MPC Weekly Blog / E-Blast

     

  

To keep us encouraged during these difficult times, our pastoral staff is communicating with you regularly.


11/24/2021 -- What We Want to Keep, But Can't

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.                                                                                 Acts 15:6-11

 

     Just before the above passage, the Pharisees who became followers of Jesus, come to Jerusalem, and put this in front of the Council: “We believe that unless you follow the whole Law, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas, of course, did not like this one bit. Paul, the apostle of grace, would have none of it. But it was not up to him, alone, to decide. This was a matter to bring to the brothers, and, in prayer, to discern and decide. But why did this dispute come to a head in Jerusalem? What prompted it?


     When you start out with Jesus – when you begin to believe, and take your first steps as His disciple, you bring with you a lot of the stuff that was essential, true, central for you, before you knew him. Our habits of the heart don’t die off, immediately, the first day we stand up and say: “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”  We can, uncritically, bring those bad habits into our walk with Christ, and – really – not be aware of them, at all. We can think they are good things, or at least things that don’t matter one way or the other.


      The Pharisees who became followers of Jesus did just that. They carried with them a deep devotion to the Law, perhaps reinforced by what they saw in Jesus’ own words: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).


     That devotion to life before they knew Jesus, though, became something they wanted others to have to use as a stepping-stone to Jesus:  First, keep all of the Law, then you can step aboard. Peter, perhaps, understood something of their plight: He was in a protracted dispute with Paul, whose teaching on grace and faith sometimes seemed to Peter to amount to license to sin.


     But, at the crucial point, Peter does not fall into the trap of being a people pleaser, by papering over a significant difference – a gospel difference. Peter speaks up and stands squarely on the gospel: “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”


     The temptation is great for all of us, when the moment arises; when the discussion gets serious, and feelings look like they are about to be hurt, to back off. To make concessions. To keep the peace, at the expense of what we know to be true. The Gospel is good news, but it also causes offense because it tells us that that stuff we’ve carried with us, from our life before we knew Jesus – we need to look at that stuff, carefully, prayerfully, and much of it may need to go.


     As we prepare to enter Advent, join me in preparing a way in your heart, a place in your life, for our King. He will help you to let go, and leave behind, what does not belong for the journey ahead.


Grace and Peace,


Pastor James


Rev. James F. Cubie





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11/17/2021 -- Fine Tuning

Today's Post is Written by Elder Tom Hemmick


24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    John 20:24-29 (ESV)

 

            I have always been fascinated by the story of “Doubting Thomas”, at least partly because of the fact that all men named Thomas have occasionally been labeled as “doubting” even by people who don’t know the biblical origin of the phrase.  While there is no ambiguity of the message from the risen Christ, that faith transcends the need for physical evidence, tradition is split on whether Thomas obeyed Jesus’ command to put his finger in the nail holes and hand in the spear wound.  Typically, Catholic tradition favors that he did these acts, and the reformed church often favors that “seeing is believing” was sufficient for Thomas.  It seems that no such split exists in the art world, wherein virtually all paintings of this scene favor that Thomas inspected Jesus’ wounds and typically depict his hand thrust into Jesus’ side.  The art world seems also to have little doubt (pun intended) regarding the actions of the rest of the disciples who, despite having believed without having seen, had their gaze transfixed on Thomas’ inspection the wounds.  I imagine that my own gaze would be also transfixed on the risen Christ as He was inspected by the doubter.

            For me, this fascination also extends to watching those among the modern community of doubters who approach religious questions with an opened minded scientific approach.  This can be a treacherous endeavor since less than 100 years ago science flatly denied a moment of creation, while today a creation epoch is accepted nearly universally within the scientific community.  James warns “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6-8 NKJV).  Grounded in faith and cautioned by James, let us take a peek at modern science applied to the question of “fine tuning”.

            Fine tuning refers to the observation that among the known (caution!) laws of physics and local observations of the environment of our planet and solar system, the possibility for complex life would vanish with the slightest change in these parameters.  Consequences of changing the parameters include things like (1) the Big Bang burning up all the fuel and stars never forming (electric force a little too small as compared to the strong force), (2) stars unable to make nuclei as big as carbon (electric force a little too big as compared to the strong force).  How much is “a little”?  Modern physics does very well calculating the processes inside stars and can re-calculate by varying the strength of the forces involved.  When gravity is weaker by 1 part in 10^36 (1 followed by 36 zeroes) stars become unstable against their internal pressures and won’t burn.  If gravity were stronger by 1 part in 10^40, stars would rapidly collapse into black holes.  Neither situation would match God’s universe as we observe it.  To get an idea how small these changes are, imagine light traveling for two and a half quintillion years.  Changing that distance by an inch is about one in 10^36.  Changing that distance by 1/25th of the diameter of a human hair is one part in 10^40.  A short list of “fine tuned” physical parameters includes the gravitational constant to one part in 10^34, Electric-Gravity balance to one part in 10^37, cosmological constant to one part in 10^120, mass density of the universe to one part in 10^59, expansion rate of the universe to one part in 10^55, and initial entropy of the universe to one part in 10^(10^123).  This fantastically narrow window of possibilities has lead some doubters to believe that the universe was specifically designed to support complex life.

            Local observations include the fact that our unusually large moon both generates tidal action to oxygenate our oceans and shields us from the impact of most large objects.  Our unusually large neighbor planet Jupiter and its proximity to our sun also shields us from impacts from extra-solar objects.  Including these and other newly discovered factors into the famous Drake Equation (calculating the probability of extraterrestrial life), popularized by Carl Sagan and the basis for SETI, one often calculates that rather than not being alone in the universe, we probably should not be here at all!

            How should this trend in the scientific community affect our faith?  That answer is simple:  NOT AT ALL.  Just as our faith would be unshaken by the authenticity (or not) of religious relics, the current trends in scientific investigation are not how we build or justify our faith.  Among the tenets of the Reformed Faith is the principle of sola scriptura, which translated from Latin means “scripture alone”.  Our intellectual understanding is based in scripture alone and our emotional understanding is continually developed through our personal relationship with God through prayer.  So, why mention such things in a weekly epistle?

            To me, investigating non-scriptural faith-related topics like fine tuning has the similar value as noticing how the recent marvel movie “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” resolves certain outstanding story lines from “Iron Man 3”.  It is fun and leads to engaging conversation with believers and doubters alike.  Just as Jesus loved Thomas during the height of his doubt, we also love the doubters in our lives.  In this sense, a conversation with loved ones regarding “fine tuning” might be more valuable than talking about “Shang-Chi”, since it may provide the first step on a pathway leading to true faith.

God Bless You,
Tom Hemmick




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11/10/2021 -- On the Go, but Resting, Too

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.

                                                                                    Acts 14: 24-28

 

            Pisidia to Pamphylia, then to Perga and Attalia, and finally to Antioch – phew! The church in the Book of Acts – the brand new, on the go, on the move Church – seems to barely have time to stop, rest, relax, and remain in one place. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? Jesus gave the Great Commission to the first disciples (Matthew 28:16-20), and they heard him loud and clear: “Go!”  So they went, and went, and went some more. They covered Jerusalem to Rome – about 2,800 miles.


          It is hard to imagine a church growing if it is not, in some sense, always on the go – always about the business of her Lord. The early church, certainly, understood this, and so has the church during periods of renewal, rebuilding, and of confident steps forward.

No one can guarantee that if we are diligent about being “on the go”, exciting, new, groundbreaking things will happen when we want them to – God’s timing is God’s timing. But we can guarantee that if we are never on the go (or hardly ever), God will not use us.


         So, one of the greatest lessons we can take from the Book of Acts is that we should always seek to be a church on the go: Gathering for worship; serving our neighbors in need; extending pastoral care to our members; serving our brothers and sisters, in foreign lands; taking the Word more deeply into our hearts in Home Groups.


         And yet, we must also spend some periods of our life together just resting – as Luke put it in our passage from Acts 14: “they remained no little time…”  It’s a subtle way of saying: They rested for a good, long while.  Sabbath time: We all need it.

Our pace of life, together, can have more regular intervals of rest than the early church: We don’t necessarily need to go and go for months at a time, with little to no rest. We can build rest into our week – in fact, we should, not only during the day, but especially on Sunday. Sunday is the Sabbath – that day of rest and recentering in the Lord; the day of greeting one another in His name, and extending care, concern, and rejoicing to one another; the day when we hear His Word preached, which He promises will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11).


          In this next season of Mattituck Presbyterian Church, we will look at how we can continue to be “on the go”. And we must also be a people ready to rest, to remain, so that we can gather the strength that only God can provide in our Sabbath time.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James


James F. Cubie



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11/03/2021 -- I Get Knocked Down

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.                                               Acts 14:19-23


            This is the story of the early church: They are beaten. They have crowds set against them. They are left for dead. They get back up and keep on keepin’ on. Amazing. Inspiring. Words really don’t do it justice, and here’s why: The Apostles are so connected to the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, that they simply move forward despite enormous, overwhelming opposition. That’s just miraculous, and ordinary ways of describing the limits of human endurance can’t capture why they kept at it, year after year.


            I try to imagine myself in Paul’s position: If I had been stoned, dragged out of the city, unconscious, left for dead, and then came to my senses, and stood up in front of my friends – if all that happened, how would I react? How would you?


            I know I would be tempted to – at least – think the following: Maybe God doesn’t want me – doesn’t want us – here. Maybe this is the irrefutable sign we needed to just “move on”, to the next town. After all, didn’t our Lord say: if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (Matthew 10:14) Maybe this, of all moments, is a dust-shaking moment.’ But that isn’t what Paul does, and what is the result?


            We read that he marches right back into town and preaches the gospel (no doubt, more than once!).  Disciples are made among people who tried to kill him, or who at least watched as others did. How do you find the courage to do that? Unreal.  The courage comes from one source – the one Paul himself named:  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)


            What has knocked you down, recently, and maybe for the fifth, fiftieth or one-hundredth time? Are you, currently, thinking this: “Should I go back in? Should I try again? Does God want me to move on?”  The answer, of course, is that He may. Jesus did say that, sometimes, we are called to allow our peace to return to ourselves, shake the dust, and move on to what the Lord has for us, next.


            But if you’re at that point of discernment, can I ask that you do one thing, first: Speak to a brother or sister in Christ. Okay, two things: Also, come to worship, and listen for God’s Word. Okay, three things: Pray and discern in prayer for what God wants you to do. Okay, four things: Try just one more time. You got knocked down. Now get back up again (as the song goes), and – in the power of the Spirit – go. God may be just about to do something as miraculous through you, as he did through Paul.



Grace and Peace,

Pastor James


James F. Cubie


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10-27-2021 Live Together in Unity

Today's Post is Written by Elder Mark DeSantis



How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.  Ps. 133:1

 

            I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. This quote is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, the non-violent liberator of India, who reportedly read from the Sermon on the Mount daily. In the early part of the 20th century, E. Stanley Jones, the late missionary to India, asked Gandhi how to get the Indian people to accept Christianity.  He replied, “First, I would suggest all you Christians especially missionaries need to live more like Jesus Christ; second, I would suggest that you must practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down; and, third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis on love. For love is the center and soul of Christianity.”  While Gandhi never chose to become a Christian, his exposure to the Bible and the Sermon on the Mount, in particular, changed his life because he took Jesus seriously.

