Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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1 Peter 4:8-11

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  (NIV)

The scripture above tells us to use our gifts to serve others, to be faithful stewards of God’s grace, to speak the words God would speak, and to do all of this with the strength that God provides us. A key word in this week’s scripture is “offer.” How often do we offer anything without being prompted? Sure, sometimes we offer our time and talents when we are asked to help, but too many times we just don’t want to be inconvenienced. However, we should always remember that one of the ways we can show the love of Christ is by extending ourselves to others without hesitation or grumbling. 

God has given each of us special gifts, gifts that we should use to represent Him by serving others without complaint. Now, I’m not saying that you should spend every waking moment tending to others’ needs.  That would not be a healthy way to live and we must always remember to take the time we need for ourselves.  But, whatever our gifts may be, we must strive to share them as God intended. In doing so, we show a true love for God and we may also help others to see that they are loved, remembered, and important in God’s eyes. This is stewardship at its most simple and pure. Others will see the example you set as you strive to live your life as a shining example of the love of God. 

So, use your gifts wisely. Those of you with the gift of hospitality, draw others into the fold and welcome them in. Those of you with the gift of song, share your gift with those that need to hear an uplifting message in an inspiring way. If you have a heart for youth and the ability to connect with them, get involved with your church’s youth ministry or a local Big Brother or Sister program. Always remember that God will give you the strength you need to serve, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 


Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The idea of opening doors has been on my mind a lot lately. Beyond personal experience, on a larger level, this is an issue that has demanded more attention from all of us for a long time.

Every day on the news we see people all over the world struggling through all sorts of horrible circumstances. Closer to home, we see people on the street who could use an invitation to prayer, faith, and understanding. We have a responsibility to them and to God, to open our hearts and welcome them to the Word of God. With that truth in mind, I have decided to dedicate this month’s posts to the subject of making more room for others in every area of our lives, starting with the church. 

We know the stories of the religion in its earliest days as it opened its doors and offered faith to those who were previously unwelcome. We know the story of Paul, and we know about the mission to the Gentiles. But with all that knowledge, perhaps we forget the truly radical meaning behind that mission: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile.”

Think about that for a minute. To those reading Paul’s words in Galatia, the one thing they knew for sure was that the world was divided into only two categories—Jews and Gentiles—and everyone belonged to one or the other. Everyone on the one side belonged in the church, and everyone on the other side was meant to stay out. That’s how the whole world was set up. It was a truth everyone lived their lives by. 

But Paul says that it isn’t true anymore. Can you imagine that shock? The old divisions don’t fit now, he says. We’re not Jews or Gentiles, he says. Nor are we slaves or free. Nor are we male or female. 

“You are all one in Christ Jesus.” That’s what Paul wants us to know. No one is more or less welcome at a service, no one is more or less important. In fact, we aren’t different at all. God has made us one through Jesus. So, fine, we don’t care if someone was a Jew or a Gentile in the past. But Paul’s message remains relevant today. He might say in the 21st century, “You are not an American or an immigrant,” or “you are not conservative or liberal,” or “you are not black or white, nor rich or poor.”

Paul is telling us today exactly what he told the Galatians in the past: once a person arrives at the door with faith in his or her heart, once that person crosses the threshold into the church, all labels are meaningless. The doors to Christ Jesus are open to everyone, and space is not an issue. 

And that revelation has profound effects on us, as well as profound demands. We are not to judge those around us. To fight judgements, we must make room in our faith, in our prayers, and in our pews to accommodate all who seek God.

Though we all come to God from different paths, Paul tells us we are all the same. Those standing outside the church doors need community and faith just the same as us. They need compassion and welcoming just the same as us. And they need God just the same as us. 


Isaiah 6:8

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here I am! Send me.” (ESV)

Isaiah 7:3-4

And the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go out to meet Ahaz…And say to him, 'Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint.'" (ESV) 

Our country was founded on optimism. We’ve always looked to the promise of tomorrow for something better than we have today. But in these tough times, that optimism can start to wear thin.

As we know, it was the height of tax season this month, and I’m sure many of us felt the bill was a little high or the refund a little low; we checked our accounts and saw the balance wasn’t what we’d like. Many of us probably wondered why we struggle on in tough jobs just to find the money isn’t there when we need it. At such frustrating times, it is worth looking back at Scripture to see how men and women of faith approached difficulties. When we do that, we find the answer is completely unambiguous.

Consider, for instance, Isaiah, a man who lived in hard times like ours—and in many ways, far harder times. Isaiah lived during the fall of Israel and through the many struggles of Judah. In the verses referenced earlier, he advised the young king Ahaz, only just put on the throne, as armies swooped in to invade.

Imagine the turmoil and worry of those days. No one could know what tomorrow would bring. The Judeans were a small, relatively poor people in a dangerous region, with enemies in every direction—including their brothers in Israel to the north—just waiting for a sign of weakness.

It was into such a world Isaiah walked. God’s people were as confused and concerned as we are today. They were desperate and angry, much like we are now. They felt the world wasn’t what it ought to be as we do this very moment. 

And only one thing made a difference for these people. When the opportunity to serve God came their way, they did not hesitate, they did not question. When Isaiah was called, he answered as all godly people do in the Bible when God calls: “Here I am!” 

Such simple words; there is no ambiguity. If anything, there’s a little redundancy. But think about it like this: Isaiah isn’t announcing his physical position (which God obviously knows), he’s saying he is ready to take on anything. He’s saying, “I’m over here, God, ready to serve.”

It’s not always an easy decision to speak up. When God calls, His call brings with it both difficulty and promise. The path of God is never easy, and in times when we want easy more than anything, it can be tempting to pretend we don’t hear.

But there is always promise behind these difficulties. When Isaiah goes to advise Ahaz, God tells him to say, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart grow faint.” He was right, of course. The armies marching against Jerusalem were turned back. The future was secured for that generation. Do you see the promise in that? If we announce, “Here I am!” God is saying, don’t worry about the future, it’s going to come together for us.

It is important to know that despite the difficulties, God only calls when the end result is opportunity. There may be risk and struggle, but the end of the road is a better life, a happier life, and a godlier life. 

No one can promise that there will be great jobs for any of us tomorrow, nor that the money will flow in. But we can know our future is secure with God. In difficult times, God calls most often. He calls us to service and improvement, and He promises us the future if we rise to the occasion. 

Thus, the answer is clear: when times are bad, when the checkbook won’t balance, when we can’t seem to get up for another day of work, that’s the time to open our ears to His promise, to His call. That’s the time to learn from Isaiah. Do not hesitate. “Do not fear.” Shout, “Here I am!”


Acts 9:3-6

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." (ESV)

We’ve talked a lot in the past few weeks about returning to God after we’ve made mistakes, the need to recommit ourselves to the role of discipleship, about recovering from letting others down, and about finding our footing again after we’ve fallen into doubt. The ability to rejuvenate ourselves in the Lord after we’ve demonstrated our fallibility is crucial, and I’d like to consider the thread that binds all these ideas together: the concept of renewal and rededication.

In all our struggles and failures, I encourage you not to just return to previous levels of commitment, but to exceed them. We can see this at work in our scriptural examples. Peter did not just return to being a disciple, he became the leader of the church, a symbol of Christian sturdiness after his failure following Jesus’ arrest. His faith carried him to his own cross in the end, but he never again faltered. Thomas also went on to exceed himself in faith. According to tradition, the strength of his belief carried him farther than any other disciple, leading him all the way into India, where he was the first to preach the Gospel. 

Beyond these two examples, there is Paul, who perhaps exceeds all others in his change of direction once God’s forgiveness is introduced into his life. Paul starts out as the bad guy in Acts, a fervent Pharisee. Acts tells us he was “breathing threats of murder” (9:1) on his way to Damascus against Christians. This is an angry, violent young man, dedicated to being on the wrong side of history. But after God corrects him, blinding his eyes and opening his soul to the truth, Paul does not hesitate to do more than just correct himself. He rededicates himself with incredible fervency to his new direction. 

None of us are expected to have all the right answers. We will, at times, grow doubtful and lose faith, or fail and fall short of expectations. We will lie when we should be truthful, or attack and blame and persecute the wrong people in our lives. We will be Thomas and Peter and Paul, but we must remember to live up to their examples after our failures. All three men made up for their errors and turned their hearts entirely to God afterwards, exceeding in faith and deed what they had otherwise done in harm. 

It is only through this process that our souls learn, that we make progress as Christians on our own roads. We must stumble and fall—blinded by our own faults—and then we must rise when we are lifted back up by God.

So, I hope you will look over your own life and see where you have fallen short. Have you broken faith with a friend or failed to trust a partner? Have you blamed others when you were at fault? Don’t let these sins nag you forever. Instead, live up to the example of the disciples, and turn to God.

Be as Paul was after being called by the Lord on the road to Damascus. Keep your ears and eyes open for what service is required of you.

Do as Isaiah bids and, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1).

Or, as Jesus himself put it, “Rise and enter the city, and you will be told what to do.”

2 Timothy 2:5

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (NIV)

For me, healthy competition has always been very important in my life. Whether it is in business, sports, or other endeavors, I find that the dedication that occurs when I am deeply involved in something and truly challenging myself is quite rewarding. If I hold myself to a certain standard and create healthy goals, then I am driven and directed—I can get in “the zone,” so to speak— where I feel confident and empowered to accomplish the task at hand.

As king of Israel, David was in nearly constant warfare to defend the kingdom, constantly challenging his mind, body, and spirit, much like the athletes we see giving their all on the court and field each day. Of course we all know about his incredible battle with Goliath, and how his trust in God, not himself, brought victory. As we get up each morning, we face the battlefield. We lace up our shoes, put on our armor, grab our equipment, and greet the day, full of small battles every step of the way from frustrating coworkers to overwhelming schedules. 

As we look for victory in our daily lives each day, we must still remember the responsibility we have to represent Christ with integrity. While a little competition is healthy—maybe we’re competing for a promotion or getting a little rough at an afternoon pick-up game of basketball—we should always remember our faith. In the heat of competition, first and foremost, we have a duty to refrain from cheating for advantage. Compete with purpose, not with spite. David was victorious because he trusted in God to bring him to victory, not because he trusted in himself. Remember that.

I strongly feel that fellowship that strengthens such thinking is important. God wants us to always remember that with Him all things are possible, as He is the one that will give us the strength we need to run the race and accomplish the goals we set in life. However, He expects us to remain faithful to Him in all things. You will not find victory in life unless you compete according to God’s rules.