Thoughts from Pete’s Message March 25, 2016

Rejoice Despite Suffering

In Matthew 25-26 Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He used these precious moments before his crucifixion to teach his disciples some important life lessons. He told them a parable about ten virgins who were waiting on the bridegroom. The bridegroom had left and didn’t tell them when he would return. The virgins were responsible to keep their lamps burning until the bridegroom returned. The bridegroom came back unexpectedly but the oil had burned out of the lamps of five foolish virgins. They asked the five wise virgins if they could borrow some oil from their lamps but there was not enough oil for the foolish unprepared virgins.

Another parable was about three stewards to whom the master gave talents to invest. The lesson was to make wise faith-based and not fear based investments into the kingdom of God. A third parable was about judgement between sheep and goats. The question is whether the disciples were sheep or goats.

In Matthew 26, the leaders of the temple, the chief priests and Pharisees, were planning to kill Jesus. A woman met Jesus and anointed his head with oil but the disciples rebuked her. However, Jesus told the disciples that the woman would be blessed because she had anointed him for his death.

Jesus taught the disciples many other lessons in those few days before his death. In the upper room, he taught them them by washing their feet that he who is greatest among them must be servant of all.

Jesus then took Peter, James and John into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus needed some time alone with his Heavenly Father. He prayed “my soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death.” He told his disciples, “Stay here, watch and pray.” Jesus prayed, ” If there be any other way, please let this cup of death pass from me.” The conclusion to Jesus’ prayer was “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus agonized over the gravity of the payment he had to suffer for your sin and mine. He knew that he himself was the payment for the original sin committed by Adam which was passed on through Adam’s seed to all mankind. Suffering is the pain of a trial that we must endure… It is a struggle that is a part of life. James said, when you encounter various trials, count it all joy. For Tribulation shall have its perfect work that you may be perfect and entire wanting nothing.

Why did Jesus have to suffer humiliating torture and death? Why did he need to endure the cross on our behalf? Jesus came from his prayer in the garden and was ready to do the will of his father. Even though his flesh said, “let this cup of suffering and death pass from me,” Jesus willingly obeyed his Father’s will. The prayer of faith says, “my father is the pilot. I will trust him to get me to the destination.” Obedience means, “not my will, but thine be done.” The only way to get to that kind of obedience is to abide with our Heavenly Father and spend time intimately in his presence. To live to Christ is to die to self.

When Jesus came back to see the disciples in the garden, they were asleep. At his time of greatest trial, even the disciples forsook him and succumbed to the weakness of the flesh. Beforehand, according to Matthew 16, Jesus had asked his disciples “who say ye that I am?” After Peter answered Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God,” Jesus told them that the son of man must suffer many things and be killed before his resurrection on the third day. He said, “If any man shall come after me and be my disciple, he must forsake himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Jesus gave his disciples grace and mercy. He did not see them as failures, rather he saw them as men whom his father loved. He knew that his death as the full payment for their sins would result in their salvation… He saw them, not as they were, but who they would be by his payment for sin on their behalf that they may be made the righteousness of God in him.

Oswald Chambers said, “No healthy Saint chooses suffering. Rather he chooses God’s will whether or not it requires suffering.” As Paul said, “thy strength is made perfect in my weakness… Thy grace is sufficient for me.”

According to Isaiah 53, “when we see him there is no beauty in him to be desired. He hath no form or comeliness… a man of sorrows and visited by grief, he was despised and we did not esteem him.” At the crucifixion, the people thought that he was being executed for his own transgressions. However, the truth of the Word of God says that “he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf, that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.”

In the Gethsemane’s of life, God will answer your prayer if the conclusion to your prayer is, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” The answer to Jesus’ prayer was the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, according to Hebrews 12:2, Jesus Christ for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God. Because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we have been made the righteousness of God in him.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,


Thoughts from Pete’s Message March 18, 2016

Back to Basics

Living the Christian life is dependent on the basics. A disciple is a disciplined follower. The discipline is in the details. It is deliberate, intentional and purposeful. In the game of life, the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. Each team member must master the fundamentals. The winning team depends on each individual to do his own job. According to 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, we are all on the same team as members of the body if Christ. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

The Lord’s army is a team. Each individual must be disciplined to become like Christ. The soldier’s commitment is to do exactly what his commander in chief says to do. Jesus said, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that you love one another.” When we identify with Jesus Christ, Our purpose is to align our hearts with his heart… To delight ourselves in the Lord to will and to do of his good pleasure.

When we’re living by faith, the world will say that we’re impractical and illogical. The world’s way is diametrically opposed to the Word’s way. According to Psalm 1, Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree that is planted by the rivers of waters, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. His leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

A winning team needs a plan. However the best plan is his plan and not our own plan. To conform to the will of the Lord, we must surrender our pride in order to follow our commander in chief. Psalm 31:15-17 says, My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies’ sake. We do not know the end from the beginning but he does. Our job is not to question the destination but rather to walk with him one step at a time. But what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

The first and great commandment is to have no other gods between my face and God’s face. God is looking for faithfulness and commitment from those who profess to follow Christ. We’ve been called to sacrifice, surrender, bow down and submit our hearts under the mighty hand of our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ himself is our commander in Chief.

