Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Shepastor: "Are You Hiding From the Enemy?"

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12, NIV

Last week Shepastor focused upon God's direction to Gideon, "Go in the strength that you have." Today we'll consider Gideon's experience of"threshing wheat in the wine press..."

Gideon and his household were bearing the brunt of things that happened long before he was born. But what Gideon didn’t realize was that God was going to use him to break the cycle of the curses and bring about healing and deliverance. When the angel of the Lord called Gideon a “mighty warrior,” and told him that God would use him to deliver Israel from the hand of the enemy, Gideon immediately began to list all of the reasons why this couldn’t possibly be true…

My family is weak
I am the weakest of all!!!

According to the text, Gideon was hiding in a wine press, "threshing wheat."

At the time that the Lord appeared to him, Gideon was camouflaging his process of threshing wheat. Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of grain (or other crop) from the husks and straw to which it is attached. He was hiding as he worked to get the wheat off of the stalk because the Midianites were stealing all of their food, leaving many to starve. As Gideon was going about the business of trying to secure some food for his family, feeling depressed, feeling like nothing, feeling like all hope was lost, suddenly, the Lord appeared in the form of an Angel and called him a "mighty warrior!"

Gideon certainly must have said to himself, "Are you kidding me???" Don't you see me hiding from the enemy, trying to get Something good out of a bad situation...

Sometimes it feels like the enemy has taken so much that we go into hiding...trying to separate what we can use from what we need to throw away. We go into hiding, into our psychological “threshing floor…” trying to pull some good out of all of the bad things that have happened to us.

We go into hiding in our hearts, in our minds, in our spirits because we don't want others to know that we are struggling, that we are depressed, that we are worried, that we are broken. We wear the "mask" to camouflage the pain, the disappointment, the fear that others will see our perceived weakness. We go into hiding because we've already lost so much... the enemy has stripped us of so much that we are just trying to hold onto what little we feel we have left…our dignity, our self respect, our self worth, our mind!!! So we go down to the threshing floor trying to pull something good, anything good from the mess that we are in.

But God wants you to know that He sees you, He's coming for you, He’s got you, He's got a word for you… you are not weak, you are not defeated, you are not pitiful, you are not sorry…NO! You are a MIGHTY WARRIOR!!!

God wants you to know that God is not only going to deliver you, but God is going to use you to deliver others…your family, your children, your community…GREATER IS COMING!!!

Are you hiding from the enemy, fearful of being stripped of what little you believe you have left? The Lord is saying, It's time to rise from your threshing floor! Stop hiding! Stop calling yourself by the names given by the enemy!" Instead, call yourself by the name I call you, "Mighty Warrior!!!"

Come out of the winepress...come up from the threshing floor! MIGHTY WARRIOR, God is going to defeat the enemy and use you in the process!

Get ready...GREATER IS COMING!!!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Shepastor: "Go In The Strength That You Have..."

11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Judges 6: 11-16, NIV

“If the Lord is with me, why have all of these things happened?” That was the question that Gideon asked the angel. Gideon and his family were suffering along with all of the other Israelites because of the oppression of the Midianites. Because of continual disobedience and idol worship, the Lord allowed this enemy nation to terrorize the Israelites, taking over their land, robbing them of their food and livestock, and basically making their lives miserable!

Unfortunately, Gideon and many like him were experiencing the consequences of generational sins. But what Gideon didn’t realize was that God was going to use him to bring about healing and deliverance. When the angel of the Lord called Gideon a “mighty warrior,” and told him that God would use him to deliver Israel from the hand of the enemy, Gideon immediately began to list all of the reasons why this couldn’t possibly be true…

-My family is weak
-I am the weakest of all!!!

Gideon did not understand the might that God had already placed within him. Listen again to the Lord’s response…

14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Maybe like Gideon, you are overwhelmed by all that is happening in your life, in the life of your family and in the world around you. Maybe you are asking, “If the Lord is with us, If the Lord is with me, then why are all of these bad things happening??? Could it be that like Gideon, the Lord is calling forth the “mighty warrior” in you to make a difference? Although you may not see it, the Lord knows the strength, the courage, the authority, the power that was placed within you for such a time as this.

It does not matter that your family may be broken, “weak,” dysfunctional, oppressed. It does not matter that you feel like one of the “least of these.” When God names you “mighty,” God empowers you to do great things!

“For such a time as this…” God is calling forth “Gideons” to heal, to deliver and to set free. Instead of focusing upon your perceived weaknesses, walk in your new name… “Mighty Warrior!” Your war is not against flesh and blood, however, but against enemies that the natural eye cannot see.

Your enemy will not be defeated with human weaponry, but rather through prayer, faith and perseverance. The Lord will use you to break the curses that have daunted your family line for generations…curses of dysfunctional behaviors…curses of addictions…curses of abuse…curses of illegal and illicit behaviors…curses of imprisonment…curses of broken families…curses of cyclical poverty.

The Lord is calling forth the mighty warrior in you to bring about deliverance, healing and hope. How? “Go in the strength that you have” and God will go with you. You make the first step towards healing. You make the first step towards doing what is right. You make the first step to trust and obey God’s Word. You make the first step from dysfunction and sin to wholeness and righteous living. You are the mighty warrior called to break the chains fashioned by the enemy for your destruction.

It does not matter how weak or small you feel. Surrender your fears to God, go in the strength that you have and God will go with you. By God’s grace, God will teach you how to fight, win and become more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Shepastor: "Relief..."

35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did itto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40, NKJV

Some years ago, the makers of a popular over the counter ant-acid used a commercial to promote their product that started, "How do you spell relief?" Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a single pill that would erase all of the proverbial "acid re-flux" caused by the painful realities we are facing in the world today? While we don't have a pill to eradicate pain, God has given us something greater. We have each other...

