CASUALLY LISTENING OR COMMITTED LIVING?

16 01 2019

god wants your heart!

Too many times, people try to limit a God who is absolutely limitless. They attempt to build a wall around a love that abounds beyond any man-made boundaries. When what we feel weighs more than what God said, we present a watered-down faith to a watching world. True Christian love is shown not only to believers, but toward all human beings regardless of their color, creed, crowd or credibility. It’s easy to love those you already like, but it’s extending that courtesy to those who don’t believe as we do or they that we might even consider our enemies. I can only imagine what would happen in our crazy culture today if the love of God was truly unleased to go where Heaven directs rather than only those places that earth determines.

   

If you read the New Testament carefully, you will learn that the early church actually believed that Jesus was going to return during their lifetimes. 2000 years ago, the Apostles Paul and John and Peter taught that they were living in the “last days.” If they thought that the second coming of Christ was imminent, how much more should we be acknowledging that today could be the day that the trumpet sounds. How might we live differently if we looked up rather than get weighed down? Our Lord’s return should be keeping us on our toes in the Christian life. Our proper posture should have us living on the edge of our seats! We need to be ready to rock and roll when the role is called up yonder.

 

Posture matters! Have you seen the commercial on television where the guy who is out on his first date with a well-dressed gal comes up small because he is adorned in a stretched-out t-shirt? When a young man meets a young woman that he wants to impress, he needs to stand up straight, get his shoulders back, tuck his gut in, make sure his clothes are washed and ironed, maintain eye contact and flash a sincere and genuine smile. The posture of proposal is for the man to get down on one knee. When he has messed up royally and needs to apologize, it’s show-up on two knees. I want to shout to today’s Believers, “Assume the Posture…” “Strike a Pose…” “Get in Ready Position!”

 

When I Coached Baseball, before every play, I would remind our defense to make sure that they got in the “Ready Position.” That meant the players would get that glove on the ground, and be on their toes ready and even hoping the Batter would hit the ball to them. Too often, I see Christians come to worship with almost the same fervor that they show when they want to take a nap. When you decide to engage your heart and it gets caught up in the experience of the moment, your body responds outwardly. When Christians decide to engage their hearts and they get caught up in experiencing the God of every moment, the Body of Christ responds outwardly in a manner that nobody can ignore.

 

If the Lord isn’t getting inward then you can bet that the Lord’s not flowing outward! Could that be why we aren’t making the impact that we should be having? Our Government right now is in a state of chaos. Both Republicans and Democrats are too busy playing egomaniac charades of “King of the Mountain.” Their stubborn pride has caused them to exhibit an amnesia that causes them to forget that they took an oath to serve the people and not their own selfish interests. Maybe you might expect the world to behave badly, but those who claim to have the Spirit of God alive within them should not be following suit!  Outward expression defines the inward reality. Don’t claim to be followers of Jesus if His footsteps go one way and ours go another! Your present posture in this place points to your personal priority in whether you are properly participating fully with the power being presented to you.

 

God wants all of us! We should plead with Jesus daily to captivate our hearts and reveal any sin that might be keeping us from seeing and savoring him with all we are. God wants our hearts, not just our fake smiles, arms raised or our knees bent. He wants more than just our shouts or our songs. He wants more than just our theological intellects. The enemy wants us paralyzed and compromised by what-ifs, opinions, accusations, and misunderstandings. Even Jesus prayed practically and yet powerfully that the definitive mark of those who say they know Him would be their unconditional love. A love that goes everywhere and grows with every step it takes.

 

In the New Testament, success of a church is gauged by how much people learn to love each other, forgive one another, listen to one another, support and pray for one another, and reach out to those in need around them. And that style of immense and intense concern wouldn’t be limited only to those in the clubhouse. I don’t care what you say, you cannot separate conduct from character and that’s why real Christianity needs to be all about consistency! Everyone needs to open up their hearts to allow Jesus to rescue them. Everyone needs to know that real faith grows up to maturity. If it isn’t going forwards, it goes backwards! Everyone needs to know that as part of the Family of God they have a divinely assigned position in God’s program. Is your character and conduct holy and blameless before God? If not, why not? We must Lead to and Lead on so that everyone Lights up this world! What shall we do? We need to be an encouragement and stand guard to guide all to make a stand!

 

God’s Word gives us an inside-out look at who and what we really are. But that only happens as we look at it intently, meditate or think regularly on it. We must interact with the Word on every aspect of our life. Read it every day. Read it chapter by chapter and topic by topic. Study God’s viewpoint regarding issues you are facing in your life. Read it with the attitude that says, “Lord, I give You permission to use what I read in Your Word to transform me into the image of Your Son. Reveal Yourself to me, and reveal myself as You see me.” Read the Word but also Live the Word you Read!

