THE EYES HAVE IT!

12 07 2019

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We have all heard the phrase, “Making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Exaggeration is a common instrument in the land of the human nation. We are not always the best judges of what we see. We get overwhelmed by underwhelming subjects and we lose heart over matters that shouldn’t even warrant a second look. I have asked God many times, “Lord, why is it so hard for us to call them as we see them?” A common cry at the ballpark is for the umpires to invest in stronger glasses. We don’t trust the referees and we second guess the critics who grade our best of efforts well below average. Whose eyes have it?

I have not always seen life clearly even though I am staring intently at what is standing right in front of me. My eyesight is not what it used to be. The twenty-twenty days are a distant memory. But in my haste to not allow waste, I might have gone to an extreme which again is not accurate of the way things seem. I now own bifocals and even that isn’t strong enough for me to look into the mirror.

How many of you, like me, have purchased a magnifying mirror to help with your low vision problems? And while it definitely has brought the hard to see into the light of day, it has gone above and beyond what was actually necessary. Suddenly I was discovering flaws, imperfections and blemishes that I would not normally see. Because I am wired as a perfectionist, I was beginning to spend hours obsessing and fretting over the mess staring back at me. I have never been very secure in my own looks and let’s just say this purchase was making things not better but a whole lot worse. When you battle obsessive compulsive disorder to begin with, the last thing you need is more components beyond your control.

Remember the Wicked Queen in the story of Snow White? She was so preoccupied with being the fairest of them all, she fell into the trap of not being satisfied with who God made her to be. When you begin to compare, you compete with those who don’t even realize that you have made a contest out of what could have been a relationship. That stupid magnifying mirror might have been the most foolish use of my money since I bought a salad shooter for Terri, Christmas 1985! I forgot the simple fact that when you use a magnifying mirror, its sole purpose is to enlarge objects. This means that whatever you are seeing is going to be bigger than it actually is to the naked eye. The average person will not be able to see what you are seeing in this type of mirror and definitely not at the same size you are looking at. So next time you look in the mirror and do not like what you see, keep in mind that what you see in the mirror may be distorted by various factors. Maybe it is time for me to throw the mirror away and base my self-image on what God says rather than by what I see?

The enemy of our souls is set to steal, kill and destroy God’s image in us. When God says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, all we hear is that we are monsters and everyone who sees us should be very afraid. What the enemy labels ugly is what God is making beautiful in His own way. Even the Bible tells us that what made Jesus so attractive wasn’t his Matinee Idol looks, but His amazing love that He had for others. Blindness is healed miraculously when we get our focus off ourselves, concentrate on the Lord and let Him write the definition of real beauty. We live in a world of excessive plastic surgery and yet the most handsome feature of our Savior is the scars on His hands and feet and the hole in His side. Even in the Resurrected Body, Jesus did not have these traits removed. Perhaps we are missing out on majesty because we are giving permission to earth to hijack our heaven. It’s about time we start looking through the eyes of love.

When your spouse looks into your eyes, whose reflection does he or she see? When your children come to you for tender loving care, are they hearing life sentences or death phrases. When you speak to one another, is your language explosive or endearing? Do people feel better about themselves after they have been in your presence? Are you in the habit of dishing out constructive criticism or cheap shots that puncture the spirit? If Jesus looked into your eyes right now, what do you hear Him saying to you? How you answer really does determine whether you need your head examined or your heart renewed.Let me close with some lyrics of one of my favorite Gene Pitney songs. There are some nuggets of gold in these words.

“In the eyes of the world, I’m a loser, just wasting my time, I can’t make a dime.
In the eyes of the world, being born was my first big mistake, I can’t get a break.
But in the eyes of my woman I stand like a hero, a giant, a man who’s as tall as can be;
Any fool can see that she’s looking through the eyes of love when she looks at me.”

How would our lives be different if we could see what God sees when He looks at you and me?
I think it’s a view worth fighting for!





PASTOR RUDY, RUSS TAFF AND REAL LIFE

3 07 2019

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I turned my life over and gave my heart to Jesus in April of 1975. At the time I appeared on the outside like the young Man who had it all together. I was a straight A, over achieving, performance driven, affection starving Teenager who while he was a perennial Teacher’s Favorite Student, never felt that he was quite good enough for anything. I was an emotional keg of dynamite ready to go off at any moment. The Lord used His word, music, the love of a godly Dad and a new found faith to keep me from ever going over the edge but even as a Christian, I still lived tragically close to daily disaster.

