LOVE SONGS AND REAL FAITH

10 11 2018

I am a lover of “Love Songs.” As a hopeless romantic, I have always favored those big ballads that celebrate the highs and lows of relationships. Barry Manilow is one of my all time favorite performers because music and passion are always in fashion when he records another hit single. I cherish tunes with lots of key changes and that big high note finish!

How about you? What are some of your all time favorite love songs? If you have somebody sitting near you as you read this, turn to that neighbor and share one of yours with them. I’d say, “sing it to them,” but that could cause problems! One of my favorite odes to romance is a song written by the Gershwin’s entitled, “Our Love Is Here To Say.” Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Wayne Newton, Harry Connick, Michael Bublé and many other Crooners took a crack at it but in my opinion, the best version is the one by Nat King Cole. One of the greatest voices that God ever gave a human being comes out of the mouth of Nat King Cole. When he sings, “In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay but our love is here to stay.”

Over the years, I have written and sung many love songs to my wife Terri and my Lord Jesus. To express my appreciation and devotion comes pretty easily for me. My fault is not having enough to say but maybe saying a bit too much. A song with 27 verses may get a bit monotonous! I’ll tell you one composition you wouldn’t find in my notebook. I have never constructed a tune that told of my unfailing appreciation for all my trials and tribulations. As a matter of fact, I have put together my own psalms begging God to take away all my hard times and keeping my path free from detours. Pain and its scheming companions like affliction, suffering, hardship and adversity are often seen as the invading enemies of life. Whenever I spy one of those coming at me, I tend to turn and run.

Truth be told, in our comfort-at-all-costs culture, when our comfort zones get the squeeze, we get angry. Yet according to the Bible, pain is a necessary part of life. And although we may not like it, we can learn to grow through it by learning its lessons. There’s a holy tension involved in trying to accept the pain that God allows while at the same time fighting to overcome it. I fluctuate between my desire to worship God and yet still whine to Him. One moment I want to hug Him and a second later, slug Him. It is of great importance that we learn to see pain from God’s perspective.

The Bible reveals that suffering is both inevitable and essential. Contrary to the TV Preachers who wear their Rolexes and drive their Rolls Royce to their gold studded studio pulpits, the “health and wealth gospel” that falsely proclaim that if Christians just have enough faith, they won’t suffer, Jesus said that in this world we would have our fill of trials and tribulations. You can be holy and harried. You can pray and still be pummeled. You can read your Bible and still be bullied by the things of this culture. I’m not saying that we have to pretend to cherish our persecution but let’s not forget that God informed us that He would use these difficulties to deliver us to look more like the Lord we claim to follow.

In Christianity, the word “comfort” means more than just soothing someone’s sorrow. It means “strengthening” what has already been made solid once but now is being rebolstered and refurbished so it can handle even more pressure. Christians don’t bring Jesus to the mix but they actually reveal the truth that He is already there. When we shine our light, we expose to what those living in darkness just can’t see. Though the enemy receives exhilaration by putting the squeeze on our earthly comfort, God’s spiritual truths will always open the door to an inexplicable strength, peace, and joy. When we understand that every single Believer is going to battle sin and take on temptation, and experience both good and bad times, maybe we can learn that our songs aren’t always going to have lyrics that are happy and peppy and bursting with love. If you have been married for any length of time, you know that life has got to get deeper than just the romantic ballads. Life also includes songs for the battle and melodies of forgiveness, and music for mourning and a larger catalogue than just positive pop. Jesus taught us how to sing the songs of loneliness and for the joy set before us, endure the crosses that we are destined to carry.

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Real faith lasts. It might get rocked and roll. It might get shaken, rattled and dashed. The enemy will throw everything at Believers including the kitchen sink. The pure power is not that I sing, “I Believe,” but even through it all, “I Still Believe.” Because Jesus Christ Himself has invaded my heart and soul, I have decided to follow Him and not turn back. Jesus has given us His word and we have His life on it that even though in time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay but, God’s love is here to stay! I still believe.





