Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Shepastor: "Fake Religion..."

Amos 5: 21-24, NRSV
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


A phrase we keep hearing is “Fake News.” These words refer to reports that individuals refuse to hear or accept because the information does not “jive” with the messages they want conveyed…be they true or not!

In our text for today, however, the prophet Amos receives a message to share with God’s people…a message that they may not necessarily want to hear but need to hear. The people were practicing a “fake religion.” They were having elaborate festivals of “praise,” singing loud songs, making sacrifices, dancing, shouting, performing various religious rituals, etc., but were ignoring they true ways of God.

The Lord said,

“Take away from me the noise of your songs: I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5: 23-24, NIV
It was offensive to God that “religious people” were ignoring the more important aspects of worship and praise. God wanted the people to have “true religion…” According to Isaiah 58: 6-9, NIV, really worshiping and serving God looks like this…

6“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and God will say, ‘Here I am.’”
Amos’ message still rings true today. God is looking for more…more than loud “hallelujah’s,” more than praise fests, special frocks and garments…more than men’s and women’s retreats and conferences, more than huge, elaborate edifices…more than live streamed gatherings with thousands of people…

God is looking for women and men who will “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8). God is looking for the Church to speak up against, hate filled rhetoric, extreme “nationalism” and supremacy of one people over another. God is looking for a Church that speaks up against policies and legislation that oppresses the poor, unjustly prosecutes the alien, discriminates and marginalizes minorities, women and children…that mistreats and casts down anyone.

God is looking for leaders that walk in integrity…that won’t take bribes, that won’t, abuse their power and authority, that won’t crush others in order to climb the proverbial ladder, that can’t be “bought or sold” for a price…

God desires a people that look more like the love, mercy, grace, peace, justice, compassion and healing that God gave us through Jesus Christ. May we do all that we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit to live out true religion…not according to our standards, but according to God’s Holy Word.

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 9, 2017

Shepastor: "Good Things Have Emerged From an Unfortunate Outcome..."

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to God's Purpose." Romans 8:28, KJV

For many, the current state of affairs in the United Staes of America since the election of our 45th President has been alarming, disturbing and frightening. For a plethora of reasons, many threw caution to the wind and elected an individual they believed would "deliver." Painful realities, however, have begun to set in...racial divisions and hate crimes are at an all time high in recent history. Individuals are fearful of losing health care coverage they recently received under the Affordable Care Act. Those living in "Coal Country" are anxiously awaiting the return of jobs that more than likely will not return. What was once known as the "Middle Class" is rapidly declining. The vast majority of Americans feel that they cannot trust the words or assertions of the President. It appears that world war three is on the horizon...

But in the midst of all of this mayhem, some very beautiful things are emerging. Although violence, hatred, ignorance and greed are swirling all around, a spirit of kindness, compassion, unity, hope and courage is breaking forth. Recently a local school district made the decision to provide breakfast and lunch to ALL children regardless of their ability to pay. Voices around the Nation are rising to challenge the unfair treatment of people of color, immigrants and those struggling through gender issues. People are beginning to pay more attention to the environment and how our behaviors are impacting climate change.

Ironically, what is best in us frequently emerges as we face the worst. In the final analysis, something deep within many reminds us that we are better than the ugly, the evil, the greed and the selfishness. Love always prevails. It may not happen overnight but slowly, steadily, surely, love prevails.

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 2, 2017

Shepastor: "Standing Up to Bullies is Hard but Necessary..."

24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel. 26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 1 Samuel: 24-26, KJV.

Standing up to bullies can be tough! In the above text, the giant Philistine warrior Goliath stood and threatened and challenged the armies of Israel day after day. Understandably, the people were paralyzed with fear. After all, he was a GIANT!!! He was fierce! He looked like he could crush their bones in one pounce!

It took a young shepherd boy, seemingly harmless and no match for this bully to stand tall in the name of his God to bring Goliath down. Because we have the record, we know how the story ends. David, on the other hand only had his faith.

This past week, two female Senators, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) were proverbial "Davids." Whatever your political persuasion, one must concede that it took courage to withstand political peer pressure, thinly veiled threats and the prospect of being pushed out of the Senate to vote their conscience. "Goliath" came at them strong!

