Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Shepastor: "What is Making You Wither?"

A Man with a Withered Hand
9He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Matthew 12: 9-14

When something is “withered,” it means that it is shrunken, bent over, life drained out, in need of shelter, water, propping up. In the context of this passage, the man had a “withered” hand. If was probably shorter than the other, drawn in, no strength, deformed.

Some years ago I heard a minister on the radio say that one of his favorite signs was posted near an interstate highway. It was a sign from a church parking lot which read, “Church Parking Lot for Members and Church Visitors Only! All violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Law! Signed the Sisters of Mercy!”

Some where along the line, the “Sisters of Mercy” forgot the meaning of their name. Instead of looking for ways to show mercy, even to those who may have violated their rules, they were laying down the gauntlet, so to speak and in the process, undermining their very ministry. So often the Church misses opportunities to reach people in practical ways because we are too busy following the letter instead of the Spirit. So often we miss those who are withered.

The Pharisees had that problem. They were not concerned about really keeping God’s Word, they were concerned about themselves. They were not concerned about what it means to have true Sabbath rest. They did not care about the hungry or the withered.

Here was a man broken, “withered,” humiliated, no doubt desiring to be healed. Yet the religious leaders were more concerned that Jesus was breaking what they viewed as “the rules of the Sabbath.” Obviously, they did not understand the meaning of Sabbath. Jesus was healing the sick. Jesus was encouraging the discouraged, Jesus was saving the lost – but the Pharisees were not concerned about any of that. They didn’t like Jesus. Jesus was taking too much attention away from them. Jesus was exposing their hypocrisy. Jesus was getting in the way of their program so they wanted to get rid of him.

When Jesus healed the man with the withered or deformed hand, the Pharisees accused him by saying that healing was working on the Sabbath.
But how often have we behaved like the Pharisees? How often have we been more concerned about processes, positions, traditions or our own perspective while neglecting the withered? While we are fuming, while we are complaining, while we are thinking of the best way to tell whoever off, satan is laughing because he knows that we are missing the true meaning of Sabbath.

The true meaning of Sabbath is to loose the bonds and the shackles of those who are imprisoned by sin, imprisoned by hurt, imprisoned by shame, imprisoned by bondage to death. God wants us to look for opportunities to set the captives free. God wants us to be sensitive to whomever He sends into our midst. Every opportunity we meet someone, it is an opportunity to witness with our lives.

Sometimes we are not looking for ways to heal others because we ourselves are withered. Many are withered with hostility, withered with fear, withered with hurt, withered with pinned up frustration…withered. When you are withered, you don’t have the strength to even lift up your head – or so you might think. But Jesus told the man with the withered hand to “stretch out your hand.” The man didn’t make excuses as to why he couldn’t do it. When the Master spoke, he believed and obeyed.

Sometimes we remain in a withered state because when the Master speaks and tells us to “stretch out…” move forward, let go, change your ways, your mind, your attitude, your behaviors, your thought patterns, we say, “I can’t do that! I’m withered!!!” Sometimes the oppression of Pharisees has us withered. Sometimes we listen more to the “nay sayers,” thank to the Master.

What if this man would have said, “Jesus, it’s not permissible for you to heal me today…it’s the Sabbath!” We would say, “Man, you are a fool!” But we, in essence do just that when we take the words of others over and above the words of the Master. When we allow the negativity of others, the mean spirited comments or doubts of others, the man made restrictions of others to stop us from stretching out, we are saying, “Master, I can’t accept your offer because of this or that.”

The Lord wants to heal your withered mind, your withered heart, your withered spirit. At times we are withered and don’t even know it…withered, hungry for love…withered, hungry for acceptance…withered, hungry for encouragement…withered, angry, frustrated and discontent…At times we are withered and don’t even know it.

When we are consumed by feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviors that press us down, draw us in, weaken our reach, we are withered. We can, however, like the man in the text “stretch out” and receive healing from the Master. As the Lord speaks, as He calls, “stretch out….” We must listen and by faith reach for his hand.

Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." A literal “yoke” is an apparatus that is placed on animals to bind them together and attach them to their load – like a “yoke of oxen”. In figurative New Testament usage, a "yoke" is a burden one is called on to bear. Jesus says, his “burden” is light. In other words, what God is calling us not only stretch out for our own healing, but to recognize others who are withered and show them the light “yoke” of connecting with Jesus.

The Lord wants us as the Church to help lift burdens, not make them heavier. The Lord wants us to help people to “stretch out.” The Lord wants us to pour the living water of God’s Word upon withered lives. The Lord wants us to help provide shelter from the scorching heat of a mean, cruel and sinful world. The Lord wants us to challenge those who find themselves in a withered state, a stymied state, a lack of growth state to stretch out!

What is making you wither? What has the Lord called you to stretch out and do yet you are remaining withered. Who has the Lord called you to help to come out of a withered state?

Stretch out by faith. Stretch out with hope. Stretch out with trust. Stretch out with love – the Lord is able to make you whole.

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shepastor: “Yet They Walked…”

Hebrews 12The Message (MSG)
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race

12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Recently, my husband and I had to take a driving trip “down south” to attend a family memorial service. Our geographical location requires us to cross the Ohio River, the commonly referred to demarcation between the North and the South. Each time we make the trip…coming and going, I reflect upon our tortured history in America.

As an African American woman, I can’t help but think about the impact of slavery upon our lives…then and now. Crossing that river in a car draws me into a place where I think about the men, women, boys and girls who didn’t drive, but WALKED literally thousands of miles to get to the North. They knew not their future...going who knows where to escape the horrific realities of plantations, kidnappings, lynchings, beatings, degradation, humiliation… inhumane conditions.

Fleeing on foot…hiding in bushes, muffling children’s cries…soaking in water to hide their scent from vicious dogs all in hopes of freedom. Praying, searching, crying, hurting, looking for relief…trusting in the whispers of others who found solace in the homes of godly men and women along the Underground Railroad who risked life and limb to provide food, shelter, protection to run- away slaves.

Yet, they walked…thousands of miles to cross that river. Yet they walked…looking for another city…yet they walked, uncertain of the future but so happy to leave that pain in the past…they walked, and walked and walked towards freedom. Broken digits, mangled limbs, aching feet, cramping uteruses, filthy, sweaty bodies, hungry stomachs, thirsty tongues, praying minds, determined spirits…they walked.

When we are tempted to give up, may we remember they walked…when we are struggling and in pain, may we remember they walked…when we are thinking of complaining, may we remember they walked. They are part of that great cloud of witnesses. In our hearts, in our deliberations, in our struggles for what is good and right and holy, may we remember their walk…let freedom ring!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Shepastor: "Time..."

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12, KJV

Time is a funny thing…when we are young, it seems like “time” will not pass fast enough. We want to wear certain clothes, drive a car, go out on a date, get a place, get married, have kids, etc. Oh but when we are old, “time,” seems to go so fast! Once you hit 40, it feels like the days fly by. Time is a funny thing…when you are having a good time, time flies…when you are having a hard time, time seems to crawl like a snail. As one song writer said, “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do when you find them…”

The picture above (compliments of friend and photographer/artist, Mrs. Kathy Mead Skerritt) shows a marker affixed to a huge tree in England. It states, “This tree was planted by Queen Victoria about the year 1825.” The Queen would never know how many people from all over the world would come hundreds of years later to gain inspiration, hope, comfort and shade from her tree! Only time revealed its majesty.

The Bible says many things about time…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-1 - To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…

2 Peter 3:8 - But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

James 4:13-15 - 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow 8we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? rIt is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, s“If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Mark 13:32 - But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Psalms 31:15 - My times [are] in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

Psalms 90:4 - For a thousand years in thy sight [are but] as yesterday when it is past, and [as] a watch in the night.

Ephesians 5:16 - Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Time is marching on…time waits for no one. Time is a precious commodity.