Only a year after beginning my walk with God did I sense His call into full time ministry. I had only been a Believer a few years when I attended Philadelphia College of Bible to prepare for the mission set before me. My days at PCB were some of the best of my life. I was getting to study the Bible with some of the greatest Professors on this planet. I made friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I met my wife there and was so affirmed that God had given me the gifts to pastor people. For the first fifteen years I worked exclusively with Youth, and the last twenty-two, as the Senior Pastor of the Lighthouse Church. You can say without hesitation that I have experienced Church Life thoroughly, tasting all of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Like a drug, working as a Leader in the service of the Lord only made my addiction to adrenaline worse. With each success, it only made me work more and try harder. Now don’t get me wrong, I believed passionately the message that I shared. When I was doing what I did, I knew that it was exactly what God created me to do. Unfortunately, the vehicle that God was using to drive home truth was severely flawed. In all of my journeys, I was still trying to work my way so that I could earn and deserve God’s love and grace. I never felt worthy. There was always a gnawing sense of shame eating away at my redeemed soul. What is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I experience real freedom?

God’s church is still His precious Bride that Jesus gave His life for to literally transform into a holy and blameless bunch. Humanity has reared its ugly head in the midst of heaven and raised a lot of hell along the way. I worked for Church Boards that expected a hundred hours a week of productivity. Nobody kept an eye on the workaholic tendency of Pastors like me. The only time I was brought into the office were those rare weeks that I didn’t meet the quota and was reprimanded shamefully. I fought hard to make sure my Wife and Kids knew how important they were to me but there were entire summers I’d be missing from their worlds. The clear lesson being championed was that too much is still never enough and no matter how wonderful the last event was, there were still many more mountains to conquer. If I wanted to matter, I’d better not take off my hiking boots.

The last twelve years has only revealed to me clearly the depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior that I have battled since I was a child has never gone away. It actually has gotten worse and no amount of activity I compile upon my resume is strong enough to quiet those gremlins that long to render my heart paralyzed. If I am grateful for anything, it’s that the Body Of Christ in 2019 is more compassionate and merciful to these issues and recognizes their presence not as a consequence of a bad faith but of a broken human being. You can be a devoted Follower of Jesus and still be far from perfect and someone who is still in the process of being transformed into the image of our Savior. What I used to stuff deep down inside so that nobody would suspect that I didn’t have it all together, I can now live out in the great wide open. I am determined that my story has no phony elements and can be raw and real. And it is my prayer that in my being authentic and vulnerable, others too can come out of hiding so that the Lord can shine His light of healing and wholeness on them too.

I am battling daily even as I write this. It is mostly a radical surgery of retraining my brain to operate fueled by a truth that God’s promises will set us free. But those danging tapes of non-stop lies that have monopolized my belief system all these years won’t die easily. Christians are still very much works in progress. If anyone acts like they have arrived, he or she is only putting on a show that needs to go. Enough with the edited for the Sanctuary images we are tempted to portray. God doesn’t work with facades. We must be willing to surrender our tainted coping mechanisms and lay them down at the foot of the Cross so that God has sovereign rule and room to rescue, redeem and restore us to our original glory. Church has got to be a place where we can come just as we are so that God can make us just what He wants us to be. Sin is not tolerated, but it’s not tastefully hidden either. When I read the Bible, I don’t see heroes to emulate but men and women who were examples to us all that apart from the Lord we can’t do a thing right!

This coming weekend at The Lighthouse Church, we have the contemporary Christian Music Legendary Singer Russ Taff coming to be with us. He will be there for all three Services beginning with Saturday at 6PM and then again on Sunday Morning at 9 and 10:45AM. No tickets are necessary as it is our gift to the Cape May County Community. Last year, Russ released a Book and a Movie entitled “I Still Believe.” It tells the story of Russ’ lifetime battle between the Jesus he truly loves and the addictions he never stopped fighting. If you need to just be in a place where you can literally let it all hang out before the Lord and let Jesus love you not because of what you do or don’t do but simply because you are you, then please don’t miss this opportunity. I relate so much to Russ’ testimony. It is a tale of what the grace and mercy of the Lord is all about. I hope to see you. Nobody needs to hang their heads in shame. Simply come with open hands so God can fill your empty hearts. Christianity is the story of what God can do in a willing soul that just gives Him room.

Let me close with the lyrics to my favorite Russ Taff song; “Praise the Lord.”
“When you’re up against a struggle, that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes
And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fear
Don’t let the faith you’re standing in seem to disappear
Praise the Lord, He will work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seem to bind you
Serve only to remind you, that they drop powerless behind you when you praise Him”





DABBLE OR DEVOTION

27 06 2019

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I got a message from one of my Doctors this week that I would still owe him $100 even though I missed my last appointment. The reason that I missed the exam was because I believed my own excuse that I was too busy to take time out to take care of myself. But after further reflection, which caused me to be honest with myself, I admitted that I wasn’t exactly telling the truth. I’m just yet one more guy who avoids going to the Doctor. Statistics show that men intentionally avoid getting checkups. The craziest part of it all is that the number-one reason we avoid going to the doctor is because we are afraid that the Doctor might tell us bad news. We buy into the old adage that no news is good news. But is it truly better to use ignorance as an excuse?

The last I checked, I won’t be getting a visit from the Blood Pressure Fairy tonight making sure that my arteries are magically unclogged. Somewhere along the line, I must face the facts that if I don’t take personal responsibility for my health, nobody else will. It’s terribly important for us all that we know the straight story about the state of our well-being. But here’s the real deal, as important as it is to monitor our physical well-being, it is infinitely more important to monitor our spiritual well-being. We must do so no matter what the diagnosis may be.

When it comes to our relationship with God, we must be willing to take the bad news if we are ever going to get the good news. We are sinners in need of a Savior. The Bible says that nobody is perfect and we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. When we want to run the show, we don’t want any interference from the outside. But our own ingenuity will only take us so far and even that will come up short of the ultimate Paradise. Every physical body is headed toward the same destination, so by far the most important question that we can’t run away from is, “What is your spiritual well-being? What is the state of your soul? What would God say about the direction of your life and your character?”

There’s a huge difference between dabbling and devotion. Today’s Christian tends to be content to dabble in what we must be hopefully devoted to. To dabble means that you only do something when it’s convenient or when you’re in the mood or when you need something or when you absolutely have nothing else to do. It’s like when someone says to you, “I have checked with everybody else I know and nobody has time for me tonight so I guess you’ll have to do.” Devotion doesn’t show affection out of mechanical duty. Devotion is a matter of the heart. When it comes to being with Jesus, He desires not our flowery words but our faith filled soul.

Do you understand? Believers who are alive spiritually are bananas for the Lord. Love and not legalism set the tone for the interactions together. We don’t communicate via scripts but sentences that are born in the soul. The greatest intimacy with God comes through not just attending a Service, but sitting at the feet of our Savior. For the individual who struggles in the area of being close to God, one needs to only conclude that they dabble at prayer. They don’t routinely surrender their day to God at its beginning. They don’t regularly express gratitude for God’s goodness and miss all chances to connect the dots. They often don’t pray unless there’s a crisis they can’t solve or a need they can’t meet, and then if they don’t get what they want right away, they complain and sulk and eventually walk away from the only One who ever truly loved them anyway.

Dabblers just pretend. Dabblers never get real. Dabblers play it safe. Just like I did when I used to go to confession as a kid in Catholic Church. I understood that Father Mark knew who I was even though there was supposed to be this anonymity thing. I knew he was going to tell my parents what I said because as soon as I got home, they knew what the two of us had just talked about. From then on, I never told him anything juicy and there was no way I was going to ever be honest with him again. I stuffed the real story. My faith became an act. Prayer never got beyond spiritual mumbo jumbo!

If I have learned anything since then, I have come to know that the only truly good and lasting things in my life are the things of God, not the things of us. How do we access the things of God?

It all begins with being honest. God doesn’t deal with facades. If there is ever going to be a true connection between Heaven and Earth, it starts with simple conversation. Here are some of the steps that I have taken to cross over from dabbling to devotion.

SPEAK GOD: I want to let the Lord speak first. I want Him to have the first word. Before I talk, I want to give God the floor. Read your Bible and then pray! Samuel’s prayer to God was, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” All too often my prayer is, “Listen, God, your servant is speaking.”

Listening can involve a variety of practices: reading, solitude and silence, conversations, watching the beauty of a sunset, listening to great music. Perhaps the oldest and most powerful practice is meditation on Scripture. The most important thing to do when it comes to thinking about prayer is to let God lead the way. When we actually look at what the Bible teaches about prayer, it is surprisingly simple: to pray is to ask God to do what he has promised to do through Christ.

NEED GOD: Let the Lord tell you what you need. The core of the gospel is that we have nothing, contribute nothing, bring nothing to God. Prayer, which is made possible by the gospel and shaped by the gospel, works the same way. God gives to us; we don’t give to God. We ask; He gives. Prayer depends on what He has done in us and for us, and on what He will do in us and for us.

LEAD GOD: Let the Lord show you where to go and what to do. Show me how I can be used for Your will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. The biggest step most American believers need to make is moving from where Jesus is important to their lives, but the focus is still on their lives, to the place where they have decided that their own lives don’t truly matter. Jesus has become the center of their lives. They have set aside the agendas for their lives and let God lead!

BE GOD: Let the Lord shine His Light, bright in your Life. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Confession always leads to Adoration. Every revival that has ever happened on the Planet has begun with confession. If we won’t allow the Light to get to its full capacity, we won’t truly see Jesus.

The gospel begins with this truth: We are weak and sinful, flawed, and needy, but our God is an awesome God. He is strong, gracious, and good and ready to be with us. Prayer is the key to Heaven and our simple faith unlocks the door. Ask God to do what he has already promised to do for you. Stay on the line with the Lord. Ask, seek and keep on knocking until that day when we won’t need to pray anymore from a distance, because we will see our great Promiser, Provider, and King face to face.





IT’S TIME TO LEARN BY DOING!

19 06 2019

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People learn much more by doing than just by sitting in a classroom debating a topic. It’s one thing to be told that you have what it takes and it’s another thing altogether to discover that you actually do because you accomplished something with your life. Knowledge must be obtained by going beyond just what you read in a book! There comes a day when we all must venture beyond the classroom and take it out to the streets of the real world! To say that you really learned something, I believe that it must go beyond the intellect and be proved by passing a physical test of some sort. It means practically triumphing over the challenge via experience. You have gained a few battle scars because you personally and fully engaged in an adventure that demanded you apply the instruction you claimed to have assimilated into your life.

Real Christianity is not a spectator sport. Faith doesn’t take place in the Sanctuary as much as it needs to infiltrate the Society that you are a part of. Believing must be entered into wholeheartedly, body, soul and spirit. You might say that it is one-part instruction and nine parts engaging. It is willingly giving God room in your life to move in the ways that He has promised to. If you have never laid down your limited control so that God can take you into a situation that if He doesn’t come through, the whole venture will fall apart, what are you waiting for?

Faith without action is just religious talk. You can say that you are a Believer but if you have never actually taken a step forward into God’s great wide open, you probably never trusted and obeyed. Real reliance upon Heaven is what the Biblical story of David and Goliath is all about. The Old Testament tale informs us rather blatantly that the armies of Israel have drawn up against the armies of the Philistines, but not a single shot has been fired from any bow. There is more cowardice than courage in the Hebrew front lines.

The reason, of course, is the dreaded Philistine, Goliath. He is a mercenary of tremendous size and strength, and is renowned for his reputation and skill in combat. He’s killed many men bare-handed, and no one is rushing to be next. Enter David, who is barely a teen himself, when he goes into the camp and sees with his own eyes what is really going on. He hears Goliath just cursing God and being crudely profane about the Lord that David loves. Without much fanfare, David offers to fight Goliath because nobody should be mocking Jehovah like that!

This is where it becomes all too familiar. King Saul, who at this point only has a ceremonial connection to God, does what most of us would do and he tries to tell David that the kid is out of his mind. King Saul says, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and Goliath has been a force to be reckoned with for years” (1 Sam. 17:33 NIV). Many would call this sound and sane advice, but the problem is that when God calls someone to do something heroic, the last thing they need is discouragement and negativity from the peanut gallery!

David doesn’t let the negative steal his thunder and he accentuates the positive call that he has received from his God. David owns a supernatural confidence because he has already seen the Hand of the Lord come through for him as he shepherded his sheep and protected them from the attacks of lions and bears. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, David didn’t just roll over and count his losses. David went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. David had a viable history of seeing how God helped him kill both the lion and the bear; so, this uncircumcised Philistine shouldn’t be much more trouble. David boldly shares, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam 34–37 NIV) David learned lessons here that would carry him the rest of his life. It is not a cocky arrogance. It is the resume of faith. David knows that God has been with him.
David intends to charge Goliath, take his best shot, and trust that God will do the rest.

