Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shepastor: "Settle Down Your Soul!"

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.” Psalm 23:2

In our busy, driven, work consumed society, the idea of rest may be thought of as overrated. For many of us, even when we say we are resting, our minds are still working – busily anticipating what we need to do next. Even those who are able to take time off to walk along sunny beaches, bask in the sun, feel warm, soft sand against the soles of their feet – even as they walk along the sea shore, their minds are still busy, wondering, some worrying, some anticipating.

I saw a wonderful cartoon in the news paper once – an on looker observed a family sitting on the beach, the mother, father and son were all lying in lounge chairs, sun glasses on, sipping a cool drink. The caption above the on-lookers head was, “wow, it must be nice to be so relaxed not a care in the world…” However, above the mother’s head was written, “Did I remember to pack the right outfit…” above the father’s head was written, “I’ve got tons of emails to answer when I get back to the office,” and above the son’s head was written, “I’ve got to get back to the hotel room and read my text messages!”

Body on vacation, but the mind still running, still worrying, still moving, not resting. Medical science supports that fact that rest is one of the critical elements in the healing process. Rest of body, rest of mind, rest of spirit. Jesus himself took time to rest, pray and renew his being. Yet we as Christians have not embraced the power and the importance of true rest.

Consider this anecdote written by an unknown author on satan’s tactics:

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said,

"We can't keep Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.

"We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their savior. Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.

"So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners, but steal their time, so they don't have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

"This is what I want you to do," said the devil.

"Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!"

"How shall we do this?" his demons shouted.

"Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds," he answered….

"Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles.

"Keep them from spending time with their children.

"As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!

"Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice.

"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted.

"Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God's creation. "Keep them busy, busy, busy!"

"And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences.

"Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.

It was quite a plan!

The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there. Having little time for their God or their families.

Having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives.

The question is...has the devil been successful in his schemes?

You be the judge.
Does "BUSY" mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?
-Author Unknown

Are we too busy to hear the voice of God? What are we busy doing? Some are busy at work. They work all day, bring their work home at night and think about their work as they sleep. When they awake in the morning, their first thought is work.

Some are busy in the church. Busy attending meetings. Busy performing ministry tasks. Busy on this committee and that committee – busy, busy, busy. But have they spent time feeding their spirit?

Some are busy in the mind. Busy worrying. Busy lamenting over the past. Busy trying to figure out who is doing what when and where. Busy putting themselves and or other people down. Busy trying to figure out what so and so meant when they said this or that, busy tending to other people’s business instead of minding their own busy, busy, busy!

But the psalmist declared that the Lord makes him lie down in green pastures. In other words, the Lord gives him rest. Now the wording of this will escape you if you just whiz through it. But think about it, the psalmist didn’t say, he “lets me” lie down. The Psalmist didn’t say, He “suggests” that I lie down. The Psalmist said, “He makes me lie down.”

Sometimes God has to make us lie down. How does He do it? Sometimes he’ll make us lie down through illness. There are some of us that won’t stop running until we have to. Some of us will be sick as a dog and will still push ourselves to keep going as if the world will stop spinning on it’s axis is we are not there. Understand, if you can’t be there, the beat will go! One day, you won’t be there and someone else will come along and carry on the work that has to be done.

Sometimes he makes us lie down through situations and circumstances. By that I mean, sometimes the Lord allows things to come into our lives that we can’t fix no matter how hard we try. There are some things that only God himself can handle. No matter how hard you try to work it out, scheme it out, negotiate it out, figure it out, there are some things that you won’t be able to fix, to change, to make better – you will have to turn it over to God and let Him work it out.

Sometimes he makes us lie down in the midst of the storm. Remember, Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat when a storm arose and the disciples anxiously rushed to get him up and said, “Master the tempest is raging – carest thou not that we parish, how can’st thou lie asleep?” But Jesus understood something that the disciples did not – the winds and the waves obey His will - Sometimes the Lord will allow storms to enter and to rage in our lives and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. So He makes us lie down, look up to heaven, be still and know that He is God and wait for Him to say, “peace be still.”

Consider also that the Lord makes us to lie down in “green pastures.” Farmers know that in order for crops to grow, for pastures to be green, they have to be fertilized. Some of the best fertilizer is manure. Sometimes, we have to endure some “manure” so to speak in our lives, so that our pastures can blossom, grow and flourish.

The hard stuff, some negative stuff, some painful stuff, some disappointing stuff, some discouraging stuff, some stuff we of our own accord would never have anything to do with, every now and then God allows this kind of “stuff” to enter our lives. After we have struggled a while, after we’ve wrestled a while, like Jacob who wrestled with the angel all night long… after we’ve given it our all, the Lord makes us lie down and when we look around, the pasture is green.

For our pastures to be green, we have to endure some “stuff,” that makes us rich, and productive and a blessing to others. Sometimes God makes us lie down in the midst of some difficult, challenging, seemingly hopeless situations and turns it around and makes it flourish and blossom like a dessert producing a rose.

If you don’t have time to spend with your family you are too busy. If your children have to set an appointment to talk to you, then you are too busy. If you can’t sleep at night because your mind is so filled with the clutter and stuff of the day, of the past, of anticipatory fear of the future – then you are too busy. But if you will turn your soul over to the Lord, He will cause you to lie down, to rest in Him, to learn how to have peace in the midst of the storm.

God’s peace instructs your mind and your soul to know that He’s got everything under control even when it looks like chaos is dominating. God is calling you to rest in Him today. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for you, nurtures you, loved you so much that he gave his life for you. Won’t you allow Him to shepherd your soul and give you some rest?

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shepastor: “Practical Advice…”

Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. Proverbs 15:32, English Standard Version (ESV)

An attitude that tremendously hinders many along the path towards success is obstinacy. Some just will not listen. In pride they declare that God has spoken to them and told them to do thus and so. Therefore, they ignore words of wisdom, godly counsel and in some instances, common sense! Women in ministry must be particularly careful not to fall into this trap.

Below are some basic things to remember as you prayerfully discern God’s direction for your ministry journey…

Pray and obey… Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. Hebrews 13:17 NLT

As long as you are not being asked to do anything illegal, unethical or ungodly, follow the instructions you are given. Even if you don’t like or agree with their leadership style, methods or opinions, be faithful in your particular area. Remember, at this time, you are not “in charge.” There may be reasons for the decisions made that you cannot understand in your current position. Take this opportunity to learn as much as possible so that when opportunities open for you, you will have a wealth of experience.

Look before you leap… "But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” Luke 14:28 NLT

Avoid allowing anxiety, frustration, anger and bitterness to cloud your judgment. Satan would love nothing more than to destroy the beauty of what God wants to accomplish through you by “egging you on” to leave your position before time, and push you to run from pillar to post looking for your own solutions. If you feel the Lord leading you to another place, prayerfully think through next steps. Do all you can to peacefully resolve issues. Thoroughly investigate “the lay of the land” ahead. Be sure the Lord, Jesus has spoken and you are not “leaping” because of hurt feelings, foolish pride or impatience.

Don’t burn your bridges… A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22: 1 ASV

Many have ruined their own names by going about speaking disparagingly about others. The world is a lot smaller than you think. Be careful who you speak with about your dissatisfaction. If you are called away from a place of service, do your best to leave peaceably. If possible, avoid leaving angrily, with harsh or ugly words. Also, leave in a professional way. Avoid going, “AWOL,” (absent without leave). If you have responsibilities, be sure to fulfill them until the time of your departure. If you were given an assignment, complete it before you go. If others were depending upon you, be sure that clear directions are given and someone else is made aware of particulars that can make the transition smooth. Try not to leave a “mess” behind you. You never know who you may need in the future. Leaving bad can ruin future opportunities.

Finally, learn how to “chew up the fish and spit out the bone.” In other words, remember that God can teach you something in every situation. Even if you can’t use all of what is given, you can glean something. Remain open. Be humble. Remember, promotion comes from the Lord.

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Let us all pray for the families and communities effected by the recent Boston bombings. Let us continue to pray for the safety of our Nation.

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Shepastor: “Do You Allow Short Term Ramifications to Nullify Long Term Vision?”

6“When we were at Mount Sinai, the LORD our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. 7It is time to break camp and move on. Deuteronomy 1:6, NLT

Recently, NBC announced that in Spring 2014, comedian Jimmy Fallon would replace veteran comedian, Jay Leno. A statement made by the local newspaper caught my attention. It said, in so many words, there might be some fall out initially, but NBC was willing to take a chance on the long term good of their choice and deal with the “short term ramifications.”

This notion of dealing with short term ramifications is a bit different than what we commonly refer to as, “delayed gratification.” Delaying gratification, in general, means denying oneself of some “goodie” in order to experience something much better. I see dealing with short term ramifications as enduring something that might feel harsh, painful, highly undesirable, etc., because you understand that on the other side of the fall out, there is victory. It is more than a decision not to do something, but rather to do something that may create "issues" for others that cannot see the vision God has placed within you.

The children of Israel took what was meant to be an eleven day journey and turned it into a forty year wilderness experience. They were angry, frustrated, bewildered and begging to go back to Egypt because God’s directives through Moses made no sense to them. They nullified the long term vision of gaining the promised land because they couldn’t endure the short term pain, discomfort and uncertainties of the desert. They allowed short term discomfort, fear, shallow faith and "the crowd mentality" to nullify their long term blessings.

What long term vision are you nullifying because you can’t stand the desert and want to go back to what you perceive as a more “doable” setting? What crowd are you fearing in the short term? Are you staying too long in a situation, a mind set, a relationship, a career, a building, a house, etc., because you fear short term ramifications? Are you trying to hold something that God has said to release? Are you trying to prevent something from happening? Avoid some kind of backlash? Quell some kind of dissention?

For sure, there will be fall out when you dare to trust God and move ahead. You may lose some friends, some relationships, some members, some money, some notoriety etc. But remember, on the other side of short term ramifications is the beauty, joy, peace and victory of your promised land. Trust God and look beyond what your natural eye can see.

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Shepastor: On creating and increasing opportunities for female pastors: Excerpts from Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, Chapter 7, “What Will We Need to Press On?”

We praise God for the designation and celebration of “Women in Ministry Month,” (March) an annual recognition lifting the lives, work and ministry of female clergy. While celebration and affirmation are critical pieces of the advocacy puzzle, much more needs to be done to assist women pastors in getting “beyond the stained glass ceiling.” Today Shepastor highlights some specific recommendations that could serve to create and increase opportunities for clergywomen.

Excerpts from, Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, by Rev. Christine A. Smith, Chapter 7, “What Will We Need to Press On?” (pp. 125-129)

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:3-4, The Message)

While it is hard to believe that women still have to break through stained glass ceilings, the reality yet exists. So the question remains, What do we need to keep pressing forward? Included in the recommendations are adequate compensation, grants and funding for the practical support of women in ministry, the education of churches by denominations on the validity of female pastors, and insights from advocates on how to provide greater support to women in ministry.
Adequate Compensation

One of the greatest challenges that many female pastors face is the lack of financial resources. Some people may argue that money is not a major issue or factor. However, it cannot be underestimated. Women must break free from the habit of denying the need for financial support. Women in ministry have publicly decried the need for funding but privately expressed their financial struggles. Although some congregations have endowments that keep them going, many if not most of the churches where women are called do not. Because their membership is largely the elderly, the members give out of their fixed incomes. Smaller congregations are typically comprised of the very elderly and the very young, neither of whom have substantial income to share.
If the church building is an older structure, it most probably has been severely neglected and needs repairs. Leaking roofs, molding carpet, and broken water heaters are not uncommon. Frequently, the pastor uses her own resources to assist in paying for repairs, buying supplies, and providing funding to promote special events and programs. So much time and energy are spent on attempting to keep the ministry afloat that her energy and morale can become depleted. Building up the church ends up on the back burner; putting out fires becomes the focus.
Single female pastors, particularly if they have children, can have a major dilemma. Out of necessity, many are bi-vocational, struggling to pay for family needs or children in college. Even those without children find themselves needing to secure additional employment because the pay is low and sometimes unstable, and benefits may or may not be an option. A married female pastor may not face the same depth of financial struggle as a single pastor if she has the financial support of her husband. He may carry the medical benefits for the family, and thus, lack of benefits from the church may not be a problem. However, if her pay is lowered due to decreased church giving, the stability of the two-income household can be devastated. She too may be forced to obtain another job to make ends meet. A husband in this predicament may become frustrated and resentful toward the church, and the marriage may begin to suffer.
It is not uncommon for a female pastor to be faced with the church making a choice of paying the heating bill or paying her salary. If she demands her pay, the building is cold and the people are bewildered. If she allows her salary to be used to pay bills, the church becomes indifferent, and a pattern may begin to be established. With her faith challenged, her vision blurred, her motivation drained, her wonderful ideas tabled, she fights against despondency. She presses on, desperately seeking resources while praying her way through. She is still preacher, teacher, and encourager in chief. She is still called to the bedside of the sick, sought after by troubled souls needing a word of counsel or inspiration, asked to attend the juvenile court hearing, and expected to tell the lost about salvation. Her mind tells her, “Girl, you are crazy!” The bill collector tells her, “That partial payment you made is not sufficient.” Her heart tells her, “You are a pastor—trust God!”
One might ask, “Why in the world would anybody remain in such a dire predicament?” The short answer is, “The call.” The question, however, for the church, denominational leaders, and advocates of female clergy is, “Can you do better?” The heavens resound, “Yes, you can!” In order to press on, there needs to be an acknowledgement that the process is broken in order to move forward with the business of making repairs. Bulletin inserts and special DVDs about women in ministry on a particular Sunday annually is a start; however, things of greater depth and with further reach are needed.
Financial Support
Grants and funds for the practical support of women in ministry need to be established. Just as monies have been made available for sabbaticals, support groups (e.g., Together in Ministry Groups), and special ministry projects, it is necessary to develop a strategic plan for creating financial support for women in ministry. While it is hoped that more women will have the opportunity to serve in larger, more financially stable congregations, many will not. Those interested in advocating for women in ministry must consider creating avenues of support for those who pastor smaller congregations.

It is not enough to say that women need to develop strategic plans and pursue grant opportunities on their own. Female pastors need advocates to work to make inroads where few exist. Advocates can host roundtable discussions that include clergywomen and identify specific areas in which financial support is needed. Frequently, grant requests for the practical support of ministry are denied. Denominational leaders can help to make the case for the validity and critical nature of such requests. Smaller congregations also deserve quality leaders. Women who feel called to serve such congregations need assistance to ensure stable, competitive pay and resources to assist with the maintenance of the physical plant. Focus groups of female pastors can be gathered to collect data, share testimonies, and cast visions for what is required to survive and thrive in a small, economically depressed church. Denominational leaders can use the information obtained to justify specific funding for practical ministry needs. This can cultivate supportive structures and increase the potential for donors or grantors to provide financial assistance. Including a category to support female pastors through planned giving discussions with individuals and congregations can also help to accomplish this goal. Advocates can approach philanthropic entities such as the Lilly Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and others with a comprehensive plan to aid women in ministry. A grant requesting major funding for the practical support of female pastors may include the following.
Salary/benefit support for new pastors. Salary support would be up to half of the annual salary. For example, if the salary is $45,000, the church may be able to pay only $25,000. The national grant program would provide support by paying the other $20,000 and a portion of the pastor’s retirement and medical benefits for the first five years of her pastorate.

Building fund support for smaller, female-led congregations. Funds for major repairs could be made up to a certain amount.

Assistance with outreach programs. Special resources (financial, program resources, national staff) could be available for female pastors to draw upon to assist in rebuilding and further developing once-dying ministries.
If female pastors could receive these kinds of practical support, accepting a call to a small, fractured, dying congregation might be more workable and certainly a blessing for her health and well-being… End Quote

For the denominations that are already seriously engaged in strategically planning ways to assist women in ministry, we applaud you and praise God for you! I encourage denominations that are lagging behind to move beyond “level 1” (discussions, special days, bulletin inserts, web articles etc.,) to more tangible and concrete ways of helping “called” female clergy to not only become senior pastors, but to thrive as pastors.

To read more or to purchase a copy of Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, visit

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