Wednesday, June 9, 2021

 

Shepastor: “The Pain and the Necessity of the Long View…”


All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. (Hebrews 11:39-40, NLT)

 In the words of the late Dr. Elton Trueblood, every generation has the bittersweet task of “planting shade trees under which we know full well we shall never sit.”

If individuals are honest, it can be hurtful to realize and accept that some ceilings will not be broken during our lifetime…some bridges still won’t get crossed, some doors still will remain closed and some opportunities still may not happen. We are still blazing trails, as it were. We can, however, take the proverbial mallet in our hands, determine to join together, and beat upon ceilings, keep knocking on doors and keep pressing towards the mark. Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston declared, “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” 


Change is not something that happens quickly, easily or without struggle and sacrifice. The people in our text all, in one way or another, through faith fought to bring about change. Whether facing oppressive giants, or fighting to end unjust systems of slavery or fighting to save children, families or nations, by faith, they pressed on.

James Russell Lowell, in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845 penned these famous words: (only the last stanza…)

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.  

 


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young man when he was gunned down. And while he saw several major victories evolve out of the blood splattered Civil Rights movement, seeing all of the fruit of his labor was not to be. He was prophetic when he declared that he had “been to the mountain top and seen the promised land.” He declared, “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get there!” Dr. King had taken the “long view.”

 The civil rights leaders had to take the long view to fight for freedom. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Hershel had to take the long view in order to march arm and arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960’s in Selma, Alabama to be sure that all Americans would have the right to vote.  They had to take the long view in Selma, where half of the city's residents were black but only one percent were registered to vote because the registration board only opened doors for registration two days a month, arrived late and took long lunches (ref. "Eyes on the Prize" documentary).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to take the long view to stand up against the atrocities of the Nazi regime as Hitler sought to annihilate the Jewish nation.  Sometimes faith urges you, presses you, convicts you, compels you, empowers you to stand for what is right even against seemingly insurmountable odds. Faith will embolden you, strengthen you, press you, push you to go beyond the boundaries of yourself and with God’s help seek to do something greater that will impact the lives of those yet unborn. It takes the long view…

But in our own, individual lives where we might not be faced with standing up against a Hitler, or facing attack dogs and fire hoses - in our everyday lives, how is God challenging us to act out our faith?  Could God be calling us to think outside of the box?  Could God be calling us to volunteer in an inner-city school to give some broken, poverty stricken, almost hopeless child a hope for the future?  Could God be calling us to write letters to our local representatives regarding unjust laws, demanding that they change their opposing stance? Could God be calling us to stand when others are sitting down, fallen asleep or have left the proverbial room?

 Could God be calling us to help in our little corner of the world?  Sometimes faith presses us to move from our comfort zones into places of discomfort and great possibility. Again, in our own, individual lives, sometimes faith is calling us to move from a place of complacency to becoming an active participant in the blessing and healing process. 



God is calling us to take the long view…to plant seeds of faith, seeds of deliverance, seeds of hope, seeds of investments, seeds of righteous living, seeds of honor…to plant seeds that will help raise up a godly generation, a strong generation, a faith-filled generation. God wants to use us to break some glass ceilings, to push in some doors, to break down some barriers or at least do some serious damage to that which is blocking the way.

 If all we do is sing, “We shall overcome,” link arms, place wreaths on some tombs and silently march in remembrance then we will have failed our predecessors. We must do more than live in a past time paradise. We must do more than sing loud hosannas and read poetry. We must speak truth to power… we must educate and register people to vote. We must stand against unjust laws and systems that crush the lives of children and youth through failed educational systems, “for profit” prison systems, gang riddled, drug infested neighborhoods and over-crowded class rooms with frustrated, overworked and under-paid teachers!

 We may not get everything accomplished, but we must keep “jumin at de sun!” We may not see all that we are hoping to come to pass, but we must do all we can, while we can to lay the ground work for a better day ahead. May we have the courage to take the long view...

 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. (Hebrews 11:39-40, NLT)

 In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org 

 

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Shepastor: "An 'Aroma' or an 'Odor???' "

Shepastor: "An 'Aroma' or an 'Odor???' "


But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
(II Corinthians 2:14-15, NIV)

 

When I was growing up, especially during the holiday season, our mother would get up early and start preparing breakfast and then on to preparing dinner. The aroma of the garlic pork (a Guyanese breakfast dish, especially at Christmas), fresh rye bread, and eggs would fill the house. The unmistakable aroma signaled that it was time to get up, come down to eat and then to open our gifts.

