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

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