This kind “knowing the Lord” only comes through participating in the plan of God. David realized that what he was about to do was dangerous, but that didn’t mean God wasn’t in it. We live in a day now where there is too much protection and I believe an unhealthy prevention keeping children from any experience where they might get hurt. How will they ever learn that bumps and bruises are a normal part of the journey? Climbing trees is a right of passage even if it means falling. Ski Retreats, Hiking Trips, Whitewater Rafting, Overseas Mission Trips were only a few of the activities that as a Pastor for the last 37 years, I have taken many teens and adults upon. All of it involves some real potential risks and dangers but the spiritual fruit reaped because of the involvement far outweighed the playing it so safe that you never leave the safety of your own backyard approach.

Christians must not be content to stay inside and merely watch. Some people are more inherently fearful than others; some are made fearful by overprotective caregivers. Either way, it is a great disservice to let an individual becomes so sheltered that because everything is potentially dangerous, the disciples of today end up doing absolutely nothing! Living lives mean risks are involved, and the older we get, those risks may increase dramatically. But if God is calling me at 60 to follow Him into the Amazon Jungle, I’d be safer there in the center of His will than I would ever be hunkered down at home. And the same goes for you!

A man’s heart is crushed when he has no one to accompany him into the adventures his soul craves, no one to show him how to shoot a free throw or hit a curve ball or jump his bike or rock climb or use a power tool. A woman’s heart is broken when she has no Father to fight for her, and tell her that she is a beauty and a delight and a gift from God that can do anything she sets her mind to. Much of the anger we see in our youth today comes from this lack of experience, because they are ready and fired up to be involved but have no outlet, no place to go and no one willing to lead them out into the great wide open. Enough with the video games! It’s time to get out and breathe the fresh air and expend a little blood, sweat and tears.

Today’s Church is in deep spiritual trouble if no one steps up and gets passionate about leading others to follow Jesus out the front door and into the scary world so that Jesus can make a difference through us. Christianity will never be a picnic in the park but it is still God’s call upon all His children to go into all the world and live the gospel. We’ve been in the classroom long enough. It’s time to practice what we preach. It’s time to put those notes to good use. It’s time to do what Jesus said we could do with Him, if we would only give the Lord a chance to keep His promises to us!





OUR VIEW FROM HERE DETERMINES OUR JOY TO THERE!

11 06 2019

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Life is not fair, and it does not always make sense. As a matter of fact, as for me and my house, it rarely does. I’m just very grateful that asking God, “Why?” doesn’t mean that I am committing a great sin. Growing up, when I asked the question, “Why?” more often than not, I got the answer, “Because I said so!” No dialogue. No venting allowed. I was pretty much demanded to just, “Grin and bear it and keep my curiosity to myself.”

“Why?” screams from the depths of every one of us! I believe that one of the reasons it does is because we have been created in the image of God. This is what makes us yearn for right over wrong. This is what causes us to pursue purpose and not settle in the muck of mediocrity. Why do you think that humanity despises injustice? Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and even Jesus who knows all things, cried “Why?” on the cross. This basic human inquisitive nature was expressed as one of our Savior’s last words before he died on the cross.

I am beyond grateful that God allows us to voice both our dreams and our doubts. He hasn’t outlawed our need to vent our disappointments or spell out our disagreements. This doesn’t mean the Almighty is obligated to answer us back in the manner we want Him to. But it is not a misdemeanor to express the cries of our heart and souls. I often ask God to help me and even to deliver me miraculously from my unpleasant present circumstances, and it is nice to know that I no longer have to feel guilty about it. I thought it was not holy to question God—and maybe it was even sinful. I think God understands by now that as hard as I could try to stuff my real feelings, sooner or later they come spilling out anyway. When it comes to stifling my true colors, I let them fly in living black and white!

Here are some of my questions that will never go completely away this side of Heaven. Why is life so hard? Why do people inflict such premediated devastation on each other? Why does God seem so absent at just the times I need Him to show up and speak out most? Why do bad things happen constantly to those who really do care about serving the Lord? If you say You really love me Lord, then why does my life translate into a language that communicates to me that You truly don’t care? Where can I find you Jesus amidst the chaos that rolls in way too often like a thick fog that blinds me from catching any positive glimpse of a bright and hopeful future? If this is the best life is ever going to be, is it really worth the blood, sweat and tears to only obtain two steps forward and forty steps back?

