Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shepastor: “What is Your New Life Resolution in 2012?”


Text: Philippians 3: 12-14
(KJV)

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Every year between December 31st and January 1st, people make all kind of promises to themselves and to others. We call these promises – “resolutions.” The idea is that the old year for better or for worse is gone and is not coming back – so in the new year, we hope to do somethings better, or at least differently.

You’ve heard them, “I’m going to lose weight…, I’m going to stop cursing…, I’m going to stop smoking…, I’m going to save more money…, I’m going to stop using credit cards…” The list goes on and on.

But today, I’d like to challenge us not to think about making meaningless promises that most times we fail to keep. I’d like to challenge you to prayerfully consider making a “New Life Resolution.”

There is a difference between changing a habit and changing your life. Even dieticians and physicians have come to the conclusion that if you really want to loose weight, you can’t just create a list of things you determine that you will give up. Human nature dictates that after a while, the feeling of self -deprivation will take over and you will return to old habits of eating things you shouldn’t. Therefore, they say, a life change – in other words, a change of thought, a change of heart, a change of resolve has to take place in order for real results to happen and be long term.

So it is with our spiritual walk with Christ. Being a Christian is more than giving up the seven deadly sins…Lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, anger and pride. Some stricter traditions have added a few more…
Drinking, smoking, playing cards, dancing, poppin fingers, wearing makeup and going out to parties!

The problem with both lists is that those efforts may control some external behaviors, but the human will can never change the human heart. In order to truly change, a spiritual transformation has to take place. This is not some mystical, secretive process whereby a person has to say chants or drink a potion or have a witch doctor shake some special formula with smoke over your head. No no!

Holy Ghost transformation – the kind of transformation that changes your life happens when you have an encounter with God.

Yes, even those who minister and preach the Gospel need to have transforming experiences – fresh encounters with God.

In 2012, the Lord is saying to somebody, “I’ve got some blessings for you, but in order for you to receive those blessings, you’ve got to let some things go. That fear has been controlling you – let it go. That anger has been consuming you – let it go. That resentment that has been eating your insides apart – let it go. That worry that has been keeping you up at night – let it go.

The Lord is saying, “I’ve got some blessings for you... I’ve got peace for you, I’ve got deliverance for you, I’ve got overcoming power for you, but you’ve got to let some things go!

Don’t let the demons of fear, of worry, of self-doubt, of low self-esteem, of old belittling voices in your head, of resentment, anger, hostility and yes even hatred – don’t let those demons keep you shackled. As you enter 2012 let it go. Don’t be like the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for forty years because they kept looking back and couldn’t believe God for what they could not see. Step out on faith –ask the Lord to reveal his will and purpose for you life and then pursue it.

Pastor and author Bill Hybel says,
“You will never take big hills without making bold moves”

Letting go of what has held you back, held you down, kept you imprisoned is not always easy – it takes the bold move of faith to let it go, trust God, resolve to live for Him in every way. It’s a new path, a fresh encounter, a prayerful journey, a new way of living.

Be bold and walk with your head held high, press towards the mark that God has ordained for your life.

To all Shepastor readers – may you walk into this New Year resolving to allow the Lord to order your steps, free you from whatever chains may bind you and bless you beyond what is readily recognizable in your eyes.

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

Until Next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shepastor: "Victory Through Emmanuel: God Is With Us!"



“Because Emmanuel Lives I Expect Victory Everytime!”
- Darlene Bishop

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matthew 1:23, KJV

“Believe”

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8: 24-28 (KJV)

Today, Shepastor Reflects Upon "Victory Through Emmanuel!"

As a youth I can remember the pastor of my home church preaching a sermon entitled, “With Christ You Are Never On the Loosing Team.” He used the above passage of Scripture. I have carried that message with me ever since. Darlene Bishop’s words, “Because Emmanuel lives, I expect victory everytime!,” strikes a similar note.

Sometimes, when we hit a particularly challenging patch in life, it’s difficult to see how God could be making it work together for our good. Unexpected illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of employment, a wayward child, a broken relationship or whatever your “valley” might be – you may be asking, “how could this possibly work for my good?”

Unfortunately, many Christians have used this passage of scripture flippantly or even arrogantly, condemning hurting people for not having enough faith. That is not the intention here. God's Word encourages us to remember, that no matter what situation or circumstance we face in this life, God, our heavenly Father will take it and make it work out for our good. Not all good things, not all easy things, not all wonderful things –BUT ALL THINGS will be worked out in God’s miracle working laboratory to bless your life, strengthen your faith, increase your hope and give you peace.

Believe that because Emmanuel, which means, “God with us” is living and walking beside us, in everything, we will be victorious. The moment we repent of our sins and accept Christ as our personal Savior, we join the winning team. We may lose some battles, but through Christ, we will win the war. When we are distressed or troubled to the point of not knowing the words to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede on our behalf and interpret our groans. Begin to walk in faith and expectation, trusting God to take you through whatever you are facing, knowing that He is working it out in ways not yet made manifest.

To all of the Shepastor readers, may you have a peacefilled, blessed assured, "knowing that God is with you," Christmas and a new year filled with Holy Spirit expectation and victory!

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

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shepastor: Healing and Restoration – A Word from The Rev. Dr. Alicia J. Malone, Executive Director & Founder Bondage Breakers, Inc.


About a year ago, I interviewed The Reverend Dr. Alicia J. Malone, founder and CEO of Bondage Breakers, Inc. In that interview, Rev. Dr. Malone shared, “Bondage Breaker’s, Inc. is borne out of my love for God and the broken in our midst. Its purpose and goal has always been to provide a “safety net” for those coming out of incarceration and/or confinement. BBI is in it’s 20th year, as of November 1st (2011) and has not lost it’s thrust to minister to “the least of these my brethren…Mt. 25:36ff.”

Today, Shepastor shares a meditation provided by Rev. Dr. Malone, “Going Through Samaria,” a reflection upon affirmation, healing and restoration in the lives of women in ministry.

Read on and be blessed…

Healing & Restoration by The Reverend Dr. Alicia J. Malone
John 4:1-24 – “Going through Samaria”

There is an unspoken Biblical precedence emanating from scripture, especially in the New Testament. God validates women. What I am referring to is the clear way in which Jesus affirms, elevates and respects “women.” When we take a deeper theological look inside John Chapter 4 and the engagement Jesus had with the “Woman at the Well,” many biblical and practical truths stand out:

At the onset one can clearly see that Jesus’ mission was (and is) to build involvement and community. Jesus’ mission was (and is) to break through cultural, gender and relational barriers. Jesus’ mission was (and is) to address the moral and social behavior that limits one’s access to “Kingdom living.”

As the catch phrase goes, “can you hear me now?” It would not be presumptuous to think, much less to say, that Jesus in the context of John 4, is affirming not only this woman, but women in general. Jesus’ response to the woman at the well helps women everywhere, especially believing women to know “that God is an equal opportunity Father” who has broken down the walls imposed by hierarchical structures, gender barriers and prejudice.

Women of God, let us move beyond the “walls” and go to the “well.” In the words of Mahalia Jackson, let us “Go tell it on the Mountain over the hill and everywhere…!” In her book: Chosen and Highly Favored, Dr. Diana Swoope says, “released people will communicate the power of the sacredness to others, who in turn will be set free.” Women of God, it is my prayer that we hear the Spirit in Dr. Swoope’s statement. God has a plan and it does “include us!” God has a plan, and since He has freed us. The question, however is, “what are we waiting for?” Can we hear the “woman at the well, running into the city crying: “Come see a man that told me everything I ever did…is not this the Christ (John 4:29)?”

