Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Shepastor: El Roi: “The God Who Sees Me”

O LORD, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do];You understand my thought from afar.3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And You are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139: 1-3, Amplified Bible

Psalm 139 presents God as El Roi, “The God Who Sees Us.”
In this Psalm, David was doing some deep introspection. He was pouring out all of his feelings - the good, the bad and the ugly before God. He was, “keeping it real.” David didn’t try to hide his feelings, his struggles, his questions, even his hateful feelings toward his enemies from God, because David understood that there was no place he could run or hide from the all seeing eye of the Lord. Interestingly, he took great comfort in Knowing that God sees and knows all.

When our daughter Aris was just learning how to talk she enjoyed playing “peek - a - boo.” Sometimes she would crawl up the stairs to the landing which divided our staircase, run to the window and pull the curtains over her face, peek out with a big grin and say, “I See You!” Playing that game gave her great delight because she enjoyed hiding her face and then peeking out and saying, “I See You!”

While God is not in heaven playing peek - a - boo with us, saying, “I See You,” there are times, when we like Adam and Eve in the garden want to run and hide ourselves, run and cover ourselves, pull, if you will, a curtain over our faces because we don’t want the Lord to look at us. Sometimes we don’t even want to look at ourselves. Sometimes we wrestle with who we are, who we aren’t and who we wish we were. There are others who feel that nobody “sees” them. They feel invisible.

In Ralph Ellison’s Work, The Invisible Man, he discusses one man’s struggle to “see” himself after years of feeling invisible. The character declared…
And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself…

This was grieved that no one cared to know him. He felt that no one ever gave him a second thought. Who he was didn’t matter - not to those who couldn’t see him…not for those who had no desire to see him. They only saw what they wanted him to be - they only saw what they carved out for him to be. Therefore, the true essence of who he was, was invisible. So he spent years of his life trying to be something he was not, living beneath who God had created him to be, trying, as June Cash, the widow of Johnny Cash used to say, “Just tryin to matter.”

So many spend their lives, never learning who God meant them to be, just tryin to matter - walking around, feeling invisible because nobody can “see” them. Some are so buried under the junk of stuff that folks have piled on them over the years that they can’t even see themselves!

But there is one who sees you! God sees us and loves us unconditionally just as we are.
While the Lord desires that we become all that we were created to be, His arms are open to receive us just as we are, where we are, however we are. Your only pre-requisite is to say “Yes” to His out stretched hand, receive Jesus as Savior and allow the Lord to cleanse you and make you whole.

You are not invisible! El Roi sees you and loves you.
God wants you to be able to see yourself as He sees you - wondrously made, gifted, beautiful, resourceful, meaningful and fit for His use. The Lord wants you to throw off all of the negativity, all of the baggage from the past, all of the mess that weighs you down and buries the real you. God wants to lift you. God wants to free you. God wants to restore you. God wants you to see yourself as He sees you – VALUABLE, BEAUTIFUL, GIFTED, AND READY TO RISE!!!

If you are struggling to know the true you, the real you, the “you” that El Roi sees, ask the Lord who knew you before the foundation of the world to open your eyes to all that God intended you to be and walk into your God appointed destiny!

I am standing in agreement with you today for GREATER!!!
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Shepastor: “The Lord is My Banner, My Light and My Salvation”

Jehovah Nisi - The Lord is My Banner
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; who is then a cause of fear to me? the Lord is the strength of my life; who is a danger to me? 2 When evil-doers, even my haters, came on me to put an end to me, they were broken and put to shame. 3 Even if an army came against me with its tents, my heart would have no fear: if war was made on me, my faith would not be moved. Psalm 27: 1-3, The Bible in Basic English

In ancient times, armies had a team of soldiers that were designated to carry a banner that was held high, that identified who they were, the name of their God and what they stood for. The purpose of the banner was to remind the fighting troops that they were not alone in the battle, but that enforcements were there fighting alongside them. The Lord, Jehovah Nissi would make them victorious. The banner also sent notice to their enemies that they were not going to just break through and pillage and rob and rape and destroy and take over because the soldiers were not fighting on their own - they had a weapon stronger than any nuclear weapon. They had the Lord God Jehovah-Nissi going before them fighting their battle. So then the banner did several things - it encouraged the troops to keep the faith because they were not alone, it reminded them that the Lord Jehovah-Nissi was going before them, fighting the battle and making them victorious, and it reminded their enemies that the army was a force to be reckoned with - that God was with them and he was moving mightily on their behalf. When they focused upon the Lord as their Banner, moving and working on their behalf, it calmed their fears.

