MPC Weekly Blog / E-Blast

    

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


5/11/2022

“Haiti Sunday! | Invitation to Listen to the Prophets”

          

          I am very excited about this Sunday – Haiti Sunday! As you know, our church has a rich, deep, strong relationship with Haiti, and we are eager to celebrate that heritage, and to ask God how we can continue to love and equip our brothers and sisters in Haiti. The Haiti Mission Task Force has put together a very special experience for Mattituck Presbyterian – please join us this Sunday to pray, learn, and hope for more!

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Over the next three weeks, we will spend time listening to the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. We just heard from Jeremiah this past Sunday and learned about the call of a prophet to serve God. That call is very difficult and involves at least two things: That the prophet draws near to God, and that he or she walks alongside the people God calls to repentance and new life – never one without the other.

          Often, people will appear prophetic, who are simply speaking on behalf of a particular group of people, who may – or may not – have been wronged. They speak on their behalf, and sound “prophetic” in their fury; in their anger against “those” people “over there.” Other “prophetic” people appear to be close to God, because they use a lot of language about God, but if you look closely, they do not love or shepherd God’s people, or even belong to a church.

          So, we are called to discern who does – and who does not – have a word from the Lord, for us. In order to discern that, we have to admit something: That God continues to speak through people called to preach His Word. If we believe that, then we need to have a way of testing (discerning) whether what they say is from God. There is a great four-part test that I’ve been trained to use in discernment, and I recommend it to you:

  • 1.    Is the word given consonant with Scripture and the church’s orthodox witness to what Scripture reliably teaches?
  • 2.    Do other believers confirm it, after thorough prayer and discernment?
  • 3.    Does it give glory to God (or to the person speaking the word)?
  • 4.    Will it advance God’s Kingdom? Or just the interests of a particular person or group of people?
  •  

If you sense that we are living in a time of “prophetic fury,” but that most of the anger is not from the Lord, then I would love for you to join us over the next few weeks, as we press into how to tell if someone has a Word from God for God’s people.

 



4/20/2022

“No Longer in Denial”

 

The Apostle Peter’s darkest hours must have been frantic. He had been with Jesus for three years, and – in many cases – was the boldest among the disciples: He steps out of the boat and walks across the water, toward Jesus; His confession is the Rock that Jesus will build his Church on. But when Jesus is arrested, things change dramatically – the boldness is gone, and fear enters in. Three times, Peter denies Christ:

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.’

                                                                        Matthew 26:73-75

Did you miss that? Peter “began to invoke a curse on himself ….” I’ve read this story many times, and I think I missed the significance of this. This may mean that he said something like, “If I’m lying, may God strike me down.” Or it may have been an act of self-accusation – of cursing himself – that led to a period of deep conviction – of being unable to break free from being in denial.

When we are in denial, it becomes very difficult to see things and people as they are: We either paint a picture that’s too rosy, or one that’s too dark. We make excuses for bad behavior, or we ascribe good motives to obviously bad behavior. Denial persists, in us, when we do not want to face the truth that we got it wrong about that person, about ourselves. The truth usually is: We sinned and need to repent.

The trouble for Peter – and the trouble for us, and for anyone we know who may be in denial – is that we can’t just snap ourselves out of it. The spiritual reality of something like Peter’s curse, binds us to something more powerful than us. We need Jesus to come and break the bond we’ve chosen.

And that’s just what Jesus does for Peter. And he does it in the most loving, gracious way. Jesus asks Peter, three times: “Do you love me?” Jesus already loves Peter. He has already chosen him to be his Apostle. So, this same question, asked three times, is meant to cancel the debt of the three denials. Jesus himself, present with Peter, asking the question, breaks the power of Peter’s bondage – “far as the curse is found.”

To be in the presence of Jesus, is to no longer be in denial: He is the way, the truth, and the life. If we walk with him, then – like Peter – we will be loved, changed, and raised to new life. If your answer, today, is like Peter’s: “Lord, you know I love you.,” then begin today to see how you can follow the heart of the Good Shepherd and feed His sheep. (John 21)

 

4/6/2022

“Our First Holy Week Together – Invite a Friend!”

         

Dear Mattituck Presbyterian Church,

          I am very excited about our first Holy Week, together! My wife and I have said to each other – and we have had members say the same to us – that we feel like we have been at Mattituck Presbyterian a long time. I think that is what it means for a place and a people to feel like “home”: a little bit of eternal life, breaks into time, and you catch a glimpse of the new heavens and the new earth. God is good.

          We will start off Holy Week with our Palm Sunday breakfast, put on by the wonderful Jeanne Berliner and her team. The menu looks so amazing, and the fellowship will be so good, that I’m a little worried that people may just stay downstairs in the Social Hall and forget about worship! Just kidding, of course, but please join us this Sunday, April 10th, 8:00am-11:00am for our Palm Sunday breakfast, followed by Palm Sunday worship (with Palms!). And please invite a friend.


          Our schedule for the rest of Holy Week is:

          Maundy Thursday Worship, 7:30pm, Social Hall: The Lord’s Supper will            be served.

          Good Friday Worship, 7:30pm, Sanctuary

          Easter Sunrise, 6:00am, at the Pequash Club

          Easter Contemporary, 9:00am, Sanctuary

          Easter Traditional, 11:00am, Sanctuary


          The last several years have largely been about isolation, and I think people are desperate to get out and enjoy the presence of other people and are maybe also ready to lean in and listen to the promise we have in Jesus Christ: Death does not have the final word – we will all be raised to new life, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). One day, we will know exactly what resurrection will be like, but this Easter, you, your family, and friends can taste and see that the Lord is good and that the end of life is only the beginning. So, again, please invite a friend to our Holy Week services – we have the best possible news to offer!


2-16-2022 -- SpiritFire22 Begins March 1, 2022.  Register Today

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


    Lent is a season in the Church when we look at our lives, and ask: “What is in the way of knowing God more personally, richly, deeply?” We often change small things in our lives, for about a month, and then go back to the old way of doing things. Maybe we need a change that’s bigger, better, longer lasting: A deep experience of the Holy Spirit.


    Beginning Tuesday, March 1st, 7:00-8:30pm, we will host “SpiritFire22”, a 4-week series on the Holy Spirit. Every evening we’ll gather for music, fellowship (hors oeuvres), teaching (in-person and video – bring your Bibles!), and small group time to ask questions and pray together. The final Saturday in March, the 26th, we’ll host a light dinner starting at 5:00pm, with a night of praise, worship, and a time to experience the Spirit’s presence and work. You can register /spiritfire22


Here is the full schedule:


    Tues, March 1st @7pm: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

 

    Tues, March 8th @7pm: What does the Holy Spirit Do?

 

    Tues, March 15 @7pm: How Can I be Filled with The Holy Spirit?

 

    Tues, March 22 @7pm: What About the Church?

 

    Sat, March 26 @5pm: Spirit-Led Worship and Prayer Event

 

We would love for you to join us! You can register /spiritfire22

 

In Grace and Peace,

 

Pastor James

Interim Pastor and Head of Staff




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02-09-2022 -- Sniffle

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


Dear Friends in Christ,

 

            Next Thursday will be Dorothy Catapano’s last day with us. Dorothy is engaged to be married and will soon move to West Virginia! She will be training Liz Hanly next week to take over her duties. Sniffle… Yep: I’m pretty darn sad to see Dorothy go. She’s done yeowoman’s work for Mattituck Presbyterian. Words really won’t do it justice, but I’m going to try! 

            I first met Dorothy shortly after I accepted the call to serve at Mattituck Presbyterian. I came with my family to preach on Sunday and met the staff, including Dorothy, on the Friday, before. One of the things that I wanted to see was a yearly calendar of our ministries – just to get a sense of what we do, month by month. Dorothy, of course, had it ready to go, along with several other documents that helped me to get my sea legs beneath me, as quickly as possible.

            While we were still in South Carolina, Dorothy gave me updates at least twice a week, and worked hard to get things ready both at the manse, and in the church office culture. After I arrived, Dorothy and I would meet at the beginning of every week, and she was as patient as patient could be, when I had to ask questions like: “Remind me who she is?” “How have we done that in the past?” “Who do I need to contact about that?”

            Dorothy, of course, worked through the onset of COVID and bridged the gap between a significant leadership transition. I’ve stayed in close contact with a lot of ministry colleagues, across the country, and they all – to a person – say that their church office culture really suffered since COVID: The ordinary, day by day, things that need to happen have fallen by the wayside, and in some cases serious rehab is necessary. But not so, Mattituck Presbyterian, and that is due in large part to Dorothy’s fidelity and seriousness.

            So, I guess you HAVE to leave us, Dorothy… Jeeez. Just kidding! We could not be happier for you, and your new adventure, and we will always be thankful for how you poured yourself out in service of the saints at Mattituck Presbyterian!

 

                                                            Grace and peace,

                                                           

                                                            Pastor James



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02-02-2022 -- Not a Possession - a Person

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


Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So, they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.                                              Acts 16:6-10

 

            Kept from this, then released to do that… Not easy to live that out. Confidence is essential to living well, otherwise, we spend too much time worrying.  We admire confidence, even when we can’t tell if it’s well-founded:  “Well, at least he/she seems confident.” We want to believe that we have it in us to do the right thing. If we believe, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we should definitely do this or that because God’s Spirit dwells within us.


            The Holy Spirit is not a possession – He is a Person. Any parent, spouse, or friend knows he can never assume that his child, wife, or friend is absolutely committed to everything he does, simply because he does it. He might think that. He might even want that on some deeper level, but it’s not true. He has to ask. He has to work to keep trust. He has to be humble, even in his deepest, most committed relationships.


            How much more is this true of the One who made and redeemed us? If we believe He is who He says He is, then we have to ask, before we go; we have to be willing to wait, even when we really want to go; we have to be willing to go where we did not expect or want to go. This, of course, is exactly how Paul and his companions were living: Ready, willing, and able to go, or to stay.


            The Holy Spirit is not a possession – He is a Person. Because that’s true, we can speak with Him. We can ask Him. We can hear from Him. If we always, only hear what we want to hear, we can be sure it’s not God speaking. The best antidote to this is to invest ourselves fully in the life of the church, where faithful brothers and sisters can ask, listen, and walk alongside us. The Devil loves to get us alone, and whisper – like an angel of light – in our ears, all the things we want to hear.


            “Paul and his companions…” Together. Together. Together, they asked, listened, waited, and went. Come, and together we will do the same in worship, in Home Groups, in service of our neighbors near and far. He has called us to preach the Gospel and will send us when and where He needs us to go.


Grace and Peace,

Rev. James F. Cubie



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01-26-2022 -- Pastor James' Annual Report

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


         It is amazing to think that our family has only been here seven months – in truth it feels longer, for two reasons:


         First, I have been blessedly busy since coming aboard in July of 2021: I, our leadership teams, and our ministries are all getting up to speed as we inch our way out of the Pandemic. From all this close, collaborative work, I have a much clearer picture both of what we already do so well, and what I believe is possible in the months and years ahead.


          Second, Mattituck Presbyterian feels like home to me and my family. We often find ourselves saying to one another: “It feels like we’ve been here longer than just seven months.” My wife has plugged into local, historic preservation work; my daughter has made friends, who come with her to Youth Group; our son loves his farm school, and the new friends he has made in Sunday School. And, as I’ve said before, the affinities between Mattituck Presbyterian and the ministry values that I hold dear are profound – I’m just thankfully amazed, but not surprised, that God brought us together: He must have been planning this for some time!


         I am still very much in listening and learning mode with our membership (I hope never to stop!). I love to meet with our members for informal conversations. When I do, I usually ask two questions: “What has life been like for you in the past few years? What has life been like at Mattituck Presbyterian in the past few years?” Then, I get out of the way and listen prayerfully. The stories I hear are profound, wonderful testimonies of God’s grace and guidance. I am so thankful that, despite all the ups and downs – and a pandemic to boot! – our members are eager to gather for worship and to come together around God’s purposes for Mattituck Presbyterian.


           There are few things more essential to the health of a church than stability. Stable leadership, worship, and service, Sunday by Sunday, week by week, year by year usually predicts health and growth because God loves to send people to a church that is securely founded on God’s mission to make disciples and serve our neighbors in need. Of course, the past few years have, sometimes, been dramatically unstable. My sense is that we’ve turned the corner to a more stable place, and my prayer is that our leadership will continue to press into our call to be shepherds after the Good Shepherd’s heart, and that our brothers and sisters in membership will continue to seek God’s presence in worship and in their day-to-day lives.


            The Lord puts a high value on stability. He also loves to find new ways forward, for his Kingdom work. I want to highlight just four ways forward that I have been intimately involved with:

I have worked with Pat Hanly and Ann Welcome to make our 9:00 a.m. Contemporary and 11:00 a.m. Traditional worship services more authentically contemporary and traditional, and so a better fit for believers and seekers who are drawn to these two, different kinds of worship. Our attendance and participation at these services has gone up, and often includes visitors. We will hold a new members class Sunday, February 6th.


  • We restarted Youth Group in October of 2021. I am deeply thankful for the way that youth, their parents, and our adult leaders have waded into this new ministry that – I believe – is one of the best ways to reach youth and their families. We have held Youth Group gatherings every Sunday evening and had a Lock-In to finish out 2021. Friendships are being formed, and the Word of God stands at the center of our time together.

  • Our Evangelism committee has re-formed and begun work crucial to the health and mission of our church. Before coming to Mattituck, I served as an Evangelist in South Carolina, working to start a new church. I have a deep, abiding love for the work of evangelism, and see it as an integral part of my call (2 Timothy 4:5), and the call of any healthy, focused church (Matthew 28:18-20).

  •  Mattituck Presbyterian’s commitment to Local and International Mission is just remarkable: We are well-known as a church who unselfishly reaches out to our neighbors in need. We do that work through John’s Place, Loaves and Fishes, The Good New Thrift Shop, and now, in a new venture called “The Winter Table,” which is focused on those families who may experience food insecurity during the winter months. Shortly after Seminary, I served in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, sometimes called “The Domestic Peace Corps,” and saw, firsthand, how churches are on the frontlines of serving our homeless and food-insecure neighbors. It is an honor and a pleasure to serve with a church who occupies that same kind of strategic, Kingdom purpose in Long Island. We, also, have a long, faithful history of starting churches and new ministries in places as diverse as Haiti and Spain. We welcomed Pastor Agones and Pastor Hicks in the fall of 2021, and I continue to be very excited about our opportunity to come alongside these ministries in prayer and practical help.

         As I look ahead, I am very excited about a couple of ministries that we are trying to take in a new direction:

  • In March, for Lent, we will host a month of Tuesday evening gatherings that focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. We will have worship, videos, and Bible teaching – all meant to reintroduce us to the work of the Holy Spirit. This will culminate in a Saturday evening worship service filled with music, prayer, and praise. My hope is that we will hold these kind of Spirit-filled worship services about once a quarter, and as the Spirit leads.
  •  
  • The Sunday School team is looking at a new curriculum that, we hope, will transform our children’s experience of worship and engagements with God’s Word. The curriculum is called “Godly Play” and is a Montessori-like curriculum that engages all the senses, as children are lead through the stories of the Bible and the seasons of the church. Several churches that I and my wife served at, before coming to Long Island, have used “Godly Play.” We are eager to get this program for children and their families up and running at Mattituck Presbyterian

          I want to end on a realistic, but hopeful note. Anyone who listens carefully to the culture around us knows that we are living in a time when the message of the Gospel is desperately needed. The divisions, the storm and stress, and the isolation of the COVID pandemic has brought to light a lot of stuff that requires healing. That healing – including our own – will take time: We won’t be able to just snap out of it. In this next year, I am eager to know how we can better partner with God in His healing, Kingdom purposes of calling people out of darkness and into light, and I believe that if we press into that desire – God’s own desire – He, Himself will heal and lead us.

 

Rev. James F. Cubie

Interim Pastor and Head of Staff

Mattituck Presbyterian Church

January 24, 2022

 


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01-19-2022 -- Ouch....

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


Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the Word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.                                        Acts 15:36-41

 

            I love how honest this story is: Sometimes a disagreement is so sharp, you almost say: “Ouch!” If I were writing the story of the early church, I’d be tempted not to include this exchange between Paul and Barnabas: “At this point, Barnabas and Mark left for Cyprus, and Paul and Silas traveled to Syria and Cilicia.”


              Luke – who wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts – must have considered whether he should speak frankly about the dispute between Paul and Barnabas, or not. The mission, of course, is more important than any dispute between people who lead the mission – the mission must come first, and not sink beneath the weight of strong personalities and their differences. But Luke, wisely, faithfully leaves it in, and I think if we consider it, it can help us to understand ourselves.


              So, let’s try this: Whose side would you be on in this dispute? Paul or Barnabas? With Paul, and against Mark, because Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia? With Barnabas, and against Paul, because Barnabas thought Mark deserved a second chance? Our God is a God of second, third, and fourth – and so on – chances, isn’t He? He is. Thank the Lord.


          It’s also true that Jesus warns us about wolves who dress like sheep (Matthew 7:15). And Paul warns Titus (3:10-11) to have nothing to do with a divisive person after two warnings. These warnings are especially important for those like Paul and Barnabas, who were charged with leading the church: The standards for church leaders are high, as they should be (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-8).


          The real trouble in this case is that we don’t know what Mark did or didn’t do after he deserted them in Pamphylia. Did he come back, after a time, and submit to their authority and discipline? Did he try to reconcile with those he hurt? Or did he just march back in, and try to assume his place, with no recognition that he had hurt people, and the mission? We just don’t know.


          Maybe that is the lesson to take from this story: When we don’t know “what really happened,” we should be humble and leave the matter to God. Is there something like this in your own life? In the life of your family, or where you work? Two people disagreed, sharply, and went their separate ways. You would love to fix it, but you just don’t know what really happened. It is difficult to accept that sometimes we can’t fix what went wrong, but it is a blessing to know that God doesn’t miss a thing and will work out His purposes even through difficult differences.



Grace and Peace,

 

 

Pastor James
Rev. James F. Cubie


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01-12-2022 -- Do Not Make It Difficult

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


It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.                                                                                    Acts 15:19-21

 

     Can you hear the dawning of grace in that first sentence: “… we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God”? The first disciples know they have the best thing in the world to share, and they know who they need to share it with. They don’t want to mess things up. They don’t want to get in the way. They are being deliberate, but hopeful and open.


     A whole world is contained in these two verses from the Book of Acts. There is the frank recognition that the Jerusalem church has been given the responsibility to help people turn to God. The miracle that Gentiles are turning to God is affirmed: “Boy, this is happening! How do we deal with it?”


     How do you balance grace with responsibility? If you’re too “responsible,” do you miss opportunities to be gracious? If you’re too open, what becomes of being judicious, faithful, good stewards? Like the disciples at Jerusalem, we don’t want to put up any barriers that might keep people from hearing the good news and giving their lives to Christ. On the other hand, Jesus has commanded His church to teach everything He taught, and that includes what we might call “standards of behavior.”  Is grace so amazing that those no longer exist?


