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 ( )
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…”

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

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.

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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

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.

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