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!





NO CHRISTMAS DARTS NEEDED

8 12 2020
Dart arrow with Christmas ball Dart arrow with Christmas ball on white background. christmas balls with dart stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

When I was a new Christian living up in northern New Jersey, I would listen daily to the FM Radio Station known as Family Radio. The teaching and music on that dial almost discipled this kid who couldn’t get enough of the Jesus that he had just asked into his heart. Unfortunately, through the years, a man named Harold Camping did his best to destroy this vehicle of faith with his own heresy, but the Word of God conquers the lies of the enemy every time and I am happy to say that Family Radio is back on the air and still ministering to my hungry heart some 45 years later.

The other night, somewhere in that state of not really being awake and not actually sleeping deep, I heard this story told and it hit me like an arrow in the heart. Unfortunately, because I was not totally alert when I was listening, I didn’t fully remember all the details. As a matter of fact, I forgot even the main premise of the devotional. I was wracking my cluttered brain, searching for a clue until when I woke up this morning, it came back to me in all of its glory.

I want to share it with you right now before it wanders into one of those filing cabinets in my head where everything is quite messy!

A young lady named Abigail related an experience she had in a Bible Class she was taking at the Christian College she was attending. On one day, the Professor of her class came up with an elaborate object lesson that hit the bullseye in the middle of the soul. When Abbey entered the room, hanging on the adjacent wall was a huge target! On a nearby table were countless darts. Abbey’s teacher proceeded to ask the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and when everyone had finished their art work, he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.

Abbey didn’t hesitate when it came to the person that was living under her skin. She immediately drew a picture of a two-faced friend who had stolen her boyfriend.

It was finally time for the class to line up and begin to  throw darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their artwork was literally being ripped into pieces flying off the board! Students began looking at the clock not wanting their chance to let off some steam pass them by. Normally they wanted out early, but today nobody was in a hurry to leave. Abbey was one whose countenance was filled with clear disappointment when, because of time limits, was asked along with other students who didn’t get to throw, to return to their seats. As Abbey was mulling over how angry she was because she did not have a chance to throw any darts at her target, the Professor began removing the target from the wall.

Unbeknownst to anyone, underneath the targets was a picture of Jesus. A hush fell over the room as each student viewed the messy and mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced. All the teacher said before dismissing the class was “In as much as you have done it to the least of these my children, you have done it to Me,” Matthew 25:40. No other sermon was necessary; no other summary was added. The tears quickly filled the eyes of the students focused only on the picture of Christ. Abbey caught the conviction. You cannot love God and hate His creation. The darts of the Christians must not be the reason that people don’t get a clear picture of Jesus. 

Christmas is all about the Savior who was sent to rescue those who were willing to admit their inability to accomplish this feat without the aid of Divine Intervention. God’s love does not come with strings, conditions and boundaries. God is not waiting for you to deserve the attention He freely gives. God sees a need and meets it. Shouldn’t His Followers be willing to do the same?

We have all been hurt and wronged. This is not up for a debate. We have been mistreated, lied to, cheated and taken advantage of. The very people who should have been looking out for us couldn’t wait to stab us in the back. Remember though, the Jesus we celebrate forgave the very hands that were used to nail Him to the cross. None of us have the authority to determine who can receive the love of God rather than a dart to the forehead. Let Hell throw the darts and let Heaven be ready with gifts of grace and truth. Without grace we cannot be saved and without truth we will never be free. We are not God’s dartboard, and neither should He be ours! Let us be more like the Jesus we claim to celebrate! Let us be those who present a Presence that changes hearts and willingly forgives others as we have been forgiven. It really is what Christmas is all about!





CHRISTMAS IS NOT CANCELLED!

1 12 2020
ChristmasIsntCancelled-Boxcast.png

Speaking In The Light with Pastor Rudy

Life in 2020 has been anything but boring. Coming into the Christmas season, I keep hearing the word “cancelled,” over and over again. But you can’t cancel what this Holiday encourages us to do with its title. Nothing could ever stop Believers from celebrating their Savior! A pandemic can’t do it and the chaotic state of politics is nothing new. As a matter of fact, the very world that Jesus was born into featured a King of Israel who had no true power at all! How crazy is it that the man called Herod the Great gave himself his own nickname? There was nothing grand about the man who was in cahoots with Rome just to wear a title that had no substance. Caesar was the real Emperor and the Jewish people were held hostage by a government that they desperately desired freedom from! Interrupt me if this might sound familiar to the plight that we find ourselves in today.