      We had a conversation very much like this one at our second Evangelism meeting this past Sunday. The Evangelism team is looking at all our ministries as opportunities for members to go deeper with their faith, and for new people to step into the life of the church. We had a very helpful presentation by Elder Tom Hemmick, who showed us in a graphic the sheer number of ministries we have. Could you guess how many?


      Thirty-six! And that includes everything we offer from Sunday morning worship, to the Chicken Barbecue, Stephen Ministry, and the Youth Group car wash. Friends, that’s a lot, and it was very inspiring to see that we have most of the field covered! Our task, like the church in Acts, is to keep the barriers low to participation, and to make the steps to take easy to follow: One, two, three.


       Would you pray for our Session as we prepare to meet in late January? We will begin to look at the next six to twelve months together, and will do some planning, we hope, under the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit. There is so much to celebrate, and – I believe – there are new things that God has for us, as we live out of God’s grace, and take the next, few faithful steps that He lays out for us.


Grace and Peace,


Pastor James

 


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01-05-2022 -- The Engine and the Fuel

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


The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

                  “ ‘After this I will return

                    and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

                    Its ruins I will rebuild,

                   and I will restore it,

                   that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,

                   even all the Gentiles who bear my name,

                   says the Lord, who does these things’ –

                   things known from long ago.’

 

                                                                                    Acts 15:12-18

 

            It’s a New Year, and we are picking up where we left off in the story of the early church. Even though we, at Mattituck Presbyterian, have been at it for some time (three hundred plus years!), we are coming out of a season of change that requires us to think and act like a new church, starting out on a new mission. So, let’s continue to track the story of the first apostles and disciples, and look at our life together in the light of the passion, fortitude, love, and perseverance that they showed.

 

           The Book of Acts is all about new beginnings: the start of the church; the first work of the Apostles beyond the boundaries of Israel; the first attempts at sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with people who knew nothing about Him or Israel. And eventually that effort to introduce Jesus to people who didn’t know Him ran up against significant pushback – so much pushback, in fact, that the church had to regroup and ask: “Are we doing this right? Have we missed something? Have we gone beyond what God really wants us to do?”

 

          They answered those questions by digging into their collective memory, championed by the prophets, and discovered that Yes, the prophets said to expect this day; to expect this new thing that God was determined to do! The new day had finally dawned: The rest of humanity is now the object of God’s dedicated affection. “The words of the prophets are in agreement with this…”

 

          Before we begin a New Year, in earnest, we should ask ourselves a similar question: Are we on the right track? Are we doing what God called us to do? We can and should answer that question as a church. And we can and should answer that, individually. The way to best answer is to do what we see the early church doing in this part of the story of Acts: All along the line, measure our life together by the plumbline of the Word, and continue to build in His Name and in His power. The first disciples were always in the Word and on mission – “Is our work in agreement with what God has promised and commanded?”


          Is the same true of us as a church? Or do we come down too much on one side or the other? Is the same true of you? Or do you come down too much on one side or the other?

 

           It might seem like I’m counseling balance, but really, I’m asking us to pray for more passion: The Word of God is the engine of our mission, and His Spirit – His presence – is the fuel. When these two come together, God will do the signs and wonders that Barnabas and Paul recounted, and we will enjoy the kind of holy silence the early church experienced – a silence that says: “God is with us.”


Grace and Peace,


Pastor James

 

 

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12/15/2021 -- My Search for Truth

Today's Post is Written by Elder Ed Harbes


Hello Friends,

 

        Growing up on a farm I had much time alone with my thoughts. As I wondered where truth could be found I heard a quiet answer in the stillness of my mind. “The Bible is the common denominator of many religions. It has been passed down through thousands of years and was written by many different divinely inspired authors; if truth can be found, it is somewhere in there”. One evening I started thumbing through an old Bible I found, hoping to find wisdom and guidance for my young life. I had heard that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, so I looked hard at his proverbs. In chapter 3, I found a verse that spoke to me. “Trust in the Lord, with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.” I felt as if I had discovered an important compass for my young life and committed the verse to memory. I decided to trust in the reality and goodness of God, even though there were many things I did not understand. I would try to live a life of integrity trusting that he would guide me in a supernatural way.

 

Several months later a strange series of events led to my mother and I attending a movie entitled “World Aflame” presented in the movie theatre of downtown Riverhead. We thought it was a regular movie, but it turned out to be an evangelistic film. After a drama about how the world was falling apart, Billy Graham spoke in this confident manner about how the Bible was “The Word of God” and the way he still speaks to us today. Billy Graham implied that scripture was God’s word, and we could receive it as his revealed truth to us personally. He presented several examples:

 

  • For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whomsoever would believe in him, would not perish but have everlasting life.
  • For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
  • If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised from the dead, you shall be saved.
  • Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with me.
  •  

            I had a supernatural intuition that the information he was presenting was the truth I had been looking for. These words had a compelling power that spoke to my soul and I responded by going forward and making a commitment to accept Jesus as my Lord and the Bible as His word. My heart had been searching for truth and I believe my inquiry had been providentially guided. A seed was planted in my life that continues to grow to this day. That discovery more than any other that I am aware of, has affected who I am, what I believe, and how I live my life.  

 

Fifty years have passed and Jesus’ Lordship and the information in his Word, the Bible, has helped me navigate the difficulty of teenage temptations, the mine fields of marriage and parenthood, the darkness of depression, and the shock of ‘set your affairs in order’, medical prognosis. I am so thankful that I have found a source that satisfied my personal need for truth. The years have affirmed that my trust in both God and His word has been well founded.

Although what one accepts as their personal truth is highly subjective, for me, trusting God as revealed in his Word is still the safest place to be in a world of uncertainty.

 

Your Friend in Faith,

 

Ed Harbes

 


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12/08/2021 -- Evangelism

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


            I am meeting with the newly reconstituted Evangelism Committee, headed by Elder Ed Harbes, this Thursday night.  So, I wanted to share with you how we can understand the work of Evangelism:  What it is?  Who does it?  Yes, a committee is being formed to pray and plan, but is it just their responsibility?  Are they the first-string – the A-Team?


            Church is a team sport – there is no second string – no B-Team – no substitutes bench. Each of us, wherever we are – at home, work, or play – are called to live in those spaces as a disciple of Jesus Christ:  To be His hands and feet, and to speak His words of encouragement, challenge, and invitation.


            If it’s a team sport, what does “winning” look like?  It looks like reaching the world around us, one person at a time.  Sure, we might use advertising, like mailers, social media, road signs, even the banner outside the Parlor – we have to use these, and they sometimes work, in terms of bringing in first-time visitors. But Mattituck Presbyterian Church “wins” when each member understands him or herself as caught up in – called to – the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20:


And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.


            Every Christian is a missionary in his or her own little part of the world.  The questions are:  Have they been equipped to be disciples who makes disciples?  And will they be disciples who makes disciples?


            Church is a team sport, and it needs all its players on the field doing what the Lord calls all of us to do. Our worship on Sunday is a time to gather and be inspired, equipped, and strengthened, so that we go back out onto the field – the six days in between – ready to what Jesus calls us to do.


            Go to your Bibles and find Matthew 28.  Read it aloud, and then pray for people you know – that you would be the person who helps them to come to know the Lord, if they do not already believe.  Or pray:  That you would be the person who would come alongside them, and help them to a deeper, stronger walk with the Lord, if they already believe.


            Church is a team sport, and we win when each of us prays and works to be disciples who make disciples.


Grace and peace,

 

Pastor James Cubie



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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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