Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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1 Peter 4:8-9

Above all, love one another deeply, because our love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)

As the leaves start to change and fall this season, I find myself reflecting on the year thus far and what’s to come. I start to wonder: did I follow my New Year’s resolutions? Did I accomplish everything I needed to to make 2016 the best it could be? We are about to enter our busiest season: the holidays. Full of fall revival services, bountiful food, gift giving, celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and the welcoming of a new year, there is no doubt that this season also means chaos and stress. We love our celebrations, but what about all of the planning that goes into them? The last-minute errands we have to run, trying to find the perfect recipe or the perfect present, gathering together families that don’t always get along perfectly—it can all be a bit much. Add in the volunteer opportunities, decorating, the Christmas concerts and plays, and our otherwise normal daily routines, and it can be hard to catch your breath. But it’s important we don’t let this special season pass in a blur; we need to reflect on our experiences and find our peace so we don’t get lost.  

Before the more recognized holidays begin, we have a few that occurred the last couple weeks that are a little lesser known: International Day of Peace and National Good Neighbor Day. Each year on September 21st, we celebrate International Day of Peace. According to The General Assembly of the United Nations, the day serves as a day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” Though this day has passed, I think it is crucial we all remember the reason we celebrate that day, and carry it with us not only through the rest of the season, but each and every day. Remember that we are all children of God, created to serve a specific purpose. Take that with you when you’re shopping on Black Friday and a fellow shopper or worker upsets you. Take that with you when you’re at work and a discussion becomes heated. Remember that as you hear about the heartbreaking tragedies you see on the news. Remember the importance of peace. And most notably, take peace to heart for yourself during this chaotic season. Take a moment to breath, reflect, and give your thanks to God for His bountiful blessings. 

Just days ago, on September 28th, we recognized National Good Neighbor Day. I know, this sounds like just another made up “holiday,” like “Make Up Your Own Holiday Day” or “National Popcorn Day.” You might be wondering why I think National Good Neighbor Day is notable. I invite you to return to the verse I mentioned earlier from 1 Peter 4: “Above all, love one another deeply, because our love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (8-9, NIV). Of course, we love when we have good neighbors. We feel safe; we don’t have to awkwardly avoid them on our front porches; we have someone to keep an eye on things when we’re out of town. But most importantly, we need to be good neighbors ourselves, offering hospitality without ill will. And this idea fits perfectly with the feeling of peace that came from celebrating International Day of Peace. Peace and hospitality go hand in hand, especially in a season where greed can be just a little too prevalent. 

So as you find yourself in the midst of celebration, remember to stop and take a breath and find your peace. Share your peace with others, and “love one another deeply.”


Genesis 8:22

As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night

will never cease.

Last week, the fall season officially began. We are not too far now from the leaves changing their color and the air taking on that autumnal cool as we continue steadily towards the end of the year. Hard as it was to believe in the middle of those long, hot days, the summer of 2016 is now nothing but a memory. In such moments, as the transience of time plays to the tumbling from the branch of those colorful leaves, it can be easy to get caught up in the great impermanence of it all: as the Book of Common Prayer puts it; or as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:5, “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.”

But, as easy as it is to see change and loss in the end of the hot summer months, there is, in fact, hidden beneath, a hint of God’s promise of eternity. The cycle of this change, after all, is permanent. “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever,” we learn just one verse before in Ecclesiastes. Genesis 8:22 teaches us that. “As long as the earth endures,” the cycle of seasons, of life itself, will not end. And God will exist well beyond even that. God has given us the regular diversity of the seasons to at once appreciate our impermanence on earth and all the consistency of his promise of eternity in heaven. 

Every year, around this time, we know we will have the great fall harvest to look forward to. We’ll have pumpkin pie and warm apple cider. Part of God’s promise is to ensure these changes occur regularly. The harvest is always a realization of God in the Bible. In Matthew 8:37, the Lord says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It’s easy to see why this symbol so spoke to those who put down God’s word. The harvest is the fruit of labor, the benevolent sign of time and change. God is offering us the harvest of heaven, if we are willing to go out into the field for Him. God is offering the fruit, but we have to reach for it. We know the harvest is plentiful, but, unfortunately, few are willing to be workers. The truth is, following Christ requires work. It requires discipline and devotion throughout all the seasons of our lives. The harvest makes it all worth it, but some people just can’t hold out that long, they can’t take the long view, and so they miss out on the reward.

When we consider life from the perspective of the ultimate harvest, we can see that life is change only when we view it from our limited standpoint. From God’s angle on things, everything is eternal and consistent, and all leads towards divine reward. To Him, the seasons are just ticking seconds on the clock. But the clock remains the same, the time is always right. And it is always counting down towards the end He desires. 

We have to dedicate ourselves to attempting to look at life from this more removed, long-distance thinking. As imperfect creatures, we’ll never truly be able to comprehend all that God sees, but we can learn to take comfort in the glances we can appreciate. We can also learn to better place ourselves in His hands, confident that what is perhaps confusing in the short-term of our transience is necessary in His eternity. 

Such perspective also gives us the comfort of knowing that things must happen in their place. To repeat another verse from Ecclesiastes (3:1), “there is a time for everything.” Just as it is pointless to demand spring at the start of fall, so it is fruitless to demand a certain change in life before God is ready to deliver it. The positive development of life towards the divine and the joyful is there for all of us, if we are willing to follow His Word, but it is not for us to push things forward. God has all the perspective in this relationship. Permanence and paradise are in His hands.

Think on all this in the coming weeks as the leaves take their new color. Life is full of temporary moments and change, but God is the promise of permanence, so long as we are willing to take up His plow when we are called, and to appreciate change for all the signs it offers of God’s true infinity.


We are often asked to use our gifts from God to do His work. Most of the time, we easily accept these challenges. Other times, we are a little unsure of our ability. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (NIV). We can preach and spread the word that we know, but even pastors are intimidated at the prospect of attempting to encourage or inspire others to do the same. Such lofty goals are sometimes only met if we tap into what we have been taught about “edification” and its role in the church and as part of any Christian’s goals in ministry. Edification is, of course, the instruction and the consequential improvement of someone—morally, intellectually, or spiritually—so that he or she is uplifted and, yes, inspired. In the New Testament, there is an actual term assigned to edification as a concept, and that term literally translates as “building a house.”

When we are asked to expand or build God’s Kingdom, we do feel that we can handle the task. Yet, when we have to check progress on whether or not we have truly brought people into the fold or moved them to do the same type of evangelism that we attempt, we fall short. In Timothy, we see clearly that we must be patient, and we must use careful instruction. We also must be comfortable correcting others and encouraging them. In short, to build God’s house and lead others to His Kingdom, it takes tenacity and confidence. 

When we plan special events at the church, and when we participate in community outreach, we have to remember that the most important component should be the salvation and the systematic lifestyle change for those participants. We should focus on leading them to understanding, embracing, and spreading the Word of God, thereby expanding His Kingdom beyond the initial scratch made by the interaction at the event.

In other words, we can welcome people to the church, and we can advocate for the Word of God and His Kingdom, but we have to edify and evangelize those with whom we come into contact. Heed the words of Mark 16:15 – 16, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned'” (NIV). Go out and preach the Word of God—convince others to expand His Kingdom—but remember, in order to lead, we have to commit to changing and edifying those with whom we interact. 


Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 

Proverbs 13:4

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,

but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

In the whole of the American calendar, there aren’t many holidays that we fail to understand the meaning of quite like Labor Day. We have our religious holidays in Christmas and Easter; our patriotic days in Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, and Thanksgiving; and our fun holidays like New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. And then there’s Labor Day, sitting there at the beginning of September. We’re glad to take the day off, but do we really understand why the day is on the calendar at all?

The US Department of Labor defines Labor Day as “a creation of the labor movement that is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

I want to take this opportunity to focus on what God wants from us in our work, and in our rest.

In Matthew 11, the Lord tells us to come to Him if we are “weary and burdened,” and to “take my yoke upon you.” There is, within this passage, an assumption of hard work done. We are already “weary” when we seek God. We have already pulled the yoke a long way. When God beckons us to join Him, He doesn’t say, “drop the yoke and relax for a bit,” He says, “take my yoke upon you.”

Now, why would He say that? Why doesn’t His rest include a bed and some breakfast instead of a different yoke from the one we’re used to? Isn’t that just trading masters? 

The truth is, God does want work from us, but He tells us not to worry. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

The point is clear, then. When we work for God, our work is easy, and we in fact rest as we work. Our souls are eased, our labor feels light. It is only when we work for ourselves that we grow tired, that we grow weary and are burdened. 

