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Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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The Invitation

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Matthew 22:8-10 (NIV)

The parable of the Wedding Banquet is directed at Jerusalem’s religious leaders. Jesus is trying to teach them that they are instituting a religious system that holds people hostage with laws and commandments, while all the time failing to accept that God really wants, above everything else, for people to enjoy and rejoice in a relationship with Him.

Jesus Christ was and is the living invitation telling people how to enjoy life with God, like attending a prepared banquet. But instead of saying yes, the religious Jews said no. And because they rejected the invitation, God then extended the invitation beyond the Jews to the population of the Gentiles.

Why is it that God has such a hard time getting us to accept Himself? It’s clear from this parable that it’s not from lack of effort on God’s part! He prepares the banquet. He makes sure we are on the list of invitees. He brings the invitation to us. He patiently waits on our response. He absorbs our refusals and denials and gives us, instead, grace. He sends out another invite and lets us live in spite of what we do to disregard His Son.

You have an invitation to enjoy the banquet of a King whose crown can never be removed. He will wear His crown, He will be seated upon His throne, and He will extend you yet another invitation. Earlier, in verse 4, his invitation says, “Everything is on the table waiting for you.” One translation says, “The prime rib is ready for the carving.” This isn’t a hamburger or hot dog! He says, “Come to my banquet.” His banquet is lavish and extravagant and superlative. He is sparing no expense in how He wants you to enjoy your life with Him!

No matter what is going on in our world that causes us stress and worry, we need to give God praise that He extends to us an invitation for us to join Him to celebrate and eat at His table—to taste, to see, and to experience that the Lord is good.

Stepping Into Your Calling

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Joshua 1:6-8 (NIV)

Joshua faced a huge challenge: Moses was dead. And God was saying, “Joshua, you are called. And this season demands that you be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”

In verse 6, the Lord starts with the words “Be strong and courageous.” In verse 7, He starts with the same words. Moses was great, he was special, he was strong, but now he’s dead and the next season belongs to Joshua. The Lord is saying, “You are called to lead the Israelites into the promised land, where no one will be able to defeat you as long as you live. Why? Because I will be with you as I was with Moses.” God only asks Joshua to bring his boldness to step up to the call.

God wants our willingness. When David went to see his brothers and everybody was shaking, fragile and scared, David said, “I’ll fight Goliath.” When God said, “Who can I send and who will go for us?” Isaiah said, “There might be many people around here who are qualified, but people who are qualified are not always willing. I may not be qualified, but I’m willing.

  • God doesn’t care if you’re able.

  • He doesn’t care if you’re capable.

  • He doesn’t care if you’re skilled.

  • He doesn’t care if you’re connected.

  • God needs to know if you’re willing.

This is the call on each of our lives: To be strong and courageous. To trust God enough. To want to honor Him enough that we’re willing to make decisions about how He touches others through our lives. It includes the willingness to make the God-inspired decisions that are required in your life.

Do you know why you give God your willingness? Because that’s the only thing you can give.

The same way God spoke to Joshua is the same way He’s speaking to you. Be strong and courageous. You are delaying many of the steps you need to take because you’re trying to figure out when you’ll have the necessary requirements or abilities to bring to the table. But God is trying to tell you, “The only thing that I need you to bring is enough faith to be willing to show up.”

What God Requires

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Micah has made it plain how to live, what to do and what God is looking for in men and women. Do what is fair, do what is just to your neighbor. Be compassionate and loyal in your love and don’t take yourself too seriously. Take God seriously. And he doesn’t say, “This is what God suggests” or “This is what God recommends.” He says, “This is what God requires.”

This text is teaching us that God’s call is a confirmation of how much our lives matter, and God invites us to give Him what He desires most. In fact, the word require is better translated in the original Hebrew, sought or seek. This is what God “seeks” the most in the call He extends to us. He is requiring that you be a specific moral person.

We can think of being a specific moral person in line with how it is described in the book of Acts, which is to live as a Christian. This means we are called by God to live specifically as a disciple of Christ. And for Micah, here’s what it means:

  • If you love Jesus, you love justice.
  • If you love Jesus, you’re married to mercy.
  • If you love Jesus, you walk humbly.
  • If you love Jesus, you take God seriously.
  • But you don’t always take yourself so seriously.

It means that we live Christ-like, surrendered to God’s sovereignty, disciplined by the love we nurture in Him, sacrificial in our exchanges with other people, powerful in our human-lived expression, but not excessively intoxicated with life only on this side of human experience. Instead, we concentrate on making sure we are prepared for what will be the longer side of our human experience, which is our eternal existence in the presence of God in eternity.

God is extending a call on your life because your call is the definition of why you matter in life. This is why you had to be born. It’s why you are stationed where you are stationed. It’s why you are given the abilities you have been entrusted with. Not only do you have other abilities, but you have certain abilities that are sown into the fabric of your calling.

You’re called to use your gifts to be a strong Christian in the world. So as Micah said: do justice, love mercy, which is simply to willingly show kindness to others. And then there is that poetic phrase “to walk humbly with your God,” which in the original means to live in conscious fellowship with God, living with a spirit of humility before Him.

Contending for the Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Jude 1:3 (NIV)

Who we worship matters. And the distinct way we see Jesus matters too. What we say about Him matters. Jude really challenges us that defending our faith matters as well. The faith we practice matters. The worship we offer matters. The Bible in its entirety—from Genesis to Revelation—all of it matters. And yes, that even includes passages that make us think about culture, morality, sexuality, and politics.

Jude encouraged and admonished Christians to fight for the preservation of the faith that was handed down to them from the prophets and through Jesus, a faith that was being attacked by people who just could not surrender to a Christ-centered spirituality.

Unfortunately, the Christian faith is a favorite of most people to express doubt about, to make comedic fodder of, to find easy excuses for abandoning. People are inclined to give themselves permission to ignore it, to adjust it, to extract important Scriptures from the Bible and disregard the rest. Some people in our culture think themselves too highly enlightened to believe in the Bible. Others have become disheartened. And way too many are afraid to defend the core beliefs of the Scriptures as we know them.

When your faith is being targeted for dilution or destruction, listen to what Jude says in verse 3: I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith. That word contend in the Greek can be transliterated into fight for it, preserve it.

If you’ve got a faith that is growing, your faith is always wrestling with doubt. That’s because it’s easy to have enough faith to be on the boat while Jesus is on board, but your faith is stretched when Jesus invites you to meet Him out on the water. It is easy to have a faith in a God who comes to you saying, “I’m going to give you a son,” but it’s not as easy to exercise that same faith when God comes along and says, “Take your only son, the son you love, and meet me on the mountain and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering.”

You can doubt, you can be curious, you can search, and you can wander and come back— because Jesus is the center. His blood has redeemed us. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, but Jesus is God the Son. That is the faith entrusted to us that we must contend for.

If you’re not wrestling, you don’t have faith. But here’s what faith says: don’t you ever forget, child of God, that while men and women may come and go, the Word of God shall abide forever.

Finding The Secret Place

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)

Jewish tradition attributes authorship of Psalm 91 to Moses. But what is the “secret place” it mentions? It was not the tabernacle itself that he is referring to (Exodus 25-31); it is more about his spiritual relationship to his God. Why? Because the tabernacle erected in that desert is obviously no secret. And yet Moses says that he or she who dwells in that “secret place” will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 

What is this secret place? And where can I find it? Is the secret place the Word of God? Well, it can’t be that because everybody, believer and unbeliever alike, has access to the Word. Is it a church building? The Church as an institution cannot be the secret place; everyone has access to it. It’s not worship either, because anybody can do that. So what is this secret place that puts me right under the shadow of the Almighty?

When he alludes to a secret place, where he says he can feel accepted and affirmed and protected by the shadow presence of an almighty God, the secret place must be a place that provides cover enough that you would want to abide there and rest there forever.

The secret place exists under the covering of Christ, who sacrificed His body for our lives. Among all the issues of our time—fires burning, multiplying viruses, threatening conflict, brewing tensions, mounting wars, violence in the street—His death has given us a safe place.

We are hard pressed on every side and the only place that protects who we are totally is the secret place of the Most High God. Only from that place can we balance on one hand the stress of these strange times, and in the other hand the goodness of our Almighty God.

That’s the secret place. The Holy Spirit did not come to visit or pass by. The Holy Spirit came to indwell permanently so that if surrendered, we are always aware of being in God’s proximity.

The secret place is the internal surrender to the Holy Spirit that always keeps you right under the shadow of the Almighty. 

The person who lives his or her life in the surrendered space of being led by the Spirit has found the secret to living a life that counts, a life of meaning, a life of substance, a life of resilience. Living your life with your internal spaces surrendered to the Spirit means you abide under the shadow of the Almighty.