Men of God sometimes need to be “humiliated” in order to learn the meaning of “humility.” The antidote to pride is to give up the right to our own selves. We must discipline ourselves to find out whether or not we’re committed. Commitment means a promise to do, give, and to be loyal… Resolute, and not turning back. It means to want another’s will instead of my own despite danger and hardship.

In the book of Acts, Paul left Ephesus and headed toward Jerusalem where the Christians were being persecuted. Paul also had his heart set to go to Rome. On his journey, he stopped 40 miles north of Ephesus and wrote to the elders in Ephesus, “I preached the word boldly to you both in your houses and in large public gatherings. I preached that men should repent and to come to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.” Paul felt compelled to go to Jerusalem even though the elders tried to persuade him not to go. Paul said, “I’m aware that sufferings await me in Jerusalem, however I count my life not dear to me. Rather I count it joy to suffer for the Lord. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He said, “my only aim is to complete the task that God has given me… To testify with my life on behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ.” Like Saint Francis said, “preach the gospel… When necessary, use words.”

The life’s goal of a man of God is that others may love Jesus Christ more because they spent time in His presence. As John the Baptist said, “I’m not the bridegroom. I’m just here to introduce the bridegroom Jesus Christ to his bride, the church. I must decrease that he may increase.”

The Apostle Paul’s goal was to know Christ and to make him known. His commitment, duty and assignment was to live to the glory of his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. As soldiers of the cross, our commitment is to stay at our post until our commander releases us to a new assignment. Our calling is our commitment to Jesus Christ to lift up the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ve been called to our place in the wall to stand in the gap to assure God’s protection and blessing.

According to John, These things I have written unto you so that ye may know that ye have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. What is our commitment? Let us then hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Love, honor, respect and reverence God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Gary Stubblefield’s Message March 11, 2016

According to the Westminster Confession, the chief aim of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Glory means weighty… it describes something of significance that has “gravitas.” Glory means consequential. A glorious man has substance. He is substantial, and he matters. Because we have been created in Christ Jesus, we are weighty in God’s eyes. However, in the eyes of the world we are inconsequential because the world cannot perceive the things of the spirit. When our prayers take the form of petition, we acknowledge that God is the source of our significance and glory. Prayer also tells us about the origin of our own heart. Prayer is the involuntary reflex of the human soul. Communion and communication with God is hard wired into our earthen vessel. Even those who are unbelievers pray when confronted by death. There are no atheists in foxholes. When his death was near, even Mark Twain, an avowed non-Christian said, “I prayed like never before.” When we stand at the threshold of death and glimpse our own mortality, these are “come to Jesus moments.”

In Luke 11:5, after Jesus had taught his disciples the “Lord’s prayer,” he gave them an illustration about the benefits of persistent prayer. Jesus said, “when a friend who comes to you at midnight, knocks on your door, and says “I have a guest and have no bread to serve him,” will you say to him, “Go away, don’t bother me. It’s too late and my wife and children are already in bed.” However, because of your neighbor’s persistent knocking, won’t you simply get up and give him what he needs?

Luke’s story about a cranky neighbor is an illustration of asking and receiving. In Jesus’ culture, neighborliness and hospitality were in vogue. The culture placed a high value on hospitality and considered it an honor to host a sojourner who needed a place to stay for the night. They believed that taking care of strangers was “entertaining angels unawares.” The host was obligated to fix a hot meal for the stranger. A stranger arriving at a house was considered the guest of the entire community. However, this host wasn’t prepared to feed his honored guest resulting in a shameful situation and a bad reflection on the neighborhood. A similar situation is when my wife says “I have nothing to wear.” She literally means “I have nothing to wear that will uphold the honor of my family.” When the host knocked on his neighbor’s door a literal translation of his request was, “I have nothing to uphold the honor of the community.” The neighbor’s first reaction was, “get lost, my kids are already asleep and in bed. I can’t get up and help you.” In Jesus’ day, this was not the appropriate response and was unthinkable. Jesus said, the solution to the problem is to keep on asking. The parable is a contrast between a cranky neighbor and a loving God who is eager to meet his children’s needs. The key is persistence. If you have the persistence to keep on asking a cranky neighbor, he will accommodate your request. Likewise, keep on asking a benevolent and loving God. Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

The story in Mark continues, “Which of you fathers, if one of your children asks for a fish, will instead give him a snake that looks like a fish?” Children trust their fathers to make decisions that are good for them. A child has the persistent audacity to keep on asking his father for what he wants. If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your own children, how much more will a loving heavenly father give good gifts to his children who ask him? We who are fathers know the joy of giving good gifts to our own children. Take that feeling and multiply it ten times infinity and you’ll approach the joy that God feels to give good gifts to his children.

