CLIQUES AND THINGS!

3 03 2021

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

And we thought the problem of cliques was only something that teenagers battled.

Do you remember when back in High School, there were so many different groups to identify with and find your niche within? The Jocks were the athletes who always wore the uniform of the season in classes every Friday. The Brains were those who never saw anything but “A’s” on the top of their exams and had been weaned towards Princeton from birth. The Bandies were those who played the instruments and excelled in marching on the football field at halftime. The Burnouts were those who were known for their art of smoking in the bathrooms and getting away with it. The Preps were those who donned designer clothing that cost more than all of my outfits put together. The Audio-Visual Crew were those who always got to run the projectors and slide shows and came to the rescue in a moment’s notice if ever there was a glitch on the screen. The Nerds were those who only fit in with each other, but they never seemed to mind. And I’m sure that we could break it down even further if we wanted to, but I’d rather not. I was not a big fan of cliques back then and I’m even more down on it today than I ever was.

Maybe it is because I was a non-conformist who didn’t want to be labeled and hemmed in to any one cluster. I loved sports and was quite good, especially at baseball. I also loved to play piano and sing and was confident enough that if Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Elton John were cool and made hit records, so could I. I was a performer and liked to be in plays. My performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol back at Black River Middle School in Chester, NJ was the stuff that dreams were made of. I was a pretty good student who got enough B’s to keep me humble and when it came to my clothes, I was happy to just wear a shirt and pants. I chose a long time to not drink and smoke because I saw enough tragedy in my own family history of alcoholism to make me run the other way and when it came to trying to be cool, I knew that God had created me with nothing resembling James Dean in my body. Jerry Lewis yes, but a trend setter, not a chance! All in all, I liked to roam from crowd to crowd hoping to get to know as many people as possible. I could pop in just about anywhere with anyone at any given time.

Imagine me, now a Pastor, who still works with people of all ages and all backgrounds in all kinds of contexts. The deadly part of any community is when some insecure self-appointed Leader announces that his or her gang of followers are superior to all others and become every exclusive over inclusive. When a goal of a gathering is to keep people out rather than inviting those around us in, the red flags of “Proceed with Caution,” fly right smack in my eyes. What is it about so called Christians that want to shut God’s created people out rather than invite them into the Heavenly Banquet Hall? I am so sick and tired of manmade standards, that, in reality, I literally have no time to even argue with at this point of my journey. Someone is not rich enough, or smart enough, or tall enough or good enough. There is the right color and the wrong color, the right race and the wrong genes, the chosen neighborhood to be residing in and the over the tracks shacks that should be banished forever. God made it clear that “whosoever will” may come. Thank you, Jesus, that we can enter just as we are, or I would have been left at the landing when the Gospel Train came rolling by. Jesus said that the greatest of these would be happy to be nobodies and the mighty would be the least and the servants would have the most joy in the Kingdom of God.

Personally, I like getting to know people who are different than me. And speaking of different, I recently took the My Heritage DNA Test and discovered that I am nothing like who I thought I was. I’m actually 15% North African Jewish! I love that! It made me want to dance in the streets! I’m even 11% Scandinavian and I can tell you that this wasn’t even on my radar! But ultimately, what makes me who I am is the fact that Jesus loves me and He rescued me when I was in grave danger of throwing God’s gift away because I never believed I measured up. I was using the wrong guidelines. Why would you place your validity in the hands of men when they can’t even get their own stories right? God so loved us that He sent Jesus to redeem us out of the playground of humanity to enter the family room of eternity.

Knock it off with the cliques. Yes, I am a Mets Fan, but I can tell you that there are Philly Fans within my family and my adoration for them has not dropped an iota. Come on, variety is the spice of life. We are not all the same flavor with the same ingredients. Taste and see that the Lord is good, and His people are as colorful as a huge box of Crayola Crayons. Remember, the big one that came with the crayon sharpener? My favorite color is orange! How about you? I like peanut butter better than chocolate! How about you? I like snow! How about you? I listen to my music loud and I will yell out, “I love you!” across the parking lot! How about you? Let’s look for the magic rather than the minutia and let’s make our circle so big, it always has a place to enter!   





NO SUCH THING AS NORMAL!

23 02 2021
Reviews For The Podcast "No Such Thing as Normal" Curated From iTunes

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY FEB 24 2021

I have to admit that life has turned out to be lots harder than I ever dreamed it would be. I knew there would be challenges along the way. I guess I never thought they would be lined up to battle me one right after another. Just when I think that a season if sunshine might be in store, here comes those storm clouds again. Thunder and lightning have become intricate parts of the soundtrack of my days. And let’s face facts, I think that maybe Eeyore was on to something. I have always longed to be Tigger, carelessly bouncing my way through my adventure, looking to hit even higher heights with each launch. But then some unexpected trial or tribulation comes rushing towards me and I find nowhere to run nor hide. Before you know it, in the end that guided missile has hit me once again. If you have your theology mixed up, one might conclude that God doesn’t even like me, never mind love me. But that is not the way it goes.

There are times when it is easier to count those bomb blasts rather than behold the Lord’s many blessings. I don’t even like me when I start to whine and complain. I look at my family and my flock and I know that God has been doubly good to me. I look in the eyes of my grandchildren and there is no way to properly account for the surge of joy that soars through my soul. My children are all following the Lord and living lives that are making eternal impacts to all those around them. My youngest Son Joel is about to graduate high school and begin preparing for his life mission at Taylor University in Indiana. And I have been married to the kindest and most giving woman I ever met going on 39 years. I deserve none of these divine delights. I rejoice in the salvation God has given me, but let me make it clear, I have never forgotten how selfish and sinful my old self was. Can we all just agree that following Jesus is not so much a one time happening as it is a lifetime path of process to make progress? Let’s give each other more slack than we normally do. We are all under construction and nobody has reached their pristine classic edition yet!

