ENCOURAGERS OF ONE ANOTHER!

22 08 2016

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A 200-year-old church was being readied for an anniversary celebration when calamity struck: the regular Bell Ringer was called out of town. The Priest immediately advertised for another. When the replacement arrived, the Priest took him to the steps leading to the bell tower, some 150 feet above them. Round and round they went, huffing and puffing all the way. Just as they reached the landing, the new Bell Ringer tripped and fell face-first into the biggest bell of them all. Bing! Bang! Bong! Dazed by the blow, the Bell Ringer stumbled backward onto the landing. The railing broke loose and he fell to the ground. Miraculously, he was unhurt and only stunned but the Sexton still thought it best to call an ambulance. “Do you know this man’s name?” asked the Doctor when he arrived. “No,” the Priest replied, “but his face sure rings a bell.”

 Today I want to write about our need of being encouragers and let me begin by giving you a huge piece of necessary counsel that will prevent you from suffering the greatest of embarrassment if you ever have to supply information about an injured Bell Ringer! One of the highest of all Christian privileges is the chance to look out for and care about those whom you have a daily connection with. But how can you truly call someone a friend or a colleague if you don’t even know their name? I can’t tell you how much it means to someone to not only ask them what their name is but to also remember it once you have been informed! “Hey You,” just doesn’t communicate “I Care!”   

 Now I know we can’t skip the preliminaries and jump right to the state of being “Soul Brothers and Sisters,” without beginning by at least entering into some shallow small talk! But the secret is that we can’t stay there on the surface! We must go deeper if we are ever going to develop the ability to genuinely meet the needs of one another. But in our pursuit of real relationships, we should not forget the importance of such simple acts of kindness like a smile, a wink, a hand squeeze, the positive touch such as a slap on the back a healthy hug and even an innocent kiss on the cheek. Hey, if you are going to go swimming in the Ocean, we all begin not in the deepest waves but by dipping our toes in the shallowest of water. Not every conversation needs to share the deepest most innermost gut stuff. Not every moment or interchange has to involve swapping blood types and social security numbers. But we can’t just assume that just because somebody follows you on Facebook or Twitter that you are suddenly joined at the hip. Social media can become nothing more than a cosmetic cover up to hide your heart deep inside away from public access! Sometimes to plumb the depths of a problem a submarine is required; sometimes just a dipstick will do. But if you want to draw refreshment from the well, we must all be willing to dig a little deeper!

 In fact, if you are brave enough to put into practice this week’s article, then let me challenge you to dare to dedicate at least one day this week to making people your priority. Ask God to give you a significant conversation with at least 5 individuals every day! Initiate the impromptu date! Do something as simple as recognizing a piece of clothing someone may have picked out to wear that day, “Love that shirt!” Ask questions of those you are standing in line with at the store. Inquire of how their day is going and commit to being all in when it comes to listening to the reply! This is what we might call, “breaking the ice,” but if hearts are ever going to warm up to one another, you won’t get there via the icy stare!

 I am not advocating that we will obtain a heavy and deep relationship with every person we meet.

In fact, you don’t need to be “heavy, deep and serious” at all times yourself. There is nothing worse than the holier than thou, stuffed shirt, and never smiling religious people. I love to imagine Jesus having fun with his disciples! I do believe that our Lord loved joking with his disciples, chuckling with them and shaking his head and maybe even telling Peter to go walk on a lake!

 The world has its fair share of four-letter words, and Church, we have ours which was designed to bring life and the word is LOVE. If we showed love as often the world screams its four-letter words everywhere, I do believe we would see an improvement in the environment! I know our days can become overwhelming and anxious filled and distressing but if you lose heart, you eventually lose your hope and Believers we can’t let that happen on our watch!

 I have met more Ministers than I care to count who are so beaten up and discouraged by their years of full time service to God. I actually call them “Tin Men,” after the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz who kept lamenting life because he felt that he didn’t have a heart! The truth is he once did just like those Pastors did and it was a heart with a calling and a beating passion. But without any cheerleaders, those clergy succumbed to the bloodsucking despair that can leech into the heart itself.

