Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Shepastor: “The Love of Money, Pharmaceutical Companies and Our Health…”

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. I Timothy 6:10, KJV

Some years ago a local news network featured a discussion with a dermatologist regarding whether or not people can become addicted to lip balm. It was a “tongue in cheek” interview, yet with an invitation to wonder… The dermatologist shared that years ago, lip balm was simply made of soft wax to soothe chapped lips. Manufacturers, however, began to place a substance in the wax that actually dried lips, compelling users to need and buy more cultivating a “lip balm addiction.”

After the birth of my second son I developed severe bouts of heartburn. I began using an over the counter antacid. Daily I used the antacid and received temporary relief. The heartburn, however, continued to persist and even worsen. One day while accompanying my mother to her gastroenterologist, I inquired as to whether or not the antacid was a good choice to alleviate my heartburn. He laughed and said, “Those increase heartburn!” I returned home threw out my bottle of tablets and never used them again. After some alterations in my diet, my heartburn subsided naturally.

After the birth of my third child (and third C-section) while in the hospital I was given the pain reliever Percocet. Upon release from the hospital the name brand drug was not given. The pharmacy said that I would have to use the generic brand, OxyContin. When I finished my dosage, I prepared to go on like before, pain free. But this time was different. This particular pain reliever was different. One morning when getting out of the bed my legs collapsed from beneath me. I could barely walk. I went back to my doctor but he told me that he didn’t know what was wrong. Ultimately, I ended up on an anti-inflammatory for the next six years. When my body built up a tolerance to that drug, I was given another at a higher dosage. That stopped working in six months. Seeing the pattern developing, I weaned myself off of the medicines and relied upon over the counter ibuprofen. My joints were never quite the same.

Long story short, I began to wonder if the composition of the generic pain killer contained a substance that (like the above referenced lip balm and antacid) deliberately damages muscles, advancing the deterioration of cartilage and accelerating arthritis.

In recent years, there has been an exponential jump in the number of individuals needing knee and hip replacements.

According to the Journal of Joint and Bone Surgery,

With the aging of the “baby boomers,” higher rates of diagnosis and treatment of advanced arthritis, and growing demand for improved mobility and quality of life, the annual procedure volumes are projected to increase considerably in the future, making joint replacements the most common elective surgical procedures in the coming decades2,3 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551172/ )
Frequently, individuals are placed upon a regiment of pain meds to control the painful recovery process. Not only knee and hip replacements, but other surgeries often require the use of these medications. After the course of the medications run out, an increased number of individuals face unmanageable pain. As a result, we are facing what has been deemed an “opioid epidemic.” People are becoming hooked on pain killers, not because they want to “get high,” but because they cannot function without the meds. Eventually, people turn to the streets to get pills and other substances that will help to relieve their pain after they can no longer get the legal prescription drugs from their physicians…drugs that more than likely created this vicious cycle.

There is BIG MONEY associated with pain killers – not just for those selling street drugs but the drug manufacturers and the pharmaceutical companies that are the
producers. Yet few if any conversations are being held to confront pharmaceutical companies about the composition of the drugs that appear to create damage to cartilage and muscles that induce and increase pain. If we are serious about addressing the opioid epidemic, we must expand the conversation to address the clandestine tactics of LEGAL drug companies. For the love of money, millions of lives are being devastated. We must go beyond drug rehab centers and Bible studies about self-control. We must begin to research and confront the pharmaceutical industry.

Selah… “Stop and think about that…”

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, December 20, 2017

Shepastor: "The Courage to Be a Change Agent..."

Women Accompanying Jesus
8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their means. Luke 8: 1-4, English Standard Version

In the above passage of scripture, we find an intriguing description of one of Jesus’ followers, “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s Steward or household manager.” One can only imagine the conversations held between Joanna and her husband Chuza, the “COO,” Chief Operating Officer, if you will of Herod’s household. Can’t you hear Chuza saying to his wife Joanna, “Baby, I understand that you find that Jesus fellow interesting and I know that you think that he had something to do with you feeling better after being sick for a while, but do you really have to follow him from town to town? Don’t you understand that Herod could fire me or worse, have me killed for allowing my wife to be seen with that Jesus man? Don’t you know how threatened Herod is by him? On top of that, why are you giving him MY money? Why does he have to rely on you and other women to support him?

I can imagine that Joanna was concerned about how her husband felt about her decision to follow Jesus and support Jesus’ ministry. I can imagine that she responded, “Darling, you just don’t understand. “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart! I have light in my soul for which long I have sought, since Jesus came into my heart!” After considering all factors, Joanna had the courage to not only follow Jesus, but support the work of the ministry.

Pastor, Preacher and Biblical scholar, the Late Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, in his book, The Certain Sound of a Trumpet: Crafting a Sermon of Authority, declared, “In order to please God, we are often compelled to be different.” It’s not easy to be different. It’s not easy to go against the grain, to march to the beat of a different drum, to separate from the pack, to take the road less traveled, to have the courage to follow where the Spirit leads. Indeed, it takes courage to be different, to do what is right in the face of daunting opposition, to be willing to do and be what is necessary to bring about change.

The term courage may be defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens you.” We have somehow developed the false notion that if someone is courageous, it means that they have such bravery, such “true grit,” such valor that they are fearless. In other words, because of their boldness or audacious spirit, they move about with little or no trepidation. Fear does not enter into their equation in the decision making process.

The opposite, however, is true. Courage is what it takes to move forward in the face of or in spite our fears. We take so much for granted as we read the Scriptures. Often we mindlessly move through the text, gliding over history, innuendo, and the setting in life. During that day and time, it was no small feat or endeavor to drop everything and follow Jesus, especially for a woman!

Jesus was considered to be a menace to society. For many in the political and social realms, he was little more than a trouble making, illegitimate, sorcery working hippy that was ever growing in popularity and increasingly becoming a threat to Religious leaders and the Roman Empire. For Joanna to step out of “her place,” particularly as a woman and follow Jesus, supporting his ministry financially with her money, took GREAT courage! The text does not clearly state how Joanna started following Jesus or even why. It simply says, “And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”

Though not stated specifically, it is inferred that Joanna was one of the women either “healed of an evil spirit” or with an “infirmity.” In other words, she was sick. If you have ever been sick, I don’t mean with a cold or a hang nail, but sick, REALLY sick…bent over in pain, continually nauseated, suffering from back, neck or knee pain, body ravaged by cancer or any other kind of illness, physical, mental or spiritual pain, you can imagine the relief and depth of appreciation Joanna must have felt when she was healed by Jesus!

One might argue that her healing not only emboldened her, but carved out a deep level of compassion for others that gave her the courage to be a change agent. With all of her wealth, with all of her finery, high position and prominence, she still could not get healed. Her healing came from Jesus! Her healing opened her eyes and her heart to some new realities. Her healing may have caused her to think, “I don’t want to be selfish and keep this blessing all to myself. I want to go with Jesus and help him to help others just like he helped me. I want to be a part of bringing about a change!”

When you really experience a move of God in your life…when God delivers you and or your loved ones, when God, frees you from whatever shackles were binding you, when the Lord lifts you out of whatever pit you found yourself in, you throw off the garments of fear, shame and defeat and you declare with boldness, “The Lord is my helper, what can man do unto me?”

It is clear that Joanna did not care what Herod thought, what her friends in society thought or even what Chuza may have thought! Joanna had her eyes fixed on Jesus and not only did she appreciate her healing but she wanted others to have the same. Joanna was a change agent because she was willing to sacrifice her comfort, her position, her prestige and whatever people thought of her in order to support and help others.

To be a change agent, one must be willing to sacrifice, suffer and serve. To be a change agent, one must be willing to take up their cross and follow Jesus. To be a change agent one must have a heart of humility and compassion. If we want to please Jesus than we will be compelled to be change agents! It is not enough to feed the hungry. We should desire that the hungry will one day be able to feed themselves and do what we can to change systems that keep people in the cycle of poverty.

It is not enough to sit back and watch people being mistreated and taken advantage of on the job. We must be willing to do what we can, using wisdom to protest unfair labor laws and conditions. It is not enough to sit back and watch bullies destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of others. We must have the courage to confront bullies (children and adults) to let them know that someone is watching, that someone does care and that someone is ready to take whatever action is necessary to make them stop their harassment.

Understand that being a change agent is not easy. Understand that people may not like you. They may not invite you to sit at their tables, to come to their parties, to participate in their conversations. But if by faith, you will defend the defenseless, support efforts that help to lift and bless others, speak truth to power, do whatever you can to help bring about hope and change for the better, you will not walk alone.

In our everyday lives, we may not be called upon to exhibit life or death courage. But we will be called upon to choose the road less traveled. We will be compelled by our compassion, our faith and our hope in a risen savior to be change agents – to rock some boats, to say and do things that some people will not like. We will be called upon to speak up concerning issues of injustice, ugliness, oppression and hate. We will be compelled to reject the joys and comforts of going along with the crowd for our own temporary comfort for the hope, healing and deliverance of others.

It takes courage to be a change agent. We cannot do it on our own. But with the help of the Lord, we can do all things. By coming together with others who also desire to lift, love and serve, we can run through troops and leap over walls! We may not readily see the fruit of our labor. But if by faith we will choose to please God, rather than humans, God will give us the victory. God will give us the strength. God will give us the courage and God will bless us with His favor in ways that no human being can erase.

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

May you and your loved ones experience the hope, peace, joy and love that is ever present in this Advent Season!

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Shepastor: "Genuine Peace..."

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV

This Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Advent. The focus for this Sunday is “Peace.” We know Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When we think of peace, in general, we think of the absence of conflict, calm, tranquility.

Because of this understanding, in the name of “peace,” many people don’t address issues. They leave words unspoken. They allow wrong to persist. In the name of peace, people look the other way from sin. In the name of “peace,” people hide feelings, quiet justifiable complaints, and want to shew away protestors…in the name of “peace.”

We must be careful how we view and press for “peace.” Godly peace does not ignore problems, struggles or injustices. Godly peace confronts in love and truth. Godly peace does not look the other way when people are hurting, when people are hungry, when people are marginalized, when people are treated less than human. Godly peace stands in the gap…speaks truth to power…does what it can to lift heavy burdens.

Godly peace presses us to lovingly confront issues whether they be in the home, in the community or in the world. Sometimes before genuine peace can happen, there has to be a conversation, a confrontation, an honest dialogue, an upheaval, a “getting things straight” moment!

Do you need to re-evaluate your understanding of peace? Are you looking the other way when you should be asking questions, raising concerns, addressing an issue? Are you remaining silent when you should speak up? Are you bottling up pain, frustration and unresolved issues to your own detriment as well as others in the name of peace? During this season, ask the Prince of Peace – Jesus to give you the courage to pursue genuine peace.

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Shepastor: "Where Are You Looking for Jesus?"

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son. (John 1:14, New Living Translation)

Who knew that the baby born to a poor, young, teenage girl and her fiancĂ©e (an “average Joe”) would be “the Word made flesh dwelling among us!” God has a way of surprising us! So often we miss what God is sending because we are looking for the wrong thing. Frequently we are looking for a king in a palace when the King is actually in a stable. When Jesus presents himself to us through His Word, or through a stranger, or through a child, or through someone needing our help, what is our response?

During this Advent Season, let us take time to hear, see and respond to Jesus however He chooses to come to us.

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' Matthew 25:40, NLT

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, November 22, 2017

Shepastor: "Thankful and Thinking..."

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:1, KJV

As we sit around dinner tables, drive down highways or jump on planes to meet with family and friends, may we also think about and be intentional about blessing others…

- The homeless and hungry
- The immigrants facing deportation
- Our fellow U.S. citizens still suffering in Puerto Rico without power, shelter or clean water
- The grieving who find the holidays unbearable
- All who suffer…

May we think of ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus…

- Make monetary donations to charities, agencies, ministries
- Volunteer sometime preparing and or serving meals for the homeless
- Assist in distributing food and clothes to those in need
- Spend time sitting with someone who is broken just to listen
- Offer respite services for a day to a caregiver…

There are many other ways to bless others. May we all elect to do something to share the love of Christ as we give thanks for our blessings.
May you and yours have a blessed, compassion-filled Thanksgiving!

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, November 15, 2017

Shepastor: "Words to Bless You..."

May you be blessed today by the words of this Psalm...

Psalm 103 King James Version (KJV)

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

20 Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

21 Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

22 Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.


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

Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
PastShepastor1@hotmail.comor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Shepastor: “When ‘Freedoms’ Make Us Prisoners…”

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

Freedom is a beautiful thing. However, when the “freedoms” of some encroach upon the safety, peace of mind and liberty of others, it’s time to re-evaluate our stances.
Recent studies indicate that 66% of mass shootings over the past few decades have happened in the US…

“30 years of mass shootings by country”
Between 1983 to 2013, 119 mass shootings took place around the world. Sixty-six percent were in the U.S.



The Conversation/CC-BY
Get the data

Many are demanding freedoms they perceive to be associated with the 2nd Amendment. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states the following…

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment

At the time when this amendment was written, the Framers (“Founding Fathers”) were concerned about maintaining a law abiding society. There was no “standing army.” Therefore, states were given the power to form “well regulated Militias.” Of great concern was the uprising and rebellion of slaves. Aspects of this law was rooted in the “slave economy” and maintaining order. Read more in the article, “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment,” http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/hidhist.htm

In today’s society, The National Rifle Association (The NRA) has invested millions of dollars, dispatching gun lobbyist who have all but extinguished the courage of Congress to develop ANY common sense legislation to address gun control issues. As a result, the perceived “freedoms” of gun rights enthusiasts have unleashed a horrid rash of violence upon our Nation.

Pervasive loop holes in our current gun laws allow for the purchase of military style weapons by just about anyone, including those with a history of mental health issues. Websites, gun shows, some gun shops, etc., are free to sell guns without sufficient background checks.

While Americans are being encouraged to beware of immigrants, little or nothing is being done to address the terror being inflicted upon us by our own citizens…individuals who have purchased stock piles of war weapons with no questions asked.

Pausing for a moment of silence in remembrance of those who have lost their lives to tragic mass shootings will not stem the tide of gun violence in America. We need gun control!!!

Guns will not ensure our freedom. Our real freedom is in Christ.
May we continue in prayer for all of those who have lost loved ones during the past and most recent mass shootings in America.

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, November 1, 2017

Shepastor: “When ‘No’ Becomes ‘Yes’…”

Matthew 21:28-32New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they were going to do something…something that you were depending upon them to do and for whatever reason they did not do it? Wouldn’t you rather have had them say “No?” In this parable, Jesus talks about two sons that were asked by their father to work in the vineyard. One said, “No, I won’t go,” but did. The other said, “Yes, I’ll go,” but didn’t.

There’s something about the attitude of the first son that resonates with me. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt God leading me to do something that I was not particularly excited about doing…accepting the call to preach…accepting the call to pastor…changing the course of my desired career path to honor God’s direction for my life to name a few. There have been times when I’ve wrestled with God, not readily surrendering my will. Honestly, there have been times when I said, “NO!” Later, however, my “no” became a “yes.” This parable speaks to me because in it, we experience the abounding grace of God.

It seems that Jesus would rather have us wrestle and confront our struggle and evolve into a “yes,” than to blurt out a yes when we really mean NO! God honors the processes of our human frailty. Time and experience have taught me that there are abundant blessings in yielding to God’s will. There still are times, however, when I don’t want to do what I hear. Internally, I say, “No!” But my desire to be faithful, my reverential fear and ultimately my longing to stay close to the Lord wins out and my no becomes, yes.

Retrospectively, I realize the abundant blessings I would have missed had I stuck to my “no.” But I am grateful for the patience, mercy, grace and love of God that allowed me to express my true feelings. By the loving nudges and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I began to see the need and find the will to say “Yes.”

When our heart’s aim is to please the Lord, even when we start out with “No,” our love for God, our desire to be in God’s will and our understanding that without the Lord we are nothing, our “Yes,” eventually emerges.

It’s better to say “No,” and allow the work of God’s Holy Spirit to convict and draw you into yielding, than to mindlessly say “Yes,” and then fail to keep your word. By God’s grace, may we do what we say.

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 25, 2017

Shepastor: "Can You Fight in the Valley?"

28 And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD. I Kings 20:28, KJV

Israel had a history and reputation of being able to fight and win battles in the hills, on the mountains. But they were believed to be vulnerable in the valleys. So the Syrians conspired to attack and overthrow them in the valley. They wrongly believed that God was only with them on the mountains and hills. But God is also the God of the valleys. God uses valleys to teach us some things that mountain top experiences cannot. We must learn how to fight against the enemy not only when we are on the mountain, but down in the valley.

Can you trust God in your valley? Can you “watch, fight and pray” while standing in the midst of the valley? If you can only praise God on the mountain top then you need to check your praise. We must learn to say like David, “I will bless the Lord at ALL TIMES His praise shall CONTINUALLY BE IN MY MOUTH!”

It’s not easy to praise in the valley. That’s why the enemy tries to fight us there – the valley is where we are vulnerable…the valley is where doubts and fears try to beat us up…the valley is where we begin to question everything that we thought we believed about God. The valley is where our faith is challenged. But it’s in the valley that we have the greatest opportunity to affirm our stance that God is with us. In the valley is where we have the greatest opportunity to build ourselves up on our most holy faith. In the valley is where we bring the “sacrifice of praise.” Can you fight in the valley? Can you stand in the valley? Can you continue to trust God in the valley? Is God still God in the valley? If God is God when we are on the mountain, then God is God when we are in the valley!

Yes, the valley is a hard place, but the valley can be a transforming place…a place that can teach you, a place that can strengthen you and a place that can show the enemy that you worship and serve God whether on the mountain or in the valley! The devil would have you believe that you cannot be delivered from the valley. Some today are stuck in the valley. They are stuck in the valley because discouragement, devastation, and disappointment have made them heavy with bitterness, anger, resentment, hostility and fear. But you don’t have to stay in the valley. You can recover from the valley.

Somebody is asking the question today, “Lord, I’ve tried and failed so many times, will I ever recover? Will I ever succeed?” And God is saying “Yes, but you must fight the battle my way and not your own.” Pain is real. Suffering is real. The valley is real!!! The enemy has tactics devised to keep us broken, keep us wounded, keep us drowning in sorrow and without hope. But greater is the God within us than the devil in the world! When we yield ourselves to God daily…submitting our hearts to the altar daily…seeking God’s face daily…God will give us the grace, the strength, the peace, the power to face each valley experience. One step at a time, one day at a time, holding to God’s unchanging hand, believing in God’s Holy Word, standing on God’s promises, God will teach our hands to war and will show us how to be victorious not only on the mountain top but down in the valley.

The song writer said,

“All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercies?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Ere by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate'er fall me
Jesus doeth all things well…”

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 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