Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

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If I were to ask you to finish this sentence about yourself, how would you? A better way to discover this question’s real answer would be for me to ask someone who knows you and is close to you to finish “BLANK is your life.” What fills in the empty BLANK?

In our culture, we have a brief saying that helps us define someone’s values, loves, priorities and passions, describing for us what that person is truly about. If a person is passionate about music, we say, “Music is his or her life.” If another finds fulfillment in teaching, training and motivating athletes, we say, “Coaching is his or her life.”

When it comes to a man or woman whose work means everything to them, who finds great fulfillment in their career, we might say, “The job is their life,” or in a more negative spin, “They are a hopeless workaholic.”

I follow an entertaining author on Twitter named Jenny Hale, and she is a writing machine who seems to crank out a best-seller after another. It would be easy to say, “Novels are her life.”

Growing up, anyone who knew me understood that I ate, drank and slept baseball, and the game at that point in my journey was easily the answer that went into the blank. All of us are born with the words “BLANK is my life” written on our hearts and minds. Throughout our lives, we desperately try to fill in the BLANK with different things, forming our identities around people, hobbies, interests, obsessions, ideologies and experiences.

Not all BLANKS are healthy and wholesome. Some BLANKS are as deadly as the real bullets. These include behaviors that are dangerous and destructive, like excessive “partying,” “drinking,” or “sex.” For others, it might begin as something harmless, but it can quickly turn into horrible obsessions, such as “eating,” “sports,” “traveling,” or “going to movies.”

I know too many people who live their lives vicariously through those they see on the big screen, rather than getting off the couch to experience adventures of their own.

Even people can become paralyzing when it gets out of proportion. Love doesn’t mean control if you live your life attempting to make another human your sole reason for existence, making your empty BLANK “my spouse,” “my family,” “my ministry,” or “my career.” Be careful because whatever we place in that BLANK eventually has the power to define us, dominate us, and determine our thoughts and actions.

In my years of ministry, I’ve seen the tragic results of people filling in the BLANK with various worldly sources of fulfillment. On the other hand, I’ve witnessed amazingness happen when individuals choose by faith to fill in the BLANK with big, bold, permanent letters that spell the name above all names, “JESUS.”

Many people who were once consumed by incessant worries and always filled with anxiety and fear have miraculously been transformed and filled with the peace and purpose that living with Jesus brings. Many others who had wandered, uncertain, insecure and confused about their existence have allowed their world to become redeemed, renewed and restored by the Word of God, which gives eternal assurance, stable security, and meaningful direction.

I have witnessed marriages and family relationships that were deemed nothing more than a huge disaster become renovated via the practical presence of Christ being invited into the union where two become one because God is in the house.

Finally, I can give testimony that those who hated their jobs, resented their bosses, messed up in their roles and even fibbed and flubbed their ways through most days welcomed a total 180 when a personal relationship with Jesus brought humility, justice and fairness into the workplace.

Who or what fills in your BLANK? This time, think it through. Maybe ask somebody this question about you. If your spouse, children, parents, employer, co-workers, or employees had to fill in the “BLANK,” would “JESUS” occupy that place?

When something represents what we call “our life,” it means that something occupies an important spot in our hearts and minds like nothing else can. We don’t need another to remind us to dwell upon it night and day because we are already doing it easily. It is a hobby we never grow bored of, a pastime that is never monotonous, a subject we are constantly captivated by, and a habit that always seems to consume our time and energy and most of our resources.

This BLANK becomes our passion, our driving force, our consuming interest, and ultimately our life!

If you were to ask the apostle, Paul, to fill in the “BLANK,” there’s no question what he would answer. Without taking a breath and without a hint of hesitation, his answer would be Jesus. He says as much in Philippians 1:21, when he says, “For me to live is Christ.”

Serving Jesus should be the reason you live. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Look at the word, “whatever." It has become something of a teenage mantra. As a response to a teacher’s rebuke or parent’s challenge, it brilliantly conveys an air of effortless aloofness and casual rebellion, but the word needs redeeming.

It is a wonderfully open-ended word, which is why Paul uses it here. For that reason, it is a word that legalists hate. They want their rules clearly defined to ensure they are clearly kept or broken, and thus easily patrolled.

A lifestyle shaped by grace can never be like that. There are no checklists in a grace mindset. Instead, at its center is the person of Christ, or specifically bringing honor and glory to his name.

Acting in someone’s name means both representing that person and acting with their authority. Doing everything in Jesus' name is no small claim.

When Paul says “whatever”, he really means “whatever.” This is about the whole of life. All of it is to be done in the attitude of worship, and that doesn’t mean living in church.

It means letting Jesus come alive loud and clear though you, wherever you may be. When you work, play, sing, raise your children, love your spouse or simply out and about, the only name “BLANK WORTHY” is "JESUS," no matter what.

This pandemic will determine what place you hold Jesus. Do you need to turn these areas over to the Lord in a prayer of surrender, letting Him fill in the BLANK, rather than sharing that privileged space with something else? If you do, do it now, and remind yourself daily of the need to make everything about Jesus. Wherever, whatever, whenever, however, don’t go blank when it comes to hitting the mark in making the most of your gift of life.

If Jesus fills the BLANK, then everything else will come up a bullseye.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.