Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shepastor: "When Silence is LOUD..."

...a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak
, Ecclesiastes 3:7, NIV

Recently as I listened to a radio program, the hosts of the program were having a dialogue about a controversial issue. As one host passionately shared his thoughts on the matter, the other remained completely silent. Usually, the co-host would make some remark or verbal utterance that indicated either agreement, disagreement or wonderment. This time, however, was different. There was no verbal interaction at all. I thought to myself, "Wow, her silence is deafening!"

There are times when silence is loud. The empty vacuum of voicelessness can create a sound that conveys deep and sometimes troubling messages. Inappropriate silence can convey messages of consent, agreement, indifference or fear. This is particularly true during instances of injustice. It is not enough to shake our heads, silently pray or simply think about what is wrong. There are times when righteousness compels us to raise our voices and cry out on behalf of the defenseless, the marginalized, the abused and the neglected.

Speaking up is a critical aspect of being a Christian and frankly, human. Throughout history, God has used the voices of every day men and women to speak up against blatant wrong happening in the world. The Old and New Testament prophets, Joan of Arc, Sojourner Truth, Jarena Lee, Nat Turner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Abraham Heschel, Mahatma Gandhi and Marian Wright Edelman to name a few all raised their voices to address human suffering, oppression, slavery, economic injustices, sexism, etc.

Recently movements such as Black Lives Matter, "Me Too" and Youth against gun violence are all examples of the power and importance of voice. While there are times when silence is appropriate and even necessary, silence must never be used as an excuse or a vehicle carrying indifference. We must never allow our silence to be louder than our love.
May we have the courage to speak up, speak out and stand when the silence of others is booming.

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Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Shepastor: "Today..."

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread
. Matthew 6: 9-11, NIV

One of the many struggles of the human existence is to remain focused on this day – today. And while some may say that particularly our young people don’t think about or don’t plan for the future because they are saturated with the “right now…” Many, however, are saturated with concerns about the future or even the past.

In consideration of this struggle, I like to think about the words of the late Ethicist, Theologian and Mystic, Dr. Howard Thurman who declared,
There is an abiding desire to know the future, to see around the corner of the days and the years. Even if we say that we will not concern ourselves with what will happen next month or next year, the shy insistence still remains – we want to know. This anxiety is the normal feeling that we face on the threshold of any new adventure. If we could be sure that all would be well, if we could have some guarantee that our present hopes would not betray us and leave us deserted and in the lonely place then we would find the peace that belongs to the contented. But life is not like that. He leads us on by paths we did not know…
If we could just see around the corner…if we could just peek through the door…if we could just see over the horizon, then we would find the peace that belongs to the contented…or would we? When I look back over my life, if I knew all that I would face before it happened, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to face those experiences. But God in His infinite wisdom chooses to keep things hidden from us until He knows we have what we need to face it.

On another note, “today” can be so frustrating because it’s not where we desire to be. For many, if we had our way, we would be somewhere else, experiencing something else, engaged in something else, doing something else. For some you are in proverbial waiting room…waiting for God to fix it, to change it, to move it, to improve it, to lift it, to take it, to make it, GRANT IT, DO IT– THE WAITING ROOM!!! For those in the waiting room, today may not feel so good. Often when we read this verse or even pray this prayer, we think of our “daily bread,” as the Lord supplying our physical needs. But our daily bread is more than physical needs – our daily bread is what we need to “feed us.”

The song write said, “Bread of Heaven, feed me ‘til I want no more…” Jesus understood the need for us to pray this prayer…give us this day our daily bread…because Jesus understood that we would be hungry…hungry for love, hungry for peace…hungry for satisfaction…hungry for healing…hungry for fulfillment…hungry for a break through…hungry for deliverance…HUNGRY!!!

Jesus knew that our hunger would cause us to lose the blessing and benefit of the day we currently have. As much as we long for tomorrow, there is nothing that we can do to rush it getting here. There are 24 hours in a day and that is that! There is nothing we can do to change the past. No matter how we long to go back and enjoy something or erase something, or fix something, we cannot – it’s the past. It’s done. It’s over. You can’t go back. But you can reap the blessings and the benefits of today.

We must learn to pray, Lord give us THIS DAY our daily bread…Lord give me what I need TODAY to satisfy my hunger. Lord give us this day what we need to fill that empty space, that pain, that struggle, that dissatisfaction – Lord give us THIS DAY the bread that will feed me until I want no more –THIS DAY do it in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit. Send your bread to fill me up.

Only Jesus can give us that kind of bread. Only Jesus can fill up the gaps that the world leaves gaping…only Jesus can teach us how to walk through the struggles of today.
Are you hungry? Are YOU hungry? The Lord wants to feed you. Jesus taught us this prayer and then he showed us what it means to be filled. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have days where the hunger pains return, but when you accept Jesus as your Savior, he teaches you how to hold onto today, make the most of today, be fulfilled with his love, his hope, his joy, his peace, his blessed assurance that he will never leave you or forsake you…the fulfillment that reminds you that your name is written in the lambs book of life and that you have eternal life.

Won’t you receive that bread today – Jesus the bread of life?

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shepastor: "When Winter Lasts Too Long..."

3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

The other day I heard a local meteorologist read a tweet from a viewer frustrated about the weather. It read in part, "So are we not doing Spring this year?" Many of us have been wondering the same thing! It's supposed to be Spring time, yet we are still experiencing snow showers, frozen soil, 30 degree weather and "Old Man Winter" just will not to let go!!! The Birds have come back from the south, the flowers are trying to push through the cold hard ground and we are still freezing!!!

Sometimes we feel that way about life. The winter of life seems to continue to persist. We thought that by now the "season" would have changed. We thought by now that we would have reached that goal, lost that weight, overcome that issue, conquered that struggle, paid off that debt, repaired that relationship, healed from that sickness...but for whatever reason, "Winter" is still here. During this time we are tempted to lose heart and hope. The enemy whispers into our ear, "Things will never change. You may as well give up." Rebuke those lies in the name of Jesus! Spring AND Summer, really are just around the corner!

Winter time can be depressing, gloomy and heavy. It can make you feel like staying in bed with the sheets pulled over your head. But we should take a page out of the book of God's example in nature. Each year, the birds return, the flowers push through, the trees bud and eventually, the sun shines. Yes, some plants wilt and die, but the greater majority prevail. The resilient nature of their composition and purpose pushes them forward.

For the child of God, trials, suffering, "winter," can produce perseverance, character and ultimately hope. Your winter is not without purpose. In the words of music artist Marvin Sapp, "You are stronger, wiser and better!" Your best days are ahead of you! You have learned things that "fun in the sun" could have never produced in you. Your ability to empathize with others has increased exponentially. You have discovered strength through Christ that you did not even know you possessed. HOLD ON!!! Your time of blossoming, soaring and experiencing the warm rays of the sun are on the way. By God's grace, may you press through your present experience of pain, cold and struggle. Spring and Summer are not far from your house!

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Shepastor: "Through the Eyes of a Child..."

1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I Corinthians 11:1, NIV

On Easter Sunday, beautiful children came to worship all dressed up in their new outfits. Two of our little ones burst into our church office announcing themselves..."Hello..." It was their way of inviting me to come and see their new dresses and polished nails. Of course I obliged! They were adorable, beautiful and full of delight! I reached down, gave them a big hug and let them know how beautiful they looked and are. I was totally surprised and incredibly blessed by the response of the 3 year old... she flung open her arms (as if performing on a stage) gave me a million dollar smile and boldly declared, "I look like YOU!!!"

She sees herself in her pastor. She wants to imitate me...she believes that she looks like me (she is far cuter!!!). I suddenly had an increased awareness of my responsibility to be intentional about modeling true beauty...the beauty of Christ before our children. This baby's response caused me to think deeply about imagery and the power it wields over people in general and children in particular. Children will imitate what they see. They will follow the examples we place before them. They learn the lessons that we teach with our actions.

What are you teaching by your actions, your words, your example? Whether you realize it or not, the children in your sphere of influence are looking at you. Whether you realize it or not, your face is a mirror into which our children see themselves. May we prayerfully, lovingly and righteously provide a reflection that exudes the love and way of Christ.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Shepastor: "Ever-Increasing Glory..."

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18, NIV

Some years ago, while driving home from a family trip, my daughter (who is known for pulling things “out of the sky” and making remarks) looked at me and declared, “Mommy, you are going to be so beautiful!” To which I responded, “Aris, you don’t think that I am beautiful now?” Aris went on, “Yes Mommy, but not as beautiful as you are going to be…”

While I am not quite sure what she saw or what she was thinking, her words carried my thoughts to another place. As the people of God, our desire should be to continually transform into the image of God with “ever-increasing glory.” During Holy Week, we stand on the sidelines of history, processing images of a Savior who began the week with loud hosannas and ended the week unrecognizable due to unimaginable brutality, mockery, and humiliation.

Yet Jesus endured all of these things to conquer Death, Hell and the Grave for us. What appeared to be defeat, was the dawning of a new day for humanity. Through God’s love, grace and mercy, Jesus’ willing sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, counsel and comfort, we can walk in victory…not only in the “life eternal,” but in our everyday lives. Through Christ we are no longer slaves to the sins that bind us, but are made “free indeed!” The Law that was a school master, reminding us of our inability to flawlessly follow every “jot and tittle” becomes the usher, that carries us to the throne of grace, taking us beyond the veil.

Through Christ, we can submit to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, transforming our lives to reflect more of the love, the grace, the mercy, the peace, the joy, the beauty, the justice, the righteousness, the compassion of God.

As we march towards “Good Friday,” and ultimately, “Resurrection Morning,” may we embrace the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May God’s ever-increasing glory be abundantly evident in our daily walk and may we know that our current beauty is merely a glimpse of what we shall be!