Today I encourage Shepastor readers to reflect upon the painful realities below and consider how, as individuals we can bring some relief...

Relief efforts in support of Puerto Rico…
American Baptist Home Mission Societies, in response to the devastating impact upon U.S. Citizens in Puerto Rico and Islands has launched, "Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico." For details and to give online, click on the link below...
http://abhms.org/mission/themes/puerto-rico-relief/

Relief for those needing access to healthier food and quality of life…
How far do you have to travel to get to the grocery store? Many in urban areas live in "food deserts," meaning that full service grocery stores are over a mile away. This is important because many in those areas don't have vehicles. Some must take three (3) buses, literally, to get to a mainline grocery store. Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between health outcomes and access to affordable, healthy food. Today at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, I had the opportunity to listen to and discuss supermarket access. Learn more about this important discussion and how you can make a difference at www.ccbh.net and type in “Food desert.”

Relief for those lives devastated by gun violence…
Let us pray for all of those devastated by the horrific acts of a single gunman in Las Vegas, NV…the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Let us pray for the courage and the wisdom to re-examine and change current gun laws that allow civilians to purchase fire arms and additional “military like” components that transform basic guns into war weapons.

May we pray for and engage in actions that help to bring relief…relief for those who have lost so much…relief for those who are grieving and are terrorized …relief for those who are hungry. We are the hands and feet of Jesus...

“Hear our prayers Oh Lord, incline thine ear to us and grant us thy peace…”

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Shepastor: "Teachable Moments..."

He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.

Daniel 2: 21-22, ESV

Our eldest son has a wonderful ability to raise great questions and comments for dialogue. We frequently banter back and forth about music, super heroes, culture and politics. Our conversations frequently lead us down a path towards “teachable moments.” Together, we are learning much.

The other day our youngest child (my twelve year old daughter) jumped into our conversation on politics. While driving down the road, listening to CNN on the radio, we began a conversation about our recent presidential election. We each expressed our opinions, frustrations and disappointments over outcomes.

My mind turned back to previous elections when it was easier for me to say to my children, “Even if you don’t agree with the politics of the leader, we should always respect the office the leader holds.” I must admit, this time has been difficult. However, I shared once more with my young people the importance of respecting the office.

Feeling somewhat hypocritical (On more than one occasion I have said things that, let’s say, were not complimentary about our current POTUS!), I was reminded of the importance of respecting the office, the “chair,” the “seat.” Leaders come and go. However, the order and civility of our society rests upon our ability to separate the individual serving from the “power and authority invested” in the position.

This is all the more reason why we should take our right and privilege to vote seriously. In addition to experience, we should examine the “content of their character,” and ask ourselves the question, “Can we look our children in the eye and tell them that they should respect and admire the individual holding the position, as well as the position itself.”

America, we have a lot of soul searching to do…

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shepastor: "Lord, Don't Let My Ankles Turn!!!"

In Psalm 18: 35-36, NIV
David declared,

35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand has supported me;
your help[a] has made me great.
36 You gave me a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.


An older version of the NIV Bible says verse 36 like this…

You broaden the path beneath me so that my ankles do not turn


I love David’s analogy that the Lord “broadened the path beneath his feet so that his ankles did not turn.”
This image reminds me of the days when I wore high heels. I was always trying to be careful where and how I walked because I did not want to turn my ankle, trip and fall! Although some are still wearing those skinny heals, more and more shoe manufacturers are creating “chunky heels” in stylish ways. It’s too easy to trip, fall and turn your ankle on those skinny heals!

In the same way, the Lord “broadened the path” beneath David’s feet…in other words the Lord opened up more room for David to “walk.”

With all of his military might, with all of his greatness as a king, with all of his riches and prosperity, David was clear about one thing…It was GOD that made him great. It was God that knew him even before he was shaped in the womb…it was God that caused the prophet Samuel to look beyond his outer appearance and see that he was the one to be anointed as King of Israel…it was God that gave him the courage to stand up against the giant Goliath and kill him with a sling shot and some stones. It was God that caused him to triumph over Saul and all of his enemies.

David knew God intimately
. David feared God and repented when confronted with his sin. David loved the Lord above all else. David understood that God and only God could have taken a little Shepard boy and make him great. Even when David got off track and sinned, God saw that he had a humble and repentant heart.

When we are clear that all of our help comes from the Lord, when we embrace God’s help and submit to God’s will for our lives, our perspective is “broadened” such that our proverbial “ankles don’t turn.” Many trip and fall because they try to walk the walk of faith in their own strength.

Life is filled with pit falls, hidden crevices, things that can “trip us up.” But with the help of the Lord, we can “run through troops and leap over walls” (Psalm 18: 29, KJV). David experienced many painful and dark days. His perspective, however, caused him to live victoriously and triumph over every situation and circumstance. God “broadened the path beneath his feet” through cultivating his perspective.

When afraid, David turned to the Lord for reassurance. When abandoned by so-called friends, ridiculed and discouraged, David encouraged himself in the Lord. When David walked in darkness, he declared the Lord to be his light and salvation. David’s path was broadened beneath his feet because of his perspective. David trusted God as his helper and as one who is well able to carry him through!

The Lord can lift you out of a fearful, discouraged, cramped, shackled, bound mentality and enlarge your awareness of God’s authority and power in your life. God can open up your mind and broaden your outlook and your perspective so that you don’t “turn your proverbial ankle” and fall! The Lord wants to prepare a place for you to walk freely, unencumbered, tall and strong. God, however, will not override your will. You must surrender to God’s leading and determine to trust.

The Lord Himself will support you, will lead you, will hold your hand and if necessary will carry you. It is God who stoops down to make us great – great in love, great in healing, great in righteous living, great in terms of our walk with Him.

Ask the Lord today to broaden the path beneath your feet so that your ankles don’t turn!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shepastor: "God is our refuge..."

Psalm 46New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 46
God’s Defense of His City and People
To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.


1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present[a] help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city;[b] it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[c]Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[d]Selah



May all of those impacted by the devastation from natural disasters find strength, hope and a mind to "run on and see what the end is gonna be," through trusting in God...our refuge and strength.

May we do all that we can by whatever means possible to come to their aid.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
in Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Shepastor: “Will the Real Christians Please Stand Up???”

8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8, KJV

Throughout history, defining moments occur…moments when rhetoric, “loud hosannas,” and “straddling the fence” won’t fly. There are times when individuals are compelled to show forth their “real.” We are facing one of those moments now…

Today our Nation’s President made a decision to end the DACA program. “DACA” stands for, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Congress has been given six months to address the issue of undocumented immigrants that came to the U.S. as children – an issue that has evaded a resolution for decades.

In the article, “What is DACA? A look at rescinded immigrant programme,” AlJazeera News provides an overview of how approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants ended up in the predicament of potential deportation if the United States Congress does not legislate comprehensive immigration laws in six months.

For those who do not understand what’s going on, here are some “fast facts…”

- DACA was created by then-president Barack Obama in 2012 after intense pressure from advocates who wanted protections for the young immigrants who were mostly raised in the US but lacked legal status.

- The programme protects them from deportation - granting them a two-year reprieve that can be extended and by issuing them a work permit and social security number.

- DACA recipients must have no criminal record, proof they were brought to the US before age 16, and be under 31 when the programme was launched but at least 15-years old when applying.

- The application cost is nearly $500 and permits must be renewed every two years. The application and renewal process take several weeks.

- DACA does not give beneficiaries legal US residency. Recipients get temporary reprieves from deportation and permission to temporarily work.

- Frustration grew during the Obama administration over repeated failures to pass the "Dream Act", which would have provided a path to legal US citizenship for the young immigrants who ended up becoming DACA beneficiaries and became known as "Dreamers."


- The last major attempt to pass the legislation was in 2011.

- Immigrant activists staged protests and participated in civil disobedience in an effort to push Obama to act after Congress did not pass legislation. DACA is different than the Dream Act because it does not provide a pathway to legal residency or citizenship. (Information obtained from, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/daca-rescinded-immigrant-programme-170905192454024.html )

Some feel that “the Law is the Law” and there is a clear cut answer to the problem – simply deport them and send them back to where they came from. Some believe that these young people are “taking their jobs,” committing crimes, bringing down our country and are receiving benefits that they don’t deserve.

The fact of the matter is that these young people are “American” in every way. They know no other country. They are not on “welfare.” They are not criminals. They willingly came out of the shadows to provide their documentation to the U.S. Government. They are students, they are law abiding citizens, they are employees, they are tax payers, they are service men and women.

According to Micah 6:8, at this defining moment in history, the people of God are being called upon to “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” Imagine being dragged out of your home, off of your job, out of your school, “round up” with others like you, thrown on an airplane and dropped off in a country that you know little or nothing about, don’t speak their language, and have no means of providing for yourself – no job, no home, no money, no food, no family or friends, no resources, no hope!

That’s what mass deportation looks like for 800,000 human beings. May we have a “Selah” moment… “pause and think about that…
Will the “real” Christians please stand up???

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Shepastor: "Prayers for Those in the Storm..."

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2, KJV

While many face "figurative" storms in life, this week we pause to remember all of those being pounded by Hurricane Harvey. Several feet of water, homes destroyed, hospitals and nursing homes evacuated, families trapped, thousands without electricity, clean water, dry clothes, and food. Hurricane Harvey has pummeled Texas without mercy! But we praise God for the rescue workers, the Red Cross, the National Guard, the police, fire fighters and everyday volunteers who have come from the north, south, east and west to provide whatever help they can.

"Our hearts, Lord, are overwhelmed. You, oh Lord, are above all. Lead us to you. May we your people rise to the occasion to give help in whatever ways that we can. May the love of Christ shine through our hands and feet. May we give liberally to assist with rescue efforts. May the people in the midst of the storm feel your help and know that they are not forsaken. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen."

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Shepastor: "Lessons from a Mad Man..."

A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.

1I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
4I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Psalm 34: 1-8

The Hebrew word, “Halal,” serves as the root for our word, “Hallelujah.” It means "to be clear, to shine, to boast, to show, to rave, to celebrate and to be clamorously foolish.”

In this passage of scripture, David was fleeing for his life from King Saul. Out of desperation he runs to the land of the Philistines to hide. David sought refuge in the enemy camp because he thought that Saul would not look for him there. But even David’s enemies recognized who he was. They ran and told King Achish, “isn’t this David, the one about whom the Hebrew women sang, “Saul has killed thousands, but David has killed 10 thousands?”

At that, the king went out to see if in fact the mighty warrior David was in the land. David had to think quickly – there was no where to run or to hide, so he decided to act crazy – like a mad man in order to disguise himself from the king of the Philistines. The scripture says that David began to foam at the mouth, began clawing and scratching at the city gates and writing on the walls. When the king saw this he said, “Surely this mad man is not the mighty warrior David – you all are wasting my time!”

So David, by behaving like a mad man was spared and was able to get out of Gath unharmed. When David escaped both Saul and Achish, he began to praise God. In Psalm 34, David is clear, he is boasting, he is raving, he is celebrating, he is being “clamorously foolish” about praising God - his deliverer, his keeper, his provider, his protector, his mighty battle axe.

