Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Shepastor: “Standing in the Need of Encouragement…”

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11, NIV

We are living in very discouraging times. Some are experiencing feelings of hopelessness. Some feel daunted by overwhelming responsibilities. Some are depressed. Some feel like they are drowning. The list goes on and on. We need encouragement. Below is a beautiful list offered by a Christian writer, Stacy Wiebe on ways that we can encourage one another…

19 Ways to Encourage Others
(Originally shared by Stacy Wiebe, from Christian Women Today)

Encouragement goes straight to the heart. In fact, the word itself comes from a combination of the prefix "en" which means "to put into" and the Latin word "cor" which means heart.

Knowing what a big difference encouragement makes in your own life, what can you do to help others "to take heart" when the going gets tough and way feels long?

Become aware of what encourages you, and do those same things for others.

Learn individuals' "love language"-the special way in which they feel most valued. In his book, The Five Languages of Love , Gary Chapman explains that not everyone's emotional needs are met in the same way, and that it's important to learn to speak others' love language. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, spending quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

If an encouraging thought comes to mind, share it! It may not have the same effect if you wait. Don't let shyness hold you back. Instead, form a new habit: "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today…" (Hebrews 3:13).

When you introduce someone, add a few words of praise for the person's abilities, accomplishments, about how they've helped you or about the nature of your relationship. It's encouraging to be praised in front of others.*

When someone is discouraged or hurting, offer specific, practical help. If you ask, "How can I help?" the person might be at a loss to answer. It's better to ask, "Would it help if I…(specific action) or say, "I would like to…(specific action)?*

Remind fellow Christians of the specific promises of God and characteristics of God. We may know something with our mind, but need to be reminded in our heart. The Apostle Peter wrote, "I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have" (2 Peter 1:12).

Write someone a note to tell them that you're praying for them. Tell them what you're praying. You can pray specific Scriptures for individuals such as Romans 15:13, "[I pray that] the God of hope [will] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Make celebration a more regular part of your relationships. Celebrate others' victories, large and small-with a note, with coffee together, with a special meal, a congratulatory phone call or just a high-five!

Be specific when you offer words of praise; it makes your encouragement more credible and concrete "You did a great job at…" "I really appreciate that you…" "I was really impressed that you…"

Encourage other believers with a reminder of Christ's coming. It redirects our thinking to an eternal perspective and ultimate deliverance from the sin and death. "We who are still alive and are left will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thessalonians 5:17b-18).

Realize the power of presence. Just being there is encouraging! When you're with others, you're telling them that they're important. The Apostle Paul closed his letter to the church at Colosse promising to send his friend Tychius "that he may encourage your hearts" (Colossians 4:8b).

If you're part of a church, Bible study or fellowship, be committed to showing up. Your simple presence encourages others that they are part of a community of faith and that they are not alone. That's why the writer of Hebrews says, "Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as we see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

If someone you know is working on a large project, send her a single flower to encourage her at the beginning of the project, and a full bouquet when it's done.*

Use encouragement as an outreach. If anyone should be known for being an encourager, it should be the Christian. Write a letter of appreciation to people at work, your apartment manager, your child's teacher or your doctor. Often when we interact with these people, we are asking for their services. Take time just to say thank you!*

If you really want to encourage someone who gives you excellent service, write a letter of commendation to the person's boss.*

We could learn something from the way team athletes freely pat, touch and high-five each other in competition. Touch is a powerful encouragement. Be sure to be sensitive in this area, though. Ask someone if you can hug her first. And be careful to be above reproach with persons of the opposite sex.

When you see someone making positive changes in their lives, affirm them. "You seem to have a really great attitude about…" "It may be that I'm just starting to take notice, but I see that you're…" "Do you think that you are becoming more…?"

Tell people how they've encouraged you!

Walk daily in the power of the Holy Spirit, asking for what you need to encourage others. Just as it is impossible to live the Christian life in one's own strength, it's also impossible to freely, unselfishly pour out encouragement without the help of the Holy Spirit who is our Encourager.
For more information on walking in the power of the Spirit, see:

* These tips adapted from the book, 52 Simple Ways to Encourage Others, by C.E. Rollins, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1995.

