Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shepastor: "Attitudes that Killed Jesus..."

John 11: 45-54
The Proud Religious Law-Keepers Try to Think of a Way to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus had done put their trust in Him. 46 Some of them went to the proud religious law-keepers and told them what Jesus had done. 47 The religious leaders of the Jews and the proud religious law-keepers gathered a court together. They said, “What will we do? This Man is doing many powerful works. 48 If we let Him keep doing these things, all men will put their trust in Him. The Romans will come and take away the house of God and our nation.” 49 Caiaphas was the head religious leader that year. He said to them, “You know nothing about this. 50 Do you not see it is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed?” 51 Caiaphas did not think of these words himself. He spoke what God had said would happen. He was telling before it happened that Jesus must die for the nation. 52 He must die not only for the nation, but also to bring together into one group the children of God who were living in many places.

53 From that day on they talked together about how they might kill Jesus. 54 For this reason Jesus did not walk out in the open among the Jews. He went to a town called Ephraim. It was near a desert. He stayed there with His followers.

This story is nuanced and packed with symbolism, cryptic messages and then some plain talk. John begins this chapter by telling us that Lazarus was the friend of Jesus. We learn that he is in fact the brother of two women that were very close to Jesus – Mary and Martha. He is careful to note that this was the same Mary that cried over his feet, anointed them with oil and then wiped His feet with her hair.

This family was close to Jesus, dear to Jesus – they were friends of Jesus. We are given the impression that Jesus spent time frequently in their home, teaching lessons, eating meals, fellowshipping. They were friends of Jesus. One could imagine that the disciples, Mary and Martha were all puzzled, baffled and perplexed when after hearing that this dear brother and friend had fallen sick, Jesus didn’t immediately go to them, comfort them or at least dispatch healing from across town by simply speaking the word.

But Jesus and God the Father had something greater in mind. For John 11: 3-4 declares,

3 The sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, your friend is sick!” 4 When Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness will not end in death. It has happened so that it will bring honor to God. And the Son of God will be honored by it also.”

Sometimes Jesus will allow painful and distressing things to happen to those closest to Him so that He might save those farthest from HimJesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. It has happened so that it will bring honor to God. And the Son of God will be honored by it also.”

Relative to our focus text, however, one would think that after all Jesus had done…turning water into wine…causing the lame to walk, delivering demoniacs from possession, opening blinded eyes, feeding the multitudes etc., one would think that the religious leaders of the day had ample proof that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. But no, they hated him.

What is it about human nature that causes us to hate, reject, and despise those who come to make us free? One would think that they would have rejoiced as individuals who were broken, wounded, blind, crippled, ravaged by demonic oppression…one would think that those who saw their pain and suffering would have rejoiced to see them made whole. But instead, Jesus – who came to seek and to save that which was lost – was despised and rejected. They may have been able to deal with all of the other miracles, but when Jesus hauled off and raised Lazarus from the dead – that surely was it! Jesus raising a dead man was all that they could take!

Let’s look a little closer at what the religious leaders said…

47 The religious leaders of the Jews and the proud religious law-keepers gathered a court together. They said, “What will we do? This Man is doing many powerful works. 48 If we let Him keep doing these things, all men will put their trust in Him. The Romans will come and take away the house of God and our nation.”
One attitude that killed Jesus was arrogant pride. Pride in and of itself is not a bad thing. This, however, was not “healthy pride.” This was destructive pride. The “New Life Translation” identified them as “proud religious law-keepers.” Their acts were not motivated by love or concern for others. Their behaviors were motivated by foolish pride, arrogance and fear. The religious leaders did not care that Jesus was helping people to be made whole. They did not care that Jesus was giving people hope and restoring or leading them to faith in God the Father. They were only concerned about losing their positions.

Anytime pride, arrogance and position trump our concern for people being delivered and set free, we are killing Jesus. Anytime we are more concerned about form or fashion and not with what will bring health, healing and wholeness, we are killing Jesus. Anytime we conspire to “kill” that which God is using to bring deliverance, we are killing Jesus.

The next attitude reflected here is territorialism and Deism. It was almost as if they wanted the people to worship them. Leaders have to guard against being territorial. Our motto ought to be, “follow me as I follow Christ.” I must decrease, He must increase. We are to point others to Jesus, not to ourselves. We are not worthy to be worshiped. Give honor to whom honor is due? Yes. Obey those in authority? Absolutely. Give appropriate praise, and appreciation? Certainly. Worship –NO, NO NO!!!