 In the Wizard of Oz, we observed that at the end of that yellow brick road only revealed a con man hiding behind a curtain feigning to be more powerful than he really was! We all know that Oz never did give something to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have. In his song, the Tin Man sang, “I’d be tender, I’d be gentle, an awful sentimental; if I only had a heart!” He was very tender and his tears were always provoking the need to use the oil can so that he wouldn’t rust. It just took some comrades to share his journey to remind him who he was and would forever be!

 The word encouragement is from the French and it literally means to put “heart” into someone. Who is that heartening presence and power in your life? Who reminds you to live, not by rote or by rules, but by heart? We may not have the authority or the ability to put heart into others but we can sure make a difference by putting people into our hearts! We are all on a journey with lots more at stake than making it to the Emerald City! We are on the race to Heaven and it is not just who finishes first who receives the prize, but the crown of glory is given to all who cross the finish line. Who needs a hug along the track? Who needs a cup of water given in Jesus Name? Who needs to matter? Do you see how much more there is to life than just trying to make it through another day?

 In the late 1960’s Paul Simon had been listening to a lot of music by the gospel group “The Swan Silvertones.” His favorite was a “Swan Silvertones” song called “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep” and it contained the lyric “bridge over deep water.” When Paul Simon wrote the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” he penned it so quickly that he actually asked, “Where did this come from? It doesn’t even sound like me!” Shortly after 9/11, I went to Carnegie Hall for a Gaither Homecoming Night of Praise and Healing for New York City. Much to my surprise- Bill Gaither said there was a musician waiting in the wings desiring to offer to sing a song of encouragement that he wrote for a beleaguered city. Out came Paul Simon and the song he sang is still a song I hear in my heart every time I think of the people that have been blood brothers and sisters in my life. Anybody can be a fair weather friend, but we all need those who will stand by us no matter how hard the storm, because God’s love comes shining through him and her and will always there to keep our logs burning to keep our light shining and our soul and faith on fire! 





“FRIENDS WE CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND!”

8 08 2016

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We all need the human touch! In a day where social media has reached a level that
has soared beyond the wildest of imaginations; intimate communication is grossly lacking the necessary personal connection. Texting doesn’t replace talking while making eye contact. Facebook can become an avenue where many portray an overly positive facade that offers more fiction than fact. Twitter is reduced to trying to say everything you long to express in 140 characters or less. And we have all witnessed the new phenomena: whole families can be out together without ever talking to one another! From Dad and Mom to the youngest child, each one is glued to their own smart phones, tablets, computers and other various gadgets. They might appear to be sharing space but they never get close to the heart of what matters most. Life is always all about relationships. Our most important one is with God and then our concentration on building healthy ones with one another.

 I think the whole “selfie” concept that so permeates our society has complicated our need to shake the temptation to be egocentric. I found a contraption in the church office the other day that I thought was something to retrieve golf balls that got stuck in the deeper water but it turned out to be what is called a “selfie stick!” I had to shake my head in amazement. Don’t you think that Mr. Kodak or Mr. Polaroid had something other in mind when they designed their cameras? In almost every healthy connection, those involved must be looking out rather than just trying to discover the best ways to manipulate and use others to meet their own needs. I got a note on Twitter that I could actually buy “followers.” I didn’t get it! Why would you want impersonal fans that have no real interest in developing a genuine friendship? Just because you have over 4000 Facebook friends, doesn’t mean that you are close to all of them if you are to even any of them! And on Facebook, you can totally portray an image that isn’t close to the real you at all! How many people could you say really know you? How many others do you truly know? When you venture out into a social situation, are you initiating genuine conversations or are you content to remain safe in surface land?

 I know many of us have been burned and abandoned by those human beings we trusted and it can be very scary to take the chance to be open and vulnerable again. But God didn’t make us to be solo acts. We thrive in community and we are at our best in doing all the “one another’s” that Scripture teaches us. Love one another and pray for one another and rejoice with one another and weep with one another. God set us the example when he modeled for us the best way to express that we want to let others know how incredibly special they are. Jesus came from Heaven and moved right into our neighborhood. He became one of us and pitched his tent in the not so positive confines of human hearts. He did what he did to show us that the greatest love of all kind is to sacrifice and lay down your very life for another. Unfortunately today, rather than taking a bullet for brother or sister, we are the ones left holding the smoking gun.

 We all need true friends! Notice, I didn’t say best friends because sometimes those people you have labeled your best buddies aren’t all that good for you after all! If you fall, who will be there to help you get back up? If your companion stumbles as they run their race, could they count on you to carry them to the finish line if need be? Remember that the Bible never says only the ones who finish first will get into glory! Graduation is set for everyone who runs life’s race to completion. This means that we can assist one another in the journey. Life here is not a competition as much as it is a lesson in holy connection. Your stuff will not make it past your last breath. What would you say is the priority in your heart today, your property or the people that God has put all around you?   

 In a few weeks on my Sunday Ride Radio Show heard on 98.7 The Coast from 3-5 PM, my special guest interview will be Michael Learned who played Olivia Walton on the classic Seventies TV Show. The writer of that show was Earl Hamner. He was the real John-Boy Walton. Not only did he write for The Waltons but he also wrote many episodes for the old classic series, The Twilight Zone.  I will never forget the following episode.

 A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill stood an inviting tall arch that glowed and glistened in the sunlight. When the old man was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate that was decorated with Vegas like glitz, mother-of-pearl jewels, and lots of neon. The street that led to the gate was paved with pure gold. He and his dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw an individual all decked out in a tuxedo and he spoke like a game show host. He offered entrance into this wonderland and the elderly man began to walk towards the door. When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me Sir, where are we?” “This is Heaven,” the slick gent answered. “Wow! I can’t believe that I am going into this paradise. But as he and his dog began to proceed, Mr. Wonderful barked out the first condition by saying, “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept pets. No dogs allowed” “But he has been my faithful companion all these years,” said the man sadly. “How can I leave him outside looking in?”

The man thought a moment and his pooch began to whine nervously, so they together turned away and got back on the path and while he was sad, he knew he would not leave his pet behind. After another very long walk, the two got to the top of another hill. Only this time, it looked like something out of the back woods of Kentucky. There was a farm gate with a man standing against the post playing the harmonica. As the old man and his dog approached, he was greeted with a warm, “Welcome Home! Come on in! We have been waiting for you.” This time though both sojourners were weary, the old man asked the question, “Are we both allowed to come in?” “You bet,” said the musician. “You both look very thirst so let me get you some water.” He proceeded to wander over to the pump and filled a glass for the man and a bowl for the dog.

 When they were both refreshed by the most delicious water he had ever drank, he went back to the man standing by the tree that by now was playing, “I’ll Fly Away” on his instrument. “What do you call this place?” the traveler asked yet again. “This is Heaven,” he answered. “Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.” “Oh, you mean the place with the gold streets and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.” “Doesn’t it make you mad for them to misrepresent your name like that?” the old man quickly shot back. “Nope,” replied Heaven’s Greeter, “We’re actually happy that they screen out the folks who could ever think about entering an eternal bliss and yet leave their best friends behind.”

 Jesus would not go home to Heaven without doing everything he could to make joining him possible. What are we doing so that we too can build the kind of relationships that go deep enough that we reach the level of talking about the subjects that really matter? Please answer selflessly!





FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS?

1 08 2016

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I never realized how much of a “fair weather” friend I am.  Maybe you are also. Let me explain. Recently I was checking out the local shore forecast and Dan Skeldon had the audacity to tell me that it was going to rain on my day off which I also planned to be a great day out! “No way can it rain!” I shouted at Dan as if he could actually hear me. “Let’s see what your competition has to say,” I challenged him as if he would care anyway.  So I changed the channel and waited for Cecily Tynan’s take on the barometric pressure trying to puncture my paradise balloon! “Besides, she is much better looking anyway,” I smirked! I liked what I heard as AccuWeather with its remarkable accurate advanced system had pinpointed only the slightest chance of precipitation in our backyard.

 “I liked the second report better,” I reasoned.  I even texted New York Meteorologist Amy Freeze to see what she had to say and everyone knows that 2 Weather Gals beats 1 Weather Man no matter how the cards are dealt! And then I quipped, “Who trusts a man wearing hairspray and make-up anyway?  Is he a model or a meteorologist?”

