Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Shepastor: “Will You be a Light?”

1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Isaiah 9:1-3 (KJV)

In the book, Coming Through the Darkness author, the Reverend Dr. Claudette Copeland lets us in on her journey through a very dark and difficult time in her life – a time when she was forced to develop what she called, “big girl faith.” She talked about her experience of battling cancer. But more than her physical condition, she talked about how “the darkness” is something that we all at some point in our lives will have to go through.

The question becomes, how will we go through. Dr. Copeland's testimony challenges not only the sufferer, but those who minister to the suffering. What does it mean to “be a light” to those who are coming through the darkness?

In another place, the prophet Isaiah declared,

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJV)
How do we bring good tidings? How do we give unto them that mourn, beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness?

I’d like to suggest a few ways:

Skip the standard lines…

So often when people are hurting and looking for a listening ear and a compassionate heart, they run into well-meaning individuals who give them standard lines … lines that have no real thought, compassion or substance… lines that don’t bring about healing, but often incur frustration and increased feelings of isolation. Lines such as, “He knows how much we can bear,” “Don’t claim that,” “It’s always darkest before the dawn…” “It must be God’s will…” etc. So often we cut people off without ever really listening to their hearts’ cry. We rattle off bible scriptures, preach mini sermons and sometimes even slam them with questions like, “Where is your faith?” “Don’t you believe in God…?”

When we say these things, we are not giving them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. We are only adding to their struggle. We must ask ourselves, “Will this comment offer them light or increase the darkness?”

Understand the power of love communicated through having an encouraging presence. For the first seven days of Job’s pain and suffering, Job’s friends got it right. The scripture says, that they sat with him for seven days and said nothing because they saw that his pain was great. Only later did they begin to mess up when they started coming up with their own reasons why they thought Job was suffering. Our job is not to determine, why someone is suffering, but shine the light of love upon them as they go through the suffering. You can help unlock some prison doors just by your loving touch and encouraging smile. Sometimes just an encouraging nod, an affirming hug, a reassuring squeeze of the hand or arm, a brief statement whispered, “I’m praying for you…” is all a person needs to get up and face another day. Your love, your encouragement, your smile, your touch is used by God to help turn ashes into beauty and to help someone coming through the darkness.

Finally, make up your mind to be a light. The holiday season can be very difficult for some. Grief due to various losses, illness, broken relationships etc., can magnify darkness in their lives. While we may not be able to change or take away the pain of their reality, we can bring light and love into their dark space. A listening ear, the act of being present, the affirmation that their experience and feelings are valid can bring them gifts of hope and love. As God's people, we are called to the mission of spreading good tidings of God’s goodness, mercy, grace and salvation. As God’s people, we all are called "to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;" … so that as they come through the darkness, they and we might be called "trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." We are called to be a light? Won’t you shine your light of God’s love today?

May you and yours have a blessed, peace, joy and “Light filled” Day! Merry Christmas!!!

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Shepastor: "What's Your Song?"

Luke 1:46-55 King James Version (KJV)
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

This beautiful song is known as the “Magnificat.” The term is derived from the Latin phrase, “My Soul doth Magnify the Lord…” It is one of the most beautiful songs in the Bible and one of only a few given by a woman. Mary is overwhelmed by news from the angel that she would be the mother of the savior of the world – Jesus, the Christ.

Commentators suggest that Mary's hymn expresses praise to God for his treatment of her, but then extends her praise to how God has treated the righteous throughout the ages and how he will vindicate them fully in the future. Understanding what God is doing, Mary is full of joy. She speaks for herself and for her community, the people of God throughout time. She declares that God is worthy of praise for what he will do in taking care of his own.

Mary’s song is power and significant, since first-century culture often relegated women to a secondary status. One of the beauties of Luke's infancy material is that different sorts of people all experience joy at the arrival of Jesus. Luke stresses a ministry of social concern for those in need and warns those who are wealthy not to hoard what God has given to them. He warns about a reversal of roles in the judgment for those who do not hear this.

God is acting for his people, Israel. God's actions reflect his mercy. He committed himself to such loyalty and compassion when he made promises to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). One of the lessons of the infancy section is that God keeps his word, including the promises made to the nation of Israel. Mary knows that the promises of God abide, and this is evident in her praise. God's loyal love is central to the hope and assurance of those to whom God has made himself known.

This was Mary’s song. Mary was filled with joy and awe over what was about to be birthed in her. We too have a song, given to us from the Lord.

Each life has a song, a theme, a chorus. Sadly, we are so hurried, so busy, so tired, so involved with other things that we don’t take the time to hear our life’s song, to learn it, sing it, live it. Your life song is that melody that, that rhythm, that assignment from on high that naturally flows through your being.
It is that which is waiting to be birthed in you. It’s like what Michael Angelo said about his great stone statues. When asked how he chisled out such great masterpieces from bits of rock and chunks of stone, legend has it that he responded, “the form was already there. I just freed it.” There is greatness within you waiting to be birthed.

Some have gone through life either never learning or ignoring their life’s song. But your song is about more than you. As Mary embraced her divinely ordered destiny, she gave God praise – not only for her divine appointment, but for what God was going to do through what she brought forth.

Your song is meant to bring hope and love and life to others. Your song is not only for your help, your encouragement, your strength. Your song is for your community. Your song is for your family. Your song is for your sphere of influence. Mary magnified the Lord for what was about to be birthed in her. She may not have understood the mixture of joy and sorrow, freedom and burden, hope and desperation, pain and pride, she would endure over the next several years, but she took what she had and ran with it.

Our song will sometimes be happy, sometimes sad, sometimes light hearted and sometimes heavy as stone – but our song – our life’s theme – our calling is meant to be a blessing. When we don’t learn to sing our own song, we go through out life feeling unfulfilled and empty.

You can’t do anything about yesterday. But you can begin to sing your song today. You can say, “behold the handmaid or the servant of the Lord – be it unto me according to thy word.” You can begin to sing your song today. You can expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.

You can begin to sing your song today. You can ask the Lord, “Lord, what is my life’s song? What would you have me to do with my life? What do you want to birth in me? How do you want to use me to accomplish a part of your plan for this world?

You have a song. Will you learn it, sing it and live it?

Enjoy this ministry of music, "Without A Song"

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Shepastor: “Keys to Hope”

Lamentations 3:19-25, NIV

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;


What is hope? A basic definition states, “Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. It is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. [1] To hope is to wish for something with the expectation of the wish being fulfilled,
However, in theological terms, Hope is one of the three virtues in the Christian tradition. Hope is a desire for something and expectation of receiving it from the Lord. Like all virtues, hope arises from the will, not passion.

“Hope arises from the will and not passion.” In other words, one has to do more than passively desire. One has to have the will to expect God to move on one’s behalf. The attitude that hope arises not from passion, but from the will suggests that it takes the will of the heart, mind and soul to hope when hope seems to be an exercise in futility.

Back in the 80’s, The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., coined the phrase, “Keep Hope Alive.” He used this as he pursued the highest office in the land, the presidency of the United States of America. As impossible as it seemed for an African American to become president, Rev. Jackson insisted that we had to “keep hope alive.” Although he did not win, Jesse became the forerunner to the first African American to attain the dream of holding that office in the person of Barack Obama. Why? Because somebody had the will to keep hope alive. Hope transcends individuals. Hope is transformative. Hope is expansive. Hope moves beyond one person to communities, nations and the world.

God wants you to keep hope alive. Even if your dream has died, YOU have not died! God is not through with you! For God has been known to resurrect that which has been dead! But maybe, just maybe, your hopes for your life had to die, so that you could receive the blessings and benefits of God’s hope for your life.

Sometimes our hopes and dreams are too short. Sometimes our hopes and dreams are too small. Sometimes our hopes and dreams are too self-centered and sometimes our hopes and dreams will prevent us from fulfilling that which the all wise and eternal God has purposed for our lives since before the foundation of the world.

The prophet Jeremiah teaches us a profound key to hope. In verses 19-23, Jeremiah says,

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.


In other words, Jeremiah says, “When I reflect upon all of my problems, my wanderings, my losses, my soul remains bitter and cast down. But when I the conscious decision to “call to remembrance God’s great love, God’s never-failing compassion and God’s GREAT faithfulness, I have HOPE! As mentioned earlier, Hope is not an act of passion. Hope is an act of the will. In other words, you’ve got to make up your mind to have hope. Passion comes and goes. That hot, intense, excited feeling that propels you onward is not going to be there on a continuous basis. We couldn’t stand it – it would burn us up! Passion is just one aspect of hope. Yes, it is a necessary element, but it cannot stand alone. Passion must be connected to something bigger. We must have hope.

Hope fuels our passion. Hope is tied to our trust in God’s love, God’s compassion and God’s faithfulness. You cannot focus upon God’s faithfulness and love towards you and hold onto the bitterness and gall of your past. Whether it’s mistakes that you have made or wrong things that someone else did to you or unfortunate life circumstances, if you choose to focus upon God’s faithfulness and love towards you, your hope will rise.

There are some things that we must do in order to survive the “bitterness and gall” in life and to keep hope alive,

We must call to mind the faithfulness of God…
God has brought you this far. God has been with you all the days of your life. God has sustained and kept you. God is mighty to save. God will carry you through. In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world and so can we!

We must say to ourselves, the LORD is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him…
The Lord is our portion…the Lord is our provider…the Lord is our supplier…continue to serve Him, continue to pray…continue to hope…continue to trust…WAIT on the LORD…He promised that your strength would be renewed, that you would mount up on wings like an eagle, run and not get weary, walk and not faint WAIT on the LORD!

We must remind ourselves that the LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him and seek Him…

We must remind ourselves that the LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him. We must remember that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. We must remember that things look one way to us, but God sees the big picture. We must remember that even if this earthly tabernacle should be destroyed, we’ve got another building not made with hands whose builder and maker is God.

We must remember that those who sew in tears shall reap in joy. We must remember that even in our pain, even in our toil, even in our utter confusion and frustration, God sees us, loves us and is with us. He will carry us over and see us through. Great is God’s faithfulness towards us.

Jesus, our elder brother bore it all for us. He suffered, bled and died for us. He was wounded for us and He is risen for us. He is a compassionate savior who carried the load for us and knows the pain, knows, the anxiety, knows the toil, knows the struggles, knows the tears and therefore He knows how to comfort us in all of our sorrow and pain.

No matter what you are facing, trust God. No matter what you are fearing, trust God. No matter how hard your road, trust God. Make up your mind to call to remembrance God’s goodness, God’s mercy, God’s compassion, God’s faithfulness. Determine to keep hope alive in your heart. God will see you through!

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Shepastor: “The Mark of a Christian Part III: Endurance That is Inspired by Hope...”

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

1 Paul, Silas[a] and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


In Part II of the series, “The Mark of a Christian," Shepastor explored the example set by the Christians in Thessalonica through their “Labor prompted by love.” Today, we will consider the final example in Part III of this series, “Endurance that is inspired by hope.” The third mark of a Christian is that they are inspired by hope. That’s why Paul says, “we are not as those who have no hope.”

We cannot endure without hope. The term endurance means, “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity like a marathon runner's endurance. I have never run in a marathon. I have never participated in those 5k runs or even walks. But I know people who have and they train for months and weeks to prepare for the long distance. A marathon is not like a sprint. A sprint is a quick short distance run that takes a lot of energy. But a marathon runner needs energy and stamina – staying power. They need endurance.

In order to withstand hardship and adversity, you’ve got to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, something greater is on the other end of the journey, that your work, your faith, your labor is not in vain! You’ve got to be inspired by hope. For the Christian, our hope is in Christ. We have an eternal hope and we have hope for the here and now. Our eternal hope is that Jesus died for our sins and rose for our salvation. Our eternal hope is that if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we shall be saved. Our eternal hope is that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Our eternal is that if this earthly tabernacle should be destroyed, we’ve got another building, not made with hands, whose builder and maker is God!

Our earthly hope is that through Christ we can do all things. Our earthly hope is that through Christ we are more than conquerors. Our earthly hope is that Jesus came that we might have the abundant life. Our earthly hope is that we believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!!! Hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” The reason why hope is a mark of the Christian is because as God’s people, we live with expectation. We are not like Eor in Winnie the Pooh. We don’t walk around “under the circumstances.” We look up and wait for God’s promises in full expectation that what God said, He is willing and able to do.

We don’t allow our spirits to remain downcast. We like the Psalmist challenge our hearts and declare, “Why art thou cast down oh my soul and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God who is the health and the help of my countenance!” He said, I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance…In other words, when the Psalmist took a look at God, the creator, God, the giver and the sustainer of life, God… the Lord God almighty who hung the moon and the stars in the sky he praised God for the help us his countenance. What is the countenance? The term “countenance” means the look on a person’s face that shows one’s nature or feelings.

