Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shepastor: “Lessons from Trees…”

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Psalm 92: 12-15, NIV

Scripture frequently uses trees to teach lessons:
The Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden
The Juniper Tree that Elijah ran and sat under when he was depressed
The Tree that Absalom got hung on when his hair was caught in the thicket
The Tree that is spoken of in Psalm 1
The Tree that bears fruit
The Tree that Jesus cursed
The Tree of Life

But in our particular text for today, the Psalmist lifts up two trees:
The Palm Tree and The Cedars of Lebanon

The Psalmist said that the righteous shall flourish like a Palm Tree. What is so special about a Palm Tree?
- Palm Trees are tall, majestic and beautiful
- Palm Trees are resilient. They flourish even in drought because of their deep root system
- Palm Trees are able to withstand hurricanes and massive storms because they know how to bend

The Psalmist also likened the righteous unto the Cedars of Lebanon.
-The Cedars of Lebanon stood 120 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
-They were firmly rooted and were very strong. They were so high that they could see far above the city out into distant lands.

The Psalmist said that the righteous, like the Cedars of Lebanon are firmly planted and they flourish in the courts of the Lord. They continue to bear fruit even in their old age. They stay fresh and green.

Sometimes we have to be like Palm Trees, getting our thirst quenched by our deep root systems. There will be times when “surface faith,” won’t be enough. In other words, it’s easy to trust God when everything is going your way. It’s easy to have faith when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But can you trust God in the darkness? Can you trust God when the answers are not clear, when the outcome is uncertain, when it appears that everything is falling apart. In times like that, you need DEEP faith! Deep faith requires us to go way down on the inside and pull up what we know to be true about God…that God is faithful…that God has seen us through before,… that God did not bring us this far to leave us…that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us…that many are the afflictions of the righteous but the LORD delivers us out of them all! It takes deep faith to continue to hold to God’s unchanging hand when the enemy is screaming let go.

Sometimes we have to bend like the Palm Tree. We’ve got to learn how to be flexible. We’ve got to learn how to bend down and be humble. We’ve got to learn how to make it through the storm. We must be flexible. We must learn the “Serenity Prayer,” that says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” There will be times when we have to accept that there are things that we cannot change. We cannot change others, but with the help of the Lord we can change ourselves. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We can’t make everything better, but we can do what is possible to bring hope, and joy and light.

When storms are raging, we must learn how to bend with the wind. Palm trees don’t snap because they know how to bend. Bend down and pray. Bend down in your heart and let God do the heavy lifting. Bend, and let God fight your battles. Bend and let God make your enemies your footstool!

Sometimes we’ve got to be like the Cedars of Lebanon. Sometimes we’ve got to stand firm, stand tall and stand strong. We’ve got to learn how to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, in as much as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.

We’ve got to stand tall and stand strong. In order to do that, we’ve got to be firmly planted in the courts of the Lord. The courts of the Lord, the house of the Lord, the ways of the Lord, the Word of the Lord. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate both day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. His leaf also shall not whither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away..." Psalm 1.

This past week we celebrated the life and the legacy of Congressman John Lewis. His mantra was, “Get into ‘good trouble.’" The son of sharecroppers, and the great, great-grandson of slaves, Congressman Lewis stood tall for human equality and justice for all. He was determined to speak out, to march, to endure beatings, rejection, misunderstanding from family and friends and risked life and limb for the greater cause of freedom, equality and justice in America! And while we will not all be called to endure the things that Congressman Lewis did, we ALL are called upon to stand for that which is right whether it is popular or not…to speak truth to power, and to speak up when we hear or are engaged in conversations where people are saying racist, hateful and ignorant things!

The Lord is looking for those who will be like Trees, Palm Trees, Cedars of Lebanon who know how to be resilient through Christ, who know how to bend and be flexible, but also who know how and when to stand tall, stand firm and will not move. Will you learn the lessons of the palm and cedar trees? Embrace their wisdom today!

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shepastor: “Their Perceptions Don’t Determine Your Value…”

Zechariah 11:12-13 New International Version (NIV)
12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So, I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

“Their Perceptions Don’t Determine Your Value”

30 pieces of silver was the amount of money that a slave owner would receive for a slave that had been gored by an ox. The text says that the people for whom the Lord had done so much treated Him and His representative, His prophet, Zechariah like a severely wounded slave who was viewed as being of little or no worth. These verses foreshadow the acts of the Pharisees as they payed Judas 30 pieces of silver for betraying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as if, Jesus was worthless.

The term “value” means, “…the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” We ascribe “value” or worth to objects as well as to concepts, relationships and ideas. For example, we might value or hold in high regard a vase or a painting. We might value or hold in high regard a friendship or someone’s opinion. When we value something, we make a decision about how much importance it has, how useful it is, how much we think about this or that. But this psychological exercise gets off track when it is used to judge or determine the importance of a human being, or more importantly the importance of our relationship with God.

Think about it. The pharisees placed little value upon Jesus. They paid Judas the price one would pay for a slave that had been run through with the horns of an ox! Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver for betraying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In our text, Zechariah says,

13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me!

Potter’s were viewed as nothing…poor, dirty, vagabonds traveling around the town selling their pots. The Lord says they placed Him in the category of a gored slave and a “potter’s field.” THE LORD!!! Now think about that in terms of our lives. Did the perceptions of the foolish people who rejected Zechariah as their shepherd make Zechariah any less valuable as a prophet called and anointed in the sight of the God? Did the perceptions of the foolish, wicked people diminish the awesome power and greatness of the LORD? Did the foolish and wicked perceptions of the pharisees about Jesus make Him any less than the who He is, the Son of God? NO!!!

There will always be those who don’t understand who you are. There will always be those who want to place you in certain boxes, and corners and lists and categories, placing “less than,” values upon you. But their perceptions don’t determine your worth! Their thoughts about you don’t determine your value. Their little ideas about you don’t change who you are. Don’t allow what they think about you to shape the way you think about yourself. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, you must “perceive that YOUR merchandise is good!!!” (Proverbs 31:18).

Yes, it hurts when people you hope would see your value treat you like a gored slave. Yes it hurts when society, shaped by institutional and systemic racism imposes upon your life values that are less than what they think of their pets, literally. Yes, it hurts when we see systems that view our lives as expendable, our gifts as commodities to be used for their pleasure and their entertainment. Yes, it hurts when doors are slammed shut, when promises are broken, when you experience rejection, when individuals and groups and entities treat you as if you are nothing. IT HURTS!!!

But you must raise your thoughts above their ignorance. You must remind yourself that their perceptions don’t determine your value. You must remind yourself that God made you and God don’t make no junk! You must remind yourself that God has created you, that God has gifted you, that God has formed you and that God has given you GREAT VALUE. Your merchandise IS GOOD!

Don’t linger in the darkness of their ignorance. Don’t linger in the foolishness of their underestimation about you. But rather, stand in the reality of your value, given to you not by man, but by God himself. Know yourself. It does not matter how many mistakes that you have made, how many flaws that you may have, how many dreams you have yet to fulfill. Those are simply aspects of your life, they are not the totality of your life. Get your understanding of your value from GOD and not from the flawed, ignorance of others!!!

God valued us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus to die for our sins. God gives us our value. Get to know your value rooted in Christ Jesus. Stand up in your spirit. Run to the cross. Look up and live! Embrace your beauty, your giftedness, your uniqueness, your value, your worth. Walk in who the Lord made you to be and not in the shadow of the opinion of fools.

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris