Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Shepastor: "What Were You Thinking?"

Today, Shepastor highlights my article, "What Were You Thinking?" Realities and Responses to Systemic Racism in America, published by Ethics Daily. You can read the entire article by clicking on the link shared below the preview message...

"Our nation seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough. Like never before, people of all racial backgrounds are joining together by the thousands, demanding change and declaring, '#BlackLivesMatter.' We are at the door." -- Christine A Smith

Article link, "What Where You Thinking..."

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Shepastor: "Shine Your 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 our text for today, Isaiah tells us of how the people of Judah had rebelled against the word of the Lord time and time again. God would send his messengers to teach them the ways of righteousness, to tell them how to worship and serve him, to teach them how to live holy lives. But time and time again, the people refused to listen. They angered God by their willful and disobedient ways. They worshipped and served other gods. They sought counsel from mediums (what we would call “psychics”), they sacrificed to other gods, they turned themselves over to every evil thing and even their kings forsook the God of their fathers and turned to folly.

Therefore, they were a people misguided by their own sinful hearts and minds. They were a people who forgot all that the Lord had done for them. They were a people with blinded eyes and burdened souls. They were a people who walked in darkness.

Thus the prophet declared:

… Vs. 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 9:2 (KJV)

In our nation, in our communities, in our world, people are hurting. People are angry. People are suffering. People are afraid. Not only are we being pounded by the Corona virus, over 100,000 people have died in America over the last three months. But in the African American Community we have witnessed, yet again the brutal, hate-filled, death of Mr. George Floyd.

We watched with agony as a cold, hate-filled, insensitive, cruel Minnesota police officer suffocated a black man as he lay on his stomach, hands cuffed behind his back, two other policemen kneeling on his body and the main culprit putting the full weight of his body, using his knee to compress Mr. Floyd’s windpipe. We watched as he cried, begged, pleaded and gasped, “I CAN”T BREATHE!” People are TIRED!!! People are FRUSTRATED. People are ANGRY! While we do not condone or advocate rioting and violence, we must acknowledge the root causes of the mayhem. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Riot is the language of the unheard.”

We must ask the hard questions. We must face the consequences of generations of oppression, abuse, disenfranchisement, racist systems that perpetuate cycles of dysfunction, poverty, inequality and destruction. The blood of Trayvon Martin, the blood of Tamir Rice, the blood of Philando Castille, the blood of Sandra Bland, the blood for Freddie Gray, the Blood of Armond, the blood of Breonna Taylor, the blood of GEORGE FLOYD is crying out from the ground! JUSTICE MUST PREVAIL!!!

If we are going to shine the light, we cannot give the masses standard lines. We must HEAR their cries for justice. White and Black, and Brown and Red and Yellow Sisters and Brothers must band together and shout with one voice, ENOUGH! We HEAR the cries of the oppressed and we WILL NOT TOLERATE this injustice any more. Do you want the buildings to stop burning – STAND FOR JUSTICE. Do you want the rioters to stop rioting STAND FOR JUSTICE…Do you want police brutality to stop?
CHANGE THE LAWS that allow for unchecked abuse of power.

SHINE YOUR LIGHT at the ballot box. SHINE YOUR LIGHT at the State house…SHINE YOUR LIGHT in the community. Love is stronger than hate. Love is more powerful that hate. LOVE WILL PREVAIL. Love is an ACTION WORD!

Be determined to shine your light. We can waste our time cursing the darkness or we can be determined to shine the light of Jesus Christ. Jesus showed us the true meaning of love and light. Jesus encouraged us to speak truth to power. Jesus taught us to be concerned about the needs of the less fortunate. Jesus taught us not to be hypocritical, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Someone is hurting today. Can you see Jesus in them? Someone needs a hand up today will you help them?

Someone with whom you don’t want to be bothered is pleading for guidance today – will you walk with them? We all are called to be missionaries to spread the good tidings of God’s goodness, mercy, grace and salvation. As God’s people, we all are called to shine the light for those walking through the darkness. We 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; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61).

