Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shepastor: "Can You See the Forest...?"

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. Matthew 13:16, NIV

News commentator Rachel Maddow once said, Those of us caught up in the day-to-day coverage of current events find it easy to see trees, but forests are more elusive. Many of us find ourselves focused upon “trees…” that which is “in your face” from day to day.

It can be very easy to get caught up in the day to day struggle, negative comments, that person who is getting on your last nerve, wondering when or if this or that is going to happen. We do this, however, at the expense of “the forest.” Some of our greatest work is left undone because we allow trees to block us from seeing the forest.

In more serious matters, if we are not careful, our emotions will overtake us and we will miss opportunities to remedy major problems. The enemy of our soul is a master at distraction. But the Lord has given us, as His children, “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” Through prayer, godly fellowship, embracing God’s Holy Word and applying it to our daily lives, we can see beyond that which is readily apparent.

As I personally wrestled with some issues that had me too focused upon “minors” instead of the major, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Don’t let it take you there, remain focused and remember what you are trying to accomplish.”

In a couple of days we shall cross over the threshold of a new year. May you, by the grace of almighty God, develop what is necessary, spiritually to remain focused. May you add to your desire the discipline necessary to resist distractions. May you come closer to God’s desire for your life. May you walk in the victory God has given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

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, December 23, 2015

Shepastor: "Waiting on Jesus..."

"And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." Luke 1: 30-32

When the young impoverished woman Mary received the message that she had found “favor with God” and was chosen to give birth to the Savior of the world, one can imagine she had no idea what these things meant! She would have to wait to find out. “Waiting on Jesus…” What does it feel like?

Many are waiting to understand what “favor” looks like in their lives. Many are waiting for the Lord to make clear some vision, “calling” or path. Some are waiting for Jesus to make some crooked places straight.

As you wait for the Lord in your life, what are some spiritually healthy ways to live through the waiting process? Below are some practical suggestions…

-Submit to the process: Fretting, complaining and arguing with God will not “speed up” the process. Join with Mary and say, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38, KJV)

-Prayerfully identify an “Elizabeth” with whom you can share and pray: Mary went to share her new revelation with a trusted cousin and friend, Elizabeth, who her-self was pregnant with John. The Lord has some other “pregnant” persons who will leap with joy as you share the words you’ve “heard” from the Lord. Everyone cannot and will not rejoice and pray with you. During the waiting process, it is critical to have a prayer partner who can relate to your period of spiritual gestation.


-Continue to trust the Lord to work out that which you cannot control: Mary was engaged to a wonderful man named Joseph. The message from the angel presented a HUGE problem, potentially life threatening problem for Mary…to be found “with child” before marriage and not by her fiancĂ© culturally meant stoning! Mary had to trust the Lord to speak to Joseph and bring things into balance and peace. When the Lord is preparing to birth something new in our lives, it may disrupt even what seems beautiful. Loved ones may become angry, disillusioned and hurt. The Lord, however, will confirm His new direction and give peace to those called to become a part of the blessing being birthed.

Waiting is never easy. The Lord, however, will give you the grace, courage and strength as you submit daily through prayer, faith and hope.

May you and yours have a blessed, peace filled, and spirit yielded Christmas and New Year.

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, December 16, 2015

Shepastor: "What Have You Rejected?"

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Matthew 23: 29-39

A poet by the name of Carl Wendell Hines penned these words…

Now that he is safely dead
Let us praise him
build monuments to his glory
sing hosannas to his name.
Dead men make
such convenient heroes: They
cannot rise
to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives.
And besides,
it is easier to build monuments
than to make a better world.

The “he” in the poem is referring to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How easy it is for us to build monuments, but not to build relationships. How easy it is for us to build monuments, but not to challenge unjust laws and systems that continue to perpetuate systemic racism, poor economic conditions for the masses, inadequate educational systems for the inner city.

How easy it is for us to build monuments instead of speaking truth to power. How easy it is for us to glorify the past, and praise those who have gone on, yet make a mockery of their legacy by the way in which we live.

This was the tragedy of the religious leaders in this text. They declared that if Moses and Elijah, Jeremiah and Amos, Micah and Hosea had been with them in their day and time, they would have listened…they would have followed…they would have obeyed…they would have changed. But Jesus, in so many words said, “No you wouldn’t have. You’d be doing the same thing you’re doing now – rejecting the warnings and the words of wisdom and the messages sent from God because of the hardness of your hearts.”

I was watching a popular minister on TV yesterday afternoon…someone who I enjoy and have received a word from. But yesterday, his message was disturbing. He said that people will know that we are the blessed of God, in so many words, because of the things that we have. Now those weren’t his exact words, but he was sharing how he lost everything in a major storm – his church building, his car, his home, etc.

He said he told God, “How are people to know that I am a Kingdom representative if I don’t have anything?” …but that is not the barometer that measures if we are the “blessed of God.”

Jesus said “They will know we are Christians by our love!”
Even the blessed of God will have hard times. Even the blessed of God may have to walk a path through difficult financial struggles, bad health, unfair and unjust situations. That is just the human condition and we hold this treasure in earthen vessels. The bible says that if we faint in the day of adversity our strength is small. The day of adversity happens to us all.

The message of the Gospel has to be bigger than that!

What about the poor widow that gave all she had? Wasn’t she the blessed of God? What about Mary and Joseph, they were poor, yet God chose them to be the earthly parents of Jesus – were not they the blessed of God? What about Lazarus who was covered in sores and in abject poverty until he was called home and was given rest in the “bosom of Abraham.” Wasn’t he “the blessed of God?”

What about the men and women, boys and girls living right here in America… the working poor, the children living in homes where they have to take turns to eat, the mother that catches three buses to get to her minimum wage job, but gets up every Sunday, makes her way to church, pays her tithes, teaches her children the ways of God, sings in the choir and helps those who are in a worse condition than she…isn’t she the blessed of God? What is this mentality that we have developed in the church today?

We have rejected the message of the Gospel in exchange for the message of the world.

The message of the Gospel declares,

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Matthew 16: 24-27

The message of the Gospel is sometimes hard to hear, hard to understand. The message of the Gospel will drive some away. The message of the Gospel will cause some to get angry. The message of the Gospel will cause some to want to kill you. For the Gospel calls us to walk in humility and love. The message of the Gospel calls us to deny ourselves and follow the way of Jesus. The message of the Gospel calls us to serve, to sacrifice and at times to suffer.

The message of the Gospel causes us to have to get up from our places of lethargy, causes us to get out of our comfort zones, causes us to stand up for truth and righteousness, causes us to sometimes say and do things that are not popular but are indeed righteousness. The message of the Gospel tells us to love when everyone else says hate. The message of the Gospel tells us to forgive when everyone else is saying take vengeance. The message of the Gospel says give, when everyone else says you better keep all you can for yourself.

The message of the Gospel says the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. The message of the Gospel says there is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof is death. The message of the Gospel says if your enemy is hungry, give him some food, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… the message of the Gospel is foolishness to the natural man but to the one who is filled with the spirit, it is the words of eternal life!

God is tired of our meaningless religious rituals. The Lord is weary of our festivals and empty songs of praise. "He has shown thee oh man, oh woman what is good and what does the Lord require of us…to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God." God wants us to feed the hungry, God wants us to help the widows, God wants us to challenge unjust systems that continue to perpetuate ignorance and poverty. God wants us to get up and tell somebody that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!

That is the true meaning of the Gospel – that is the “Good News!”
Start seeking God about how you can really serve Him, really advance the Kingdom here on earth…really become a laborer in God’s harvest. Stop sitting with your arms folded and your mind closed declaring, “I can’t do that…I’m too old…I can’t do that, I got to keep this for myself…I can’t do that I’m too tired…I can’t do that it doesn’t make sense to me…”

Stop rejecting what God is saying. If you don’t understand, ask the Lord for clarity. If you are afraid, ask the Lord for courage. If you are weak, ask the Lord for strength.

Jesus encourages us to “Occupy" until he comes. May we embrace the true meaning of the Gospel message and not succumb to the worldly messages of what it means to "represent" the Kingdom of God.

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, December 9, 2015

Shepastor: "When God Throws You a Curve Ball..."

Job 1: 1-12; 20-22
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.4 And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD…

20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Shepastor: “When God Throws You a Curve Ball…”

A “curve ball” is a pitch thrown with a strong downward spin, causing the ball to drop suddenly and veer to the side as it approaches home plate. The curveball outside the context of baseball, “essentially translates to introducing a significant deviation to a preceding concept.” (Wikipedia)

In other words, it is a break in a pattern…something totally unexpected…something that does not fit the pattern, if you will of things currently happening or at least what one thought would have, could have, should have happened.

You thought that you would be healthy and strong because you eat right and exercise, only to go to the doctor and find out you have cancer – a curve ball… you thought that because you loved, encouraged and raised your children to love and serve the Lord they would love, honor and respect you, but instead they rush towards the proverbial “hog pens” of life – a curve ball…you thought that because you came to work early, stayed late, gave your all, followed instructions and showed kindness that you would get a raise, a promotion or at least some respect, but instead you get disrespect and threats of being let go – a curve ball!

When the child of God receives “curve balls,” it can feel like a “sucker punch” in the gut. Just this weekend, friends of ours – faithful, godly, praying people of God received a curve ball…on Friday evening, the husband experienced something akin to an aneurysm…a blood clot on the brain. Collapsed in a bathroom and was not found for two hours. Had to be rushed to emergency – had to have a shunt placed in his brain to drain off the fluid and the blood.

The good news is that he is still alive and with much prayer, faith and hope… physical therapy and good medical care, we believe, God willing, he will recover. A praying couple…a loving couple…a faithful couple, yet they have been confronted with a “curve ball.” What do you do when life throws you a curve ball?

The book of Job gives us some insights into how to face life’s curve balls.

One of the first things we learn from this passage is that we must realize things are happening in heavenly realms that are not readily apparent here on earth. In other words, there are principalities and powers at work that our eyes cannot see. Look at Satan. He appears before God along with the other heavenly beings – the “sons of God.” The Lord asks Satan where has he been and he declares that he has been walking up and down, “to and fro” throughout the earth. The New Testament declares that he is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

But Satan cannot touch the child of God unless he first gets permission from God. God has a hedge of protection around His children. The Lord looks upon us with favor and even with a level of fatherly pride. He asks the devil, “Have you considered my servant Job?” It’s as if God taunts the devil with the faithfulness of Job. Job has no idea about the power and glory brought to God through his faithfulness.
One might say, “it looks like Job’s faithfulness got him into trouble!!!” But the opposite is true. The devil seeks to devour every and anybody! He just tries extra hard to attack those who are faithful to God because he hates God and all who belong to God. God, however, “has” Job, sustaining Job, keeping Job and limiting the extent to which the devil could harm Job.

Yes, God allows somethings to happen…sometimes horrible things…but the Lord has a curve ball for the devil. Jesus says that whom the Father has in His hands no man can pluck him out. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. God’s grace. God’s mercy and even God’s peace.

The next extremely important lesson we learn from this text is that righteousness does not exempt us from the curve balls of life. Abel offered a sacrifice that was more acceptable than Cain, but Cain killed Abel… David was a man after God’s own heart, but he was still pursued and had his life threatened by his mentor, Saul…Daniel prayed three times a day and an excellent spirit was found in him, yet he was still falsely accused and thrown into the lions dens…Zechariah and Elizabeth were faithful and upright before God but were still barren (without children)…the man born blind had not sinned, nor had his parents sinned, but he was still born blind…Jesus was the lamb of God, sent into the world to save us from our sins, but he was still despised and rejected and ultimately crucified.

Righteousness does not exempt us…but righteousness will keep us! No matter what Job lost, no matter how much pain and anguish and disappointment Job faced, Job would not curse God. Job declared, “naked came I into the world and naked shall I return, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away – blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Pain and loss reveals who we truly are at the core – are you a “fair weather Christian?” When curveballs are thrown your way will you continue to stand on your most holy faith? Will you continue to declare, “Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well with my soul?” Will you continue to bless the Lord at all times? Will His praise continually be in your mouth? Oh people of God there is coming a day, when those who have stayed the course, those who have been faithful to the end, those who have endured the curve balls of life, those who have suffered, and toiled, and struggled and served, and gave, and loved, and sought to please the living God will be counted among that great number of saints and shall be rewarded for their labors…

Revelation 7: 9-17 declares:
The Great Multitude in White Robes

9After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying:
“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
13Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’a
nor any scorching heat.
17For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’b
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’c ”

Somebody might be saying, “I don’t want to have to wait until I die and stand before the throne of grace before I experience healing, experience peace, experience restoration.” Well there is some good news right here in the book of Job. This is not how the story ends. Yes Job experienced great loss of material goods, loss of his beautiful children, loss of the trust of his so-called friends, loss of the support of his wife…but God is not unjust, God is not unrighteous…God is not cruel. God in the end threw the devil a curve ball. After all of this…all of the pain, all of the loss…all of the disappointment…all of the false accusations…all of the self-doubts and fears…God threw the devil a curve ball…Job remained faithful…Job did not curse God…Job did not turn his back on God.

