Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shepastor: "Why Do Roses Have Thorns?"

6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12: 6-10 (NIV)

“Mommy, why do roses have thorns?” The question of my nine year old daughter as she looked curiously at the budding rose bush in our backyard garden. As I thought of an answer for her, my mind drifted into the many “thorn riddled rose bushes” in our lives. Why must we have thorns? It seems that while still on earth, most beauty is tempered by some form of thorn. In some instances the thorns invade seemingly perfect families with illness, death or some other marring experience. On jobs, a seemingly perfect experience can quickly turn “south” with a change in staff, location, position or pay.

In the church, what once seemed like a great fellowship can be disrupted with changes in membership, leadership or economic downturns. What’s up with the thorns? As Paul experienced, thorns keep us from becoming too “high minded,” conceited and or believing that we are all that we are due to our own abilities. Thorns remind us that all that we are, all that we have and all that we ever shall be is only possible through the grace of God. Thorns remind us of the need to pray, trust and rely upon the strength of the Lord to carry us through. Thorns keep us from getting too comfortable. Thorns also protect us from the corrosive poisons of arrogance and pride. Ultimately, thorns remind us that this world is not our home.

Jesus reminds us, “ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (NET)

Despite thorns, we rejoice in the roses, knowing that through Christ we are overcomers!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shepastor: “Sorrow that Leads to Joy”

4 I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed. 5 For even when we came into Macedo'nia, our bodies had no rest but we were afflicted at every turn -- fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. 2 Cor 7:4-10 (RSV)

“Sorrow that Leads to Joy”
In our text for today, Paul emphasizes that there is a great difference between sorrow of the godly sort and sorrow of the world. In that great film, "Gone With the Wind," there’s a scene that wonderfully illustrates this point. In a particular scene of the movie, Rhett Butler (played by the late Clark Gable) and Scarlett (played by the late Vivian Lee) are arguing back and forth about something Scarlett says she regrets. Rhett says to her, “You are not at all sorry, you’re like the thief that stole - he’s not sorry he took something that didn’t belong to him, he’s just sorry that he got caught!”

Worldly sorrow is a sorrow that is borne out of the regret of “getting caught.” Worldly sorrow causes one to conform. Godly sorrow causes one to transform. In our text for today, Paul’s words brought about Godly sorrow and a transforming of the hearts of his readers. If Paul were to write us a letter today, I wonder what words he would use. I wonder if we would need to be made “sorry after a godly sort,” in order that we would grow in spiritual matters.

In Jesus’ parables of the two sons (Matthew 21: 28-32) He shares how a father with two sons asked both of them to go out into the vineyard and work. When he asked one son to go - he flatly turned his father down, but then he ended up going. When he asked the other son would he go, he said “yes!” but ended up doing nothing. Jesus likened the two sons unto the religious people and those who were thought to be heathens. The heathens (in Jesus’ day - tax collectors, prostitutes, drunks etc.) started out the wrong way - they started out by saying, “no,” but after being touched by God’s Word they repented and ended up doing the things that are pleasing in God’s sight. But the religious folks said all along that they would obey the Lord - they would keep his word, they would spread the good news about the coming of the Lord and they ended up doing nothing.

If Paul were to write us a letter today, I wonder what words he would have for us. We need to ask ourselves, are we like the religious leaders who said we would go for Jesus, live for Jesus, witness for Jesus, have hearts and minds and attitudes like Jesus, but ended up being worse than the so-called heathens?
Every now and then, all of us need to take a spiritual inventory to see how we’ve grown, how we’ve changed, how we’ve matured in our walk with Jesus Christ. One commentator had this to say about the new life we should have in Christ:
“Where the heart is changed, the life and actions will be changed. The changed heart has indignation towards sin. The changed heart is watchful and has a cautious fear of sin. The changed heart has a desire to be reconciled with God.” End quote
It is so easy to fall into complacency and religiosity. Every now and then we must ask ourselves the hard questions. We must ask ourselves, “What have I done to make a difference today? What have I done to help someone today? What have I done to draw some lost soul to Jesus Christ today? What have I done to right a wrong I’ve done today?

There are some sad pages in history that tell of Christians becoming complacent and frozen by religiosity and missing the true call of God to live authentic Christian lives. A fellow from Nazi Germany shared that his church was built near the railroad tracks where trains carrying thousands of Jews to their death in the concentration camps would pass. And he said that it seemed that the trains would come down the track right at the time when they were singing their hymns. But rather than be grieved and disturbed by the haunting sound of the trains, taking thousands to their death - they just closed their windows and sang louder.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s when African Americans were being lynched and tarred and feathered, it’s said that so-called Christians would go to church, let church out early, pack a picnic and then go and watch a lynching. And while those examples may seem extreme, we must ask ourselves, what injustices, what mean actions, what corrupt or dysfunctional activity are we placidly sitting by and watching as we sing songs and read our bibles?

In our own lives, what are we doing to grow closer to the Lord? What are we doing to seek more of God’s will and purpose for our lives? In our prayer life, how dedicated are we to listening to the Lord’s voice instead of always coming to the altar with our own agendas? When’s the last time you sat in the Lord’s presence and asked Him to show you His will, His Word, His way for your life? We need to ask ourselves the questions, “Am I a new creation in Christ today?” We need to ask ourselves, “How have I changed? Is my relationship with the Lord deeper?” When’s the last time you asked the Lord to search you and know you - to try you and see if there be any wicked way in you? We all need to take a spiritual inventory from time to time. If we do, we’ll find that there are areas in our lives that need pruning, that need cutting away, that need cultivating, that need reshaping and remolding.

If we’ll take the time to open our hearts and pray and seek the Lord’s face, He will show us the things in our lives that grieve Him. And soon the things that grieve the Lord will grieve us. We’ll develop a great disdain for sin and we will seek to distance ourselves as far as possible from those things, those attitudes, those behaviors, those activities, those relationships that we know are displeasing to God. We’ll sorrow after a godly sort when we know that our lives are not what God would have them to be. But our grief, our sorrow can be turned into joy. Once we acknowledge our sinful ways, once we recognize that our lives are not in line with what God’s word says - if we ask God’s forgiveness and seek His direction, He will lead us into the path of righteousness.

If you wrestle with impatience or a short temper, the Lord can strengthen you and help you to have self control and patience. If you wrestle with anger and bitterness, the Lord can help you to find healthy ways to express and release that anger and sweeten that bitterness in your heart and mind. Sometimes that means finding an accountability partner - someone who will pray with and for you, someone who will “check you,” in other words gently remind you of your commitment to release your hostility when you are drowning in self-pity and anger. Sometimes it means you’ll have to confront someone who’s hurt you - telling them the truth in love, rather than complaining and telling everyone else what they’ve done that you don’t like. If you’ll do these things, your sorrow will be turned to joy. Why, because you’ll have the peace of God.

May we “sorrow after a Godly sort,” then our sorrow will be turned into joy and our mourning into dancing.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shepastor: “When God Speaks Even Those Who Didn’t Get it Will: A Holy Week Meditation”

Matthew 1:18-25
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;[b] and he named him Jesus.

There’s no confusion here…this is not Advent, I know. It’s Holy Week. However, this passage of scripture spoke to me this morning…Jesus’ earthly mother, Mary endured her husband not “getting it.” She was in an extremely difficult situation. The angel of the Lord visited her and told her that something seemingly impossible was going to happen to her – something that would interfere with her plans for her life, something that would interfere with her relationship with her beloved fiancĂ©, something that would interfere with her reputation. Something, however, that would revolutionize, and bring salvation to the world. Yet Mary boldly declared, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord…be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38, KJV)

Joseph too was in a challenging situation. What would people think? What if the baby didn’t look anything like him? How could his betrothed do this? Was he being taken for a fool? What about his own reputation? He just didn’t get it! He devised a plan to “put her away privately.” He loved her too much to publicly expose her. But even though he didn’t get what was happening, the Lord sent an angel to “make it plain.” And so the Lord sent us our Savior through a humble woman of great faith and a man who, understandably didn’t “get it” initially, but ultimately listened to the LORD and obeyed.

