I WILL FOLLOW HIM

14 08 2019

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As I write this, I am wrapping up my Sunday afternoon Rudy on the Radio Show I do on 106.3 The Shore, out of Wildwood. Earlier today, I played the big hit from Little Peggy March entitled, “I Will Follow Him.” In the Movie, “The Sister Act,” a group of Nuns sang it as a gospel song by making the “Him” they referenced in their hymn, the Lord Jesus. The chorus proclaims a devotion that is not embarrassed to tell the world, “I love Him and where He goes, I’ll follow. He’ll always be my true Love; from now until forever.” Jesus said that the watching world would know that we are what we say we are not by all the knowledge we could spout off; but simply by our love for Him and then one another! As important as the brain is to our intellect, it is the heart that is the driving force in our worship of God! God wants more than empty religious motion. He wants real emotion that expresses itself in nothing less than fiery devotion.

When life makes no sense, when what God is visibly doing is more frustrating than fulfilling, He still wants me to live by faith. Without faith, the Bible tells us that it is impossible to please God. A better translation for “please God,” would be “to walk close in consistent community with the Lord.” Without faith, it is impossible for human beings to have a relationship with God because first we must admit that God exists. There is a term today called “Christian Atheists” which defines believers who say they are dedicated with their mouths but their behavior would tell a different story. Do you live like God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him? Would those who know you give a positive testimony that you are the kind of person who practices what he or she preaches? We begin to fulfill our God given purpose when we willingly yield and totally surrender to the specific God given plan that He has for each and every one of us. The goal of all Christians is to be like Jesus, but the road to get there is unique for every man and woman. The most important trait that we followers of Jesus need to own is that we don’t just hear the words of Jesus but we listen with the intent to assimilate his instructions into everything we are and do and say!

How do we know it is God’s voice leading the way in our every day? One of the clearest signs that the Lord is really in charge is when the pages of God’s word begin to come alive with power in our lives! The Acts of the Apostles was not limited to the early church. The same Holy Spirit is looking to move in and through us. Does the Holy Spirit have access to your will and your life? Don’t say, “Yes,” if you keep on saying “No” to His invitations.

I think one of the greatest obstacles for American Church goers is that we are looking for a syllabus when we should just be content to follow the Savior. We stubbornly expect the Almighty to provide us with all the details before we choose to follow. But God won’t give us the plans when His true will for us to just stay as close to the Planner as we possibly can. This flies right into the philosophy of the culture we live amidst.

Scriptures tell us, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Did you see that? There were more questions than answers. Common sense might tell you that you should never leave a pleasant present if it means walking into a “who knows what” tomorrow? Yet without faith, it is impossible to know God as He desires to be understood. The Bible goes on to tell us that, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” Abraham went even though He didn’t know where he was going. He just knew who he was going with! How many of us are so stuck looking for tomorrow’s agenda that we actually miss today’s adventure that comes with following Jesus?

Jesus summoned every one of the 12 Apostles with the same call. He challenged them to drop what they were doing and to “Come, follow me!” The Disciples didn’t get a three-year plan to buy into. They got not much more than Abraham; and yet they all ended up going without knowing what they had really gotten themselves into. Are we so busy trying to fit God into our dreams and schemes that we are actually missing out on letting the Lord lead? From what I read in the Word of God, it seems that it is very much God’s style to give us as little information as possible about what we are doing until we are actually doing it. When we want it all at once, Jesus says it will be disseminated on a need to know basis. He doesn’t give us the script ahead of time. Sounds like there is a lot of improvising along the way. The Lord adjusts the load as we share the road with Him but we must make a move towards Him for the adventure to begin.

Even when God seems absent or, worse, indifferent; or worse still, utterly unfair by my standards of justice, for example, when not one but two of your sons die in your arms, when your last 12 years have been haunted by depression and anxiety and a heart attack and two bouts of shingles and a mini stroke, when most of the plans I make never come to fruition, as long as He still leads, I am on the right track! God “wants me to wait on Him so that I will feel life deeply and not lash out in despairing frustration or angry rebellion but rather to still believe that He is here and His plan is good no matter how out of whack I think it has spun!

