A few days ago, I returned home from a weekend in western Pennsylvania.
My wife, Terri, and my youngest son, Joel, ventured to Ebensburg, where my son, Rudy, has pastored for quite a while. He and his beautiful wife, Lindsey, and my grandkids, Jude, Gideon and Eden, make up the Sheptock Family that calls the Keystone State home.
It’s funny that Terri and Lindsey are both from the same area around Lebanon, and Rudy and I met our wives while attending Philadelphia College of Bible, although it was called Philadelphia Biblical University when my kids were there - it now goes by the name Cairn.
Rudy went to his church to work as a youth pastor, but shortly after he arrived, he became the lead minister at a much earlier age than I did. He is doing an outstanding job and has loved his flock how Jesus would want.
Rudy has also done an admirable job becoming acclimated to the community where he resides.
Growing up in northern New Jersey, I never did much hunting, except maybe for important baseball cards I wanted to add to my collection. I am the only Sheptock man in my family that has never shot a gun. Rudy, on the other hand, is part of the autumn tradition that has all men heading out into the woods this time of the year looking to put some venison on the table.
Don’t get me wrong, I will eat whatever you catch and enjoy every morsel, but I am not the one who is going to bag it. Rumor has it that you must be incredibly quiet when it comes to this sport, so that rules me out. I am even silent at a high volume.
In my son’s sermon, he used hunting, as an illustration, to spiritually challenge us to ensure we are aiming for what God says is worth our passionate pursuit.
God’s word is our lens for us to see His will magnified in our sight. We must depend on our Savior's signs if we hope to move our feet in the right direction. If we want to avoid coming home empty-handed, we best allow God to determine our destiny.
We also need to be aware that there are tons of daily distractions looking to derail us from the holy trail. If we claim to walk by faith and not be driven by the selfish desires to obtain all that we see, we must ask Jesus to instruct us along practical paths that value eternal goals. If it is passing away, we probably should be passing on it as quickly as possible.
I want my heart to be consumed with heavenly treasure and not heralded trinkets that are here today and gone tomorrow. In light of forever, are you running a race to somewhere that you hope has a never-ending presence?
November is a season of gratitude, and I am beyond blessed that my children are investing in activities and actions that the Master has marked as majestic. Watching my son preach the word with conviction and courage amidst his congregation that battles the pandemic and a challenging economy made my soul swell. His behavior brought both his earthly dad and Heavenly Father much pleasure.
He takes care of his family by making his goal, ambition, horizon and heart serving the Lord. Unless you are a television preacher, the ministry is not a money-making venture, but just like he grew up in a family that chose to give God plenty of room to provide, Rudy is giving the same gift to his wife and kids.
Too many individuals are doing nothing more than seeking great things for themselves, but when you believe God will take care of you when you go out of your way to take care of others, creation sings songs of praise. Christians never have to worry about whether they are doing God’s will or not when their goal is to bring glory to the One who made it all. If you seek God's kingdom first, you will never come home without the prize that Jesus made possible for all who trust and believe in Him.
Like many of you, I have been busy but not always feeling that blessed. Perhaps I have tried coaxing out of activities without being able to deliver.
In the Bible, there was a woman named Martha, who strenuously tried to impress the Lord. She worked herself into a frenzy by slaving in the kitchen for the Savior. The only problem was that Jesus was in the living room hoping Martha would join her sister, Mary, in visiting with the One whose word satisfied the deepest longing of the human heart.
Why do we get so entangled with the peripheral when the center of it all should be the One who deserves to have all eyes glued upon Him? If I say I love God, why am I easily interrupted by temporary eye candy?
Is that why we are reminded often to fix our eyes on Jesus? I want Him to be the reason I run. I want Him to be at the finish line waiting to catch me, which is my journey's purpose. If family is everything, I want to be forever with my Father, and if my Lord wants me as much as I want my kids, I can only imagine the joy of that reunion day.
There are probably many reasons we could be thwarted this Holiday. This year has been beyond challenging, and there is still a month and a half to go. On top of the pandemic, politics, and lack of positive participation with people, there may have been other disappointments and detours away from the highway to happiness.
However, as long as we walk with the Shepherd, even if the road is long with many winding turns, goodness and mercy will surely follow us throughout our lives.
At the moment we were born, God knew the inevitable passage through the valley of the shadow of death would come, but He made it clear that we would not have to perform that dance as a solo act.
Nothing can separate us from God's love. He will go wherever we are to remind us of how much He loves us, and when we see ourselves through the reflection of love's eyes, we finally see what matters most.
I saw it this weekend when I saw my kids. God currently sees it when we make eye contact with the view that will not end. Open your eyes and don’t be blind to the biggest blessing of all.
What do you seek? What needs to change so your eyes don’t miss the beauty that can’t be beaten?
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.