Maybe the Lord has spoken some things to your heart that others don’t get. Maybe God’s plans for you appear so outrageous that those near and dear to you are tempted to, “put you away privately!” Maybe God’s vision for your life is so seemingly impossible that you are fearful to follow…fearful that if you step out you may ruin your reputation, lose something dear, cause you to look foolish. If so, remember, great things are rarely accomplished in the comfort zones of life.

I encourage you to consider what God did for Mary and Joseph…He took two ordinary individuals, two people who initially responded in two different ways and ultimately brought them together – giving them the grace to receive the miracle He had, not only for them, but for us.

During this Holy Week, may we trust that those who need to partner with us in receiving God’s miracles will “get it” when the LORD speaks…even if at first they consider putting us away! May you be reminded in a special way this week of the victory available to you through the power of the resurrected Lord.

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shepastor: “American Baptist Women in Ministry Breaking Through “Stained Glass Ceilings…”

34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 34-38, KJV

Following are excepts from Chapter 1 of Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors… (Christine A. Smith, Judson Press, 2013)

Whom Shall We Send?
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38, KJV)

As we explore the question, “Whom shall we send?” the example of Mary, the mother of Jesus, can provide great insight. Poor, young, unwed, and ordinary, Mary would not have been on the short list of most people to become the mother of the Messiah. Yet the Lord chose her. Readers of the text are left to speculate why the Lord chose Mary. We are given only the angel’s words that she was “highly favored” and that the Lord was with her (Luke 1:28). Later, Mary expresses her own beliefs and words of praise regarding why she was chosen (Luke 1:46-55, KJV)…

Clearly, Mary believed that God regarded her “low estate” and did “great things” to her. Mary praised God for exalting her and using her as an anointed vessel. Mary was chosen by God and sent forward to carry the Word that became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Understandably, upon receiving the message that God had chosen her, Mary had a question: “How can this be?” The angel provided a supernatural response to a natural question: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35, KJV).

As women have heard and grappled with God’s call upon their lives, many, like Mary, have asked, “How can this be?” Women are not supposed to preach and pastor. How can this be? I don’t know any man who would license or ordain me. How can this be? I don’t know what steps to take next. How can this be? I don’t even know how to begin to explain what I am feeling. I don’t have a lot, my name is not prominent, frequently I am overlooked, I’m not in the in-crowd, I’m not popular, people have even shunned me. Lord, how can this be?

At the appointed time, God sends angels to declare, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you.” God has many Marys to send. Will we recognize them? God’s sending process is different from ours. Often we look for the best, the brightest, the most beautiful, the most popular, and that which is highly esteemed among people. God, however, uses a different barometer. God discerns the heart. The questions are, Will our hearts be open to the heart of God as God seeks to use us in the sending process? Will we allow ourselves to be the angels to help to clarify the call, provide reassurance, tell them that they are “highly favored” and held by God, and then send them forth to carry the gospel? We must believe that we are the angels—the women and men who affirm that God calls and chooses whomever God wills. Whom shall we send? We should send those who express and exhibit a willingness to say, like Mary, “be it unto me according to thy word.”
Today, Shepastor celebrates the many “Mary’s” that God is using to carry the Gospel, breaking through barriers…accepting and walking in their calling… Below is the latest WONDERFUL eblast sent out from the American Baptist Women in Ministry office, Rev. Patricia Hernandez, Executive Director, Ms. Joyce Lake, Administrative Assistant… Read on and enjoy…

(ABWIM Newsletter…)

I’ve recently returned from meetings with the UN Commission on the Status of Women. 2000 people coming from over 200 countries around the world gathering to reflect on and respond to issues relating to gender justice. On the first morning of worship as I walked into the Chapel I was struck by a large wooden door, a door that stood framed in the middle of the worship area.
A door that stood open.
An invitation to all who came, facing whatever kind of barrier.
A proclamation that here everyone was welcome and all were included.

Following remarks by the Rev. Dionne Boissiere, Chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations, a woman shared how she had experienced a call to ministry many years ago but her pastor had told her ‘No!’ Now she was rejoicing in the call and still struggling to find a way to live hers out. “I’m glad I lived long enough to see you, a female pastor lead us in worship!”

There are barriers. The barriers are real.
We at ABWIM are committed to
breaking barriers that bar the utilization of gifts,
building bridges to advance opportunities
bringing people together to be the body of Christ in which all God’s gifts poured out on all God’s people can be fully used for the good of all and the glory of God.

This is not done in a day. Or a week. Or a month.
This is a movement. Although the theme for our movement is “March On,” This isn’t just about March.
And It isn’t just about Marching.
It is about becoming the body of Christ where all God’s gifts given to all God’s people can be fully utilized and fully lived out.
If you would like to be part of this movement whether in March, or April, or May or June, consider giving a gift. When you donate, you may do so in honor of or in memory of someone who has played a meaningful role in your ministry. Their name—as well as yours—will be noted on our donor page. To donate, go to:

Breaking Barriers

Dear Pastor,
God has provided the Church with marvelous gifts and talents to be used for the up building of God’s Kingdom here on earth. However, due to barriers spoken and unspoken, the Church is missing out on many opportunities to be blessed – particularly when it comes to pastoral leadership! The Women in Ministry Action Learning Team (WIM ALT), an ABC/USA Ministers Council/ “Transformed by the Spirit” initiative is exploring adaptive challenges that may prevent churches from calling the most qualified candidates, regardless of gender (male or female) to serve as senior/solo pastors in American Baptist Churches. Statistics reveal that churches with pastors who acquaint their congregations with female clergy in positive and specific ways are more open to receive God’s best for them, whether male or female upon the supporting pastor’s retirement. If you are an American Baptist Senior/Solo pastor who may retire in the next 3-5 years, we ask that you complete the following survey, designed to help us identify pastors that are willing to use specific strategies to break down barriers that may hinder a congregation from considering and calling the best possible candidate irrespective of gender. Thank you in advance for your assistance!
WIM ALT Retiring Pastors Survey link:

Building Bridges

Crossing Bridges!

Also along the lines of building bridges—or perhaps crossing bridges(!)—is an event in which we are partnering with American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

AB Women have a long history of having been supportive of women in professional church leadership roles. Some of those ways:
• It was ABW who first asked the whole denomination to study the role of women in the church.
• It was ABW who called a conference in 1968(!) “Women in Church-Related Vocations” at which a report was presented on the number of women on national staff with the intention of increasing those numbers.

• It was ABW along with the Division of Social concerns which was instrumental in the formation of the group “Executive Staff Women,” which became an advocacy group for the full inclusion of women in all of ministry.
In recognition and celebration of this history of advocacy ABWIM is partnering with AB Women’s Ministries in offering a conference-cruise, Sept. 19 – 22. 2014. The Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, Executive Director of Ministers Council will be one of the Keynote Speakers. Rev. Valerie Andrews, Church Business Manager at The Church of the Redeemer Baptist, is the Conference Coordinator. Both are amazing and gifted Women in Ministry. Moreover, our own Joyce Lake, gifted musician, will be the Performing Artist.

This is an event not to be missed! Come with sisters and colleagues from Women in Ministry and/or AB Women’s Ministries’!

For more information and to register, go to:
Becoming the body of Christ: Responding to God’s call…

If you are sensing a call to ministry or know someone who thinks God might be calling them into pastoral ministry or missionary service, tell them about the “Hear the Call” retreat happening prior to the World Mission Conference at Green Lake this summer, July 19 -21. Featured speakers include Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle and former missionary Rev. Debbie Kelsey.