The Holy Spirit reminds me Jesus, who is called Emmanuel, is always here no matter how it looks or feels. But if we don’t make time to meet with our Heavenly Supervisor daily, how are we ever going to be able to please the CEO of the Universe? What would Jesus do? The New Testament tells us exactly what He did and if He did it, we should do it too. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary; place, where he prayed.” “Solitary place,” means somewhere that you won’t be distracted and interrupted. A place where you can give God your undivided attention. The story goes on to tell us, “Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” How many times are the days we live controlled not by the Holy Spirit, but more by the tyranny of the urgent? I love the reply of Jesus. Because He has been with His Father, he is able to pass up the good thing so that He may do the God thing! “Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come. So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” When we are sold out to following Him, we are finally free to say “No,” to the crowds so we can “Yes,” to the Christ! How many Holy Spirit specific directions have we missed because we can’t recognize His voice over the noise of the crowd?
Changing the way we relate to God and life requires entering into a battle. We are naturally self-obsessed. We are committed to our own well-being at any cost. God is naturally others-obsessed.

He’s committed to our well-being at any cost to Himself. Who is following who? We need to stop demanding that God follows us so that we are humbly open to following Him. The more you hang out with Jesus, the less you care about where you are. As long as God is here, I am not lost or in trouble or lacking the resources I need to get to where He has promised. The Spirit is a first-rate Guide. He will teach willing hearts how to live. Are you ready to follow?





THE SAVING WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

6 08 2019

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The word translated for Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John Chapter 14 is “Helper” or the Greek Word, “paraklētos.” It is this word that we have transliterated into English to form the term “Paraclete.” The Greek term can also be translated as an “Advocate,” “Encourager,” or even “Coach.” In modern terms, the word carries the idea of a “Personal Trainer” coming alongside of the protégé amidst the course to provide appropriate counsel, constant correction, positive hope, necessary comfort, and the most important big picture perspective. As the Paraclete helps another towards excellence and reaching the goal victoriously, so the Holy Spirit is essential if we believers want to win the race that we were called to participate in.

I can relate to the term Coach for The Holy Spirit because He provides the guidance and instruction that I must have if I am going to become the person Jesus has called me to be. I must surrender my will to the Spirit’s leadership or I will be wandering aimlessly on the path of life. The Holy Spirit literally trains Christians to dedicate themselves, to discard hindrances, and to become obedient like Jesus. The Helper does this supernaturally, in part, by recalling the word of God that have been committed to memory in the mind so that they may be transferred to the application in the heart. Scriptures warn us against quenching the Holy Spirit which we do when we refuse to show up for daily practice and ignore the signs of our Heavenly Coach so we can play the game God’s way!

We can also quench the Holy Spirit by not accepting the difficulties of life, by being bitter and angry, by not being prayerful, and by not enjoying consistent company with our God. We can quench the work of the Spirit by not being worshipful and by not being willing to cast our cares upon Him. We can quench that work of the Spirit by operating in our own strength and relying upon our own agendas by not running to God for everything we need. Apart from the Lord, we can’t do a single thing that leads to eternal treasure. We quench The Holy Spirit by feeling inadequate, by not trusting God’s love, and by living like we lack all the key ingredients that the Lord has already graciously supplied. Any of those and more would cause us to quench the work of the Spirit. And when we quench The Holy Spirit, we grieve Him also.

This is why we must be dedicated and determined to make holy progress. This is why we need to stick to the Holy Spirit’s process.

1 Peter 2:1-3 says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Acknowledge our sin as quickly as possible. Don’t rationalize what needs to be recognized and removed as soon as possible. Rid ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit of what will eventually poison the fuel tank of our hearts and souls. This means dealing realistically with all malice, all deceit, all hypocrisy, all envy and all slander of every kind.

Here are some warning signs that maybe things aren’t as spiritually healthy as you hoped they were.