There are days I want to sing of God’s love forever. There are days I want to get the heck out of here. There are moments that I understand who I am and love the call that God has placed on me. There are other times when I want to scream at the top of my lungs and be set free from the skin I am stuck in. Paul said it best when he confessed that he had his moments when he wanted to be raptured immediately into the presence of Jesus and other days when he knew that being here on earth was exactly the position God assigned him to. So I don’t think that it is that unusual to be singing the blues of this place while busting out verses of glory in your next breath! We aren’t schizophrenic as much as we are in transition between life here and eternal life with God. And they told me that hot flashes from the hormone shot would be shocking!

One day Jesus will call my name and I’m not lying when I tell you that He won’t have to call me twice. But I am not quitting until I get wind of the fat angel singing. The one lesson that I have already learned through this latest cancer chapter is that there is no one size fits all for everyone. There really is no such thing as normal! The definition of the word itself should disqualify it from our vocabulary. It means: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. None of those words are endearing to a Believer. Romans 12 tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the Spirit as He renews our hearts and minds. When we allow that kind of movement within our souls, there is nothing usual or typical about that at all! Every face tells a story. Every day is a gift. Every step is a potential miracle. And if there is anything I know about Christianity, it is that there is nothing you can expect to happen that God can’t, at any time, at His discretion, literally interrupt your program with something that blows away all of our illusions and gives us a glimpse of how awesome and beyond magnificent He truly is!

Mets announcer Bob Murphy used to tell us Fans to fasten our seatbelts when the game was coming down to the last crucial 3 outs! God never promised me a nice easy ride with no turbulence or dips and dives. Why are we always so addicted to comfort when what we really need to be sure of is His company. When my face turns green from the whirling and whipping, and it looks like I’m about to lose it all, there He is just as He promised, right there in the seat next to me. Jesus promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us and that is true in the MRI as it is on the GWB! (You need to be a north Jersey kid to understand that last reference!) So away we go. I don’t know always know where or when or why or what, but I do know the Who! Will I ever throw out my agenda and just surrender to His activity? I know He won’t give up on me and there is no way I am giving up on Him-so ready or not- we continue to ride! The ride of life is so much more than any man or woman could script. The Holy Spirit holds the pen- and the paper-and me-all at the same time!





HOW FAR WILL YOUR FAITH GO?

16 02 2021
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SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

Christianity will never mean what it should until you fall in love with Jesus. Religion is too dependent upon mankind’s many futile attempts to reach God. No matter how hard we try, the journey is impossible to complete because of the sin we human beings find ourselves stuck in. The best we can do is temporarily cover it up. We need divine intervention to gain the necessary attention that will alter our eternal destiny. I don’t want to spray deodorant on my dirty clothes, I want a brand-new wardrobe. I am tired of playing hide and seek with Heaven. I want to come out of the dark so I can live in the light with confidence and hope.

Unfortunately, too many church people define their faith based upon all the don’ts and not enough do’s. I remember hearing the long list given to me by well meaning Believers who wanted to keep me out of trouble. “Don’t listen to the radio, don’t dance, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t swear, don’t kiss, don’t play cards, don’t watch movies and so on and so forth.” I got so frustrated by hearing what I could not do, I was antsy to get to the part where I finally discovered what I could do.

The story of how I surrendered my life to the Lord is not your average tale. By the time I reached high school, I was a straight A student who was hopelessly trying to earn the love of those I deemed important in my life. The more I did right, the more miserable I became. Performing to validate your existence is a never-ending job. As successful as I was on Monday, I needed to be doubly better on Tuesday and so on and so forth. I thought that God bestowed His goodness on only those who did enough to deserve it. I was exhausted and empty and though I appeared as the kid who had it all together on the outside, I was as hollow as could be on the inside. I was depressed and empty and I longed to matter not because of my list of achievements but simply because I was me.

We don’t have to be good enough to receive God’s love. God loves us in spite of what we have done, and He reaches out to us no matter how short we have fallen from His presence. All of us are in the same boat when it comes to trying to get to shore with our vessel in one piece. We won’t be able to dodge the rocks of destruction without the Lord commandeering the wheel. It wasn’t until I heard God’s word that I discovered that without His Grace, I could not be rescued and without His Truth, I would never be free and without Jesus in my heart, I could never be loved. The day I finally heard the Gospel was the day that I looked up and surrendered to the Savior. He came down to my level when I had no shot of reaching Him. He loved me when I literally hated myself. God loved me when nobody else could or would. His love transformed my life. He didn’t make me a slave. God adopted me as His son. It is out of love for Jesus that I want to please Him. Our Lord said Himself that if we love Him we would keep His commandments. If you don’t obey Him, then He’s not Lord; but you can’t obey Him until He is Lord. It all comes down to the fact that if you want to follow Jesus, you need Jesus to make that happen. On our own, we only use the Lord to get attention for ourselves. When we get it right, we do what we do for the glory of God!

From pop tests to blood tests, from bar exams to eye exams, testing is a regular part of life. Last week, I had three different medical tests done on me to help me in my battle against cancer. Aside from medical, academic, and professional tests, we also encounter personal tests of faith: sickness, affliction, broken dreams, failures, peer pressures, moral temptations, and even doubts and fears. Did you know you can prepare for these tests before they come? We can all “study” for these exams by turning to God’s Word for the answers to the most important questions in life:

Who is God? What does He expect from us? What should I believe? How should I live in light of that? Will my faith go or grow amidst the trials and temptations? If it meant giving up my trust in Jesus or giving up my earthly life, how would I decide?

I had a Professor in College who wanted us all to succeed so badly that he gave us the test questions and the test answers ahead of time. I have never experienced a Teacher who took this approach, but he literally took away all our excuses for not getting an A Grade! As you might have guessed, there were still students in the class who didn’t prepare well and they failed something that they were given every opportunity to succeed at.

Jesus provides everything we need to have a healthy and growing relationship with Him. The Lord not only gives us the test questions in advance, but Jesus also actually took the test and passed the test for us and gave us His perfect score. What we should have failed, we won big time and for all of that to be ours, we just need to receive the gift. Why would we take matters into our own hands when it is His nailed scarred hands that we all need? Pride will kill love each and every time.  

Our acceptance doesn’t depend upon how faithful we were in our church attendance, or how well or eloquent we were when we said our prayers, or how many Bible verses we have memorized. It all comes down to you and I declaring our personal allegiance to Jesus that results in our public affection for our God no matter who is looking that leads to a powerful and practical living of our Christianity in a world system that is determined to go its own way. Are you in or are you out? It doesn’t come down to what the crowd thinks. It all comes down to who you say Jesus is. Is He just another teacher? Is He the author of yet one more philosophy? Or is He who He claims to be? Jesus wants to be our way, our truth and our life? It is no time to skirt the issue or ignore God’s invitation. I have a feeling that faith is going to take a lot more fight to be properly expressed in the days to come and you won’t defend what you do not love. God so loved us that He went the distance to prove that reality to us. How far will your faith go?   





IT’S GOD’S CHURCH! IT’S OUR TIME!

9 02 2021
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SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY FEB 10 2021

Too many Believers are contradicting the very Savior they claim to follow when they bad mouth the Church. Jesus designed and still defines the Body that He Himself is the pronounced Head. Revelation reveals to us that those who are devoted followers of Jesus are part of the Bride that will one day be joined together with Him. To trash talk the very people that Jesus sacrificed His all for is like sharing how much you love me and then go on to trounce Terri with verbal bombs! Maybe the watching world has a hard time receiving the reality of our faith because we are inconsistent, and our activity cancels out our creed. We keep screaming about all the things that are wrong with the world, but we don’t prioritize all that Jesus wants us to do right!

How much faith, hope and love are visible in the exceedingly small print as we Christians go about performing our daily duties? Is our seriousness being dismissed because the place where God’s supporters are supposed to be easily found is filled with way too many jokers in the deck? This is not the time to try to control how others are living when God wants us to fix our eyes solely upon Him. If we lay down at the cross our own agendas and humbly just use our precious moments to follow Him, the crowd will get a glimpse of the Way, the Truth, and the Life whether they want to or not!

Charles Colson once shared this story about Mother Teresa. Do you know that there are still many legalists in our midst who have the audacity to doubt the Christianity of this woman? But all that matters most was exhibited when Mother Teresa took her bold belief to Washington. You can talk all you want, and you can complain about the sin, or you can just follow Jesus! If you came to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in 1994, none who were there will ever forget the sight of the frail, tiny nun, who had to stand on a box in order to be seen, and just barely, over the podium. On one side of her were President and Mrs. Clinton, and on the other were Vice President and Mrs. Gore.

Colson writes in his Book, “Being The Body,” “As Mother Teresa began to speak, her voice was as strong as her demeanor was frail. “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because Jesus said, ‘If you receive a little child, you receive me.’ So every abortion is the denial of receiving Jesus, the neglect of receiving Jesus,” she said. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore both turned crimson. The crowd was at first dumbstruck. Then applause began, continuing and building until some people, forgetting the decorum of the event, actually stood on their chairs. No one else in the world had the moral authority to speak that way, in that setting, to that pro-choice administration. And there was no rebuttal. As Mr. Clinton said later, ‘No one can argue with a life so well lived.”

Are we living lives that exemplify the grace and truth of our Lord Jesus? And if we aren’t investing our behavior into making the Body of Christ come alive, what is our excuse? How can you deny and defy what the Bible says we are a participant of no matter how much we rationalize that faith is possible as a solo effort? It is God’s created assembly, so technically, we cannot put down the church that Jesus has promised He will raise up. Do not wait for a someday that could very well be today! Today, if you hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit, don’t file it, but fulfill it!

The church triumphant is alive and well. God is moving and working all around us. One of the greatest tragedies of life is when we ignore God’s Presence right in front of us because we are tied to the lie that the only way to find Him is by going somewhere else. On Wednesday nights, Terri and I are leading a Bible Study with high school students. The wrong question is, “What is God’s will for my life?” The right question is, “How can God use my life for His will?” Standing on a street corner, screaming at people on all they are doing wrong is not the way Jesus went about inviting others to His banquet. If you read the Scriptures clearly, He offers us a seat at this gathering of grace and His banner over us is a love bigger than our sin, our wrongdoings, and the surrounding mess of our society. 

2021 is an extremely exciting season to be walking with the Lord! This is no time for the Church to be going AWOL when the Lord has plans to use us in what Heaven has cooking up for this planet. This is also no time to not be the church when it still is the Church that God speaks to and speaks through! When are we going to stop leaning upon our own understanding and let Jesus take the wheel all the time and not just when we are in trouble? We need to open our eyes, and let Jesus fill our hearts, which transforms our ways, before we even say a word. No more noise that does nothing more than give everybody headaches. It is time for us to show a spiritual poise which explodes with the joys of Jesus.

This is my 24th year as the Senior Pastor of The Lighthouse Church. We are not the only church in town nor even the best option for everyone. I pray great success and blessings on all the churches in Cape May County that preach and live the truth of the Gospel! As I have already alluded to, everyone who calls themselves a believer must be connected to a local family of like-minded individuals. The Bible does not give us a choice of if we should become part of His Community, but it does give you freedom to decide where. I can tell you that as long as I remain the Pastor of The Lighthouse Church, I refuse to give in to excuses and apathy. My calling is not from the crowd, it is an anointing and appointing from the Christ. Even though there are many scars and bruises that were caused by being in the ministry, Jesus is not to be blamed, but only be proclaimed. It is about Jesus! It will always be about knowing Him and living with Him 24/7. So, whosoever will may come, and my prayer is that our fuel gets ignited by prayer, our fellowship is intentional with praise and our very faces reflect the facts that we have been with Jesus!  





