just a prayer

Dear Heavenly Father You are the only one worthy of my praise, worthy of my worship. I honor You and believe in You. I believe that You created me for a purpose, and I count on You to guide my life such that that purpose will be revealed and accomplished.

I believe that you sent Your son, Jesus, to live among us perfectly, to bring us the Good News, to die on a cross and to rise again three days later to fully conquer sin and death. He is the Lord of my life.

I am sorry for all the times I’ve let you down. But I know that all my sin and iniquity are covered by His precious blood. Please continue to point out the error in my life so that my life will continually grow more pleasing to You.

Father God I am so troubled by the way events are going right now. We are more divided than we have been in America than at any time during my life. So many people are falling away from the faith or never even coming to it at all. Our leaders bicker and backstab. They are cowardly and lazy. There is corruption all around. We need You now more than ever yet You seem so far away.

Your Word says that all authority on Earth belongs to You. So take it away from those that use it for evil and harm. Deliver it instead to men and women that will use it in wisdom. Deliver to us justice and hope.

I am asking You to send revival to Your church. We are in dire need and only Your Holy Spirit can bring us back to life. Deliver to us the boldness and courage that we have lost. Prune any sin and error that You find.

For myself Father guide me in the way You would have me go. Bless the ministry that You have called me to. Stir up the Spirit that lives in me. Give to me good ideas and the courage to implement them. Let Your love shine through me so that all can see it. Mold me into a leader that You can use. Send revival and let it start with me.

Amen

Tribute to an old friend

When I came home from the army in 1986 I was 23 years old. I took a job at the family business and went back to school. My grandfather was the boss at work. Most every day he would arrive just before opening time with a box of doughnuts and the first thing he’d do once he got in was turn on the radio so he could hear the news.

He would grumble a little bit about it cause you know Reagan and then move on with the day. But at 9am the station format changed away from the news to a local talk show. And boy did grandpa hate that guy.

I couldn’t figure out why. To me he was smart and funny. He was a little bit over the top sometimes but I thought he was mean or hateful. That never even crossed my mind. I’m talking about Rush Limbaugh.

By 1986 I’d been able to vote twice in presidential elections. I’d happily cast my votes for Ronald Reagan. First time because I thought Carter had been a poor president and second because I thought Reagan had been a good one. If you had asked me I would have told you I was a conservative but I probably wouldn’t have been able to give you concise reasons why.

Rush changed all that for me. As I listened I began to be interested in what he was saying. His brand of conservatism made a lot of sense to me. His breakdown of liberal or socialist ideas and his refutation of the same spoke eloquently to my inner conservative. And of course he was funny.

I remember one time he was doing a bit about backwards satanic messages on records. He was playing Slim Whitman “backwards” and he revealed a hidden message. Well a man called in to the show and told Rush that he had the same album but he couldn’t get the backwards message to play.

Well Rush couldn’t let that one go. He sent the caller on a wild goose chase for a “disgronificator”. Because that was the piece of equipment needed to hear the messages hidden on the albums. The poor fellow believed him and went in search of said equipment.

This was very spontaneous on Rush’s part. Because the message on the Slim Whitman record was so obviously a parody made because these types of messages were in the news. To have a caller believe it was genuine just made it more funny. But that’s what Rush did, he used parody, satire, and humor to point out the ridiculous in society and the news.

Rush you brought me in to the conservative fold and taught me how to be better at it. You made me think and you made me laugh. You can’t really for more from your favorite talk show than that. You served us well and will be missed. Rest In Peace Rush Limbaugh. You can finally give God His talent back and untie the other half of your brain.

I’ll never be a socialist

Since I have been alive on this planet there have been eleven different presidents of the United States of America. Five of them Democrats and six Republicans. Now obviously I didn’t really have thoughts or opinions bout those that served when I was a child. My first real memory of politics was from the early seventies when Nixon was running against McGovern.

I remember having arguments with the other kids on the playground. When I say arguments of course I mean taking sides based on what our dads were saying at home and shouting at each other about things we didn’t understand. My dad’s guy was Nixon and so was mine. It was great fun but in the end we all loved America and wanted the best for everyone. The teachers loved America. The students loved America. The administration loved America. We all had that in common. At least as far as I knew.

There have been people that have looked for reform as long as there has been a country. And that’s a good thing. How else are things going to get better? But does that mean that all reforms are good or necessary? I don’t believe so. The system may seem slow but it gets the job done.