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Shepastor: "Drive Out the Giants..."

Allotment for Caleb
6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’[a] 10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war. Joshua 14: 6-15, NIV

Caleb knew that this land had been promised to him. He never forgot what the Lord told Moses – that he was to give this land to Caleb. Caleb had to watch as an entire generation faded away – forty-five years before reaching his promised destination. But in spite of the long, treacherous struggle and wait, Caleb was determined to receive what God had promised him. He didn’t want just any land, he wanted the specific land that was designated for him. The “mountain” or hill country he was promised was Hebron. What was so special about Hebron?

The significance of Hebron:

-After going his separate way from his brother Lot, Abraham “pitched his tent” in Hebron
-Abraham’s wife Sarah, after her death was buried in Hebron, as were all three of the patriarchs, Jewish Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
-It became a Levitical city and a city of refuge.
-As King of Judah, Hebron was David’s royal residence, and he was anointed as king over all Israel there.
-When David became King of Judah, he chose to make Hebron Israel’s first capital city.
-Next to Jerusalem, this is the most important city in the Bible.

This was a rich land, a holy land, a historic land – a “promised land.” But in spite of all that, there remained a big issue with the land – the land STILL HAD GIANTS!!!
One might think that after having to wait all of that time, the land would have been “good to go,” care free, smooth terrain, no problem, right? Not so!!! Even though it was rich, historic, anointed, holy, BEAUTIFUL, it still had some problems – BIG PROBLEMS!!! But look at Caleb’s attitude – no matter the problem, he still not only wanted, but was willing to fight for what God had for him! Let’s think about what we can learn from this passage and Caleb’s attitude…

Things to learn from this passage:

(1) You may have to wait a while for God’s promise to come to pass
I imagine that it was no cake walk for Caleb. 45 years is a LONG TIME by anyone’s count. But Caleb was a man that wholeheartedly followed the Lord. When he received God’s guidance and promise given through Moses, he didn’t buck up against Moses, he didn’t go against Moses with the rest of the eight spies,he grabbed hold to God’s promises and ran with them. You will not be able to stand on God’s promise, stand firm against a majority who are fearful, doubtful, pessimistic, and contrary unless you wholeheartedly follow the Lord. You will not be able to hold on and hold out for God’s best for your life if you are “half steppin” with your faith. Coming to church every now and then, praying every now and then, barely if ever studying God’s Word, living in ways that you know go against what God’s Word teaches about holy living…Jesus said, “a little leaven, leveneth the whole lump.” A pinch of yeast can cause an entire loaf of bread to rise because of its potency. That is the thing with sin, disobedience, bad attitudes, rebellious spirits, foolish pride, unholy behaviors, etc. When you allow seeds of sin to take root in your heart you undermine the seed of faith, hope, love, trust, truth in your own heart. The thorn-bushes of sin will crowd out any seed of faith, hope and righteousness that propel you into having “Caleb-like” faith – a faith that helps you to hold on to the promises. We’ve got to nurture and build our faith so that we can hold onto God’s promises and receive that which He has promised – not just any old thing, but God’s best for us, a “Hebron blessing!”

(2) There are still giants in the “promised land”

Another thing we learn from this text is that even when we receive the promise, proverbial giants will often still be in the land. You finally land your “dream job” only to find out that the person or persons you have to work with are mean, jealous and undermining. You finally get your new home, only to find out the previous owners nor the realtor told you all of the expenses you would have fixing hidden problems. You finally get out of prison only to find out that you can’t find a job. You finally reach your educational goal, but now you’ve got to pay back student loans. You finally get what you’ve been waiting for only to find out that THERE ARE GIANTS IN THE LAND!!!

Be prepared for the giants. In other words, understand that in this world we will have tribulation, but Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” There will always be something that you will have to overcome. There is no perfect place, there is no perfect job, there is no perfect relationship, there is no perfect church, there is no perfect human beings…everybody and every place has some kind of issues. If you run away, you will still face issues because you can’t run from yourself and believe it or not WE ALL HAVE ISSUES!!! Don’t relinquish what God has for you in your promised place because of challenges, because of trials, because of discouragement. Learn from Caleb who declared, 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Our third and final lesson,
(3) With the help of the Lord you can drive them out…

My father always used to encourage me by saying, “Chrissy, life could never be that hard. Always say to yourself, ‘With the help of Almighty God, I can make it!’” Caleb in our text recognized the giants. He called them by name. He acknowledged their strength, but then he affirmed his faith that even though they were strong, with God’s help, he could and would drive them out because God said that the land belonged to him! Learn how to claim your territory. Name your giants. Recognize what your problems, your issues, your stumbling blocks, your challenges, your weaknesses. When you know what they are and you can name them, then you can move on from there and process through understanding its strength. In other words, we’ve got to be strategic about facing and defeating our giants.