  • Your priorities are suspect. You make no time for reading Scripture, prayer, church, or even your loved ones.
  • You live like you have more control than you really do.
  • You’re spending more time with your favorite vices — trash TV, social media, caffeine and more caffeine, a glass of wine or two or three, a pint of ice cream or too much pizza.
  • You over-react to small inconveniences — traffic, on hold with customer service, a long line at the grocery store.
  • Your personality is disrupted by an anxious heart.
  • Your mood is influenced solely by your current circumstances with no eternal perspective.
  • You forget and behave in a way that you have little value to God.
  • You harbor unforgiveness in your heart by rationalizing what you should be repenting of and you justify the sin that needs to be confessed.
  • You feel burdened by the unfairness of life and it spoils even good days.
  • You struggle to extend grace to anyone and act self-righteously and judgmental; especially with those you love.

So, we need to be in the Bible so the Bible will be in us! If we have trusted in Jesus, we have within us the presence and power of the Almighty God. The Holy Spirit lives within us. We need to allow Him to come out and shine bright! Let Him make the Bible come alive to you and through you. Be in it! Be all about it! Like newborn babes, let’s crave it and savor it! Like a summer day without ice cream should be any day without time with our Savior via the Holy Spirit and Scripture! Use it and we won’t lose it! The more we practice what we see on the pages; the more we will need to brush up so that we can run the current plays! Knowing Jesus leads to growing in our connection to the Holy Spirit. We can’t be saved without a Savior! Have you tasted that the Lord is good?

In everyday life, when we speak of someone being saved, we communicate two basic things:

One, someone was in danger and unable to rescue himself from a terrible fate. Two, someone else rescued, redeemed, and delivered him.

Sandra McCracken, on her album “Live Under Lights and Wires,” shares a story of two young boys in Missouri who spent their summer playing by some sandbag levees that had held back some of the extreme flooding that happened over the past decade on the Mississippi River.

Tragically, the two boys found themselves in some quicksand resulting from a breach in the levy.

When rescue workers finally found them and came to them, they found only the younger boy standing in the sand. “Where is your brother?” asked one of the rescuers. “I’m standing on his shoulders,” answered the young boy.

The older brother had sacrificed his life to save his younger brother. Just as this young boy needed saving, we too, were once sinking in the sand of our sin, and it took our older brother Jesus to sacrifice himself so we could be saved. And like the little boy, we are still in the sand of sin but saved from the death it would cause, and one day, the rescue worker Jesus will come and pull us out completely. This is the basic sense of what the Bible means when it says that we’re saved in Christ. It is what happens when we taste and see that the Lord is good and the Lord is God!





#METOO

31 07 2019

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In October of 2017, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations that accused him of using his position of power within show business to gain sexual favors from women working for him, the female population from all over the world have been coming forward about their own horrible experiences of very real sexual harassment. The rallying cry on social media that brought these ladies all together so that they could hear and share their stories was the use of a hashtag and the phrase: “#MeToo.” No arena of human existence has been spared the pain and the shame of this flat-out bad behavior. Even the Church hasn’t escaped and unfortunately has been guilty of embarrassing leadership activity that strays from staying in line with what Jesus would do or had done with the women in His own ministry.

Whenever there is a problem on planet Earth, humans like to play the blame game. Many men say that women ask for it by the way the provocative way they dress and the sexual signals they send. Women shout back that if men’s minds weren’t constantly in the gutter all the time, they wouldn’t have so many of these uninvited interludes. Who is wrong and who is right? Where can the fault line that longs to cause the quake of the ages in the battle of the sexes truly be found?

Last week at The Lighthouse Church, we had a guest Speaker who touched ever so briefly on the #MeToo issue that because of the brevity of seconds he allowed for the illustration, I concluded that he might have raised more questions than answered them. Everyone needs to remember that when you are sharing a message, the very moment you open your mouth, you risk being misunderstood, misquoted and mismanaged. I am not afraid of communicating on such topics. I just want to make sure that I have allotted the necessary amount of time to dot the I’s and cross the T’s! I don’t believe that this occurred within our Worship Service a week ago and so I promised that I would address it with this article.

Men never have a reason to mistreat women. It doesn’t matter how well masculinity might be able to rationalize any given situation, under no circumstance does man get a free pass in using a woman rather than treating her with the utmost respect. As a husband of an amazing woman for 37 years, a father of 4 living children, 2 of them being beautiful adult daughters, a grandfather to 4 children, 2 of them being wonderful little gals, you can best be sure that I believe God put inside of me a desire to do whatever is in my power to love them, honor them and protect them in a healthy way that only inspires their growth to become the individuals the Lord is calling them to be. This is not about which sex is stronger. This is about fulfilling the responsibilities that God has given to men and women. There is never a time that exploitation and abusive actions are tolerated as acceptable behavior. Women should feel loved and safe with the men around them and visa versa.