According to the July 28th edition of the New Yorker, "Murkowski did so despite being the object of crass insults and bullying from President Donald Trump, conveyed via tweet, telephone, and emissary." ("Lisa Murkowski, Lindsey Graham, and How the Health-Care Vote Went Down," by Amy Davidson Sorkin, www.newyorker.com ).
In the final analysis, Senator John McCain (Arizona) boldly stood with Senators Murkowski and Collins to vote against what they saw as a bad bill.

Three senators resisted the pressure to vote for something that they believed was wrong for millions of people. Three people may have literally changed the course of history.

Bullies exist in every sphere of life...in schoolyards and classrooms, in homes and neighborhoods, in communities and governments, in churches and every other relationship. Bullies, however, cannot prevail where faith, courage and love stand up. May we, by faith have the courage and love to stand up to bullies. Our GREAT God will cause us to triumph and in so doing, save the lives of many.

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, July 26, 2017

Shepastor: “Highlights From ‘Calling in the Key of She’…”

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind[a] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,[b] and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind[c] in his image, in the image of God he created them;[d] male and female he created them. Genesis 1: 26-27, NRSV

Friday, July 21st - 22nd, 2017, the Board of Equity for Women in the Church and Memphis Theological Seminary partnered to present, "Calling in the Key of She." The conference was designed to provide training and tools to participants to help nurture and build "female friendly" environments in churches, communities and across the world. Presentations were given that explored theological and historical factors that have impacted the way women are viewed and treated. The visionary for this powerful conference, Rev. Andrea Clark Chambers gave an opening presentation on the power of language and imagery as vehicles of oppression or empowerment. Pastor Chris served as one of the presenters, discussing the topic, "Women and the Bible." Dr. Gina Stewart, Senior Pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, electrified the participants as she gave her personal testimony and journey towards becoming licensed, ordained and ultimately installed as pastor of a prominent, African American Baptist Church.

Although we have come a long way, there are still many more rivers to cross. Equity for Women in the Church is working diligently to make an impact through innovative initiatives like “Calling in the Key of She,” “The Retiring Pastors Initiative,” and “The Lydia Project.” To read more about these important and ground breaking endeavors to open more doors for women preachers and pastors, visit the Equity website.

To read more about the event and to see pictures, visit www.shepastorchris.org

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Shepastor: "Calling in the Key of She..."

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27, NIV

For centuries, patriarchal structures inculcated and advanced an inferior and subordinate view of women and their perceived appropriate roles. Despite these formidable factors, the Bible itself raises serious contradictions to the belief that women are not called to serve in equal and authoritative roles. Frequently, persons who draw on selected passages to argue against women leaders ignore the broader implications of the texts. It is therefore beneficial to consider other compelling Scriptures that speak positively about women and present them as leaders.

This week, July 21-22, 2017 Equity for Women in the Church and Memphis Theological Seminary will partner to address these issues. This FREE event is open to all.

If you are in the area, check it out. I'll share highlights from our time together next week.

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Shepastor: "Are You Parched or Well Watered?"

5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17: 5-8, KJV

This past week as my family took a trip to visit family in California, I was struck by what looked like a natural contradiction. As we drove further north, away from the Bay area, the weather changed drastically. The temperature rose from 70 degrees to 108 degrees! The grass was completely parched along the highway. To reduce the risk of wild fires, crews were out spraying the dry grass with water. What was most intriguing to me, however, were the green, flowering bushes and tress standing tall amidst the brittle dry grass. My first thought was, "How can this be?" How could there be such beautiful green bushes and trees growing from the ground where there was hay like parched grass? The answer is depth of roots.

Trees and bushes establish deep roots...roots that drink in water from rain and other forms of watering. In times of extreme heat or drought, trees rely upon their root reserves. Grass, on the other hand has shallow roots. Grass is easily pulled up and burned by bad weather conditions. It cannot withstand extreme conditions. As I observed these differences along the road, it occurred to me that these examples are like the life of a believer. The depth of our roots...our prayer life, our depth of relationship with the Lord and others, our knowledge and understanding of God's Word and our faith will determine the depths of our roots. When extreme "heat," struggle, trials, opposition, pain, pressure, etc., comes, if we have not "stored up" spiritual nutrients of the living water, we will become parched...brittle, dry, easily burned and dying.

The text above teaches us that we should not make flesh "our arm." While we must learn to develop trust of other humans, our deepest trust must be reserved for the Lord. Even those with the best intentions will at times disappoint. If our eyes are only upon humans, we will become parched. If we have not stored up the water of the Word, suited up in the "whole armor," and immersed ourselves in consistent communication with our Lord through prayer, the "heatwaves" of life will burn us up.

We all experience periods of drought and dryness. But our ability to press through those seasons will depend upon our roots. Will you be like the green bushes and trees or the parched grass? You have a say in the matter.

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, July 5, 2017

Shepastor: “When Healing Takes Precedence Over Power and Position…”

A Man with a Withered Hand
6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6: 6-11, ESV

In the text above, the religious leaders came face to face with their greatest fear…that Jesus would “take their place” as leader. While they pretended to be concerned about “keeping the law,” their real concern was for their own perceived positions of power. The fact that someone else was suffering, was broken, was unable to care for themselves, was in poverty, was marginalized was of no concern. They just wanted what they wanted. Jesus’ compassion, however, revealed the true essence of their dark souls. Their “hoopla” about keeping the law rang hollow because of their lack of concern for another human being. Hunger for power leads to dangerous places… Hunger for and the fear of losing power can strip you of a conscience.

Jesus’ bold act of healing the man with the deformed hand teaches us some important lessons:

When healing takes precedence over position and power, deliverance as well as hostility happens… Everyone is not joyous when deliverance and healing happens. Unfortunately the world frequently “profits” from the misery of others…

Deliverance exposes dysfunction… When Jesus healed the man, the true motives of the religious leaders were exposed. Dysfunctional systems/structures collapse when others are bold enough to speak the truth and move to make changes…

Healing frequently changes a power dynamic… Healing and deliverance are accompanied by empowerment. Both healing and deliverance can bring about an awareness of one’s true self, gifts, talents, opportunities and strength. A need to rely upon another’s “motive laced” offerings will dissipate…

Finally…
Be prepared to face hostility as God uses you to heal “withered hands…”
Power and position in the hands of people with ill intent will not easily be released. A “convulsion” of sorts will always happen. Whether in a place of employment, in the government, in the community, in the home, yea even in the church, spirits of selfishness, greed, jealousy and insecurity desire to keep others down to lift themselves up.

Breaking those chains come with a cost. Jesus paid for our deliverance with his life. While we may not be nailed to a literal cross, we may be falsely accused, lose positions or employment, “friends,” experience being ostracized, criticized, and viewed as a threat. The scriptures teach us that the cost of real discipleship is high.
The blessing, however, is that we will gain the praises of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12, NASB

May we pray for hearts, eyes, and spirits to heal withered hands…

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, June 28, 2017

Shepastor: "A Word of Blessing for You..."

Psalm 20: 1-7, NIV
For the director of music. A psalm of David.


1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our 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, June 21, 2017

Shepastor: “On Being a Leader…”

6Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7The LORD said to Moses, 8“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” 9So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Numbers 20: 6-12, NIV

“Don’t let ‘it’ take you there. Take a deep breath, relax and remember what you are trying to accomplish!”

These words came so powerfully into my spirit one day as I wrestled with responding to some issues. “In the moment…” it can be difficult to remain “cool, calm and collected.” I imagine many a leader can identify with Moses. Having led an ungrateful, doubt-filled, rebellious group of individuals through the wilderness, he was exacerbated by their criticisms, quarrels, accusations and threats.

After all that the Lord had done for them…after all that the Lord had delivered them from… after all that the Lord had carried them through AND after all he had put up with and still faithfully led, loved and cared for them, the people still complained! Can you identify with Moses? Have you ever poured out your heart, mind, body and soul to lead and care for ungrateful, critical, doubt-filled people? If you have ever found yourself in circumstances like that of Moses, you may be able to understand why he said (in so many words…), “Look people after all I’ve done to lead you, plead on your behalf, stand in the gap for you, pray for you, put my life on the line for you, I can’t believe that you are still acting like fools!!!”

Anger consumed Moses. Frustration got the best of him. He was so angry that he began to operate in his own willfulness, lifted up what HE had done and disobeyed God’s command to “speak to the rock.” For that reason, God said this to Moses…

“Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:12, NIV)

Because Moses chose to “strike” the rock rather than obey God and “speak” to the rock, God prohibited him from entering the Promised Land. WOW!!! That’s TOUGH!!! Why did God deal so harshly with Moses? Because Moses was the leader. God would deal with the people for their rebellious spirits. But Moses was to continue to trust and obey the Lord.

It can be very difficult to take the “high road.” Leading people can be extremely challenging. Leaders are called to remain above the fray. Leaders are called to be the example. Leaders must always strive to do what is right, highest and best. Do we fail? YES. Why? Because we hold this treasure in earthen vessels. We must remember, however, that the role of a leader is to lead, therefore, according to the scriptures, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1, NIV.

While this scripture is speaking of “teachers,” leaders are in the same category, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48, KJV.

It’s not easy being a leader. Leadership requires that a leader march to the beat of a different drum. The good news is that we are not expected to lead on our own. God’s precious Holy Spirit is there to lead, guide, counsel, instruct and empower us to obey God’s voice over our own willful impulses.

The enemy’s goal is not only to cause us to miss the “promised land” experiences God has for us, but to cause people to doubt God and look at us. When we allow the behaviors of others to “take us there,” we come down from the place of leadership where God has called us. When we disobey God’s Holy Spirit and resort to our own devices to convince people of our strength, our power, our whatever, we yield victory to Satan’s darts, lose our place and misguide people.

Are you a leader? Remember what happened to Moses and seek God’s strength to trust and obey. “Don’t let ‘it’ take you there. Take a deep breath, relax and remember what you are trying to accomplish...” and what God desires to accomplish through 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, June 14, 2017

Shepastor: "Supporting Healthy Minds, Bodies and Spirits..."

"for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." I Corinthians 6:20, NLT

We are mind, body and spirit. God's Word teaches us that we are precious, fearfully and wonderfully made. In order to be whole, we must attend to every aspect of our being. In an effort to encourage God's people to view themselves and their well-being from a holistic perspective, our congregation (Covenant Baptist Church, www.covenantbaptistministries.org ) in collaboration with several other churches in our area and staff from the Cleveland Clinic are in the midst of a free three day event, "Healthy Temples: Supporting Healthy Minds, Bodies and Spirits."

Over this three day period, we will cover the topics of depression, healthy eating patterns and our overall health, balancing emotions, stress and self-care. Participants will also have the opportunity to have free blood pressure checks by nurses from the Cleveland Clinic. During our first night's presentation on depression, the class became so engaged, sharing their own experiences and the experiences of loved ones regarding this painful reality, that it became abundantly clear that a follow-up workshop is needed. Plans are underway to make that happen!

The classes are not only for adults, but for children. Children are engaged in biblically based discussions and crafts related to the same topics as the adults. Healthy snacks instead of the usual hot dogs and hamburgers are being served.

We are praying that all who attend will receive education and inspiration for a healthier life.

No matter the size of your congregation, God can and will use all who commit their efforts to making a difference for God's Kingdom here on earth.

May our prayerful efforts inspire many, in the name of Jesus!

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, June 7, 2017

Shepastor: “Tips to Help You Feel Better…”

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

Years ago, there was a commercial showing a woman taking a bath saying, “Calgon, take me away!” In recent times I have found myself needing some “Calgon moments!”
Let’s keep it real…ministry can be stressful and at times down right depressing. Ask Elijah, Moses, Jeremiah, John, Paul and Jesus!

