Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shepastor: "What's Your New Life Resolution in 2017?"

Back in 2012, I shared this blog entitled, “What Is Your New Life Resolution…”

As we approach 2017, I thought the question was still worth asking…

Shepastor: “What’s Your New Life Resolution in 2017?”

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!

What is required is Holy Ghost transformation – the kind of transformation that changes your life 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 2017, 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 that has been controlling you – let it go. That anger that 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 2017 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
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shepastor: "Are You On The Same Page With God?..."

3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3, KJV

You are where you are. There are things you may or may not be able to change, but at this particular point in time THIS is your reality. Something that you can do is to get on the same page with God.

Our lives are like a book. Sometimes we try to turn back the pages of time because we liked a previous chapter…sometimes we want to linger in a chapter that contains the script of our pain and disappointment…sometimes we just want to return to a chapter that is comfortable and familiar. But in your life, God is not currently in that chapter or on that page. God is on the page of TODAY.

Sometimes we try to jump to a future chapter to “read” the outcome of our current situation. But God is not currently in that chapter or on that page. God is on the page of TODAY. God is not limited by time and space. God has been with us in our past and will be with us in our future. However, God calls us to “get on the same page” with Him TODAY. On today’s page are opportunities for us to receive and learn lessons pertinent to this season of our lives. Human nature tempts us to take “head trips” backwards and forwards, particularly when the NOW is less than appetizing. But God is calling us to focus on the page we are currently on. No matter how difficult, boring, challenging, hurtful or suspense-filled today’s page is, God is with you in the moment. Yes, even on this page, God’s wisdom, blessings and guidance are present.

As the song writer wisely wrote…

One day at a time sweet Jesus that’s all I’m asking from you
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do
Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.

By God’s grace and strength, daily seek to be on God’s page and not some other page in your life’s book.

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

May you and yours have a peaceful, joy-filled and blessed Christmas.

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shepastor: "Going Beyond the Call of the Required..."

46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5: 46-48

Recently I participated in the installation service of a colleague at a local church. The guest speaker gave an intriguing message entitled, “The Glory of the Unrequired.” The thrust of his message was to encourage the newly installed pastor to avoid the “do only the required” mentality. He suggested that in every way, God went beyond what was required in creation of the world, in creation of humanity and certainly in His lavish love, mercy and grace for us exemplified by the sacrifice of His only Son.

In this passage of scripture, Jesus admonishes his followers to go beyond the “required.” We are not required to love those who don’t love us. But our faith calls us to show love, mercy and grace to the un-loveable. We are not required to show hospitality and kindness to those we don’t know, but our faith calls us to reach out and show compassion and kindness to those we don’t know.

Particularly in this difficult and divided climate in our Nation, God is calling the Church to go beyond the required. We have a marvelous opportunity to show what God’s love truly looks like. We have the opportunity to show mercy to the foreigner (literally), to stand up for the rights of those we may not even know, and to go the extra mile of the way to show a willingness to “hear” those who may have misused us.

Going beyond what is required is not easy. But living out true greatness never is. God’s people are peculiar, royal and priestly. May we, by faith, walk boldly in that peculiarity today.

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 7, 2016

Shepastor: "During This Season, Remember Those Who Weep..."

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12: 15 ESV

“Sleigh bells ringing…” Christmas lights flashing, choirs singing, shoppers shopping…gift wrapping, mistletoe, holiday parties and special gatherings all signal that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year…” but for many, it is not.

For some reason, it seems that the “death angel” gets especially busy around this time of year. Inevitably, some heart is broken due to the loss of a loved one between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. As a result, this period of time forever marks not joy and laughter, but for some, unbearable grief, sorrow and pain.

Others are fighting depression due to the drastic changes in the weather and SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) from sunny, warm and bright to gloomy, cold and dark. Others are struggling to explain to bright eyed children filled with hope and anticipation that gifts will not be under the tree this year because of major financial difficulties.

Yes, as the people of God, we understand, acknowledge and rejoice that the true meaning of Christmas is wrapped up in celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... the ultimate reason for our hope, joy, peace and love in this season.

But as human beings who “hold this treasure in earthen vessels,” our shouts of praise can be muted by our grief entangled spirits. Having said that, here are a few things to remember and do to help those who are struggling…

- Be intentional about comforting those who mourn…Give them a phone call, give them the gift of your presence, take them a gift that will hold special significance for them

- Allow them to express their emotions openly and confidentially with you, without judgement…Avoid cutting them off with trite “Christian phrases,” such as, “Honey, just give it to the Lord, He understands. Stop dwelling on it so much…” Shutting them down only causes more pain

- Gently encourage them to go out and then go and get them…It may be difficult for them to get out of the house on their own. However, if a loving friend goes over to pick them up and take them out for coffee, it may make the journey a bit less intimidating.

- Ask them to tell you how to pray for them and then pray for them! Don’t assume you know what they need. Offer them the opportunity to express their prayer requests and then pray right then and there with them. Show them that you have confidence in the “effectual fervent prayer of the righteous.” On the spot prayer can speak to and strengthen their heart at a time when they may need it most. This also prevents us from going our way and forgetting to do what we’ve promised.

- Finally, remember that your love and support can help holiday mourners to see the light at the end of the tunnel…Just knowing that someone genuinely cares can help to lift broken hearts and give them the companionship needed to take another step towards healing.

May we truly give the gift of Christ’s love during this season with compassion, friendship and our presence to those who need it most.

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 30, 2016

Shepastor: “Stop Demanding an Answer, Ask for Guidance…”

4 Show me the right path, O LORD;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
6 Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Psalm 25: 4-6, NLT

Some are of the opinion that it is never right to question God. That theology, however, does not necessarily square with scripture. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures, we find the people of God wrestling with questions, grappling with life’s conundrums, struggling to understand suffering and taking their queries and frustrations directly to God Himself.

Moses asked,
“Who should I say sent me?” (Exodus 3: 13)

Habakkuk asked, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?” (“Habakkuk 1:2)

The Psalmist asked, “O LORD, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)

Jesus asked, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)

Paul asked for the thorn to be removed from his side… (II Corinthians 12:8)
Certainly, we have many and varied examples of God’s people asking him questions. Personally, I believe God welcomes our questions, our honesty, our open and frank emotions presented to him at the altar of our hearts. However, when heartfelt questions evolve into rants and demands, it may be a sign that we need to take a step back and quiet ourselves before the Lord.