I can also remember the fragrance of my mom’s perfume as she prepared to go out with friends. I remember waiting with excitement to see her walk back through the door…I’d run down the stairs to greet her as she came in. I’d jump up, throw my arms around her neck, kiss her cold cheeks and again, smell the sweet fragrance of her perfume. Conversely, I hated the odor of food that had been too long in the refrigerator, or the scary, horrific stench of the dead mouse caught in the trap behind some area out of sight! Both make my skin crawl to this day!


There is a distinct difference between a “fragrance/aroma” and an “odor.” The terms fragrance and aroma stir up feelings of something desirable, beautiful, delicious, mouth-watering! The term odor conjures feelings of sickness, nastiness, distasteful, foul. Simply put, an odor stinks! No one wants to be told that they have an odor! Most wouldn’t mind being told that they have a beautiful fragrance or that their food has a wonderful aroma!

God’s Word tells us that Christ, through us, “spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” In other words, when we spread the good news about Christ, it’s like we are spreading a beautiful fragrance among people, spaces and places that are dwelling in odor filled arenas. Those who do not have a relationship with the Lord, through Jesus Christ are trapped by sin and death.


Death has a very distinct odor.
It is sickening, overpowering, horrific. In like manner, sin covers humanity with the stench of spiritual death and separation from the Father. When we share the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only with our words, but with the sweet fragrance of love, compassion, mercy, grace and peace, it encourages those who are “being saved,” in other words, all who are on the journey as well as those who are “perishing…” those who have not made the decision to receive life through Christ.

We don’t want to contribute to the odor! We spread odors by our attitudes, ugly actions, hypocrisy and pharisaic behaviors. We spread odors when we see need and look the other way, see suffering and neglect to offer comfort, see injustice and neglect to speak truth to power. We are not called to spread odor, but the fragrance and sweet aroma of Christ.


What are you spreading today? May we seek the Lord’s guidance and strength daily to spread the sweet fragrance and aroma of Jesus through word, deed and being.

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Shepastor: “Forgiveness is a Challenge and a Process…”

 

19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 19-24, KJV

We face many challenges in life.  Challenges are inevitable.  In our society we make sport of challenges.  At one time, one of the most popular shows on T.V. was the “Biggest loser.”  This show focuses on weight loss challenges.  The teams compete against each other to see who can lose the most weight over a specific amount of time.  I can tell you that losing physical weight is a challenge!  Take a year to lose fifty and two weeks to gain it back!  It is a challenge to lose physical weight.

But there is another kind of weight that is exceedingly difficult to lose - the weight of an unforgiving heart.  It is a challenge to forgive when you’ve been hurt.  It’s a challenge to forgive when you feel that you’ve been damaged.  It is a challenge to forgive when the perpetrator of your hurt never acknowledges the wrongful acts committed.

It can be a daunting thing to have to forgive.  Yet, as Christians, we know that this is what God’s Word requires of us.  Greater yet, it is what the heart of God desires for us – to be free from the weight of bitterness, brokenness and unforgiveness. 


Some of the challenges of forgiving include:

-        It’s hard to forgive because it hurts.  It aches. 

-        It’s a challenge to forgive because we desire justice – we serve a Just God, we are made in God’s image and something down deep inside of us cries out for justice and judgment against those who have done us wrong.  We want them to pay.  We want them to know that you can’t mess with us and get away with it!  We want somebody to kick their you know what!

-        It’s a challenge to forgive because we don’t want God to have mercy on them – but to bring judgment down upon them.

-        It’s a challenge to forgive because often we are still suffering either physically, emotionally, financially or psychologically because of another’s misdeeds.

-        It’s challenging because very few find the courage to apologize for the wrongs committed

-        And it’s challenging because so many times, it appears that we are struggling while they are prospering.  We have the dilemma of the Psalmist …“why do the wicked prosper?”

Those are a lot of reasons, seemingly good reasons we hold onto.  There is no quick formula that we can rattle off that will cause your pain to evaporate.  Forgiveness is a challenge.  It requires sacrifice.  A sacrifice is something that you give at a cost.  If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.  But forgiveness is a sacrifice.  It’s a sacrifice because it requires that you deny yourself the right to hold onto anger, to seek revenge, to spew out poisonous, venomous words, thoughts and behaviors against the individual(s).  

It is a sacrifice because you have to make the decision to let it go and release it to God and trust Him to make it right.   It’s a sacrifice because you have to trust God that He knows you’ve been hurt, He knows you’ve been wronged, He knows what was done was unfair, unkind, unjust, uncalled for and in some instances inhumane.  But you have to sacrifice all that stuff on the altar of love and forgiveness and trust that God, who doeth all things well is going to heal you, and deliver them.

