Wednesday, November 23, 2022

 

Shepastor: “All is Not Lost…”


13 
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. I Thessalonians 4:13, KJV

Grief over the loss of loved ones during the holiday season is not uncommon. While some are celebrating, others are mourning. Loss of life, however, manifests in many ways. At times it feels like a dark grey cloud is hanging over us, almost cutting off our ability to breathe. This passage of scripture reminds us that we are not to be as those who have no hope… We must remember, all is not lost.

Today as I sat waiting to be called into the doctor's office for a regular checkup, I beheld a wonderful sight. An elderly couple walked up to the receptionist desk with a bag full of gifts, a box of cookies, and a large box of cupcakes. Immediately I exclaimed “How beautiful!”

A flood of memories washed over my mind. A bit of nostalgia overtook me. I was reminded of a lovelier time, a time when people were so appreciative of the hard work and dedication of others…a time of reverence, sensitivity, and gratefulness…a time when people, in large and small ways were internally compelled to externally spread thanksgiving and joy. 


As I looked at that elderly couple, I thought out loud, “How wonderful that you would bring gifts and treats to the doctor's office today!” The wife, without hesitation said, “They all work so hard. We just wanted them to know how much we appreciate them.” It was obvious that they were from a different time…

This has been a difficult season. Three years of isolation, sickness, death, and massive changes due to a world pandemic. Depression, frustration, fear, anger, and despondency have invaded the lives of many. This past week, several mass shootings have occurred. Senseless, brutal, and infuriating acts of cowardice seem to abound. Our political systems are broken. Systems of oppression, racism, and otherisms appear to be dominating our land. Yet, in the midst of it all, we are called upon to not be as those who have no hope.

We have within us the power to shine light in the midst of darkness. We have within us the authority to take back the territory that the enemy of our souls has sought to affix himself within. Like that elderly couple that made a decision to bring some joy, love, and kindness into a space that so often is viewed as obligatory, we too can embody a message of hope, a symbol of love, and a spirit of gratitude to our spheres of influence.

While cupcakes and cookies cannot wash away the pain and suffering inflicted by death, or by wicked and evil beings, our labor of love and our determination to show up with beauty can break through the fog. We can offer the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

As we prepare in America to celebrate the day of Thanksgiving, may our gratitude be coupled with a determination to give love, which according to God’s holy Word is the more excellent way. 

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may he make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you, may he lift up the light of his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Remember,  all is not lost. Through Christ we are more than conquerors!

To you and yours, happy Thanksgiving.

In Faith, Hope, and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

 

Shepastor: “Your Voice, Your Vote, Our Realities…”



20 and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. Daniel 2:20-21, NIV

Voting season across America has swooped down upon us in a major way. Telephones ringing, snail mail and email boxes are bombarded with requests for support for various candidates and issues. Television and social media ads are filled to the brim with messages promoting, denying, accusing, confusing, “playing hard and fast,” with things that have happened, imagined or real.

Some are feeling overwhelmed and have tuned out all the noise. Some are filled with anxiety and have become depressed. Others have just made up their minds that their vote will not matter, so they withdraw from the process.


I would like to encourage you to remember that YOUR VOTE COUNTS!
Your vote could mean the difference between children receiving healthy meals in schools or hunger. YOUR VOTE could mean the difference between common sense gun control and the ever-expanding proliferation of gun sales. YOUR VOTE helps to determine not only the president, but who sits with life-time appointments on federal courts, as well as who makes the decisions in the House and the Senate. YOUR VOTE influences who will sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Take time to learn about the issues in your area. Take time to listen to and learn about the past records and platforms of the candidates running. Television ads are not the best source!


Past generations
were beaten, bled, and died so that we could vote…

Current generations are suffering because we won’t take advantage of our right to vote…

Future generations will not have the freedoms, the access, and the opportunities that we are barely hanging on to IF YOU REFUSE TO VOTE.

Yes, THE LORD reigns over all, but God has blessed us to have our minds, our hands, and our feet to help make a difference in the world.

On next Tuesday, November 8th, 2022 or before, head to the polls and VOTE. Don’t “sleep” on the mid-terms. Your voice, your vote, helps to determine OUR REALITIES.

 See you at the polls!

In Faith, Hope, and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

 

Shepastor: “The Long-term Consequences of Short-term Decisions…”




People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 NLT

“Why is the Lord allowing all of these terrible things to happen???” Across the ages, this has been the question of humanity. Some become despondent, some shake their fists at heaven, and some become bitter and cynical. While all of these responses are “human,” we must take a deeper look a how WE find ourselves in the state that we are in. 

The ramifications of bad choices reach far beyond one individual. Although it is critical for individuals to recognize the consequences of bad choices in their own lives, we must also come to grips with the fact that societal and national sins are visited upon all under their umbrella. The following are some examples of this principle:

When U.S. law makers wrote in an expiration date, a “sunset” law (read more here) for a ban on automatic assault weapons, it may have appeared to be a good decision, in the short-term, but in the long term, that decision has yielded horrific consequences. As individuals fight to maintain their “2nd Amendment rights,” demanding unchecked access to AR-15, military style weapons, more and more people are losing their rights to safe, healthy, peaceful communities.

In Ohio, the state congress is reviewing a bill that would allow any adult to carry a firearm in school buildings after only 24 hours of training. This short-term/short sighted decision will create an even more dismal future/environment for our teachers, administrators, and children with long-term consequences. Raise your hand if you want your schoolteachers, administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, counselors, etc., walking around your elementary, middle and high schools with rifles, handguns or AR-15s…

Blaming mental health issues instead of loose access to assault weapons for massacres…

In the short term, misguided discussions, and legislative dialogue about blocking the mentally ill from getting guns sounds productive, but it denies the truth and ignores reality. Consider this…


The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence shares these facts:

·       Approximately one in five Americans have a diagnosed mental illness in a given year.

·       Mental illness is not the cause of gun violence. The United States has similar rates of mental illness to other countries, but has a much higher rate of gun violence

·       People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.

·       Only 4% of the interpersonal violence is attributable to mental illness alone

·       Past violent behavior is the best predictor of future violence, regardless of a diagnosed mental illness

 

We need COURAGEOUS community and national leaders who will do what is best for all, in the long term…

Behind closed doors, many U.S. legislators will acknowledge that assault weapons/AR-15 and the like are not appropriate for the civilian population. Unlike weapons normally used for hunting, like rifles, or even basic handguns, military style weapons are designed for war. The bullets not only penetrate the flesh and organs, but military assault weapons literally explode inside of the body and decimate internal organs. No rabbit, deer, squirrel, racoon, etc., would be edible or even recognizable once hit with these bullets. Whereas regular firearms can do much damage, their rate of discharge is much slower. Rapid fire weapons literally, “spray,” bullets across a large area, with greater velocity, force, and magnitude. 


Instead of allowing themselves to be “bought” by the National Rifle Association (NRA), instead of fearing the loss of power, or their seats in congress, WE NEED congressional leaders who will stand up and say, “Enough is ENOUGH!” The real problem IS access to high-capacity assault weapons.

Hate-filled rhetoric, prejudice, bullying, abuse, etc., are all contributing factors to the tragedies that have unfolded, increasingly, yearly in the U.S. Other countries have these same maladies, but not the same percentages of mass shootings. What is the difference between them and us? In short, ACCESS to high capacity assault weapons.

Can we put aside politics, greed, and partisan platforms and vote for LIFE???

The power resides within our hands. Will we make wise short-term decisions so that we will be able to enjoy long-term health, freedom, and peace?

Will you stay at home and say that your vote does not matter, and then complain about leaders who don’t have the nation’s best interest at heart? Will you dig your heels in and demand the right to carry high-capacity assault weapons?

 Before you answer, prayerfully consider the words of our text…

People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 NLT

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

 Shepastor: What is the Lord Seeking?

Amos 5:21-24

21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.

22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.

23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.


We are currently in the season of the Christian Calendar called, “Lent.” For many, this is a season of fasting from sweets, delectable and, goodies. The purpose is to sacrifice something that we enjoy, in order to focus upon getting closer to the Lord. The practice is admirable. Its intent is beautiful. But could the Lord be seeking women and men that are willing to do more than to give up the chocolate bunnies, cakes, pies, and meat on Friday?  It’s easy to give up those things, but what does the Lord really want us to give up? What would truly be a “sacrifice?” 

In Amos’ day, people were fasting, attending religious gatherings, and even paying their tithes. But their hearts were far from the Lord. They were checking a proverbial box of religious behaviors. Today we must ask ourselves, “Are we any different?”

 America is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Yet in our land of plenty, there are millions of people living in poverty, unable to meet their own basic needs. Poverty exists in every state across the country—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—and its reach crosses every barrier—age, race, gender, and family situations. Poverty can be situational (people experiencing a crisis such as illness, divorce, or unemployment), generational (families living in poverty for two or more generations), or relational (isolated people without a support network to turn to).

 People in poverty experience not only a lack of income or material possessions, but a lack of such things as physical and emotional security, stable relationships, and damaged self-esteem. Poverty is teaching millions of Americans that they are not valued, that failure is to be expected, and that hope is futile.

 Our approach to poverty must change.  Meeting immediate needs are wonderful, but if we don’t challenge the systems that perpetuate poverty, our gifts are but band aids on devastating wounds that require major surgery.  We must fast from more than candy and other sweets. God is seeking individuals that fast from injustice! 

The Lord is seeking women and men that will stand and vote for just laws. The Lord is seeking women and men that will serve our Nation in just, merciful and godly ways. Greed, deceit, oppression, racist systems and hatred must be confronted by the people of God.

 As the Church, we need to begin to prayerfully ask God in 2022, what new things can we do to help bring about relief and support to our surrounding communities and the world.  We need to ask ourselves the question, “Are we simply bringing before the Lord meaningless fasts, burnt offerings and sacrifices of tradition and that which does not require us to leave our comfort zones?” The Lord wants to use us to help break some chains, open some blinded eyes, bring some relief, to show His love and compassion to a dying world…to “do justice!”

 Let us prayerfully consider what we can do to help serve this present age. As we fast and pray during this Lenten season, may our fasting cleanse us from lethargic and selfish ways. May our fasting convict us of empty practices. May our fasting pull us towards actions that give God’s heart joy. May we fast from injustice! May the Lord find what He is seeking, in us!

 

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 Join Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland TONIGHT via Zoom for our Ash Wednesday Service at 7:00 p.m., EST. Visit www.rmgrcle.org for the Zoom link and more information.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

 Shepastor: "Lean in and Bend..."


The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Psalm 92: 12, ESV

Over the past few months I have been engaged in pool therapy for my knees. After breaking my ankle back in 2019, my osteoarthritis escalated and greatly impacted my walking and climbing of stairs - UGGH!!! Pool therapy has been wonderful, especially since the pool is intentionally warm. I also look forward to spending time in the heated whirl pool following intense exercise in the water!

Although I am doing much better, my knees still are not "100%." I cannot walk for very long distances without taking a break and stairs remain a challenge. On a positive note, I have lost 27 lbs., (WOO HOO) and am growing stronger daily. 

The other day, I discovered something that made a world of difference in my stair climbing. While in the water, I experience no pain when doing stair exercises because the water takes the pressure off of my joints. But on dry land, it's a different story. Although better, pain is remains a part of the picture on stairs. The other day, as I began my journey upstairs, I approached the steps differently. Rather than just bending my knee, I leaned in as I bent, placing my weight on my knee while I was leaning in. 

Wallah! No pain! I tried the same motion on the next stair. No pain! I continued all the way up the staircase, little to no pain! I immediately thought about the actions of "leaning and bending" in terms of our spiritual walk with the Lord. Sometimes during prayer, we don't lean into listening, waiting and hearing God's directives. Instead, we "stiffen" our hearts, our minds, our decisions, etc., refusing to bend or lean in to learn more. So often, we approach prayer with our minds already made up, making our experiences more challenging.

Consider Palm trees. They are famous for bending, but not breaking. They bend down during storms and strong winds. By leaning in and bending, they preserve their lives and ability to rebound and stand tall. We can learn a lot from palm trees! 
When we refuse to be flexible, malleable, or open to God's voice, God's leading, different options, new perspectives, fresh ways, increased pain sets in. We become weary and discouraged. When our plans don't prosper, the pain increases. But if we choose rather, like palm trees, to lean in and bend, we may still experience some level of pain and discomfort, but as our spiritual muscles become stronger, we will find it easier to navigate God's new terrain for us. We will continue to grow strong and stand tall through Christ. We will discover a new, that God's plans are the best plans for our lives.

Today, I encourage you to lean in and bend to God's will and purpose for your life. When you do so, healing, strength and fresh vision will come your way! 


In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org  


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

 

Shepastor: “Don’t Skip ‘Thanksgiving’…”


136 
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 136: 1-9, KJV

 

Commercialism has taken us by storm! Even my teenager said, “Mom, did you notice that the stores put out Christmas decorations on Halloween????” Is it really because people are excited about remembering the gift of the Christ child or is it something else?

It’s as if there is no “sale value” to the Thanksgiving holiday, so let’s just skip it. But we should never skip an opportunity to be thankful. More than turkeys, ham, dressing, pies and family gatherings, we should take this opportunity to deliberately refocus our thoughts upon our many reasons to embrace gratitude.

Someone might be saying, “So much is wrong in the world. There’s so much sickness, death, divisions and destruction. Why should we be thankful?” Let me share a few suggestions: 


Be Thankful…

v The Lord woke you up this morning – be thankful!

v Whatever you have been thru, you are alive to tell the story – be thankful!

v Everyday is a new opportunity to “flip the script” and do a new thing – be thankful!

v No matter your situation, God loves you, God is for you and God is with you – be thankful!

v In America, you have a voice, you can vote, you can make a difference – be thankful!

v If you have food on your table, if you can choose what you want to eat and have the ability to go and get it – be thankful!

v If you have a warm place to sleep – be thankful!

v If you can remember good times with loved ones either still with you or “on the other shore,” be thankful!

v If you are loved and can give love – be thankful!

v If you can help someone else – BE THANKFUL!!!

 

Being thankful, grateful, appreciative, changes your focus from all that is wrong to all that is right. Thankfulness helps you to have hope, because you still have breath in your body – change is possible! Thankfulness reminds you that through Christ, all things are possible. Thankfulness renews your energy and strength, because it forces you to realize all is not lost, you have been in the valley, but you are alive to tell the story!

 CHOOSE to be thankful.

 Oh give THANKS unto the Lord, for God is good and God’s mercy endureth forever!!! PRACTICE THANKFULNESS!

May you and your household have a healthy, safe, love-filled, peace-filled, joy-filled Thanksgiving season!

In Faith, Hope, Perseverance and THANKFULNESS,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

 

Shepastor: “You Are Surrounded…”


12 
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 1-3, NIV


Today as I watched the news, I witnessed a strong, courageous and determined woman challenge her colleagues to stand up for what was right, even if it was unpopular. The vast majority of her colleagues have chosen to ignore what is blatantly wrong in order to keep their seats. It appears that she is alone. She literally is one of two individuals that had the courage to stand. Yet, she stood.

As I considered this woman’s conviction to stand for right over wrong, even if it meant that she would be ostracized, criticized, cast out and cast down, I was inspired. The inspiration did not come from her platform or her party affiliation, but rather her tenacious spirit to be willing to “go it alone,” if it meant losing a seat that she had worked for, most of her life.

Sometimes people, due to fear of isolation, fear of being ostracized, fear of losing support, money, prestige, etc., will remain quiet or even defiant against what they know to be right. Young and older people are confronted by peer pressure. Employees fear retaliation from co-workers or even their bosses. Church people fear being frowned upon, cast out or called vicious names.


It is hard to stand alone! But we must remind ourselves that we ARE NOT alone. When we stand upon the Word of the Lord, when we stand for “doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God,” we are not alone. When we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we are not alone. The majority is not always right. The crowd is not always right.

It may feel like we are standing alone; but we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. We are surrounded by the angels of the Lord. We are surrounded by the lives and the legacies of men and women who sacrificed positions in society, sacrificed pats on the back, sacrificed going along with the majority, sacrificed opportunities, sacrificed their lives, literally. We stand upon their shoulders.

The most important thing we need to remember when we feel that we are standing alone, is that we are surrounded by our great and awesome God. Romans 8:31 may have said it best, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The love of God, the strength of God, the peace of God enables us to stand for just, holy and righteous causes, even if the world stands against us. You plus God is more than the world against you!

You are not alone – remember that the Lord and those who have gone before you are right by your side. Envision them cheering you on from the balcony of eternity and STAND!!!

 In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org