Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shepastor: "From Detour to Destiny"

Matthew 2:13-23. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Detours…I don’t know about you but I hate detours. I like to have things all mapped out. And because I can be directionally challenged, I even have my husband to take me on what we call, “dry runs” a few days before I have to be wherever I am going so that I won’t have the frustration of trying to figure out how to get there on that day. I suspect that I am not the only one directionally challenged, for the auto industry and technological industries are making a fortune on devices such as the GPS, google maps, android and Apple “apps,” just to help folks to get to where they want to go.

But even those marvelous apps get thrown off at times because of detours. They even have disclaimers that will say something like, “these directions do not include detours that may occur.” Detours – they can be pesky things. They take us off of the course that we have planned. They change the pattern of our direction. They may add time to our journey. They may put us way out of the path that we are accustomed to following.

But detours are designed to take us around dangerous places, holes in the ground, construction sites etc. The thing about detours is that if you follow them, they are designed to put you back onto the path that will carry you to your destination.
Life is filled with detours.

Jesus’ journey began with some detours. Mary and Joseph were espoused to be married but God sent an angel to visit her, tell her that she was highly favored by the most high God and that she would have a baby without being involved with a man…a detour.

Joseph gets the word about his beloved Mary, that she is pregnant and he is not the daddy. He therefore makes plans to “put her away privately,” but an angel comes and tells him not to do it – God is in the midst. God is the baby’s father – marry her anyway… a detour.

When Mary was “great with child,” the Scripture says that a “decree went out from Caesar Augustus that “all the world should be taxed/registered.” That meant that Joseph had to take his very pregnant wife and travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Scholars suggest that it was about an 80 mile, four day journey. Some suggest that they may have joined a caravan in order to get there. But whatever the case, it was a long, long distance for a very pregnant woman – a detour.

When they finally arrive, they can’t find anywhere to stay – no room in the inn – a detour. They ended up in a stable – you know the Christmas story. We glorify it but it was a painful, smelly, uncomfortable inconvenience – it was a DETOUR! One would think after all of that the detours would be over. Not so. Now Herod with his crazy, jealous self tries to trick the wise men into telling him where the baby Jesus was born. But God sends the wise men on a detour and tells them to go home another way.

Next the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take the baby and Mary and flee into Egypt because Herod is about to order the execution of all of the children age two and under – trying to destroy Jesus…another Detour! But in each instance, God was moving…moving Mary and Joseph, moving the wise men, moving you and I…moving Jesus closer to destiny.

Because of the detours, prophecy was fulfilled. Because of the detours, lives were saved. Because of the detours a Savior was born!

We too experience detours – they don’t make sense at the time. They may frustrate and anger us while they are happening. They may make us uncomfortable and even be painful at times – but every detour is moving us closer to the destiny God has for us. Our plans and God’s plans are two different things. It does not mean that we should stop planning. It does not mean that we shouldn’t get prepared. It means that we must be flexible in our planning.

We must be open to listen and obey. What if Joseph didn’t listen to the angel? What if the wise men hadn’t paid attention to their dreams? What if Joseph would have ignored the warnings he received to get up and flee into Egypt? We must avoid being so rigid in our planning that we ignore the voice of God. Know that even if your plans must change, God has a plan for your destiny. God knows just where you will end up. God knows just why He is taking you around some things, by some things, over some things and through some things.

The detour is necessary to preserve you. The detour is necessary to protect you. The detour is necessary to fulfill God’s divine will and purpose for your life. Don’t despise the detours. Don’t ignore the detours. Don’t plumb through the detours. Obey the signs. Go with the flow. Trust God enough to be obedient.

In 2015, let the Lord lead you all the way around. Let the Lord guide you in the direction that He would have you to go. In 2015, trust God even in the detours. Know that His plans for you are good. God’s plans for you are right. God’s plans for you are just. God’s plans for you are your destiny.

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May you and your family have a joy-filled, “on purpose,” “To God be the glory,” New Year!

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Shepastor: "Blessings in Unexpected Packages..."

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son. John 1:14, New Living Translation

Who knew that the baby born to a poor, young, teenage girl and her fiancĂ©e (an “average Joe”) would be “the Word made flesh dwelling among us!” God has a way of surprising us. God frequently sends us blessings in unexpected packages. So often we miss what God is sending because we are looking for the wrong thing. When Jesus presents himself to us through His Word, or through a stranger, or through a child, or through someone we prefer to avoid or through someone needing our help, what is our response?

Sometimes God sends our blessings wrapped in the disheveled and wrinkled papers of struggle and periods of silence. Sometimes God sends our blessings during times of waiting and uncertainty. Blessings and divine favor don't always look like we think. The people of God must remember that the appearance of God's favor and that of the world's are two different things.

That which the Lord smiles upon is frequently despised and rejected by the world.

What blessings are we missing because we overlook God’s packaging? As we prepare for the “Coming of the Christ,” not as a baby wrapped in rags, but a risen Savior, let us take time to hear, see and respond – attentive to the Holy Spirit’s utterances.

May you and yours have a peace-filled, joy-filled, faith-filled, Holy Spirit-filled Christmas and New Year.

In faith, hope and love,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shepastor: "Blossoms in the Desert..."

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon: they shall see the glory of Jehovah, the excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you
. Isaiah 35: 1-4

Deserts come in our lives. Dry places come in our lives. Sometimes we have experiences like the hot and dry desert. Sometimes in our lives we face trouble – something so troubling, something so disturbing and disconcerting that it feels like someone has flung us into a hot, dry desert with little or no relief. Sometimes we face debilitating physical ailments that seem to drain the life out us.

Particularly for older individuals who used to enjoy walking or sewing, or drawing. Arthritis has set in and now they can barely straighten their hands and legs out. They are facing the desert of grief and loss – loss of activities they used to enjoy. Sometimes it’s the loss of independence. When you wanted to go somewhere, you just jumped in the car and went. But now you have to wait for someone to come and get you. It feels like a long, hot, dry desert.

Sometimes our life feels like the semi-arid desert. We are in a dry place, but we get a few drops of rain every now and then. Just when you began to feel like no one cared, or that you are becoming a burden or life has just become a drag – some small blessing comes your way and you begin to feel small drops of relief. Someone sends you a card expressing gratitude for your years of service. Some little child brings you a fist full of dandelions and tells you, “The pretty flowers are for you because you are so nice…” Or maybe nobody notices, but you hear an encouraging word on the radio and you are reminded that even in the midst of your desert, God is with you.

Sometimes life is like a coastal desert. It gets hot, but it also is enough cool, shelter and rain to help us to make it through. Have you ever felt like you were under the gun – under so much pressure – deadlines to meet, obligations to fulfill, expectations to meet, responsibilities to carry out? Have you ever felt burdened down, but at the same time feeling, “With the grace and help of almighty God, I can make it!”

We are in a place where we are getting just enough encouragement, just enough support, just enough inspiration where we can press our way and make it. It’s not the ideal place, but at least you aren’t stuck. Sometimes the desert can make you feel stuck – make you feel like there is no way out – make you feel like you are just spinning your wheels. You’ve been working the same job for over 20 years and you still feel unfulfilled. You’ve been following the same routine most of your life and you feel absolutely bored and ready for a change but don’t know how to turn the corner. You wake up each morning and there’s this nagging, dull pain that something is missing – in the desert.

Quite possibly, however, one of the worst deserts may be the cold desert – that place that is dark and snowy – where the sun is anemic and very few plants can survive. That place has lots of snow and rain. That cold place – that lonely place that dead place. Sometimes we walk through the cold deserts of life – separation and or death, grief, irreconcilable differences, broken relationships, broken dreams, damaged self- perceptions, self- loathing, tormenting thoughts, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – cold deserts in life.

The people in our text had probably experienced each kind of desert, symbolically as they endured attacks and imprisonment from enemy nations. As they saw their great nation defeated, their temple destroyed, their places of worship desecrated, their families ripped apart – all that they held dear trampled upon – they were standing in the need of deliverance and vindication.

Hurt, defeated, lonely and on the verge of giving up – God sent a word of refreshing to his beaten down oppressed people. He said to Isaiah,

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon: they shall see the glory of Jehovah, the excellency of our God.
3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you.

Sometimes life can leave individuals feeling robbed, beaten, defeated, ashamed and dead. But God’s Word declares something that appears to be impossible. God’s Word declares that He will take that old dry, cold, cracked land and make it like fresh topsoil so that it may blossom like a rose.
Roses don’t blossom in the desert. Roses need lots of water, good soil and pruning. In our lives, the rain or the trials that come can help roses to blossom in us. The scripture says that we, “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produce perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope” and our hope in Christ will not leave us disappointed (Romans 5: 1-5).

No one likes trials, but they are like the much needed rain in the desert. Trials teach us how to learn to lean and depend upon the Lord. Trials give us the strength we need to make it in this life. When we come through the storms of life, God produces beautiful flowers or roses in us – the rose of compassion, the rose of faith, the rose of hope, the rose of maturity, the rose endurance, the rose of patience. If we will let Him, He’ll prune away the thorns of bitterness that try to take up residence in our hearts, tearing away at the fabric of our lives.

If we’ll allow Him, He’ll prune away the thorns of apathy that sometimes develop when we feel like there’s no use any longer. The fire in the crucible of life can either melt you and burn away the impurities, making you shine like pure gold or make you hard, cold and bitter, not better.

God’s Word declares that He will give us springs in the desert. He will make a road in the wilderness. He will make the crooked places straight. Isaiah wanted the people to know that when Messiah comes, He will make all that is wrong, right. When Messiah comes, He will make the sick well, the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the blind see.

Jesus the Messiah has come and is coming again. He wants to make you whole. He wants to heal you. He wants to help you to hear – hear His will for your life, His Word for your life, hear His promises for your life. He wants you to see – to see His blessings for you – see His way for you – see His love for you. The Lord wants to take your desert life and make it blossom as the rose. Messiah has come and He’s coming back again – will you be ready for Him?

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shepastor: “The Lingering Effects of ‘3/5th’s of a human,’ Upon Imagery and Relationships…”

26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1: 26-27, KJV

The Constitution and Slavery:
Provisions in the Original Constitution
Article I, Section. 2 [Slaves count as 3/5 persons]
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons [i.e., slaves]…

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 hotly debated the issue of slavery. George Mason of Virginia argued eloquently against slavery, warning his fellow delegates:

"Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, providence punishes national sins by national calamities."

Southern delegates, on the other hand, argued strenuously that the new government should not be allowed to interfere with the institution of slavery. Delegate John Rutledge of South Carolina, for example, told delegates that "religion and humanity have nothing to do with the questions" of whether the Constitution should protect slavery--it was simply a question of property rights.
The Constitution that the delegates proposed included several provisions that explicitly recognized and protected slavery. Without these provisions, southern delegates would not support the new Constitution--and without the southern states on board, the Constitution had no chance of being ratified. Provisions allowed southern states to count slaves as 3/5 persons for purposes of apportionment in Congress (even though the slaves could not, of course, vote), expressly denied to Congress the power to prohibit importation of new slaves until 1808, and prevented free states from enacting laws protecting fugitive slaves.
(Excerpts taken from, Exploring Constitutional Conflicts – The Thirteenth Amendment: The Abolition of Slavery, )

The above excerpts detail the struggles our country faced regarding slavery, immorality, politics and property. At issue was whether or not slaves should be counted as a “whole person” or a percentage of a person. It was determined that slaves would be counted as “3/5ths” of a human being. Ultimately, they were viewed as property like cattle, cats, dogs… Slave owners had to convince themselves that Africans were not human beings, therefore, it was ok to treat them as property.

Imagery is powerful. Although legally our Nation has long since abandoned this barbaric practice, the lingering impact of the “less than human” imagery has infiltrated, inculcated and deeply embedded itself into the fabric that constricts our relationships. “Less than human” imagery feeds painful stereotypes… stereo types that suggest that an individual has a high tolerance for pain because they are “big and strong as an ox...,” stereotypes that suggest that an individual may not even feel the pain and if they do, they deserve it!

I remember when I had my first son. The young lady sharing the maternity room with me cried day and night, screaming in pain. A nurse said to me, “She is screaming in pain because she is too lazy to get up and walk. I tried to get her to walk around and she refused so she will take much longer to heal. You don’t want to end up like that do you?” I had just had a c-section the day before with staples still in my abdominal area. My son was in the neonatal intensive care unit clinging to life. He was located, literally on the other side of the hospital.

The nurse told me that I needed to walk to go and see him. Although I was in pain, I wanted to see my son and thought that maybe walking would be the best thing. So with I V pole in tow and in hospital footies, I drug myself slowly down to the nicu. As I arrived, the nurse on staff with my son was horrified. “How did you get down here?” she exclaimed. When I told her that I walked she was livid! She explained that I could have hemorrhaged or passed out. She immediately ordered a wheel chair for me and told me never to do that again while in that condition.

As for my roommate (a young, unwed African American woman), her mother came in and demanded that the doctors re-examine her. It turned out that her uterus was hemorrhaging after the birth of her baby. She almost died. So much for the two of us “lazy” women! I never saw that nurse again. Hopefully he was removed from the staff.

In recent days our Nation is processing inequities regarding law enforcement and minority communities. The mantra, “I CAN’T BREATHE,” is being heard across America. The image of an unarmed African American man being choked and pressed face down to the ground as he gasped for breath is haunting our consciousness. If he were of a lighter hue and smaller stature would he have been treated differently? Locally, a twelve year old boy, mistaken for a “20 year old male” received mixed messages while carrying a toy gun (unfortunately too realistic in appearance). He was shot to death in less than two minutes after police arrival… “Put up your hands and drop your weapon.” The toy gun was in the boys pants. In order for him to “drop it,” he had to pull it out. The police shot him even before exiting their vehicle.

A famous line in the 1970’s movie The Godfather, declared (after discussing where to drop and move drugs…) “We’ll keep it among the dark people. They are animals anyway. Who cares if they lose their souls?”

It is easier to abuse and oppress those we view as less than human. The Lord, however, said that we are all made in God’s image.

To consider the imagery concept further, I encourage you to view the following:

CNN News Anchor, Anderson Cooper's documentary

"A Look at Race Relations Through A Child's Eyes"

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shepastor: "Committed to Change..."

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Corinthians 5:17, KJV

The other day I had the privilege of being asked to accompany a group of women to our local “pre-release center.” This is the place where incarcerated persons go a few years before being released from prison. The women going to visit the prison were representing a local church ministry entitled, Committed to Change. This particular session was the last of a twelve session program.

I was invited to speak with the incarcerated women about our church’s prison aftercare ministry entitled, COTAAN (Covenant Outreach Through Advocacy and Agency Networking )What a wonderful experience it was to see how the “Committed to Change” Ministry members had cultivated rapport with and deep respect from the prisoners in the room.
Throughout the twelve week session, each of the women in the group were asked to share their stories in letters. They also were asked to identify areas where they made mistakes, how they wanted to change and the goals and dreams they had for themselves. One by one, the ministry leader would allow each woman to share her desire for a life change. Then, one by one, she would ask, “Ok, so what plans are you developing to make that change. In order to change you must have a plan!”