In the Bible, when the religious men brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they felt justified in their unrighteous behavior. I can’t wait to get to Heaven when we can finally learn this dear woman’s name. No longer will she have to wear such a hideous label. The moment that Jesus took over that experience, this woman no longer had to fear for her life. She knew that for the first time in forever, she would be safe and literally be given a second chance. As a matter of fact, if there ever was a sure-fire example of not only how to treat women but all people, it’s Jesus. The moment we stop treating each other as God-created masterpieces made in His image, that is the moment everything begins to fall apart and not come together.

Christians aren’t exempt from the #MeToo epidemic. Growing up I was physically abused by someone who actually used God as the reason to beat the living daylights out of me. The sad part was, I had confessed my mistake long ago, but this individual thought that there was plenty of shame to keep on heaping on. It is a miracle that I am a Christian today, but that is because Jesus is not always well represented by those who wear His Name.

Men need to be responsible for every word that proceeds out of their mouths and every action that degrades someone else. Women also need to know that they are beautiful just as they are. I have told my wife and daughters and now granddaughters that they will always be amazing to me. It has nothing to do with size, color, ability or any other external trait. Just as God loves us because we belong to Him, so we need to love one another in the same way. I know pornography runs rampant within our society and is more accessible than ever before, but that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t give us permission to use sex as a way to satisfy our own desires. Read the Song Of Solomon. God is the author of sex but at its best, it is always an expression of giving and not taking what doesn’t belong to you. There are so many of us that have been burned in the name of love but that doesn’t mean that God is done with us. We need to not be part of the problem but someone who is singing the song of an eternal solution.

If you have been abused, misused and put in a state where you have been threatened to remain silent, I pray that God will use this article to give you the courage to cry, “Help!” Yes, there are many hypocrites in the church but that doesn’t mean Jesus is one- so too, there are many good men and women who can be trusted and will take good care of you. What I love about my Jesus is that I have always felt safe within the grasp of His nail-scarred hands. Nobody put up with more hatred than Jesus. Nobody responded with more love than Jesus. What both men and women need now more than ever before is truth and grace and both are found in ample supply in the Lord!





KEEP IT REAL!

26 07 2019

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As a Christian, I have surrendered my life to Jesus with the humble desire that His will be done to me and through me. I made this decision back in April of 1975 and shortly after my conversion experience, I received a calling into full time pastoral ministry. I was so excited about preparing for this adventure. I loved my time at Philadelphia College of Bible and couldn’t get enough of studying the Bible as well as making the most of every opportunity to share the good news with just about anyone who would listen. One of my favorite expressions from those days was shouting at the top of my lungs, “I’m Going to Heaven!” I’m glad I didn’t know then what I have come to know now. I’m not sure I would have signed on to this journey if I had the details ahead of time. I believe God loves us so much, He purposely keeps us in the dark about what might prevent us from living in the light.

It’s been 37 years since I became a professional Pastor. I can confidently tell you that I still love Jesus even though I haven’t always been crazy about the scripts that He has given me. I am hopelessly loyal to those God has placed within my path and I am still naïve enough to believe that people can be trusted to keep their word. Unfortunately, that balloon has burst so often that I am tired of plugging it up. But I refuse to become cynical and sarcastic. Every day I pray that I will seek the Lord passionately and always be open to new and creative ways to show others the truth and grace of Jesus. It must be both, by the way. Operating with only truth and one can become legalistic and pompous. Acting with only grace and one gets fluffy and shallow. I don’t want to become a cocky Pharisee but I also want to have way more depth than Barney the Dinosaur. This is where we Believers must not try to use the culture as a replacement for devotion to the Christ that we have pledged allegiance to. It’s His Word that is the only hope for our world. And the Bible is key to way more than just stuffing our brain with information, but changing our heart with transformation.

If there is one habit of our present society that just plain irritates me, it is the blatant disrespect shown for authority. Nobody wants anybody to tell them what to do or how to do it or where to do it or when to do it. We must not stamp the Lord’s name on our tastes. There are times that we need to do something not because we feel like it but because it is right. If I only entered into activities that I enjoyed, I wouldn’t be much good. As a matter of fact, God sees the big picture and my growth would have been stunted horribly if my to do list was only as long as what I could envision. While we may wrestle with our divine assignments, it all comes down to obedience if we ever want to become fully grown disciples. The surrounding crowds will always shout their selfish opinions but it’s only the Head Coach we need to please. If I start pastoring to just please the congregation as my number one goal, the church is suddenly in trouble. If we want to be eternally effective, make sure that everything you do is for the audience of the One who is seated on the throne in Heaven!

It’s going to be tempting to do things just because everybody is doing it. The fact is, not everybody is doing it. It only takes one descending vote to make the mob less crowded. Nobody can make you do something that you don’t want to do and so while the coercion meter might be at high alert, you still have a choice. I pray that God gives us Christians the boldness to stay true to Jesus as He was faithful to us. The cross wasn’t a picnic in the park and it caused our Savior much shame and pain but for the joy set before Him, He went the distance. It is time for the church to stop zigging when they need to be zagging and start not only asking, “What Would Jesus Do?” but we get busy really doing it His way.

How do you talk to strangers? Does your wardrobe worship God? Are you careful about not just eating organic and healthy but feeding your soul with the wonderful words of life? Do your footprints lead to places that you are proud to be? What are the views that you give permission for your eyes to see? If Jesus hung out with you, would you be embarrassed by His company? Would you ask the Son of God to wait here while you go there? Are you able to say “No” to what sin wants you to say “Yes” to? Can you be honest about your struggles or are you so good at acting, you even believe the lies? Do you go to church to be entertained or challenged? Are you seeking an easy chair when the Lord is ready for you to launch into the wild blue yonder? Are you stingy with your money or are you a cheerful giver? Does God get your absolute best or is He stuck with your lazy leftovers? Have you decided to follow Jesus or are you content with only a fun sized spiritual snack? It is time to get all excited and go tell everybody that Jesus Christ is King because you are signed, sealed and delivered yourself.

I’m a 59-year-old Minister. Many churches have decided to only have young and hip Preachers. I think we need Pastors of all ages in all stages of the seasons of life. I may have more life behind me than ahead of me but life has always been about quality and not quantity where God is involved. I still love what I do, where I get to do it, and it’s because of my real relationship with Jesus that I will not get sloppy about the road I travel upon. I share all the truth, even the hard verses because when it comes to God’s recipe of sanctification, no ingredients can be compromised. I have no intentions of hammering people over the head or shoving the Bible down anyone’s throat. Those tactics didn’t work with me so why would I use them for others. Somebody loved me enough to tell me about Jesus. As long as I am the Pastor of The Lighthouse Church, I long to do the same. The times they may be changing but I’m anchored to the Rock and thoroughly creative about the instruments that we use to win the right to be heard and understood. This is no time for pseudo faith. I only want to offer you the real thing. Any other options will only lead you to die a slow death of thirst.





TASTE AND SEE!

18 07 2019

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I love to go to Sam’s Club on sample day. Why pay money to eat at a restaurant when people are handing you free food with every twenty paces you take? I will try just about anything. I love liver and onions, anchovies, oysters and an Italian dish made up of peas, eggs and tomato gravy just to name a few menu items that aren’t in the popular category. On Mission Trips, I have eaten guinea pig, goat, and a few other delicacy items that I didn’t bother to ask what it was. Growing up in a family with too many brothers and siblings, let’s just say I wasn’t choosy when it came time for dinner! I knew I was hungry and if I could benefit from developing an appetite for some of the unpopular dishes, it just meant more for me!

Where does craving God fit in to your daily diet? Psalm 34:8 challenges us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I know many individuals who are defined as “picky eaters.” They refuse to even try many delicious foods because they don’t like the look of things. The Bible doesn’t say, “Look and see that the Lord is good.” Have you ever ended up liking the taste of a food even though the appearance of things left much to be desired? When people try to force somebody to swallow something they really don’t want, it usually causes a gagging reaction. I have seen the ugly results that occur when religion is shoved down the throats of unwilling participants. People don’t become believers; they end up bitter and rebellious. There has got to be a better way in sharing the truth with others than giving them no choice in the selections off the menu.

