Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shepastor: “50 Years and Counting… Truth is Marching”

21I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Amos 5: 21-24, KJV

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the historic “March on Washington.” Records indicate that the full name of the event was, “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” 50 years ago, approximately one quarter of a million people peacefully gathered to protest racial and economic injustices in America. Although great strides have been made, we still have a long way to go. Consider the following statistics given by the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday, August 23, 2013:

Earnings in Ohio:
African Americans made 81.2 cents for every $1 Euro Americans made
African Americans made 88.9 cents for every $1 Euro Americans made

“In 1966, the poverty rate for African Americans was nearly 42% (almost triple the overall rate).” In 2011, African Americans’ poverty rate remains high (but lower) at 28% (nearly double the overall rate)


In 1960, 3.1 percent of African Americans 25 and older had completed at least four years of college. The overall rate was 7.7% By 2012, 21.2% of African Americans 25 and older had completed at least 4 years of college. The overall rate was 30.9%

The same August 23, 2013 Cleveland Plain Dealer news paper provided a “report card” of the school districts spanning several counties throughout Northeast Ohio. No surprise, schools in the inner city and other poverty stricken areas where resources are minimal, student teacher ratio is high (in some instances, 52 students to 1 teacher), drugs and violence run rampant, schools were failing miserably. The surprise, however, came when poor grades were given to more prominent or “well off” districts for having minimal to low progress made in closing the achievement gap.

The grades revealed an unspoken and ugly truth… Even when oppressed peoples gain access to better environments (schools, jobs, neighborhoods, etc.), they still face systemic racism and classism. What good will it do if you attend school in a beautiful building, but are blocked from accessing classes and or curriculum that teaches higher level analytical thinking skills?

What are you benefited if you work downtown or in an affluent area, yet you make significantly less then someone of a lighter hue or a different gender? How is your circumstance made better if you purchase a beautiful home in a “nice” neighborhood, but your mortgage rate is significantly higher than that of your neighbor’s whose credit score may be the same or worse than yours?

The late singer song writer James Brown famously said, “If you deny a man an education, don’t get angry when he acts ignorantly.” Economic injustice produces poverty and oppression. Poverty and oppression produce ignorance. Ignorance produces rage and outrage. Rage and outrage produce destruction.

400 years of oppression will not be undone in 50 years. Truth must continue to march on. Truth must continue to be spoken to power. Truth must overrule ignorance in action. Truth must break the bow of the oppressor. Truth must never be silent. Let truth march on!

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shepastor: "Menopause, Mayhem and the Ministry"

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ERV

But I must not be too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me. So a painful problem was given to me—an angel from Satan, sent to make me suffer, so that I would not think that I am better than anyone else. I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. But the Lord said, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.” So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.

The term "mayhem" means, "The crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone, originally so as to render the victim defenseless."

Ok, we are going to have "big girl" talk on Shepastor today! Send anyone who cannot handle this talk out of the room! Recently, my physician told me that I am entering "peri menopause." I believe her! Sometimes on and sometimes off. Periodic hot flashes, intensified mood swings, fatigue, periodic insomnia and brain fog. Can I get a witness? At times it feels like mayhem! In other words, at times I feel defenseless. Menopause does not care that I still have to preach, teach, visit the sick, pray for and encourage the discouraged, console the bereaved, counsel the wounded, depressed and confused.

And while someone might say, "See, that's why women should not become pastors," women are uniquely positioned to rely upon The Lord for an extra measure of grace and strength as we carry on the work of the ministry in earthen vessels. For some of us, menopause is the proverbial thorn in our sides. Through night sweats, fatigue, forgetfulness and clumsiness, the Holy Spirit whispers, "my grace is strength is made perfect in your weakness."

Some how God still uses us to bless, to heal, to lift, to shape, to mold, to love. The Lord comforts us in order that we may comfort others. The cavern of our wells are dug a bit deeper and wider as we wrestle with physiological mayhem, but spiritual graces of inner peace and blessed assurance. During this season of sometimes painful and unavoidable affliction, may we always remember that God's grace is sufficient. May we remember that we are not alone in this experience. Not only has The Lord promised to be with us, other sisters are going through the same struggles. May we stop pretending that nothing phases us and openly share our experiences with one another. May we prayerfully nurture and build a sisterhood that allows for transparency and support.

Hold on my sisters. This too shall pass!

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Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shepastor: “Lessons From a Power Jacket and a Luau: A Story of Ministry by Rev. Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor, Lake Shore Christian Church”

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 31-40, NIV

Isn’t it amazing how some of the greatest lessons we learn come from those to whom God sends us to minister? That is the experience of the Reverend Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor of Lake Shore Christian Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to becoming pastor of a church, for approximately 21 years, Rev. Denise worked in various capacities and ultimately as the Executive Program Director for Family Promise of Greater Cleveland. Also known as “New Life Community,” Family Promise is a transitional housing ministry that assists homeless and jobless individuals with gaining employment and housing.