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Shepastor: “Learning from the Prayer of Epaphras…”

Epaphras sends greetings to you. He comes from your city. And he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Epaphras always prays hard for you. He prays that you will be mature Christians. He prays that you will be confident. He prays that you will do all that God wants you to do. Colossians 4:12, The Bible in Basic English

Epaphras was a Christian brother who visited Paul in prison and told Paul about the young church that was at Colossae. The Christians who lived there had begun to listen to false teachers. Paul was worried that the Christians would turn away from the true *gospel. Therefore, Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae to remind them about Jesus Christ and about his true message emphasising that Christ is superior.

In this passage, Paul is reminding the Christians at Colosse that they have an advocate in the spirit, their brother Epaphras, as Paul puts it is always, “wrestling in prayer” for them.

The Bible in Basic English says verse 12 like this,
“Epaphras sends greetings to you. He comes from your city. And he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Epaphras always prays hard for you. He prays that you will be mature Christians. He prays that you will be confident. He prays that you will do all that God wants you to do.”

Prayer is more than just a ritualistic exercise. Prayer is greater than desperate utterance mumbled at the time of crisis. Prayer ought to be a way of life. Some have specific times and places that they pray. Some make a practice of praying at bedtime or saying, “grace” before meals. But prayer is so much more than “the regular.”

What is prayer? Prayer is a conversation with God. Prayer is a time to share our inner most thoughts and feelings with the Lord. Prayer is a battle ground. I like the translation that says Epaphras was always, “wrestling” in prayer for the Christians at Colosse. That means that Epaphras understood that something critical, something imperative, something of vital nature was at stake. He understood that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. Epaphras’ example of wrestling in prayer teaches us that we need to “kick it up a notch” so to speak. He prayed some specific, strategic prayers for his people and his community.

He prayed for them to be mature Christians.Those who are immature in the faith lack self control… can’t control their anger, offended easily, giving up easily, not able to control their tongue, knows very little scripture, falling in and out of sinful behaviours – immature Christians. But after a while, after studying God’s Word, after hanging around other more mature Christians, after prayer and fasting – there ought to be some maturity about you – you ought to be able to digest the “meat” of God’s word.

Epaphras was wrestling against the spirit of immaturity among his people and in the community. He prayed that they would grow up in the Lord. The scripture says, “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things…” God calls us to be mature Christians – having a praying spirit, a discerning spirit, a peaceful spirit, a loving spirit, a giving spirit a forgiving spirit.

Ephaphras also prayed that they would be confident. He wrestled in prayer that his brothers and sisters at the church of Colosse would be confident, not in themselves but in who God made them to be. He prayed that they would be confident in the complete work of Jesus Christ – “being confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” When you don’t know your identity in Christ, when you don’t realize what God has done for you, you will live beneath your privilege and will walk in ways that are not reflective of who you really are.

Sometimes we lack confidence because someone has told us negative and degrading things about ourselves. Sometimes we lack confidence because we always felt that others were better than we are. Sometimes we lack confidence because we never had the support or the accolades or the positive encouragement that every child needs to realize their potential. So we live beneath our potential, beneath our God given talents and gifts, beneath our rightful place. We wrestle to really discover who God made us to be.

But through the wrestling of prayer, we can emerge victorious and reach the heights intended for us to reach. We sometimes have to wrestle to break old habits, wrestle to push past old pain, wrestle, to gain a new perspective, wrestle, to rise above negativity and shame, wrestle to be all that God has intended us to be in this world. We also need brothers and sisters who like Epaphras, will wrestle with us to help us to rise higher.

Finally, Epaphras prayed that the Christians at Colossea would do all that God wants them to do. We have to wrestle in prayer for others that they would realize what God is calling for them to do, created them to do, empowered them to do and then that they would get up and do it!

We must wrestle in prayer that we will do the will of God. We must wrestle against doubt, wrestle against fear, wrestle against gloom and doom, wrestle against nay sayers, wrestle against principalities and powers, not in our own strength but in the strength of the Lord. The wrestling is in a determination to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for as much as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Continue fervent in prayer – remember how Jacob wrestled all night long and said I will not let go until you bless me – may we wrestle in prayer like Epaphras…praying for other Christians, praying for our communities, praying for one another that we will be mature Christians, that we will be confident through Christ and that we will learn God’s will for our lives and do it!

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Shepastor: “Know Yourself Holistically…”

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. III John 1:2, NIV

During a recent doctor’s office visit I had to remind my new physician that I cannot take medicines with a certain element due to allergic reactions. While that information is in my chart, for some reason my physician missed it. Had I not questioned whether or not the recommended med had that element, I could have taken it and become very ill.

Thankfully, there are safeguards in place, like the pharmacy questioning the meds because of notes in my records, but still, accidents happen. It was critical for me not only ask questions, but to know my own body, how things affect me and what I can and cannot take.

It is important to know yourself. Spiritually and psychologically speaking, it is important to understand who you are – your temperament, what pushes your proverbial “buttons,” your “Achilles heel,” your strengths, gifts and graces. It is also important to get to know and understand your body.

The scriptures focus upon the whole person. We are body, mind and soul. Jesus acknowledged this reality when He highlighted the summation of life: to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37). We carry out that love while housed in our bodies.

When we neglect any aspect of our being, we jeopardize our overall health. Pay attention to your whole self. In communion with the Lord, seek wisdom, guidance and education to get and remain healthy. When you are tired, rest. When you are hungry, eat. When you are lonely, pursue healthy relationships. Drink plenty of water (spiritual and physical). Eat right (spiritually and physically). Watch what you “feed” your mind and spirit. Avoid filling up on physical and spiritual “junk food.”

Take care of yourself. Put on your oxygen mask first. Live life to the fullest. Remember, this is not a trial run.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Shepastor: “Choices Have Consequences…”

Samuel's Warning Against Kings
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work.17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The Lord Grants Israel's Request
19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” I Samuel 8: 1-22a, ESV

When we repeatedly ignore God’s warnings in our personal lives and in the life of a nation, when we demand our own way instead of God’s way, when we “lean to our own understanding,” our choices create our reality. In demanding a king, Israel rejected God’s manner of leadership for their nation. While Samuel’s sons’ dishonest ways precipitated the leaders to demand a king, they chose to ignore God’s warnings through Samuel that their solution to the problem was ill advised.

More than disgust with Samuel’s sons, the national leaders wanted to be more like surrounding nations. They wanted kings instead of God’s representatives – judges. The Lord gave them what they wanted. They had no idea that one foolish, arrogant decision to reject God’s direction would haunt them for generations to come. Reaping season is long and hard. Seeds sown in seasons of foolishness produce fruit that can negatively impact not only your life, but the lives of generations yet unborn. Like individuals, nations can experience the same painful consequences of rejecting God’s call to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

We cannot control everything. We certainly cannot control the choices of others. Through prayer, faith, education and wisdom, we can, however, make choices that are aligned with the ways of the Lord. Honoring God with our lives and in the choices that we make will not exempt us from all pain and misfortune. Walking in the paths of righteousness, mercy, love and truth will lead us in the way of peace and being whole.

Choose wisely, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of those coming after you.

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Shepastor: “The Fruit of Barren Seasons…”

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
Luke 1: 5-7, KJV

Zacharias and Elisabeth were old. No doubt they had accepted the fact that their “season” had passed and they would probably never become parents. They served in pain. In subsequent verses we learn that the angel Gabriel came to Zacharias while he was performing his priestly duties in the temple and informed him that a change was coming…his wife Elisabeth would conceive and bare a son.

I imagine that Zacharias may have felt that he’d been inhaling too much incense! His doubt produced a seemingly harsh sentence. He would not be able to speak until the promise came forth. Seasons of being barren can carve out deep caverns of sorrow, embarrassment, confusion, reticence and resignation. Barren seasons can produce iron clad locks upon our hearts and minds in which doubt and fear become the formidable door keepers.