And because Job was faithful…because Job was steadfast…because Job was unmovable, God restored Job…

Job declared, “before my ears heard about you, but now my eyes see you!” Job thought he knew who God was but after all that he’d been through, he began to truly see who God is! After you go through some things, after you lose some things, after you have to face somethings and so called friends walk off and leave you or begin to falsely accuse you…after family begin to doubt you, after you begin to even wrestle within yourself, after all of these things, when the Lord begins to rebuild you, and you realize that you are still standing…when the Lord begins to restore you and you realize that after all of that you are still standing…when the Lord shows you all that He has carried you over, under, around and through…you will say like Job – “God I thought I knew you, I thought I saw you, I thought I’d heard about you, but now I see you for myself, now I know you for myself…now I can sho nuff testify about you because you have blessed me, you have lifted me, you have carried me, you have delivered me, you have restored me and I will bless your name!!!

God blessed Job. Listen to what God did for Job…
Job 42: 10-17

10After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silvera and a gold ring.
12The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part…
16After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
Oh saints of God, many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all!
God is a healer, God is a deliverer, God is a restorer! Don’t allow the curve balls of life to make you let go of God’s hand – stand on your most holy faith – trust in the Lord – continue to bless His name – God will see you through!

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, December 2, 2015

Shepastor: "If the Lord is With Us, Why...?"

11-12 One day the angel of GOD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of GOD appeared to him and said, “GOD is with you, O mighty warrior!” 13 Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If GOD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t GOD deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, GOD has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.” 14 But GOD faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?” 15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”
16 GOD said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”
Judges 6: 11-15, The Message Translation of the Bible

The Old Testament Judge, Gideon is most notably remembered for his obedience to God to reduce his army from thousands to a mere 300 men. With that small number of warriors, God used Gideon to defeat the Midianites, Amalakites and other formidable pagan nations to restore Israel’s land and place of prominence (Judges 7).

But Gideon did not start out as a towering giant of the faith. Gideon walked amidst a people whose hearts had waxed cold against God. They rebelled and forgot all that the Lord had done to deliver them from Egypt, taken them across the Red Sea, fed them with manna in the desert, gave them the “promised land” of Canaan etc. As a result, God allowed pagan nations to overtake them, oppress them, strip them, cause them to be defeated and impoverished. After all of that, they cried out to God for mercy and deliverance.

In an answer to the people’s prayer, God chose to show up and present Himself to the young man named Gideon…a fearful, disillusioned, “nobody…” or at least that is what Gideon thought of himself! God, however, saw something different, something mighty, something greater in Gideon. Verse number 12 states,

The angel of GOD appeared to him and said, “GOD is with you, O mighty warrior!”

Gideon was so distraught that he didn’t even appeared shocked or startled! He simply responded…

13 … “With me, my master? If GOD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t GOD deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, GOD has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”

Gideon had had it!!! He’d heard all about God’s miracles and wonders from the past, but right now as he faced “this present darkness,” he felt abandoned and like anything but a “mighty warrior.” Maybe he was so overwhelmed that he did not think about the behaviors of his people that placed them in their current predicament. Maybe he felt like he had nothing to do with their waywardness and was being afflicted unjustly.

Can you relate to Gideon? “If God is with us, why has all this happened to us?” As you read the newspaper, Facebook, Twitter, listen to the news, ponder the conditions of our schools, neighborhoods, communities, nation and world…If God is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Maybe your own personal plight is such a struggle that you are not looking beyond your front door… “If God is WITH ME, why has all this happened to me?”

God’s response to Gideon and to us…

14 But GOD faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”

“But Lord, who am I? I can’t fight against…I don’t have the strength…I don’t have the means…I don’t have the wherewithal…”

15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”

16 GOD said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

What is your “Midian?” What are you facing that feels impossible to beat? What enemy has stripped you of heart, health, and hope? The Lords says, “Go in this strength that is yours…I will be with you…believe me, you will defeat Midian.”

What is your strength? What is in your hand? “Nothing” is not an acceptable answer!!! God has given each of us something that is ours and ours alone – maybe it’s your voice…God has given you a word to speak life where things appear dead…maybe it’s your vision…God has shown you how things could be if you move by faith…maybe it’s your calm, prayerful demeanor…God wants to use you to provide a listening presence to help heal someone who needs to talk… maybe it’s your voice of reason in an unreasonable situation…God has given each of us something! Maybe it’s you as a resource God wants to use you to mentor or to provide a meal, or to start a block club or to develop a prayer group…By faith, if we use “this strength” and go, God will be with us and will help us to defeat “Midian.”

When we are weak, God shows Himself mighty on our behalf. Avoid comparing yourself to others and what others have. God can and will use the small things to do GREAT THINGS if we would but trust Him, obey Him and use “this strength” that we have.

May you go in your strength, believe that God is with you and know that through Him, you WILL defeat the Midians in your life!

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, November 25, 2015

Shepastor: "The Delicate, Bumpy and Sometimes Messy Path to Forgiveness..."

Matthew 18:21-35King James Version (KJV)
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.


The path to forgiveness can be delicate, bumpy and very, very messy. After being brutalized, despised and rejected by humanity, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ willingly hung His head and gave His life…not, however, before uttering the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34, KJV).

As humans, we wrestle to be as gracious and merciful. Forgiveness for us is not an event, it is a process…a delicate, bumpy and at times a very messy process. It is delicate because it involves matters of the heart…sometimes deep, painful, searing wounds inflicted for various and sundry reasons. For those who have experienced deep wounds for no justifiable reason, the road to forgiveness can be very bumpy and messy. Just when you thought you were done, the smell of a meal, the subtle rustle of leaves, the sound of graving being crushed beneath the feet of someone passing by, a television program, the first snow fall of the season, the song on the radio, etc., can resurrect deep dark memories and the scab seems to lift off of the wound.

The road can be bumpy and messy towards forgiveness because you may not want to forgive…you may feel that the individual(s) doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Yet the Lord calls us to do what He did on Calvary…forgive. But how? One may be asking, “How Lord, how can I forgive…do you see what they did to me? Do you see how I’ve been left broken and wounded and scarred? Do you see how my heart, my hopes, my dreams, my life has been ravaged?” The Lord does not require us to subject ourselves to repeated acts of injustice, abuse and or disrespect. When Jesus hung on Calvary, God the Father did not require Him to come back and be abused by humans again! God does call us, however, to release the anger, bitterness, vengeful thoughts and behaviors to Him.

The Lord, who is merciful, kind and just has given us marvelous examples of “how.” In addition to His great example of Jesus, God provides metaphors to help us understand that the process will take time, struggle and yes some pain. But if we will yield to it and start with “yes,” the results will be beautiful:

…Flowers blossom into gorgeous fragrant bouquets but only after being planted in the deep, dark dirt and pressing their way upward towards the sun…

…Beautiful and beloved Babies emerge from their mother’s womb at first wrinkled, covered in blood and amniotic fluid, inflicting much pain and struggle

…Delicious meals whether baked or grilled, or boiled, or fried are first washed or whisked or mixed or pounded and then placed in or on something very, very hot. Raw, dry or wet, squeezed, filleted, cut, bound, whipped, creamed, frozen, thawed etc., all on the path to deliciousness!

…Healing from diseases may involve the messy process of our flesh, and muscles being cut open, sterilized instruments delving deep into our bodies being guided by the skillful hand of the surgeon on the way to removing that which is threatening our lives. Painful stiches, sutures or staples may follow all on the path to healing.

If you will submit your heart to the process of forgiveness, it may not happen over night. You may wrestle to keep moving forward, but you will not have to wrestle alone. As you surrender your heart to the Savior, Jesus, He who has forgiven us all will give you the strength, the will, the desire to release the hurt and will give you what you need to overcome.

Allow the Lord to plant the seed, to birth “the baby,” to “prepare the table” to heal your diseases, so that beauty instead of ashes may spring forth in your life. Remember, the Lord has shown us great mercy, forgiveness and love while we were yet sinners.

May we, by the power of the Holy Spirit resist the temptation to make our debtors pay “to the uttermost farthing.” May we remember that we too must give an account.
May you and yours have a peaceful, joy-filled, “forgiveness-filled” heartfelt Thanksgiving Season.

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, November 18, 2015

Shepastor: "What Shall We Say to These Things?"

Romans 8: 31-39, KJV
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are living in some perilous times…Over 120 people killed this past weekend in Paris, France. Islamic terrorists…ISIS raining bullets upon innocent, unarmed people…walked up into an arena of people enjoying a concert and just started spraying bullets upon the unsuspecting crowd. Hundreds of young girls kidnapped in Nigeria. 147 students Massacred in Kenya... What shall we say to these things? We have our own “ISIS” attacks right here in the Greater Cleveland Area and other parts of the United States…senseless drive by shootings killing 5 and 3 and 6 month olds. We’ve seen violence over these last few months like we’ve not seen in a very long time. There used to be “honor among thieves.” But those days are gone. Killings are happening everywhere in most brutal and inhumane fashion.

What shall we say then to these things?
Sometimes we wonder why…sometimes we wonder if we’ve been forsaken…sometimes we wonder if God has forgotten us…sometimes we wonder why these persecutions and tragedies have to happen…why we have to face all of these problems. Unfortunately the shallow theology being espoused by many tele-evangelists and churches today don’t prepare God’s people for the living of these days…being a Christian does not exempt you from pain. Being a Christian does not exempt you from persecution. Being a Christian does not guarantee that you won’t face some pain, some sickness, some disease, some death, some brokenness. No, no…being a Christian sometimes places a bulls-eye and target upon your back!

The enemy of our souls seeks to wound, and break, and crush and beat down and discourage the man of God, the woman of God…but listen to how Paul responded to “these things…”
>35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Are you persuaded? Are you persuaded? Have you made up your mind that no matter what comes you are going to serve the Lord? Are you persuaded? Are you determined to walk with Jesus? Are you persuaded? Even when you see the righteous being slain, even when you yourself have to face principalities and powers? Nothing can separate you from the love of God! God will never leave you or forsake you. Through Christ we are more than conquerors because He loves us! We are more than conquerors over sin, more than conquerors over sickness, more than conquerors over mean spirited people…more than conquerors over ISIS…more than conquerors over gang bangers….more than conquerors over enemies…more than conquerors over folks acting crazy on the job…in our homes WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS!!!

If God be for us, who can be against us?
Don’t allow yourself to be governed by fear. Tell yourself, “God is for me!” Don’t allow yourself to be governed by defeat…tell yourself, “God is for me!
Don’t allow other people to condemn you and beat down your esteem. Tell yourself, “God is for me!”

Keep on walking with the Lord. Keep on talking with Him. Keep on letting Him tell you that you are His own! He will give you joy, He will give you peace…He will give you blessed assurance. When you are tempted to give up, to fall prey to the discouraging voices from within and without, remind yourself the God is for you!

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, November 11, 2015

Shepastor: "Do We Really Have to Wait Until Then?"

Mark 4: 35-41 NLT
Jesus Calms the Storm

35As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

There is a common acronym that is written upon tomb stones and in obituaries…R.I.P… It stands for, “Rest in Peace.” The hope for those who use this phrase is that those who leave this world will somehow find some rest, some relief, some escape, if you will, from the toils and the struggles and the pain and the cares of this life. But must we wait until then to get some rest…some relief…some freedom…some peace? This passage of Scripture may give us some insights into Jesus’ example. Consider the dynamics of what was happening in this text…

Jesus was tired…tired from a long day of teaching, tired from having the religious leaders look as his miracles and ascribe God’s work to the devil, tired from healing and performing miracles and teaching people about faith…Jesus was tired! And when you get tired enough, you can sleep through almost anything!The disciples were thinking that they were about to have a calm 2 hour trip in a boat across the Sea of Galilee. They too were probably tired, but respected the fact that Jesus probably needed the rest more than they did. So Jesus went and lay down in the back of the boat.

As Jesus lay resting, sleeping, they probably were enjoying the cool breeze, reminiscing about the activities of the day and anticipating what would happen next. A storm, however, was probably not in their view. Isn’t that like life? You’re going along, trying to take it easy, making your plans moving ahead…anticipating that this or that will happen in such and such a time frame and BAM… life happens…all of a sudden what was supposed to take 2 hours ends up taking all day…what was supposed to take one week turns into 5, what was supposed to take 2 years ends up taking 10…what was supposed to be smooth sailing ends up being a storm!

The disciples are literally “taken by storm!” The waves are crashing up against their boat…water is starting to fill up the floor. The wind is violently tossing them to and fro and Jesus is sleeping! WHAT IN THE WORLD!!! They are horrified and Jesus is sleeping… “Jesus, don’t you even care that we are about to drown?” How did Jesus sleep through all of that? Now before you rush to the conclusion that because Jesus is God, He had no reason to fear…listen to how Jesus responds to them…

39When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
A few years ago when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, we felt the violence of that storm here in Ohio. I remember that particular day COYO (Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra) had a concert at Lorain Community College. I had to drive our son Caleb to Lorain – about 45 minutes away. His dad was at work, the other kids were at school and it was just me and Caleb.

At that time I had my old truck that was working on a wing and a prayer! The winds were blowing fiercely, the rain was coming down in torrents…the sky was dark, the air was cold, I was praying and driving…Caleb was fast asleep! I looked over at him and thought to myself, “Boy, how could you be sleeping so sound? Don’t you feel this car rocking and bobbing?” He wasn’t the least bit concerned. He felt completely safe because his mother was driving…he was tired and let his body fall asleep.

Even in the midst of a violent storm, Jesus was “resting in peace.” How did he do that? How did he do it? And why did he ask the disciples why they were afraid? Yes he rebuked the winds and the waves. Yes he ultimately caused all of that to stop…but if we focus on that portion of this story only, we will miss a profound lesson that Jesus was teaching his disciples and subsequently us today.

Jesus wants us to learn how to “rest in peace” while even the storm is raging. He wants us to develop the kind of faith, the kind of trust, the kind of peace that says, “I can rest in peace because my Heavenly Father is driving this car, is sailing this ship… is holding me in the midst of it all and when He gets ready, He will make this storm cease!”

You and I can find rest in the midst of the storm. You and I can lie down in safety. You and I can lay our proverbial heads down on pillows of ease and rest in peace when we train our minds to remember who is driving. Yes, that is easier said than done. But we must learn how to rest by trusting that the Lord our God will see us through! We must learn how to rest by believing that God will make a way somehow.

We must learn how to rest and trust by releasing all of our fears, all of our anxieties about things that we ourselves cannot fix, all of our worries about children and people and relationships that we cannot change…We must learn how to rest and trust…doing what we can and leaving the rest to God… “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference!”

We too can move to the back of the boat and get some rest…even when the storms of life are raging, even when it feels like we are drowning…even when our plans are drastically changed, even when it takes longer than we could have ever imagined…we can find rest like Jesus…we can find rest in trusting our faithful and trustworthy God. We can find rest by releasing our toil, struggle and pain at the feet of Jesus and He will rebuke the winds and the waves…he will cause the storms to cease…and he will carry us over to the other side...Not just heaven, but to the other side of our fears, the other side of our darkness, the other side of our billowing waves…the other side to our victory. God will carry us over, God will sustain us, God will make a way for us…God will carry us through.

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

Remember to pray for and honor our Veterans today!

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


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Shepastor: "Are You a True Friend?"

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Proverbs 18:24 (NRSV)
24Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin.

In today’s society, we use the term “friend” rather loosely. Often we say "friend" when we really should use the term, "acquaintance." The term “friend” connotes something much deeper than a casual relationship. To be a friend means some very important and specific things…

The Biblical concept of friendship is lifted up through out the scriptures. God called Abraham his friend. Saul’s son, Jonathan and David were the best of friends. The Bible even gives a negative example of friendship when it speaks of how Herod and Pilate became friends when they joined together in a decision to try, abuse and eventually crucify Jesus. (Luke 23:11-12 states: And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends, together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.)

The scriptures are filled with examples of real friendship. Consider the following verses:

Proverbs 18:24 (KJV)
24 A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The New Revised Standard Version declares:
Proverbs 18:24 (NRSV)
25 Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin.

Sometimes God places people in our lives that can relate to us, support us, love us, encourage us, and through their prayers, faith and witness, empower us even more than our own flesh and blood relatives. For many, the Church… the people of God are those which stick closer than flesh and blood.

Some people have never had a true friend. They are hungry for real friends.
There are many people who are “play friends…” those who want to stand with you in the good times, but not the bad…those who want to hang around you as long as it is advantageous for them. There are those who are interested in what you can do for them and not necessarily what you all can share together – you’ve seen them, “play friends.”

Proverbs 17:17 from the NRSV states
17 A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

God’s Word states that “a friend loves at all times,” which means that godly friendship endures and the love is unconditional. None of this, “I’ll be your friend if…” There may be times when we must love someone from a distance. Times change and people change, but love remains.

In true friendship, time, space and distance don’t change the love shared. Situations, circumstances and difficulties in real friendship don’t change the love shared. A friend loves at ALL TIMES.

The following verses further describe friendship:
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
13 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
True friends hold one another up. Human beings were made to be in fellowship with one another. God’s words concerning Adam, that it’s not good for him to be alone, extend beyond the husband and wife relationship. Human beings are meant for fellowship. We are like burning coals. As long as the coals stay together, they remain hot, they glow and produce heat. But if you take one coal away from the bunch and set it off to itself, the coal will soon go out.

God new that if we did not have fellowship our coals would go out. There is something sweet about the sincere fellowship of God’s people. We lift one another up. We encourage and inspire one another. We give one another hope. We strengthen one another’s faith. God uses the testimonies of the saints to build up the body of Christ.

"Two are better than one. Woe unto him that is alone when he falleth for he hath not another to help him up again." We all trip now and then. But if we are standing close enough, we can catch one another before we hit the ground! And that’s what so special about the next verse:

Proverbs 27:6
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Real Friends will tell you the truth in love. It’s important to have friends that will tell you the truth. So many of us walk around like the king in the “Emperors New Clothes…” with no one to tell us that we are not fully clothed, but in fact naked! Real friends will tell each other when they are “naked,” even if the world is declaring that their “new suit” looks fabulous. Sometimes when we share the truth with our friends, they will be hurt or might even become angry, but in the long run, those “faithful wounds” will heal and the individual will be made whole.

Allowing a friend to go in the wrong direction while we remain silent is tantamount to knowing a person has a time bomb in his or her house and not warning them to get out! Real friends will take the risk of being misunderstood, and share, in love that which may hurt for the moment, but bring healing ultimately.

Finally, consider what Jesus said about friendship:

John 15:13 (NRSV)
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

True friendship is sacrificial. True friendship is willing to put self aside for the benefit of another. True friendship is willing to acquiesce or in other words, step back and allow your friend to be blessed. True friendship is willing to be the wind beneath another’s wings. True friendship rejoices with the one rejoicing and weeps with the one weeping. So often people can “weep” with you, but they struggle to “rejoice” with you! True friends strive to do both.

Jesus exemplified true friendship when he sacrificed his life for you and I. Jesus desires that we love each other as He loves as and also as we love ourselves.

Biblical friendship may be summarized as follows:

True friends love at all times
True friends hold one another up
True friends tell the truth in love
True friendship is sacrificial in nature
Are you a true friend?

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, October 28, 2015

Shepastor: "Are You Willing to Fill the Pot?"

John 2:1-11 King James Version (KJV)
2 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.


Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus and the disciples are guests at a wedding. In that day and time wedding celebrations would last up to seven days. The wedding festivities were held at the home of the bride groom. It was the groom’s responsibility to ensure that there was ample food and beverage to meet the demands of his guests. To run out of food or drink was a tremendous embarrassment. Mary noticed that the wine at this wedding had run out. She must have been a friend of the family because her concern moved her to ask her son to do something about it. The text does not suggest that Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle, per se, but her request suggests that she knew that he could do something to alleviate the problem.

Jesus seems almost to disrespect his earthly Mother and says, “Woman, what do I have to do with you…my time has not yet come.” Interestingly, Mary in turn ignores his response, turns to the servants and says, “Whatever he tells you to do, do!”
In the 1980’s the sports shoes and clothing manufacturer Nike came out with the phrase, “Just Do it!” They would show world renowned athletes wearing the Nike symbol on shirts, shoes, jackets, hats etc., running, pole vaulting, sweating, pressing their way through pain, weariness and struggle in order to reach their intended goal. “Just do it!” That slogan and campaign catapulted them into one of the highest and most successful earning brackets for sports merchandise of all times.

That phrase captured the essence of true grit…don’t make excuses, don’t over think it, don’t try and understand it…just do it! Relative to our text for today, Mary and her friends had a problem. The party had run out of wine. Now I imagine that that would still be a problem today at some parties! But in Jesus’ day, it was more than just a problem, it was a major embarrassment. It suggested that the bridegroom did not have the wherewithal to take care of or manage his affairs. Wanting to avoid this embarrassment, this problem, Mary turned to her son, Jesus.

Why did Jesus respond to her so gruffly? Why did he speak to her in this way? It is reminiscent of Jesus’ response to the The Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:25-30/Matthew 15:21-28, who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus told her, “It is not right to take the children’s food and feed it unto the dogs…” essentially, calling the woman and the gentiles dogs! But just as in that case, where the woman bowed and humbled herself before Jesus and began to worship him…Mary chose to look past what appeared to be disrespect and instructed the servants to “just do what he says.”

Notice how Mary did not start arguing with Jesus, she didn’t start telling Jesus what and how he needed to do what she wanted done…she didn’t get discouraged and walk away. She knew that Jesus would honor her request. She simply positioned herself and the servants to receive the blessings to come. She was confident that Jesus could and Jesus would fix it.

So in confidence, Mary told the servants, “do whatever he tells you to do.” What would happen in our lives if we did like Mary and the servants, “Lord, here is my issue, here is my problem…here is my need and I’m going to do whatever you tell me to do to fix it!” So often, we are so busy fretting and arguing with the Lord about how our prayers are not being answered, how the Lord appears not to be paying attention to what we have said, seeming to ignore our petition etc., that we don’t present ourselves to Him, humble ourselves and say, “Lord, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.”

Now consider what Jesus tells them to do…They needed some more wine. Jesus instructs them to get the water pots and fill them up with water to the brim. Now understand, these were not necessarily decorative pots or receptacles that were set apart for drinking and food…these were the pots used to wash people’s feet and hands! These were the pots used for cleansing. These were not used for drinking…these were used for washing dirty, nasty, stinking, filthy hands and feet!!!

WHAT? You want us to use these pots? Isn’t it interesting how the Lord takes and uses vessels that we count as basically worthless and lowly to bless and supply what we need? Now if it were us, we probably would have begun to argue with Jesus… “Lord, you want us to fill up the kitchen sink or the bathtub with water and dip it out to give people to drink! That’s just nasty…that’s crazy!!!

“Lord, I have this need…” Ok, go down to that little church gathering…I have a word for you there.” I ain’t goin over there, they ain’t got nothing to offer me…” “Lord, I have a need…” Ok, go and work this job for a while…” “I ain’t going over there, they don’t pay enough…” “Lord, I have a need…” “Ok, start going to prayer meeting and Bible study and seek my face, get into my Word…” “I ain’t doin that, I’m too busy…” “Lord, I have a need…” “Ok, trust my Word and tithe and watch me open the windows of heaven…” “I ain’t doin that, I’ve got too many bills….”

What water pot has the Lord told you to fill and you have refused? What assignment has the Lord called you to fulfill and you have refused? What places has the Lord told you to go and you have refused? But look at the Mary and the servants… “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.” Go get the pots and fill them to the brim…they did what Jesus said do and look at the results.

Jesus turned the water into wine. This was his first recorded miracle. But before the miracle happened, they had to fill the pots. In order for their need to be met, they had to trust Jesus and do what He said to do. Sometimes our needs are not being met, we are broken, embarrassed and left wanting because we refuse to do what Jesus said do. I am not suggesting that all who are broken and bruised are in that condition because of disobedience…I am suggesting, however, that there are times in our lives when we ignore the “way of escape” because it seems too hard or nonsensical. When we trust Jesus and do what Jesus says do and move as Jesus says move, not only are we blessed, but our families and our communities are blessed. Because Mary utilized her relationship with her son to help out her friends, the people saw and experienced a miracle.

How many miracles are we missing and causing others to miss because we won’t do what Jesus said to do? Wandering, looking, holding out, refusing to fill our pots to the brim…doing things in a half-hearted manner, arguing with the Lord about His guidance and instruction? Not only are you missing out, but those around you are missing out.

Jesus saves the best for last. The world gives you the “goods” upfront, just enough to lure you, to beguile you, to trick you…to pull you in until you are so lost you don’t realize where you are and how you got there. But Jesus sees you wounded, sees you wanting, sees you wandering and says, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Jesus offers us the best…the best of life…the best of love…the best of peace…the best of hope…the best of fulfillment…the best for our souls. But we’ve got to surrender and allow Him to fill us up to the brim.

What is holding you back from surrendering to the Lord? Are you willing to do what Jesus says do and “fill the points” he designates? Why not let all of that go and just do it? Just do it, just do it!

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, October 21, 2015

Shepastor: “Questions for Reflection…”

As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19, NIV

Today’s Shepastor raises some questions for personal reflection…






- Each life speaks. Your life is speaking even now. Are you listening? What is it saying?
- When is the last time you’ve had a real conversation with God
- What is stopping you from letting “it” go?
- What hurt is claiming territory in your heart, soul and mind?
- What joy are you negating?
- Who stole your (fill in the blank)
- What three words describe your heart today?
- When you say your name, what do you hear?

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, October 14, 2015

Shepastor: "Why Did You Leave Me Here?"

Titus 1: 1-5 (NLT)

1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to[a] those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him. 4 I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.

Titus’s Work in Crete
5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you.

“Titus” is believed to have been written by the Apostle Paul, to one of his pastoral friends, Titus. Upon his release from prison in Rome for preaching the Gospel, Paul and several of his missionary friends traveled to the Greek Island of Crete to establish churches. Paul was a “church planter.” He didn’t stay places for very long. He was responsible, however. He didn’t just up and leave. Instead he mentored, taught and thoroughly prepared others to continue the work he began upon his departure. This Epistle, “Titus” encourages this young pastor, “Titus,” to lay a strong foundation of truth, through teaching and exemplifying what it means to live a godly and obedient life before God. Titus is one of the “Pastoral Epistles,” along with I & II Timothy.

But in our particular text, Paul tells Titus why he is leaving him there in Crete: “So that you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town...”as he instructed him.

“Why Did You Leave Me Here?”
Crete was a large Greek Island in the Mediterranean Sea. Although heavily populated by Jews, it was believed to be a training center for Roman soldiers. Paganism was a major influence in the region. Those who had been converted to Christianity had to contend with the lure, the temptations, the heavy sinful influences as well as plethora of false teachings that were prevailing in that day.