Be determined to shine your light!

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shepastor: “You Can Make It!”

Proverbs 30:1, NIV
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]

Our focus verse for today has been attributed to an individual named Agur. We don’t have any additional information about Agur. His words presented here provide for us the only information we have about him. Agur starts out this section with a profound statement. Certainly, he is not the only Biblical writer to confess this psychological and emotional state, but he follows his initial statement with a declaration of faith… Agur says,

“I am weary, God,
but I can prevail.

Every translation of this verse does not say this.

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 that has Agur declaring, in spite of his weariness that he can prevail.

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; be victorious.” The man is talking to the right one. He is expressing his weariness to God, but he then decides to that in spite of his weariness, that he can be the 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 if we like the Psalmist tell the Lord about how we feel, tell the Lord about our pain, our sorrow, our disappointment, our struggle, our trial…whatever, when we get before the Lord in sincerity of heart, something will begin to happen down on the inside.

When we turn our focus away from our weariness and instead begin to look at our GREAT and awesome and powerful God, then we like Agur will declare, I CAN PREVAIL! Whatever you are going through, know today that you can make it! As we move in faith, as we serve the Lord with gladness, as we listen and obey God’s Word and follow God’s way, our weariness will be replaced with energy. God energizes us when we make up our minds to walk with Him. God strengthens us by reminding us of His promises and revealing His beauty even in the midst of dark and trying times. God reveals Himself in unexpected ways when we make up our minds to search for Him with all of our hearts.

Yes, YOU CAN MAKE IT! God is with you, God is keeping you. God is for you! You are more than a conqueror! You can do all things through Christ that strengthens you! You are the head and not the tail! You are above and not beneath! You are a child of the King! Make up your mind today to cast down the enemy of fear, depression and defeat! Make up your mind to cast off everything that seeks to way you down. Make up your mind to focus on your GREAT AND AWESOME GOD! Tell yourself, “I CAN PREVAIL!” Tell yourself, “With the help of the LORD I WILL MAKE IT!!!”

Be encouraged! Be blessed by this song, “You Can Make it!” By Betty Griffin Keller…

You Can Make It


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

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Shepastor: “Are We Perishing from a Lack of Knowledge?”

6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Hosea 4:6, KJV

As leaders in the faith community, we are held to a higher law – that of teaching, preaching and leading people to know and love the Lord and to trust and follow His Word. We also have the very important responsibility of serving as community leaders – exemplifying and teaching what it means to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”

Like no other time in recent history, the covers are being pulled back on the health, economic and educational disparities between the majority culture and minorities in America. False information is leading some to believe that minorities and younger individuals cannot be infected by the Corona virus. According to a recent news report, African Americans comprise approximately 13.4% of the U.S. population, yet they account for approximately 60% of deaths related to COVID-19 (Read more at "Black communities account for disproportionate number of Covid-19 deaths in the US, study finds")

Many, believing and hoping that somehow COVID-19 will just disappear and we can return to life “as usual,” are ignoring the realities of science and the cautions of the medical community. It is incumbent upon us as faith/community leaders to help people to understand the elusive, dangerous and deadly nature of this disease. Without inciting fear, but instead by faith, we must encourage our congregants and others to listen to the facts, follow the guidance of our health professionals and avoid engaging in activities that unnecessarily expose themselves and others to the virus.

We also have the responsibility to challenge “the powers that be” to do all that they can to increase testing, pursue a viable vaccine and support local governments financially, enabling them to issue the necessary finances to individuals, families, small business leaders, etc., so that people can survive.
May we arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge to address all of the above. May we do what we can to help support one another…call others, send cards, make donations, offer to help someone who cannot help themselves, practice social distancing, wear gloves and masks. Walk in wisdom!

Refuse to perish for a lack of knowledge!