During this season of sacredness, let us take the time to move into our sacred place. Let’s pray: “O Lord, thank you for your validation of women. Thank you for the examples in scripture that show your love, support of, and empowerment of women. Thank you for the examples of Old and New Testament women such as Queen Esther who bravely took a stance and saved her nation (Est. 4:14). Thank you for the “woman at the well” who engaged in conversation with Jesus and discovered her healing, her restoration, and her Savior! She and Esther go down in the chronicles of time as women who have inspired other women to exhibit courage in situations of oppression to call upon YOU, LORD, for deliverance, justice and liberty.”

Thank you, Lord God for the great women of the past. As we celebrate women, Christian women, movers and shakers of the 21st century, in the words of our American Baptist Societies heritage: “Rise up ladies and build; rise up with caring hearts, serving with hands and feet ready to go—with the voice of Jesus Christ.” (End quote)

May we as women embrace the liberty God has given us and walk in healing and restoration! Thank you Dr. Alicia for your words of challenge and encouragement.

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

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shepastor: “Understanding Why We Do What We Do”


The other day I read a USA Today article that talked about gifts, givers and recipients. The article suggested that gifts given say more about the “giver” of the gift than the recipient. Consider the following quote…

"Giving is almost more about the giver" than it is about the recipient, says Tina Lowrey, a professor of marketing at the University of Texas-San Antonio who has studied gift-giving behavior.

One way to select better presents is to be aware of what kind of giver you are, she says.

"It depends on the person, of course, but if someone does become aware of their shopping roles, they can change the way they buy,"
says Lowrey.

While this article was clearly speaking about Christmas shopping, I believe the concept can easily be applied to other aspects of our behavior. From time to time we need to ask ourselves the question, “Why did I do that?” We would like to believe that our acts of kindness, benevolence and overall attitude of giving are intended for the betterment or joy of others. From time to time, however, we must re-examine our motives.

Kindness, sharing, giving and helping are all beautiful, necessary and legitimate expressions of Christian love. Sometimes, however, our reluctance to deal with our own internal issues relative to what motivates our actions blind us to unhealthy patterns for our lives. Sometimes, our gifts or actions are more about us than fulfilling a need for another. Sometimes it’s a need to keep busy. Sometimes it’s a need to control. Sometimes it is a need to douse guilt. Sometimes we are fulfilling our need to please. Sometimes we are “just trying to matter.”

Giving is a beautiful thing. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20: 35) As we do whatever we do, let’s ask the Lord to help us to do/give with pure motives, no strings attached and in the true vein of blessing another.

To read more about “gift-giving behavior,” visit,
http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/holiday/story/2011-11-27/gift-giving-personalities/51425834/1

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

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shepastor: “The Courage to Pray Dangerous Prayers”


Do you know that prayers can be dangerous? One might ask, “How could any prayer be dangerous?” Prayer can be dangerous if we are not serious about what we are asking God to do in our lives.

Sometimes we have to pray dangerous prayers. One such prayer is, “Lord, break me”

Bill Hybels, in his book, Prayer: Opening your heart to God , declares,

Ecclesiastes 3:3 Says there is a time to tear down and a time to build up. There is a time to pile up bricks and put mortar in between them, and there is a time to get a sledgehammer and to break the bricks apart. After being a Christian for a while, you will discover that you need to develop a whole series of new patterns in your life. To do this, you need God’s help. You need to invite Him to break down those things in your life that are not pleasing to Him. You need to learn to pray the dangers prayer, ‘Break me!’”


What is one area in your life in which you need to ask the LORD to begin tearing walls down? Sometimes we block the blessings of the Lord in our lives because we’ve built up so many walls - walls of fear, walls of doubt, walls of stubbornness, walls of self-hatred, walls of self-defeat, walls of pride, walls of hardness of heart, walls of sin. In order to receive the full blessings of the Lord and realize our potential as His children, we need to begin to ask the Lord to tear down the walls that separate us from His perfect will in our lives.

Another dangerous prayer is, “Lord, stretch me…”

When we’ve been walking with the Lord for many years, it’s easy to become complacent and believe that we’ve grown all we need to grow in the Christian faith. It’s easy to do what we’ve always done. But the Lord wants us, as long as we have life, to continue to learn, to continue to grow, to continue to increase in our faith. What new thing does the Lord want to show you, to teach you, to reveal to you to make your walk with Him closer and your relationship with Him stronger? When’s the last time you’ve had to stretch out on faith and look to God for things that you couldn’t do for yourself? Sometimes God will allow seemingly impossible situations to enter into our lives so that He can stretch our faith, stretch our understanding of His love for us, stretch our willingness to follow and serve Him.

Begin to ask the Lord to give you the courage to pray “dangerous prayers” and watch God move you beyond the boundaries that you’ve created. Watch God open doors and windows in your life. Watch God increasingly use you to help manifest His Kingdom on this earth.

Have you already begun to pray dangerous prayers? What new thing has the Lord taught you through the experience? Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shepastor: “Thanks Trumps Defeat Every Time”

Being thankful is a choice. It’s not always an easy choice. Human frailty draws our focus towards what is not right rather than right, what is not fair, rather than fair, what is hurtful and bad verse what is healing and beautiful. A friend of mine once described it this way, “Our perception of life can be like two buckets of water – one filled and one with barely a drop. As blessings are thrown into our full bucket, they just makes ripples. But when proverbial rocks are thrown into the almost empty bucket, they make a very loud noise.”

So many blessings “plop” into our full bucket that we barely notice them. But when bad things happen, they make a loud, clanging noise and we are drawn to focus rather upon them. We can, however, choose to be thankful.

Hebrews 12: 1-3 declares,

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)

Singer/Song Writer Marvin Sapp has written a song, Praise Him In Advance.
“I’ve had my share of ups and downs, times when there was no one around. God came and spoke these words to me, praise will confuse the enemy.”


When we choose thanks and praise over frustration, over anger, over focusing upon all that is wrong, we “trump” satan’s attempts to defeat us. Our praise and thanks "confuse the enemy." When we choose thanks and praise over focusing upon the things that are wrong in our lives, we position ourselves for triumph over our circumstances. Let’s “lay aside,” “throw off” everything that hinders our praise – fix our eyes upon Jesus, remember the great cloud of witnesses not only in the Bible, but in our own lives and thank God for all that He has already done.

During this Thanksgiving Season, may your thanksgiving trump satan’s attempts to defeat you by causing you to focus upon whatever issues seek to entangle you.

Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever!

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

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shepastor Highlights Columnist, Qin Tang’s Article, “10 Unhealthy Thinking Patterns”


Ministers tend to spend a lot of time in their own heads. For a variety of reasons (personal reflection, preparations for preaching and teaching, administrative responsibilities, confidentialities, navigating church relationships etc), we can become victims of thought overload. For the same aforementioned reasons, our vocation easily lends itself to isolation, loneliness and vulnerability to unhealthy thought patterns.

Today, Shepastor highlights Librarian, Writer and Columnist, Qin Tang’s article, “10 Unhealthy Thinking Patterns.” Delving deeper than, “don’t worry, be happy,” Ms. Tang shares insights from recent studies on resilience – something that is definitely needed for the ministry!

Read on and be blessed!

Shepastor Highlights: Qin Tang’s Article, “10 Unhealthy Thinking Patterns”

“In a recent study on resilience, I learned about the following 10 unhealthy thinking patterns or thinking distortions. The research was pioneered by Dr. Aaron Beck, widely regarded as the father of cognitive therapy. It was later popularized by Dr. David Bums in his book The Feeling Good Handbook."