 

            If we as Christians want to live together in unity, we must also take Jesus seriously. We need to live more like Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not a patriot. Jesus came to save the world, not America. There is nothing wrong with being a patriot. I love this country!! However, my first allegiance is to Jesus Christ my Lord, His bride, and His kingdom!  Next comes my wife and family; then comes the USA.  We need to get in step with Jesus.  That can only be done through diligent study of scripture, daily prayer, worship and fellowship.

 

            To quote A.W. Tozer, "Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.”  So, one hundred worshippers meet together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become unity conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

 

            This is what we need to fulfill the first verse of Psalm 133.  We need to be tuned to the Christ. I don't think I really said anything new today.  You know what you have to do to have that intimate relationship with your Savior. The Lover of your soul!  He loved you so much He died for you. Couldn't you make a little more time for Him?  He's waiting. For you! The Creator of the universe wants to hear from you today.  Just start talking.  Right now. No prayer speeches.  Just talk to Him. There is a prayer group that meets at 6 AM Monday through Friday.  Everyone is welcome. Please join us.  Session is in the process of starting at least one more group which will NOT be at 6AM.  Home groups are a great way to fellowship and study scripture.  There are several to choose from on different days.  Please consider diving into the deep end. That is where you will meet your Lord.

 

      Christ's followers must ask by what ultimate criterion Jesus will accept or reject them.  Who will pass the test and who will not?  The answer lies in the words of Jesus to the last of the rejected: "I have never known you."  If we follow Christ, cling to His Word, and let everything else go, it will see us through the day of judgement. His word is His grace.


Grace and Peace,

Elder Mark DeSantis



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10-13-2021

How We Are Healed

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.                Acts 14:8-10

 

            In John’s Gospel, we hear this promise: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…” (John 14:12) This promise is based on a declaration Jesus makes earlier in the same chapter: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (14:6) The “greater works” that Jesus promises is based on the confession that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” – that we cannot know or do God’s work apart from Him.

            When we read “greater works”, we may wonder: “Greater than being resurrected from the dead? than raising Lazarus from the dead? than healing the paralytic through the faith of his friends?”, and so on. But “greater”, here, does not mean better than, mightier than – it means something more like “multiplication”: The Kingdom will advance, multiply, and grow from here, in Israel, to the ends of the earth, and one of the signs that the Kingdom is advancing will be that God, through us, does what He did in Jesus: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, … The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

            This is what we see at Lystra, in the miracle that God works through Paul: The man “crippled from birth” hears the Word, and Paul sees that he comes to the hearing of the Word in faith – in expectation. Paul sees the faith of the crippled man, and then the Spirit, through Paul, speaks the Word that accomplishes what it purposes (Isaiah 55:11).

            Our God is the One who heals (Exodus 15:26), and He heals by His Word. He can heal in a dramatic encounter like the one we read about in Acts 14: Paul speaks, and it is done. And we know He heals through more ordinary, but no less miraculous means: The Word of God preached, Sunday by Sunday (Romans 10:14). Which should we seek? Both. Because Jesus healed in both ways: In dramatic, miraculous encounters, and through “ordinary” teaching that revealed, healed, and transformed His hearers.

         When we walk out the healing that begins in accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, we know this is a life-long journey – we are not made perfect in this life, nor can we make ourselves that. Sunday by Sunday, that is the promise that God makes: By His Word, we will be healed, and we will grow in healing until we are raised again to new life and are finally whole in the new heavens and the new earth.

   

 Grace and Peace,


Pastor James
Rev. James F. Cubie

 


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10-06-2021

Right Here, Right Now

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

                                                                                         Acts 14:1-3

 

            When we speak boldly for the Lord, His signs and wonders will accompany us. This, though, seems to be a difficult time to find courage, and to expect great things. For many, this is a time simply to inch our way forward, hoping for the best. I don’t think that it has to be that way.

            In his second letter to his apprentice, Paul encouraged Timothy this way: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Paul connects this call to be bold to the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Paul recognizes that same faith in Timothy as a “sincere faith” (2 Timothy 1:5).  It is Paul’s second letter to his younger co-laborer, and Paul leads off with this encouragement. That’s important, because it is never enough to hear just once that we must be bold, not fearful – it’s an encouragement we need, often and early.

            One of the best ways that I receive that encouragement is simply to listen to Scripture (often Paul’s letters to Timothy), and hear it as directly addressing me – which, in a very important sense, God does in His Word: his words were not just meant for them, back then, but for you and I, right here, right now. If you are in a season of discouragement – or of timidity, even fear – I can’t commend highly enough, the practice of listening to Scripture read aloud. The YouVersion Bible app is very good for this. But we can also read aloud to ourselves, or one another.

            Think about this, as you listen: These are God’s own, inspired words, which are meant to speak directly to you. Yes, not everything you hear is meant for you: You and I are not Moses, or Elijah, or Esther. But in every story, God’s Spirit is at work, to bring to each of us what we need to hear, again, right here, right now.

            My sense is that many of us need to remember the example of the Apostles in Acts: “They remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord” (Acts 1:3). When we speak boldly, we speak sincerely, frankly, from the heart – a heart full of the Spirit and God’s Word. “Bold” does not, here, mean “brash” – fired up for no reason at all. Bold means a heart that – like a furnace – we fan into flame under the authority of God’s Word, by the power of His Spirit.

            There is no way for us, like the Apostles, to remain in our post “for a long time,” other than to fan the flame of gifts God has given to us. We can try to stoke the fire any number of ways, and we might make what looks like “progress” – or we might look like we are standing firm. But sooner of later, our flame will go out, because it was not God’s to begin with.

             If you feel like you don’t have what it takes to man or woman your post, well, it’s true: We need God. We need His Spirit and His Word. We don’t have “what it takes,” and that may be the fear – the lack of boldness – that you feel right now. It may be that God is using that fear to knock on the door of your heart, and say: “Ask for My Spirit, again, and you will see My signs and wonders.”


Grace and Peace,


Pastor James
Rev. James F. Cubie




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09-29-2021

Is This What a Win Looks Like?

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.                                                           Acts 13:48-52


            Acts is the story of the birth of the church. It’s a story of starts and stops, dramatic growth, and sudden setbacks. If you were going to make a up a story that you hope would inspire everyone to believe, no matter what, I’m not sure it’s the story you would tell. If you believe in Jesus, and admire these early saints, you love their dogged determination to do the right, faithful thing, no matter what the cost – no matter how sharp the setback. But if you’re looking at this early group of Jesus followers from the outside, you might wonder: “Hmmm, what’s up with all these obstacles, setbacks, and reversals? If they are who they say they are, shouldn’t they be going from victory to victory?”


            The passage from Acts, above, is the end of the story we looked at last Wednesday: Paul just recounted the story of God’s redemption to the Jews in the Synagogue at Pisidia – the whole story from Abraham, through Moses, the prophets, and now Jesus Christ.  When he was done telling the story, the results were, well, what they were: Not everyone liked what Paul had to say. Not everyone wanted Paul to stay in Pisidia. Many, many people came to hear him, again, the following Sabbath, but a few powerful folks wanted him to leave.  And, in this story, those few powerful folks won the day: Paul and Barnabas were driven out.


            Now, if you had spent that time doing faithful, good work in a city, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to Jew and Gentile alike, only to have a handful of powerful people make life heck for you – so much so, that you had to leave – you might be despondent. You might wonder: “Why did I bother? What gives? Doesn’t God want ‘success’ everywhere he sends us?” I know I might feel that way. But I don’t think Paul and Barnabas did. And I think they had the response they did because they knew that God was in control, in all of this – in the setbacks, in the sudden reversals – God is in control.  An easy thing to say – an easy thing to believe, maybe. A very difficult thing to live, in circumstances like Paul and Barnabas’ at Pisidia.


           But, we read, “they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” Amazing. Just amazing, that they would react this way. But possible for you, and for me. I think many of you know that I came from a church plant in South Carolina, and – as you can imagine – trying to start a church in a pandemic was very, very difficult. Starting a church under normal circumstances is not for the faint of heart: the setbacks and disappointments are sometimes dramatic and can cause you to question whether you’re really doing something God wants you to do.


            My experience in South Carolina certainly taught me to trust God, even in the middle of difficult reversals, and to find – by His grace – joy and a deeper sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit. That shouldn’t surprise me – it shouldn’t surprise any of us:  It was Christ’s own experience, and He promises the same for those who follow Him.

Paul and Barnabas had a deep, abiding trust in God’s leading – that no mission from God is ever without purpose and reward. The purpose, sometimes, is simply more of God’s joy, and being filled with His Spirit – that, friends, is more than enough: It means we are outfitted to be God’s witnesses wherever we are sent. To be filled with the same Spirit, and experience the same joy that Paul and Barnabas felt, is something I hope you will all know, soon.


Grace and Peace,


Pastor James
Rev. James F. Cubie



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09-22-2021

Because I Said So.

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:…                                     Acts 13:13-16

 

      “Because I said so.”  Every parent has said it. Every, single, parent has… at least a hundred times. We say it when we’re tired, frustrated, or we’ve been backed into a corner. It seems like the only way out, and the thing is: It usually works. The kids get it. They can read in the tone of your voice: “Okay, Mom means it this time. We need to back down.”


     But it only works until – maybe – age eighteen, and then not so much. It works even less between adults: I can only imagine the number of nights I would sleep on the couch, if in answer to my wife’s reasonable question, I said: “Because I said so, dear.” If I want my wife to join me in something difficult, or in something that flies in the face of what she was expecting, she’s going to want a reason, or a story, that explains why.


     I would bet that you’ve found the same to be true in your conversations with people who do not believe – or who are “spiritual, but not religious”: It’s never good enough to say: “Because God said so…” or “Because the Bible says so.” The chances are good that your friend knows what the Bible says about this or that thing, and they want something more.


     Paul, at the end of the passage above, is invited to bring a “word of encouragement” to the members of the synagogue. What does he do? He tells a story – He tells the story, from the beginning, through Abraham, Moses, the prophets, to Jesus, His Crucifixion, and the mission of the church to the gentiles.


     Paul was a well-trained Rabbi - he had the commands of God at his fingertips. He could have simply said: “Well, God said this, and this, and that, and also that.” But Jesus’ story has landed on Paul’s well-trained, steel-trap mind, and now he has something more than: “Because God said so.” Paul knows he is part of Jesus’ story, and he knows that His story has completed and changed the story of the world! This story means that Paul, and we ourselves have been let in on: “things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:12)

Do you know Jesus’ story as well as you would like? Can you tell His story with confidence? Can you say more than: “Because God said so.”?  The church exists to equip you to do just that. Join us Sunday by Sunday. Plug into a Home Group. Come, talk to me, and together let’s press into the story God is telling through Jesus Christ and His church.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

Rev. James F. Cubie


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09-15-2021

A Voice from the Lord?

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?  And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

                                                                               Acts 13:6-12

 

            Wow! This is one of those stories from Scripture that leaps off the page. And you’re either fascinated by it, or you kind of turn away and wonder why stories like it made their way into our Bible. We know that all Scripture is inspired and profitable for our instruction and equipping (2 Timothy 3:16-17): In other words, God put it there for a reason, and we are meant to find out why.

 

           So… why? The existence of “false prophecy” is at stake in this dramatic confrontation between Paul and Elymas. Elymas opposes Paul (here also called Saul) and Barnabas, because Elymas wants to protect the false prophet Bar-Jesus. And though the details are not filled in, Paul sees – and names – what comes with Bar-Jesus’ false prophecy: An evil and unrighteousness that prevents people from taking the straightest road to God.

 

           The idea of false prophecy may sound strange to modern ears, but it is quite real – it is something we must be on guard against. We may hear the charge of “false prophecy”, and think: “Isn’t Paul overreacting to what amounts to a different point of view, an equally valid, and potentially useful principle or teaching?  Didn’t the proconsul have the right to hear from this person, claiming to speak for God, and that person, also making the same claim?”

 

            The questions presume that we have not already been let in on the secret: Jesus Christ is God. When He stands at the center of what we are willing to say is – or is not – from God, then our standard for what – and who – we will listen to, changes. Whoever speaks to us, and especially whoever claims to have a word from the Lord for us, must be judged against what we already know of Jesus Christ in Holy Scripture: He is the test of false prophecy, just as He is the gauge of true prophecy (Revelation 19:10).

 

           You and I have a lot of people claiming to speak a word from God to us.  And there are just as many who speak with prophetic certainty, even if they do not believe in God. That, friends, means we are living in dangerous spiritual territory, but I would be lying to you if I said things are okay, when they’re really not okay (Jeremiah 6:13-14).

 

           So, we must test the voices to see whether they are from God, and the test is simple: “… every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (1 John 4:2-3) The “antichrist” in the voice may not be immediately evident – “but it sounds so good, so right!” – but sooner or later, truth will come out.

 

           When you want to hear the voice of the Lord, stand firm and listen along one line: Jesus Christ as He is revealed to us in Scripture; His faithful ministers and servants, who speak on the basis of His call; and your brothers and sisters in Christ, who you know have walked with Him for many years.  His voice is in all of these, and it will never be hidden from us if we earnestly seek Him in prayer.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Pastor James
Rev. James F. Cubie



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09-08-2021

Independent Operator?

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.                                                           Acts 12:25-13:3

 

     Most Bible scholars believe that as many as twelve years have gone by between the conversion of Paul (here, referred to as Saul) and this story.  And this Paul is a little different from the newly converted Paul: he’s not rushing out the front door, without consulting anyone; he is not just going his own way and allowing the chips to fall where they may.  What is he doing instead?

        Instead, Paul is praying with a group of believers:  Really praying.  Not going through the motions because he already knows the answer he’d like to hear.  He’s praying, with the hope that God can and does answer prayer. 

      Paul is worshipping with a group of believers:  He is doing the primary thing that we do Sunday by Sunday – the thing we are all about: Praising God in prayer, in music, joining with others to be reminded who we really are, and whose we really are. 

Paul has been partnered with Barnabas:  He’s no longer an independent operator, but knows that his best ministry will only come as he shares with another who walks beside him. 

     Paul is fasting.  When we hear that word – “fasting” – we tend to think of a joyless group of very skinny people.  But to “fast” just means to turn away from something that prevents us from seeing – and participating in – the life-giving things God is doing all around us. 

     Finally, instead of striking out on his own, Paul is sent:  The Holy Spirit sets apart and sends Paul, and Barnabas, through the laying on of hands by the community.  God speaks through the community to say: “These two are ready.  I’ve seen the transformation, and they can carry My name to those who don’t know Me yet.”

      Over several years, Paul has grown into these community practices that formed his character in the Way of Jesus.  It didn’t happen overnight; it didn’t happen by accident: Paul’s participation in prayer, worship, fasting, partnered service are all things he’s deliberately taken up in response to what Jesus said to him on the Damascus road; and, they are all things that prepared him to be used by God.

        COVID has forced many of us to “go it alone” – sometimes because we had to, to be safe.  But we may also have backed off because it was easier… more comfortable.  COVID has had the effect of making many of us independent operators: “I’ll just wait and see….” But that is not the Christian Faith: Our Faith is lived out in dedicated, weekly community – according to the New Testament, there is no such thing as a follower of Jesus who is not at the same time a committed, regular member of a local church.

       You may still have good medical reasons to be careful, and to not join us for weekly worship (we have Facebook, if that’s you – and you don’t need an account to watch).  But the Church is still the place where you will meet the Holy Spirit in the worship, prayer, praise and the Word preached – no other place on earth is like it because God promises to do utterly unique things in it, and through it – in us and through us.  Come, discover God with us, and get ready to be transformed, partnered, and sent to do His will wherever you are.


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09-01-2021

Heavenly Help

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Now when Herod was about to bring Peter out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”                                             Acts 12:6-11

 

    Herod has just killed James, the brother of John, and now it appears that Peter will be next. But, it turns out, it is not his time. Peter knows, on some level, that one day he will die as a witness to his Lord and Savior; that he will die in manner very similar to Jesus’ death – Jesus said as much to him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)

 

    Perhaps as Peter was taken into the prison cell, and after he learned about the murder of James, he thought to himself: “Now is the time.  This is it…”, and the reality of that set in.  The difficult emotions of believing that the end was near, and that it was not going to be pretty. When you get news like that, about yourself, about a loved one, or a friend, it’s very difficult to not simply throw up your hands and say: “Well, that’s it, then…. Nothing more to be done.”  And in some cases, that really is that: Ending time has come; the final chapter is being written and is only a few pages from being finished.

 

    But, sometimes, there is a breakthrough!  And when there is, we need to be ready to wake up and follow where the Lord is leading us! Our text for today tells us that the angel “struck Peter on the side and woke him…”  Peter was still so much in a daze that he thought, as he was being rescued, that he was seeing a vision – in other words, he thought he was still in prison! But he was being rescued and it took a hard strike on the side to get his attention, to wake him up.

 

    Perhaps Peter thought his time was up, but the Lord had more for him, and He sent an angel to tell him so! Are you in a season of life where you think: “That’s it… That’s over… No way forward… Might as well stop.” Well, it may be – the Lord may really be telling you to stop one thing and begin another. But it may be that the Lord is sending an angel your way (or He has already sent you many angels!), to tell you: “No, keep on keepin’ on. You thought night was falling, forever, but I tell you the dawn is coming. Follow me!” 

 

    Pray with me for two things, this week: That the Lord would send us those angels, if we need them; and, that the Lord would help us hear those angels, if he has already sent them. Pray this with me, and reach out to me, or to your friends at church, if you feel that you need this kind of help. When we need an answer to prayer, the Lord will never leave us hanging.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

 

Pastor James
Rev. James F. Cubie


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08-18-2021

Pray With Our Brothers and Sisters in Harm's Way

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.     Acts 12:1-5

 

     We may, sometimes, wonder if we are living in times that are truly different from those depicted in the Bible: Is their world our world? Is their experience still ours? Can we bridge the gap between the church of their day and the challenges of today? And, in some important respects, there are dramatic differences between the fledgling church in the Book of Acts and our church in the United States.


      But, then, last week happens, and our eyes are opened to the fact that the church we read about in Acts 12 – the persecuted church – is still very much a reality for many of our Brothers and Sisters: In Haiti, in Iraq, in Afganistan.


      Just a few days ago, we got news that Haiti had been rocked by a 7.2 earthquake. And we know that Haiti has experienced dramatic instability due to gangs who rule certain sections of the country. On top of that, the President was assassinated just a few weeks ago.


      We have a long – 30 year – relationship with the people of Haiti, and with our Sister Churches and their pastors.  We have Brothers and Sisters, on the ground, who have told us the following:

  • Movement between cities and towns, after the earthquake, to check on loved ones, is almost impossible because of the gangs who control the roads, and who kill without consequences.
  • Cavaillon City – Pastor Jonas’ city – is destroyed.
  • His family is safe, but their homes are gone.
  • La Gonave is safe, as is Nan Sema , Tèsèch and Tipalmiste.
  •  

     We will not just pray in response to what our Brothers and Sisters in Haiti are experiencing: The Haiti Team is already planning for short and long term responses, based on the needs of our friends. But we should begin with prayer, as the Church did in Acts – earnest prayer; contending prayer.  In his most recent email, Pastor Jonas has given us Psalm 46 to pray.  Join us, won’t you, in taking this prayer into your hearts:

 

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

 

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 



Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

James F. Cubie


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08-11-2021

Listen For God, Together

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.                                                 Acts 11:27-30

            We don’t often think of prophets when we think of the New Testament. We associate them – of course – more with the Old Testament. But here they are, and they do something that the Old Testament prophets did very little of: They predict. They predict a calamity is about to afflict, not just Antioch, but the whole world. And, of course, they do not predict because they’ve brought together the best prognosticators or because they’ve sought the wisdom of those who could predict that famine was coming.

            No, the prophets sought counsel among themselves and with God. The prophets in the Old and New Testaments appear to be a school of people, whose call is to be in intimate relationship with God.  On the basis of that relationship, they are able to speak a word to God’s people in a particular place, at a particular time. In this case, it’s to get ready for famine – and, especially, to help people who will be affected by the famine.

            There are two things related to this prophecy that I want us to notice: the first is just what I mentioned – there is a group of people, the prophets, who have developed their ability to be in touch with God: to listen, to hear him speak, to take direction, and to give it on God’s behalf. That there should be such a school assumes that there are right ways and wrong ways of learning to listen for God.  And the first step in the right way is to listen with others, and not simply on your own. We are told: “… these prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch”.  Prophets, plural.  It is extraordinarily tempting to think that prophets are people who stand alone, against great odds – against all the naysayers, idolaters, and so on. But when we look more closely, in both the Old and the New Testament, it is clear that the prophets operate in schools – in groups – for accountability’s sake.  (1 Kings 22:19-22; Jeremiah 23:22; Amos 3:7; 1 Corinthians 14:32; 1 John 4:1)

            The second thing to notice is that this prophecy comes so that God’s people may prepare and help when the time of testing arrives. That is strange, when you stop and think about it, isn’t it? Couldn’t God just not send the famine? We don’t know the conditions “on the ground”, that led to the famine (was it a judgment? Was it simply a part of our fallen, groaning creation?). We do know that a famine came, and God’s intention was to preserve life from this famine – to save and to bring good out of deep suffering.

            The great “famine” that we have experienced over this past year and a half of COVID has certainly caused me to not rely on myself, but to go to Spirit-filled Brothers and Sisters in ministry, who are trying to figure out what God wants from us in this time of “famine” - a community of pastors who seek God’s face, and His will for us in this time.

            COVID has had the disastrous effect of isolating so many of us, let us take the example of the prophets in this story to heart and come together to seek the will of the Lord, as we inch our way out of this “famine”. God has already begun to show us the way out – and to teach us those lessons He wants us to learn from our hard time apart from one another. God has more for us. I know it. Let’s press into prayer together  to see what God will do in this next season of our life together.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

James F. Cubie



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08-04-2021

A GREAT NUMBER

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


          Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 

          And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.                                                                                         Acts 11:19-26

 

          A “great number”….  Wouldn’t that be wonderful, amazing, and just what we would like see? A great number in worship; at our church events; signing up for Sunday School; in home groups….

The good news? We are starting to see very good numbers, as we inch our way out of COVID: People are returning to worship; they are attending and enjoying our events: The Chicken Barbecue sold over 400 tickets; the Men’s and Women’s conferences saw more than 100 people in attendance; our worship average is very good, and ahead of many other churches of comparable size.


          Numbers matter. Yes, they do. They can be an indication of health, growth, and fidelity. But more important than the numbers are the individual people who make up that “great number” – I know, in your heart of hearts, you believe that, too.  And I get it: It’s tempting, when things are going well – perhaps especially in the church – to point to the numbers, and say: “See… See!”


          But here are some things the numbers don’t tell us:

  • Who has taken a decisive step away from sin, and into a deeper, stronger walk with Jesus.
  • Who is carrying the heavy burden of someone else’s – or their own – suffering.
  • The names and stories of all those who can’t attend for medical reasons or otherwise – also our cherished Brothers and Sisters!
  • Who is on the verge of leaving the Faith behind, and needs just one, encouraging, Spirit-filled person to love and pray with him.

          All of these intangibles – un-countables – and more, we cannot know just “by the numbers”.  To get at that non-numerical ‘data’, we need several things, really, but one thing, in particular: Relationships. Relationships formed from years of friendship; of mutual service; of disagreement, but – even still – loving-kindness; of pastoral care provided through God’s people, to God’s people.


          Remember: Jesus spends three years investing heavily in just twelve people. Twelve. But He did it, so that they would be filled with the Spirit, and would go in His name to be disciples who make disciples. The “great number” we see in our story from Acts? Well, it begins with a small number – just twelve – who did not count the numbers, but counted the cost, and said every day: “Yes, I will follow You wherever You lead. I will love, no matter the cost. I will forgive, even though it hurts – because that is how God’s family grows.”


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

Rev. James F. Cubie


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07-28-2021

ALREADY UNDER WAY

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision,…                                         Acts 11:1-5


    The Weekly Epistle was one of the first responsibilities I was told about, when I came aboard. I thought and prayed about how to begin my part in opening God’s Word, week by week, and seeking his wisdom for us in this season: Should I write a series on a particular Biblical topic? Should I write about hot button issues of the day? Should I write a series introducing myself and my family?


    In some desperation, I went to the Presbyterian Church lectionary (fancy word for the prescribed readings, given year round, by our church), but discovered that it was about one third through the Book of Acts: Darn it! That was already under way. Shouldn’t I start from the beginning of a Biblical book? Begin at the beginning, and so make a new beginning? No. It made perfect sense: Jump into Acts because Mattituck Presbyterian is already “under way” – you have been “under way” long before I arrived. I’m joining you mid-story. Unless, of course, Jesus returns today.


    The Book of Acts is about the birth of the church: The first few years of the disciples figuring out how to do this new thing that Jesus told them to do – go and make more disciples. That is the mission of the church, in every place and time, and yet it plays itself out in specific ways unique to the people who try to do it. In Peter’s case, it meant doing something that most people thought he shouldn’t do: Go and hang out with – eat a meal with – “those people.”


    There are few things more destructive to our task of making disciples than always having an eye on “those people,” rather than a heart for each person. Peter explains that God gave him a vision, and a clear command to go to “those people,” because God loves them – because God wants to invite them into the Kingdom family of Jesus followers.


    The Book of Acts is about the birth of the church – let’s read it together, with a heart for the rebirth of our church, Mattituck Presbyterian. You have been “under way” for a long time, and in the past few years you’ve been through quite a lot (and that’s probably saying too little!). Join me, and begin again with this commitment in your hearts and minds: We are sent, like Peter, to people we might not choose to hang out with – to eat a meal with – because that is how God does his Kingdom work of creating a new family in Christ. If you take that into your life, then “those people” may just become “our brothers and sisters.”


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

Rev. James F. Cubie


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07-21-2021

Ordinary Interrupted...

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.             Acts 10:44-48

 

            “While Peter was still saying these things…”  What “things”? They must have been some things! Impressive things! Whiz, bang, boom things! Right?

            In one sense, they were, and in another, they weren’t. Peter was talking about: what happened to Jesus; what Jesus did; who Jesus was; what Jesus commanded his disciples to do (Acts 10:34-43). That is powerful stuff – the most powerful “stuff”, or better, story we’ve been given.  And yet, it sounds like Peter is reading a list.  He may very well have been preaching powerfully – testifying! But Scripture doesn’t say that.  And I think the contrast between Peter’s ordinary effort and what comes next, is really, really important….

            In the middle of Peter’s ordinary teaching, the Holy Spirit basically interrupts Peter and does something amazing: The Spirit fell and claimed people who were far from God.  People were transferred from darkness to light; from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of God; from death to life!

