise the name of the Lord and work towards making His name known throughout all the earth!

Here is a link to the song so you can continue to listen to it! I am looking forward to singing this song with you again on Sunday!


Keith & Kristyn Getty - May The Peoples Praise You (Live)

September 2017 Guatemala Report

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We are about two weeks off of, we just got back from, a trip to Guatemala where we took 13 of our members down to see the work that our church is doing there in Central America. It was a fantastic trip and for those of you who don’t know, we partnered with Manna worldwide to go into that incredibly poor, depressed area and start feeding centers and orphanages, medical clinics, and churches. We don’t think these two things are separate; blessing people physically and blessing them spiritually. We started in a place called El Arado, Guatemala. Saw a great church built, that church is thriving! Hundreds of people coming every week, people getting saved every week, kids being fed every week, the whole climate of the thing is changing.
Our most recent project, we’re continuing to support El Arado, but we found a church in a place called San Lucas where they had built the first story of a new building, started the second story, and ran out of funds. Basically you had a church with 100+ coming, with kids getting fed and all that going well, but you had a second story that every time it would rain, it would gather water on that roof, seep into the building, mold issues, all of that. So our church said, all of you who designate money on a weekly basis said “we can’t let that happen, we got to do something.” Our church determined to help build that second story and that was a lot of the focus on our trip to Guatemala this time.

This morning I wanted you to hear from a couple of them. First of all, Josh Moody come on up and tell us a little bit about your experience on this trip.

So Brandon told us to come up with a couple of things that had impacted us on the trip.  First of all was just the beauty of God’s creation.  Being able to see a different place and just good old flat Texas, right?  The gorgeous green mountains, volcanos actively going off, being able to visit the coast where they have a volcanic sand beach which looks like west Texas blacktop but still feels like regular sand.  That was totally incredible but the thing that impacted me the most was seeing the most beautiful characteristic of the Gospel at work: that was hope in hopeless situations. We went to the dump, we pulled in and as soon as you opened that door you are hit with the foulest odor. Some of the most intense, depressing scenes that you could see going on; the look of hopelessness in some of the faces that you see as you walk those couple of blocks into where we got to go to a feeding center that was there in the dump. Really hits you right in the gut.

As we made a couple of house visits we watched a couple of beautiful ladies who were living there in the dump raising their families without father figures for their kids absolutely break down into tears. To see that hopelessness leave their eyes and the hope of the gospel, as we shared it with them, and they accepted Christ as their Savior there in those homes, really just all of the sudden all those smells, all of those sights, all of those sounds meant nothing. It was no longer a hopeless cause. What we would normally see as something where they’ve got no chance, it’s completely hopeless, we would write it off, normally our human element would say those people don’t have a chance but they do have a chance when they have the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what you are doing by giving, what you are doing by helping to send us to go, and you going yourself (some of you have gone before us, this was my first time, definitely won’t be my last) you are making a lasting impact for the kingdom of God by giving every week, by sending others. We’re doing a great thing down there and you can see pictures, you can see videos all day long but nothing replaces the experience of going and having your senses touched. By smelling the smells, seeing the sights, physically touching the people getting to play with the kids there in the orphanage. It will totally, radically change your life and how you view what the gospel can mean not only in your life but in the lives of others who need to know him. And that’s what impacted me.

Thank you Josh. As Jaye comes and Jaye’s going to say a word here in just a minute, but I wanted to tell you for Josh this was a real moment because the last mission trip Josh took a number of years ago to South America, Ecuador, he had a blood clot on one of those flights that came within just an inch of taking his life. And so to go on another mission trip, to go down there, I know had to be incredibly daunting for him but he felt moved by God to do it and got on that plane and went. And I thank the Lord we saw such great stuff from Josh during that week and by the way we both rode horses to the top of an active volcano (Josh says they’re not horses anymore) one was named Glue Stick and the other was named hammock and they had some real struggles getting us to the top of that mountain but they made it.

Well I’ve never been good at telling the short version of any story so I wrote it down to keep me on track. This trip was an eye opening blessing and made a profound impact on my heart. I was not prepared for the contrast of emotions and experiences. There was beauty and brokenness, happiness and hopelessness, resilience and restoration, and gratitude and grace. Nor was I prepared for the magnitude of the need both physically and spiritually. According the CIA Fact Book more than half of the total population lives in poverty or extreme poverty, and nearly half of the children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Despite this the children at the feeding centers and the orphanage are some of the sweetest children you will ever meet. Spiritually, I’ve never experienced a more palatable need for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was especially magnified at the dump. I sensed a real spiritual battle to disrupt the witnessing from distracting teenagers, loud music, to the real feeling of an elephant standing on my chest. But the highlight of my trip was meeting Viviana Grande the young lady who’s made such an impact on my daughter as well as many of you. She’s such a sweet girl who’s returning to others what she received. The delicious cake she made for us and her detailed retelling of the first time she met those from Calvary Baptist melted my heart. Calvin said faith alone saves but a faith that saves is never alone. And I end with these two verses that were brought to life by this trip, James 2:15-16 “If a brother or a sister is poorly clothed and lacking food for the day and one of you should say to them “Go in peace; keep warm, eat well”, but does not give them what is necessary for the body, what does that benefit?”

