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

 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

 Shepastor: “What Happens When We Have to Wait?”


John 11: 11-7,  New International Version (NIV)

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”


What happens when we wait?
Many of us are in a season of waiting…waiting for this horrible pandemic to pass, waiting for the insurance company to approve a much needed medication, therapy, etc., waiting on that check to come, waiting for some special door to open… waiting. Let’s be honest. Waiting feels overrated. It’s easy to tell others to be patient, wait your turn, wait on the Lord and be of good courage, good things come to those who wait, etc. But if we are honest, no one truly likes to wait, particularly in this day and age when so much is given to us so quickly.

 We want the fastest phones, the fastest computers, the fastest cars, the fastest email or text responses. We want everything in what we call “real time.” For those who use computers, nothing can be more frustrating than typing in something on Google or trying to live stream and we keep getting that annoying spinning wheel that indicates “buffering.” In other words, your computer is waiting to connect with the internet’s signal to show you what you are looking for. Uggghh!!!

 If we have to wait a short period of time, we may not feel too bad. We may grumble a


little or we may even just “suck it up” and keep pressing forward, knowing that the solution is just around the bin. But what happens when waiting is prolonged? What happens when discomfort turns into pain, pain turns into agony and agony begins to turn into despair? What happens in our psyche? What happens to our outlook on life? What happens to our hopes and dreams? What happens to our faith in God? What happens when we have to wait?

 At some point in our lives, we all will have the occasion to be able to relate to both Mary and Martha.  Mary and Martha were two sisters who were very close to Jesus.  Their brother Lazarus was close to Jesus as well. Jesus was their friend.  But he was more than that to them. They recognized Him as the Lord.  They believed Him when He said that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 So, when Lazarus, their beloved brother and close friend of Jesus became ill, they were confident that Jesus would come immediately and heal him.  Even if he didn’t come, maybe he would do like he did for the Centurion’s servant, only say the word and Lazarus would be healed. But for some reason, Jesus delayed his coming.  Can’t you see Mary and Martha pacing the floor, running over to the window, hearing footsteps coming down the cobblestone path and saying, “Is that Jesus?” only to discover that it was just another traveler, walking down the dusty road.  Worry and fear began to transform into confusion, anger and possibly resentment. Where was Jesus?  Why didn’t He come when they called? 


Where are you Jesus?  My sickness is getting worse.  Where are you Jesus?  The bills are piling up.  Where are you Jesus?  I can’t find a job.  Where are you Jesus?  My child has gone astray.  Where are you Jesus?  Why are you taking so long to come to my rescue?

 In light of the pain that Mary and Martha were in and in light of the fact that we know that Jesus knew that they were in pain, Jesus’ words in verse 5 are puzzling…

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

 What? Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he went back to the city where he’d come from, Judea and DELAYED his coming! How does that make sense? Because Jesus was fully human and fully divine, He understood just how they felt…frustrated, hurt, angry, disappointed. But what they did not know was that Jesus was about to perform the GREATEST miracle they had ever seen – a miracle that would strengthen their faith in such a way that no one or nothing could ever shake their belief. What they didn’t understand was that this period of waiting was for God’s glory and their blessing!

 What happens when we wait? Even at our most challenging points, when we wait, not in our own strength, but through the strength and power of the Holy Ghost, we learn how to “glory in our sufferings.” We can rise above our current situation and circumstance and know that somehow, the Lord is going to get the glory and bring glory out of our situation. What happens when we wait? The Lord teaches us how to persevere.  Listen to how the dictionary describes perseverance…

“To continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. To… 


 

synonyms:

persistcontinue, carry on, go on, keep on, keep going, not give up, struggle on, hammer away, be persistent, be determined, see/follow something through, keep at it, show determination, press on/ahead, stay with something, not take no for an answer, be tenacious, be pertinacious, be patient, stand one's ground, stand fast/firm, hold on, hold out, go the distance, stay the course, plod on, plow on, grind away, stop at nothing, leave no stone unturned; 

 Psalm 107:23-24 King James Version (KJV) declares,

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

Waiting places us in “deep waters.” The Lord loves us. He does not want us to remain all of our lives in shallow waters. The Lord knows that if we get everything we want, when we want it, how we want it, the way we want it, we will never learn how to build up and flex our “faith muscles.”

 


The Lord knows that we will never see the wonders of God in the deep, we will never see the miracles of God unfold, we will never experience the power of God to resurrect that which was dead, and take away that which was stinking in our lives unless we go through some Mary, Martha and Lazarus experiences! God’s timing is not our timing. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. We live in Kronos, God lives in “Kyrios.” Kronos is the human time – like the clock on the wall. Kyrios is the “fullness of time,” it is eternal, it is God’s specific time that He has ordained for things go happen according to His perfect will and purpose for our lives.

 If we can hold out until our change comes, we will see the Lord move the stones away. After some heart wrenching discussion and tears, Jesus asked them to do something that seemed utterly ridiculous.  He told them to “remove the stone.” But Lord, by this time Lazarus’ body is decaying and stinking.  “Remove the stone.”  But he’s been dead four days now – no doubt his spirit has since flown to the bosom of Abraham.  “REMOVE THE STONE!!!” 


Sometimes in our own lives, things have died. Dreams have died.  Hope has died.  Relationships have died.  Opportunities have died.  We may feel as though it makes no sense to remove the stone because by now, we’ve accepted the fact that what we’ve been hoping for, praying for, crying for may never happen. 


 At times, God allows things to die in our lives so that we can experience the joy of resurrection.  Oftentimes faith requires us to do what seems ridiculous and believe what seems impossible.  Great things happen when you step out in faith.  Great things happen when we have to step out into the deep. Great things can evolve when we persevere in our faith even when it looks like “game over!”

 We’ve got to trust that if God’s Word says it, He is able to deliver on His promises.  Even when it looks like the Lord is delaying His coming to help you – God is faithful.  Even when it looks like it’s over – Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  He can help you to remove the stone of doubt, the stone of fear, the stone of defeat, the stone of despair, the stone of hopelessness. Let Him bring resurrection power into your life.  Allow the Lord to do GREAT THINGS in your life, while you wait!

 In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Shepastor: "An Invitation to participate in a research project..."

 Dear Shepastor Friends,

As many of you may know, I am a doctoral learner at Capella University in the School of Counseling and Human Services. I am writing to invite you to participate in a research study. This study is a part of my doctoral education program. Participation in this research is voluntary.

The purpose of this study is to answer the research question, “What are the lived experiences of inequity of African American women who have led or are leading a struggling, non-profit organization in America?” In this study, I will seek to learn about the lived experiences of inequity of African American women leading struggling, non-profit organizations in America. Within this context, the term “struggling” refers to organizations that are unstable and dysfunctional. This type of organization is sometimes called a “glass cliff” appointment. The “glass cliff” is a phenomenon describing the reality that women are more likely than men to be appointed to precarious leadership positions in unstable, dysfunctional organizations.

If you are an African American woman nonprofit leader and you are interested in participating in this study, or you know someone who may be, please email me directly at Revcsmith1@cs.com

Thank you!

Pastor Chris