As I listened to that statement over and over, I began to think not only about those women, but all of us. I kept hearing in my head the old adage, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail!” I thought about how frequently I hear people talking about their desire to change, even their determination to change. However, little change is realized. The problem? No plan. No strategy. No specificity. Just words and a temperamental will!

Change is not easy. It takes prayer, consistency, persistence and time. Whether we want to lose weight, exercise more, alter our way of thinking and perceiving, improve our time management, stop procrastinating or change a system it will not happen without a plan. Our plans do not necessarily have to be elaborate. They may be simple or complex. However, if we desire sustained change and success, we must have a plan.

Prayer is always a good first step. However, it should not be the last step! According the Scripture, “Faith without works is dead,” James 2:26

Here are some things to consider as you prepare your “change plan…”
- Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you on the specific thing(s) you need to change

- Ask the Lord to order your steps

- Wait for the answer from the Lord (keep serving while you wait!)

- By faith, begin taking the steps you’ve been given

- Prayerfully invite one or two people to “hold you accountable”

- If you “slip up,” get up and remember that tomorrow is a new day (don’t wallow!)

- When discouraged and tempted to give up and turn back, put one foot in front of the other and remember what you are trying to accomplish!

- Identify others who have been successful at your desired change and seek to connect with them through conversation and or observation

- Learn from them and their mistakes/Learn from your own mistakes

- Write down specific steps you will take

- Read your steps often

- Reflect upon how far you have come

- Remember that you are not alone
Change is never easy. It is, however, possible. Stay committed. A change is going to come if you plan and by faith execute the orders given.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shepastor: "Faithful to Your Part in the Process..."

6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. I Corinthians 3: 6-7, KJV

Planting gardens can be therapeutic, fun and energizing. In general, you know what to expect. The seeds that you plant determine the color and type of flower, fruit, bush, etc., that will spring forth. In general, you can expect when the plants will spring forth…annuals, semi-annuals, year round (such as evergreen trees, pine trees etc.) But planting and sowing in “God’s vineyard” is not so simple.

In truth, we hope that the good seeds of God’s Word, love, encouragement, teachings etc., will blossom in a certain way. But we never know for sure where we are in the process. We never can be sure exactly what will spring forth. We can’t even know when it will spring forth! We may think that we are “planting,” but actually we are watering that which has already been planted by other faithful Christian soldiers. It can be frustrating not to know where we are in the process. We want to see results!

We may think it’s time to “water,” but God instead is using us to break up fallow ground…in other words, the hearts and minds where God has placed us to labor are not ready or mature enough to receive the “meat” of His Word. Their hearts may still be dry and hard. They may even be covered over with a layer of rock or cement. In those instances, our job may be to “break up” some things with loving truth, compassionate discipline, words of correction…words of challenge. This can be a difficult place. It is often a painful and sometimes lonely place…but it is a necessary place for the success of the process.

After all of that, how wonderful it would be to have the opportunity to then plant the seeds and experience the beauty of their growth. But sometimes God says, “No…I have selected another to do that part.” To our frail, finite minds it somehow feels unfair. “You mean after all of that I will not be the one to enjoy the beautiful blossoms?” “Oh yes my child, I have some blossoms for you in another garden…someone else has broken up the ground for you there.”

We are interconnected. Someone came before us. Someone will come after us. We follow someone. It is therefore important for us to be faithful to our part in the process. Each part plays a critical role. We become fainthearted and discouraged when we forget this principle. God has chosen to use us in a variety of ways in various seasons. Our role is not to covet the responsibility of another. Our role is to be faithful to that which we have been assigned.
Some plant, some water, but God gives the increase.

May we be faithful to our roles in every season that the process may be complete.
May you and yours have a blessed and gratitude filled Thanksgiving Day!

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shepastor: "You Can Make It..."

Separation, whether by a career/vocational change, parent/child, other kinds of relationships or death can be a challenging and devastating thing. On the other hand, depending upon the nature of the separation, strength, empowerment and clarity of identify can spring forth.

As Jesus was preparing to return to His heavenly home, He was aware of the pain, fear, confusion and insecurity this separation would cause His disciples. Therefore, Jesus encouraged them by saying…

6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you…12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
(John 16: 6-7; 12-13, KJV)
No doubt, the disciples were wondering how they could make it without the physical presence of their Lord. But Jesus said to them, basically, “I will be with you always and my Spirit will speak to you, guide you and show you what to do.” Jesus is not only our Savior and Lord, but our “Master Teacher.” He gave us a profound example of what it means to be a compassionate and seminal leader.

In today’s ego driven society, some “leaders” relish the idea that people must be dependent upon them. Their insecure spirits are somehow fed by the idea that wheels stop turning and the proverbial ball stops rolling if they aren’t around and spoon feeding their followers. But godly leaders prepare those entrusted to their care. Godly leaders desire to develop “well-oiled” operations that enable individuals to thrive well beyond the time of their leadership and presence.

Godly leaders seek to teach, model and instill in those who follow them principles that will sink deep down into the followers’ spirits – words of wisdom, caution, encouragement, guidance and hope that will “speak to them” as they face life. Godly leaders don’t abandon or go “AWOL” (absent without leave), but complete the work the Lord has given them to do. When the time is right and the “boosting” season is done, Godly leaders encourage their followers to know, “With the help of the Lord, You can make it!” Jesus understood that His disciples would never become all that He intended them to be as long as He was there with them. He knew that in order for them to grow strong and thrive, they would have to stand up and learn to trust Him, even when they could not see Him.

We see a marvelous example of this concept through NASA’s Solid Rocket Boosters operation. The Boosters are on either side of the “Orbiter,” (spaceship) and are used to propel it beyond the earth’s gravitational pull. At a certain altitude, the boosters separate from the spaceship and it is then freed to pierce through the stratosphere and soar into space. The interesting thing is that the boosters are not destroyed, but parachute down back to the earth and land in the ocean. They are then recovered, refurbished and reused. (Read more about this process by visiting, )

As leaders, God uses us to “boost” His people to a certain level – teaching, leading, loving and guiding them by the power of His Holy Spirit. Our role is not “to be with them always…” that’s the Lord’s job! Our role is to help them to grow strong enough to listen to and obey God’s voice, fill up on His Word and live in accordance with His will. If received, all of these things can enable them to resist this world’s “gravitational pull” of sin. Our prayer for them is that they will not only grow, but soar, becoming all that God would have them to be. The Lord then continues to use us in other places and spaces, boosting others as we go…preparing others to do the same.

May we be encouraged by Jesus’ comforting Spirit, reminding us, “You Can Make it!” May we have the grace, faith and security to do the same for those the Lord entrusts to our care.

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Until Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Shepastor: “God Said it, I Believe it and That Settles it!”

12Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it." Jeremiah 1: 12

Some years ago, the phrase, “God Said it, I Believe it and That Settles it,” was popular. Many criticized this mantra and said that it was a part of the “name it and claim it” mind set. However, recently as I was praying and thanking God for things seen and yet to unfold in my life, this phrase came back to my mind.

Even in the midst of my praise, the enemy began to whisper, “that is not going to happen…it’s too big…it too far out of your reach…are you sure you heard the Lord right?” In that moment, the Lord reminded me of that phrase, “God said it, I believe it and that settles it!”

At times, the Lord will reveal things to us through His Word, through situations and circumstances, through other people and even through the metaphors found in nature. Those revelations confirm for us promises found in God’s Holy Word, encouraging our hearts and our spirits to keep believing, hoping, trusting, following and obeying. Yet discouragement may still creep in and tempt us to think that those things promised will not come to pass.
When that happens, we must remind ourselves of God’s declaration…

12Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it." Jeremiah 1:12

In this passage, the Lord is encouraging Jeremiah to know that what the Lord had shown him would come to pass. God said that He “watches over His Word to perform it.” In other words, God cares about His Word. What God says, God will do. God’s Word, God’s promises, “God’s Holy Spirit can be trusted.