As a pastor, wife, mother, daughter, sister, mentor, community leader and friend, things can get a bit overwhelming. Due to menopause and hormonal upheaval, aching knees, numerous family and ministry responsibilities, etc., there are days when I feel down. When the skies are literally and figuratively gloomy, when my “tween” girl is exceedingly “sassy,” when I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and can’t fall back to sleep, thinking about “this or that,” a spirit of weariness can take hold.

As Christians, we frequently deny the aforementioned feelings, thinking that expressing them will make us appear less “holy” or “faith-filled.” I beg to differ. Admitting we have these feelings simply make us human. Having said that, there are some practical things that I have found that help to take the edge off when life becomes challenging…

- If possible, get out and walk… Walking is a great way to clear your head, release some stress and exercise…

- Take a hot shower or bath and use a bubbly fragrance that appeals to your senses. Aromatherapy is real!!! There is something soothing and lifting about beautiful fragrances. They help to relax you and release natural agents in your body (endorphins) that can help to lift your mood. Lavender, vanilla/almond or jasmine/vanilla have been particularly helpful fragrances for me…

- Find a private space to talk out loud to God…Hearing your lament and struggle can help you to process your feelings before the Lord. After you talk, listen, trust and obey…

- Take deep breaths, sit quietly with your eyes closed and your palms lifted. This “centering” activity can also help relieve stress and cultivate inner healing and peace…

- Look at nature. Listen to the birds sing. Watch them fly through the air. Look at plants and flowers. Listen to some soothing music. All of these small things help to cultivate inner calm and peace.

Let me hasten to say, obviously, there are major sufferings in life that cannot be melted away by a bubble bath. Understandably, these simple actions will not erase the issues you are facing or the realities of your life. However, they can lift, strengthen, encourage and empower you to lift up your head and smile. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change your outlook. Through grace, faith, prayer and intentional actions, you can rise and shine!

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Shepastor: “Don’t Allow Regret to Ruin Your Life…”

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 13-14, NIV

Regret can be a heavy thing. Many live their lives under the weight of mistakes, missed opportunities, words spoken, unfortunate decisions, etc. But one thing is for sure, you cannot change the past. Some spend their lives looking in the rear view mirror. The “rear view mirrors” of life are small in comparison to the “wide windshield.” Although you may be living with the consequences of bad choices, God still has a big bright future ahead for you.

We serve a forgiving God, a loving God, a healing God, a restoring God. We ALL have made mistakes. Ask the Lord to forgive you. He is faithful and just to do just that! Ask the Lord to help you to forgive yourself. It will be difficult, if not impossible to take hold of all that the Lord has in your future if you do not.

Understand that others that may have been harmed by your past decisions may not be so quick to forgive you. In a genuine spirit, as much as is possible, do what is in your power to bring restoration and then release them to God. There are some fractures that only the Lord can repair. Know that God has a goal for you to pursue, a “prize” for you to win.

You cannot fulfill your life’s purpose looking backwards. Don't allow regret to ruin your life. By faith, keep moving forward. Keep “pressing towards the mark.” Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.
Greater is coming…

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shepastor: "Give Us This Day..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Shepastor: “Dealing With the Splinters of Life…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Shepastor: "It is Written..."

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

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

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

Consider Jesus’1st response to the devil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shepastor: “Sometimes Blossoms Skip a Season…”

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:11, KJV

This verse of scripture is the 2nd portion of a promise God gave to His people regarding the tithe…giving God the “first fruits” of all of their increase at a level of 10%. For those who “put God to the test,” and trusted Him enough to put Him first in their finances and in every aspect of their lives, God promised to “rebuke the devourer” for their sakes.

Sometimes it feels, no matter how faithful we’ve been that the “devourer” gobbles up various aspects of our lives. When doors remain closed, when children go astray, when finances are devastated, when sickness prevails, when death knocks at the door, it can feel like we were left out of the “blessed crew…”

But things are not always what they seem…

The other day while shopping for a special gathering in my home, as I entered the store I was greeted with a beautiful display of big, bright, lush fuchsia colored hydrangea. I started to walk past them, but they were so incredibly beautiful I could not resist…I bought two! I proudly brought them home and placed them on our front portico steps. Our children and our guests were thrilled when they saw them. I beamed with joy as they enjoyed the beauty of these gorgeous flowers.