Paul wanted to ensure that Titus understood why he was leaving him there – “to straighten out what was left and to appoint elders in every town.” In other words, things were still in a mess in Crete. The church was planted, it was started, the foundation was being laid, but some things still needed to be “straightened out.” No doubt, Titus, a young pastor, still “wet behind the ears,” may have been nervous. He may have begun to doubt whether or not he had what it took to deal with all that was happening in the midst.

He may have begun to ask his mentor Paul, “why in the world are you leaving me here?” Paul’s answer, “to straighten out some things.” Have you ever found yourself asking, “why did you leave me here?” Why did you leave me to deal with this mess? Why did you leave me to handle these issues? Why did you leave me to try and teach folks that act like they don’t want to be taught? Lord, why did you leave me here? And The Lord says, “I want you to teach some things, model some things, spread my truth, show them the right way…I want you to straighten out some things!”

Sometimes God deliberately places us in the midst of some mess because He wants to use us to help straighten it out. Sometimes God places us in situations that are dark so that His light can shine brightly through us. Sometimes God places us in situations that are filled with lies so that His truth can shine forth. Sometimes God places us in situations where there is hate so that through us, His love may abound.

The other day I heard a music artist talk about how God used some people in his life to teach him the real meaning of godliness and unconditional love. He said that he lied to them, borrowed money that he never intended to pay back, used them and in his words, abused them. But they never stopped showing him unconditional love. He said the fact that they continued to show him the love of Christ, drew him to the Savior.

I am not suggesting that you should allow yourself to be abused, but there will be times a Christian, Jesus said, that we will have to love those that hate us and pray for those that despitefully use us. Titus was left in Crete – a paganistic, hedonistic, wicked place to teach the truth of the Gospel. Jesus said they that are whole don’t need a physician, but they that are sick. The Lord sometimes leaves us in places to “set some thing straight.” Somebody needs to know that God’s love is real. Somebody needs to know that there is a bright side somewhere. Somebody needs to know that we can be more than conquerors, that we can be overcomers that we can rise up above our situations and circumstances and somebody has to be left to tell folks so!

Lord, why did you leave me here? You are “here” for a reason. God wants to use you to teach the truth of the Gospel – that Jesus is not dead, but He is alive. That he can take you just as you are. That He doesn’t care about how many times you’ve messed up, how many times you fallen down, how filthy and dirty you may be – Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. Jesus is coming back for you! Jesus is real!

God has you where you are to be a living epistle.

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, October 7, 2015

Shepastor: "Trusting a Sacred God Over a Sacred Economy..."

Now after these things, God put Abraham to the test, and said to him, Abraham; and he said, Here am I.
2 And he said to him, Take your son, your dearly loved only son Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and give him as a burned offering on one of the mountains of which I will give you knowledge. 3 And Abraham got up early in the morning, and made ready his ass, and took with him two of his young men and Isaac, his son, and after the wood for the burned offering had been cut, he went on his way to the place of which God had given him word. 4 And on the third day, Abraham, lifting up his eyes, saw the place a long way off 5 Then he said to his young men, Keep here with the ass; and I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you 6 And Abraham put the wood for the burned offering on his son's back, and he himself took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them went on together. 7 Then Isaac said to Abraham, My father; and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, We have wood and fire here, but where is the lamb for the burned offering? 8 And Abraham said, God himself will give the lamb for the burned offering: so they went on together.
Genesis 22: 1-8

“Trusting a Sacred God Over a Sacred Economy…”

What was happening there on Mount Moriah? One of the patriarch’s of Israel was being tested at the core of his being. What was happening there on Mount Moriah? A father and his son were making a journey of a lifetime…a journey after which neither father or son would be the same. What was happening there on Mount Moriah? God was allowing broken, bruised, sinful humanity to catch a glimpse of what would happen centuries later on Calvary.

Abraham was being asked to sacrifice his only son – Isaac. We are tempted to rush past the power, the profundity, the agony in these first few verses of the text. Abraham, with this one act of obedience was surrendering all of his hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations for his future. This treasured son for whom he’d waited for the better part of his life. This son – the promised son who was supposed to carry on his heritage, his lineage…this son in whom lay all the promises of the Nation of Israel – this son was to be sacrificed on the altar. What kind of cruel game was God playing with Abraham? The text does not reveal Abraham’s frustration, only that he was obedient.

We do, however catch a glimmer of insight into Abraham’s thinking in verse 5 for he declares to those traveling with them,
“Keep here with the donkey; and I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you.”

This verse suggests that He trusted the heart of God even when it looked like God was giving him a raw deal. He moved forward in faith, willing to make the sacrifice. Why? Because that which he held sacred, his relationship with God the father took priority even over that which he held dear and loved to the utmost – his son. His relationship and his faith were sacred, they were holy…they took priority over everything else in his life. His relationship with God and his faith in God governed his life. And because God sat upon the throne of his heart, because God was truly the head of his life – God not only stopped him from sacrificing Isaac, but he made his off-springs innumerable.

Humanity has always sought to have or to identify something to hold sacred. In antiquity, men worshipped nature because they stood in awe of the sun, moon, stars, oceans, desserts, volcanoes, hail storms and drought. They constructed temples, pyramids, massive stone and marble carvings, idols to which they bowed down and worshiped because they longed to fulfill that place in their being designated for the sacred, the holy, the divine.

Today, people are not constructing pyramids and stone carvings to worship. However, they have displaced that which is truly holy and sacred for another god – the god of economics – the god of capitalism. Whereas wealth has always been a rival for men’s heart and souls, in each age, the insidious greed and all consuming desire for gaining wealth at any cost has greatly ravaged the soul of our community.

Listen to this statement made by Dell Dechant, a professor at South Florida University regarding the religious nature of the economy:

“Religion in postmodern society is that collection of culturally embedded phenomena that mediate individual and collective relationships with the sacred power of the Economy through acquisition-consumption-disposal. It is not enough to simply acquire and consume objects and images. One must do both and one must also dispose of the objects and images for the sacred to be experienced. The entire process must be completed, for only then (in the cyclical manner that is elemental to cosmological systems) can the process begin again. The quicker the process is completed and then begun again, the greater is one’s experience of the sacred, and hence the greater one’s power in the socio-religious system. For this reason, popular culture venerates the person who is able to keep up with the trends in fashion, who is able to acquire a new car every year (perhaps this explains the recent success of automobile leasing), who buys a new house, replaces appliances on a regular basis, installs a new lawn periodically, acquires the most innovative type of computer, and so on…

…The role of the Economy in postmodern culture is every bit the same as the role of nature in primal and archaic cosmological cultures. Its order and process are beyond my grasp, or anyone’s for that matter, including the CEOs of giant corporations and the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Its ways are at times capricious, ruthless, sudden and uncompromising; it cannot be controlled. Its interest in me is indifferent at best; it colors all of my activities, even if I am not immediately aware of it. It tells me who I am, what I am, and what I am able to do.” (Dell Dechant, The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture, The Pilgrim Press, 2002. Pp. 38-39)
If I look through the eyes of society, the economy tells me who I am, what I am and what I am able to do. Interpreters of the economy make sweeping generalizations, determining at once who is worthy to attend certain schools, receive certain benefits, be treated with certain drugs, receive certain kinds of medical treatment, obtain certain kinds of housing, determine my life span, expectancy – the economy, the almighty dollar – says society governs all of these things.

Yes the economy and those who worship at its altar said to those who did not fit their description of “the worthy,” “Give up. We won’t loan you money from our banks. Give up. We won’t sell you homes in our neighborhoods. Give up. We won’t allow your children to be educated alongside our children. Give up. Go back to share cropping. Give up. Be ashamed of what you are and who you are.”

But I hear the voices of those who have overcome, trusted God, sacrificed and served and paved the way for a better day… “Let us sacrifice. Let us put God first. Let us come together.” I hear them saying, “If God be for us, who can be against us!” I hear them saying, “Be still, God will fight your battle!”

In my mind’s eye, I see them standing, looking over the banister of eternity, whispering in our ears, “Walk together children, don’t you get weary… Sacrifice, serve and if need be, suffer in the name of Jesus. Sacrifice and don’t be swallowed up by consumerism. Sacrifice and put the credit card away. Sacrifice, tithe and then put some money in the bank. Sacrifice and help some boy or girl realize the dream of attending college. Sacrifice and support one another’s businesses. Sacrifice, get up and go give God praise on Sunday morning instead of rushing out to play golf! Sacrifice and put God first in your life!”

And when we learn what our forebears knew – when we learn not to allow others to use us against one another, when we learn that driving a Lexus and wearing a Rolex watch and dressing in the finest of clothes does not define who we are, when we learn to sacrifice, pool our resources, stand together and lift one another, we’ll see the Lord’s provision.

We like to shout about the ram in the bush, but Abraham didn’t see the ram in the bush until he was willing to make the sacrifice. Once we worship God, the Lord Jesus Christ as the holy and sacred and not the economy, not the almighty dollar, we will find that the sacred God - the only true and living God gives us our name, gives us our "somebodiness," gives us our purpose, gives us our reason for living, gives us our hope and our future...gives us the courage to be.

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, September 30, 2015

Shepastor: “What the Papal Visit Meant to America…Maybe”

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4: 18-19, NIV

Whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or some other religious persuasion, at least for a few days, it appears that our Nation was drawn together by the visit of Pope Francis. Intrigued by his humility amidst “rock star” popularity, his resistance to “royal treatment,” opting rather to mingle among everyday people and his graceful requests for prayer, endeared Americans not only to him, but seemingly to his message.

What was the Pope’s basic message? It was the centuries old message given by Jesus… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27 NIV). Somehow the Pope’s visit made that ancient message relevant and fresh.

Thousands of people gathered to catch a glimpse of this elderly, white robed man whose gentle spirit, sincere engagement and poignant words subdued even the fiercest of objectors. Even one of the most partisan and divided Congresses in recent history sat amicably and respectfully as the Pope delivered his challenges regarding climate change, immigration reform and the sanctity of life (as relates to the death penalty).

Hearts seemingly convicted, tears flowing, blessings given, dreams rising, untouchables touched, the rejected embraced, the impoverished lifted, hardened hearts softened, humility revisited, prosperity re-evaluated, families celebrated, a whirlwind of hope leaving a fragrant trail of visions for a brighter tomorrow.

Will it last? Maybe…maybe in the hearts and minds of those drawn closer to God and challenged to re-evaluate the ruminations of their inner beings.

Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform!

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, September 23, 2015

Shepastor: "Restoring Hope to Our City: A Clarion Call for Women to Pray..."

17Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
18let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.
19For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings.’”
20Hear, O women, the word of the Lord,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a lament,
and each to her neighbor a dirge.
21For death has come up into our windows;
it has entered our palaces,
cutting off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares.
Jeremiah 9: 17-21 English Standard Version

We in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area are in mourning. In addition to the numerous deaths due to gun violence, our hearts have been crushed by the senseless and brutal deaths of a three year old and a five year old…innocent victims of drive by shootings in their own neighborhoods where they were playing amongst friends, sitting with family members…

Today, we ask you to join us in praying SPECIFIC prayers for our city, our nation, our legislators, churches and leaders, our youth, our families. We do not have the answers, however, we believe that prayer is the first step in finding out!

If you are available, today at 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time, please call:
1-712-432-3100, Access code: 527191#
If you are unable to call, still please pray…

A Clarion Call for Women to Pray

Prayers for…

Thanking God for this gathering of the people on the prayer line and listening

The lost to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ

Repentance for apathy

Mothers

Laying down of guns and violence

Change of hearts to reduce violence

Coming against senseless shooting

Building a hedge around our children

All of the families who have lost children and loved ones to violence

Grandmothers and extended family members caring for children

All of our communities that have suffered violence

The healing of our communities

The people to seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways

Meaningful strategies for intervention

Deliverance drugs, violence and gangs

Human and monetary resources to address all of the above


The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much…

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, September 16, 2015

Shepastor: “God Still Has Work For You…”

Psalms 92:14

"They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green”

Recently, I had the privilege of spending several days with a group of about 1,000 energetic, curious, spirit filled “older adults.” I was invited to preach, conduct a workshop and have a book signing. What a blessing to watch older adults come together for their own conference...still engaging in social justice issues, praising God, laughing, singing and discerning what is next on God's agenda for them! I applaud the Church of the Brethren for this concept, the "National Older Adult Conference."

So often as people age, society pushes them to the outskirts. Many find themselves isolated, forgotten or invisible. Sometimes, people will place themselves in those categories, believing that they’ve done all that they can do and now its time to just wait until the Lord calls them “from labor to reward.”

But that concept is not scriptural. From Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Miriam and Caleb, to Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Nicodemas and others, the Lord clearly has a role for older people in the plan of the Kingdom here on earth. Rather than just waiting to die, God would have us use all of our days to bring glory and honor to His name. Clearly, we have seasons in our lives, changes in our physiological capabilities, changes in our pattern of thinking and processing, changes in our financial realities…but God still wants to use what we have and who we are.

The Church must resist the model of “putting people out to pasture,” and instead embrace the wisdom, stories, giftedness, vision and benefits God gives us through the aged. Psalm 92:14 declares,

“They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.”

May our aged recognize that God still has “fruit” for them to yield. May we gladly and with anticipation receive the fruit that God chooses to give us through them!

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