The thing about perpetrators of wrong that we miss, because our pain blinds us –is that they are dying, they are decomposing, they are hood winked. The devil has sold them a false bill of goods and they think that they are riding high.  The Bible declares, however, that we will reap, what we sow.  When you sow the wind, you will reap the world wind.

In spite of all of that, forgiveness is still a challenge. We want folks to “get it!”  But God’s heart is not like ours.  He knows the heart, mind and soul of not only those who are walking upright, but those whose hearts are hard toward him.  The scripture says that it is not His will that anyone perish…not the abuser, not the oppressor, not the former police officer, Derek Chauvin, not white supremacists, not murderers, adulterers, hate-filled people…not anyone.  The Lord sees what we cannot see.  He sees that they are headed for destruction.  He sees that they are headed for eternal separation from Him.  He sees that satan has totally fooled them.  God never wants us to have to experience what Jesus took for us on the cross.

When Jesus took upon himself all of the sins of the world, for a moments time, He experienced separation from His father – the agony was so great that he cried out, “my God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”  Separation from Him is so deep, so agonizing, so excruciating, that the Lord does not desire that for anyone. We desire mercy for ourselves, but not for our enemies. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He cried out on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Forgiveness is not only a challenge, but a process. Jesus himself went through a process as he contemplated the agony of the cross… “Father, if it be possible, remove this cup…Father forgive them for they know not what they do…My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me???”

While some try to “theologize” Jesus’ utterances away, I would argue that Jesus was allowing the experiences of humanity to be recorded so that we would understand a bit more about the journey. It is so easy for the Church… “religious folk” to demand that we forgive as soon as the dagger has struck, as soon as the injustice has occurred, as soon as the pain has sought to bury us. God’s grace and mercy, however, reveals another path in the scriptures.


David in the 139th Psalm declared, “Do not I hate them that hate thee? I hate them with perfect hatred…” His initial response was hatred. He even justified his hatred by saying that he was just hating these wicked souls because they were disrespectful to God! Deep down in David’s heart, however, he knew that it was not God’s hatred, but his own. David then turned and prayed, “Search me oh God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

David was honest with God about how he felt towards his enemies. He hated them! He was clear on his feelings. But then he prayed and asked God to search him, try him to see if there was any wickedness in him and lead him in the way everlasting. David went through a process…

Jesus desires that we, like Him, make the sacrifice to forgive.  He is calling us to take the challenge to forgive and be grateful when they repent. Forgiveness and gratefulness are what distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Jesus said that they will know we are Christians by our love. Forgiveness is a challenge.  It is not an event. It is a process.  It does not mean that you automatically will forget all of the hurt, all of the pain, all of the stuff that came along with the wrong committed.  But it means that you accept the challenge to begin the journey towards healing.  It means that you accept the challenge to get it all out – tell God and maybe some other trusted human being all of the stuff that is consuming you.  Get it out, look at it, talk about it, dissect it and then ask God to help you release it.

We cannot do it on our own.  It will be a process.  But if we begin the process, we will discover that as we get it out, as we confess our hurt, our anger and our pain, as we pray and ask God to help us go beyond it, we will find increasing the strength to let it go.  You’ll find increasing strength to feel sorry for them.  You’ll find increasing strength to genuinely pray for them and you’ll find increasing strength to trust God for the outcome. We will find the grace, mercy and strength to pray for their salvation and gratefulness when they turn from their wicked ways.

God is not unjust.  God will address wrong doing.  When God forgives, He does not necessarily erase the consequences of our behaviors.  But He will erase the eternal consequences of damnation.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  His forgiveness of our sins came long before we had a mind to repent and turn.  We love Him because He first loved us.

Ask the Lord to help you to forgive and to be grateful today, be healed, be delivered and be set free.

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Shepastor: “A Celebration of Women – Women’s History Month…”

 

 29Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31: 29-31, KJV



March is officially designated as “Women’s History Month.”

About Women's History Month

Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields. (Read more at https://womenshistorymonth.gov/about/ )

 This week, Shepastor highlights a new book edited by Rev. Dr. Alfie Wines,

I Wish Somebody Had told Me: Equity for Women in the Church.
In this ground breaking work, pastors, leaders, professors and teachers, men and women, share their insights regarding the inequities women in ministry continue to face. But it doesn’t stop there. It also highlights the victories, resiliency and hope for women called by God to serve this present age. Below are quotes by a few of the women leaders included in this outstanding work…












You can purchase I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Equity for Women in the Church by clicking here

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Shepastor: "Pew Research Features Dialogue on the History, Impact and Future of the Black Church..."

