CORONAVIRUS HITS HOME

23 03 2020

Conoravurus Hits home
I was about to begin our Saturday Night Service which like many churches, we are providing online these days, when my brother Robert called. I couldn’t answer the phone as I knew I wouldn’t have the time to talk so it went right to voice mail. Not more than a minute or two later, my phone buzzed again and this time it was my sister Mary Claire. I knew something was up, so while my daughter Abbie was leading worship, I answered my phone and the first words I heard were, “Mom was tested and the results came back today. She has the coronavirus.” I felt suddenly socked in the gut as I knew in just a few moments I was about to bring a message of faith and hope to onlookers who needed their Pastor to encourage them at such a time as this.

Mom is 82 years old and she lives in Florida where the majority of my family resides. My siblings down there take very good care of her as she is a strong Italian woman of abiding faith who still exudes lots of life and energy with no signs of slowing down until this past week. This unwelcome virus that has altered the lifestyles of us all was suddenly draining my Mom of her get up and go and she doesn’t give in easily. I did get to talk to her Saturday night and I didn’t recognize her voice at first, I did share the truth of how much I loved her and would be enlisting an army of believers to be praying for her.

I actually preached two different messages this past weekend. One for Saturday night and one for Sunday morning. Preaching and pastoring are not my job; they are extensions of my soul. If I didn’t believe that the Bible was true and that Jesus was my Savior and Lord, I would have a different job. I believe I wouldn’t have survived the trials and tribulations of life on earth at all. On Saturday night, I looked at Nehemiah and how he refused to believe that God had abandoned His people. When Nehemiah, who was in Persia as the king’s cupbearer, got the bad news of how awful things were going in Jerusalem, he mourned, fasted and prayed. Nehemiah got still before the Lord and before he acted, he sought God’s plan for him in the midst of such chaotic times.

I believe that we have become too mechanical in our worship of the Lord here in America. One of the things that we might learn as we all try to adapt to a quarantined culture is rather than stamp God’s names on our events and programs, perhaps we might wait for the Lord to direct before we begin to act on His behalf! Look how life here in Cape May County has been altered in such a short time. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have encouraged Christians to look for Jesus daily and how He is still very present and at work among us even though we are experiencing a whole new now. Americans have a tendency to get bogged down in the past or overwhelmed by the future to the point that they can become blind to the life happening right before their very eyes. None of us can truly deal with the, “What Ifs.” What we do have control over is how we will handle, “What Is.” We are here on this planet to shine our light bright even in the darkest times. But the only way we will keep our wick lit is if we run consistently to the Holy Spirit to ignite the flame.

On Sunday, I shared with our congregation, that rather than seeking presents from Jesus, we choose to become more dependent upon His Presence. Too often we get greedy for God to give us this and that when what we really need is just Him. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I don’t need another thing.” If I cling to the truth that He will never leave me or forsake me, then I won’t get out of sorts when things don’t go my way. I don’t follow Jesus because bad things don’t happen to me. I follow Him because I know the journey this side of heaven is filled with bumps, bruises and lots of battering rams. More than the miracles that God has done for me, it is His accompanying me that allows me to press on when my heart feels like it is going to burst. I was able to preach passionately only minutes after getting the news about my Mom because I know whom I have believed in and I am thoroughly persuaded that He is able to guard what matters most no matter what may happen here on earth.

God’s people will get the coronavirus. It doesn’t make it any more palatable but it does give us purpose in the pain. Jesus took on much worse than a virus to set us free from sin and death. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that things like this sickness could only mess with the body but had no grip on the soul. I gave up my self-reliance long ago. I know my abilities are severely limited. I gave my life to Jesus no matter what others might think because I knew He was the One who could lead me to the only paradise worth having. Many think I’m crazy but I’m not taking a poll to see whether a life of faith is worth the blood, sweat and tears. God said it and that settles it for me. I have come to the place where I believe that God is big enough to back up His promises. In this world we will all have to face the results of a sin torn planet, but I can be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world. Because He lives, not only can I face tomorrow, I can even find seeds of life growing in the concrete of today.

I love my Mom and I believe God only needs to say the word and she will be healed. But I also know that she longs to join her Savior in glory. It’s been 20 years since my Dad graduated to be with Jesus. The other night, I dreamt that I heard the trumpet and I was experiencing the return of our Lord. It was so real; I could actually feel the release and wind in my face as I soared towards the sky. I was even holding my wife’s hand. When I woke up, I was so disappointed that I was still in my bed. It took me only a few moments before I realized that if I had a pulse, I still had a purpose. Another day to walk by faith and not by sight!

I don’t know where you stand with the Lord. Unfortunately, for far too many, faith plays a far too tiny role in the big picture of life. God loves you. We all have sinned and fallen far short of trying to impress the Lord with our petty petitions and egotistical good works. God made the move when Jesus took the punishment that we deserved on our behalf. Whoever believes in Him will be rescued. Whoever trusts in Him will have eternal life. This gift doesn’t begin after we die. It is initiated the moment we surrender all to God. It is by grace through faith that we can know beyond a doubt that we belong to Jesus. Have you made that decision? I wish you would.

I have much to live for. My daughter, Leah, just had twins. My son, Joel, hasn’t even graduated high school yet. My daughter, Abbie, needs me to walk her down the aisle someday. I have many more messages to say, articles to write and music to play on the radio. But if I caught this virus and it took my earthly life away, you wouldn’t have to weep for me because like my Mom, I can’t lose. I win either way. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Let’s walk by faith and not be driven by fear. God holds my future. How about you?





THE CORONAVIRUS AND THE GOSPEL!

19 03 2020

bob goff heart
The great Minister Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” Jesus didn’t leave us here to live life on this earth as self-centered individuals. The greatest commandment was for men and women to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love one another. In the midst of a culture gone selfie crazy, Christians who live for the Lord and put the spotlight on taking care of others should stick out like light shining in the darkness. It is when we become too inward and forget that God’s call is all about behaving outward that the church gets its priority of purpose all mixed up. I have learned via my own experience that God will take care of you if you go out of your way to take care of others. And if ever there was a season for followers to showcase our Savior, it is now!

