Peter and the Rock

One of the men I admire most in my life is T. Marshall Kelly. I admired his rich baritone voice as he sang meaningful gospel songs. What a privilege it was for me to one day entertain him and his wife at my house for a Sabbath dinner.

One of the songs T. Marshall Kelly is known for is titled “It Takes Everything to Serve the Lord” (YouTube link here). The chorus to that song is as follows:

It takes your hands and your head,
And your heart, yes, your all,
It takes everything to serve the Lord.
It takes your time, and your means,
And your prayers lest you fall,
It takes everything to serve the Lord.

That simple song is but a paraphrase of the words of Jesus found in this week’s lesson on Peter and the Rock. Matthew 16 is packed with fascinating exchanges between Jesus and His disciples and Peter in particular.

It is in this chapter where Peter articulates his belief that Jesus was not just a prophet but the Christ, the Son of the living God. There was no ambiguity with Peter. Although he would have to learn a lot about himself and unlearn a lot about the traditions he was steeped in, he believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

Peter’s, as well as the entire nation’s concept of the Messiah’s role was incorrect. He did not grasp what it was Jesus spoke of when it came to His death. Peter wouldn’t hear of such a thing and Jesus rebuked him in a striking manner. To hear the words, “Get thee behind me Satan,” must have been shocking and humbling.

Christ’s rebuke to Peter is a reminder that even our best impulses are not necessarily the right impulses. There is a way that seems right to men that is often contrary to the will of God. As believers we must be willing to give up our pre-conceived ideas, even when they are held by the majority. When it comes to following Jesus, everything must be on the table. And that’s precisely what Jesus said.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

I can think of no other verses in the Bible that are as clear as these when outlining the costs of discipleship. To be a disciple means a complete surrender of everything – all that we are and all that we have.

“Christ’s call to sacrifice and unreserved surrender means the crucifixion of self. In order to obey this call, we must have unquestioning faith in Him as the perfect example, and we must have a clear realization that we are to represent Him to the world. Those who work for Christ are to work in His lines. They are to live His life. His call to unreserved surrender is to be to them supreme. They are to allow no earthly tie or interest to prevent them from giving Him the homage of their hearts and the service of their lives.” Ellen White, The Upward Look, page 235

Often when we read these words we think about all that we have to give up. Like the rich young ruler we feel that we would lose too much to follow Jesus completely. The costs seems too high and the rewards too distant. Jesus spoke of this sentiment in His story about the great supper.

“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” Luke 14:16-20

It is so easy for us to have a short-sighted view of eternal realities. Our natural reflex is to focus on what we might lose rather than to focus on all that we gain, not just in the earth made new, but today. By giving our all we gain His all. In place of unfulfilled lives always searching for meaning, in Christ we find the true purpose of living. All of our gifts, talents and abilities now align for one grand and noble purpose – the upbuilding of Christ’s Kingdom.

In place of worrying about the issues of life and the challenges of tomorrow, those who surrender have the confidence of knowing that God is the director of their lives. Although trouble may and will come, there is a calming reassurance in knowing that as we labor for the Master, all things will eventually work for our good.

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “surrendering to Christ” mean to you?
  • What does it mean to live a life of self-sacrifice?
  • Is it true that all Christians are called to live lives of self-sacrifice? Explain your answer.
  • What did Jesus mean when He said whoever would save his life would lose it?
  • What did Jesus mean when He said whoever would lose his life for His sake would find it?
  • Is it true that I can make the focus of my life attaining wealth and living a good life as long as I am faithful in supporting the cause of God with my tithes and liberal offerings? Why yes or no?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: I need to learn how to love myself before I can know how to love others. Explain your answer.

We close this week with our memory text. It really is the question that we all must answer.

“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

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Resting in Christ

I wish I had understood the Sabbath much earlier in my Christian walk. I’ve been a Sabbath keeper for decades. I was born into a Sabbath-keeping family with many Sabbath-keeping relatives. I’ve calculated that I’ve willingly “kept” the Sabbath over two thousand times. Yet, for most of those past years I can honestly say that I missed the mark in my Sabbath observance.

