Pastor Paul Burris's Memo

November, 2023

From Pastor Paul

I've heard a lot of droopy prayers in my life. Hey, I've prayed a lot of them, too.

Prayers of desperation -- God, you've got to help me!

Prayers of self-pity -- God, things are so awful!

Prayers of resignation -- God, if you want to leave me unemployed, then I can't stop you!

But I'm learning how to pray a different kind of prayer -- prayer said with thanksgiving. I learned it from Paul who, writing from prison, taught me a most powerful lesson. He said,

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."1

Strange. Here he is suffering himself, yet he's telling me to pray with thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the seasoning that makes our prayers edible to God. After all, who wants to hear people whine all the time? I've learned that you can't whine and give thanks in the same breath. Self-pity and thankfulness don't mix any better than oil and water.

In fact, mixing thanks with prayer somehow changes it. When we remember what God has done for us in the past and think about who he is in the present -- and express that in thankfulness -- our prayers become more gentle, more trusting somehow. Thankful prayers are offered with faith. And faith is an essential ingredient for prayers that God chooses to answer.

We remember the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day, not so much for their turkey dinner, but for the sheer faith that inspired them to give thanks in a year that saw nearly half their number die of sickness. Yet they prayed with thanksgiving.

When your annual day of feasting is over, you may bemoan your extra helpings of dressing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. But if you can hang on to the "thanks" part of Thanksgiving, you'll be a different person. Because when you learn to talk to God about your needs -- mixed with a healthy dose of heartfelt thanks -- then you have crossed the divide from whining at God to real prayer.

Happy Thanks-giving!

Pastor Paul

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October, 2023

From Pastor Paul

Hard things. What makes them bearable? Doable? Where do you find the inner strength that you need to endure them?

I decided recently that I can put up with almost anything, endure tough things, stretch my comfort zone, and deal with hurts and disappointments. If they are for the Lord. I mean if my attitude ultimately impacts someone for the Lord, then it's worth it. If I sacrifice something for the Lord, it's worth it. If I'm hurting but I know that ultimately that hurt will be worth it because I'm giving it over to the Lord and He will use that situation or hurt for His greater good then it's so worth it. But things just don't seem very bearable or doable without being able to lean on the Lord or knowing that He will use them.

I think that is where hope is so valuable. In my life, I have hope because I know I can turn to God and He can bring good from what I am going through or use it in a mighty way. If I couldn't turn to Him, things would just feel so very lonely, hopeless and empty.

Hard things come into our lives all of the time. It's hard to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. It's hard to sacrifice our desires, dreams, and wishes especially if other people benefit who may not deserve them. It's hard to feel like we are forgotten or "shafted" not noticed. It's hard to do the right thing when the wrong thing feels so good at the moment! It's hard to swallow our pride, let go of our bitterness, or squelch our anger. It's hard.

Doing something hard is worth it though. It's worth it if you do it for the right reasons. Do it for the Lord and not yourself. If you do it for yourself that only keeps the focus on yourself and you don't really benefit in the long run. But if you do it for the Lord, then you have a greater cause and something that motivates you to be better, stronger, wiser.

Yes, doing something hard is worth it if it's for the Lord. I know that I can do anything if it's for my God. You can too. Find the inner strength you seek by giving those hard things over to God today.

See you Sunday,

Pastor Paul

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Tuesday, August 22

From Pastor Paul,

Do you have a dream and a goal for your life? Do you envision something is changing in your circumstances? Did you make a commitment to change some bad habits in your life? Do you feel that God wants you to step out in faith and start a new ministry or a business? Do you know deep down in your heart that God wants your life to go in a totally different direction?

The Bible says in Philippians 2:13 that "God is working in you, giving you both, the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Another translation puts it this way: "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will."

You see, so many times we have an idea or a desire. We are so sure that it comes from God. We get all exited over it. And then, all of a sudden the excitement is taken over by doubt, fear, and uncertainty and disbelief.

But I want to encourage you to go for it and stick with it. If you feel that God is up to something in your life, please realize, that God did not only put the idea, the dream and the will into your heart, but that he also has already equipped you with the power to accomplish his plan that he has for your life.

And it is a wonderful plan that God has for your life! He has put a dream and an idea in your heart and mind and he has given you the power to fulfill that dream. It gives God great pleasure to watch you accomplish his plans for your life.

Here is a lesson that you can learn from a postal stamp. When you mail a letter, the stamp stays on the envelope until it reaches the final destination. Many people have great and noble plans but they give up to soon. As soon as some problems come along the way they quit. Some quit because some good Christian friends just 'can't see it being from God'. Others work hard towards accomplishing their dream but then they give up just steps away from the finish line.

Let me encourage you to

1. Set yourself a goal, that is reachable and has value for yourself and others
2. Start today to take at least on step every day toward that goal
3. Never lose sight of your goal. (Think and dream about it all the time)
4. Don't listen to people that have no interest in your accomplishments
5. Stick to it until you reach your destination. Just like a stamp!

Let your dreams, goals and desires come alive in your heart and mind again. They must fill you with a burning desire. Be convinced, that you will reach your God given goal because with God NOTHING is impossible!

And never give up! Tell yourself every morning: It is too early to give up!

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul

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Monday, July 24

I would like to share with you one of my favorite illustrations shared by Charles Swindoll:

Let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend’. Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations.

Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the Receptionist’s room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I asked about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, "I think he’s down there." Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas. "What in the world is going on, man?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?" "Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two - Great stuff in those letters."

"OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?"

"Do? We didn’t do anything about them." (Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll)

What are we doing with what God has placed us in charge of us?

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, June 28

From Pastor Paul

Stealthily they walked through the jungle, a single column of men, cautiously looking right and left as they traveled. They were well armed as they moved through the brush. Their enemies would have been fools to rush them head on. Instead, one by one, they began to emerge from the bushes grabbing the last man in line, carefully covering his mouth so he could not cry out in warning to the others.

Isn't that the way it usually goes? I couldn't tell you how many movies I've watched wherein it happened this way. You'd think they would get wise to this plot after a while and put two men back to back, heavily armed with some sort of siren device on them. That way when the enemy tried to pick them off from the end of the line they would be very well guarded. But no they continue doing it the same old way. I've tried to tell them as I watched, "Look behind you buddy!" But they just refused to listen to me.

But isn't life a little like that? Many live day to day looking back to what happened yesterday. We fret and worry about what we have done. Many a movie star or sports star has ruined their lives and careers because of choices they made yesterday. Perhaps they are sorry for what they've done, although in too many cases they are only sorry after they have been caught. Regardless, we can't change what took place yesterday. We can apologize if an apology is in order; we can try to repay others if we have cheated someone. We can attempt to make right what we did wrong yesterday. Still, the mark is there and we cannot erase it.

Many have said, "If I could just live that incident over I'd do things differently." You know what? If we made the choice we made yesterday, unless we could relive it with the knowledge we have today, more than likely we'd make the same choice as we did before.

Let's just face facts here; we make bad decisions. We get angry; we feel justified and we do things in haste as a result. God calls it sin. If we could only have a heavily armed guard in the rear protecting us from those wrong choices, mistakes, and sin that we did yesterday wouldn't life be a whole lot easier?

In Isaiah 52:12 God, through the prophet Isaiah, speaks of this very thing. It says, "For you shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard." Isn't that a neat thought? It tells us that God will not only go in front of us but He will also be the heavily armed guard in the back. If we listen to Him, and if we follow Him, He will not only lead us down the path of safety but He will also be at the end of the line taking care of the enemy who desires to pick us off one by one from behind.

In essence He is also saying that if we are faithful in following Him, by doing what He tells us in the Bible as it witnesses to our conscience, He will not only take us down the right road of the future, protect us and guide us today, but He will also be there to help us make the right decisions that will protect our yesterdays. In other words, we won't have to live in regret of yesterday.

I know we all make mistakes and wrong choices. The Lord knows that I've certainly made my share, and then some, of bad decisions. But that only happens when we aren't in tune with God; when we act without seeking His will and His instruction. But when we are orchestrated with the God of Heaven, and we are following His music, the music of life, then He will become our guard against yesterday.


See You Sunday,


Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, April 26

From Pastor Paul:

One of my favorite Easter stories comes from the Gospel of John. It takes place a few days after Easter, Jesus has appeared to the disciples twice now. And one day Peter and a few other disciples decide to go fishing. It seems like a perfectly normal thing to do, after all they have spent the majority of their adult lives fishing.  

And so now that their time following Jesus around Galilee seems to have come to an end they return to fishing.  

But they were not very successful. They fished all night and they did not catch a single fish. They are discouraged and frustrated, and then just after dawn they hear a man standing on the beach asking them if they have no fish. When they honestly reply that they do not, he tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat because there they will find fish.  

So, figuring it can't hurt to try, they cast their nets to the other side. And they cannot even haul the nets into the boat because they were so full with fish.  

Immediately they recognize that this stranger on the beach is the risen Jesus and they quickly go to shore to meet him, build a fire, and feast on fish with him.

I love that the disciples, at a loss for what to do now that Christ has risen, return to something familiar. They return to what they know.  

But they find that it does not quite work out for them anymore. And here comes this man with a ridiculous suggestion that the problem is simply that they are fishing from the wrong side of the boat! The man tells them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat. Like all fishermen at the time, the disciples were fishing from the left side of the boat. This is because the steering apparatus was located on the right side of the boat and thus fishing from that side risked tangling the net with the steering apparatus when a full net of fish was raised into the boat.  

This meant fishing from the right side of the boat could result in damage to the boat or the net, something any fisherman would want to avoid. And yet the disciples find, when they allow the risen Jesus to change their old fishing habits they get an abundant catch. 

We are so like those disciples returning to fishing. After celebrating the Easter season many of us return to our old habits, routines, and patterns of life. Like the disciples, we too return to what we know.  

Jesus does not admonish the disciples for returning to their old way of fishing. Instead he offers them a small but significant transformation, a twist on the old way that has huge results.  

The risen Jesus offers us a twist on the old way, we are called to respond to the Resurrection with fearless love that transforms even our smallest habits, routines, and ways of life.  

What would it look like for you to fish on the other side? What would it look like for you to go about everyday life responding to the call of the risen Christ?  

Cast your nets to the other side. Allow familiar ways to be transformed by resurrection love.


See You Sunday,  Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, March 22

From Pastor Paul:

Every year when the NCAA men’s basketball tourney takes place I am often reminded of past tourneys and feats of heroics (and no I’m not referring to IU’s 5 National Championships, sorry Boilermaker fans). In mid-March every year teams take the stage with high hopes of going as far as they can in the tourney regardless of the odds.


One tourney that sticks out as one of my favorites took place in 1983. That year the North Carolina State Wolfpack won eight consecutive games which propelled them into the title game.  They faced the University of Houston Cougars, whose twin towers, Clyde Drexler and Hakeen Olajuwon, had earned the nickname “Phi Slamma Jamma.”


Experts considered the championship match an afterthought. Houston needed to go only through the motions. But the Wolfpack had other ideas. Another contest as an underdog didn’t faze Jim Valvano’s team.


NC State used the same strategy that had carried it on its winning streak. The team stuck to a controlled offense, tight defense, and planned to foul late to force Houston into pressure free throws. The tactics worked well. The Wolfpack led 33-25 at the half.


Houston regrouped and went on a 17-2 run. With three minutes remaining, the Cougars forged ahead 52-46. NC State began to foul. The plan worked. Houston missed free throws, and the Wolfpack hit buckets.


With the score tied at 52, Valvano ordered his team to work for the final shot. But the Pack’s offense wasn’t clicking and time ticked away. Dereck Wittenberg fired a desperation shot that touched nothing but air. Suddenly, two monstrous hands reached up, grabbed the ball, and stuffed it through the hoop as the buzzer sounded. The hands belonged to NC State’s Lorenzo Charles. The Wolfpack reigned as the NCAA Basketball Champs.


NC State proved that things don’t always go as planned. The strongest and the swiftest don’t always win. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “I have seen something else under the sun: the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise nor wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)


Time and chance happen to all. And God controls both. Let that be a reminder to us as we continue the work God has called us to here at Calvary. The Wolfpack’s 1983 championship season is a powerful statement as to what can be accomplished if one stays focused on the task at hand. As we move forward in ministry let us continue to pray for the readiness to receive the unexpected from God.


See You Sunday, Pastor Paul


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Wednesday, January 18

From Pastor Paul:

As I sit here in my office looking out the window, it’s raining and the wind chill is hovering around 30 degrees. It’s on days like today when I think how nice it would have been to stay in bed wrapped in a warm blanket or to be sitting in front of a warm fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate. However, I realize that we can’t always do what we want to do. In fact many times in life we find ourselves dealing with climate changes (and I don’t mean just the temperature) that we just don’t want to face. We would rather be anyplace but where we are.


Every year, many of us resolve to do things differently in the coming year. We do so in hopes that maybe the coming year will be the year that we overcome some of the addictions and habits that have become a burden in our lives. Maybe you resolved to lose weight. Maybe you thought that it was time to lay off the chocolates or caffeine. Maybe you decided this was the year you were going to make amends with someone whom you have had a falling out with. One month into the New Year, I can’t help but wonder how many of you are struggling to keep those New Year’s Resolutions that you set. We tend to make excuses and the climate might not always seem right for change. Many outside circumstances force us to alter our commitments and so we struggle along doing the best we can.


As Christians, we have been called to present the Gospel message to the world. To do so, we need to change our way of thinking and find a way to come together. It is only when we come together that we are truly the body of Christ. It is as a collection of members that we accomplish the works of apostles, prophets, teachers and healers. It is only when we work together that the whole Christian story can be told.


Last Sunday we embarked upon a journey to be unified in prayer as a church community. Through this Prayer Initiative we are making a commitment to come together in prayer (this prayer can be found in this month’s E-Navigator, our weekly Guidelines for Prayer and the bulletin each week) on a regular basis and listen for God’s guidance (nudgings) through the process. The leadership at Calvary believes that this is one way we can come together as a unified body and as we share our stories about what God has laid on our hearts we will begin to understand how God is calling us to present the Gospel message to the community that we serve. This will allow us to focus on matters outside our own personal lives and perhaps change the narrative of this church as we venture out into the unknown future.


So, how will we tell the Christian story in the year that lies ahead? What New Year’s Resolutions will we make as the body of Christ in our church today, and what will we do to show that our commitment is more than skin deep? This is the year to:


  • Show real warmth as we reach out to the community, welcome visitors to our congregation, and work to strengthen the bonds of Christian community among us.
  • Demand authenticity in our Christian education, congregational care and personal interaction inside, and outside, of the church, so that we won’t settle for pat answers to difficult questions or challenges.
  • Encourage passion in our worship and outreach to our community, so that everyone will feel and see, our commitment to the work of our gracious and powerful God.
  • Focus on Jesus in every aspect of our church’s life, so that we will be able to deepen our relationship with the One who is our Lord and our Savior.


Warmth, Authenticity, Passion and JesusThese are the four key characteristics of a healthy church, and they are the four qualities that will be decisive for the vitality of the body of Christ in 2023 and in the years to come. See you Sunday!!


Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, November 16

From Pastor Paul

November 27th begins the season of Advent. For 28 days, we journey to the manger where we experience God’s presence become flesh and dwelling among us. God’s good news takes human form to tell us we are not left alone in this life. Emanuel, God with us, comes to us. It is a life-changing story that we enter at this time of year.

This year, I wonder how we will get there. It seems now with the branding of Christmas that there are many other paths to Christmas Day. For some, Christmas is now about what sits under the tree after searching at length for presents we may or may not need. Encountering God’s life-transforming presence seems less interesting if it is even remembered as the story of this season.

The basic definition of Advent means the coming or arrival of a notable person, thing or event. As Christians, we know how our familiar story ends (or begins) with God arriving through poor, unknown parents in a back alley of a small city. In a poem unrelated to Advent yet very pertinent, T.S. Eliot speaks about being in a familiar place and yet exploring it until we arrive at the same place and know it in new ways. He writes,

We shall not cease from exploration


And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

~T.S. Eliot

We know the destination of Christmas, but what path will we take in our travels through Advent to the manger and Christmas Day? Jesus’ own words in his Sermon on the Mount can be helpful: seek and we will find. We find God’s way in the midst of searching for it. We find God’s dream for us when we follow the Way of hope, peace, joy and love.

What if we take that path, a path less traveled this season? Let’s search for the manger using God’s Way of hope, peace, joy and love as if they are points on a compass and we are seeking ways to live authentic and faithful lives to a story that has transformed us and wants to do so again. What might we see in an otherwise routine and annual story? What unexpected turns will we take? What stops will we make along the way?

I’m looking forward to our journey together and what God will reveal to us along the way and on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to searching for God’s Way this Advent and the ways God will make us living examples of God’s presence in the world.

Traveling Mercies,

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, October 19

From Pastor Paul:

Driving around northern Indiana this past week I have been somewhat hypnotized by the trees and the brilliant colors on display. It seems to me that they are more prominent than in years past. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and have learned to appreciate things more. I don’t know? Whatever the reason this has always been my favorite time of the year. However, when I stop the car and get out I am reminded that the leaves are falling off the trees and that this particular beauty will be short lived. Winter is right around the corner. Winter is the time when I often reflect upon the changing seasons of life. It is a reminder that there is an end to everything and I begin to wonder what legacy I might leave behind when my time on earth is finished.

Have you ever thought about what you are going to leave behind when you die? Most people think in terms of possessions—property, money, stocks and bonds, and so forth. But let’s think in terms of spiritual heritage. What kind of lifestyle, what kind of understanding of who God is and what the Scriptures say will be your legacy?

You may say, “Wait a minute. You can’t give someone else your faith. That’s something everyone has to experience on a personal basis. You can’t really give your faith away.” You cannot give away your experience, I admit, but you can hand down your faith. You can leave your sense of moral values, the understanding of the principles of Scripture, those principles of the Word of God that have guided you and led you as you made your decisions in life….

If you are a Godly parent, or grandparent, look at what you may have to give to your children. You may not be able to leave them even a small amount of money, but if you have loved God and practiced the principles of Scripture, if you have loved your children and listened to them, you will leave them a faith to sustain them through every difficulty, every heartache, and every trial of life.

As the seasons of life come and go, our challenge as parents and as a church is to build strong Christian homes. To teach our children everything we know about God and life. By doing so we will in fact be leaving them the greatest treasure they will ever receive. 

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul           

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