I DON’T HAVE COVID- I HAVE CANCER!

2 02 2021
God Leads His Dear Children Along Wilderness painting | Etsy

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT FEB 3 2021

I am sitting here writing this as the calendar is about to turn to February and yes my Christmas Tree is still up and the colored lights are also shining brightly upon our house outside. Please don’t judge me. There is a reason I begged my wife to keep Christmas up all year. My major challenge before me this year is not Covid-19. Thankfully, I tested negative for that virus three times already. But this past Monday, I did learn I have prostate cancer. Deep down inside, I knew something was not right in my body. And I’m ready to fight this and join my Daughter Abbie in becoming a cancer survivor. But I do better being surrounded by the reminder of Emmanuel. The Name of Jesus means, “God with us,” and this year I need that truth not just in December. I need the songs of the Savior to be my soundtrack as I battle this latest challenge. I need the ornaments to stay out because every one tells a story of my life to this point. This is not a time to relegate Christmas to the attic when I need it ever before me.

Hey Family, let’s face the facts! God is good but life is hard! Life can be extremely unfair and downright painful! This is true even for those who call themselves Christians and try to make a positive difference with every 24 hours they are given. I’ve been serving Jesus in full time ministry since 1982. In those years, My wife Terri and I have sojourned through the valleys where we experienced two of our children being miscarried before our son Rudy was ever born in 1986. We saw our daughter Abbie battle and beat kidney cancer in 1994, only to see the birth and death of our son Nicholas Paul in 1995. Our son Benjamin Phillip came and left just as quickly in 1999 and then the next year we saw my Dad get hammered by his cancer. His also started as prostate and then spread to his bladder and he graduated to Glory in September of 2000.  

Since then, we have had the ups and downs that most everyone who lives on this planet must muddle through. Joel’s miracle birth in 2003 and the last Sheptock baby born to die on the very day our son Rudy graduated high school. Terri’s parents are now both in Heaven. I have tasted of what real anxiety and depression are all about in my own heart and mind. I have had a heart attack, a mini stroke and shingles twice. I have learned via personal experience that I can’t expect to get from this world what will only be true by my staying close to Jesus. There are things that this world will never be able to offer. There are holes the size of canyons that possessions and places will fail miserably to fill. Love from God and for Him must come first so that we can operate from a full cup and not hope that bringing our parched hearts to empty wells will deliver! We need to keep looking up and not around for our peace and our purpose.

I have been called crazy more than once by the observing crowd! And if I am out of my mind, my prayer is that the real reason is because of Jesus in my heart! I don’t want to be a casual Christian and live a lukewarm life! I have been longing to live in the wide open space of God’s grace with no more worldly weights upon my ankles trying to keep me from God’s dance floor! I know too well the obstacles that attempt to steal, to kill and to destroy what the Lord has in store! I have experienced the sabotage of the serpent when I thought the fruit salad was going to be yummy, yummy! The enemy has robbed me of so much of my past, I would rather not give him dibs on my days to come! So if the cancer is my latest test and trial, then until I cross the finish line, let’s keep singing! This even means Christmas carols in March!

But I need to share some truth with you that I already have learned in just a short week. Many write and say to me, “You Got This!” I’m sorry to disagree but I immediately know that I don’t! I know that I’m kind of a big Baby and this coming series of treatments does make me want to run and hide. There are moments I wish I could rewind and escape back to 1969 when my biggest dilemma was what field we would be playing baseball on on a particular day. I do know that God’s got it! And even better, God’s got me! And my prayer is God’s got you and you are leaning on Him rather than trying to be all strong and sassy on your own. The Lord will never leave me or forsake me and because of that truth my inner Barney Fife becomes the outer John Wayne and we can do all things through Him that not only strengthens us, but escorts us side by side!

The other sentence that we just need to delete from the English language is, “At least you got a good cancer.” I know what people mean and I am beyond grateful that I have one that has an encouraging survival rate and I want to live! But, can we all agree that there is no such thing as a good cancer. My Nana died of breast cancer when I was only 5 and Dad was only 67 when he passed. Cancer is part of the curse and the only good that will ever be realized is how Jesus will redeem what was meant to harm us for His glory. I know that I will be drawn ever closer to Him in the days to come. Tribulation has a way of mining the treasure in our soul. So bad is bad but God is the One who can make all things work out for good so I’d rather say, “I have a bad cancer, but an awesome God!”

Let me close with encouraging words from a great old hymn, “God Leads His Dear Children Along.” Some through the waters, some through the flood Some through the fire, but all through the blood. Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.” 





WELCOME TO GOD’S BODY SHOP!

25 01 2021

A WORD FROM PASTOR RUDY Imagine that you were given the job of running a factory that made kazoos. By what standards would the success of your factory be measured? The employees might be the busiest, hardest working crew on the block, but we don’t judge success by utter exhaustion. The Factory itself may be all the rage because the building is shaped in the form of a giant kazoo, but all the bells and whistles of its place of business don’t justify a positive rating. And the Factory manual may be second to none in precision and details and lofty work goals but this alone won’t make the observers sing its praises. The bottom line is that a kazoo factory should be making quality kazoos that are being purchased and played for all to hear. The task of a kazoo factory is to make kazoos!

What is the purpose of a church? Is it to be a secret society of tight knit cliques hiding out of the world’s influence so they may speak an insider language and carry their big Bibles that might be building more muscles in their arms rather than actually changing hearts? And did you know that nowhere in Scripture, is it mentioned that a synagogue, temple, chapel, tabernacle, building or any other meeting place was ever called a church? The church is something we need to be and not so much a place we need to go.

