Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shepastor: "The Special Mother"

19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

No, this is not Mother's Day. However, today Shepastor would like to highlight the unique struggle of women chosen by God to be "Special Mothers." In addition to being a daughter, sister, wife and pastor, some are also mothers of children who, let's say, dance to the rhythm of a different song.

May we lift these women in our prayers, give them tangible support and encourage them to keep on keepin on in their service to the Lord and their families...


The Special Mother -Adapted from
Erma Bombeck
Motherhood The Second Oldest Profession

There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is.

-Albert Einstein (fellow preemie)

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. This year thousands of mothers will give birth to a premature baby. Did you ever wonder how mothers of preemies are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron saint, Matthew.
“Forest, Majorie, daughter. Patron saint, Ceceila.
“Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron saint... give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.

Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a premature baby.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”

“Exactly, “ smiles God. “Could I give a premature baby a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But does she have patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it.

“I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence that are so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has his own world. She has to make it live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”

“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles, “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”

The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child who comes in a less than perfect way. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied.

“She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says ‘Mommy’ for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.

“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see - ignorance, cruelty, prejudice - and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”

“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, the pen poised in mid-air.

God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”

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Until Next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shepastor: "Remembering Martin, Hearing Jesus"

Love For Enemies
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor' and 'hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? The tax collectors do that too, don't they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? The Gentiles do that too, don't they? 48 So then, you be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
Matt 5:38-48 (NET)

In 1963, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sat in a Birmingham jail and wrote a response to 8 white clergyman who published in a local newspaper, a letter called, "A Call For Unity." In A Call for Unity, the writers urged an end to the Negro demonstrations "directed and led in part by outsiders" that were taking place in the area at the time, recommending that Negros engage in local negotiations and use the courts if rights are being denied.

The term "outsider" was a thinly veiled reference to Martin Luther King, Jr., and King replied with his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," arguing that forceful civil action was indeed necessary. In his response, King declared,

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

Dr. King recognized that the Gospel called for preachers and prophets who would step out of the comfort zone, who would put on the whole armor of God and challenge those ugly realities in society that marginalized, oppressed and denied anyone of their God endowed, “certain unalienable rights.” We are in this thing together. What affects one will ultimately affect another.

Jesus’ teachings on the manner of true love was no less radical. As we delve into this passage of scripture, we find Jesus’ teachings on the true nature of Christian Discipleship. Understanding true Christian discipleship, Dr. King was determined that he would not lead God’s people in hating and retaliating in violence and anger, but through disciplined, non-violent, civil-disobedience, he would compel the nation to look hard and long at its brutal, inhumane treatment of God’s children of a darker complexion.

Hate is not stronger than true love. Hate destroys. Love heals. Hate tears down. Love builds up. Hate corrodes. Love repairs. Hate divides. Love unites. Love certainly is the road less traveled. For the disciples, as well as us, this is a radical new concept of love. This love is rooted in the nature and action of God – the kind of Love that is spoken of by Jesus when he declared in the Gospel of John, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might have life. (John 3: 16-17).

Therefore, our model and motivation are not the tendencies of others around us or impulses within us, but the Holy Spirit of God flowing to and through us. In these verses, the underlying principle is that love is something to be initiated by us, not simply a response made by us. Jesus’ suggestions are shocking! They are radical. The term radical means extreme. Remember, Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people who had been taught all of their lives, an “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!”

In our terms, Jesus was talking to a group of folks who’d been taught all of their lives – “get them before they get you – if they hit you, hit back, hit hard, and make them know that if they ever attempt to mess with you again they may as well start
making funeral arrangements!” These teachings were radical! Jesus was teaching his followers that love is not given on the basis of love received or expected, but as those called to share love regardless of receptivity or consequence. These teachings suggest that we should love not to obtain love, but simply out of the privilege and desire to love. This might correspond to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s concept of “tough love” that is the Christian calling.

You have to be tough in order to give this radical love Jesus was speaking of because it’s not easy to love your enemies. It’s not easy to turn the other cheek. It’s not easy to show unconditional love to those who have hurt and rejected you. It’s tough because this kind of love requires you to look beyond a person’s faults and see their needs. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to go into deep introspection and earnest prayer. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to have to sacrifice your right to tell the person off, to get in the next best lick, to fight with all your human power and strength. It’s tough because it says release the person to God and truly ask the Lord to have mercy upon them.

Jesus was despised and rejected because he chose to have radical love.
In his book entitled, Strength to Love, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that the
the universe is on the side of right…the universe is on the side of justice…the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Dr. King asserted further that it is “faith in the future that enables the nonviolent resister to accept the suffering without retaliation.” Radical love accepts the fact that we may not see the results of our decision to love unconditionally. The person you choose to pray for and treat with kindness may never change in your lifetime.

You may never experience reciprocated love. But something greater will happen. Those persons around you will see your steadfast example of a Godly witness and testimony of faith and will be inspired by your love. Dr. Elton Trueblood declared, “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” When we elect to love radically, we are planting shade trees for our children, for the next generation. When we love radically, we break the bondage and the cycle of retaliation and hate. We teach by example that there is a better way, a brighter way –a healing way, a delivering way.

If you and I will make the decision today to have radical love – to continue to treat others with kindness even when they have elected to treat us with meanness – I believe that if we will determine to have radical love, to bless those who curse us – if we will have radical love, to pray for those who abuse and despitefully misuse us – if we will have radical love – to give and expect nothing in return – if we will have radical love – to turn the other cheek – if we will have radical love – agape love, unconditional love, unfailing love – We will be called the sons and the daughters of God – we will win the lost to Jesus Christ – we will gain the advantage over the enemy satan, we will be able to move mountains by our faith.

For love is stronger than hate – love is stronger than death, love is greater than sin, love is God and God is love. Love, radical love will carry us into a new dimension of Christian living that will tear down and devastate the strong holds of the enemy. Love will lift those who are sinking deep in sin.
May we choose to love radically today!

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shepastor: “Top Ten Reasons to be a ‘Wanna-Be’”

27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28Saying, Did not we straightly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. 29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. Acts 5: 27-32, KJV

There is a derogatory phrase that is sometimes used to describe people who appear to push themselves forward. These people are often referred to as, “Wanna-be’s.” The perception is that such individuals will stop at nothing to get what they want for themselves and where they want to go no matter what. Possibly, they have observed others who have attained a particular level of status or obtained some level of power and influence that affords them notoriety and maybe even prosperity. Therefore, the “wanna-be” individual looks to that person as someone they “want to be” like.

Clearly, the Word of God speaks against foolish pride, arrogance, greed, maliciousness, envy and covetousness (read James 3:13-18) – all characteristics that may be found in the above-described individual. However, not all “wanna-be’s” fit those descriptors.

Some individuals travel to the beat of a different drum. They hear a call to go higher, to press harder, to reach farther, to stand longer, to reject notions that they should stop upsetting the apple cart, so to speak…God having given them a certain resiliency that resists and defies the boxes that less insightful individuals have crafted for them.

In some sense, they too are “wanna-be’s.” Their desire to “want to be” something greater than what they currently are (or the examples they see around them) drives their actions. They hear God telling them to go farther.

Below are some reasons to be that kind of “wanna-be…”

1. Wanna be like Jesus…
2. Wanna be fruitful…
3. Wanna be all that you can be to the glory of God…
4. Wanna break down some walls that divide and oppress…
5. Wanna leave a positive legacy…
6. Wanna help make a difference in your sphere of influence…
7. Wanna challenge and possibly change dysfunctional systems…
8. Wanna do all you can while you can…
9. Wanna be an example of courage…
10. Wanna please the Lord despite the displeasure of man…

Yes, it’s ok to be a “wanna-be!” At the end of your journey, “may the work you’ve done, speak for you,” louder than those who just couldn’t understand your marching orders.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shepastor: "Determine to Follow the Golden Rule in a not so Golden Age"

34But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22: 34-40 NIV

The other day I heard a child ask, "Is it ok to kill evil people?" Sadly, our children are living in an age where national leaders are declaring, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun." Last night at the dinner table, my husband and I discussed this question with our children. We talked with them about the Ten Commandments and that in them, God's Word says, "Thou shalt not kill," to which our teenage son retorted, "Nobody follows those anymore" (Yes, this "Pastor's Kid" - aka, "pk" uttered those words!)

We went on to explain why God's commandments are still relevant. We shared with them the importance of "doing unto others as we would have them do unto us." Our other teenage son then said, "That's hard! The world would be a much better place if everybody did that."

Yes, the world would be a better place if everyone followed the "Golden Rule." I have been challenged more than a few times to adhere to this teaching myself! It would be so much easier to treat people as they treat you. But in 2013, may we have the faith, the courage and the strength to push past insensitivity, foolish behaviors, unreciprocated kindness and indifference. May we like Jesus live, love and serve to the glory of God.

Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.
Colossians 3:23 International Version

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shepastor: " A New Year Blessing..."

My prayer for you in 2013...

1May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

3May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings. Selah

4May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

5We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

6Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

7Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
Psalm 20: 1-8, NIV

20Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13: 20-21, KJV

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