GOD AND A FEW GOOD MEN!

10 08 2018

Shepherd

It is time to wake up and rise up we Men of God and be done with the things that are futile and passing away. In this wild and wacky politically correct era that we find ourselves living in, now more than ever, I believe God is looking for more than just a few good men. He is calling guys that are ready to wise up! We need to be willing to step up so we may step out and step in to the assignments that God has for us. The Holy Spirit doesn’t live within us to lull us into apathy. Men must become movers and shakers if we are going to make a dent into providing a better way for the many that are too content to follow the Leader to nowhere worth going.

 

Sheep need shepherds or else sheep don’t thrive or survive. There are other kinds of animals that run wild: wild dogs, wild horses, wild boars. There’s no such thing as wild sheep.

Sheep need guidance. Sheep tend to make bad decisions, and we’re that way too. A few years ago, in Eastern Turkey in a village, there was a flock of sheep whose shepherd wasn’t with them. The lead sheep went off a cliff. Guess what the rest of the sheep did? You’d think one of them would have said, “This sounds like a baaaaad idea to me!” We live an overstressed, hurried, exhausted, no margin for error and not having nearly enough boundaries kind of life. Instead of daring to be different, we mindlessly take our place in the conga line and become a slave to what other people think about us! We flirt with a temptation or are too entertaining with our addictions that we know will harm us, we neglect God when we should be pursuing holiness and we become too blind to notice what matters most. And before you know it, we are nothing more than a statistic of another creature that has gone over that cliff.

 

I feel like a lifeguard blowing his whistle to warn swimmers of impending doom. There are sharks in the waters and it is not enough to just get you to safety but to inspire you to also become committed to those who are splashing all around us. Jesus said that the watching world will know we are His followers by our love. I think that we have all been a little too guilty of more selfishness than service. It is easy to get so comfortable up in the Lifeguard chair that we forget why we were put there in the first place. 

 

Here are three areas to immediately address in our lives. Number one is our need to work hard in whatever we do as if we were doing it for the Lord. Too many people have become lazy in the efforts they give to their daily profession. The Apostle Paul was a Pastor but he didn’t use his flock to provide him a mansion in Monte Carlo and a Cadillac Chariot! Paul humbly continued to serve with his hands by making tents! He was willing to do whatever it took to provide for the family of God. Even Jesus modeled for us that there was no job too menial for Him. Are you an example in what you do and how you do it? Do you bring excellence to every area you are associated with? Are you teaching others that we don’t do just enough to get by because we serve a God who never cut corners with us?

 

Number two is the way that we choose to walk. A man must live so that he is a positive example to those that God has positioned all around him. We need to live a life that is known for being blameless and above reproach. If there are skeletons in the closet, we can’t hide them anymore but must come clean about them! The manner in how we do business is on display for others to witness whether we like it or not. Your wife knows how you really feel about her by the way that you treat her. Don’t expect your kids to do what you don’t do. As a man, do you make sure that everybody is present and accounted for before you embark on a journey or are you in such the hurry that you actually leave key individuals behind? May it never be!

 

Finally, number three comes down to the words we use. A man must not only support the family by working and teach the family by being a good example, but he must also take time to speak to the family members. Paul knew the importance of teaching these new believers the truths that would help them grow in the Lord. Paul dealt with each of the believers personally. As busy as he was, Paul still had time for personal counseling with the members of the assembly. While it is good for church leaders to address the larger group, spending time with people on a one-to-one basis is also needed. Our Lord was never too busy to speak to individuals, even though He preached to great multitudes. To be sure, this is difficult and demanding work but it is the rewarding work that glorifies God. Paul not only made others feel better, but he made them want to do better.

 

Nobody wants to receive constructive criticism anymore. We all want the trophy before the season even starts. My Dad once witnessed me pitching a Little League Baseball Game where I was losing 29-0! It was the day before pitch counts and I think I threw over 400 that night. When the game was over, my Dad reiterated that he loved me no matter how I played. My relationship as his son was not up for grabs because I stunk up the joint that evening. We went out for ice cream and it was there that my Father went over specific ways that I could get better. He encouraged me as he challenged me. I became a better ballplayer and man because of his investment in me, his son. It does no good if we never correct or coach. Love doesn’t mean that it condones all behavior. Love keeps the relationship strong even as adjustments must be made. If not, we are destined to become sheep who will do nothing more than following another to a premature disaster!

