Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shepastor: "Freedom..." A poem written by Pastor Chris Smith

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36, KJV

Freedom…
By Pastor Chris Smith, written for the occasion of the AJC Global Community Seder, Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Whether the African slave drug across the chilly waters of the cruel Atlantic, bound by chains, forced to lie in her own refuse and vomit, down, down in the splintered belly of brutal slave ship…

Or the Jewish descendent of Joseph, shackled, beaten and abused, forced to make bricks without straw… in a land by a Pharaoh that knew him not…
Or whether the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Freedom is the inhaling of the air, the expanding of the lung, the release of the exhale to do and to be and to become all that God has created one to be without the encumbrances of hatred, the ignorance of “isms” and the brutality of boxes too small to hold the brilliance of beauty, creativity and love.

Freedom is the head though bloodied refuses to be bowed…Freedom…is the voice that speaks despite the oppression that seeks to press it into silence…FREEDOM…the heart that beats and swells with compassion though mean spirit actions abound FREEDOM…is God’s gift to humanity though portioned out like meal by oppressors to those desperately waiting at the mill of justice.

Yet there is a FREEDOM that cannot, that will not be contained by prisons and shackles and bars…there is a FREEDOM, like hope, that springs eternal in the human breast, that FREEDOM that declares with audacity, “I will rise again.” …That FREEDOM that demands FREEDOM to be free, released for all to breathe.


Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shepastor: "Scatter Your Seed in Faith..."

The Parable of the Growing Seed
26He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4: 26-29, NIV

This rarely quoted parable found in the Gospel of Mark packs a powerful message. Here Jesus is explaining further what the Kingdom of God is like. In previous verses, Jesus tells the very familiar story about the “sower” and various kinds of soils. As a pastor, I have always found great encouragement in those verses. At times we (pastors/leaders) can “beat up on ourselves,” because the seeds we have been prayerfully, painstakingly sowing appear to produce such minimal fruit. Interestingly, Jesus’ emphasis is not placed upon the sower, but the soil…the parable of the sower…”

But in this subsequent parable, Jesus further emphasizes the relationship between “the Kingdom of God” and the seed scattered upon the ground. Jesus says, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…”

As humans we tend to take too much credit either way…when the “seeds” don’t seem to grow, we tend to blame ourselves. When the seeds blossom and flourish, particularly in the church, we tend to attribute it to some great work that we’ve done and others have not. But Jesus says, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…”

We really don’t know how God causes the “seed” of His Word, the “seed of love,” the “seed of faithfulness,” to grow in the hearts of people. We cannot take credit either way…we don’t know how! We are simply called to “scatter the seed.”

If you are discouraged, pray for the faith to continue to scatter the seed. Remember, God controls the harvest. If you are experiencing abundant growth, in humility realize that it’s not you or your great programs, but it’s God’s seed, God’s soil, God’s harvest. We don’t know how. We are simply called by faith to scatter the seed. Be encouraged seed sower, God will see to it… “first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head…" As soon as the grain is ripe, God will put the sickle to it. He alone knows when it's harvest time.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Shepastor: “Sometimes We Need to Change Our Prayers…”

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16, KJV

“The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avail much…” We have embraced, quoted, and used as a fire brand this verse…a verse of victory and triumph in prayer. But have you ever considered that at times, our “effective prayers,” may effectively block our blessings?

God hears and honors the prayers of His children. Our prayers, however, may be the very thing that stands in the way of a new and different path. Sometimes we are praying for the very thing that we need to release…the very thing that we need to let go…the very thing that we need to turn away from.

Sometimes our focus is wrong, our vision is short, our request is shallow. Some might argue that God will not then answer or grant those prayer requests. I beg to differ. At times, God allows us to remain in our proverbial “prayer box” until we see the stagnation created by those intense but misdirected prayers.

Are you praying for something to be revived when God really wants to put it to rest? Are you praying for some relationship to be reinvigorated when God wants you to walk away? Are you praying for some particular door to come open when the Lord is waiting for you to go in a different direction?

Sometimes we need to change our prayers. Are your own prayers blocking your blessings, your progress, your “new day?” Prayer is powerful indeed. May we ask the Lord to give us wisdom and guidance in how we direct those prayers for ourselves and for others.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shepastor: "Give Us This Day..."

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11, NIV

"Give us this day our daily bread," is a simple phrase couched within the "Model Prayer." Jesus gave these words as part of a prayer he taught, when the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Although simple, this short phrase is VERY profound. While many simply consider these words with regard to physical food, I believe Jesus was speaking of something much greater.

As humans, one of our greatest dilemmas is that we cannot see the future. We can dream, dread, plan, ignore, consider and prepare, in some ways, for the future. But we cannot see or know the future. In our great quest for this knowledge, some have resorted to consulting "sooth sayers," psychics, and cards with special symbols. Sometimes, the Lord in His grace and mercy shows us "glimpses" of the future through dreams and the whispers of His precious Holy Spirit. He has refrained, however, from giving us the "blow by blow" details. Jesus himself said, "I have much to tell you, but you cannot bear it now..." (John 6:12). Jesus knows that if he tells us too much too soon, we would not be able to handle or absorb the contents.

Jesus knows that if we knew somethings...some hurdles we'd have to cross, some sorrows we'd have to bare, some tragedies we'd have to face, some triumphs we'd ultimately win...that we would not press forward and cultivate the faith he desires that we have. Our faith pleases the Lord. Our perseverance, hope and trust develop our "spirit being" and character. Therefore, the Lord has taught us to simply pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."

We have today. Tomorrow is not promised. May we in wisdom seek the Lord's bread daily. Knowing that His sustenance is enough.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Shepastor: “Dealing With the Splinters of Life…”

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23, KJV

The other day as I went to open a drawer I felt a sharp prick on my finger. “OUCH!!! Oh no… a splinter!!!” I hadn’t gotten a splinter in years. For the rest of the evening I worked on trying to get the splinter out. At first, it looked like success. I was able to grab a piece of the small fragment of wood and I felt some relief. It appeared that my finger was just a little sore because of a small piece of open flesh. But by the end of the following day, I discovered that it wasn’t just skin, but wood still buried deep within my finger!

At that point I got busy prodding and taking a clean needle to create an opening where the rest of the splinter could be exposed. Once enough of it was visible, I took some tweezers and pulled it out. Low and behold, the splinter was not just a tiny piece of thin wood, but about a half inch long!

As I reflected upon this uncomfortable experience, it occurred to me that similar things happen in life. Various issues can prick the heart. We may think that we’ve dealt with it…addressed it…removed it…washed it away, but in reality, we’ve only “clipped off” a small portion of the problem. There is just enough of the problem left embedded in our heart to keep us distracted, sore, throbbing and moving slowing towards spiritual infection. “Spiritual splinters” require digging deeper. Sometimes we may be required to open “sore places” in our hearts in order to fully pull out what is truly hurting us.

The writer of Proverbs urges us to “keep” or “guard our hearts,” for out of the heart flows the issues of life. Just as a literal splinter left in skin can become swollen and infected, fragments of hurt, anger, frustration, feelings of betrayal etc., can fester…distracting us and ultimately poisoning our life perspective and outlook.

Are you ignoring a spiritual splinter today? Through intentional prayer, soul prodding and seeking wise counsel, work until you get it out. True healing will not happen until you do.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Shepastor: "And Still He Loves Us..."

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22: 31-32, NIV

“I would never do that…I am committed all the way to the end…Lord, I WILL NEVER deny you…” At the time that Peter made these declarations, he probably was completely convinced that his words were sincere and definite. But our Lord knew the heart of Peter in ways that he himself did not understand. The Lord also understands that while not omniscient (all knowing), the enemy of our souls – Satan in ancient. He has been around long enough to understand the frailty of humanity and how to strike at us when we are in our most vulnerable moments.

Those who have walked with the Lord, love the Lord and have made life long commitments to the Lord are not exempt from the weaknesses of the flesh. We must be careful never to become “spiritually cocky,” thinking that we would NEVER do thus and so. Our daily prayer must be, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”

Denying the Lord comes in many and various forms. Standing up and defending the cause of Christ, declaring His name and His way based upon His Word is becoming increasingly challenging in today’s society. Remaining silent when we need to stand and speak truth to power is a temptation we in the Church are increasingly facing.

“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,” (II Corinthians 4:7) and while it is our desire and intent never to deny the Lord, Jesus knows that at times we will fail. But as He spoke to Peter, Jesus still speaks to us, “…Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat, But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

With a measure of humility, remembering that we all fall short and are in need of the grace and mercy of our Lord, as we are forgiven, as we are strengthened, as we are lifted to a higher level of faith with a stronger ability to stand, may we remember those who are struggling, stumbling, tripping, falling…may we resist the temptation to judge, to be critical, to be condescending. With a measure of humility, may we instead reach out and do all that we can through the strength of Christ to lift others up.

What a blessing and comfort to know that in spite of all of our faults and failures, Jesus still loves us! What victory to know that Satan “must ask permission” to tempt us. What a consolation to know that our Lord has prayed for us so that we will never be kept in the grip of Satan!

During this Holy Week when we remember all that Christ did for us as He walked the earth and on Calvary, may we rejoice in His everlasting love and remember to lift and love one another, always rejoicing that in Christ, we are MORE than conquerors!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Shepastor: "It is Written..."

4 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. 3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Luke 4: 1-4, KJV

The story of Jesus’ temptation vividly depicts the treachery of the devil, seeking to derail Jesus from his mission and life’s purpose by trying to persuade him to get off track, give in to his weaknesses and to satisfy his cravings for a season. But Jesus was equipped with something far more superior than the tempting tactics and words of Satan. Jesus had the words of his father hidden deep down in his heart.

The Lord is also our heavenly Father and it is his words that give us life. Jesus’ responses to temptation tell us something about the power of knowing God’s word.

Consider Jesus’1st response to the devil.

Verses 3 and 4 of our text declares,
3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Jesus shows us how to use God’s word as a shield when we are hungry. Even though he was hungry, he trusted His father’s words over the temptations of Satan.

When the enemy comes against us, using our “hunger,” doubt about God, doubt about ourselves, doubt about God’s promises, we’ve go to know what is written! We’ve got to know God's Word. God's Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. God's Word is the light and life and breath of our souls. When you know God's Holy Word, when you stand upon His promises, when you quote His wisdom to yourself, you beat back the lies and temptation that the devil sends your way.

Proverbs declares that life and death are in the power of the tongue. When we don’t trust what is written in God’s Word we open ourselves up to a world of defeat. But when we trust God’s Word, when we speak God's word over and into our spirit, God breathes life into us. When you trust God's word, you are less vulnerable to the lies that Satan tells you about yourself. You trust when God's word says, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made." You trust God's word when it says, "I know the plans that I have for you." You trust God's word when it declares that you are the righteousness of God. You trust God's word when it declares that if you confess your sins God is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Knowing what is written and hiding that word in your heart will help you resist the enemy’s falsehoods.

When Satan tried to tempt Jesus to look to him for power and authority, to look to him for prestige and material things, Jesus simply replied,

"It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. "

Jesus knew that there was nothing Satan could offer that would truly be of benefit. Jesus knew that the ways of His father, the teachings of His father, the love of His father would lead him into paths of prosperity.

Jesus was able to resist the lies of Satan because He believed His Father, He trusted His Father and He adored his Father. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus to look to him for power and authority, to look to him for prestige and material things, Jesus simply replied,

“It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. “

Jesus knew that there was nothing Satan could offer that would truly be of benefit. Jesus also was clear about his mission. Jesus knew that the ways of His father, the teachings of His father, the love of His father would sustain him for his purpose. He didn’t have to “sell his soul to the company store.” It is so important that Fathers set the right examples for children. It is critical that fathers teach their sons and daughters the benefits of right living. The world, especially today, is filled with temptations of “get rich quick” schemes, the thrill of power, the glam and the glitter associated with high style living.

But all of those things will leave you feeling empty, unfulfilled and cheap when they are obtained through illegitimate means. So often men and women have sold themselves out through lying, stealing, cheating, manipulating, pushing others aside doing whatever they feel necessary to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. They do so, however at the expense of their souls. They do so at the expense of their reputations. They do so at the expense of their children. No matter how high you climb, if you do so with evil tactics, your ladder will soon come crashing down. What then will you say to your children?

But if through righteous living, honest work, hard work, faith in God and the support of others you have been elevated by the Lord, no weapon formed against you will prosper. We have to teach our children that it takes prayer, hard work, faith and perseverance to succeed. We can’t have everything we want over night. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes we have to sacrifice. Sometimes we have go without. But if your children see that you have pressed your way, worked honestly, tried diligently, come up against some difficult circumstances and yet remained faithful, they will see you as someone to look up to and someone to pattern their lives after. The false promises of the world won’t lure them away.

Finally, Jesus’ confidence in what was written made him confident in his identity. In each of the devil’s attempts, he began by questioning who Jesus was, “If you be the son of God….” “If…..” Inherent in the “if” is the question, are you really who you say you are?

Insecurity, self doubt, low self-esteem has caused many a person to do themselves harm, get involved with the wrong crowd and make many wrong choices, all because they don’t know who they are.

Every day, the devil is bombarding people with the question – “If you be so and so then do thus and so….” When the enemy comes against our personhood, against our worth, against our purpose, we’ve got to know what is written…we’ve got to know down deep in our soul who God says we are. We must remember that we are made in the image of God.

Get to know what is written in God’s Word about your life, about your purpose, about your self-worth, about your future…Jesus has taught us, Jesus has shown us…Jesus had died for us…through Christ, we have the victory!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org