In Psalm 27, David lifts up several key points to encourage himself:
(1) The Lord is his light and keeps him safe - who can make him afraid? David says that in the dark times of his life, the Lord lit his path and kept him safe. Sometimes in the dark times of our lives, the discouraging times, the uncertain times, the times when we don’t know which way to turn, the times when it looks like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel- times of darkness - we can become afraid and overwhelmed. Psalm 27 teaches us that even in dark times the Lord, Jehovah-Nissi is our light – The Lord can and will show us the way if we put our trust in Him, lean and depend upon Him and ask Him to show us the way.

(2) The second thing that David lifts up in these two verses is his enemies rose up against him but they stumbled and fell. Many of the Psalms were written as David ran from his mentor, King Saul. On several occasions, Saul sought to take David’s life. To complicate matters, Saul was the father of his best friend Jonathan. But David continued to trust in the Lord. David never sought to retaliate against Saul. On one occasion, David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but he said, “far be it from me to touch the Lord’s anointed.”

(3) David allowed the Lord to handle his enemies. Although it’s not easy, we must allow the Lord- Jehovah Nissi to go before us and fight our battles. There are some enemies that only the Lord God can handle. Some enemies are unseen. The enemy of our souls - satan is ever warring against our mind, against our hopes, against our dreams, against our spirit, seeking to discourage us, to hinder us and ultimately to make us give up. He wants to make us afraid and believe that the Lord has forgotten us, that the Lord doesn’t care about us, that the Lord is insensitive to our needs. But when you remember that the Lord is with you, going before you, making a way for you - the enemy satan will have to fall back. God’s word says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you - draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”

Today, and always, remember that the Lord, Jehovah Nisi is our banner! The Lord goes before us. The Lord will fight our battles and the Lord will give us victory. The Lord is our light and our salvation. Who should we fear? The Lord is the strength of our lives…who can make us afraid?

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Shepastor: "What is Your New Life Resolution?"

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 12-14, KJV

Every year between December 31st and January 1st, people make all kind of promises to themselves and to others. We call these promises – “resolutions.” This term comes from the root word, “resolute,” meaning to be resolved, determined, undaunted, tenacious, unwavering.” New Year resolutions are born out of the idea that the old year for better or for worse is gone and is not coming back – so in the new year, we hope to do somethings better, or at least differently.

You’ve heard them, “I’m going to lose weight…, I’m going to stop cursing…, I’m going to stop smoking…, I’m going to save more money…, I’m going to stop using credit cards…” The list goes on and on. Today, I’d like to challenge us not to think about making meaningless promises that most times we fail to keep. I’d like to challenge you to prayerfully consider making a “New Life Resolution.”

How “resolute” are you when it comes to living a transformed life? Do you have a “fixed” mindset or a “growth mindset.” For some, they accepted Christ as a child and have been going to church ever since. But no real or true transformation has ever happened in their lives. They are “fixed.” They are not concerned about growth. They are not concerned about transformation. They are content to remain as they are.

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

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

The problem with both lists is that those efforts may control some external behaviors, but the human will can never change the human heart. In order to truly change, a spiritual transformation has to take place. This is not some mystical, secretive process whereby a person has to say chants or drink a potion or have a witch doctor shake some special formula with smoke over your head. No no! Holy Ghost transformation – the kind of transformation that changes your life happens when you have an encounter with God.
Yes, even those who minister and preach the Gospel need to have transforming experiences – fresh encounters with God.

