Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shepastor: “What the Papal Visit Meant to America…Maybe”

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4: 18-19, NIV

Whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or some other religious persuasion, at least for a few days, it appears that our Nation was drawn together by the visit of Pope Francis. Intrigued by his humility amidst “rock star” popularity, his resistance to “royal treatment,” opting rather to mingle among everyday people and his graceful requests for prayer, endeared Americans not only to him, but seemingly to his message.

What was the Pope’s basic message? It was the centuries old message given by Jesus… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27 NIV). Somehow the Pope’s visit made that ancient message relevant and fresh.

Thousands of people gathered to catch a glimpse of this elderly, white robed man whose gentle spirit, sincere engagement and poignant words subdued even the fiercest of objectors. Even one of the most partisan and divided Congresses in recent history sat amicably and respectfully as the Pope delivered his challenges regarding climate change, immigration reform and the sanctity of life (as relates to the death penalty).

Hearts seemingly convicted, tears flowing, blessings given, dreams rising, untouchables touched, the rejected embraced, the impoverished lifted, hardened hearts softened, humility revisited, prosperity re-evaluated, families celebrated, a whirlwind of hope leaving a fragrant trail of visions for a brighter tomorrow.

Will it last? Maybe…maybe in the hearts and minds of those drawn closer to God and challenged to re-evaluate the ruminations of their inner beings.

Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform!

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Shepastor: "Restoring Hope to Our City: A Clarion Call for Women to Pray..."

17Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
18let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.
19For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings.’”
20Hear, O women, the word of the Lord,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a lament,
and each to her neighbor a dirge.
21For death has come up into our windows;
it has entered our palaces,
cutting off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares.
Jeremiah 9: 17-21 English Standard Version

We in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area are in mourning. In addition to the numerous deaths due to gun violence, our hearts have been crushed by the senseless and brutal deaths of a three year old and a five year old…innocent victims of drive by shootings in their own neighborhoods where they were playing amongst friends, sitting with family members…

Today, we ask you to join us in praying SPECIFIC prayers for our city, our nation, our legislators, churches and leaders, our youth, our families. We do not have the answers, however, we believe that prayer is the first step in finding out!

If you are available, today at 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time, please call:
1-712-432-3100, Access code: 527191#
If you are unable to call, still please pray…

A Clarion Call for Women to Pray

Prayers for…

Thanking God for this gathering of the people on the prayer line and listening

The lost to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ

Repentance for apathy


Laying down of guns and violence

Change of hearts to reduce violence

Coming against senseless shooting

Building a hedge around our children

All of the families who have lost children and loved ones to violence

Grandmothers and extended family members caring for children

All of our communities that have suffered violence

The healing of our communities

The people to seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways

Meaningful strategies for intervention

Deliverance drugs, violence and gangs

Human and monetary resources to address all of the above

The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much…

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shepastor: “God Still Has Work For You…”

Psalms 92:14

"They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green”

Recently, I had the privilege of spending several days with a group of about 1,000 energetic, curious, spirit filled “older adults.” I was invited to preach, conduct a workshop and have a book signing. What a blessing to watch older adults come together for their own conference...still engaging in social justice issues, praising God, laughing, singing and discerning what is next on God's agenda for them! I applaud the Church of the Brethren for this concept, the "National Older Adult Conference."

So often as people age, society pushes them to the outskirts. Many find themselves isolated, forgotten or invisible. Sometimes, people will place themselves in those categories, believing that they’ve done all that they can do and now its time to just wait until the Lord calls them “from labor to reward.”

But that concept is not scriptural. From Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Miriam and Caleb, to Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Nicodemas and others, the Lord clearly has a role for older people in the plan of the Kingdom here on earth. Rather than just waiting to die, God would have us use all of our days to bring glory and honor to His name. Clearly, we have seasons in our lives, changes in our physiological capabilities, changes in our pattern of thinking and processing, changes in our financial realities…but God still wants to use what we have and who we are.

The Church must resist the model of “putting people out to pasture,” and instead embrace the wisdom, stories, giftedness, vision and benefits God gives us through the aged. Psalm 92:14 declares,

“They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.”

May our aged recognize that God still has “fruit” for them to yield. May we gladly and with anticipation receive the fruit that God chooses to give us through them!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Shepastor: "How Determined Are You to Rebuild?"

Nehemiah 6:1-16 New International Version (NIV)
Further Opposition to the Rebuilding
6 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages[a] on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem[b] says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” 10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
Opposition to the Completed Wall
16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

“How Determined Are You To Rebuild?”

Rebuilding is not easy. Rebuilding is a challenge. Rebuilding takes perseverance and determination. Rebuilding takes focus. Rebuilding takes courage.

In this passage of scripture, we see Nehemiah being confronted with several challenges…

Continual taunts from the enemy…

Nehemiah had been working now on rebuilding this wall for years. He was leading the exiles in the rebuilding process. He was fighting against taunts from folks who criticized, mocked and threatened his very life. The people he was leading struggled to continue to have faith. They had experienced some level of success, but the work still had not been completed.

Enemies were telling the workers that it was no use. They tried to convince them that the success that they had already experienced was nothing. They made fun of their “wall.” But Nehemiah was undaunted. He refused to listen to their jokes, their lies, their discouraging words. How did he do it? Verse 3 declares…

But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
Nehemiah was convinced that he was doing a GREAT work. In order to remain determined, you must realize that you are carrying on a GREAT work. You must know in the core of your being that what God has called you to do is great. Nothing great is ever easily accomplished. Nothing great ever happens over night. That which is great takes time. That which is great takes hard work. That which is great takes perseverance.

So often we allow the enemy to defeat us and we give up before a great work is accomplished because we ourselves don’t grasp what God is doing. We become so focused upon what we don’t see, what we don’t have, what others are saying that we embrace those discouraging thoughts and attitudes into our way of thinking.

Nehemiah refused to come down. He wouldn’t even engage them. He didn’t listen to them. He refused to stop working. Make up your mind not to even engage in conversations, discussions, even thoughts that go against the work that God has given you to do.

There are those who don’t want to see you succeed. There are those who will do everything in their power to dissuade you, discourage you, make you afraid, try to make you think that your endeavors are an exercise in futility. But you have to have the courage, the discipline and the determination to push past all of that and keep on climbing, keep on moving, keep on building. Misery loves company and sometimes people want you to stay defeated and down because they are defeated and down.

Remember that God is calling you to higher ground. Sometimes defeating and discouraging words will come from unexpected places. Sometimes folks right in your family or your so-called closest friend will speak discouraging words to hold you back. “Are you sure that you can do that? Don’t you think you ought to do something less demanding? You’ve already tried to do that once, why don’t you just give that up. Maybe it’s not God’s will for you.” Sometimes people are afraid to be left behind and yet they have little or no motivation to join the moving forward or rebuilding process, so instead of truly trying to help you move up, they are working to keep you down with them. But God is calling you to rebuild and move on up.

They sent Nehemiah the same message four times! Sanballat, Tobiah and the others used this same tactic before. In chapter four, they told the people 10 times that their work was futile and that they could not do it. They told them over and over that they needed to give up on their vision and stop rebuilding. Some of the people stopped focusing upon what God said, and began to focus upon what the enemy said. They began to focus on the difficulty of the work. They started believing that the work was impossible – listen – they were already halfway done! They had already halfway completed what seemed impossible! They were well on their way! But they began to get tired. They began to look at the rubble. They began to allow fear to consume them. They allowed the enemy’s words to discourage and begin to defeat them.

But Nehemiah was undaunted. He refused to come down. He told them, “I am doing a great work and can’t go down…why should I stop and come down to you?”

Nehemiah was determined to keep moving forward no matter what the enemy was saying.
In this chapter we see Nehemiah time and time again refusing to let the enemy stop him from finishing the work God gave him to do.

The text does not tell us, but no doubt Nehemiah had discouraging days. No doubt he had days when he wondered if he would ever complete the work. But with dogged determination, Nehemiah just kept on building.

He prayed, “Lord, strengthen my hands.” (vs. 9)
When Nehemiah felt himself getting weak, he prayed for the Lord to strengthen his hands. As we move ahead doing a “great work,” there will be times when our “hands,” our resolve, our will becomes weak. The good news is that we can call upon the Lord to strengthen us to continue the endeavor assigned to our hands. God will give us what we need to keep moving ahead.

refused to engage them
refused to come down
knew the voice of God and God’s character

When Nehemiah’s enemies came with false accusations, fear tactics and warnings that the Lord was not leading him, Nehemiah responded…

11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.

Sometimes in the throws of discouragement, we can begin to question our direction. But Nehemiah realized that God had not spoken but it was still tactics of the enemy.
We must stay prayed up. We must keep looking up. We must know God’s character such that we can distinguish false “prophecies” from God’s directives. “I heard the Lord say that you need to stop that and move on to a new thing…I heard the Lord say that you are going in the wrong direction…I heard the Lord say that you need to come and talk to us…”

Nehemiah realized that God did not send them, enemies sent them. Nehemiah also knew that his reputation was on the line.

When you give up on what God has commissioned you to do, you not only ruin your good name, but you allow the enemy to speak against our God. “See, I knew he or she couldn’t do it…see, what kind of God do they serve? He couldn’t deliver on his promises…see look at how they gave up…” Nehemiah understood that his work was a testimony.

Yes, there are times when the Lord says this season or that season has ended and it is time to shift focus. Be sure, however, it is the Lord and not the discouragement of enemies that is causing you to stop. Nehemiah discerned that it was not God speaking, but enemies trying to thwart his progress.

Naysayers will always stand on the sidelines and tell you what you can’t and shouldn’t do. But we have to take our marching orders from the LORD! We have to be discerning and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We have to ask the Lord to lead us in whose help we will accept and have the courage to trust Him, moving ahead even if it appears impossible. God is with us. Rebuild by faith.

Post a comment or send me an email at
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shepastor: "The Domino Effect of Obedience..."

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia
Acts 16: 6-15, NIV
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

The word “obedience” can be an emotionally charged term. For some, it conjures up images of oppression and abuse. For some, it creates thoughts of antiquated theologies imposed upon women and children. But when viewed in the holistic context of listening to and following the instruction of a Holy God, embracing the true meaning of obedience can be freeing and life giving.

In our text for today, what I term the “dominion effect” of obedience is played out. The missionaries Paul, Silas and Timothy exhibit what can happen when, by faith they chose to obey God’s Holy Spirit.

Lessons From this passage, Paul’s Second Missionary Journey:

There are several things that we can draw from this passage of scripture regarding the dominion effect of obedience:

What you want to do may be a good thing, but it may not be the “God directed” thing.
Paul had planned to visit some congregations that had already been established to see how they were doing and to encourage them. However, the Lord had some new people He wanted them to reach. There was nothing inherently wrong with what Paul wanted to do. It just was not what the Lord had directed at that time.

Sometimes we have “good” things planned. The plans are not sinful, unethical, ungodly etc. However, it’s not “God’s plan” at the time. When we ignore the Spirit’s prodding to go in a different direction, not only do we miss out on what God has in store, we negatively impact the domino effect of God’s plans regarding others.

Obey the Holy Spirit when He speaks…
Because they listened and followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, an entire colony or region came to know the Lord. When the Lord speaks, His words and directives are not only for us, but ultimately for the many others He plans to reach and bless through us.

God can and will tell you where to go...
Although Paul desired to do a good thing and go to other regions, the “Holy Spirit” forbade or stopped him. The Lord spoke to him in a vision and told him to go over to Macedonia. The Lord can use supernatural means as well as human means to lead people to specific places. Be open to hearing God speak in a variety of ways…God’s Word, in dreams and visions, through other people, through situations and circumstances. When you spend time with God in prayer, in the study of God’s Word and among the people of God, your “hearing” and discernment will be sharpened. Your heart will hear God when God speaks through any means. Listen and obey.

God has specific people in specific areas that He has specifically appointed for you to reach…
Paul and the other missionaries did not know it, but the Lord had Lydia “prepped and ready” to receive their message. Lydia was a woman of means…a “seller of purple…” a very costly and precious linen at that time. God would use her, no doubt to help further the Gospel using her testimony, gifts and monetary resources. Lydia also had a heart for hospitality. She compelled the disciples to come into her home and lodge there while they did the work of the Lord in that region.

When we obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, He opens up means, ways, opportunities, resources and provisions that we would miss. Blessings are stationed along the path of obedience!

“The Lord” will “open their heart” to your message...
Sometimes we don’t want to listen and obey the Holy Spirit…going where He says go and carrying the message He says to carry because we are afraid of rejection. In this passage, we see that when we move forward as the Holy Spirit leads, there will be those whose hearts have been “opened by the Lord” to receive our message. Yes, some will have hard hearts. Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Jesus all experienced rejection. But our responsibility is to bring the message that God sends. Let the Lord take care of the rest. He has opened the hearts of others and the seed will flourish in that good soil

Worshiping God opens our hearts to his voice and His messages...
The scripture says that Lydia was a “worshiper of God.” (vs. 14) Worshipping God made her receptive to God’s promptings…God “opened her heart.” When we take time to worship God…adore Him for who He is, His beauty, sovereignty, power, greatness, “very Godness,” His mercy, grace, love, etc., our hearts are cultivated to please God, hear God, love God and serve God.

Open hearts share their excitement with others and they themselves want to hear more...
Lydia not only received the message, but shared the message wither her household and they were all baptized. She also saw the missionaries’ need and offered her resources to bless them as they continued to spread the word. Open hearts desire to serve.

Are you willing to abandon your “good plans” and obey the Holy Spirit’s voice? Has the Lord called you to help in some “Macedonia” and you are refusing? Does your worship lead to an open heart…a heart that desires to testify about God’s goodness and win lost souls to Christ? Does your worship lead you to a place of giving and service? When you see a need, are you open to use what you can to help? How excited are you about the Gospel?

We are dominos. When we listen and obey God’s Holy Spirit, our lives will ultimately win others to Christ and so on and so on and so on. May we resolve to obey the Lord in our daily living.

Post a comment or send me an email at

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