In today’s Shepastor, Rev. Denise shares some insights and experiences regarding the blessing of ministry in the midst of the homeless and indigent population in the Greater Cleveland area…

Rev. Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor
Lake Shore Christian Church

On last week I hosted the 8th Annual Luau for the Graduates, current residents, volunteers and staff for Family Promise of Greater Cleveland, fka New Life Community. Family Promise is a transitional housing facility on the east and west sides of Cleveland where we assist homeless, jobless families to transition to self- sufficiency by obtaining fulltime housing and employment. The homeless families stay at our Eastside location for 16 weeks until they find housing and employment. I have worked there for 21 years as the Assistant to the Development Director, Business Manager, Executive Director and Program Director. In my many years of working there I have always been humbled by working with the indigent population and the support that they have needed for self-esteem. Many times when working there, people would inquire of me, “As a minister do you get to preach there at your job?” I would always say in my office there is a sermon or a life lesson that I learn from the people. On many occasions I would prepare the women for a job search and help them get job ready by having them “dressed for success.” We have a boutique upstairs where I have cultivated a wardrobe of gently worn, quality clothes for the clients to wear for job interviews.

On one particular day, I answered a phone call at the receptionist’s desk and inadvertently took off my jack at that desk. Now, what I need to tell you about that jacket is that I referred to it as my “power jacket”… as a matter of fact, I looked pretty good in that black jacket and got lots of compliments in it when I wore it! On the way out to do a presentation on behalf of a grant I’d written for the shelter, I asked my secretary, “ Have you seen my black jacket? I seemed to have misplaced it.” After we looked a couple of places, I started to believe maybe I had left it in my car. I didn’t worry. As a professional I usually have 2 jackets in my offices to wear just in case I might need one of them. I believe in being a role model for young women, telling them how we have raised the standard and the importance of wearing the best that we have to wear when going on an interview, to school to visit our children, and in our community.

As I was getting ready to leave, one of the clients came running in my office. She was so excited to share the good news that she just had a job interview and believed that she was going to get a second interview. I couldn’t listen to her very closely because I was so intrigued that she was looking so nice! As she was talking to me I then realized that she had on MY favorite “power jacket!” I could not say very much because she was looking far better in that jacket than I ever did. But I remember thinking to myself, "That is my favorite jacket that you have on!" But I didn’t say a word to her.

God used that moment to minister to me about giving the best that we have to people. Many times I was the one to lead discussions with church and/or business organizations appealing to them to give quality donations to help homeless women. On that day, I believe God let the scripture from Matthew 25:36-40 about the Sheep and the Goats come alive in my heart...

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.

…..”Lord, when did we see You hungry and fed You, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and took You in, or without clothes and clothed You? When did we see You sick, or in prison and visit You?...
…And the King will answer them, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you have done as unto me.”

As I was going through my own stuff about that jacket, God was reminding me to let it go….and not say anything about that jacket. The jacket didn’t have all the power that I thought it had. I needed to let it go and be alright that someone else was wearing it that really needed it. Jesus has a way of teaching us to release things that are really not that important. What I really learned is that I have several jackets and more that I could let go of to help someone else. The greatest blessing of the “power jacket story,” was in a few days the “praise report” came back that the client wearing my jacket got the job!

One of the exciting events that we hold at the Center is a Luau. Many homeless and indigent families come each year to fellowship, have fun, receive school and self-care items etc., all while enjoying the Luau. This past year, it was also exciting to see the aforementioned client at the Luau. She came late, getting off the bus with her 3 children, excited to be able to say she had to work late that evening. I’m glad to report that 4 years later she has remained in the same housing and is still maintaining her employment. The client expresses gratitude that she is no longer homeless.

I share that story because of the lessons I learned through the homeless people that I got to chance to minister to daily. Through them, God reminded me that I had an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus by touching their lives. I also learned that they touched my life as well.
Stay encouraged!

Rev. Denise Cunningham-Doggett, Senior Pastor
Lake Shore Christian Church
Speak Life Ministries
End Quote

What a powerful story! Power does not reside in the things we possess, but the love of Christ in our hearts, made manifest through our willingness to give to others.

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shepastor: “What Will Your Epitaph Read?”

II Chronicles 26:16-23

16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. 17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. 21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several [1] house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land. 22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write. 23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings; for they said, He is a leper: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.

Uzziah's name means, "Yahweh is my strength." 2nd Chronicles chapter 26 starts out by describing the beginnings of a great ruler. When we first read about Uzziah in this text, he is a 16 year old boy that has been chosen to rule over Judah, the Southern Kingdom, when his father Amaziah died. He had at his disposal all of the riches, servants, craftsmen, builders and other skilled workers that could assist him in whatever he desired to be done. This was not unusual, during this day and age, for it was understood and was customary that when a king died, his son, no matter how young would rule in his place.