And yet deep down in the portals of my being, I know that my lifeline is continuing to stay plugged in fully to the One above me! No matter what event or circumstance may come my way in this Christian pilgrimage of mine, apart from any unchecked sin, nothing should be given permission to diminish true joy. Joy is not something that can be turned on and off like a faucet. And the last thing I ever want to do is to paste some plastic smile on my face to hide the debilitating disappointment in my gut. Will I ever learn to not base God’s love for me solely according to the surroundings I see all around me? If I have any real chance of rejoicing in the Rock of my Salvation, I must regularly fix my gaze intently upon the move of God despite whatever is happening. Let’s just say that I am guilty of a short attention span that makes it hard to base my life upon what the Bible says, when what I see contradicts sharply what I hope to be.

How did Jesus maintain his positive pulse? How did the Lord not lose focus upon His Father when so much of what He encountered here on this planet turned out to be an unfair force? What was the specific joy set before Him that gave Him the perseverance and power necessary to endure the cross with all of its suffering and shame? Why didn’t Jesus pack it in and beam Himself up back to paradise prematurely? What was this race that God ran all about? Do I have any chance of finishing this marathon well? My view from here will determine my joy in getting there. I know that I allow the enemy to steal my joy every time that I operate in such the way that I behave as if I forgot what I was recreated to believe. When I forget the destination, I frustrate my daily destiny.

Christianity is more like a cross country meet and not a track and field dash. I used to run cross country and while each race was the same in distance, each course was unique. No two were exactly alike. Sometimes it took you through the woods. Here in Wildwood, the runners must tread the sand. In Middle Township, the steps include a portion where the zoo is part of the scenery. My life will take me through rough roads that maybe you will be able to avoid. But the one common denominator is the finish line will culminate in the loving Arms of our Savior. When we get too caught up in the path that we are travelling that we forget the Who we are supposed to be persevering to and for, we are in danger of bailing out before the run is done. It’s funny that just about the moment I want to collapse in my exhaustion, the Holy Spirit never lets me go. He picks me up and infuses me with the strength that I need to get back up again, just in the nick of time. The Spirit obviously desires to work in us and through us. The Holy Spirit is like a fire whose flame we want to be careful not to extinguish. The Holy Spirit wants to intensify the heat of his presence among us, to inflame our hearts and fill us with the warmth of his indwelling power. On our own ability alone, we won’t experience the truth that God says we can!

A nineteenth-century immigrant, after passing through Ellis Island by way of the Statue of Liberty, was found walking the tracks of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in New Jersey. On his back and in his arms, he carried everything he had brought from the Old Country. Though fatigued and footsore, he shuffled along the rails until an agent stopped him and warned him to get off the tracks lest he be hit by a train or arrested for trespassing. The man refused, instead producing a railroad ticket good from Jersey City to Scranton. The agent looked at him in shock and asked why he was walking when he could ride. The immigrant said he thought the ticket gave him only the privilege of walking the rails. He almost danced for joy when he learned that he could ride the train instead of trudging the tracks.

Religion will kill you. It is like trying to walk the tracks to Glory in your own effort. If the rushing trains of life running us down doesn’t kill us, the mere exasperation of trying to be good on your own merit definitely will. Jesus paid it all. We’ve got a ticket to ride, and we need to care! God has given us a ticket to ride in the Spirit! We must not be content to walk in the flesh! Are we losing our joy to there because we keep forgetting where we are going and who has promised to get us there? Renew the wonder of your relationship with the Lord daily. Your lasting joy depends upon it.





LOVE IS PATIENT!

4 06 2019

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We are not a very patient people. And more often than not, rather than allowing God to conform us into His image, we want the Lord to adjust His will to our “always in a hurry” American cultural ways. Our prayers sound like orders when we demand God to give us what we want exactly when we want it. And if He doesn’t perform for us in “fast food fashion,” then we want a full refund. What we truly need to do is to turn it down a notch and practice a slower pace while we run our race with Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible does it challenge us to compete with other Christians in order to come in first. What it does express is for us to work together as a team so that we eventually all finish together! But to practice the “one another’s” in the Scripture, we are going to have to learn to wait for and wait on our Brothers and Sisters in the Family of God.

