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

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Shepastor: “True Joy”



Galatians 5:22-23, NIV

 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 

23 gentleness and self-control.

 Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 

In observance of the 3rd week of Advent, today we turn our attention towards the topic of Joy. Some may ask the question, “How can we discuss being joyful in the midst of all of this pain?” The CDC has warned that we could see more than 3,000 deaths per day if the COVID-19 pandemic is not controlled. Many are losing or have lost their jobs and do not know how they can make it. Parents and teachers are struggling with online learning. The list goes on and on. How and the world can we discuss joy???

 In Nehemiah 8:10, as the people of Israel listened to the priest Ezra read from the book of the law from sunrise until noon, they mourned their life circumstances. They were struggling to rebuild the city that had been left in ruins after Babylonian captivity. They were struggling to rebuild the wall around the city that was a source of protection and safety. But more than that, they were struggling to rebuild their faith and their damaged relationship with God.

 As Ezra read the sacred text, the people mourned and wept. They wept because they had fallen away from righteous living. They wept because of their sinful disobedience. And they wept because of the consequences they faced as a result of their foolish, wicked and idolatrous ways. Upon seeing their pain and grief over their past sins, Nehemiah, in so many words told the people, “You can’t do anything about your past. Some of this pain is due to the consequences of cultural and individual sin. You can’t change the past. But you can make up your mind right now to walk with God and live consistently for Him! The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

 


This joy that Nehemiah spoke of had to be deliberate.  It had to be a decision to embrace the forgiveness, love and opportunities that God was offering them at that moment.  This understanding of Joy transcends feel good emotions.  It is larger and more intent than happiness.  Happiness is based upon what is “happening.” But “Joy” is based upon our faith, hope and trust in Almighty God, no matter what is happening. This Joy produces strength, faith, hope, endurance and the blessed assurance that the God we serve loves us unconditionally and wants us to move forward, no matter how sordid or corrupt our pasts may have been.  This joy reminds us that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of trouble.

The New Testament Book of Galatians reminds us that Joy is one of the “fruits of the

Spirit.” In other words, the child of God has a depth level peace, contentment and assurance that no matter what life may bring, God is with us! Feelings will rise and fall.  True joy, however is a daily decision to remain focused upon the God who is able to “keep us from falling and to present us faultless before His presence with exceeding joy!” (Jude vs.24)

True joy is sustained within us when we purposefully, deliberately, intentionally make the choice to see God in the midst of our every situation and circumstance.  It is the decision to trust God in all things, to praise God in all things and to believe that God is with us and is available to help us not to slip back into ungodly and destructive ways.

Depression, oppression, perpetual sorrow, sadness and worry do not befit, suit or look good on the child of God.  The oppression of the enemy does not suit, befit or look good on the child of God because our God is bigger than any trial, situation or circumstance that the enemy can throw at us.  Emotional bondage, constant complaining, constant drama in the life of the child of God is not befitting, does not suit, does not look good on the child of God.  It does not suit you!

That does not mean that we won’t experience sorrow or worry, or struggle or trials or problems.  But what is means is that the child of God walks in the conviction that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!”  The child of God walks in the blessed assurance that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning – great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” 


The child of God walks in the favor of God, knowing that everything is somehow going to work together for our good.
Therefore, the child of God “puts on” the garment of praise, and makes the bold declaration, “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth… and praises God in advance for His blessings and His deliverance.”  The child of God lifts up holy hands, bows down his or her head, shouts in triumph, plucks the strings of their hear and declares, “be exalted, O God above my situation and circumstances – I will let your glory be all over me!”

The child of God understands that God is mighty to save, that His compassions fail not, that He is a provider, a keeper, a sustainer, a deliverer.  The child of God also understands that we are the hands and the feet of Jesus.  God wants to use us to help relieve pain, to help feed the hungry, to help clothe the naked – Our joy in the Lord is obvious to all by the love and the care and the compassion that we show.

True Joy gives more than just lip service, true joy produces “life service.”  The way we walk, the way we talk the way we treat people, the songs we sing, the love we show, the compassion we give, the prayers we pray, the gifts and talents we share all are examples of our joy!

Be intentional about keeping your joy.  Resist the temptation to wallow in the past,

in depression, in self-pity, in anything that drains you of the strength and vitality available to you through the love of God our Father, the grace of our elder brother, Jesus Christ, and the sweet communion of the blessed Holy Spirit. Be intentional about keeping your joy! Put on the garments of Joy and Praise! Be intentional about keeping your joy! Determine to keep your spirit filled with the joy of the Lord and praise each day. May you walk by faith, continually give God praise, live in peace and remain determined to keep your joy!

In Faith, Hope and Joy,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Shepastor: “Confident Thanksgiving and Praise”

 

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100, KJV

 

It is Thanksgiving week in America. However, many may be struggling to be thankful in this season. Many are struggling with the loss of loved ones, employment and “Covid fatigue.” Frontline workers are exhausted, struggling as they work in over crowded hospital wards, intubated patients, grieving families and limited PPE. Our Nation is deeply divided over a plethora of issues. It’s a tough time! How do we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise?”

Let’s consider the following…

We serve a God that loves and cares about us.  The psalmist said, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.  For the Lord is good, his mercy is ever lasting and His truth endureth to all generations.

We can thank God even before we see the answer, because we have the confidence that He is the answer.  We have the confidence that God can and will take care of His own.  We can thank and praise God with confidence because when we trust God, we know that no matter what comes, God is going to carry us through.  Yes, we face disappointments.  Yes, we face trials and tribulations. Yes, we have struggles and pain.  But God carries us through them all. 

The child of God will face trials and struggles, but the child of God knows that God is right there by his or her side, leading, guiding, comforting, encouraging, loving, supporting, providing, making a way.  He promised never to leave us or forsake us.  He promised to give us springs in the desert.  He promised to make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth in our lives.  He promised that no weapon formed against us would prosper.  He promised that when the enemy comes in like a flood, His Spirit would raise up a standard against him.

God said, 

I am the Lord that healeth thee.  Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. 2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  Isaiah 43:1-2 (ASV)

In other words, child of God, there’s nothing that you will face in this life that God cannot see you through.  You may feel as though you can’t make it, you can’t take it, but stand upon God’s Word and declare, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”  Sometimes God changes our situation and circumstances and sometimes God changes us.  Sometimes God moves mountains and sometimes God moves us.  Sometimes God heals our bodies, and sometimes He simply heals our minds and spirits.

God’s Word in Philippians 4 encourages us not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, we should let our requests be made known unto God. The promise is that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.

Today, I encourage you to choose thanksgiving and praise. Even in the midst of your struggle and trial, choose confidently to bless and praise the Lord. Meditate upon all that you do have. Honor the Lord for all that He has already carried you through. Thank Him for your life. Praise Him for salvation. Trust Him for your future. Be confident, not in yourself, but in His faithfulness. God will carry you through!

This Thanksgiving and always,

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you,

May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org