1. Extreme thinking (All-or-nothing thinking) – Thinking in absolute terms, like “always” and “never.”

2. Overgeneralization – Taking isolated cases and using them to make generalizations.

3. Mental filter – Focusing on negative aspects of an event while ignoring the positive.

4. Disqualifying the positive – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary reasons.

5. Jumping to conclusions – Based on little or no evidence, mind-reading (assuming special knowledge of the intentions or thoughts of others), fortune telling (predicting without special knowledge).

6. Magnification and minimization – Distorted thinking that twists facts, exaggerating the positive traits of others and magnifying your own negatives.

7. Emotional reasoning – Decisions based on intuitions or personal feelings rather than on objective facts and evidence.

8. Should statements – Thoughts focused on “should” or “ought to be” rather than reality, having rigid rules that “always apply” no matter what.

9. Labeling and mislabeling – Explaining by naming with “absolute labels (loser, bossy, shy, perfect, cheater, wishy-washy.)

10. Personalization – Assuming responsibility for events over which you have no control, magical thinking.

About the author
Qin Tang

Librarian, writer, columnist.
Qin Tang grew up in China, studied German at universities in China and Germany, and ended up living in the United States since 1991. She says, “Life is a journey and a mystery. I am still on the journey, learning and growing every day.”

To read more, visit http://onmymind.areavoices.com/2011/09/28/10-unhealthy-thinking-patterns/

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

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Shepastor: “Understanding the Origin of the ‘NO’ Means Everything!”


“NO” is a legitimate answer. At times, “no” is necessary for our health and well-being. “NO,” can at times be discouraging and heart-breaking. Depending upon the situation, “NO” can help, heal, hurt or derail. Today, Shepastor, explores the importance of understanding where the “NO” is coming from as we seek to ascertain God’s will and purpose for our lives in general and ministry in particular.

Shepastor: “Understanding the Origin of the ‘NO’ Can Mean Everything!”

All of us at various points in our lives desire and need affirmation. As children we need a nurturing and encouraging hand to guide us and tell us that we are unique, beautiful, bright and have something to offer. As teens, we begin to assert our independence, yet we secretly look over our shoulder from time to time to get the affirming nod that we are “OK.” As we move into adulthood, depending upon our history, the quest for affirmation takes on various forms.

For some, affirmation is sought out through a series of unhealthy relationships. Others stop at nothing to gain certain levels of notoriety. Others come to terms with their “somebodiness” and understand their worth, gifts and mission in life through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Although we may feel confident in our relationship with the Lord and know that our help comes from above, there still may be times when we question our life’s purpose, a specific goal or direction.

When knocked upon doors remain closed, when proverbial detour signs keep popping up, when projects fail and dreams fall flat – we are confronted with the daunting question, “Whose “NO’ is it?” We are well acquainted with the scriptures that tell us,

“The steps of a good man/woman are ordered by the Lord,” “Delight thyself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart,” “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path…”

But when the path keeps winding and the glimmer of light becomes dim, we begin to ask ourselves the question, “Whose ‘NO’ is it?”

- When you’ve been to seminary and served faithfully in the lay ministry, but for some reason still can’t get ordained,
- When you’ve jumped through all of the hoops and prepared yourself well for pastoral search committees yet, as a woman, you still don’t receive a call to pastor a church
- When you’ve applied to doctoral programs and can’t get accepted
- When you’ve written a manuscript that you are convicted is from the Lord, but can’t get published
- When you can’t find a job
- When you can’t find a mate
- When you just can’t seem to get to where you want to go…

You are confronted with the question, “Whose NO is it?”

Your answer to that soul-searching question will mean the difference between dogged pursuit of your dream, goal, aspirations etc., and bowing in humble submission.

For those seeking a break through, I humbly offer the following…

Through prayer and discernment, fasting and consulting Holy Spirit led mentors and friends – strive to make a distinction between the aforementioned. In other words, is the “NO” answer due to human sinfulness such as sexism, racism, ignorance or mean spiritedness on the part of those giving the answer? Or is the locked door, no matter the situation, God’s decision to move your life into a different direction? Having the answer to that question is critical!

It is critical because understanding the origin of the “NO” determines the strength of your pursuit. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord God Almighty has placed a vision, a dream, a call, a ministry within you, no devil in hell or human on earth can thwart your determination to attain that goal. God plus you are a majority! No weapon formed against you will prosper and you will ultimately gain the victory! God will open doors that no man can shut and close doors that no man can open! God’s voice and His Holy Spirit will compel you to continue to doggedly pursue and you will overcome!

If on the other hand, in your innermost being, you have heard the Lord say, “My child, that is not My way for you,” or, “this is not the right time for you,” or “I have something different for you,” or “STOP!” and because of stubbornness, pride, foolish ambition or misguided thoughts you keep going in the wrong direction, you will not prosper in your pursuits. When you reach the proverbial fork in the road and are asking yourself if you should continue on the path pursuing a particular goal or if you need to let it go, understanding the origin of the “NO” means everything.

Before deciding either way, before allowing naysayers to discourage you or well meaning friends to encourage you to follow a path that is not the path the Lord has ordered for you, go before the Lord and stay there until the answer comes!

Are you trying to figure out the origin of “NO” in your life today? Have you just come through a discernment process and have an answer that may help another? Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com.

Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shepastor: "We Need Your Input!"

Dear Shepastor friends,
Plans are underway to prepare for the 2012 "Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry" Conference! We value your opinion and are praying to develop a conference that will address the needs of women in ministry.

Please take a moment to complete the brief survey "What Would Be Most Helpful? WTIM Conference 2012", by clicking on the link below.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WTIMConferencequestionare

When finished, simply click on the "done" button and your survey will be submitted.

Thank you in advance for your prayers and input!

I leave with you today the words of the Apostle Paul to the saints at Philippi...

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

8And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you
Philippians 4: 6-9 NLT

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shepastor: "The Perfecting Process"


Psalm 138:7-8

7 Though I walk in the middle of trouble, you will revive me: you shall stretch forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand shall save me.
8 The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: your mercy, O LORD, endures for ever: forsake not the works of your own hands. (ASV)

(8) The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
(NIV)

Our message for today is taken from the Old Testament Book of Psalms, Psalm 138: 7-8. In Psalm 138, the Psalmist is praising God for His greatness, faithfulness and loving kindness. He also expresses confidence in his belief that God will “perfect” or bring to completion that which concerns him. It is reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s encouraging words to his the saints at the church of Philippi when he declared, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” (1:6).

Today we place our focus upon the 8th verse of this Psalm, “God will perfect that which concerneth me..”


Shepastor Reflects upon, “The Perfecting Process.”

When a potter sits down to form a jar or a pot or some other artistic object, he or she often will squeeze the clay, pound the clay, wet the clay, shape the clay and if it is not as he or she wants it to be, they will then start all of over again. Sometimes they will take a sharp instrument and scrape it over the bumps and bulges of the clay until it is smooth. Then they will put a glaze over it and place it in a special oven designed to burn away all of the impurities. After the object has been perfected, then it's ready for the kiln.

In order for the clay to become what the potter intends it to be, it has to go through a perfecting process. Athletes will train for months, maybe even years running, jumping rope, lifting weights etc., until they reach that perfect point at which they feel ready to compete for the prize. Musicians and vocalists will practice for hours, days and weeks in preparation for the perfect concert performance.

And while we will all agree that nothing in this life on this side on the Jordan is ever “perfect,” we can agree that we strive in most arenas to reach perfection or at least to come close.But the Psalmist isn’t talking about a clay jar or an athlete or a musical performance, the Psalmist is talking about his destiny, his life’s purpose, his reason for living. The Psalmist is talking about the essence of who he is in the midst of this life – that God will “perfect” or bring to completion that which God intends for him.