 

Forsake and resist the world’s overwhelming message that seeks to warp your mind. Don’t allow yourself to be squeezed into a conformity that robs you from real community with the Lord! Retrain your brain! Commit to believe and obey what it says, regardless of how you feel about it. Only then can you grow stronger in faith, love, and holiness. “Only then” needs to be right now! Believers need to lead the way out of the mess that we are in; but we do so not to draw attention to ourselves but to Jesus! Jesus, only Jesus!





THE WORD FOR 2019: ADONAI!

7 01 2019

adonai

The last several years, I have been encouraging our Church to pick a word that describes their hopes and dreams and what they long for God to do in the coming 365 days. Last year, we actually creatively wrote our words quite artistically upon Rocks and Stones that we laid outside under the Giant Cross on the front of our Lighthouse Building. It was an act of faith to dedicate our desires before the Lord and to be reminded to look up every time we looked down and saw our humble altar of Prayer Pebbles!

 

My word for 2018 was “Restore!” My expectation was for God to bring me back to the days when I was able to run hard and live free from so many physical and emotional obstacles standing in the way. Since Christmas 2006, I’ve battled anxiety, depression and some severe OCD issues because of the uncertainty of the happenings in my physical body. I have experienced a heart attack, a mini-stroke and constant paralyzing viral issues that have definitely taken its toll on my psyche! My faith is still intact; but its been shaken, rattled and rolled way more than I would have liked to seen. It has caused me to question God’s love and whether He has decided to hang me out to dry while the storms have had their way with me. It’s been a Boat in the middle of a Hurricane scenario. Here come the winds and the rain and there goes Rudy bopping and bouncing every which way but where Rudy wants to go! I believe that deep down, this is where my deepest issues lie.

 

As 2018 came to an end, I caught yet another viral infection in December and it made my favorite time of the year, Christmas, an uphill battle. I did all the Services I was supposed to do, but once again the rebellion of my immune system caused the anxiety and frustration to hit the heights at the Holiday. I finally went to Urgent Care the day after Christmas where I got the medical care that I should have received three weeks earlier. There is only one specific antibiotic that heals my issues and I received a major dose of it but just a little too late to salvage the Season. I felt robbed (my words) from the experiences and adventures that I longed to be a part of in December.

 

The disappointments of the Yuletide, caused me to look up to Heaven quite sarcastically and smirk, “Lord, maybe my word should have been “Rerun” and not “Restore” because I feel like I’m stuck in a déjà vu of disaster.” Last year was chock full of “Here We Go Again” moments. After a victorious Mission Trip to Quito, Ecuador in January, it went downhill fast. I didn’t make it to Hollywood when I was invited by Hallmark to be a part of the “Home and Family Show” promoting the “Signed Sealed Delivered” Movies. I also missed the Hallmark Channel’s “When Calls The Heart” Reunion Event in October, even though I got to Vancouver, British Colombia only to turn around and venture back home after running smack dab into a non-stop series of disastrous circumstances. How can this be “Restoration,” when all I sense is “Desperation” deep down in my soul.

 

But in the last 12 days, God has spoken rather loudly to me about the last 12 hard years. “Restore” might have been the right word but I was interpreting it my wrong way! Expectations on my part have dictated how I thought my prayers should be answered and when God didn’t do it according to the Plans of Rudy, I left myself wide open to the anxiety and discouragement that came rushing right in. The OCD issues are my futile attempt to pretend that I have control where I have not a clue of why things happen as they do. Because I’m still stuck in the pit, I assumed God let me down. My lack of progress resulted me to accuse God of being absent in the process and caused me to abandon my leaning totally upon His promise. God has already given us His word that He makes all things new. I just have to stop begging for Him to do it my way which does nothing more than get in the way of His will being done in Rudy as it is done in Heaven.

 

What if God can use my pain to sanctify my place in this world? If I can trust Him enough to just simply follow Him rather than make my feeble attempts to fix my brokenness, maybe I’d have a change of attitude in spite of being discovered in the same old latitude and longitude this side of Heaven. Everyday is my chance to dedicate my destiny to Him. There has to be less of me and more of Him if there is going to be any shot of me seeing the Son shine brightly in my world again.

 

My word this year takes the focus off of me and puts the emphasis on God. I need to magnify the Lord with every breath I take. Magnify doesn’t mean God gets bigger but that I see Him better! Rather than demanding that Jesus fix my location, I decide to just follow the Lord. In the Bible, the theological word for Lord is Adonai. My word is the Word of God Himself: “Adonai!” To address God as “Adonai” means I offer Him my absolute obedience. What He says, I do. Where He sends, I go. When He shares, I receive. Jesus never took the Name “Adonai” loosely. That is why He challenged His Followers by rebuking, “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and not do what I say.” Following God is not a democracy, it’s a Monarchy. There is only one King and it’s not me!

 

But with the Name Adonai comes a few beautiful benefits that God bestows upon the surrendered Believers. First, Adonai will always provide everything we need to accomplish everything that He calls us to do. If we don’t have it then we don’t need it. Because Adonai is my Shepherd, I may not get all the things I want but I will be delivered all the essential equipment necessary. Second, Adonai assures us that His Presence will always accompany us with every step we take and make in His direction. I’ve been chasing an improvement in my surroundings when I should have been content to just stick with the Savior.

 

The Walmart tissue box contained my first confirmation that “Adonai” is the right Word for 2019. As I opened a new box of kleenex, I saw the word “Everyday” loud and clear. I must let go the past and not be preoccupied with the future. Today is the day to come alive. I want to give my life away, but to even have a shot at this I must pursue my Lord, my Adonai, every single day until I finally see Him in person when I graduate to Glory.

 

So in 2019, I am not going to write any other goal for this year than to look for Jesus to be my daily vision statement. In fact, its not lowering my expectations but obliterating them altogether. I simply want to live.  Where the Lord is there is life everlasting. I plan to begin each day of 2019 adoring Adonai. I plan to pay all of my attention to Him rather than stressing about my measly details. My disappointments have been mostly self-inflicted. This side of Heaven, I will always be restless for perfection, but I can’t complete what only God can accomplish. No more reruns. Its time for real restoration and that is getting back to Jesus not only providing a word for my rock but being my Rock every day I’m still here. Happy New Year! What’s your word? Make sure you find it in His Word! That’s the only sure word!





SUPERMAN, JESUS AND US!

30 12 2018

Superman cross

Incarnation is a big theological word, and sadly, not a lot of Christians either use it, or know what it means. It does not refer to the same thing as the virgin birth, although Jesus entered this world by means of Mary giving birth to Him. Incarnation actually refers to the choices and the specific acts of a Pre-existent Divine Being, namely the Son of God, that the Son took and willingly made in order to become a human being. God literally locked himself inside the room of a limited human body. Miraculously, in a moment, Jesus became fully, truly human without ceasing at the same time to be fully, truly divine.

Divinity is not something Jesus acquired later in life, or even after his death and resurrection. According to the theology of Incarnation, Jesus had always been the Divine Son of God, and the Second Person of the Trinity. This was so, in eternity past, long before He became a human being. Strictly speaking, the name Jesus only applies to a human being. It is the name the Son of God acquired once he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Jesus is the Name above all names and He maintains it even to this day as he continues to be the God/Man.

We could continue to go down this track, but do so at your risk of getting a major headache. The finite can only go so far in attempting to comprehend the infinite. Without faith, it is impossible to please God because everyone who comes to the Lord must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We can actively look for the Lord without ever totally comprehending Him. Incarnation is not something that human beings can fully get their finite mental capacities wrapped around. Childlike faith involves processing the wonder of both miracle and mystery, and is frankly above our mental pay grade, even for the brightest amongst us.

That doesn’t mean however that we cannot at least for a moment stand in awe of the immensity of it all. God was so determined to save us from ourselves, He became the only One who wouldn’t mess it up by becoming one of us! Christmas tries to tell mankind that in the Presence of Jesus, we can discover the super power we lack. Forget the many faceted myriad of Marvel Comic Heroes; but when all is said and done, Jesus is the only true Super God left standing.

Did you know that Comic Book Icon, Superman was patterned after Jesus? Throughout the decades of Superman’s career, creators have drawn upon the Biblical narratives of Jesus and enveloped them into the mythology of Superman. Sometimes it happened intentionally and sometimes, perhaps, providentially. Either way, Superman has become a cultural road sign that can point people toward Jesus, like it or not.

Now, the number of parallels between Superman and Jesus are far too numerous to cover in one article; but I would like for you to consider the following pieces of evidence. Most of you know the story. Once, long ago, a rocket ship launched from the doomed planet Krypton and dove out of the sky landing on the humble property of Jonathan and Martha Kent. With mingled fascination and fear, they climb out of their Ford pickup truck to discover the ship’s tiny infant occupant.

Superman’s Kryptonian father’s name was Jor-El. El from the Hebrew from whence we get the title Elohim which is one of the Hebrew Names for God. This is not a coincidence since Superman was created by two young Jewish boys from Ohio. It was from Superman’s Kryptonian father that he would receive “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.” Yet he was raised as a step-son by Jonathan and Martha Kent who would adopt him and instill in him the ways of humanity. Scooping him up in her arms, Martha (who was originally named Mary in the comics) and Jonathan (whose middle name is Joseph) named their adopted son Clark Kent and raised him in a small town in the middle of nowhere where he would learn to work with his hands on his father’s farm. His father, Jonathan, would die while Clark was a teenager and it wouldn’t be until he was around thirty years old that Clark would make his first public appearance as Superman. This dual-identity (Clark Kent/Superman) has become an essential element in Superman mythology. I mean, who can forget the famous line from the George Reeves’ television series, right? “Superman…disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”

No matter what role he might be in at any given time, this much is true. Clark Kent is Superman as much as Superman is Clark Kent. The two are really inseparable. He is fully Superman and fully Clark Kent. Does all that sound familiar? It should. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is just as human as he is Divine, and just as Divine as he is human. Jesus is fully God and fully man. Even though the Son of God was sent from Heaven above, He was still raised here on earth in a small town in the middle of nowhere where he would learn to work with his hands in his father’s workshop. And just as with Superman, both sides of Jesus’ dual-identify are essential to his nature.

Jesus’ humanity is important, because it sets him apart from the ancient gods of Greek and Roman mythology who sat up on Mount Olympus playing dirty tricks on the ignorant humans down below. Jesus isn’t like the gods of Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism who have never experienced humanity. Jesus’ dual nature reveals one inconceivable reality and that is God loved us enough to become one of us.

Yet in becoming one of us, He displayed for us what an act of love it really ultimately was. And while I could list the innumerable amount of works that Jesus did do, I also believe that Jesus displayed an incredible amount of force shown by what He didn’t do! One of God’s attributes is Omniscience which means that God is all Knowing. Another is Omnipotence revealing that God is all Powerful. Finally, the big three is rounded out with Omnipresence which defines God as being Present Everywhere at the Same Time. Humans have none of these powers, though I have known a few egomaniacs who thought they knew it all or had it all!

What does it mean though for the Son to put all of that on hold, so to speak, to not draw on His omni-competencies? It means that while Jesus had a God button, and He could have pushed it when he got in a difficult situation, He refused to do so because it would have meant the end of his living a truly human life with all its inherent limitations. Jesus could have called 10,000 Angels. Jesus could have wiped out the bad guys with a single Word! Jesus could have disintegrated the devil with just one look. But He didn’t! Jesus willingly submitted Himself to obey His Father’s plan! In that one act of surrender; Jesus modeled for us all that real power is strength under control! Jesus sacrificed jumping over tall buildings in a single leap and running faster than a speeding bullet so that He could undertake His most courageous and loving act. God so loved the world that Jesus laid down His life so that we by believing in Him could be rescued from our own stubbornness.

God could have the power to change your circumstances in a moment, but that is not the way we grow up. We don’t learn by getting automatic A’s. We don’t gain endurance by sleeping in. We actually become more powerful by surrendering our will to God’s leadership If you want the power of God in your New Year, then you must allow the Presence of Jesus to be your definitive Guiding Light.

Things are not always what they seem. Have you ever stopped to think about what Jesus would look like if He were to walk into this room? I don’t think God left us enough clues to know what Jesus looked like physically, because that wasn’t the important thing. But Heaven did reveal to us exactly the right amount of information about His character, and His values, and His virtues, and His attitudes. These are the things He wanted us to inherit, to imitate, and to develop. Jesus’ character was one of power and strength. Yet our Lord took on the role of a Servant.

As Believers, we share in His power. He has placed that power, His authority, in you. On our own, we degenerate into wavering, unsure, unstable, fickle and indecisive people. Or worse yet, we think our glory is in our own shame. Far too many people misplace their source of identity in possessions, charm, skill, intellect or another passing fancy. Our legacy won’t be what we write or what we own or what we leave to our kids or what we say with our tongues. Our legacy will be determined by what we choose to do with the power of God which is available to work in us and through us. There is a huge need for Men and Women to step up their game in the days to come. I think the secret weapon is that we must decrease so the Lord can increase and, in the end, God can accomplish what would never occur without Him. Is it time to answer the call? 





IN THE PRESENCE OF PEACE

27 12 2018

Peace

Peace. It is a word often associated with Christmas. The message of the Angel to the Shepherds on that first Christmas Eve was, “Peace on Earth and Good News for All Mankind.” For years, we have been waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. If our search includes finding a time when people are not in conflict with other human beings, we will come up empty. Has there ever even been a few minutes on this Planet where there has been no hint of an argument between brothers and sisters?

Our Country is in the midst of severe division. Partisanship has become downright ugly. There is constant name calling and hateful accusations flowing non-stop in the good old USA today. Who is wrong and who is right? Who is tolerant and who is prejudiced to a fault? Being politically correct has reduced good men and women to doing ridiculous things in their attempts to provide that “peace on earth” we are all still looking for. In my humble opinion, when a nation loses its faith, it also begins to lose its mind. Without Heavenly guidance, we have the tendency to get lost here on Earth. We even begin to pick and choose who gets to experience the “Peace” and which “Groups” get to be in on the “Good News.”  If you go back to the original message, it said quite clearly that the ‘Peace” and the “Good News” was for everyone.

Every tongue, every tribe, every color and every background will be represented in Glory. We will not be divided in the Kingdom of God by Denominations. Once we cross over from death to life, we will no longer wear the labels of Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, American, Black, White, Red or Yellow and so on! There will be no political parties in the place where Jesus reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords! The Scripture tells us that one day, every knee will bow and every mouth will confess that only Jesus deserves to be the Master of the castle! If it is going to happen then; why should we wait now? Is there an advantage in having God’s will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven? Yes!

Peace on Earth and Good News for all! Maybe we have confused our definition of what kind of “peace” was promised to the Shepherds on behalf of all of us. Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is not a place where everyone is all getting along around the campfire singing Kumbaya and snacking on smores! Ever since Adam and Eve chose poorly to eat from the “Tree of the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” there has been enmity between God and man and male and female. Even when we are being more nice than naughty, there is still the sense of selfishness waiting in the wings. Peace is never going to be an outside/in effort. If we are waiting for that moment when everything is sunshine, lollipops and roses all around us to have peace; we are going to be left in want. Maybe the promise made by the Herald Angel can be followed through upon if we make a paradigm shift in our brain and heart!

Jesus was God’s gift to mankind for our salvation. Jesus is still for all people. Jesus is the only option. Not just locally, but for all of us. Believing in Jesus will be massively controversial. Nobody wants to be told that there is only one way. Yet if the building you are standing in is on fire and there is only one exit to safety, do you stand and argue about there not being more options. I’ll be out on the street thanking God that He even provided one escape hatch in the first place.

Christmas Peace is the same Peace we can have today because Peace is not tasted personally when there are no more wars to soldier in, but Peace is celebrated internally when any one of us accepts the fact that we make lousy Rulers and the only One worthy to run this show is a Person named Jesus! Because of Jesus on the inside in my heart, I can have true joy and hope and certainty no matter what is happening on the outside. All Hell can break lose circumstantially but Heaven is protecting me in spite of where I am planted; no matter what times and days that I may be living in. Because I have Jesus, I have Peace with God which gives me the Peace of God no matter what occurs in the faces and places around me. And because I have Jesus in my heart, I can be free to love others no matter what their backgrounds, labels, flavors or behavior. God didn’t come because of our behavior. He came because He knew we would always have chaos without Him.

In Luke 2:14, we read “Peace on Earth…” That night in Bethlehem, for the very first time since the Garden of Eden, there was true Peace on Earth. His Name was Jesus! The moment Jesus came down the birth canal, the moment Mary laid Him in a manger, there was Peace on Earth. Jesus is Peace. Peace is not the absence of war; Peace is the Presence of the One we choose to worship. Don’t expect the presents under the tree to do the job. Many of you will exchange those before they even hardly get unwrapped! Peace is knowing personally the Birthday Boy. True Peace is having a real relationship with Jesus. And unlike the first Christmas where many only held Jesus in their arms; we hold Jesus in our hearts and that is something to shout about! Wherever Jesus is, there is Peace on Earth for all men and women! Merry Christmas!!!





CHRISTMAS PRESENCE AND HOME…

21 12 2018

Make room

 

There is no place like home and this is the time of the year that we romanticize that thought to almost unhealthy proportions. We set up expectations of what the perfect Christmas should look like to such the extent that the only way to pull it off is to make it a Hallmark Movie. Real life doesn’t allow for such luxuries. There are too many real people who can’t help but do too many selfish things in spite of how much they want to have themselves a Merry Little Christmas! This side of Heaven is no place to do anything more than dream of that prolific home where all goes right.

 Still, in spite of all the disappointments, we are all longing for home. God actually created us with a yearning for eternity, built right into our DNA. This is why we are restless for something more than what we see. Our problem is that we try to fill the hole in our soul with presents when what will really do the trick is opening your spirit wide to God’s Presence. Ever since Adam and Eve blundered in the Garden of Eden, we have been attempting to navigate our way back there. Mankind must understand that human maps don’t lead to the Lord’s treasure. People have got to look up before they have any shot of populating Paradise. Earth can’t supply what it doesn’t have to give.