Amen, give Jaye a big hand if you would. Watch this.

August 2017 Guatemala Trip Footage begins at 9:36

Thank you to our worship pastor Brandon who put together that entire video but he also coordinated this trip and did a magnificent job. We had two go with us this time, two students from our youth ministry, that I was very excited about them going. I was just in awe and I’ll tell you why in a minute, I want them to come up; Jenny Conway and Tevyn Cook.

So as most of you know this was my first mission trip that I ever went on, my very first time out of the country alone, without my mom. So as you can imagine I was kind of nervous and so was she. Honestly, I never knew what to expect, but I knew that God was going to work through me; but I didn’t know how well, or how hard, he was going to work in me. I went through a major change on that trip. I learned just how fortunate I was, and how selfish I was. I had no option but to humble myself. I just couldn’t handle it at one point and I almost lost it. For anybody that hasn’t been on a mission trip, I 100% suggest that you try one especially with our church. You’ll be so encouraged, so comfortable, and you’ll love it to death. It’ll change you for the better.

Well, like Tevyn said this was also my first mission trip and for those of you who don’t know I was born and raised in Brazil, and I lived 15 years of my life there.  I wasn’t really expecting anything because I lived my entire life in a third world country.  was just like “Its going to be the same thing.” I was expecting the same emotions and the same feeling that I had whenever I helped out in Brazil. Then I got there and I was like “this is different because I’m not here just to give someone food or to help someone out. I’m here because I am giving them something a lot more than temporary. This is going to be forever in their lives” and it ws just an amazing experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to go with. I just loved every second I was there. I know you guys already heard a lot about the dump, but once you get there you feel all kinds of emotions. You feel scared because you don’t know what’s coming next, you don’t know what’s behind those doors, you don’t know what they want to do. You feel mad and you feel angry because people are there and they don’t have anything. They live in the trash, they feel like trash, so that’s what they’re told; that they are trash.  You just feel angry that you have so much and they have so little, but at the same time you feel so thankful because you know God allowed me to be here today and give them a better gift than just food for a week. He gave me the option to be here and show them how good He is. That’s what this whole trip was about and I’m just really thankful to be there. For all of you guys who support Guatemala just keep doing it because it’s an amazing place!

Thank y’all very much. Adam Brewter is going to come talk to us. I tell ya with those two we really never saw them on that trip as teenagers, because they were just part of the team.Tthey worked like everybody else, gave the gospel like everybody else, and it was a real privilege to have them. Another gentlemen here who’s pretty new to Calvary and great to have on this trip, Adam Brewter.

Thank you. I kinda didn’t think I’d be here. Not because I don’t particularly enjoy public speaking but similar to Josh Moody, last summer I went on a trip and became pretty ill afterwards. So even before the trip I felt the Lord really working through Josh and Brandon, and just the convicting word from them to get out of the boat on behalf of the gospel. I felt the need to respond and kind of wasn’t sure what to expect. Why was the Lord working? Why was he putting this pressure on me to go down? I’ve kind of discovered I’m a tactile learner, I’m a visual... I have to go see it, feel it and getting out in that dump just where the smell is kind of like you are in the garbage truck, there’s this dust blowing in the wind that is getting all over you, and even beyond that the way the children were kind of treating one another. I mean little boys here in America kind of fight with one another, they kind of pick on one another, kind of tease one another, but these kids were hitting one another just out of violence; out of anger. I mean the atmosphere there was something totally different than I had ever experienced.  They’re just throwing rocks at one another; just the violence.

The lord kind of brought a couple of scriptures to mind Isiah 64:6 All of us have become unclean ; all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Thinking of that it’s like “here I am trying to do this righteous act and it’s really just filthiness before god.” It’s kind of that same environment we were in, its kind of the feeling that came to mind.  When we turn to the new testament we see something a little different Romans 3:21-22 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. That was really challenging because here in America we have so much. We’re all clean here in this building, we’ve all showered within the last 24 hours probably, and you go down there and you see the physical filthiness, but to realize that we’re all just sinners; it’s only Christ Jesus that makes a difference!  To really see that in action down there, with some people accepting Christ, was a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful country made some beautiful friendships!


I want to ask our ushers to come down this morning A little different service today than our normal worship hours but I wanted you to get to hear from this team. If you’ve not been on one of these trips yet and your physically able to go... maybe you’ve got some trepidation about it like some of these folks did... but I would encourage you take that step of faith. It will change your life and for those of you, who can’t go, man alive, we can pray, we can sponsor, we can give on a weekly basis.