In addition to skilled workers, the kings were also guided by prophets and priests. In Uzziah's case, he had the prophet Zechariah. In Uzziah's early days, he relied upon God. The text says that Zechariah taught Uzziah to respect and obey God. As long as He obeyed The Lord, God granted him great success. He conquered enemy nations, he over threw kings and kingdoms, he built high and strong towers. His fame spread abroad around the ancient world. He was respected and revered.

But the scripture says, "but when he became strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction." Vs. 16 .

The scripture says pride goeth before a fall. A deacon from my home church used to pray, "Lord, don't let us come thinking too highly of ourselves..."

In 1969, Senator Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th President of the United States. His rise to power was swift and strong. He established himself as a genius of foreign policy and diplomatic relations. He garnered the respect of national and international leaders. He was despised by some and revered by many. His first term as President was viewed as masterful. He was well on his way to leaving a legacy as a giant of a leader. In 1972 the record declares that he pummeled his Democratic opponent, George McGovern, who only carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Nixon won 60% of the popular vote. His victory was unparalleled in election history. It was a landslide win that had never been seen before, nor ever again.

But something happened. Soon the nation would learn of "dirty tricks" used such as wire taps, secret recordings and breaks into the Democratic Headquarters at the now famous Watergate building to learn about the campaign strategies of the Democrats and also to discover any dirty laundry that could be used to undermine the Democratic Presidential contender, McGovern.

Ultimately the scandals brought down the entire Nixon presidency and he had to leave office in shame and disgrace. Although he tried desperately to rehabilitate his reputation, even now, when you hear the name, Richard Nixon, you think “Watergate.”

Started out so good but ended up so bad. He no doubt would have won the election any way, but pride, insecurity, greed and a controlling spirit lured him into paths of humiliation and destruction. When he became strong...

You can start out so good and end up so bad. When you had little or nothing, nobody knew your name, when you were glad for any opportunity to have or to do or to go, God was at the top of the list. Nobody could beat you getting to church on Sunday morning. Ready and eager to serve in the Sunday School, happy to sing in the choir, willing to sweep the floor, faithful and dutiful in every way. But something happened. God began to bless you. God began to open some doors for you. God began to slay some giants for you.

All of a sudden you found yourself sitting in seats and places and spaces that you'd never been before. People began to know and respect who you were. Your shoulders started raising up a little higher. You didn't have to shop at the discount stores any longer, you could go to the boutique. You didn't have to stand over a hot stove with a marcellous hot iron any more, you could spend well over $60 and $75 a week to get your hair done. You didn't have to worry about using Sally Hanson nailpolish any longer, now you can go and get your French tips filled in on a weekly basis. You didn’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty shining your one pair of shoes, you could now go and get your shoes shined. You now have so many shoes that it doesn’t even matter. Once you only had one black and maybe, one blue suit. Now you have a suit for every occasion!

You have to be careful when your change comes. There is a temptation to think you made it on your own. There is a temptation to forget that God and God alone gave you that house, gave you that position, gave you that job, gave you that money, gave you that opportunity, God blessed you. God kept you. God made you who you are. God can and will bless you. God has promised to make our way prosperous and lead us to our designated promised lands. But God will not tolerate us giving His glory to anybody else, including ourselves.

Foolish pride results in shame. Foolish pride will bring you down. It does not matter how well you started out. You've got to endure endure to the end. He that endureth to the end will receive a crown of life. You've come too far, God has been too good God has been too faithful for you to lose sight of what really matters.

The scripture says that King Uzziah, after he became strong, forgot God. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who also started out good, but in the end, forgot God. Uzziah Thought that he had become so great that he ignored the council of God's representative.

It does not matter how much you think you know, you still have to listen to somebody. God has some spokes persons that he has put in your midst to remind you that you don't have all of the answers, you don't know all of God's directions, you need somebody every now and then to meet you at the throne of grace and pray with you until the answer comes!

Uzziah forgot that and he stepped out of his place, out of his lane, out of his position to assume a place that was not appointed for him. He refused to listen. He refused to be humble. He refused to honor God's representative and as a result he became leprous in his brow. He was now diseased. He was now shamed. He was now put out. He was now removed from his kingship. He died and was buried alone. The last thing that was said about Uzziah was that he was leprous.

What will be the last thing that is said about you? You couldn't control your anger? You refused to listen? You allowed foolish pride to prevent you from receiving lessons God had for you? You didn't know how to handle your affairs? You were mean? You were selfish? You never finished anything you started.? You wore your feelings on your sleeve? You couldn’t be trusted?

Or will it be said that you helped people? You loved unconditionally? You were a godly man or woman? You stood for what was right? You served The Lord with gladness? You gave your all? What will be said about you?

Ultimately, all that matters is what is written about you in the Lord's record. Will He Say well done? Will He call you redeemed? Will He know your name?

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