WHEN GOD CALLS YOUR NAME!

21 07 2020

PASTOR RUDY JULY 22, 2020

Don‘t be afraid to know who you are. Don’t be afraid to show who you are. But you can’t really show it until you actually fully know it! And you can’t genuinely know it until you allow God to show it to you via a connection with the Lord in your heart!

Lord, I am not fully sure of who the real me honestly is. Am I outspoken? Am I shy? Am I passionate? Am I lazy? Do I authentically care about others or just care how I present myself? Am I a performer? I am an actor who can play any role because I have played them all, but I want You to reveal to me who I am! Who is Rudy Sheptock, Jr? Am I strong? Am I weak? Am I a man of fear or full of saving faith? Am I a lover or a user? Am I selfish or selfless? Am I an adventurer or am I looking for a lounge chair? Am I ready to risk it all or simply play it safe?

 In my heart, I am a child still looking to be cherished and loved. I have an unbelievable capacity to dream and imagine and see what could be! I have tasted Your compassion and salvation Jesus, and without You, I would not still be here on earth. I believe in miracles! I have no doubt other than You only can say the word and Your will is done.

 I do love to entertain and move the hearts of those around me. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It is so easy to laugh out loud or cry ferocious tears at the drop of a hat. I was created to sing and music is what my soul craves and desires. I can break out into a song in moments flat and I love to belt out the ballads at the top of my lungs. I am an anxious, driven and high-strung individual. I care deeply for others and am overly loyal to a fault. I am drawn to the stories of people and get impatient with the shallow, surface and cliché side of life.

I can’t wait to go to Heaven. There are many huge holes in my gut left by the death of my children, my Dad, my Grandmother and wonderful friends who have already graduated to glory. My faith is my purpose and I would love nothing more than to fast forward through the pain and the disappointment and just land in the open and waiting arms of my God.  But I know that to live is to allow the Lord to shine in me and through me. I want my life to be His stage so that He becomes the Star and I become the platform that He acts upon.

I repent of my selfishness and my need to not be invisible. I create a world in my flesh that is far from reality and when I escape to it, I become more bitter than better. I hate not knowing what is happening and despise being surprised. I like to lead but will follow when I respect the one who is guiding me. I hate being told, “No!” I am bored by details yet respect their importance. I loathe rejection and know the scars of being bullied and beat up. I want to be God’s servant and yet struggle with assignments that I don’t enjoy! I admire those who are laid back and more even keel in their personalities. My highs are very high and my lows are extremely pronounced and there isn’t much middle ground when it comes to my style of operating.

I have prayed fervently that God would use my life to make a positive mark upon others. I want to make a difference and have people experience the love of Jesus through me. Please Lord make my faith contagious, my concern genuine, my words true, my life adventurous and my legacy something that points clearly to You! Continue to melt away my insecurity, impatience, unbridled intenseness, immature restlessness, apathetic laziness, worldly weariness and downright disillusionment. I want to live what I know to be true, because I know I am forever loved by You, God!

My surrounding culture has plastered many labels upon me over these sixty years. They have included “Teacher’s Pet,” “Goody Goody,” “Dreamer,” “Straight A Student,” “Nice Kid,” “Shy,” “Baseball Fanatic,” “Music Lover,” “Fresh,” “Awkward,” “Too Independent,” “The Oldest,” “Responsible One,” “Leader,” “Loud,” “Crazy,” “Charismatic,” “Christian,” “Jesus Freak,” “Pastor,” “Too Emotional,” “Maverick,” “Enthusiastic,” “Passionate,” “Husband,” “Daddy,” “Pop-Pop,” “Coach,” “Intense,” and “Creative.”  But what do you think Lord? By what calling have you defined me? Where is my anointing and appointment? Lord, who do You say that I am?

There is something very powerful about a man or woman who knows who he or she is in the eyes of our Lord! Society’s titles may come and go but only God’s defining earmarks are eternal. Do you know how God has wired you? Are you willing to boldly and courageously become that person by His Holy Spirit?

Here is how I heard the Lord speak over me many years ago while I was on a Men’s Conference in Colorado. I heard God say, “You are Rudy Sheptock, Jr and you are mine and I love you. I am delighted in who you are and who you are still becoming because of me. You are tender in heart and passionate in conviction and you care about holiness and justice and My kingdom coming and My will being done on earth as it is in heaven. I have gifted you, anointed you and appointed you to be a preacher and a prophet. I desire you to communicate to as many as possible as effectively as possible about who I am. You will speak My truth but do so under the umbrella of My grace and mercy. Your life speaks of a contagious faith and an authentic joy found not in possessions but in My presence. You are faithful and won’t give up. You share your doubts but you bring them to Me and in Me alone, you find the strength you need not just to carry on but to climb mountains and soar high into mid-air! You must keep sharing My Love and My Word so that many will move from doubt to faith. Be my watchman on the wall. Look up and then look out and take care of My flock. Write new songs of praise and let your life be a living testimony of what I have done and what I will do. Be passionate! Be bold! Be fiery! Be faithful! Embrace the name that God calls you by.

Why is it so hard for us to accept the packaging that God chose to put our soul and spirit within? How many of us care more about what the box or bag looks like when what really matters most is the gift that God has put inside each and every one of us. Lord teach us to look beyond the outer tent so that we may fully come to know the true essence of who we really are. And don’t allow anyone around you to steal your God given identity. Nobody can steal who God created you to be. Only you can choose to settle for living a life of so much less. Do not look to paper and position to prove who you really are. Look up and then look inside and with a gleam in your eye and courage in your soul live out loud a life that honors the Lord who loved and redeemed you. Go forth in faith and wait for God to reveal each and every one of His precious promises right before your eyes!       





VOICES MATTER!

13 07 2020

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SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT JULY 15 2020

We are not obligated to listen to every word we may hear! We exist within a culture of noise. In the midst of our social media frenzy, everyone has a revelation, a message, an opinion, a theory and a point to make. Turn on the radio or television, and you can experience a hundred different takes on what is happening all around us and even more hypothesis’ of how we should handle the days to come. We’ve got to learn how to discern who to and who not to listen to. Not every sentence must be recorded and not every command heeded. We can’t help hearing things simply because our ears work. But we should only listen to the timeless truth which has proven to carry the weight of eternal value.

Jesus said that if we are His sheep, we will hang on to His words. We will listen and obey and become faithful on earth to the directions we receive from Heaven. We will never understand God’s will if we neglect God’s word. How can the Bible be a light to our path and a lamp to our feet if we aren’t able to navigate our way through its pages? We spend too much of our energy worrying about words said to us by people who have no invested interest in our wellbeing whatsoever. If only we valued God’s conversations with such high esteem. We aren’t missing out on hearing from the Lord because He isn’t participating in the process. Our souls go blank because we make the Lord compete for our attention and we choose poorly in practicing our social skills spiritually speaking.

The enemy is not going to clear the airwaves so we can listen to the Lord without static or interference. There is always incessant chatter going on to try to keep us from dialing in completely to God’s authoritative presence. There is a story involving Yogi Berra, a well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless talking behind the plate, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to get under Aaron’s skin by saying things like, “Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron didn’t say anything, but when the next pitch came in, he hit it 500 plus feet into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and crossing home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, “I didn’t come up here to read. I came here to hit!” Are we that focused into keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus that no amount of harassing can hold us off from being holy?

We are living in a day where many Believers are doubting their very purpose on the planet but the last I checked our orders have remain unchanged. We are called by God to let our light so shine before others that they may see Jesus in us and be drawn to wanting to know Him like we do! This is why we can’t be looking to run and hide in the midst of the pandemic and protests! Hatred is running rampant and evil seems to be out of control and the doomsday reports are stirring up fear here and there and everywhere. If ever there was a time for God’s people to practice what Jesus preached, it is now. The problem is, we aren’t getting our cues from Christ. We are behaving way to much like the wandering mob.

God promises to give us clear direction every single day of our lives if we trust in Him with all of our heart and lean not to our own understanding. Will we go beyond just hearing His coaching to actually listening and obeying His Voice? Sitting and taking notes during a sermon is not the same as making the message come alive practically in everyday life. Meetings are fine only if they produce action. Information without transformation results in God somehow missing the program.

Debra Fine wrote about 8-year-old Nick who told his dad about his day: “Dad, I had a great day at school. We had art class today, and I painted a cool picture of the mountains. We played soccer during gym, and I scored a goal. And guess what? They served pizza for lunch.” Looking at his dad whose nose was in the newspaper, Nick said, “Dad, you’re not listening.” His dad replied, “Yes I am, Son. You painted a picture of the mountains, scored a goal in soccer, and had pizza for lunch.” Nicolas was unappeased. “No, Dad; that’s not it. You’re not listening to me with your eyes.”

The eyes have it and if they aren’t fixed on the Jesus that it claims to worship, maybe we aren’t seeing things as they really are. Remember to follow the Power. Remember that if you aren’t playing “Follow The Leader” with Jesus, you need to change direction immediately. Expect distractions but stay committed to what our Shepherd has promised His sheep! I close with the lesson of the postage stamp. It’s true that writing letters may be a lost art, but the point is they have one attribute that all Christians should emulate: they stick to one thing until they get to where they are delivered. God deliver us this day from evil and temptation until we finally arrive to Heaven.      





WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH TODAY?

7 07 2020
Bible verse This is the day the Lord has made. Psalm. Christian poster. Card. New Testament. Scripture

Speaking In The Light with Pastor Rudy   Wednesday July 8 2020

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Are you wide awake to what is staring you right in the face at this very moment? This has been a season of fear and frustration because what we once had counted so heavily upon has been turned upside down right before our very eyes. Who could have predicted how out of our control 2020 has become? It is hard to prepare for a tomorrow when maybe we should be seizing the very 24 hours we are presently living in!

Everyone needs to vent every now and then but nobody can muster a life out of a whiny spirit. Most of us magnify what is missing amidst our current stock rather than accentuating all that falls in the plus category. When was the last time you woke up grateful to simply be alive another day? No doubt we all have our fair share of disappointments, but God has a keen and creative way of turning these bumps along our pathway into His appointments where He does something miraculous amidst the mess. Too many Christians have turned the divinely anointed God spots into blind spots! This occurs when we end up looking for the Lord in all the wrong places. 

We need to stop waiting for the pandemic to pass before we reenter into the land of the living once again. What if life in our present package never returns to what we used to call, “normal?” What if God is showing us that His church can be just as alive outside of the building as it is inside the hallowed halls? What if we stepped out into our world with eyes wide open passionately pursuing heavenly ordained projects that God is providing right in our current neighborhood? Stop majoring on the minors and start counting all the blessings that Jesus is still pouring out our way every single day.

We know that the Bible paints a vivid and detailed picture of how life and faith will exist in the last days. Technically, we are clearly told that things will get worse before it gets better! Life will become darker and if there is going to be any light provided, it must be fueled by the faith of the God-followers still burning bright in the middle of the night. God has already assured us that those who have been filled from the inside out with His Holy Spirit are overcomers! Even if we lose our physical life, nothing and nobody can ever rob us the eternal life that God has promised us spiritually speaking. Outwardly we are passing away but inwardly we are literally being renewed every single day. When God is on the move, we either get on board or get passed by! Jesus purchased my seat by His saving blood on the Gospel Train. My seat is reserved and my future is set upon the rock of my Heavenly Father’s promise. The last I checked; the Lord is much better at following through on spoken pledges than any politician will ever be.

If the nightmare is not yet, then why are we not making the most of the beautiful day we discover ourselves presently in. Breathe in deep of the fresh air attempting to find its way into your lungs! God has a plan and a purpose for our every step and if we weren’t part of what He is doing in our world today, we’d already be in Heaven! There are too many of us who are so anxious and worried about the freedom that we may lose tomorrow; we don’t even use the wide-open doors available to us today. Don’t waste the daylight hours of now! Don’t waste a day to be a blessing!

No place on this planet has been more hostile to the work of God than what I call the “Procrasta- Nation!” “I’ll do that someday” is the mantra of its people. Don’t allow the “Procrasta-Nation” to steal the joy of your salvation! In the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 3 and verse 7, it reads: “Today if you hear God’s Voice, do not harden your heart!” How does God want you to walk actively after Him so you can be a real blessing this very week? Who can you touch to be a blessing? What can you do to be a blessing? Where can you go to be a blessing? When will you practically be a blessing? Why do we need to concern ourselves with this? Because Jesus told us to! What will you do with your day?

The great Evangelist, D.L. Moody, held his usual service the Sunday evening that the great Chicago Fire broke out.  At the close of the service, he asked his congregation to evaluate their relationship to Christ and to return the following week to make a decision.  This, he thought, would give them time to really think things over and result in a lasting decision.  He wanted to make sure that they were sure about accepting Jesus Christ, not wanting to pressure them into making a decision they wouldn’t stick with.  Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? 
While Ira Sankey was singing the closing hymn, it was drowned out by the sound of fire trucks and church bells.  To his dying day, Moody regretted delaying their decision to the following Sunday. It would be a Sunday that many in that meeting hall would not live to see. Within a matter of hours, many of those who sat under Moody’s words were dead.  There is no way of knowing how many that night could have gotten their hearts made right with God had an altar call been given, and there is no way of knowing how many that sat under Moody’s voice that night died in the fire and were not ready to meet God.

Mr. Moody would never be the same after that incident.  He became very ill because of the guilt he carried.  As a dedicated soul winner, D.L. Moody took such missed opportunities very, very seriously. “I have never since dared,” Moody later said, “to give an audience a week to think of their salvation. If they were lost, they might rise up in judgment against me. I have never seen that congregation since. I will never meet those people until I meet them in another world. But I want to tell you of one lesson that I learned that night which I have never forgotten, and that is, when I preach, to press Christ upon the people then and there and try to bring them to a decision on the spot.  I would rather have my right hand cut off than to give an audience a week now to decide what to do with Jesus.”

Stop living in the past yearning for the good old days that were never that great anyway. Stop fretting over a tomorrow that hasn’t happened yet! God is asking you, “What will you do with today?” Will you waste it? Will you spend it foolishly? Will you invest it into eternity? Today is the day for God’s children to start living like we actually believe what our Heavenly Father has promised us! Will you?





A WORLD WITHOUT LOVE?

30 06 2020

Jesus, light of the world

In 1964, the British Invasion was sweeping the musical world of America. The Beatles began to own the Billboard charts. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were songwriting gold. Philadelphia’s golden boy Bobby Rydell needed a hit song. He was promised a tune Lennon and McCartney wrote but chose not to record. It was a surefire hit tune and a golden ticket for Rydell to get back on the charts. Something happened along the way that wrecked the comeback for Bobby. Peter Asher was beginning to record with Gordon Waller. Peter Asher’s sister Jane also began dating Paul McCartney so guess who got the upper hand with the very same record? What became a huge hit for Peter and Gordon ended up a complete miss for Bobby Rydell. The lyrics went something like this: “Please lock me away and don’t allow the day; here inside, where I hide with my loneliness. I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without love.”

 Have you ever wondered what a life without love would be like? Are you curious as to what the world would be like without the power of love? The Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, was divinely inspired when he wrote: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He and his brother James were nicknamed the Sons of Thunder, by Jesus. Apparently, the Lord saw their inner rage and appropriately called them out. John was originally known for raising hell, but a relationship with Jesus changed all of that. This Son of Thunder became the Disciple of Love. How could such a transformation take place for John? It is only because John refused to live in a world without love. John opened his heart and had a personal relationship with God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus became John’s first love, and that love began to permeate his whole life. Whoever is your first love will become the one who has the strongest hold upon your heart.

 Knowing the love of God must go way beyond just an intellectual pursuit. If it is not experienced fully within the human heart, then it will not be understood at all. Too many church going people keep God solely as a subject in their textbook when He longs to be the engine of their soul. Let me illustrate it by giving you the scientific definition of a kiss. Technically it is the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction. Who wants to smooch after reading that? But when you actually plant one smack dab upon the lips of someone who raises your blood pressure, you feel what a firework senses when it’s bomb bursts in mid-air! People can talk all day about the truths of the Bible but it won’t mean a thing without personally plugging in to what you claim to believe!

 Will we Christians venture beyond what we can comprehend in our minds and fully enter into the fullness of a relationship with our God! My granddaughter constantly sings a song from the Frozen 2 soundtrack that cries, “Into the Unknown! Into the Unknown!” A man bought a very large fish tank and installed a piece of glass in the middle, dividing one side from the other. He placed a group of fish on one side of the glass but no fish on the other side. At first, the fish kept bumping into the glass because they didn’t see it or expect a barrier to be there. After a few painful days of head butting, and lots of fish headaches, the fish became conditioned to stop swimming near the invisible barrier. Then the owner removed the glass divider. But still no fish swam past the middle of the tank. When you’ve been swimming into glass your whole life, and all your friends and family tell you about the glass they’ve hit their heads on, you’ll probably give up trying to swim past it.  Similarly, when church has been nothing more than another place where you live with constant reminders that you aren’t enough for God’s power to work wonderfully in and through you, we willingly settle to stay on the safe side and won’t and don’t even try to enter into God’s abundantly more experience! But to know Jesus is to love Jesus and to love Jesus is to be like Jesus and to be like Jesus is to love others! It is time to stop behaving like we are loveless and start believing that Jesus in a life opens up adventures and opportunities way beyond our wildest imagination!

 It is time to stop underestimating the transforming power of the love of Jesus. It’s easy for us Christians to forget how massively loved we are with such a wide and accepting, long and lasting, high and exalting, deep and sacrificial love. God’s love extends super-abundantly in every direction, like an infinite universe whose end can never be reached. God’s love is wide enough to accept whosoever will may come. God’s love is long enough to last into eternity. God’s love is high enough to prove that there is such a thing as purity and authenticity. God’s love is deep enough to show the heart and soul of what sacrificial effort will do for the person who matters! Have you ever stopped to realize and count the cost of how far God has gone in making His affections known to His creation?

 Not only should we never buy into the lie that we are not loved by Heaven, but also, we should never think that we have the love of God all figured out. Let’s say I challenged you today to head on down to the beach and fill a jar with water from the Atlantic Ocean. Your jar would be filled to the brim with the Atlantic Ocean, but not all of the Atlantic Ocean could ever fit within the confines of a simple jar.  In the same way, God longs to fill the jars of human hearts with His love and power and presence. All of us can be filled with all of God and yet still have so much more of God still to know! There is so much of God’s love to know and experience and share and even then, we are still only scratching the surface. Fall on your knees! Be willing to swim into the deep end of His grace and mercy. Apart from Jesus we can’t do squat, but with Him there is no stopping the flow of how far God will go to prove that He has not abandoned this crazy world. If God hasn’t given up on us, why would we ever choose to give up on Him?





ARE YOU A FRIEND OF SINNERS?

23 06 2020

friendofsinnersMake no mistake about it, prejudice is an enemy of the heart. Self-righteousness is not a trait to seek after and yet it still appears in ample supply in too many churches. Judgmentalism is contagious and spreads like a virus when we choose to close our eyes to the beauty in others and ignore the fact that all men and women were created in the image of God. Nobody has more of the divine image than another. It was distributed in an equal supply. Every single human being has been fearfully and wonderfully made no matter what label might be slapped on their package. But more often than not, believers willingly throw away God’s truth about value and proceed to make up their own rogue rules that result in dishonoring all that they should already know to be important. 

Committing to the nonsense that one group of people is better than another solely based upon the color of someone’s skin, the place someone lives, the school or church someone attends is misguided and an unnecessary manmade barrier built with no blessing from the Lord. This mindset leads to bullying and intimidation and the use of other forms of manipulation that have no place in the Kingdom of God! It encourages highbrow, conceited, self-appointed judges who do nothing to help spread the joy and freedom that happens when someone devotes themselves to following Jesus. I don’t care what the crowds say, if Christ did not initiate it, I want no part of it!

Jesus loved to cause a stir when a wake-up call was very necessary. He purposely got under the skin of the holier than thou hypocrites of His day. Jesus made sure that all of the worldly judges and juries of that day knew that He meant business when it came to blowing their phony standards out of the water. Jesus was a friend of sinners. He called Matthew, the Levite, a dreaded tax-collector, the pond scum of the neighborhood to be one of His Disciples. I loved that Jesus never messed around. He went right at the issue rather than tip toe around the blatant elephants in the room. Those who followed our Lord included lepers, prostitutes, Samaritans, women and other sorts of “sinners” that would have never made the grade the Pharisees way.

What does it mean to be a “Friend of Sinners?” Among religious Jews, eating with a person implied a significant and intimate contact and a gesture of acceptance. It was an invitation to enter into a relationship with your dinner date. But, being a friend of sinners didn’t mean Jesus was pulled into Matthew’s corruption, but Jesus pulling Matthew into real Christianity! Jesus goes right into the crowd and invites anyone who admits that they will never be able to rescue themselves. Are you a friend of sinners? Are you on a mission to offer light to those who presently don’t even realize that they are walking in darkness? A lifeguard doesn’t decide ahead of time what type of person he or she is willing to go out and save from drowning. It includes all mankind. It includes individuals of all colors, shapes and sizes. If you have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb then you know what amazing grace tastes like and you want to make sure that everyone in your path gets to taste and see that Jesus is very good. We need to love people the way God does no matter what anyone else thinks because what the naysayers think actually stinks!

Do we see what people presently are or do we envision what a person could be if Jesus got ahold of their hearts? We need to be looking to run a mission a yard from the gate of hell rather than living comfortably within the sound of the chapel bell. God has put His people strategically on this planet for such a time as this. There are too many looking to government to do what only God can accomplish. We don’t need more information. We need miraculous transformation. We need to get our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Jesus. Having your own regular dinner date with the Lord will make you ready to reach anyone God may send to your table. Do you see the crowds hurting, hungry and in desperate need of healing? Are you ready to open wide your life rather than board up your heart and soul? Who do you need to have dinner with where the love of Jesus is clearly on the menu?

None of us would say that we espouse the belief system of religious snobs and yet if we only go to Christian doctors and make appointments with Christian dentists and call Christian plumbers for our clogged pipes and need Christian veterinarians because even our pets are Christians we will end up passing by hundreds of people without ever noticing them or positively influencing them with the grace and mercy of Jesus! Our Lord said clearly that He came for those who admitted that they did not have it all together! “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to coddle the self-righteous but sinners!”

Fear is sometimes referred to as an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. We see fear everywhere these days and it is no way to ignite a life. Is fear playing a role in your interactions, or lack thereof, with people of different races, people of different backgrounds, people of different belief-systems? If we allow our fear to control us, we’re dishonoring ourselves and our ability to honor others. It is OK to be afraid but it is genuine faith that will give us the strength we need to not stay locked up in our insecurities. “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Who needs to know good news like that? Will you trust God to lead you to build real relationships, recognizing the image of God in everyone, committed to learning someone’s story so that you may be an instrument of life in their world? Jesus sat down with sinners and He dined with them and He offered them a whole new menu? We should be willing to by His Holy Spirit do nothing less than the very same thing! Waiters and Waitresses of the Living God sounds like what we the Church should be about. Who needs a table today?

 

 





HAPPY FATHER’S DAY 2020

16 06 2020

Happy Fathers Day!This will be the 20th Father’s Day without my Dad here on earth and to say that I still miss him would be a grave understatement. Just the other night in a dream of mine, I picked up the phone to call him and it was during the amazing conversation that I realized I was sleeping and none of this was real. When I woke up, the ache was almost as if it was brand new. Time doesn’t heal squat but only reveals how much human beings are truly connected forever.

 I was named after my Father and I proceeded to name our first-born son after him also. I adored my Dad and growing up I seemed to constantly be by his side. I began working with him at a very early age. Whether my Mom didn’t want me at home or my Dad really liked having me there, I spent many more hours with my Pop than I ever did with my Mother.

 I remember going with him when he worked at Morristown High School back in the 1960s. I got to know all the nuances of that building and had discovered many secret passages and behind the scenes places in that structure. It was like my own personal playground.

 I watched my Dad closely even then and watched how he interacted with the other men. Everybody seemed to like Dad and he showed everyone respect. He had the League of Nations on his staff so I got to hear many back stories along the way about coming to America and the daily battles about making a home here and it all depended on which worker I happened to be hanging with on any given day. Funny thing is that I still remember many of those stories and I hear them again in the accent of which they were shared with me. I also cherished the times that Dad had a life lesson for me based upon whatever happened along the way. I loved the way that he trusted me with the work he assigned me and it was always an honor to do what I did just for him.

 On the way to and from, we had those Father-Son talks. Yes, we even had “The Birds and the Bees” conversation on the way one day! I’d much rather talk about the Mets or the Jets back in those days. Girls weren’t on my radar yet. It’s because of his example, I made sure that my own sons heard about the facts of life from me. They too seemed to rather talk about the Mets also! My point is that there are so many teachable moments in the midst of every day if we just learn to seize them! It seems that technology has hijacked some of those potentially poignant interactions that highlight the pilgrimage of a child’s journey to adulthood.

 I did drive Dad nuts by playing the radio. While every now and then he would like some of my music, most of the time it was, “I’m going to throw you and the radio out on the road if I have to hear that song again.” Still, I will never forget when my Dad brought home Elton John’s “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” album for my Birthday. I knew he went out of his way to find that one. To this day, it is one of my favorite records and tears fall from my eyes at the most random of times. I have also tried to affirm the interests of my children over the years by getting them whatever instrument or gadget they might have been desiring at the time. I love seeing the faces of my own kids and now grandkids light up when they are bestowed that special gift they were just hoping for. Just like Ralphie Parker who got his BB Gun from his Old Man in the perennial classic, “A Christmas Story,” even though Mom thought he would shoot his eye out. There are some assignments held special that only a Father or someone who is a Father-Like figure can fulfill. This is why I wish more men would pay better attention to what is happening all around them. Kids who show up to play sports or those at church who could use a little male input invested into their heart and souls. Women are amazing and never cease to amaze me with all that they truly do. But there are some intangible qualities that should best come from a Man when it comes to initiation into adulthood.

One of the greatest gifts a father can give is making sure that he sets the right example of what our Heavenly Father is all about. Statistics show that many individuals get their perspective of God the Father based upon the men they called Dad. It is hard to swallow the Bible’s portrayal of a God of love, mercy, grace and justice when an earthly model has been nothing at all like the Creator. Nobody is perfect but Dads who are genuine and authentic men of Integrity do much better at laying the foundation than men who have abandoned their post. Absent, angry, judgmental, abusive and violent men have done little to portray a positive glimpse of the Abba in Glory. It is only too late to make a change if you are dead, but as a Minister for almost 40 years, I have seen grown men and women still yearn for nothing more than for their Papa to say, “I love you.” You would think three words wouldn’t be so impossible for so many to spit out, but there have been too many shipwrecks at the sea of family life because the Captain couldn’t put aside his pride to do so.

I only realized last year that with my own Dad in Heaven these last twenty years, it has been something new for me to at times wrestle over the truth of God’s love for me. What used to come so easy with my earthly Dad here with me has now become a bit more challenging with no one left to play that role in my life. I know intellectually that God loves me but when wonderful men on earth are used as His servants to remind one another of that reality, life doesn’t have to be so hard or lonely. I’m 60 years old now and I will never stop telling my children and grandchildren how much I love them; for next to Jesus and my wife Terri, I could love no other people more.  I will never take it for granted what a privilege and honor it is to be a Dad and a Pop-Pop, so on this Father’s Day, may I remind you how much you are loved and if you don’t believe me- come spend some time with me and I will remind you and maybe tell you a story about growing up with my Pop! Happy Father’s Day!   





I WAS THERE!

8 06 2020

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Growing up in the 1960’s, there was a television show on that was hosted by Walter Cronkite. The series featured taking viewers back to various key moments in American and world history, portrayed in dramatic recreations. Each episode began with Walter Cronkite, from his anchor desk in New York City, setting the scene. An announcer would then give us the official date and remind us all of the event we were observing, followed by a loud and boldly spoken “You are there!” We all know that the most reliable commentaries of history come from the very eye witnesses who get to see it actually happen.

This has been some week in Cape May County. We watched the news. We saw the video of the blatant mistreatment of an African American man named George Floyd by four Officers in Minneapolis that led to this individual’s murder. With every rerun of the footage, I couldn’t understand why someone didn’t tackle Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Are some Americans still so barbaric that they could kill a man in broad daylight over a $20 bill? Haven’t we learned anything along the way? Isn’t human life more sacred than our own prejudice and conceptions?

What followed was trying to discern the difference between the rightful assembling of peaceful protesters and the organized gatherings of those who had no other agenda but that of raw defiance and destruction. It’s hard to see people in desperate tears watching their homes and businesses destroyed with no rhyme or reason. It quickly brought to mind the old adage taught to us in Catholic school, “Do two wrongs ever make a right?” Hatred is only lighter fluid on the charcoals of discontent! Evil never breeds life and only causes more heartache and pain. God has made all humanity in His image and nobody has the right to decide who has more of the divine image than others! I have always reacted against injustice even as a little boy growing up in Morristown, NJ. I know what’s right and I know what’s wrong and I don’t confuse it!

In 1968, my Dad worked at Morristown High School when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Morristown was always a town of strong ethnic backgrounds and everyone thought that the place was a timebomb waiting to explode. I went with my Dad to work because I wasn’t going to be staying home if he wasn’t going to be in a safe place. What I witnessed changed my life. There was a rally led by the very special guest Mahalia Jackson. Nothing was set ablaze that night other than the hopes and dreams in kids like me that maybe we could make the future different. I didn’t have to own the bigotry of my ancestors. I also want to make a point that music played a huge role in bringing people together. There is something about music that was instrumental in busting up the terrible division between white and black in the fifties and sixties and I still believe it is the best medicine for a battered and beaten soul.

This is why I knew I could not stay hidden at home last Monday Night when there was a gathering of protesters in Rio Grande. I texted Mayor Tim Donahue and asked if it would be OK with him if I came down. If the Spirit of God lives within us Believers, then I believed that the Holy Spirit would want me to be part of the solution and not the problem. The problems were the rumors that were flying everywhere in our area. They were online, on social media, telling us that busses were coming from the city with vanloads of bricks and so on and so forth. I was being told that this was going to end ugly. I ignored the voices of fear and kicked in an act of faith. I had to be there. Love is still stronger than hate. Light can still dispel the darkness. Singing is still better than shouting slurs at one another! As I drove down, I was blasting the classic song, “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye on my car stereo. I was asking the Lord to go before me and to reign down mercy and peace in the middle of Route 9 and Route 47. I was praying for Jesus to change the course of what could be to what should be. I am so glad I was there.

I was humbled from the moment I entered the circle of protesters. I witnessed our Middle Township Law Enforcement, led by Chief Chris Leusner, standing by to protect the American right to peacefully assemble and doing so respectfully, quietly, and carefully. They had all been there from 7 in the morning and this was now almost 12 hours later. I don’t know about you, but when I get tired, it’s hard to be at your sharpest, but God was there to make sure that this story wasn’t going to end in defeat. I went around one by one, looking my beloved company in the eyes, with no other agenda than to hear their stories. I wanted to know why they were there and what they hoped this would accomplish. There was one moment when things got a little tense and I fell to my knees and couldn’t control what was coming out of my mouth. I prayed over and over again, “In the Name of Jesus, please stop this crazy thing called hate.” I didn’t care who was looking or who heard. I knew I was there to pray and care. I had cared and now I needed to pray! The beautiful thing was that after I was done on my knees, I needed help to get back up and a young black man named Jalen was quick to assist me. It meant the world to me.

What a sight to witness how this potential powder keg ended up as a firework of peace and potential understanding for the days to come. Pastor Thomas Dawson spoke words of life into the crowd, I saw Mayor Tim Donahue always listening, other clergy like Pastor Leo Dodd of the Assembly of God was praying and future meetings were set up with the Attorney General. Just around 10PM, Pastor Alfonzo Toney prayed us into tomorrow as we gathered in a huge circle, locked arm and arm and heart to heart. I drove home grateful to God and so thankful that I have called Cape May County my home for the last 23 years. The corrected Cape May County Herald Headline should have been the first and only headline, “Peace And Unity Defeat Fear and Anger in Rio Grande.”

Pride will only make things worse. If the first response is to defend ourselves then we won’t make any progress in the process! When I say, “Black Lives Matter,” I am not supporting any organized group with a less than a positive agenda. I am saying that the lives of my black and brown brothers and sisters matter to me and should matter to us all. I have learned so much this week just by listening. When I say “Black Lives Matter,” you don’t have to keep correcting me by saying, “All Lives Matter!” God has created us all in His image and every single life at every single age is special and unique and beyond valuable. But the facts show that my white brothers and sisters don’t have to fight as hard as my black brothers and sisters must to prove that to be true! When my Boss, Kelvin Walker, an African American Man who is also the District Superintendent of the Christian and Missionary Alliance must videotape many of his encounters just to protect himself and his family, something is still broken. There is no man who exudes more of the Spirit of God than Kelvin and yet, if others only see him as a black man with their tinted eyes of racism, he is still not safe! Unfortunately, our society way too often does judge the book by its cover and color, and reacts before they have all the facts. Too many assume someone is guilty simply by the color of their skin or where they live or what they wear and so on and so forth. We need our white family to stop defending themselves and humbly begin to stand up for and stand by those who are still being mistreated and misrepresented after all these years! There are times that I need my brothers and sisters of color to look out for me! For such a time as this, it is we who are white who must have the back of those who are still being murdered simply for being black and brown. So hence, Black Lives Matter and all Lives Won’t Matter until All Colors and All People of All Ages matter too.

Let me close with the very words that ended every “You Are There” broadcast. “What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times… and you were there.”

 





I CAN’T WATCH!

4 06 2020

love one another
“I can’t breathe!” If any human being has a heart and soul, those words will be etched upon our consciences forever. How one white man who was supposed to be enforcing the law, could behave so barbarically by literally killing another black man with unnecessary brute force is beyond reason. Why didn’t one of the other policemen intervene and right the apparent wrong? Why could bystanders take the time to use their cell phones to record this horrible behavior, but no one stand up and come to the rescue of someone who was clearly being physically abused right before their very eyes? Have we become a pathetic culture of apathetic spectators so used to just observing that we forgot our responsibility to love one another more than we simply admire ourselves?

Is it time to rediscover the parable of Jesus that told the tale of the Good Samaritan? Samaritans and Jews were bitter enemies. According to the overly righteous Pharisees, there was no such thing as a “Good” Samaritan. The prejudice was taught early by the local Rabbis and when Jesus challenged their hidden hatred, He abandoned earthly political correctness so that the way things are done in the Kingdom of God could be revealed. Jesus preached that this planet would never be the place we would find our true purpose. If we are going to be a devoted Disciple of our Savior, then we must behave like we are citizens of Heaven who model the mission of the Master.

I think it might be the right time to rediscover the real Jesus. Jesus wasn’t a white man. Jesus was of Middle Eastern descent. If Jesus just happened to drop into your worship service next week, how many would not even receive Him as Friend, never mind as Lord, solely because of the color of His skin? How many times are we all guilty of not investing the time into reading the book because we don’t like the cover? We make conclusions based upon what we see and not because of solid evidence that we genuinely know. Even Christians wrongly judge people by their color, their education, by what kind of car they drive and clothes they wear and house they live in. All the things that are not championed in Heaven’s court. How many times do we need to be reminded that God did extraordinary works through very ordinary people? If men and women were filled with too much self-pride, it took up the room in their soul that should have been kept for childlike faith! Unbelief freezes the exercise of God’s power. Miracles don’t produce faith. Faith produces miracles! And faith also transforms our selfish flesh into selfless feats!