Right now, unfortunately, too many people are being driven by fear and held hostage by their doubts about what is still to come. The reality for Christians though is that nothing can thwart the promises of God. There is nothing that has occurred this year that has been bigger than what our Lord can handle. The Bible makes it clear that when we surrender our hearts to Jesus, we are no longer citizens of earth but now officially those whose real home is Heaven where God is eternally on the throne! In the halls of Glory, faith keeps us pressing on and moving forward no matter what obstacles may attempt to impede our pilgrimage.  

How many more Yuletide Seasons will it take before you realize that no matter how big or expensive the presents under the tree may be; they will never satisfy the aching hunger in your soul? For God so loved the world that He did so much more than get us a gift card! In light of eternity, the Presence of the One who died upon the tree is what actually gives us hope for the future no matter how frustrating today may be! My favorite part of Handel’s Messiah is the point in the Hallelujah Chorus when the words of Revelation 11:15 are sung right in the middle of the song! To refresh your memory, here is the verse in all of its promised power, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Christmas is never cancelled for those who have received Jesus as King! Christmas is never over for those who have chosen to act like a citizen in the kingdom of God.

Maybe this Christmas, we should make an appointment for more than just a Covid Test.  Rather than looking for protection, I propose we cry out for a holy anointing! What if this December, we sidestep Santa and ask the Holy Spirit to make us ready to represent our Lord in amazing and awesome ways? In 1 Peter 2:9, the Apostle declares, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” As royal priests, we have divinely designed  duties destined for this December. I want this world to see how different it can be when we decorate our days with the gifts from God!

Instead of giving people what they want, I want to serve those around me with what they really need. Without grace, there can be no salvation. Without truth, there can be no freedom. Without invitations, there can be no place reserved at the banqueting table. Rather than passing the buck, let’s call for the ball to be in our court so that we can shine with the love God spills liberally into our souls! Who needs to be prayed for? Who could benefit from a random act of kindness that comes with no strings attached? The angels woke up the shepherds so that they could witness the birth of Jesus. Those whose profession was the most despised occupation in Israel were treated like VIP’s! God doesn’t judge by what the labels say on the outside. He is always searching for hearts that will be willing to be wholly available to Him!

I just laugh every time I hear a Governor try to outlaw singing. If ever there was a moment in history where we need to raise our voices loud and proud, it is now. I’m sure all of hell would love to edit Christmas carols from the program but it can’t happen. God inhabits the praises of His people. So go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born. And He is Emmanuel which means, “God with us.” We were created to be with our Creator! We are at our best when we spend as much time as we possibly can with the One who loved us most. Jesus is the One who loved us as love was always intended to be.  

In so many ways, we are like campaign managers for the King of kings. The biggest difference is that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him to be the Ultimate Ruler no matter how we vote. What the world needs now is to operate under a Theocracy where we are one world under the Lord’s reign. This will occur someday in the future. Until then, when you cast your allegiance to Jesus, you win. So much of what we lack can be traced back to the fact that we follow our flesh rather than His holiness. One day His will and His way will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Until then, we never settle for anything less than God’s best!

This is a December I want to hang out with the One who made the celebration of the King possible. The more I submit my agenda to His lead, the closer I am drawn to His Heart! We don’t just get the honor and privilege to work for God; the biggest perk is we get to be with Him as we do it.

Years ago when I took my first job as Youth Pastor, the church I was at paid me only enough money that I actually reinvested it back into my ministry. I needed another job to pay the bills for my new wife and myself. I became the Head Custodian at Lake Drive School in Mountain Lakes, NJ. I was the Head Custodian because I was the only custodian. The staff meetings I had with myself were priceless. I did get to do something that no custodian before or after me ever got to do. The Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds had his office in my school. Every day, I got to have lunch with him. Every day at noon, I hung out with the Boss. Did I mention, the Boss also happened to be my Father? The best part of that whole year was the time I got to be with my Dad. When was the last time you just hung out with your Heavenly Father? He has an open spot with your name on it. If we want the anointment, maybe we should keep the appointment with the One who put the whole color into Christmas in the first place?





THANKSGIVING EYES

16 11 2020
Feast for the eyes: A non-traditional Thanksgiving table - inRegister

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT NOVEMBER 18 2020

I just got home from spending a weekend out in western Pennsylvania. My wife Terri and my youngest son, Joel, ventured out to Ebensburg where my son, Rudy has pastored for quite a while now. He and his beautiful wife Lindsey and my grandkids: Jude, Gideon and Eden make up the Sheptock Family that calls the Keystone State their home. It’s quite funny that Terri and Lindsey are both from the same area around Lebanon, Pennsylvania and Rudy and I met our wives while attending Philadelphia College of Bible although it was called Philadelphia Biblical University when my kids were there and now goes by the name Cairn today. Rudy went to his church to work as a Youth Pastor but shortly after he arrived there, he became the Lead Minister at a much earlier age than I did. Let me just brag on him and let you know that he is doing an outstanding job and has loved on his flock in the way that Jesus would want him to.