 

So are you up for the adventure? Will you play it safe or will you allow God to insert you fully in the game. Who will be like Jesus? Who will have the same passion as Paul? Who will be willing to redetermine the destiny of a lost lamb out there? I hope and pray that it is you and me for such a time as this. Be willing to work! Be aware of how and where you walk! Be conscience of the words that come out of your mouth! Let’s build a bridge of faith, hope and love here in Cape May County!





“The Lord is My Shepherd”

1 08 2018

The Lord is my ShepardBack in the Summer of 1975, when I was a sophomore in High School, my Family moved from Chester NJ to a nearby town called Peapack. Even though it was still very much North Jersey, this incredible house that we acquired came with a pony, two goats and two sheep. I so bonded with Mama and Baby Sheep that I named them Sheep and Baby. Maybe I didn’t give these pets the most original of names but I did learn lots about sheep in general by just taking care of them both. As life would have it, Sheep died the day before I left for Philadelphia College of Bible where I was going to prepare being a Shepherd of people. Just a side note, when my Family sold the house on 44 Peapack Road, the powers at be tore it down to build three new modern monstrosities. I always wanted to let the owner of New Home number two that they built their residence right over my Sheep’s burial plot. I wonder if anyone has heard some bleating coming from the basement.

 

God had given me quality time working with real sheep. Real sheep do not just take care of themselves as some might suppose. They actually require more assistance than any other class of livestock. If you want to raise sheep, you must be prepared to do lots more giving than you probably will ever receive. But you do so because these creatures are so dependent upon you that you don’t mind giving them the endless attention and meticulous care they demand.

 

I also recognized the facts that Sheep behavior and that of Humans is similar in more ways than you might have ever thought. Both are susceptible to operating via mob instincts and crowd rule. It’s easy to get sheep and people to come together and act as a herd. Both are given to responding positively or reacting negatively because of fear, stubbornness and stupidity. Our habits parallel these wooly creatures in the manner of profound importance. God knew what He was doing when He called Jesus the Great Shepherd and we people the Sheep of His Pasture.

 

The title of Pastor comes from the Greek word “poimen” which means “shepherd.” One can’t truly be called to be a Pastor if he can’t stand people. Sheep have needs that include grazing on green grass, drinking fresh water, being lead to shade from the overbearing sun, moved to shelter in the midst of severe storms and being personally protected from ferocious predators who want to devour the flock in one big bite! A Good Shepherd is there to manage the sheep to life because on their own they have no chance to survive. Over the years, I have become increasingly aware of one thing when it comes to shepherding God’s children. It is this: the manner of ministry done by the Minister in the lives of those who encompass the church makes all the difference in the direction of the destiny the body of Christ will end up!

 

Jesus loved His Sheep so much that He gave us all Himself. It is in that divine love that we don’t find a program or a product or a process, but the only Person who will be the ultimate missing piece we’ve all been looking for. In Psalm 23 we read, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up, it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met.

 

  1. Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear.
  2. Because of the social behavior within a flock, sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind.
  3. If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of these pests can they relax.
  4. Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.

 

It is significant that to be at rest there must be a definite sense of freedom from fear, tension, aggravations and hunger. The unique aspect of the picture is that it is only the Shepherd himself who can provide release from these anxieties. It all depends upon the diligence of the owner as whether or not his flock is free of disturbing influences.

 

Jesus makes it possible for us to lie down, to rest, to relax, to be content, quiet, and flourishing. A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well. And the same is true of people. It is not generally known that sheep are so timid and easily panicked that even a stray jackrabbit suddenly bounding from behind a bush can stampede a whole flock. When one startled sheep runs in fright, a dozen others will bolt with it in blind fear, not waiting to see what frightened them.

 

As long as there is even the slightest suspicion of danger from dogs, coyotes, cougars, bears or other enemies, the sheep stand up ready to flee for their lives. They have little or no means of self-defense. They are helpless, timid, feeble creatures whose only recourse is to run. Two dogs have been known to kill as many as 292 sheep in a single night of unbridled slaughter. It is also a known fact that nothing so quiets and reassures sheep like seeing their Shepherd in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector puts them at ease as nothing else could do, and this applies day and night. In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby. There is nothing like Christ’s presence to dispel the fear, the panic, the terror of the unknown.