 If Home is not safe, then the shape you’ll be in is not the shape God meant for you to be in! God designed home to be a safe place. Home should not include abuse, rejection, dysfunction and despair. Home should be a place where you belong. A place where you can take your shoes off and not worry about the reaction. Home is what you don’t have to earn by your good works and endless efforts. In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father waited nightly hoping to see his wayward Child making his way back up the driveway. When it actually happened, the Father ran to his Son, took him in his arms and celebrated him even though he hadn’t yet done anything right. Home is not belonging out of obligation, because it’s a place of grace. There was no way any of us could buy our way in. This is why Jesus paid the price that He did so that God’s backyard wouldn’t be eternally empty and quiet. The Father didn’t make us to live so far from Him. This World may not be the best place to hang our hat, but it is a tailor made to discover the God we all need.

Do you ever notice that on our calendar, Christmas follows the Fall? Eden wasn’t an optical illusion. The Garden wasn’t a mirage. We all long to return to Paradise and a perfect Heaven does exist. It just can’t be reached with even the most technologically advanced GPS! This Christmas, the Lord longs for the hearts of Parents to be turned towards their Children and the hearts of Children to become warmed towards their Mothers and Fathers. This Christmas, Jesus wants us to discover the gifts that we already possess in our connection with one another. Husbands to court their wives all over again. Grandparents who invest their stories into their grandchildren. Humanity receiving what they need vertically so that they actually have something of real value to offer horizontally. Home is where God is and if God is in you, then you carry that safe and secure place around inside of you even if you have no geographical place on earth to lay your head.

Isn’t it ironic that God didn’t make it that easy for Joseph and Mary to give birth to Baby Jesus? Joseph and Mary actually would have had more support in Nazareth than in Bethlehem and yet He still sent them on that wild ride. Jesus was born in a pile of manure! Do you think God was trying to make a point by modeling for us that Home isn’t a street address as much as it is having your name known in Heaven? Jesus didn’t even own a P.O. Box and yet He never was lost. Jesus showed us that the only way to truly be homeless was to be estranged from the Father you were meant to be with.

Listen carefully to some of the final words that Jesus shared with His Disciples when He lived here among us. The Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus is actually talking the language of a Groom who is about to be married. In Jesus’ Day, Families lived in a caring community called an “insula.” In an insula, there would be a courtyard which was a large open area where there might be animals and places for a cooking fire and then the dwelling places. These were the very rooms where each individual family would actually live. These rooms were built all around the insula. Home would be the dwelling of multiple generations of people.

Marriages in Jesus’ Day were arranged by the Father of the Family. The Bride was referred to as “She who was bought at a price.” The Church, who is described as the Bride in the New Testament, was also defined as “bought with a price.” The dowry paid was the blood of Jesus shed upon the Cross to purchase our freedom. When the couple got engaged, they would not go “house hunting.” Realtors would go out of business back in Nazareth. The Father of the Family would just go about adding another room to the insula! This meant that Groom and the Bride couldn’t set a Wedding Date. Even though they would be legally betrothed, the consummation couldn’t occur until the room was ready! This put pressure on the Bride to be ready when the Groom was free to come. If she was preoccupied with other lovers; she could miss out on the relationship that she was created for. The Bible tells us that our Rooms are being prepared in Heaven and when they are ready, Jesus will come back to get His Bride. Will we be ready and waiting when Jesus comes back to get us?

I want to share one more nugget before I am done. When the time for the Wedding came, the Father would say to his Son, “Go and get your Bride!” The Groom would immediately assemble the victory parade and the shofar would be blown to alert that the time for the Wedding had come. The trumpet will one day sound when Jesus returns. Will that be a sound of joy or a time of terror? What we do with the Presence of Jesus determines our forever. We were not created to settle for a home in the brokenness! There is no place like Home for the Holidays but there is no Home for the Holidays without the Lord. You can be home for Christmas and it must be much more than only in your dreams. God is inviting you to come home where you belong. Are you so busy trying to find your joy in presents that you will miss the proper Presence of Christmas! Make room in your heart for Him. He has already made room in His Home for you!

 

 

 

 





HAPPY ANNIVERSARY WITH A TWIST!

13 12 2018

danicing in the RainWhat a year this has been. What a crazy adventure life has become. There always seems to be something happening that complicates matters. I never expect anything to be easy. Nothing ever is. Actually, the older I get; the harder the challenges have become. It would be so easy to just wave the white flag of surrender and discover a bunker to hide in until I graduate to Glory. But my faith keeps me fighting. The truth of Scripture trumps the lies that want to pronounce me dead prematurely. Life isn’t fair but God has given me His promise that He will make something miraculous out of the mess. I must look up rather than give up and when my circumstances want to play taps, I must choose to tap dance!