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Shepastor: “Be Counted…”

Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names… Numbers 1: 1-2, NIV


The concept of a Census is not new. It helps governments to know how many people are living in the country and how resources should be allotted based upon states, districts and communities. The Census is only taken once a decade. The 2020 Census has now been underway for a couple of months. Have you completed your 2020 Census?

Funding for our schools, community centers, safety net programs etc., as well as congressional seats and the drawing of district lines are at stake! In 2010 Ohio lost OVER $139 MILLION for our communities due to low numbers received during the Census. What about your state? Let’s not repeat that in 2020!

It is easy, safe and imperative that we respond! Here’s how:

Online: go to www.my2020census.gov
By phone: Dial 844-330-2020
By US mail: Complete the forms and mail in

If you don’t have your personal code, it’s ok. You can still complete the forms!!!

Please help us in this critical endeavor. Complete your 2020 Census, turn it in and share this information with others! BE COUNTED!!!

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Shepastor: “Lessons We Must Learn from this COVID-19 Season…”

1 Chronicles 12:32 New English Translation (NET Bible)
32 From Issachar there were 200 leaders and all their relatives at their command—they understood the times and knew what Israel should do.

“Stay at home…social distancing…wear masks and gloves…” These all are admonitions given by world health authorities and government leaders to try and flatten the pandemic curve and to save lives. These important physiological health instructions are critical for the well-being of all. However, these guidelines do not address the “sickness” that for too long has infected the moral compass of society.

The scripture reference for today highlights an obscure commentary on members from the tribe of Issachar. It suggests that the leaders and their families “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” One has to wonder, are we as discerning? If we would be like the wise “Issacharian” leaders, we too must learn some lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and by doing so, gain an understanding of what we must do. Let’s consider the following…

We must learn to work together to get through this… A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. As much as possible we must honor the guidelines given for us to stay safe and alive. People of faith should lead the way as examples. Defying common sense health measures will not bring glory to God. On the contrary, it will bring shame upon the people of God if pride and ignorance govern our response to this pandemic.

We must learn to share more than ever… We must do more to help one another... It is becoming blatantly evident that “trickle down economics” will not work. While we wait for reasonable, strategic and “fact-driven” plans to “re-open our country,” we must re-think how our economy works. Our nation must do everything it can to provide assistance to those who, by no fault of their own are without work. We must all do that we can to share what we have with one another.

Cooking extra meals, making monetary donations, paying for someone’s groceries, making masks and gowns, offering free services when able for example. Utility companies should agree to continue to provide water, heat and lights while customers are without an income. Mortgage companies and banks should hold off on evictions for nonpayment of rent/mortgages. America is a wealthy country. It is time to share that wealth to care for the hard-working people who keep this country running and are devastated by current circumstances.

We must learn from our mistakes and re-consider our ways… Hateful rhetoric, divisive attitudes and behaviors, greed, slander, overlooking the needs of the poor, taking advantage of the ill-informed, voter suppression, oppressing and disenfranchising minorities, perpetuating systems designed to keep generational cycles of poverty…all of these sins must be addressed. Idolatry, sexual immorality, irreverent behaviors, pride and arrogance, racism, bigotry, sexism, “otherism”…ALL OF THESE THINGS have positioned us for unnecessary pain, devastation, loss and ultimately, destruction.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

May we SOON learn and live these lessons. May we be wise, discern the signs of the times and by so doing, “know what to do.”

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org



Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Shepastor: “The Deadliest Week…”

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
4 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him
. Matthew 26: 1-14, KJV

We have been cautioned by health professionals that the week of April 6th – 11th 2020 may be the “deadliest week” so far in the United States. This ominous designation is directly related to the number of anticipated deaths our nation will endure because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Governors and health professionals are urging people to stay home as much as possible, particularly this week when the pandemic is thought to be at its height.