This is the same sentiment echoed in Proverbs 13. Here, we see why God wants us to continue to work hard even as we rest. “A sluggard’s appetite,” we learn, “is never filled.” God knows our human nature, and He knows that if we get things for cheap, we don’t tend to respect them. Think of the last thing you worked hard to buy: that car, that house, that PS4. I bet even today you look at it, and you feel some pride over what you’ve accomplished. You look at it, and you see all the hours you sweated away. 

But if that same object had been given to you, no matter how precious, you would come to disdain it after a while. You’d want something new, you’d get frustrated with its little failures. You’d want the sports car not the sedan. You’d want the mansion not the two-story. You’d want an Xbox One and a new PC to go with the PS4. 

That’s why we have to continue to work hard for God, even as we take a break from our other labors. We don’t want a “sluggard’s appetite” that can never be satisfied no matter how much it is fed by grace. We want to be “fully satisfied” in the Lord, in all of His incredible gifts. And, once we accept this spiritual labor, we will find that the “yoke is easy.” 

Once we have done the hard work of taking the Lord into our hearts, we will find the hill is not as steep as we thought, and carrying that burden up is no longer a chore, it is a blessing.

On a day that is little more than an excuse for a well-earned barbecue, it’s worth a little time to consider the way we work when we search for God. We stand at the end of a long line of conquerors who have fought for an extra day off at the end of summer so they, like us, could get down to the real work of life—worship and family.

That line doesn’t end with us. It is our burden to push that little bit harder for respect for our work and to pull our cart a little farther to get closer to God. 


2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

We’ve all had our setbacks in life. We’ve all had times when it seemed, no matter which way we turned, God was saying “no.” “No,” at such times, can be the scariest word in the world. When we have our hearts set on something, the possibility it might not come—or might not come right when we want or need it—is terrifying and disheartening. We begin to think that God has turned away from us, that somehow, this one defeat ensures our lives will be failures, lived away from grace and success. 

But defeat is not the end of a road, and God hasn’t gone anywhere. Christ is still right there with you, waiting for you to rely upon Him. This is the Christ who delights “in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” This is the Christ who knows you, knows what you want, and more importantly, knows what He wants for you. If He puts defeat in your way, He means it to be a sign, not a condemnation. He might say take a right, take a left, or take a U-turn, but He is certainly not saying “stop.” If we take just a rudimentary look through history, we’ll find that God often uses failure in this way: not to break us but to redirect us to the place where our true conquest can take place. 

Just consider some of the greatest figures in the Bible. Peter fell short in his faith but still founded the church. David suffered setbacks, even as he continued to make progress towards his purpose. He was exiled and on the run for years, hunted simply for being favored by God, but it all ended with him as king. 

And what about Jonah, who constantly ran from responsibility, who seemed constantly to be running towards defeat? When he finally gave in to the will of the Lord, when he finally stopped to listen to what he was being told, he found himself a profound prophet to Nineveh. 

This is the key to finding the power in defeat, to rising higher than ever before just when we are knocked down. If, in our low moments, we turn to God, He will raise us up. “My power is made perfect in weakness,” He tells us. His healing is at its best when we are broken, His ability to lift us is more perfect when we have fallen. 

That’s why God has created defeat in this life. Not only is it inevitable because of free will, it also serves the purpose of turning us back towards Him. What is the first thought that runs through your mind when you run across a setback in life? That first thought is always toward God, a calling out for help. 

“In my distress I called to the LORD,” says Psalm 18 in verse 6, “I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”

If we give in to this impulse and return to God in our lowest moments, we set ourselves up to conquer any defeat we suffer. I’m not saying it will always be how we imagined it. Jonah wanted his life to go a different direction, but God had His heart set on making a prophet of this fearful man. David did not want to see the end of Saul and Jonathan, but that course was required to make David king. Peter did not want to see Christ die, but He had to so that Peter, and all of us, could be saved. 

Defeat shows us that the path we were taking up the mountain wasn’t quite right, that we needed more help from God to get up the steepest climbs. Defeat makes us prove we want the goal enough, and that we are humble enough to know Who is really allowing us to become conquerors. 

It is by defeat that we show we can regroup and return ourselves to God’s hands, to fulfill not just our purpose and ambitions, but His. No one has ever said it better than Paul: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”