Those things that the Lord has spoken to your spirit, confirmed in His Word trust God to bring them to pass. Know that the Lord is for you. Remember that “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Refuse to repeat words of doubt. “Settle it” within your heart to believe God. He will bring to pass what He promises. God will make all things work together for your good. God will not forget your faithfulness. He knows the desires of your heart.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shepastor: "Foregoing the Battle to Win the War..."

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11, English Standard Version

We live in a day and age where people are quick to speak and slow to listen; quick to speak their minds and grimace at holding their tongues. Everything popular, however, is not wisdom. Unfortunately, today’s culture deifies brash, hasty and unbridled behaviors and equates humility and discretion to “door mat-ism.”

But the Word of God provides great nuggets of wisdom and instruction for those who would be “godly successful” and experience victorious living. Each day we must discern the difference between “battles” and “wars.” We must ask ourselves, “What is my end goal? Is engaging in this match of wits, argument, or responding to this ignorant remark worth my time, energy or reputation?” At other times we may encounter individuals who for whatever reason are difficult to work with. While we try to avoid such encounters, working with difficult individuals at some point in our journey is inevitable.

If we are not careful, the negative, indifferent and toxic behaviors of others can prompt us to “react” and not “respond.” When we react, we allow others to press our proverbial buttons and drag us into battles. But when we respond, by the grace of God through prayer, faith and self-control, we choose whether or not to engage. Allowing ourselves to be pulled into battles can derail our efforts to do, develop, pursue and create that which is beautiful and beneficial to many.

The writer of Proverbs said it well,
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11, English Standard Version

What does that mean? Sometimes it means swallowing your pride. Sometimes it means letting it go. Sometimes it means quieting your spirit and pressing forward even though that which is happening to you is not fair or right. If it is not life altering, dream crippling or detrimental on any scale, it is a battle – not a war. Don’t allow the foolishness of others to thwart the larger goal given to you by God. Take a deep breath, relax and remember what you are trying to accomplish!

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shepastor: "Leading by Example, Modeling What We Desire to See..."

Nehemiah 3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.

"Leading by example" and "modeling what we desire to see" may be easier said than done. This can be particularly true for modeling Christ like behavior in the midst of "un-Christ like" people. Unfortunately many un-Christ like behaviors exist in the church. It can be challenging to continue to love, lift, encourage and support individuals who exhibit the opposite. It can be equally as challenging to model fervor, enthusiasm and faithfulness amidst the lax and indifferent. Yet we are called to lift high the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and humility. We also must show balance, diligence and responsibility.

In our text, Nehemiah was leading the Israelites in rebuilding the wall around the city. In ancient times, city walls were critical. They protected enemies from easy access to the community. Cities without walls were vulnerable to easy attacks from enemy nations. Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the walls in sections. One of the first groups to begin the process were the priests. The high priest, Eliashib, "rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate;"

The sheep gate was the place where the priests brought in the sacrifices for the atonement of the sins of the people. Nehemiah understood the respect the people had for the priests and for the role they played in leading the people in holy living. How appropriate for the priests to be among the first to model rebuilding that which was critical to their safety and well being.

As leaders, we are called to lead by example and model Christ like behaviors. We are called to rebuild and to model shaping what is critical. When we model an even temperament, even in the midst of unreasonable and ill-tempered people, we are helping to rebuild broken walls that are creating avenues for the enemy of our souls to enter. As we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to order our steps, and to "bridle our tongue," we will begin to positively influence others who may struggle with their behaviors.

When we model a spirit of encouragement, even in the midst of discouraging and critical people, we are rebuilding healing walls and positively influencing the atmosphere with love, affirmation and kindness. When we model self-control in our responses, we rebuild walls of healthy communication...diffusing potentially explosive situations.

When we model a spirit of unity, support, compassion and considerateness, we rebuild the critical walls of working together, guarding against divisiveness, treachery, and cruelty, yes even in the church! When we exemplify diligence, balance, enthusiasm and responsibility, we model good stewardship.

We are unable in and of ourselves to model these behaviors. It is only through prayer, abiding in Christ and dwelling in God's presence that we are able to overcome all of the challenges associated with facing off all that opposes the spirit of Christ.

Yes, we can rebuild the right walls and lead by example through Christ. Is it easy? No! Is it possible and necessary? YES!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shepastor: "Twelve Suggestions for Self-Care" by Thomas Wright, LMFT...

Matthew Chapter 22:37-40

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Often we focus upon the love of God and the love of fellowman. However, we forget that Jesus said, "love thy neighbor as
In other words, in order to love others, we must first understand what it means to love God and love ourselves. Today's Shepastor
reminds us of the importance of self-care, if we are going to effectively care for others...

"Twelve Suggestions for Self-Care" by
Thomas Wright, LMFT

1. Learn to air your feelings.
Don't keep them bottled up inside you. Share your sorrows and disappointments with someone you trust. Remember, expressed feelings are changed feelings.

2. Avoid comparing yourself with others by admiring their gifts and ignoring your gifts.
This kind of envy causes self-disgust. Put no one's head higher than your own.

3. Form a small group of people you can call on for emotional support.
Agree to "be there" for each other. Offer advice only when it is asked for. Listen without interrupting. Take turns talking and listening.

4. Take time to play.
Remember that play is any activity that you do just because it feels good. Remind yourself that you deserve to take time to play.

5. Don't forget to laugh, especially at yourself.
Look for the humor in things around you. Let your hair down more often. Do something silly and totally unexpected from time to time.

6. Learn to relax.

You can find books, tapes, programs, classes, instructors and other materials to teach you how to relax. Relaxation improves the mind, helps the body heal, and feels so much better than stress and tension.

7. Protect your right to be human.
Don't let others put you on a pedestal. When people put you on a pedestal, they expect you to be perfect and feel angry when you let them down.

8. Learn to say no.
As you become comfortable saying no to the unreasonable expectations, requests or demands of others you will discover that you have more compassion. When you do say yes to others, you will feel better about yourself and the people you're responding to.

9. Change jobs if you are miserable at work.
First, try to figure out if the job is wrong for you or if certain people are causing you to feel miserable at work. Try paying more attention to the things you enjoy about your job and less attention to the things that annoy you. Remember that all jobs have some unpleasant aspects.

10. Stretch your muscles.

Break a sweat. Go for a walk. Ride a bike. Park farther from the door. Take the stairs. You don't need fancy clothes, club memberships or expensive equipment to add exercise to your daily life.

11. Practice being a positive, encouraging person.

Each time you give others a word of encouragement you not only feel better, but you build up your best self.

12. Pay attention to your spiritual life.
Slow down. Practice sitting quietly. Listen to your inner voice. Spend time thinking about the things which bring peace, beauty and serenity to your life.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shepastor: "The Power of Connection..."

John 4: 6b-7
6and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

There is power in connection. In order for electrical devices to work, they have to have a power source. Even if you don’t have an electrical cord, you can still operate some items with a battery. But without a battery or a cord, the device will not operate because it is not connected to a power source. The power source provides a current that flows from the source to the device and that is what gives the device energy, functionality, operating power – the current flows from the source to the device. Without the current from the source, the device lays dormant or dead. Connection is critical not only for inanimate objects such as computers or iphones, ipads, televisions and even some cars, but connection is important for us as human and spiritual beings. Jesus provided for us some basic examples of how to reach or to connect with people.

