Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shepastor: “Learn to Respect the Power of Love”

25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17: 25-26, NRSV

On the worst day of your life, faced with betrayal, abandonment, a “rigged” trial and certain death, can you imagine praying for God to fill you and your lukewarm “friends” with love? That’s exactly what Jesus did as he prepared Himself through prayer for trial and ultimate crucifixion.

What kind of love is this? Certainly it was not the “willy-nilly” on today off today stuff we observe on television, read about in novels and dream about as young people. This love stretches beyond the erotic or even brotherly love. What Jesus was praying for and exhibiting was “tough love.” Jesus was praying for his disciples and those who would accept Him through their testimony. His prayer… “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Jesus wanted “God’s love” to be in us…a love that is
-All powerful…
Jesus told the disciples earlier that the world would know that they are His followers because of their love (John 13:35). What kind of love is this? This “God love” is a love that looks at life, people, situations and circumstances through eternal eyes…a love that looks beyond the hurt, pain and disappointments of the present moment to a place and time when “the more excellent way,” prevails.

This love, through the power of Christ in us, through the precious Holy Spirit changes our perspective, changes our outlook, changes our reactions from brute retaliation to prayerful, measured, strategic responses. It’s not easy to turn the other cheek. It’s not easy to show unconditional love to those who have hurt and rejected you. It’s tough because this kind of love requires you to look beyond a person’s faults and see their needs. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to go into deep introspection and earnest prayer. It’s tough because this kind of love causes you to have to sacrifice your right to tell the person off, to get in the next best lick, to fight with all your human power and strength. It’s tough because it says release the person to God and truly ask the Lord to have mercy upon them.

God love is tough. God love is difficult. I believe that this love is so difficult because we inherently desire justice for the misdeeds of others but mercy for ourselves. We desire justice because we are made in the image of God and God is a just God, but we desire mercy for ourselves because justice requires a heavy price. As we embrace this kind of love, we are reminded of how far we fall short, yet a loving God took us in, forgave us and made us joint heirs with his son Jesus.

When we begin to understand Jesus’ prayer, that God’s love would be in us, we will develop a respect for the power of this love. We will begin to see that love is stronger than hate. We will begin to see how the decision to love will always, ultimately cause us to triumph over the devices of division. Yes, “God love” is tough, but it is powerful and potent. May Jesus’ prayer, that “God love” would be in us, be answered with a resounding “Yes!!!” in our hearts today.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shepastor: "Confessions of a Small Church Pastor: Re-Imagining Ministry..."

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Ezekiel 37: 1-3, KJV

“Bright eyed and bushy tailed…,” ready, willing and able, called, credentialed, appointed, anointed, equipped! This is how I entered “the gates” of my first pastoral ministry assignment… full of vision, hopes, energy and dreams. But then, reality set in. Initial excitement, enthusiasm and growth quickly turned into frustration, disappointment, deterioration and yes, depression. Dare I be honest? Pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart!

Many a day, I found myself feeling like Ezekiel, walking back and forth in the midst of a “valley of very dry bones.” Like Ezekiel, I could almost hear the Lord asking me, “Chris, can these bones live?” And like Ezekiel, I have frequently responded, “Lord, thou knowest,” (because I sure don’t!!!!) I can honestly say, however, that through all of the trials and pain, serving in the midst of dryness, God always assured my heart that I was in fact called to this place, that God would remain with me, and that God would eventually breathe life into my situation.

I would love to say that suddenly, 5,000 members joined the church, someone left us a major donation, ministries are thriving and we are now building a stunning new facility…NOT!!! That has not happened. In fact, after 10 years of ministry, it’s as if we are literally starting all over again with a few shy of the numbers we had when I first started…all new people except one elder. God has pulled me into a place where I have had to “re-imagine” ministry.

All of my life I grew and served in churches that were multigenerational. I watched as people faithfully volunteered, attended, worship, prayer meeting, Bible study, Sunday School, youth groups, usher board meetings, had “Men’s Day and Women’s Day,” missionary circles, single’s ministries etc. And, to God be the glory, some churches are still large enough to successfully carry on these services and more. Smaller churches, however, frequently lack the human and or financial resources and the will to do many or most of these things. Also, many in today’s society view “ministry” differently. Many would rather “live-stream” services at home and then go volunteer at the local homeless shelter once a month, seeing that as their “humanitarian deed” for the world.

Coming to terms with these differences have been life altering for me and my family. I found myself trying for years to “grow” and mold our small church into the aforementioned paradigm. It has not worked. As I sunk deeper and deeper into discouragement, I kept receiving the message, “Be still and know that I am God.” My prayer became, “Lord, show me what ‘being still’ looks like in this season/phase of ministry.” Something happened…out of the many individuals who have been invited, visited once or twice and that was it, the Lord sent one new individual who has continued to come. Someone filled with enthusiasm, giftedness and commitment to the work of the ministry.

This gentleman has not “joined” the church, but continues to come faithfully, support financially and has committed to help lead a major initiative to mentor and teach young men in our community. I have been praying for this “new life,” for this ministry, literally for years. I can see green buds beginning to push their way through the dry rocky soil that has been our existence now for some time. My perspective, my view, my “imagining” ministry through this congregation now reflects a more collaborative effort with outside individuals, agencies and networks to carry on the work of the Kingdom.
While I am still holding out hope that our “Sunday go to meeting/Sunday only” members will somehow catch on fire and become more engaged in Kingdom building, I am encouraged to see the Lord moving forward with this one…sometimes, one “match” is all you need to kindle a fire.

Several new initiatives are being birthed during this “still season.” Opportunities are increasing for us to connect with various community entities to support, serve and address critical needs in our area. New life does not currently look like I thought it would. But God knows best how to resurrect dry bones.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Shepastor: "Whatever Happened to Discretion?"

New International Version
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:11
New Living Translation
Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe, Proverbs 2:11

Growing up, my Dad would always say, “Discretion is the better part of valour.” It seems that today, discretion, self-control and wise choices have become the exception and not the rule. What is happening in our society?

It seems that people have become less concerned about their words, their actions, their behaviors. With the onset of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Text Messages, Instagram, etc.,) people appear “freer” to say things that they would not say in person, type and send messages at the spur of the moment without careful consideration.

It appears that a “bar” has been lowered.
Public figures…individuals that we once taught our children to respect, admire and esteem are now engaging in “school yard bullying” so to speak against one another. Beautiful love songs that once inspired candle light dinners, walks in the park and wedding bells have now become illicit, foul and pornographic.

It is challenging to find beautiful evening wear…dresses that are not “mini,” necklines that are not plunged to the belly, material that is not shear, items that are not meant to fit “skin tight.” Pants are “sagging,” hair is all over the place, hats are no longer removed (men) and those who challenge such trends are considered out of touch with the times.

But in my estimation, there is still something beautiful about discretion. Discretion will keep you…discretion will help you to be wise…discretion will prevent you from putting your foot in your mouth! Discretion will prompt your heart to be concerned about how you impact “the space.” Discretion will show forth your character. Discretion will set you apart from the insensitive, improper, inappropriate, foolish trends of this day.

Discretion will help you to exemplify what is meaningful, beautiful and filled with light.

May we strive to walk in Godly discretion.

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Shepastor: "What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do..."

13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’”
2 Chronicles 20:13-17 New International Version (NIV)

Have you ever been stumped by life? Have there ever been situations and circumstances that so puzzled you, baffled you, befuddled you, confused you, caused you great angst and fear, CONSUMED YOU that you did not know what in the world to do? Have you ever felt that the force that was coming against you in whatever form was so formidable that escape or victory seemed impossible?

This was the case for Judah and their king, Jehoshaphat in our text. Enemies with heavy artillery, man power and great zeal were coming to destroy them…King Jehoshaphat received word that not one, not two, but THREE armies were on their way to annihilate he and his people. To make things worse, these were nations that Judah had spared at the Lord’s direction, during a time when they could have utterly destroyed and conquered their lands. Dismayed, petrified and stumped all at once! Jehoshaphat, however, moved with wisdom in facing this dilemma…

In verses 10-12, the King spoke these words in prayer to the Lord…
10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them.11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (II Chronicles 20: 10-12, NIV)
There are several lessons we can glean from the king’s response:

(1) Tell the Lord specifically about the problem, confess your dependence on the Lord and remain focused upon the Lord for the answer…Jehoshaphat was completely out done that nations to whom he had been merciful were now seeking to destroy him. They “ganged up” on him, so to speak! Possibly you can relate to this king…you’ve shown grace, mercy and peace, but in return you’ve received hostility and concerted efforts to bring you down. Like Jehoshaphat, boldly tell the Lord…be specific. Although God already knows, expressing your hurt, disappointment and fear to the Lord can help to relieve your levels of anxiety. Speaking your dependence upon the Lord reminds you that you are relying upon God and not human devices to bring you out. Remaining focused upon the Lord and not your enemies, not your fears, not your circumstances will give you the strength to continue to move forward and not lose heart

(2) Get serious about seeking God’s answer… Read chapter 20 in its entirety. Throughout, you will discover Jehoshaphat’s responses to this major threat. In addition to personally going to the Lord, he gathered the people together and called for specific, strategic prayer and fasting. When you truly become desperate for God’s answer, you will turn down your plate in exchange for God’s face! Go before the Lord will ALL of your heart. Call others together to pray with you, fast with you, cry out to God with you. Place your ear to the mouth of God through determined, focused, specific prayer. God will answer and lead you in the right direction.

(3) By Faith, begin to worship, praise and thank the Lord for victory… God spoke to Jehoshaphat through the prophets and told him that the battle belonged to the Lord. Jehoshaphat received that message, believed that God would indeed fight his battles, shared that message with the people and instructed them to have faith, and to begin to worship, praise and thank God. They praised God for His holy splendor, they thanked God for his steadfast love that endures forever. As they worshiped, as they praised, as they lifted their voices in song, as they blessed the name of the Lord and thanked God for His love that endures forever, God caused their enemies to begin to turn on one another, ultimately destroying one another (II Chronicles 20: 22-23). In the midst of our battles, God wants us to turn to Him with our whole heart, look to Him for our victory, and praise Him in advance for our deliverance, remembering that He loves us with an everlasting love.

When we are afraid, it is difficult to believe, but believe anyway. Stand on God’s Word. Stand on God’s promises. Stand on God’s love. Determine to keep your faith. Trust, listen to and obey God’s voice and God will cause you to triumph over every enemy that seeks to bring you down. God is faithful and He will do it!

Post a comment or send me an email at

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