Jesus always invited His followers to dinner, didn’t He? Every time He called someone to Himself, He invited them to break bread with Him. He wanted others to get a taste of His company. He wanted others to sample what it was like to hang out with Him. Actually, the more the majority of men and women got to be with Jesus, they were no longer satisfied with the snack packs of the Savior. They wanted to be a regular participant in the banquet table of the Bread of Life and the Living Water. It was like nobody could get enough of feasting with God on his words of grace and truth.

Everybody can taste, can’t they? Actually, the answer is No. There is a medical condition labeled cavernoma in a brain stem, and it can gradually take away many of the abilities we just take for granted. One of the behaviors is the ability to swallow, and many with this diagnosis have to be put on a feeding tube. They have to put a feeding tube into your stomach which they say will be a part of life from now on. No more roast beef, mashed potatoes and sweet corn on the cob. No more strawberry rhubarb pie, vanilla milkshakes and a piping hot cup of coffee. I can’t even imagine what a tragedy losing my taste buds could be.

After I suffered a heart attack, I had to begin taking medications that wreaked havoc with my tongue. My wife makes the best buffalo wings on this planet. We actually got the recipe from the original creators in Buffalo, New York. Suddenly, I could no longer stand the hot spicy taste. What used to be a delight had now become a dreaded dish. No more Mexican, Thai or spicy treats of any kind. Terri still makes me a much blander brand of wings and while they are good, I still miss the real deal.

It turns out tasting is not a constitutional right. It is proven that what once was a treat can now be something we’d rather see in the trash. The closer our relationship is to the One who created us, the more in tune we are with the gourmet goodies that matter most. The more we allow sin to distort our taste buds, the easier it is to settle for fast food that while its convenient, it isn’t really good for our souls! I see too many undernourished Christians who are starving not because they don’t have their pantries stocked with heavenly goods, but because they are choosing poorly.

Taste and see. How full does your cup have to be for it to produce this kind of worship in you?

I was reading an article this week online that said the average 4-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old laughs four times a day. What happens to us? Does the world become less beautiful? What if children are right? Isn’t that why Jesus said that unless we become like little kids, we would miss the kingdom of God? Are we getting apathetic over what we should be amazed by? Are we taking for granted what we should be utterly grateful for?

I try to restrict my diet to just a few treats. But every now and then, I cheat by giving myself a really good treat. Last week, I went to Rita’s in Rio Grande to have a watermelon Misto. It was beyond amazing! I was thoroughly engaged and celebrated every sip. I blasted the music as I drove home. I wanted the drink to never end. I did dispose of the cup before I entered my driveway but I will tell you this, I thanked God for that afternoon dessert. It was a wow experience. When we unwrap each day as the gift that it is, we are more in tune with the little daily surprises that the Lord puts in our lunch box! But to become a partaker of this amazing grace, you need to open your mouth and receive the gift. Taste and see that the Lord is very good. When you have your fill of what God has in store for you, He fills you to spill you and others start to get hungry for what you are serving. We serve Jesus so we can serve Jesus! Come to the table and get ready for a miracle meal that never ends!

 

 

 





THE EYES HAVE IT!

12 07 2019

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We have all heard the phrase, “Making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Exaggeration is a common instrument in the land of the human nation. We are not always the best judges of what we see. We get overwhelmed by underwhelming subjects and we lose heart over matters that shouldn’t even warrant a second look. I have asked God many times, “Lord, why is it so hard for us to call them as we see them?” A common cry at the ballpark is for the umpires to invest in stronger glasses. We don’t trust the referees and we second guess the critics who grade our best of efforts well below average. Whose eyes have it?

I have not always seen life clearly even though I am staring intently at what is standing right in front of me. My eyesight is not what it used to be. The twenty-twenty days are a distant memory. But in my haste to not allow waste, I might have gone to an extreme which again is not accurate of the way things seem. I now own bifocals and even that isn’t strong enough for me to look into the mirror.

How many of you, like me, have purchased a magnifying mirror to help with your low vision problems? And while it definitely has brought the hard to see into the light of day, it has gone above and beyond what was actually necessary. Suddenly I was discovering flaws, imperfections and blemishes that I would not normally see. Because I am wired as a perfectionist, I was beginning to spend hours obsessing and fretting over the mess staring back at me. I have never been very secure in my own looks and let’s just say this purchase was making things not better but a whole lot worse. When you battle obsessive compulsive disorder to begin with, the last thing you need is more components beyond your control.

Remember the Wicked Queen in the story of Snow White? She was so preoccupied with being the fairest of them all, she fell into the trap of not being satisfied with who God made her to be. When you begin to compare, you compete with those who don’t even realize that you have made a contest out of what could have been a relationship. That stupid magnifying mirror might have been the most foolish use of my money since I bought a salad shooter for Terri, Christmas 1985! I forgot the simple fact that when you use a magnifying mirror, its sole purpose is to enlarge objects. This means that whatever you are seeing is going to be bigger than it actually is to the naked eye. The average person will not be able to see what you are seeing in this type of mirror and definitely not at the same size you are looking at. So next time you look in the mirror and do not like what you see, keep in mind that what you see in the mirror may be distorted by various factors. Maybe it is time for me to throw the mirror away and base my self-image on what God says rather than by what I see?

The enemy of our souls is set to steal, kill and destroy God’s image in us. When God says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, all we hear is that we are monsters and everyone who sees us should be very afraid. What the enemy labels ugly is what God is making beautiful in His own way. Even the Bible tells us that what made Jesus so attractive wasn’t his Matinee Idol looks, but His amazing love that He had for others. Blindness is healed miraculously when we get our focus off ourselves, concentrate on the Lord and let Him write the definition of real beauty. We live in a world of excessive plastic surgery and yet the most handsome feature of our Savior is the scars on His hands and feet and the hole in His side. Even in the Resurrected Body, Jesus did not have these traits removed. Perhaps we are missing out on majesty because we are giving permission to earth to hijack our heaven. It’s about time we start looking through the eyes of love.

When your spouse looks into your eyes, whose reflection does he or she see? When your children come to you for tender loving care, are they hearing life sentences or death phrases. When you speak to one another, is your language explosive or endearing? Do people feel better about themselves after they have been in your presence? Are you in the habit of dishing out constructive criticism or cheap shots that puncture the spirit? If Jesus looked into your eyes right now, what do you hear Him saying to you? How you answer really does determine whether you need your head examined or your heart renewed.Let me close with some lyrics of one of my favorite Gene Pitney songs. There are some nuggets of gold in these words.

“In the eyes of the world, I’m a loser, just wasting my time, I can’t make a dime.
In the eyes of the world, being born was my first big mistake, I can’t get a break.
But in the eyes of my woman I stand like a hero, a giant, a man who’s as tall as can be;
Any fool can see that she’s looking through the eyes of love when she looks at me.”

How would our lives be different if we could see what God sees when He looks at you and me?
I think it’s a view worth fighting for!





PASTOR RUDY, RUSS TAFF AND REAL LIFE

3 07 2019

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I turned my life over and gave my heart to Jesus in April of 1975. At the time I appeared on the outside like the young Man who had it all together. I was a straight A, over achieving, performance driven, affection starving Teenager who while he was a perennial Teacher’s Favorite Student, never felt that he was quite good enough for anything. I was an emotional keg of dynamite ready to go off at any moment. The Lord used His word, music, the love of a godly Dad and a new found faith to keep me from ever going over the edge but even as a Christian, I still lived tragically close to daily disaster.

Only a year after beginning my walk with God did I sense His call into full time ministry. I had only been a Believer a few years when I attended Philadelphia College of Bible to prepare for the mission set before me. My days at PCB were some of the best of my life. I was getting to study the Bible with some of the greatest Professors on this planet. I made friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I met my wife there and was so affirmed that God had given me the gifts to pastor people. For the first fifteen years I worked exclusively with Youth, and the last twenty-two, as the Senior Pastor of the Lighthouse Church. You can say without hesitation that I have experienced Church Life thoroughly, tasting all of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Like a drug, working as a Leader in the service of the Lord only made my addiction to adrenaline worse. With each success, it only made me work more and try harder. Now don’t get me wrong, I believed passionately the message that I shared. When I was doing what I did, I knew that it was exactly what God created me to do. Unfortunately, the vehicle that God was using to drive home truth was severely flawed. In all of my journeys, I was still trying to work my way so that I could earn and deserve God’s love and grace. I never felt worthy. There was always a gnawing sense of shame eating away at my redeemed soul. What is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I experience real freedom?

God’s church is still His precious Bride that Jesus gave His life for to literally transform into a holy and blameless bunch. Humanity has reared its ugly head in the midst of heaven and raised a lot of hell along the way. I worked for Church Boards that expected a hundred hours a week of productivity. Nobody kept an eye on the workaholic tendency of Pastors like me. The only time I was brought into the office were those rare weeks that I didn’t meet the quota and was reprimanded shamefully. I fought hard to make sure my Wife and Kids knew how important they were to me but there were entire summers I’d be missing from their worlds. The clear lesson being championed was that too much is still never enough and no matter how wonderful the last event was, there were still many more mountains to conquer. If I wanted to matter, I’d better not take off my hiking boots.

The last twelve years has only revealed to me clearly the depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior that I have battled since I was a child has never gone away. It actually has gotten worse and no amount of activity I compile upon my resume is strong enough to quiet those gremlins that long to render my heart paralyzed. If I am grateful for anything, it’s that the Body Of Christ in 2019 is more compassionate and merciful to these issues and recognizes their presence not as a consequence of a bad faith but of a broken human being. You can be a devoted Follower of Jesus and still be far from perfect and someone who is still in the process of being transformed into the image of our Savior. What I used to stuff deep down inside so that nobody would suspect that I didn’t have it all together, I can now live out in the great wide open. I am determined that my story has no phony elements and can be raw and real. And it is my prayer that in my being authentic and vulnerable, others too can come out of hiding so that the Lord can shine His light of healing and wholeness on them too.

I am battling daily even as I write this. It is mostly a radical surgery of retraining my brain to operate fueled by a truth that God’s promises will set us free. But those danging tapes of non-stop lies that have monopolized my belief system all these years won’t die easily. Christians are still very much works in progress. If anyone acts like they have arrived, he or she is only putting on a show that needs to go. Enough with the edited for the Sanctuary images we are tempted to portray. God doesn’t work with facades. We must be willing to surrender our tainted coping mechanisms and lay them down at the foot of the Cross so that God has sovereign rule and room to rescue, redeem and restore us to our original glory. Church has got to be a place where we can come just as we are so that God can make us just what He wants us to be. Sin is not tolerated, but it’s not tastefully hidden either. When I read the Bible, I don’t see heroes to emulate but men and women who were examples to us all that apart from the Lord we can’t do a thing right!

This coming weekend at The Lighthouse Church, we have the contemporary Christian Music Legendary Singer Russ Taff coming to be with us. He will be there for all three Services beginning with Saturday at 6PM and then again on Sunday Morning at 9 and 10:45AM. No tickets are necessary as it is our gift to the Cape May County Community. Last year, Russ released a Book and a Movie entitled “I Still Believe.” It tells the story of Russ’ lifetime battle between the Jesus he truly loves and the addictions he never stopped fighting. If you need to just be in a place where you can literally let it all hang out before the Lord and let Jesus love you not because of what you do or don’t do but simply because you are you, then please don’t miss this opportunity. I relate so much to Russ’ testimony. It is a tale of what the grace and mercy of the Lord is all about. I hope to see you. Nobody needs to hang their heads in shame. Simply come with open hands so God can fill your empty hearts. Christianity is the story of what God can do in a willing soul that just gives Him room.

Let me close with the lyrics to my favorite Russ Taff song; “Praise the Lord.”
“When you’re up against a struggle, that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes
And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fear
Don’t let the faith you’re standing in seem to disappear
Praise the Lord, He will work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seem to bind you
Serve only to remind you, that they drop powerless behind you when you praise Him”