DON’T SAY YOU DON’T REMEMBER

2 11 2018

JESUS IS THE SAME

Many people believe in a God that they don’t trust. They offer an intellectual nod to the truth that there is a God but they refuse to surrender their hearts and souls to His Lordship and leadership. On the other hand, you can’t trust in a God you don’t believe in. What makes us think that perfect faith occurs with one quick prayer? Why do we buy into the lie that we humans can get to a place in our spiritual walk where we never doubt or struggle or ask any more questions? You will only get so far if your sphere of spirituality is limited to academia alone. If you don’t get out and begin to walk with Jesus, you will have no positive memories to build your Christianity upon. I hate computer passwords. We are challenged to make our passwords so difficult that others can’t steal our identity. The only problem is that I make my passwords so obscure, I can’t even remember them. So, what do I end up doing? I have to create a new password every time I enter. There are a few sights that are an exception to the rule. There are a few pages I visit so often that I couldn’t forget the password if I tried. The more you connect with God, the deeper He enters into your memory bank. If you visit the Lord sporadically, chances are very good that you have to keep on starting from scratch. But if being with Jesus becomes a habitual connection, you can be sure you won’t forget how to enter into the resources that are available to those who walk by faith.

My childhood address was 89 Summit Ave in Cedar Knolls NJ. The telephone number was 201-539-8706. My Kindergarten Teacher’s name was Mrs. Osborne. I can vividly remember all the details of Terri and my first date. It occurred on April 24, 1981 and we ate at Pizza Hut. I can’t tell you what Terri made for Dinner last night. It was at 9:07 on September 24, 1969 that the Mets first clinched the pennant. Gary Gentry induced Joe Torre of the St. Louis Cardinals to hit into a double play. What time did I get up this morning? I have no clue. I know all the words to every Barry Manilow song. I still need the projector to know the words of the songs we presently sing at church. We remember what matters most to us.

I marvel at how amazing the human mind is, especially in its ability to record and store data in the form of memory. There are essentially two things that distinguish between what cements itself in our long-term memory and what goes in one door of the brain only to quickly slip outside the other. The first is the significance that we attach to the thing we’re remembering. The second is how frequently we think about it and how often we recall that memory or how frequently it springs to mind on its own. I share my little stroll down memory lane because one of the best aids to climbing out of the valley of despair is to remember what God has done! But you can’t draw from a memory bank that you have made no deposits in. Are you giving God legitimate room to work within your life? It’s nice to read what God did for Israel and the early Christians and the Saints of old, but what has He done in and through you? You can’t expect God to do it again if you never gave Him the chance to do it in the first place!

When I start to fight my spiritual amnesia, one of my go to Books of the Bible was written by the Old Testament Prophet named Habakkuk. When he began to wrestle with all that was happening in his present, he dove into the annals of all the Lord had done for him and his people in the past. Rather than being so shortsighted that he could got duped by misreading the circumstances being reported to him on the daily news, he got out the God movies and highlighted all the God moves and began to beg the Father of Heaven to, “Do It Again!” It’s almost as if Habakkuk were saying, “Hey, guys, remember when God delivered us from the bondage of Egypt and He opened up the Red Sea and He led us through the wilderness and He made the walls fall in Jericho? Can you imagine how different our world would be if what God did then, He also does now? It’s that experience we have with our children and grandchildren when we do something that brings joy or hope or security to them. As a matter of fact, it is music to this Father and Grandfather’s ears when he hears, “Do it again, Daddy! Do it again Pop-Pop!” When was the last time you looked up to Heaven and begged the God who loves you beyond words to, “Do it again?”

Habakkuk understood the importance of this kind of remembering. He is honest about his feelings of what is going on around him. He doesn’t agree with God or have a clue what the Lord is doing and why He is choosing to do it the way He does. But Habakkuk has been through enough that He is willing to live by faith even when the facts give him a very uneasy feeling. And the Prophet prays a prayer that every Believer should still be praying 2600 years later. In Habakkuk 3:2, he prays, “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. “God, I remember what you did. You took my breath away and shut my mouth with Your amazing display of Your Deity. God, I remember what you can do. Now please renew those deeds in our day.”

JESUS IS THE SAMEWhen I’m in the valley and when I’m in the pits, You are the same God yesterday, today and forever. When the dog bites, when the bee stings and when I’m feeling sad, I simply need to remember God’s greatest hits and then I don’t feel so bad, alone, scared, anxious, depressed and hopeless. What God did before; God will do again and this time it will be even better than yesteryear. I just have to recall all that God has done in my life for me, through me, even in spite of me. I must return, renew, replay and restore to everything that has to do with who I know God is. When I can’t see him in my present situation, I remember what he’s done in the past and expect Him to show up again tomorrow. Don’t say you don’t remember. Make “Jesus Memories”— the only way to remember!