But I want to challenge all of us to ponder something before we just run out trying to save the world on our own. Before anyone of us opens up our mouths, we best be sure that we first open up our hearts fully to the Lord. There is nothing worse than trying to accomplish spiritual works in the power of our own flesh. Peter bragged about all he was going to do for Jesus, but it only took a few hours to prove that he was not up to backing up his talk with his walk. We won’t give the best away to others or love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us without allowing God to do a miraculous work within our hearts.

Before I knew Jesus, I wasn’t a very giving nor merciful individual. I grew up in a very big family and as the oldest child, I just got tired of always having to look out for everybody else. I was expected to share and care always for my siblings at the expense of having to sacrifice my own schedule. I hated having to be so good. Just once, I wanted to tell everyone else to take a hike so I could do what I wanted to do without any responsibility for anyone else. But when I surrendered my soul to Jesus, God put a love in my gut that was never there before. I began to have a real burden not only for those in my life, but for anyone God put in my path.

Many times, Christians are better at making excuses than truly following after the Father’s will. I hear church people say, “I can’t love that person,” or “I can’t forgive them after what they have done,” but the truth is, we can, but we have to want to; and the Holy Spirit gives us the very power to do so. God will put His love in us to fill us so that He can spill us out to others. We can’t tell the Lord what we will do and what we won’t do, where we will go and where we won’t go when all He really requires from us is an obedient, “Yes!” God uses everyday people to accomplish extraordinary tasks when we surrender our lives unconditionally to His leadership. I can’t tell you how many times that I have prayed a prayer like this. “Lord, I wouldn’t do this for anybody else, but for You I will do whatever You ask.” My behavior flows from my deep and real love for my Jesus. If we desire the works of the Lord to decorate our lives, then we best be devoted to the One who produces the fruit of glory via the dirt of earth.

Anonymity is a not a virtue. It seems that some people feel burdened, inconvenienced, or uninterested in sharing their lives. A hardness of heart reflects itself in an unwillingness to open up our loves to others, to invite them to really know us, and to serve them from the bounty the Lord has given us. Perhaps past hurts create a guardedness, or selfishness erodes the desire to share. But in any case, many people think of Christian living in exclusively private terms. If you ask me, there is just too much “Jesus and me,” and not enough, “Jesus and me and everybody else!”

Have you reduced the faith to nothing more than “a personal relationship with Jesus” without recognizing either our union with other Christians or the necessity of sharing our faith and our lives with non-Christians? When that happens, the body of Christ suffers and the world we live in stays in the dark rather than invited into the light. Anonymity stunts the growth of accountability. Anonymity allows you to live a public life and still nurse a private persona. There needs to be a consistency between what we claim to be and who we really are. Bottom line might begin with not telling anybody else how much Jesus loves them until we are ready to love them too.

Bob Goff says that, “we grow where we are loved, not where we are merely informed.” You can inform somebody you have no intention of knowing or having any connection with. But you really can’t love someone you have no intention of knowing. How can we say we love others if we aren’t willing to listen and hear their hearts? Too many of us are really good at pounding people with the facts and figures of Scripture but we never allow enough time to just simply talk. Communication must be a vital component of education. How can you prove your love to the watching and waiting world if you have built a wall around your heart, complete with a mote that has hungry crocodiles waiting to pounce on anybody who dares to get close? Who in your life will you unlock the door and allow to come on in to your messy world?

The Great Commission may carry you to the ends of the world, but it starts in your apartment complex, your dorm room, your duplex, your rental, your bi-level, your rancher, and your neighborhood. God has given you a perfect environment for demonstrating the gospel and advancing His mission, if only you’d open your eyes to it. What if we made people more important than our projects? What if we decided that Jesus didn’t just call us to finish the race first, but He challenged us to make sure that we help those others running along the track with us?

As I write this article, we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. Have you ever thought of it as a divine opportunity that could open a door to share the gospel? The Plague of Cyprian was a pandemic that afflicted the Roman Empire from AD 249 to 262. The plague had caused a widespread manpower shortage for food production and the Roman army, severely weakening the empire during the crisis of the 3rd century. The agent of the plague was much like smallpox, influenza and a viral hemorrhagic fever similar to the Ebola virus. History records how the Christians kept the light on in such a dark period. The Church of Jesus Christ became a virtual army of nurses, providing the basic needs the suffering community needed to survive.

At the height of the epidemic, around 260, Dionysius wrote a lengthy tribute to the heroic nursing efforts of local Christians, many of whom lost their lives while caring for others:

“Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of 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. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead. The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.”

Having noted at length how the Christian community nursed the sick and dying and even spared nothing in preparing the dead for proper burial, he wrote: “The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.”

Christianity spread to the world through the selfless acts of these early Christians. What will History write about us today? Are our doors open? Have we given God our open hearts? Are we willing to sacrifice our very lives? Something tells me, we won’t have to wait very long to discover the answers to those questions.





CAMPAIGN FOR CAPACITY

9 03 2020

capacity
I discovered the amazing talent of Kristin Booth when I caught the premiere episode of a Hallmark Channel Show entitled, “Signed, Sealed Delivered,” back in October of 2013. The Series was created and brought to television by Martha Williamson who also produced the legendary faith-based program, “Touched By An Angel,’ on CBS. On “SSD,” we get to see the adventures of the fearsome foursome who are affectionately known as “The Postables.” This unique team works in the Dead Letter Office at the Post Office in Denver, Colorado. They lovingly reunite the lost letters with their original intendents and in the process there’s lots of mysteries to be solved, fun to be had and a little divine providence involved along the way.

The Cast is made up of a very talented ensemble that includes Eric Mabius who plays the leader of the band, Oliver O’Toole, a blast from the past, part philosopher and all gentleman and constantly reminding everyone to “trust the timing” no matter how crazy things may get along the way. Alongside of Oliver are the innocent dynamic duo of Rita Haywith, played wonderfully by Crystal Lowe, a free-spirited gal with photographic memory and the soul of a child and Norman Dorman, played by Geoff Gustafson, who is the sweetest guy this side of heaven, as creative as can be when it comes to tracking down the letters’ destinations and madly in love with Rita. To round out the quartet is the one person who seems to be from this century named Shane McInerney. She is a wiz with computers, knows how to work the angles and is the perfect answer to Oliver’s questions. Kristin Booth plays Shane and she made me a forever Fan out of me by making this character come to life in such the dramatic manner that I had tears streaming down my face watching her work her magic.

Since the debut of Signed, Sealed Delivered, I have developed a real friendship with Kristin Booth. She has been kind enough to come on my Rudy On The Radio show several times. She has an infectious laugh and authentic enthusiasm that is more than just a little contagious. I have grown to respect her immensely as she is a woman of integrity, passion and excellence. Whether it is in front of the camera or behind it, you can be sure that whenever you invest time in watching one of her efforts, it never feels like it is wasted. She never disappoints and always makes me applaud. I wish every actor took their craft as seriously as Kristin does. I wish every actor would treat their fans with the love and respect that Kristin gives.

It’s because I believe in Kristin Booth that I want to share about a film project that we can literally invest in and become a part of. The movie is called, “Capacity,” and it deals with a subject near and dear to my heart, “mental illness.” This is a story about commitment and responsibility. It’s a tale about how far patience and understanding will stretch when dealing with a relative battling their own broken psyche. It focuses upon a lady trying to help her own sister break out of the self-destructive behavior that is leading her to darkness and debilitation. Kristin Booth with the help of her husband Tim Ware directing, shines much needed light on how quickly a flame can be snuffed out when an individual can’t even recognize their own disability? And it questions whether the aid being offered by hospitals actually lead to any true healing at all? Kristin is stepping behind the camera as the author and producer of this motion picture that I believe needs to be made.

There is a campaign in process online at www.indiegogo.com/projects/capacity#/ where money is bring raised to bring this goal to fruition. I am not asking anyone to support something that I have not already participated in by giving myself. There are several perks available to make your participation even more attractive. I am ready to do whatever I can to help reach that magic number that will make this dream a reality. When was the last time you were invited to become one of the credited producers in the making of a movie? It takes many hands to make a masterpiece. I would bet the ranch on Kristin Booth and this message must be expressed so that many more lives can be saved. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. Are you willing to strike a match for a great cause? I am hoping that together we will make the necessary difference. In a world that is in many ways more chaotic than ever before, let’s do something that tries to bring light and peace where there has only been confusion and ignorance before. It’s time to campaign for “Capacity!” It’s time to bring to light what must not be kept in the dark. Every penny turns the bulb in the right direction. Together we can make it shine! Keep up the good work Kristin Booth. We are right behind you!





ARE YOU READY?

4 03 2020

IMG-6725
I gave my heart completely to Jesus back in April of 1975. I was in High School at the time and was so mesmerized by this new relationship that literally saved my life. One of the first events that I was invited to was the Youth Group Bible Study held on Wednesday Nights in the Green Room. It was called this because of the famous shag carpet, which was “green,” that engulfed the floor. When I entered for the first time, to say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. There were kids with their arms raised in the air, many not wearing shoes and all fully engaged in praising Jesus. Growing up in the Catholic Church, this was a whole new experience for me.

The Youth Pastor’s name was Warren Was and we were encouraged to call him by his first name. He certainly made the Bible come alive to me. I had questions for him every week and he never got tired of answering them for me. Each Wednesday would open up with singing. There was not a plethora of contemporary Christian music available at the time so what we ended up worshipping to was called Jesus music. These were tunes written and recorded by the young long-haired hippies coming to faith in California. The Calvary Church movement pastored by Chuck Smith out of California thrived by discipling these new converts that weren’t welcomed into any conservative Congregation. The music birthed here laid the foundation of my walk with God.

Larry Norman was one such pioneer of this new Christian Rock and Roll music that we blasted from our record players and sang from the top of our lungs. Songs like, “Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation,” “I Am A Servant,” “Righteous Rocker,” and his iconic tune about the second coming called, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” were staples of our praise gatherings. Come to think of it, many of the themes had to do with the subject of Jesus coming back. I was so excited about the Book of Revelation that I truly expected our Lord to return at any minute. Every time I saw the sky filled with majestic clouds, I wondered if the trumpet blast was going to occur within the hour.

I’m not sure that we talk enough these days about getting ready for the Rapture. The Bible calls it, “The Blessed Hope,” and the early church would be reminded of it daily by greeting one another with the words, “Maranatha,” or “Behold He Comes” in all of their comings and goings. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, Jesus was going to come back and the dead in Christ would rise first to be quickly followed by those who are alive to be snatched up to meet the Lord in the air and so forever be with Him. When was the last time you woke up wondering, “What if Jesus comes back today?” We talk about our present struggles and the future Heaven, but not necessarily encouraging each other enough with the next advent of the Christ.

When I was a Youth Pastor, I used to conduct, “Rapture Practice” with the young people I was shepherding. Run much like a “Fire Drill” in a local school, I would shout, “Rapture Practice,” and all of a sudden, every one of us would climb up on our chairs and after a count-off of, “1, 2, 3!” everyone would jump! If Jesus came back, we would be off soaring through the air. If not, we would hit the floor with a thud. After much laughter, the point would be made and understood. We need to be ready when it was all going to be for real!