Abraham had the audacity to ask God to save the city of Sodom and Gomorrah and to spare the city for the sake of only five righteous souls. He kept on asking because he knew the heart of his God. Like Abraham approaching a loving God, I once was a stranger, but now I am a son. This is the essence of God’s “adoption.” Adoption is a legal term that means that we have access to intimacy and freedom from guilt before our holy father. An adopted son has legal standing before his father to ask for his needs to be supplied.

According to James Packer, when God’s children pray, he always give them what’s best for them in the long term, even though it may not be what the son asks for at the moment. Children don’t know what they really need. Like the stone mason who was asked what he was doing, we need to understand our upward calling. The stone mason pointed to the cathedral’s spire and said, “I’m chiseling this stone down here so that I can set it up there in the spire to glorify God.”
Our job when we pray is to sort through the chaff of our life. God will open our eyes so that we can see to appreciate the harvest that God has set in our lives not only in the here and now but also in the hereafter. Prayer is persistence… we need to keep on repeating the word of God in our lives to understand what really matters and to walk humbly with our Father one day at a time.

On the night before Jesus was crucified, the disciples were arguing who would be the greatest. In the upper room, they walked past the foot washing basin and took their places at the table. Jesus Christ with a heart of love and humility gladly took the role of the lowliest household servant and washed the disciples’ feet. This was an example to the disciples that he who is greatest shall be servant of all.

How can we be sure that God will answer our prayer? After supper, Jesus took Peter, James and John to the garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray. Jesus prayed to his father, “if there be any other way, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” The cup signified the wrath of God… the righteous sentence of death for the sin and iniquity of fallen man. Prayer is not aligning God’s will with my will. Rather it is aligning my will with God’s will. How did Jesus align his heart with his Father’s will? The scripture does not reveal the answer in Matthew 22. However, the Word of God is its own best commentary. The answer is in Hebrews 12:2: Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. On the cross, Jesus Christ satisfied and balanced the scale of God’s righteous judgment for all of our transgressions. God revealed to Jesus those of us who would be made righteous by the shedding of his innocent blood. Therefore he endured the pain and suffering of a shameful death because of his joyous expectation of your salvation and mine. As a result of his answered prayer, Jesus Christ voluntarily drank the cup of death as full payment for our sin and iniquity… for he who knew no sin was made sin for us that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message March 4, 2016

When is Enough, Enough?

To get to the heart of a man, you need to ask the right questions. Do you read your bible enough? Do you go to church enough? Do you give enough? Do you love your wife enough? How do you know when enough is enough? An honest man will conclude that in my own power, I can never do enough to please God and to keep his commandments. As pride-filled men, we don’t want to be ministered to. We don’t want to be helped because the culture has taught us that we should be self-sufficient.

According to Ephesians 2:8, For by grace are we saved by grace, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. The righteous (those who have been saved through faith) are righteous because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. For he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.

The scripture relates a story of a king who invited many of his subjects to come to a wedding feast. One of the invited guests came to the feast, but didn’t wear the white robe that the king had provided for the occasion. Likewise, when we try to approach God’s presence in the robes of our own flesh, and by our own accomplishments and pride, the Lord will say, “depart from me, I never knew thee.” To understand what it means to be a “man of God” we must forsake our pride and, as the scripture says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” After we have been born again, God has given us his righteous robes to come boldly into the presence of our heavenly father. As Isaiah said, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” We need to acknowledge that we are righteous, not in our own flesh, but only by his grace.

When we attempt to work our way to heaven, we’re riddled with guilt and shame. In the filthy robes of my own flesh, I cannot approach the throne of grace. When we condemn ourselves, we believe the devil’s lie instead of the truth of the Word of God. Repentance is to turn from our sin nature and unto the righteous nature of God in Christ in us. Prayer is the means by which God will break the power of our carnal sinful nature.

According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus said that there are three things that a man needs to do in order to be his disciple. First, Jesus said, “unless a man forsakes all worldly things: his family… his wife and children, his house and his possessions, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” You can’t say “I love you Lord,” until you make him the first priority in your life. When we love him above all, our other relationships will be blessed. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these (other things) will be added unto you.

The second thing he said was, “you must take up your cross and follow me.” This does not refer to the physical cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Rather it is the cross of our identity with Christ. As Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” For unto those who do not believe, the preaching of the cross is the stench of death unto death, but to those of us who have been born again, it is the sweet smelling fragrance of life unto life.

The third thing to be a true disciple is that we must give up everything in service to him. Only then will we understand what it means to become the “righteousness of God in him.” Only then will we understand that Christ is our sufficiency. All he asks is a surrendered heart. This is what it means to make Jesus Lord of my life. For in him we live and move and have our being. Without Jesus Christ, there is never enough. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise that God himself is our provision and that he will provide.

When is enough, enough? Is it the world and everything in it? For what doth it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? My sufficiency is only in him. What needeth thee? All I need is thee. You can have all this world… just give me Jesus.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,