 

Finally, did you know that green pastures don’t just happen in Bethlehem? As a matter of fact, Israel, where David wrote this Psalm and kept his father’s flocks, especially near Bethlehem, is a dry, brown, sun-burned wasteland. Green pastures did not just happen by chance. Green pastures were the product of tremendous labor, time and skill in land use. Green pastures were the result of clearing rough, rocky land; of tearing out brush and roots and stumps; of deep plowing and careful soil preparation; of seeding and planting special grains and vegetables; of irrigating with water and caring for the crops that would feed the flocks.

 

Green pastures are essential to success with sheep. The Good Shepherd has supplied green pastures for those who care to move in onto them and there find peace and plenty. Every human being follows a Leader! Is your Shepherd worthy of that title? If not, it may be time to make a change! The Lord is my Shepherd and I lack nothing. I pray the same for you!

 





WABUSH OR BUST!

24 07 2018

Repent-turn-around-framedI have spent the last 36 years in full time ministry as a Pastor. I have observed Believers in almost every season of life. I don’t believe that I am going out on a limb when I say that most Christians expect to be hammered with some supernatural rod of judgment when they fail. Many people actually picture the Almighty loaded and ready to shoot lightning bolts of punishment at the first sign of failure or error. While I do believe that our God is holy and just in his nature, He more often than not chooses to respond to us with grace and mercy, actually sparing the rod as long as he can so that the child doesn’t end up destroyed by his or her own selfish immature choices in the long run. God is not one to mess around with, but he is no monster either.

Growing up in the 1960’s, corporal punishment was pretty much accepted and encouraged within our society. It didn’t just happen in the home, but schools too were pretty liberal with their slaps and their slams. I was actually 22 years old the last time my Mom attempted to use a wooden spoon on me. She demanded that I not drive from North Jersey to Lebanon, Pennsylvania to see my fiancé Terri. I told her I was going no matter what. She grabbed the spoon and began to whack me with it. I looked at her with my mouth wide open wondering, “Really Mom? I am not sure this is working!” The wood broke in two and so she proceeded to grab me by the collar of my shirt until it was ripped right off my body. I remember just shaking my head at the absurdity of what was happening. I went anyway, even without her blessing. I still believe I did the right thing as I honored my Mom by not fighting back in any way, even though she chose to treat me like a two-year-old. I still wish we could have done that whole crazy afternoon over again.

 If today, you choose to muster up the courage to approach God with humility and take full responsibility over the many ways that your behavior has been less than stellar in his sight, you don’t have to do so cringing in a pit of despair covered by guilt and shame. God never uses guilt to manipulate his children. As a matter of fact, nobody is cheering for you more than the Lord when we people come to the end of ourselves because with less of us we are now ready for more of him.

Believe it or not but your Heavenly Father desires you to come back to where you belong. He grieves for our pain, and his compassion is infinitely endless. He is waiting with open arms to embrace his wayward sons and daughters as they return to him. Salvation doesn’t culminate in a sermon but in a heaven wide celebration. All the angels in heaven rejoice when any stumbling sheep comes home to the fold. And do you know what? If we stop and think about it, the only way out is the only way in and it is the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Let me try to illustrate with the iron-mining town of Wabush, Canada, in Labrador Province which for many years was only accessible by railroad or airplane; there was no road leading to the town. Wabush was built in the early 1960s as a residential community for workers at the mines. But it wasn’t until the late 1980s that a road was built, making Wabush accessible by car. That road is still the only road into Wabush. If you want to leave Wabush, you must turn around and take that same road, moving in the opposite direction. Life is much like the town of Wabush. In our journey, if we attempt to do things only within our own strength, we will eventually reach the end of the road. We can go no further. It is a guaranteed dead end! If we want to get out of the place we’re in, we are going to have to turn around and go in the opposite direction. That’s what it really means to repent! It all boils down not to what we say but what we do. If we want to turn completely around and go back the opposite way, we must be willing to do a one eighty. Talking about it and singing about it doesn’t change our location. Turn around and instead of walking away, walk to the One who was willing to run to you. Jesus took our wooden spoon, the belt, the switches and all the other instruments that were used to beat us rather than build us back up.

Have you come to your own Wabush? Have you been going the wrong way, away from God? Now it’s time for you to stop, turn completely around, and take the road of repentance. God knows our pain and has tasted our bewilderment and has grieved over our tortured hearts! Can you be open to admitting that perhaps you have been wrong about God, wrong about life, and wrong about yourself. This is a tough lesson for all of us. There is no more bitter pill to swallow than the pill of finding you are wrong when you thought you were right.

Life has a way of changing our perspective as we grow older. Sometimes when people reach a certain stage of life, they look back on the convictions of their youth and the values they have stood for, the attitudes they have held and they realize that they have been wrong in their approach to life.

Looking back on your life, you may realize that what you thought was selfless love was actually self-centered pride and desire. What you thought was idealism was actually arrogance and egotism.

What you thought was truth was an illusion. In truth, it’s a difficult lesson for us all to learn. But if we don’t learn it, we will settle to be a slave to sin when we could have been a son or daughter of God!

 Anybody here want to correct some mistakes before it is too late?

Anybody here not wanting to spend all eternity stuck in Wabush?

Anybody here ready to turn around and come home?

 





The Music of Adversity- Revised and Updated!

11 07 2018

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As many of you know, I presented this article last week. Last Thursday I received a phone call from Carla von Trapp Hunter. Carla is a great-granddaughter of Baron Captain Georg von Trapp and his second wife Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp. Carla was very gracious with me as she told me that she saw last week’s copy of my Cape May County Herald article. Carla did mention that while she loved the sentiment and the overall positive purpose of my writing, there were some discrepancies that she had hoped I would fix and correct the errors. I was quick to apologize and offered my services to do whatever I could to make things right. So here it is for Carla’s approval and our further education. While movies and literature take many creative liberties, the truth is still the truth and literally the best path to journey upon. I have asked Carla to join me on an upcoming Rudy on the Radio Broadcast. I do hope she will!

My Mother got a big kick out of the fact that I got to talk to Carla von Trapp Hunter last week. Before she took on the role of Mom, Joanne Tedesco was preparing to be a Nun in the Convent. While she left before taking her final vows, her devotion to God never wavered. When the Movie, “The Sound of Music” came out in the mid 1960’s, she resonated with it from head to toe. I think she dragged us kids to see it about seven times in less than two weeks. This included packing the family Station Wagon and going to the local Drive-In. Seeing the film wasn’t enough for Mom as she proceeded to line us all up when we got home and made us sing, “Do-Re-Mi!” You guessed it! I was “Doe a Deer!” While many of you know a little of the real-life story of the Trapp Family Singers; it does all come back to me every time The Sound of Music repeats on television.

Many of you know that this Julie Andrews Classic Rodgers and Hammerstein Musical was based upon a real story not about the Sheptocks but the von Trapp Family. The patriarch of this Austrian singing family was Georg Ritter von Trapp (1880–1947), who served the 20th century Austro-Hungarian Navy for 24 years and was one of their most decorated commanders. When von Trapp lost his wife Agathe to a scarlet fever epidemic in 1922, he became the sole parent of seven children. One of his daughters who had also come down with the fever was slow to recover and had fallen behind on her studies. To help her catch up Georg hired Maria Augusta Kutschera, a convent novitiate, as the child’s math tutor. I can hear her sing, “I’ve Got Confidence” in my imagination even as I write this.

Five years after Agathe passed, Georg married Maria, who was henceforth known as Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp. Maria was later portrayed as Maria Rainer in “The Sound of Music.” Here is something not everyone knows. Maria had three children that were not represented in the film. This would have made 10 von Trapp’s altogether and not just the seven portrayed in the film. But here is a very real fact and that is the von Trapp’s home was always filled with music, and the children learned to sing and harmonize at a professional level. The von Trapp Family performed in concert halls and festivals, becoming famous all over Europe.

During the 1930s, Georg Ritter von Trapp watched the rise of Nazism with sober alarm. When the Nazi’s annexed Austria in 1938, the von Trapp’s knew there had to be some major decisions made about their future. Georg not only refused to fly the Nazi flag on their house, but he also refused to sing at Hitler’s Birthday Party. When offered, Georg refused to serve the party’s military efforts. The von Trapp’s weighed their options, deciding as a family that although it was heart wrenching to leave their home and everything familiar, they would not compromise their values. They up and left their beloved Austria by train heading to the Italian coast where they lived and toured from until they could secure a concert tour in America, providing them an escape from the continent. Instead of the fictional Uncle Max Detweiler, the overbearing musical promoter, it was actually the Family Priest, the Reverend Franz Wasner who would act as their musical director for over twenty years.   