The Psalmist was reminding himself that although things may not have always been right, although times could get tough, although there may have been and continue to be times in his life when it seemed like life was without purpose – a time when all of his dreams seemed shattered, nothing that he hoped for seemed to be materializing, the Psalmist reminded himself that God would perfect, bring to completion that which concerned him.

Like the Psalmist, we have to remind ourselves that God will bring to completion His will in our lives. It’s not always easy to believe that things will be completed or worked out in our lives. Some days are just down right dark and discouraging. Some days it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep believing, to keep hoping, to keep praying.

Sometimes it’s even difficult to pray. Hebrews 12: 1-2, reminds us to, “throw it off…” To throw off those things that hinder us, that beset us, that prevent us from running the race of life with patience and grace. That passage also reminds us to consider Jesus who endured such great affliction and adversity from sinners lest we become weary and faint in our minds. That’s where we faint first – in our minds. We get weary in our minds. We lose hope in our minds. We lose faith in our minds. We begin to doubt in our minds. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. In the Greek way of thinking, the heart and mind were one in the same.

Your heart and mind work together to produce action. If your mind is consumed with discouragement, so will be your heart. When your heart and mind are discouraged, it’s hard to move ahead. When you are discouraged, it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other. When you are discouraged, it’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s almost impossible to have hope.

Discouragement causes you to have tunnel vision. Discouragement causes you to think that the whole world is against you when it’s really just a few loud mouths! Discouragement creates the allusion that there is no way out, no how, no way. Discouragement can cause you to give up and give out when you are closer to victory than you can imagine. Discouragement can cloud your vision and make you forget that God – not man, God, not your employer, God, not your family, God will perfect or bring to completion that which concerns you!

There are many things in this life that can take you down, discourage and strip you of faith, hope and joy. That is, if you allow yourself to forget that God will perfect that which concerns you.
When you are at your lowest point, you are in the perfecting process. When you are at your highest point, you are in the perfecting process. God hold’s your destiny and He has your purpose, your life in His hands. Satan wants to make you give up, give out, lay down, throw in the towel, take your eyes off of Jesus and die.

A powerful weapon is discouragement. The devil knows that due to our humanity we tend to walk by sight and not by faith. He is counting on your lack of faith. He is counting on you doubting that God will perfect that which concerns you. When the devil has hit you with his best, you’ve still got to believe that God holds your destiny and you will bounce back.

I heard a powerful message the other day that recommended four things to help you bounce back from discouragement, depression and defeat.

(1) You must be resilient. The definition of resiliency is the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress. In other words, it is the ability of something to regain it’s rightful shape after it has been pressed and stressed. Like a therapy ball – No matter how many times you squeeze it, it comes back to its original form. No matter what stresses you or presses you, you’ve got to allow the perfecting process of God to sustain you, maintain you, remind you of who you are, of who has your back, of who holds your destiny of who made you, of who delivers you, of who completes you. You must be resilient.

(2) You must be committed. You’ve got to be determined to let nothing turn you around from walking with God. You’ve got to make up in your mind that nothing, no way, no how, is going to make you stop loving God, trusting God, serving God, living for God. You’ve got to be sold out for the Lord.

(3) You must have tenacity. In other words you must have persistent determination. Don’t let another human being tell you that you can’t make it. Don’t let what somebody else says about you define who you are, what you can do and where you are going to go. If God has placed a vision in your mind and in your soul, go after it with all you’ve got. Ask the Lord to order your steps. Don’t give up just because you tried and didn’t succeed the first time. Sometimes it takes many times before what you are attempting to do succeeds.

The Bible says, If thou faintest in the day of adversity your strength is small (Prov. 24:10). The Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah when he became so discouraged that he was ready to give up, "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5) You’ve got to be determined that with the help of Almighty God, you can make it. It may not be easy, you may fall down and have to get back up, you may get laughed at, talked about, turned down, told to give it up, but if God be for you, He’s more than the world against you and God will perfect that which concerns you!

(4) Finally, you’ve got to have a strategy.
You’ve got to be prayerful and put some feet to your faith. The Bible says that as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. God will perfect that which concerns you, but you’ve got to walk by faith. God will be with you. God will order your steps. God will direct your path. But you’ve got to trust God enough to move out in faith.

Discouragement and fear can paralyze you. There is a difference in being still because God said wait, and being still because you are paralyzed by fear. If God is saying, “be still,” He will show you what to do while you wait. Paralyzing fear just discourages you, beats you down, makes you feel like nothing and nobody. That’s not of God.

In order to defeat discouragement and stand in the truth that God will perfect that which concerns you, you’ve got to have resiliency, commitment, tenacity and a strategy. The most important thing you’ve got to do is to walk each day in the blessed assurance that God is with you, God will not abandon you, He has you in the perfecting process. He knows all about you, He sees you and He will carry you through. Trust Him and walk on by faith.

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

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shepastor: “Are You a Climber?”


In recent times, to be labeled a “climber” is not a compliment. The term “climber” has taken on a negative connotation – the inference being that the one so named is willing to do whatever it takes – step on people, push people out of the way, kiss… to get wherever they want to go! Climbing, however, can be a positive and desirable thing depending upon the heights that one is desiring to reach.

Today, Shepastor reflects upon climbing higher in Christ. In our text for today, Colossians 3:1-4; 12-17, the writer admonishes those who are “risen” in Christ to seek those things that are higher.

Colossians 3: 1-4; 12-17

1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:12-17…

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Shepastor: “Are You a Climber?”

The Negro spiritual, “I Ain’t Got Time To Die” declares,

Lord I keep so busy praisin' my Jesus
Keep so busy praisin' my Jesus
Keep so busy praisin' my Jesus
Ain't got time to die

'Cause when I'm helpin' the sick (I'm praisin' my Jesus)
When I'm helpin' the sick (I'm praisin' my Jesus)
When I'm helpin' the sick (I'm praisin' my Jesus)
Ain't got time to die

Chorus:
'Cause it takes all of my time (It takes all of my time, it takes it all)
All of my time (to praise Him)
If I don't praise Him the rocks are gonna cry out
Glory and honor, glory and honor
Ain't got time to die

Lord I keep so busy servin' my master (keep so busy)
Keep so busy servin' my master (I'm servin')
Keep so busy servin' my master
Ain't got time to die

'Cause when I'm givin' my all (I'm servin' my master) (I'm gonna give my all to Jesus)
When I'm givin' my all (I'm servin' my master) (I'm gonna give my all in all)
When I'm givin' my all (I'm servin' my master) (I'm givin' all of my life to Him)
Ain't got time to die

Now won't you get out of my way (oh get out of my way)
Get out of my way (you better get out of my way)
Let me tell you if I don't praise Him the rocks are gonna cry out
Glory and honor, glory and honor
Ain't got time to die

It’s so easy to be drawn into downward spiraling behaviors, thoughts and feelings. The words of the above Negro spiritual reflects a mindset that in so many words says – “I’m keeping so busy praising, serving and working for Jesus – I ain’t got time to die!” No time to fight foolish battles, no time to entertain gossip, no time to spend defending false accusations, no time to try to please “unpleasable” and “disagreeable” people – I ain’t got time to die!

Harboring anger, fretting, worry, anxiety, fear and all other toxic feelings will kill you. Trying to repay others for the wrongs they’ve done to you will kill you. Trying to figure out why somebody does or does not like you will kill you. Trying to figure out how to appease emotionally manipulative people will kill you. Instead, be a climber! Climb high above reacting and become a responder. Through prayer, faith, love and good sense, choose how to respond to dysfunctional and damaging behaviors. Stop allowing others to pull your proverbial strings.

Climb high above attitudes, behaviors, actions etc., that are beneath the place where Christ has placed you. Climb higher in love, higher in forgiveness, higher in compassion, higher in the determination to keep so busy praising, serving and working for Jesus that you don’t have time to die! Praise, work and serve the Lord with such fervor, joy and focus that you climb daily towards higher heights in Jesus Christ. Everything else will then follow.

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

Until Next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shepastor: “Ten Reasons to Thank and Praise the Lord”


Text: Psalm 138

1 By David. I will give thanks to you with all my heart. I will make music to praise you in front of the false gods.
2 I will bow toward your holy temple. I will give thanks to your name because of your mercy and truth. You have made your name and your promise greater than everything.
3 When I called, you answered me. You made me bold by strengthening my soul.
4 All the kings of the earth will give thanks to you, O LORD, because they have heard the promises you spoke.
5 They will sing this about the ways of the LORD: "The LORD's honor is great!"
6 Even though the LORD is high above, he sees humble people close up, and he recognizes arrogant people from a distance.
7 Even though I walk into the middle of trouble, you guard my life against the anger of my enemies. You stretch out your hand, and your right hand saves me.
8 The LORD will do everything for me. O LORD, your mercy endures forever. Do not let go of what your hands have made.

In Psalm 138 the Psalmist is expressing all of the reasons for which he thanks and praises the Lord. His heart is overflowing with thanks and praise. One might think that life for this writer must have been fairly smooth for praise appears to flow effortlessly from his lips. But the Psalmist is David.

David did not have life on easy street. He was the son of a sheep herder. He was the youngest among his brothers, meaning he was the "last man on the totem pole" so to speak. He held one of the lowliest positions. He was responsible for herding the sheep, protecting them, caring for them, watering them, keeping them in the fold. The sheep were dirty, smelly, animals. Yet God chose him to be the anointed one to rule over Israel.

The problem, however, was that Israel already had a king. That king was Saul. Once Saul heard about David being anointed king, he set out to have David killed. David did not have an easy life. When he was delivered from the jealousy and wrath of Saul, he had troubles in his family. He created some trouble by yielding to temptation – the famous story of David and Bathsheba. He was hated by one of his sons Absalom who sought to kill him.

David had to fight enemy nations and struggle through dissension among the ranks of his army. But David, no matter what he faced, never lost his heart of thanks and praise.

Today, Shepastor considers ten reasons why David thanked and praised the Lord. Maybe we too can identify with these reasons…

Shepastor: “Ten Reasons to Thank and Praise the Lord”

(1) David thanked and praised the Lord for His mercy. David understood that God does not reward us according to our transgressions. In other words, God looks beyond our faults and sees our needs. God is a merciful God.

(2) David thanked and praised God because of His truth. There were many false gods that people praised and offered sacrifice for, but David worshipped the God of truth. God’s Word is truth. David understood even before Jesus declared it that “truth” will make you free…

(3) David thanked and praised God because His name and promises are greater than everything. David understood that at the name of the Lord, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. David understood that the name of the Lord is a strong tower that the righteous can run to. David understood that the promises of God are sure and true…

(4) David thanked and praised God for giving him boldness and strength. David knew that it was God and God alone that gave him victory over his enemies. God gave him the strength to defeat Goliath. God gave him the strength to overcome Saul. God gave him the strength to continue to press his way in the midst of the life’s most difficult circumstances…

(5) David thanked and praised God for making world leaders know that He is God. David praised God for humbling the hearts of world leaders and making them understand that they do not have the final say…

(6) David thanked and praised God for “seeing” the humble. David was thankful that God knows and sees and understands those whom the world views as nothing…

(7) David thanked and praised God for walking with him through trouble… “Yea thou I walk through the valley and the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”

(8) David thanked and praised God for the protection of His right hand.
“Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thine footstool…”

(9) David thanked and praised God for doing “everything for him.” Without God we are nothing.

(10) David praised and thanked God for mercy that endures forever.

No matter what we face in life, we ought to always have a word of thanks and praise upon our lips. One of the greatest sins is the sin of ingratitude. When we are thankful, it forces us to count our blessings. When we are thankful, it forces us to praise God for what He has already done. When we are thankful, it causes us to consider all that we are blessed to have that some may only be able to dream about.
When we are thankful, it causes us to stop complaining and to trust God. When we are thankful, we honor the Lord.

How thankful are you? Post a comment or send me an email at shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shepastor: “How Hungry Are You?”



Matthew 4: 1-11

1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Matt 4:1-11 (KJV)

Supporting text:

Proverbs 27:7
The full soul loatheth the honey comb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet, KJV

We all have experienced hunger of one kind or another. Extreme hunger, however, can drive you to behave in ways that under normal circumstances would never have been an option.

In our focus passages for today, taken from both Proverbs and Matthew, we find two passages of scripture that talk about hunger. In Proverbs we see a thought provoking saying, one short verse that declares,

The full soul loatheth the honey comb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet, KJV

The New International Version states it like this,
He who is full loathes (or hates) honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet, NIV

In Matthew we find Jesus, having fasted 40 days and now understandably hungry, one might even say famished and most probably somewhat vulnerable. The devil moves in to temp him. Jesus’ response, however, gives us food for thought.

Consider for a moment the question, “How Hungry Are You?”

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed baking. But sometimes, my cakes, and cookies did not turn out quite as I had hoped. My dad, however, always ate whatever I baked. One day, my father picked up one of my cookies and said, “My God Chrissy, you could lick a dog down with this!” I retorted, “Well, you’re eating it aren’t you?” He responded, “Yea, when you are hungry, you’ll eat anything!”

There was some profundity wrapped up in my father’s sarcasm, for truly, when someone is very hungry, they will eat anything. In this life, we encounter many hungry souls. And for some, maybe even reading this blog, the thought of hunger, not for physical food, but for a life that is fulfilled and complete, that thought hits home.

Some go through life wandering from pillar to post, grasping for but never quite reaching what they are aspiring to attain, you’ve seen them, the hungry.

The hungry, that young woman or young man who keeps getting involved in unhealthy relationships, looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces, the hungry, that boy or that girl who allows themselves to be ill treated or does things that they were not raised to do because they want the approval of the crowd, you’ve seen them, the hungry,

The hungry, that person who goes to the store and buys everything that the fashion designers say is “hot” for the season because they feel that if they can at least dress stylish, somebody will respect, love and admire them, not because of who they are, but because of how they appear…

The hungry, that person who remains in a mentally and physically abusive relationship because they feel that some relationship is better than none at all.

We know them, the hungry, or maybe the hungry is not them, maybe the hungry looks back at us when we look in the mirror.

But God has a good word for the hungry today. We can tell the hungry, whether he or she is another person, or the hungry spirit within our own soul, we can stop feeding our hunger with the bitter, and begin to feast on the sweet.

When Jesus faced the devil after fasting forty days, the devil first tempted him by trying to get him to satisfy his hunger. But Jesus gave us a marvelous example of how to gain true satisfaction when He declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

God’s Word, God’s ways, God’s love will satisfy and complete us in ways that our own efforts could never satisfy.

God word says, “You who are hungry, LISTEN, you who are searching, LISTEN…, Don’t be afraid, I made you, I know all about you, I have chosen you… LISTEN…. I will pour out my spirit upon you and not only you, but upon your children, upon your household and you will be blessed. LISTEN, I want to pour the cool refreshing water of my spirit upon the dry, parched and thirsty ground of your life…LISTEN… THERE IS NO ROCK BESIDES ME!