Attendees enter a discernment process through one of three tracks:
1) Pastoral Ministry (sponsored by the Ministers Council)
2) Global Mission Service (sponsored by IM)
3) Local mission involvement (sponsored ABHMS)

Participants can ask questions, banish misconceptions and leave with next steps as they explore how God is calling them. For more information or to register:

God Calls + Women Answer = Women’s Leadership Initiative @ Nashville

“I want to find the ten best women and provide them a fully scholarshipped theological education through our create program @ Nashville.” President Molly T. Marshall

President Marshall has issued a summons to action for empowering women as leaders. The “stained-glass ceiling” still exists. She is calling for radical transformation of the horizon for women called to leadership in ministry. Studies of leadership confirm that women have significant capacities to transform institutions when at the helm. To that end, President Marshall is extending an invitation “to recommend the best young women (aged 22-34) in your sphere of influence to become a member of the fall 2014 create cohort at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Tennessee.”

Please contact President Marshall with your recommendations. Central wants to build a remarkable cohort of women for this new horizon in theological education. Candidates for this highly selective Master of Divinity program will receive a full tuition scholarship, a global immersion experience in Myanmar, and personal coaching from women leaders who have pierced the ceiling. For more information about the create program, click on:

The First Baptist Church of White Plains is conducting a nationwide search for its next senior pastor. If you feel called to serve a unique, multi-cultural congregation, poised to move into the future, go to and click on information for pastoral candidates. The deadline for application and material to be submitted is April 15.

Update: Rev. Dr. Veronica Lanier – “Ronny”
Ronny also welcomes calls at 781 662-4663. To all she exclaims, “Be of Good Cheer!” And to this great witness of a woman, we send it right back to her! She is pictured here with one of our ABWIM brochures, a brochure which features not only her picture but the pictures of many amazing women witnesses. Join me in offering a prayer for Ronny and other women leaders of our faith:

Gracious God, we come before you on behalf of Ronny Lanier and so many other witnesses and wise women of our faith (lift up the names of women important in your faith journey). We thank you for the gifts they have been given and the gifts they have shared, gifts which have opened a pathway for our ministry and the ministry of so many others. Embolden our faith community that we may continue to be witnesses and may open the door for others. May we serve as your hands and feet as we share your gifts with the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

At the end of worship on that first day at the Commission on the Status of Women meetings, many people from many nations came together in one place with one voice to sing “We are marching in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God (Siyahamba/Caminando).

We are.

Join us in becoming the full body of Christ!
Let us continue to celebrate the advances the Lord has blessed women in ministry to make, while we also continue to “break through” glass ceilings!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shepastor: “The Holy Spirit Transcends issues of Gender, Religion, Race and Culture…”

28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus Galatians 3:28

This past week I was privileged to be one of seven women invited to participate in a beautiful Lenten service, “The Seven Last Words of Jesus: The Women Who followed Their Lord to the Cross.” It was a new experience for all of us. I’d never been to an “Anglican” service. Many of them had never been to or participated in a “Seven Last Words” service! The seven women were from diverse backgrounds, religions and races. Convened by Rev. Beverly Scipio, an Anglican Deacon serving at St. Luke’s Ministries, in Copley, Ohio, the experience was rich with praise, worship, songs, preaching, liturgy and Holy Communion.

Each woman poured out of her own heart expressions of awe, wonderment, thanksgiving and praise for what our Lord Jesus did for us thousands of years ago. Some used drama as a means of conveying Christ’s sacrifice. Some “preached” in the traditional sense of the term. Others sang and shared meditations reflecting upon the same. We stood shoulder to shoulder and sang, The Power of the Cross. The musicians were anointed, playing melodious hymns, giving a rendition of The Old Rugged Cross played in a minor key to help to draw us closer to the scene at the foot of Calvary.

Basking in the glow and beauty of that experience, I was reminded in a special way that God’s Holy Spirit transcends gender, religion, race and culture. The fact that we are women, the color of our skin, our racial nor our cultural differences hindered the “power of the cross” on that night! The Holy Spirit’s presence was boldly evident. Hands raised, communion shared, songs vibrant and resounding – God was in the midst.
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…!”

Post a comment or send me an email at

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