Ken Davis, well known comedian in Christian circles, told this classic yarn the other day on his daily Radio Show heard on Lift FM. He shared that there were four houses of worship in a small Texas town. They included the Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, and the Catholic Church. Each location was overrun with pesky squirrels who were messing up the property and causing great damage. The Presbyterian Church called a meeting to decide what to do about the squirrels. After much prayer and deliberation, they determined that the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn’t interfere with God’s divine will and sovereignty. At the Baptist Church, the squirrels had made themselves a nuisance in the kitchen and surrounding fellowship hall. The deacons met and decided to just round them up and serve them at their next Pot Luck Supper as the main course. The Methodist Church got together and decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creation. So, they humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free a few miles outside of town. Three days later, the squirrels were back. But, it looks like the Catholic Church came up with the best and most effective solution. They chose to baptize the squirrels and register them as official members of the church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter! This parable is both funny and sad at the same time because if you were passionate about someone and something, would you be content to just check in twice a year whether you needed it or not?

What is the mission of a Christian? Is to make sure that said Believer is doing enough good things to outweigh the not so upright behavior? Can you fulfill the assignment that God gave to all of His Disciples and be satisfied to relegate it to the back burner? Christians were called to be active, learning, living followers of Jesus. Our eyes are not to be preoccupied with anything less than keeping focused on the One who ultimately fuels and fulfills our faith. How can you follow Jesus if you don’t know Him enough to even discern which direction that He wants you to travel in?

The church of Christ is a body, a family, a living organism made up of human beings. We have been commissioned by Jesus to go into all the world and not be satisfied to bunker down in a posh and perfect facility. God has equipped us to an adventure that is nothing less than outright incredible. The humbling yet motivating truth is that God has chosen to carry out the eternal work of His kingdom through us, His church. The angels would have completed the assignment in a half an hour and we’ve been at it now over 2000 years, but more often than not, it’s because we allow ourselves to get distracted by the presence of the squirrels and miss the true power of the Holy Spirit!

I am beginning a new weekend series studying the Letter from Paul to the Corinthians. The reason I am doing so is because for the church to soar triumphantly, as God designed us to do, we need to be properly aligned so the engine of the Spirit can empower the Body of Christ to drive alive and well! I am calling the journey, “God’s Body Shop.” Jesus is our Divine Mechanic and we need to allow Him to pop the hood so we can become the ideal working vehicle taking the good news to the surrounding crowds and not waiting for our audience to come to us. My heart is that we reach people from where they presently are to take them to where God wants us to go eternally. We were not made to look good in the showroom, but to take this show on the road. While we will forever be anchored to the truth of the Bible, our methods must adapt to reach people where they are. 

I want to close with a classic story that circulated during his last season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Certainly those who worked for and around him knew the game of football. But on this day, Vince Lombardi faced a difficult challenge: where to begin after yesterday’s humiliating defeat. There was little he could say to his team that hadn’t already been said. There were few aspects of the game that they had not practiced and analyzed extensively. The men were professionals. They knew that their performance on the field yesterday had been atrocious. They knew their performance bore no resemblance to their game plan. They were angry, frustrated, and disappointed, to say the least. In his remarkable manner Lombardi met the challenge head-on.

Picking up the familiar oblong, leather ball, he went directly to the heart of the matter. In a deliberate manner he brought everyone’s attention back to the basics with five simple words: “Men, this is a football.” One of his players who understood exactly how badly they needed to review the essentials spoke up, “Hold on, Coach, you’re going too fast!”

The challenge before us today is very similar to that of Lombardi’s. In the church today there are few matters we haven’t studied and discussed extensively. There is little to be said that will not sound familiar. And yet there is much room for us to grow in our effectiveness at carrying on the ministry of Christ. Just as Lombardi began that day by forcing his men to look at the fundamentals of the game, we begin by examining the purpose that lies at the heart of everything we do. We begin by lifting up our “football”—our purpose—and reviewing exactly why we are here so that we can be transformed into the Body of Christ we are supposed to be!





IT’S TIME TO OBEY THE LORD!

19 01 2021

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

From the time I was a kid, if I see injustice, I must say something about it. I will say something about it. My Kids always start getting nervous when they witness this behavior in me, because they know Dad won’t just walk away. Dad’s going to do something about it because God made him that way. I don’t do anyone any good by looking the other way or pretending that it never happened. Whenever we condone taking a path that wasn’t authorized by the Holy Spirit, we only become tied up emotionally on the inside. That is because Jesus already clearly taught us that true freedom is utterly impossible without Truth! I’d like to think and hope that the Lord Himself ignites that passionate light in me so it can shine through me.

I was utterly disgusted with how the Philadelphia Eagles ended their recent regular season. Don’t kid yourself, they didn’t lose against the Washington Football Team. They outright quit on national television. They tanked. They stopped trying. They didn’t do their best. They settled and took a dive. And the media and the fans may call it whatever they wish and frame it however they please and the experts might rationalize it until the cows come home but what the Eagles chose to do on the field was much worse than losing! It’s just as bad as the 1919 Chicago Black Sox who, because of the selling out of 8 of their players to gamblers, threw the World Series. It wasn’t just bad enough for the guilty athletes but it was unfair to the players who gave their best, and the fans who thought it was all on the level. The Eagles Front Office should be ashamed. And it cost Doug Pederson his job. I have always taught my children to never compromise from doing what you know is right. As in Doug’s case, you are probably going to get shot down anyway, so make sure that you have believed in the decisions you have made. Don’t let anyone lie to you and tell you that they can make you do something you don’t want to do. Stand in the Grace of God that saves you and move forward by the Truth of Jesus that sets us free no matter what the world may say or do. Just because it appears that disobedient individuals get away with their tainted deeds, doesn’t mean they will forever.

