Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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Fruit in the Off-Season

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
Matthew 21:18-19 (NIV)

Jesus and the disciples have apparently left Mary and Martha’s house extremely early in the morning because after making some progress on their journey, Jesus is hungry. He and the disciples are headed to Jerusalem. They are near a place called Bethphage, a suburb just outside of the city. Jesus approaches a fig tree and starts lifting leaves, looking for some small figs. He knows it is unlikely that He would find any larger figs on this tree because they don’t generally ripen until the summer months.

The context of our passage places this event just before the month of March and even smaller figs don’t show up until March or April. When Jesus doesn’t find any figs on this tree, He curses the tree rather harshly, and interestingly enough, He places permanence on His curse. “May no fruit ever grow on this tree again!” And the fig tree withers immediately.

Jesus is expecting fruit on the tree, or maybe He’s expecting nothing at all but is just using it as a lesson. Either way, the tree is being cursed for not having fruit when it was not the season for the tree to bear fruit.

Isn’t that interesting? Why is Jesus looking for fruit when it is not the season for fruit to grow?

Perhaps He is telling us as His disciples, “I want your ministries to be fruitful in season and out. I want you to focus on spiritual growth. Make people matter. Be fair in your dealings. Be spiritual in your deportment. These are the lessons that Jesus is trying to teach the disciples, and maybe He’s teaching them that ministry and service will not always be based upon personal convenience.

Sometimes life will demand of you that you produce fruit even in off-seasons. That you learn how to extend effort and extend energy when you’re running on fumes yourself. That you show love when emotionally you are running on reserve. That you learn how to forgive people when nobody has forgiven you.

You can’t wait always until it’s the “right time” when God is inspiring you that it’s your right turn. Sometimes your turn has to be taken in the off-season.


He Is King

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him.  “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Matthew 17:24-27 (NIV)

This passage focuses our attention on Jesus’s acknowledgement of His total self-awareness. And as much as we want Him to be so familiar to us, Jesus is not afraid of reminding us of His distinction. He can walk with you like a brother or a sister. Jesus can relate to you like a friend. Jesus can guard and protect you like a defender. He can listen and empathize like a companion. But He doesn’t want there to ever be a mistake when it comes to the totality of our interpretation of who Jesus is. He says, “Aside from all these things—friend, protector, companion, and supplier—don’t forget this: I am the King.”

The tax collectors would have a totally different approach if they understood who they were making an inquiry of. Jesus is the King.

Today I want to remind you that your life is going to be impacted only at the level of your perception of the Lord Jesus Christ. However you see Jesus in your life, that is the limit and the scope, the height and the depth, of the potential and possibilities in your life.

Your prayers, your pledge, your participation, your promises, your priorities are all shaped by how you see Jesus. And I’m here to tell you, amidst all that you see Him as, you need to also see Him as the King.


Purposeful Repetition

Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 15:35-38 (NIV)

Despite what some may conclude, the account in Matthew 15, where Jesus feeds 4,000 is not the same as the story we read in the previous chapter, where Jesus feeds 5,000. The supply this time is seven loaves and a few small fish, not five loaves and two fish. The leftovers filled seven baskets, not twelve baskets, as in the case in the other episode.

Apart from these numbers, the accounts seem much the same, so the question to be asked is, why repeat such a similar narrative?

I think God is teaching us that repetition is powerful. It’s powerful for us to learn about Him, about ourselves, and about His purposes in our lives.

Why does God bring total resolve to some things while letting other things keep revisiting us spontaneously within seasons? What is the spiritual value of experiential repetitions? What is God perhaps trying to teach us?

You and I don’t repeat anything in life—pain, hurt, conditions, encounters, altercations, traumas, successes, victories, enlightenments, disappointments, or joys—that have no spiritual meaning. I guarantee you that God attaches spiritual purpose to the repeated experiences of your life. So don’t let the struggle of it nor the familiarity with it make you either ignore it or take it for granted.

Those experiences are shaping you. Maybe the repetition is teaching us to acknowledge growth, to admit what was missed, or to really heal from brokenness. Or maybe God is trying to let you see that you’ve stowed away what He told you to bury permanently. Maybe it’s revealing that you have brought into your proximity what He intended for you to bring into your life more intimately. Maybe the repetitive experience is because you gave what was necessary for others to be okay to feel secure, but you didn’t get anything for yourself—or that you focused so much on yourself that you didn’t get the opportunity in it that was intended for others.

God lets you go back through some things because they will help you mature you to be a better version of yourself.



He Sees You in the Storm

He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.
Mark 6:48 (NIV) 


After speaking to the multitudes one evening, Jesus dismissed the crowds and instructed the disciples to sail to Bethsaida. Obeying, they embarked after a full day of ministry. An hour into the journey, a storm struck, leaving the disciples stuck between shores, expending energy but making no progress against the fierce wind.

Jesus, praying on a mountain, observed their struggle. The disciples were stuck in the middle of the storm. They were exhausted, frustrated, and vulnerable.

The disciples’ plight is an image of life’s challenges—effort without progress, conversations leading to frustration, financial endeavors going nowhere, struggling in the middle, feeling spiritually vulnerable.

Jesus understood their fear, recognizing the fact that the middle space tested their faith. He couldn’t leave them vulnerable to temptations, so He intervened, walking on water to demonstrate His power and calm their fears.

In the same way, Jesus offers encouragement for those stuck in life’s middle. We should interrogate our fatigue, frustration, and fear with faith. Ask questions before quitting. Challenge your interpretations and use faith to guide your perceptions. Life may feel like rowing against a storm, but faith in God’s constant presence and the possibility of growth anchors us.

When you feel stuck in the middle, have faith to believe that this challenging space is not insurmountable, because nothing is impossible with God.

He sees you in the storm, and He will not leave you helpless.

Hope for the New Year

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
Jonah 2:1 (NIV)

Like Jonah, you may have been swallowed by life’s experience and are lying in the dark recesses of the fish’s belly, so to speak. But here is the good news that Jonah’s example offers: God can bring you back.

It doesn’t matter how submerged you are. He can bring you back.

He is the escape out. He is the path back. And He is the destination as well.

As we begin a new year, I want you to stop being so hard on yourself because you can’t offer a perfect performance every day. Your testimony is not the sum total of perfect performances in life. Your testimony is the gift of resurrection that you have received. We are all going through these Jonah-type experiences, being swallowed by life’s realities. They’re draining, they’re perilous, and they’re threatening. They hit us hard, and they make enormous withdrawals causing large human deficits. And if you don’t know Jesus, if you don’t nurture the revelation that Jesus shares, you’ll never ever believe or experience reemergence.

We know people like this, don’t we? We know people who have gone through things and the season has passed, but the emotion remains. We know people who have gotten past something they just can’t get over something. God has taken them from grace to grace, but they have dragged along from grace to grace the baggage of all of the regret and the mourning and the horror and the abuse and the hurt. And even though he who the Son sets free is free indeed, too many people are in a prison.

But take this lesson from Jonah into the new year:

There is a path back from death. There’s a path from darkness. There’s a path from draining experiences. There’s a path from depleting encounters. Only Jesus offers it. That path is resurrection. When your doubts and suspicions are high, Jesus is in your life to give you liberty and to give you license to walk in Him by faith and make your journey from death to resurrection.