We know that God is not a person but a spirit - and none of us living have seen the face of God, but by the reading of His word and the experiences of our lives, we know and understand the nature of God. The personality of God – the way of God. God is a healer – he is a deliverer – he is a way maker – he is the source of our joy and our strength – God is all powerful – He is all knowing – He is everywhere and can do anything – God’s countenance – God’s nature.

So when we as Christians consider these things – the countenance or the nature of God we gain the hope to endure. When we look at our problems matched up against God’s power then we will move from telling ourselves about our problems and instead begin to tell our problems about our GOD!!! As God’s people, our endurance, our ability to withstand hardship, our ability to run the distance, our ability to press our way, our ability to stand the storm, our ability to “keep on keepin on” is inspired by our hope in God! As God’s people, may we take a page out of the character of the Thessalonian Christians…may we (1) Have work that is produced by faith, (2) May our labor be prompted by love and (3) And may our endurance be inspired by hope in Christ Jesus.

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org




Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Shepastor: “The Mark of a Christian Part II”

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

1 Paul, Silas[a] and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Last week, Shepastor explored the example set by the Christians in Thessalonica. In particular, we looked at their “work produced by faith.” This week, we consider the 2nd powerful characteristic exhibited by the Thessalonian Church, their “Labor prompted by love.”

Paul lifted this characteristic of the Thessalonian Christians. He honored them for labor prompted by their love. You have heard the phrase, “it was a labor of love…” The term labor connotes something more than just work. It conveys a sense of struggle, a pushing, even painful. When mothers are giving birth to a child, they refer to it as “labor.” They can tell how close the mother is to giving birth by the strength of the labor pains. When the baby is about to come forth, that’s when it hurts the most!

Paul said that the Thessalonian Christians’ labor was produced by their love. Even though it hurts, that mother is willing to go through the pain because they know that on the other side of that pain, will be a beautiful baby that they will hold, nurture, love and cherish for the rest of their lives. In a similar way, we push, we press, we suffer, we struggle to bring forth that which the Lord has planted within us because we love the Lord. Not only that, we love one another. Love will make you go the extra mile of the way. Love will compel you to get up and do what you don’t feel like doing. Love will urge you on when you feel like stopping. Love gives you what you need to press on further.

When we love something or someone, we go all out. We may not have much but we scrape together what we can to fulfill a need of someone that we love. SO in addition to having work that is produced by faith, another mark of a Christian is that their labor is prompted by their love.

Working in the church can be hard. Serving in the church, while it’s a joy, it can also be laborious. When nobody is watching, when nobody is applauding, when very few are serving and even fewer are witnessing, the “labor” then rests on a few. That happens in ALL churches, large, small and mid-size. Every church has what is called the “faithful few.” Because the labor of the ministry takes dedication. It takes sacrifice. It takes patience. It takes endurance. It takes LOVE…love of the Lord, love of God’s people, love of Christian discipleship and love for the lost. Jesus said, “They will know that we are Christians BY OUR LOVE!”

Love moves the Christian into a dimension above those who are just carrying out duties. Love is patient, love is kind, love is humble, love is not easily angered, love endures testing. Love is the more excellent way! Love helps you to turn the other cheek. Love helps you to ignore foolishness. Love enables you to pray for your enemies. Love makes us more like Jesus! The Christian labors in the work of the ministry because of their love. The mark of a Christian is labor prompted by love.

Next week we will look at the third mark of a Christian in this text, “endurance that is inspired by hope."

Until then,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Shepastor: “The Mark of a Christian Part I”

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3 New International Version (NIV)
1 Paul, Silas[a] and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Thessalonian Christians were discouraged. Their loved ones were dying, time was passing, the church was being persecuted and it appeared that all hope was lost. This letter encourages the believers to keep the faith, knowing that God was with them, their faith would be rewarded and that Christ will return. The Apostle Paul begins this letter by lifting up the Thessalonians’ strong witness of faith, born out by their actions. He encourages them by letting them know that they are example to Christians everywhere, an example that continues to instruct us today.

In these few short verses, Paul outlines 3 impressive characteristics that the Christians at Thessolonica exhibited. (1) Their work produced by faith, (2) Their labor prompted by love and (3) Their endurance inspired by hope in Christ Jesus. In Part I of this series, we will explore the meaning of the first characteristic, “Work produced by faith.”

Let’s take a moment and consider “work produced by faith.” Picture in your mind where they were. Thessolonica was a large, metropolitan trading center in Greece. It became the capital of Rome. It was a busy business area with people from all over the world, selling, buying, bartering, arguing, pushing, shoving, demanding, drinking, cursing, possibly lewd and crude behavior. If you’ve ever been to New York City, downtown during rush hour or even just during other times of the day, you can get a sense of the hustle, bustle, fast pace. Now imagine trying to live a life that is completely opposite of that culture. Add to that persecution from the people around you as well as the government. That was the lot of the Christians in Thessalonica!

They were doing all that they could to learn, grow and walk in their new relationship with Jesus. They were swimming against the tide. They were also deeply committed to sharing their faith with others. They were workers. But not just any kind of workers, they were people who had work that was produced by their faith. It took FAITH for them to continue to do the work of the church in the midst of great persecution. They had to be able to see beyond what was before their eyes and believe that the sacrifice, their suffering, their struggle, their undaunted actions were not in vain.

The Thessalonian Christians’ work was produced by their faith. It can be challenging to keep on working, keep on praying, keep on believing, keep on serving, keep on planting seeds when everything around you is screaming your work is not making a difference. But their work was produced by their faith. That which comes out of the ground is called, “produce.” It was planted and spent a great amount of time in the dirt before it came bursting up through the soil with vegetables and fruit. Their work was the “produce” of their faith.

The Thessalonians worked because they had faith. They kept on being about their Father’s business because they had faith. One mark of a Christian is that they walk by faith and not by sight. If you can see the answer, if you can see the end result, if you can see just how everything is going to work out, then it is not faith. FAITH is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen!

It takes faith to do the great works of God
. It takes faith to keep on working, keep on toiling, keep on building, keep on serving when everything is going against you and only a few people are standing with you. But the child of God understands that with God ALL THINGS are possible. The child of God understands that greater is he that is within you than he that is within the world.

The child of God understands that we need mustard seed faith… a little bit of faith is potent. A little bit of faith can help you to move mountains. A little bit of faith can produce GREAT results. Faith compels you to keep on working, keep on serving, keep on planting, keep on sacrificing because you see beyond the natural. You see victory in the spirit realm in the heavenlies.
You speak those things that be not as though they were. You remember where you’ve come from and you believe in where you are going. One mark of a Christian is work produced by faith.

Next week we will consider the 2nd powerful characteristic exhibited by the Thessalonian Church, in Part II of this series, "The Mark of a Christian: Labor prompted by love.”

Until then,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Shepastor: “Who do YOU Say I Am???”

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Matthew 16:13-20 New International Version (NIV)

During my morning devotion the other day, just as I was about to close my Bible, it fell open to this very familiar passage of Scripture. That day, however, the words, “Who do YOU say I am?” jumped off of the page and into my spirit! We know the story. Jesus is questioning his disciples about the messages from “the people…” their perceptions, views, beliefs about who he is. Jesus already knew their thoughts. He also knew the thoughts of the disciples. But by questioning them directly, Jesus forced them to stop and consider exactly what they believed about him.

On that particular day, I was wrestling with some internal thoughts, anxieties, fears and frustrations over various challenges. I have to be intentional about taking control of every thought and bringing them into subjection! But as I prepared to close my Bible, the Holy Spirit (I believe) caused the pages to fall open to those simple words, “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Suddenly, I felt peace. Why? Simply because I believe that Jesus is LORD! The term “Lord” means, “Someone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler” (Dictionary.com). Since I believe that Jesus has ALL POWER, authority and influence, since I claim Jesus as MY LORD and since I believe that He is master and ruler over ALL, I can trust Him completely to walk with me through my “stuff!” I trust Jesus to be the LORD in MY LIFE over every situation, circumstance, lack, mean spirit, enemy, unjust situation, gossiping tongue, illness, challenge and struggle!

If you are troubled, burdened, weary, fearful, doubtful, ill, lonely, broken, etc., stop and ask yourself, “Who do I say Jesus is?” When you, by faith stand upon Jesus’ identity as Lord, you will conquer ALL of the oppressive tactics of the enemy. Allow the Lordship of Jesus to comfort, strengthen, guide, encourage, bless and reassure you today.

Who do I say that Jesus is? HE IS LORD!!!

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Shepastor: “Is Your Heart After God?”

Psalm 42[a][b]
For the director of music. A maskil[c] of the Sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
(NIV)
42 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. (KJV)

One of the most beloved praise and worship songs used for meditation, As the Deer, is taken from this Old Testament Psalm, 42: 1-2. The words depict a gentle creature, a deer, possibly after a long journey, leaping upon mountains, traveling through valleys, walking along through pastures, tired, longing to drink from a fresh water stream. The King James Version emphasizes even more graphically, the thirst that the deer has, “panting” as if exhausted, drained, “thirsty.” Both convey a strong almost desperate desire for God.

An interesting commentary or introduction provides even greater context to this psalm. It says, “For the director of music” or “chief musician. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.” The term maskil means, “one versed in Hebrew or Yiddish literature,” (Merriam Webster). Not to be taken lightly, these “well versed” musicians came from a rebellious family line. They were the “Sons of Korah.” Korah was the ring leader of Israelites (one version calls them “men of renown”) who defied God and Moses in the wilderness, leading many astray (Genesis 16: 1-35). Their rebellion caused them to be swallowed up by the earth suddenly (Who can forget that dramatic scene as depicted by Cecil Be Demille’s “Ten Commandments!”).

How profound that God used a remnant from that rebellious family line to bring Himself glory through this beloved Psalm! Knowing their own history, knowing the shame of rebellion in their bloodline, knowing how an entire generation was destroyed, they chose rather to have hearts that longed for God. How powerful to know and learn from our history? What a loving and gracious God that will not hold the sins of our family line against us! What a blessing and privilege to know that with God’s help, we have the ability to change the dynamic of rebellion and dysfunction in our families!

But it starts with having a heart that is “after God.” A heart that is after God thirsts for God, longs for God, chases after God’s heart, God’s will, God’s wisdom, God’s Holy Spirit, God’s desire for our lives. To be a man or a woman after God’s heart is to love the Lord, reverence the Lord, honor the Lord with the totality of our being. It does not mean that we won’t make mistakes, make bad choices, do wrong things. We hold this treasure in “earthen vessels.” But it means that our desire and longing is to please God. Our heart longs to be united with God. Our heart longs to have pure motives a clean spirit.

None of this is possible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, we can do all things! When we long for God, thirst for God, “pant” for God, we come into agreement with Him. We seek to do His will. We strive to have clean hands and a pure heart. We desire to please God in all that we are, say and do. When we fall short, we repent and lean upon God’s mercy, grace and love to help us to do better. David was a man after God’s own heart not because he was perfect, but because he was yielded. He longed to do that which pleased the Lord. He worshipped the Lord with all of his might. He grieved over his sins and turned away from them.

The Sons of Korah chose the more excellent way. Despite their family dysfunction and rebellion, they chose to have hearts after God. Is your heart after God?

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Shepastor: “Healing Comes in Phases”

Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

22They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
24He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
25Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go intoa the village.”


The body is a wonderful metaphor for so many issues of life. Whether it is issues of cleansing, growth, physical illness and the need to regurgitate, rest etc., the body also reflects important and spiritual realities. Today I’d like to focus upon the healing aspects of the body and how the body can teach us something about emotional and spiritual healing.

Healing does not happen immediately. Whether it’s a cut, a bruise, surgical procedure or whatever, the body takes time to heal. Although science has tried to speed up the healing process with laser surgery, the body still demands a time for healing. Although they have “outpatient” surgery, the body demands that you get rest after even the smallest procedures. Even if you get cut and require stitches, the body demands that you take time to “dress” and care for your wounds. Why is it that we think that emotional and spiritual pain can be healed over night?

I would like to suggest that many of the physical pains that we experience pale in comparison to the emotional and spiritual pain that many people face. Think about our grief policies from work. You are blessed if you can get 2-3 days off of work when a loved one dies. The Jewish Community has this process right. They sit, “Shiva” for at least 7 days and in some instances 12 days. They allow themselves to deeply mourn and reflect upon the life and the legacy of their loved ones. They bury them almost immediately, but they reflect upon them deeply and slowly.

Our society, however, frowns upon individuals taking time to heal. Even in the church, we expect people to quickly rebound from loss, hurt and pain. We accuse people of “brooding” or not having enough faith. Where does this “hurry up and get through it” mentality come from? Jesus himself exemplified the need to spend time away from even those closest to him. Frequently he would go off by himself, the scripture says to pray. I suspect that Jesus was not only praying, but reflecting, communing, consoling and preparing himself to continue to serve amidst a people who did not understand, believe in or appreciate him. Jesus too was hurting.

Our text for today presents an interesting dilemma. Jesus who is God made manifest in the flesh seemed to have needed a “second shot” at healing the blind man. It appears that his first attempt “did not take.” But was it that he needed to try again or was Jesus teaching us something all together different?

Consider the following…

- A blind man is brought to Jesus

- Jesus uses “spit” to heal him

- His healing came in two phases

- Sometimes we need a “second touch” before our healing is complete

- We don’t understand the methods God uses to heal us

- We need to be honest about the fact that we still are not healed – still cannot see (had the blind man pretended like he was healed
completely, he never would have been given clear sight)

- “Don’t even go into the village…” Everyone will not be happy about your healing! Everyone will not understand your healing. You may
even jeopardize your healing by sharing it with some people.
Sometimes God has to "take us outside of the village" to bless us with healing.


- Healing takes time


Healing comes in phases
. God may sometimes use “spit and dirt” to heal us…sometimes the very things that we, under other circumstances would view as lowly and undesirable are used by God to make us see more clearly and yes, heal us.

Everyone will not understand what God has done and continues to do for you. Be prayerful and discerning about with whom to share your healing process. Avoid pretending that you are well, that you are whole, that you are healed when in fact you are still, “seeing men walking as trees.” Be honest with the Lord, yourself and select individuals about needing prayer, support and encouragement to press toward your healing.

Healing comes in phases. Healing takes time. Healing may happen in unexpected ways. Be “for real” about where you are in the healing process. Then and only then will you be able to see clearly and be made whole. Remember, healing takes time. There is no shame in admitting that you need a second touch!

Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Shepastor: “Everybody Can’t Come in the Room!”

46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
49 While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.
50 But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
51 And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
52 And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.
56 And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.
Luke 8: 46-56, KJV

In this text, crowds of people were swarming around Jesus. They saw him heal and deliver the sick and those possessed by demons. They saw him feed the multitudes with two fish and five loaves of bread. They heard him teach like no other leader had taught. I imagine that the crowd was so thick that Jesus could barely walk! This was the scene when a broken, pain riddled, sick ostracized women said to herself, “If I may just touch the hem of his garment, I shall be made whole.” The scripture says that this woman had been sick for 12 years with “an issue of blood.” She had spent all of her money on doctors and they could not heal her. She was bleeding nonstop for 12 years! In addition to her extreme pain physically, this meant that no one would touch her. She was “ceremonially unclean.” In that day, when a woman was on her period, she had to separate herself for a specific number of days and then go and be declared “clean” by the temple priest when the bleeding stopped. She was not to be touched by her husband or other men. She had to go through a process of purification. Therefore, this nameless woman was by herself, cut off from the Temple, cut off from society, cut off from being among family and friends. But she knew that if she could just get to Jesus and touch his hem, she would be healed!

At the same time, a man of great respect, high position and wealth needed help from Jesus. His name was Jairus. We don’t know the name of the bleeding woman, but we are given Jairus’ name. His daughter was sick unto death and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, begging him to heal her. She was his only daughter. As Jesus begins to go with Jairus, he abruptly stops and says, “Who touched me?” Baffled by the questions, the disciples say, “Master, all these folks are pressing in on you and you are asking, “Who touched me?” Don’t miss this…Jesus said, “someone touched me because I felt virtue go out of me.” When we come to Jesus in faith and in our depth of need, it touches Jesus in a special way.

Lots of people were physically touching Jesus, but this woman made a connection with Jesus out of the depth of her need and the power of her faith that Jesus would do something for her. She expected that Jesus would heal her. She believed that even his garment was filled with healing power. In other words, she didn’t even presume that he would talk to her. She didn’t think that she needed to hold a conference with Jesus. She didn’t even expect that he would necessarily notice her, but she believed that even if she could touch that which was associated with Jesus, it would be enough to heal her.

When we out of the depth of our human suffering, need and struggle determine that we want to be healed from Jesus, we will reach for him, even to just touch his hem. Can you imagine this woman’s inner thoughts? “Do what you do Jesus, however you choose to do it, but just heal me! I don’t have to be in your inner circle, I don’t have to associate with great people, you don’t have to physically come to my house, just let me touch the hem of your garment Lord, and I shall be healed!” That woman’s faith drew power out of Jesus in a way that others did not. There was something different about her faith!

At the same time, this man of high status humbled himself in a way that his followers in the synagogue had probably never seen. This wealthy, highly positioned, distinguished leader did not care what others thought. He too just wanted a touch from Jesus. He was desperate. When you get desperate enough, pride will go out of the window. When you have a great need, all you care about is the healing, the deliverance, the break thru. Jairus wanted his daughter healed and he believed that Jesus could and would do it.

But while on the way to the house, someone came running out to tell Jairus and Jesus, “Don’t trouble yourselves any longer, your daughter is dead.” Can you imagine the shock, the disappointment, the pain of Jairus? But hear again how Jesus responded to the situation…

50 But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
51 And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
52 And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.
56 And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.


These verses tell us that the very people who were pressing in to see Jesus really did not believe that with God all things are possible. Sometimes people just want to go along with the crowd, see some tricks, enjoy a party, get a thrill, but they don’t really believe that Jesus is who He is! That was the difference between “the crowd” and the nameless woman. When the crowd touched Jesus, it was just a bunch of folks trying to get next to what they saw as a rock star. But when the nameless woman touched Jesus, he felt her faith and her deep desire to be healed. “You will search for me and find me when you search for me with all of your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, KJV).

Notice how Jesus only took certain people with him into the healing space. Notice how he put all those other folks out…the scoffers, the mockers, those laughing at the prospect of a resurrection. Learn this lesson – everyone can’t go into the healing, delivering and raising room with you. Jesus Himself knew that the doubt of others could zap the faith of Jairus. Therefore, Jesus declared, “Clear the room!” There will be times in your life when certain people cannot go with you. There will be miraculous things that God wants to do in your life but if the wrong people are around, the wrong people are in the room, the wrong people are in your space, they will block your ability to receive those miracles. It’s not that God can’t work around them, its that your faith will be hindered.

