Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Shepastor: “Don’t Leave Before the Benediction” Part I

Numbers 6:22-27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Priestly Benediction
22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

For the next few weeks, Shepastor will highlight the words that the Lord spoke to Moses to give to the Priest Aaron and his sons as a blessing over Israel. These verses are known as the “Priestly Benediction.”

Our focus for today highlights God’s desire for His people to dwell in peace. Even as they journeyed through the desert – the wilderness, God wanted to bless them. God spoke specific words that Aaron and his sons were to speak over the children of Israel each time they gathered for worship and prepared to go back to their every day lives. Verse 27 says, “So they shall put my name on the Israelites and I will bless them.”

The term “benediction” has latin roots. “Bene” translates as “well” and “diction” translates as “to speak.” Before going back out into the ups and the downs of everyday life, as they departed from the space of cooperate worship, the gathering of the saints, the collective worship of the people of God, the Lord didn’t want them to leave without receiving a “well word” spoken over their lives.

Even in the dessert, God was speaking a word of blessing over them. Consider each phrase of this five-fold benediction:

Phrase I
“The Lord bless you and keep you….”

God wanted them to remember that even in the desert, He was blessing and keeping them. This phrase offers God’s protection and favor. In other words, God was telling Aaron and his sons, “Tell my people that I am protecting them and granting them favor.” It can be difficult to see, hear or understand blessings in the desert. But just like the Israelites, God provided for their shelter, their food, their protection. Even though they did not realize it, even though they did not appreciate it, even though they did not give God praise for it, God yet kept and blessed them. Even when you are feeling dry, isolated, disappointed, tired and wondering when in the world you are going to enter your promised land, God wants you to remember that He is with you, He is keeping you. You may not realize it but God is carrying you through this season. You are called to continue to put your trust in Him, follow His path and obey His voice. Determine not to leave until you receive the “good word” that God wants to speak over your life.

When we are frustrated, weary, feeling like things don't make sense... because it may feel like the dessert, we may be tempted to leave before receiving the "good word" God has for us. But God wants us to receive all that He has prepared for us in His timing and in our season. Some of the Israelites did not leave physically, but they checked out psychologically. In other words, they stayed in the camp, but they were bitter, complaining, arguing, fighting, rebellious and ugly. As a result, God allowed them to go around and around the same place, literally feet away from the Promised Land but never actually taking hold of it. In their hearts they “left” without receiving the good word from the Lord.

We all get tired and frustrated. We all experience doubt, fears and discouragement. But that’s when we must determine to take every thought captive and bring it into subjection to the obedience of Christ. Just as we are about to receive our break thru, our healing, our deliverance, our greatest blessing, the enemy tries his best to convince us that God is not for us, that God will not deliver on his promises, that God will leave us languishing in the desert. But the devil is a LIAR!!! God's heart is to bless and keep us. God has promised to give His children a hope and a future, but we must yield to Him with our whole heart. The desert will happen. But God can and will see us through the desert! Remember God's blessing over your life - "The Lord Bless you and keep you!"

Next Week we will consider the next two phrases of this Priestly Benediction…

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May you and your family have a blessed Christmas Season!

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Shepastor: “Be Sure of Your Footing…”

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. Proverbs 18:33, NLT

The older I get, the more I hate winter! Of particular concern for me is navigating our icy drive way as I walk from our back door to the garage. As I slowly, carefully looked for dry or snowy patches weaved in and around icy patches, I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me fall.” Thankfully, I was able, with the help of the Lord to make it to the garage safely. This experience caused me to think about the importance of “sure footing.”

The psalmist declared that the Lord made his feet “surefooted” (NLT) like that of a deer, enabling him to stand upon high places. The hooves of deer are shaped in such a way that that are able to grip the sides of mountains. While other animals or even humans may find mountain sides slippery and dangerous, the deer appear to effortlessly leap upon them.

Life presents many slippery places for us to navigate…places that make us feel unsure and insecure…dangerous traps to make us fall. But just as God helps the deer to climb mountains, the Lord can make our proverbial feet surefooted, keeping us from slipping into disaster. Even if we slip, the Lord is there so raise us up.

What slippery place are you fearing today? Spend time in the presence of the Lord, asking Him to develop your “deer feet,” so that you can walk upon the high places that have been ordained for your life! God Himself can and will make you “surefooted!”

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Shepastor: “The Disturbance of Deliverance”

Matthew 8:28-34 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Restores Two Demon-Possessed Men

28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[a]two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men.34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

These two men had many evil spirits that were possessing, controlling, destroying, debilitating them. They were, to say the least, disturbed. It is interesting to note that these two men were able to hang around each other, but no one else could deal with them. They were disturbed together. Be careful with whom you choose to “buddy up." We don’t know how these two ended up possessed together, but somehow they were able to hang out in dead places with one another. Don’t allow people to drag you into their tombs. Don’t allow people to pull you into their disturbed, dysfunctional, destructive arena. Be careful. Do what you can but avoid ending up in a co-dependent situation! If you are not careful, you may find yourself possessed, disturbed, dysfunctional and in dead places!