The people of God must be careful not to allow the enemy of our souls to make us selfish, insecure and territorial. God wants to use us to bring lost souls to salvation. God wants to use us to point people to the path of righteousness. God wants to use us to bring, health, healing and wholeness. God wants to use us to help bring unity and love, hope and faith, joy and peace. But we can’t do any of those things if we are guarding positions and operating out of fear.

Finally, the religious leaders had a fear that Jesus was “showing them up.” They were afraid that the Roman Government would take note of this Jesus and begin to work with him instead of them. They were afraid that they would lose their place as leaders in the Temple. They were afraid that the people would begin to listen to him and ignore them. They were afraid that they would lose their place of prominence, power and notoriety. They were governed by fear and therefore they began to conspire.

Pride, fear and insecurity will lead you to a low place of conspiracy. No matter who you are, where you go, there will always be somebody who can do what you do better. The Kingdom of God is not a place of competition. God uses whom He will to accomplish His will and purposes. When we recognize that the Lord has a place for each of us to serve, that God wants to use us to draw others close to Him, we will yield our lives, our spirits, our gifts our talents to be used wherever and however, the Lord sees fit.

When our motives, however are selfish, when our attitude is territorial, when we are more concerned about self- glorification and not God’s glory, we will be overtaken by this pharisaic attitude – kill the one who appears to be stealing the show!

As we prepare for Holy Week, it is so easy to beat up on the religious leaders – the Pharisees. It’s so easy for us to rail upon those who plotted to crucify Jesus. But today, I’d like us to examine ourselves and ask the Lord to help us to see if we have any pharisaic ways of our own. What attitudes do we have that may be “killing Jesus?” What behaviors might we posses that are keeping us from winning lost souls to the Kingdom? What attitudes might we possess that are standing in the way of us creating a greater space for the lost to come in?

May we stand before the Holy God and ask the Lord to remove things from our hearts that may hinder the miracles, the raising of “the dead,” the delivering power of Jesus in our own lives.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shepastor: "It Belongs to God..."

Parable of the Vineyard Workers
1“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay the normal daily wagea and sent them out to work. 3“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. 6“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’7“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’8“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. 10When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, 12‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’13“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. 15Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ 16“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard is troublesome in the light of our concept of “fairness.” Anyway you cut it, it just does not seem fair, right, just, etc.! How is it that those who came to work early, worked hard all day long, in the heat of the day, get the same pay as those who mosey in at the last hour? Something seems to be very, very wrong with this picture!

Now those of us who have been in church any length of time have heard this story. We understand that Jesus is referring to salvation and God's grace (unearned favor)– The Lord will save us whenever we say “yes.” It does not matter how, when or where. Age, time, etc., are not factors. The one who received Christ at an early age and served in the church all of his or her life will not receive some higher level of salvation than the one who accepts Christ near the end of their lives – just doesn’t seem fair!

This concept of “fairness” just does not fit well with how the Lord seems to operate. God’s sovereignty over rides our understanding of fairness. The crux of this message, however, flows over into other arenas of our walk with God. The Lord gives each of us assignments. Our job is to complete the work assigned to our hands. When we look across the proverbial class room and see the assignments and apparent “pay” of others, our human frailty may cause our spirit to holler, “Not fair!”

But Jesus asked the workers a simple question, “Is it wrong for me to do what I want with what is mine?” The song writer said, “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thine will, while I am waiting, yielded and still…”

We belong to the Lord. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein,” (Psalm 24:1). As difficult as it may feel at times, may we, by faith, allow the Holy Spirit to keep us focused upon our assignment. Whatever is right, He will pay.

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Until Next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Shepastor: "Rethinking Our Understanding of Destination..."

32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Hebrews 11: 32-40, NIV

The Biblical concept of destination is always greater than one individual. Throughout scripture, we see the interconnectedness of humanity. A person’s life spanned far beyond the length of their individual years. As long as someone in their family line was alive, they were thought to be alive. Blessings and yes, even curses were thought to have been passed down through families. But also, as in our focus scripture, the Bible suggests that “we are made perfect” in connection with one another.

We are passing proverbial batons. At times it feels like our prayers are not being answered. Sometimes it seems like our efforts, our endeavors, our seeds, our attempts to do are in vain. Yet we are reminded that our “destination,” in terms of goals, dreams, prayers etc., are a piece of a puzzle. This was brought home to me recently as our small congregation made the faith leap to sell our church property, take the proceeds and re-envision ministry as the Lord leads us (you can read our testimony by visiting

The pastors of the new congregation who purchased our property invited me to come and greet their congregation during their first worship service in the new space. Joyous, vibrant, full of worship and praise, they gathered in the newly renovated facility. My heart leaped with joy as I experienced their exuberant spirit of worship, engagement and eagerness to serve God in that place and community!

Suddenly, I had an epiphany. For years, I led our congregation in corporate prayers, seeking the Lord’s favor, asking to Lord to cultivate in that place (our former worship location) and within our congregation a vibrant spirit of worship, praise, service and love for Him. Admittedly, our congregation wrestles with a spirit of lethargy and dullness. I found myself frequently asking the Lord, “Can these dry bones live?” This has been a painful reality for me personally as a pastor. Having come from both small and large congregations that were filled with faith, hope, praise, worship, song and service, serving in this environment was foreign to me.
Years of fasting, praying, teaching, preaching, planting, watering etc., at times felt fruitless. But on this Sunday, the Lord reminded me of something…God honored our request to revive worship in that space, but through a different congregation. He used us to prepare the way for them. We now will continue our journey to cultivate a fresh, new ministry, outreach, worship and praise in a new space, a new way, a new community! Together, with us, the Lord accomplished His purposes.

God has given us free will. Ultimately, God’s purposes will prevail. It is dangerous, however, to assume that we are “pre-destined,” to receive what God has in store for us on this side of the Jordan, if we don’t heed the leading of His Holy Spirit. Had our congregation refused to see “the hand writing on the wall,” we would have died, the relationship with the property purchasers may have never been born and mutual blessings now experienced would not have happened.

It’s time for us to re-think our perception of destination. Sometimes what feels like failure or barrenness is really a seed, planted in the soil, preparing to burst through in the spring time of life’s cycle. In the words of another preacher, “burial and planting look very similar.”

Be encouraged. We are connected. Your labor is not in vain. Listen, trust God and obey His Holy Spirit.

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Shepastor: "How Bold Are Your Prayers?"

5Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,6because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’7Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’8I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9“So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened
Luke 11: 5-10, from the New English Translation

The disciples have been observing Jesus’ pattern of prayer. They’ve watched as he slipped away early in the morning to get alone with His Father in heaven. They’ve watched as Jesus prays and miracles happen – blinded eyes are open, the sick become well, the demons shriek and are cast out. They wanted to know what it was about Jesus’ prayers and his prayer life that made him so effective in ministry.

So they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The verses prior to our focus text provide for us one of the most powerful and well known prayers in the Christian Church – often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” or more accurately called, “The Model Prayer.” But after that, Jesus makes his point about the power of bold/persistent prayer even plainer by giving the illustration of the knock at midnight.

In the book entitled, Sister to Sister: Devotions for and from African American Women, Dr. Marcia A. Harris, a gynecologist who practiced in New York, on Manhattan’s East Side wrote the entry, “Determination and Dignity.” Dr. Harris asks the reader to walk through the corridors of her past realities by picturing her struggles as an orphaned West Indian Jamaican girl. She wrote,
“Yes, determination coupled with consummate faith and instilled pride—and underwritten by intense desire has brought me this far. Life has not been easy. The deck was stacked against me early on, as it is and has been for so many of us. The road is not straight. It has many curves and detours and has been unusually long and hard. Even adversity, however, can be used to our advantage, as long as we don’t lose sight of our goals.”
END QUOTE (taken from pages 80-82).

Some years ago, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached the sermon, “A Knock at Midnight.” In it, he asserts that the world is enshrouded by the darkness of midnight through wars, hatred, social injustices, and a famine of ethics and morality. He suggests that hungry humanity knocks at the door of the Church seeking “three loaves of bread: the bread of faith, the bread of hope and the bread of love.”

He goes on to suggest that in order to confront the darkness, the church must do more than roll over in the bed of complacency and comfort, but must open the door wide and feed the soul of hungry humanity.

But in our text for today, Jesus is not referring to God the Father as a “reluctant friend,” but rather is urging his disciples to understand the relationship between bold and persistent prayers and answered prayers. Jesus is saying to them in so many words, “The friend said within himself, ‘Man look, I am in bed, my wife and my children are in bed, it’s after midnight and I ain’t thinking about comin and givin you nothing!” But then the man thought about it and said, (in so many words), if this man is bold enough, crazy enough, persistent enough to come to my house at midnight and ask me for some bread, he must really need it. Let me get up and give him what he needs!