Recently, as I wrestled with something for which there has not been an answer (for some time now), I found myself entering the “demand mode…” “God, what is the answer? When will things change?” I went to sleep with a heart filled with frustration.

The next morning during prayer and devotion, I was drawn to Psalm 25. Verses 4 and 5 declare,

4 Show me the right path, O LORD;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.

As I read the commentary on those verses, the commentator’s words spoke deeply to my spirit, “Stop demanding an answer and ask for guidance.” In that moment, I heard the Lord speak tenderly to my heart… “I see you, I know that you are frustrated…ask me for guidance and direction instead of demanding answers.” God’s peace came over me and I said, “Yes Lord, I receive your instruction.”

The place where we find ourselves at any given time is not a surprise to God. Through prayer and faith we must remember that God has allowed us to be in this space at this time for however long for a reason. Rather than banging our heads against the proverbial wall and becoming angry and frustrated with God, may we hear God’s invitation to ask for guidance.

Rather than getting stuck in “Why…How long…What good is this doing?” May we turn our hearts towards asking, “Lord, guide me through this…show me your will in this season…order my steps in your Word…help me to make wise and right choices…lead me in the way that I should go…show me how to give you glory in the midst of it all.”

If we will trust God and change our demands to humble requests for guidance, God’s peace will overtake us, God’s wisdom will guide us, God’s love will lift us and God’s Spirit will empower us.

Stop demanding an answer and start asking for guidance. God has surprises in the making!

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 23, 2016

Shepastor: "Miles to Go Before We Sleep: Women, Keep Climbing..."

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
I Corinthians 15: 58, KJV

Women and girls across the Nation and around the world huddled around televisions, grown women held “watch slumber parties,” women adorned in pant suits waited with baited breath to witness America’s first woman to receive the nomination of a major party crash through that “highest, hardest stain glass ceiling.”

But as the night passed on and results came in, the hopes of any such victory were soon dashed. One of the most qualified individuals, male or female to ever pursue the highest office in the land was passed over, for an individual with no government experience, little or no charitable service, ill-tempered, vulgar language, predatory behaviors against women and questionable business dealings.

Although people made their voting decisions based upon a variety of reasons, not to be underestimated was the fact that America STILL is not ready to place a woman at its helm. Sexism remains a very formidable factor in doors remaining closed at the highest levels.

It feels impossible. It seems useless. But women must continue to prepare themselves, to give their highest and best, to stand firm on the truth that doing what is good, just, right and in a spirit of excellence will pay off.

Yes, it is hard to believe that in 2016 we are still “blazing trails,” and planting shade trees under which we may never sit, but may we continue to do so. May we keep climbing for all of those women who fought for our right to vote…for all of those women who fought for us to have equal rights…for all of our forbearers who knew that they would never taste the sweet dew of vistaed heights but served anyway, gave anyway, sacrificed anyway, so that they might pass the torch to some anticipated victor.

“Strong women, keep a comin,” our day will come.


May you and yours have a blessed, peaceful, joy-filled Thanksgiving!

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 16, 2016

Shepastor: "Where Do We Go From Here?"

The Potter and the Clay
18 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
5 Then the LORD gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.
Jeremiah 18: 1-6, NLT

Last Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 was a day filled with joy for some and deep mourning, sorrow and extreme disappointment for others. While that may be the case in every election in America, this time felt different. Our Nation is deeply divided. People are rioting across the country. Hate crimes are on the rise. Despair is in the air.

A member of my congregation shared that her students were raising questions about how someone who “cusses,” talks real bad about others and is a bully could become our President. Children are becoming confused about leadership and good character. Another member shared that her daughter, while pumping gas for her car at the gas station was approached by a man wearing a “Make America Great Again,” cap. She shared that he stared her daughter in the eye and declared, “Donald Trump is now the President of the United States of America. You, your family and all your kind will soon be eliminated!”

Whatever our political persuasion, we must face the reality that something very ugly, divisive and violent has been unleashed in America.

Today, one of our local clergy groups hosted a forum/panel discussion for clergy and community leaders entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” Leaders from across the community shared insights from scripture, history and life experiences. Questions were raised about whether or not marching and demonstrations were appropriate plans of action.

One of our “elder statesmen” and civil rights leaders shared these powerful insights…

There are several steps that civil rights leaders in the 60’s used before demonstrations:

1.Research –Information (history of the situation, previous actions and responses, precedence, outcomes…)
2.Education (voter education about issues and the critical nature of voting)
3.Mobilization (“getting out the vote,” strategically placing people to peacefully confront, show civil disobedience, in various areas)
4.Preparation (Prayer, Fasting, Discipline)
5.Action (gaining and influencing seats at “the table,” moving on agreed upon strategies)
6.Negotiation (presenting requests and or demands and processing what’s possible with "the powers that be")
7.Demonstration (If none of the above work, then march…)
8.Reconciliation (strive to bring the community together through acts of love, justice, mercy and humility)
Legitimate concerns do exist. We must, however, go about addressing those concerns in strategic, goal oriented ways.

On another note, like clay in the Potter’s hand, sometimes, things have to be “smashed” so that a new and more beautiful vessel may come forth. Being on the Potter’s wheel is never easy or comfortable. After being spun, pinched, wet, gooey and reshaped, then the vessel is ultimately dried and baked. We love the beauty of the crafted vessels, but we don’t necessarily like the “beautification process.”

God always has what’s best for us in His heart. God will, at times, allow us to reap the consequences of our foolish ways. God will, at times, give us what we demand in order that we may learn the more excellent way. There is no time like the present to preach prophetically, to remind God’s people that being on the Potter’s wheel may not be easy, but if we allow it, God will get the glory out of our lives.

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 9, 2016

Shepastor: "Prayers For a Divided Nation..."

"If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Mark 3:25 NASB

This past election cycle has been dubbed one of the most divisive, brutal, toxic and irreverent in recent history. Some have wondered if our Nation can ever heal from the vitriol. By faith, I make the bold declaration, “Yes We Can!!!”

If we can survive slavery, the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, J. F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement and the breakdown of the Auto and Steel Industries, WE WILL SURVIVE THE AFTERMATH OF THIS ELECTION!!!

It will not, however, be easy. It will take intentionality and hard work.

