Church Family by Weston Winter

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Weston and Barbara Winter began attending Calvary Baptist Church in 2004 and have been faithful attendees the Prime Timers Sunday school class ever since. In November 2016, Wes and Barb’s son, Jace, was suddenly called home to be with Jesus at only 42 years old. When the news came their Sunday school class was quick to respond. 

Church Family by Wes Winter 

It is amazing to me how fast members of the Primetime class were at our house. It meant so much to Barb and I that they would drop everything to be there, support us in prayer, and comfort us. The "world famous" Primetime class came through with meals until we eventually had to ask them to stop bringing them; it was more food than we could eat. That was such a blessing.

The cards and prayers are still coming! My dear, sweet wife is trying to answer those cards but she is overcome with grief every time she starts doing them. Please continue to pray for her. Pray for me as well. I try to restrain my emotions the best I can but we have our ups and downs. I know am not alone in this. Friends like David & Sharon and Gary & Sheryl, who have gone through this kind of loss, the loss of a son, have been so helpful to us.  Please continue to pray for us.

If you are not in a small group or a Sunday school class, please join one. The love, the fellowship, the bond that you have in that class is immeasurable. I don’t know how anybody functions through life, with all of its ups and downs, without a church family. You are closer than blood. All of you are close to us. We can call on you any time and you’re there. It is a great support and a great feeling to know that you have a family, a church family that is that close.

The Primetime class will always be family and all the rest of you that aren’t in Primetime, I’ll just call you cousins OK?

Saint Augustine on Prayer by Timothy Keller

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It has been on Pastor Brian's heart for our church to return to being a PRAYING church. This has challenged my faith and given me a desire to become someone who prays regularly with purpose and meaning. Timothy Keller's book on Prayer is a game changer when it comes to how and why to pray. He looks into what the Bible says about prayer as well as highlights the writings of some of the most influential theologians of all time.  One such theologian is St. Augustine. This article gives us a look at a letter he wrote that specifically addresses prayer.

In Christ,
Brandon H.

Saint Augustine on Prayer
by Timothy Keller 

Anicia Faltonia Proba (died AD 432) was a Christian Roman noblewoman. She had the distinction of knowing both St. Augustine, who was the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Christian history, as well as John Chrysostom, who was its greatest preacher. We have two letters of Augustine to Proba, and the first (Letter 130) is the only single, substantial treatment on the subject of prayer that St. Augustine ever wrote.

I had the chance to read the letter over the Christmas holidays and was impressed with its common sense and some of its unusual insights. Proba wrote Augustine because she was afraid that she wasn’t praying as she should. Augustine responded with several principles or rules for prayer.

The first rule is completely counter-intuitive. St. Augustine wrote that before anyone can turn to the question of what to pray and how to pray it, they must first be a particular kind of person. What kind is that? He writes: “You must account yourself ‘desolate’ in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be.” He argues that no matter how great your earthly circumstances they cannot bring us the peace, happiness, and consolation that are found in Christ. The scales must fall from our eyes and we must see that—if we don’t all our prayers will go wrong.

Second, he says, you can begin to pray. And what should you pray for? With a bit of a smile (I think) Augustine answers you should pray for what everyone else prays for: “Pray for a happy life.” But of course, what will bring you a happy life? The Christian (if following Augustine’s first rule of prayer) has realized that comforts and rewards and pleasures in themselves give only fleeting excitement and, if you rest your heart in them, actually bring you less enduring happiness. He turns to Psalm 27 and points to the Psalmist’s great prayer: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, one thing will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord to behold the beauty of the Lord.” This is the fundamental prayer for happiness. Augustine writes: “We love God, therefore, for what He is in Himself, and [we love] ourselves and our neighbors for His sake.” That doesn’t mean, he quickly adds, that we shouldn’t pray for anything else other than to know, love, and please God. Not at all. The Lord’s Prayer shows us that we need many things. But if God is our greatest love, and if knowing and pleasing him is our highest pleasure, then it transforms both what and how we pray for a happy life.

