Feel Like Giving Up?

Years ago, we had a poster on the wall, of a young boy sitting hunched over on the sidelines of a football game, with the quote, “I quit!” Then, just to the side of that was a picture of the cross with the words, “I didn’t!” If that is you today, then I pray that this little devotional which I wrote several years ago would give you hope.

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word 
I will let down the nets.”  Luke 5:5 ESV

Peter was like the farmer who has just finished his spring planting only to have his field washed out by a rainstorm. We all sometimes come face to face with our inability and failure no matter how hard we try. Maybe you were the last to get picked for your neighborhood team and only got to play because they ran out of other people. Maybe your marriage is struggling or has failed. Maybe you don’t have a friend. Whatever you may be facing, that is also how Peter felt that day.

But Jesus doesn’t come to choose the best fishermen, fathers, mothers or pastors. Jesus came to pick people for His team who have worked all night and have nothing to show for their efforts. And the call of Jesus is not to just try harder. Jesus only asks us to believe and obey His word!  When Peter simply did what Jesus asked him, he saw immediate results. When he cast the net on the other side of the boat, it became so full that it took all of the efforts of Peter his friends to pull them in. But Jesus doesn’t stop with filling our nets. We think it would be great if Jesus showed up to give us blessings like Peter’s full nets, but this story is about more than blessings. The call of Jesus then, as now, was to come by faith and follow Him wherever He chooses to go!

And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him! Luke 5:11

Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Pexels.com

The Gift of Altar Call

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. Romans 12:1 Amplified Bible

John Brown* stood about 5’5” in his stocking feet but he was a spiritual giant in our lives while he, was our pastor. Though he had been through all the same training as other pastors in our denomination, his sermons always had the earthiness of the potato farm he had grown up on in Maine. I still remember his messages about the work of harvest and the barns filled with potatoes drying on the shelves. But of all the talents that Pastor Brown brought to the table, his gift of altar call outshone them all!

The root of why he delivered an impassioned altar call each week was rooted in his experience while he served overseas in the military as a young man. To outward appearances all was well. He had a good home a bright future and his whole life lay ahead of him. But despite what others thought, during that time, he felt lost and lonely, wondering what was the purpose of it all. He told us that his loneliness turned to despondency and depression till finally one evening he sat with a revolver in his hands wondering if it would be better to simply end things there. When he was at his lowest point, Jesus spoke to his heart, and gave him hope. Right there, John dedicated his heart and life to the Lord and to his service and made a promise that whenever he had opportunity to preach that he would always give people the opportunity to come to the Lord in prayer.

Though I myself responded a number of times to those altar calls for various struggles in my own life, I simply took his gift for granted, till, one Sunday when a visiting evangelist was preaching. I have no idea what the guest speaker preached on that day, but at the end, he gave an altar call, just as our pastor normally did but no one came forward. Now at that time our church had close to a thousand in attendance on any average Sunday morning. The organist continued playing softly for a while, and the choir sat quietly in their places, yet the altar still remained empty. A bit embarrassed, the evangelist turned and asked Pastor Brown if he could dismiss us in prayer. I had already begun wondering what was for lunch and was gathering our bibles when our diminutive pastor stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat and began, “Now I don’t think some of you people were listening much to the sermon this morning.” Pastor Brown began. He went on to impress upon us our need for responding to the message, and before you could bat an eye there were twenty folks at the front asking for prayer. Now that’s the gift of altar call, and I am so glad that our pastor had it in spades!  He taught us that no one can tell from the outside what is hidden inside our hearts. How about you? Are you ready and willing to open your heart to the Lord today? God is listening and able to help you and I right now – but He will never drag us to the altar. He is leaving the choice to us!

* The name has been changed to preserve the privacy of his family.

Learning to Wait

And Calls us to His Side

"Oh, what’s the use?”
I ask God while I'm praying
Since you know the way
That things must be
Then in quiet I listen
For an answer from
The one who gave Himself for me

For once He prayed till sweat Flowed like blood drops
Through the night, with sorrows
He was tossed
Then He surrendered all that
He had wished for
Our lives to save
And for our sin’s full cost

And then as dawn
Had still not fully wakened
On the third day
Before the sun was bright
The tomb was opened
So we could see inside that
He is alive
And calls us to His side!

And Calls Us to His Side by Peter Caligiuri copyright 2022
All rights reserved

But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wilde - At every word,
Me thoughts I heard one calling, Child! - And I reply'd, My Lord.
George Herbert - excerpt from The Collar