 Greetings Shepastor Friends!

As we celebrate Black History month, today, Shepastor highlights an upcoming Pew Research webinar on the Black Church, next Tuesday, February 16th at 3:00 p.m., EST. See details and the invitation below...




Unpacking Black American Religious Life: Praising God, Opposing Racism, and Challenging Black Churches

Pew Research Center invites you to join a virtual presentation and conversation about findings from the Center’s most comprehensive, in-depth study of religion among Black Americans (to be released February 16, 2021). We will unpack the diverse religious lives of Black Americans by examining the role race plays in religious experience, the impact of religion and church on everyday life, and how social views, styles of worship and the content of sermons vary across different types of congregations.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT

Presentation

“Faith Among Black Americans”
Dr. Besheer Mohamed, Pew Research Center
Dr. Kiana Cox, Pew Research Center

 

A discussion with

Dr. W. Franklin Richardson, Conference of National Black Churches

Prof. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Colby College
Prof. Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania

 

Followed by

Q&A and discussion with the audience

Register Here



I hope that you will join me on this webinar for this enlightening and powerful discussion!


In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris


www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Shepastor: “Destiny…Providence…God’s Will…"

 


“…And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4: 14b

Due to a strange turn of events, Queen Vashti was unjustly removed as Queen of Persia when she refused to perform lewd dancing before her husband, King Ahasuerus and his drunken friends (Esther 1:1 and following). Although she maintained her dignity, she has been maligned as a rebellious wife and an arrogant woman (another blog for another day!!!). As a result, the King began a search for a new Queen.

Long story short, a beautiful, “fresh” young lady by the name of Esther was chosen. At the time, the King did not know that she was a Jew. Eventually, she would be challenged to reveal her true identity when her people were threatened with annihilation. Her uncle Mordecai urged her with these words,

“…And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4: 14b

Was it destiny? Was it providence? People of faith declare, “It was God’s will, God’s purpose and God’s timing…”

Today our nation experienced another, “for such a time as this” moment. Following four years of turmoil, deep racial divisions, “hyper other-ism,” tribalism and unprecedented deceit from a presidential administration, a new day has dawned in America! Today, we witnessed a “peaceful transition of power.”

Today we witnessed the swearing in of the first African American/Southeast Asian Woman Vice President, in the person of Kamala Harris! Today we witnessed the first African American man (Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock) and the first Jewish man (Jon Ossoff) sworn in as Senators of Georgia. Today we witnessed the first National Youth Poet Laureate, in the person of Amanda Gorman! WHAT A HISTORIC DAY!!!

But one of the most powerful things we witnessed today was the swearing in of the 


oldest person to ever become President of the United States of America, Joseph R. Biden, age 78!
His story is particularly inspiring because of his life journey. A man who struggles with stuttering, a man who came from “blue collar” America, a man who did not attend an ivy league school, a man who lost his first wife and daughter on the week he was to be sworn in as a U.S. Senator. He is a man who ran for the presidency no less than three times (1988, 2008, 2020)!

Many thought that he was too old. Many thought that he couldn’t talk right. Many thought that he was not progressive enough. You name it, he was not the 1st choice…until now… Now, Joe Biden became just what our nation needed… a man filled with wisdom, dignity, calm, stability and experience…a man who is respected on “both sides of the isle…” a man who has a shot at bringing our country back together.

What made the difference? Did he change? Did he gain some different attributes? Did he somehow get a makeover? NO! The difference was God’s timing!

God’s timing is always different than our timing. You may think that your time has passed. You may feel its too late. You may have tried several times and failed. But God has a time, a space and a place where your gifts will shine through, your purpose will be made clear and your new day will dawn!


In the “fullness of time,” you will break out on the left and the right! You will make the difference that you were called to make. YOU WILL fulfill all that God has ordained for you to accomplish.

Don’t give up. Don’t be thwarted by the nay sayers. Keep on doing what the Lord has made you to do. Be the best YOU that you can, by the power of the Holy Ghost and God’s grace.

Your “for such a time as this,” will be revealed.

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Shepastor: “As We March into the New Year…”

 

18 Therefore encourage one another with these words… 

1st Thessalonians 4:18, NIV





As we march towards 2021, may we by faith remember the following…

-        God is with us

-        We must encourage, comfort and build up one another

-        Our peace is not of this world, it “surpasses understanding”

-        We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us

-        We can do all things through Christ that strengthens us

-        Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen…

-        Trust God at all times

-        Your labor is not in vain…

 

Be encouraged!

Happy New Year!!!

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org