Let me finish today’s article with a wise word from a very young theologian who just happens to be only 5 years-old. Remember, it was Jesus who said that we all need to become like little children when it comes to faith and wonder. This fair-haired young lady went to Sunday school one day and her teacher told her that Jesus would be coming back. When she got home, she went right to her parents and asked, “Mommy, is it true that Jesus is coming back?” Her mother said, “Yes, honey, it’s true.” “Do you believe that?” “Yes, honey, I really do.” “Could He come back this week?” “Yes, He could come this week.” “Could He come today?” “Yes, He could come today.” “Could He come at this very moment?” “Yes, honey. He certainly could.” “Mommy, could you please help me comb my hair? I want to make sure that look my best for Jesus!”

This little girl understood the vital truth of the Scriptures better than most adults. She wanted to look her best when Jesus came back to take her to be with Him. When He returns, and He will, she wants to be sure her hair was combed. I don’t have much hair but I do have a yearning heart and I want to make sure that nothing gets in the way of my waiting for God to keep His promise. How about you? Is your hair combed, spiritually speaking? Are you ready for His appearing? That’s the urgent question confronting us as we learn to face tomorrow. Because He lives, we should never get so comfortable on this planet that we wouldn’t trade it all in immediately when the cry goes out that it’s time to come to our eternal home.

Let me close with the lyrics of Larry Norman:
          “Life was filled with guns and war and all of us got trampled on the floor;

          I wish we’d all been ready.

          Children died the days grew cold;

          a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold;

          I wish we’d all been ready.

          There’s no time to change your mind,

          the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.”

You won’t be left behind if you take care of the matters of your heart right now. God so loved you that He gave His only Son to die for your sins. If you would open your heart fully to Him and receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you will never have to worry about your future again. Are you ready?





STANDING UP WHEN IT COUNTS!

29 02 2020

standI was talking with my youngest son Joel the other day, and I asked him, “Do you think that Christians are being properly prepared so that if they ever had to choose between renouncing their faith or having to die, they wouldn’t deny Jesus Christ?” He hesitated but then thoughtfully added, “No Dad, I don’t think so.” In a day that so many churches spend so much time trying to make everybody comfortable, are we doing our parishioners a disservice by not getting them ready for battle? In so many parts of the world, people are dying daily because of their crime of believing in Jesus. Men and women love the Lord more than their own lives and refuse to walk away from Jesus even though they are threatened with being beheaded on the spot.

In America, we are well known for our declarations. We make bold statements all the time announcing our faithfulness and commitments and perseverance no matter what might stand in our way. The problem is that we are also known for talking more than walking when it comes to the behavior backing up beliefs. The first step is making a dedication of your heart to God before making any empty declarations of how strong you are going to be in the face of danger. If you won’t follow Jesus when it’s easy, how will you ever be courageous when it might cost you your very life and breath? If you don’t believe what I am saying, maybe take another look at the disciple Peter! He learned the hard way that proclamations without personal promises only make you look foolish in the long run. Let your life make the loudest noise. If more believers lived like the real Jesus did, Christianity might be much more attractive to a lost and dying world. There would definitely be more fight and light than we presently see in the Body of Christ!

The political correctness of our culture wants to edit Jesus from everyday life. You can talk about almost anyone else but start talking about our Lord and people get uncomfortable quickly. There is no other name under heaven given to men and women for how they can be rescued. You can understand why the enemy wants to keep that confession from the lips of people. Jesus never forced anyone to worship Him. Power can do many things but it can’t force you to love someone. That only comes from the decisions of the heart. But tyrannical human leaders have come and gone over time and their goals are much more egotistical and driven by pride and not the unconditional love that flows from Jesus.

Let me tell you the story of the ancient emperor Domitian. He was the brother of Titus, the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70. Jesus had prophesied about this ahead of time in the Gospel of Matthew. Domitian allegedly poisoned Titus so that he himself could become the sovereign ruler. After his brother was disposed of, Domitian became emperor.

At the beginning of his reign, Domitian like Nero before him proclaimed himself to be deity. He demanded that everyone throughout the Roman Empire worship him as a son of god. Under his law, people were forced to burn incense before statues of the emperor, and as they were doing so, they were forced to chant to the mantra, “Our lord and god.” There was nothing righteous about Domitian. He was a conceited and ruthless tyrant who ordered mass murders as casually as most people would swat a fly. He imposed severe punishments on anyone who disobeyed him. All in favor of his way would live. If anybody was opposed, he died on the spot!

The Apostle John was pastoring his congregation in Ephesus at the time. He challenged his flock to stay true to Jesus and not to bow to idols, and not to burn incense to the emperor’s image, and not to yield to government threats. He made it very clear that for the believer, there was really no choice at all. Jesus alone was worthy of worship and Jesus alone was the truth no matter what the cries of the crowd might say. In a crowd of lies, John said to stick with the truth. Domitian didn’t care for the words of John and exiled him on the first boat leaving town. He exiled John to Patmos thinking that would shut John up. It didn’t. People can try to lock God up but His word can’t stay contained.

As long as Domitian was emperor, John was stuck on Patmos. But John received the vision of the Revelation of Jesus that Domitian couldn’t stop. John gave us the book of Revelation against the backdrop of intense persecution. The Lord gave John a message to deliver to the seven churches. That message can be summed up in two words: don’t compromise. Yet the faith of too many is filled with it being watered down and is only an inkling of what God intended it to be.

When Domitian commanded that incense be burned before his image as an act of worship, many Christians said, “What harm would it do to burn a little incense? I still go to church and pray. If I defy the emperor, I might lose friends, lose business, and lose my job. If burning a little incense keeps the government off my back, what’s the harm?” But the Lord’s message, delivered through John, is clear: Don’t compromise. Take a stand for the truth. Stop worrying about what other people think. Stop worrying about what the government may do to you. Instead, consider what you will lose eternally if you compromise the truth. That’s still His message to us today: “Don’t compromise. Stand firm for the truth.”

How devoted are you to Jesus? Is He truly your first love? Is He number one in your heart? Jesus never gave you anything but His absolute best. Jesus died so that we could live. He gave His life for us so that we might have an eternal home with Him. What’s too much to do for a God who did everything for you? Seek Jesus and fall in love with Him. You can’t love Him if you don’t follow Him. You won’t be willing to die for someone you aren’t presently living for. Christianity isn’t just a hobby. It is not something to do with your spare time. Faith should be the driving engine of your soul. It’s time to stand up for the light in the middle of the night. Will you?





TURNING 60!

19 02 2020

60

I have been telling everyone for the last year that I’m 60 years old. On February 24th, it will become a reality and I’m not sure yet how I feel about it. It seems like just yesterday that I was starting school, playing Little League Baseball, learning how to drive, going on my first date and combing my hair. Now, in the blink of an eye, everything that was once on my horizon is in my rear-view mirror and slowly fading out of sight, especially my hair. It is a sobering thought to admit that most of my life on earth has already happened. I am not ready to ride into the sunset anytime soon but it’s hard not to be a bit reflective when you approach a milestone like this one.

Dwight D Eisenhower was President when I was born. The number one record was “A Theme from a Summer Place” by Percy Faith. The Philadelphia Eagles were the NFL Champions. The Pirates upset the Yankees in the World Series. My favorite Baseball Team, the New York Mets, didn’t even exist yet. Later in the year, JFK would beat Tricky Dick Nixon in a neck and neck election. In 1960 a new house cost a mere $12,700.00 and the average income per year was $5,315.00. In 1960 a gallon of gas was 25 cents and the average cost of new car was $2,600.00. The minimum wage was $1.25 an hour, a gallon of milk was $0.95 and a ticket to the Movies only a $1.00. You could get almost 6 Burgers for a buck! That didn’t mean my Dad was ready to splurge though. He was more of a buy a loaf of bread and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the car kind of guy.

I grew up as my Dad’s right-hand man who regularly went to work with him and helped him in any way I could. My pay for my efforts was a quarter in which I would quickly buy five packages of baseball cards where you not only got the pictures of your favorite players, you got that unforgettable pink cardboard piece of gum. I still have those cards. I wish I still had my Dad. I miss that man so much! He died shortly after I turned 40 years old. His absence has made a noticeable difference in the last 20 years. Cherish your loved ones while you have them with you. There is nothing more valuable than loving and being loved by the people who matter most.

As many of you know, I grew up in a very religious family. We were Roman Catholic and I’m thankful for those roots that would eventually lead me to a personal relationship with Jesus that would literally turn my world around. In 1975, God got a hold of my heart and put a call on my life that would lead me into full time ministry. I knew that I was going to be a Pastor. It’s so funny because before I asked Jesus into my heart, I was a straight A student who was driven to perform at the highest level just so that I could be loved and accepted. I could memorize very well so even if I didn’t understand the subject practically, I would still score sky high academically. I laugh to this day because I never believed that tests were the best way to prove that you knew what you were talking about. After my Christianity became my passion, my grades actually went down, but for the first time in my life, I was finally really living.

Baseball was one of my first loves along with my hunger to hear all kinds of music. You could always find me with a bat in one hand and my transistor radio in the other. These were the days of playing baseball in every yard in the neighborhood. We’d play in the street until the last inkling of sunlight to get one more inning in. There were no video games. We did it all outside and nobody ever wanted to be inside. I know I didn’t! But if I had to be home, I’d go down in the basement with the old reel-to-reel tape player and pretend I was the disc jockey on my own make-believe radio station. I would spin the tunes and perfect my delivery. To this day, when people ask me if I do any preparation for my current radio shows, I say never. I actually can do radio in my sleep because it is so ingrained into my being. I’ve been doing it forever.

My first album I bought with my own money was, “Meet The Beatles,” and my first 45 record was “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups. I grew up listening to my Parents’ music by Sinatra, Joni James, Al Martino and Nat King Cole and loved it all. I loved the fact that I never got stuck in one genre and to this day, I love when my Kids share with me their music and I love it. At the Lighthouse Church, I make sure that we are open to the whole catalogue of Christian music covering all the years doing the hymns as well as the newest tunes from Elevation Worship. I am a big fan of cross generational crowds and believe that too much of today is siloed into specialized compartments. How can the young look up to their elders if they are never together? How can the seniors get inspired by the juniors if their paths never cross? I believe God wants us all together much more than we are. Especially now that I am getting older, I love being with the entire church family. I played church softball last year with our College and Career group. It is that important!

I am very blessed. Life has been much more difficult than I ever thought it would be but I know that like George Bailey in the Movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I am a very rich man no matter what my bank account might say. Terri and I are married going on 38 years and we have 4 beautiful Kids all following Jesus and soon to welcome grandkids number 5 and 6 when the twins arrive this spring to Leah and Jeff. As a matter of fact, just this afternoon, I was playing on the floor setting up the hot wheels’ tracks with my granddaughter Lucia. I love getting down even if it means I might need an extra hand to get back up!

I think I will forever be just a big kid at heart. I get excited about opening day of baseball season and love Christmas Eve. I will still jump in puddles, throw snowballs, and laugh freely out loud. I’m not afraid to show my emotions, wear my heart on my sleeve and shed a tear often. I will tell you, “I Love You,” pick you up and hug you and sing a song to you no matter where we are. I hate waiting in lines, love doughnuts and feel like I’m visiting family every time I enter a Wawa. I know that I am far from perfect. I am sorry for the times I played it too safe and missed out on an adventure that might have had my name on it. I wish it would snow more in the winter and time would just slow down altogether. I know you can’t go back, but if I could, I would love to just see all my loved ones again.

Somebody asked me what I wanted for my 60th Birthday and if I could have anything, it would be a reunion of all the kids and people that I ever pastored to be gathered together again for a reunion. I would just love the opportunity to hang out together again. I guess that what’s Heaven is for. All I do know is how fragile life really is. Every day must be unwrapped as the precious gift that it is. Thank You Lord for the first 60 years and because of Your promises, I am assured that the best is still yet to come.





WE ARE ALL BROKEN

10 02 2020

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Let’s face it. We all have our issues which keeps the tissue company doing a lucrative business. It’s that and the fact that I am also allergic to just about everything but cats and dogs. But my article today wants to encourage each and every one of us that if you are feeling bad that life hasn’t turned out better, it’s not all your fault. Look at what we have to work with. This earth is only a hint of what it once was before Adam and Eve chose poorly in the Garden of Eden. We can exercise and be in great shape and still get hit by a drunk driver. We can love children beyond measure and still end up with more heartbreak than hallelujahs. Believers can be faithfully following Jesus and be hopelessly devoted to His word and way and still be the target of injustice, hatred and cheap shots. The craziest part about what I just shared is that many of the punches come from those who are supposed to be on the same team!

There is nothing worse than when someone finally has the courage to go for their dreams, they are met with words like, “That’ll never happen!” Teachers, Coaches, Pastors and Parents who deal with their own personal insecurities decide that the best that they can offer is to rain on a parade that hasn’t even gotten off the ground. No woman should ever have to be compared to another woman. I have two adult daughters and they are absolutely beautiful and the apple of their Daddy’s heart so if you mess with them, I am going to come to their defense. Men hear things like, “Big boys don’t cry!” “Real men don’t show emotion.” “Athletes don’t play music and Musicians don’t waste time pitching no-hitters!” I was someone who never fit in the stereotype of any one group. All my life I was told by Mom, Priests, Coaches and Christians that I wasn’t this enough or that enough and I wouldn’t amount to anything! My Preaching Professor in College gave me “D” Grades simply because I wouldn’t stand still when I gave a sermon. He was so put off by the package, he never took the time to appreciate the contents. Aren’t you glad that God is not looking for cathedrals to dwell in but simply those empty and cracked jars who will make room for Him to invade the space!

I’m 60 now and while random words still sting, I am also glad I got good at ignoring the crowd! The Lighthouse Church wouldn’t be on Route 9 if I listened to the self-appointed know-it-alls! Isn’t it ironic that those who talk the most usually do the least? What is easier? Is it to be the individual who writes the song, paints the picture, puts themselves out there and shares their talent or the one who sits in the bleachers yelling insult after insult while they never lift a finger unless it’s to stuff another hot dog into their mouths! By the way, in all of history, nobody has ever built a monument to a Critic. Only those who get up and go for it ever get there! I’m cheering you on! I hate that old “sticks and stones” chorus because it isn’t true! Words can hurt and when they come from those who are supposed to be nurturing you, they can cut very deep! It is not constructive criticism unless the end result is that somebody is built up after the encounter. Truth with grace shared in love plants promising seeds of faith and hopeful happenings and there is nothing more wonderful in a world that is so messy than seeing a beautiful garden growing in the concrete! God can use us to transform junkyards into art exhibits! Isn’t that what amazing grace is all about? Taking what was left to be trashed and transforming it into true eternal treasure.

So why is the church playing roles when the most powerful part we can share is being real? Jesus continually tried to get the religious rulers to loosen up when it came to relating to their flock. This has nothing to do with bad behavior and misusing God’s love as permission to get away with what is wrong. This has everything to do with pretending you are one thing when you are really another. We are all broken and messed up! Even as Christians, we are in process to make progress and while we should celebrate the steps of success, we can’t hide the dismal failures. I beg people not to put me on any pedestals. I don’t need anything new to fall off of. I take my responsibility and calling as a Pastor very seriously and I know that many people look to me to be an example. But let’s make it clear what I am an example of. I am a learning, active follower of Jesus who is still battling depression, anxiety and frustration. I am a recovering perfectionist who for so long actually believed that I could live like I was already in Heaven but that’s impossible in my present address. Jesus was heaven on earth but he didn’t build his kingdom here, at least, not yet! He was preparing us for the real deal. Why would I ever want to settle for make believe when God has promised true authenticity?

I talked to an old friend today. We have known each other for almost 40 years. He was at my wedding. I performed his. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time and yet it took no time at all to get beyond the niceties to the nitty gritty. There were no attempts to one upping each other. As a matter of fact, we both expressed quite clearly that life has not turned out as we both thought it would. But in the midst of all that went wrong, we also highlighted the moments that went very right. Our kids, our adventures, our faith and our friendship were true gifts worth valuing. Also, we remembered that we aren’t finished yet, and reminded one another to keep on trucking. It was what faith and community and family should be all about. We didn’t exchange empty flattery. We didn’t skirt reality. We continued to love each other knowing that neither one of us have arrived.

What does it take to be real? What needs to happen so the Body of Christ is open and honest and shares what we actually feel? Weekend Services are not events to attend. They are not places to practice anonymity. Nobody should be looking to sharpen their acting skills while intervening with the congregation. Come on Believers. We are not consumers. We are challenged to be the Lord’s disciples. Jesus knew full well who He was talking to when He bantered with the woman at the well, defended the lady caught in adultery and invited to dinner the dishonest tax collector who He knew was hiding up the tree. Jesus never condoned bad behavior but He didn’t condemn the honest and seeking heart. God won’t work with a façade. Stop playing games and let’s be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus amidst a world that desperately needs to taste the original recipe.





GET OFF THE COUCH CHURCH!

6 02 2020

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I love old western movies and television shows. I secretly wanted to always be a cowboy, not from Dallas, but from Dodge City. I can dream of riding the open range and hanging out with the likes of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott, Errol Flynn, Walter Brennan, Brett Maverick, the Cartwrights, Chuck Connors, Wyatt Earp, the gang from Wagon Train and Marshall Dillon from Gunsmoke. Did you know that the experts rated all the gunmen from video lore and discovered that the fastest draw was none other than James Arness. Miss Kitty knew that she was in good hands under his protection.

From the pages of actual history is the fascinating tale of the Pony Express. These mailmen of the open plains served a private company that specialized in making special deliveries via an organized relay of horseback riders. The eastern end was St. Joseph, Missouri, and the western terminal was in Sacramento, California. The cost of sending a letter by Pony Express was $ 2.50 an ounce.

Being part of this elite team was very dangerous in every aspect of the word. There were the severe weather conditions, the utter dependence on the horses to hold out, the constant threat of Indian attacks and the durability of the men themselves. All would have to go right if the correspondences had any shot of completing the entire 2000-mile journey in a speedy 10 days. It did surprise me when I discovered that the Pony Express was only in operation from April 3, 1860 until November 18, 1861. Once the telegraph line was completed between the two cities, the service was no longer needed.

Being a rider for the Pony Express was a deadly job. You were expected to ride 75-100 miles a day, changing horses every 15-25 miles. Other than the mail, the only baggage you carried contained a few provisions, including a kit of flour, cornmeal, and bacon. In case of danger, you also had a medical pack of turpentine, borax, and cream of tartar. In order to travel light and to increase speed of mobility during Indian attacks, the men always rode in shirtsleeves, even during the fierce winter weather. How would you recruit volunteers for this hazardous job? An 1860 San Francisco newspaper printed this ad for the Pony Express: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18.
Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

Those were the straight honest facts of the service required, and you would think that trying to get guys to sign up would be a never-ending challenge but the Pony Express never had a shortage of riders. As a matter of fact, there was always a waiting list of thousands of men hoping for their call to saddle up and ride.

If you asked my opinion of what is wrong with our culture today, I would share that I believe a huge issue is the pursuit of comfort we make a priority. Too many people are seeking to relax in recliners when what they really need to experience life at its fullest is to be reaching for the reigns. If we think retiring from having adventures is good for the heart, we are sadly mistaken. God has a purpose for us that becomes real when we aggressively play the position that God has empowered us to perform. Bench warming is not admirable when Jesus made it possible for us to be His key instruments when it comes to shining His light in this dark world.

Like the Pony Express, serving God is not a job for the casually interested. It’s costly service. The Lord asks for you to surrender all of your life. God asks for a passionate service to Him to become a priority, not a pastime. Jesus expects His way to lead to His works being done in us and through us. Jesus expects us to be His hands and His feet so that we can meet the needs of those around us. By showing up to worship, we are signing up for service. And we are delivering a treasure that is so much more valuable than silver or gold. Nothing should stop us from being God’s ambassadors of grace and truth.

What if the church prioritized the Savior’s messages like we do our social media? I read that the average person spends 1 out of every 5 minutes on social media. It’s literally taking over our lives, minute by minute. It’s way too easy these days for Believers to get distracted by everything else but what we should be keeping our eyes fixed upon. When it comes to making time for praying or reading about Jesus, we get fidgety and restless. Our minds start to wander. Our fingers reach for our phones to take a quick peek and see what our friends are doing. How many likes did my last Instagram post get? Was I retweeted lately? How many more friends can I add on Facebook?

We’re not wasting time when we are making God our main focus! It’s actually the best use of time, to spend time with the One who created time in the first place. The Lord knew we would need to eat, sleep, work, and brush our teeth, yet He still asked us to pray. He urged us to spend time with Him because He knew it would actually change everything else about us. Sure, it’s good to guard your time, but it’s even better to guard your heart. Don’t keep such a tight grip on your agenda that you miss out on Jesus. Decide to allow your mind, heart, soul and strength to only be distracted by Him and commit to being wholeheartedly a big part of His positive posse. Let’s put down the remote and pick up the roster and make sure that we are ready to ride. Let’s get off the sofa and saddle up to see what Jesus has in store on the horizon. It might not be as safe as riding the merry-go-round but I guarantee you that you till taste the thrill of being fully alive.





A WORD FROM ABBIE

28 01 2020

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I am the proud Daddy to four wonderful children and Pop-Pop to presently four but soon to be six grandchildren. My oldest Son Rudy pastors a church in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. My Daughter Leah is a Teacher in Dennis Township. My Daughter Abbie is the Worship Director at the Lighthouse Church. My youngest Son Joel is a Junior at Cape May Tech. Each one of my children have their unique and very special talents and God given abilities. Yesterday Leah celebrated her 32nd Birthday. She is expecting twins in the Spring and as a Kindergarten Teacher, there is no one better! Today I want to share with you something my youngest Daughter Abbie wrote recently. She like her Father has a way with words. I hope you enjoy this blessing.

Abbie writes, “Every year for the past decade has been marked by a word. December would roll by, leading us into the “start” of a new year, a new day, a new word. With each word, came a prayer and hope of what the Lord might mold or shape. So many words. Hope. Simplicity. Steadfast. Bold. Expectancy. Cultivate. To be honest. This year, I got nothing. No word. No revelation. No feeling or pull toward a certain phrase. Nothing popping off the pages of the dictionary.

There were moments in early January, as I saw “Word of the Year” posts where I grew frustrated and even fought feelings of failure. My plan-ahead anxious mind went down rabbit trails, How do you move forward if you don’t have a clear vision. Can you march faithfully onward without a word shaping the forefront. But maybe it’s not a word this year. I penned these words 4 years ago:

“I want more than anything to be able to share a testimony of the changes in my life so more people can know freedom and come to know Jesus.”

The pain yet freedom, steps backward yet triumphant leaps forward—that all followed in the year and years to follow those words—I believe are only a glimpse of what is to come, of how He will continue to bring those words to fruition. Prior to penning those words, was this paragraph:

“You know how I’ve lived one way for what seems like a million years and some days it feels like a huge chore for me to even put my feet on the ground and get out of bed—and those days it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in how I’m feeling because it’s not how I want to be feeling. Well, today was one of those days.”