Here are some things for us to remember and pray for moving forward…

- One of the things that sets America apart as a great nation is the peaceful transfer of power. Let us pray as leadership transitions, the process will be peaceful, respectful and hopeful

- America is more of a “stew” than a “melting pot.” While we are all “Americans,” we are distinct, valuable and an important piece of our fabric. Let us pray that we will increase in our levels of understanding, respectfulness, appreciation for and kindness towards one another

- We can accomplish so much more when we strive to work together. Let us pray that all sides will work towards the common good of all, instead of the partisan politics that have produced historic gridlock

- A divided Nation will fall. Let us pray for the minds, hearts, courage and integrity to move forward as “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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 2, 2016

Shepastor: "Determine to Take a 'Thanks Break'..."

O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.
4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalm 107: 1-9 KJV

There is a popular phrase among some church goers, “Take a ‘Praise break!’” This phrase means that from time to time, one should stop whatever they are doing and begin to give God praise, glory and honor! The other day, I was inspired to commit to doing something similar…to take a “Thanks break.”

As I reached for my bible the other morning, it fell open to the verse, “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.” Although I’ve read that verse many times, on this day, it impacted me differently. As I went throughout the day, contemplating, processing and musing…as I was tempted to complain, feel frustrated or discouraged, the Holy Spirit spoke… “Replace those thoughts instead with thanksgiving.”

All day long, when other issues tried to press in on me, I remembered the Holy Spirit’s prodding and sweet guidance to instead, take a “thanks break.”
Choosing thankfulness over frustration, anxiety, sadness and anger can be very empowering. Being thankful does not automatically erase the realities of struggle in whatever form, but it lifts your heart, mind and spirit above the fray. Thankfulness causes you to focus upon what God has already done, is doing and has assured us that he will do.

This truth was illustrated powerfully in the children’s Christmas story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch was confident that if he stole all of the presents, decorations and special meals prepared in anticipation of Christmas morning, that the residents of “Whoville,” would be devastated, distraught and defeated. But to his GREAT surprise, as the morning dawned, the “Whos” gathered together in a large circle, hands linked together, heads held high, voices loud with joy-filled singing, “Fahoo Fores, Dahoo Dores, welcome, Christmas, Christmas day!” That day the Grinch was taught a powerful lesson. When love and gratefulness fills one’s heart, even the meanest spirit cannot steal its joy. Thankfulness strengthens and fortifies our hearts against even the meanest, ugliest circumstances life can throw at us.

Several years ago, after an unfortunate and extended illness my god-sister died. My godmother was elderly and very ill herself. The family asked if I would be the one to break the news to her. With much prayer and sensitivity, I went to speak with her. I shall never forget her response. When I told her, her immediate response, after tears and calling my god-sister’s name was, “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus…thank you for my daughter. She was a good daughter. Thank you Jesus for my daughter.”

My godmother’s response spoke volumes to me. In that moment of tremendous grief, she chose to thank God for giving her the gift of her daughter for a season. Thankfulness is empowering. Thankfulness gives strength. Thankfulness sharpens focus. Thankfulness fills the heart. Thankfulness is a choice.

At least one day a week, determine to replace other responses with “Thank you Lord for…” You will be surprised at how your mood, perspective and overall life experiences and outlook changes for the better!

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 26, 2016

Shepastor: “Understanding Who We are and Where We Are…The Search for Authenticity in the Midst of Ministry”

O LORD, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, LORD.
5 You go before me and follow me.
Psalm 139: 1-5, NLT

Who are you? Where are you? Do you know? How are you…not what you present to other people but what is happening down on the inside. Frequently, when we minister to others, we will come face to face with ourselves. If unprepared, the impact could be devastating for you and the one you seek to serve. If you have not explored and honestly confronted your “stuff,” it may be difficult to lead others in that process.

Being true to ourselves…knowing our own weaknesses, strengths, vulnerabilities, giftedness, hurts and scars can position us to be used by God in beautiful and powerful ways.

In The Wounded Healer, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, the power of authenticity in ministry is unpacked…

Ministers are those who can make their search for authenticity possible, not by standing on the side as neutral screens or impartial observers, but as articulate witnesses of Christ, who put their own search at the disposal of others. This hospitality requires that ministers not only know where they stand and whom they stand for, it also requires that they allow others to enter into their lives, to come close to them, and to ask how their lives are connected with one another.

Nobody can predict where this will lead us, because every time hosts allow themselves to be influenced by their guests they take the risk of not knowing how their lives will be affected. But it is exactly in common searches and shared risks that new ideas are born, that new visions reveal themselves, and that new roads become visible.
The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society copyright 2010, Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust, pp., 105-106.

If you have not first explored, unpacked and confronted your own issues, it will be very challenging to enter and to allow others to enter that space where hearts meet, life struggles are shared and new understandings spring forth.

Of course, boundaries must be respected. Authenticity in ministry does not mean “letting it all hang out.” It does mean allowing enough of oneself to be present, open and “real” in order that the one in need of assistance experiences the warmth of humaneness.

May we spend time learning, really learning ourselves…strengths, our gifts, our wounds, our triggers, how our presence impacts a space, so that we are clear about our offerings to those we seek to serve.

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 19, 2016

Shepastor: "Words Matter..."

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Matthew 12:34, NIV

Not many days hence, the election season of 2016 will be in the history books. Words spoken, however, throughout the course of one of the most contentious presidential races in modern times will linger. Front and center have been the remarks made about women. For centuries, women have borne the brunt of abusive, oppressive, degrading, shaming, and dehumanizing words and actions. Jesus warned that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…” While some may view lewd and vulgar comments as simply “boy or locker room talk,” the reality remains - words have power.

Abusive words unchecked can lead to abusive actions. When toxic words are mis-characterized as “harmless” or minimized as fun and frolic, the object or the target of those words are left defiled, broken, humiliated and without recourse. Additionally, behaving as if harmful words are “ok,” create paths for further mistreatment and abuse. When individuals feel that it is ok to say anything they want, they tend also to believe that they can do anything that they want. This “anything goes” against a woman mentality dehumanizes women and makes them vulnerable to many and varied forms of abuse.

In 1993, the United Nations prepared a “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.” In spite of this noble attempt, the following statistics still loom large…
•Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). Of those women, more than 1 in 3—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to early pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV [6].

•Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends [7].

•At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries, according to new estimates published on the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in 2016. In most of these countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5. [8].

•Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for about 70 per cent, with girls representing two out of every three child trafficking victims [9].

•One in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15 (including having received unwanted, offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive, inappropriate advances on social networking sites). The risk is highest among young women between 18 and 29 years of age [10]
. (Statistics obtained from UN Women, http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures )

Yes, there is a connection between the heart, words and actions. We must not allow our Nation to continue to embrace rhetoric that minimizes cruel, vulgar, abusive, objectifying words and actions against people in general and women in particular. We must continue to speak up…we must continue to educate…we must continue to call out…we must continue to stand up…we must adamantly, boldly and unapologetically declare that WE WILL NOT TOLERATE ABUSE in any form!

May we choose words that empower, encourage, enlighten, and uplift others over against abusive and dehumanizing words each day.

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 12, 2016

Shepastor: "Shaping Our Perspective Through Thanks and Praise..."

Psalm 136:1 King James Version (KJV)
136 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Life happens. With its many ups and downs it’s easy to get caught up in current moments…be they good or bad. The people in ancient Israel understood this principle as they faced many tumultuous times. Scholars suggest that Psalm 136 was a responsive reading read at Temple services to remind God’s people of God’s consistent love and mercy in every season, situation and circumstance.

The first portion of this psalm reminds readers that God is all powerful… “God of gods, Lord of lords.” This is the God who alone does GREAT wonders and is the creator of the world and all therein. After a litany of the many awesome wonders of God’s creation, the Psalmist moves into enumerating the names of kings and lands that were defeated before them. They are reminded of the miracles that were performed on their behalf when it appeared that all hope was lost. Finally, the Psalmist reminds the readers that God remembered them in their “low estate,” and that God has always and will continue to supply their needs.

As we reflect upon these movements from category to category, we too can create our own litany of thanksgiving and praise. As “life happens” to us we can choose, like the Psalmist and the children of Israel to shape our outlook of situations and circumstances by remembering God’s faithfulness to love and be merciful to us.
When difficulties seem to overwhelm us, we can remind ourselves that our God is God and that He alone can do great wonders…that God is King of kings and Lord of Lords and that this all powerful God is on our side.

We can remind ourselves of all the “enemies” (human, spiritual and even within) that the Lord has defeated in our past and we can trust the Lord to make us more than conquerors day by day. We can remind ourselves of the miracles, the mountains, the seemingly impossible struggles that the Lord made us victorious over before. We can rest assure that God will continue to do the same today, tomorrow and always. We can remind ourselves that God “sees” us in our “low estate,” in our feelings of helplessness, in our situations of powerlessness, in our struggles with self-esteem, in our circumstances of weakness. God sees us and runs to our aid.

Finally, we can trust that just as God provided for our needs in the past, God will continue to provide what we need moving forward.

Yes, thanking and praising God can help change our perspective. Instead of succumbing to defeat we can remind ourselves of God’s unfailing love, steadfast faithfulness, grace and mercy. Certainly, we are not as those who have no hope!

Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good and 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
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Shepastor: "Watch What You Pray..."

8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.II Corinthians 12: 8-10, NIV

Have you ever heard someone say, “I prayed, but God did not answer my prayer”? Frequently individuals express this sentiment when something hoped for does not happen. Such a response, however, negates the legitimacy of the answer “No.”

One of the most valuable lessons I learned during Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) was the importance of thoughtful, “thy will be done” prayers. Often, in an effort to comfort, reassure and bolster faith in hurting people, well-meaning supporters will give answers for God during prayer. “God, I know that you will do this because you are all powerful.” Some will claim, in prayer that they heard God say this or that. “I heard the Lord say that you do not have this disease.” Some will chide, rebuke, challenge the ailing individual to have more faith and God will do this or that. They may even suggest that the reason why an individual has not been healed, delivered, restored, etc., is because they don’t have enough faith. All of these assertions are dangerous, damaging and potentially deadly. Are there times when God uses individuals to speak a prophetic word of hope, vision and "against all odds" deliverance? Absolutely! But it is critical that caution be used when making such claims.

A well-known Christian author who experienced a devastating accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down frequently testifies about the pain caused by the aforementioned attitudes. After years of attending special prayer services, experiencing the “laying on of hands,” and “prayer partners” telling her that if she had enough faith, she would get out of the wheelchair, she finally challenged them back with the question, “Do you have enough faith to sit in this wheelchair?”

Sometimes, God says “No.” No matter how much faith we have, no matter how well we know the scriptures, no matter how long we have been walking with the Lord, we will never know God’s thoughts or the details of God’s ways. It is spiritual malpractice and arrogance to suggest through prayer that we can predict/ “prophesy” outcomes. Many a vulnerable soul has been deeply discouraged, distraught and severely broken because of wrong perspectives prompted through bad prayers.

Instead, here are some basic guidelines we should follow when supporting others through prayer…

-Listen with an open heart…allow the person to share their heart’s desires, worries and concerns

-Share words of comfort from the scriptures…identify passages that express hope, trust and guidance in the midst of fear, sorrow and disappointment

-Ask open ended questions that allow the individual to respond fully, rather than questions that prompt only “yes” or “no” answers

-Join the individual in asking the Lord for their specific requests, encouraging prayers that are submissive to God’s holy will.

-Encourage prayers that place hope and trust in God no matter the outcome

-Avoid suggesting that healing is not happening because of a lack of faith

-Avoid declaring that this or that will not happen (“you or your loved one will not die…”)

-Affirm that it is always appropriate to ask God. Remind them that God, however, is sovereign and has the last say.
May we “1st, do no harm” in our endeavors to support others through prayer.

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 28, 2016

Shepastor: “Learn to Respect the Power of Love”

25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17: 25-26, NRSV

On the worst day of your life, faced with betrayal, abandonment, a “rigged” trial and certain death, can you imagine praying for God to fill you and your lukewarm “friends” with love? That’s exactly what Jesus did as he prepared Himself through prayer for trial and ultimate crucifixion.

What kind of love is this? Certainly it was not the “willy-nilly” on today off today stuff we observe on television, read about in novels and dream about as young people. This love stretches beyond the erotic or even brotherly love. What Jesus was praying for and exhibiting was “tough love.” Jesus was praying for his disciples and those who would accept Him through their testimony. His prayer… “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Jesus wanted “God’s love” to be in us…a love that is
-Transforming
-Healing
-Defining
-Overcoming
-Resilient
-Forgiving
-Reconciling
-All powerful…
Jesus told the disciples earlier that the world would know that they are His followers because of their love (John 13:35). What kind of love is this? This “God love” is a love that looks at life, people, situations and circumstances through eternal eyes…a love that looks beyond the hurt, pain and disappointments of the present moment to a place and time when “the more excellent way,” prevails.