Because I am not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, before going to sleep I decided to read up on how to care for these flowers. While reading I was particularly drawn to one aspect of their care….

The gardening guide advised that if hydrangea become dry and begin to die, “cut them down to the base, removing all blooms and leaves…leaving only the stem.” It further explained that the following season, the stem would produce no blooms, only leaves. Blooms would skip a season. But the season after that, the blooms would be strong, bountiful and lush.

This analogy spoke volumes to me. Just like hydrangea, when the Lord sees us getting “dry,” maybe even dying in some respects, He may elect to “cut us down to the base.” We may experience seasons without blooms…seasons of a few scraggly leaves so to speak or no leaves at all! But God knows exactly what He is doing! During those seasons of pruning, it may feel like we will never blossom again…it may look like we are barren and fruitless…it may appear to others that we have little or nothing going on…but our GREAT and AWESOME GOD sees the blooms coming in the next season!

Sometimes God strips us to the base to rid our lives, our hearts and our spirits of dead things, diseased things, harmful things that if left hanging on our stem would do irreparable damage and ultimately destroy our blossoms. Knowing all things, God intentionally cuts away those things that will stop us from experiencing the full, lush, bright and beautiful blossoms He desires us to produce.

Sometimes blossoms skip a season. Trust God…although you may be cut down to the base, know that your season of blooming is coming…coming strong, lush, big and beautiful!

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, March 22, 2017

Shepastor: “When Did We See You Lord?”

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 37-40 NIV

Our Nation is currently grappling with major pieces of legislation that will greatly impact the lives of many. Healthcare, education, jobs, the environment and national security are all on the table. How do these matters effect individuals in their day to day lives? Insensitivity, greed, racism, hatred and ignorance have all impacted the conversation. “What shall we say to these things?” A modern day rendition of Matthew 25 31-46 has been going around on Face Book.

Thanks to Jim Obergefell for sharing this powerful piece…

When I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps
When I was thirsty, you diverted lead & coal into my water
When I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates
When I was naked, you raped me & blamed me because I was naked.
When I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations
When I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me
From the lonely you took away social programs
From the elderly, you took away meals & medicine
From the workers, you took away legal protections
From the young, you took away school funding
From the victims, you took away shelter
Instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance
Instead of caring, you encourage isolation
Instead of equity, you encourage military excess
When the 1% has ground us into the dust, taken all of our money, and let us die for lack of insurance - who will you feed upon?

Thanks to Jim Obergefell for this share

Remember, in order to “pull yourself up by your own boot straps,” you must have boots!

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, March 15, 2017

Shepastor: "Something about the Wilderness..."

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4: 1-11, NIV

There is something about the wilderness…after Moses fled Egypt, he remained in the wilderness of Midian, tending sheep and marrying the daughter of Jethro, tradition suggests for forty years, unaware that the Lord was preparing him for a critical, historical, prolific role. Due to complaining spirits and unbelieving, hard hearts, the children of Israel were made to wander in the wilderness for forty years…a generation dying and another one rising before entering the promise land. After experiencing great victory defeating the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled to the wilderness of Horeb, after having his life threatened by Jezebel. He traveled forty days and nights by foot, depressed and desiring to die…unaware that God was preparing him to anoint the next kings and to prepare his successor Elisha.

There is something about the wilderness…God appears to use it as a tool of testing, processing and preparation. Jesus himself spent forty days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Fully immersing himself in the “human experience,” Jesus subjected himself to the condition of human frailty…to be hungry, lonely, hearing suggestions that he abandon his purpose and his Father’s plan… “tempted in all points, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Are you in the wilderness? You are in good company! Although we have the record, the heroes listed above had no clear path or way out. They simply had their convictions to trust, listen to and follow God. Jesus taught us how to press our way through the wilderness by relying totally upon God’s Word. At every turn, at every temptation, at every suggestion that was contrary to his purpose, Jesus responded with the Word.