America works best when individuals strive for their own betterment. That’s why I’ll never be a socialist or communist. These ideologies are not interested in individuals but rather in groups or collectives. Leftist revolutions always pit people groups against one another. That’s why socialists and communists hate God. Because God values the individual not the group or identity. When it comes time for me to meet my maker He’s not going to say to me “Well Peter since you’re a white man you get a free pass to glory”. God doesn’t care what your identity is at all except for your identity in Christ.

When you realize this, that each person matters individually, it lays to rest this idea of identifying primarily as a group. Now understand I’m not saying that having an identity group is a bad thing. We all like to hang out with those in which we have things in common and that’s ok. The problem comes when this becomes an us against them winner take all proposition. Just take a look at California today to see how that works out. Even Willie Brown says it’s a problem.

I want to remind you that God says “Love your neighbor “. It’s easy to to love or hate people as a group. It becomes much harder to take those feelings and apply them to individuals.

Is there an identity group that you have a problem with? Do dislike or even hate middle aged cis-gendered white men? That’s what I am. Let’s talk. Do you hate Republicans? That’s what I am. Let’s talk. Do you think church folk are all hypocrites? I’m church folk. Let’s talk.

I am all of those things and so much more. Yet none of those define me. I challenge each of you to lay aside your cookie cutter ideas of what people are based upon some perceived identity and get to know people as individuals. Step away from your prejudice for just a minute and give it a try. You might be surprised.

Father God, please forgive us for lumping people created as individuals uniquely in Your image into broad groups and then judging them based solely on which group we assign them to. Help us to see people the way that you do. In Jesus name. Amen

A letter to Worthless

Dear Worthless,

I’ve noticed you coming around a little bit more often lately and I don’t appreciate it at all. I thought we had finally ended our relationship for good. I see that I was mistaken.

I have to tell you that I’m really tired of how you waltz into my life at the worst possible time. Things seem to be going along just fine and them you show up looking all sweet and innocent. Your sad hungry eyes get me every time. So I give in and feed you a little bit. I say to myself “I deserve a little self pity. I’ve been working hard and no one seems to notice or care”. Next thing you know we’re having a full blown pity party.

And yeah it feels good at first releasing all that pent up stuff inside. The self doubt, the anxiety, little hurts that were easy to set aside suddenly take on a new life. We kind of settle in it together. You pretend that you care about me. That you are the sensitive one that really understands. You tell me that Worthwhile over there is just a bully. He’s always pushing me to achieve some goal or overcome some obstacle. He doesn’t care about you you tell me. He’s just in it for the attaboys.

It sounds good at first all this talk of laying down my burdens to sit amidst the garbage that you draw out of me. But I’ve started to look around and it seems to me that you’re the bully Worthless. I don’t know why I listen to you at all. You’re a liar and a thief. You want to break me down to make yourself feel better and I’ve been letting you. But no more.

Worthless I’m not feeding you anymore.

Peter

Freedom > Security

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

From “Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, 11 November 1755” by Benjamin Franklin

I remember years ago I had a friend. Okay I’ve had many friends over the years but I’m thinking of one in particular right now. Anyway, we were having a conversation one day and I asked him a question and his answer really surprised me.

The question I asked was this: “What is more important to you, freedom or security? His answer was quick and sure, “Security.”

For context I want you to know that this conversation took place in the mid 90’s. So there had not yet been 9/11, no war on terror, no department of Homeland Security. Nothing like that at all. We were walking down the street safe as could be yet he was thinking about security. I was truly shocked to hear this kind of sentiment come from an American. I mean really this is the land of the free and the home of the brave right? How could someone living in the most free most prosperous country ever be ready to trade any of that liberty for some small safety or security? I was not prepared to hear that then.

So fast forward to today. I’m still not prepared to hear it. I’m not ready to trade any freedom for security and I’m not ready to give up any liberty for safety. The Bill of Rights has served this nation well for 229 years and I don’t see any reason it can’t continue to serve today.

Our Declaration of Independence says this: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. But we have many politicians today that appear to think they are the power themselves. These elected officials seem to have forgotten that all of the authority they have comes from us. I feel like if I could sit down with one of them just as the meeting was starting I’d like to say, “Go fetch me a glass of water you work for me not the other way around.”

I know that would be disrespectful and the thought is unworthy of me but that’s where I am right now. My emotions are a mess. On one hand I’m angry that some bureaucrat is telling me I must wear a muzzle, but on the other I am filled with compassion for those who have impacted by the virus. I want to wear the mask to show my respect for their feelings. I saw my very dear friend in the store today. We always greeted one another warmly with a hug. But not today, no today it was a sad wave of longing for some human connection.

I don’t know how much longer I can take this. How long before a little subversion becomes something more? I know that I’m not alone in this. Please let me know how you are doing and what we can do to help each other.

Father God these are troubling times. I turn to you who alone are worthy of my worship. I know that during this period of sickness and unrest my behaviors and thoughts have not always been pleasing to you. Please forgive me. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for providing me a way to have a relationship with you through your Son, my Savior, Jesus. Please deliver to me the spiritual and emotional strength to be a good and pleasing witness for you and your Kingdom. Amen

The more that things change…

So this coming Sunday (26 April 2020) will be the sixth week in a row since I have been able to meet with the congregation of the church where I am the pastor. Six weeks ago my wife pointed an iPad at me in an empty sanctuary and we went live. It was not the best production but it served to get us started.

Don’t think though that it was just she and I that made this happen. There are many others and I want to thank them all. So thank you Kenny and George. Thank you Carl and Paul as well. I can’t leave out Dr Steve and brother DJ. I know that you all put your heart into the work that you did and I know that I can count on you to continue to make great things for us going forward.

My greatest thanks though must go to my wife Diana and my friend Mary. These two have put in so many hours that I’ve lost count (ok I wasn’t really punting). They have turned our weakness into strength. We have all learned a lot about ourselves and each other as we navigate all of this change. Our next challenge will be to figure out how to continue this higher level of streaming when we are back together as a congregation. But I am confident that we will.

This is important because it seems to be working. We are engaging more people than we have for quite some time. I believe that the message of Jesus is reaching many new people and more people are connecting with that message. Our ability to be able to reach people is being multiplied. We are making real connections with believers around the world.

Here is an email I received a couple of days ago:
Dear most respected pastor Peter Ceccardi
Greetings to you from our Heavenly father and soon coming savior Jesus Christ!
How are you and your family especially your country? We are praying for you and the situations from there.

We heard every news from your country through the news telecast and terrible incidents.

We are also in the strict lockdown down days because of corona virus, our government extended lock down days till next month may 3rd. Our church believers ,orphans and some of our poor tribal pastors in very need of food and groceries. Some of our poor church believers sleeping with empty stomachs with their family and their children because there is no way to go outside to do any labour work.

Our Government passed rules not to conduct any Sunday services so; we did not conducted Sunday services or any gathering from last four weeks.

Please pray for me and my family, church believers and the poor tribal pastors.

In his service
Pastor mary
INDIA.

For those of you that don’t know this India is the 10th most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. I know this because for many years outside of my family and congregation most of my prayer efforts are for persecuted believers around the world. This is the first time someone from one of these places has reached out to me for contact. I get prayer requests often through various organizations or by the church website but these never include a way to reach a person directly.

At first I was going to ignore this request fearing it was a scam of some kind. But as I prayed about it my heart softened. I will be reaching out to Pastor Mary. I’ll keep you posted.

I stand with Hong Kong

Ok it’s been a while since I’ve been here. It’s not like I haven’t been writing. Ive just been neglecting this particular place. I really want to get here more often to write. I have been thinking a lot about the state of the nation though and I have to admit that these are waters that seem a little bit dangerous. I go to Twitter and see the hatred that gets passed around as wisdom or righteousness and I wonder how my thoughts will be viewed. But then I realize that very few people will actually take the time to read these posts and I feel my courage return.  

I saw in the news today there was a “controversy” in the NBA. The General Manager of the Houston Rockets got himself in some hot water because he tweeted his support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

Since when is it wrong in America to support people who want freedom from a brutal communist government? A horrible dictatorship where millions are put to forced labor, have their organs harvested and women are re-educated by being raped and sterilized. I have a problem with that. If you don’t we’re going to have difficulty being friends. 

I’m not naive, I know that there are nuances to geopolitics that are very likely over my head. However I do understand basic human rights and I can see when they are being violated. 

I pray for China and Chinese Christians every day. I have been following the story of Pastor Wang Yi since he was arrested in December last year. 

I’ll have more to say about this soon. 