Rudy has also done an admirable job becoming acclimated to the community where he resides. Growing up in northern New Jersey, I never did much hunting except maybe for key baseball cards that I wanted to add to my collection. I am the only Sheptock male in my family that has never shot a gun. Rudy on the other hand is part of the autumn tradition that has all men heading out into the woods at this time of the year looking to put some venison on the table. Now don’t get me wrong, I will eat whatever you catch and enjoy every morsel, but I am not the one who is going to bag it. Rumor has it that you must be incredibly quiet when it comes to this sport, so that pretty much rules me out. I am even silent at a high volume!

Today in my Son’s sermon, he used hunting as an illustration to spiritually challenge us to make sure that we are aiming for what God says is worth our passionate pursuit. God’s word is literally our lens for us to see His will magnified in our sight. We must be dependent upon the signs of the Savior if we hope to set our feet moving in the right direction. If we want to avoid coming home empty handed, we best allow God to determine our destiny! We also need to be aware that there are tons of daily distractions looking to derail us from the holy trail. If we claim to walk by faith and not be driven by the selfish desires to obtain all that we see, we must ask Jesus to instruct us along practical paths that value eternal goals. If it is passing away, we probably should be passing on it as quickly as possible. I want my heart to be consumed with heavenly treasure and not heralded trinkets that are here today and gone tomorrow. In light of forever, are you running a race that is actually going somewhere that you really not only want to go, but you hope that the presence never ends?

November is a season of gratitude and I am beyond blessed that my children are investing in activities and actions that have been marked as majestic by the Master. Watching my Son preach the Word today with conviction and courage amidst his congregation that battles the pandemic and a challenging economy made my soul swell. His behavior brought both his earthly Dad and his Father in Heaven much pleasure. He takes care of his family by making his goal, his ambition, his horizon and his heart serving the Lord. Let’s face facts, unless you are a television Preacher, ministry is not a money-making venture. But just like he grew up in a family that chose to give God plenty of room to provide, Rudy is giving the same gift to his wife and kids. Too many individuals are doing nothing more than seeking great things for themselves but when you believe God will take care of you when you go out of your way to take care of others, all of creation sings songs of praise! Christians never have to worry about whether they are doing God’s will or not when they make it their aim to bring glory to the One who made it all. If you seek first the kingdom of God, you will never come home without the prize that Jesus made possible for all who trust and believe in Him.

Like many of you, I have been very busy but not always feeling that blessed. Perhaps, I have tried to coax out of activities what doing without being will not deliver. In the Bible, there was a woman named Martha who tried so hard to impress the Lord. She worked herself into a frenzy by slaving in the kitchen for the Savior. The only problem was that Jesus was in the living room hoping Martha would join her sister Mary in hanging with the One whose very Word satisfied the deepest longing of the human heart. Why do we get so entangled with the peripheral when the center of it all should be the One who deserves to have all eyes glued upon Him? If I say I love God, then why is it that I am so easily interrupted by temporary eye candy? Is that why we are reminded often to fix our eyes on Jesus? I want Him to be the reason I run. I want Him being at the finish line waiting to catch me which is the real purpose for my journey. If family is everything, I want to be forever with my Father! And if my Lord wants me as much as I want my kids, then I can only imagine the joy of that reunion day!

There are probably many reasons we could all be bummed out this Holiday. This year has been beyond challenging and there is still a month and a half to go. And on top of the pandemic and politics and lack of positive participation with people, there may have been other disappointments and detours away from the highway to happiness. But even if the road is long with many a winding turn, as long as we walk with the Shepherd, surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. God knew that the moment we were born, there would come the inevitable passage through the valley of the shadow of death. But He made it clear that we would not have to do that dance as a solo performance. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. He will go wherever we are to remind us of how much He loves us. And when we see ourselves through the reflection of the eyes of love, we finally see all that matters most. I saw it this weekend when I saw my kids. God sees it right now when we make eye contact with the view that will not end. Open your eyes and don’t be blind to the biggest blessing of all! What are you looking at? What are you aiming for? What needs to change so that your eyes don’t miss the beauty that can’t be beaten?   





GOD’S DIRECTIONS!

