Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

I grew up amidst a time when if you wanted to stay out of trouble, you had to know the difference between the towels in the bathroom that were for show, and the other towels that you could use to dry your hands. Knowing the right towel was not all the knowledge necessary while you were taking care of business. There were also a variety of soaps in the dish on the sink and some were used for actually washing your hands, but the other only served a decorative purpose.

I wish it ended there, but this discernment between what is there for show and what is there to be applied also rambled into other areas of the home.

I don’t know why they called it the “Living Room.” You were not allowed to do much in there. The sofa was not meant to be sat upon as it was covered in plastic, and how you got through there without walking on the beautiful rug still goes beyond my understanding. This was a room only to give the appearance that life occurred within it, although I suggested we refer to it as, “The Off Limits” area.

When we ate in the “Dining Room” when company came over, there was another dilemma staring you in the face. There were napkins provided on your plate but because they were made of this particular cloth, we were never to wipe our mouths on them. We were not allowed to use our shirt sleeves either. My Mother would provide paper napkins for the actual duty of keeping your face clean.

It’s not hard enough being a kid without all this extra pressure on you to make sure you know the proper etiquette around the homestead. I think I struck completely out when Mom bought us new comforters for our beds that even included a matching pillow cover. She allowed us to pick out one in our favorite color.

My color of choice has always been orange. I don’t know what that says about my personality, but it is true. I have an orange floor in my office at The Lighthouse Church. Even though I was a boy of about 11 or 12 at the time, I was looking forward to cuddling up in this new orange blanket of joy.

I’ll never forget my Mom’s horror when I got in bed and pulled the covers up tight. Mom scolded me quicker than normal, told me to get out of bed immediately, fold up that new ensemble of bliss, and place it on the chair in the room. Nothing had changed.

My bed was dressed up in this orange wonderland but I would never get to experience it. Once again, it was all for appearance sake and not for actually enjoying.

If today’s church in America suffers from anything, it’s the problem that too many Christian leaders set things up to look good, but make it undeniably clear that real messes are not allowed. We have “Fellowship Halls” carpeted to the degree that nobody dares to get it dirty. How can you have fellowship if you are not allowed to share a meal together?

I remember one aunt who never allowed us to play on her lawn. She treasured the green grass over happy children. We were so miserable whenever we had to go over to her house.

I believe she was just as disgusted to have us there. Needless to say, she lived a lonely life. Everything was nice and neatly organized but nobody was ever allowed to get close enough to truly live.

Once you open the door to anyone, you risk having life turned upside down and inside out, but Jesus modeled for us a ministry that taught us to never hold our best back from anyone. Jesus gave the same kind of intentional care to the rich and famous that he did to the down and outers. When people were around Jesus, even though He didn’t hesitate to tell the truth, one still began to feel like you mattered more than the sofa or the fine china or the towels hanging up on the hook.

Somewhere along the line, we championed looking the part without fully playing the part. God doesn’t work with images that we project. The Lord goes right to the matters of the heart.

If you learn anything by reading about Jesus in the Gospels, it’s that even though you might have felt bad at the beginning, he always made sure you left feeling better. His truth didn’t lay you to waste. His love built you up and gave you the vision of what He always intended you to be.  

I have been preaching about the Holy Spirit lately. Every Christian at the moment of salvation is given a comforter, and He is not meant to be folded up and put in the closet. The wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit is meant to be so much more than an ornamental feature in our lives that we can look at but not touch.

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the "Comforter" for a practical reason. There is nowhere we go where we can escape His presence. There is nothing we can do that will break the bond between us. Believers may quench and grieve Him, but He never leaves or forsakes us.

When the Holy Spirit is fully allowed access to every nook and cranny of our hearts, we begin to look more like Jesus every day. The Holy Spirit doesn’t comfort us by removing us from life or keeping us out of the chaos. The Holy Spirit comforts us by giving us life smack dab in the middle of all that we ever have to go through. We never have to take on any battle alone.

Before the day gets away from you, have you acknowledged the presence of God in your walk? Are you clinging to Him, rather than looking to lucky charms that aren’t magically delicious?

God so loved us that He didn’t save the best only for company. He invites us to come in and sit with Him. You can even walk on the carpet.

It is what the grace and mercy of our God is about. Get to know the Holy Spirit, who is not just for show. The world you live in will be transformed by this relationship, and you will be able to cuddle up tight in a "comforter" that isn’t in the closet but all over you.