Love you all

Peter

the blessing of mercy

Those of you that know me will know that several of my favorite bible verses are found in the Gospel of Matthew. I want to talk about one of those verses today.

Matthew 5:7 say “blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy”.

I really like those kind of verses. The ones that give an instruction and then offer a promise of some kind. I know for instance that I’d like to have a lot mercy in my life. I mess up pretty regularly and when you do it’s nice when the people affected are merciful to you. I like that a lot. Being merciful feels good (at least it does to me) and it comes with the great benefit of getting it back.

I was thinking about that today and I thought what a beautiful thing this really is. Isn’t being merciful a great witness for a Christian to have? What a great world we would live in if we were all as merciful as our Heavenly Father. In a way mercy is the flap of the butterfly’s wing that caused the storm. Your mercy, your kindness, your forgiveness could be the cause of a storm of the same.

One of the fastest ways to change a difficult situation is to show mercy or kindness or forgiveness. I know that many times our impulse is to lash out when we’ve been hurt or wronged in some way. Sometimes we are just looking for an offense to take. It can feel pretty good to lash out in the moment. That impulse though will usually lead to more difficulty rather than some good resolution.

Your small action, your little kindness though can have a massive positive impact. I mean I know that love is mean, love is judgmental, love always gets it way, insists that it is alway right, love takes revenge, love walks away. That’s why it’s so easy to love your neighbor right? No that’s not right but to often that’s how we “love” each other. Mercy stands our impulses on their heads. Even without the promise of Matthew 5:7 mercy is really it’s own reward.

Mercy is like a muscle, a spiritual muscle. The more you work it out the stronger it becomes. The more you exercise it the stronger all of your spiritual muscles grow. Paul doesn’t list mercy as a Fruit of the Spirit but really can you have any fruit without it?

So spread mercy and see love , joy, and peace flourish all around you. And who doesn’t want that?

I pray that you find mercy abundantly in your life. That you supply it endlessly and receive it ceaselessly. I pray that the roots of mercy anchor your life in the goodness of God and supply abundantly all the spiritual richness He has for you.

love in the balance

As a young person I was often accused of being out of control. I remember whenever the Bible study would get Fruit of the Spirit I would get sideways looks from various people when the reader got to the self-control part of the verse. It was kind of embarrassing for me. I would dwell on it in my mind and say to myself that I need to master this thing if I want people to stop noticing me.

Over the ensuing years I cultivated an almost Vulcan like disdain for my emotions. Don’t get me wrong I still feel deeply but I have learned to seriously repress things in the name of self-control. At least I think I feel deeply, maybe I’m fooling myself.

But there has been a price to pay for this. The other day somebody told me that I was less than human because I didn’t cry during a commercial on TV. There are times I wonder about my emotional state. I ask myself if I’ve repressed things for so long that maybe I’ve broken myself. Is that even possible?

This even has affected how I think about love. I taught my daughters that love is just a decision that you have to make. I taught them not to trust that feeling as it will come and go and during each of those times you’ll make bad decisions because you are out of control. I liked to say that love is an act of will and felt clever at my turn of phrase.

I think now that I was only partially right. I was focusing on the willful part and in so doing missed out on the passion. In all things balance right?

I’ve got a ways to go to fully develop this thought. Being stoically in control comes naturally now. The times when I get emotional are still embarrassing for me. But hey Jesus wept so why shouldn’t I too?

Father God help me to produce all the Fruit of the Spirit in both my head and my heart.

the struggle is real

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything. The past few months have really put me through the ringer. But God uses times like these to show you just what it is you’re made of right? I keep forgetting that however. The past week or so has been particularly difficult. I really felt like maybe it was time to just go ahead and give in to my old pal Worthless.

I was feeling down on myself. I even wrote a poem that was surely the darkest thing I’d written in a very long time. No I won’t share it with you so don’t ask. But then God came through for me in a mighty way on Sunday and turned things around. Worthwhile stirred and poked his head out of the dog house, saw that I was feeling a little better and came over to remind me of something that I’d not thought about for a while.

Jesus is in the boat with me. What do I have to worry about? Whatever storms may be beating against me He can overcome. There’s no way I should feel defeated. That’s just a lie from Worthless. How can I have so little faith and be filled with melancholy when Jesus is along for the trip?

So watch out old enemy you may have pushed me to the edge of the cliff but I didn’t jump and now I’ve got a new victory to celebrate. There’s plenty of fight left in me and I’ve got the best cornerman around.