I know all too well the verbal importance we place on the Sabbath. Many of us, including myself, have at times used the facts of the Sabbath as an evidence of theological superiority. It’s biblically indisputable that the Sabbath is still binding upon man. Those that claim that it was done away at the cross find themselves without a foundation with simple questions such as, “Were all of the other commandments done away with also?”This week as we talk about Resting in Christ, we have the opportunity to reexamine what the Sabbath is all about. It’s more than a day off work, and it’s more than a day in church. The Sabbath means much more.

Proving the validity of the Sabbath is easy. Understanding why we keep it seems a much harder task. Continue reading

My Flat Tire

Flat tireLet me tell you about the flat tire I recently had. Flats happen and usually at the less than perfect time and place. Mine would prove to be no exception. It was just another unexpected twist in an already unusual day.

I left out driving to Columbus Ohio early Friday morning around 7 am. I was scheduled to speak at a church the next day so I had all day Friday to get there.

With my camera on the seat next to me, I was hoping to stop along the way and take a few pics of anything that caught my eye. It’s a pretty drive going up I-75 from Atlanta to Ohio.

Sure enough, as I got into the mountains of Tennessee the scenery was spectacular. It had rained earlier so the mist rising added to beauty. I saw an exit sign for a mountain overlook so I took it hoping to experience some special views. At the exit was the entrance for another park and I stopped there and took a few pics.

Great Blue Heron

As I left there to head to the mountain overlook view, I noticed a small pond with a Heron perched on some logs. I quickly pulled over and spent a half hour or so taking bird pictures. This was turning out to be a great day of traveling.

I soon got back on the road to make my way to Ohio. I crossed over into Kentucky knowing that I only had 5 hours to go.

As I’m driving my phone rings and a friend of mine I do some training with was on the other end. She said “Curtis, where are you? I don’t see you anywhere and the airport is packed.”

What?! Airport?! I’m driving to Ohio!

As we talked I realized to my horror, and I mean horror, that I was supposed to be in Florida the next day to provide training for the Southeastern  Conference! Continue reading

“Get Up and Walk!” Faith and Healing

This week, instead of my normal article based on a theme of the lesson, I thought I would give you a look into the teacher side of preparation. As some of you know I have a ministry that provides training to Sabbath school leaders and adult class teachers throughout our denomination.

This coming Sabbath I have been invited to assist a church in Columbus, Ohio. Along with the staff training, I will lead the Sabbath school lesson discussion in place of the sermon during the 11:00 service. That might sound unorthodox, but there is no better time to lead a bible-based group discussion than during the time when the church as a whole is gathered.

This week’s lesson on “Get Up and Walk!” Faith and Healing is a great topic for a stimulating discussion. I find that stories of Christ’s interaction with are powerful case studies in righteousness. The stories of Jesus and the leper, the centurion and the paralytic are full of examples of His care and concern for humanity. One of our goals as teachers is to help show the relevant application for today. How do these stories apply to us? Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount

Twenty-five years ago in 1991, the first For Dummies book was published. It was titled DOS for Dummies and it was the first in a long line of instructional books that presented complex subjects in simple, non-threatening ways. From that first computer software book the brand has expanded to cover a huge variety of topics covering almost all aspects of life. There is and has always been a need to have the seemingly complex explained in a way that is easy to understand. And Jesus did it first in The Sermon on the Mount.

“And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”Matthew 7:28-29The Sermon on the Mount has been hailed as the most profound talk ever given on the Kingdom of God. It is a masterpiece of simplicity, walking hearers through what it means to be righteous before God and how to live in the present world. It provides an eye-opening, “aha!” moment. It could have been termed “Righteousness for Dummies.” Continue reading

The Ministry Begins

If one didn’t know better they might think that Jesus could have benefited from a savvy P.R. marketing manager. We know that first impressions are lasting, and it is imperative for any public figure to get their debut right.

To common logic it would seem Jesus would make a grand announcement that He had arrived. I can see Him now giving a press conference outlining his agenda and the wonderful gifts He would give to the people.The society in which Jesus began his ministry was very religious. At the top of the hierarchy of life were the religious rulers who held sway over every aspect of daily living. The temple sacrifices were an acknowledgement that the nation had one purpose in life – the coming of the Messiah.

It would seem to help His cause if He affirmed the people in a way that was non-threatening. Change is difficult for anyone so it would make sense to not disturb the comfort zone of the masses. Just give out some vague generalities and promises that He would make the nation great again and His chances of acceptance would be greater. But man’s ways are not heaven’s ways.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

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