To date, over 10,000 lives in America have been snuffed out due to COVID-19. The “Death Angel” is sweeping across the land. For the Christian community, we remember this week as Holy Week…another “deadly week” that will “forever live in infamy.” For it is during this week that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conquered Death, Hell and the Grave! At the beginning of the week Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, palms waving and adoring crowds shouting “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” By the end of the week he was struggling to carry a heavy, splintered cross, on his whipped, bloody, flesh torn back down the Via Dolorosa… crowds jeering and chanting, “Crucify him!”

Betrayal, denial, abandonment and separation…cruel mocking, inhumane beatings, excruciating, unimaginable suffering, condemnation as a criminal, death on a cross. These are the markers that were placed down during this deadly week for our Lord. Jesus endured all of this for us…for our salvation…for our redemption…for our restoration…for our healing…for our deliverance…for our peace…for our victory!

Friday, we mourn, but Sunday is coming! Do this week, in remembrance of Him!

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



Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Shepastor: "Don't Be a Fool!"

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1a, ESV)

Today is April 1st, a day known as “April Fools Day.” It’s a day when people play silly pranks, tell jokes and overall, seek to have fun at another person’s expense. In a sense, both the joker and the one on whom the joke has been played may be considered, “fools” in the spirit of fun. But in a very serious sense, being a fool is no laughing matter.

A fool may be described as someone who is “a silly or stupid person; a person who lacks judgment or sense,” (Dictionary.com). The Bible, however, states that a fool is anyone who says “There is no God.” The Scriptures teach us many important lessons about fools…

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice
. Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)

Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
Proverbs 26:11 (ESV)

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
Proverbs 15:21 (ESV)

Fools are always right in their own eyes… We can avoid being foolish by seeking godly wisdom, accepting godly counsel and admitting when we are wrong.

Fools continue to repeat behaviors that bring about their own destruction… When we continue to repeat behaviors that we know are destructive and against God’s ways, we are acting like a fool. We must ask the Lord to help us and give us the mind and the will to break cycles of dysfunction.

Fools would rather enjoy “sin for a season” than to walk “straight ahead…” When we take “spiritual detours” and side step the “right path,” we will reap the painful consequences of momentary gratification. It is important to remember that each action yields a consequence.

The fool says, “There is no God…” It is foolish to believe that things in this life, in the world and in our lives “just happen.” It is foolish to believe that there is no accountability for our actions. God is sovereign. Whether humans acknowledge God or not, God’s omnipotence (all powerful) is not contingent upon humanity’s beliefs. The wise will humble themselves before the Lord, seek God’s wisdom and knowledge, turn from wicked and foolish ways and follow the path of righteousness. The wise will learn lessons from mistakes. The wise will keep walking “straight ahead.”

In this season and every season, may we honor the GREAT and awesome God. May we walk in wisdom, not leaning to our own understanding. May we seek the Lord’s mercy and favor. May we humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from wicked ways so that we may be healed.

Don’t be a fool!

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Shepastor: “When I Am Afraid…”

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
Psalm 56:3, NIV

“Looking back across the landscape of my lifetime, I realize that something unexpected and larger than life seems to happen every once in a while, that acts as a corrective measure...” These are the words shared by Dr. Ken Druck in his article, “The 'One Planet, One People' coronavirus corrective.” In this article, Dr. Druck suggests that life has a way of reminding us about what really matters.

Right now, the world is facing a pandemic in the form of the Coronavirus. Many are gripped by fear. Many are hoarding hand sanitizer, toilet paper and water, depriving others of what is needed to try and stay healthy. Churches are struggling with real decisions regarding meeting the needs of their congregation, pastoral care and finances. Some are in a panic.

However, as the people of God, we must remember that “we are not as those who have no hope.” Even in the midst of this modern-day plague, God is still in control. Even though many painful and sad things are happening including death, isolation, fear and struggle, several positive things are happening. We are being reminded of our humanity, our frailty, our need for compassion and our need for one another.