 And as always, God had a way of teaching me another life lesson through my daily living. I am convinced that in every experience, the Voice from Eternity has something of value to impart to us. And in my mission to get the weather forecast I desired, the Lord hit me with the reality of how I can more often than not become nothing more than a fair weather friend.  Whoever offered the best weather report was my authority for that day.  Whoever told me what I wanted to hear would grab my allegiance and my vote as “weather guru of the year.”  I’m sure that this wasn’t the first time I had ever done this, continuing to search stations until I got the status that I wanted to hear. I keep playing with the remote of life until I find someone who gives me the biggest entertainment value at the lowest cost to my heart and soul!

 Here is the worst part.  Much too often, we do the same thing with God.  We go to Him for guidance, a word of encouragement or direction, some sign of what we should do with life and when He doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, we just play musical preacher.  We may rationalize, “I didn’t get the answer from Him that I thought I would have received so I guess I’m not that important to Him.” Or we think, “What I’m hearing can’t possibly be right so I guess I’m not in tune with Him today.”  Worse yet, we might even wander off looking for another voice, one which will take us in the direction that we always wanted to go in the first place, but unfortunately, totally opposite from where God would have liked to see us end up!

 I can see now how I’ve done that with the people who love me also.  When I’m struggling with things in my life, I turn to them for their input but if they don’t say what I wanted to hear, I dismiss it as bad reception. The real point of today’s article is simply this:  while I can’t do a thing about changing the weather, although like my friend, Cathy Johnson, I would order a ton more snow for our Cape May County Winters,  I can do everything within my power to rearrange my life if I would only listen. For when I look up, more than just atmospheric conditions, I can see a God who loves me and He is there for all of us through the fair and the stormy weather!

 I hope this coming weekend is absolutely gorgeous; but if it is not, I think it is fair to say that God knows and is able to make it something beautiful anyway, if we will only come to him no matter what the forecast.  Rather than being a fair weather friend, why not just be a friend period. That is the right outlook no matter what direction the thermometer may go, up or down! Perfect love tells us the truth even when it isn’t popular or easy to receive. Real relationships are not built on fluff and decorative nonsense! Connection happens when we care so much that nothing could ever separate us from the touch that we all so desperately need. The Bible has a way of giving us a heads up with what’s around the corner! I invite you to check it out and keep reading because if you want to be in a parade that lands in paradise, you have to survive the pitfalls along the way!





MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN

26 07 2016

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Last week we showed the Movie, “Miracles from Heaven” at The Lighthouse Church. The Movie is based on the true story of Christy Beam and her intense and passionate journey with God, Family, Friends- Old and New, Feisty and Faithful Church People, Devoted and Disinterested Doctors, Hospitals Near and Far and most importantly her personal Faith. We witness Christy’s battle through the ups and downs caused by her daughter Anna’s suffering from a rare digestive disorder and the miraculous healing that occurs after barely surviving a horrific and freak accident of Anna falling 30 feet to the bottom of a hollow tree. It is at the bottom of that tree while Anna’s body lies hanging in the balance that this little one’s soul is brought into the presence of God. And in a whisper that transcends actual words, the Lord tells Anna that she can’t stay with Him just yet, but when she is returned to her body, she will be healed…and that she is Even the Critics can’t deny the fact that Anna had a terminal disease when she fell, but she literally arose from that tomb with new life. It is a several boxes of tissues movie and Actress Jennifer Garner plays the role of Christy Beam with conviction, honesty and a rawness of character that anyone who has been down this road with their children and loved ones would fully comprehend.   

I can’t lie to you; “Miracles from Heaven” hit me below the belt. It got through my layers of defense mechanisms and literally struck anew the raw nerves of what I have discovered is still a very broken, battered, bruised, but also ultimately a recognizably blessed and grateful heart! My wife Terri and I made eye contact several times as this Video was on the big screen. We both knew internally what Christy Beam and her Husband Kevin were facing for we had been there and done that lap around life’s track more times than I ever cared to get roped into that ride.