Your wilderness is a time to pass tests, process and prepare. Each victory will help you some other to win...Although you may not be clear about where you are and why you are there, God knows exactly where you are and what He is preparing you to do. Like Moses, the wilderness can make you tired, frustrated and angry…but you don’t have to miss entering the promise land. Like Elijah, the wilderness can make you lonely, weary and depressed. But you don’t have to go and hide in a cave, waiting to die. Like Jesus, YOU WILL be tempted to forsake your purpose and God’s plan, but LIKE JESUS, you can overcome by the power of God’s Word.

We all face wilderness experiences. Through grace, faith, fasting, prayer and looking to Jesus, may you stand on God’s Word, press your way and remember, God will send angels to minister to you in time…

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shepastor: “Sometimes the Fastest Way Forward is to Turn Around…”

Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55: 6-7, NKJV

Let’s be honest…it can be embarrassing and ego bruising to admit that we have been going in the wrong direction…especially if we have been “beating a drum” defending our path! But if we are serious about getting closer to the place we feel called to reach, we must be willing to admit error and turn around.

If for some reason we have taken a wrong turn on our journey, going forward does not make sense. If we are on the wrong road, “real” steps forward mean turning back and getting on the correct path.

Maybe you have experienced driving in a car with someone who is resistant to asking for directions. Although you are not sure, you and the driver can sense that you are going the wrong way. But the driver, because of pride or some other reason refuses to stop and ask for assistance. Frustration builds, the feeling of wandering off into obscurity intensifies and the hope of reaching the desired destination anytime soon begins to fade!

In the words of C.S. Lewis,
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it's pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We're on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on”
May we, by faith, have the courage to admit our “wrong turns” and turn around. When on the wrong road, “going back is the quickest way” forward.

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, March 1, 2017

Shepastor: "Forty Days Towards..."

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Psalm 51: 7-13, KJV

As a little girl growing up, “Lent” was a time when we gave up candy, baked goods and meat on Friday. We could not listen to loud music or dance on Sunday. Even if we did not attend church most Sundays, “Good Friday” was the day that we all went.

For me, it was a forty day march towards eating sweets again! We couldn’t wait to boil and color Easter eggs, make beautiful baskets with jelly beans, malted eggs, and big, beautiful chocolate bunnies! It wasn’t until years later that I began to grasp the wonderful opportunity the Lenten season offered to walk with the Lord in a very special and intimate way.

While we should daily come before the Lord with a desire to be cleansed, revived, renewed and restored, Lent is a time to magnify and increase our level of prayerful introspection.

Lent offers:

Forty days to pray intentional prayers of repentance and cleansing…
Forty days to fast for greater clarity…
Forty days to pursue God’s direction in a more focused way…
Forty days to pray for healing and reconciliation in our relationships, starting with God…
Forty days to seek God’s face…
Forty days to prepare for and cultivate a renewed excitement for the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

What do these forty days of Lent mean 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, February 22, 2017

Shepastor: “Lessons From the Life of Cain…”

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
(Genesis 4: 1-9, NIV)

Next Wednesday, the Christian Church will launch into our 40 day observance of the Lenten season. Lent is a time when we are called to reflect upon our lives, our shortcomings, our relationships with one another and with the Lord. During this time we are encouraged to sacrifice something…to “fast” from some treasured activity, some delicious food or something that pleases our senses in a solemn act of contrition. The sacrifice is meant to help empty us of ourselves and our selfish desires, in exchange for a greater awareness of our need for God.Today’s passage is a critical reminder of how easy it can be to allow “crouching sin” to enter the door of our heart.

The struggles of Cain can teach us some very valuable lessons:


- Both Cain and Able brought from the “first fruits” of their produce, but Cain did not receive the Lord’s favor. This passage has always been a bit troubling. Why wasn’t Cain’s offering accepted? What more could the Lord have wanted from him? Could it be that Cain’s offering did not cost him anything? Able chose to sacrifice the best that he had and bring it to the Lord. It seems that Able offered the Lord his very best. It seems that Cain’s offering lacked sacrifice. Do we give our best to the Lord? Does it cost us anything? God wants the best of us, not just what is easy and convenient.

