Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shepastor: "Faith, Hope and Something..."

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11: 1 NIV

Some years ago I was asked the question, “What is the difference between faith and hope?” I responded that hope and faith are closely related. “Hope” looks forward with a desire for “something” to happen. Faith declares, “I believe that something will happen.” The old deacons at my home church in Akron used to pray, “Lord, I know you can and I believe you will!” I’ve heard the acronym used, “P.U.S.H,” “Pray until something happens. The concept of “something” is loaded. “Something” suggests that we don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know what it will look like. We don’t know what it will feel like. It is elusive. While our desire for a particular something to happen may keep us with tip-toe anticipation, our belief that something will happen goes beyond hope to a depth level trust.

The King James Version of this verse, Hebrews 11:1 declares, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. “Substance” is a term that is used to describe the essence of something. The “stuff,” the anatomy, the composition, the make up, the worth of something. Sometimes you will hear someone say, “this or that was “substantive” or if something was plentiful, or large, we might say, “it was ‘substantial’” The prefix, “sub” suggests something beneath like a “submarine” or the “sub-board,” it is beneath, holding something up, foundational. So when we hear that “faith is the ‘substance’ of things hoped for…” that suggests that “faith” is the foundation of our hope.

When you hit rock bottom, faith will meet you there for it is the foundation upon which we must stand. Faith gives us the assurance to keep on hoping. I said earlier that “Hope” looks forward with a desire for “something” to happen. Faith declares, “I believe that something will happen.”

Faith empowers us to exchange our something with God’s something. When what we hoped for or anticipated does not come to pass, faith sustains our belief that God’s something will actually fulfill our desires. While hope is critical to our survival, faith is essential to helping us navigate, interpret and ultimately embrace all of the “somethings” that will happen in our lives. Continue to trust that God’s “something” will always be immeasurably more than the something that you were looking for and for God reasons, you did not receive.

The song writer declared, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand…"

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shepastor: “Adopting MLK’s Concept of Becoming the ‘Beloved Community…' ”

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 NIV

This past week, our Nation celebrated the life, legacy and spirit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of Dr. King’s penetrating ideologies was the concept of the “Beloved Community.” In today’s Shepastor, we take a look at this imagery in light of opening doors for women in ministry and recommendations for our advocates…

Excerpts from Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, author, Christine A. Smith, Judson Press, 2013, pp 145-146

Create a Beloved Community

I have heard it said that we need to be the beloved community
that we talk about. The idea of the beloved community as
advanced by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a vision
for integration that surpassed legislative procedures of desegregation
and embraced true interrelatedness. While Dr. King was
referring to racial integration, the concept is also appropriate for
bringing about equality and integration of women into the pastoral
In order to press on, the need is for more than rules and regulations
that may begin the process but will not be transformative
in the long run. What is needed is a change of heart and attitude
through love. Kenneth L. Smith and Ira G. Zepp Jr. suggest,
“Whereas desegregation can be brought about by laws, integration
requires a change in attitudes. It involves personal and
social relationships that are created by love—and these cannot
be legislated.”4

As advocates work to create broader opportunities for women to
become senior pastors, consideration must be given to the most
effective ways to bridge the gap between functional togetherness
and oneness. Women must not be merely thrust into positions, but
rather, time must be taken to cultivate an appreciation of the value
they bring to the ministry. Through education (scriptural teachings
and social awareness of the leadership roles women have held
historically), through example (placing women in leadership roles
based upon their gifts and talents), and through opportunity (calling
upon women to preach, teach, pray, read Scripture, preside at
business meetings, be part of decision making), perceptions will
begin to change and a willingness to accept women as pastors will
ultimately increase.
To further expand upon King’s concept of the beloved community,
Smith and Zepp state:

Behind King’s conception of the Beloved Community lay
his assumption that human existence is social in nature.
“The solidarity of the human family” is a phrase he frequently
used to express this idea. . . . This was a way of
affirming that reality is made up of structures that form an
interrelated whole; in other words, that human beings are
dependent upon each other. Whatever a person is or possesses
he owes to others who have preceded

If we are to be the beloved community, we must follow the
Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto
you.” Women and men in the ministry must not simply tolerate
one another, but out of a common purpose they must strive to open
doors of opportunity where padlocks exist. Love must not cover
but transform attitudes of chauvinism, sexism, separatism, and elitism
to attitudes of equality, togetherness, mutual support, and lifting
as we climb.
End quote

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shepastor: "The Service of the Sod"

Philippians 1: 20-21, KJV
20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Today I was privileged to preach the home going service of one of the elderly members of our congregation. The above text was the basis for her eulogy. She was a woman of character and faith. She was not a woman of fame or fortune, but she was like sod... as a result of her deep roots of faith, hope, love and wisdom, “tender blades” came up through her...

A Roman Catholic Priest, born in the early 1800’s penned the following poem regarding soil. He entitled the poem, “Earth’s Tribute,” and it reads,

(John Bannister Tabb)

“Earth’s Tribute”
(The Service of the Sod)

First the grain, and then the blade—
The one destroyed, the other made;
Then stalk and blossom, and again
The gold of newly minted grain.

So Life, by Death the reaper cast
To earth, again shall rise at last;
For 't is the service of the sod
To render God the things of God.

For `tis the service of the sod, to render God the things of God.”

Sod or turf is grass and the part of the soil beneath it held together by the roots, or a piece of thin material.

At times I’ve seen homes where the lawn has been stripped and nothing will grow. It is barren. Seeds have been planted, but nothing will grow. Therefore, the home owners purchase sod, that turf or grass that has soil beneath it held together by the roots. The “service of the sod” is to allow its roots to go down into the soil. As a result, new grass grow up above the sod. The sod’s roots go down deeper into the once barren soil and lifts new tender blades until they are strong enough to grow on their own.

It is the service of the sod to allow itself to lay down upon that which is barren so that new tender blades will grow and have a chance to become rich and thick. In life, there are those who, like sod allow themselves to lay down on sometimes barren soil, taking their roots, pushing through the barrenness and birthing new tender blades. They support those blades until they are strong enough to stand on their own.

At times, those in the ministry are like sod. God at times calls us to places that look, feel and taste barren. God at times calls us to lay down our roots, allowing them to go deep into the barren soil. At times God takes the spiritual nutrients He has embedded within us to cultivate the barren ground beneath us. It is the "service of the sod" to die to self, allow our roots to be used by The Lord to nurture, fertilize and rejuvenate that which seems barren, broken, dry and fruitless.
God uses our roots and our growth to produce tender blades that eventually grow up, quite literally through the sod - us.

It can be tough to be sod. It takes time for the tender blades to grow. It takes being watered and tending. It takes going deep. Paul said, “for me to live is Christ, but to die is gain." In other words, if I continue to live life on this side of the Jordan in the flesh, my life is a testimony and through my life, others may come to know Christ. But to die, Paul said, is “gain” for me, because then I can go and rest with my Lord. Our lives are not our own. We do not get to decide the days of our lives. Our times are in God’s hands.

Until that day when The Lord sees fit to call us from labor to reward, we, like sod, may be called to barren places. Sod is only useful when the roots are deep. If you are in a "sod season, " realize that God chose you to render this service because you are cultivated, rich and strong through Him. You have depth of root that maybe you cannot even see. God has some tender blades He wants to raise through that which He has already placed within you.

"Tis the service of the sod to render God the things of God."

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shepastor: "Renewal for a New Year: Excerpts from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it flows the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23, KJV

Several years ago, Stephen R. Covey wrote, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey stresses that balance is critical for effectiveness. Statistics show that many leaders (secular and religious)live lives that are horribly out of balance. We struggle to manage the demands of our occupation. For some, bad theology causes them to take their responsibilities to the extreme. Like Moses, before heeding the wise words of his father-in-law, Jethro, we try to handle it all (read Exodus chapter 18). We become, "Jacks and Janns" of many trades and masters of none! An important aspect of "guarding our hearts" is balance. Today Shepastor highlights Covey's concepts of "Balance and Synergy in Renewal." Let us consider these wise words as we begin 2014...

... It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.

Balance in Renewal

The self-renewal process must include balanced renewal in all four dimensions of our nature: the physical, the spiritual, the mental, and the social emotional. Although renewal in each dimension is important, it only becomes optimally effective as we deal with all four dimensions in a wise and balanced way. To neglect any one area negatively impacts the rest.

Synergy in Renewal

Balanced renewal is optimally synergetic. The things you do to sharpen the saw in any one dimension have positive impact in other dimensions because they are so highly interrelated. Your physical health affects your mental health; your spiritual strength affects your social/emotional strength. As you improve in one dimension, you increase your ability in other dimensions as well.

As you renew your physical dimension, you reinforce your personal vision, the paradigm of your own self-awareness and free will, of proactivity, of knowing that you are free to act instead of being acted upon, to choose your own response to any stimulus. This is probably the greatest benefit of physical exercise. Each daily private victory makes a deposit in your personal intrinsic security account.

As you renew your spiritual dimension, you reinforce your personal leadership. You increase your ability to live out of your imagination and conscience instead of only your memory, to deeply understand your innermost paradigms and values, to create within yourself a center of correct principles…

The rich private life you create in spiritual renewal makes tremendous deposits in your personal security account.

(Excerpts from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, pages 288-289, 301-303)

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Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Shepastor: “Happy New Year – Time for a New Thing!”

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19, KJV

The New Year is always a good time to re-evaluate our ways. While we are admonished to make a practice of turning the search light inward, there is something about the New Year that reminds us of the frailty of this life.
With each passing year we are reminded that life is precious. It is a vapor. It moves quickly. Choices are critical.

Therefore, let us do the following:

Resolve to let “it” go - What is your “it?” Anger? Resentment? Looking for an apology? Wanting to change someone? This “it” is diminishing your life purpose, peace and power. Remember that there are seasons of reaping and sowing, that no good thing will the Lord withhold from the upright, fret not thyself because of evil doers… Release it to the Lord. Ask Him to show you how…

Be open to the “new” sent from God – Old ways, old thoughts, old patterns, old ways of measuring things… Open up to the new things that that God wants to release in your life… New friendships, new opportunities…new ways of thinking…new patterns of behavior…

Value your place in the process… Realize that your journey is not all about you. Remember, you may be the “ground breaker, the planter or the waterer.” God alone gives the increase. Ask the Lord to help you to value your role in the process and not allow the opinion of others to cause you to undervalue, forsake or go “awol” on your assignment before the Lord says it is finished…

Choose Joy – Joy is not a perpetual smile on your face. Joy is not tied to circumstances (that’s “happiness,” tied to “what’s happening”). Joy is the assurance that The Lord is with us. The Lord won’t fail us. The Lord will sustain us. The Lord will make all things work together for our good. The Lord will provide. Therefore, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” You must be intentional about keeping joy in your heart. Be intentional about seeking the Lord’s face daily. Go beyond pre-packaged devotionals and crack open the Bible for yourself! Meditate upon God’s Word. Pray for true friends that will listen, “hear” and pray with you. Don’t ignore your pain, process through it. Let the Lord be the lifter of your head.

Allow the Lord to do His “new thing” in your life in 2014!
Happy New Year!

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