This love, through the power of Christ in us, through the precious Holy Spirit changes our perspective, changes our outlook, changes our reactions from brute retaliation to prayerful, measured, strategic responses. It’s not easy to turn the other cheek. It’s not easy to show unconditional love to those who have hurt and rejected you. It’s tough because this kind of love requires you to look beyond a person’s faults and see their needs. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to go into deep introspection and earnest prayer. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to have to sacrifice your right to tell the person off, to get in the next best lick, to fight with all your human power and strength. It’s tough because it says release the person to God and truly ask the Lord to have mercy upon them.

God love is tough. God love is difficult. I believe that this love is so difficult because we inherently desire justice for the misdeeds of others but mercy for ourselves. We desire justice because we are made in the image of God and God is a just God, but we desire mercy for ourselves because justice requires a heavy price. As we embrace this kind of love, we are reminded of how far we fall short, yet a loving God took us in, forgave us and made us joint heirs with his son Jesus.

When we begin to understand Jesus’ prayer, that God’s love would be in us, we will develop a respect for the power of this love. We will begin to see that love is stronger than hate. We will begin to see how the decision to love will always, ultimately cause us to triumph over the devices of division. Yes, “God love” is tough, but it is powerful and potent. May Jesus’ prayer, that “God love” would be in us, be answered with a resounding “Yes!!!” in our hearts today.

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 21, 2016

Shepastor: "Confessions of a Small Church Pastor: Re-Imagining Ministry..."

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Ezekiel 37: 1-3, KJV

“Bright eyed and bushy tailed…,” ready, willing and able, called, credentialed, appointed, anointed, equipped! This is how I entered “the gates” of my first pastoral ministry assignment… full of vision, hopes, energy and dreams. But then, reality set in. Initial excitement, enthusiasm and growth quickly turned into frustration, disappointment, deterioration and yes, depression. Dare I be honest? Pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart!

Many a day, I found myself feeling like Ezekiel, walking back and forth in the midst of a “valley of very dry bones.” Like Ezekiel, I could almost hear the Lord asking me, “Chris, can these bones live?” And like Ezekiel, I have frequently responded, “Lord, thou knowest,” (because I sure don’t!!!!) I can honestly say, however, that through all of the trials and pain, serving in the midst of dryness, God always assured my heart that I was in fact called to this place, that God would remain with me, and that God would eventually breathe life into my situation.

I would love to say that suddenly, 5,000 members joined the church, someone left us a major donation, ministries are thriving and we are now building a stunning new facility…NOT!!! That has not happened. In fact, after 10 years of ministry, it’s as if we are literally starting all over again with a few shy of the numbers we had when I first started…all new people except one elder. God has pulled me into a place where I have had to “re-imagine” ministry.



All of my life I grew and served in churches that were multigenerational. I watched as people faithfully volunteered, attended, worship, prayer meeting, Bible study, Sunday School, youth groups, usher board meetings, had “Men’s Day and Women’s Day,” missionary circles, single’s ministries etc. And, to God be the glory, some churches are still large enough to successfully carry on these services and more. Smaller churches, however, frequently lack the human and or financial resources and the will to do many or most of these things. Also, many in today’s society view “ministry” differently. Many would rather “live-stream” services at home and then go volunteer at the local homeless shelter once a month, seeing that as their “humanitarian deed” for the world.

Coming to terms with these differences have been life altering for me and my family. I found myself trying for years to “grow” and mold our small church into the aforementioned paradigm. It has not worked. As I sunk deeper and deeper into discouragement, I kept receiving the message, “Be still and know that I am God.” My prayer became, “Lord, show me what ‘being still’ looks like in this season/phase of ministry.” Something happened…out of the many individuals who have been invited, visited once or twice and that was it, the Lord sent one new individual who has continued to come. Someone filled with enthusiasm, giftedness and commitment to the work of the ministry.

This gentleman has not “joined” the church, but continues to come faithfully, support financially and has committed to help lead a major initiative to mentor and teach young men in our community. I have been praying for this “new life,” for this ministry, literally for years. I can see green buds beginning to push their way through the dry rocky soil that has been our existence now for some time. My perspective, my view, my “imagining” ministry through this congregation now reflects a more collaborative effort with outside individuals, agencies and networks to carry on the work of the Kingdom.
While I am still holding out hope that our “Sunday go to meeting/Sunday only” members will somehow catch on fire and become more engaged in Kingdom building, I am encouraged to see the Lord moving forward with this one…sometimes, one “match” is all you need to kindle a fire.




Several new initiatives are being birthed during this “still season.” Opportunities are increasing for us to connect with various community entities to support, serve and address critical needs in our area. New life does not currently look like I thought it would. But God knows best how to resurrect dry bones.

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 14, 2016

Shepastor: "Whatever Happened to Discretion?"

New International Version
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:11
New Living Translation
Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe, Proverbs 2:11

Growing up, my Dad would always say, “Discretion is the better part of valour.” It seems that today, discretion, self-control and wise choices have become the exception and not the rule. What is happening in our society?

It seems that people have become less concerned about their words, their actions, their behaviors. With the onset of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Text Messages, Instagram, etc.,) people appear “freer” to say things that they would not say in person, type and send messages at the spur of the moment without careful consideration.

It appears that a “bar” has been lowered.
Public figures…individuals that we once taught our children to respect, admire and esteem are now engaging in “school yard bullying” so to speak against one another. Beautiful love songs that once inspired candle light dinners, walks in the park and wedding bells have now become illicit, foul and pornographic.

It is challenging to find beautiful evening wear…dresses that are not “mini,” necklines that are not plunged to the belly, material that is not shear, items that are not meant to fit “skin tight.” Pants are “sagging,” hair is all over the place, hats are no longer removed (men) and those who challenge such trends are considered out of touch with the times.

But in my estimation, there is still something beautiful about discretion. Discretion will keep you…discretion will help you to be wise…discretion will prevent you from putting your foot in your mouth! Discretion will prompt your heart to be concerned about how you impact “the space.” Discretion will show forth your character. Discretion will set you apart from the insensitive, improper, inappropriate, foolish trends of this day.

Discretion will help you to exemplify what is meaningful, beautiful and filled with light.

May we strive to walk in Godly discretion.

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 7, 2016

Shepastor: "What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do..."

13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’”
2 Chronicles 20:13-17 New International Version (NIV)

Have you ever been stumped by life? Have there ever been situations and circumstances that so puzzled you, baffled you, befuddled you, confused you, caused you great angst and fear, CONSUMED YOU that you did not know what in the world to do? Have you ever felt that the force that was coming against you in whatever form was so formidable that escape or victory seemed impossible?

This was the case for Judah and their king, Jehoshaphat in our text. Enemies with heavy artillery, man power and great zeal were coming to destroy them…King Jehoshaphat received word that not one, not two, but THREE armies were on their way to annihilate he and his people. To make things worse, these were nations that Judah had spared at the Lord’s direction, during a time when they could have utterly destroyed and conquered their lands. Dismayed, petrified and stumped all at once! Jehoshaphat, however, moved with wisdom in facing this dilemma…

In verses 10-12, the King spoke these words in prayer to the Lord…
10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them.11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (II Chronicles 20: 10-12, NIV)
There are several lessons we can glean from the king’s response:

(1) Tell the Lord specifically about the problem, confess your dependence on the Lord and remain focused upon the Lord for the answer…Jehoshaphat was completely out done that nations to whom he had been merciful were now seeking to destroy him. They “ganged up” on him, so to speak! Possibly you can relate to this king…you’ve shown grace, mercy and peace, but in return you’ve received hostility and concerted efforts to bring you down. Like Jehoshaphat, boldly tell the Lord…be specific. Although God already knows, expressing your hurt, disappointment and fear to the Lord can help to relieve your levels of anxiety. Speaking your dependence upon the Lord reminds you that you are relying upon God and not human devices to bring you out. Remaining focused upon the Lord and not your enemies, not your fears, not your circumstances will give you the strength to continue to move forward and not lose heart

(2) Get serious about seeking God’s answer… Read chapter 20 in its entirety. Throughout, you will discover Jehoshaphat’s responses to this major threat. In addition to personally going to the Lord, he gathered the people together and called for specific, strategic prayer and fasting. When you truly become desperate for God’s answer, you will turn down your plate in exchange for God’s face! Go before the Lord will ALL of your heart. Call others together to pray with you, fast with you, cry out to God with you. Place your ear to the mouth of God through determined, focused, specific prayer. God will answer and lead you in the right direction.

(3) By Faith, begin to worship, praise and thank the Lord for victory… God spoke to Jehoshaphat through the prophets and told him that the battle belonged to the Lord. Jehoshaphat received that message, believed that God would indeed fight his battles, shared that message with the people and instructed them to have faith, and to begin to worship, praise and thank God. They praised God for His holy splendor, they thanked God for his steadfast love that endures forever. As they worshiped, as they praised, as they lifted their voices in song, as they blessed the name of the Lord and thanked God for His love that endures forever, God caused their enemies to begin to turn on one another, ultimately destroying one another (II Chronicles 20: 22-23). In the midst of our battles, God wants us to turn to Him with our whole heart, look to Him for our victory, and praise Him in advance for our deliverance, remembering that He loves us with an everlasting love.

When we are afraid, it is difficult to believe, but believe anyway. Stand on God’s Word. Stand on God’s promises. Stand on God’s love. Determine to keep your faith. Trust, listen to and obey God’s voice and God will cause you to triumph over every enemy that seeks to bring you down. God is faithful and He will 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, August 31, 2016

Shepastor: “Fiercely Honest: Reflections on Loneliness, Life and Learnings…Words from Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace”

The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. Proverbs 27:7, KJV

Loneliness, a desire to “be a part,” and cruel taunts lead many young people down paths of pain, rejection, abuse and self-destruction. A dear colleague in Ministry, The Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace knows all too well the torment of the aforementioned realities. In her most recent blog post, “Fiercely,” Dr. Pace shares her personal testimony of victory over brokenness through honesty. Below are excerpts from her blog…

Fiercely
I owe Amy Schumer a debt of gratitude. In fact, I almost titled this post, "Thank You, Amy Schumer." Her book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, is raw and hilarious, but also wise and right on the mark. She tells her story, just puts it out there, and it's brilliant. I relate to her so much. I'm a professor/preacher, not a comic, but we're about the same age, and we've faced a lot of the same pressures and hardships along the way: an athletic build rather than being stick thin, becoming adults way too fast, career ambition at an early age, and being introverted in a public profession…

…I was always a little different from my peers. I starred in musicals at competitions (Google it). I earned dozens of skating medals. But I was also hella insecure. I was desperate to fit in, to belong. The kids at church had stay-at-home moms who drove them to play dates. The kids at skating lived near each other, across town from me. The kids at school lived near each other, across town the other way. I remember spending a lot of my childhood alone. I was a latchkey kid. I’ve been responsible for my own rides, schedule, meals, and homework since I was 12. At the time, I felt very sophisticated, like I was ahead of the curve. But now, I realize there was so much more childhood to be had, that I never got to have…
I urge you to go to Dr. Pace’s blog (see link below) and read the rest of her story. If not for you, I am confident that you know someone who has or is struggling with many of these same issues. “Fierce” can help them to take the first step towards self-reflection, honesty and freedom.

Rev. Courtney Pace, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary. She has a PhD in Religion from Baylor University (2014), a Masters of Divinity in Theology from George W. Truett Theological Seminary (2007), and an Honors Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Engineering, with minors in Mathematics and Psychology, from The University of Texas at Arlington (2004). She researches social justice movements in American religion, particularly race and gender. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, book reviews, and encyclopedia articles, and is currently in the process of publishing her dissertation. She is an ordained Baptist minister and the proud mother of Stanley. She is also the creator of the Stole Sisters podcast, which features women preachers of all Christian traditions.

Click here to connect to Dr. Pace’s Blog…
http://courtneypace.blogspot.com/2016/08/fiercely.html

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, August 24, 2016

Shepastor: “The Half Has Not Been Told…Be Careful With Accusations”

Jesus Faces Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.
13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly
. Matthew 27: 11-14, NKJV


There comes a time when enough has been said, enough has been shown, enough has been given, enough has been presented. There comes a time when no matter what you say or do, people are going to believe whatever they want to believe. There comes a time when we like the song writer must declare, “May the works I’ve done, speak for me.”

A few days ago, The Advocate, which is the State of Louisiana’s largest news paper called out President Obama and declared, "A disaster this big begs for the personal presence of the President at ground zero." All of the major news networks began to loop the story. Some pounced, “A real leader would cut their vacation short and get down there as soon as possible.” CNN began interviewing individuals who echoed the same sentiments. By all appearances, the President was being selfish, insensitive and out of touch…how could he remain at Martha’s Vineyard, leisurely playing golf with friends and family, sipping bear and enjoying the views while thousands of individuals suffered amid historic floods in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?

