Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shepastor: "When Silence is LOUD..."

...a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak
, Ecclesiastes 3:7, NIV

Recently as I listened to a radio program, the hosts of the program were having a dialogue about a controversial issue. As one host passionately shared his thoughts on the matter, the other remained completely silent. Usually, the co-host would make some remark or verbal utterance that indicated either agreement, disagreement or wonderment. This time, however, was different. There was no verbal interaction at all. I thought to myself, "Wow, her silence is deafening!"

There are times when silence is loud. The empty vacuum of voicelessness can create a sound that conveys deep and sometimes troubling messages. Inappropriate silence can convey messages of consent, agreement, indifference or fear. This is particularly true during instances of injustice. It is not enough to shake our heads, silently pray or simply think about what is wrong. There are times when righteousness compels us to raise our voices and cry out on behalf of the defenseless, the marginalized, the abused and the neglected.

Speaking up is a critical aspect of being a Christian and frankly, human. Throughout history, God has used the voices of every day men and women to speak up against blatant wrong happening in the world. The Old and New Testament prophets, Joan of Arc, Sojourner Truth, Jarena Lee, Nat Turner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Abraham Heschel, Mahatma Gandhi and Marian Wright Edelman to name a few all raised their voices to address human suffering, oppression, slavery, economic injustices, sexism, etc.

Recently movements such as Black Lives Matter, "Me Too" and Youth against gun violence are all examples of the power and importance of voice. While there are times when silence is appropriate and even necessary, silence must never be used as an excuse or a vehicle carrying indifference. We must never allow our silence to be louder than our love.
May we have the courage to speak up, speak out and stand when the silence of others is booming.

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Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Shepastor: "Today..."

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread
. Matthew 6: 9-11, NIV

One of the many struggles of the human existence is to remain focused on this day – today. And while some may say that particularly our young people don’t think about or don’t plan for the future because they are saturated with the “right now…” Many, however, are saturated with concerns about the future or even the past.

In consideration of this struggle, I like to think about the words of the late Ethicist, Theologian and Mystic, Dr. Howard Thurman who declared,
There is an abiding desire to know the future, to see around the corner of the days and the years. Even if we say that we will not concern ourselves with what will happen next month or next year, the shy insistence still remains – we want to know. This anxiety is the normal feeling that we face on the threshold of any new adventure. If we could be sure that all would be well, if we could have some guarantee that our present hopes would not betray us and leave us deserted and in the lonely place then we would find the peace that belongs to the contented. But life is not like that. He leads us on by paths we did not know…
If we could just see around the corner…if we could just peek through the door…if we could just see over the horizon, then we would find the peace that belongs to the contented…or would we? When I look back over my life, if I knew all that I would face before it happened, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to face those experiences. But God in His infinite wisdom chooses to keep things hidden from us until He knows we have what we need to face it.

On another note, “today” can be so frustrating because it’s not where we desire to be. For many, if we had our way, we would be somewhere else, experiencing something else, engaged in something else, doing something else. For some you are in proverbial waiting room…waiting for God to fix it, to change it, to move it, to improve it, to lift it, to take it, to make it, GRANT IT, DO IT– THE WAITING ROOM!!! For those in the waiting room, today may not feel so good. Often when we read this verse or even pray this prayer, we think of our “daily bread,” as the Lord supplying our physical needs. But our daily bread is more than physical needs – our daily bread is what we need to “feed us.”

The song write said, “Bread of Heaven, feed me ‘til I want no more…” Jesus understood the need for us to pray this prayer…give us this day our daily bread…because Jesus understood that we would be hungry…hungry for love, hungry for peace…hungry for satisfaction…hungry for healing…hungry for fulfillment…hungry for a break through…hungry for deliverance…HUNGRY!!!

Jesus knew that our hunger would cause us to lose the blessing and benefit of the day we currently have. As much as we long for tomorrow, there is nothing that we can do to rush it getting here. There are 24 hours in a day and that is that! There is nothing we can do to change the past. No matter how we long to go back and enjoy something or erase something, or fix something, we cannot – it’s the past. It’s done. It’s over. You can’t go back. But you can reap the blessings and the benefits of today.

We must learn to pray, Lord give us THIS DAY our daily bread…Lord give me what I need TODAY to satisfy my hunger. Lord give us this day what we need to fill that empty space, that pain, that struggle, that dissatisfaction – Lord give us THIS DAY the bread that will feed me until I want no more –THIS DAY do it in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit. Send your bread to fill me up.

Only Jesus can give us that kind of bread. Only Jesus can fill up the gaps that the world leaves gaping…only Jesus can teach us how to walk through the struggles of today.
Are you hungry? Are YOU hungry? The Lord wants to feed you. Jesus taught us this prayer and then he showed us what it means to be filled. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have days where the hunger pains return, but when you accept Jesus as your Savior, he teaches you how to hold onto today, make the most of today, be fulfilled with his love, his hope, his joy, his peace, his blessed assurance that he will never leave you or forsake you…the fulfillment that reminds you that your name is written in the lambs book of life and that you have eternal life.

Won’t you receive that bread today – Jesus the bread of life?

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shepastor: "When Winter Lasts Too Long..."

3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

The other day I heard a local meteorologist read a tweet from a viewer frustrated about the weather. It read in part, "So are we not doing Spring this year?" Many of us have been wondering the same thing! It's supposed to be Spring time, yet we are still experiencing snow showers, frozen soil, 30 degree weather and "Old Man Winter" just will not to let go!!! The Birds have come back from the south, the flowers are trying to push through the cold hard ground and we are still freezing!!!

Sometimes we feel that way about life. The winter of life seems to continue to persist. We thought that by now the "season" would have changed. We thought by now that we would have reached that goal, lost that weight, overcome that issue, conquered that struggle, paid off that debt, repaired that relationship, healed from that sickness...but for whatever reason, "Winter" is still here. During this time we are tempted to lose heart and hope. The enemy whispers into our ear, "Things will never change. You may as well give up." Rebuke those lies in the name of Jesus! Spring AND Summer, really are just around the corner!

Winter time can be depressing, gloomy and heavy. It can make you feel like staying in bed with the sheets pulled over your head. But we should take a page out of the book of God's example in nature. Each year, the birds return, the flowers push through, the trees bud and eventually, the sun shines. Yes, some plants wilt and die, but the greater majority prevail. The resilient nature of their composition and purpose pushes them forward.

For the child of God, trials, suffering, "winter," can produce perseverance, character and ultimately hope. Your winter is not without purpose. In the words of music artist Marvin Sapp, "You are stronger, wiser and better!" Your best days are ahead of you! You have learned things that "fun in the sun" could have never produced in you. Your ability to empathize with others has increased exponentially. You have discovered strength through Christ that you did not even know you possessed. HOLD ON!!! Your time of blossoming, soaring and experiencing the warm rays of the sun are on the way. By God's grace, may you press through your present experience of pain, cold and struggle. Spring and Summer are not far from your house!

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Shepastor: "Through the Eyes of a Child..."

1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I Corinthians 11:1, NIV

On Easter Sunday, beautiful children came to worship all dressed up in their new outfits. Two of our little ones burst into our church office announcing themselves..."Hello..." It was their way of inviting me to come and see their new dresses and polished nails. Of course I obliged! They were adorable, beautiful and full of delight! I reached down, gave them a big hug and let them know how beautiful they looked and are. I was totally surprised and incredibly blessed by the response of the 3 year old... she flung open her arms (as if performing on a stage) gave me a million dollar smile and boldly declared, "I look like YOU!!!"

She sees herself in her pastor. She wants to imitate me...she believes that she looks like me (she is far cuter!!!). I suddenly had an increased awareness of my responsibility to be intentional about modeling true beauty...the beauty of Christ before our children. This baby's response caused me to think deeply about imagery and the power it wields over people in general and children in particular. Children will imitate what they see. They will follow the examples we place before them. They learn the lessons that we teach with our actions.

What are you teaching by your actions, your words, your example? Whether you realize it or not, the children in your sphere of influence are looking at you. Whether you realize it or not, your face is a mirror into which our children see themselves. May we prayerfully, lovingly and righteously provide a reflection that exudes the love and way of Christ.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Shepastor: "Ever-Increasing Glory..."

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18, NIV

Some years ago, while driving home from a family trip, my daughter (who is known for pulling things “out of the sky” and making remarks) looked at me and declared, “Mommy, you are going to be so beautiful!” To which I responded, “Aris, you don’t think that I am beautiful now?” Aris went on, “Yes Mommy, but not as beautiful as you are going to be…”

While I am not quite sure what she saw or what she was thinking, her words carried my thoughts to another place. As the people of God, our desire should be to continually transform into the image of God with “ever-increasing glory.” During Holy Week, we stand on the sidelines of history, processing images of a Savior who began the week with loud hosannas and ended the week unrecognizable due to unimaginable brutality, mockery, and humiliation.

Yet Jesus endured all of these things to conquer Death, Hell and the Grave for us. What appeared to be defeat, was the dawning of a new day for humanity. Through God’s love, grace and mercy, Jesus’ willing sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, counsel and comfort, we can walk in victory…not only in the “life eternal,” but in our everyday lives. Through Christ we are no longer slaves to the sins that bind us, but are made “free indeed!” The Law that was a school master, reminding us of our inability to flawlessly follow every “jot and tittle” becomes the usher, that carries us to the throne of grace, taking us beyond the veil.

Through Christ, we can submit to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, transforming our lives to reflect more of the love, the grace, the mercy, the peace, the joy, the beauty, the justice, the righteousness, the compassion of God.

As we march towards “Good Friday,” and ultimately, “Resurrection Morning,” may we embrace the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May God’s ever-increasing glory be abundantly evident in our daily walk and may we know that our current beauty is merely a glimpse of what we shall be!

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Shepastor: "Drive Out the Giants..."

Allotment for Caleb
6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’[a] 10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war. Joshua 14: 6-15, NIV

Caleb knew that this land had been promised to him. He never forgot what the Lord told Moses – that he was to give this land to Caleb. Caleb had to watch as an entire generation faded away – forty-five years before reaching his promised destination. But in spite of the long, treacherous struggle and wait, Caleb was determined to receive what God had promised him. He didn’t want just any land, he wanted the specific land that was designated for him. The “mountain” or hill country he was promised was Hebron. What was so special about Hebron?

The significance of Hebron:

-After going his separate way from his brother Lot, Abraham “pitched his tent” in Hebron
-Abraham’s wife Sarah, after her death was buried in Hebron, as were all three of the patriarchs, Jewish Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
-It became a Levitical city and a city of refuge.
-As King of Judah, Hebron was David’s royal residence, and he was anointed as king over all Israel there.
-When David became King of Judah, he chose to make Hebron Israel’s first capital city.
-Next to Jerusalem, this is the most important city in the Bible.

This was a rich land, a holy land, a historic land – a “promised land.” But in spite of all that, there remained a big issue with the land – the land STILL HAD GIANTS!!!
One might think that after having to wait all of that time, the land would have been “good to go,” care free, smooth terrain, no problem, right? Not so!!! Even though it was rich, historic, anointed, holy, BEAUTIFUL, it still had some problems – BIG PROBLEMS!!! But look at Caleb’s attitude – no matter the problem, he still not only wanted, but was willing to fight for what God had for him! Let’s think about what we can learn from this passage and Caleb’s attitude…

Things to learn from this passage:

(1) You may have to wait a while for God’s promise to come to pass
I imagine that it was no cake walk for Caleb. 45 years is a LONG TIME by anyone’s count. But Caleb was a man that wholeheartedly followed the Lord. When he received God’s guidance and promise given through Moses, he didn’t buck up against Moses, he didn’t go against Moses with the rest of the eight spies,he grabbed hold to God’s promises and ran with them. You will not be able to stand on God’s promise, stand firm against a majority who are fearful, doubtful, pessimistic, and contrary unless you wholeheartedly follow the Lord. You will not be able to hold on and hold out for God’s best for your life if you are “half steppin” with your faith. Coming to church every now and then, praying every now and then, barely if ever studying God’s Word, living in ways that you know go against what God’s Word teaches about holy living…Jesus said, “a little leaven, leveneth the whole lump.” A pinch of yeast can cause an entire loaf of bread to rise because of its potency. That is the thing with sin, disobedience, bad attitudes, rebellious spirits, foolish pride, unholy behaviors, etc. When you allow seeds of sin to take root in your heart you undermine the seed of faith, hope, love, trust, truth in your own heart. The thorn-bushes of sin will crowd out any seed of faith, hope and righteousness that propel you into having “Caleb-like” faith – a faith that helps you to hold on to the promises. We’ve got to nurture and build our faith so that we can hold onto God’s promises and receive that which He has promised – not just any old thing, but God’s best for us, a “Hebron blessing!”

(2) There are still giants in the “promised land”

Another thing we learn from this text is that even when we receive the promise, proverbial giants will often still be in the land. You finally land your “dream job” only to find out that the person or persons you have to work with are mean, jealous and undermining. You finally get your new home, only to find out the previous owners nor the realtor told you all of the expenses you would have fixing hidden problems. You finally get out of prison only to find out that you can’t find a job. You finally reach your educational goal, but now you’ve got to pay back student loans. You finally get what you’ve been waiting for only to find out that THERE ARE GIANTS IN THE LAND!!!

Be prepared for the giants. In other words, understand that in this world we will have tribulation, but Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” There will always be something that you will have to overcome. There is no perfect place, there is no perfect job, there is no perfect relationship, there is no perfect church, there is no perfect human beings…everybody and every place has some kind of issues. If you run away, you will still face issues because you can’t run from yourself and believe it or not WE ALL HAVE ISSUES!!! Don’t relinquish what God has for you in your promised place because of challenges, because of trials, because of discouragement. Learn from Caleb who declared, 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Our third and final lesson,
(3) With the help of the Lord you can drive them out…

My father always used to encourage me by saying, “Chrissy, life could never be that hard. Always say to yourself, ‘With the help of Almighty God, I can make it!’” Caleb in our text recognized the giants. He called them by name. He acknowledged their strength, but then he affirmed his faith that even though they were strong, with God’s help, he could and would drive them out because God said that the land belonged to him! Learn how to claim your territory. Name your giants. Recognize what your problems, your issues, your stumbling blocks, your challenges, your weaknesses. When you know what they are and you can name them, then you can move on from there and process through understanding its strength. In other words, we’ve got to be strategic about facing and defeating our giants.

You cannot defeat or overcome your issues if you are unwilling to name them, understand their strength and then strategize on how to drive them out. You’ve got to name your issues. Don’t under estimate the strength, the pull the current power whatever it is has over you. For some, the giant is anger and hostility…can’t control your emotions. For some the giant is low self-esteem…because you don’t understand and embrace the beauty of who God made you to be you are ever comparing yourself, ever under-rating yourself, ever insecure about yourself. For some the giant is perpetually making bad choices. You don’t stop and think things through. You don’t pay attention to warning signs. You don’t look before you leap!

We all have giants. But with the help of the Lord, we can drive them out. It does not matter how old you are. God can help you to name, face and defeat the giants that seek to oppress and overpower you, blocking you from having the best blessings that God has for your life, for your family, for your household, your marriage, your children, your finances, your relationships. God will help you to name, face and ultimately drive out the giants that are holding you down, dragging you back, controlling you with heart ache and fear.

Do you want to drive the giants out? Learn from Caleb in our text…wholeheartedly follow the Lord – stop half steppin. Give your life, your heart, your mind, your mouth, your will, your finances, your whole self to the Lord. Do you want to drive out the giants? Stop playing games with God and yourself. Name your issues. Deal with them through prayer, faith, a decision to change and therapy is necessary. Deal with your giants! Do you want to drive the giants out? Take hold of God’s promises over your life. No matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult it may seem, no matter who does or does not stand with you – hold to God’s unchanging hand – follow God with your whole heart – trust and obey and God will give you what you need to be victorious in every arena of your life!

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Until next Wednesday

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Shepastor: “For the Common Good…”

11A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11, NIV

It is not always easy to “overlook an offense.” Our natural inclination (at least for me) is to either say something or withdraw. Frequently, relationships are strained or broken because of offenses. Through observation, however, I am learning the benefits of overlooking offenses.

Let me hasten to say that some offenses CANNOT be overlooked…abuse, sexual or racial attacks, bullying etc. These issues must be addressed head on and must not be tolerated.
But there are other offenses that we should learn to move past and work through. I am always impressed to take note of individuals who have learned the delicate art of moving beyond an offence to work with others to accomplish good.

For example, people with opposing political views coming together to work on a community project to help many… acquaintances who just “rub one another the wrong way,” putting aside their differences to share their expertise to help educate or inform others…pastors and leaders who don’t ordinarily “run in the same circles” or who have different approaches to addressing issues, coming together on one particular thing to help advance a cause.

Can you overlook an offense in order to reach a higher goal, address a pressing issue, attend to a major problem? Can you push past your offense in order to make a greater impact for good? How adept are you, through prayer, patience and discernment at “picking your battles?”

May we pray for the wisdom and discernment to address those issues that need addressing and overlook those issues that get in the way of our doing common good.

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