In 2018, don’t let the demons of fear, of worry, of self-doubt, of low self-esteem, of old belittling voices in your head, of resentment, anger, hostility and yes even hatred – don’t let those demons keep you shackled. As you enter 2018 let it go. Don’t be like the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for forty years because they kept looking back and couldn’t believe God for what they could not see. Step out on faith –ask the Lord to reveal his will and purpose for your life and then pursue it.

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

Letting go of what has held you back, held you down, kept you imprisoned is not always easy – it takes the bold move of faith to let it go, trust God, resolve to live for Him in every way. It’s a new path, a fresh encounter, a prayerful journey, a new way of living. Be bold and walk with your head held high, press towards the mark that God has ordained for your life.

May you and yours have a “growth filled,” joyous, peaceful and “forward moving” New Year!

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Shepastor: “The Love of Money, Pharmaceutical Companies and Our Health…”

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. I Timothy 6:10, KJV

Some years ago a local news network featured a discussion with a dermatologist regarding whether or not people can become addicted to lip balm. It was a “tongue in cheek” interview, yet with an invitation to wonder… The dermatologist shared that years ago, lip balm was simply made of soft wax to soothe chapped lips. Manufacturers, however, began to place a substance in the wax that actually dried lips, compelling users to need and buy more cultivating a “lip balm addiction.”

After the birth of my second son I developed severe bouts of heartburn. I began using an over the counter antacid. Daily I used the antacid and received temporary relief. The heartburn, however, continued to persist and even worsen. One day while accompanying my mother to her gastroenterologist, I inquired as to whether or not the antacid was a good choice to alleviate my heartburn. He laughed and said, “Those increase heartburn!” I returned home threw out my bottle of tablets and never used them again. After some alterations in my diet, my heartburn subsided naturally.

After the birth of my third child (and third C-section) while in the hospital I was given the pain reliever Percocet. Upon release from the hospital the name brand drug was not given. The pharmacy said that I would have to use the generic brand, OxyContin. When I finished my dosage, I prepared to go on like before, pain free. But this time was different. This particular pain reliever was different. One morning when getting out of the bed my legs collapsed from beneath me. I could barely walk. I went back to my doctor but he told me that he didn’t know what was wrong. Ultimately, I ended up on an anti-inflammatory for the next six years. When my body built up a tolerance to that drug, I was given another at a higher dosage. That stopped working in six months. Seeing the pattern developing, I weaned myself off of the medicines and relied upon over the counter ibuprofen. My joints were never quite the same.

Long story short, I began to wonder if the composition of the generic pain killer contained a substance that (like the above referenced lip balm and antacid) deliberately damages muscles, advancing the deterioration of cartilage and accelerating arthritis.

In recent years, there has been an exponential jump in the number of individuals needing knee and hip replacements.

According to the Journal of Joint and Bone Surgery,

With the aging of the “baby boomers,” higher rates of diagnosis and treatment of advanced arthritis, and growing demand for improved mobility and quality of life, the annual procedure volumes are projected to increase considerably in the future, making joint replacements the most common elective surgical procedures in the coming decades2,3 ( )
Frequently, individuals are placed upon a regiment of pain meds to control the painful recovery process. Not only knee and hip replacements, but other surgeries often require the use of these medications. After the course of the medications run out, an increased number of individuals face unmanageable pain. As a result, we are facing what has been deemed an “opioid epidemic.” People are becoming hooked on pain killers, not because they want to “get high,” but because they cannot function without the meds. Eventually, people turn to the streets to get pills and other substances that will help to relieve their pain after they can no longer get the legal prescription drugs from their physicians…drugs that more than likely created this vicious cycle.

There is BIG MONEY associated with pain killers – not just for those selling street drugs but the drug manufacturers and the pharmaceutical companies that are the
producers. Yet few if any conversations are being held to confront pharmaceutical companies about the composition of the drugs that appear to create damage to cartilage and muscles that induce and increase pain. If we are serious about addressing the opioid epidemic, we must expand the conversation to address the clandestine tactics of LEGAL drug companies. For the love of money, millions of lives are being devastated. We must go beyond drug rehab centers and Bible studies about self-control. We must begin to research and confront the pharmaceutical industry.

