IT’S ONLY TOO LATE IF WE GIVE UP!

17 09 2019

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The past is a tricky thing. It can appear to look so much better than it really was; especially when you are stuck in an unpleasant present. If we look around at our current circumstances and discover there is more to complain about than celebrate, chances are very good that we can be found pining for times that never really existed any further than beyond the playgrounds in our mind. Goals are necessary for human beings to grow up. Expectations on the other hand can be the kiss of death because life so rarely cooperates with our agendas. Where do we go when we look in the mirror and see staring back at us too much cynicism and very little optimism?

Do I believe our Country is moving in a healthy and hearty direction? Not on your life I! I sense that we as a Nation are way too busy running from who and what we should be running to and championing causes and ideas that we should be setting out with the trash on the curb. But my solution to this national pollution has nothing with us returning to the “Good Old Days.” There has never been a moment since Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden when sin hasn’t been mixed within even the best efforts of humanity. If you look at any of our success as Americans, it has come in spite of the fact that deep down inside we the people are made up of more selfish flesh than selfless spirit.

What then has gotten us to where we are today? I can make a pretty good guess that it wasn’t us promoting a “selfie” generation where everyone gets a trophy and nobody ever has to face correction and consequence unless it deals in the matters of faith. When did “Faith in God” become a such a criminal act? While our society outlaws prayer in school and bans the Bible from its libraries, it goes out of its way and bends over backwards to not offend sin. Whatever happened to sin? Everybody pretends it isn’t there while its rotten fruit stares us right in the face.

You can’t have it both ways. Our Founding Fathers believed that all humanity was created equal. Did you see the key verb of that sentence? We are not a higher evolved form of animals. You and I and every man and woman of every Nation on this planet have been formed in the image of God. This changes everything. It gives us a higher purpose to seek a holier love. It means men and women should be expected to act noble and do right and love their neighbors as themselves. If you subtract faith from the equation, what do you have left? If you would like an answer to that question, just take a peek at today’s news stories. How many more school shootings will it take to remind us that along with learning our A B C’s, we also need to be retaught our P’s and Q’s. Whatever happened to etiquette and manners and respect for authority. If you don’t teach our children well, then don’t be surprised by the hell we all will experience otherwise.

The separation of church and state was never meant to keep faith out of our culture. It was a means to keep government from legislating a particular religion. I have to smile because not too long ago when I was invited to pray at a community function, I was given instruction on what I could and couldn’t say. I shared that I wasn’t attending to recite prose, but to talk to the Lord on all of our behalf and that means a regular conversation. Celebrating Christmas doesn’t shove Jesus down the throat of unbelievers. It teaches all the world to acknowledge a historical event. The birth of Jesus of Nazareth was the most influential happening that this earth has ever witnessed. All of a sudden, we have more citizens criticizing Christmas Songs in a Holiday Concert than we have Fathers and Mothers upset about the way their children talk to adults.

As millions of Christians flee the Middle East and Christianity’s original homeland becomes increasingly bereft of followers of Jesus, an odd anomaly is occurring. Christianity in the Gulf states is actually surging. Amid a shocking exodus in neighboring countries, there has been a jump in its Christian population. Why? Because believers are shining their light bright in spite of how popular or unpopular it may be. These Christians aren’t being obnoxious individuals who shove the Bible in your face. These disciples are simply being like Jesus would be if He was there and according to Scripture, He is there.

I no longer depend upon politics to do what we can do as the Body of Christ. It goes beyond just memorizing a few Bible verses. It is teaching people about our legacy and history as Americans. It is getting our heroes of yesteryear out of the boxes in our attic and letting a whole new generation know from whence we came. Ask your children if they can finish this sentence: “Listen my children and you will hear…” If they can’t, it is because this Nation has become so consumed with itself, it turns its people into self-righteous hypocrites rather than patriotic servants who like Nathan Hale would say, “I regret that I have only one life to give to my Country.” How can we expect our children to lay down their lives for what is right when they hardly have been taught what true sacrifice is all about?

If it is truly too late for America, why are we still here? It is time to do what Jesus called us to do when He challenged us to let our lights shine so bright that we turn what is dark to new life. Don’t follow the crowd when you can follow the Lord. Don’t tell others that Jesus loves them until you are ready to love them too. Do some digging into our real history. We can be proud to be Americans as long as we remember that we were founded to be one Nation under God and that is nothing to apologize about. God makes a better leader than some human egomaniac. America is not a Christian Nation but it is a Nation with lots of people who call themselves Christians. Because of that, we have the freedom to love God and one another with no fear of wrongdoing.

I have been reading about the life and ministry of George Whitefield. The United States of America was born because of the way God used this passionate preacher of the gospel. Let me close with this quote, “John Wesley tells of a dream he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, “Are there any Presbyterians here?” “Yes!”, came the answer. Then he asked, “Are there any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists?” The answer was Yes! each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question, and the answer was No! “No?” To this, Wesley asked, “Who then is inside?” The answer came back, “There are only Christians here.” Come on Christians! Let’s be more united in Jesus than divided by our labels that won’t make it to Heaven.





WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE TRUTH?

9 09 2019

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What’s with people not being able to tell the truth? I mean, it has gotten so bad in our society that an individual could be caught red handed, plainly guilty, still in the act of the crime and yet before any one blinks an eye, the excuses start flying trying to convince all onlookers that no wrongdoing had ever occurred. If blame was a game, it could be an Olympic Sport in our culture. I’m afraid that we aren’t teaching our children well as it’s a rare thing to see anyone step up, come clean and simply apologize. Sometimes you have to be willing to shut up, swallow your pride and accept that you are wrong. It is not called giving up- it is called growing up!

Unfortunately, statistics prove that lying has become an accepted way of life for too many people. Americans tend to lie at the drop of a hat. In the Book, “The Day America Told the Truth,” it says that 91 percent of those surveyed fib rather routinely about matters they consider trivial, and 36 percent fudge on matters they would define as important. Families are in turmoil because 86 percent of teenagers recite fables regularly to their parents, and even 75 percent of adults keep the whole truth from their friends. Maybe one of the biggest reasons that 2 out of every 3 marriages end in divorce is because 68 percent of couples distort the details when they speak to each other. These numbers don’t speak well of the present generation. And how many only cough up the facts after they have been caught and not because they are truly sorry for their bad behavior?

Writing letters of recommendation can be hazardous to your pocket book. If you tell the truth, you might get sued if the contents are negative. Robert Thornton, a professor at Lehigh University, has a collection of “virtually litigation-proof” phrases called the “Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations,” or LIAR for short! Here are some examples: To describe an inept person, Thornton wrote, “I enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever.”
To describe an ex-employee who had problems getting along with fellow workers, Thornton got creative by saying, “I am pleased to say that this candidate is a former colleague of mine.” To describe an unproductive candidate, Thornton replied, “I can assure you that no person would be better for the job.” And finally, to describe an applicant not worth consideration, Thornton typed, “I would urge you to not waste any time in talking to this candidate about any offer of employment.”

This is what happens when everybody makes the team and all participants get a trophy and authorities are tongue tied when it comes to telling it like it is. How can anybody truly get better in their field of interest unless constructive criticism is allowed to be part of the conversation? I will never forget being part of an ordination exam for a young man who was being interviewed and tested by his peers about entering the ministry. He was absolutely terrible. He may have been the nicest kid in the world but it was clear that he did not have the call nor the gifting to shepherd a flock. But when push came to shove, nobody had the courage to let this gentleman down. They passed him and his track record as a Minister would prove to be a blunder. Churches were penalized by the clergy who didn’t do their job when it mattered most. In my 37 years of full-time ministry, I have seen too many individuals who should have been serving God full time and others who probably should have chosen a different vocation. Telling the truth shouldn’t be that hard to do. Will we become a people who champion that character trait again? I hope so!

In the Bible, there is the story of James, the half brother of Jesus. When Jesus was actively traveling around fulfilling the mission His Father had sent him to do, James and other members of Joseph and Mary’s family wanted to come and get Jesus off the streets because of how He was embarrassing everyone. James thought Jesus had lost His mind. James wanted no part of what Jesus was saying and doing and tried to bring an end to the charade. Thankfully, the family could not get in the way of our Heavenly Father’s will. Jesus would continue to live and eventually die the death that He did for the sins of the world. When Jesus rose from the dead, it literally rocked James’ world. He saw Jesus before and James clearly saw him die and come back to life again. James didn’t rationalize his foolishness about his being very wrong about his Brother. Because of James willingness to admit that he was wrong about Jesus, we have his New Testament Letter and James received eternal life!

Repentance has gotten a bad rap through the years. Pictures of hell, fire and brimstone preachers screaming at a congregation to, “Turn or Burn,” couldn’t be more inaccurate. Repentance literally means to change your mind in such fashion that it causes a radical turnaround in your behavior. It is doing a 180 with your body, mind and soul. What I used to be, I’m not and where I used to be going, I turned around and went in the opposite direction. Still repentance doesn’t happen unless someone admits wrongdoing! No short cuts. No mudslinging. No more running or hiding. When we come clean, God has access to redeem death into real life. “And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

A store manager overhears his clerk tell a customer, “No, ma’am, we haven’t had any for a while, and it doesn’t look as if we’ll be getting any soon.” Horrified, the manager came running over to the customer and said, “Of course we’ll have some soon. We placed an order last week.” Then the manager drew the clerk aside. “Never,” he snarled, “Never, never, never say we’re out of anything–say we’ve got it on order and it’s coming. Now, what was it she wanted?” “Rain,” said the clerk.





THE TRUTH ABOUT SPOUT OFF!

31 08 2019

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I wish I could tell you that sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. If I did claim that the last sentence was true, I’d be lying. There are days I wish people would just get it out of their system and chuck some boulders at me. It at least would be understandable pain. What I can’t comprehend is when total strangers take cheap shots at you with words that aren’t even close to the truth.

I have never been a fan of “Spout Off” in this newspaper. I don’t believe you should be allowed to get away with launching verbal bombs at another and get to do so remaining anonymous all the while. I think it is rather cowardly if you ask me. And if “Spout Off” must exist, I am naïve enough to believe that it would serve such a better purpose if it was full of encouraging words and gratitude. Life sentences filled with kindness would build others up much better than idle and unfounded gossip. All it takes is one individual to ask if I read “Spout Off” this week and against my better judgment, off I go, searching through the entries, waiting to get hammered by someone hiding behind a curtain of protection.

Recently, a Spouter mentioned that I had turned the Radio Station given to The Lighthouse Church, LIFT FM, into a secular music medium. Here is the absolute truth on the matter. LIFT FM is a low powered, non-commercial Radio Station that can be heard at 97.9 on the FM dial in Cape May County and 98.5 FM up in Cumberland County. As the Station Manager, I select the programing that plays on the radio 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Since taking over, I have added such Christian Preachers as Dr. Robert A. Cook, Dr. James Montgomery Boice, Dr. John MacArthur, and Dr. Tony Evans. One can also hear Haven Ministries, Radio Bible Class, Keep the Faith and Focus on the Family daily. We also have local Ministers such as Pastor Walter Nistorenko from Abundant Life, Pastor Bob Stahler from Great Commission Baptist Church and Rev. Dave Bailey from Ranch Hope. Kevin and Taylor host our Morning Show that features today’s best contemporary Christian music and I’m on daily at Noon also playing the entire catalogue of Christian music from the 60’s through today. My daily themes feature, “Message Monday,” “Two for Tuesday,” “Worship Wednesday” and “Throwback Thursday.” If there are 168 hours in every week, for 166 of them- we feature only Christian Music.

On Friday, from Noon-1PM with an encore presentation from 7-8PM, I host a program entitled “Oldies With A Heart.” It is a show that features the soundtrack of the music we grew up with from the 50’s through today. Yes, it is secular music but only with songs handpicked by me that celebrate the memories that we have shared together along the way. The show has also included interviews that I have had with such dignitaries as Olivia Newton-John, Shirley Jones, Connie Francis, Michael Learned of the Waltons, Toni Tennille, Members of the 1969 New York Mets, Hallmark Channel Stars and so many more. I have Listeners who tune in via our website, LIFT985.com, from all over the world. It allows me to enter into the lives of so many individuals that I would have never met without the wonderful vehicle of radio. I never hide the fact that I am a Believer and a full time Minister. I am never ashamed of my love for Jesus and His love for me. If anything, it allows me to go into all the world and shine the light bright. If every good and perfect gift is from the Lord above, then music like all the other blessings can be used for both good and evil. If a great romantic love song between a husband and wife is offensive, how are you supposed to communicate your affection for one another? Do you only drink milk from Christian cows?

Another “Spout Off” made the statement that if you came to the Lighthouse Church, you’d only hear me sing lyrics to secular songs all through my message. I was referred to as worldly and a craver of radio disc jockey fame. Now, anyone who knows me understands that I will break out in song at any time over just about anything. My brain is 98% song lyrics. I sing about everything. But make no mistake, I am a Minister of the Word of God and treat it with the utmost care, study and respect. God called me to be a Pastor back in 1975 and I have never wanted to be anything else for anyone else. Some preachers play golf and I play the Oldies but Goodies once a week on LIFT FM and once a week on 106.3 The Shore out of Wildwood. I love music. Do you want a Preacher who is sullen and gloomy or one who loves to jump, shout and knock himself out for the Lord? As for knowing my name, I could care less if you remember me. The name I want you to know is Jesus! The Bible says that there is no other name given to us people by which we can be rescued. My name won’t even get you a good table at McDonalds! Knowing Jesus leads to everlasting life and eternal joy.

You don’t have to like me, but at least get the facts straight. As soon as I wrote that last sentence, I was humming the theme to the old television show, “Dragnet.” Too many Christians are only known for what they don’t do! I want to shine because of what I do! I am a people person by nature so of course I wish everyone would at least be nice to one another and treat your neighbors and enemies with respect. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” If you feel the need to shout your spout, all I would humbly ask is that it be based on reality and not fantasy. I gave my heart to Jesus back in 1975 and I’d long be gone without Him. Even with the Lord in my life, there have been many tough roads that we have survived together. What it really all comes down to is loving God and loving one another and if Christians would make that their main goal, this world would clearly see Jesus—and He’s worth shouting about!





IN NEED OF A RESCUE

26 08 2019

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The Lighthouse Church held its 23rd annual Beach Service this past weekend down in Wildwood. The highlight of the day are those individuals who have chosen to be baptized in the ocean as a way to give testimony to their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Over thirty people of all ages shared their personal stories of the differences the Lord has made in their lives. The strong winds and rip currents made the event a unique experience. I have finally learned what it is like to be inside a washing machine. Nevertheless, I am happy to report that every one who went in, came out! Many with faces glowing and excitement building for the days to come.

It never fails that as the Service is going on, someone who is walking by always seems to ask me, “What is going on?” It gives me the opportunity to share my faith and talk about the Lord. When I get to the part about salvation, the phrase “Jesus Saves,” begs the next question, “Saves from what?” Rather than just quote a Sunday School answer, I try to come up with an illustration that will make the reply come alive. This year was no different. God always gives me an illustration just when I need one.

I recalled a television show that I saw not too long ago that featured this scene. A young boy begged his father for a snake. After much badgering, the dad gave in and purchased all his son would need to house and care for this unique pet. When it came time to feeding the serpent, things got interesting. The twosome returned to the local animal emporium to buy snake food. If I can be more specific here, this turned out to be cute and cuddly white mice. This could have been the biggest mistake of the day because it took absolutely no time for the youngster to bond with the menu!

Dinner time could only be put off for so long and so with much hesitation, the son had to drop his new unsuspecting mouse into the snake’s glass cage. At the time of the alleged feeding, the snake just happened to be sleeping amidst a bed of sawdust. I love how smart God’s creation truly can be. This tiny mouse somehow sensed that he had a serious problem on his hands. At any moment he could be swallowed alive. Obviously, the mouse needed to come up with some kind of scheme to save himself. What did the terrified creature do? He quickly set up work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the problem disappeared. The mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. Another cover-up right before our eyes.

If there was going to be any real rescue, it was going to have to come from outside. The boy couldn’t bear to see his silly little mouse devoured before his eyes. As the snake awoke and was ready to pounce on the mouse, a hand swooped down and removed the rodent from the cage. The boy literally saved that mouse just in the nick of time. His attachment to that industrious but helpless little being kept him from being eaten alive.

Mankind too needs to be rescued and redeemed. No matter how hard we try to cover up, rationalize, and pretend that we have no enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Good works only cover up the undeniable elephant in our soul. We all have sinned and fallen way too short of the glory of God. If there is no mediation, sin will eventually win. But because our Heavenly Father loved us so much He sent His only Son to love us when we weren’t that loveable, the Master’s hand prevented us from being consumed. Love genuinely lifted us to safety.

Believe it or not, the real reason for all the chaos and confusion that we are caged by are the effects of the separation that occurs because we are not rightly related to God. Faith in Jesus is the only way for us to be rescued from the ruins of the sin that we are stuck within. God’s grace had mercy and compassion on us at just the right time. Believing that we have a Savior is not a pipe dream. Clinging to that hope is a sure thing. Just as the fangs of death are about to inject us with eternal poison, we are gathered into the grip of the One with nail scarred hands. It is in those hands that we never have to worry about death and separation again.

Becoming a Christian is all about a change of address. I am no longer found in a cage of doom in a neighborhood near you. This mouse no longer has to dig up wood chips to cover up my mess. Jesus has wiped my slate clean. He can do the same for you. You will never be good enough; nobody has ever been good enough. Only Jesus was good enough. Becoming a Christian is a change in our relationship with God. Jesus’ work, when it is believed and rested in, instantly changes our standing before God. Because we have been saved, we are forever “in Him.”

Several years ago, a man and his wife were found frozen to death in their car. A blizzard had dumped tons of snow in the area, burying their vehicle. Before she died, the woman scribbled a note on a piece of paper and stuffed it in the glove compartment. The note read: “I don’t want to die this way.” Tragically, less than six feet from their icy grave was a stranded bus, whose festive passengers remained warm throughout the night. So close and yet so far. Where are you today?





The Holy Spirit is Not Just for Show

21 08 2019

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I grew up amidst a time when if you wanted to stay out of trouble, you had to know the difference between the towels in the bathroom that were for show, and the other towels that you could use to dry your hands. Knowing the right towel was not all the knowledge necessary while you were taking care of business. There were also a variety of soaps in the dish on the sink and some were used for actually washing your hands, but the other only served a decorative purpose. I wish it ended there, but this discernment between what is there for show and what is there to be applied also rambled into other areas of the home.

I don’t know why they called it the “Living Room.” You were not allowed to do much in there. The sofa was not meant to be sat upon as it was covered in plastic, and how you got through there without walking on the beautiful rug still goes beyond my understanding. This was a room only to give the appearance that life occurred within it, although I suggested we refer to it as, “The Off Limits” area.

When we ate in the “Dining Room” when company came over, there was another dilemma staring you in the face. There were napkins provided on your plate but because they were made of this particular cloth, we were never to wipe our mouths on them. We were not allowed to use our shirt sleeves either. My Mother would provide paper napkins for the actual duty of keeping your face clean.

It’s not hard enough being a kid without all this extra pressure on you to make sure you know the proper etiquette around the homestead. I think I struck completely out when Mom bought us new comforters for our beds that even included a matching pillow cover. She allowed us to pick out one in our favorite color.

My color of choice has always been orange. I don’t know what that says about my personality, but it is true. I have an orange floor in my office at The Lighthouse Church. Even though I was a boy of about 11 or 12 at the time, I was looking forward to cuddling up in this new orange blanket of joy.

I’ll never forget my Mom’s horror when I got in bed and pulled the covers up tight. Mom scolded me quicker than normal, told me to get out of bed immediately, fold up that new ensemble of bliss, and place it on the chair in the room. Nothing had changed.

My bed was dressed up in this orange wonderland but I would never get to experience it. Once again, it was all for appearance sake and not for actually enjoying.

If today’s church in America suffers from anything, it’s the problem that too many Christian leaders set things up to look good, but make it undeniably clear that real messes are not allowed. We have “Fellowship Halls” carpeted to the degree that nobody dares to get it dirty. How can you have fellowship if you are not allowed to share a meal together?

I remember one aunt who never allowed us to play on her lawn. She treasured the green grass over happy children. We were so miserable whenever we had to go over to her house.

I believe she was just as disgusted to have us there. Needless to say, she lived a lonely life. Everything was nice and neatly organized but nobody was ever allowed to get close enough to truly live.

Once you open the door to anyone, you risk having life turned upside down and inside out, but Jesus modeled for us a ministry that taught us to never hold our best back from anyone. Jesus gave the same kind of intentional care to the rich and famous that he did to the down and outers. When people were around Jesus, even though He didn’t hesitate to tell the truth, one still began to feel like you mattered more than the sofa or the fine china or the towels hanging up on the hook.

Somewhere along the line, we championed looking the part without fully playing the part. God doesn’t work with images that we project. The Lord goes right to the matters of the heart.

If you learn anything by reading about Jesus in the Gospels, it’s that even though you might have felt bad at the beginning, he always made sure you left feeling better. His truth didn’t lay you to waste. His love built you up and gave you the vision of what He always intended you to be.

I have been preaching about the Holy Spirit lately. Every Christian at the moment of salvation is given a comforter, and He is not meant to be folded up and put in the closet. The wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit is meant to be so much more than an ornamental feature in our lives that we can look at but not touch.

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Comforter” for a practical reason. There is nowhere we go where we can escape His presence. There is nothing we can do that will break the bond between us. Believers may quench and grieve Him, but He never leaves or forsakes us.

When the Holy Spirit is fully allowed access to every nook and cranny of our hearts, we begin to look more like Jesus every day. The Holy Spirit doesn’t comfort us by removing us from life or keeping us out of the chaos. The Holy Spirit comforts us by giving us life smack dab in the middle of all that we ever have to go through. We never have to take on any battle alone.

So, before this day gets away from you, have you acknowledged the presence of God in your walk? Are you clinging to Him, rather than looking to lucky charms that aren’t magically delicious?

God so loved us that He didn’t save the best only for company. He invites us to come in and sit with Him. You can even walk on the carpet.

It is what the grace and mercy of our God is about. Get to know the Holy Spirit, who is not just for show. The world you live in will be transformed by this relationship, and you will be able to cuddle up tight in a “comforter” that isn’t in the closet but all over you!





I WILL FOLLOW HIM

14 08 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





THE SAVING WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

6 08 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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