- Cain became angry and downcast because he was jealous of his brother. Human nature torments us with angry and jealous thoughts as someone else is preferred before us. Cain, however, did not take time to discover why his offering was not accepted. When we focus all of our attention on what someone else has, rather than considering our own ways, anger and jealousy can overtake us. This is not to suggest that injustices don't create inequitable conditions in this world. It is saying, however, that there are times when our own choices, our own foolish and selfish ways, our own irreverent spirit causes us to miss out on the favor and rich blessings of God. If you find yourself angry and jealous of others, first look at yourself.

The Lord spoke to Cain and said,
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

- God spoke to Cain about the “sin crouching at his door,” but he was too angry to listen. The Lord in so many words was warning Cain that if he did not get a handle on the unjustified emotions of anger and jealousy in his heart, it would overtake him, ruin his life and destroy others. Sin is crouching at all of our doors, tempting, lurking, waiting to pounce upon us and take control of our lives. But the Lord let’s us know that we can conquer sin.

We all have sin crouching at the door of our hearts, but through confession, repentance, and crying out to our Lord, we can and must conquer its call. There is good news in this story. If Cain did not have the capacity to resist sin, God would not have warned him ahead of time. Cain could still hear God speaking, even after he had killed his brother. God does not stop talking to us, even when we make tragic mistakes. His desire is that we avoid the painful downfall, listen and turn back to the right path. But if we fall, God still desires to win us back. The Lord has no pleasure in the death, the separation of his children from Him (Ezekiel 18:23).

The Lord wants our best. There is a cost to discipleship. Are you willing to pay the cost and give the Lord your all?

When we focus all of our attention on what someone else has, rather than considering our own ways, anger and jealousy can overtake us. Is your anger and hostility misdirected? Could it be that you are withholding something that is hindering your own favor and blessing from God? Has the Lord spoken to your heart, warning you of impending danger, yet you are too angry to listen? What sin is crouching at your door? What warnings are you ignoring? Through God’s grace and faith, by the power of God’s precious Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, you can overcome the power of sin in your life.

Have you already made that tragic and or painful mistake? The Lord wants you back. Although you will still have to face the consequences of your choices, God still loves you, cares about you and will protect you from the onslaught of the enemy who seeks to devour you. You still belong to the Lord.

May we spend time praying, reflecting, repenting and listening to the voice of our Heavenly Father who loves us and desires only what is in our best interest, contrary to the lies of satan.

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, February 15, 2017

Shepastor: “The Importance of Encouraging One Another…”

“The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” Proverbs 18:14, NIV

For some, the phone never rings, the mailbox is filled only with advertisements and bills and physical touch is absent. One might think I’m speaking of the elderly who frequently face these painful realities. But for many individuals, not only the elderly, this is an issue.

Our society is rapidly creating an environment of isolation. The “self-serve” isles in grocery stores are increasing, removing interactions with cashiers. Automated operators have taken the place of human receptionist, eliminating conversation. Hand written letters and “snail mail” cards are becoming a lost art. More and more services are being offered online, reducing the need for individuals to get out into the market place to shop, engage and enjoy others “in the flesh.”

Depression appears to be on the rise. Many are feeling isolated, lonely and cold. Now more than ever we need to reach out and encourage one another. While social media is a great tool to reach many at once, we need to spend time nurturing “real friendships,” in person, on the phone and in snail mail letters when possible.

Those with lonely hearts and broken spirits need more than a Facebook message with an emoji. Twitter, Instagram, Facetime, etc., are fine, but they cannot take the place of a warm touch, a hug, a conversation over a cup of coffee, a stroll in the park, a phone call that simply asks, “How are you doing?”

Take time to encourage others in person when possible. Show up other than online. Take the extra step to reach out the “old fashion way.” The more we do this, the fragrance of peace, love and joy will break through the gloom of despair, repairing crushed spirits. The love and warmth in your voice, the kind emotion that exudes from your handwritten note or card, the hope and encouragement transferred from your body to another as you embrace in a hug can produce a healing that no keyboard stroke, text or instant messenger can provide. Who knows...at the moment you reach out, God's hand through you may keep someone from giving up. Determine to be a minister of encouragement 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