Selah… “Stop and think about that…”

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Shepastor: "The Courage to Be a Change Agent..."

Women Accompanying Jesus
8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their means. Luke 8: 1-4, English Standard Version

In the above passage of scripture, we find an intriguing description of one of Jesus’ followers, “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s Steward or household manager.” One can only imagine the conversations held between Joanna and her husband Chuza, the “COO,” Chief Operating Officer, if you will of Herod’s household. Can’t you hear Chuza saying to his wife Joanna, “Baby, I understand that you find that Jesus fellow interesting and I know that you think that he had something to do with you feeling better after being sick for a while, but do you really have to follow him from town to town? Don’t you understand that Herod could fire me or worse, have me killed for allowing my wife to be seen with that Jesus man? Don’t you know how threatened Herod is by him? On top of that, why are you giving him MY money? Why does he have to rely on you and other women to support him?

I can imagine that Joanna was concerned about how her husband felt about her decision to follow Jesus and support Jesus’ ministry. I can imagine that she responded, “Darling, you just don’t understand. “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart! I have light in my soul for which long I have sought, since Jesus came into my heart!” After considering all factors, Joanna had the courage to not only follow Jesus, but support the work of the ministry.

Pastor, Preacher and Biblical scholar, the Late Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, in his book, The Certain Sound of a Trumpet: Crafting a Sermon of Authority, declared, “In order to please God, we are often compelled to be different.” It’s not easy to be different. It’s not easy to go against the grain, to march to the beat of a different drum, to separate from the pack, to take the road less traveled, to have the courage to follow where the Spirit leads. Indeed, it takes courage to be different, to do what is right in the face of daunting opposition, to be willing to do and be what is necessary to bring about change.

The term courage may be defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens you.” We have somehow developed the false notion that if someone is courageous, it means that they have such bravery, such “true grit,” such valor that they are fearless. In other words, because of their boldness or audacious spirit, they move about with little or no trepidation. Fear does not enter into their equation in the decision making process.

The opposite, however, is true. Courage is what it takes to move forward in the face of or in spite our fears. We take so much for granted as we read the Scriptures. Often we mindlessly move through the text, gliding over history, innuendo, and the setting in life. During that day and time, it was no small feat or endeavor to drop everything and follow Jesus, especially for a woman!

Jesus was considered to be a menace to society. For many in the political and social realms, he was little more than a trouble making, illegitimate, sorcery working hippy that was ever growing in popularity and increasingly becoming a threat to Religious leaders and the Roman Empire. For Joanna to step out of “her place,” particularly as a woman and follow Jesus, supporting his ministry financially with her money, took GREAT courage! The text does not clearly state how Joanna started following Jesus or even why. It simply says, “And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”

Though not stated specifically, it is inferred that Joanna was one of the women either “healed of an evil spirit” or with an “infirmity.” In other words, she was sick. If you have ever been sick, I don’t mean with a cold or a hang nail, but sick, REALLY sick…bent over in pain, continually nauseated, suffering from back, neck or knee pain, body ravaged by cancer or any other kind of illness, physical, mental or spiritual pain, you can imagine the relief and depth of appreciation Joanna must have felt when she was healed by Jesus!

One might argue that her healing not only emboldened her, but carved out a deep level of compassion for others that gave her the courage to be a change agent. With all of her wealth, with all of her finery, high position and prominence, she still could not get healed. Her healing came from Jesus! Her healing opened her eyes and her heart to some new realities. Her healing may have caused her to think, “I don’t want to be selfish and keep this blessing all to myself. I want to go with Jesus and help him to help others just like he helped me. I want to be a part of bringing about a change!”

When you really experience a move of God in your life…when God delivers you and or your loved ones, when God, frees you from whatever shackles were binding you, when the Lord lifts you out of whatever pit you found yourself in, you throw off the garments of fear, shame and defeat and you declare with boldness, “The Lord is my helper, what can man do unto me?”

It is clear that Joanna did not care what Herod thought, what her friends in society thought or even what Chuza may have thought! Joanna had her eyes fixed on Jesus and not only did she appreciate her healing but she wanted others to have the same. Joanna was a change agent because she was willing to sacrifice her comfort, her position, her prestige and whatever people thought of her in order to support and help others.