10 11 2020

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

I admit it, I am not very good at following directions. I don’t excel at paying close attention to someone as they spell out the specific details of what I need to do to get to where I need to be. Maybe that is why I have spent so much time wandering aimlessly while in my car. I know I would make it much easier on myself if I would just focus and stay present during the instruction portion of the program, but my attention span shrinks far too easily. But when it comes to following Jesus, I am all ears! If my heart is going to be healthy spiritually, I need to hang on every word proceeding from the mouth of God.     

In my message today, I came across these words from 2 Thessalonians Chapter 3 and verse 5. It reads, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” If ever anyone had any doubt that God is taking us someplace worth going, this truth sets us straight on a path to life giving destinations. If Jesus is truly given the privilege to take the wheel, then get ready to head to the land of love with a lasting staying power. 

The perseverance of Christ is that of epic proportion. Jesus literally endured the hatred of mankind by conquering the cross and rising from the dead. This is why we are challenged to fix our eyes upon our Savior who is the author and finisher of our faith! The source of our endurance is the same Holy Spirit whose power ignited the light that our Lord needed. The Greek word translated “steadfastness” means staying strong all through grueling situations in spite of opposition from both outside and within. We can do all things through the presence of Jesus that supplies all the equipment necessary to keep on running the race when looking for a lawn chair to plop down in is calling your name.

Let me share a story about the Nobel Prize-winning Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The tale took place when he was imprisoned by Stalin in a Siberian gulag. One day, while being forced to slave away in sub-zero temperatures, he finally reached the breaking point of what he could humanly handle on his own. Filled with frustration, he threw his shovel down and slumped to the ground and surrendered himself to a beating from a guard that would probably end up killing him.

He had seen it happen time after time to others and now he was waiting for the first fist to batter his face. But God had other plans to encourage His servant to not give up but to look up. Without any fanfare, an emaciated fellow prisoner approached Solzhenitsyn. Simply and silently, this humble comrade scratched the sign of the cross in the mud and proceeded to disappear back in the crowd of those imprisoned.

Solzhenitsyn stared at those two lines scratched in the dirt and got the message loud and clear. Thinking of Jesus and all He went though for mankind shattered the despair that was hoping to deflate the Russian’s battered heart.  We have learned later that it was in the midst of that moment, that Solzhenitsyn knew there was something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that the hope of all mankind was represented in that simple cross. And it was through a sincere allegiance to the power of the cross that anything was possible. Picking up his shovel, Alexander Solzhenitsyn slowly went back to work. Nothing but the encouragement of the steadfastness of our Savior could have inspired Solzhenitsyn to return to work that day. Only the presence of God at Golgotha could allow church to occur in the gulag with fresh possibilities.

Living with so much uncertainty in 2020, we all need a big God; an awesome, unspeakably amazing God. We need a God whose promises are certain; a God who’s been there before and can walk with us and counsel us and stand up for us and prepare a place for us and who can even make all things work together for good for those who love Him. And loving Him should not be as hard as we sometime make it. Remember, when we open up our hearts and choose to love God, we are privy to the secret that this love is possible because He chose to first love us even when we weren’t that loveable at all. The love of God is our beginning and our end. The love of God is our launch and our finish line. When it comes to faith, we are on the road to a paradise that will never fade away.

This is good to know when you come to realize what God’s future for us is all about. God did not create us to serve Him as much as He made us for relationship with Him. Let’s face it, God doesn’t need us to get things done and more times than not, we actually complicate the process rather than make it go smoothly. More than anything, God longs for us to stop looking for affirmation and validation in all the wrong places and to rest our weary hearts in His hands! The holy map is not taking us to a destination of mechanical duty. All signs point to us finding our satisfaction and completion in a connection that causes sparks to fly within.

God showed me a living illustration of what life is really all about the other day at my Son Joel’s Soccer Game. Joel is one of the Senior Captains on the Cape May Tech Soccer Team. On the positive side, he has become a great player, but the bad news is that they haven’t won a game all season. The other day was the stuff that dreams are made of. With the team down 2-1 to Wildwood Catholic, and with only about 15 seconds left in the game, Joel was involved in a breakaway with a clear shot on the goal. It appeared that Joel was going to be the hero and score the tying goal. With us on our feet, Joel took his shot! What 9 out of 10 times would have ended well, resulted in a ball that hit the pole and bounced out and not in. Game over! Tech loses again! But not Joel. He will always be a champion and a hero in the eyes of his Father. Nothing would ever make me love Joel more or any less. I told him how proud I was of him playing hard and leading well. And when it all wraps up, whether he scored that goal or not would not impact eternity. But living life knowing that not only his earthly Dad loved him, but his Heavenly Father cherished him too would make all the difference. We are being led to the love of God. God’s love is unconditional and forever. When you come to the end of your search for perfection here on earth, maybe you will finally be ready to look up and listen to the One who longs to lead you to Him.

