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!

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

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!

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

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.

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