To be a change agent, one must be willing to sacrifice, suffer and serve. To be a change agent, one must be willing to take up their cross and follow Jesus. To be a change agent one must have a heart of humility and compassion. If we want to please Jesus than we will be compelled to be change agents! It is not enough to feed the hungry. We should desire that the hungry will one day be able to feed themselves and do what we can to change systems that keep people in the cycle of poverty.

It is not enough to sit back and watch people being mistreated and taken advantage of on the job. We must be willing to do what we can, using wisdom to protest unfair labor laws and conditions. It is not enough to sit back and watch bullies destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of others. We must have the courage to confront bullies (children and adults) to let them know that someone is watching, that someone does care and that someone is ready to take whatever action is necessary to make them stop their harassment.

Understand that being a change agent is not easy. Understand that people may not like you. They may not invite you to sit at their tables, to come to their parties, to participate in their conversations. But if by faith, you will defend the defenseless, support efforts that help to lift and bless others, speak truth to power, do whatever you can to help bring about hope and change for the better, you will not walk alone.

In our everyday lives, we may not be called upon to exhibit life or death courage. But we will be called upon to choose the road less traveled. We will be compelled by our compassion, our faith and our hope in a risen savior to be change agents – to rock some boats, to say and do things that some people will not like. We will be called upon to speak up concerning issues of injustice, ugliness, oppression and hate. We will be compelled to reject the joys and comforts of going along with the crowd for our own temporary comfort for the hope, healing and deliverance of others.

It takes courage to be a change agent. We cannot do it on our own. But with the help of the Lord, we can do all things. By coming together with others who also desire to lift, love and serve, we can run through troops and leap over walls! We may not readily see the fruit of our labor. But if by faith we will choose to please God, rather than humans, God will give us the victory. God will give us the strength. God will give us the courage and God will bless us with His favor in ways that no human being can erase.

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May you and your loved ones experience the hope, peace, joy and love that is ever present in this Advent Season!

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Shepastor: "Genuine Peace..."

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV

This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Advent. The focus for this Sunday is “Peace.” We know Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When we think of peace, in general, we think of the absence of conflict, calm, tranquility.

Because of this understanding, in the name of “peace,” many people don’t address issues. They leave words unspoken. They allow wrong to persist. In the name of peace, people look the other way from sin. In the name of “peace,” people hide feelings, quiet justifiable complaints, and want to shew away protestors…in the name of “peace.”

We must be careful how we view and press for “peace.” Godly peace does not ignore problems, struggles or injustices. Godly peace confronts in love and truth. Godly peace does not look the other way when people are hurting, when people are hungry, when people are marginalized, when people are treated less than human. Godly peace stands in the gap…speaks truth to power…does what it can to lift heavy burdens.

Godly peace presses us to lovingly confront issues whether they be in the home, in the community or in the world. Sometimes before genuine peace can happen, there has to be a conversation, a confrontation, an honest dialogue, an upheaval, a “getting things straight” moment!

Do you need to re-evaluate your understanding of peace? Are you looking the other way when you should be asking questions, raising concerns, addressing an issue? Are you remaining silent when you should speak up? Are you bottling up pain, frustration and unresolved issues to your own detriment as well as others in the name of peace? During this season, ask the Prince of Peace – Jesus to give you the courage to pursue genuine peace.

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Shepastor: "Where Are You Looking for Jesus?"

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son. (John 1:14, New Living Translation)

Who knew that the baby born to a poor, young, teenage girl and her fiancĂ©e (an “average Joe”) would be “the Word made flesh dwelling among us!” God has a way of surprising us! So often we miss what God is sending because we are looking for the wrong thing. Frequently we are looking for a king in a palace when the King is actually in a stable. When Jesus presents himself to us through His Word, or through a stranger, or through a child, or through someone needing our help, what is our response?

During this Advent Season, let us take time to hear, see and respond to Jesus however He chooses to come to us.

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' Matthew 25:40, NLT

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