We like to think about the miracles that Jesus performed as a way of reaching or drawing people. But the Lord knew that we as human beings would not have those specific kinds of abilities. So He gave to us some practical ways of connecting with others. In our text for today, Jesus gave us a powerful example of connecting.

Consider a woman who became a witness for the Lord as a result of a simple, yet profound connection. Although from a cultural and human perspective she was an unlikely candidate. Consider her plight in general...Women were thought of as property. This was a time when Jewish men would stand in the temple and thank God that they were not born a dog or a woman in that order…back to the time when the “clean” women went to the well early in the morning and only despised and shamed women went during the heat of the day. This was a time when men did not speak to women unless they were accompanied by their husbands or brothers or fathers. What about this woman in particular – this Samaritan woman who was despised, rejected, used and probably abused.

Think about all of those things and then consider Jesus’ example of the power of connection.

We don’t know what happened in this woman’s life that made her behave in the way that she did. We don’t know why she had five husbands and was living with a man that wasn’t even one of them! This was a shamed woman. She was outcast from society. She was among the dregs of society. She was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were a people that were a mixed race. They were the product of the Jews who became involved with persons from pagan cultures during the diaspora. She was not a “pure breed” if you will and they were despised by the Jews. She was a woman – that in and of itself was problematic. Women were last class citizens. They had no rights. They were property. They were used. They were frequently depicted as wicked, mischievous and to be avoided. And she was promiscuous. We don’t know what happened to her to make her this way, but this was her lot.

Jesus, however, looked beyond all of that – all of her shame, all of her rejection by others, all of her promiscuity and saw that she had a need for a connection. He saw that even though she’d had six men, she was lonely. Six men, but she was uncared for. Six men, but she was unconnected, alone at the well to fend for herself.

She needed a connection. Many are like this woman…many and varied relationships, but no true connections. Some have been molested by those they trusted. Some have been ignored and/or treated as objects. Some have lived lives that are less than holy and pure and therefore a cloud of shame rests over them. They, like this woman feel ostracized, criticized, despised and rejected. But just like Jesus said, “I have to go through Samaria,” Jesus continues to come to “Samaria” to have a talk with those in need of a connection. Jesus wants to connect with them through us!

If you are consumed by shame, consumed by low self-esteem, consumed by things that happened in your life that you had no control over – it can make you feel like you don’t have a connection. Not just any connection, but the living water connection! The power connection…the peace connection…the healing connection that you can only get from a connection with Jesus.

Many are looking for a connection but they may not even realize or understand what they are looking for. We like Jesus must learn how to connect with those who are broken and or lost. We must learn how to meet people where they are and not judge them, not look down upon them, not criticize them, but lovingly, prayerfully find a way to begin a conversation with them and connect. When people realize that you are doing more than just exchanging pleasantries (“Hey, how are you doing,” as you casually keep walking), but that you are looking into their eyes, looking into their hearts, offering yourself as a listening, praying caring ear and heart they will feel your sincerity and become open to a connection.

Connection is powerful. Connection helps you to share energy. Connection helps you to find intimacy. Connection helps you to discover your identity. Connection opens the door for deliverance and healing. Connection opens up opportunities for greater. God uses the power of connection to produce and reproduce life. Our navel or “belly button” reminds us that we were once physically connected to our mothers, receiving blood, nourishment and protection while growing inside of her.

We cannot survive without connection. Jesus connected with this woman by speaking to her in a language that she understood. He used the simple method of asking her for something that he knew she had – some water. She was familiar with water, had come to get some water and understood that without water we cannot live.

That is how we connect with others…identifying where they are, engaging them in conversations about things that are important to them and using those same things as a way to draw their attention to the light of Christ.

If we want to learn how to connect, then we’ve got to spend time ourselves connecting with Jesus. Jesus is our power source. Without that connection we will lay dormant. We cannot have the kinds of connections the Lord wants us to have with others if we are not connected, plugged into Him. When we connect with Jesus, the current of His Holy Spirit flows through us and we then become a powerful witness. As Martin Luther said, God’s holiness, God’s sacredness, God’s Holy Spirit will invade our very being and we won’t “do witnessing” we will, “be witnessing.” In other words, the love of Christ, the power of His Holy Spirit, the blessedness of being in connection with Him will invade our very being.

May we seek daily to get and stay connected to the ultimate power source, Jesus.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shepastor: "Prayers for Life's Seasons..."

Ecclesiastes 3:1; 4: 1-3, KJV

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. 2Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. 3Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

“Prayers’ for Life’s Seasons”

When the writer considered the pain of both the oppressed as well as those with power – their tears, their pain, their toil and struggle – the fact that they appeared comfortless, he declared that those who had not been born were better off than even those who die! What a pessimistic view of life – to go about like Eor on Winne the Pooh – head hung low, depressed, hopeless and too bogged down to try.

But in the eternal words the writer gave in Chapter 3 – there is a time to every season and purpose under the heavens… The good news about seasons is that they change. Change, however, can be slow, especially when we are waiting for a season to pass. That’s why we need to have a prayer for every season of life.

In the spring of life, we experience cool rain drops, green grass and budding flowers. That which has been dormant and sleeping begins to come alive, blossom and grow. Maybe a new opportunity presents itself, new relationships are being forged, a burst of energy emerges, a new job, a new house, the birth of a child, the sun is shinning – you look good, feel good, think good and life is good – the Spring time of life. Our prayer in this season is filled with thanksgiving and praise. We thank and praise God for His goodness, mercy, kindness, grace and peace.

In the summer of life, your flowers are in full bloom. It’s beautiful, but it can be hot! Sometimes the ground can be hard and dry. Every now and then you experience drought. That’s the summer of life – Beauty mixed with drought – things are good overall, but from time to time you find yourself thirsty, dry and hot. In this season of life, you are thankful for the beauty of life, but you are also experiencing some dryness – life feels mundane. You find yourself tired of doing the same things the same way. You are thirsty and hungry for something but you just can’t put your finger on it. You know that God is good and has been good, but you just find yourself feeling bored, tired, hot and bothered!

This can be a dangerous season because the goodness of God and the warmth of peacefulness can lull you into lethargy and passivity. You hit a dry spot – you lose the desire to draw closer to God, you don’t feel like coming to church, study His Word, spend time in prayer. In this season, we need to pray “Lord, don’t let me lose my focus, don’t allow me to become complacent, dwelling on the accomplishments of the past – thank you for the beauty in my life, but keep me from being so wrapped up in what
you ‘ve given me that I forsake you!”

After the summer is the fall or the Autumn of life. Things are still beautiful, but some things are dying. Just as leaves fall from the trees, the Autumn of life introduces loss. We experience seasons of life that bring loss – loss of time, loss of loved ones, loss of dreams – loss. Sometimes it’s the loss of a relationship. Sometimes it’s the loss of health, memory, skill. As leaves fall from the trees, little by little, we may experience loss. Our prayer during this season needs to be, “Lord, keep me from falling, help me not to lose my hope, faith and trust in You. Thank you for the beauty in my life and help me to remember all of your promises. Keep me from falling away.”

After fall, comes the Winter of life – that cold, snowy, blustery seemingly dead season when the ground is snow covered, the trees are naked, the sky is gray, the air is bitter and biting. Statistics show that depression abounds in the winter due to a lack of sunshine. The winter of life can make you feel like giving up. It is the season that is most representative of the gloom, doom and pessimism found in Ecclesiastes. The winter of life can make you feel like you would have been better off if you were never born. The winter of life can make you feel like you will never have a break through.

The winter of life can make you feel cold and isolated. But just as there is a time for every season and every purpose under heaven, you’ve got to remember that winter is just a season. It did not come to stay. In her book, Don’t Die in the Winter, Bishop Milicent Hunter encourages, “discern spiritual "weather" conditions and properly prepare for them. Endure the winter, for in the plan of God, spring always follows winter.”

As we pray for life’s seasons, we should always pray prayers of preparation. In other words, if we just wait until the winter of life to pray, we won’t know what or how to pray. But if we have prepared with continual communion with the Lord, if we have spent time in fellowship with Him, studying His life giving and life sustaining Word – we will have what we need to make it through the winter of life.

Prayer is necessary for every season of life. Prayer will strengthen you. Prayer will encourage you. Prayer will fortify you. Prayer will sustain you. When you pray in faith and stand on God’s promises that the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much, you will face your doubts and fears and come out victorious.

When you pray in faith that God can and will see you through, you may go down in fear, but you’ll get up with boldness, you may go down with doubt, but you’ll get up with faith, you may go down in prayer with sadness, but you will emerge with joy. When you go down before the throne of grace, humble your heart, and enter the holy of holies through the purifying blood of Jesus Christ, something supernatural happens on the inside. As you commune with God – He fixes whatever it is that is going on inside of you. The devil can’t steal what the Lord places within you – the Lord will fortify you. The Lord will strengthen you. The Lord will encourage you. The Lord will help you to realize that winter will not last forever. He’ll help you to realize that He can give you beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Pray in every season of your life. Pray when times are good. Pray when times are fair. Pray when times are hard. Pray without ceasing and the Lord will see you through.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Shepastor: "The Power of Intercessory Prayer"

James 5: 16, KJV

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much."

"The Power of Intercessory Prayer"

Since the beginning of time, God declared that it is not good for us to be alone. There is something about community. When we are by ourselves, it is easy to slip into unhealthy patterns of thinking, acting, doing and being. Our minds create the illusion that no one is looking, no one sees us. It’s easy to slip into the belief that no one loves us or cares about us. We were not meant to be alone. And although everyone will not get married, everyone can and should have a community.

In true community, in real community there is fellowship. In other words, it’s more than being in a room or a space with other people, it is being involved with other people, concerned about other people, sharing with other people, rejoicing with other people, feeling pain and hurt, and grieving with other people – that is the Greek concept of “Koinonia,” communion, joint participation; the sharing which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc.

Our text for today lifts up the important role of community in the healing and “answer to prayer process.” When the text says, “confess your faults one to another,” in this context it is speaking of sin and the relationship between sin and sickness. Yes, there can be a relationship between sickness and disobedience to God, but not always.

We see that is not always the case as in scriptures like those found in the book of Job…his illness was not because of sin, but because God allowed him to be tested by satan to prove his faithfulness and devotion to God. The disciples asked Jesus if the man born blind had sinned or if his parents had sinned, but Jesus declared, “It was not any sin of this man or his parents that caused him to be blind. He was born blind so that he could be used to show what great things God can do.” (John 9:3, ERV) Jesus eventually healed that blind man and caused many to believe as a result of the miracle.

So then sickness can be because of sin, but not always. Another concept, however, that comes from this verse of scripture is accountability. When we are in community, true fellowship, Koinonia, we have the opportunity to be open and honest with one another. Although we know that Jesus broke down the middle wall of partition and made it possible for us to go directly to God the Father through Him, there is a time and place for us to “confess” or to share our heart’s illness with one another.

That is why counseling is so therapeutic. It gives people the opportunity to openly share, without fear of rejection, judgment or condemnation. And while I am not suggesting that we share everything with everybody, I believe that people would experience fewer feelings of isolation and stress if the church was truly a place where people could find deep fellowship…a place where people could identify at least one or two people, in addition to their pastor, with whom they could freely share the difficulties of their heart and know that those individuals, in confidence would pray with them, press with them, “intercede” with them, stand in the gap for them, bow down with them at the thrown of grace and seek heaven until the answer came.

Intercession…It is difficult to know if the local churches of today really understand the power of fellowship and intercession. By God’s grace, together, we could run through troops and leap over walls if we grasped the power we hold as the people of God to join together in prayer, in fellowship and intercede for one another. The text says that we would be healed. But so often we relinquish our privilege and power by not taking advantage intercession.

Prayer meetings have become obsolete. Many view the idea of individuals coming together, in person (not through social media…tweeting…Facebook…Instagram…) – face to face, flesh and blood, kneeling together, holding hands, bowing our heads, calling out our prayers to God – as boring, “out of touch,” “old fashioned,” etc. But I believe that God still shows up in powerful ways through that kind of fellowship. Obviously, we cannot always get together in person. Prayers are not limited by human location. There is, however, something very powerful about human touch, human voice, human presence…something healing and transforming.

When we intercede, in other words, when we join together and go to God’s thrown, it moves God in a special way. It lifts our prayers higher. It strengthens our bonds of unity. It heals our wounded and brokenness.

The text then goes on to say that “the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much.” The term “fervent” means, impassioned, passionate, intense, vehement, ardent, sincere, heartfelt.

When is the last time you prayed an impassioned, passionate, intense, vehement, ardent, sincere, heartfelt prayer for somebody else, or even yourself for that matter?

Do we truly understand the power of fervent prayer? I believe that we lose so many opportunities, miss so many open doors, totally walk by so many blessings because our eyes are blinded by a lack of fervent prayer. I believe we miss so many answers, so many opportunities for deliverance, so many opportunities to bless and to help and to strengthen and to heal one another because we will not take hold of our chance to intercede together, on behalf of one another.

Could it be that God is just waiting to see how serious we are about whatever it is we are trusting Him for? That is not to suggest that fervent prayer is like a jeanie in a bottle…some magic formula to get whatever you want. But when we become serious about praying, not only for ourselves but for one another, miracles happen. Doors open. We begin to experience changes in situations and circumstances that we may have been waiting on for years. Opportunities open up. Healing begins to happen for individuals, families, communities, congregations, nations and yea even the world.

God is looking for those who will stand in the gap through intercessory prayer. God is looking for those who are willing to intercede on behalf of others. God is looking for someone who is hungry and thirsty for fellowship with Him and with others. Who is going to stand in the gap? Who is going to get serious about intercession and prayer? May our hearts cry out, “Hear am I Lord, send me.”

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shepastor: "The Danger of a Little Success..."

The Cost of Being a Disciple
25A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
28“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? 29Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!
Luke 14: 25-30, NLT

Kingdom work is costly. It requires that you carry a cross. Many, however, have exchanged the proverbial cross for spaces and places of comfort, both socially and psychologically.

This past year and a half, I have been privileged to travel across the Country and speak with many individuals of various races, ages and socioeconomic status. The subject was women in ministry. Time and time again, I heard individuals lament the fact that pastors, laity and denominations have begun to say it is no longer an issue because so many women have become licensed and ordained, are serving in churches in various capacities and are even becoming senior/solo pastors.

One female pastor, working on her doctoral dissertation was told by her doctoral advisor to abandon thoughts of writing about the topic because “it is no longer an issue.” Ironically, the visible “success” of women in ministry over recent years has served to hinder the broader work of opening doors for women called to pastor.

As discussed in my book, Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors (Judson Press, 2013), although increasingly becoming the largest demographic graduating from seminaries, women still significantly lag behind men in positions and pay in the Church. Women still only comprise approximately 10-12% of senior/solo pastors across all Protestant denominations. The fact that you can name female pastors across the nation that have been called to mid-sized to larger more stable congregations is an indication of how few there are.

Because of the “success” of women graduating from seminary, being licensed and ordained, being called to serve as pastors (most serving in churches that are near death, have died or are so broken and dysfunctional that no man would ever consider going!) the view is rapidly becoming, “It’s no longer an issue.”