Are you listening? God says to you and I, HEAR ME. There is no God besides me. The Psalmist declared, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture, It is He that has made us and not we ourselves”. The ancient Israelites had a custom of writing God’s word upon their foreheads and in the palms of their hands so that they would constantly be reminded of what God has said and how they were to live.

God says to us today, stop looking to idols, stop relying upon self, stop looking for another human being to fix your troubles, Call unto me and I will show you great and wonderful things which thou knowest not. We need to write God’s Word upon the table of our hearts and in our minds so that we will say like Paul, nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.

God wants to satisfy the hunger of our hearts. Only God can satisfy the hunger and the longing of our hearts. God’s food is love, God’s food is salvation, God’s food is forgiveness, God’s food is peace, God’s food is joy, God’s food is assurance, God’s food is eternal life.

There is a satisfaction that comes from knowing, living for and loving God. It’s not that we don’t ever experience low points, but God develops “hind’s feet” for the believer and He teaches us how to walk through the valleys and then how to climb high mountains and leap upon the high places of life.

God gives us peace that passes all understanding, peace in the midst of the storm because we know that the God we serve is an able God, an all powerful God, an all knowing God and the God who heals us and loves us. God made it possible for all who desire rest from the cares and burdens of this life, all who desire assurance and peace, all who desire salvation and ultimate fulfillment to obtain these things through His Son Jesus Christ.

You don’t have to stay in the mess that you are in. Exchange the bitter for the sweet. Look to Him who is the great I AM. Let God fill your cup until it over flows. Don’t accept the devil’s words of discouragement, defeat and low standards.

Remind yourself and others that Jesus is the living water, that Jesus is the bread of life, that Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Remind yourself and others that they don’t have to walk alone, that they don’t have to accept less that what God has for them. Remind yourself and others that God is waiting to heal, hear and answer the longings of the broken hearted. God can feed and fill the hunger of your heart.

How hungry are you? Are you willing to put pride aside, go before the Lord and acknowledge your brokenness, your woundedness, your bitterness? Exchange your bitter for the Lord’s sweet and experience the satisfaction that only the Lord can give you today.

Post a comment or send me an email at shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shepastor: “Let us… Marching Orders”

Hebrews 10: 22-24


22Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water
23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds

In this passage of scripture, the writer encourages us with three, “let us” phrases:

(1) Let us draw near to God… Even as preachers of the Gospel, we can be drawn away from the true source of our strength, joy, peace, and fulfillment in life. Hectic schedules filled with family obligations, counseling sessions, preaching engagements, board and community meetings, individual projects and a myriad of other things can drain us of vitality. When we are tired, our guard is down. Over burdened hearts and minds leave little room for the refreshing Word that comes only from spending time with the Lord. So often we stand and deliver words of faith, hope and encouragement when our own reservoir is depleted. Frustration, doubt, fear and even guilt can begin to loom over us like a dark cloud. Marching orders? Draw near to God! Move forward, not backward. Move towards the Lord – seek His face, study His Word, not just for sermon preparation, but to discern His leading in every situation and circumstance in your life. “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8

(2) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess… Are you easily discouraged? You are “swerving.” Do you allow doubt to cloud your vision, dowse your enthusiasm, strangle your joy? If so, you are swerving. Like a car careening down the road out of control, if we don’t nurture and build our relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ, with continual prayer, personal study, fellowship with other women and men of God and healthy activities, our faith will begin to falter and our grip on “the hope we profess” can become loose. Our positions as preachers, teachers and leaders can set us up for swerving. We are so busy pouring out into the lives of others, if not careful, we can end up on empty, swerving off of the path of faith.

“The Ministry” has had many casualties - women and men who started out with energy, vision, promise and purpose but somehow swerved and fell backwards. Seasons of drought – plowing, planting, praying and seeing few results, or “super success” – times of bountiful blessings and abundance with the temptations of pride and self indulgence, somehow loosened the grip of their hold to God’s unchanging hands and they fell backwards. Marching orders? Hold fast to the profession of your faith, remembering that the God “who promised” is faithful. God is faithful – He will not forget your labor of love. God is faithful – all His promises are true – God is faithful. Earthly abundance cannot compare to the blessings He has for those who endure until the end!

Don’t you want to stand with the great cloud of witnesses and proclaim, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…”? As Bishop Millicent Hunter declares, “Don’t die in the winter!” As the late Rev. Dr. Bill Jones declared, “Don’t die in shallow water.” You’ve come this far, don’t give up now!

(3) Let us consider how we may spur one another on… We need each other. We need support, encouragement, challenge and at times confrontation to help us to be all that we are called to be. The dynamics of “community” healthy, God led community can “spur us on” to “love and good deeds.” Isolation contributes to unhealthy patterns of thinking. We become inward focused, susceptible to depression, resentment and unforgiveness. Too much time alone can cause you to dwell too deeply upon the past, hurts, mistakes, regrets etc. In loving community, we have the opportunity to process our feelings, share our thoughts, receive feedback and guidance that may help us make better choices and decisions. In community we can help each other to move forward, keep the faith, persevere, remain hopeful, let go of the past and forgive. Marching orders? Encourage one another to love and do what is right in God’s eyes.

“Onward Christian soldier, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before…”

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

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shepastor Highlights Conference Messenger, Dr. Wilma R. Johnson – “I Trust in God”


One of the most moving experiences of the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry” Conference was the appearance and message of our beloved sister, The Reverend Dr. Wilma R. Johnson, Senior Pastor of the New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Johnson, along with two of her associate ministers traveled by car to be with WTIM of Greater Cleveland.

The extraordinary thing about her coming is that Dr. Johnson had just begun chemotherapy for a re-occurrence of aggressive cancer. To look at her radiant face, her strong demeanor and her evident towering faith – one would never know that she was actively engaged in a battle for her life. What a gift she is to the body of Christ in general and women in ministry in particular! Joy and peace emanate from her trust filled spirit. Dr. Johnson truly is one of our female clergy giants!

Below are excerpts from her powerful message, “I Trust In God”
Read on and be blessed…

Shepastor Highlights Conference Messenger, Dr. Wilma R. Johnson – “I Trust in God”

I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
For, come what may, from day to day,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.

Chorus
I trust in God, I know He cares for me,
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
Tho' billows roll, He keeps my soul,
My heavn'ly Father watches over me.

Dr. Johnson likened the struggles of many to that of the Charles Shultz Peanuts character, Charlie Brown…

(paraphrased…) When Charlie Brown faced difficult questions in life, he’d often turn to Lucy. On one of those occasions, Lucy said, ‘Charlie Brown, life is like folding chairs on a cruise ship. Some unfold their chairs and sit down at the back of the ship and contemplate where they have been. Some unfold their chairs and sit down at the front of the ship and consider where they are going. You just have to figure out where you are going to place your chair.’ To which Charlie Brown, with great frustration replied ‘Lucy, I can’t even get my chair unfolded!’

So many go through life just trying to figure out how to get their proverbial chair unfolded!

Dr. Johnson went on to encourage us to resist the domination of frustration in life. We have to step out by faith and know that our heavenly Father is watching over us. God is with us to sustain us, take care of us, keep us, guide us and supply all of our needs.

We can take great comfort in knowing that God is watching over us. He knows our pain, our toil, our fears, our struggles, our questions, and is able to carry us over and through every situation and circumstance.

Following the message, we had a two-phase moving and anointed altar call. First, the women gathered around Dr. Johnson, laid hands upon her and prayed for her healing. Then we prayed together for the healing of each other. What an awesome moment! With shouts of joy, tears of triumph and lifted hands in praise – the benediction was announced and we dispersed, having been empowered by God’s Holy Spirit and encouraged by one another!