This story teaches us some powerful lessons about praise:

Praise consoles us during difficult situations


David had developed a life of praise. David understood that when we elect to praise God, we take the focus off of our situation, our challenge, our fear, and place our focus upon the power of the awesome God we serve. David didn’t make that declaration “I will bless the Lord at all times – His praise shall continually be in my mouth…” when all was going well. David was able to make that bold statement even in the midst of his deepest darkest hour of pain, fear and distress because David developed a deep relationship with God. David knew God intimately. David took time to learn what it meant to walk with God, trust in God, wait on deliverance from God – to see God as a shield and buckler. David’s praise grew out of knowing God.

When we praise God, we remind ourselves that we are not in this battle, this struggle, this difficulty, this situation or circumstance alone. When we praise God – we remind ourselves that God has all power in His hand and no battle is too difficult or hard for Him. When we praise God, we release a super natural power and strength in our lives to help us to focus – to persevere, to pursue, to keep on running, keep on pressing, keep on striving, keep on keeping in Jesus’ name! Praise consoles us, strengthens us and helps us to keep moving ahead.

Powerful praise gives rise to victory

All throughout the Old Testament, we find the prophets telling God’s people to praise Him. Often as Israel was preparing to go out to war, God would send the prophets to have the musicians, the singers and the priests to go out before the army – to lead in the procession to the battlefield. The prophet would declare, “Don’t fear – the battle is not yours, it’s the Lord’s!” The Levites – that priestly clan of musicians and singers would rise up and start singing in loud voices, “Jehovah the God of Israel reigns!” They marched before the army saying, “Glorify Jehovah, because His mercy endures forever!” When confronted with human enemies, the Levites responded by praising the Lord with a “strong and loud voice.” Whenever they did that – God gave them the victory. The result of powerful praise was total victory! Praise gives rise to victory. When we combine an intimate relationship with God – a relationship of prayer, reading, studying and applying God’s Word to our lives with praise, the result is victorious living. There is great power in prayer and praise.

Praise is a mighty weapon against the enemy of our souls.


Although we may appear “mad” or foolish to others, when we praise God through our struggles, our focus turns towards God and away from the valley. When we by faith choose to “look up and live,” we frustrate the enemy’s plans to defeat us. Praise releases something within us. Praise empowers us to trust God in every situation and circumstance. Praise reminds us that we have something and someone greater that what our eyes can see.

Even in the midst of your pain, disappointment and struggle, begin to bless the Lord. Give God your praise. God will honor your “sacrifice of praise,” and give you victory in the days ahead.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Shepastor: "Fake Religion..."

Amos 5: 21-24, NRSV
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


A phrase we keep hearing is “Fake News.” These words refer to reports that individuals refuse to hear or accept because the information does not “jive” with the messages they want conveyed…be they true or not!

In our text for today, however, the prophet Amos receives a message to share with God’s people…a message that they may not necessarily want to hear but need to hear. The people were practicing a “fake religion.” They were having elaborate festivals of “praise,” singing loud songs, making sacrifices, dancing, shouting, performing various religious rituals, etc., but were ignoring they true ways of God.

The Lord said,

“Take away from me the noise of your songs: I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5: 23-24, NIV
It was offensive to God that “religious people” were ignoring the more important aspects of worship and praise. God wanted the people to have “true religion…” According to Isaiah 58: 6-9, NIV, really worshiping and serving God looks like this…

6“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and God will say, ‘Here I am.’”
Amos’ message still rings true today. God is looking for more…more than loud “hallelujah’s,” more than praise fests, special frocks and garments…more than men’s and women’s retreats and conferences, more than huge, elaborate edifices…more than live streamed gatherings with thousands of people…

God is looking for women and men who will “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8). God is looking for the Church to speak up against, hate filled rhetoric, extreme “nationalism” and supremacy of one people over another. God is looking for a Church that speaks up against policies and legislation that oppresses the poor, unjustly prosecutes the alien, discriminates and marginalizes minorities, women and children…that mistreats and casts down anyone.

God is looking for leaders that walk in integrity…that won’t take bribes, that won’t, abuse their power and authority, that won’t crush others in order to climb the proverbial ladder, that can’t be “bought or sold” for a price…

God desires a people that look more like the love, mercy, grace, peace, justice, compassion and healing that God gave us through Jesus Christ. May we do all that we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit to live out true religion…not according to our standards, but according to God’s Holy Word.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Shepastor: "Good Things Have Emerged From an Unfortunate Outcome..."

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to God's Purpose." Romans 8:28, KJV

For many, the current state of affairs in the United Staes of America since the election of our 45th President has been alarming, disturbing and frightening. For a plethora of reasons, many threw caution to the wind and elected an individual they believed would "deliver." Painful realities, however, have begun to set in...racial divisions and hate crimes are at an all time high in recent history. Individuals are fearful of losing health care coverage they recently received under the Affordable Care Act. Those living in "Coal Country" are anxiously awaiting the return of jobs that more than likely will not return. What was once known as the "Middle Class" is rapidly declining. The vast majority of Americans feel that they cannot trust the words or assertions of the President. It appears that world war three is on the horizon...

But in the midst of all of this mayhem, some very beautiful things are emerging. Although violence, hatred, ignorance and greed are swirling all around, a spirit of kindness, compassion, unity, hope and courage is breaking forth. Recently a local school district made the decision to provide breakfast and lunch to ALL children regardless of their ability to pay. Voices around the Nation are rising to challenge the unfair treatment of people of color, immigrants and those struggling through gender issues. People are beginning to pay more attention to the environment and how our behaviors are impacting climate change.

Ironically, what is best in us frequently emerges as we face the worst. In the final analysis, something deep within many reminds us that we are better than the ugly, the evil, the greed and the selfishness. Love always prevails. It may not happen overnight but slowly, steadily, surely, love prevails.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org





Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Shepastor: "Standing Up to Bullies is Hard but Necessary..."