Isn’t it funny that there are only two positives when it comes to how Paul defines God’s Love for us in 1 Corinthians 13? Most of the Chapter tells us what Love is not. The first two aspects clearly map out what Love really is. Love is Patient. Love is Kind. The fruit of patience received within us is that kindness becomes revealed through us. If you carefully observe Jesus in the Gospels, you come to the conclusion that our Lord was not in a hurry to do what the Father called Him to accomplish. Jesus walked everywhere He went rather than rent a chariot for faster travel. In His daily journey, He always made sure to notice the lives that seemed to be strategically planted on His path. Jesus invested His valuable time and attention to the kinds of people that most would have cheerfully ignored. Jesus loved on the little children. He made eye contact with the broken men and women who would have been eternally lost unless He intervened.

When did the need for speed become a spiritual sacrament? The church loves to share its content but unless it does so with the goal of championing personal contact, there will be no lasting connection of the heart. Jesus was the Messiah who didn’t mind napping in the midst of storms that He knew His Father had undeniable control over. Jesus was able to do in three years what most of us will never do in a lifetime, mostly because we think the secret is being driven, when what we actually need to do is become utterly dependent upon God’s daily direction. Our Lord may be demanding at times, but He was never demeaning. He worked with that ragtag group of Disciples and His patience and kindness invested in them would change the course of history forever.

How patient are you? How kind are you? The old Bible word for kindness was “longsuffering” and what it literally meant was that if you were a bomb, you were equipped with a very long fuse before you would ever go boom! We give up way too easily and much too quickly! Impatience is a bigger enemy than we realize. Impatience will rob you of any real relationship with God. Impatience will keep you from loving your spouse and properly listening to your children. Impatience will stunt your growth as an individual. It will produce in you a shallow and short-circuited soul.

Here are some words we hear almost all the time as we caffeinate our Christianity with artificial stimulants. “I don’t want to finish this assignment. I don’t want to stick with this diet. I don’t want to stay in this marriage. I don’t want to honor my commitment. I don’t want to stay on this budget. I don’t want to go to this church. I don’t want to obey God in my sexual behavior because it takes too long and it takes much too much discipline to wait.

Now, if God wants to grow patience in you, how quickly do you think He will do it? It will probably take a little while. If God wants to grow patience in you, how will He do it? Chances are very good that He will probably give you something specific to be patient about.

There is a mollusk called the silver-lipped pearl oyster. One produced a single pearl that sold for $1.5 million. To make a pearl, an oyster needs two things and only two things: an irritant and time.  The oyster has to find a way to cope with the irritant and yet remain flourishing, so it’s like a little parable. The oyster gives a tiny, little bit of itself to the irritant. It secretes a substance called nacre (what it makes its shell with). It makes one layer and then another and then scores and then hundreds and, eventually, thousands of incredibly thin layers of nacre that are lustrous and iridescent. To produce a great pearl can take 20 years. An oyster might live as long as 40 years and might produce two in its whole life.

When God wants to produce patience in us, He knows that we need two things (an irritant and time), and God will provide both. God will give you time, and God will give you an irritant. Your irritant may be in the same room as you are reading this paper. If you don’t have an irritant, give me a call and I will let you borrow a few of mine! But this much is true and that is that our pearls of great price don’t come cheap. They are not manufactured on a streamlined conveyer belt. They are hammered out in our hearts. We invest our blood, sweat and tears. Still, God assures us that “Love is patient, Love is kind.” If we want the real deal, we must go to the authentic Source. God makes beautiful what we have busted. God makes royalty out of what we have rusted. God transforms our trash into treasure. But if we want to experience the joy of this process, we must trust the timing of the One who holds our every minute and second in His Hands.

What if we Believers stop trying to make Jesus like us? What if we Disciples actually allowed Jesus to make us more like Him? What if we got His Word on what the definitive definition of Love was all about? What if I slowed down? What if I walked with Jesus and gave up the temptation to jog? And they’ll know we are Christians by the trail we blaze? Nope! They will know we have been with Jesus by the traits of patience and kindness exuding through us! Love is Patient. Love is Kind. What am I?





WHEN RELATIONSHIPS SAVE YOU!

1 06 2019

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Did you know that most of history has been determined by personal relationships? Last week was Memorial Day and we as a Country are just a week away from commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. One of the biggest moves that actually brought World War Two to a close was made solely on the basis of our Secretary of War’s special connection to a City in Japan.