You can’t tell everybody everything…your vision, your dreams, your faith that God can heal what’s been diseased for decades, your faith that Jesus can raise that which looks like its dead, your faith that Jesus is able to give you a break thru! Some people are so focused on what they can only see with natural vision that they want to block you from seeing and receiving that which God has for you in the heavenlies. Jesus says, “Put them out of the room!”

Jesus identified key people to go with him into the room to raise Jairus’ daughter. In the same way, prayerfully identify key individuals who you know will pray with you, believe with you, stand with you, cry with you, hope with you and petition heaven on your behalf. That group is small…two or three people at the most. They don’t have to be perfect people, just faithful, loving and praying people. Doubting, scoffing, laughing people will drain you of your faith, throw water on your hopes, laugh at your dreams and ultimately cause you to miss out on all that God wants to raise in your life. PUT THEM OUT OF THE ROOM!

Don’t allow them room in your physical space. Don’t allow them room in your spirit or in your head. PUT THEM OUT! Like the nameless woman, stretch out to touch Jesus. By faith believe that God can and God will heal you. Like Jairus, humble yourself. Want God’s healing more than you care about what folks think about you. Allow Jesus to put the naysayers, the scoffers, those who laugh at the prospect of your healing, your deliverance, your vision, your RAISING…allow Jesus to put them out of your room!

Jesus still healing, raising, delivering and working miracles. Won’t you allow Jesus to do that and more in your life today?

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Shepastor: “Highlights from The Sister’s Guide to Survive & Thrive in Ministry, by Dr. Suzan D. Johnson Cook”

“‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’...’Here am I; send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8).

Today Shepastor highlights a wonderful new resource for women in ministry, The Sister’s Guide to Survive & Thrive in Ministry, by Dr. Suzan D. Johnson Cook. Concise, personable and wisdom-filled, this work offers “Sisters” marvelous nuggets of practical truths that can help us to “survive and thrive” in ministry.

As a woman pastor who has navigated the oft times tricky and daunting waters of pastoral ministry, Dr. “Sujay” has earned the right to tell us like it is! From serving in local congregations to national and international platforms, Dr. Johnson Cook has a wealth of experiences that set the stage for her earthy conversations with us as women pastors.

She puts forth ten rules for us to consider and follow:

1. Don’t Make It about You: It’s All about God
2. Stay Responsible for Your Own Spiritual Groove
3. Play, as You Pray, without Ceasing
4. Stay Put
5. Be Arrested by the Holy Spirit
6. Keep Growing: Leadership Doesn’t Confer Maturity
7. Don’t Sleep Your Way to the Pulpit
8. Have Your Own Praise Party
9. Think Outside the Box
10. Select Your Village Mothers: The Value of Wisdom

At the end of each chapter, Dr. Johnson Cook provides questions for response and reflection. For example, following chapter 4, “Stay Put,” these statement/questions and lines for responses are offered:
“Ask God, ‘Have I completed my assignment that you’ve given me? Have I done the best I could with what you’ve placed in my hands?’ What message is God giving you? Where are the still, small places where God speaks to you?’”

I highly recommend this important work for individuals, small groups and workshops. A copy of The Sister’s Guide to Survive & Thrive in Ministry may be purchased at www.judsonpress.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Shepastor: “Five Things this ‘Shepastor’ Has Learned over 55 Years…”

Yesterday, the Lord blessed me to reach the “double-nickel!” While many have far surpassed this age, many went from “labor to reward” before. I am grateful. I spent the day enjoying the bright sunshine, running errands, answering emails and text messages, thanking friends and family for beautiful birthday wishes (of course I’m a pastor so there was still work to be done!!!). During this time, I also began to reflect upon things I’ve learned over my years of life. Below are five lessons that have helped me to grow and mature as a woman of faith…



1. “Seize the day…”
The Roman poet Horace coined the Latin phrase, “Carpe diem” which when interpreted means, “pluck the day” or “seize the day.” It suggests that one should live each day to the fullest. As one elder deacon in my home church used to say, “Do all you can, while you can.” For the people of God, this means something different than for one not guided by Christian principles. Do enjoy life, but not at the expense of others or your Christian witness. Do all you can to live, love, serve, plant and help somebody. Each day is a gift. Live each day to the best of your ability. Tomorrow is not promised.

2. Avoid burning bridges or crossing them before you come to them…

On “Burning Bridges…”

Ecclesiastes 7:9, KJV declares,
Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
In life, conflicts, disappointments, misunderstandings between people will happen. Every conflict or misunderstanding should not lead to a “deal breaker,” in relationships. While some damage is irreparable, when possible seek conflict resolution. When you immediately “write people off,” you cancel the opportunity for healing and even possible collaborations in the future. Time, maturity, repentance and forgiveness can take very hurtful situations and turn them into beautiful connections in the future. Avoid allowing anger to blind you to future blessings. Life has a way of bringing some of those same people you have dismissed back to help you in ways you never dreamed of.

On Crossing Bridges…
Matthew 6:34, NIV
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I have to be intentional about keeping worry at bay. The phrase, “cross that bridge when you get to it,” has been very helpful for me. While counterintuitive, practice living one day at a time. When I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about solving problems, looming fears, anxiety about children, whatever, I remind myself, “There is nothing that you can do about this issue at 3:00 a.m. Go to sleep and trust God to show you the way…”

3. Avoid becoming Jaded…
While everyone is not for you, everyone is not against you! Negative experiences tend to stand out in our minds and ring loud as a bell above all of the good that we have experienced. The saying, “life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond,” is instructive. There is MUCH wrong in the world. That is undeniable. However, there is MUCH beauty in the world as well. Determine to learn from whatever painful, unjust, ugly experiences you have encountered and determine not to allow those things to defeat you or make you bitter. With God’s help, you can and will rise. Elect to respond with faith, hope and love.

4. Blessings and Curses are boomerangs…
Romans 12:14, NIV
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

It took me a while to understand this principle. It is TOUGH to “turn the other cheek.” However, when you understand that what you give will be returned to you, it is easier to follow. The enemy keeps cycles of dysfunction going by urging us to give back the ugliness that may have been thrown at us. But when we as God’s people choose rather to do what is right and righteous in the face of wrong, we break the cycle of ugliness and open the door for deliverance. God promises that we will reap whatever we have sown. When we sow kindness, forgiveness, compassion, peace and love, that is what will be returned to us. It may never come back from the person who harmed you, but the Lord will send blessings back to you in ways that you could not imagine. Trust God and obey His plan for healing.

5. God WILL make ALL THINGS work together for the good…
Romans 8:28, KJV
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

As I look back over my 55 years of life, I have experienced love, laughter, pain and tears, fulfillment and disappointment, struggle and ease, depression and joy. I imagine that many of you have as well. I have learned that each experience helped to carry me further along life’s journey. Each piece is a part of a larger puzzle and plan still unfolding. Each aspect of my life has been necessary to help to build me into the woman I am today. Not all good, not all wonderful, not all easy, not all pain free, but ALL working together FOR my good…to bless my life and the lives of those I was sent here to bless.

May these words encourage, enlighten, lift and inspire you along your life’s journey.

Thank you, LORD for my life!

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Shepastor: "You Can Prevail!"

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.
This man’s utterance to Ithiel:
“I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.[a]
Proverbs 30:1, NIV

Our focus verse for today has been attributed to Agur. We don’t have any additional information about him. We only have his words…

"...I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.[a]


Agur starts out this section with a profound statement. Certainly, he is not the only Biblical writer to confess his psychological and emotional state of weariness, but he follows his initial statement with a declaration of faith…

“I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.[a]


Interestingly, different versions deal with Agur’s words in different ways…

The King James Version does not even include these words. The Contemporary English Version says it like this…
Someone cries out to God,
“I am completely worn out!
How can I last?[a]

The Living Bible combines verses 1-2 and declares,

2 I am tired out, O God, and ready to die. I am too stupid even to call myself a human being!
The New Revised Standard Version says it just like the Living Bible…

I won’t bore you with other translations. You get the picture. Of all of them, however, I was intrigued by the New International Version’s translation…
“I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.[a]


The other translators/interpreters have the speaker declaring that he is weary…a condition that we can all relate to. Weariness is a condition that goes beyond physical exhaustion. To be weary involves more than aching joints, sweat rolling down your face, wanting to flop down on the bed and go to sleep. “Weariness” has several components. Weariness impacts the totality of a person. Weariness involves the psyche, the spirit and the body.

The Hebrew writers suggest that this weariness means feeling completely spent…you’ve given all you’ve got, you are poured out like water out of a pitcher with not even one drop left to give. In other words, you are just DONE! The man in the text says, “God, I am weary!” All of the translations agree on that. The man is weary, spent, poured out, feeling as if he can’t go one step further. But then the translators diverge. They break off from the one translator who, in spite of explaining the weariness of the man, has the man making a shocking statement… the NIV translator has the man declaring, “but, I can prevail!”

The conjunction “but” suggests something to the contrary. The man is making a declaration that is contrary to the way he feels. He feels weary. He feels spent. He feels like giving up, BUT, he declares, “I CAN PREVAIL!” The term “prevail” means, “to prove more powerful than opposing forces; to be victorious.” The man is talking to the right one. He is expressing his weariness to God, but he then decides that in spite of his weariness, he can be victorious over his circumstances.

After spending time in the presence of the Lord, he comes to the realization that he can prevail. He realizes that he can be more powerful than the opposing forces…Whatever is making him weary, with God’s help, he can prevail!

There is much in life to make us weary…situations that keep dragging on long after they should have been over, disappointment, physical and psychological pain, poverty, loneliness, defeat, the death of dreams…the list can go on and on. Weariness is a condition of the heart, mind, body and soul. But we like the Agur can tell the Lord about how we feel. We can tell the Lord about our pain, our sorrow, our disappointment, our struggle, our trial…whatever. As we get before the Lord in sincerity of heart, something will begin to happen down on the inside.

We like Agur will discover the strength we need to declare, “I can prevail!” As we are honest with the Lord and with ourselves, as we plop our problems out on the altar, look at them and realize that God has the power to carry us over, through, above and beyond ANYTHING that life presents, we will say with conviction, “Lord, I am weary, but because of You, I can prevail!”

As you continue by faith to serve the Lord, say to yourself, “I can prevail.” Continue to tell yourself, “I can do all thing through Christ that strengthens me!” Tell yourself, “Greater is He that is within me than He that is in the world!” Tell yourself, “The Lord will remember me with favor!” Tell yourself, “I am more than a conqueror through Him that loves us!” Tell yourself, “Through Christ, I am more powerful than opposing forces; and I WILL BE VICTORIOUS! Tell yourself, I WILL PREVAIL!

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Shepastor: “A Lion and a Lamb…”

The Scroll and the Lamb

5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lionof the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign[b] on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

I believe that we can all agree that the final book of the Bible, the book of Revelations is very mysterious, eschatological in nature and for some, down right scary! Ironically, as a young girl I was drawn to this book, particularly the sections speaking of those who would be left behind and those that would be caught up in the rapture (that’s for another blog entry!!!).

Recently, I was drawn to this passage of scripture that focuses upon the reading of a sealed scroll. John wept because no one was worthy to break the seal and read the message. But then one of the heavenly elders in the text directs John to look…behold, there was the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Interestingly, when John looked, instead of seeing the Lion, he saw the Lamb whose wounds were still evident.

I was taken by this profound imagery that presented our triumphant Lord, Jesus Christ as both the victorious, conquering, Master, Savior and King and also as a wounded lamb, slain, sacrificed for our sins, souls and salvation. Jesus is the ultimate wounded healer! He exemplifies what it means to conquer yet have wounds…to be victorious yet to die, to rise yet to have scars. Jesus’ wounds uniquely position Him to be a “compassionate Savior, tempted in all points yet without sin.” Jesus’ wounds do not weaken His stature as King. They strengthen His position as our victor!

Our wounds can also “break seals” and unlock mysteries. When we by faith, God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit rise up out of our woundedness, we too can “read” and “see” things that may not be possible without certain scars. Victory and wounds are not antithetic to one another. They are necessary companions. Thank you, Lord, Jesus for modeling this truth before us.

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Shepastor: "Don't Come Down!"

1When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villagesa on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; 3so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
Nehemiah 6: 1-4

Over the last several, years, months, weeks and days, we’ve seen many and varied examples of what it takes to rebuild. We’ve seen our Nation struggle to rebuild a sense of community after the tumultuous 50’s and 60’s where African American, White, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Indian and other peoples stood together to fight against the evils of Jim Crow, lynching and racist ideologies to declare all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights… a fight that we are still struggling to navigate through today. We’ve experienced our Nation’s struggle to regain a sense of normalcy after the 911 attacks, attempting to process through the impact terrorism has had upon our everyday lives. We've endured senseless mass shootings of innocent people in churches, mosques, synagogues and other public places. We wrestle to grasp the nature of rebuilding...

Rebuilding is not easy. Rebuilding is a challenge. Rebuilding takes perseverance and determination. Rebuilding takes focus. Rebuilding takes courage.

In our text for today, Israelites are being confronted with several challenges as they seek to rebuild.

They had to have the courage to resist the enemies of the rebuilding process.

The enemies of the Israelites came to them pretending to want to help them rebuild, but their leaders discerned that their intentions were not honorable. This fact is borne out as we read further and see that after the Israelite leaders rejected their proposed help, the enemies went about seeking to discourage, block, frustrate and ultimately destroy their efforts to rebuild.

Nehemiah discerned that they were scheming to destroy their efforts. He knew that he was carrying on a great work and refused to come down.

We too must have the courage and the discernment to see when wolves in sheep’s clothing offer to help us rebuild. There are some aspects of your life that others can’t rebuild – only you and God. Sometimes people secretly resent you and see that you are headed for higher heights. Outwardly they appear to want to help you, but secretly they are hoping to see you fall. In relationships, you can’t tell everyone about your struggles. You can’t tell every girlfriend that you and your husband are having a fight over thus and so. Some friends aren’t true friends but are wolves in sheep’s clothing, secretly desiring to have what you have and be what you are!

There are those who don’t want to see you succeed. There are those who will do everything in their power to dissuade you, discourage you, make you afraid, try to make you think that your endeavors are an exercise in futility. But you have to have the courage, the discipline and the determination to push past all of that and keep on climbing, keep on moving, keep on building. Misery loves company and sometimes people want you to stay defeated and down because they are defeated and down.

But God is calling you to higher ground. Sometimes defeat-filled and discouraging words will come from unexpected places. Sometimes folks right in your family will speak discouraging words to hold you back. “Are you sure that you can do that? Don’t you think you ought to do something less demanding? You’ve already tried to do that once, why don’t you just give that up. Maybe it’s not God’s will for you.” Sometimes people are afraid to be left behind and yet they have little or no motivation to join the moving forward or rebuilding process, so instead of truly trying to help you move up, they are working to keep you down with them. But God is calling you to rebuild and move on up.

God is calling the church to rebuild. Mainline Protestant churches all across America are dwindling because of an unwillingness to rebuild. Fighting over structure, fighting over the constitution, fighting over the kind of music we sing, fighting over what we wear, just fighting. And while we fight to hold onto “forms of godliness,” those churches that have made the leap of faith to rebuild, to regroup and to move into the present, laying the foundation for the future, preaching the word and ministering in fresh and relevant ways are thriving. Rebuilding takes courage.

Finally, Rebuilding takes perseverance. Sometimes the enemies of rebuilding are not external. Sometimes the enemies of rebuilding are internal. Sometimes because of past failures or fears or doubts, you stop yourself from rebuilding – rebuilding after dreams have fallen apart, rebuilding after a broken relationship, rebuilding after financial devastation, rebuilding after sickness has ravaged your body, rebuilding after trying and trying and discovering that maybe you were going in the wrong direction.

Sometimes the voices in our own head and heart keep us from rebuilding.
Sometimes we have been imprisoned for so long that we are afraid to even attempt to rebuild. The Israelites had been prisoners for hundreds of years. Therefore, when freedom came, they also had to face the internal questions of if they had what it took to make it. They’d been stripped, they’d been beaten, they’d been abused – they had been prisoners. Even though they started out with great enthusiasm, when the voices of doubt and discouragement began to rail against them, they wilted.

When we have been imprisoned, either physically or mentally, we have to fight against the internal and external voices that tell us the rebuilding process is impossible. Sometimes the formerly imprisoned start out with such high hopes, only to meet with a multitude of naysayers and doubters and negative commentators who throw cold water if you will on the power of new found freedom.

Sometimes we allow those voices to hold us back for years. The Israelites allowed their enemies to discourage them and it took the reign of two more kings before they actually began the rebuilding of the Temple. The rebuilding process is sometimes a long process. It may take months and even years to rebuild what has been torn down. If you allow internal or external enemies to fill you with discouragement, you will not rebuild but will give up. Sometimes the rebuilding process takes longer than it has to take because we stop and listen to the wrong voices. If you want to rebuild, you must remain focused on the task at hand.

What are you allowing to stop your rebuilding process? Naysayers will always stand on the sidelines and tell you what you can’t and shouldn’t do. But we have to take our marching orders from the LORD! We have to be discerning and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We have to ask the Lord to lead us in whose help we will accept and have the courage to trust Him, moving ahead even if it appears impossible. God is with you. Rebuild by faith.

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Shepastor: “Yep, It’s a Weed!!!”

But if you fail to drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, their survivors will become irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, to prick your sides and afflict you in the very land in which you'll be living. Numbers 33:55, NIV

Today as I walked past the shrubbery in our yard, I noticed lovely, leafy, broad stemmed greenery. Indeed, it looked beautiful among the shrubs and other flowers. However, from previous experience, I knew that it was a weed, masquerading as a flower! While observing this deceitful, pesky invader, my mind wandered toward the tactics of the enemy.

Numbers 33:55 is a verse of scripture couched within the promised land journey. As the children of Israel were nearing the entrance into the land they’d prayed for, for generations, the stark warning they received remains relevant today…

But if you fail to drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, their survivors will become irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, to prick your sides and afflict you in the very land in which you'll be living. Numbers 33:55, NIV

Just like weeds, there are things that appear beautiful, innocent, pleasing, fulfilling that if left unchecked will destroy us in days to come. If the enemy were to come to us in “true fashion” we would quickly reject him. Weeds illustrate this point. Unlike the smooth, beautiful broad leaves on the one foliage, another weed bush was prickly and ugly.
I immediately recognized that it was a weed. But for past experiences, I would have been fooled by the other. Though beautiful, their stems are hollow. They have nothing good to offer. Their root systems will destroy the healthy bushes and flowers in our garden. They must be pulled up from the root.
As you prepare to enter the place God has promised and prepared for you, maybe for generations, uproot those things that appear innocent, pleasing, beautiful, but in actuality are deadly. Uproot bad habits. Uproot those secret sins (that are not so secret – God sees you!) Uproot unhealthy relationships. Uproot anything that will hinder you for the true beauty God has for you in the land where you are going. Remember, it’s a weed!

Post a comment or send me an email at Revcsmith1@gmail.com

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org