This ends the series of highlights for the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry” Conference. Comments from conference participants will be shared on the WTIM website at www.wtimofgreatercleveland.org

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

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shepastor: Highlights from Conference Plenary Session Delivered by the Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, “Woman to Woman: The Historical, Theological and Societal Influences Upon Our Relationships”

What factors influence the way women interact with each another? How have women’s roles and relationships over time impacted our view of sisterhood, trust, bonding, men etc? What issues separate us? What have erroneous, flawed interpretations of scripture done to damage our support for and perceptions of one another?

Today Shepastor highlights an excerpt from the conference Plenary presentation, delivered by The Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, Instructor of Biblical Hebrew for Ashland Theological Seminary. With great depth and insight, Dr. Allen challenged us to consider why the words of others take on greater meaning or value than our own words. When we embrace the words of others to a greater extent than our own words, their views, interpretations, actions or inactions tremendously influence our perceptions.

The greatest words or “Word” that we can embrace to help shape our world view is the Word of God. When we correctly interpret God’s Word, it will shape, influence and drive our self-perceptions as well as our relationships with one another.

Read an excerpt of her message below and be blessed…

Shepastor: Highlights from Conference Plenary Session Delivered by the Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, “ Woman to Woman: The Historical, Theological and Societal Influences Upon Our Relationships”

In a postmodern world our tendency is to face conflict, especially over issues as emotive as faith, by saying there is no one, grand meta-narrative; therefore we are all free to “agree to disagree”. Another tactic utilized is to convince one another that one must change sides in order to “win” an argument. I must convince you I am right and you must abandon your ideals or vice versa, but God comes along and says “neither ideal will work”. Instead of human ways to see faith we must see humans through faith and in God’s terms that means God’s Word is the great neutralizer. The leveling field is Scripture. When we view ourselves through the terms of theology, history or sociology we place the lens through the human vantage point, but God’s Word has the power to equalize our reader response ideas, our ecosystems created by humanity and our baggage we bring to the table. In order to overcome the opinions and constraints set by humanity we must reclaim the Word of God as a valid and worthy text: the one great meta-narrative. We do this through refocusing people upon both the particular and universal in any exegesis and with a careful eye on translation. The words then are not only relevant to one era, mind-set, situation or world view and instead we see how God’s transforming work has been done and is ongoing in a sinful world. It will always be our temptation to reduce God to our image, but God being the great God through the work of Jesus Christ does not argue with our desire, but simply pulls our heads up to see our own face in the image of God.

How have the views of others shaped your self-perception and world view? Have you replaced the opinions of others with God’s view of you? If so, how has that changed you? Post a comment or send me an email at
Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shepastor Highlights: Panel Discussion, “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry”

Today Shepastor continues to highlight the, WTIM - Women Together in Ministry of Greater Cleveland “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference. This week’s blog focuses upon the Panel discussion that bears the same name as the conference.

Our panelist were,

· The Reverend Marilyn Turner, Associate Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Center for Missional Life and Leadership
· The Reverend Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, Senior Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church; Cleveland, Ohio, Newly Elected President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
· The Reverend Dr. Valentino Lassiter, Senior Pastor, East View United Church of Christ, Shaker Heights, Ohio
· The Reverend Pat Hernandez, Director, American Baptist Women In Ministry

Each panelist was given the opportunity to respond to the questions below…

“Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry”

-Through your own observation and experiences, what factors influence how women relate to one another?

-How have historical, societal and theological influences both positively and negatively impacted women’s relationships?

-Frequently, men are blamed for oppressing and hindering women’s progress. Many women, however, have experienced oppression, hindering and lack of support from other women. What can clergywomen and clergymen do to honestly, openly and sincerely address this issue?

-What can and should the Church do to help women build and nurture healthy relationships amongst women?

What an engaging, thought provoking and heartfelt conversation we had! Each panelist shared from personal, historical and cultural experiences. Rev. Turner shared the praise report that many wonderful women have played a role in her ministerial development. However, she has also experienced the pain of being called by two different churches and then later receiving notification that the church (each one) was “not ready for a female pastor.”

Rev. Hernandez shared the experience of facing a female panel of interviewers (for a different position) who treated her coldly and scolded her as being “unprofessional” for sharing a personal experience that was significant in forming her view of ministry. Rev. Hernandez went on to unpack the implications that women are often expected (even by other women in leadership) to leave their femininity at the door if they expect to make it in a “man’s world.”

Culturally speaking, Dr. Lassiter discussed the dilemma of the African American community as men and women were demeaned in the larger society. The church became the place where they found their, “somebodiness.” African American women feeling the need to nurture, build and protect the esteem of African American males, supported male leadership and rejected any woman or women who appeared to want to usurp their positions of authority.

Dr. McMickle shared the riveting story of one of the first Episcopalian female priests, who upon serving communion to a female parishioner was bitten and spat upon with spit mingled with her own blood and told, “That’s what I think of female priests!” The parishioner faced no repercussions for her cruel act and the priest was moved to another parish. The incident, however, did not drive her out of the ministry, but made her more determined to stand for the rights of clergywomen.

Dr. McMickle further challenged us to consider the question, “How can any group that makes up approximately 70% of an institution be oppressed by that same institution?,” referring to the reality that women make up the majority of churches. All panelists and the audience agreed - as more courageous men and women determine to stand against the discriminatory behaviors of churches, inevitably, the barriers will fall down.

Conference pictures on the web…
Conference web album now available! Check out pictures below of the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry” Conference

WTIM: "Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry" Conference Augsut 2011

or visit www.wtimofgreatercleveland.org and click on the web album link.

Post your responses or send them to me by email at shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shepastor Highlights the “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference, August 26-27th, 2011

This past weekend, August 26-27th, a diverse host of clergywomen from the Midwest and East Coast gathered in Beachwood, Ohio to attend the “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference, sponsored by Women Together in Ministry of Greater Cleveland (WTIM). What an, anointed, refreshing, enlightening, strengthening, challenging, empowering and encouraging time we had together!

WTIM thanks everyone who helped to make this conference a reality! We thank everyone who came out to support this women in ministry gathering! The Lord granted us divine favor and smiled upon this our first ever event! As promised, over the next several Wednesday, Shepastor will highlight various aspects of the conference. Today, we will share excerpts from the first day of the conference, Friday – August 26th, 2011.

Read on and be blessed…

Shepastor Highlights the “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference, August 26-27th, 2011

While enjoying a scrumptious mixed greens salad with Champaign vinaigrette and chicken picotta or baked salmon meal, we were blessed with the melodious music ministry of our Worship Leader, Sister Joyce Lake of American Baptist Women In Ministry; Valley Forge, PA. After dinner we gathered for evening worship. We received special greetings from the Honorable Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (Representative of the 11th Congressional District, Ohio) who reminded us that on August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution went into effect, giving women the right to vote! She congratulated the conference for its multi-leveled diversity – racial, geographical and age wise. She applauded the vision of women coming together to empower and encourage one another.

WTIM was also honored by the Honorable Mayor Frank G. Jackson’s (Cleveland, Ohio) Office with a proclamation, expressing congratulations! The Cleveland Baptist Association Executive Minister, The Reverend Dr. Leonard Thompson proclaimed that we could drop the “Em” and the “En” and simply say, “Power” and “Courage” is what it takes to join together to address great needs and to do great things such as the many and varied great works of women in ministry.

Following several greetings, we were electrified by the praise dance ministry of two beautiful senior women (one of which is a WTIM Board Member, The Reverend Itherine Spencer) of the “Virtuous Liturgical Dancers” as they danced to Vicki Yohe’s rendition of “Lord I Worship You Because of Who You Are.” Those Sisters had us up on our feet!