Jesus is suggesting that there is something about bold and persistent faith that gets the attention of God. We see this when the Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant (Luke 7:1-10). He told Jesus that there was no need for Jesus himself to come to his humble home. Just “say the word and my servant will be healed.” The scripture says that Jesus marveled at that man’s faith. We see this with the faith of the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15: 21-28). She came to Jesus and Jesus told her that it was not right to take the children’s food and serve it to the dogs, basically, placing this woman in the category of a dog.

This text has bothered and baffled many over the years, but Jesus was up to something. He knew that this woman would be an example for us today. He knew that this woman would push past even the pain of feeling like she was being treated like a dog…

Look at this woman’s boldness in the face of her pain…
This woman had a need. Her need was so great that it enabled her to drown out all real and perceived negativity. In other words, this woman was so focused that she screened out and ignored any and everything that was going to take her focus off of her goal. Her goal was to have her daughter healed by Jesus. This woman was determined woman. By definition, the term “determined” means, “having one’s mind made up, resolute, unwavering.” This woman was resolute. She had made up her mind and she was unwavering. No matter who said that she couldn’t, she shouldn’t, it wasn’t going to happen, give it up, go back home, don’t show your face – it didn’t matter what anyone said, this woman’s goal was to get to Jesus! But not only that, this woman was persistent! Even when it looked like Jesus was ignoring her, for the scripture declares, “But he answered her not a word…” She just stayed right there. And then when he finally did answer, his initial response was less than consoling. Jesus said, “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman still wouldn’t budge! She didn’t throw up her hands. She didn’t throw in her towel. She didn’t walk away in defeat. She didn’t even get angry, the scripture says that in the face of Jesus’ seeming insensitive response and turn down, the scripture says that she worshiped the Lord, saying help me!”

Sometimes we give up conversing with God too quickly. We get disappointed or our answer doesn’t come packaged the way we want it and we give up. Sometimes, we get weary in our mind and we get side tracked – forgetting what we were even praying for – we lose hope, we lose heart, we loose feeling, we lose direction and ultimately we lose our blessing. But this woman put all that aside. She was determined. She had a goal in mind and that goal was to get to Jesus.

Have you ever felt like God was ignoring you? Have you ever felt like God was allowing you to be treated like a dog? Have you ever had friends and family question the falidity of your christianity because you were struggling up the rough side of the mountain for so long? Let me see if I can’t bring this a little closer to home – have you ever had somebody spread lies about you and have people question your integrity?

Have you ever put your trust in a friend and have them stab you in the back. Have you ever given your all and had somebody trample on your pearls? Have you ever prayed and cried all night long and woke up and the mess was still there?

Oh yes, there are times in our lives when it seems that God has forsaken us. There may be times in our lives, when our enemies wonder why we serve the Lord when deep trouble comes our way – but he never promised that we wouldn’t have trouble – he said, “in this world, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

The gentile woman, had bold and persistent prayers. She was not going to let what looked like insensitivity and meanness turn her away from Jesus. She believed that somehow, the Lord was still good and that He would bless her, therefore she humbled herself and responded, “Yea, Lord, for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table!”

Because of her boldness, because of her persistence to maintain a conversation with God, because of humility and her determination, and yes, because of her praise in the midst of adversity, Jesus looked down at this woman and declared, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee even as thou wilt!”

And the Bible declares that the woman’s daughter was healed immediately. The Bible declares that Jesus granted her petition! God will reward your bold and persistent prayers. God will honor and reward your humility and persistent praise. God will exalt you when you humble yourself before Him.

You may think that what you want is too big. You may think that what you are asking God to do is impossible. You may think that what you desire God to do is too far out of your reach. Let me ask you a question, how bold are your prayers? Are you bold enough to go to God with some crazy prayers and have some crazy faith?

Are you bold enough to ignore the negativity of what folks are saying all around you? Are you bold enough to believe God for what your eyes cannot see? Are you bold and persistent enough to go to God and let God tell you what is and is not for you? You wont’ know unless you ask. You won’t know unless you try. You won’t know unless you trust. And if God doesn’t do that…God will do something else and it will be greater, it will be better, it will bless you in ways that cannot imagine!

God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Keep on trusting, keep on believing, keep on praying, keep on praising, keep on pressing, keep on loving, keep on serving, keep on keeping on and God will lift you up – God will make your crooked places straight, God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory, God will make your rough places smooth, God will carry you through!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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