Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shepastor: “Exalt God Over Your Circumstances!”

Proverbs 17:22 declares, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 18: 14 declares, “A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”

The writer of Psalm 57 uses the Hebrew term, “Zamar,” to express praises to God through music and song. Zamar means "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments.”

The powerful thing about the Psalmist's praise is that it is given during a time of deep distress. It appears that enemies sought to steal his song, so to speak with cruel treatment. His heart was crushed. His spirit was broken. However, the Psalmist’s decision to exalt God even in the midst of great suffering teaches a powerful lesson for wounded.

Today, Shepastor reflects upon the Psalmist’s example of exalting God above every situation and circumstance in our lives.

Read further and be blessed!

Psalm 57: 5-11

5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
6They spread a net for my feet—
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
8Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
9I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
11Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

In our text for today, it appears that the Psalmist had every reason to have a crushed spirit. Enemies had stolen “his song.” In verse 4 of our text, Psalm 57, the Psalmist declared,

4I am in the midst of lions;
I lie among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords

The Psalmist describes his circumstance as being “amidst lions, ravenous beasts, men whose teeth are as spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp as swords…

He’s in a bad place. Have you ever experienced the pain of being attacked by mean spirited people? Not necessarily physically attacked, but having your character attacked, your name dragged through the mud, your motives questioned, your every move considered suspect. Have you ever experienced a jealous co-worker or sibling, an insecure mentor or boss, an envious relative, a cruel bully – if you have, then you can relate to the Psalmist.

The pain inflicted by the tongue sometimes lasts years longer than any bruise caused by a physical punch. The feeling that someone is waiting to pounce on you, so to speak by speaking cruel words, or by plotting to get you removed or in trouble can break your spirit and make you feel sick. The Psalmist said that these enemies seemed to be as ravenous beasts – their treatment of him felt like a wild animal was tearing him from limb to limb. He was in some serious pain – He was without a song.

But not for long. Something happened within the Psalmist. He began to speak in His native Hebrew language and declared, “Zamar!”
He stepped over the pain of attacks and climbed up to the platform of his soul and began to pluck the strings of his heart and declared,

5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
6They spread a net for my feet—
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah

In the text you see the instruction, “Selah” – a term that is not to be spoken or pronounced, but an instruction to pause and think about what was just said.

The Psalmist said, “They spread a net for my feet – I was bowed down in distress – they dug a pit in my path – but they have fallen into it themselves.”

And then, he stops and thinks about what God has done and declares…

7My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

He declared, “Zamar,” I’m going to make music and sing praises unto my God for He has delivered me from the snare of the enemy. When I think about God’s deliverance, God’s protection, God’s exaltation, God’s removal of the onslaught of the enemies attacks against me – when I stop and think about those who tried to kill my spirit, crush my dreams, steal my joy, scandalize my name, I yell, “Zamar!” The thought of God’s protection, shield, shelter, strength, grace, peace, power, anointing, favor the strings of my heart are plucked and I realize that I still have joy, I still have a song!

The Psalmist declared with strength, faith and determination – “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast, I will sing and make music.” The Psalmist made a deliberate choice to sing praise unto God. He made up his mind to sing his song! Much in life will try to steal your song. Much in life will threaten to break your spirit, to crush your dreams, to laugh at your vision, to press down, your enthusiasm, but you’ve got to declare like the Psalmist – “Zamar!” I WILL sing and make music.

We must condition our hearts to say with authority, “Be exalted O God above the heavens, let your glory be over all of the earth.” In other words, we can learn a great lesson from the Psalmist who by extension was saying, “God be exalted over my enemies, be exalted over my situation, be exalted over my pain, be exalted over my circumstances – BE EXALTED, OH GOD ABOVE EVERY SITUATION AND CIRCUMSTANCE IN MY LIFE! Let your glory be over ALL of the earth!” The Psalmist made up his mind that he was going to sing his song. He said, “Zamar!” My heart is going to be an instrument to sing of your goodness, mercy, glory and grace! I WILL pluck the strings of my heart and I exalt you in my life – God I exalt you in my spirit, I exalt you above all that would seek to cast me down and I will praise your name! The Psalmist declared in so many words – “You ain’t gonna steal my song!”

Sing your song – exalt God in your life. Sing your song – cast down the demons of depression - exalt God in your life – proclaim His glory unto yourself – exalt God in your life – refuse to accept the enemies report – Isaiah raised the question, “Whose report will you believe?” Determine to believe the report of the Lord.

God’s steadfast love will keep you. Sing your song. Stop allowing the mean spirited attacks of the enemy to block you from plucking your heart strings. Shout, “Zamar” and proclaim – “Be exalted O God above the heavens, let your glory be over all of the earth and over ALL OF MY LIFE.

Is your spirit crushed? Have you lost your song? Are you struggling with exalting God in your life? Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shepastor: The "Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry" Conference is Less Than One Month Away! Register Today!

Today, Shepastor Highlights the upcoming conference for clergywomen, "Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry." It would be wonderful to meet my sisters who weekly visit the Shepastor Blogsite! Check out details of the event below. I hope to see you in August!

"Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry"
A Conference for Female Clergy
Friday, August 26- Saturday, August 27, 2011
Hilton Hotel, Beachwood, Ohio

Sponsored by Women Together in Ministry of Greater Cleveland
In Partnership with American Baptist Home Missions Societies

Would you like to meet and network with other female clergy?

Do you need a refreshing, renewing and empowering experience
as you continue to serve in the ministry?

Are you praying for a greater understanding
of God's Call upon your life?

Then the “Empowering and Encouraging Women In Ministry”
Conference is for you!

Come and be refreshed, encouraged, enlightened and equipped to continue the work the Lord has blessed you to do.

Conference Speakers include:

- Pastor Michele Humphrey, Senior Pastor, Imani United Church of Christ, Euclid, Ohio

- The Reverend Dr. Wilma R. Johnson, Senior Pastor, New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit Michigan (Last year's host pastor of "Women Together Encouraging and Serving One Another")

Praise and Worship wil be led by Sister Joyce Lake, Singer/Soloist, Administrative Assistant, American Baptist Women In Ministry; Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

Plenary Session:

The Reverend Dr. Stephanie Allen, Associate Pastor for Adult Education, Small Groups & Fellowship Groups, First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland – “Woman to Woman: The Historical, Theological and Societal Influences upon Our Relationships”

We'll be joined by supportive, "empowering and encouraging" men during our Panel Discussion, "Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry"

Senior Pastor, Judson Press author, and Scholar, The Reverend Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Senior Pastor, Professor and Scholar, The Reverend Dr. Valentino Lassiter

Also on our panel will be,
The Reverend Marilyn Turner, Associate Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Center for Missional Life and Leadership

The Reverend Pat Hernandez, National Director, American Baptist Women in Ministry

Workshops will include:

·The Reverend Yvonne B. Carter, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Managing Director, Event Development; “Navigating The Course of Your Calling”

·The Reverend Courtney Clayton Jenkins, Senior Pastor, Euclid Avenue Congregational Church United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio; “Fresh Power: Rekindling your Spirit”

·The Reverend Kesha Boyce Williams, Journalist, Associate Minister, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church; Cleveland, Ohio, “Hindrances to Women in Ministry”

Oh, Sisters, you will not want to miss this "feast" of empowerment and encouragement. Pre Register Today! - August 26-27th, 2011, Hilton Hotel, Beachwood, Ohio.

For more information, or to download the registration brochure, visit the WTIM website at and click on "Upcoming Events"

If you have any questions or comments, Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shepastor – “To Inspire You: Those Preachin’ Sisters in San Juan!”

Over the last few weeks, Shepastor has sought to encourage you, challenge you, and now today to INSPIRE you. Inspiration was not difficult to find in San Juan, Puerto Rico where the American Baptist Churches, USA held it’s 2011 Biennial, June 24-26, 2011.

A diverse crowd of delegates from across the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico gathered to “Celebrate” the blessings, work and way of the Lord. We turned our attention towards Isaiah 35:1 which declares, The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the crocus.” Choirs of children, local churches as well as a special choral presentation from the Morehouse Glee Club “rocked” the house! Challenging presentations on the topics of social justice, multiculturalism and the use of technology to reach the masses stimulated our minds and refocused our thinking.

The “Preachin Sisters,” however, took center stage and did us proud! The Biennial leadership team decisively and strategically gave clergywomen the platforms to preach messages of hope, enlightenment and perseverance in the midst of the desert.

Without trying to re-preach any of their sermons, below are a few highlights from our Sisters…

The Reverend Eboni Marshall Turman, Ph.D, Assistant Minister, Abyssinian Baptist Church, NYC preached, “Flight Plan,” drawing upon her experience of having to wait for her flight to take off in the midst of a storm. With power, authority and rich vocal intonation, Dr. Turman engaged the audience – likening the struggles of life to being seated in a plane, patiently listening to the flight attendant and awaiting the pilot’s instructions as to how to ride through the turbulence.

The Reverend Dr. Zina Jacque, Senior Pastor of the Community Church of Barrington (Barrington, IL) provided “A View of the Landscape,” in her scholarly presentation regarding the dearth of women in senior level positions (pastors and bishops in particular) in a great number of churches and denominations. She concluded on a high note and declared:

“If we will be bold…
Our pool of leaders will be expanded
Our wealth of leadership styles will be broadened
The Body of Christ will benefit
Our children will see new possibilities
We will stand again, on the leading edge of change
God will be pleased

The Reverend Dr. Jacqueline A. Thompson, Assistant Pastor of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, CA preached, “Do Something Different,” from Acts 20:7-10, the story of Eutychus being Raised from the Dead. With great animation, hilarity and anointing, Dr Jacqueline challenged us to consider our attitudes towards those who appear to be sleeping or dead in our communities and even our churches. She declared,

We have to be sure that we don’t allow protocol to take precedence over the needs of the people (Paul did not hesitate to stop what he was doing to go over to Eutychus, take him into his arms and declare that life was still in him)

Paul understood the power of personal connection

We must learn to speak prophetically and declare that
life is still within people who may appear dead

The Reverend Patricia Hernandez, National Director of American Baptist Women in Ministry delivered a heartfelt, contemplative message entitled, “I Have Called You By Name.” Using the example of one of her daughter’s childhood experiences (accidentally locking herself in a school bathroom, becoming teary eyed, fearful and then prayerful and innovative, she took her name tag off and slid it under the door. Another child coming down the hall, saw the tag, picked it up and read her name out loud. Upon hearing her name, she cried out and the locked door was opened).

When we cry out to the Lord, our prayers are heard, locked doors are opened – God knows our name!

The Reverend Dr. Carolyn L. Gordon, Associate Professor of Communications and Chair of the Department of Preaching and Communication at Fuller Seminary, CA preached “Celebrate God’s Glory!” Preaching to a diverse crowd of well over a few thousand, Dr. Carolyn declared, “Celebrate God’s glory even when you find yourself in the wilderness – survive, thrive and get out alive!”

“Don’t give up when you go through the desert – God is there”

“God has built you to thrive even in the desert”

“Get out alive – don’t surrender your spirit to the

Let us praise God together for using our sisters to reach the masses!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shepastor: "Check Yourself - Six Behaviors We Need To Avoid"

Our beloved clergy sister and fellow blogger, Minister Carol Shannon (CEO of Women of Excellence With Purpose Ministries) called our attention to the article, "Six Women Leaders to Avoid," by Charisma Magazine. The article highlights unfortunate behaviors that some clergywomen have developed as they climbed the proverbial staircase and pierced through the "stained glass ceiling."

Through prayer, faith and humility, let us reject every temptation to become that which we claim to despise.

Shepastor Highlights: "Six Women Leaders to Avoid," by Charisma Magazine


This is God’s hour for women. But if you want to be a successful church or ministry leader, please don’t copy these bad role models.

A popular female evangelist arrived at an airport and was escorted to the baggage claim area. After she retrieved her luggage she was taken to the passenger pickup lounge where she met her hosts from a local church, who planned to take her in a comfortable van to a nearby hotel so she could rest before speaking at an evening service.

The members of the welcoming team were not prepared for this woman's icy response to their greeting. When they opened the door to the van, she told them bluntly: "I will not ride in that." Then she stormed back into the airport with her entourage. After making inquiries, one of the church staff was informed by the woman's assistant that Her Highness must be transported in a certain type of vehicle.

The stated choices were a Bentley, a Mercedes-Benz or a Lincoln Town Car! Never mind that Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. This regal woman of God insisted on arriving in luxury.

When I heard this story I didn't know whether to start a petition drive or just vomit on the spot. I was outraged, bewildered and nauseated.

For the last seven years I have given my life to help empower and release women leaders in the church. I have dedicated my life to ending gender discrimination—especially when it limits women's spiritual gifts and callings.

Yet when I hear of poor examples of women pastors and preachers, I must confess I fight discouragement. Yes, we need many more trained women church leaders—but we don't need any more bad examples!

In my travels I have observed all kinds of women leaders, some who are stellar role models and others who would do us all a favor if they pursued different careers. If you have aspirations to pursue leadership in ministry at any level, I pray you will avoid becoming like the ones I am about to describe.

1. THE DIVA To this woman, ministry is all about her. She is the star. Surely she started out with genuine passion for God, but today her message is not defined by her unseen prayer life but by what people see on stage. Greed and pride have deceptively lured her into compromise.

She knows how to move a crowd. There is obviously a strong anointing on her life, but it has been subtly fused with a carnal agenda. She can inspire people to success and wow them with her own accomplishments, but there is nothing in her sermon that brings true repentance or brokenness. Her message may be loud, and it can elicit shouts at the altar. But the people don't realize they've been drugged with a spiritual form of cocaine that triggers a religious high but can't bring them closer to Jesus.

The diva is known for her demands. Someone must carry her Bible, her water bottle, her purse and her cell phone. Those who ask her to preach in their church soon learn that she is "high maintenance." She will require the priciest hotel rooms and the biggest offerings—which she will collect with plenty of manipulative arm-twisting.

Her Christian values were once admirable. But the holy fire that burned in her heart a few years ago has been quenched by greed and an addiction to the crowd's approval. She stopped studying the Bible and now focuses more on what she plans to wear at her conferences. She stopped spending time in God's presence and began craving the glow of television lights.

The diva loves grand entrances. She comes into the meeting late and is whisked off the stage as soon as she has delivered her sermon. She doesn't associate with common folks or spend too much time praying for them. A strange atmosphere surrounds her: A mixture of the Holy Spirit's irrevocable gifting and a disturbing aura of self-importance. Only those who are discerning can recognize the difference.

2. THE CONTROL FREAK If you saw the movie The Devil Wears Prada you know the type of leader I am talking about. Unfortunately the main character of that film, the fearsome fashion publisher Miranda Priestly, has a few counterparts in the religious world.

Beware of this woman if she is in any church leadership position. She rules with an iron fist and leaves a trail of wounded bodies behind her. Somehow she missed the elementary Leadership 101 class, which teaches that every Christian leader must learn to serve. To her, authority is about dominating people.

This woman does not know how to delegate. She is not a team player. The control freak believes she knows all the answers, and therefore she must sign off on all decisions, no matter how petty. People line up outside her door night and day to get her approval, and anyone who needs an appointment is first advised to obtain a "weather report" on her shifting moods.

Somehow this woman never took care of her anger issues when she was a young Christian. Now that she has a position of power, no one is brave enough to challenge her ungodly behavior. She surrounds herself with yes-men and yes-women who dislike her authoritarianism but are too intimidated to admit that her ruthless temper is a sin.

The control freak has no peers and doesn't have a relational style. She may claim to have an older mentor (who usually lives in a distant city) but she doesn't open up her life to those who work with her. They are her subjects, and she demands obedience and long hours of work to prove loyalty. Her employees usually resign on a regular basis because of her harsh criticism and abusive words.

3. THE FLIRT I recently took a pastor friend of mine to a conference to hear a visiting woman preacher from another state. Imagine my horror when this lady walked to the podium wearing a dress that looked like it had been sprayed on.

Every curve and crevice on this woman's body was visible to the ogling eyes in the audience. Some of the guys, to their credit, began looking at the floor toward the end of her sermon so they would not commit adultery in their thoughts. I wanted to run to the podium, grab one of those "modesty cloths" they use during prayer times and wrap it around Sister Shapely before anyone else stumbled.

This woman obviously missed the memo about adopting a "professional and sensible dress code" for ministry. Or perhaps she simply ignored the memo because of her own unresolved sexual issues. Somebody should have yanked her off the platform and sent her back to the new believer's class, where godly women teach other women why it's wrong to use their femininity as a sexual weapon.

The flirt disregards sexual boundaries. She hangs around with men alone in the church office, and might even counsel men alone. She may even use sexually charged language or veiled vulgarity in her sermons. (Note: Just because male leaders engage in this behavior does not make it acceptable.)

Women in ministry do not have to wear their hair in a bun or don ankle-length flannel dresses in order to be modest. There's nothing wrong with looking your best. My favorite women leaders usually wear smart pantsuits, tasteful jewelry and comfortable shoes when they preach. They dress like respectable businesswomen—and they command respect from their churches because of it.

4. THE FLAKE God knows we need leaders today who understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But whenever there are revivals of Pentecostal power, the devil always lures some people to unbalanced and unhealthy extremes. In the modern charismatic movement, leaders who misuse the gifts of prophecy or other supernatural phenomena have deceived or irreparably wounded many people.

The flake may have had a legitimate experience with God, but because of pride she begins to believe that her gift is unique. She may even claim special access to God and have frequent visions or dreams that bolster her claims. These experiences might be from God. But if she does not stay grounded in biblical truth and seek accountability in healthy ministry relationships, she may elevate herself to a point where no one can challenge her revelations.

No one who steps out in the supernatural is going to get it right 100 percent of the time. We prophesy in part, and those who use the gift of prophecy are likely to "miss it" from time to time. But the flake will rarely admit to missing it. She will stubbornly contend that she heard from God, even if all the evidence proves otherwise.

It's bad enough when flakes are in the pews because they can cause divisive splits in congregations. But when a flake is elevated to a leadership position, an even bigger disaster looms. That person may veer into extrabiblical methods or outright heresy because she cannot receive correction.

The flake usually has serious unresolved emotional issues. She may be prone to depression, and she might seek unusual spiritual experiences to soothe her damaged emotions. She is always in superspiritual mode and rarely enjoys the normal routines of life. My advice to the flake: Come down to earth!

5. THE FEMINIST I don't believe all forms of feminism are wrong. In the early years of the 20th century, many brave Christian men and women worked tirelessly to win women the right to vote. Gender equality is a human right, and it is something that God set down in the first chapters of Genesis. Because both male and female are created in His image, we should work to correct the injustices of gender inequality and abuse.

But there is another more sinister form of feminism that has no support in Scripture. It is a bitter, vengeful attitude that places women against men, and often elevates women to a superior position. Sadly, this worldly spirit has invaded the church.

The feminist church leader has a man-hating spirit. She may be a gifted communicator, but if you listen closely you will hear the sound of a grinding axe when she speaks. She has not forgiven the men who hurt her in the past, and she intends to punish those men who get in her way today. Her unresolved issues are transferred to her audience. Her poison is injected into everyone who hears her.

She may claim that she believes in gender equality, but she will often surround herself only with women and refuses to put men in certain positions. Oftentimes the feminist has experienced at least one failed marriage and does not have any healthy relationships with men. Because she is unhealed, she cannot be an effective healer.

6. THE VICTIM This is the most pitiful of all the bad examples I've listed. She is guaranteed to make you feel sorry for her. And she might use a full box of Kleenex to help you understand her pain.

What the victim lacks in leadership skills she will make up for in sob stories.

Everyone is against her. She is suspicious of her own congregation. Other churches, she says, are maligning her. The devil, she insists, has targeted her ministry for destruction. Every trial that comes her way confirms that she is the focus of a demonic conspiracy.

Chaos surrounds this woman. Her ministry is always in turmoil. The victim moves from crisis to crisis, always anticipating another tragedy around the next corner. True joy has been replaced by a constant religious anxiety that repels people—thus making sure that her ministry will always be composed of a small "remnant" of people who have similar emotional baggage.

Of course if you suggest that this woman's misfortune might be the result of her negative outlook on life, she won't listen. That's because the victim has found a bizarre form of pleasure in her dysfunction. She's become quite comfortable at the center of her painful universe.


All these bad examples are in the church today—and each has her male counterpart. But I am not giving up in my resolve to see an army of gifted, trained women who will serve as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, CEOs, government leaders and social reformers. This is the hour for women to arise.

Instead of divas, we need humble women who are willing to serve even if they receive no public recognition. Instead of control freaks, we need leaders who wash the feet of their disciples and push them to greatness while modeling sacrifice. Instead of flirts, we need mature, dignified mothers of faith who have crucified their adolescent fantasies.

Rather than flakes who are tossed around by spiritual fads, we need discerning women who love biblical truth more than charismatic goose bumps. Rather than feminists, we need women who have resolved their issues with men and are willing to partner with them on equal footing. Rather than victims, we need women in ministry who are emotionally healthy.

Don't be discouraged if you see yourself in any of these negative examples. There is probably a little bit of diva in all of us! And all of us have resisted the urge to become control freaks.

If you are called to leadership, God will guide the preparation process—and He will bring mentors and positive role models in your life to challenge and encourage you. If you allow the Holy Spirit to shape your character, you may end up being the good example the church is waiting for.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma and author of 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. For more information go to his Web site,

Have you observed or been delivered from attitudes that clergywomen should avoid? Post a comment or send me an email at

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