Community members are reaching out to one another…calling one another…going grocery shopping for the elderly, working together to ensure that school children, home due to the virus are getting meals. Teachers and administrators are working tirelessly to be sure that youth get their lessons. People all over the world are praying together in various ways. The government is looking at ways to provide financial relief to its struggling citizens.

Every now and then, God allows the “reset button” to get pushed. Times like these remind us of what really matters in life…relationships, compassion, love and the common good. COVID-19 is scary. But God remains in control. When you are afraid, trust in Him!
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shepastor: “Fasting from Injustice”

Amos 5:21-24
21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.
23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.


This was a time of great wealth, economic growth and national strength in Israel. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms (Israel and Judah) were working together, trading, building and forming political alliances. Because of their great wealth they were able to expand their boarders. Their buildings were made of the finest materials such as marble, ivory and gold.

It was easy for them to equate their wealth and prosperity with the favor of God. Their prophets were in the pockets of those with power and prestige. Therefore, all of their proclamations pronounced favor, grace and peace flowing from the throne of the Almighty.

But there was a problem in this man-made paradise. Contrary to what they believed, God was not pleased. There was a complete lack of social consciousness or concern. The wealthy were super wealthy, but the poor were super poor. The legal system was corrupt, the poor had no recourse, not even in the courts. The rich enjoyed every convenience possible while the poor were made to scrounge about and serve those in high positions – and God was not pleased.

There were no words of condemnation, confrontation or accountability – and God was not pleased. Therefore, God called for himself a prophet – a real prophet, a man of God who neither desired their approval or feared their reprisals. God chose Amos, who was neither a prophet or the son of a prophet but a herdsman, a shepherd, a country boy if you will – a farmer to stand boldly and proclaim what thus saith the Lord to a wicked and sinful people. Amos spoke in righteous anger, calling God’s people to look hard and long at what they had become.

We are currently in the season of the Christian Calendar called, “Lent.” For many, this is a season of fasting from sweets, delectable, goodies. The purpose is to sacrifice something that we enjoy in order to focus upon getting closer to the Lord. The practice is admirable. Its intent is beautiful. But could the Lord be concerned about more than us giving up the chocolate bunnies, cakes, pies, etc.? It’s easy to give up those things, but what does the Lord really want us to give up? What would truly be a “sacrifice?”

In Amos’ day, people were fasting, attending religious gatherings and even paying their tithes. But their hearts were far from the Lord. They were checking a proverbial box of religious behaviors. Today we must ask ourselves, “Are we any different?”

America is the wealthiest or at least one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Yet in our land of plenty, there are millions of people living in poverty, unable to meet their own basic needs. Poverty exists in every state across the country—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—and its reach crosses every barrier—age, race, gender, and family situation. Poverty can be situational (people experiencing a crisis such as illness, divorce, or unemployment), generational (families living in poverty for two or more generations), or relational (isolated people without a support network to turn to).

People in poverty experience not only a lack of income or material possessions, but a lack of such things as life choices, physical and
emotional security, stable relationships, social participation, and self-esteem. Poverty is teaching millions of Americans that they are not
valued, that failure is to be expected, and that hope is futile.

Our approach to poverty has to change. Meeting immediate needs are wonderful, but if we don’t challenge the systems that perpetuate poverty, our gifts are but band aids on devastating wounds that require major surgery. We must fast from more than candy and other sweets, we need to fast from injustice! Crazy wealth for some and crazy poverty for many is unjust. We ought to have righteous anger, righteous indignation that shakes us from our spiritual lethargy and asks the question, “What can we do, what can I do to help make a difference?”

As the Church, we need to begin to prayerfully ask God in 2020 what new things can we do to help bring about relief and support to our surrounding communities and the world. We need to ask ourselves the question, “Are we simply bringing before the Lord meaningless fasts, burnt offerings and sacrifices of tradition and that which does not require us to leave our comfort zones?” How can we come together with other churches to collaborate to meet some needs right in our back yard? God desires more than us meeting together on Sunday morning to sing and pray. The Lord wants to use us to help break some chains, open some blinded eyes, bring some relief, to show His love and compassion to a dying world…to “do justice!”

Let us prayerfully consider what we can do to help serve this present age. As we fast and pray during this Lenten season, may our fasting cleanse us from lethargic and selfish ways. May our fasting convict us of empty practices. May our fasting pull us towards actions that give God’s heart joy. May we fast from injustice!

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
www.shepastorchris.org

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Shepastor: “Traumatized Twice: When Sharing Confidences Turn Against You…”

The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14, NIV

On my ride home today while listening to the news, I heard a heart wrenching story about a teenager from Honduras. “Kevin” is being detained and will eventually be deported by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Orphaned as a young child, raised by an alcoholic grandmother and eventually forced into servitude by gangs, this child was brutalized, traumatized and desperately seeking help.

He sought asylum in the United States. Through a series of twists and turns including detention, he was able to connect with a therapist who provided much needed support and counsel. After much work, the therapist was able to gain Kevin’s trust. He began to share the horrors of his childhood…the loss of his parents…being raised by an alcoholic grandmother…the eventual takeover of his “shack” by gangs. More and more he opened up about the pain, the fear, the struggle. As is common practice, the therapist took notes as the young man shared.

Unfortunately, those notes were used against Kevin during a government trial. Historically, immigrant children seeking asylum would be required to see a therapist after crossing the border within 72 hours of custody. The sessions were designed to provide support to youth during a traumatic time in their lives. The mission, however, was severely undermined in 2017 when the Trump Administration created a policy of placing minors with “self-disclosed” ties to gangs in detention.

Therapists have been devastated by the new policy. After gaining the trust of clients, their very work is being used to destroy them. Youth are being turned over to ICE who ultimately will deport them…sending them back to a certain death. Mental health care continues to be under attack. Not only in this extremely painful account do we see the reason why individuals are hesitant to share details about their trauma. As people fill out job applications, pursue certain positions or simply dialogue about a devastating past, they face the legitimate fear of being traumatized twice. How can people get help if they are penalized for sharing their truth?

When a child seeking asylum shares that they were forced by gangs to sell drugs or participate in beatings or even killings how can they ever get help if our country then places them in detention centers that are more like cold, dangerous prisons? How can individuals who suffer from depression ever get a job or a promotion if they “check the box” on applications, stating that they have been treated for the disease? If we as a Nation are serious about addressing mental health issues, WE MUST confront unjust systems and policies that demonize victims and traumatize them twice.

Read more about Kevin’s tragic story in the Washington Post article, “Trust and Consequences.”

Let us pray for the healing of the nations…

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Shepastor: “Having Faith: The Long View…”

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. (Hebrews 11:39-40, NLT)

In the words of the late Dr. Elton Trueblood, every generation has the bittersweet task of “planting shade trees under which we know full well we shall never sit.” To plant them with joy or resentment is a choice. Pride, pain, regret, and bitterness at times prevent persons with a wealth of wisdom and experience from helping those who are coming after. If individuals are honest, it can be hurtful to realize and accept that some ceilings will not be broken during our lifetime…some bridges still won’t get crossed, some doors still will remain closed and some opportunities still may not happen. We are still blazing trails, as it were. We can, however, take the proverbial mallet in our hands, determine to join together, and beat upon ceilings, keep knocking on doors and keep pressing towards the mark. Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston declared, “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”

The people of God must decide that the hardships that at times must be endured will not embitter us but instead will embolden us to help bring about a change. Change is not something that happens quickly, easily or without struggle and sacrifice. The people in our text all, in one way or another, through faith fought to bring about change. Whether facing oppressive giants, or fighting to end unjust systems of slavery or fighting to save children, families or nations, by faith, they pressed on. James Russell Lowell, in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845 penned these famous words: (the last stanza declares…)

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young man when he was gunned down. And while he saw several major victories evolve out of the blood splattered Civil Rights movement, seeing all of the fruit of his labor was not to be. He was prophetic when he declared that he had “been to the mountain top and seen the promised land.” He declared, “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get there!” Dr. King had taken the “long view.”

The civil rights leaders had to take the long view to fight for freedom. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Hershel had to take the long view in order to march arm and arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960’s in Selma, Alabama to be sure that all Americans would have the right to vote. They had to take the long view in Selma, where half of the city's residents were black but only one percent were registered to vote because the registration board only opened doors for registration two days a month, arrived late and took long lunches (ref. "Eyes on the Prize" documentary).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to take the long view to stand up against the atrocities of the Nazi regime as Hitler sought to annihilate the Jewish nation. Sometimes faith urges you, presses you, convicts you, compels you, empowers you to stand for what is right even against seemingly insurmountable odds. Faith will embolden you, strengthen you, press you, push you to go beyond the boundaries of yourself and with God’s help seek to do something greater that will impact the lives of those yet unborn. It takes the long view…

But in our own, individual lives where we might not be faced with standing up against a Hitler, or facing attack dogs and fire hoses - in our everyday lives, how is God challenging us to act out our faith? Could God be calling us to think outside of the box? Could God be calling us to volunteer in an inner-city school to give some broken, poverty stricken, almost hopeless child a hope for the future? Could God be calling us to write letters to our local representatives regarding unjust laws, demanding that they change their opposing stance? Could God be calling us to stand when others are sitting down, fallen asleep or have left the proverbial room?

Could God be calling us to help in our little corner of the world? Sometimes faith presses us to move from our comfort zones into places of discomfort and great possibility. Again, in our own, individual lives, sometimes faith is calling us to move from a place of complacency to becoming an active participant in the blessing and healing process.

God is calling us to take the long view…to plant seeds of faith, seeds of deliverance, seeds of hope, seeds of investments, seeds of righteous living, seeds of honor…to plant seeds that will help raise up a godly generation, a strong generation, a faith-filled generation. God wants to use us to break some glass ceilings, to push in some doors, to break down some barriers or at least do some serious damage to that which is blocking the way.

If all we do is sing, “We shall overcome,” link arms, place wreaths on some tombs and silently march in remembrance then we will have failed our predecessors. We must do more than live in a past time paradise. We must do more than sing loud hosannas and read poetry. We must speak truth to power… we must educate and register people to vote. We must stand against unjust laws and systems that crush the lives of children and youth through failed educational systems, “for profit” prison systems, gang riddled, drug infested neighborhoods and over crowded class rooms with frustrated, overworked and under-payed teachers!

We may not get everything accomplished, but we must keep “jumin at de sun!” We may not see all that we are hoping to come to pass, but we must do all we can, while we can to lay the ground work for a better day ahead.

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us...

May we, like "these," be courageous and take the long view.

Until next Wednesday,

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



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Shepastor: “Reflections of a Pastor, 14 years in the making…”

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

Fourteen years ago today, January 15th, 2006, a small, fractured, struggling congregation called me to serve as their senior pastor. They had been without a pastor for approximately 3 years. I became their first female pastor, first African American pastor and only the 2nd female senior pastor of a mainline Baptist denomination in the Greater Cleveland area. With great anticipation, joy, excitement and hope we came together as “Pastor and People.” Hope for a new beginning, hope for a new reality, hope for multiculturalism, hope for growth, stability, ministry…

A new reality did indeed emerge, but not the one we had anticipated and hoped for. New growth meant facing thoughts, feelings, prejudices and fears that we may not have known existed. The death of a significant number of elderly members meant deep feelings of grief and loss, not only of their presence, but of an era. The emergence and involvement of new members evoked fear from others of the loss of power. We were not prepared for the avalanche precipitated by the tides of change.

Numeric growth – cancelled. Economic stability – devastated. The dream for a bright, new, thriving ministry all but extinguished. God had another plan. “Seeds planted” look a lot like a burial. Growth with deep roots takes time. Our faith was challenged to the core. We learned in new and life changing ways to “lean upon the Lord.” The small group that was left banded together. A new vision for ministry emerged.

We learned the value of collaboration and ministry outside of the four walls. We sold the old property and took the resources gained to do a “new thing.” From the ashes was birthed a book for female pastors, a blog, contributions to other books, articles, workshops, seminars, lectures, sermons and mentorship opportunities. Members have learned in a greater way the power of tithing and the overall “Stewardship of life.”

In the words of my pastor, “When our plans fold, God’s plans unfold.” Our plans folded. The congregation all but died. But God kept a remnant for Himself. On September 6th, 2019, “Covenant Baptist Church,” closed. “Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland, Inc.,” was born. The journey continues. Our dreams have been exchanged for God’s vision.

Read more about our journey at www.rmgrcle.org

Thank you, Lord for 14 years of Pastoral Ministry! Counting on…

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Shepastor: “Vessels in the Potter’s Hand”

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. Jeremiah 18:1-6 (RSV)

We all are on the “Potter’s wheel.” Like clay, God in His sovereignty shapes us and molds us. Sometimes, the molding process is painful because we just can’t understand why things happen the way they happen. As humans, we tend to be “cause and effect” oriented. In other words, we tell ourselves, “…this happened because of that.” We are accustomed to attaching an explanation to every event. But there are some things in life that don’t have a clear, easy and fair explanation.

Things that don’t make sense…earthquakes devastating thousands... a wonderful young woman dies of breast cancer…a brilliant mind is struck with Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes there are twists, and bends and potholes in the road of our lives that are painful and to our finite minds don’t make sense. But somehow, even these painful, seemingly unfair circumstances are used to shape and mold and knead the lumps and the bumps and the imperfections in our clay jars.

As we journey through life, we spend a lot of time on the underside of the tapestry, seeing only mangled, seemingly illogically patterned bits and pieces of threads and yarn and we wonder, what in the world does it all mean. But every now and then, the Lord gives us glimpses of the upper side where we can see a beautiful pattern being woven for His purposes.

Truly we are as clay in the potter’s hand. No matter how marred, broken, scarred, lumpy or imperfect we may be, the Lord is able to reshape us, break us if necessary, knead us and mold us into the new and beautiful vessels He desires us to be. But the key is that we have to be willing to allow the Lord to do as the potter did with the clay.

It won’t always feel good. It won’t always make sense. But if we trust Him, the Lord will take the marred, broken and lumpy pieces of our lives and shape us into a beautiful and useful vessel.

Allow the Potter to mold you today…

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Shepastor: “What Are Your Prayers for this Next Decade?”

9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9, NIV

On Sunday, our congregation reflected upon God’s faithfulness to each of us over the last ten years. In preparation for crossing over into 2020 we took a moment to prayerfully jot down specific things we are believing God for in this new decade. As peaceful and meditative music played in the background, members from the eldest to the youngest took time to contemplate what the next years would bring. By faith, we wrote down our hopes, dreams and visions and privately presented them before the Lord. The instructions were given to take our list home and put it in a place where we can go back and read it over from time to time. Our faith is strengthened as we look at God’s answers to our prayers over the years!

As you enter this next decade, by faith, I encourage you to do the same. What are you believing God for in the next ten years? What are you asking God to change? From what do you or others need deliverance? What courage do you need to walk into your new season? What trials or challenges do you need the strength to overcome? What hopes do you have for your community, Nation and world?

Write it down. Put a date on it. Periodically check your list and see all that God has done. Allow room for surprises! May your faith be strengthened!

Happy New Year Shepastor Family! I stand in agreement with you for God’s best for your life!

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