What many Americans may not realize is that Hiroshima was not the first choice to receive the dropping of the Atom Bomb. Kyoto was originally the City chosen to experience the ultimate devastation. What changed the course of events? Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War under President Franklin Roosevelt and then President Harry Truman, was the noted individual who actually saved Kyoto from the nuclear hellfire originally destined for them. What was the reason that Stimson felt so strongly about rerouting the attack? It was in Kyoto, Japan some 20 plus years earlier that Stimson and his Bride had honeymooned. Needless to say, he was enamored by Kyoto’s beauty and influenced by the memories that were made there. The glories of Kyoto in the Autumn, her vivacious gardens, breathtaking temples and surrounding hills were just too much to imagine annihilated in the twinkling of an eye. What was just another spot on the map was too special a place in the heart of Henry Stimson and he petitioned President Truman to please reroute the nuclear blast. It was decided that Hiroshima would receive what Kyoto was being spared from. Unfortunately, no American of any influence had been to Hiroshima and so it would be the recipient of the historical attack that brought a speedily end to World War II.

The enemy of our souls wants nothing more than to drop a bomb of discouragement and death upon God’s creation. There is no love lost between humanity and hell. Therefore, we are under a daily barrage of lies leading to temptation opening the door to sin and eventually separation from the Lord who loves us. If there isn’t a divine intervention that opens the door to supernatural redemption, there isn’t much hope for survival for any of us. But God so loved the world that He sent a Savior to rescue, redeem and restore us. To Jesus, we aren’t just another impersonal number who just blends in with everybody else. To God, we are someone special and He loves us in a way that nobody else would or could. Because of the Lord’s great fondness for us, we are not blown off the face of the earth!

In Jesus, we discover a life worth living. We learn them not via principles to be memorized, but only through a personal relationship with God! It’s not knowing the catechism we dutifully memorize that saves our future. It is our entering willingly into a personal relationship with the Lord who made us and saved us. Would Jesus sacrifice His Body and shed His Blood for a people that He knew nothing about nor cared anything for? If your heart does not beat a relational rhythm with Jesus, then He is nothing more than a mark on an impersonal religious map! It’s not about a ceremonial religious declaration that brings eternal life and imminent peace and purpose, but a faith driven relational dedication that brings us into the right connection that can never be severed.

Many individuals in Bible times sat and heard Jesus teach and they got free bread and ate holy fish and saw more than their fair share of miraculous events but unfortunately, never went much further beyond that. I would venture a guess that the majority only knew Jesus at the level they allowed Him into their world. They came to the events but didn’t stick around long enough to build a lasting friendship. Christianity is not so much about studying doctrine and discussing devotional dissertations as it is about being an active learning Disciple.

Belief is inert. Crowds who make up the weekly population at local churches can say the words and sing the songs but if they don’t behave what they claim to believe, it isn’t real. Faith produces action. Without faith it is impossible to please God and if you ever really want to get on the Lord’s right side, you best not be doing it wrong! Faith is not a quick fix, a lucky charm, a magic potion or a cure all! It is impossible to live in this world and escape trouble. Jesus doesn’t promise to eliminate the trouble! He promises to not allow the trouble to eliminate you!

Jesus never did what He did for crowd approval. He did what He did because He loved us in a way that we would always remember! Don’t just admit that you love Jesus! Commit your love to Jesus! Our eternal destination is not a place but a person! It’s not a what but a who! Personal Faith in a Personal Lord brings a Personal Purpose. When this crazy world wants to drop a nuclear explosion with the goal of bombing our spirit into oblivion, we have a Savior who loved us enough to spare us. Actually, Jesus took the full brunt of the damage that was meant for us. His love was what saved our city both now and forever.

You never forget the ones you love. And if you love and are loved by Jesus, you can bank on the truth and promise that He never forgets you. As a matter of fact, if you honeymoon with Him today, you will always have a place to belong with Him throughout eternity. The Bridegroom is coming soon for His Bride. I wish we’d all be ready, but while I can’t decide for you, I can for me. Heaven is not a place, but a Person and what makes it Paradise is not the surroundings, but the Savior. You never forget the ones you love and while we sometimes get forgetful about Jesus, He never forgets us. And because of the love that He bestows upon us, we will be saved. We will be spared. We will shine both now and ten thousand years into the future. It really is all about who you know! Do you know Jesus?