Tragically, even women who are happy to have “something, rather than nothing” are reluctant to continue to press for greater progress and opportunities. Yes, certainly the foundation has been laid, but the house is not built! Has success become our enemy? Much like those who believe that racism is no longer an issue in America because we have elected our first African American President, many believe that women ministers have broken through the stained glass ceiling and therefore, need to move onto more important matters.

There is a cost associated with pressing this conversation. But true success and deliverance is always a costly endeavor.
Yes, a little success can be a dangerous thing. Consider Dan Black’s words concerning the issue…

Three Undeniable Dangers of Success

Dan Black on Leadership:

I’ve not achieved the level of success I desire. However, I have seen enough success in different areas of my life to know: Success can leave in a blink of the eye if you’re not careful. If you want to achieve and maintain success then you should avoid common success killers. No matter the level of your success remember it has the potential to bring these dangers:

1. Future success can be blocked-
When you begin to obtain success, it can be tempting to relax and enjoy the moment. Relaxing and celebrating for too long can cause you to forsake the success you’ve achieved and be a roadblock to further success. This is because you stop putting in the hard work, effort, and energy that first allowed you to become successful. One solution is to take a short amount of time to relax and celebrate then to keep taking action toward higher levels of success.

2. Success can cause you to stay in your comfort zone-
Nothing significant or great is ever done in your comfort zone. A danger of success is that it can cause you to stay in your current situation or comfort zone. Success can bring comfort and complacency. This can prevent you from taking action or calculated risks. To avoid this danger I recommend being intentional about regularly moving outside your comfort zone and to associate with people who stretch you.

3. Success can bring harmful changes-

Success can bring harmful inward changes. The harmful changes might include: pride, arrogance, self-absorption, a sense of entitlement, and becoming egocentric. These cause a person to become an Outside-In Leader. This is dangerous because a leader’s inward life (heart condition) is shown outwardly through their actions, attitude, and behaviors. These changes can impact every area of your life. The solution is to be self-aware, have accountability partners (To keep you level headed), and to clothe yourself with love, kindness, and humility.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shepastor: "From Why to What..."

Judges 1:12-15, NIV
12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher."

13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him [1] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"

15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

“Moving from Why to What?”

This brief, intriguing passage of scripture is packed with meaning. Caleb is now old – probably too old to fight himself to secure the land for his heirs, so he puts out the message that whoever can stand and fight the battle for him and win the land – he will give that man his daughter for a prize.

Caleb’s nephew – Othniel rises to the challenge – wins the land and also the hand of Caleb’s daughter – Achsah. As a dowry gift, Caleb gives Othniel and Achsah the land of Negev. Now, one might say Achsah should have been thankful and happy that her father gave them some land. Land was and still is a precious thing.

But Achsah was not satisfied with this land. Some commentators have suggested that Achsah was selfish, unappreciative, pushy etc., because she tried to get her husband to go and ask her father for more. But when, evidently (the text does not say) Othniel didn’t go and ask, Achsah took it upon her self and said, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water."

As I mentioned earlier, some commentators took Achsah’s request as an example of greed, selfishness and pride. But I see something different in Achsah’s request. Her request, in my opinion raises some very serious questions.

First off, I wanted to understand what was wrong with the land of Negev? Biblical scholars suggest that Negev was an arid land. In other words, it was a land that was lacking in water. It was difficult, near impossible for things to grow there. It was dry, lifeless, and barren. Negev was like a desert land.

In light of that definition of Negev – a dry, lifeless, barren, fruitless land – I wondered why in the world would Caleb give his daughter and her husband a barren land for a wedding gift? I thought it strange that Caleb would give his daughter Achsah – who’s name literally means, “ankle bracelet or bangle” something beautiful, precious and worthy of being “shown off,” was given such horrible gift – a barren land! I thought it strange that this daughter – who a man was willing to put his life on the line in battle for – was given, as a wedding present – a barren, dry, desert land. So when we consider what Negev was actually like, her request for a land with some springs makes perfect sense.

And as I thought about what Achsah was given and her request, I thought about the dry land and parched places of our lives. Let me see if I can’t make this a little bit clearer…

The other day I heard a man on a radio broadcast share that he’d experienced a major tragedy in his life…the untimely death of his young son. A son that had all of the potential in the world…a son that was preparing to do great things in life…a son that hadn’t done anything to deserve this tragic end to his earthly life. The man was understandably devastated. He wrestled day and night trying to understand why. Why did this happen? How could this happen? What good could ever come from this unfathomable loss?

He went on to say that he sunk down very, very low, depressed…despondent…angry…confused…in a deep pit. Then one day, he met another father who’d also experienced tragic loss. The man shared that as long as he tried to figure out “why” he just continued to spiral downward. But when he changed his questioning from “why?” to “what?” He began to hear and see life differently. “Since this is my circumstance, since I am in this situation, since this thing has happened, What God? What next? What would you have me to do? What is to come from this? What do you want to do with me? What can this do for someone else?”

The tragic loss of a loved one is always difficult and daunting emotionally. But there are other losses as well that can baffle, shackle and oppress the soul. For some, life begins “at a loss.” Some grow up wondering, “why was I given this set of circumstances? What did I do to deserve this?”

This passage of scripture can assist us in not only processing the “dry lands” given to us, but how to respond and move forward.

There are some things in this life we are given that we don’t have any control over – we were given life, we were given our parents, we were given our gender, our race, our genetic predispositions, our bodies. Some were born into rich families, some into poor. Some were born into healthy households – some were born to crack addicts. Some were born to loving, caring, supportive parents, some were born to cruel, neglecting and discouraging parents.

We were given some things that we have no control over. They were just given. Those things that are good – we praise and thank God for. And while the scripture says that we are to give thanks in all things at all times, and yes, we should - there are seasons in our lives where we are not poised to give thanks – but to ask the question – “why Lord, have you given me this dry and barren land?”

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give thanks, for Scripture says that “In everything, give thanks for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you.” But it does mean that there are times in our lives where thanksgiving is not our initial response. I am very thankful that we have a God, we have a Christ who is compassionate, willing and able to understand our human frailty. I am thankful that we have a God and we have a Christ who is willing and able to transition us from question, doubt, pain and fear to praise and thanks giving. But it is a journey.

How do we move from “Why?” to “What?”
How do we process – how can we be thankful? How can we embrace the sovereignty of God? I think the request of Achsah is instructive and can give us some help –

Achsah said, “Since you’ve given me this desert land – give me some springs also.” We don’t know why God has given us the circumstances of our lives – we don’t know why things have happened the way they have happened – things that we had no say or control over – but we can say, “Lord, I don’t know why you chose to let these things be a part of my life, but since you have – give me some springs in my dry land.” The operative word is, “since.”

In other words, you’ve asked somebody else to try and fix the situation for you. Maybe they like Othniel for what ever reason have not assisted you in getting some springs for your barren, dry land. But you, like Achsah can go to God and ask for some springs for yourself!

You can say, “Lord, I don’t know why I was born with bad health – but since I was – Lord show me how to live. You can say, “Lord, I don’t know why my family was so dysfunctional, why my mother was addicted to drugs – but Lord – give me the strength to live a healthy productive life.” Lord, I don’t know why I was born with a mental disorder – but Lord, help me to have good doctors who can guide me to the right types of medications that can keep my biochemistry in balance.”

Lord, I don’t know why my job was eliminated after I worked so hard, so diligently, but Lord supply all of my needs according to your riches in glory.

Whatever your dry land is today – like Achsah, you can say, “Lord, give me some springs for my desert!” Help me to move from “Why?” to “What?”

Look at what the Lord did for her… Caleb not only gave Achsah what she asked for, “a spring” but he gave her upper springs and lower springs. God will give you that which you need to refresh your soul and your spirit on the high mountain, and down in the low valley.

Just as Achsah’s name means “bracelet or bangle” something to show off in other words – God wants to show you off! God wants to lift you up. You are a precious prize. God wants to use you as a mighty testimony. Your trials, your struggles, your difficulties, your disappointments – all that you’ve been through – God is going to use it to lift you up higher and to glorify his name.

You will be used by God to let others know that no matter what difficulties occur in this life – if you hold to God’s unchanging hand – God who is sovereign will take your sorrow and turn it into joy. He will take your pain and turn it into peace. He will take your failure and turn it into faith. He will take your sadness and turn it into a surprise – He will water your dry and barren land.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring. Today we may be up and tomorrow we may be down – but God has promised to be with us every step of the way. He will take our bitter experiences and make them sweet. He will give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. God will take care of you.

Don’t give up. Don’t allow the devil to tell you that God does not love you. You are precious in his sight – ask him today – ask him right now to show you how to change your perspective. Ask him to show you how, since this thing has happened in your life – ask God to show you how to make it through and God will show up – God will water your dry land – God will provide springs in the desert.

Psalm 50:23 declares, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."
(NIV). Sometimes, thanksgiving is a sacrifice. Sometimes changing our perspective is a sacrifice. It means that we don’t necessarily want to do it, aren’t sure, how to do it, don’t have the mind or the energy to do it. But because we love God, and we have chosen to lift Him up as the wise and sovereign God, we sacrifice our finite thoughts and choose to praise God – trusting and believing that He loves us, understands us, and is for us, not against us.

The scripture declares that when we sacrifice thank offerings to God – God is honored and he prepares the way so that He will show us his salvation. In other words, our faith, our trust, our belief that in the midst of it all, God is still good, God still sits high and looks low, God’s promises are still real, God is still a way maker, and as the saints of old would say, “a heart fixer and a mind regulator,” God is still sovereign, - God will take our pain, He will take our tears, He will take our disappointments, our struggles, and all of that which would cause us to give up and die – God will take all of those things back to the potter’s house, and He will refashion, reshape, reconfigure, reorganize, remold our broken, wounded, disheveled lives and fashion them into beautiful vessels, making us no longer victims, but victors!

We can look to our Savior Jesus Christ as the epitome of “what?” It was not fair that he had to leave his Father’s side, humble himself and become like a man – it was not fair that he was mocked and scorned and beaten all night long.

It was not fair that he had to be buried in a borrowed tomb when all he had to do was to call on ten thousand angels to come and deliver him from cruel mocking soldiers and a shameful death on the cross.

But because God is sovereign – Jesus went through all of that so that you and I could be saved. Because God is sovereign – Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the father pleading our case. Because God is sovereign, one day he is coming back again and every eye shall see it – every knee shall bow – every tongue shall confess –that He is Lord, Jesus is Lord – Jesus is Lord.

As you face your “why’s,” ask the Lord to help you to transition to “what?”

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shepastor: “The Power of a Transformed Tongue…”

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 7-8, NIV

Our words have great power and when they leave our mouths they take on a life of their own. With words we hurt and with words we heal. My mother always told me that “an angry word is not easily recalled, therefore, watch your words.” Listen to this quote about our words by Robert Brow,

“The other animals can communicate with each other. They growl, call for a mate, express alarm, sing for joy. Whales can apparently compose songs. Your dog can bark, beg for food, wag his tail, jump up to say he is glad to see you. But the human animal has a tongue with the power to create havoc in human relationships.”
Sometimes because of our own fears, our own insecurities, our own prejudices, we speak words or give advice that is not in the recipient’s best interest, but are comfortable for us. Like the parents who discourage their children from ever going away to school because they are afraid of being alone, or the husband who discourages his wife from taking a class or from pursuing a dream because he’s afraid she’ll out grow him and leave or the teacher or mentor who discourages a student from pursuing a particular learning track because that student does not appear to “have what it takes.”

How many dreams have been shattered? How many potential leaders have been stopped short, how many great ideas have been snuffed out because someone poisoned another persons mind and caused them to lose hope. Our words can wreak havoc upon the minds of those who are the hearers.

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for every season and purpose under the heavens. The scripture further tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If our hearts are in line with the Holy Spirit of God, the Lord can and will help us to govern our speech. Our tongues will be transformed. Our words will be seasoned with the salt of grace and peace. We will learn how to tell the truth in love.

When our tongues have been transformed, we will pray daily, “Lord, set a watch over my mouth; guard the door of my lips." We will be patient and not just blurt the first thing that comes to our minds. We will be considerate, thoughtful and kind. We will refrain from expressing our ideas of what a person can and cannot do. Sometimes, it is best to allow a person to work things through on their own. Let them pursue their hopes and dreams, as long as it is not bringing hurt or damage to the family or the community. Sometimes we may not recognize all that God has placed within them. Sometimes we are the stumbling block to a person’s success because we have filled their mind with all of the reasons why they can’t succeed.

Why are our words so damaging? Why are we so negative or critical? Sometimes, as one commentator puts it, “it’s because our parents may have earned graduate degrees in negativity while raising us!” Sometimes we subconsciously criticize others as a way of building up ourselves. But what ever the reason, we are doing so at a great price – the hearts, minds and emotions of others.

Now there are some people whose constitutions are of such that no matter who tells them they cannot make it, they determine that they can. There are some people who take negative comments as a challenge and use it to motivate them to move forward. But everyone is not like that. Some people are crushed by negative and excessively critical comments. The phrase, “stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is a lie. Names have broken many a spirit. Words have battered many a soul. Constant criticism has pummeled many a person’s esteem.

James chapter 3: 1-13 in the New Testament says the following about the tongue…

Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. You know that we who teach will be judged more severely. 2 All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn't make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does. 3 We put bits in the mouths of horses to make them obey us, and we have control over everything they do. 4 The same thing is true for ships. They are very big and are driven by strong winds. Yet, by using small rudders, pilots steer ships wherever they want them to go. 5 In the same way the tongue is a small part of the body, but it can brag about doing important things. A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame. 6 The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell. 7 People have tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures. 8 Yet, no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison. 9 With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God's likeness. 10 Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen! 11 Do clean and polluted water flow out of the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? In the same way, a pool of salt water can't produce fresh water.
13 Do any of you have wisdom and insight? Show this by living the right way with the humility that comes from wisdom
The good news is that you can change the course of your words today. Today you can ask God to show you how to speak words of encouragement and hope. The first step is to examine your heart. Jesus taught that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

If we want to have a transformed tongue, we must first ask the Lord to change our hearts to reflect His heart. We must as ourselves, “is this something Jesus would say to another person?” We must as ourselves, “what are we hoping to accomplish by making this comment? Is there another, healthier, more wholistic and positive way to say what I am trying to say to this person?” “Is this comment necessary at this time?” Do they truly need this bit of advice from me?

There will be times when our words, no matter how kind will hurt… truth can hurt. But when we speak God’s words of truth to people, the hurt will eventually produce healing – like surgery. It hurts, it takes time to heal, but when it heals we are made whole.

The goal of our advice, our words fitly spoken should be to bring deliverance, to bring healing, to bring hope, to build up, never to tear down.

How are your words? Who have you encouraged? Who are you discouraging by your words? God said that we will give an account for every idle word we utter. Let us pray today to have a transformed tongue. Pray that our words will be seasoned with the salt of God’s truth, mercy, grace and love – words that give life and not death, words that give help and not hurt – words that set free and don’t bind – words that reflect the heart and mind of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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