You cannot defeat or overcome your issues if you are unwilling to name them, understand their strength and then strategize on how to drive them out. You’ve got to name your issues. Don’t under estimate the strength, the pull the current power whatever it is has over you. For some, the giant is anger and hostility…can’t control your emotions. For some the giant is low self-esteem…because you don’t understand and embrace the beauty of who God made you to be you are ever comparing yourself, ever under-rating yourself, ever insecure about yourself. For some the giant is perpetually making bad choices. You don’t stop and think things through. You don’t pay attention to warning signs. You don’t look before you leap!

We all have giants. But with the help of the Lord, we can drive them out. It does not matter how old you are. God can help you to name, face and defeat the giants that seek to oppress and overpower you, blocking you from having the best blessings that God has for your life, for your family, for your household, your marriage, your children, your finances, your relationships. God will help you to name, face and ultimately drive out the giants that are holding you down, dragging you back, controlling you with heart ache and fear.

Do you want to drive the giants out? Learn from Caleb in our text…wholeheartedly follow the Lord – stop half steppin. Give your life, your heart, your mind, your mouth, your will, your finances, your whole self to the Lord. Do you want to drive out the giants? Stop playing games with God and yourself. Name your issues. Deal with them through prayer, faith, a decision to change and therapy is necessary. Deal with your giants! Do you want to drive the giants out? Take hold of God’s promises over your life. No matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult it may seem, no matter who does or does not stand with you – hold to God’s unchanging hand – follow God with your whole heart – trust and obey and God will give you what you need to be victorious in every arena of your life!

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Until next Wednesday

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Shepastor: “For the Common Good…”

11A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11, NIV

It is not always easy to “overlook an offense.” Our natural inclination (at least for me) is to either say something or withdraw. Frequently, relationships are strained or broken because of offenses. Through observation, however, I am learning the benefits of overlooking offenses.

Let me hasten to say that some offenses CANNOT be overlooked…abuse, sexual or racial attacks, bullying etc. These issues must be addressed head on and must not be tolerated.
But there are other offenses that we should learn to move past and work through. I am always impressed to take note of individuals who have learned the delicate art of moving beyond an offence to work with others to accomplish good.

For example, people with opposing political views coming together to work on a community project to help many… acquaintances who just “rub one another the wrong way,” putting aside their differences to share their expertise to help educate or inform others…pastors and leaders who don’t ordinarily “run in the same circles” or who have different approaches to addressing issues, coming together on one particular thing to help advance a cause.

Can you overlook an offense in order to reach a higher goal, address a pressing issue, attend to a major problem? Can you push past your offense in order to make a greater impact for good? How adept are you, through prayer, patience and discernment at “picking your battles?”

May we pray for the wisdom and discernment to address those issues that need addressing and overlook those issues that get in the way of our doing common good.

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Shepastor: “The Glass Slipper Does Not Fit…”

Now this is what the LORD says--the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel--"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1, Christian Standard Bible

There is so much pressure on people to “fit in.” The other day while riding along in the car, my thirteen year old daughter and I had an interesting discussion about “misfits.” She asked me what I thought the term meant.

Out of the blue, she declared, “The glass slipper does not fit…” The phrase, borrowed from Cinderella struck me. In the fairy tale, a prince came and rescued the beautiful young lady who was being mistreated, abused and oppressed; but for many, no such “rescuer” appears. Maybe they appeared and left because of unfulfilled expectations. Rejection, bullying, mean words and abuse have many walking around thinking, “the glass slipper does not fit…no prince is coming for me!” But there is One who has chosen us, calls us by our name and claims us as His own…the LORD!

It is critical that we teach not only our children and youth, but all ages the importance of knowing who we are…who we really are. If our identity is based only upon what others think or say, we will ever be mired in uncertain and untenable frames of mind. Although it is easier said than done, we must daily remind ourselves and those we influence to find their true identity in Christ.

As the people of God, we will never truly “fit”…being “in the world, but not of the world (John 15:19).” Our differences, however, are beautiful, a breath of fresh air, salt and light.
The ugly duckling is really a swan. The lowly caterpillar is evolving into a beautiful butterfly. The misfit is actually an anointed, gifted, creative, stunning blessing waiting for God’s appointed time to emerge from beneath the ash heap of ignorance and fear cast upon her.

Forget the glass slipper! The real Prince has a crown waiting for you and in this life, a world waiting to experience your unique glory and splendor! Learn who you are in Christ and then go and be your best self ever, to the glory of God!

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Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Shepastor: “Let Your FIRST Step Be Prayer…”

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly
. Psalm 5:3, NIV

Before I look at my text messages, jump onto Facebook or even begin a conversation with my family, I look to meet first with the Lord in prayer. In recent days, people have become frustrated with those who are using the refrain, “We are keeping everyone in our thoughts and prayers…”

Yes, the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avails much. Yes there is GREAT power in prayer. But prayer is not the end…prayer is the beginning. It is the first step in seeking God’s guidance, strength, courage, and wisdom to address whatever life brings our way. Prayer is the first step in putting feet to our faith.

The Psalmist declares that the Lord will hear his voice in the morning. In other words, the Psalmist wants to give God the first of his day. He then “waits expectantly” for God’s response. How many foolish decisions have we made because we didn’t “meet God in the morning” and wait for His response? How many opportunities have we missed because we dashed out of the door and didn’t check in to “get our assignment” for the day?

What’s first on your agenda? Who receives the first fruits of your heart and your lips? If you are not in the habit of meeting God first, at the very first part of your day, try it out and see how your journey changes…

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Shepastor: “I’m Overwhelmed…I Can’t Do it…Oh, Yes I Can!!!”

Hear My Cry; Listen to My Prayer
1{To the chief Musician upon Neginah, A Psalm of David.} Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2From 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.
3For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
Psalm 61: 1-3, KJV

If your heart has ever been overwhelmed, not with joy, but with stress, pain, “work overload,” etc., then you can identify with the psalmist. There have been occasions when I lay in my bed and wonder how in the world am I going to accomplish, get through, get over whatever it is I’m dealing with. There are days when I feel like picking up the phone or sitting down at the computer to send an email to say to whomever, “Sorry, I just can’t get this done…”

Yes, there are times when we must pull back, say “No,” scale down responsibilities. Particularly in ministry, we can fall into becoming a “Jack of all trades and master of none!” But there are also time when we have been called, anointed and appointed to carry out specific responsibilities. It is our time and our season to lead, to accomplish, to fulfill. It can be OVERWHELMING!!!

At those times, we must learn to pray like the psalmist, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Sometimes being overwhelmed is not the pressure of external forces, but rather internal stressors, telling us, “you can’t do it, you are not strong enough, you don’t have what it takes, just give it over to someone else.” Could it be that our own fears and insecurities are blocking the energy and creativity we need to get it done?

When we lay our cares, concerns, responsibilities, and heart bare before the “Rock,” Jesus, our Lord and our Savior, He will give us the peace, wisdom and fortitude we need to do those things that we are being called to do. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because we are being stretched…pulled out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because we are being challenged to grow and go higher than where we currently are.

With the help of the Lord, YOU CAN DO IT…YES YOU CAN!!! Today, I encourage you to examine the source of your feelings. If it
is truly something that you need to release, turn over to someone else, forget, etc., the Lord will give you the insight, courage and peace to do so. But if it is the enemy of your soul, seeking to distract, intimidate, overwhelm and push you off the path of your destiny, RESIST, look to the Rock that is higher and by faith “keep on keepin on!” For the Lord is your shelter and strong tower from the enemy!

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Shepastor: “New Wine Skins…”

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved." Matthew 9:17, NLT

Earlier today a talk show host was interviewing a member of the “Geek Squad,” on how to improve computer performance. The young man suggested that many of our computers are slow, sluggish and performing poorly because we need to clean out our “cookies” and empty our “recycle bins.”

For those who don’t work on computers, “cookies” are like file cards that remind your computer of various sites that you’ve visited. The “recycle bin” is where files go when you’ve deleted them. They don’t go away completely until you empty the virtual recycle bin.

When these old files are “junking up” your computer, it makes it difficult for the computer to process and correctly apply new information. In a similar way, the religious leaders who opposed Jesus were filled with old ways of thinking and living. Their traditions had overtaken their way of understanding God’s Word and God’s way. They were more concerned about their way, than God’s way.

As a result, they could not receive the new covenant being offered to them through Christ. They rejected the “new wine,” of love, deliverance and salvation. They needed a new heart in order to receive the new way.

During the Lenten season, God’s people have an opportunity to reflect, repent and renew our relationship with the Lord. During the forty days of focused prayer, sacrifice and service, we have an opportunity to empty our proverbial “recycle bins…” asking the Lord to help us get rid of some old ways, old thoughts, old behaviors that maybe still hanging around. We need to “empty the trash” of our hearts so that we can receive the “new wine” that Christ has for us in this season.

What do you need to empty out of your spiritual system? What old issues, thoughts, hurts, disappointments, frustrations, fears, etc., do you need to discard? As we begin Lent today, may we ask the Lord to remove those things that are blocking the new, the fresh, the clean, the beautiful that God wants to bring into our lives. May the Lord bless you as you begin your Lenten journey…

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Shepastor: "A Lenten Litany for the Beloved Community..."

Several years ago, I was asked to prepare a litany for a community Lenten Service. Below are the words I was inspired to prepare. May they be a blessing to you and those you serve...

“A Lenten Litany for the Beloved Community”

Leader: During this Lenten Season, we remember our Savior’s ministry, life, death and the horrific pain he endured, not only physically, but in his spirit as he took upon himself the sins of the world. We remember how you wept over the unbelief of your people, the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, the neglect and the marginalization of the oppressed.

People: Lord, help us to see ourselves and others as you see us.

Leader: Today we remember that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed. With this in mind, let us rededicate ourselves to his ministry of teaching and his way of demonstrating love, peace and understanding of the social conditions of all humankind.

People: Lord, help us to become more committed to improve the conditions of poor and oppressed people and all God’s people.

Leader: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags. Through the blood of Jesus, however, we can be washed clean. Through the power of his Holy Spirit, we can be made whole. Through the love of Christ, we can become all that God has created us to be.

People: Lord help us to remember that you have not called us to a “religion,” but a “relationship.” Help us to be in right relationship first with you and then with one another.

Leader: Lord, you have called us to be the “beloved community,” to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you. You have called us to free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who are over worked, and to let the oppressed go free.

People: Lord, you have called us to share our food with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, clothe those who are naked and not hide from those who need our help. May we work together, not only to give immediate help, but to correct systems that keep the poor oppressed.

In Unison: Lord, help us to become the beloved community that you came for, lived for, died for, rose for and for whom you will come again!

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Shepastor: "Have You Lost Your Song?"

5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
6They spread a net for my feet—
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
8Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
9I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
11Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57: 5-11, NIV

The Hebrew writers did not have one word for the term “praise,” but rather they used various, specific words, depending upon the message that they were attempting to convey to the reader and or listener. In Psalm 57, the Psalmist uses the Hebrew term, “Zamar.”

Zamar means "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments.”

Back in the late 70’s/ early 80’s an R & B group named Earth, Wind and Fire had a song called, “Sing a Song”

The lyrics said,

When you feel down and out
Sing a song, it'll make your day…

Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and James Cleveland declared,

Without a song the day would never end
Without a song the road would never bend
When things go wrong a man ain't got a friend
Without a song…

...I'll never know what makes the rain to fall
I'll never know what makes that grass so tall
I only know there ain't no love at all
Without a song

Even Elmo, in his dvd, “Welcome to Grouch Land,” sings the 70’s group the Carpenters tune…

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song

All of these songs have a common theme – songs of the heart greatly contribute to the health and sustainability of life. Proverbs 17:22 declares, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 18: 14 declares, “A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”

It appears that the Psalmist had every reason to have a crushed spirit. Enemies had stolen “his song.” In verse 4 of our text, Psalm 57, the Psalmist declared,

4I am in the midst of lions;
I lie among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords

The Psalmist describes his circumstance as being “amidst lions, ravenous beasts, men whose teeth are as spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp as swords… He’s in a bad place. Have you ever experienced the pain of being attacked by mean spirited people? Not necessarily physically attacked, but having your character attacked, your name dragged through the mud, your motives questioned, your every move considered suspect. Have you ever experienced a jealous co-worker or sibling, an insecure mentor or boss, an envious relative, a cruel bully – if you have, then you can relate to the psalmist.

The pain inflicted by the tongue sometimes lasts years longer than any bruise caused by a physical punch. The feeling that someone is waiting to pounce on you, so to speak by speaking cruel words, or by plotting to get you removed or in trouble can break your spirit and make you feel sick. The Psalmist said that these enemies seemed to be as ravenous beasts – their treatment of him felt like a wild animal was tearing him from limb to limb. He was in some serious pain – He had lost his song but not for long. Something happened within the Psalmist. He began to speak in His native Hebrew language and declared, “Zamar!”

Zamar means "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments.”
He stepped over the pain of attacks and climbed up to platform of his soul and began to pluck the strings of his heart and declared,

5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
6They spread a net for my feet—
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah

In the text you see the instruction, “Selah” that is not to be spoken or pronounced, it is an instruction to pause and think about what was just said. The Psalmist said, “They spread a net for my feet – I was bowed down in distress – they dug a pit in my path – but they have fallen into it themselves.” And then, he stops and thinks about what God has done and declares…

7My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

The Psalmist declared with strength, faith and determination – “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast, I will sing and make music.” You have to make up your mind to get your song back! Much in life will try to steal your song. Much in life will threaten to break your spirit, to crush your dreams, to laugh at your vision, to press down, your enthusiasm, but you’ve got to declare like the Psalmist – “Zamar!” I Will sing and make music.

Keep a song of faith in your heart. No matter what comes your way – declare, “Be exalted O God above the heavens, let your glory be over all of the earth.” In other words, the Psalmist was saying, “God be exalted over my enemies, over my situation, over my pain, over my circumstances – let your glory be over EVERYTHING that concerns me!” The Psalmist made up his mind that he was going to sing his song. He said, “Zamar!” My heart is going to be an instrument – your goodness, mercy, glory and grace is going to pluck the strings of my heart and I exalt you in my life – I exalt you in my spirit, I exalt you above all that would seek to cast me down and I will praise your name! The Psalmist declared in so many words – I will not let you steal my song!

Sing your song – exalt God in your life. Proclaim God’s glory unto yourself – exalt God in your life – refuse to accept the enemies report – Isaiah raised the question, “whose report will you believe?” Get your song back! Sing your song. Stop letting the mean spirited attacks of your enemies to pluck your heart strings. Instead, shout, “Zamar” and proclaim – “Be exalted O God above the heavens, let your glory be over my life!”

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Shepastor: El Roi: “The God Who Sees Me”

O LORD, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do];You understand my thought from afar.3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And You are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139: 1-3, Amplified Bible

Psalm 139 presents God as El Roi, “The God Who Sees Us.”
In this Psalm, David was doing some deep introspection. He was pouring out all of his feelings - the good, the bad and the ugly before God. He was, “keeping it real.” David didn’t try to hide his feelings, his struggles, his questions, even his hateful feelings toward his enemies from God, because David understood that there was no place he could run or hide from the all seeing eye of the Lord. Interestingly, he took great comfort in Knowing that God sees and knows all.

When our daughter Aris was just learning how to talk she enjoyed playing “peek - a - boo.” Sometimes she would crawl up the stairs to the landing which divided our staircase, run to the window and pull the curtains over her face, peek out with a big grin and say, “I See You!” Playing that game gave her great delight because she enjoyed hiding her face and then peeking out and saying, “I See You!”

While God is not in heaven playing peek - a - boo with us, saying, “I See You,” there are times, when we like Adam and Eve in the garden want to run and hide ourselves, run and cover ourselves, pull, if you will, a curtain over our faces because we don’t want the Lord to look at us. Sometimes we don’t even want to look at ourselves. Sometimes we wrestle with who we are, who we aren’t and who we wish we were. There are others who feel that nobody “sees” them. They feel invisible.

In Ralph Ellison’s Work, The Invisible Man, he discusses one man’s struggle to “see” himself after years of feeling invisible. The character declared…
And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself…

This was grieved that no one cared to know him. He felt that no one ever gave him a second thought. Who he was didn’t matter - not to those who couldn’t see him…not for those who had no desire to see him. They only saw what they wanted him to be - they only saw what they carved out for him to be. Therefore, the true essence of who he was, was invisible. So he spent years of his life trying to be something he was not, living beneath who God had created him to be, trying, as June Cash, the widow of Johnny Cash used to say, “Just tryin to matter.”

So many spend their lives, never learning who God meant them to be, just tryin to matter - walking around, feeling invisible because nobody can “see” them. Some are so buried under the junk of stuff that folks have piled on them over the years that they can’t even see themselves!

But there is one who sees you! God sees us and loves us unconditionally just as we are.
While the Lord desires that we become all that we were created to be, His arms are open to receive us just as we are, where we are, however we are. Your only pre-requisite is to say “Yes” to His out stretched hand, receive Jesus as Savior and allow the Lord to cleanse you and make you whole.

You are not invisible! El Roi sees you and loves you.
God wants you to be able to see yourself as He sees you - wondrously made, gifted, beautiful, resourceful, meaningful and fit for His use. The Lord wants you to throw off all of the negativity, all of the baggage from the past, all of the mess that weighs you down and buries the real you. God wants to lift you. God wants to free you. God wants to restore you. God wants you to see yourself as He sees you – VALUABLE, BEAUTIFUL, GIFTED, AND READY TO RISE!!!

If you are struggling to know the true you, the real you, the “you” that El Roi sees, ask the Lord who knew you before the foundation of the world to open your eyes to all that God intended you to be and walk into your God appointed destiny!

I am standing in agreement with you today for GREATER!!!
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Shepastor: “The Lord is My Banner, My Light and My Salvation”

Jehovah Nisi - The Lord is My Banner
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; who is then a cause of fear to me? the Lord is the strength of my life; who is a danger to me? 2 When evil-doers, even my haters, came on me to put an end to me, they were broken and put to shame. 3 Even if an army came against me with its tents, my heart would have no fear: if war was made on me, my faith would not be moved. Psalm 27: 1-3, The Bible in Basic English

In ancient times, armies had a team of soldiers that were designated to carry a banner that was held high, that identified who they were, the name of their God and what they stood for. The purpose of the banner was to remind the fighting troops that they were not alone in the battle, but that enforcements were there fighting alongside them. The Lord, Jehovah Nissi would make them victorious. The banner also sent notice to their enemies that they were not going to just break through and pillage and rob and rape and destroy and take over because the soldiers were not fighting on their own - they had a weapon stronger than any nuclear weapon. They had the Lord God Jehovah-Nissi going before them fighting their battle. So then the banner did several things - it encouraged the troops to keep the faith because they were not alone, it reminded them that the Lord Jehovah-Nissi was going before them, fighting the battle and making them victorious, and it reminded their enemies that the army was a force to be reckoned with - that God was with them and he was moving mightily on their behalf. When they focused upon the Lord as their Banner, moving and working on their behalf, it calmed their fears.

In Psalm 27, David lifts up several key points to encourage himself:
(1) The Lord is his light and keeps him safe - who can make him afraid? David says that in the dark times of his life, the Lord lit his path and kept him safe. Sometimes in the dark times of our lives, the discouraging times, the uncertain times, the times when we don’t know which way to turn, the times when it looks like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel- times of darkness - we can become afraid and overwhelmed. Psalm 27 teaches us that even in dark times the Lord, Jehovah-Nissi is our light – The Lord can and will show us the way if we put our trust in Him, lean and depend upon Him and ask Him to show us the way.

(2) The second thing that David lifts up in these two verses is his enemies rose up against him but they stumbled and fell. Many of the Psalms were written as David ran from his mentor, King Saul. On several occasions, Saul sought to take David’s life. To complicate matters, Saul was the father of his best friend Jonathan. But David continued to trust in the Lord. David never sought to retaliate against Saul. On one occasion, David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but he said, “far be it from me to touch the Lord’s anointed.”

(3) David allowed the Lord to handle his enemies. Although it’s not easy, we must allow the Lord- Jehovah Nissi to go before us and fight our battles. There are some enemies that only the Lord God can handle. Some enemies are unseen. The enemy of our souls - satan is ever warring against our mind, against our hopes, against our dreams, against our spirit, seeking to discourage us, to hinder us and ultimately to make us give up. He wants to make us afraid and believe that the Lord has forgotten us, that the Lord doesn’t care about us, that the Lord is insensitive to our needs. But when you remember that the Lord is with you, going before you, making a way for you - the enemy satan will have to fall back. God’s word says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you - draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”

Today, and always, remember that the Lord, Jehovah Nisi is our banner! The Lord goes before us. The Lord will fight our battles and the Lord will give us victory. The Lord is our light and our salvation. Who should we fear? The Lord is the strength of our lives…who can make us afraid?

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Shepastor: "What is Your New Life Resolution?"

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 12-14, KJV

Every year between December 31st and January 1st, people make all kind of promises to themselves and to others. We call these promises – “resolutions.” This term comes from the root word, “resolute,” meaning to be resolved, determined, undaunted, tenacious, unwavering.” New Year resolutions are born out of the idea that the old year for better or for worse is gone and is not coming back – so in the new year, we hope to do somethings better, or at least differently.

You’ve heard them, “I’m going to lose weight…, I’m going to stop cursing…, I’m going to stop smoking…, I’m going to save more money…, I’m going to stop using credit cards…” The list goes on and on. Today, I’d like to challenge us not to think about making meaningless promises that most times we fail to keep. I’d like to challenge you to prayerfully consider making a “New Life Resolution.”

How “resolute” are you when it comes to living a transformed life? Do you have a “fixed” mindset or a “growth mindset.” For some, they accepted Christ as a child and have been going to church ever since. But no real or true transformation has ever happened in their lives. They are “fixed.” They are not concerned about growth. They are not concerned about transformation. They are content to remain as they are.

There is a difference between changing a habit and changing your life. Even dieticians and physicians have come to the conclusion that if you really want to lose weight, you can’t just create a list of things you determine that you will give up. Human nature dictates that after a while, the feeling of self -deprivation will take over and you will return to old habits of eating things you shouldn’t. Therefore, they say, a life change – in other words, a change of thought, a change of heart, a change of resolve has to take place in order for real results to happen and be long term.

So it is with our spiritual walk with Christ. Being a Christian is more than giving up the seven deadly sins…Lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, anger and pride. Some stricter traditions have added a few more…drinking, smoking, playing cards, dancing, popping fingers, wearing makeup and going out to parties!

The problem with both lists is that those efforts may control some external behaviors, but the human will can never change the human heart. In order to truly change, a spiritual transformation has to take place. This is not some mystical, secretive process whereby a person has to say chants or drink a potion or have a witch doctor shake some special formula with smoke over your head. No no! Holy Ghost transformation – the kind of transformation that changes your life happens when you have an encounter with God.
Yes, even those who minister and preach the Gospel need to have transforming experiences – fresh encounters with God.

In 2018, don’t let the demons of fear, of worry, of self-doubt, of low self-esteem, of old belittling voices in your head, of resentment, anger, hostility and yes even hatred – don’t let those demons keep you shackled. As you enter 2018 let it go. Don’t be like the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for forty years because they kept looking back and couldn’t believe God for what they could not see. Step out on faith –ask the Lord to reveal his will and purpose for your life and then pursue it.

Pastor and author Bill Hybel says,
“You will never take big hills without making bold moves”

Letting go of what has held you back, held you down, kept you imprisoned is not always easy – it takes the bold move of faith to let it go, trust God, resolve to live for Him in every way. It’s a new path, a fresh encounter, a prayerful journey, a new way of living. Be bold and walk with your head held high, press towards the mark that God has ordained for your life.

May you and yours have a “growth filled,” joyous, peaceful and “forward moving” New Year!

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