Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

My Story – Part 4

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

For the next couple of days, I want to share my story, my view, and how I can make decisions with commitment.

Yesterday I talked about my surfing experience and how connected you feel with the ocean when riding a wave.

One Sunday after a catching a few waves in the morning I wearily washed ashore to find a group of enthusiastic revellers singing right on the beach. It was very small church that met every Sunday on the beach with an uncomplicated worship agenda led by a guitar. No sound system, no microphone, just voices on a sandy slip looking out across the ocean. The environment was saturated with a genuine love for the wellbeing of others and their community. It didn’t take long for me to become apart of this family.

The pastor announced there was a “he said/she said” meeting at the church. I arrogantly smirked and rolled my eyes at the idea of hearing another typical cheesy rendition on the evils of dating and glorification of courting. But, my Maui family was going therefore so should I.

After an hour or so of hearing exactly what I expected, the pastor’s wife threw a misdirecting bolder at my lofty ideas of what love and marriage mean. She suggested splitting off the men from the ladies allowing her to speak directly to the men and the pastor to speak directly to the ladies. The honest story she told was of how she met her husband.

When she was a young adult she asked the Lord for a sign, that her future husband would greet her with a white rose. As the story goes, the night he was going to ask her, every florist was sold of off all roses except white ones, he searched for hours wanting to give her red roses. But, for the sake of being punctual, he settled angrily for white ones… the rest is the tale that brings them here tonight talking to me, as man and wife.

I didn’t know what to make of this. Believe it and I feel foolish. Blow it off as coincidence, and I feel like I’m limiting God. Embrace it and I feel sacrilegious perhaps even blasphemous. But, she was persistent in us to prayerfully seek God for a sign. I flippantly wrote down my sign and thought no more of it. I was not one to test God. I was not one to believe in the hocus-pocus-slain-in-the-spirit gibberish. I went on my way.

Peter Stobaugh
phone: (814) 659-6501


Monday, December 28th, 2009

Philippians 4:4-8
“Rejoice in the Lord always!”–v. 4

Christmas Eve Service


I want to suggest something so obvious, but so radical, that it seems silly for me to say it: God is always with us: God is everywhere: God can do all things. And if I can convince you that this is true, I want to show you through the Christmas Story that this omniscient, omnipresent God loves us too.

We wonder, I fear, that it is true–that God is real. That He is here among us. I mean, we can believe in the stock market, in the Pittsburgh Steelers (although that might be stretching it a bit!), in post-Christmas sales. But . . . can we believe that God is right here, right now, in our midst, right next to you . . . I hope, even, in our hearts . . . Can we believe this?

Statisticians tell us that almost 75% of us believe in miracles and more that that believe that there is a God. But how many of us live our lives as though God knew everything that we were doing, thinking, saying? I bet if we felt this way our actions and words would probably change!

I know that the generation of which Joseph and Mary were a part no doubt wondered if there was a God at all. That is, I fear, a perennial question. As he watched his people being persecuted by enemy armies, Gideon wondered where God had gone. David, as he grieved over the death of his son Absalom, wondered if God really cared. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, sincerely held that God was no longer present or concerned about the world that He had created; that He had placed the world in the universe as a clock and backed off to let things happen according to natural law. The great Colonial Awakening preacher Jonathan Edward shared genuine concern that God was still active in his world. Or, at least, he lamented that no one seemed to act like it!

The great English Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, when his cherished wife Joy Davidman died, wished that God was not so present! Listen to Lewis–remember this is a man who loved Jesus Christ with all his heart.

. . . where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims on you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain and what do you find? . . . Silence. . . There are no lights in the window.

Are there no lights in the window? Have you given up on God?


Surely the generation in our Gospel lesson had reason to give up, to lose hope. I mean, why not? When is the last time God had done anything for them? From their perspective, the hated Romans had subjected God’s people to unthinkable indignities . . . and no end in sight. Where was God? Where was the light?

This generation, as our own, echoing the words of C.S. Lewis, “Not that I am thinking that there is no God . . . the real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.” How is God doing in your book? Do you still believe in Him?

How near is God? As near as one born as we were born, albeit in a stable among most primitive conditions. As near as one who drinks a cup of wine and announces a new Way, a new Life, a new Hope. As near as one who died a horrible death on the cross–because He loved me. And then arose from the grave . . . He is here.

He came with singing angels, dirty shepherds, glowing Wise Men. He came to Mary and Joseph–hardly older than many of the children in this place. He came. He is. He lives. Perhaps tonight, my friends, you can discover again, for yourself, God’s inescapable nearness . . . As we light our candles together, rededicate yourself to His purposes. Amen.
This homily was preached at First Presbyterian Church, Johnstown, PA, on Christmas Eve, 1993, by James P. Stobaugh. References include: A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis; Jonathan Edwards, by Ian Murray; my title is borrowed from a sermon preached by Edward Schweitzer entitled “God’s Inescapable Nearness.”

The Glow Of The Love Of God In Jesus Christ

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Martin Luther wrote, “There is no greater love than God and no more desperate scoundrel than the world. . . His love is greater than the fire seen by Moses and greater even than the fire of hell.”

We stand today basking in the glow of the love of God in Jesus Christ.

My question to you home schoolers is this: How much do you love Massachusetts? The USA? The World? Enough to prepare your children to be world changers for Christ? To prepare them to die for the Gospel if necessary so that others may know Him?

Esther had no status, very little influence really, she had no obligations to anyone but herself. But she obeyed God and saved a nation. In Ch. 4 when she turns the corner and faces her husband unsummoned she is facing death . . . or eternal victory. In the courts, in the business world, in higher education our children are doing the same. Will we prepare them to do this?

With Christian home schoolers, all over the world, we stand with those facing death. We stand against systems that tyrannize, abuse, demean, and destroy. We stand for life–all life, everywhere. We stand because we know that we are loved . . . That He died for our sins so that we might live, and love others too. We daily dare to search our hearts, minds, and behavior and risk new ways of thinking, speaking, living, for the sake of our suffering neighbors, sisters, brothers, mother, fathers, sons, and daughters. We will not necessarily succeed . . . but we will try. The German theologian Karl Barth urges every church to ask constantly this question, “Is it time?” Could we be God’s instrument? Is this our time? Could we be called for just such a time as this?

Finally, I end with a prayer written by the theologian, humanitarian, and writer Thomas Merton wrote this prayer shortly before his death: “If I have any choices to make, it is to lie here and perhaps to die here. But, in any case, it is not the living or the dying that matter, but speaking your name with confidence in this light, in this unvisited place. To speak your name . . . and the light you have given.” Amen.