Wednesday, June 1, 2022

 

Shepastor: “The Long-term Consequences of Short-term Decisions…”




People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 NLT

“Why is the Lord allowing all of these terrible things to happen???” Across the ages, this has been the question of humanity. Some become despondent, some shake their fists at heaven, and some become bitter and cynical. While all of these responses are “human,” we must take a deeper look a how WE find ourselves in the state that we are in. 

The ramifications of bad choices reach far beyond one individual. Although it is critical for individuals to recognize the consequences of bad choices in their own lives, we must also come to grips with the fact that societal and national sins are visited upon all under their umbrella. The following are some examples of this principle:

When U.S. law makers wrote in an expiration date, a “sunset” law (read more here) for a ban on automatic assault weapons, it may have appeared to be a good decision, in the short-term, but in the long term, that decision has yielded horrific consequences. As individuals fight to maintain their “2nd Amendment rights,” demanding unchecked access to AR-15, military style weapons, more and more people are losing their rights to safe, healthy, peaceful communities.

In Ohio, the state congress is reviewing a bill that would allow any adult to carry a firearm in school buildings after only 24 hours of training. This short-term/short sighted decision will create an even more dismal future/environment for our teachers, administrators, and children with long-term consequences. Raise your hand if you want your schoolteachers, administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, counselors, etc., walking around your elementary, middle and high schools with rifles, handguns or AR-15s…

Blaming mental health issues instead of loose access to assault weapons for massacres…

In the short term, misguided discussions, and legislative dialogue about blocking the mentally ill from getting guns sounds productive, but it denies the truth and ignores reality. Consider this…


The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence shares these facts:

·       Approximately one in five Americans have a diagnosed mental illness in a given year.

·       Mental illness is not the cause of gun violence. The United States has similar rates of mental illness to other countries, but has a much higher rate of gun violence

·       People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.

·       Only 4% of the interpersonal violence is attributable to mental illness alone

·       Past violent behavior is the best predictor of future violence, regardless of a diagnosed mental illness

 

We need COURAGEOUS community and national leaders who will do what is best for all, in the long term…

Behind closed doors, many U.S. legislators will acknowledge that assault weapons/AR-15 and the like are not appropriate for the civilian population. Unlike weapons normally used for hunting, like rifles, or even basic handguns, military style weapons are designed for war. The bullets not only penetrate the flesh and organs, but military assault weapons literally explode inside of the body and decimate internal organs. No rabbit, deer, squirrel, racoon, etc., would be edible or even recognizable once hit with these bullets. Whereas regular firearms can do much damage, their rate of discharge is much slower. Rapid fire weapons literally, “spray,” bullets across a large area, with greater velocity, force, and magnitude. 


Instead of allowing themselves to be “bought” by the National Rifle Association (NRA), instead of fearing the loss of power, or their seats in congress, WE NEED congressional leaders who will stand up and say, “Enough is ENOUGH!” The real problem IS access to high-capacity assault weapons.

Hate-filled rhetoric, prejudice, bullying, abuse, etc., are all contributing factors to the tragedies that have unfolded, increasingly, yearly in the U.S. Other countries have these same maladies, but not the same percentages of mass shootings. What is the difference between them and us? In short, ACCESS to high capacity assault weapons.

Can we put aside politics, greed, and partisan platforms and vote for LIFE???

The power resides within our hands. Will we make wise short-term decisions so that we will be able to enjoy long-term health, freedom, and peace?

Will you stay at home and say that your vote does not matter, and then complain about leaders who don’t have the nation’s best interest at heart? Will you dig your heels in and demand the right to carry high-capacity assault weapons?

 Before you answer, prayerfully consider the words of our text…

People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 NLT

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 

 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

 Shepastor: What is the Lord Seeking?

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.


We are currently in the season of the Christian Calendar called, “Lent.” For many, this is a season of fasting from sweets, delectable and, 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 seeking women and men that are willing to do more than to give up the chocolate bunnies, cakes, pies, and meat on Friday?  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 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 situations. 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 physical and emotional security, stable relationships, and damaged 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 must 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. God is seeking individuals that fast from injustice! 

The Lord is seeking women and men that will stand and vote for just laws. The Lord is seeking women and men that will serve our Nation in just, merciful and godly ways. Greed, deceit, oppression, racist systems and hatred must be confronted by the people of God.

 As the Church, we need to begin to prayerfully ask God in 2022, 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?” 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! May the Lord find what He is seeking, in us!

 

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris

www.shepastorchris.org

 Join Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland TONIGHT via Zoom for our Ash Wednesday Service at 7:00 p.m., EST. Visit www.rmgrcle.org for the Zoom link and more information.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

 Shepastor: "Lean in and Bend..."


The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Psalm 92: 12, ESV

Over the past few months I have been engaged in pool therapy for my knees. After breaking my ankle back in 2019, my osteoarthritis escalated and greatly impacted my walking and climbing of stairs - UGGH!!! Pool therapy has been wonderful, especially since the pool is intentionally warm. I also look forward to spending time in the heated whirl pool following intense exercise in the water!

Although I am doing much better, my knees still are not "100%." I cannot walk for very long distances without taking a break and stairs remain a challenge. On a positive note, I have lost 27 lbs., (WOO HOO) and am growing stronger daily. 

The other day, I discovered something that made a world of difference in my stair climbing. While in the water, I experience no pain when doing stair exercises because the water takes the pressure off of my joints. But on dry land, it's a different story. Although better, pain is remains a part of the picture on stairs. The other day, as I began my journey upstairs, I approached the steps differently. Rather than just bending my knee, I leaned in as I bent, placing my weight on my knee while I was leaning in. 

Wallah! No pain! I tried the same motion on the next stair. No pain! I continued all the way up the staircase, little to no pain! I immediately thought about the actions of "leaning and bending" in terms of our spiritual walk with the Lord. Sometimes during prayer, we don't lean into listening, waiting and hearing God's directives. Instead, we "stiffen" our hearts, our minds, our decisions, etc., refusing to bend or lean in to learn more. So often, we approach prayer with our minds already made up, making our experiences more challenging.

Consider Palm trees. They are famous for bending, but not breaking. They bend down during storms and strong winds. By leaning in and bending, they preserve their lives and ability to rebound and stand tall. We can learn a lot from palm trees! 
When we refuse to be flexible, malleable, or open to God's voice, God's leading, different options, new perspectives, fresh ways, increased pain sets in. We become weary and discouraged. When our plans don't prosper, the pain increases. But if we choose rather, like palm trees, to lean in and bend, we may still experience some level of pain and discomfort, but as our spiritual muscles become stronger, we will find it easier to navigate God's new terrain for us. We will continue to grow strong and stand tall through Christ. We will discover a new, that God's plans are the best plans for our lives.

Today, I encourage you to lean in and bend to God's will and purpose for your life. When you do so, healing, strength and fresh vision will come your way! 


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