It takes time for God’s purposes to unfold. The majesty and beauty of a tree is within a small seed, planted down deep in the earth. All that the tree shall be is wrapped up in that small seed. It takes time, however, for that beauty and glory to be made manifest on the earth. So too, “it doth not yet appear what we shall be…” Sometimes we resist planting seeds because we get frustrated waiting upon results. But the Lord has given us “seeds” to plant…seeds of knowledge…seeds of mentorship (speaking words of wisdom, hope, love, encouragement to others)…seeds of forgiveness – even among those who refuse to repent, change, etc…seeds of ministry…seeds of dreams…SEEDS!

If we are wise, we will ask the Lord to “teach us to number our days…” Life is truly a vapor. Be willing to plant shade trees under which you may never sit. By faith, sow the seeds that the Lord has given you. Trust God to give the increase. You too will reap a harvest “in this life and the next.”

Post a comment or send me an email

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shepastor: “No One Takes My Life, I Give it Willingly…”

18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” John 10: 18, NLT

One of the most challenging things to do is to “hold back” when offences are made deliberately. At times people will say and do things just to see how you as a follower of Christ will react. While we are “free indeed,” as people of God, we are called to consider others before ourselves. Of course this is counter cultural and counter intuitive but the love of Christ in us, “constrains us.” If we are honest, at times we become weary of “turning the other cheek.” If we are honest, there are times when we don’t feel like “taking the high road.” At times, we just don’t feel like “being the bigger person.” There are days when we want to just tell folks where to go, how to get there and add, “Don’t come back!!!”

In addition to all of that, the strength, courage and energy it takes to maintain a character of humility and obedience to the Spirit of Christ can leave us feeling un/under -appreciated, bruised and foolish. The enemy of our souls whispers, “How can you allow them to treat you like that? You should tell them off! Tell them who you are! Curse them out! Kick their…!”

I am in no way suggesting that a person should remain in unhealthy, unsafe and abusive situations. I am, however, speaking about more subtle experiences that happen through interpersonal relationships. Whether working in the church, the school, the community, in the home, or just with other people in general, we are called to exemplify a measure of self-control, humility and grace that is not always readily apparent – sometimes even among our own!
Jesus’ words, however, spoken within the context of describing “the Good Shepherd,” can be empowering. He declared, 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” John 10: 18, NLT

When we choose to represent Christ through love, peace, grace and humility, even in the face of rude, insensitive and even ugly behavior, we are, in a sense, “laying down our lives.” In other words, when we choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to reflect the life and love of Christ in the face of fleshly, and ugly behaviors, we glorify God and ultimately teach people the more excellent way. Satan will try to batter our psyche with taunts that we are weak…not respected…a door mat etc. But in fact the opposite is true.

About a year ago, I was publicly “talked down to” by another pastor during a clergy meeting. I respectfully raised a question that he felt I had no right to ask. He began to berate me and talk over me. It was stunning, hurtful and uncalled for. By the grace of God, I chose to calmly finish my remarks and remain seated. I stayed until the meeting was over. It really, really bothered me (and yes, I tried to speak with him after the meeting to calmly discuss the matter, to no avail!).

Later, I understood that others at the meeting confronted him about his behavior and he has since acted slightly more respectful towards me! But the real blessing came about a year later. A community leader who attended that meeting came to me and said, “I did not know who you were, but I was so impressed with how gracefully you handled the ugliness of that person’s words toward you. I knew then that I wanted to get to know you better. You are such an example!” I was shocked! I had no idea that anyone even noticed my response to the situation.

Jesus’ words are empowering. When negative thoughts seek to invade our hearts and rob us of our peace, telling us that we are “wimps” for not meeting “fire with fire,” we can remind ourselves, No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.

No, no…we are not wimps, or doormats, or weak…we are obedient servants of the Most High God! We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. We are blessed and highly favored. May our will be only to please God and in turn, bless, heal and teach others.

Singer/Song Writer, Damaris Carbaugh captures the sentiment of this message in her song, Willingly. Listen to this powerful message in song by clicking on the link below…


Post a comment or send me an email to

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Shepastor: "Wading Through Deep Waters..."

42:1 As the deer panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? 4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. 7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. 8 Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. 9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalm 42: 1-11

Text: Psalm 42: 1-11, Focus verses: 5 and 11

Within the five books of Psalms there are several categories of Psalms – there are Thanksgiving Psalms, Praise and Adoration Psalms, Royal Psalms, but then there are Psalms of Lament or in other words, Psalms of great distress and complaint. Interestingly, there are more Lament Psalms, that is Psalms where the writer was complaining or crying out to God about a distressful condition – more than any other type of Psalm. There are approximately forty Psalms classified as Laments.

Our focus text for today is one of those Psalms – a Lament Psalm. In the 42nd Psalm, the writer begins by saying that his soul is longing for God. For some reason, the Psalmist feels like he is estranged from God or in other words, he seems to feel that God is far away from him. He longs to be in God’s presence and to once again go with his fellow worshipers to the temple where he can rejoice and praise God once more.

But something is keeping him from the presence of God. One commentator suggested that some sort of sickness was preventing him from accompanying his friends to the temple. But what ever the problem is – he feels separated from God. But then, it’s almost as if he catches himself and says, “Self, wait a minute, don’t keep going down this tormenting road…” He talks to himself and comes up with an answer based upon his trust in God.

When considering the Psalms of Lament, biblical scholars suggest that there are at least five elements that appear to be characteristic of this type of Psalm:

First, there is an invocation where the psalmist addresses God or calls upon God to hear his prayer, something like, “O Lord, my God, I call for help by day and I cry out in the night before thee.”

Second, there is the Lament, where the psalmist personally lays his grievance or complaint before the Lord a complaint against something, someone or distress brought on by something they themselves have done or even God Himself.

Thirdly, there is an expression of confidence and trust. Here the psalmist is able to express his deepest despair because he is confident of God’s dependable presence and actions oh his behalf. In many of the laments of personal distress, the Psalmist expresses his confidence and trust with phrases that begin with, “The Lord is,” “because of,” “but I have trusted in,” “I put my hope in,” and “I have complete confidence, O God.”

Fourthly, accompanying each lament is a corresponding petition that asks God to do something. Knowing of God’s past actions and having trust in God’s presence, the Psalmist is quite confident in God’s power and authority to act in response to his distress. The request is usually very direct, using such words as hear, turn, restore, protect, come.

Fifthly and Finally, the psalm often ends with an Expression of praise or vow to praise. In other words, often the psalm will end with the psalmist expressing praise or promising praise in response to who God is and what God has done.

I found the last point particularly interesting because the commentators say that this final element, the element of praise or a vow to praise is the one element that is missing in many of the individual psalms of lament.

In other words, many of the psalmists were not able to reach that final stage where they transitioned into praise or a promise to praise God for who He is, all that He has done and all that He is going to do. But somehow, the writer of the 42nd Psalm was able to make that transition from the valley of despair, from feelings of loneliness and alienation, from separation from the God He loves and serves, to the mountain of I WILL PRAISE YOU!

As I considered the psalmist’s major leap of faith, I pondered, what caused this psalmist to be able to make that transition? For surely, his pain was at least as great, if not greater than the other psalmist. What made the difference for the writer of the 42nd Psalm? We read of his struggles when he proclaimed, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?"

We can imagine his pain as he declared, "My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?"

We can identify with the writer of the 42nd Psalm when he declared, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”

Deep calleth unto deep….Personal pain and toil, deep calleth unto deep…the killing of nine innocent people due to hatred, racism and mental illness, deep calleth unto deep…random killings, burnings, beatings across the Nation, deep calleth unto deep, child sex trafficking, deep calleth unto deep, depression, poverty, overwhelming grief and distress…not knowing where to turn, folks in the church saying, “Oh, it’ll be all right” doing nothing to address gaping wounds, deep calleth unto deep… Just when you thought that things were about to get better it looks like your whole world is falling down …DEEP CALLETH UNTO DEEP!”

Have you ever felt like the psalmist? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t take one more thing? Have you ever felt like the waters of life were getting so deep that you didn’t know how much longer you could go through?

Have you ever felt like the Psalmist? I have. I remember just a few years back, on a Tuesday, my father had to have emergency surgery, on Wednesday, of the same week my mother had to have surgery, on Thursday of the same week, my mother-in-law, my husband’s mother had an aneurysm and on Friday of the same week she died. Deep calleth unto deep!

As we went through that week, I remember feeling almost numb. It felt like a whirlwind, like we were spinning round and around wondering what was going to happen next. Deep calleth unto deep. But then I remembered the words of the Psalmist who didn’t stop at the level of anguish and despair. The Psalmist gave us a much needed example of how to get to the next level, how to have a spiritual break thru.

The Psalmist stopped himself, looked at his problem, looked at himself, and then started looking at God. If you remember, there are 5 elements to a psalm of lament – the invocation, the lament, expression of confidence and trust, petition/supplication and an expression of praise or a vow to praise.

The psalmist reached back to element number three – which is an expression of confidence and trust. Phrases used in this element include, “the Lord is… because of…but I have trusted in…I put my hope in… and I have complete confidence, O God…."

I believe the Psalmist looked above his circumstances and declared, “because the Lord is good, because of who God is, because of all that he has done for me, because his mercies are new every morning, because I know my redeemer liveth, because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, because I have seen the Lord move on the behalf of others and also myself, I have put all my trust in the Lord and I have complete confidence in my God.”

The psalmist began to question himself saying, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”

He said, "I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance…"In other words, when the Psalmist took a look at God, the creator, God, the giver and the sustainer of life, God, the Lord God almighty who hung the moon and the stars in the sky he praised God for the help us his countenance. What is the countenance? The term “countenance” means the look on a person’s face that shows one’s nature or feelings. We know that God is not a person but a spirit - and none of us living have seen the face of God, but by the reading of His word and the experiences of our lives, we know and understand the nature of God.

The personality of God – the way of God. God is a healer – he is a deliverer – he is a way maker – he is the source of our joy and our strength – God is all powerful – He is all knowing – He is everywhere and can do anything – God’s countenance – God’s nature.

So when I consider these things – the countenance or the nature of God I can’t help but get encouragement! When I look at God and understand like the song writer declared “How Great thou Art” I can’t help but put my circumstances in perspective. In other words when I look at my problems matched up against God’s power then I understand that nothing is too hard for our Great and awesome God. As one contemporary song writer put it – “God is an awesome wonder!”

God’s countenance… his appearance, God’s countenance… his splendor, God’s countenance… his glory…God’s countenance… his awesomeness.. God’s countenance… his beauty… God’s countenance… His omnipotence, his omniscience, his omnipresence.. God’s countenance…The psalmist said that God’s countenance helped him. Therefore, he praised God for the help he got from looking at God!

But the psalmist didn’t stop there. He went on to say that he praised God not only because he was helped by looking at God’s countenance, but in verse 11 the psalmist said, “I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God.”

In other words, the psalmist was saying not only did he gain help, strength, reassurance and a new perspective from looking at God instead of focusing on his circumstances, but that God is also the health of his own countenance. Therefore, he asks himself, “Self, why are you cast down – hope in God…” Take your eyes off of the storm and hope in God. Take your eyes off of the problem and hope in God… Cast all your burdens upon the Lord and hope in God… hope in God who has the whole world in his hand… hope in God who as another psalmist declared, “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the mourning…” Hope in God who said that if this earthly tabernacle should be destroyed, we’ve got another building not made with hands whose builder and maker is God… hope in God who through the writer of Hebrews declared, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Hope in God who through his son declared, lo, I am with you always even until the end of the world.

And when we like the psalmist take our eyes off of the struggle, we can then join in with the Psalmist and declare, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”

If you want a healthy countenance take your eyes off of the struggle and look at God! If you want a healing in your mind and in your spirit – take your eyes off of the problems, the people and the circumstances and look at God! If you want to know how to wade through deep waters, look at God…look at his countenance, remember his nature, remember his love, remember his faithfulness…God’s countenance will give you a healthy countenance!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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