24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel. 26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 1 Samuel: 24-26, KJV.

Standing up to bullies can be tough! In the above text, the giant Philistine warrior Goliath stood and threatened and challenged the armies of Israel day after day. Understandably, the people were paralyzed with fear. After all, he was a GIANT!!! He was fierce! He looked like he could crush their bones in one pounce!

It took a young shepherd boy, seemingly harmless and no match for this bully to stand tall in the name of his God to bring Goliath down. Because we have the record, we know how the story ends. David, on the other hand only had his faith.

This past week, two female Senators, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) were proverbial "Davids." Whatever your political persuasion, one must concede that it took courage to withstand political peer pressure, thinly veiled threats and the prospect of being pushed out of the Senate to vote their conscience. "Goliath" came at them strong!

According to the July 28th edition of the New Yorker, "Murkowski did so despite being the object of crass insults and bullying from President Donald Trump, conveyed via tweet, telephone, and emissary." ("Lisa Murkowski, Lindsey Graham, and How the Health-Care Vote Went Down," by Amy Davidson Sorkin, www.newyorker.com ).
In the final analysis, Senator John McCain (Arizona) boldly stood with Senators Murkowski and Collins to vote against what they saw as a bad bill.

Three senators resisted the pressure to vote for something that they believed was wrong for millions of people. Three people may have literally changed the course of history.

Bullies exist in every sphere of life...in schoolyards and classrooms, in homes and neighborhoods, in communities and governments, in churches and every other relationship. Bullies, however, cannot prevail where faith, courage and love stand up. May we, by faith have the courage and love to stand up to bullies. Our GREAT God will cause us to triumph and in so doing, save the lives of many.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shepastor: “Highlights From ‘Calling in the Key of She’…”

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind[a] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,[b] and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind[c] in his image, in the image of God he created them;[d] male and female he created them. Genesis 1: 26-27, NRSV

Friday, July 21st - 22nd, 2017, the Board of Equity for Women in the Church and Memphis Theological Seminary partnered to present, "Calling in the Key of She." The conference was designed to provide training and tools to participants to help nurture and build "female friendly" environments in churches, communities and across the world. Presentations were given that explored theological and historical factors that have impacted the way women are viewed and treated. The visionary for this powerful conference, Rev. Andrea Clark Chambers gave an opening presentation on the power of language and imagery as vehicles of oppression or empowerment. Pastor Chris served as one of the presenters, discussing the topic, "Women and the Bible." Dr. Gina Stewart, Senior Pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, electrified the participants as she gave her personal testimony and journey towards becoming licensed, ordained and ultimately installed as pastor of a prominent, African American Baptist Church.

Although we have come a long way, there are still many more rivers to cross. Equity for Women in the Church is working diligently to make an impact through innovative initiatives like “Calling in the Key of She,” “The Retiring Pastors Initiative,” and “The Lydia Project.” To read more about these important and ground breaking endeavors to open more doors for women preachers and pastors, visit the Equity website.

To read more about the event and to see pictures, visit www.shepastorchris.org

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Shepastor: "Calling in the Key of She..."

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27, NIV

For centuries, patriarchal structures inculcated and advanced an inferior and subordinate view of women and their perceived appropriate roles. Despite these formidable factors, the Bible itself raises serious contradictions to the belief that women are not called to serve in equal and authoritative roles. Frequently, persons who draw on selected passages to argue against women leaders ignore the broader implications of the texts. It is therefore beneficial to consider other compelling Scriptures that speak positively about women and present them as leaders.

This week, July 21-22, 2017 Equity for Women in the Church and Memphis Theological Seminary will partner to address these issues. This FREE event is open to all.

If you are in the area, check it out. I'll share highlights from our time together next week.

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Shepastor: "Are You Parched or Well Watered?"

5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17: 5-8, KJV

This past week as my family took a trip to visit family in California, I was struck by what looked like a natural contradiction. As we drove further north, away from the Bay area, the weather changed drastically. The temperature rose from 70 degrees to 108 degrees! The grass was completely parched along the highway. To reduce the risk of wild fires, crews were out spraying the dry grass with water. What was most intriguing to me, however, were the green, flowering bushes and tress standing tall amidst the brittle dry grass. My first thought was, "How can this be?" How could there be such beautiful green bushes and trees growing from the ground where there was hay like parched grass? The answer is depth of roots.

Trees and bushes establish deep roots...roots that drink in water from rain and other forms of watering. In times of extreme heat or drought, trees rely upon their root reserves. Grass, on the other hand has shallow roots. Grass is easily pulled up and burned by bad weather conditions. It cannot withstand extreme conditions. As I observed these differences along the road, it occurred to me that these examples are like the life of a believer. The depth of our roots...our prayer life, our depth of relationship with the Lord and others, our knowledge and understanding of God's Word and our faith will determine the depths of our roots. When extreme "heat," struggle, trials, opposition, pain, pressure, etc., comes, if we have not "stored up" spiritual nutrients of the living water, we will become parched...brittle, dry, easily burned and dying.

The text above teaches us that we should not make flesh "our arm." While we must learn to develop trust of other humans, our deepest trust must be reserved for the Lord. Even those with the best intentions will at times disappoint. If our eyes are only upon humans, we will become parched. If we have not stored up the water of the Word, suited up in the "whole armor," and immersed ourselves in consistent communication with our Lord through prayer, the "heatwaves" of life will burn us up.

