SMELLING LIKE MY FATHER!

26 09 2016

 

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When my kids were little, they loved to cuddle up with me in my chair and we would just have some quality time where Daddy could smother his kids with kisses and hugs. I treasured these times and never felt like it was an imposition. As a matter of fact, it was important for me to have my own chair because I remember doing the same thing with my Dad in his chair when I was young. I also cherish climbing into his chair when I was 40 years old and saying my final farewell to my Pop this side of Heaven. The point I am trying to make is when I would be around my Dad, I would get so close to him that I would literally smell like “Old Spice” long before I ever used a razor blade. My Rudy, Leah, Abbie and Joel would leave me with a strong odor of “Brut” upon their faces. My wife Terri would always say to the children, “You guys smell like Daddy!” They only got that way because they were willing to be that close to me. Who do you smell like today?

 I love when somebody says to me, “I’m Not Religious,” because I usually respond with a quick, “Nether am I.” “As a matter of fact- it was religion that almost killed me!” Please Family! Throw out your old religious mindsets. The problem is that too many Christians have been conditioned by harsh and heartless sermons, rigid and rote prayers and dark dirges that seem to make our Loving and Gracious God appear very distant, always in a bad mood and way too busy stomping on good times to ever take notice of us. Do not be fooled! That’s how the legalistic Pharisees viewed God, but Jesus challenged to change their warped ideas. Jesus showed us that God is approachable, accepting of all people, friendly toward sinners, forgiving, and protective and affectionate. He even touched the lepers, spent time with the shady women and let the disciple John lay his head on His chest which a proper and pompous Pharisee would never do! I am grateful that a real relationship with Jesus isn’t the slightest bit religious. If you let Him, your Heavenly Father will pull you close to His chest, forgive your sins, change your heart, give you a hope and future and still be close enough to smell his scent. I want to smell like my Father!

 Why is it so hard for us human beings to just be loved? Why are we bending over backwards attempting to earn from our God what was freely offered to us as the greatest gift ever given? Do you really think that you or I could add one bit of eternal merit to the ultimate sacrifice that was already accomplished on our behalf by the Lord Jesus?  We strive to be busy, be right, be first, be rich, be smart, be popular, be winners, and belong; but are we willing to be still so we may truly be loved? Why do we make it so hard for the Lord to treasure us, cherish us, admire us, choose us, delight in us, seek us out, and save us just because He wanted to do it? Here is the truth and it is that God decided to initiate the act of ultimate grace and unconditional mercy when He rescued us while we were still sinners! There was not a shred of worth in all those works that we once referred to as our weekly worship that might have dragged our bodies in proximity to God’s presence but kept our hearts in another area code, far away from him! If we want to come into company with the Heavenly Father, shouldn’t we at least follow his directions? Lay your pride down so that he may pick you up and hold you close and instead of spreading the aroma of the world everywhere you walk, we will be smothered with the fragrance of the Father!

 It is easy to say, “God loves you,” but it is powerless unless it makes the journey from your head to your heart. I still have my days when it doesn’t quite compute. Contrary to what people think about me, I struggle big time with my self-image. I walked around for years with an empty love tank the size of the Grand Canyon looking for affirmation and approval from those I deemed influential in my world. This group included my Parents, Teachers, Coaches and others in authority. I would labor constantly in hopes of receiving their praise and words of encouragement. I was not the kind of child you needed to discipline extensively as I would hammer myself pretty good on my own. But this was the era where shame was passed down with fervor and fire. I would hang my head and the guilt would be piled on my shoulders like diners load up on the all you can eat shrimp at the Golden Coral Buffet tables. And while some churches pride themselves in making their congregants feel bad so that the religious right can feel better, this approach is useless in transforming lives. If grace loses than nobody wins! If Jesus is not allowed to seek and to save the lost his way then there will be no way anyone is getting to the banqueting table! The “agape” love of God is unconditional and indescribable and needs to be tasted just as the Lord serves it, to be enjoyed. Don’t be messing with recipe. Only God’s open arms kept me from jumping into a pit that would have imprisoned me forever!