Next, the Imani United Church of Christ choir rocked the house with the song “Sold Out” with lyrics declaring – “My heart is fixed, my mind made up – no room no vacancies I’m all filled up – His Spirit lives in me and that’s the reason I’m sold out!” Imani Senior Pastor, The Reverend Michele Humphrey lit our hearts a fire with her powerful message, “Go and Tell…” Taken from the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus when he instructed her to go and tell the disciples that He is risen.

Pastor Humphrey challenged the misinterpretations of Paul’s writings to Timothy that women are to keep silent in the church. “Do we listen to the dictate to keep silent or do we obey Jesus and go and tell?” She also emphasized the importance of women standing “together” in ministry instead of allowing competition, jealousy, envy and other issues to separate us. Sharing her own experiences as a woman pastor, she spoke about the importance of understanding “who” has called you to “go and tell.”

Now pastoring a church of several thousand, Pastor Humphrey let us know that it didn’t start out that way – half of the congregation initially left, not wanting to be led by a female, efforts to undermine her authority abounded, being addressed disrespectfully – being called, “sweet heart” and “Michele” the road has not been easy! But the same Lord who called her to ‘Go and Tell” has kept her and causes her to triumph over every adversity!

Finally, she shared the story of an experience by the late Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn, who, decades earlier in the midst of a Baptist gathering filled with male preachers who were asked to stand debated within herself how to respond – to sit because the “men” preachers were asked to stand – and she certainly was not a man or to stand because she was a preacher…

"I stood in the authenticity of my being Black, preacher, Baptist, woman. For the same God who made me a preacher made me a woman, and I convinced that God was not confused on either count."
The late Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall-Wynn

What a time we had in fellowship! How blessed we were to come together to worship, praise, sing, shout, dance and rejoice in the God who made us both women and preachers!

Our next segment will share highlights from Saturday’s plenary session, panel discussion and workshops. Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shepastor: “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry - Sharing Our Insights With One Another”

Dear Shepastor Friends, this weekend, WTIM - Women Together in Ministry of Greater Cleveland www.wtimofgreatercleveland.org will host the “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” Conference.” Oh how excited and blessed we are to have this opportunity to fellowship, pray, sing, dialogue, listen, praise and celebrate together as women in ministry!

For those who are not able to attend, excerpts from the conference will be shared over the course of the next few weeks. Today, Shepastor shares the questions that will serve as the basis for our panel discussion which bares the same title as the conference.

Read the questions and prayerfully consider sharing your responses with our Shepastor audience. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

See questions below…

“Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry”

-Through your own observation and experiences, what factors influence how women relate to one another?

-How have historical, societal and theological influences both positively and negatively impacted women’s relationships?

-Frequently, men are blamed for oppressing and hindering women’s progress. Many women, however, have experienced oppression, hindering and lack of support from other women. What can clergywomen and clergymen do to honestly, openly and sincerely address this issue?

-What can and should the Church do to help women build and nurture healthy relationships amongst women?

I look forward to receiving your wisdom filled, prayerful responses! Your insights can help us as women to overcome many of the things that keep us from loving, encouraging, supporting and empowering each other. Let's share so that we can turn our attention away from unhealthy patterns of behavior and be used to bless and heal others.

Post your responses or send them to me by email at shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shepastor: “Things to Remember When You Grow Weary…”

Galatians 6:9 declares, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (KJV) At times, however, our, “due season” seems to take longer than we ever expected! Weariness of mind and spirit can overtake us and make us feel deeply discouraged. Today Shepastor shares some simple reminders to help us regain focus in the midst of our season(s) of trial.

Read further and be blessed…

Shepastor: “Things to Remember When You Grow Weary…”

Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Difficulties and challenges are sure to come – but by the grace of God – YOU CAN OVERCOME!

Your life is not your own, you were brought here for God’s plan and God’s purpose… “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” John 15:16 Remembering that God is using us to be a light, an example, a witness, a blessing… will help us when the temptation to become self absorbed and entrenched by our personal struggles loom large.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 When we “delight” ourselves in the Lord, we begin to desire the things that the Lord desires for our lives. Daily seeking the Lord’s face, pursuing the Lord’s heart in prayer and submitting/surrendering our desires to the Lord’s will prepares our hearts to receive the blessings He has prepared for us all along.

Jesus reminds us, “I am with you…” Matthew 28:20 Knowing that the Lord is always by our side is important during seasons of loneliness and feelings of abandonment.

Remember to always trust and reverence the Lord, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” Psalm 111:10

Trusting the Lord in all situations and circumstances will keep us stable and moving forward. A healthy dose of “reverence” or “fear” of the Lord will keep us walking in a spirit of humility and obedience.

Remember, our “due season,” will come – don’t faint now!

Do you have a testimony about making it through the “weary” season? Are you wrestling with moving forward by faith? Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shepastor: “Singing The Lord’s Song in a Strange Land: Preaching When You Don’t Feel Like Preaching” Highlights from Sherman Haywood Cox II


1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
2We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
3For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?
Psalm 137:1-4

As the Psalmist grappled with the realities of Babylonian captivity, he raised the profound question, “How do we sing The LORD’S song in a strange land?” For some, serving in their particular ministry can feel like, “a strange land” and or “Babylonian Captivity!” The pain, disappointment and struggle of serving in a less than supportive and appreciative congregation can drain one’s spirit of strength, hope, vision and vitality. Today, Shepastor highlights excerpts from the message, “Preaching When You Don’t Feel Like Preaching,” by Sherman Haywood Cox II.

Read further and be blessed!

Shepastor Highlights: “Preaching When You Don’t Feel Like Preaching,” by Sherman Haywood Cox II

Preach On!

… How do you preach when you don’t feel like it? In short the answer is to just preach. Preach on in your pain. Preach on through your pain. Often your pain can open up avenues in the scripture that you would not be able to see if you were feeling just fine. Andre Crouch sang: “If I didn’t have a problem, I wouldn’t know that God could solve them…” In addition, if the prophet Habakkuk didn’t get mad at God we wouldn’t have the book of Habakkuk. So just like Habakkuk wrote on and just like Andrea Sang on, I would encourage you to preach on.

Don’t Ignore Your Pain

As you preach, you should not attempt to ignore your pain while preaching or preparing. It is always important to be genuine. You may not connect with certain texts that you normally connect with. This time of pain might be a time of discovery and hope in the midst of hopelessness. It is easy to talk about God hooking you up when all is well, but when you are in the midst of something….you’ve got to be more real…more connected to your congregation’s pain…more connected to humanity’s pain. Hurt can be a gift to you as a preacher….

Finally, recognize that you are preaching for the help of the whole congregation and not just for yourself. While you shouldn’t ignore yourself, you must not only preach for or to yourself either. It is a balancing act, but you must ever realize that you are preaching to a congregation that needs a word. When you are in pain, that word may be a future-oriented hope. Meaning that it is not today that you are feeling good, but it is a future hope. Like the old song says “I’m so glad trouble don’t last always.”

Perhaps it is not an overt hope, but one that comes from the other side of the of pain. Like those who sang: “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.” You can’t learn about how good God’s gift is until you fully understand your present position apart from God. Whatever it is, send them home with a real…valid…Word….


Let me also add, when you get past this time of pain, and you will, don’t forget to look back. Look back and let your new vantage point from the other side of your pain guide you in your future preaching!!!


To read more of Sherman's message, visit,
http://www.soulpreaching.com/preaching-when-you-dont-feel-like


Do you have advice for preaching through your pain? Are you stuck in a spiritual rut? Post a comment or send me and email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris