In talking to many of you yesterday during delivery of communion supplies, you expressed how much you miss seeing and hugging the family in Christ. I agree. In times past we often felt so “busied” by church activities, that we really just wanted to stay home and rest. Now after sitting in the house (for about 22 days), many are chomping-at-the-bit, looking forward to the day when can all sit together in one room, worshipping our God and hugging one another. As we sit and think about the restriction currently placed on us, recounting the many normal things we can’t do right now, did you ever envision us being together as a family, as being so important to your life? As we all begin to feel this way, it’s time to begin planning something special. If you recall, Ken became ill and then shortly after the Corona virus hit. Considering we have been through a lot, we have much to celebrate once the quarantine is lifted.
So here is my idea. Let’s plan to have one great big Ken is back and the virus is gone blowout celebration!!! I envision a great celebration complete with good food, and a whole bunch of serious hugging and loving on one another (did I mention the food?). I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. This quarantine has confirmed what I always felt in my heart, and that is how important each and every one of you are to my life, and how incomplete I feel, now that I’m separated from you. I thank God for you always. Getting up every morning gives us an opportunity to shine the light of God into a life in darkness; and as we do so, let us look forward with great jubilation to the day when we are together again. Until then let’s all keep safe.
Certainly that is the question on everyone’s mind, but with news reports of growing numbers, we slowly realize the end is nowhere in sight. I would be the first to admit this virus has been a major interruption in our lives. While there is little good to be said for a virus that will ultimately cost lives; surprisingly, there is some good that has come from this viral situation that was greatly needed in our society. In families: slowing down from our rat race lives has forced us to once again focus on what is important - our loved ones. Another good from my perspective is my greater appreciation for many of the things we all take for granted: the ability to come and go as we please. The importance of our social relationships [outside of our immediate families] (I can’t tell you how much I miss seeing and hugging you all). I miss our time in worship and the special time we had after - sharing a meal together at a local restaurant. And naturally, I would never again take my groceries, local businesses, and workers for granted. I could go on and on.
So back to the question, “When will it end?” The answer to that question is easy - when the God that allowed it, decides His purpose has been fulfilled, then it will end. One thing for certain, ultra-super-busy lives have been stopped “on a dime” and now God has captured the attention, not just of this country, but the world. It is easy to see how far reaching is His power in something seemingly as small as a virus. Let us thank God for not using something harsher to get our attention. And now that He has the attention of the world - allow your light to shine brightly into the world of darkness.
As many bemoan this virus, let us praise our God for His infinite wisdom, and the good that is coming from it. I want to encourage all to look for ways to be a part of Gods’ solution - not caught up in digesting the problem - God has that.
As hard as I try, I keep coming back to the infamous words of Charles Dickens, when he penned the opening line of his book: A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Being confined to our homes has certainly stymied our lives, and after 9 days of self-distancing, many are finding our confinement almost unbearable. If we look at the effects of this confinement, we will soon see (in the age of electronics ) something greater taking place. Families are once again sitting together for dinner, husbands and wives are re-discovering the magic of marriage, and families are growing in togetherness and spirituality, as they put their faith in God. In essence, what appears on the surface to be a bad thing (self-distancing) - much good can come from it.
In the process of learning more about our families, we are also learning much about ourselves. Perhaps the words of Psalm 46:10 is the message God is telling us all. “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations.” In an era of personal busyness, being still may be just what we all need. It is in this stillness, we can clearly see God, and his work. I am convinced, God is at work in the midst of this virus situation, and it is through these works he will be glorified; and all will know he is indeed God.
Be encouraged during this most unusual time to do something only a child of God would do. It is through our
love for others, that they shall see God. Be still, and keep safe.
I began a conversation last week which I intended to conclude this week. That was before the Corona virus captivated our lives. It’s hard to think of much else right now, because every thought has to be filtered through the lens of this virus.
Last week, I began a discussion based on the statement of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, that he would make them fishers of men, and related this to our present work in 2020. In fact, nothing much in this charge has changed, and we too are to seek to be fishers of men, women and children everywhere. The challenge of this quest is being the “type” of people that can adapt to the different types of people that can potentially seek us out, to assist them in finding the cross. Our society has become saturated with individuals who have very challenging lives filled with all types of addictions, abuse, etc. So where does that leave us? Right in the middle of the battlefield faithfully serving our Lord. In order to fulfill our mandate, we must first arrive at the conclusion that we cannot do things as we always have. Times are different, and people are different, so we must adapt, or be willing to settle for being ineffective.
With that said, we are going to march under the flag of the apostle Paul when he said “I become all things to all men that I might win some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). The operative phrase here is “winning some.” It is the desire to “win some” that will fuel our efforts and determine “what” we are willing to do, to serve our God. This could potentially involve us in works that are historically unconventional, and a bit foreign to us; but we must be willing to press on into these unknowns as long as we are glorifying God in our efforts. What makes us the people of God, is our desire to look beyond ourselves, and to love all men unconditionally - serving God fully with everything in us. Together we will always seek to Love God…Love people…. with no limits.
“Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” These were the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:19, to Peter and his brother Andrew (who were professional fishermen). In the text, Jesus is calling them into a greater work - fishing for the souls of men. These same words are spoken to us in Matthew 28, in what is known as the Great Commission. It is the Great Commission that frames the work of the church. We are to seek and save the lost. The challenge in fulfilling Matthew 28 is the ”who” we are to seek and save. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not what many would like. Jesus is not calling us to the easy. He is calling us to do something very difficult for the average person, and that is to refrain from seeing people as they are, but instead to see beyond that, to whom God created them to be.
It is sad to see what life does to humanity, and the desperate shape many find their lives in. God is looking for a people. A special people that he can point these desperate people to, who will not judge them, make them feel less than, different, or unwanted. The challenge is for us is to be those special people, and to see with the eyes of Jesus, which is to see all as being worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus and the cross, regardless what their lives currently look like. Jesus is calling us to, Love God…and…Love people…with no Limits. To do this, we must remember who we were BEFORE we met the cross. This should soften our hearts, so that we long to reach out to lost humanity. The work of our congregation is moving in a direction which this congregation has never moved before in its history. We are going to take bold steps to reach out to the lost wherever they are, whatever they are into, with no concern for what is on them. We are going to go into greater detail of this new work next week, so stay tuned.
Continued next week…………
There is a line found in one of my favorite movies - Grace Card, (a must-see movie). It’s a movie about the struggle and power of forgiveness. The struggle to extend it, and the power of the freedom it releases in the hearts of those who execute it. The line in the movie I am referencing is when one of the characters is talking to the person who needs to forgive and tells him, “when there is something we need to learn, God sends a teacher.” At first glance that doesn’t sound like much of a profound statement, until you consider the teacher could be the most unlikely person or circumstance one can imagine.
So why do you ask, is this so prevalent on my mind? It’s because I am convinced God is leading us through this very territory with the medical issue experienced by our beloved brother Ken Catanzaro. In this scenario, the teacher is the circumstance, which we cannot control or change. The lesson: wait on the Lord faithfully regardless what you think, suspect, hope, fear, all the above. Also, this all moves at the pace of the God of creation, and not us. Ahhh - Patience, a very difficult teacher in a world of instant everything. In a moment, an instant, God slams the brakes on our lives and makes us slow down, refocus on him, and wait day by day, minute by minute, inch by inch as Ken progresses through the stroke he suffered. What we all want is for Ken to wake up, say the usual Ken line “I’m good, where are my clothes, I’m outta here.” But unfortunately that his not his reality, nor ours either. God is teaching me to be faithful and trusting in prayer one inch at a time, one day at a time. The teacher has come and has shined a bright light on the source of all things (God), and He tells us “I got this, put your trust and hope in me.” So, we wait with great anticipation as God works His work. Let us all learn this important lesson, from our Heavenly Father.
Get well soon. We love you and miss you. Praying that God will heal you, …. restore you, and put a joy in your heart that passes all understanding.
Oftentimes in conversation with various family members in the faith, somewhere in the middle of their story, I hear the same statement made - over and over. “As we left home, we would put on our masks so no one at church would really know what is going on in our lives.” It’s statements like these that make me wonder why so many are baffled why many of the children of these families have chosen to walk away from the Lord. A mask? Among the family of God? To that end I proudly declare as far as the Port Huron Church of Christ is concerned - no mask required! I say this because as a family, we understand messy lives. We understand struggling to live beyond the old man. We understand dysfunctional, because whom among us is not? We unmask ourselves not because we are proud of our dysfunction, but because we realize we don’t have to hide it. When we see the church as a hospital for the spiritually sick, instead of a haven for the righteous, we give ourselves permission to burn our masks. Jesus invites us to abandon our old man and embrace the new He is transforming us into. If Jesus knows our hearts, our lives and everything about us, what good would a mask do, except teach us to deceive one another? To those feeling a need to wear a mask, I want to encourage you to free yourself by unmasking, giving yourself permission to wear your real face. Freedom in Christ begins with accepting who we are. As we unmask, we become “real” and when the world walks in among us, they see others who, like themselves, are struggling to be better. I thank God our perfection was not a prerequisite for being His children. I thank God he chose us along with those who seem to have it much more together than we do.
”Father, thank You for giving us family members who have a faith we can look up to and emulate; and in so doing, gives us the courage to leave our masks at home. And finally Father, thank You for this wonderful place, among these wonderful people, where masks are not required.”
As I look out over the congregation, I see a great number who are struggling in their walk with God - yet they refuse to give up. To those of you to whom these words apply, I want to encourage you to keep going. Continue to hold on regardless, because your deliverance is near. There have been many among our number who have given up for a variety of reasons, not thinking when it comes time at the end to stand at the judgment - no reason will be good enough. Imagine attempting to convince an all-knowing God why you abandoned His family, and decided life was better for you in the world.
One of my favorite powerful moments in the Bible took place when the crowds on one occasion abandoned Jesus in John 6:66. Many in the crowd were those of the 5,000 who had been fed by Jesus. Now in this conversation leading up to verse 66, Jesus offers them something greater than mere food. As He seeks to offer them life, He explains to them who He is, and what they needed to do. Unfortunately, they could not accept what Jesus was saying, and the Bible says they began to grumble among themselves. And then, in one of the saddest statements recorded in the New Testament, the Bible says, “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” However, it was then one of the greatest statements was made, when He turned to the twelve, and said are you going to leave me too? And they answered, “where can we go, you have the words of eternal life.” What a great moment of declaration for those who truly follow Jesus for all the right reasons.
It is no different for us today. As Satan battles you daily, remember the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. Remember when you gave him your life. And remember, there is no other place to go, because he indeed has the words of eternal life. My prayer is that you will continue to fight the good fight of faith -refusing to budge an inch towards turning back. Lastly, continue to strive and hang on with all you have, until you make heaven your home.
Often my mind takes me back to D-Day, and I replay the scene as the allied soldiers were landing on the beach at Normandy. What often overwhelms my emotions was the sheer courage of those soldiers. As their landing craft hit the beach, the door was dropped and as the soldiers evacuated the boat, the Germans gunned them down. One by one, man after man, boat after boat. Non-stop. History records that so many died as they landed, the water turned red with the blood of fallen soldiers. Imagine, if you will, your boat is approaching the beach amidst a hail of gunfire. As you look around you, there are dead bodies in the water everywhere, and the water is red with blood. The beachhead also is littered with dead bodies. But they keep coming, using the bodies of the dead as shields against the barrage of German gunfire. Each of those men mustered all their courage to make it onto the beach with one thought in mind - we must silence the guns of the Germans. Someone has got to get through. If just a few of us can get through, then we can save the lives of the others behind us. What incredible courage. What incredible purpose. What incredible perseverance! Regardless how hopeless things appeared in the moment, they remained true to their mission - secure the beach at any cost.
As we read the Bible, time after time, the people of God have found themselves in similar situations. Everything appeared hopeless, and then at just the right time, God stepped in and changed everything. Sometimes it appears as though he waits for us to recognize our limitations before he shows up, so that He gets the glory and the worship of His people. Regardless how things seem, God is in control. The battle is still His. He calls us as His children to persevere on to victory - through our trust in him. Nothing could change the mission on D-Day and neither can Satan sidetrack ours. Let us march on to victory- with our God before us!