 Growing up in a big family, my dear, but at times misguided Mother would not allow us to go out to be with our friends or participate in extracurricular activities.  She didn’t keep us locked in the house because she wanted to spend some one on one time with us. She laid down the law because she just wanted assurance that everybody was within the sphere of her domain. Too many Christians believe that God operates in that manner also but they could not be more wrong. If God is calling you, it is genuinely because he desires your company and longs for you to seek his closeness. He has stories that he wants us to hear and songs that he longs to teach us to sing. He has challenges to inspire us and changes to transform us so that we become the classic editions of the people that he created us to be. Do you know how others can tell if our faith is fruitful or not? Who do we smell like? I pray we all give Cape May County a strong whiff of what hanging out with the Creator of the universe will do to us!        





I SURRENDER SOME?

20 09 2016

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What do we expect from somebody who is a part of The Lighthouse Church? I am not talking about visitors. If someone is visiting and if they’re in a spiritually seeking mode, our only hope is that we would be a place where one can safely learn and explore about faith and come to discover who God is. What I am addressing is that somebody who would call themselves a Christian and who has received God’s grace and who would say that they have put their trust in Jesus. What is our expectation as a church for that person?

 Is it that they attend worship periodically? Is it that they give some money when they are feeling generous? Is it that they serve every once in a while when it’s convenient? Is it that they would affirm the right doctrinal beliefs? Is it that they would live respectable lives in their community?  Is it that they would avoid the really scandalous sins? No, No, No, No and No! My prayer is that every individual who identifies themselves as a Disciple of Jesus would be wholeheartedly and totally committed to Jesus Christ. It is all about owning a deep devotion to loving and serving and honoring God, placing time, life, resources, relationships, choices, work, mind, and obedience at God’s unconditional disposal. Just so we’re all real clear about this, what’s our expectation for somebody who’s part of our church? It is being somebody who is in the process of making progress in being head over heels in love with Jesus and allowing their lives to shout about that connection.

 It’s a funny thing. I have never, ever heard a football coach ask his team to go out on the field and give it about 85 and a half percent. You can’t imagine him standing before the team and saying, “Now go out in the field and give it at least half of what you’ve got.”  I’ve never seen a boss at a great organization interview an employee and say, “We expect you to work about 4 of the 8 hours you are here each day.” I’ve never been to a wedding and heard a groom say to a bride, “With this ring I promise to be devoted and faithful to you almost all of the time.” But I’ve seen people go to church, sometimes for years and years, and they want to hear about grace, and how God loves them no matter what, and they want to get a little bit of relief from their overcommitted, overworked, and overstressed lives but they would really honestly rather avoid hearing a challenge that would call them to a closer walk with God.

 What does wholehearted devotion to God look like? It is constantly initiating servanthood. It doesn’t just follow the rules. It doesn’t just do what it has to do. It initiates. One day when David as a boy sees this Philistine giant taunting the people of God, David says, “God has been faithful to me as a shepherd boy. If a lion or a bear would come, God would protect me. I’ll take this guy on. I’ll risk my life for God.” David didn’t have to go toe to toe with the big bully but he couldn’t stomach somebody taking pot shots at his God and so he went to battle. David knocked the head right off the blabber mouth!

 One of the ways you can tell what your heart is really committed to is to ask yourself, “What are my dreams? What are the actions I freely initiate?” “Where’s my heart?” If you’re a follower of Jesus around church, I believe you will want to serve. You will serve inside the body of Christ. That’s part of what makes a church great when everybody says, “I want to help. I want to have something to contribute.” Then outside of that, in your daily life, at school, at work, at home, in the neighborhood or whatever, you also offer God your 24/7 to be his servant at his beck and call. Nothing is too much to do for a God who already died for you. Isn’t it the very least that we live for him?

 Wholehearted devotion to God is also passionately committed to worship. When was the last time you were so excited about what the Lord was doing that you danced before God with all your might? David danced as if he just didn’t care who was watching because his heart was fully dedicated to God. Sometimes people worship God but not with their whole hearts. This makes me scratch my head. There was a funeral, and the guy whose funeral it was, he used to kind of joke when he was alive that he was what is sometimes called a “CEO” church guy.” This stands for “Christmas and Easter Only.” He bragged that, “My body will darken the door of the church only two times a year.” And this stood true for many a year, except last year. He passed away in 2015.

And so because of his funeral, his body made an appearance at the church for a third time. Except this time, you can bet he wasn’t laughing!

 Everybody dies. Everybody ends up somewhere. If you claim to believe in God then he is very worthy of your devotion. He is more than deserving of your worship. Everybody worships. You may not worship God, but you are driven by something or someone. One of the ways to determine your object of affection is to ask, “What do I get most irritated about when it’s threatened in my life or when it’s absent from my life?” Is it an addiction, a substance, a success, a sexual gratification, money, popularity, control, or just your own comfort? I’ve known people who worship by sitting in a chair and watching television. If that were threatened in their lives, you would know the high level of attachment that has been formed in their soul around it. How about your cell phone? Is it the computer? Might it be social media?

 Let me say one last word about a wholehearted commitment to worship. Michal, who criticized David’s dancing, was the daughter of Saul. Her dad Saul did not dance before God with all his might. She grew up used to seeing halfhearted devotion. So I want to say this to parents. If you’re a parent, your wholehearted devotion to God means your kids will see your commitment to worship. I say this because sometimes there are parents who make sure their kids get dedicated or baptized when they’re young because that’s a family expectation. But then they get casual about the spiritual formation, Christian education, and well being of their children. That is not part of the equation. Full devotion means I commit myself to wholehearted worship of God. If I’m a parent, that means I get serious about my relationship with God.

 I’m telling you, if you claim to be a Christian, whatever your age or stage in life, and you’re not all in, then it is time to get off the dime, get serious, and start doing it. Make Jesus your first priority. When you think about doing it, that kind of energy will launch you into an adventure of total trust and devotion with God. I’m telling you, God is calling you to nothing less than total devotion of your all and all to him. One hundred percent commitment and that’s the real deal. It’s not a legalistic thing. It’s between you and God, but it’s nothing less than that. Follow Jesus and behave like he is your King. It is the only way to go!





“HEROES AND SELFIES!”

12 09 2016

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Brian Wilson once wrote a song that is featured on the classic Beach Boys album, “Pet Sounds.” The title of the tune is “I Wasn’t Made For These Times.” There is many a day that I believe that this would make an excellent theme song for me. I can’t tell you how many statements made by so called prominent Leaders have me shaking my head. I also marvel at the amount of attention that deeds done by marginal celebrities receive when it might be better off for the state of our entire Nation if they were just simply ignored. One such stunt that seems to be stealing headlines is the backup Quarterback of the San Francisco 49er’s, Colin Kaepernick’s, refusal to stand for the National Anthem before games because he believes that the United States is a country that oppresses black people and people of color. He says, “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

 Now one of the freedoms that make our Nation great is that Mr. Kaepernick has the right to say whatever he wants and not be faced with imprisonment or worse yet death for articulating his thoughts. What I have a beef with is that there are those within the Media who are labeling this man’s actions as heroic and courageous.  There is nothing very heroic about not standing for our National Anthem. I go to many a ballgame where individuals do not remove their hats, they talk incessantly through the ceremony and they display as much disrespect to our flag and country as they possibly can. They are allowed to do whatever they want to do but please spare me with the motion to move these spoiled millionaires to be considered for canonization. Real heroes are those men and women who actually put their lives on the line every day to protect these freedoms. Real champions are those who have sacrificed their very lives so that others of different color, creeds and crowds may live. Real bravery involves people who still love those who are filled with hatred towards them and real Believers continually caring for others who have no intention of ever being grateful or thankful for even one second of their time. These are the characteristics that should dominate headlines. These are the unsung citizens whose behavior deserves to be addressed and emulated in the media.

 Tolerance is a tricky topic in our culture. It appears that I will be tolerated as long as I stick with the politically correct party line but the minute I might break rank and dance to a different drummer is the moment that I am labeled a heretic and a hater. Honestly, I don’t hate anybody. I have been known to even form some friendships with Yankee Fans and worse yet, those who cheer for that football team from Dallas. Their outspoken cheering and faithful allegiances have no shot of weakening my love and passion for the Mets, Jets and Eagles. And I love Jesus. You get me, my faith comes with me. I will not check my beliefs at the door. What I have given my heart to definitely drives my behavior, and dictates my directions. It is funny when those who have never even given me the opportunity of having a simple conversation go on and on with their narrow minded ranting and prejudicial assessment confidently defining who I am and what I am for and how I bash that which I am against. If you don’t know me, you have no authority from which to speak from.

 I was in a local coffee shop a while back waiting in line when all of a sudden my ears perked up because the people in front of me were talking about Pastor Rudy and The Lighthouse Church. The one woman spouted out that she had heard that Pastor Rudy is not a real pastor and they don’t even use the Bible at the Lighthouse Church. The other woman shook her head in agreement saying that Pastor Rudy is very liberal and they just let anybody come into the church. It was too delicious a circumstance for me to not say something.

I interrupted and said, “I hear Pastor Rudy is a pretty good guy.” They almost simultaneously chimed together, “Do you know him?” I answered with a big smile on my face, “I am him!” That ended that conversation with a thud!

 I make no apology for being a Christian. I would be dead if it wasn’t for my relationship with Jesus. I would love for every person I meet to share my devotion for God and for one another. But I can’t force anyone to do anything. I can invite you to dinner but I can’t make you come and if you enter my house, I can’t make you eat. Still, don’t kill the messenger because you don’t like the message. There are thousands of Christians being beheaded each day because they will not denounce their faith! I call them heroes but they would probably deflect the attention and say they are just doing whatever a disciplined disciple would do. I would hope that if push ever got to shove and I would have to choose between the Lord and my earthly life, I would decide boldly to honor God until my last breath. It is that radical commitment that has made me who I am, whatever I am doing, wherever I may be doing it. I am pretty much the same guy whether I am Pastoring, Coaching, Disc Jockeying or composing this article. I would hope that you too would be consistent and not hypocritical when it comes to your actions and activity.

 There once was a song that Dave Mason sang in the 70’s entitled, “We Just Disagree.” I am afraid that in the not too distant future of our Country, it will be unlawful to disagree with the government. My heart aches over the fact that we are venturing too close as a Nation where we make faith illegal and God a curse word. This faulty philosophy will flourish under the umbrella of the separation of church and state but I’m not buying it. It won’t be Christianity that fuels this fire. Christians are those who are ingrained with the spiritual promise and presence to love God and love one another. Christians are the ones who will lay their lives down because they know that it was their very Savior who did the same for them. So don’t blame Believers when maybe the villains in the room are those who propagate the “Selfie” gospel and the every man for himself mentality. While I have life and breath, I will continue to dedicate each day to God and treat each 24 hours as the precious gift that it is. But don’t look to me to sanction self-centered behavior as heroic because it never was and it never will be. And if you aren’t willing to become part of the solution, then please don’t expect me to like your sanctimonious self-righteousness on Facebook or Twitter.

Greater love has no man or woman than an individual be willing to lay their lives down for their friends and their enemies. Because when you are truly ready to die, I believe you are finally free enough to live.         





MY LIGHTHOUSE WITH PASTOR RUDY

7 09 2016

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I always feel like this time of the year even more than January has a “New Years” feel to it. Another Summer has come and literally and figuratively blown by and now we are all adjusting to the back to work, back to school mentality. I have had my share of physical struggles the last few years but during these last few months, I have been blessed with a renewed hope that my best days are not all behind me. I can’t believe that any one of our lives actually peak in the middle. And even those of us who have had some wilderness moments that became months and years still need to trust God’s promise that when it is all said and done, we will reunite in the Garden of Paradise. Heaven is in store for all those who by grace through faith trust the Lord!

 So I am looking up even as I look down at my laptop to jot down this week’s article. While years ago, I actually believed that my best was produced by non stop adrenaline rushes and sporting a never ending calendar filled with a steady flow of constant activities, today I know better. Who would have guessed that more and more of my life and joy is experienced right here in my own backyard in Cape May County! Like Dorothy of Kansas, perhaps I too have realized that there genuinely is no place like home. The stuff that dreams are made of doesn’t mean that I must pack my bags and embark upon an endless pilgrimage of adventure found at the end of somebody else’s rainbow. My pot of gold may be no further than my own front door.

 I do know that way too many human beings treat life like they are always straining to get one step higher and one notch more important than they already are. They seek external answers to what can only be satisfied with an internal ingredient. So they work to get ahead while their hearts fall further behind. They invest the best moments of their time and talent not to God or their family, but to an audience that won’t even care to remember their name when all is said and done. Are you doing what you are doing where you are doing it with the ones you really want to do it with? Before you wake up one day surrounded by a pile of inanimate stuff that is unable to return the affection, are you ready to recalculate and make a few changes before your body becomes set in stone- for real? If this was your last September to be known for what you want to be remembered- would you be tempted to make a change or two? Perhaps it is not just the children that need to go back to school to learn life’s lessons. Maybe we could also use a refresher course so that we are not guilty of flittering away our precious moments in the classroom called “Life!”

 As I sifted through my own baggage of clutter that has clogged up any true passion being able to flow freely through my veins, I have realized that above everything else that God has allowed me to do, communicating with people stands head and shoulders above it all. I come alive when I preach and when I teach. I am energized by writing blogs and articles such as this one and perhaps this is the season to finally begin my book. I have also had a lifetime love affair with radio and that vehicle of connecting with crowds has always been a labor of ecstasy for me. I grew up being raised on the transistor and broadcasting is something that I could literally do in my sleep. As a matter of fact, my wife has woken me up many nights with a shake saying that I was talking and introducing records in my dreams. So this Fall, I know God is inviting me to step up my efforts through the three avenues that always leave me with a sense of purpose and peace. Preaching at The Lighthouse Church where I am beginning a new series of sermons based upon the Book of Judges entitled, “Messy People; Merciful God.” Writing for the Cape May County Herald, my Blog and soon my own book is another assignment that I believe is coming straight from heaven’s Headquarters. Finally, I am adding new opportunities for the radio as I will be broadcasting Monday through Friday from 3-4 PM and Sunday Mornings from 7-8AM on Praise FM 88.1 WJPG. I will be on the airwaves on LIFT FM 97.9 on Wednesday-Friday Evenings from 7-8PM and Sundays at High Noon! And I will be coasting through the greatest hits of all time on The Sunday Ride heard on 98.7 The Coast WCZT from 3-5PM.  I share this because even though much has occurred that attempted to rip down the sails of my schooner, I am back in the water ready to ride the waves of grace like never before. This is no time to give up but a new day to step up and notice that all of this will take place right here at home.

 Passports aren’t always necessary to see the sights. Plane Tickets are not required to fly like an eagle. Cape May County makes the perfect home base to shout from my rooftops about all that makes life wonderful and eternal. So what about you? I have shared about my Lighthouse; now it is your turn. What gets you out of bed every day? Who is receiving the prime rib cut of your time? Where are you going to do your best kind of living this Autumn? Share with me at pastorrudytlc@comcast.net and I will share with you right here, same paper, next week! Fasten your seat belts September; here we come!    





SLOTHS OR SPUNK?

30 08 2016

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I want you to read actual comments made by Park Visitors at the Bridger Wilderness Park in Wyoming.  These are the real deal taken right from the evaluation sheets filled out as the patrons were leaving the premises. They include the following complaints. “The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying creatures.” “A small deer came into my camp last night and stole my pickles. Is there any way I can get reimbursed?” “Escalators would sure help on the steep uphill sections.” “A McDonalds would be nice at the trailhead.” “The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.” And to top them all off is this absurd suggestion, “It would help if there were not so many rocks in the mountains.”

 The ancients had a word for the over domestication of mankind. They used the word: “Sloth!” But the term went way beyond just mere laziness. It also defined becoming bored easily and showing an aptitude to stay overly satisfied in routines that avoided opportunities to attempt new adventures. Apathetic listlessness actually sneaks in when you choose to lose the wonder of life itself! The original word was actually “acedia,” and it literally means to live with no purpose, to move without meaning and to endure without expectation. It chooses to buy fish at the Shop Rite rather than take your own pole to the waters! It prefers to play video games rather than get outside and exercise the body! It picks sitting in the warm lodge over challenging the black diamond! And unfortunately, it settles to live Christianity vicariously through others rather than getting out of the pew and following Jesus for themselves! It wants a vibrant faith at little cost, low commitment and lots of comfort!

 If we were to gather suggestions from most American Believers on how to improve the Christian Walk, we might hear things like: “Give us quick effective formulas for answered prayer.” “Entertain me so I can feel good about myself no matter what I’m doing.” “Give me a God who isn’t so demanding and lots more accommodating.” “Remove all risk and take away my hurts and brokenness.” “Eliminate all mentions of sin, hell and judgment.” “Give me a God who is content with my mediocrity.” When it comes to the transformation of our hearts, when we snooze, we lose! The result of our laziness and our inability to wake up are too many blank pages of a story that we refuse to give God the freedom and authority to write. Jesus wants his sweet soul music to be broadcast loud and clear through the airwaves of the spirit moving within us to get out way beyond us! It is time to get up, show up, look up, and reach up for the time to live is right now!

 It is not enough just to go to church and hear God if you have no intentions to report daily for devotional duty and pronounce, “Here God!” With everything you do, every action you take, every day could be your last and at any moment, it could all be over. Will you look back on your life and see a succession of sorrows, missteps and missed moments? Will you look back on your life with a sense of satisfaction and joy? If life matters, you have to give your life to mattering. Will your life culminate in rejoicing or regret? Will you live one of those journeys that chose to play it safe and ignored the Lord and in the end had nothing to say because you didn’t do what you were called to do? Why not go and make what God is saying about you, true? If you really want to receive it then you must put it into practice and live like you believe it.

 The greatest tragedy in today’s church is that there are many whom God has called with a mind to be involved in the mission, but they never step up and receive that mission to mind! It is time to keep your feet to the fire and your hand to the plow and make sure you understand that even when you are broken, it doesn’t mean you aren’t ready to still be God’s blessing! Just as bruised apples make the best pies, bruised and broken Believers make the best kind of fruit. Commit today and declare boldly, “I will not run. I will rise above. I will trust God’s will above my own desires. I will let truth free my soul from ties to past hurts. I will step into today’s destiny. And in the doing of this, I see His flicker of light; and a pulse of divine hope will beat steadily in my heart.”

 The Holy Spirit has a wonderful way of bringing comfort to the afflicted and afflicts those that might have become a tad too comfortable. It is time to stop cursing the darkness and become the lighted candle He called us to be. I have a core conviction that Christians should be the most passionate people on the planet! To be like Jesus is to be consumed with passion! The word “ENTHUSIASM” comes from two Greek words: “en” and “Theos,” which together means “In God!” The more we get into God, the more enthusiastic we become. The Church is not so much a zoo where we are called to survive in cages of climate controlled comfort; but it is a heavenly invitation to go out and live our call in the wild kingdom of God! I am inviting you to stop missing the show and go out and be the man or woman that God has called you to be!





ENCOURAGERS OF ONE ANOTHER!

22 08 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





“FRIENDS WE CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND!”

8 08 2016

friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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