            Do you think Peter ever spoke about the same things – about who Jesus was, and what Jesus did – and then nothing happened? No Spirit falling; no people born again and baptized? You bet he did. And that is because God – and God alone – is in control of when extraordinary things happen.  We, ordinary folks, must – of course – do all that we must to put ourselves in a position to be used by the Spirit. But this story from Acts reminds us, that the Sovereign Spirit of God decides exactly how, when, and where He acts!

            As we rebuild church life, together, it will be the ordinary things that we did, and that we are called to do, that God will use to do extraordinary things – “ordinary” things like Sunday worship; Home Groups; serving our neighbors in need; Sunday School; you name it…  Let’s begin again, to do these “ordinary” things, and then – get ready people of Mattituck Presbyterian! – let’s see how the Spirit interrupts us, and does something extraordinary! It will happen how, when, and where God wants, but when it does, we will say: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Psalm 118:23)


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

James F. Cubie


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07-14-2021

One Piece of the Puzzle at a Time

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Acts 10:17-23

17Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 21So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

            Just before this story from Scripture, Peter has been given one piece in a large puzzle that God is putting together. Peter’s piece of the puzzle is a vision he just received: The heavens opened; a large sheet – like a tablecloth – descended; and, in it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice says: “You can eat what you want.”, but Peter won’t have it: He is a Jew, who obeys strict laws, laid down in Scripture, about what is clean and unclean. Then, the voice speaks a second time: “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15)

            Even as the vision stops, Peter must have thought something like: “This just cannot be…  It cannot. It does not stand to reason – to my mind, shaped by Scripture and God’s clear commands…”  Peter can’t make sense of what he’s being told to do, and yet he can’t deny that he’s being given something in his vision. Peter has the vision, but he knows he must wait for God to act – to confirm in reality what God has given in the vision.

            That is crucial, isn’t it? We can be possessed by a vision, a picture of the way things should be, that we think must be from God. And yet, if there is no confirmation in reality, if an event does not fulfill the vision, if we are not sent someone(s) by God, who witness(es) to our vision, then it may not have been from God, at all.

            Peter, though, has been given something by God: a puzzle piece that God will use to build His Kingdom purposes. The vision, Peter discovers, is about who he can sit down, at table, to eat with. That’s the significance of the different kinds of food: If Peter can eat those foods, he can eat with the people who eat those foods – Gentiles. Not just Jews. The Kingdom means the covenant that God began with Israel is now opened to the world: Everyone is welcome at the Lord’s Table. We know this is the meaning of the vision, because Cornelius’ men appear and the Lord speaks to Peter: “Go with them, for I have sent them.” The Lord will put this all together, one piece of the puzzle at a time.

            All along the way, God is piecing His Kingdom puzzle together, revealing his purposes to Peter and Cornelius, so that we – almost two thousand years later – can witness that this is often the way God works. Trust God to provide, each step on the way, what we need to accomplish His purposes. God will give fresh vision. He will provide people and opportunities to do what He wills. Do not be afraid, perplexed, or driven to despair. Though we might look at the piece we’re currently holding, and wonder: “What am I supposed to do with this?”, sooner or later, God will provide, and we will praise!


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James


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07-07-2021

From Loosely Attached to Securely Fastened

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Acts 10:1-8

1In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3One afternoon at about three o'clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

 

Why should God care about Cornelius? He was not a Jew. He was not a disciple of Jesus Christ – not yet. He seems to have been a good, faithful man: Well respected by the people in the neighborhoods that he and his fellow soldiers patrolled. But, still, that doesn’t seem to be enough to merit God’s attention, right?

 

We know this: Cornelius was a “God-fearer” – a Gentile who worshipped Israel’s God, and who was loosely attached to a local synagogue. Cornelius’ healthy fear of God expressed itself in two, traditional Jewish ways: Prayer and Almsgiving. In fact, Cornelius’ practice of prayer and of tending the needs of the poor are so consistent, faithful, and noteworthy, that he was not only well known among the people – he was well known in heaven!

 

Cornelius may not have had the whole picture, but he did see something good, right, beautiful, and true in the Jewish religion: Their practice of prayer and of caring for the poor, must have struck him as better than what he had been taught from birth. As a centurion, he would have been schooled in the military virtues, including a strong fealty to Rome and its traditions. And yet, there was something in the Jewish religion that God used to draw him in. And, from there, to draw him further in, to follow the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

 

Cornelius’ commitment was good, but it was not yet in the right place – with Christ, in His Kingdom. So what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t we only hear about him, once he makes his decision to follow Jesus, and perseveres in doing that, for at least a little while?

 

The whole point of Christ coming to earth is to do what He begins to do in this story: take good, faithful people, who seem to be living well enough without God, and say: “You are missing something – me, and my Kingdom. Come to me, and do not be afraid: I am gentle and humble in heart. My burden is light, and I am all grace!”

 

Do you know someone who is “loosely attached” to religion, or spirituality? On some level, they are interested in what Christians believe – they love, or even practice, some part of what we practice, but they have not yet been introduced to the “whole picture” – the story of the redemption of the world, that we track Sunday by Sunday, year by year. Do you know someone like that?

 

Follow the prompting of the Spirit, in this story: Reach out to him/her today. Pray for your friend, colleague, family member, who is loosely attached, but interested in what we believe and do. Pray, then go, and draw your friendship into the work of the Holy Spirit: As you listen to and love him/her, ask God at the same time what he wants you to notice, to affirm, to gently challenge. In this way, God may use you – like the angel in today’s Scripture – to send the person you know on a journey from ‘loosely-attached’ to ‘securely-fastened’ in Christ’s Kingdom.

 

 

 

                                                           

Peace and Grace, 

 

Pastor James

 

Rev. James F. Cubie

 


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