As many of you know, our now 25 year old daughter Abbie is a cancer survivor because when she was just 3, there were 8 cancerous tumors discovered on her kidney and since they removed it, she has been thankfully living free of the return of that terrible monster that has visited so many of us. But the year after Abbie’s surgery, our son Nicholas Paul was born on April 5th in Omaha, Nebraska and did not survive the day. We played tug and war with Heaven and lost that struggle as we begged for the healing of our little one and God still took him home. Thinking that something like that could never happen again, you can imagine the sheer numbness as déjà vu ran its course 4 years later here in New Jersey as our son Benjamin joined his Brother in March of 1999.

In 2000, my Hero who also happened to be my Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer and by September of that year, he too would leave another hole the size of the Grand Canyon in my heart. Somehow I limped on continuing to pastor and serve and shepherd the flock and in 20002, Terri and I were both shocked and scared out of our minds to find out she was pregnant. I will never forget standing in Cape Regional as the Doctors counseled us to do the wise and prudent thing and abort this baby so that we would not have to experience yet another tragedy. I guess to give them the benefit of the doubt; they believed that this would be best for our psyche and everyday mental health. But there was no possible way that Terri and I could ever choose that option and if you were near the chapel that day hearing this guy pray, I would have made Jennifer Garner’s outbursts look tame and passive at best. I screamed out to God begging Him to show up and do something positive for a change! I was angry, hurt, scared and numb all at the same time. Anybody who tells you that if you follow Jesus everything will be absolutely easy and wonderful is lying!

On July 30, 2003, in the wee small hours of the morning- Joel Thomas Sheptock was born. He will turn 13 in a few days. Nobody in the medical field gave him a snowball’s chance in hell to survive, but the cold never bothered me anyway and we witnessed a miracle from Heaven. Joel’s name means Jehovah Elohim: The Lord is God. He may have parents old enough to actually be his grandparents- but if it worked for Abraham and Sarah- it worked for us.

Now if this was Hollywood, the story would end on this high note. Heck, even in life you are taught that you want to go out a winner with a hit in your last at bat. Joel was Terri’s 8th pregnancy and with our 2 miscarriages and Nicholas and Benjamin in Heaven and Rudy, Leah, Abbie and Joel on Earth, it just seemed right. But we don’t write the script and life doesn’t always imitate art. There is a dialogue in the Movie where the Pastor and Christy have this conversation. I have come to know this truth in the pit of my gut even as painful as it was to learn. Pastor: “We can’t choose our neighbors. We just have to love them.” Christy: “Well I’m gonna have to love them from home, because I can’t go to church with them.” Pastor: “That’s not the reason you stopped going. What’s the real reason?” Christy: “Why would a loving God let my little girl suffer the way she is?” Pastor: “Just because she’s suffering doesn’t mean he’s not a loving God.” At the foundation of everything is the reality that if you don’t believe God is good then you will never trust Him!

In June 2005, on the very day that our oldest Son Rudy graduated Middle Township High School, my wife Terri could not be there to celebrate. She was in Cape Regional because earlier that afternoon, our final baby was born and graduated to Heaven before he or she even took a breath of this planet’s air. It was a quiet and surreal afternoon. I held that little one and cried my eyes out yet again. My prayer was something like this, “Why God if you were going to take this one to be with You would you make us have to do this again? Didn’t we get it right the first 4 times?” It made no sense to me. And to allow it to happen on Rudy’s graduation day; what’s with that? I witnessed 2 graduations that day. One event filled my soul and the other happening broke it even further. There would be no “Miracle from Heaven,” that day or at least as we would define it. And maybe therein lies the problem. Maybe you and I have never truly comprehended what makes a miracle just that? 

There is another scene in “Miracles from Heaven” between Anna and her hospital roommate named Haley. This little girl with a form of cancer too would not be mended this side of Glory. Yet one conversation changed her destiny. Haley to Anna: “Why do you want the cross with you?” Anna: “It’s just like a reminder.” Haley: “Of what?” Anna: “That Jesus is with me.” Haley: “Do you think He’s with me too?” Anna: “Of course He is!” 

God, I am thankful that even when I have no clue what You are doing, I still know You. Deep inside I have known You have cared for us, and looked out for us, even when I feel absolutely nothing but pain. Nothing that happens doesn’t have a purpose attached to it and I am grateful that You have used and applied truth as we have even crawled through this life. I will trust You even when I do not know what’s happening- because You are a good, loving, and faithful Father and Your ways are taking us to the ultimate Miracle- being forever together with You! So as I have done many a day, even when I want to punch somebody’s lights out, I raise my arms high into the air with surrendered clenched fists- and I shout defiantly at Hell itself- that even through the storms-God is still God and my only hope! Life will never go my way no matter how hard I pray, but it will always be under the control of the God who is good and in His goodness shows us that when we are weak, we are strong! And that might be the greatest Miracle of all!





