Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shepastor: “God’s Metaphor for Resiliency”

Psalm 1:3 (KJV)
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

We’ve had an unusually warm winter here in Ohio. Growing up, I can remember the frigid temperatures, heavy snow falls, “snow days” (which we as children loved!) and cups of hot cocoa. Not this winter – 30’s thru high 40’s have been our average. Some have expressed concern over the flowers that appear confused. The concern is that if the flowers bloom too early and the winter comes back, the cold temperatures will freeze and kill them – a legitimate concern.

This morning I took a brief walk through our own garden. Sure enough, tulip leaves, buttercup stems and the rose bush are all beginning to sprout. As I stared at the beautiful green shoots, the tiny leaves pushing through the cold dirt, I began to contemplate God’s message as revealed through nature.

“God’s Metaphor for Resiliency”

Planted deep into the soil, covered with dirt and fertilizer, the flowers remain in the ground during the cold winter. In God’s own time, however, the sun rises, the hard ground softens and the flowers push through all the “mess” to break forth into glorious blossoms. Plants and flowers must be resilient. Their growth pushes them up and out, beyond the dirt that is piled upon them. They ignore the threat of a return to cold weather. They trust the sun.

Many have experienced being “piled upon.” Some feel buried beneath so much “stuff” that they are unable to push through. Is that you? Are you afraid to press upward for fear of being annihilated by the cold, whatever your “cold” may be? I encourage you to consider the flowers and trust the Son. As the plants and flowers feel the S-U-N and push through the dirt – you and I can trust the S-O-N and push through, push past and stand on top of whatever has sought to weigh us down.

Know that God has a “covering” for you. Gardeners will sometimes place a tarp over their tender shoots so that frost won’t kill them. God too sees our eagerness to push out from under the heavy weight that is stifling us. If it is too soon for us to come out, His Holy Spirit will cover us. Sometimes we become angry and anxious because we want out! But the Lord’s “tarp” is covering us until our due season. Sometimes we think it’s time – but our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15). Keep pushing upward. Push past whatever dirt, pain, dysfunction, anxiety, depression, regret, turmoil – whatever is pressing you down – be resilient like the flowers. In God’s time your blossoms will break forth. Your leaf will not whither and you will prosper!

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shepastor: “How Deep Is Your Love?” Sermon Excerpts By Minister Kathryn R. Johnson

As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee… The words of the Psalmist indicate his deep longing for the LORD in his life. For the psalmist, God and God alone can quench that thirst, that longing, that deep desire to make him whole – complete. Many experience an emptiness inside – yes even preachers – and we seek to fill it with other things, experiences and relationships. All of us, however, are designed with a space that only our creator can fill. Today, Shepastor presents a message by Minister Kathryn R. Johnson, Associate Minister, Covenant Baptist Church that explores the connection between the empty space, the depth of our love for God and the outpouring of Love God has towards us. Read on and be blessed…

Psalm 42: 1-2
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

Isaiah 44:1-4
Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
2Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. 3For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: 4And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.

Minister Kathryn R. Johnson
Covenant Baptist Church

Sermon Text: Psalm 42:1-2, Isaiah 44:1-4
Sermon: “How deep is your Love?”

Our sermon text taken from Psalm 42:1-2 and Isaiah 44:3-4 both focus on quenching dry unbearable thirst. In Psalm 42, the Sons of Korah are panting for God’s presence to fill their very souls. They are “soul-empty,” filled with tears and sorrow; panting, hungering, yearning for God to fill their void with His living water.

Conversely, in Isaiah 44:3-4, we see God promising to provide Israel with streams of water for a thirsty land; symbolic for God’s anointing and refreshing of the souls of His servant Israel. The refreshing, anointing comes with a promise and blessing that Israel’s descendants will blossom like the spring grass in a meadow, and like poplar trees flourishing by streams of water.

As we think about the power of God’s living water to refresh and uplift us, we ponder how in the midst of our personal storms, we are able to stand. We think about how palm trees and the cedars are able to weather devastation that ruins others. It’s all about the depth of the roots.
Just like God provides thirst quenching nourishment through the deep roots of the palms the enduring strength of the cedars, He quenches our thirst with His Holy Spirit. God’s love doesn’t fall on us drip by drip, rather it gushes over us, floods us like a deluge, breaks over us like waves of water and is stored up in the reservoirs of our souls where we can draw from it constantly.

God’s love is not just for times of crisis. God’s love is what gives us the peace that passes all understanding; makes us see the beauty of the morning, enjoy the songs of the birds, and gaze upon the stars at night. It is God’s love that gives us contentment and hope.

We know the depth of God’s love is immeasurable; here’s the question: How deep is your love for God? Can we stay rooted and grounded in God’s love; drinking from the wellspring of life? Are we constantly absorbing the living water Jesus promised, drinking in God’s love and faithfulness? When you get knocked down; test your depth level. How many fathoms deep into God’s love are you? Are our roots deep enough in God’s Word to tap into His love during the dry arid times of our lives; during our Tsunamis?

There is no top, bottom or sides to God’s love; it is immeasurable, infinite, and limitless. The reservoir will never run dry. Do you make daily withdrawals drawing from the bank of the Word of God; constantly filling your souls with God’s love until you’re filled to overflowing?

Do you respond to Jesus’ request for water by?

1. Believing God is who He says He is – Eternal love
2. Praying –Having a conversation with Him. Letting him know how you feel, what you need, asking for His direction, thanking Him for all his bountiful blessings
3. Praising – Lifting His name on high, praising Him for being God all by Himself
4. Witnessing – Loving God by telling others about the love of Jesus Christ? Are you witnessing by letting your light shine so that others can see the light of the Lord in you?

How deep is our love for God Saints? God desires our love, he doesn’t need it, but he desires it. God loves us with an eternal, everlasting agape love. Is our love for God deep enough to respond to Jesus’ request for water with “Yes Lord”? End of Sermon

When’s the last time you checked your depth level of love for the LORD? When’s the last time the “depths of life” have “checked” you? How are you manifesting that love in your daily walk? Thank you Minister Kathy for challenging us to reflect upon our lives and revisit our root systems.

Has your love for the Lord been challenged? Have your roots been deepened by life experiences? What words of wisdom would you share with someone who may be wrestling with issues of thirst and emptiness in their lives?

Post a comment or send me an email at
Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shepastor: “Broken Bread” by the Reverend Darcia L. Simpson, M.Div

“Broken… “so many are broken today. Broken homes, broken hearts, broken marriages, broken dreams, broken relationships – BROKEN! Brokenness can be a devastating condition. Today, however, Shepastor reflects upon alternative, profound imagery of brokenness as given by the Reverend Darcia L. Simpson, Associate Minister, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church; Cleveland, Ohio. Below is a message she recently preached at her home church.

Read on and be blessed…

Rev. Darcia L. Simpson, M.Div
"Broken Bread"
Scripture Lesson: Mark 8: 1- 10
Text: Mark 8: 6-8

6“So He (Jesus) commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He (Jesus) took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them (the loaves) before the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments.”

Focusing in on verse 6 we see where Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks for the loaves, broke the loaves and gave the loaves. Therefore, coming from this passage, I have titled, this message, “Broken Bread.”
Broken Bread....Broken might be saying Amen this morning simply because when we look around us we see so many things broken. Broken lives. Broken relationships. Broken hearts. Broken homes. Broken promises. Broken marriages. Broken education systems. Broken political systems. Broken finances. And broken churches. The reality of it is that there is brokenness and seemingly impossible situations all around us. The reality of daily living is that there are seemingly impossible situations and circumstances on every side of us everyday.

So the question becomes, when facing dismal conditions how can one make a difference? How can you and I make a difference in the lives of the people around us? Good news! You and I can make a difference in the lives of people around us when we begin to view ourselves as “Bread in the Hands of Jesus.” You and I can change the world when we see ourselves as Jesus sees us.... “Bread in the hands of Jesus...yes we are bread in the hands of Jesus...” (See the image)

See yourself as bread in the hands of Jesus. When you belong to Jesus, you are like bread in his hands. Follow me to the text and lets see what happens when Jesus takes bread into his hands. We are bread in the hands of Jesus and when Jesus gets bread in his hands...vs 6...he takes hold of it...he blesses it...he breaks it...he gives it for the nourishment of others. Likewise, when we are saved, we belong to Jesus. He takes a hold of us. He blesses us. He breaks us. He gives us to help nourish the faith of someone else.

Broken Bread...When we see ourselves as Jesus sees us, we can make a difference in the lives of folks around us. Jesus sees you as good, useful, full of purpose, full of life, able to make a difference in the lives of others...

Look at the situation here in the text, there was a seemingly impossible situation: hungry folks, and not enough bread.

Jesus knew exactly what was going on, what was needed, and what he desired to do... Look at the seemingly impossible situation in your life right now...

It is no different... Jesus knows exactly what is going on, what the need is, and what he desires to do. Begin to see yourself as bread in the hands of Jesus. Your life makes a difference. Your life can make a difference.

Recall verse 6; Jesus took the loaves. Can’t you just see Jesus, taking you and me into his hands... “bread in the hands of Jesus”

That word took is a powerful word... Jesus took the loaves. (to take with the hand, to lay hold of a person or thing in order to use it.) When Jesus takes a hold of your life he has a purpose for it. Run to Jesus and let him take your life. Put your life in his hands, and let him put his hands on your life...then watch what happens....

Next the text says, after he took the bread, he gave thanks for the bread... He gave thanks for the bread. When we come to Jesus, and let him take a hold of us, He gives thanks to the Father for us. You must know and believe that Jesus is thankful for you. Other folks might not be thankful for you and for your life, but Jesus is thankful... Jesus is thankful to the Father for you. Just as he took the bread, then gave thanks, Jesus takes our lives and blesses them, give thanks for our lives. He lifts us to the Father.

The words of Jesus found in John 17 are an expression of how Jesus feels about us. Listen as Jesus talks to the Father about me and about you…he says, vs 9, “ I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me...” He goes on to say, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name...” When we see ourselves as bread in the hands of Jesus, we will know that we are blessed, we are protected, we are loved...

Here in the text, after he took the loaves, after he gave thanks for the loaves, he broke the loaves. He broke the loaves. He broke the bread. Saints this is critical. This concept does not necessarily make us feel good, but it is crucial. Understand that when we see ourselves as bread in the hands of Jesus, the breaking is essential. Broken bread in the hands of Jesus must be understood, acknowledged and prayed for. In the Jewish tradition and culture, bread at the table is never cut, it is only and always broken with the hands. It is always taken into the bear hands and broken with the hands.

In the breaking of the bread, the miracle takes place. When we see ourselves as bread in the hands of Jesus, we must know that there is some breaking of our will that must take place. Yes, Jesus took us from the grip of the enemy. Yes, Jesus gives thanks for us. Yes, we must be broken. Our will to have our own way has to be dealt with. Look at this way, when the bread in the Jewish tradition and culture was broken, it was made accessible. All who were at the table could partake of the bread once it was broken; the youngest to the oldest; the feeble and the well. Note this, the breaking was done in Jesus’ hands. The breaking was done in Jesus’ hands. As followers of Jesus, we are not to break one another. It is not our job, role, or responsibility to break down, tear down or put down one another.

This breaking of bread is done in the hands of Jesus. The breaking of the bread is sacred.

Likewise when we see ourselves as bread in the hands of Jesus, and allow ourselves to be broken, we then become more accessible... made useful...made vulnerable - open, softened, revealed, transparent, palatable, appealing, approachable, rough edges smoothed out. Even though Jesus took us, blessed us, there is still crust on us that has to be broken off; habits, attitudes, looks, ways of thinking that in the Hands of Jesus, he can fix...

Then, the text says, after he broke it, he gave to the disciples to set before the people, and the people ate and were satisfied. Let me just say this saints, those 4000 hungry people didn’t get fed with the disciples just standing there in front of the people. The disciples had to get out among the people. The text says, they set them (the bread) among the multitude. When we have been taken a hold of by Jesus, blessed by Jesus, broken by Jesus, we have to get out among the people. You can’t just stay here. We have to get out among the hungry crowd, feed the spiritually hungry, minister among the mass multitude in search of Jesus.

When we see ourselves as bread in the hands of Jesus, he will set us before the people.
•He will set us before, in front of, beside individuals that are in need of bread...spiritual bread.
•He will set us among that co=worker that needs a friend that knows Jesus
•He will set us among relatives, friends and strangers that need to know Him...
Broken Bread in the Hands of Jesus is meant to be consumed. It is meant for the nourishment of others. Our life is meant to be given. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Verse 8 reads, the people ate and were filled. How can one satisfy these people with bread in the wilderness? How can I make a difference?

•Get into the hands of Jesus, let him bless you, let him break you, let him send you out among the people...

You may be saying, Preacher, it hurts to get out among the people, you don’t know what they did to me. Maybe you have never given of your self in this way before. Maybe you have tried to minister/help/nurture/encourage
and all you got was hurt in return. Let me just say it hurts to serve, it hurts to help, it hurts to minister, you may feel like a left over fragment.

Don’t worry, look at verse 8. “Left over fragments” Jesus commanded the left over fragments to be taken up. You may feel like a left over fragment, but be encouraged. Jesus is calling for you. He will have someone, another disciple, come and get you. He will not dispose of you. Jesus does not consider the leftover fragments as scraps to be cast out, but as more bread that he can put his hand on...let him take a hold of you anew, and see yourself as broken bread in the hands of Jesus.

We praise God for this powerful message from Rev. Simpson! In the hands of Jesus, the broken fragments are made whole, valued, blessed and then used to nourish others! Thank you Rev. Darcia for this healing, prophetic word!

Are you broken? Do you need special prayer to help see beyond your broken condition? Have you come through a “fragmenting process” and have a word of wisdom to share with others?

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shepastor: “Living in a Dual Universe”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This week, the literary world celebrates the 200 birthday of British, Victorian novelist, Charles Dickens. The above famous quote expresses the reality of tension and struggle between two seemingly different worlds. One commentator highlights Dicken’s literary style or usage of anaphora, “the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses—for example, “it was the age . . . it was the age” and “it was the epoch . . . it was the epoch. . . .” This technique, along with the passage’s steady rhythm, suggests that good and evil, wisdom and folly, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle.”

As I read that explanation, it spoke to me of our experiences in life. For some, all is well, things couldn’t be better, life is good, struggles are minimal, and “hallelujah” comes easily because pain is a distant memory.

For others, all is not well, things couldn’t be worse, life is bad, struggles are at their height and “hallelujah” is a sacrifice. As the people of God in general and the preachers of the Word in particular, we must always be aware of this ever present tension amidst those with whom we interact. We must avoid flippant and shallow theology. We must prayerfully consider our words as we seek to advise, encourage and instruct.

We must remind the joyful to be sensitive to the sorrowful. We must encourage the broken and bruised to “choose to worship,” in the middle of the mess. We must remain balanced in our presentation of the Gospel, ever mindful that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not ours – they are much higher, deeper and incomprehensible.

We must merely say like the song writer, “We cannot see the future, we cannot see through dark clouds, we cannot see through tear drops, so walk on by faith each day. On Monday, walk on, on Tuesday, walk on, let Jesus be your guide. He is able to carry your load and he can see way down the road, so walk on by faith each day.”

Continue to walk by faith and not by sight. Make up your mind in the good times to bless the Lord at all times and the choice to praise Him in the bad will be a clear decision.

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shepastor: “Identity and History”

People want to know who they are but at times are fearful to explore their past. Examining what makes us who we are and the way we are can be a scary thing. Sometimes it’s easier to ignore or deny the “stuff” in our history than deal with the struggle. Our history impacts our worldview. If we have been broken, bruised, misused, neglected, ostracized, criticized, marginalized, we tend to have a spirit of mistrust. If we have been loved, nurtured, encouraged, admired and challenged, we tend to be more open. One would think that common experiences would draw people together, but sometimes it has the opposite effect.

We must avoid allowing the actions and behaviors of a few to close us off from the beautiful opportunities God provides for us in community. Women in general and women in ministry in particular must push past whatever unfortunate bruising experiences we may have encountered while interacting with wounded women.

Women are beautiful, powerful, anointed, gifted, intelligent and influential. Together, we can accomplish so much. Yet we remain so fragmented. Too busy to connect, too closed to embrace, too fearful to trust, too angry to reconcile, too elite to reach down or across, too reluctant to examine our past, our ways and our outlook. How then can we be used to repair the breach?

What’s your history? How has it impacted your identity? Is your history holding your identity hostage? Are you allowing the Lord to rebuild you, heal you, deliver you, comfort you? Will you let go of the bitter and embrace the sweet?

Behold how beautiful and how pleasant it is for “sisteren” to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Whatever our history, may we seek to surrender our identities to Jesus Christ and become complete in Him.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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