48 HOURS OF HEARTBREAK

26 10 2018

48 Hours of Heartbreak

You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. I hardly believe it and I lived it. It was supposed to be my triumphant return to traveling. It was lined up to be a weekend to remember. I will remember it alright, but not for the reasons that I had imagined. What should have been an exciting tale of adventure ended up a real horror story.  

It is the second time this year that Hallmark provided me with an opportunity of a lifetime. It is the second time this year that I completely struck out. I have had the privilege to interview many Hallmark Stars on my daily “Rudy On The Radio” Show. In July, Hallmark put me in their lineup but I never even got up to bat. I was invited as a member of the media to come to Hollywood to represent the Hallmark Movie and Mystery Channel Classic Series, “Signed Sealed Delivered.” I should have met its Postables Stars Kristin Booth and Crystal Lowe. I could have hung out with Series Creator and Writer Martha Williamson. Martha’s other claim to fame was a Series entitled “Touch By An Angel.” I had a pass with my name on it at the Universal Studio Front Gate. I ended up staying home because I was the only Pastor left standing at The Lighthouse Church that week. Jeff was on a Missions Trip. Charlie was out all Summer because of foot surgery. Adam had just handed in his resignation with plans to move to Arizona. I felt an obligation to not abandon my post as Senior Pastor and so Tinseltown came and went.

This past weekend I was invited to again represent the media at the Hallmark Channel’s “When Calls The Heart” Family Reunion being held in Hope Valley itself, better known on the map as Vancouver, British Colombia. “When Calls The Heart” is a series reminiscent of “Little House On The Prairie.” As a matter of fact, its Executive Producer is Michael Landon, Jr. so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Its stars include Lori Loughlin of “Full House” fame, Jack Wagner of “General Hospital lore, and Philadelphia’s own Erin Krakow. This time I was determined to make it. In spite of my battles with anxiety and navigating through daily OCD issues, I was packed and ready to go last Wednesday. This time I was determined to leave the paralyzed past behind me. Let’s just say that instead of coming up roses, the lemons were in full supply.

As my Wife Terri drove me to the Philadelphia Airport, it felt like my stomach was hosting a three-ring circus. My courageous confidence had sprung a leak and I did not want to leave the van when Terri pulled up curbside to American Airlines. She literally threw me out of the vehicle. It got no better when I went in. As we all know, nothing is included in the price of an airline ticket and I soon was told that my luggage was overweight and I threw out several of my shirts and pants right at the ticket counter. Still I pressed on. I was no sooner on the plane when I knew something was terribly wrong. The rumblings on my insides spelled immediate trouble and although the Flight Attendant ordered me to stay in my seat, I bolted by her to the airplane lavatory where I tossed my cookies and every other ingredient that swimming inside my churning seas. I exited with the knowledge that everyone else on the plane knew what was happening in there. Still I planted myself back in my seat and 5 and a half hours later, we landed in Los Angeles. I forgot to mention that I was sitting next to a woman wearing headphones who moaned and groaned and cursed her way through the entire journey. I thought it couldn’t get any worse. It did!

My connecting flight included an hour and a half wait on the runway while someone who illegally got on the plane using a phony passport was properly dealt with. The Pilot informed us that once the case was settled, we would have to refuel because we had used most of it just sitting there. It was after Midnight when we landed in Vancouver, British Columbia but at least I made it and hoped that after a good night’s sleep, things would look better in the morning.

The Rental Car place did not have the vehicle that I had asked for. They said that I was being upgraded at a slight increase of cost and I would love the Volvo waiting for me. I didn’t even know how to start the thing and had to return to the Budget Counter just to ask them how to get it going. I used my GPS on my smartphone to find my way to the Hotel that I had to make a last-minute reservation at. The reason I did so was because there was a mix up at the Hilton that I should have been arriving to. When I pulled into the other place of Lodging, it couldn’t have been a seedier setting even if I could have imagined a worst-case scenario. Don’t worry, I didn’t stay there as the place was locked up tight. The only people awake were those in the all-night Liquor Store which stood adjacent to the property. I called my wife and asked Terri to help me as I continued to drive through most of Vancouver looking for a place to stay. I think Mary and Joseph had a better shot as everywhere I checked, I heard those immortal words, “No Room!”

It was after 4AM when Terri finally booked me something online and it was after 5AM when I finally got into bed but sleep was out of my reach. If only I could have slept all day, it might have been different but checkout time was 11AM and I had a lunch date with the Cooper Gals of the UP Network’s Show “Date My Dad!” Zenia Marshall, Lilah Fitzgerald and Audrey Smallman and their Mom’s were to meet me at Noon. I was singing the oldies as I got into my Volvo to make my way to Vancouver Metrotown. Suddenly, my internet on my phone refused to work and so I tried to pioneer it but I am directionally challenged when I do know where I am going. This is where it hit me that I should not have been travelling alone because I was so preoccupied with everything that I drove right through a red light and saw two cars coming right at me and I actually closed my eyes anticipating the crash. It never came and when I somehow found myself still alive on the other side of that intersection, I decided right then and there to turn around and head home!

Taking whatever flight I could in order to get back to Philly, I ended up in the middle seat and felt hemmed in like a lion in a cage. Needless to say, my anxiety had been doused with an entire can of lighter fluid. I went from Cape May County to Philly to LA to Vancouver, BC to LA to Philly to Cape May in less than 48 hours. No sleep. No contacts. No victory. Lots of embarrassment, frustration and a familiar sense of defeat. It was not how Hallmark would have scripted it. It was not the way I wanted it to go. I wanted to come home the conquering hero. I ended up just being thankful I got home.

I tried, I really did. I wanted to have tons of exciting stories to tell about meeting the beloved Hallmark Stars I get to interview quite regularly on LIFT FM. I wanted to be able to say that the anxiety and OCD were laid waste in the dust. All I can say is that I’m home and I will wait on the Lord as He continues to reveal His purpose and plan for me. There will be critics who call me a failure or look at me with a sense of sorrow but all I know is I’m still here and I won’t give up or give in until God determines that I’m done! I also won’t judge anyone who lives as a fighter against the daily dark demons that want to disqualify us from drinking in the true delights of life. Look up and look out Family, for those who walk by faith, the best is still yet to come no matter what the last 48 hours of horror hold! I may be beyond exhausted, but I’m not done or dead yet!

 





OBSTACLES AND CLOSED AND OPEN DOORS!

19 10 2018

Open Closed DoorsIf we are going to love others like Jesus loves us, we had better be ready for some opposition. We need to eagerly and constantly grow in our intimacy with God. Our union with Him takes us in the right direction because we are in the holy connection with the One who loves us so. At the same time, we need to become educated in the fact that we all have an enemy and the goal of the darkness is to keep us from walking in the light of the Lord in any way possible. When we behave as if we are clueless and act irresponsibly, we walk right into the trap and become prime candidates to become nothing more than victims of the devil’s schemes.   

This is why it is essential that any servant of the Lord must consider that if he or she is serious about becoming a strong, active and learning follower of the Lord, they must not be lulled into sleep by thinking it will be smooth sailing. Hell longs to rock the boat of Heaven. That evil, slimy, old lying serpent named Satan, that fallen angel formerly known as Lucifer, will do anything he can to block Believers from reaching their goal.

We’ve been studying 1 Thessalonians on the weekends here at The Lighthouse Church. In my most recent message, we came to a passage in Chapter 2 where we discovered how Paul was separated from his beloved Thessalonians even though he yearned to be with them. His heart was with them. His parental instincts wanted to take care of them. The Pastor in him wanted to make sure that they were growing and thriving in their faith. He had been ripped apart from his precious people. More than once he tried to return to finish what he started. Still, Paul had no success in seeing that dream realized. What was holding him back? The Bible tells us that Satan blocked his way. That is a specialty of the accuser. We should never be naïve about that. 

Paul tells us in another letter of his, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Paul was very discerning. Why? Because we learn in the Book of Acts that there were other instances when it was the Holy Spirit who was opening and closing doors. We learn in Acts Chapter 16, verses 6 and 7 the apostle Paul was moving on his missionary enterprise when he was stopped by the Holy Spirit.  Acts 16:6 informs us that Paul and his associates passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, but were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia. When they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go to Bithynia and the Spirit of Jesus didn’t permit them. This wasn’t the enemy shutting the door, here he is being stopped by the Holy Spirit.   

In Thessalonians, it was Satan setting up obstacles. In Acts it was the Lord opening and shutting doors. I believe that every person who calls themselves a Christian must learn the difference between circumstances when it is God shutting a door and times when the devil just blocks the way. In our relationship with the Savior, we need to know the difference. Since both are possible, how can we get to the point where we are able to determine who is who and what is what?

When God shuts a door, it is usually to open up a new path for us to travel upon. God never calls His Children to nothing. If it is the Lord saying, “No” to us, we need to then prayerfully uncover what He is saying, “Yes” to. When the enemy gets in the way, it is to lure us into quitting or stopping or rolling over and giving up. God calls us to His will. Satan throws obstacles in the way of God’s will. So if you are pursuing Holiness, and something gets in the way, ask “God, if you are shutting this door, what new marching orders do you have for me?” If you receive the answer that you need to keep doing what you are doing, then you may conclude that it isn’t the Lord shutting you down; but it is the enemy trying to steal, kill and destroy what God is doing in you and through you!

The enemy can’t stop what God has ordained to do in the long run. But there is something that he can do.  He wants to hinder the progress. The word Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 2 to describe the demonic activity was “block.” In the original Greek translation, it is better translated “hinder” or “thwart.” It is a very interesting word. It’s a military word. It means to dig a trench or to break up a road. If your army is sitting here and the enemy comes along, one of the ways that you would defeat the enemy is by making sure he can’t get access to you. What you would do is send your soldiers out to dig a massive trench. They can’t cross the trench without recalculating their strategy. Block means to go out and break up the road. Block means to rip that baby to shreds.  

Ancient roads would be made of stone. Tearing it up hindered speed. Paul says, I want to come, but Satan’s breaking up the road. Satan’s dug a bunch of trenches, I can’t get there… yet! You see the enemy can slow you down but he can’t make you stop. Hell’s hope is that you will quit. You will take his obstacles as indestructible and that would be a huge mistake. Yes, the enemy slowed Paul down but he didn’t stop God’s will. In Acts 20, we see Paul does get back to Thessalonica. The devil meant to get Paul to turn in his resignation but all he could do was slow him down and force the warrior Apostle to have to trust God to navigate the way to seeing God’s will be done.

God’s will is to bring people to Jesus and to use us to bring Jesus to the people. God’s will is for all of us to grow up in our faith by being in the process of always making progress in our relationship with God. God’s will is equipping us to become an important part of fulfilling the purpose. He never called any of us to be spectators or have the gift of sitting on the bench. If obstacles start appearing because you are fervently going after doing God’s will, when the door shuts and there is no definitive direction to accomplish the above in another way, you can bet that you are being sucker punch by the prince of darkness. 

The servant of God must understand who God is and what God wants and he or she must understand the tactics of the enemy. We’ve got to recognize the distinct difference between God shifting gears and plain old ugly satanic opposition. Remember this, though Satan is opposing us, he is controlled by the overruling providence and sovereignty of God. He can only do what he can do within the limits that God allows. God allowed him to deal with Paul. Why? In Paul’s weakness he was made strong.  What is life making you? How has the enemy tried to break up your road?

You may be facing obstacles today. Every child of God will! But God is always at work and if you turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face, the things of this earth will grow strangely dim and the light of His glory gets you back on your feet! And what the enemy thought would stop you will actually make you strong enough to not accept defeat. He tried to take Jesus out with Judas but it only got Jesus to the Cross where the Author of Life would finally disarm death for all of us, once and for all!

Don’t let your story be preempted by the obstacles! You are a child of God and you will finish what he started. Get up and be reminded that you are not done in any way shape or form!

 





CONFIDENCE PROPERLY PLACED!

9 10 2018

Live with God Confidence 2018.10.10I was shut in this past weekend because I literally felt in my body like a truck not only ran me over, but it backed up again to finish the job. I had pain where I never thought pain existed. As a Pastor, I too live for the weekends but not in the same way that most of our culture anticipates Friday through Sunday. I want it to come so I can do what I believe God created me to do and that is share His word as effectively as possible to as many as possible. I long to give away every ounce my heart and soul has to offer to bless the Lighthouse Church Family that I have learned to love so much. It is never a good thing when this Preacher can’t preach. It is like I am stuck with all this pent-up energy that is not released and I almost feel the pressure building like I am going to explode. This is why writing my weekly contribution is so very cathartic for me. Today it serves as the next best thing to speaking it with my lips, I am instead writing it with my pen but it still holds as much passion as I can possibly pack within a few sentences.

I like listening to several Preachers to keep me sharp and at my best. The ones I tune in to regularly include Tony Evans, Tim Keller, John Ortberg, John Piper and Steven Furtick. A Shepherd can’t properly nurture others if he doesn’t allow his soul to be nourished on a regular basis. This past Sunday it was the always entertaining and refreshingly truthful Steven Furtick I tuned into. His message was entitled, “Taking Back Your Mind in the Age of Anxiety.” His text was Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3 and verses 1-3 which read: “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” The one statement that just connected with my heart was when Steven Furtick said, “We are raising a Generation that doesn’t have to train for their trophies and display too much false confidence that is based upon no competence!” Wow! Those words set my brain racing to my heart to process properly this loaded sentence.

We all want to be confident but it matters greatly what foundation you build your resume upon. Cockiness is misguided confidence that has no substance to back up its claims. Bullying is nothing more than ignorance masked in intimidation. And just because an individual comes across as strong and mighty doesn’t mean that it is nothing more than a façade that hides raging insecurity. The Apostle Paul tells us plainly that it is not how much confidence we have but in what source we choose to put it that counts the most. He gave testimony that he placed, “zero confidence in his own flesh.” It is not our works that make us who we are but God’s work within us that should define us the most. When we start making lists about our own accomplishments rather than looking to the Lord and what He has done within us, we will always come up short. Trying to shine bright on our efforts alone spring from self-driven motives and produce short term results. Leaning heavily upon God’s presence within us transforms us into humbly selfless yet fiercely devoted Disciples!  

Over the years, I have come to realize that the wisest people are not those who claim to know it all but they that are willing to ask many questions. I say that one of the biggest knocks on the Church today is that they talk a good game but, on the field, showcase too much sloppy play. We aren’t willing to learn and grow in our position as we adjust the load on the road. We pretend and, in the end, we come up empty because we haven’t trained well to show ourselves competent. Belief is confirmed by behavior. We can talk all we want, but what happens when we are put on the proverbial spot?

If we don’t teach kids how to properly play baseball but we assure them of a trophy no matter what, we have cheapened the integrity of the game. Christians want to act like we are already living in Heaven, but that is not the case. Faith is necessary to run the race here on Earth and if you don’t invest in a proper pair of running shoes coached by a Leader who knows the course inside and out, all you do is run aimlessly and needlessly. Yet when it is Banquet Time, you still want accolades when you persevered not at all. Steven Furtick said it like this, “When your circumstance is not reflecting your confession, your phony faith collapses beneath the weight of your unmet expectations. Jesus went through Hell to get us to Heaven. What makes us think that our map won’t show us some of the same scenery that our Blessed Lord survived and paved our way through?

Consistency in walking with Jesus leads to the confidence that comes with real life experience that leads to a godly character being forged within us as we go. Confidence is not our birthright without living within the daily fight. The day of celebration will come when the season is over but life is more like a locker room than a ballroom. Jesus is our Savior and our Sustainer. Jesus is our Coach and our Course. Jesus is our Perfecter and our Power. If we are to have any kind of confidence at all, it should be in the One who won the victory on Calvary. If we are to boast and brag, let our cheers be lifting peoples’ eyes beyond ourselves and onto Jesus. Our confidence lasts only in Christ alone and if you are attempting to share the spotlight, then it is time to get out of the photo so that the picture is loud and clear.





NO MORE GOODBYE!

5 10 2018

NoMoreGoodbyes

I know I suffer from “separation anxiety.” I do not handle the departure of loved ones very well. Maybe because the two human beings that I know truly loved me inside and out were taken from me just when I still needed them most. My “Nana” was my hero and hiding place. The only time I would ever stay overnight at another’s house when I was growing up was when I was with my amazing Grandmother. She was a little Italian lady and stood all of 4 foot 11! I was as tall as she was when I was only five. The woman loved well and wide and deep. She was the epitome of putting others before herself. Her face would beam when I walked in the room. I returned the favor. I loved her as much as a child could. But on July 2, 1965 Francis Tedesco graduated to Glory. And with her went a precious piece of my young heart. Little did I know, it would be the first of many heartaches to come.

My Daddy was my best friend. His name was Rudy also. He was the real deal. I grew up his right-hand man. I was his helper and his constant companion. I always felt safe and secure in his presence. I would call him many times and he would wax eloquently about some subject that had nothing to do with what I was talking about and yet I always felt better after I had been with him. My Father not only taught me how to live but also how to die. In early 2000, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I totally changed my plans so that I could be down in Florida with him as much as possible. It ending up totaling over seven weeks altogether during the year, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it. There was no regret as I was privileged to be holding his hand as the Lord Jesus took his other hand. My heart was shredded on that night of September 13, 2000. I knew that in Heaven he would no longer be in pain but I hated to see him go. I miss him still and with not a hint of exaggeration, I still dream about him every night even after 18 years.

This past weekend, I had to say, “See you later,” to the man who has been my closest and most valuable partner in ministry for the last ten years. Adam Nudo and his lovely wife Lori are on a pilgrimage to Arizona to reside with their three adult Daughters and their families that include two grandchildren. I was scolded for not being happier for them as they embark upon this new adventure, but I am not wired in the way that hides my feelings very well. I am known for wearing my heart on my sleeve. And as I sat in the final Lighthouse Church Service with Adam leading our worship, my insides ached. I didn’t want him to go but I knew I was not going to stand in God’s way for them. I miss them already. Nobody will ever be able to replace him. People can’t be replaced. Positions might be refilled but relationships are pure gold. The Lone Ranger and Tonto and Laurel and Hardy and Batman and Robin and Snoopy and Charlie and Rudy and Adam will always be another dynamic duo that had some incredible experiences together.

This week also brings a change of address for Tom and Barbara Crouthamel. There is not enough room in this article to tell you how much better we all are because of these two being present in our lives, our church and our community. God used this couple to give The Lighthouse Church leadership direction, wisdom and a godly witness. Tom and Barb are surrogate Parents to me. I actually went to Philadelphia College of Bible with their oldest Daughter Barbie and isn’t just like the Lord to reunite us all in this little neck of Cape May County? Barbie married Tom Savage another PCB Friend of mine and my Daughter Leah would go on to marry their Son Jeff and now we really are family! But now the Crouthamels are packing up to go on the road to be with their Families. Again, while I understand the reasons it must happen, my soul is letting them go while I am kicking and screaming to hold on. I am the kind of person that may just chain myself to their bumper. I will not be the same without them in the same zip code! I won’t pretend to be cheerful when I am truly more tearful. So why do I have such an issue with saying, “Goodbye?” Why do so many people make the mistake of playing it so safe that they keep their hearts locked in protective cases rather than allow them to get fully involved? Why do we attempt to love from a distance when we were created to function face to face? Is it because we fear being cut to the core? Is it because we are worried over it coming to an end that we may never allow a true beginning?

Do you know that separation is not in our DNA? Separation came with sin. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey the Lord, they caused a schism in the family that would never be wholly repaired this side of Heaven. This is why we struggle so much with death and departure. It is foreign territory to our spirit. Could this be why one of the most precious promises that God ever made us was, “I will never leave you nor forsake you?” Humans can’t keep that bond. We die. We move. We leave. We quit. Jesus conquered sin and death to give us the hope that in the life to come, there will be no more division. My inner being cries for that to be true now. I yearn for a world where we don’t ever have to say, “So Long” again. I believe that desire comes from the Creator Himself. Maybe we shouldn’t be so shocked when we still battle the blues years after another slice of our heart was cut away so quickly and so unwelcomingly. Maybe not all emotional tissues heal themselves. Maybe the scars are a staunch reminder that God didn’t make us robots after all!

The good news is that there is a solution via a Savior and with Him comes the promise of eternal reunion. The better news is that this gift of salvation is available to whosoever would come and humbly receive it by grace through faith. I’m going to a place where there will be no more dying and no more exit strategies. Until I get there, I have learned that the pain is a divine reminder that I am not home yet. Maybe you feel that way too and it might be more normal than you ever realized!





THE RECKLESS LOVE OF GOD

27 09 2018

42554861_10217002039708276_7321010341465292800_nReal love is in short supply in our world today. Whenever I see adults mistreating children, it raises my blood pressure and causes me to say something to attempt to defuse a potential bullying situation. What we see is an alarming and frightening increase of child abuse everywhere. This past week, I read the unbelievable story of a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his stepfather because the boy had wet his pants. When his small body was dug up, a tiny cross was found clutched in his hand. This is not the way God intended it to be.

One of the truths of the Faith that resonates deep within my heart of hearts is knowing that God has chosen to be a Loving Father to we His children. My earthly Dad was an amazing man and I loved being with him and in so many positive ways, he modeled for me what our good, good, Heavenly Father is all about!

I was watching a tearjerker of a Christian Movie and there was a scene where a devoted father came into the hospital room to visit his eight-year-old who was dying of cancer. The child, sensing that he was not going to get well asked his father, “Daddy, am I going to Heaven soon?” “Why, son?” “Are you afraid to go and be with God?” The child looked up into the eyes of his father and replied, “Not if God is like you, Daddy!

Growing up going to Church, I was terrified of the Clergy in charge. They painted a picture of God that was super strict and seriously stern and never smiled! He wanted you to be good or else! I experienced way too much of the “or else,” and it created a chasm between myself and my Creator. Like the Boogie Man, I had to keep watching like a hawk to make sure that he didn’t get me. I for sure didn’t want to be caught.

The Gospel is not at all about running away from a God who is out to get you to lock you up and keep you from living life. It is all about running to a God, who, that just like my Dad, His face always lights up when He sees you. He wants you to know that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made. In His arms, we discover that there is a hope and a future for us together.   

The invitation that the church should be offering is “Come to The Table,” and not “Join the Society of Those Satisfied with the Status Quo.” Life in the fellowship of Christians is built on, in, and around relationships that are personal, intimate, and share a strong family like communion with one another!  That’s what our lives should be all about. When you are truly loved by God, you can’t help but love others; even when you can’t fully understand it! After being in the midst of those who have been with Jesus, you should be cared for, listened to, ministered to and held in the highest of esteem! The genuine love of God is contagious and draws those who are craving the real deal. 

Come on church, it is time for us to represent the real deal! We need to be the kind of disciples who are sold out to the Lord and will go wherever He leads to love whoever He sends our way! Faith is not about money, favors, power and popularity! It doesn’t seek to be first but to seek Jesus first! When the love of God comes into your heart, it transforms everything about you! You start taking on the traits of the Savior, leaving the signs of the society behind. Believers are citizens of Heaven and no longer bogged down by things of this earth.

Love moves in mysterious ways. The reckless love of God is the kind of love you must be moved by. It is not a “so what” attitude but a “now what” sense of adventure. The servant of the Lord, like the Lord Jesus Himself, must be characterized by the reckless love of God. If someone is going to have an effective ministry, it starts by loving people. You can be the best at your craft but if there is no love, there is no substance and the foundation is missing! Love doesn’t take long to take root but once it does take root, it lasts long! It actually lasts forever. Funny how short church relationships can go. Maybe even the Church needs more Jesus than flashy programs and big budgets and flashy gimmicks. Maybe it simply does come down to loving God first and loving one another as the fruit of getting the most important relationship right.

 

Jesus People are incredibly generous. They don’t regard their stuff as their stuff. They are generous to their relatives and their non-relatives. They are generous to their friends, but also to their enemies. They are known for their extraordinary generosity. That’s what reckless love can do! That’s what reckless love should be! And if it is the true love of Jesus, then you learn that Jesus loves you even when you don’t love Him back!

If you live a life of surrendered generosity to God, and I know we live in an area that will not call you to this, but Jesus does, then you know that God’s love is a verb. Love helps those who can’t help themselves. Love gives the very best even to those who don’t deserve it. Love puts the priority on relationship. Love is a name and it’s Jesus.

I challenge you to take an inventory of your soul and make sure that the Lord is actually your first love. When you know Jesus is number one for sure then pursue him with every bit of your heart. Once you do that, keep an eye open of how your life will spill into acts of reckless love pouring forth from your life. God wants to produce in you and through you an extravagant love that can’t be properly explained or ignored! God is all about reckless love. Maybe today is the day we give up the neatness and orderly manner and jump in to the ocean of the marvelous grace of our loving Lord.