THE TIMES OF THE SIGNS!

18 07 2016

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Say you are a Parent and you desire your children to obey the rules that you have set before them. You know that if your love for them is true, you must point them out and enforce the boundaries because they are very necessary for your kids to grow up healthy, strong and well adjusted. But what if you just talked a good game and set no example at all that you were serious about practicing what you preached? What if you punished them for their disobedience while at the same time proceeded to behave very badly right before their watching eyes? After witnessing your hypocritical double standards for years, your kids rebel in a big way. They become liars and cheaters and selfish individuals who show no respect for anyone and anything. Now the real question is, “Who’s to blame?” You can say with your lips that you did everything you possibly could to raise them well but did you? Don’t you have to model a proper example if you long to lead well? Don’t you have to bear some of the responsibility?

 Like many of you I am disgusted and frustrated by the state of our world these days! It is beyond belief how the lives of human beings have been devalued right before our very eyes. People of all kinds of color from all different walks of life on all different parts of our planet are being gunned down, blown up and tragically murdered right before our very eyes. Nobody is totally safe anymore and no destination is guaranteed to be terror free. And we can spend all night blaming these random acts of violence on the guns and the bombs and the other weapons of mass destruction but may I add an additional hypothesis. Could the crazy and chaotic actions of our society be traced back to the reality that we have horrible leadership who has no intentions of setting the bar any higher than their unwillingness to take the road less traveled?

 You can’t expect people to do what they have not been equipped to live up to? How are we supposed to trust government when the very politicians put themselves above the law they are sworn to uphold. Kings, Dictators, Potentates and Presidents who use the population for their own glory and fame are dangerous and deadly. They rule by stirring up fear and an utter dependence of the crowd to fall in the ranks of the party line if they want to live anything that resembles a prosperous existence. How are we to look up to those who turn a blind eye to their own mistakes and sins? Don’t give me political correctness when what we really need is a return to championing morality and integrity. And how can you prove that the creation is of worth unless you get that value from the utter reality that we were fearfully and wonderfully designed by a Creator.

 This selfie philosophy that so dominates our everyday lives will eventually become the very thing that will do us in. God made us in his own image and with that truth comes the very essence of why every single life matters. The reason “Thou shall not murder” is cherished as a precious commandment is because the origin of this precept is discovered in the holiness of the one who gave it to us. The Judeo-Christian belief system teaches over and over again that the greatest advice and counsel God ever gave to mankind was to first love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and then go on to love one another in that same manner. But that’s narrow and intolerable cries the throngs of an egocentric humanity; and so because it all comes down to what everybody says- rather than what anybody does- we have no real measuring rod to guide and keep accountable what is quickly evolving into the mob mentality of the old west where anything goes and the one with the quickest gun wears the badge and literally calls the shots!

 Family, we need God more than ever. To edit faith from the marketplace is to open the gates to those who see no harm in looting the customers. You can’t have it both ways. As Elijah once challenged 450 religious false prophets who endorsed anarchy up on the top of Mount Carmel, let the real God show his face and the losing deity go back to where he came from; I say let us stop this charade of pretending that there aren’t those who are hiding behind the guise of religion to cosmetically mask their hatred for everyone who isn’t them. Believers in Jesus must not be ashamed to take a stand for the light in the middle of the night because the only power big enough to wipe out the potential annihilation of the human race is our utter and complete surrender to a Savior who has proved that he could walk the talk and did so by laying his life down so we could pick it up. Christianity unleashed lets love conquer fear and wisdom stomp out ignorance. I just think that it is just short of ridiculous how the only real medicine that can cure this disease is the one elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge and cling to anymore.

 You can’t negotiate with haters. You can’t reason with dictators. You can’t play a meaningful game with cheaters. You can’t expect our world to become a safer place by expelling the way, the truth and the life. I will not give in to fear. I will not turn back from my following Jesus. I will fight for every life as long as I have life and breath. I can’t vote for anyone I can’t believe in. I also can’t discern the health of the earth by only looking through my own grid and making conclusions based on nothing nobler than, “How does this affect me?” It is time for all godly men and women to speak up and either put up or stop your complaining because those who do nothing but dance around the issues or tender old and tired clichés while the USA is on fire will be sorry when the hysteria hits their own backyard! I love and encourage all the social media challenges to “Pray for Orlando” “Dallas” “France” and everywhere. But are you ready to respond obediently to the God you are praying to? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord by being like Jesus until the day we finally see him face to face. I challenge you to join me in that cause because I guarantee that it won’t be just hot air but the fresh air that ushers in the wind of the Holy Spirit to turn the hearts of his people back to the one who made them!          





LOSE THE WEDDING BELL BLUES

11 07 2016

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Believe it or not, marriage really was God’s idea! God made man and the Lord knew that Adam was pretty helpless without a proper helpmate. So out of the chaos, God brought order in presenting to Adam, Eve! And suddenly Adam didn’t have to try to find his soulmate in one of the animals that he had been busily giving names to. When he first made eye contact with Eve, I believe that Adam gave a very approving, “Wow!” And to this very day, marriage is clear proof of God’s creative purpose at work. The joining together of two persons who more often than not couldn’t be more opposite, and then bringing them together to become one!

 Marriage is evidence that one of the greatest priorities of life should be relationships. The greatest commandment is for us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength! The second commandment is for us to love one another in the same sacrificial manner that the Lord loves us. When we start living to primarily be about giving, there is no possible way we can miss our true calling and purpose. When a husband takes a wife, it allows God room to establish a new family, a new legacy and a new heritage. And together as a couple, this union will open the door to accomplishments that could never be done alone or with anybody else! That is why I am a big fan of couples choosing to enter into the covenant of marriage over non-committal cohabitation. Where there is no stepping out by faith building a foundation based upon solemn vows made before God and others, there is also no accountability or fight to stay with one another through every season of life; both the good, the bad, the ugly and the very beautiful! 

 If you are already married, what have you done lately to show your spouse that you are just as dedicated to those weighty words of love that you once shared with one another when your journey was beginning? Are you honestly bringing your best effort and your “A” game to the union in order to keeping the flames of passion burning bright? Are you even trying to communicate, “I Love You,” on a regular basis? Or have you allowed apathy and routine to steal, kill and destroy the hopes and dreams you once held so dear for a happily ever after partnership?   

 Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of the New Testament called, “The Message” translates the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 like this. Let these words marinate in the crockpot of your heart and use them as a way to evaluate if you are treating love as the verb that it was always meant to be. Paul said, “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always. It constantly seeks the best, never looks back, and keeps going to the end. Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the complete finally arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. So for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best and greatest of the three is love.”

 Give your very best to the one that you claim to love the most! If you can be kind to others, then you can be gracious and compassionate to the one you promised forever to. Communication takes time and even if you can’t always understand what your spouse is trying to say, at least be willing to get help in the translation. Talk to one another and not at one another. Be honest and truthful and don’t hide things in the closet that you would be embarrassed if your loved ones saw it. Look up for God’s strength and help when it comes to living a life of love. Stop making excuses and start executing strategies of intentional ways to make love real. Stop with the guilt! Sever the attached strings that hinder you from offering unconditional love. Do something outlandish and unexpected! Sweep her off her feet and stop tripping her up. Knock him out with your God given beauty and cease making your times together a battle. Remember and rekindle what attracted you to one another in the first place. Make divorce the last resort. Dare to dive in to the deep end of the ocean to rescue your beloved rather than seeing your hopes and dreams drown as you watch from a deadly distance.

 Why not review your vows so you can renew your vows?  Take her in your arms and let her know that you cherish and treasure her! Join hands and pray with one another trusting God together from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part! Kiss your bride and smooch your groom! Do whatever it takes to prove that your love is neither cheap nor common; indeed, it is of unimaginable worth. Brag about one another! Treat her like a Princess. Make him know that he is still your Prince. Love in word and deed. Be willing to plant the seed so that God can redeem your vineyard anew. It is only too late if you have given up! But this could be the start of returning romance to your relationship. If God loves us with a honeymoon love, why would we settle for anything less? I have set the table. I have cooked up some challenges. I have invited you to the feast. Will you do your part to make love come alive again?





DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE!

7 07 2016

From-the-rising-of-the-sun-unto-the-going

It is the 4th of July weekend as I write this. The phrase “Independence Day” is plastered just about everywhere. Yet as I think about the concept of “Freedom,” I must honestly admit how chained up I still feel at times. There are too many days I wake up feeling like a dud among the diamonds. When I look at my reflection in the mirror, more often than not, I see more soot than sunshine and I yearn for the words insecurity and inferiority to be erased from being written all over my face. How many of us know in our minds what we should believe but something gets very lost in the translation as it attempts to cross the highway from the head to the heart?

 I daily pray for God to give me opportunities to encourage others because I love to see the spirits of my family, my friends and my flock lifted up and strengthened by sentences of love and life. When the Bible declares that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made, I know undeniably that truth like this is treasure that can’t stay buried by the shovels of dirt consisting mostly of the cheap lies that attempt to cover up the jewels of the riches from heaven that define who we really are. I have no hesitation in believing the value and worth of what God says is genuinely real for every other human being alive on this planet. It is when it comes to personally applying the Lord’s wisdom to my own life that my vehicle of confidence runs smack into the pitfalls and potholes of discouragement and doubt. I hate to be hemmed in by prison bars especially when I know that Jesus holds the key and he is longing to unlock the cell door and open it wide so it can lead both me and you to uninterrupted adventures with him. Why can’t I trust what he says and not be so weighed down by what I see? Why can’t I rest in an environment built upon the solid foundation that God is good all the time and he does love me no matter what the circumstances communicate?

 Why are we so susceptible to being duped by the daily deception that deals its death darts in ample supply? Why do we work so hard to portray and protect an image that amounts to not much more than us becoming a mannequin of shallow and superficial misconception? We become addicted to social media where we subconsciously compare our real lives to other people’s carefully edited highlight reels where all the errors have been scripted out. What will it take for us to realize that we can’t keep wasting minutes we don’t have while we wait endlessly for a season of perfection that will probably never come? Are we running out of gas seeking to be energized by an audience that isn’t even paying attention? Is texting a true substitute for talking? Is quality time reduced to nothing more than simply sharing space in a room with nobody making eye contact never mind even desiring to? Help us God before we run out of chances to wake up and invest in what lasts before the last second on our clock strikes zero!

 When was the last time you weren’t ruled by the clock? How many times have you been locked into a schedule that forces you to perform daily duties that you actually can’t stand? Are you so busy attempting to get done with the things that you think you have to do that you are deaf, dumb and blind to the divine appointments that God longs for you to be a part of? Is life eluding you because you are living the dream that has slowly transformed into a nightmare? Can you go a day without having to check your Facebook or see how many likes your last Instagram picture got? The Lord is calling each one of us to link our lives to his leading rather than force his hand into our own agendas? How would life be different if we really were free to live outside our man made modes of fascination? What if we let God redefine our definition of being rich? What if we chose to behave like citizens of heaven starting now and not waiting until after we die?

 240 years ago, our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. It started into motion what became the Land of the free and the Home of the brave. Over the years we have become a spoiled nation and a culture of entitlement. We have sat idly by as the political correctness of a cynical age has attempted to edit God from the fabric of very being but it is time to make a demonstrative stand and say, “No more!” Are you willing to make a promise to God in a humble act of dedicated dependence? Are you courageous enough to stop trying to live above your means and be content to celebrate what you have been given? Can you be bold enough to live to give? Will you long to be known not for who you want to be or pretend to be but for who you really are? God I want to kick anxiety to the curb and leave it homeless as I embrace an active faith that isn’t heartless but  hopeful and determined to not let go when God is so willing to hold on to me and to you. Will you finally trust the Lord in such a manner that makes a difference now? Will you be honest with God in such the way that healing and wholeness can replace the worry and weariness that will bring absolutely no fruit to your dying tree? Today is the day to promise God that from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, you will praise the name of the Lord and allow him to be lifted up high in all you say and do! Will you?                    








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