What kind of President, what kind of leader would do such a thing? With glee, his accusers ripped him from head to toe. Hoping to damage his legacy and paint him as a cerebral, out of touch stiff that really does not care about the people, pundits loudly accused President Obama. But the President, stayed the course, remained focused and did what was right and best. He understood his mission.

I must admit, the story line was so convincing, I turned to my husband and said, “Oooh, I hope the President hurries and gets down there. It does look bad for him not to go.” But then, the governor of Louisiana came on and said, “We would much rather the President wait for 11 to 14 days before coming.” He went on to explain that the man power, to clear the area, the effort it would take to clean and prepare the highway to make ready for the Secret Service and his arrival, the resources it would take to accommodate him…all of these energies would best be used to assist THE PEOPLE rather than hosting a dignitary.

WOW! I had not thought of all of that. On the surface, it looked like one thing, but THE HALF HAD NOT BEEN TOLD… The President was thinking about the people. He cared enough to ensure that the necessary people and resources would be sent, not for a photo op, but to HELP!!!

How often do we jump to conclusions, form opinions, make accusations because of how things “appear?” Jesus was a victim of false accusations and individuals who were jealous, insecure and misguided. Throughout His journey here on earth, Jesus was misunderstood.

Jesus was misunderstood by His earthly family… Although Mary was visited by the Angel Gabrielle who told her that she would conceive and give birth to a baby boy without having physical intimacy with a man, Mary still saw Jesus as her “little boy.” Not really understanding his calling, not quite grasping his mission, she sought to raise him, nurture him, love him and protect him as any mother would. There was nothing wrong with that from a human perspective, but the problem was Jesus was no ordinary baby boy, he was God wrapped up in human flesh who came to save a dying world!

Jesus had to remind his mother that he had “to be about His Father’s business.” But the half had not been told. As Jesus stood up in the Temple and began to read from the Prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… THIS DAY has this scripture been fulfilled in your hearing!” his brothers became concerned… “Momma, we’ve got to go and get Jesus for he has lost his mind! The members of the Synagogue became angry and called Jesus a blasphemer, the community members became incensed and declared, “Isn’t this the carpenter Joseph’s son? Who does he think he is?”

The text says that Jesus could there do no mighty works except to lay his hand on a few sick folk and heal them and he marveled at their unbelief. Jesus was accused of being a blasphemer, out of his head and arrogant, but the half had not been told… Despite all of these things, Jesus remained focused upon his mission…
Jesus was misunderstood by his disciples…. We must applaud them for forsaking everything and following Jesus, but they really did not understand what they were getting themselves into. They walked with him daily…they saw him cause the lame to walk, the mute to talk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the demoniacs made whole, the diseased cured and the dead raised, YET they misunderstood his mission, his vision, his plan his ministry. And while they did not openly accuse Jesus, Jesus discerned their minds, their hearts, their spirits. He asked them, “Who do men say that I am…?” then he frankly asked him, “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Jesus understood that even though he’d walked with them for three long years, ate with them, rested with them, fished with them, ministered with them, prayed with them, performed miracles before them, they still did not know him. It’s a sad thing to have people to walk with you, observe you, benefit from you, be supported, loved and lifted by you, but still don’t know you, still question your character, your motives, your love. They were not necessarily accusing him outwardly, but in their hearts they were questioning, resenting and ultimately accusing… Can’t you imagine their thoughts? “Why isn’t he doing more to help us over throw the Roman Government? Why is he eating with sinners? Why is John his favorite? Why is he always taking those three with him? Why can’t we sit on the left and the right? He probably shouldn’t have thrown those money changers out of the Temple. They could have helped us with the ministry! I don’t think he should have called the Pharisees hypocrites and white washed sepulchers, they might really get mad and make things really uncomfortable for us! Why won’t he show us this Kingdom he’s always referring to? Is he really who he says he is?” But the HALF HAD NOT BEEN TOLD!!!
Despite all of these things, Jesus remained focused upon His mission.

Jesus’ mission was higher and greater than they could imagine. Jesus did not come to hang out with the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Jesus did not come to set up an earthly Kingdom, Jesus came to prepare us for a Heavenly Kingdom. Even those closest to him falsely accused and misunderstood him.

Ultimately, Jesus was hated and accused by the religious leaders…
They hated and accused Jesus not because they were concerned about the people, not because they thought he was a devil, but because they were concerned about their place…what they perceived to be their positions and the things that they thought they’d gained in they eyes of the Roman Government and the people. They were concerned about their territory and the Synagogue changing from what they wanted, under their control and their influence. They were insecure, envious, resentful, angry and deadly.

Accusations are horrible things.
If you’ve ever experienced the pain of unfounded, false accusations, you can imagine the anguish Jesus must have felt. People are quick to believe the ugly, the twisted, the salacious with little or no evidence. Often the people for whom you have done the most, loved the most, helped the most, given the most will be the first in line to resent and accuse you.

But for the accused, the falsely accused, there comes a time when you have to look at Jesus’ response and do like wise. There comes a time when after you’ve given your all, done your best, shared your love, opened your heart, shed blood, sweat and tears and people are still suggesting you have ulterior motives and dark agendas, there comes a time when you must keep your tongue with a bridal and let God give the answer. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Jesus could have called ten thousand angels to come to his rescue, but Jesus was on a mission and he didn’t say a mumbling word.

We must remember that we too are on a mission. There will be times when we will be misunderstood. There will be times when the very people you’ve helped, loved, nurtured, supported and opened doors for will falsely accuse you, resent you and treat you as if you are nothing and nobody. But remember Jesus…after all that Jesus had done, they mocked him, scorned him, spat upon him, beat him, tortured him and ultimately crucified him, but on the third day Jesus got up with ALL POWER IN HIS HANDS!

Be careful who you accuse – you don’t know the whole story. Be careful how you go about believing, receiving and repeating accusations, the seeds you sew today will come back to haunt you. Reaping season is long and hard. Reaping season is bigger and more painful than you can imagine. Reaping season impacts not only you, but your household, your family, your children and those around you. Be careful who you accuse, how you accuse. Remember, you don’t know the whole story and things are not always what they seem! Stop and ask yourself, “Is there something that I may not know?” Stop and ask yourself, “Is it something that I am projecting onto that person that maybe is not in them, but me? Stop and ask yourself, “Why am I so quick to receive all this negativity?” Remember each time you point your finger, four are pointed back at you!

Let your works speak for you. Don’t get caught up in trying to answer every question, don’t respond to every critic, don’t try to set right every rumor, don’t try to please every disgruntled individual – live your life to the glory of God. Stay focused upon pleasing God. Like Jesus, remember your mission – listen, trust and obey God, treat your neighbor as you want to be treated. Place and keep God first in your life. Love unconditionally, forgive and keep on moving forward. And God Himself will fight your battles, God Himself will show Himself strong on your behalf. God Himself will make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth. God Himself will vindicate your name and one day will give you a crown of glory!

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, August 17, 2016

Shepastor: "Conventions, Long Lines and Life..."

2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ. Colossians 2:2, NIV

This past week, my family and I were blessed to participate in the Progressive National Baptist Convention gathering, in New Orleans, Louisiana. For many reasons, our time away was empowering, encouraging, enlightening and refreshing. Daily we heard powerful messages from pastors and leaders from across the Country.

We were also privileged to hear messages from public officials, dignitaries, missionaries, and service men and women. Of all the days, however, one day in particular sticks out in my mind. Vice Presidential Nominee, Senator Tim Kane was coming, unexpectedly, to address us. Although the meeting was not going to be held until 10:00 a.m., we were told that “the doors would open at 8:30 a.m.” We were all encouraged to arrive bright and early. My family was tired from the previous day’s activities and decided to sleep in. So off I went to “represent.”

As I stepped off of the elevator, another guest says, “Have you seen that line? Some people have been down there since 7:00 a.m.!” As I looked over the balcony, literally hundreds of people were lined up for as far as I could see! I took a deep breath and convinced myself that I could make it! Walking, walking, walking, I sheepishly looked for the “end” of the line to jump in. When I finally reached the end, the last of us were told to go down the escalator to another floor below to make room and start a new line!

I debated about whether or not I should continue, but figured I’d gotten up, put on my makeup (a big deal!) and dress and was all geared up, so I stayed. As I stood, several beautiful ladies (inside and out) began laughing and talking about the experience of standing in this loooooong line. I chimed in, resonating with comments about arthritis, aching knees, medicines, and how ridiculous this all seemed. Soon we began learning about one another…our home church, our home town, ministry endeavors etc. Once they learned that I was a senior pastor, they wanted to know about my experiences, struggles and triumphs. An hour and a half passed before we reached the door.

But amazingly, it didn’t seem to matter. During that time we became less focused upon our discomfort and more focused upon hearing one another. We learned about each other, became concerned about each other, and began advocating for each other…telling ushers and secret service members that this one or that one needed to be able to sit down because of their conditions. While I enjoyed Senator Kane, I was richly blessed, inspired, empowered and encouraged by the time I spent in line with my new “Sister Friends.” My legs, which in general can’t take standing too long before cramping were able to stand almost two hours…I believe, because of encouragement, fellowship and love.

Life is filled with “long lines” of sorts. The journey, however, is made so much more bearable when we have others to share in the experience. When hearts are open, sharing is genuine, and people don’t feel the need to “put on airs,” marvelous fellowship can happen.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see my new friends again, but on that day, that long line seemed so much shorter because of their warmth. May we seek to help others make it through life’s long lines by emanating warmth and sincerity from our hearts.

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, August 10, 2016

Shepastor: "Bind Weeds In Your Garden..."

Remain alert. Keep standing firm in your faith. Keep on being courageous and strong. I Corinthians 16:13, International Standard Version

Recently, our family traveled out of town by car. As we rode along the highway, I was impressed with the number of bright green and “flowering” weeds along the road…operative word, “weeds.” The weeds grew strong and tall. It was tempting to think that they belonged there. What was the harm? They looked like the rest of the plants and in some cases were even more beautiful!

My curiosity peaked about these “beautiful” weeds. So, I began to do a little impromptu research on these leafy, flowering, vine like intruders…

The description of two weeds caught my attention…”Morning Glory” and “Bind Weeds.”

Listen to the following descriptions…
Morning Glory belongs to a family of unique and tenacious plants…Morning Glory vine is an annual but reseeds itself so successfully you really wouldn’t know it…the Bindweed grow from underground storage structures that promote the spread of the weed. They are hardy tenacious, opportunistic weeds that get into the cracks and crevasses and are nearly impossible to remove…Controlling Morning Glory will take several seasons and persistent seeds in soil can sprout years later.*

Upon reading the above description, I immediately began thinking about our lives as Christians. So often, the enemy of our souls “sows” in our “gardens” flowering, beautiful weeds…things that may seem harmless, maybe even comforting, encouraging…beautiful, but are in fact choking the very life out of us. When we allow these seeds to take root, they can take years to remove. Depending upon the depth of the root, even if we get rid of them on the surface, the “seeds” can sprout years later!

I will not attempt to list these things…let’s just say anything that goes against the will and the Spirit of God in our lives…things that in our innermost soul we know are wrong, less than what God has for us, sinful but feel good, satisfying and uplifting in the moment, in the season…in short, WEEDS! Sometimes “bind weeds” come in the form of people. Sometimes “morning glories” come in the form of suggestions, ideologies, trends, movements, biases, etc…things that sound good, appear harmless, presents as smooth, uplifting and encouraging, yet at the core are devastating, deteriorating and ultimately destroying your walk of faith.

It was encouraging, however, to read the following concerning eradicating these deceptive vines…

For as stubborn as bindweed can be, it has a very hard time competing with other aggressive plants. Often bindweed can be found in poor soil where few other plants can grow. Improving the soil and adding plants that spread densely will force the bindweed out of the bed…*

Once “spiritual weeds” have infiltrated our hearts, our fellowship, our relationships, they can be difficult to uproot. However, just like bindweeds, the enemy cannot compete with good soil and “aggressive” plants. Bindweeds and Morning Glory thrive in poor soil. But they struggle to survive in good soil and among strong plants.

Do you want to get the flowering weeds and choking vines out of the cracks and crevices of your heart, your fellowship, your relationships? Cultivate good soil and strong plants…Study God’s Word, prayerfully apply it to your life…strive to surround yourself with “strong plants,” …individuals who divide God’s Word rightly, have a strong prayer life...individuals who seek to listen to and obey the voice and leading of God's Holy Spirit and holds you accountable to do the same.

Don’t get tricked by the weeds…they will choke the life out of you!
*Information about the weeds obtained from http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/weeds/controlling-bindweed.htm

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