 

Terri and I celebrated our 36th Wedding Anniversary last week. It was actually on December 4th but we hosted a Christmas Dinner for the Lighthouse Leadership knowing we would have our date come the weekend. We were being treated to a dinner at an Italian Restaurant in West Cape May via the kindness of a church member. Reservations were made and off we were to celebrate our wonderful yet never a dull moment union that we have experienced together. Nothing could go spoil this date, could it? Of course, it could!

 

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be early. This was one of those instances it might have been better to be late. Because our reservations weren’t until 5:30, we had a little time to kill. We stopped at TJ Maxx along the way and actually bought some more Shiny Brite ornaments for my antique Silver Christmas Tree. We got back in the car and began to drive down Route 9 when a look of horror was seen upon Terri’s face. I asked her immediately, “What’s wrong?” She shared, “I lost the gift certificate. I had put it on my lap but forgot about it when I got out of the car at TJ Maxx. It could be anywhere.”

I turned the car around and we proceeded back to the TJ Maxx parking lot where we began our frantic search. We retraced our steps through the store. There we were out on our hands and knees, looking under cars to see if the gift certificate could be found. In a Hallmark Movie, we would have recouped our loss and went on to the romantic dinner that we had hoped for all week. But in real life, it was nowhere to be found. Not only did we lose the gift certificate, but the $40 that Terri had attached to it to that she was going to give to me later.

 

A younger me might have gotten upset. A younger me might have even lost my temper. I saw the tears falling down my wife’s face and I knew that there was nothing we could do to change the past. I suggested that we still go out to eat but on a lighter budget, we ended up at the Court House Diner. We were still married 36 years. We were still alive and breathing and together. We were still the parents of four wonderful children and the grandparents of four more. We were still loved by God and still going to Heaven. We just were forced to adjust the load on the road of the wild and crazy ride of life. No, it didn’t go like we planned. I am just grateful that it wasn’t the total loss that it could have easily become.

 

I don’t know what you are going through these days. I am sure that you have all had your fair share of disappointments. While having expectations are quite normal, we must make sure that when life goes out of our control, we don’t spiral into a chaotic state with it. Let me quickly suggest 3 principles to hold on to when your agenda blows up in your face.

 

First, we must learn to laugh and keep our sense of humor no matter what cards life deals us. The anniversary twist was our opportunity to shuffle through another fine mess life wanted to throw at us. When you want to cry, try to find a reason to laugh. Terri and I can honestly attest to the fact that our marriage has been far from boring and what could have been a disaster makes another great story.

 

Second, we must not allow the outside circumstances to alter our inside character. Life must be lived from the inside out and not visa-versa. Who we are and our truest identity shouldn’t be up for grabs because of where we are or what might be taking place all around us. We must be thermostats and set the temperature rather than acting like thermometers that change with the climate of our surrounding environment. Things will go wrong but we can still be right. Love is not determined by the events. Love is what makes any event something positive.

 

Finally, we must understand that everything this side of heaven is temporary. I have come to learn how to enjoy the magical moments and endure the nightmares. I have understood that no matter what I do, some days will be downers and rather than pretend and fake it, I have learned how to ride that stretch of highway knowing that soon the scenery will change. There are seasons of smiles and times of tears and both are key components of life on earth. This too will pass and when it is all said and done, God has promised us that the best is still yet to come. I don’t get too used to the highs or the lows but have accepted that both are instruments in the hands of God in fashioning us as the masterpieces He has pronounced us to be.

 

Nope, we never found that gift certificate. I don’t expect us to. But we have found the foundation of love and that is the commitment that we have for one another. God has our backs even when we don’t like or comprehend what is in front of us. I can either opt out and become a wallflower or I can learn to dance the twist. Last week it was the anniversary twist. Who knows what this week will call for. All I do know that when all is said and done, there will be lots more in store! God has given us His word on that and as far as I’m concerned, that is what will define me!      





THE PRESENCE OF CHRISTMAS

4 12 2018

Christmas2018-onlineMy heart for every person who lives in Cape May County this December is that all would willingly come to the table and experience fully the power of the Christmas Present of Presence. The promise of God as far back as the Book of Isaiah was that the virgin would conceive and bring forth a child and that the Holy and Anointed One’s name would be Immanuel. God wanted to be with us. He wasn’t afraid to show up and allow us to get close to Him.

It’s funny about human leaders. They like to keep the people at a distance for fear that if you get too close, you will recognize all of their faults and the imperfections that can’t be hidden forever. When Jesus came from Heaven to Earth that first Christmas, His whole ministry began in a manure pile. Jesus had nothing to hide and nothing to prove and everyone who ever had contact with Him knew that He was like no other that they had ever encountered. Jesus came and the closer you got to Him, the more you wanted. The more vulnerable you became, the more you felt not rejected, but finally loved like love should be. This is the story of my own testimony. When I opened my heart to Jesus and recognized that I needed His strength; I got to see more of God’s power. When I recognized that I needed His wisdom; I was finally open to God to discover His guidance. When I recognized that I had sinned over and over again and I needed His forgiveness; I finally knew what mercy and grace were all about. On my own, I was all alone and I ran to God to know His love for me. This is why the celebration of Christ has become a daily exercise of mine. It’s not about a day in December as much as it is about finally finding the music that could provide the appropriate soundtrack of my life. This is why that no matter how hard and ugly life gets, I keep on singing. Nothing has stopped me from singing!

Music is always associated with Christmas. Music goes all the way back to the very first Christmas. Something about discovering the real meaning of Christmas makes the heart sing. Every year I pray that God will show me something new about the Christmas Story. Every year, He never lets me down. This past week I learned that when Jesus was born, there was a custom in Israel at that time that when there was a birth and the birth was safe because in that day, as still is the case in much of the middle East today, births were a really dangerous thing, there would be music if the baby was born and the baby and the mom were safe and if the baby was a boy. You knew that a baby boy had come into the community when you’d pass by and hear music resonating from the home.

When Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem for the census, he was going home. Joseph had lots of family in his home town. When the Bible says that there was no room in the inn, we are not talking the Hilton. No room in the inn meant that Joe’s Family had shut him out because he chose to do the despicable and marry Mary when everyone knew that Mary was carrying a baby that didn’t belong to Joseph. Joseph and Mary were bad news and not welcomed. It is quite ironic that by obeying God, this amazing couple literally were shunned by the religious congregation and abandoned by their own flesh and blood. There would be no earthly musicians available to celebrate the birth of Jesus, because righteous people don’t sing songs of celebration for illegitimate children.

But God had made other arrangements and there was miraculous music provided on that first Christmas! When earth shut down, the Heavens opened up and a host of angels so large that nobody could properly count them provided the symphony for the Savior born for all of us. This Concert wasn’t held for the high and mighty, but for the lowly Shepherds who were available to pay attention to the song that would change history forever. The Shepherds were invited to the Birth of Royalty and they showed up and couldn’t be shut up after seeing and hearing a miraculous melody that this planet could never provide.

I hurt for those who have no song to sing this Season. It’s hard to make great music out of nothingness. What good is the Winter Solstice and the promise of longer days if it just means more hours of pain and despair? There are no 24 Hour “Nothing but Dirges” Radio Stations. Why doesn’t atheism or skepticism or agnosticism or humanism or sarcasm result in more great music and more unforgettable songs to sing? If you remove the soul of Christmas, you also will lose your mind. Imagine hearing songs like the following:  “Joy to The World. We’re All going To Die! And There’s no Hope at All!” Can you imagine singing this one to your Kids on Christmas Eve? “Away in a Manger A Baby Lies There… But You’ll be a Corpse Soon, so Why Should I Care? When You Are Quite Dead Dear, You Won’t Make A Peep. So, Shut Up Your Crying, and Let Mommy Sleep.” Lyrics like this are awful. If you long to remove the Light of the World from your Holiday Festivities, all I can say is, “Be careful what you wish for.” There is not enough meaning to just eat, drink and be selfish. In acknowledging the Birth of Jesus, I’m reminded again of the reality that there is this great God, and I get to praise Him, worship Him, know Him and forever be with Him. If there’s not something bigger than you and I, then God help me! God help us!

Here is my challenge! Between now and Christmas, over the next couple of weeks, I want to invite you to commit yourself to practice the presence of Christmas. Christmas literally means the celebration of Christ! It is magnifying Jesus! Rather than looking for the meaning of life under the tree, fix your gaze intently upon the One who died on the tree for you and me. Every time you think about Jesus in December, celebrate the difference that Jesus has made. When you see a nativity scene, when you hear a Christmas carol or see a Christmas tree or Christmas lights or hear the Christmas story, please stop what you are doing and make a conscience decision to concentrate on Jesus with your whole self. People can pretend all they want, but there is no denying that nobody has ever changed the course of history like Jesus. Even better, if you will open up your heart to Him, Jesus will change your story and make it a never-ending adventure. If you practice the presence of Christmas, I guarantee that your whole being will show it!