He quotes Proverbs 30 as an example: “Give me neither poverty nor riches: Feed me with food appropriate for me lest I be full and deny you…or lest I be poor, and steal and take the name of my God in vain.” Ask yourself this question. Are you seeking God in prayer in order to get adequate financial resources—or are you seeking the kind and amount of resources you need to adequately know and serve God? Those are two different sets of motivations.

In both cases the external action is a prayer: “Oh, Lord—give me a job so I won’t be poor” but the internal reasons of the heart are completely different. If, as Augustine counseled, you first became a person “desolate without God regardless of external circumstances”—and then began to pray, your prayer will be like Proverbs 30. But if you just jump into prayer before the gospel re-orders your heart’s loves, then your prayer will be more like: “Make me as wealthy as possible.” As a result, you will not develop the spiritual discretion in prayer that enables you to discern selfish ambition and greed from a desire for excellence in work. And you will be far more crestfallen if you have financial reversals. A Proverbs 30 prayer includes the request that God not give you too much, not only that he not give you too little.

The third rule was comprehensive and practical. You will be guided, he said, into the right way to pray for a happy life by studying the Lord’s Prayer. Think long and hard about this great model of prayer and be sure your own appeals fit it. For example, Augustine writes: “He who says in prayer… ‘Give me as much wealth as you have given to this or that man’ or ‘Increase my honors; make me eminent in power and fame in the world,’ and who asks merely from a desire for these things, and not in order through them to benefit men agreeably to God’s will, I do not think he will find any part of the Lord’s Prayer in connection with which he could fit in these requests. Therefore, let us be ashamed to ask these things.”

The fourth rule is an admission. He admits that even after following the first three rules, still “we know not what to pray for as we ought in regard to tribulations.” This is a place of great perplexity. Even the most godly Christian can’t be sure what to ask for. “Tribulations…may do us good…and yet because they are hard and painful…we pray with a desire which is common to mankind that they may be removed from us.”

Augustine gives wise pastoral advice here. He first points to Jesus own prayer in Gethsemane, which was perfectly balanced between honest desire “let this cup pass from me” and submission to God “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” And he points to Romans 8:26, which promises that the Spirit will guide our hearts and prayers when we are groaning and confused—and God will hear them even in their imperfect state.

Anicia Proba was a widow by her early 30s. She was present when Rome was sacked in 410 and had to flee for her life with her granddaughter Demetrias to Africa where they met Augustine. Augustine concludes the letter by asking his friend, “Now what makes this work [of prayer] specially suitable to widows but their bereaved and desolate condition?” Should a widow not “commit her widowhood, so to speak, to her God as her shield in continual and most fervent prayer?” There is every reason to believe she accepted his invitation.

See Augustine’s Letter 130 (AD 412) to Proba found in Philip Schaff, ed., “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” First series, vol. 1, 1887. Christian Classics Ethereal Library pp. 997-1015.

Copyright ©2016 Redeemer City to City. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find the original article at http://www.timothykeller.com/blog/2014/3/1/saint-augustine-on-prayer

Jonah Chapter 4: Revolutionize Pt. 1

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Jonah Chapter 4
Revolutionize Pt. 1

Leslie and Lauren are two sisters that are looking to Jesus and reaching out to those in need, and as a result they have revolutionized their world. After a life-changing experience at camp, these girls decided to get serious about changing the lives of those around them; specifically the homeless lives. So they got an idea to create a ministry in their church called “H2O: Hope to Others.”

Basically, people from the church can pay $3 for a paper bag filled with food, water, and a Gospel tract that they keep in their car. So when they come across a homeless person they have some way to help them out in a practical manner. The project has provided these not-really-shy but not-really-outgoing girls with many opportunities to trust God and step outside of their comfort zones.

But it gets better. Since they’ve started, they’ve been featured on Oregon’s largest newspaper, have had calls from other churches wanting to start their own H2O program, and they have even started a website for people all around the world to catch the vision and passion. They have revolutionized their world.

In this last chapter you will be see how God loved the people of the city of Nineveh so much that he went to such great lengths to bring a revolution to the city when His messenger was resisting His will. And not only that, but how He is on a mission to bring a revolution to your world as well.

It’s in this chapter that God lowers Himself to actually engage in an argument with Jonah about His plan and desire to bring a revolution to the city of Nineveh. It was a silly argument to say the least, but God took him on nonetheless. And when you read it through, you can’t help but groan a little bit for Jonah. Like, “Jonah, dude, why are you being so selfish? What’s with all the whining?”

Before we start judging him again, though, here’s a few reasons why Jonah was living in self-pity and with a self-absorbed lifestyle. He was not accepting God’s will. He had forgotten how God had been merciful to Him. And he did not love God or his neighbor as well as he should have. So yeah, Jonah failed on several lower levels which led to this emotional breakdown.

But we are just as self-absorbed, self-pitying, argumentative, and disobedient as Jonah, aren’t we? Of course, we don’t like to admit it. But God has an incredible compassion for the people of the world, and thankfully, that involves us. So once again we see that Jonah’s story is our story. But this is the last chapter of his. The final phase of his story. And it’s about creating a revolution.

We’ve said the city of Nineveh represents the world, and it does. But we’re going to narrow it down now. Because what it really represents is not just THE world. It represents YOUR world. Where you live day to day. Your school. Your job. Your family. Your friends. Those are the people you are called to reach right now. We’re not talking about when you’re older, when you’re wiser, when you’re smarter, or when you’ve graduated. We’re talking about right now, you are called to reach YOUR WORLD.

And the whole, “I’m too young to do something spectacular.” is a flat-out lie. Throughout history teenagers have reached their worlds, and they’ve started revolutions, just like Leslie and Lauren. They created a movement in people that all pointed back to Jesus Christ. Teenagers throughout history have done heroic things and many of them have gone unnoticed, and unappreciated, but that makes them all the more honorable.

Even in the Bible we have many stories of young teenaged people making big differences. People like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel, Joseph, Mary, and Ruth. These are all teenagers who did amazing things for God to revolutionize THEIR WORLD. It seems like God prefers to use the young, the incapable, the weak, and the simple to do amazing things.

As a Christian. (young, old, or in between) you are called to abandon your own personal comfort and to bring a Christian revolution to your own world.

But why? If you’re like me, you want to know the why. Not in any sort of disrespectful way. People just want to know why they are supposed to do things. I’ve always asked why, and it’s always driven my mom crazy. “James, take the trash out.” “Why, it’s only half full?” If she was in a good mood I would get an answer, “Because there is meat rotting in it, that’s why.” And if not I got the answer that we’ve all heard before. “Because I said so, that’s why!”

It makes me happy that God doesn’t leave us in the dark. He knows what He is asking is hard. It’s sacrificial. And sometimes God answers our why questions with, “Because I’m God, and I said so, that’s why.” But sometimes He answers our questions. And He has answered this question for us, “Why do I need to sacrifice my personal comfort to bring a revolution to my world?” In my next three posts, the last three of this series, I’ll share with you the why and the how of revolutionizing your world.

Crossroads Series by Pastor Brian Loveless

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For six weeks in 2016, Lead Pastor Brian Loveless shared a deeply personal six-part series with Calvary Baptist Church about what God had laid on his heart about himself, the church, the moving forward in the years to come.   

"Crossroads"  

Brian Loveless preaches the first of a six-part series on February 14, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.
 

"My Journal" 

Brian Loveless preaches the second of a six-part series on February 21, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.
 

"Pride" 

Brian Loveless preaches the third of a six-part series on February 28, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.
 

"Enough" 

Brian Loveless preaches the fourth of a six-part series on March 6, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. 
 

"Balloons" 

Brian Loveless preaches the fifth of a six-part series on March 13, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.
 

"Success" 

Brian Loveless preaches the sixth and final sermon of a six-part series on March 20, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.