At times, God imposes silence upon us so that we do not speak against the blessings that are coming our way. Our own words can “curse” our outcome. If Zacharias conveyed his doubt and angst to Elisabeth, she may have never conceived John. That doubt and fear had to be quarantined!

Sometimes the vision of blessings to come appear so impossible that we shut down. It is too emotionally costly to invest in believing, hoping and trusting, so we shut down. Much like the physiological reaction of shock during trauma to protect our psyche and other body parts, the Lord, at times allows us to go into “shut down mode” in order to protect us from ourselves. Our momentary “emotional paralysis,” however, does not stop God’s activities behind the scenes on our behalf.

Some translations start verse 7 with the conjunction, “but” they had no child… I like the King James’ translation that begins with a different conjunction, “and” they had no child…

The conjunction “but” suggests something to the contrary. The conjunction “and,” however, suggests that something else is on the way! In other words, when one translation says that they were “righteous and blameless” before the Lord, “but she was barren,” it suggests that her barreness was in direct contradiction to her righteous life or living.

“You are righteous, you are holy, you are clean before the Lord, why are you barren? Something surely must be wrong with you.” Why aren’t you producing? Why can’t we see your fruit? You appear to be righteous but your apparent condition is in direct contradiction to who you are supposed to be.

Have you ever felt barren? Have you ever experienced a season of dearth, “fruitlessness,” an empty womb if you will? We learn from this text and several others that being righteous and walking blamelessly before the Lord does not exempt us from seasons of being barren…seasons of feeling like we aren’t accomplishing anything, giving birth to anything, producing anything. Yes even in the life of the righteous there are seasons of flowerless, leafless, fruitless trees. I’m not speaking of the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, self-control, meekness, humility. Those fruits should be budding on our proverbial trees daily. I’m speaking now of the fruit of expectation...the production or coming forth of things we’ve been praying for, longing for, waiting for, preparing for. Sometimes it just seems like it will never happen. Sometimes it feels like it will never come to pass.

Can you really blame Zacharias for asking the angel what in the world he was talking about? We beat up on Zacharais for not really believing the angel but can you imagine if it were you? I imagine that Zacharias and Elisabeth had just accepted their plight. Their season of expectation had ended, or so they thought. The Lord had an “and” in the plan! The Lord had something else on the way! They Lord had delayed their blessing. The Lord had not denied their blessing!

You may have what feels like a barren womb right now…you may feel like God has but a big red “X” on your dreams, your vision, on your hope for a brighter future…but God wants you to know that your blessing, your healing, your deliverance, your breakthrough has not been denied, it’s just been delayed!

In Elisabeth’s case, she didn’t know it but she was about to carry the forerunner to Jesus. Elisabeth and Zacharias didn’t know it but they were designated to play a major role in the preparation for the savior of the world to make his grand entrance. They didn’t know it but they had been selected by God the Father Almighty to give birth to a great prophet, teacher and evangelist, John the Baptist.

Elizabeth didn’t know it but the Lord wanted the baby in her womb to bare witness to the baby in Mary’s womb and for that to happen, God had to delay her pregnancy so that a young, struggling, fearful Mary could have a mentor, an encourager, a witness to what the angel told Mary she was about to bring forth!

You may not realize it but sometimes God delays your blessing, your healing, your produce, your break through because God wants to use what he’s about to do in you to help
encourage, affirm and lift up that which is about to be birthed in somebody else!
You may feel like it’s too late…you may feel like there’s no point in holding onto your expectations, but God is saying “I’ve got something that’s about to leap in your womb!” Your blessing has not been denied. Your blessing has just been delayed! The blessing may not come about they way that you think that it should or in the form that you expect, but God’s blessings over your life have not been cancelled! At the right time, in the right place, during the right season, with the right people around, in the right context, for the right purpose, your fruit will produce. Your healing will be made manifest. Your breakthrough will break out, your deliverance is on the way!!!

You may be in a season of feeling barren – AND something else is coming…AND your expectation is going to be fulfilled…AND whatever God has planned for you will exceed your greatest vision and hope and dream – your blessing has not been denied, it’s only been delayed!

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Shepastor: "Lessons from Trees..."

Psalm 92: 12-15, NIV

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”


“I think that I shall never see
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”

-Joyce Kilmer, 1913

Trees are spoken of many times in Scripture

The Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden
The Juniper Tree that Elijah ran and sat under when he was depressed
The Tree upon which Absalom’s hair became caught in the thicket
The Tree that bears fruit
The Tree that Jesus cursed
The Tree of Life

Scripture uses trees to teach us many lessons. But in our particular text for today, the Psalmist lifts up two trees:
The Palm Tree
The Cedars of Lebanon

The Psalmist said that the righteous shall flourish like a Palm Tree. What is so special about a Palm Tree?
- Palm Trees are tall, majestic and beautiful
- Palm Trees are resilient. They flourish even in drought because of their deep root system
- Palm Trees are able to withstand hurricanes and massive storms because they know how to bend

The Psalmist also likened the righteous unto the Cedars of Lebanon.
-The Cedars of Lebanon stood 120 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
-They were firmly rooted and were very strong. They were so high that they could see far above the city out into distant lands. The Psalmist said that the righteous, like the Cedars of Lebanon are firmly planted and they flourish in the courts of the Lord. They continue to bear fruit even in their old age. They stay fresh and green.

Sometimes we have to be like Palm Trees, getting our thirst quenched by our deep root systems. During times of spiritual drought, our “roots” must be deep…deep enough to help us to reach the living water of hope in Christ, resilient through adversity, encouraged by remembering those who have gone before us…Like a palm tree, we must learn how to be flexible. There are times when we must learn how to bend down and be humble. We must bend, but not break during the storm.

Sometimes we’ve got to be like the Cedars of Lebanon. Sometimes we must stand firm, stand tall and stand strong. We’ve got to learn how to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, in as much as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.

We’ve got to stand tall and stand strong. In order to do that, we must be firmly planted in the courts of the Lord. The courts of the Lord, the house of the Lord, the ways of the Lord, the Word of the Lord. is In Psalm 1, the righteous are described as “blessed…” not walking in the council of the ungodly, or standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of the scornful.” The righteous delight in the law of the Lord and meditate upon it both day and night. This behavior makes them like “a tree planted by the rivers of water.” Their leaves don’t whither and whatever they do shall prosper. Conversely, the ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drive the away...”

The Lord is looking for those who will be like trees, Palm Trees, Cedars of Lebanon who know how to be resilient through Christ, who know how to bend and be flexible, but also who know how and when to stand tall, stand firm and will not move.

Over two thousand years ago, there was another tree. Jesus was crucified on that tree and died for all of our sins. He went through the agony, the separation from his Father, the shame and the blame. He went all of that so that we might have a right to the tree of life. We all will one day leave this earth, and give an account of the things we have done in this body. The most important this will be whether or not we accepted Christ as our Savior and embraced the lessons of trees…

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Shepastor: “Revisiting Prayers for Our Communities, Nation and World...”

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14, KJV

…For the families and loved ones of individuals killed for any reason
…For a shift from an ever increasing irreverent, insensitive and violent atmosphere to one of health, understanding, peace and love
…For our children who are confused about right and wrong in this season
…For the changing of unjust systems that continue to oppress, disenfranchise and marginalize
…For The Church to open doors for men and women to serve equally
…For national and international missionaries as they carry the good news of Jesus Christ to “the uttermost parts of the world”
…For our armed service men and women as they work hard to protect our Nation and world
…For “Black Lives” and “Blue Lives” for healing, justice and “the common good”
…For the impoverished, abused, neglected, forgotten
…For our upcoming Presidential, State and Local elections
...For Families at the border, children and parents who are being ripped apart and being treated inhumanely
...For our current president to reconsider and reverse his stance on using defenseless children as pawns to “build a wall...”

Hear our prayers Oh Lord, incline thine ear to us and grant us thy peace…

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Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris