Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shepastor: “Sometimes Blossoms Skip a Season…”

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:11, KJV

This verse of scripture is the 2nd portion of a promise God gave to His people regarding the tithe…giving God the “first fruits” of all of their increase at a level of 10%. For those who “put God to the test,” and trusted Him enough to put Him first in their finances and in every aspect of their lives, God promised to “rebuke the devourer” for their sakes.

Sometimes it feels, no matter how faithful we’ve been that the “devourer” gobbles up various aspects of our lives. When doors remain closed, when children go astray, when finances are devastated, when sickness prevails, when death knocks at the door, it can feel like we were left out of the “blessed crew…”

But things are not always what they seem…

The other day while shopping for a special gathering in my home, as I entered the store I was greeted with a beautiful display of big, bright, lush fuchsia colored hydrangea. I started to walk past them, but they were so incredibly beautiful I could not resist…I bought two! I proudly brought them home and placed them on our front portico steps. Our children and our guests were thrilled when they saw them. I beamed with joy as they enjoyed the beauty of these gorgeous flowers.

Because I am not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, before going to sleep I decided to read up on how to care for these flowers. While reading I was particularly drawn to one aspect of their care….

The gardening guide advised that if hydrangea become dry and begin to die, “cut them down to the base, removing all blooms and leaves…leaving only the stem.” It further explained that the following season, the stem would produce no blooms, only leaves. Blooms would skip a season. But the season after that, the blooms would be strong, bountiful and lush.

This analogy spoke volumes to me. Just like hydrangea, when the Lord sees us getting “dry,” maybe even dying in some respects, He may elect to “cut us down to the base.” We may experience seasons without blooms…seasons of a few scraggly leaves so to speak or no leaves at all! But God knows exactly what He is doing! During those seasons of pruning, it may feel like we will never blossom again…it may look like we are barren and fruitless…it may appear to others that we have little or nothing going on…but our GREAT and AWESOME GOD sees the blooms coming in the next season!

Sometimes God strips us to the base to rid our lives, our hearts and our spirits of dead things, diseased things, harmful things that if left hanging on our stem would do irreparable damage and ultimately destroy our blossoms. Knowing all things, God intentionally cuts away those things that will stop us from experiencing the full, lush, bright and beautiful blossoms He desires us to produce.

Sometimes blossoms skip a season. Trust God…although you may be cut down to the base, know that your season of blooming is coming…coming strong, lush, big and beautiful!

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shepastor: “When Did We See You Lord?”

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 37-40 NIV

Our Nation is currently grappling with major pieces of legislation that will greatly impact the lives of many. Healthcare, education, jobs, the environment and national security are all on the table. How do these matters effect individuals in their day to day lives? Insensitivity, greed, racism, hatred and ignorance have all impacted the conversation. “What shall we say to these things?” A modern day rendition of Matthew 25 31-46 has been going around on Face Book.

Thanks to Jim Obergefell for sharing this powerful piece…

When I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps
When I was thirsty, you diverted lead & coal into my water
When I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates
When I was naked, you raped me & blamed me because I was naked.
When I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations
When I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me
From the lonely you took away social programs
From the elderly, you took away meals & medicine
From the workers, you took away legal protections
From the young, you took away school funding
From the victims, you took away shelter
Instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance
Instead of caring, you encourage isolation
Instead of equity, you encourage military excess
When the 1% has ground us into the dust, taken all of our money, and let us die for lack of insurance - who will you feed upon?

Thanks to Jim Obergefell for this share

Remember, in order to “pull yourself up by your own boot straps,” you must have boots!

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shepastor: "Something about the Wilderness..."

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4: 1-11, NIV

There is something about the wilderness…after Moses fled Egypt, he remained in the wilderness of Midian, tending sheep and marrying the daughter of Jethro, tradition suggests for forty years, unaware that the Lord was preparing him for a critical, historical, prolific role. Due to complaining spirits and unbelieving, hard hearts, the children of Israel were made to wander in the wilderness for forty years…a generation dying and another one rising before entering the promise land. After experiencing great victory defeating the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled to the wilderness of Horeb, after having his life threatened by Jezebel. He traveled forty days and nights by foot, depressed and desiring to die…unaware that God was preparing him to anoint the next kings and to prepare his successor Elisha.

There is something about the wilderness…God appears to use it as a tool of testing, processing and preparation. Jesus himself spent forty days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Fully immersing himself in the “human experience,” Jesus subjected himself to the condition of human frailty…to be hungry, lonely, hearing suggestions that he abandon his purpose and his Father’s plan… “tempted in all points, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Are you in the wilderness? You are in good company! Although we have the record, the heroes listed above had no clear path or way out. They simply had their convictions to trust, listen to and follow God. Jesus taught us how to press our way through the wilderness by relying totally upon God’s Word. At every turn, at every temptation, at every suggestion that was contrary to his purpose, Jesus responded with the Word.

Your wilderness is a time to pass tests, process and prepare. Each victory will help you some other to win...Although you may not be clear about where you are and why you are there, God knows exactly where you are and what He is preparing you to do. Like Moses, the wilderness can make you tired, frustrated and angry…but you don’t have to miss entering the promise land. Like Elijah, the wilderness can make you lonely, weary and depressed. But you don’t have to go and hide in a cave, waiting to die. Like Jesus, YOU WILL be tempted to forsake your purpose and God’s plan, but LIKE JESUS, you can overcome by the power of God’s Word.

We all face wilderness experiences. Through grace, faith, fasting, prayer and looking to Jesus, may you stand on God’s Word, press your way and remember, God will send angels to minister to you in time…

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shepastor: “Sometimes the Fastest Way Forward is to Turn Around…”

Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55: 6-7, NKJV

Let’s be honest…it can be embarrassing and ego bruising to admit that we have been going in the wrong direction…especially if we have been “beating a drum” defending our path! But if we are serious about getting closer to the place we feel called to reach, we must be willing to admit error and turn around.

If for some reason we have taken a wrong turn on our journey, going forward does not make sense. If we are on the wrong road, “real” steps forward mean turning back and getting on the correct path.

Maybe you have experienced driving in a car with someone who is resistant to asking for directions. Although you are not sure, you and the driver can sense that you are going the wrong way. But the driver, because of pride or some other reason refuses to stop and ask for assistance. Frustration builds, the feeling of wandering off into obscurity intensifies and the hope of reaching the desired destination anytime soon begins to fade!

In the words of C.S. Lewis,
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it's pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We're on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on”
May we, by faith, have the courage to admit our “wrong turns” and turn around. When on the wrong road, “going back is the quickest way” forward.

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Shepastor: "Forty Days Towards..."

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Psalm 51: 7-13, KJV

As a little girl growing up, “Lent” was a time when we gave up candy, baked goods and meat on Friday. We could not listen to loud music or dance on Sunday. Even if we did not attend church most Sundays, “Good Friday” was the day that we all went.

For me, it was a forty day march towards eating sweets again! We couldn’t wait to boil and color Easter eggs, make beautiful baskets with jelly beans, malted eggs, and big, beautiful chocolate bunnies! It wasn’t until years later that I began to grasp the wonderful opportunity the Lenten season offered to walk with the Lord in a very special and intimate way.

While we should daily come before the Lord with a desire to be cleansed, revived, renewed and restored, Lent is a time to magnify and increase our level of prayerful introspection.

Lent offers:

Forty days to pray intentional prayers of repentance and cleansing…
Forty days to fast for greater clarity…
Forty days to pursue God’s direction in a more focused way…
Forty days to pray for healing and reconciliation in our relationships, starting with God…
Forty days to seek God’s face…
Forty days to prepare for and cultivate a renewed excitement for the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

What do these forty days of Lent mean for you?

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