I got a message that almost sums up the thinking of the world we live in. He wrote, “At the end of the day no team in the NFC East had a chance of going forward so this is all for nothing.” And I couldn’t disagree with anyone more than I did with this statement. The ends never justify the means. Every Coach who has ever told young kids to always give it their best would have to ignore that advice; and that is what is so wrong about this. If you can’t look in the mirror at the end of any given day knowing that you took no shortcuts and received no bribes and stayed loyal to the Lord who loves you, then you just wasted what could have been such a better spent 24 hours! I don’t care who gets the number one draft pick and who might earn a  million dollars, if you didn’t earn it honestly, it is morally wrong every time.

Many religious people think they know Jesus, but what they know is more the stereotype than the genuine Savior. When you read the New Testament, you will conclude that Jesus could be a remarkably interesting person to be around. He definitely made others uncomfortable, mostly because He wouldn’t leave lies prevailing where truth had to be taught!

Jesus had the ability to mix righteous anger with godly behavior. He would not back down from the self-proclaimed “Religious Big Shots” who had no threatening ammo at all other than their own press clippings. Compassion is a quality Jesus might be most famous for, but make no mistake, that didn’t mean He was a “Mr. Softee!” Jesus had the perfect discernment to know when someone needed a holy hug or a sanctified shove! To those that most of Society had defined as outcasts and beyond repair, Jesus would drop everything and give His undivided attention to them that never knew love like this before. To those who thought that they were already God’s gift to the world, our Lord challenged to get their eyes off themselves and on to the very ones that needed love and direction who were already in their midst.

Sociologist Rodney Stark argued that one of the primary reasons for the spread of Jesus’ movement was the way His followers responded to sick people. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius around AD 165, an epidemic of what may have been smallpox killed somewhere between a third and a fourth of the population, including Marcus Aurelius himself. A little less than a century later came a second epidemic, in which at its height five thousand people were reported dying daily in the city of Rome alone. For the most part, people responded in panic. You might label it as “Pandemic Panic!” Let me know if anyone might see the application for today in these facts.

In ancient times, there was no guidance in the writings of Homer, no commands from the Greek god Zeus to care for dying people whom you do not know while putting your own life at risk. But there was in that world a Body of Believers that followed Jesus who would touch lepers while they were unclean; who told his disciples to go heal the sick.

Dionysius, a third-century bishop of Alexandria, wrote about their actions during the plagues: “Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need, and ministering to them in Christ. And with them departed this life serenely happy, for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors, and cheerfully accepting their pains.” People actually took Jesus at his word. As Christian communities responded to the hungry and the sick, even outsiders took notice. What if we obeyed Jesus like this today? What if we valued every human being like God does? What if we were less politically correct and more powerfully connected to the Holy Spirit who gives us everything we need to make an eternal difference in the world we live in. Let us minister to Christ’s needs. Let us give Christ nourishment. Let us clothe Christ. Let us gather Christ in. Let us show Christ honor. What are you doing? Who are you doing it for? Who are you doing it with?

I just finished the Book, “Becoming Elisabeth Elliot.” They had speared Elisabeth’s husband, Jim Elliot and his 4 comrades. Still, Elisabeth heard God’s call to go back to the Waorani and finish the work her Husband had begun. She knew what she was doing. She understood the cost of obedience. She would be living with and loving up close and personal, the very ones responsible for her being a Widow. The critics had no problem sharing their opposition. The comfortable religious organizations wanted no part of putting one of their people purposefully at risk. But isn’t that an important ingredient of following Jesus anyway?

Letters arrived regularly from Jim Elliot’s Mother. “Mom Elliot pleaded with her Daughter-In-Law not to go; and worse yet to bring her only child. She penned, “Can’t you see this Betty? Let’s not get carried away! I think your zeal is wonderful but don’t do something so foolish.” You sit in church with such passion-, but nobody expects you to take it outside this building, do they? I love how real Elisabeth was when she responded! “To hell with my ‘zeal,’” Betty exploded in her journal. She knew that her words about loving Jesus would lose all its meaning unless she trusted His voice most of all.

If we don’t follow Jesus in 2021, then we aren’t obedient to our call! As we measure out our lives and our legacy and the litmus test of faith all comes down to, “Will we trust and obey?” The only responsibility of we Believers is that of obedience. Our daily bread is wrapped up in this cry, “Lord, show me what You want me to do, and I’ll do it. “I’ll obey, whatever it is.”

“If a duty is clear, the dangers surrounding it are irrelevant.” Elisabeth Elliot

“I’ll obey and serve You. I’ll obey because I love You. I’ll obey, my life is in Your Hands.
For it’s the way to prove my love, when feelings go away.
If it cost me everything- I’ll obey.”
Bill Drake





WAS 2020 SUCCESSFUL?

12 01 2021

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT JANUARY 13 2021

This is the time of the year that many churches are called upon to put together their Annual Reports. The Governing Districts want to determine whether a local Body of Christ has been successful or not. Since the day I first entered full time ministry in 1982, I have always bristled at how most Christian organizations rate accomplishments. So much of the data gathered has to do with numbers and attendance and how many people sat in the seats under the roof of your facility. It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to observe that the God of the Bible might measure the amount of faithfulness, godliness, holiness and righteousness using tools other than just showing up.

Last year was the wildest year I have ever survived as a Pastor. Suddenly, the buildings were closed. The church of Jesus though is not a compilation of bricks and sticks but a family of blood pumping heartbeats set on serving Jesus. The doors of the auditorium might be locked but there is no weapon made by man that can imprison the Gospel. But how do you add that up on a piece of paper? Maybe God was shaking us all up so that we stop looking at statistics and start championing the stories that every individual who has decided to follow Jesus gets to share.

This past year, I preached many a weekend to a physically empty room, but online told a different story. There were actually more crowds tuning in from places that the message would have never arrived to without the addition of the world wide web. I lit a candle before every Service as a reminder that the most important One, the Holy Spirit, was still in our midst providing the power to accomplish what could never happen in the natural. New relationships were formed. Deeper connections were begun. Significant conversations were spoken. Lives were still being transformed. And the only way that will translate to a banner year for the kingdom of God is if we are willing to stop prioritizing the numbers and begin to cherish the privilege of meeting needs.