In this text, Jesus does not even speak to the men. He interacts directly with the demons who recognized him immediately. The demons begged Jesus not to have to leave the man and go into the abyss, so Jesus allowed them to be cast out into a herd of swine or pigs.
Not even the pigs, however, wanted anything to do with the demons – rather than be possessed by them, they ran down into the lake and drowned themselves! When the pig owners saw what happened they ran and told the towns people. Everyone came running out to see what happened. You would think that they would give God high praise that the men were delivered. But instead, they begged Jesus to leave! Deliverance can cause a disturbance!

The herdsman lost their livelihood – a disturbance. These once dysfunctional, crazy men are now clothed and in their “right mind,” and the towns people didn’t know what to think or how to deal with them – a disturbance! The demons had to find somewhere else to go – A DISTURBANCE!!! The people had learned to accept and live with the demons. The deliverance created a new learning curve! For some, it’s easier to accept the demons than to do the hard work associated with deliverance.

Demons come in all shapes, and forms and sizes. They are not the mythical figures we see on television or in cartoons of red creatures with pitchforks with horns and jagged teeth. Nor are they reserved simply for those who we think are crazy or evil.
The devil is much more cunning than that. “Demons” are anything that oppress, shackle, depress, isolate, crush and come in the middle of our relationship with God. And while we may not go and hang out in literal grave yards, there are things that can separate us, isolate us, oppress, depress, hinder, obstruct, and yes crush our spirits, such that we even pull away from others and our relationship with God.

If you are pushed down long enough, you can begin to stop looking up.
If you are criticized long enough you can stop dreaming and reaching for higher. If you are failed repeatedly without any path for success you will deem yourself a failure. Even if you begin to succeed you will begin to make yourself fail so that you will fulfill your acquired MO.

Demons that shackle, demons that oppress, demons that tear at the very soul of our beings DON’T HAVE THE LAST SAY!!! Jesus is saying, TODAY get out of my daughter! TODAY, get out of my son! TODAY, get out of their situation! With the help of the Lord, deliverance can happen. But once deliverance happens, the challenging work of healing, thorough healing, full healing, complete and total deliverance begins. You may not have the support that you thought you would have from the same people that saw you in the tombs. The people in the text did not come to help them find a new place to live, get food to eat, clothes to wear. They were delivered, but their deliverance created a new reality not just for them but for everyone in the town.

You must realize that everyone will not be excited about your new found healing. Like the people in our text, there will be those who don’t understand what Jesus did for you. There will be those who have grown accustomed to your craziness! There will even be those who have profited from your sickness. There will be those who don’t want Jesus coming to town because he just might expose the demons in them!

When you walk out in the “new you,” there will be those who will question your authenticity, question your motives, question your glow of glory, question your new walk, your new talk, your new “swagger,” but you don’t have to answer them, just start singing to yourself, “I know I’ve been changed… the angels in heaven done signed my name!”

The challenge of deliverance is that you’ve got to fill up the empty spaces that have been created because the demons have left. You have to develop new habits, you’ve got to develop new relationships or at least change the dynamics of the relationships wherein you found yourself. You may have to change the places that you go, the activities in which you engage, the thoughts that you think, the words that you speak. For some, going back to the tombs may seem easier. But don’t you accept or believe that lie! Deliverance is a challenge, but you can do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST that strengthens you!

Deliverance will disturb somethings in your life, but if you will press through the disturbance, healing is on the other side. Peace is on the other side. Wholeness is on the other side. Joy is on the other side. THE NEW YOU is on the other side!!! Don’t waste your time trying to convince anyone of your healing, your deliverance, your break through. It’s not for them, it’s for you and those who will be blessed and healed and delivered because of your testimony. There will always be those who want to stand in the way of your deliverance, but you let God handle them…you just keep moving forward.

Do you want to come out of the tombs…the lonely dark places, that place where you are broken and bruised, shackled and ashamed? Jesus can speak to those demons in your life and say, “COME OUT!” Even in their demented state, the men had enough within them to come out to meet Jesus. Yes, Jesus stepped onto the shore from the boat, but the men came out to meet Jesus.

You’ve got to come out to meet Jesus.
In other words, you’ve got to present yourself to the Lord…He knows you need healing…He knows you are shackled and broken and bruised…He knows that you desire to get clothed, your mind healed, your body healed, your self-respect restored…The Lord knows…but you’ve got to make that step and open up to Him. The Lord will never force Himself upon you. Won’t you open up and receive Him and get delivered today?

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