The salvation Jesus offers us is color blind. It is the gift of God and not the result of our tainted works, so that no one may boast. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus related to people who were different from him and people who to many so-called religious leaders totally ignored. Jesus spent quality time with tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, and other hopeless and helpless sinners. Jesus did what He did because of His love for all mankind. We don’t have to condone sin but nothing in Scripture validates hating sinners. There is nobody who is beyond the amazing grace of God! If we don’t respect others, then we are literally telling the Creator that He messed up when it came to making certain groups of people. All of us were created in the image of God. Respect isn’t a synonym for agreement, but it does impact the way a person disagrees. One cannot respect another and harbor a desire to overpower that person through insults, dismissal, or derogatory actions. A black man died in Minnesota because too many white people did nothing! Our lack of movement to do what we know to be true will keep the world believing the lies. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He invited whosoever to the banqueting table. Nobody has the right to kick anyone out of God’s dining room!

If ever there was a day that those who claim to know Jesus do the right thing, it is now. It’s not all Christians that give Christ a bad name! It’s not all Law Enforcement that give hatred so much fame! It’s not all people that excel in things that shame! Crowds so often have no idea why they came! It’s up to you and me to do the right thing!

Speaking of crowds, the definitive difference between peaceful protests and those who stir up mob mentalities of destruction and defiance must be addressed. Crowds are so often created by criticism and hatred. It didn’t take much in the old west to hang an innocent man, just get the instigators to rile up those in attendance. Crowds make lousy decisions in the Bible. It was a crowd that called Noah a fool and encouraged everyone to stay off the boat! It was a crowd that wanted to murder Moses and take everybody back to Egypt. It was a crowd that chose Barabbas over Jesus when it came to deciding the right one to rescue. There is too much divisive behavior going on in our midst today. We must wake up and realize there is an enemy trying to get us to mistrust everything and live in a manner that will only lead to all hell breaking lose. Jesus has authority over evil. We who say we love the Lord must become advocates for stopping the insanity and not spraying more lighter fluid onto the charcoals!

When I was a Youth Pastor in Omaha, Nebraska, we held an event called the Slam Dunk Contest. Over a thousand young people gathered into our church gym that night. The attendance was made up with kids of all kinds of colors and nowhere else in the area was that happening in a positive setting. On this particular night, it didn’t take much to realize that there was trouble brewing when most of the crowd were rushing to the exits and heading for the parking lot. Outside there was a faceoff between a white kid and a black kid and everyone else was ready to rumble. A sponsor wanted me to call the police but my spirit rejected that quickly because I sensed the enemy was trying to rear his ugly head into something good. I motioned for my assistant to go to the white guy and I immediately wrapped my arms around the black teen saying words like this, “You don’t want to do this. You are better than this. You are so gifted. You came to play some basketball. You don’t want to end up in jail. I believe in you. I know you can muster the courage to walk away and keep your dignity.” Those of you who know me, understand that I talk even louder and faster when I am nervous and at this moment I was petrified, but I knew that if I didn’t do something, the whole place was going to end up in a riot so I did what I believe Jesus would do. No punches were thrown, no blood was shed and everybody ended up going back inside to finish what we actually came for. Everybody later thought I had lost my mind for doing what I did but I knew I had to give God room to bring a miraculous peace to a pivotal moment.

Little kids were asked the questions, “What is hatred?” “What is bigotry?” What is prejudice?” Constant answers of “I don’t know” came back time and time again. A bright little one thought that being prejudiced meant you were sick and maybe she was more right than wrong. But I know that children learn by what they hear and see at home! It is time to break the cycle of evil in our spheres of influence. The church should be the most welcoming place on this planet and if it’s not, then it’s time to stop calling it a church and relabel it as just another social club. I can’t watch because when I see the chaos, it takes my breath away. What will our legacy be? The answer to that question depends upon which set of rules we live by. Are we citizens of heaven or just plain earth dwellers?





IT IS TIME FOR THE CHURCH TO REMEMBER!

26 05 2020

RememberWho you are depends upon your ability to re member. Unfortunately, as human beings, we have a tendency to forget what we should remember and remember what we should forget. God knew that our flesh would be prone to fail so the Word of God is filled with reminders for us to remember! As a memory aid, the Lord even encouraged us to use symbols to point us to the truth given us by the Savior. One of the simplest practices for the Lord’s people to keep looking up before they began giving up was building altars in the key places that God had kept His promises. But before you start looking for huge expensive cathedrals as memorials, all the believers did was pile up rocks in the spots where God showed up. Holy ground was not necessarily higher ground, but any piece of property that the divine work of the Almighty deemed the dirt worthy to show up and do His stuff!

God has always called upon those who never expected to hear from Heaven’s hotline. It’s the humble who are invited to participate in the holy. It’s the available that get invited to the banquet. It’s those willing to listen who hear words beyond their wildest dreams! Yet how often do we still do our darndest to try to impress God with our religious language and lofty deeds? Why do we go looking for living water in our own manmade wells? Why do we waste so much effort telling God our ingenious plans when all we really need to do is report for duty? Scripture proves that the Lord honors childlike faith over humanity’s puffed up pride. When earth boasts of us cherishing our common sense, God calls us to commit everything we are and have to Him.

When the storms of life come at us like a raging tsunami, we need to remember what the symbol of a rainbow stands for. When we are being chased by our enemy and come to a fork in the road that looks like the Red Sea, we need to remember that God can open up a roadway where there has never been a highway before. When we face situations that long to overwhelm us, we need to remember that David’s trust in the Lord leveled Goliath not with a sword but a slingshot. When the religious big shots took pot shots at Jesus, we need to remember that God came to seek and to save those who had the courage to admit that they were lost. When they put Paul in prison thinking that locking him up would do away with him sharing the gospel, God’s word went forth with even more power. When the government of men start bragging about how powerful and invincible they are, we need to be reminded that in the Book of Revelation we are told that Jesus will be the One still standing when all the other earthly powers become nothing more than a distant memory.

When we remember to operate by the truth that God has graciously given us, we are promised the paradise of freedom no matter where our bodies might find us on planet earth. Truth is what keeps us from becoming detoured by the lies. When we refuse to obey the Lord, then we become fair game to the cries of the crowd and people are absolutely terrible when it comes to defining one another. God’s love for us is unconditional and man’s attention has many strings attached. Yet how many times do we bend over backwards to make everyone else happy at the expense of ignoring the One who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves? We can’t afford to turn heaven’s volume down because the one thing for certain is that the noise of society is only going to get louder with each passing day. We can’t be casual during a season in which we must stay committed to hanging on the Lord’s every precious word; then we won’t get tripped up by the comments that really should go in one ear and quickly out the other.

Remembering brings us back to the place where we first began when we opened up our hearts to Jesus to become our Savior in the first place. Did God only promise to forgive half of your sins? Did the Lord only assure you that He wouldn’t leave you or forsake you on good days and the fairest of seasons? Didn’t God actually tell us in Psalm 103 that as far as the east is from the west that He would remember our sins no more? When the Lord looks at us, He doesn’t see what we see, He sees us as His finished masterpieces, His greatest works of art? What humanity would throw into the bargain bin, God has rescued to redeem, restore and renew. The Lord laid down His very life to prove His everlasting love for us and we still doubt His integrity. When will we people ever learn? Do you see why we need daily powerful post-it notes from Glory?

I am praying daily for the spiritual condition of our Country. There is way too much ego where there should be humility. Politicians are using their constituents for their own personal power rather than doing what is best for them. Our Country which was founded upon the principle to provide freedom for the expression of faith now has deemed it to be non-essential. The enemy is also attempting to divide the Body of Christ at a crucial time when it needs to come together. What is the miraculous glue that brings Jew and Gentile, black and white, rich and poor, those who have and those who have no material goods to their name together? What unites us as a loving and caring family in a way that no biological blood lines can pull off? Nothing but the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit! Remember Church, we are at our best when we make it our priority to keep the main thing the main thing! Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and love one another. Stop the name calling and keep raising the praising of our Jesus! As we are reunited in the days to come within our buildings, we need to continue to put God first, take care of one another, stop making man made rules more important that God breathed words and do whatever it takes to bring God glory. The legacy we will leave for a waiting and watching world is tied into our need to remember what we must not forget and just forget what is not worth remembering! Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, I have the right to condemn you, but I forgive you, go and live in the freedom of my love. Why would we choose to be tied up in our own man-made ropes when God Himself has made it possible for us to be free from the confines of this culture.

Even people who love Jesus have gotten and will get the covoid-19 virus. And while this sickness can raise havoc within our bodies, it has no hold on our souls. What profit is it if a person gains the whole world and still loses their soul? What really good does it do if you stay physically healthy but spiritually and emotionally sick? Let’s never forget the mission of the Church. It is not to be a country club to the righteous, but a hospital for the broken. I close with the words from the very prayer that Jesus taught us when His disciples asked Him to please teach them to pray. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Remember, if we don’t remember to live by those words of life, who else will?





REFLECTIONS

19 05 2020

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We all become mirrors of what influences us most. Like it or not, we can learn more about what a person believes by how a person behaves. Jesus empowered us to become the light of the world! Like a city on a hill, we need to be seen even before we are heard. If our walk doesn’t back up our talk, we end up with nothing to say anyway! As Christians we are not expected to generate our own light, but to become reflections of the Lord who saved us by His amazing grace. Unfortunately for way too many a church goer, our major influence is not coming from the God who made us, but the surrounding world trying to squeeze us into its mold.

During this coronavirus pandemic, many a watching eye has been looking to see how the Body of Christ would respond. Has a watching world seen Jesus through it all? Have the observers in the crowd seen anything of Jesus at all? Or, are they seeing in us what they can see in anybody else who doesn’t believe? I fear that there is way too much CNN or Fox News being spouted off through the reaction of Jesus Followers and not enough Bible! If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, then wouldn’t He be more reliable to trust over the latest talking head at the networks?

What bothers me most about what is going on in NJ government is the blatant inconsistency! The rules are so all over the place that nobody knows what to believe. Why would I look to Trenton for peace and purpose when there is so much pride, ego and division driving the daily decisions? God is good all the time and all the time God is good! I’m not sure about anything else, but when it comes to Scripture, I know that this is truth I can build my life upon. It is only my relationship with the Lord that has helped me keep my sanity when the boundaries of the playing field have actually changed during the game depending on who you are talking to. But if we are citizens of Heaven, then we know man can make all the plans he desires, but ultimately it is God who directs the steps. I’d rather follow in the footsteps of the Master than wander around in circles trying to please the crowd.

When Jesus was on this planet, the Nation of Israel was hoping that He would step up to be the Messiah that would set them free from Roman oppression. Jesus came preaching about a Kingdom that was not of this world. I believe that too often, Americans make the same mistake with their brand of Christianity. Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not white, yellow, red, black or brown. He can’t be bribed, bought or bullied. Jesus didn’t fit into the box that the religious rulers of the day constructed for Him. What makes us think that He might do so today? I want people to see the real Jesus in those of us whom He has redeemed by His mercy and grace. Jesus was not known for his picket signs as much as He was known for pointing people in the direction of light and life. And isn’t it ironic that those who thought they knew religion the best were the same ones that blatantly blew off the Son of God in their presence. And those who were defined as the outcasts and dredges of society were the very ones that also admitted how much they needed Jesus as their Savior.

Growing up, my Dad was rather thrifty and he made it very clear that if nobody was in the room, it was our responsibility to turn the lights off. If Dad said it once, he mentioned it a thousand times. To this day, I can hear his voice in my head as I walk through the church building flicking light switches. Contrary to my earthly Father’s advice, my Heavenly Father is quoting quite the opposite. He is challenging us to turn the light on and shine it as bright as possible. And when we are radiating the reflection of our Savior, we aren’t directing others to try to find the answers to the yearnings of their heart via religion, because that has never worked for anyone, but we are directing them to a personal relationship with the God who made us! What a watching world needs to know from us is the powerful truth that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us and He will guide us whether we get the virus or not. The most important move is not what mask to wear or whether life will ever get back to “normal;” the ultimate question that everyone needs to answer is, “Do I have security that no matter what happens here, I am forever in the best of care?” If the Bible teaches that nothing can separate us from the love of God, then are we willing to live the truth of what we claim to believe no matter what happens?