I kept trying to find a way to work my way out of it this morning. And I struggled a lot to get moving. I struggled to stay focused during devotions, to stay focused at the gym or to even want to do anything. But I went for a walk outside anyways. And I was trying to figure out how to not beat myself up because of how unmotivated I was. And then it hit me that maybe these days aren’t the worst. Because, maybe on days like this instead of focusing on feeling defeated by my feelings (which the enemy would love), I can feel strengthened by my Jesus. Because it’s days like this that we can be extra thankful that His love is unconditional. And without days like this, I wouldn’t know the sweetness of His grace or the peace of surrendering. So even though I want to cry about everything, I can still say today has purpose. I need to give myself the freedom to feel instead of automatically attacking myself and give the Lord control, then I can be assured that it actually is going to be okay. It’s not my job to try and fix everything “wrong” with me.”

I wish I could go back to that girl, the same way that I know I’ll want to come back to who I am today—and share the reminder—that it actually will be okay. If and when, Jesus is first.  At the end of the day, the story is still the same. To know freedom, is to know Jesus. To know peace, is to know Jesus. To know the sweetness of grace is to know Jesus. To wake to new mercy is to wake to Jesus. To know strength in weakness is to know Jesus. To know gentleness in the midst of an anxiety attack, is to know Jesus. To know motivation to get up and go and move when depression weighs on your chest, is to know Jesus. To know purpose, is to know Jesus. He is the author. The perfecter. Etched and woven into all of history—from the beginning, it was Jesus. For always, it will be Jesus. And if I have any hope or word for this year it’s Him. My word is a name. It’s Jesus.”





A TALE OF TWO STORIES

21 01 2020

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You will never hear me say that being a Christian is easy. Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily even make life on earth better for you although I will share that it certainly does add challenges you wouldn’t have if you only decided to go with the flow. When Jesus comes into your heart, it ignites a light to shine from your life and that glare certainly does irritate those that prefer to do their deeds in the darkness. Believers should not take the opposition personally because it’s God working in us that rubs the culture the wrong way.

The day one surrenders their heart to the Lord is the day that he or she becomes a citizen of heaven. Christians are known as sojourners, pilgrims, visitors and strangers in a foreign land. No longer are followers of Jesus at home on this planet. No longer are we the number one to look out for because now that place has been set aside for the Lord. But God is not going to wait until we get to glory to begin the process of making us His saints. That transformation begins the moment you and I put on the uniform informing all those around us that we now play for God. The learning doesn’t happen in the classroom as much as it occurs in the course of everyday living.

God never wastes a teaching opportunity. Scripture informs us that He uses all things to work together for good to those who love Him. He makes messes into masterpieces. He redeems trash into treasure. What was blatantly unfair can be repackaged by the Lord to give us a glimpse of the hope and the future that He promised us. God uses the trials of this world to make us robed and ready for the triumph to come when we move on up to our new address. It is part of God’s providence. It is part of God’s plan. It is part of God’s purpose. It is not evidence that God has forsaken you. Actually, it is clear evidence that God has not forsaken you.

When you enlist or are drafted into the armed forces; the very moment you sign up, you are officially a soldier. But while that may be true on paper, someone is going to be in charge of making it a reality in practice. You may be recognized as a soldier, but as a new recruit, you are a “SINO- A Soldier In Name Only!” The Drill Instructor that you are assigned to in boot camp has one job and that’s to turn you into the real deal! He will not be gentle, meek and mild. You might even assume that he doesn’t like you. He will use many hard times and difficult assignments to get you to live up to your name! Whatever it takes to get you battle ready is fair game.

There are no such people as “Christians In Name Only!” Jesus through the Holy Spirit will make your walk live up to the talk. The evidence that will define you as a follower of Jesus will be the spiritual fruits that are produced because of your holy roots. Our purpose is to bring glory to God in everything we say and do. God provides the equipment that we will need to stay focused on heaven no matter how much hell might be breaking loose in our midst. Earth no longer grades our report card. We have graduated to living by faith through grace and only in that realm does anything make sense.

While some call me crazy for what they have concluded to be me throwing my life away, I am so blessed that God doesn’t let any move or moment go to waste. Even when the hammering is happening via hellish and horrible means, I’ve got heaven protecting my back. The Lord purges and purifies us even as the world pounds us. And when you are tempted to run away from the Lord, that is the very season that you best be running right into His arms. The way to paradise is much more about becoming a warrior than it is just taking another quiet walk in the park.

During World War II, the ten Boom family of Holland harbored Jews in their home until the Gestapo arrested the elderly father and his two grown daughters, Corrie and Betsie.
Months later, after their father died, the sisters faced unimaginable cruelty in a concentration camp. Yet in the face of extreme darkness, Betsie, in her own dying days, felt compelled to continue sharing Christ’s love with others.

She remarked to Corrie that we “must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that he is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.” These words, as recounted in Corrie’s book The Hiding Place are indeed moving and inspirational. But how can we know they are absolutely true? Because as believers in Jesus we have tasted life in the hole where it seemed like we were destined to dwell. When it appeared that we might have been forgotten by God, we experienced His presence and it gave us just what we needed to press on. What the world thought might knock us out as only made us more determined.

In August of 1984, Terri and I were ready to finally share the good news that she was pregnant again. Our first child was miscarried on April 24, 1983. On the very night we finally felt confident to tell people, was the very night that we saw that baby go to glory way earlier than we had ever expected. In the waiting room of Morristown Memorial Hospital, I faced another of what has become many crisis moments in my Christian walk. I wanted to scream and shout and knock somebody out. I begged God for answers and all He gave me was a verse from Deuteronomy 29:29 that let me know the secret things belonged to the Lord but He would let me in on all I would ever need to know. Since that time, Terri and I would have the honor to raise four of our children but we have five in heaven. Without the Lord, I’d be a distant memory. Because of the Lord, He still gets life out of this broken and busted up believer. And it is all because Jesus bore for us the weight of the world’s sin, willing to sink deeper into the pit of separation from God than we’ll ever comprehend, we are going to be raised up! Nothing will stop the momentum of God’s mighty hand!