We are called to pray that God’s Word will accomplish God’s Will in God’s Way as God Wants!

Prayer must line up with God’s purpose. Prayer is not trying to change God’s mind. Prayer is about transforming our desires to line up with how God thinks! If all we need is love, then it is time to listen to the One who wants to get you to experience the real thing. Pay attention to the One who paid it all to win the right to keep you safe with Him forever!





CHANGE IS INEVITABLE!

2 11 2020

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

Let’s face it, we are all creatures of habit. And as much as we would all be energized and enhanced by partaking fully in more regular newer adventures, there is something inside of us human beings that chooses to resist change like the Covid19 Virus. More often than not, it really has nothing to do with whether the next chapter offered us might be the very best thing that could happen to us. It seems to come back to the fact that we find a peculiar rest in our routines and repetitiveness. Unfortunately, this approach to life will kill any season of moving forward in our faith and deeper in devotion.

While discipline is essential to discipleship, so is a dedication to follow Jesus wherever He leads, doing whatever He asks, whenever He chooses to do so. This is why surrendering our agenda to the Lord is key to Christianity. This earth is not our home and as good as seasons may appear, this side of heaven, they always must come to an end. Our loved ones pass on, our kids move away, our friends relocate, our jobs come to a termination point, our houses get sold and our bodies betray us the older we get. The only thing that never changes is God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us or stop loving us. Anything else we attempt to hold on too tightly to will eventually get ripped away from our grip. This is not easily embraced, but must be acknowledged, or you will get stuck in a time warp where you will not only lose the hope of a thriving future, but become blind to the focus of today.

Miss Amelia Havisham is a character in the classic Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. On the day she was to be married, the groom never shows up and that moment totally devastates our heroine. With her heart broken into pieces, she never takes off her wedding dress and proceeds to have every clock stopped at the precise moment she should have been betrothed. Miss Havisham never allows her wounds to heal and she spends the rest of her days locked away in a ruined mansion in the very same outfit until she dies. This is tragedy times a million.

If you choose to engage your heart in the exercise of living, you will get battered and bruised. The very same organ that reaches the heights of euphoria when all goes your way, can feel like a white-washed tomb when circumstances come tumbling down. That sense of despair can force us into a self-preservation mode where we play it so safe that we aren’t actually living at all. There is potentially great cost when you become vulnerable enough to let it all hang out. I speak as one from experience, one who confesses that I know of no other way to behave other than wearing my heart on my sleeve. Will you get let down? Absolutely! Will you be treated fair and with respect? No guarantee that it will happen even though it is only right. The choice comes down to either rolling with the flow while adjusting the load on the road or fight the oncoming tide and allow as little change as possible.

Let us revisit another literary timeless tale, “The Velveteen Rabbit.” What does it take to be real? What must have to happen so that we will be open and honest and not hide what we feel? Do we lose value when we are aged and torn and been through a war or two? Will we make the mistake of staying safe in the package even if that was not the purpose God created us for? I will always cherish the words of the “Skin Horse” when he imparts his wisdom to the stuffed Bunny.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That is why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

God has not created us ever to be ugly. This world is filled with unkindness, unfairness and misunderstanding. When Jesus came down to this planet, He held nothing back. Transitioning from the ultimate perfection of Glory to the deepest pits of gory, we never got anything less than all of Jesus. This is why He deserves nothing less than all of us. Obedience is not conditioned upon our signing off on the project. God is our Coach, and we are His instruments, and if His will is to be practiced here as it is in Heaven, transformation is a necessity and that won’t occur without change. Not just one little bitty remodeling mind you, but a whole renovation work that covers every inch of who we are.

The pandemic of 2020 has frozen too many of us in a place of immoveable pause. Processing is essential to adaptation, but wisdom must enlarge its borders or the drought of inactivity will cause inertia to set in. Our lives must become established on the Rock if we are going to outlast the storms blowing our way; but the road to this reality is the fruit of venturing through the clouds and not running a million miles an hour in the opposite direction. If the Lord is willing to teach us how to number our days, then we must be reporting for duty daily and not only when we deem it worth our time and effort.

Fasten your seatbelts Church! There are blizzard warnings even in places where the Bible has been adhered to. Wake up and sober up to be part of God’s solution to the pollution that sin leaves in its selfish tracks. All hands must be on deck. Every member of the Body of Christ must be ready to play the game. If the clock is ticking, then its time to boost the offense and not give in to the temptation of playing prevent defense. Change is never easy, but it must be addressed as we continue to run the race God has marked out before us. We are not home yet but we have no chance of getting there unless we run! Run to the battle and let God lead!