Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shepastor: “Humans plan, God Acts…”

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Pause and think about that 4A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. 5God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it. 6The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts! 7The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israelb is our fortress. Pause and think about that 8Come, see the glorious works of the LORD: See how he brings destruction upon the world. 9He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” 11The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Psalm 46: 1-11, NLT
The 17th century poet, Robert Burns declared,
The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go awry, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!
News broadcasts declared that this election season has been one of the most expensive in history. Millions of dollars have been spent to out inform, out smear, out debunk and out cast candidates of every persuasion. It is difficult to find one station that does not have a barrage of negative campaign ads on a continual basis. Just as we are fed up and tired, possibly God is as well!
Washington grid-locked. “Where are the jobs?” Yell one set of candidates, “We’ll create millions!” Yell more candidates. “You don’t know how to fix Washington, You don’t know how to work across the isles” come additional accusations.
Division, waste, lies and schemes. Enter hurricane Sandy. All of a sudden political parties don’t matter. Enter hurricane Sandy. All of a sudden, those who were disparaging, accusing and fighting one another are now thrust together to rescue, rebuild and restore. Need jobs? Enter hurricane Sandy. Thousands of jobs will now be created to rebuild what Sandy destroyed. Who gets the credit? God.
As my pastor once preached, When man’s plans fold, God’s plans unfold. Pause and think about that!
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Until Next Wednesday, In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shepastor: "The Importance of Knowing How to Encourage Yourself”

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. David Destroys the Amalekites 7And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray you, bring me here the ephod. And Abiathar brought there the ephod to David. 8And David inquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for you shall surely overtake them, and without fail recover all. I Samuel 30: 6-8, KJV
David had a mess on his hands! Running from Saul, his family and the families of his soldiers had been taken captive by enemies and his army men were speaking of stoning him. The text says that they wept bitter tears until they had no more strength to weep. David, however, “encouraged himself in the Lord.”
We are living in discouraging times. Thousands have lost jobs, homes, family, health, strength and hope. Some are walking around feeling invisible, as though the world is oblivious to their hurts, their pain, their sorrow, their agony. Some are wrestling with feelings of betrayal – having trusted in a friend, a spouse, a mentor, a church only to find themselves standing alone in the hour of need. Encouragement can be a hard thing to find.
When facing the hardship of loneliness and despair, it is critical to know how to encourage oneself in the in LORD. David provides for us a marvelous example of how to find encouragement in the darkest of hours. The key is to encourage yourself in the Lord. The encouragement does not lie within you – it is to be found within the “Lord in you.”
David had to have a depth level relationship with God in the seasons of light and peace that prepared him for the experiences of the proverbial dungeon. This passage of scripture shows us that there will be times when those that we’ve led, those that we’ve nurtured, those that the Lord has used us to help rescue, and those who are closest to us can take up rocks to stone us! Bitterness, anger, disillusionment and destitution can all grip our hearts at this vulnerable time if we are not careful. When this happens, there must be something within the inner recesses of our being that enables us to stop listening to the noise and encourage ourselves in the Lord.
David had to make a decision – crumble under the weight of abandonment and depression, or seek the Lord with all of this strength. David chose the latter. He asked the Lord,
shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for you shall surely overtake them, and without fail recover all. (vs. 8)
David asked the Lord if he should pursue what was taken from him. He wanted to know if his pursuit would be victorious. The Lord answered with a resounding –YES – “Pursue for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all!”
When we have been beaten down, stripped, robbed and left alone, the temptation is great to just give up and let it go. When we find ourselves in that place – we need to ask the Lord if we should let it go or if we should pursue. Our victory is wrapped up in our willingness to get up, go to God, take hold of His direction and then move forward by faith.
Though no other human appears to be standing with you, take a page out of David’s book and encourage yourself in the Lord. Go to God. Ask God if you should pursue whatever was stolen from your life – your joy, your peace, your home, your family, your health, your stability, your finances, your job, your mate, your vision – ask God what you should pursue – listen for the answer and then with Holy boldness go and get those things back!
It will be a fight, but God will fight the battle through you. While the battle is not yours, it is the Lord’s, God will use you in the battle. By faith, chase down what God has promised you will overtake. It may be uncomfortable, it may sound unreasonable, it may appear down right foolish – but pursue God’s promise for your life. If God be for you, who can be against you?
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Remember to vote on November 6th – don’t sleep on this one!
Until next Wednesday, In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shepastor: “Voices that refuse to be silenced”

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13, NASV
The other day, the world watched in horror as we received the news that a beautiful, 14 year old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, was gunned down at point blank range by the Taliban. Her crime? She was determined to receive an education, strongly voiced that all girls should have the opportunity to receive an education and her refusal to be silenced. She proclaimed boldly that women have a right to learn, grow, be free, voice their opinions, express their displeasures, and declare their disdain for the atrocities happening to women who would not remain in “their place.”
Malala has given the world a gift. Malala treated all women and girls as “friends” as she fearlessly declared the importance of females having a voice. Fully aware of the dangers associated with such a bold stance – she stood anyway, effectively laying down her life. She has deactivated the proverbial “mute” button and released the voices of a chorus of women, men, girls, and boys who stand against the evils of terrorism and declared – WE WILL NOT REMAIN SILENT! It is only by God’s grace and miracle that she has survived to this point. Her resiliency has baffled the most gifted surgeons. Only God could have sustained her life after the devastation of a gunshot wound directly to her head.
While most of us will never face a literal Taliban or gunshot wound to our heads, many women have wrestled against various kinds of terrorism that have stripped them of their voices. Some have been raised in violent homes – physical and verbal – homes that have muted their voices for decades. Some have been terrorized by prejudice, being made to feel “less than,” their voices muted by the pain of ostracism, rejection, criticism and hatred. Some have been terrorized right in the church – rebuked for daring to declare that God has called them to preach!
Terrorism, however, cannot thrive when voices refuse to remain silent. Sometimes it takes the voice of one who will defy the threats, defy the fear, defy even the attacks that are sure to come – one who will say, “even if you kill me, 10,000 more will rise and declare WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!”
Use your voice for deliverance. Use your voice to set captives free. Use your voice to defy the terrorism that seeks to strip, rape and rob you and others of God's gift to all - the right to pursue life in the broadest terms. If we will do these things, terrorism will not prevail.
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Until next Wednesday, In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shepastor: “Pray and Work, Work and Pray, Pray for People and leave the results to God!”

For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, "They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done." But now, O God, strengthen my hands. Nehemiah 6:9, NASV
The Old Testament preacher, Nehemiah prayed the prayer, “Lord, strengthen my hands” as he faced ridicule, enemy opposition, discouragement and fear. Nehemiah was called by God to lead the people of Israel in rebuilding the wall surrounding the remnants of their plundered city after Babylonian captivity. The task was daunting and appeared almost impossible.
Nehemiah had to use “rubble,” broken, burned, crumbling stones to rebuild the city walls. In ancient times, city walls were used to keep enemies out and the city secure. He didn’t have a cheering section. He didn’t have a massive army of confident, well-trained, well nourished men. There was nothing happening around him that would reassure him that his efforts were not in vain. What Nehemiah did have was faith and prayer. So he prayed, simply, “Lord, strengthen my hands.”
In the book, Let’s All Pray Together, author, William J. Krulza shares these profound words of encouragement for those who are battling discouragement, seeking to rebuild with only rubble for resources:
Nehemiah learned somewhere that prayer and practice make good companions. Work and Pray. Pray and Work. Talk to God while working with people and leave the results to God. He heard the attacks of the enemy but prayed for strength to continue working.
Sometimes it feels like we have little or nothing to work with. Those around are long on criticism and short on encouragement. The few that are working with you, at times are half hearted at best. You are placed in a position of being “builder in chief, encourager in chief, defender in chief and ignorer in chief!” At times it feels like you are left to rebuild city walls using rubble!
When these feelings hit, take a page out of Nehemiah’s book – work and pray, pray and work. Talk to God while working with people and leave the results to God! Pray, “Lord, strengthen my hands!” Remain faithful. Understand that you have no control over how individuals behave or respond. Follow your heavenly instructions. Keep on working. Keep on praying. Keep on doing what is right. Keep on building. Keep on praising. Pray for the people you have to work with and leave the results to God! God will take your rubble and use it to build great things in His name!
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Until next Wednesday, In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shepastor: “From Convulsion to Conversion”

Mark 9: 14-29 The Healing of a Boy With an Evil Spirit
14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. 17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” 19“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evila spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.b” KJV version says 9:29 in this way… 29And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
Shepastor: “From Convulsion to Conversion”
There are so many poignant lessons in this text, but today, Shepastor will focus upon a few. It’s interesting to note that the text in the NIV says 14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
It appears that the people may have been upset and the religious leaders may have been mocking the disciples because they could not liberate the boy from the oppressive spirit that was tormenting him. The boy was so oppressed that he could not speak. He was tormented, and torn, dashed about and afflicted, bruised and beaten – beaten down so bad that he could not speak,and the disciples could not free him. One can imagine that the crowd was angry because after all these were they that walked closely with Jesus. They saw them in his inner circle. They saw them out on the boat with him. They saw them up close with Jesus, hanging around as he taught, walking with him everywhere he went, so they assumed that because of their apparent close affiliation, they also had the power that Jesus had to heal.
What they did not realize was that everyone who looks like they are walking with Jesus does not necessarily walk in the power of Jesus. Observation 1: Looks can be deceiving. Just because people look like they are filled with the spirit of God, look like they walk in the power of God, look like they possess what God gives His children to do great and mighty things in His name, does not necessarily mean that they are filled with God's Spirit. Just because they walk into the church every Sunday, does not mean that they are walking in the Spirit of God’s love, grace, peace and deliverance. Just because people are religious, it does not make them righteous. Just because people hang out with someone that may walk in Holy Ghost power, does not necessarily mean that they have it themselves.
Sometimes people just go along to get along. Sometimes people just like being in the “in” crowd. So they hang out with the “right” folk. The problem is that their religion, their relationship, their commitment is only skin deep. They have not really understood what it means to seek the Lord, walk in the power of His might and stand upon His promises. It’s not that these blessings are only available to a select few, it’s that few truly seek to have them. In another place Jesus said, “broad is the path and wide is the gate that lead to destruction and many there be that go in there at. But straight is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to life and few there be that find it (Matthew 7: 13-14).” The disciples could not heal the boy because they had not yet been converted. Although they were walking close by Jesus – they had not yet been converted. They were friendly observers but their hearts had not truly been changed. Therefore they did not have the faith or the power to heal or help break the chains that bound the boy.
Jesus called the disciples, “faithless.” Similarly, Jesus told Nicodemas, “unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3).” In other words, there are some things that you will not be able to see, to do, to comprehend, to understand unless and until you have been converted, changed, delivered, set free, born again! The disciples hadn’t gotten there yet, but they would.
Observation Two: Consider the condition of the boy and the response of the demons to Jesus. The scripture says that when the evil spirit saw Jesus coming, it began to tear, throw down and convulse the boy. The evil spirit did not want to let the boy go. If every time a person came near someone and they subsequently began to foam at the mouth and convulse, the first natural inclination would probably be to draw back – to go away because it may appear that matters were being made worse. But in Jesus’ response we have a profound lesson. Before deliverance, before cleansing, before, healing, before restoration, before complete and total conversion, often there is a convulsion.
Often there is great resistance to changing from the unhealthy to the healthy, from the broken to the whole, from the dirty to the clean, from the dysfunctional to the functional. The demonic spirits that robbed that boy of speech and of a beautiful life shrieked when they saw Jesus. Frequently, as God is bringing about a change for the better, a change for the holy a change for what will bring Him glory – demons will begin to throw convulsions or what we used to call it “fits.” This occurs because the devil does not want us to be free. Therefore, he makes the conversion process look so terrible that often we will stop the healing process before it has a chance to make the situation whole. Individuals may act up so terribly when change begins to happen that people may say, “This is too hard - just forget it!”
Thank God, Jesus didn’t stop the healing process for this boy because the demon inside of him began to convulse. Sometimes when we ask for healing, we will have to go through convulsions. We have to know that on the other side of the convulsion is conversion. It must have been difficult for the boy’s father to believe that his son would ever be healed. It seems that he wanted to believe but he’d been disappointed so many times before. He therefore said a humble and powerful thing – “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." This man was honest with Jesus. He didn’t pretend – he said outright, “Lord, I want to believe you but this unbelief is still hanging on to me – HELP ME TO BELIEVE!” That is a legitimate prayer! God wants our honesty, our humility, our abject poverty of spirit. He already knows that we can’t do it on our own. He wants us to come to this conclusion along with Him. Jesus did not rebuke the man for his struggle to believe. He honored and blessed him for his honesty.
In the end, the boy was healed, the man’s faith was helped and the disciples learned a powerful lesson. They asked Jesus, “why couldn’t we heal the boy?” Jesus replied, “this kind goeth not out except through fasting and praying.” If you want to walk in the power of God, every now and then you’ve got to pray and fast. You’ve got to give something up. You’ve got to surrender. You’ve got to humble yourself and lay prostrate before the Lord and say, “Father fill me, use me, stretch me. Father break this stronghold, break this demonic force in my life and in the lives of those around me. Lord, deliver, bless and heal!” God will answer, God will move, God will deliver, God will give you a break through! Don’t fear the convulsion – it is the step before the conversion.
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Until next Wednesday In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris