Who doesn’t love Peter? Big, tough guy fisherman, boldly going where no disciple has gone before, first to speak up, first to react with the sword, first to proclaim who Jesus really was, first to swear undying love and loyalty to the Lord, and the first to openly deny Him! Peter was quite a guy, one to which we all can relate. After His resurrection, when Jesus confronted him on the beach three times about his love for Him, Peter’s heart was grieved. “You know I love You Lord” was all he could say. Three declarations for three denials. How many times would Jesus ask you, “Do you love Me?” How many times, whether by words or actions, have you denied Him? How many times, from watching your lifestyle or listening to your speech, would people question your love for the Lord? We aren’t a perfect people, and like Peter, we all have failed Him one time or another. Maybe not blatantly, maybe only subtly, but we still have let Him down. Yet the beauty of His amazing grace is that just like Peter, we may have failed Him in some way, but He knows if we still love Him! Funny how it was Peter who encouraged the churches to be holy because He is holy. We won’t be perfect, our holiness may waiver, but we need to never stop trying! Then someday if He asks you “Do you love Me?” you will be able to answer, “You know I love You Lord … and He will!
You have been working hard all day, your body is tired, borderline exhausted, all you want is to go home and lay down, and then the boss comes along and says he has one more thing for you to do. Do you jump right up and say yes sir whatever you want? Yeah, thought so. Yet that is what Jesus did to His disciples, twice! Once after He had taught a multitude by Lake Gennesaret and again after His resurrection. Both times the disciples had been fishing all night, caught nothing, and were tired. Real fishing, manually casting and hauling in heavy nets for hours is back breaking work, they were beat, but at Jesus’ request to cast their nets one more time, they responded in obedience and were rewarded with more fish than they could handle! They didn’t whine or complain they simply obeyed. How do you respond to what Jesus requests of you? Whether extremely tired or fresh as a daisy, do say yes Lord or make excuses? Paul encouraged the churches in his letters to never grow weary of doing good works and doing good works is seldom that tiring but always rewarding. Seek and listen for what the Lord wants you to do, to go where He wants you to go. Don’t question it, He knows what He’s doing and of what you are capable. Heed the Psalmists words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.” You will find that is a very rewarding thing to do!
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” isn’t just a proverb but a theme that runs through the Scriptures. Too often we get so caught up in how much God loves us and has done for us, that we allow our personal relationship with Him to become too familial.
Yes He loves us, yes He gave His Son for us, yes He forgives us time and again, but He is the great I AM, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and we still need to fear and revere Him! Our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite. How Someone who can masterfully design universes and multitudes of life forms want a personal relationship with each one of us is well beyond our grasp, but that Someone deserves all the reverence we can give Him! People love to make new year resolutions (not that Jan 1 is the only time you can do that) so let’s do some resolving! Make it a point to become wiser; fear and revere the Lord more every day. Show Him your love by doing as Jesus said. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” It’s a new year yet He hasn’t changed. He still “is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” but we can continue to change and grow and become wiser. Let us resolve to do just that!
December is a great month; celebrations, parties, decorations, parades, almost everybody is happy, smiling, kind to one another, and then, it’s over! For some cynical people, December 26th is their happiest day of the year because Christmas is over. For many people, December 26th is their saddest day of the year because Christmas is over. But … it isn’t! Jesus came to be our Lord and Savior every day, for all our lives, for eternity! The world accepts the babe in the manger but not the man on the cross and that’s where the celebration really is! While it’s not realistic to do the outward December celebration all year long, inwardly that celebration should be going on every day. If you accepted God’s grace and given your heart to Jesus, it’s not over. The celebration is never over! You’ve got a loving Heavenly Father, a personal Lord and Savior, a 24/7 on call Councilor, and a Heavenly home waiting for you! The lights may come down, the parties may end, but it’s not over, it barely has begun!
It’s your 50th birthday. Family and friends plan a big fete. They book a fancy hall, hire an exclusive caterer, buy expensive presents. The big day comes and the band they hired rocks as everyone dances the night away and has a great time … except for you … because you weren’t invited! Sounds ridiculous, ask Jesus. That’s what the world is doing to Him more and more every year. It has this big December bash but doesn’t invite the guest of honor! Sadly too many people in the world echo this statement a co-worker once made to me. “Christmas would be really great if it wasn’t for all the Christianity!” We can’t control the world’s mindset but we can control how we respond to it. We can say Merry Christmas as often and to whomever we want. We can give to those in need rather than indulge those who have more than enough. While commercialism may use Christmas to fuel the economy, we have all year to give each other gifts. Focus on the gift God gave us, help others to focus on Jesus too. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but don’t be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings because you are honoring the Lord. Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year, as it should be. Have your celebrations, exchange your gifts, but make sure you save the best seat for the invited guest of honor!
Some people say way too much, some people say too little, some people say what needs to be said. Sometimes when we look at the Gospels we wish more had been said about the miracles Jesus performed, the words He spoke, the lessons He taught. The one time saying too much would have been okay, but the Gospel writers said what was needed to be said. We have all we need to understand and obey. We have all we need to know how to be saved. God knows we get confused easy so He kept it simple. Have faith and believe in His Son, repent and accept Him as your Lord and Savior, get baptized as soon as you’re able, and then start living the life to which He called you. Pretty simple really, a logical order of steps to follow. Sadly though, no matter how much, how little, or how just right we tell people about Jesus, some people will not believe. John the Baptist made a chillingly clear statement to his disciples. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, but he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Jesus did His part and now patiently waits for any who seek Him. His salvation is available to all who choose it! His amazing creation bares witness to His awesomeness daily. His Word speaks to whoever chooses to hear. He has said enough, now it’s up to you to respond!
We may have already had the white elephant bean supper and Family Christmas night on Capri, but the season isn’t into full swing until the choir presents its cantata and yesterday it did! While completing his Master’s degree program amongst all his other duties, Pastor Steve still managed to teach the choir a challenging cantata which they performed flawlessly to overflowing audiences at both services. Thank you Pastor Steve and choir for a moving, meaningful morning. As the season continues to gear up, don’t let all the hustle and bustle, the pressure to buy presents, the parties and parades overwhelm you. Be overwhelmed by that silent night, that holy night when Christ was born. Christmas may be good for the economy, as the world clearly thinks, but Christmas isn’t about the economy or us giving each other gifts. Christmas is about us receiving the greatest gift ever given, God’s gift to us, His Son. Christmas is about receiving Jesus! Enjoy this season, the festivities, the lights, family, friends, but never let the lights on the tree dim the light of the star in the stable!
When Jesus first appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, Thomas wasn’t with them and refused to believe they had seen Him. Thomas had traveled the dusty roads from village to village, he had seen Jesus perform countless miracles, heard the words and teachings straight from His lips, yet he still couldn’t believe it was true, he had to see for himself. It is hard to believe in what you can’t see, what you can’t physically touch. That’s why it’s called faith! Are you a doubting Thomas? Do you sit in a pew every Sunday morning and nod and say amen and go home unsure? Why? You have the witness of the Gospel writers, of Paul, of over 500 brethren who saw Him at one time. You have the words of John, “… but these words are written that you may believe (not doubt) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Yet the greatest witness is that of the Holy Spirit in our hearts! Time and again, He will touch you in subtle, personal ways that brings peace to your soul. Don’t be a doubting Thomas! Faith takes a commitment, make that commitment and let the Lord have your heart! Christianity isn’t a once a week, Sunday morning thing. If that’s all it is to you, you will have doubts. Christianity is a personal relationship with our awesome, loving Heavenly Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit, that moves us to follow His word and worship and honor Him, not only Sunday morning but every day! Having a loving, caring church family to do that with is a bonus! Time to trust Him in all things, with all of your heart, and let Him drive your doubts away!
Pastor Curt made a statement yesterday that should echo in our ears for the rest of our lives. “When you are grateful, it changes who you are.” Don’t drop into the lotus position but meditate on that for awhile. Think about the ten lepers Jesus healed near a village in the midst of Samaria and Galilee. All had a fatal disease, all were social outcasts for what remained of their lives, and all were healed. Nine of them were happy they had a life back and quickly took off to pursue it. Only one, in total gratitude, came back and fell at Jesus’ feet and loudly glorified God. Grateful people don’t have big egos. Grateful people aren’t greedy. While they may have unfulfilled desires, they are thankful for what they do have. Grateful people think of others because they know from where all their blessings flow. This Thanksgiving, meditate on Curt’s statement. Has your grateful heart changed you? Think of all the things you have, not what you don’t have or may have lost. Many lost much due to Ian, yet most still have more than much of the rest of the world. Think about all you’ve been blessed with, the beauty of where you live, your family, friends, your church family. It’s the Thanksgiving Holiday, give thanks, be grateful, and let that gratitude humble your heart. Thank You Lord, with a heart of praise and gratitude, we thank You!
“All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances,” begins Jaques in act 1 scene 7 of “As You Like It?” Do you ever feel that’s true? Look back over your life, all the different parts you’ve played, hats you’ve worn, players that have come and gone, dramas and comedies you’ve starred in, doesn’t it seen like one long act 1? So what’s act 2 going to be like? Thanks to Jesus, it’s going to be Heavenly! All because He emptied Himself to become a man, was obedient to His Father, and rose from the grave, act 2 will be awesome! How many times did He tell His disciples what was going to happen; He would be delivered into the hands of men, be killed, and rise on the third day? Many times, so why were they surprised at His resurrection? It sealed the deal, it proved everything He had taught them was true! They must have felt a surge of encouragement as their hearts raced when Mary brought the news of the empty tomb. He is risen, He rose for them, He rose for you! That’s why when act 1 is over, act 2 is going to be really awesome. There are some definite directions in the Script that need to be followed and accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior tops the list. For those that don’t, act 2 isn’t going to be too hot, well … The curtain will fall on act 1 for everyone, where act 2 opens is up to each individual. Let us help all the players to know the truth of who Jesus is, what He has done for them, and what He will do for them. It is never to late to take directions and follow the Script, except when the curtain finally drops on act 1!