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