It was Mother Theresa who said, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” I have forever quoted the following mantra to my children from the time they could understand, “Obedience is the key to Christianity.” God is not looking for me to wow Him with my latest ingenuity. He is longing for me to just say, “Here I am Lord, use me.” As a matter of fact, if I wanted to just create a crowd, I could resort to the tricks and the gimmicks of the world system. But the Lord is calling us to become Disciples willing to die to our flesh so we become alive to His fruit. And to summarize the harvest of 2020, we are going to need a new document and I am actually grateful for that. It is time to talk about the acts of the Church of Jesus and not just be satisfied to know that there were spectators in the audience.

Let’s face it, Christians, one of the most difficult challenges for we human beings are to keep pressing on when it looks like we are making no headway at all. But God is not expecting us to pull off what only He can execute by His mighty Presence. I am teaching a Bible Study of the Book of Ezekiel every Tuesday. You can come to it in person at the Lighthouse Church or you can watch it live online. My point though is that Ezekiel trained to be a Priest for God. God changed Ezekiel’s vocation to Prophet of God. Ezekiel didn’t argue with God and lay claims to his original training. Ezekiel adjusted the load on the road and shifted his focus. Also, God made it clear to Ezekiel that there would not be many converts in this ministry. God said that the majority of his onlookers would enjoy his delivery without any intention of doing what the Lord is calling them to do. If that doesn’t sound familiar to our culture, then what does? It’s not the size of our buildings, our budgets, our bands, our Bibles, our buffets, our bells and whistles that open up the Heavens. It is the simplicity of our willingness to go after Jesus through the pandemics, the political craziness, the positives and negatives of our unpredictable circumstances that will keep us connected to the promises of God. Moses couldn’t convince Pharaoh, but God said speak anyway. The crowds stoned Steven and he kept pointing to the Truth. Paul died in prison but the legacy he left lives on through the Letters of the New Testament. When are we going to stop looking for the applause of men when all we really need is the, “Well Done Good and Faithful Servant,” from God?

I shared with our Lighthouse Church Staff that our goal is not to try to get the church back to what it was pre-Covid19. Our mission has never changed. It is to show others Jesus. We can do it with our masks on or masks off. We can do it online or in person. We can do it with words or with our behavior. Nobody can stop God’s people from praying and preaching and proclaiming His love. This may not translate to a neat and pretty Annual Report. But it will make a dent into Eternity.

Go where God sends you. Obey what God shares with you. Live the life God enables you. Carry the torch of the Truth that will set people free forever. Shine the light that Jesus ignited the day He entered into your heart. And what can’t be written on paper will certainly translate by the faith of the people. Faith is believing that God exists and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Just make sure that you never settle for trinkets that rust when God is calling us to treasure which lasts. Our obedience to God may not always produce the things that this earth deems as fortune but when we turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look intent upon His wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace! What is my approach to 2021? It is more than doing the next best thing. It is all about being in tune with God’s thing! No “thing” is as important as God’s thing. And let us be diligent in pursuing that kind of excellence.





ALL IS WELL THIS CHRISTMAS

22 12 2020
ChristmasIsntCancelled-Web1.png

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

For all the things I am not, the one trait that I do have is God gave me lots of volume when it comes to projecting my voice. When there have been no microphones available, I have been called upon to do what I do best and that is being loud. There are days that I can preach in Cape May Court House and still be heard in Rio Grande. When it comes to talking about Jesus, I want to never be ashamed of saying it loud and living it proud. God boldly has declared His love for us, how can we not be vocal when it comes to proclaiming our faith in Him?

Speaking of making sure that your voice is heard, I read this week about two little boys who were spending the night at their grandmother the week before Christmas. After their grandmother saw them off to bed, she proceeded to head to her room to go to sleep but before she did, she made sure that she reminded her grandsons to say their prayers. The younger boy spoke first and shouted his prayer in a loud voice: “Dear God, I want a bicycle for Christmas! Amen!” His older brother said, “Why are you yelling? God’s not deaf.” “No,” the younger sibling replied, “but Grandma is!” When in doubt if God is listening, make sure Grandma does!

Do you know we get one of our most familiar sayings from those who yelled in the night? “Ten O’clock and All is Well,” is a phrase that was proclaimed so all could hear it at all hours. It was not necessary to do so in the daytime because with the light, everyone could see what was going on. In the wee small hours of the morning, all ears were attentive to the words of the sentry on duty. It all started during the Civil War when the prison camp guards were required to call out through the night their post and the hour and assure anyone listening, no need to get up as things are holding steady. “All is Well,” did not mean the War was over. “All is Well,” didn’t mean things were safe and sound. “All is Well,” was just a reminder that in the midst of the battle, there was no change that would cause one to retreat!

If I were to ask you how 2020 has been for you, not too many would boldly shout, “2020 and All is Well!” This year has brought us a pandemic that has caused much panic. Fear has replaced faith in far too many places. Terror has kept many a believer from trusting the Lord. The craziness of politics has divided even family and friends! Social media has been toxic. Churches have been online, outside and off balance. But God has never lost control. His Light has never gone out. And as much as darkness has been a nuisance, it can’t dispel the power of the Presence of our Savior.

Light’s nature is to shine and by doing so it does eliminate the darkness. Darkness doesn’t have even the slightest chance to intimidate the Light! Christmas activities might be postponed this year but the power of the Season itself cannot be cancelled because the Savior from Heaven is invincible. Light still shines in the darkness! The Word became flesh and invaded the brokenness of Bethlehem and gave hope to where the spirit of despair had gotten way too comfortable. The same One who shouted, “Let there be light,” in Genesis still commands the stage today in New Jersey! Christians can say with confidence, “All is Well,” because He who lights us up on the inside is greater than anything life can throw at us from the outside! All is well because nothing can extinguish a fire that the Holy Spirit has ignited.

If I could change anything about the way we do Christmas as Christians is the way we picture the Nativity. Mary looks way too polished for a young girl who just had a baby. Joseph appears far to chill to represent a man who had to play midwife because nobody else was there to care for his wife. Jesus looks like he has the disposition of an elite diplomat and not like someone who has just survived the trip down a birth canal. Mary was beside herself. Joseph was in over his head. Jesus cried like any other ordinary baby. But Peace came to earth and Hope became personified. As long as Jesus was here with us, we finally had a chance that our story would not end in defeat! The same Jesus that inhabited that manger is now available to any heart that would give Him room! And this is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!

God didn’t avoid the mess, He was born in the midst of it. The realism of Bethlehem included unnamed shepherds who were the outcasts of society and didn’t have time to take a bath before their visit to see the King! Nobody could get their act together because only the Birthday Boy could give us the transformation that was necessary to free us from the treadmill of religion. There are 365 “Fear Nots” mentioned in the Bible. One for each and every day of the year. Our faith will become stronger than our fear. Our terror will be turned into trust. And even though there are so many things still wrong with our world this Christmas, Jesus is the guarantee of all that is right.

The other day, my kids and grandkids were coming over to make gingerbread houses. It had all the makings of the latest Hallmark Christmas Movie. These movies model for us the Holiday we all hope to experience. The ones where you can live in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona and still have it snow on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, my life is nothing like that. I’ve seen too many rainy Cape May County December 24th’s to know that life doesn’t imitate art. Back to the family gathering at my house. Right before everyone arrived, our septic tank backed up. When is the last time you have seen that on television? Everyone came. We all made memories. Love was expressed and shared. All of that still occurred even though the sewer system tried to sour the moment.

Merry Christmas 2020 and despite what the news might tell you, all is well for those who believe! God has never promised that living in this place would be trouble free. We will get sick. Things will break. Even our hearts may be hammered a time or two. But God has promised us that we have nothing to fear because He is here with us. If I am not alone then all is well and neither are you. Nothing came easy the first Christmas. What makes us think that it will come easy this year? But as long as Jesus has come to earth, the Light shines and we can follow its glow right into the lap of God! 





A SONG FOR JOSEPH…

15 12 2020
Old-Fashioned Charm: Joseph's Song

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY When you Pastor the same church through what will this be year my 24th year at The Lighthouse Church, you can’t get away with what we Ministers refer to as “recycled sermons.” Television would call them reruns. God might call it just being lazy. The Lord has never let me down in always providing fresh perspectives and new views of the treasured old story of Jesus born in Bethlehem. This year has been no different as I have followed the theme: “Christmas is not Cancelled.”

The other night, I was wide awake around 4:30 in the morning because of medication to help my never ending sinus issues when God opened up the Scriptures to me all over again. I got to thinking about Joseph, who might just be the forgotten man in the Christmas story and yet, this miracle doesn’t happen unless he signs off on the manuscript. Joseph was a righteous kind of guy and for him to truly follow the instructions of Heaven, he would have to risk being excommunicated by the religious rulers on Earth. For him to be held high esteem in Glory, he would have to exercise his right to total humility and embarrassment in the goings on of this planet. It couldn’t have been easy and it was far from just lighting a candle, singing a song and going on his merry way.

My Dad was lots like Joseph. I grew up in a unique Family where beyond the seven biological children God gave them, my Parents legally adopted 30 more children. Whether that was a totally wise move is for discussion on another day but the point I want to make is a perfect tie in. The local media, the churches, the neighbors and pretty much everyone else would always hold my Mom as a champion, a sacrificial servant and saint. Mom was an amazing individual. I am not here to argue that but she could not have pulled off what the Lord called them to do without Dad! He was as an essential ingredient to the miracle mix as she was. Unfortunately, there were times my Father was assigned the back seat of the Family Bandwagon.

One particular day when the New York Daily News came to Peapack, NJ to take a photo of my Mom and the Family because she was announced as their “Mother of the Year,” the oldest Son did not stay quiet. The Photographer was placing everyone in the ideal pose when the Reporter mentioned to my Father that he wouldn’t be needed in the shot. Out of nowhere, I objected loudly and said, “Hey, there would be no Mother of the Year without the presence of the Dad of Every Day. If he is not in this photo, neither am I.” If you look through the archive of that photo, there are no Rudy’s in the mix. I just wanted my Pop to be recognized for all that he contributed to the process.

The other night, I felt the same way about Joseph. Mary was awesome. She was just a teenager when she agreed to be the Mother of the Son of God. But Joseph was also a VIP in the Nativity. So I wrote a little tribute the One I refer to as “the man behind the scenes.” A SONG FOR JOSEPH… CHORUS You’re the man behind the scenes-The one beneath the star And sometimes you’re forgotten here-But I know who you are… Such a heart of humble strength-And one of simple means I thank the Lord for the part you played-As the man behind the scenes…

VERSE ONE: Most men want the spotlight-They long to make their stand They brag about the things they’ll do-And boast about their plan But you obeyed God’s voice-And the world turned upside down No longer just a carpenter- When Heaven came around

VERSE TWO: Most men long for power-And they so want to be known Fame and glory fuel their dreams-And all that they can own But you gave God your life-And it stopped you in your track Mary, Jesus and the road- You never did look back…

BRIDGE: Every day- God gives us choice to make Who gets the applause-defines what path we take! This Christmas, don’t look to be the star. Be content to follow it.

This Christmas, don’t miss the angels singing the Song of the Savior. We are at our best when we simply are content to pleasing God. Mary said, “Let it Be,” but don’t ignore that Joseph wasn’t about to sing, “I did it My Way.” And neither should we!