We all experience periods of drought and dryness. But our ability to press through those seasons will depend upon our roots. Will you be like the green bushes and trees or the parched grass? You have a say in the matter.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Shepastor: “When Healing Takes Precedence Over Power and Position…”

A Man with a Withered Hand
6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6: 6-11, ESV

In the text above, the religious leaders came face to face with their greatest fear…that Jesus would “take their place” as leader. While they pretended to be concerned about “keeping the law,” their real concern was for their own perceived positions of power. The fact that someone else was suffering, was broken, was unable to care for themselves, was in poverty, was marginalized was of no concern. They just wanted what they wanted. Jesus’ compassion, however, revealed the true essence of their dark souls. Their “hoopla” about keeping the law rang hollow because of their lack of concern for another human being. Hunger for power leads to dangerous places… Hunger for and the fear of losing power can strip you of a conscience.

Jesus’ bold act of healing the man with the deformed hand teaches us some important lessons:

When healing takes precedence over position and power, deliverance as well as hostility happens… Everyone is not joyous when deliverance and healing happens. Unfortunately the world frequently “profits” from the misery of others…

Deliverance exposes dysfunction… When Jesus healed the man, the true motives of the religious leaders were exposed. Dysfunctional systems/structures collapse when others are bold enough to speak the truth and move to make changes…

Healing frequently changes a power dynamic… Healing and deliverance are accompanied by empowerment. Both healing and deliverance can bring about an awareness of one’s true self, gifts, talents, opportunities and strength. A need to rely upon another’s “motive laced” offerings will dissipate…

Finally…
Be prepared to face hostility as God uses you to heal “withered hands…”
Power and position in the hands of people with ill intent will not easily be released. A “convulsion” of sorts will always happen. Whether in a place of employment, in the government, in the community, in the home, yea even in the church, spirits of selfishness, greed, jealousy and insecurity desire to keep others down to lift themselves up.

Breaking those chains come with a cost. Jesus paid for our deliverance with his life. While we may not be nailed to a literal cross, we may be falsely accused, lose positions or employment, “friends,” experience being ostracized, criticized, and viewed as a threat. The scriptures teach us that the cost of real discipleship is high.
The blessing, however, is that we will gain the praises of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12, NASB

May we pray for hearts, eyes, and spirits to heal withered hands…

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Shepastor: "A Word of Blessing for You..."

Psalm 20: 1-7, NIV
For the director of music. A psalm of David.


1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Shepastor: “On Being a Leader…”

6Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7The LORD said to Moses, 8“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” 9So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Numbers 20: 6-12, NIV

“Don’t let ‘it’ take you there. Take a deep breath, relax and remember what you are trying to accomplish!”

These words came so powerfully into my spirit one day as I wrestled with responding to some issues. “In the moment…” it can be difficult to remain “cool, calm and collected.” I imagine many a leader can identify with Moses. Having led an ungrateful, doubt-filled, rebellious group of individuals through the wilderness, he was exacerbated by their criticisms, quarrels, accusations and threats.

After all that the Lord had done for them…after all that the Lord had delivered them from… after all that the Lord had carried them through AND after all he had put up with and still faithfully led, loved and cared for them, the people still complained! Can you identify with Moses? Have you ever poured out your heart, mind, body and soul to lead and care for ungrateful, critical, doubt-filled people? If you have ever found yourself in circumstances like that of Moses, you may be able to understand why he said (in so many words…), “Look people after all I’ve done to lead you, plead on your behalf, stand in the gap for you, pray for you, put my life on the line for you, I can’t believe that you are still acting like fools!!!”

Anger consumed Moses. Frustration got the best of him. He was so angry that he began to operate in his own willfulness, lifted up what HE had done and disobeyed God’s command to “speak to the rock.” For that reason, God said this to Moses…

“Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:12, NIV)

Because Moses chose to “strike” the rock rather than obey God and “speak” to the rock, God prohibited him from entering the Promised Land. WOW!!! That’s TOUGH!!! Why did God deal so harshly with Moses? Because Moses was the leader. God would deal with the people for their rebellious spirits. But Moses was to continue to trust and obey the Lord.

It can be very difficult to take the “high road.” Leading people can be extremely challenging. Leaders are called to remain above the fray. Leaders are called to be the example. Leaders must always strive to do what is right, highest and best. Do we fail? YES. Why? Because we hold this treasure in earthen vessels. We must remember, however, that the role of a leader is to lead, therefore, according to the scriptures, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1, NIV.

While this scripture is speaking of “teachers,” leaders are in the same category, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48, KJV.

It’s not easy being a leader. Leadership requires that a leader march to the beat of a different drum. The good news is that we are not expected to lead on our own. God’s precious Holy Spirit is there to lead, guide, counsel, instruct and empower us to obey God’s voice over our own willful impulses.

The enemy’s goal is not only to cause us to miss the “promised land” experiences God has for us, but to cause people to doubt God and look at us. When we allow the behaviors of others to “take us there,” we come down from the place of leadership where God has called us. When we disobey God’s Holy Spirit and resort to our own devices to convince people of our strength, our power, our whatever, we yield victory to Satan’s darts, lose our place and misguide people.

Are you a leader? Remember what happened to Moses and seek God’s strength to trust and obey. “Don’t let ‘it’ take you there. Take a deep breath, relax and remember what you are trying to accomplish...” and what God desires to accomplish through you!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Shepastor: "Supporting Healthy Minds, Bodies and Spirits..."

"for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." I Corinthians 6:20, NLT

We are mind, body and spirit. God's Word teaches us that we are precious, fearfully and wonderfully made. In order to be whole, we must attend to every aspect of our being. In an effort to encourage God's people to view themselves and their well-being from a holistic perspective, our congregation (Covenant Baptist Church, www.covenantbaptistministries.org ) in collaboration with several other churches in our area and staff from the Cleveland Clinic are in the midst of a free three day event, "Healthy Temples: Supporting Healthy Minds, Bodies and Spirits."

Over this three day period, we will cover the topics of depression, healthy eating patterns and our overall health, balancing emotions, stress and self-care. Participants will also have the opportunity to have free blood pressure checks by nurses from the Cleveland Clinic. During our first night's presentation on depression, the class became so engaged, sharing their own experiences and the experiences of loved ones regarding this painful reality, that it became abundantly clear that a follow-up workshop is needed. Plans are underway to make that happen!

The classes are not only for adults, but for children. Children are engaged in biblically based discussions and crafts related to the same topics as the adults. Healthy snacks instead of the usual hot dogs and hamburgers are being served.

We are praying that all who attend will receive education and inspiration for a healthier life.

No matter the size of your congregation, God can and will use all who commit their efforts to making a difference for God's Kingdom here on earth.

May our prayerful efforts inspire many, in the name of Jesus!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shepastor: “Tips to Help You Feel Better…”

3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3, KJV

Years ago, there was a commercial showing a woman taking a bath saying, “Calgon, take me away!” In recent times I have found myself needing some “Calgon moments!”
Let’s keep it real…ministry can be stressful and at times down right depressing. Ask Elijah, Moses, Jeremiah, John, Paul and Jesus!

As a pastor, wife, mother, daughter, sister, mentor, community leader and friend, things can get a bit overwhelming. Due to menopause and hormonal upheaval, aching knees, numerous family and ministry responsibilities, etc., there are days when I feel down. When the skies are literally and figuratively gloomy, when my “tween” girl is exceedingly “sassy,” when I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and can’t fall back to sleep, thinking about “this or that,” a spirit of weariness can take hold.

As Christians, we frequently deny the aforementioned feelings, thinking that expressing them will make us appear less “holy” or “faith-filled.” I beg to differ. Admitting we have these feelings simply make us human. Having said that, there are some practical things that I have found that help to take the edge off when life becomes challenging…

- If possible, get out and walk… Walking is a great way to clear your head, release some stress and exercise…

- Take a hot shower or bath and use a bubbly fragrance that appeals to your senses. Aromatherapy is real!!! There is something soothing and lifting about beautiful fragrances. They help to relax you and release natural agents in your body (endorphins) that can help to lift your mood. Lavender, vanilla/almond or jasmine/vanilla have been particularly helpful fragrances for me…

- Find a private space to talk out loud to God…Hearing your lament and struggle can help you to process your feelings before the Lord. After you talk, listen, trust and obey…

- Take deep breaths, sit quietly with your eyes closed and your palms lifted. This “centering” activity can also help relieve stress and cultivate inner healing and peace…

- Look at nature. Listen to the birds sing. Watch them fly through the air. Look at plants and flowers. Listen to some soothing music. All of these small things help to cultivate inner calm and peace.

Let me hasten to say, obviously, there are major sufferings in life that cannot be melted away by a bubble bath. Understandably, these simple actions will not erase the issues you are facing or the realities of your life. However, they can lift, strengthen, encourage and empower you to lift up your head and smile. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change your outlook. Through grace, faith, prayer and intentional actions, you can rise and shine!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Shepastor: “Don’t Allow Regret to Ruin Your Life…”

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 13-14, NIV

Regret can be a heavy thing. Many live their lives under the weight of mistakes, missed opportunities, words spoken, unfortunate decisions, etc. But one thing is for sure, you cannot change the past. Some spend their lives looking in the rear view mirror. The “rear view mirrors” of life are small in comparison to the “wide windshield.” Although you may be living with the consequences of bad choices, God still has a big bright future ahead for you.

We serve a forgiving God, a loving God, a healing God, a restoring God. We ALL have made mistakes. Ask the Lord to forgive you. He is faithful and just to do just that! Ask the Lord to help you to forgive yourself. It will be difficult, if not impossible to take hold of all that the Lord has in your future if you do not.

Understand that others that may have been harmed by your past decisions may not be so quick to forgive you. In a genuine spirit, as much as is possible, do what is in your power to bring restoration and then release them to God. There are some fractures that only the Lord can repair. Know that God has a goal for you to pursue, a “prize” for you to win.

You cannot fulfill your life’s purpose looking backwards. Don't allow regret to ruin your life. By faith, keep moving forward. Keep “pressing towards the mark.” Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.
Greater is coming…

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shepastor: "Freedom..." A poem written by Pastor Chris Smith

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36, KJV

Freedom…
By Pastor Chris Smith, written for the occasion of the AJC Global Community Seder, Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Whether the African slave drug across the chilly waters of the cruel Atlantic, bound by chains, forced to lie in her own refuse and vomit, down, down in the splintered belly of brutal slave ship…

Or the Jewish descendent of Joseph, shackled, beaten and abused, forced to make bricks without straw… in a land by a Pharaoh that knew him not…
Or whether the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Freedom is the inhaling of the air, the expanding of the lung, the release of the exhale to do and to be and to become all that God has created one to be without the encumbrances of hatred, the ignorance of “isms” and the brutality of boxes too small to hold the brilliance of beauty, creativity and love.

Freedom is the head though bloodied refuses to be bowed…Freedom…is the voice that speaks despite the oppression that seeks to press it into silence…FREEDOM…the heart that beats and swells with compassion though mean spirit actions abound FREEDOM…is God’s gift to humanity though portioned out like meal by oppressors to those desperately waiting at the mill of justice.

Yet there is a FREEDOM that cannot, that will not be contained by prisons and shackles and bars…there is a FREEDOM, like hope, that springs eternal in the human breast, that FREEDOM that declares with audacity, “I will rise again.” …That FREEDOM that demands FREEDOM to be free, released for all to breathe.


Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shepastor: "Scatter Your Seed in Faith..."

The Parable of the Growing Seed
26He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4: 26-29, NIV

This rarely quoted parable found in the Gospel of Mark packs a powerful message. Here Jesus is explaining further what the Kingdom of God is like. In previous verses, Jesus tells the very familiar story about the “sower” and various kinds of soils. As a pastor, I have always found great encouragement in those verses. At times we (pastors/leaders) can “beat up on ourselves,” because the seeds we have been prayerfully, painstakingly sowing appear to produce such minimal fruit. Interestingly, Jesus’ emphasis is not placed upon the sower, but the soil…the parable of the sower…”

But in this subsequent parable, Jesus further emphasizes the relationship between “the Kingdom of God” and the seed scattered upon the ground. Jesus says, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…”

As humans we tend to take too much credit either way…when the “seeds” don’t seem to grow, we tend to blame ourselves. When the seeds blossom and flourish, particularly in the church, we tend to attribute it to some great work that we’ve done and others have not. But Jesus says, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…”

We really don’t know how God causes the “seed” of His Word, the “seed of love,” the “seed of faithfulness,” to grow in the hearts of people. We cannot take credit either way…we don’t know how! We are simply called to “scatter the seed.”

If you are discouraged, pray for the faith to continue to scatter the seed. Remember, God controls the harvest. If you are experiencing abundant growth, in humility realize that it’s not you or your great programs, but it’s God’s seed, God’s soil, God’s harvest. We don’t know how. We are simply called by faith to scatter the seed. Be encouraged seed sower, God will see to it… “first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head…" As soon as the grain is ripe, God will put the sickle to it. He alone knows when it's harvest time.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Shepastor: “Sometimes We Need to Change Our Prayers…”

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16, KJV

“The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avail much…” We have embraced, quoted, and used as a fire brand this verse…a verse of victory and triumph in prayer. But have you ever considered that at times, our “effective prayers,” may effectively block our blessings?

God hears and honors the prayers of His children. Our prayers, however, may be the very thing that stands in the way of a new and different path. Sometimes we are praying for the very thing that we need to release…the very thing that we need to let go…the very thing that we need to turn away from.

Sometimes our focus is wrong, our vision is short, our request is shallow. Some might argue that God will not then answer or grant those prayer requests. I beg to differ. At times, God allows us to remain in our proverbial “prayer box” until we see the stagnation created by those intense but misdirected prayers.

Are you praying for something to be revived when God really wants to put it to rest? Are you praying for some relationship to be reinvigorated when God wants you to walk away? Are you praying for some particular door to come open when the Lord is waiting for you to go in a different direction?

Sometimes we need to change our prayers. Are your own prayers blocking your blessings, your progress, your “new day?” Prayer is powerful indeed. May we ask the Lord to give us wisdom and guidance in how we direct those prayers for ourselves and for others.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shepastor: "Give Us This Day..."

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11, NIV

"Give us this day our daily bread," is a simple phrase couched within the "Model Prayer." Jesus gave these words as part of a prayer he taught, when the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Although simple, this short phrase is VERY profound. While many simply consider these words with regard to physical food, I believe Jesus was speaking of something much greater.

As humans, one of our greatest dilemmas is that we cannot see the future. We can dream, dread, plan, ignore, consider and prepare, in some ways, for the future. But we cannot see or know the future. In our great quest for this knowledge, some have resorted to consulting "sooth sayers," psychics, and cards with special symbols. Sometimes, the Lord in His grace and mercy shows us "glimpses" of the future through dreams and the whispers of His precious Holy Spirit. He has refrained, however, from giving us the "blow by blow" details. Jesus himself said, "I have much to tell you, but you cannot bear it now..." (John 6:12). Jesus knows that if he tells us too much too soon, we would not be able to handle or absorb the contents.

Jesus knows that if we knew somethings...some hurdles we'd have to cross, some sorrows we'd have to bare, some tragedies we'd have to face, some triumphs we'd ultimately win...that we would not press forward and cultivate the faith he desires that we have. Our faith pleases the Lord. Our perseverance, hope and trust develop our "spirit being" and character. Therefore, the Lord has taught us to simply pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."

We have today. Tomorrow is not promised. May we in wisdom seek the Lord's bread daily. Knowing that His sustenance is enough.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Shepastor: “Dealing With the Splinters of Life…”

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23, KJV

The other day as I went to open a drawer I felt a sharp prick on my finger. “OUCH!!! Oh no… a splinter!!!” I hadn’t gotten a splinter in years. For the rest of the evening I worked on trying to get the splinter out. At first, it looked like success. I was able to grab a piece of the small fragment of wood and I felt some relief. It appeared that my finger was just a little sore because of a small piece of open flesh. But by the end of the following day, I discovered that it wasn’t just skin, but wood still buried deep within my finger!

At that point I got busy prodding and taking a clean needle to create an opening where the rest of the splinter could be exposed. Once enough of it was visible, I took some tweezers and pulled it out. Low and behold, the splinter was not just a tiny piece of thin wood, but about a half inch long!

As I reflected upon this uncomfortable experience, it occurred to me that similar things happen in life. Various issues can prick the heart. We may think that we’ve dealt with it…addressed it…removed it…washed it away, but in reality, we’ve only “clipped off” a small portion of the problem. There is just enough of the problem left embedded in our heart to keep us distracted, sore, throbbing and moving slowing towards spiritual infection. “Spiritual splinters” require digging deeper. Sometimes we may be required to open “sore places” in our hearts in order to fully pull out what is truly hurting us.

The writer of Proverbs urges us to “keep” or “guard our hearts,” for out of the heart flows the issues of life. Just as a literal splinter left in skin can become swollen and infected, fragments of hurt, anger, frustration, feelings of betrayal etc., can fester…distracting us and ultimately poisoning our life perspective and outlook.

Are you ignoring a spiritual splinter today? Through intentional prayer, soul prodding and seeking wise counsel, work until you get it out. True healing will not happen until you do.

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org