When they arrived in America in 1939 by steam ship, there were nine children with the tenth on the way. They continued touring internationally as the Trapp Family Singers, performing frequently to make ends meet. In 1941, they would buy a large farm in Vermont in a countryside very similar to the Austrian landscape near Salzburg that they missed so terribly. The farmhouse they lived in was called “Cor Unum” which means, “One Heart” which they felt was symbolic of how they operated together as individuals forming one unit. They rented out the rooms in their home during the months they were away on tour and then increasingly so when skiing started to become popular in Stowe. When their singing career came to an end in 1956, after nearly twenty years of concerts in almost thirty countries, Maria returned to Stowe full-time to run what had since become a popular place to stay. Tragically, on December 20, 1980, Trapp Family Lodge burned to the ground. Maria and the children were devastated. They had endured so many trials and tribulations during their days and now there was yet one more mountain to climb. The lodge was gone. In their discouragement, they questioned whether they should rebuild.

As Providence designed it, the von Trapp Family Motto was already in place. In Latin it is, “Nec Aspera Terrent” meaning, ‘Hardships Do Not Deter Us’; or also translated as ‘Let nothing difficult frighten thee.’ The von Trapp’s heeded those words and persisted.

“Do Not Be Terrified By Adversity.” This has been one of the great lessons we have been learning in the Book of Job as I have preached through these treasured Scriptures at the Lighthouse Church. Adversity doesn’t mean the absence of God’s presence in your life. Adversity doesn’t mean that the Lord is punishing you or withholding his love. Adversity is just one more aspect of every individual’s adventure. Adversity doesn’t mean defeat. Adversity could very well be the launch to a depth in your life that could not be developed any other way through any other means. God will use adversity if you choose to look up rather than give up. The only way to avoid adversity is to check out rather than show up! What music is flowing from your story because you refused to allow any enemy force to steal your song?

One of my favorite songs from “The Sound Of Music” is “Climb Every Mountain.” Mother Superior sings it to Maria when she seeks to escape life rather than live it to the fullest. The lyrics include these inspirational words. “A dream that will need all the love you can give. Every day of your life for as long as you live.” Do not be terrified by adversity. Expect it and use it to grow up in your faith. If you are willing to go the distance, you too will add walking with Jesus as one of your favorite things! It surely is for me!

Thanks again to Carla von Trapp Hunter for making me dig a little deeper. I actually had the Movie, “The Sound of Music” on while I rewrote and revised this and it made me smile big. It also reminded me of the crush I had on Angela Cartwright back then! Please don’t ever erase the sounds of songs in your life and delete the tunes in your world. God gave us the ability to sing even as our hearts break and our feet dig in to stand our ground to hold fast to our convictions. When the world tries to force you to croon a melody that compromises everything you are, don’t you dare. The music of adversity is our ability to standardize our signature tune. Music and passion are always in fashion in me. How about you? 

 





LESSON FROM THE STORKS

5 07 2018

Storks

Did you know that out of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, storks are some of the most loving and tender of the species that God has designed? Mother storks aggressively watch over and carefully nurture their babies just like a human Mama would! Plus, the tender loving care that these birds have for one another never dies. Adult storks genuinely look out for one another and meet each other’s needs throughout life.

Even when a stork becomes old and gray, the bird is never banished to fend for itself. Studies show that when an elderly member has difficulty keeping up with the others, another younger stork will fly alongside the aged stork and allow it to rest its wings on theirs. These storks help each other fly more effectively, and they are constantly touching, nurturing, and protecting one another. It is no wonder that the Greeks used the word “storge” to both define and describe “family love.” The early church was known for its “storge” (pronounced store-gay) affection and connection for the entire Body of Christ. It is “storge” that speaks of nurture, empathy, affection, and tenderness. And they will know we are Christians by our “stork like” love for one another.

I have never really understood how an intelligent mind could adhere to the “Big Bang Theory” of the creation story. Not when there is so much intricate workmanship that is clearly seen in the animal kingdom alone. I don’t believe in Atheists because I don’t believe there is really such a category. I will agree to someone calling themselves an agnostic or a flat-out unbeliever but there is too much evidence of handiwork in our midst to deny there was a powerful touch behind it all.

I want to share three more lessons we can learn from storks. First is an affectionate touch. It is experienced among the birds and it is necessary for the human beings. People were created for affection. Doctors have scientifically proven that without touch the body and the emotions become unhealthy. Touching someone says to them that they are important to you; they belong, and they have value. If we did not receive affectionate touch in the right way as a child, then in our teenage years we may allow ourselves to be touched in the wrong way. The Family of God should be an affectionate, considerate bunch and with all the pushing and shoving going on in our culture, the church should be a place where holy hugs reign supreme.

Second is all about eye contact. When somebody has been living in shame and overcome with insecurity, they rarely are able to keep their heads held high. Jesus knew that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and he always dove headfirst in low below the surface! If we don’t see an understanding glance from those we need to notice us, we may end up feeling awkward, insecure, separate, and out of place in our relationships.

Finally, we need to take note of the tone of voice we use to communicate. Christians learn to bond and trust one another when Believers learn to speak words in an encouraging, gentle, tender, and empathizing manner. Loving tones nurture the spirit and help the family feel acceptance and value so they can walk free from the fear of rejection and failure.

So, let’s take a lesson from the storks. No, they don’t deliver babies or consume Vlassic Pickles, but they do give us an example of how we should behave as followers of God. Is there someone in your world today who could use a little tender loving family attention? Don’t wait until it is too late to walk like a stork and fly like an eagle.





WHEATIES OR THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT?

27 06 2018

Your talent is God's gift to you

When I was a kid, because of the power of commercials, I had to eat a bowl of Wheaties before every single Little League Game. I didn’t eat them because they tasted good because it was like eating cardboard covered with milk. I ate them because some advertising agency sold me the bill of goods that even when Henry Aaron didn’t partake in the “Breakfast of Champions,” he was going to come up empty in the batter’s box. Now you and I both know that I could have had Sugar Pops or Maypo Oatmeal and neither would have guaranteed me to hit for the cycle, but we people have a tendency to look for short cuts rather than train ourselves in the gifts that God has given us so we are ready to get out there when the Umpire shouts, “Play Ball!”

I’m convinced that this could be such a fruitful time for Christians if we would just be available to surrender our talents to God so He can use us. There are days that I am concerned that more Believers are looking to sit on the bench rather than hoping to get out on the field and show this world what we got!  Do you understand how gifted God has made us? Every single human being was created in the image of God and He never made anyone who didn’t have the capacity to shine their light so bright our culture would forget the darkness altogether!

 Are you daily using your God-given gifts to serve Him and others? Do you know what your God-given gifts are? Are you attempting to serve the Lord without loving Him first? In the Bible, the “Great Commandment” comes before the “Great Commission.” Loving God comes first and it stirs up a genuine love in us for others so much so that we are ready to do, go and be anything Jesus wants! When we get our priorities backwards, we treat privileges like they were nothing more than obligations. Are you viewing your faith in God as if it was nothing more than a religious checklist of tedious things to do?

When our faith was brand new and our love for the Lord was in its infancy, nobody had to tell us to read our Bible or go to church or tell others about Him. We couldn’t get enough of this relationship that literally transformed our hearts. But over time, we begin to take advantage of what God meant for us to celebrate.

Remember when your kids were young and they wanted to do things with you? But sooner or later, they act like they are doing you a favor by just being seen in public with them. They no longer appreciate your efforts to enjoy life by just being together. Let’s say that you had two tickets to this past year’s Super Bowl and the chance to see the Eagles beat the Patriots. You know the value of this opportunity and you share it with an individual you hand picked because you wanted to convey to them how special they are to you. You get to the big game and the first thing your companion asks is, “How long are we going to have to be at this thing? I want to go shopping at the Mall of America. I have to catch an early plane tomorrow; can we leave early?” I think you get the idea. You would be hurt. You would be at the very least disappointed. What you meant as a privilege, your comrade only saw as an inconvenience. Do we ever make God feel the same way? I would say that we do–and way too often.  

It is time for us to stop just going to Church and start being the Church! What position in Jesus are you totally plugged into? Are you looking for some action or just another excuse to go on the disabled list? If you want to obey the will of God, you must not get in the way of God. The Holy Spirit provides the power that nothing any grocery store item can provide. Church isn’t a restaurant where we go to pick up a meal cooked to order. Church is a place where Brothers and Sisters in Christ encourage one another to love the Lord by humbly walking side by side as we serve the Savior. Who is He calling to do nothing today? Can you hear Jesus say to us, “Surrender to the enemies in your culture?” “If you can’t beat them, just learn how to fit in rather than make waves.”

“Don’t get better, stay bitter!” “Why be free when you can be a fraud and wear a man-made mask to hide from others knowing the real you?” Do you see God as a monster or as the ultimate Minister who will give you everything you need to see your past redeemed so that you can do some miraculous field work both today and tomorrow?

Today is a day when you need to move towards God so God can move in and through you. On the Cross, Jesus picked a fight with sin and hell on our behalf. Because of the Cross, you can experience the ultimate concert of praise where God has given you the ability to live a life in a state that is beyond your wildest imagination. You don’t do ______ and there will be no ________! Let God fill in this blank so your spiritual walk doesn’t come up empty.

 

 

 

 

 





“I’m Sorry!”

20 06 2018

God doesn't love because You are special ...you are special because he loves you

I am a chronic apologizer. If I had a nickel for every time “I’m sorry” rolls off my tongue on any given day, I could buy a very nice car. I grew up in the midst of a culture where “guilt” was as available as the air that I learned to breathe. Let’s just say that I have never been one who had to be overly grilled to see the error of my ways. If it went wrong I just assumed that it was my fault. Rain showers ruining our family picnic, “I’m Sorry.” My Mother had a bad day, “What did I do?” Our local community didn’t meet its annual budget, “I know I will be blamed somehow!” Let’s just say that this is not a healthy or admirable trait.

I tend to chuckle when I hear legalistic preachers playing the role of moral policemen in their diligent attempt to make sure that everybody knows how sinful we are. I know the Bible is clear in its teaching that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; but I also know that our Lord is filled with compassion, mercy and grace that He freely bestows upon His needy creation. Do I feel worthy of the everlasting love of Jesus being unconditionally given to me? Mark my words, “Not on your life!” I have battled my entire lifetime really believing that I could ever be receiving something I know I wasn’t good enough to earn. As a matter of fact, I think that I have been very guilty of working hard for what God longs to convince me I already have. Grace is the place that Heaven is inviting us to land our hearts. Still humanity is convinced that slavery to feeling bad about everything is a much better look for us when we inhabit the Sunday sanctuary.

I’m not thinking God is totally pleased with my expertise in sporting a non-stop confessional lifestyle. I can say all the right things theologically and still walk in bondage to the chains in my brain. How many of you grew up hearing gems like these? “You always disappoint me. You are so fresh. You never do anything right. You are so bad. Why can’t you be good? Why do you always have to mess it up?” I could go on but you get the gist. And I wonder why my first impression about myself and my abilities were always initially negative. I think that when I read in the New Testament, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength,” I can’t help but add, “That’s true for everybody but Rudy!” Just because it’s not printed in black and white doesn’t mean that this lie isn’t ingrained in the bowels of my heart.

God doesn’t love you because of what you do, but because of who you are! The joy of being a child of His has nothing to do with our performance. When you think about it, almost all babies are pretty selfish when it comes to their demands and yet healthy parents will do anything it takes to meet those needs. Living loved must precede any chance of our behaving well. Guilt makes a lousy goal. God’s kindness leads to our giving up on our self-reliance and come into a wonderful surrender of resting in Him. God loves us not because we are that loveable. He made the move towards us when we were about as disinterested as we could be. What draws me to Jesus is the immensity and intensity of His desire to have me be with Him. God doesn’t shame us into the kingdom. I love the Lord not because I have to but because I want to and I want to because I don’t have to. Me always saying, “I’m Sorry,” has at its root my inability to believe that God has erased the old tapes and given me a brand-new heart which guarantees a fresh start. The old me is gone and the new creation that the death and resurrection of Jesus has given birth to doesn’t have to operate driven by fear. If faith is to ever come alive then it must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Would the Lord say you believe this by the way you behave?

The Lord loves me. I am finding my joy in rediscovering that fact. I’m a Pastor but that doesn’t make Jesus love me one iota more than He already does. I have good days and bad days but God’s love stays the same. He doesn’t tease us so we will please Him. It’s not some cosmic game of chess. It’s not a contest at all. Love is love or it is not love at all. I don’t have to apologize for being me. I need to jump into the fountain of life and splash to my heart’s delight. Yes, I need to say, “I’m Sorry,” when my deeds are destructive, but as Bruce sang, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.” Stop with the guilt and start with the grace! If we are going to do what Jesus did, then what are we waiting for? Go for it! You won’t be sorry you did!